Dueling Diaries: Day 3
Dueling Diaries: Jeff and Matt Hardy
By Craig Tello with photos by Rich Freeda and Eric Johnson
April 3, 2009
Morning light, 9:19 a.m.
The day has just begun and Jeff Hardy is slowly maneuvering his way into his Friday. The enigmatic Superstar's rise varies today from yesterday, it seems. The window curtails are fully drawn to permit entry for beams of natural light. Jeff is contentedly plopped atop his hotel room mattress, though he briefly describes a fairly restless night and similarly restless legs. Given this, he is maximizing a light morning just hours prior to an appearance scheduled at WrestleMania Axxess.
Call from home, 9:31 a.m.
Jeff climbs from the pillow flanked relief of his bed at the sound of his cell phone. It's his father -- the same man who raised Jeff's WrestleMania opponent. While his delicate, sympathetic tone remains steady, the son's body language reveals his quandary. Of course, no father wishes to see their boys clash, let alone fight under terms where the most intensely brutal assaults are condoned and even somewhat encouraged by the match's name itself.
Almost inaudible muffles on the other end of the phone portray Jeff's dad's distress as his tonal inflection clearly pleads with Jeff's sensibilities. The conversation finally ends with Jeff reassuring his dad that this match simply has to happen. As much as he cannot support this conflict or their Extreme Rules Match, the Hardys' father has no choice but to hope for the best while watching from his North Carolina home on Sunday.
Jeff is a Mac?, 10:09 a.m.
An emotionally taxing discussion with his dad sends Jeff in search of a seat. Releasing a sigh, the exasperated, conflicted Hardy lowers his cellular device and diverts his attention with gadgetry. Not surprisingly, Jeff proves to be a Mac type of guy, at least when it comes to his mobile phone. He sorts through his iPhone, tapping and swishing through windows. Jeff explains that he doesn't really get too far into heavy tech stuff but enjoys a few applications in particular: Shazam, Pandora and Google Earth.
Strange glow, 10:33 a.m.
Reflective, Jeff moves toward the large landscape window overlooking the Bayou City. A strangely marvelous glow lingers within Jeff's quarters as the morning sun penetrates the room. The bright light engulfs Hardy to create what looks like a visual manifestation of his aura. But this luminescence creates a false sense of tranquility because even this warm radiance is not enough to settle Jeff's conflicted feelings.
These boots were made for ... Extreme Rules, 10:52 a.m. (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)
It's an unsung detail that many Superstars pay keen attention to, especially at events the magnitude of WrestleMania: New ring attire.
For Jeff Hardy, basic black is tried and true, while vibrant detailing lies in his embodied fashion: His unconventional tattoos. But for the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania and such a crucial match in his career, Jeff sought to kick things off right. On Sunday, he will break in a brand new pair of ring boots that were custom made by a company called Stagecoach, who supplies Jeff with all of his competitive footwear. According to Jeff, he typically changes his boots every six months, but this is The Biggest Spectacle of Them All.
As a sneak peek, Jeff removes the pair from a special satchel to reveal a sleek set of royal purple boots accented by gun metal grey straps. They are just as uniquely eye-catching as you would expect from Jeff Hardy.
About that time, 11:23 a.m.
A glance at the digital alarm clock and Jeff realizes it's almost time to move. But first, however, he pulls up a chair to reassess his schedule for the day. He fingers through a multi-page booklet containing event details and times, phone numbers, addresses, reminders, maps, recommended eateries in the local Houston area -- an overwhelming amount of information just for the five fully booked days of WrestleMania week.
Later today, the tattooed warrior appears at Reliant Center for Friday Night SmackDown live at WrestleMania Axxess, the epicenter of WWE festivities. Jeff feels certain that today he will cross paths with his older brother and foe, Matt.
Table for one, 2:54 p.m.
It's the early afternoon and Matt catches a quick, late lunch at a nearby sandwich shop. He attempts to enjoy every bite -- alone, as he stresses -- until he is recognized and approached by one of the eatery's employees. Matt reluctantly accepts the fan's handshake, but abruptly curtails any opportunity for conversation, refocusing on his midday meal -- an important element of his regimen.
"As the day goes on, I try to eat less carbs and more meat," Matt explained. "It doesn't always work out that way but that's the plan."
Perfect enemies, 3:57 p.m.
Almost an hour later, Matt finds himself behind the wheel and at the radio dial. While cruising through Houston's busy intersections en route to the gym, the baleful Hardy searches for a soundtrack. He passes up talk radio, top 50 pop and more, finally settling when a suitable song catches his attention.
Matt raises the volume and reveals that he recognizes the tune, "Passive" by A Perfect Circle, aggressively stating that it reminds him of his brother.
"The hook in the song is about two people who are each other's perfect enemies," said the elder Hardy brother. "It's a debate about how they used to be very close but now they're separated, ultimately, perfect enemies."
Fit for fighting, 4:31 p.m. (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)
Inside the gym, Matt makes time for cardio exercise and then works on his back and shoulders as well. In his head on loop, the "Passive" tune replays but is accompanied by the treadmill's whirr and clanking weights.
"I'm a big cardio freak because I like to stay in shape," Matt admitted, citing a recent MCL tear that slowed him down a bit in late 2008. "I've been doing a lot of cardio to make sure that my wind is good for however long I need to go at WrestleMania."
This is a true contrast, according to Matt, to his younger sibling.
"Jeff doesn't do a lot of gym. He's not a big gym person," the former ECW Champion said in between weightlifting reps. "He's lazy and it will eventually catch up with him, especially with all the risks he takes. In the long haul, my body will last and be a lot healthier than his."
In transit, 5:05 p.m.
Elsewhere in the Bayou City, Jeff climbs into a lengthy coach bus with a host of WWE Superstars, Divas and Legends headed for WrestleMania Axxess. Among others, WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2009 Inductee Howard Finkel greets Jeff on his way down the narrow center aisle.
The free spirited Superstar steps directly toward the most rear seat aboard the black charter bus, where he sits undisturbed for the ride to Reliant Park. Dusk is beginning to fall upon Texas and wading in the orange sun purges a yawn from a clearly comfortable Jeff Hardy.
Dirty dealings, 5:53 p.m.
Before 2009, it would be a rare occurrence to catch Matt Hardy conversing with someone like John Morrison. As they both exit the gym, Matt compliments the so-called Shaman of Sexy on the bite of his banter in a recent edition of "The Dirt Sheet" on WWE.com. This, of course, leads to an exchange where Jeff is the target of put-downs and mean-spirited wit. The sight is still strange and difficult to accept for anyone who has seen the Hardys prior to the termination of their relationship earlier this year by Matt.
Dreamers meet, 6:06 p.m.
Corralled into a curtained partition with THQ Superstar Challenge competitors and WrestleMania Axxess attendees, Jeff Hardy waits for his call to head out for an autograph session. There is one special Jeff Hardy fan, however, who cannot attend this event today in person. For this very ill 11-year old whose one desire is to speak with The Charismatic Enigma, dreams are about to come true. Jeff picks up the phone, dials the child and changes their day, their week, their month and quite possibly, their life, by fulfilling this single, simple wish.
Axxess-ible, 6:11 p.m.
It's time to head to the autograph booth and the method of transportation for the former WWE Champion is a cart which will maneuver around the back lots of the Reliant Center. Hardy's cohort for this short trip? "Mean" Gene Okerlund. The pair rides into the capacity crowded Axxess area and a hum turns to deafening "Hardy!" chants. A line of devout WWE Universe members is already in place and it erupts as well. The rows of fans snake nearly a dozen times to consolidate the voracious Jeff Hardy supporters on hand for his autograph signing.
Sent to voicemail, 6:42 p.m.
Earlier, a North Carolina telephone number popped up on Jeff Hardy's phone. Hours past, Matt's mobile rings as he pulls up to a stop light less than a mile from the gym he'd just left. It's his father.
Rather than engage in a conversation with his heartsick parent who is sitting so many states away, Matt immediately ignores the call. He doesn't wish to turn back or bury any blood-stained hatchets.
The light turns green, the callous Superstar tosses the cell back onto the vacant passenger seat and he continues to drive.
WWE Universal appeal, 6:44 p.m.
While his brother drives around the Bayou City boasting a soured face, Jeff conjures innumerable smiles from an incredible number of our fans.
Two inked supporters of The Charismatic Enigma show off their proud body art, including Hardy-centric symbols on one young girl's right leg and another's left arm.
Before the Sharpie ink of his autographed t-shirt (still on him) can dry, Matthew from Dallas shouts, "Jeff Hardy is my favorite wrestler! I hope [he wins] against Matt Hardy. Go Jeff!"
Lastly, there's Carmen, a wheelchair-bound Houston girl with royal purple streaks in her stark black hair and every detail of Jeff Hardy attire. Clamoring for composure or some easing of her overwhelming elation, the young girl shares the reason for her blissful tears.
"I've had 37 surgeries and it's always been a dream of mine to meet Jeff Hardy," Carmen said. "He is my hero and if it wasn't for Jeff's entrance, I wouldn't be able to move my legs. I've been in brutal rehab and he helped me get through it."
She adds that she has proudly watched Jeff's personal evolution since 1993.
"He's my hero," she emphatically declared. "I never leave my house without my Hardy necklace. I'm so happy I met him."
Thinking inside the box, 8:19 p.m.
The autograph session comes to an end, but Jeff isn't yet ready to bail on WrestleMania Axxess … especially when there's an oversized action figure carton within a couple of yards.
Jeff is ushered past a swarm of Hardy loyalists to the display, where he gets within the encasement for an odd yet endearing display of facial expressions and more. He steps out and begins his march away from the main exhibit floor while slapping fives with fans lucky enough to look up and realize Jeff Hardy is just walking past them.
Though one humorous fan offers Jeff the chance to hold his baby, one pass-off does, in fact, take place. A very dedicated WWE devotee generates a homemade scrapbook that includes a number of pictures featuring the brothers-turned-men-at arms, as well as ticket stubs, clippings and much more.
Stuck, torn and tattered, 9:20 p.m.
Jeff is long gone before Matt appears for his autograph signing. Still, the elder sibling keeps quiet and reticent with a touch of hostility at these events.
The last straw seems to be an image of Jeff and Matt, who took hold of the fan's promotional picture in his hands and tore it down the middle -- leaving the Jeff section in indecipherably tattered pieces on the ground.
That same moment, Matt resets. He's stuck in thought and stuck in time, too, as fans step forward to unsuccessfully request his autograph. With Matt almost blanking out in the corner of the long table, WWE Universe members just keep moving along with the rest of a world that's also dancing in front of the trance-captive Hardy. It's not long before Matt heads out, on his own accord.
Diaries: Intro | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 4 | Day 5
Photos: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5
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