During the latest “AEW Unrestricted” podcast, Matt Hardy discussed his WWE departure and what lead him to signing with AEW in 2020:
“It was a long process,” Hardy said. “When I was at WWE, and obviously whenever I went back to WWE in 2017, it was really important for me to go there and leave on a good note because when I left in 2011, I just wasn’t in a good place. I wanted to go back because I do owe all those guys. I have a great appreciation for WWE, Vince McMahon, and all those people because I wouldn’t be who I am without them. I very openly acknowledge that, and I’m grateful for that. So I went there. I wanted to be the best I could be. I wanted to go back and work, and if I’m leaving or finishing, leave on the right terms, whatever it may be.
So my brother got hurt, which is very weird because he hasn’t been hurt throughout his 27 year career. Finally, things caught up to him. He had a couple surgeries during that time, and he was gone, and he was away. So I was talking with Vince and Creative about different ideas and what I was going to do. They were trying to get me to resign because this is right around the time AEW started up. I had been very close to The Bucks for a while. I had worked with them originally back in Impact, and then I worked with them in Ring of Honor. I had worked with them a few different times. Right towards the end of that Impact run, we were going to do a cross promotional thing between ROH and Impact doing The Hardy Boyz vs The Bucks. If that would have happened, that would have been very, very cool, but it didn’t end up happening because Jeff Jarrett came back, and he wasn’t in the best place in his life. We ended up leaving and returned to WWE. Then when I did come back to WWE at that time, I just wanted to be the best employee I could and really show them that I’m grateful, I’m appreciative, I’m going to kick my a** and be as good as I can for you, and so is my brother.
So the last eight or nine months I was there, they were working on resigning me, especially when AEW was there. It was almost like they didn’t want anyone to go to AEW. That was kind of the feel or the mindset there. So they offered some good deals with money. I said, ‘But, it’s also important to me that I’m going to be treated appropriately as a wrestler’ because there’s kind of this thing there with Vince and older wrestlers. He just feels like they’re done. I think Tony Khan does a masterful job of putting older guys into certain positions where they can succeed and you can optimize their efforts and their talents. After talking to Vince a little bit, I saw that he wanted me to wrestle a little bit, but he wasn’t up on utilizing me a lot in different roles. I never wanted to be champion. I don’t want to be champion. I don’t need to be champion. I just want to be in a good role where I can work with other people, help younger guys, and also stay relevant on my own. He said, ‘Yea, but I kind of see you transitioning to a producer behind the scenes.’ I know that once he says that, that’s kind of what’s in his mind. I’m like, if I can wrestle, I want to wrestle because I know I only have a few more years left to do this, plus I’m going to make the most money there. This is my dream and my passion. I love it. It’s really what I want to do while I can do it, especially as my kids are getting a little older. For them to be able to see me wrestle is so cool to me too, so I definitely wanted to wrestle. As time went on, I didn’t sign. They said, ‘Ok, well we’re going to take you off TV for a while.’ I said, ‘Ok, cool. No big deal.’ Again they said, ‘Are you ready to sign yet? If you sign, you can come back to TV.’ They ended up bringing me back to TV and had me work with some younger guys and had those guys win. That’s no big deal. At this stage of the game, I’m Matt Hardy. I’m going to be fine either way. People know who I am. I’ve done enough. I’m established. You’re really not going to change that fact. It’s almost like it felt like they were trying to do whatever they could do to force me to resign or I’m going to lose matches, or I’m not going to be on TV, or whatever it may be. Then at the very end, they did like a big Hail Mary where I was going to work with Randy Orton and they had some things that were promising, and also a big money contract which was really, really huge and would have been a great deal. I was appreciative of it, but I know Vince had saw me transitioning into a producer role and that’s where I was going to end up. If Vince has something set in his mind, that is what ultimately is going to happen. He will get you back there. It’s always like that.
So, I spoke with The Bucks and Tony. We talked about some things like wrestling on a limited schedule, whatever it may be, and maybe represent some guys. Tony was just amazing to talk to. He was so respectful. Tony Khan is so respectful of guys who have contributed to this business. Just the way he talks to you, the way he treats you, the way he books you, everything. It was great talking to him. After talking to The Bucks and talking to Tony Khan, my mind was made up. I knew I was going to go to AEW. It was just a great experience, and I have nothing but the best things to say about Tony Khan, especially considering the state of dealing with him and him compensating you, and him also taking care of you. He is just great across the board, so I was very happy I ended up coming to AEW.”