By Chuck Carroll

Sunday is going to be weird for Jeff Hardy. He’s going to be within a stone’s throw of 70,000+ rabid WWE fans at Camping World Stadium, but he says he won’t be on the card. Despite all of the rumors to the contrary, he denies that there will be a surprise appearance from the Hardy Boyz at WrestleMania. He says Matt and Jeff will be busy hosting a six-hour pre-show of sorts at the Broken Tailgate Party, and that’s as close as they’ll get to “The Grandest Stage of Them All.”

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He also says they won’t be appearing on Monday Night RAW or SmackDown Live! on Tuesday, and that they’re going to be with Ring of Honor at least through the summer. In fact, Jeff Hardy is hoping that ROH will help him further his music ambitions. His dream is to be able to play music at a wrestling show, and he plans to pitch the idea to ROH officials at some point this weekend. It’s hard to envision WWE going for such an idea.

He’s just completed a new album with his band PEROXWHY?GEN and has plans to go on tour after it’s released. In fact, he was invited to perform two dates on the Warped Tour this summer, but declined because he didn’t feel he was quite ready to jam with guys he refers to as “major leaguers.”

Hardy says they take great pleasure in working for Ring of Honor and smaller independent shows where they have complete creative autonomy for now. They are pushing forward with the Broken Universe gimmicks as Anthem Media threatens legal action over their use, claiming they were created exclusively for Impact Wrestling. That is a claim Hardy says is not true. The idea that anyone would try to lay claim to characters created by him and his brother is heartbreaking to him. For the time being, they are restricted from using the characters in Ring of Honor after parent company Sinclair Broadcasting was served a cease-and-desist letter threatening legal action if any of the “Broken” elements were used. No “delete or “obsolete.” But Hardy isn’t upset at ROH’s decision to dial back their characters. He told me they did the right thing “just to play it safe” and be professional.

We covered their bitter split from Impact Wrestling, their future with Ring of Honor, when or if they will be returning to WWE and his music projects during a half-hour conversation that interrupted a study session for Saturday’s tag team title match against the Young Bucks. Hardy has been watching old ladder matches trying to get ideas to steal the show.

>>MORE: Listen to our entire conversation here

When last we spoke it seemed like things were going to turn out much differently than they did. How has life been treating you?

It’s been great. It’s very strange the way everything came about, but it’s for the better. I was with TNA for seven years, and I think deep down I was ready for a change. And so with the uncertainties of the company moving forward the time was right for me to explore some other options. And we showed up at Manhattan Mayhem, Ring of Honor’s big event, and it was just magical. It was a big surprise, and it felt good to be part of something different because I was in the same place for so long.

Now you’re ready for a change, but when we talked in December everything seemed so certain that you were going to re-sign with Impact. The Broken gimmick was working so well. What actually happened? There are a lot of rumors out there.

It’s pretty simple. When we last spoke, Billy Corgan who is a good friend of myself and Matt, he was out at my property when we were filming Delete or Decay. He was going to own the company, be the president and all that good stuff. Basically, if he owned the company right now, I’d still be under contract. But so many changes happened. When they bought him out or had a falling out with this other company and then another company, Anthem, came in. This other company leaves that I was negotiating with.

And so, wow, we don’t have a deal or anything. It was a fresh start with this Anthem crew. Things were just too uncertain, and it was just weird. I just thought that I had to make things different for my career. Right now the time is right. There were signs, I believe, from a higher power. Bottom line: if Billy was still there, I’d still be there. But the way that all went down, I was just ready to move on.

One of the things that had been reported was that they were really slow in getting you guys the contracts and then pretty much gave you an ultimatum to sign them or get out. Is there any truth to the abruptness of how it all went down?

Yeah, for sure. I was good to go with mine, but then Matt had some issues going on. So, time just moved on slowly. And basically it just didn’t work out because when these new owners came in and the other ones we negotiated with left… I went to Nashville and met with these guys, the Anthem guy and Aroluxe, the other company involved, and Billy was on his way out at that point. So, I was just kind of uncertain myself. And then the Aroluxe company was gone, and I was like, “What is going on here?”

Long story short, we couldn’t come to an agreement. They were very late. We offered to come drop the titles at the TV tapings in March, and they said we couldn’t do that unless we were under contract. And I was like, “That’s so silly. Oh my God, this is pro wrestling, anything is possible. Let’s do the right thing and come drop them to another team.” But that wasn’t good enough, so we basically vacated them and never lost them.

I wish them all the best. Seven years, I had a good time there. They were great to me and helped me through tough times. But it was just time to move on. So, yeah, very late contract negotiations.

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We’re at a point now where there has been some public back and forth by both sides. Are you surprised at the way they’re trying to protect the Broken gimmick? That has to be a little disappointing given that you did invest seven years with the company.

It’s heartbreaking. I’m so passionate about any character I portray, whether it’s Willow, the Anti-Christ, the Charismatic Enigma, Itchweed… I’m so passionate about that. Nero is my legit middle name. Me not being able to be called Brother Nero is very offensive and heartbreaking. The highest-rated show last year was The Final Deletion, and that’s fact. The majority vote wins, and people dug that. And then they kind of (pooped) on it. That’s not cool.

And now with this lawsuit, we did this Ring of Honor pay-per-view out in Las Vegas, and we got these cease-and-desist letters. I couldn’t believe it. In the print it said TNA developed these characters specifically for Matt and Jeff Hardy, and that is so untrue. Matt developed himself and Brother Nero started to flow. I developed Brother Nero with the eyes and how I act. It’s all ours, and it is very sad and disappointing. It’s almost surreal-like, “Is this really happening?”

Does that mean TNA is trying to lay claim to all of your characters?

I don’t know anything about that because it didn’t say anything about Willow. That was prior to the whole Broken Universe stuff. I don’t think there is anything wrong with those characters. But for Matt they said he can’t do the motion of “delete” and you can’t use “Obsolete.” “Obsolete” is my song from our last band album. I can use that wherever I want to. Basically with mine it is that I can’t refer to myself as Brother Nero, and I can’t do the “delete” motion. And that’s it.

It’s like, “Are you telling me I can’t wear the contacts?” That’s just so silly. It always makes think, are they saying, “You can’t paint your eyelids because that was there on our show. You can’t do that with any other company. We own that.” It’s just so absurd. But it’s kind of inspiring at the same time.

What was your take on Sinclair’s (ROH parent company) reaction? Obviously, you were restricted in that match with what you could do.

They did the right thing just to play it safe. Just stay away from the jackets and don’t do the “delete” stuff. Naturally, fans are going to do that on their own. We just played ball and did the right thing until things are on more solid ground between both parties. So, yes, they handled it professionally.

Matt Hardy Jeff Hardy Hardy Boyz Belts Ring of Honor

The Hardy Boyz (Photo Credit: Patty McCarthy/Ring of Honor)

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You guys appear in Ring of Honor and quickly grab the tag titles. How has that ride been this past month?

It’s awesome. What a great team, even Joe [Koff]. What a cool dude and so reasonable and outgoing. It’s been great so far. I can’t wait until Saturday. It’s always challenging. I’ve been watching ladder matches today trying to come up with ideas because the Young Bucks are the best. We have their titles right now, and they’re going to be hanging high above the Ring of Honor ring. But so far it’s been great. What a great team and a great squad, and hopefully we’ll be there for a good amount of time.

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Let’s talk about this ladder match. You and I have talked in the past about your fears of suffering head trauma in a match and concussions and leading to CTE. Are you still comfortable doing the crazy high spots? What can we expect to see?

It’s my comfort zone. I’d rather do a ladder match any day over a 30-minute Broadway regular match where so much technical stuff comes into play. It’s my claim to fame and my comfort zone. I do consider myself the master of ladders in pro wrestling. Going in there with guys like the Young Bucks and to be 39 years old now and thinking about this biggest Ring of Honor show in history. It’s pretty intimidating, but somehow it works, and I can’t help but love it. I worry about my back more. I know I’m going to end up taking a big fall or doing a Swanton and breaking ladders. But I don’t worry about it. I just look forward to it because the payoff is in the fear. When you’re kind of afraid of it and it’s all over and it’s great, the payoff is wonderful. The rush of adrenaline [is] wonderful. It’s the best, and I cannot wait to experience that Saturday night.

Let’s address the big elephant in the room. You have the ladder match Saturday night and then there’s another ladder match on Sunday… So, what are you and your brother doing on Sunday?

We are doing the Broken Tailgate Party. It’s going to be right near WrestleMania. It’s going to be super weird. For several years I didn’t want to do WrestleCon because I didn’t want to be anywhere near WrestleMania. Because if I was to be near WrestleMania, I would want to be in it. It’s going to be strange, but we’re doing a six-hour signing the day of Mania. And knowing they’re going to have a ladder match makes me think: why aren’t we in that? Because we should be. Oh well, maybe next year.

Rumor has it that WWE has presented you guys with contracts. Is there any truth to that?

No, because you have to go through so much testing and all of that. It’s a long process. But, no. We know some people there and naturally, after WrestleMania dies down, maybe a couple of months from now, we’ll see what’s possible. But there is no truth to that whatsoever.

So, we won’t be seeing you Monday or Tuesday, but maybe in a couple of months?

I want to take about three weeks off after Saturday. So, thank God we’re not wrestling Sunday because my body’s going to be all jacked up for sure. We’re also wrestling Friday night at the WrestleCon show. Those guys are amazing. We just wrestled Penta El Cero Miedo & Rey Fenix last weekend. It was so good.

Also on Friday night some friends of yours, the Rock ’n Roll Express, are going into the WWE Hall of Fame. You have to be pretty excited about that.

For sure. They were part of the Apocolypto deal. We had a little match with them. I still want to have a decent match with them. I love them to death. They’re the best. Hopefully I don’t know where or with what promotion, but we’ll have that dream match. But full congrats to them because they deserve it.

Let’s talk a little music. When we last talked you just put out your solo debut EP, Spawn of Me, and now you’ve done a live performance and did some live tracks. How’d that show go?

It was awesome. I went out to Nashville Thursday evening and rehearsed all day Friday. Then I did a wrestling show in Clarksville and stayed in the ring to do in-ring pics with a huge line. Then I changed and went straight to the bar and did 11 or 12 songs. And my voice was gone. Even during the meet-and-greet it was so embarrassing. I was so afraid because my voice was horrible. Luckily somehow I got through it. It wasn’t bad. It could have been worse. It was so natural, and it gave me such confidence that I can’t wait to do it again. It was a blast. The charisma was there. It was a great experience for me and gave me hope for the future.

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How was the release of the “Spawn of Me” EP? It sounds like it was pretty successful.

I think so. I’m not sure exactly how much we sold because we never came out with any hard copies of that. But what’s so exciting right now is that week of the show in Clarksville I went to Nashville and we finished Precession of the Equinoxes. That’s our third band album. There are 14 tracks. It starts with spoken word and ends with a very dark spoken word song. It’s a roller coast ride of emotion. It goes from happiness to sadness to in between to all throughout the album. Hopefully that will be out around May or June. We’re getting the artwork together now for the hard copy. I’m very excited about that and super proud of it.

The new shirt up on is the cover of the album. It’s a black-and-white theme. I’m in these vines. People seem to dig that shirt. Hopefully there’s going to be a lyric book inside of the album too. I’m a huge fan of going out and getting an actual CD. I’m more of a record-type of guy instead of downloading stuff. It should be great.

Your band PEROXWHY?GEN just finished recording. You now have a live show under your belt. Does that mean we could see you guys out on tour?

Yeah, hopefully so. As a matter of fact, I’ll probably mention something to Ring of Honor this weekend about playing at a live gig at one of the shows. I’ve always wanted to mix the music with the wrestling. So hopefully that will come true eventually. And definitely I hope to play many more shows throughout the year. I was actually so close to playing two dates on the Warped Tour this summer. They offered through my guitar player, and that’s huge. That’s like being in there with the major leaguers. I was so scared because I didn’t know if we could do it. That needs to be the full band with the heavy songs and all that. It was just too soon.

You just mentioned talking to Ring of Honor about doing a live performance at one of their shows. Have you guys re-signed there? How long are you going to be sticking around there?

It’s short-term. It’s through the summer. What’s cool about Ring of Honor is that we can still go out and work the indie dates. That’s another thing about the TNA deal was that they wanted to take our indy dates from us, and I really enjoy working the independent circuit. You meet some crazy, cool, interesting people and the shows have been so great as of late. I would say our Ring of Honor deals are through the summer. It’s a short-term deal and we’ll see how things go. We’ll test the waters for a while and hopefully help the company grow.

So Saturday isn’t going to the be the last time we see you guys in a Ring of Honor ring?

Oh, no. No, there’s going to be many more shows. Many more honorable shows.

Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.

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Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.