By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Since I started watching wrestling in April 2008, I've had a long list of favorite wrestlers, but very few have served as inspirational icons of mine. The Ultimate Warrior was one, and interestingly enough, it was nothing he did as a wrestler that inspired me; it was the motivational videos he was putting out on his YouTube channel over the summer of 2011, a time in which I wasn't doing too well myself. The other major idol in my life has been Matt Hardy.
Because I wasn't in a great place in my life in mid-2011, I felt like I could relate to Matt Hardy. Not Matt Hardy the character, but the person. He had been among my favorites dating back to his heel turn in January 2009. Yes, his feud with Jeff Hardy was written horribly, and I don't know why it was that moment specifically that made me like him, but that was when I considered him a favorite of mine. But after he was released from WWE in October 2010, his life went into a tailspin.
From his short-lived stint in TNA to his wacky YouTube videos to his concerning posts on social media, Hardy was drawing the ire of wrestling fans. They stopped feeling sorry for him and wanted him to get his act together. I almost wanted to jump on the band wagon, but part of me stayed true to the man who claimed he would not die because I knew deep down he would recover. And he did.
After a social media scare in August 2011, Hardy proceeded to enter WWE-sponsored rehab and return to the wrestling independent scene early the next year, and thus his road to redemption began. He started working with Ring of Honor later that year, and although he was "rejected" by the ROH loyalists at first, he turned the negative into a positive by becoming one of the promotion's lead heels and forming the S.C.U.M. faction before aligning with The Kingdom after the group's demise.
In July 2014, he made his return to TNA and reunited with his brother Jeff on national TV for the first time in over three years. Over the next year, the two took the TNA tag team division by storm, producing exhilarating matches with the likes of The Wolves, Team 3D, and The Revolution. Their chase for the championships culminated in April 2015 when they captured the TNA World Tag Team titles for the first time in their respective careers in what was a monumental moment.
Even when Jeff suffered a serious leg injury in early 2015, that didn't stop Matt's wave of momentum by any means. He began to campaign for a shot at Ethan Carter III's TNA World Heavyweight Championship, losing in back-to-back bouts to the young up-and-comer before securing a spot in the main event of TNA's biggest pay-per-view of the year, Bound for Glory. In his native North Carolina, Hardy scored the three count on Drew Galloway to clinch his first major world title (with the exception of his 2008 run as ECW Champion).
Some questioned the decision to put TNA's top strap on a seasoned veteran "past his prime," but it was a well-deserved championship victory for the former United States Champion, and with his performances in the last year alone, Hardy has proven he's still capable of contesting quality matches in the twilight of his career. Sadly, he was forced to relinquish the title a mere two days later, but throughout the World Title Series, he's had engaging matches with everyone he's stepped in the ring with.
Hardy's worth to TNA goes far beyond the ring, however, as he's been an excellent ambassador for them on social media and elsewhere since returning. He's a notable name to those who aren't aware of the product and he's also able to exercise his freedom on the independent scene. When his current contract with TNA expires (whenever that may be), he'll be a valuable asset to whichever promotion he ultimately signs with.
If he remains with TNA a while longer, he can continue to work with the young talent and be prominently featured toward the top of the card. If he returns to WWE (possibly alongside his brother Jeff), he can have one last run on the big stage or take an agent role. Even if he was to go back to Ring of Honor, a company that's been firing on all cylinders at the moment, there are a handful of fresh faces for him to up against that have risen in his absence.
Both personally and professionally, "The Man That Will Not Die" appears to have everything going his way, resulting in him being in the best place of his career right now. I've had the distinct privilege of being able to call him a friend in recent years in meeting him on several occasions since 2012. I look forward to what his future holds, and whatever it might be, it's already guaranteed to be bright.