Justin Barrasso
Tuesday February 23rd, 2016

A six-sided steel cage stands for redemption for Matt Hardy and EC3.

The two men take their rivalry into the cage this Tuesday at Lockdown, as TNA champion Hardy desperately wants to show that his championship reign is not a fluke, while EC3 looks to reclaim what once belonged to him.

“Matt Hardy is a piece of s---,” said EC3. “He is a perennial liar and a master manipulator, and I’m going to kick his a-- and win back my title.”

The two began feuding last summer, which is nearly an eternity in today’s pro wrestling, but Hardy–in a twist of fate–turned the tables on EC3 in January by siding with Tyrus in a successful effort to win the title. Now if EC3 loses at Lockdown, he will not receive another title shot from Hardy.

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​“When I beat EC3 in the cage at Lockdown, then that’s it,” explained Hardy. “He gets no more title shots. He can challenge for the X-Division title, he can find a partner and go after the tag team titles, and he can even fight for the King of the Mountain title. But when it’s all said and done, EC3 will receive no more shots at the world heavyweight title after I defeat him at Lockdown.”

Hardy, who was trained by the legendary Dory Funk, Jr., first debuted in 1992. He has a long list of accomplishments in the business, particularly from his time with WWE, but there is one glaring exception. He has never put together a reign of any substance as world champion.

“This title means everything to me,” said Hardy. “A lot of guys haven’t lasted as long as me, especially the guys from the original TLC matches. Edge and Christian are gone from injuries. My brother Jeff has been injury-plagued, and the Dudley’s are in limbo in WWE. Personally, I’m thriving and better than ever, and this title is the masterpiece I’ve painted. It shows that I’m not only great, I am iconic.”

Hardy also worked with Paul Levesque, and actually claims that he is the inspiration behind Triple H’s current run as WWE champion.

“One thing Hunter truly appreciates is my political maneuvering and burying of EC3,” said Hardy. “People keep saying EC3 is the heart and soul of TNA, that he’s this homegrown star and he is going to be this big star. But fans don’t understand that I’m the true star–I came off Vince McMahon’s TV. A lot of fans don’t accept me because I became a star in the WWE, but that adds credibility and equity to the TNA title. I made a similar comment to Hunter on Twitter, and he must have been listening, because he said, ‘Watch this–I’ll politically maneuver myself into the title spot so we can both be great champions.’”

This feud originally began with Hardy as the fan favorite, but the roles have reversed and the chants for EC3 are growing louder.

“I want to be the best, I want to win the most and I will do whatever it takes to win, but I never hated the fans,” explained EC3. “I just hated a lot of the guys who the fans happened to like. Maybe people appreciate my work ethic or the fact that I tell the truth, and I’m turning all my anger and hate to the person who the fans don’t like–and that’s Matt Hardy.

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​“I’ve had many challenges both on-screen and off-screen, but my end goal is to become champion. Matt Hardy’s been in this business for 22 years, and I’ll never take anything away from that. I spent a lot of those years watching him on television. I was never unbeatable, I just wanted to win the most, but now I’ve met someone who is willing to do even more. It’s a unique challenge, but I’m still going to find a way to win.”

EC3’s story is one of perseverance. He was let by the WWE go–receiving his dismissal from Levesque–but his willingness to out-work his opponents has fueled his success in TNA. One of his biggest obstacles, he admitted, is dealing with an opponent so detached from reality.

“Even the people who doubted me in the past are starting to realize how I say something and then I make it happen,” said Hardy. “I said I was going to be the guy to end EC3’s undefeated streak, and I did. I said I was the guy who would win the world heavyweight title from him, and I did. And I said I’m going to be the champion that #MakesTNAGreatAgain, and I’m going to do it.

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“There is a correlation between TNA’s increased rating on Pop Television and my reign as champion. We’ve already got a whole group of sponsors lining up to buy into the show. I’m talking to one of my dear friends, Nick Searcy–who is a lead star from Justified–and there are a lot of people interested in me doing some things in Hollywood. I’m going to be a huge crossover success star for TNA, pretty much comparable to The Rock from WWE. TNA has had a lot of great periods–Hulk Hogan even came in, but I don’t think he was beneficial to TNA. They spent a lot of money on him but made a lot of mistakes. They should have saved that money for me. My contract is coming up shortly, and when that time comes, I’m going to ask for Hulk Hogan money, plus one more dollar. I’m going to be the highest paid performer in the history of Impact Wrestling.”

Both EC3 and Hardy offered insight to their strategies for victory.

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​“Matt Hardy did what was necessary to defeat me for the world heavyweight title,” said EC3. “So I respect him, but with that respect comes a caveat–he’s a hunted man from now until I reclaim the championship. I will find him, I will be his shadow, I will bring hell at every turn–and that hell will take place at Lockdown. I’m going to tear him apart. Nobody else can get in the cage, and the only one who can get out is the one who wins. I predict I’m going to beat the living sh-- out of Matt Hardy.”

Hardy explained that his time in the business is a major difference between the two competitors, and that EC3’s emotion is playing right into the champion’s wheelhouse.

“EC3 is letting emotions control his life,” said Hardy. “He will be sloppy because he’ll be too emotional thinking about revenge–he’s too focused on crippling me. I’m going to stay calm and calculated to position myself in the exact spot I need to be to retain that title.

“I’m just scratching the surface as champion. I was brought up poor, but I’ve earned every cent in my bank account. EC3 has worked hard, too, but he’s only worked hard to become mediocre. I started with nothing, and I’ve built and grown to the point where I am the world heavyweight champion, and I don’t see that ending any time in the immediate future. After I defeat EC3, we will officially enter the era of ‘Big Money Matt.’ The ‘Iconic One’ is going to bring TNA to the promised land.”

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