Jeff Hardy has revealed that he always knew he would join AEW, claiming he felt WWE only kept him around to help sell action figures.
Former World Champion Jeff Hardy was released by WWE on December 9th after he turned down an offer to attend rehab, following “erratic behaviour” at a live event. At the time, Hardy and his family said that the star was fine, and he was later proven to have passed company drug tests prior to his release.
Upon the expiration of his 90-day non-compete clause Hardy joined his brother Matt in AEW on March 9th. The pair reunited in the ring the following week, defeating Private Party.
Appearing on the Extreme Life of Matt Hardy podcast, the Charismatic Enigma looked back on his final months with WWE, and the events which led to his departure. Hardy described the period as “weird” but there were always glimmers of hope he would do something significant.
“Certain things happen for a reason. Subconsciously, that was maybe the smartest thing I’ve ever done, guided by something higher than me, I’ll say,” Jeff said about his exit at the live event. “WWE was so strange, I had been there for almost two years. After I came back from knee surgery, another strange thing about our careers, when Matt debuted in AEW, the pandemic had hit, in front of nobody, he teleported down from the nosebleeds.
I was supposed to [return] in Detroit in front of 20,000 people, I came back from knee surgery in front of nobody. I came back from surgery, Matt debuted in front of nothing because of the pandemic. It was weird. The best way I can describe my journey the last few months in WWE was like ‘glimmers of hope, maybe I still do have something.'”
One of these glimmers of hope was Survivor Series 2021. The men’s elimination match came down to Hardy vs. Seth Rollins. Although Hardy was defeated, he enjoyed incredible support from fans on the night, and was a firm fan favourite around this period.
“The last glimmer of hope was Survivor Series, which was really good. It came down to me and Seth Rollins, I was killing it, almost won and the crowd was so behind me. I felt like one of the most popular babyfaces in WWE because the crowd was so with me. Then there were other times where I felt like a ghost, roaming the halls like, ‘why am I even here? I don’t feel important.’ I kept doing my deal and would show up and do whatever they wanted me to do. I’ve never been a politicker so I don’t go out of my way to try and get a certain spot or achieve a certain status.
That night in Edinburg, Texas, I finished my heat, I took the heat, and I said, ‘I’m ready to go.’ Went over the rail, disappeared into the crowd. Naturally, they think I took something like drugs or whatever, but I didn’t. If I was that bad, I should have never went out there, that’s the way I see it. I thought, ‘Just another unpredictable thing I can do and I’ll get away with it.’ It was more serious than that.”
The tag team legend added that it felt like WWE were keeping him around to sell action figures, but things are different in AEW.
“Again, it was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done because everything worked out so perfectly, mainly because my first day in AEW, I felt valuable for the first time. The care and love I was shown, I got chills thinking about it. In WWE, it felt like they just wanted to keep me there to sell action figures. I put so much love and joy in painting my face, when I see it come out and immortalized in an action figure, I’m like, ‘that’s why it do this, it’s so cool.’ That’s one thing I’m super excited about in AEW, my first action figure with the face paint,”
In the midst of Jeff Hardy’s exit from WWE, it was suggested by some that he may have deliberately gotten released so he could join AEW. Hardy said that despite feeling disillusioned he wasn’t trying to get fired, however, he did always plan on joining AEW when his WWE contract expired in September 2022.
“It felt right in the moment. I wasn’t trying to get released. Just thinking about Survivor Series and how fun that was, the connection with the crowd and they wanted me to win so bad, it made me think back to SummerSlam, it was a big crowd, and I was just there all day for nothing like, ‘Why am I even here?’ I was so excited to be a part of it, some little spot or something, but I wasn’t even involved. ‘Why am I even here?’ Not just SummerSlam, but, ‘Why am I still here in WWE? What’s my purpose?’ because it didn’t feel like I had much of one.”
Anybody from AEW was like, ‘How much longer you got?’ ‘A little under two years now.’ That was ultimately the plan. depending on how things went throughout those two years. I’m in good shape, but I’m still pretty beat up. I don’t know how much longer I’ve got and I want to make the most of the time I do have. I’m sure Matt feels the same way, ‘let’s get this in while we can.’ I felt like I was wasting away in WWE for my good moments that haven’t happened yet while I’m healthy and feel good in the ring. I feel valued now and that’s very important as a performer,”
While Jeff Hardy’s AEW debut was a hit with fans, others were more critical. Wrestling personality Jim Cornette, described the moment as a missed opportunity, and poorly planned.
H/t to Fightful for the transcription.