In the week's Wrestling Observer Newsletter Dave Meltzer speculates on Matt Hardy's upcoming TNA run (he's not signed yet; but, really, who are we kidding?) and also notes that, unsurprisingly, Matt Hardy's recent antics have effectively left those in the TNA locker room with a decidedly negative view of him.
Matt Hardy will get a big reaction coming in like all former WWE stars get, and how effective he’ll be likely depend on how much he wants to prove (Kurt Angle) vs. how much he feels he’s a star and can rest on his laurels (Booker T). But there is definitely skepticism toward him given his behavior, although management seems to have turned a blind eye to pretty much everything in that regard across the board.
Creepy YouTube videos where you appear to be drunk/drugged? Filming private videos of co-workers at catering and releasing it for the world to see to blackmail your employer into releasing you? Verbally trashing performers with other companies on camera? Non-stop grape-eating? Well, "Pretty much everything" does indeed mean "pretty much everything."
Following on from this, booker Bill Behrens ( who arranges outside dates for a great number of TNA talent, including AJ Styles, Tommy Dreamer and Shannon Moore) caused a stir recently on his December 8th Who's' Slamming Who podcast when he mentioned he had been told by people there that Jeff Hardy has been sent to the ring impaired on more than one occasion by TNA management. The podcast in question is here and the remarks comes at the 12:50 mark. Behrens later notes that TNA are putting themselves in a perilous position legally, as someone like Mr Anderson (who was injured when Hardy botched a chairshot meant to be aimed at Anderson's back, but instead hit him in the back of the head, causing the most serious concussion of Anderson's career) could easily sue claiming that mangement had created an unsafe working environment by turning a blind eye to Jeff's drug use, and there would be plenty of people around who could testify to Hardy appearing drugged or drunk backstage at various events.
Behrens was spot-on here: Indeed, if it is true that management knew Jeff was taking drugs, but allowed him to perform anyway, the only problem Anderson would have in a lawsuit would be deciding just how many zeros he wanted added on to the cheque. More after the cut.
Behrens' comments were picked up by several news sites, and possibly feeling the heat from those in TNA (even the usually low-key Beth Hardy trashed him on twitter) he "clarified" his comments a week later. That podcast is here. This was interesting: Brehens claimed he was speaking purely hypothetically. While his speculation of any potential lawuit and what happened at the Final Resolution PPV (Behrens indicates he doesn't fully believe the "exhaustion" story banded about as an excuse for Jeff's state backstage and thinks it may have been leaked to the dirtsheets to deflect from the real story) are hypothetical, at the 12:50 mark of the December 8th link he is heard specifically saying he has been informed that TNA management have sent Hardy to the ring the impaired. There's also the question of why someone would go into a 10 minute rant (which Behrens did) about purely "hypothetical" drug use. My guess: Behrens let his guard down, said something he shouldn't, and is possibly backtracking to appease a company he still has strong professional ties with.
What was missed on all the news site hysteria was that Behrens wasn't actually saying anything terribly controversial. The rumours about Jeff has been circulating since Jeff joined TNA in early 2010. On the April 14th 2010 issue of the F4W newsletter, Bryan Alvarez discussed how Hardy's sloppiness had led to Nash suffering a concussion (sound familiar?) and how Hardy often came off as incoherent and rambling on episodes of iMPACT, to the point that is was very noticable and often commented on by fans. Noting there were growing concern , he hinted that people there thought Jeff was using drugs again:
Speaking of Nash, he got a concussion during the cage match when Jeff did the senton and landed on his head. A LOT of people are talking about the state of Hardy. His work has sucked since he came to TNA and his promos are rambling and sometimes virtually incoherent. Don't think people haven't noticed. This same thing happened the last time he came here, shortly after he was fired from WWE for refusing to go to rehab.
Likewise, the PWTorch website flat-out said Jeff was "hammered" backstage at the Final Resolution pay-per-view and PWI stressed how serious the situation was, because backtracking as soon as their sources claimed it was exhaustion (which may have been the intention). In response to these claims, Hardy did himself no favours when he tweeted several strange, profanity-laced, incoherent denials:
AllThaTalkAboutLastSunday....forThoseOfYouThatBelievedThoseWords...FUCKYOU!!!!SoWrong...SoWrong!!!!!I'm bustingMyAss2 helpTNA...Period!!
Eh...okay Jeff, tweeting like a hysterical 14 year old girl will almost certainly not help your cause. In another mildly worrying story, Jeff also recently tweeted about nearly losing his hideous-looking world belt on a plane fight. Surely a common problem that has happened to...well, no other champion I can think of.
TNA's drug policy has already been covered on this site, by KJH here, needless to say, it isn't exactly flawless and doesn't even seem to be designed to protect performers or catch out their bad habits. Indeed, as the list of wrestlers injured by Hardy grows, Anderson, Nash, Angle (who broke his rib when Hardy landed on him wrong during their ppv match at No Surrender) this situation, and TNA's unwillingness to do anything about it, grows increasingly worrying.
Perhaps the final word should go with Bryan Alvarez. While known for detesting Vince Russo his criticism of TNA often goes beyond the horrible booking, and he is almost always spot-on when he does. Earlier this year, in the F4W newsletter, decrying the amount of risks TNA had allowed Kurt Angle to take in his ladder match with Ken Anderson, Alvarez observed: "For all the talk about how TNA is a big happy family, between that ladder match and the Rob Terry chairshot, this comes off as a company that doesn't give a fuck about the health and well-being of it's performers."