Matt Hardy is proving to be a ratings draw nearly two decades into his pro-wrestling career.
Hardy challenged Darby Allin for the TNT title on the April 14 episode of “AEW Dynamite”. The program drew 1.219 million viewers on TNT, according to Nielsen, nearly double the previous week. It was AEW’s first week unopposed by WWE’s NXT after the latter moved to a Tuesday timeslot. Hardy praised Allin and analyzed the factors that contributed to the high viewership.
“Darby is starting to prove to be a ratings guy because people really like him. And he gets it so much. He reminds me of my brother in so many ways as to how he sells from underneath. He gets sympathy and he’s just… he’s cool. The kids like him. He’s super cool,” he told ET Canada. “Being an older competitor, especially with the younger AEW audience, I am the perfect bad guy.”
“I hoped we would break a million and do a good number. But when we heard 1.2, I was blown away and super happy, super excited,” he continued. “And I really think it was a good payoff because people didn’t know when they tuned in if Darby Allin was going to lose the TNT title or retain the title. And I think that was part of the charm of it.”
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Hardy, 46, has spearheaded and revolutionized the cinematic format of pro-wrestling in the modern era. These matches, unlike typical wrestling matches that are performed live in front of an audience, are taped in various settings and shot like an action movie. Hardy has performed in a number of cinematic matches under his “Broken” Matt Hardy alter-ego.
“My initial mindset in doing ‘Broken’ Matt Hardy in the very beginning was to look for longevity, because I knew what the new kids were doing. As the style was changing in 2015, 2016, 2017, I’m like, ‘Well, I’m not 25 anymore,'” Hardy shared. “Maybe we do matches that are shot more like a movie, you know, more like a piece of cinema. And then that could conserve my body.”
“My brother [Jeff Hardy] has such an addiction to doing Swanton [Bombs] and Whisper in the Winds and he wants to do everything because he’s so passionate and he feels like his fans deserve it,” he explained. “That he wants to give everything. And it’s like, ‘Dude, you’re getting older. They want to see Jeff Hardy, you’re a star. You can’t beat up your body every single night.'”
The cinematic matches have been adopted by mainstream promotions like AEW and WWE. It served as the final match in the Undertaker’s career and brought Sting, 62, out of a five-year-long retirement.
“Considering it gave Taker a great match against AJ Styles, that was amazing. I love the Boneyard Match. And Sting now being in AEW and being able to do these cinematic matches where he can be the Sting of old, it feels really special and you never know what you’re going to get. I think that’s amazing. So if I did help contribute to the new era of cinematic matches, I am very proud of the fact.“
Hardy also touched on his “That ’70s Show” appearance in 1999, in which he pinned his brother Jeff, and his charity-winning performance on “Fear Factor” in 2020.
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“I enjoyed ‘That 70s Show’, we were very young, new guys,” Hardy said. “So just to get on that show and get the opportunity to perform in an acting role was so cool and we were so flattered to be chosen for it. And it was so much fun. It was an amazing learning experience in so, so many ways.
Hardy’s impression of doing reality TV is equally great: “I would do ‘Fear Factor’ again, I had a blast doing it and I was worried like maybe they might do something with the physical challenges that might be too much for me that I can’t do. But when it came to eating or doing something gross or being afraid, I wasn’t worried about that at all. I’m good with all that stuff.”
Hardy has worked for just about every major active U.S. pro-wrestling company, and you can tell he is happy to call AEW home.
“It’s an amazing, just amazing group of people. And there are so many veterans that work with so many young talents. And Tony Khan does such a great job steering the ship,” Hardy expressed. “And I’m just so proud to be a part of AEW. And I feel like AEW really is the future of pro-wrestling.“