Matt and Jeff Hardy, known collectively as The Hardy Boyz, rose to fame appearing together in the ring as one of the most dynamic and entertaining tag teams in the history of professional wrestling. Thirteen years after debuting together in a WWE ring, the duo will appear next month but in court in Moore County, North Carolina where both face serious criminal charges.
Jeff, who was arrested in September 2009, will appear in court on September 8, 2011 to respond to felony drug violations where officers found large amounts of prescription painkillers, anabolic steroids and powder cocaine residue in his home.
Following a car crash this weekend that led to his firing from Impact Wrestling, Matt will appear in court on September 28, 2011 to respond to charges of Driving While Impaired and Exceeding Safe Speed while driving.
While their problems with the law are the most serious, there are other problems that have haunted them both in recent years. Jeff violated the WWE Wellness Policy twice and after his third failure, he quit before the company could announce his termination. Jeff ended up going to TNA Wrestling where his problems continued as he showed up at their Victory Road pay-per-view “unfit” to perform in March. Matt was sent home from WWE’s overseas tour last September before eventually leaving the company and going to TNA. Like his brother Jeff, the problems didn’t stop there as he had been on suspension from TNA/ImpactWrestling since June before being released this weekend.
I could spend the next several paragraphs highlighting “the rise and fall of the Hardy Boyz” but that’s not where I want to go with this editorial. There is no doubt that both Matt and Jeff Hardy are in bad places in life right now and need help. They need help from their family, their friends and their fans. However, their actions that have proceeded their problems have alienated their largest support group – the fans.
Everyone makes mistakes, it’s human nature. However, how one handles their image after their mistakes, especially when they are in the eye of the public, must be very calculated in order to repair their public image. To give you an example using sports, Colorado Rockies first baseman Jason Giambi got caught using Performance Enhancing Drugs but he handled the situation very carefully and quickly repaired his public image. Others such as Barry Bonds maintain their innocence despite an overwhelming amount of evidence that suggests he is guilty.
It’s a fact that people are not sympathetic to athletes regardless if they are in professional sports or professional wrestling. Fans see these guys (or girls) as having a limited and unique opportunity to make a lot of money and prosper in life. The majority of fans are quick to offer praise when an athlete does good but quick to condemn when one messes up. However, history shows us that critical fans can also be forgiving if the appropriate actions are taken. This is where both Matt and Jeff have failed miserably.
Jeff Hardy rushed to Twitter the same day he was arrested in September 2009, cautioning fans not to believe everything they read. Last September, Matt denied reports he was sent home from WWE’s overseas tour only to be proved to be lying by WWE. Fast-forward to this latest incident and we have Matt Hardy bragging about passing a breathalyzer only for the police to confirm he had not been drinking but was impaired. I was very surprised to see that Shane Helms, a real-life close friend of both the Hardy Boyz, was on Twitter last night, hurling expletives at fans over Matt Hardy’s recent arrest.
The most important and urgent action that needs to take place is someone close to Jeff and Matt needs to reach out to them both and help them. Whether it’s a phone call or a visit, it’s time the people close to Jeff and Matt reach out to them and let them know they are there to help. Both situations are serious and can be life-threatening if not properly dealt with.
Next, someone needs to get with the Hardy Boyz and instruct them on how to re-build a badly damaged public reputation. I am not a PR guy but I can offer out a couple of pointers:
Shut up. This is simple and perhaps a bit harsh, but everyone in the Hardy camp (including Matt and Jeff) needs to abstain from any contact with fans. Right now is not the time to fire back at the media, fans or anyone else. The computers and cell phones need to be put away unless they are used to contact friends or family members.
People are not stupid. It’s 2011, not 1911. Information is as fast flowing as ever and there is no hiding anything, especially if you are in the eye of the public. Matt doesn’t need to make claims like “there is more to the story” or “I passed a breathalyzer.” Any comment made at all should come in the form of a written statement by an attorney. If I were Matt, I would have called my lawyer in jail and told them to issue a statement that I was OK and appreciated the support of my fans but asked that they respect my privacy.
In conclusion, Matt and Jeff have both messed up. It’s got to be health first and public image second. All personal matters need to be resolved before either one thinks about wrestling again. I had the opportunity to meet Matt back in February and he was extremely polite to me. I will even go as far as saying he went “out of his way” to be nice. I really appreciated his support and feel bad to see things going south for he and Jeff. However, it’s never too late to begin repairing your public image. Michael Vick is the latest superstar of a badly tarnished reputation only to rebound and become beloved once again by millions of fans across the world. It’s now up to the Hardy’s where they go from here and I sincerely hope a good chapter concludes their respective careers and not another wrestling tragedy.