Jim Ross has spoken at length about the drug and alcohol issues that would lead to Jeff Hardy leaving WWE for the first time in 2003.
Ross was discussing Hardy on his Grilling JR podcast, as part of a conversation around WrestleMania XX in 2004. At that time Hardy was unsigned after being released from his WWE contract in April 2003. Ross’ co-host Conrad Thompson cited reports that suggested Hardy been in line for a return at the event, however, that did not come to pass.
Jim Ross then spoke in detail about Hardy’s demise in the company stemming from drug and alcohol abuse issues:
“Jeff was in total denial. Like a lot of substance abusers, he just didn’t perceive he had a big problem. ‘It’s nothing I can’t handle.’ And so when I – I remember sitting down and talking to him at a TV [recording] after the drug tests and so forth. Him appearing to be, you know, affected. Not in the right frame of mind. Just, on whatever pills he was taking.”
“I said ‘you know, we have this theory here Jeff where we solve problems or we eliminate them. The way we’re gonna solve your problem if you agree is we’re gonna send you to rehab and help you. Why are you doing this? Why are you purposely valuing getting high over your career? You’re not gonna make any money getting high; you can make a lot of money as Jeff Hardy the superstar.’ And he was getting a singles opportunity coming up and he had great charisma as we all know. Phenomenal performer.”
“But he said I’m not going to rehab. I said ‘Is that your final answer? You wanna think about this and get back to me later today ’cause we gotta decide today.’ ‘No, I’m not going, there’s no sense waiting, I’m not going.’ ‘Alright then, I guess you’re basically telling me you’re done because we can’t continue this way. It’s not an option, we just can’t do it.”
WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross then noted that there is a different way of thinking now in regards to these issues than may have been prevalent in 2004:
“He was wrecking corvettes and all these things. He was missing death multiple times. You know, he was so well-liked there, Jeff’s a lovable guy. I’m so happy he’s got that sh*t under control and that’s a blessing for him and his family. But he didn’t believe he had a problem and he’s an old redneck, a country boy – maybe it’s a sign of weakness I’m admitting to. So what? Now, it’s a different mindset when people talk about those that have drug and alcohol issues.”
Ross then discussed WWE Chairman Vince McMahon’s reaction to Hardy’s decision to refuse help:
“So I was really surprised at that decision [Jeff choosing not to go to rehab] and when I told Vince [McMahon], he was incredulous as well. ‘You mean he’s gonna walk away – you know we’re gonna push him, you know he’s got a great opportunity.’ Apparently, he’d rather get high than come to work. Luckily for everybody involved, for many, many obvious reasons. He’s climbed that mountain and he’s looking down as a past drug and alcohol abuser.”
JR commented on the pressures of being a star in the WWE and the faith that management need to have in their stars to be reliable:
“He was primed, we talk about the reliability thing. There’s no reason Jeff Hardy would not have been a great WWE Champion. But he just wasn’t reliable and how do you put your championship on somebody that you don’t have full confidence that they’re gonna be cool, they’re gonna be ok. Can they take the pressure of being the champion? Can they take the pressure of going on last night after night? The pressure of putting the company on their shoulders and marching forward. And at that time, that was not what everybody thought, that Jeff was going to be able to hold up in that scenario.”
“Part of it is just maturity and you get past it man. Nobody was ever gonna bail on him. Look, if he raised his hand and said ‘I’m ready to go get help,’ we’d have brought him right back after the help. After successfully completing a drug and alcohol program.”
Jim Ross would close the discussion by discussing the importance of a good family around Jeff. Noting that Hardy’s wife helped him have a happy ending in regards to his addictions:
“So, it was a tough time and I feel bad about that. Now you look back and say ‘well he wasted some time there that you can’t retrieve.’ He was hard-headed as hell.”
“Being married to a strong woman, that stood by his side – she Tammy Wynette-d his ass. Stand by your man. Beth was a great wife and she helped him through this mountain of misery. So yeah, he had a good support system. But it all starts with the offender, it all starts with who he sees in the mirror. You can’t get over it until you make a commitment to step away from that lifestyle. And he just wasn’t ready obviously at that point in time, in his career, in his life to step away. But he changed his mind and I love to talk about the happy endings because this could have ended a lot more tragically.”
Jeff Hardy would return to WWE after a spell in TNA in 2006. During this run, Hardy would capture the WWE Championship as well as the World Heavyweight Championship twice.
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