Week in Wrestling: Inside the broken brilliance of Matt and Jeff Hardy
SI.com’s Wrestling Week in Review is published every Wednesday and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
In this week’s edition we have an interview with Matt and Jeff Hardy, a new segment with Eric Bischoff discussing behind-the-scenes moments from WCW Nitro, The Shoot with Joey Ryan, and “Five Questions with…” Brandi Rhodes.
The Broken Brilliance of the Hardys
“Broken” Matt Hardy is quite certain what would happen to Vince McMahon if the WWE chairman ever set foot on the Hardy compound.
“What would happen to Vince Meekmahan if he spent time in the ‘Broken Universe?’” asked Matt Hardy. “Meekmahan would be deleted!”
Jeff Hardy, who Matt refers to as “Brother Nero,” also shared his own theory on McMahon’s fate if he dared venture into the backwoods of Cameron, North Carolina.
“That reminds me of a song,” said Jeff. “If Meekmahan ever came to the Hardy compound, I would tell Meekmahan, face-to-face, you’ll fade away and classify yourself as obsolete! Obsolete!”
With Bound for Glory a mere four days away, the Hardys are prepared to challenge Decay—Crazzy Steve, Abyss, and their princess of distress Rosemary—for the Impact Wrestling world tag team championship.
The feud between the Hardys and Decay intensified when Crazzy Steve and Abyss attempted to kidnapp Matt’s son, King Maxel, as well as abduct his wife and personal consigliere, Señor Benjamin.
“Decay came to my house and perpetrated blasphemy,” said Matt. “The Seven Deities have shown that my brother and I must work together, and all the fans who are also broken souls want to see us exact revenge against Decay and reclaim the tag team titles of the world.”
The Hardys have revitalized Impact Wrestling over the past calendar year, beginning with Matt’s world title victory – with Jeff serving as special guest referee – at the 2015 Bound for Glory. While Jeff was recuperating from a broken leg suffered in a gruesome dirt bike accident, which forced the Hardys to forfeit the tag team titles, Matt cemented himself as a bona-fide world title contender.
“When Brother Nero was injured, I found that very selfish,” said Matt. “As time went on, I began my quest for the title of the world – and eventually I won that title. After I got a taste of the title of the world, I got obsessed with its aroma. I had a great battle with EC3, but during that time, there were some things that Brother Nero did not approve of in terms of the way I conducted my business.”
The Hardys reignited their feud in the spring, which built to an “I Quit” match that saw Jeff nearly break his brother in half.
“My brother jumped off the highest perch at the zone of Impact, and that is when my ‘Broken’ condition began,” said Matt. “It has allowed me to access more parts of my mind, far more than any other mortal humans, and that is where my ‘Broken Brilliance’ truly began. Once the demonic Decay started targeting my son, that set Brother Nero and I on an odyssey to regain the tag team titles of the world. They have pushed my broken brilliance to the limit, which means I need Brother Nero to be the nefarious one. I need him to be strong for this Great War.”
The Hardys, who first debuted in the World Wrestling Federation in 1998, will forever be associated with WWE. Fans are still clamoring for the future Hall of Famers to return, as “Delete!” chants have filled the rafters the past two weeks at Raw.
While the Hardys have generated genuine interest in their “Broken” characters, both 39-year-old Jeff and 42-year-old Matt credit Impact Wrestling for allowing such a tremendous amount of opportunity for originality and creativity. Yet the pair will be free agents in February, and the wrestling world anxiously awaits their decision to stay with Impact Wrestling or return to WWE.
“All the WWE stuff really depends on what happens between now and February with TNA,” admitted Jeff, who is a former WWE world champion. “I just went out to Nashville and recorded six songs, and we’re about to open a store that sells original art work, which is going to be huge. If it feels right and good, I don’t see anything wrong with staying. When you commit to a WWE contract, you’re committing to some serious time away from home. If it were under my terms, there might be a chance, but I’m really not sure. Of course it would be nice, but what we’re doing right now is so much fun. I don’t want to go back to WWE and burn out within four or five months, and having another run as TNA world champion would feel just as good.”
“Broken” Matt also added insight to where the Hardys will be wrestling come WrestleMania 33.
“I am very content at Impact Wrestling,” said Matt. “I don’t know if I trust that Meekmahan, or if he’ll try to stifle my broken brilliance. I’m able to live in my broken universe here at Impact Wrestling to the fullest extent, and Impact Wrestling needs me as their savior, so I’ll do everything I can to help them grow. They’ve had many setbacks in the last few years, but things are changing. I don’t have an end game. Being a celestial being, I live for the moment to fight the Great War, and that is to light the darkness. Right now, I’m able to do that at Impact Wrestling.
“Especially in the beginning, when I was a mortal vessel, we set out many goals as the Hardy Boyz. We’ve accomplished those goals many times over. We wanted to be the tag team champions of the world just once, and we’ve done that many times. Once we went off into the singles world, I noticed there is something very unique about Brother Nero. People are drawn to him, and he has intangibles and charisma that cannot be emulated or duplicated. At first, there were times when I felt, ‘I wish I got the same treatment as Brother Nero,’ but as time went on, I just wanted to be successful on my own. A career is not a sprint, it’s a long race, so whenever he held the title of the world, I was very happy for him, and I always will be. We have evolved to the point in our career, after doing this for a quarter of a century, where both of us are very happy. We both want to make the most out of whatever it is we have to work with.”
Jeff revealed a glimpse into the creativity of the Hardy minds when discussing potential plans should the legendary brothers remain in Impact Wrestling.
“A better idea is if Matt and I become the tag team champions, and we still compete in the solo division,” said Jeff. “Sure, it’s double duty, but I would love to see a match for the world title between the tag team champions. Thank God for TNA, we’ve had the creative freedom to do what we want to do.
“For the people who really want to know where I’ll be after February, it’s just like what I said when I left [WWE]—this is only goodbye for now, this is not goodbye forever. As long as I’m healthy, there is always that chance I will return and have that one last run. For now, it’s up in the air. Ultimately, that’s my last dream match – with the Undertaker at the Hell in a Cell – so a lot of it depends on The Undertaker. If he’s going to still do one match a year, I would really like to be part of a Hell in a Cell with him. But I don’t know if he’s going to wrestle again this year at WrestleMania, or if he’s going to give it up. I was the world champion, but I never got to do a Hell in a Cell or main event a WrestleMania, but so much of it depends on The Undertaker.”
Sixteen years have passed since the Hardys engaged in the original TLC wars with Edge, Christian, and the Dudley Boyz. Edge and Christian have both since retired, while Bubba and D-Von were last seen on Raw announcing their own “retirement.” As their peers deal with their own wrestling mortality, the Hardys remain amongst the most discussed wrestlers currently active in the business.
“One of the things I have had to focus on, in order to move forward, is not being a stunt monkey,” said Matt, referring to wrestlers who wear out their bodies with unnecessary and dangerous spots. “Edge, Christian, myself, Brother Nero, and the Dudleys battled in the TLC matches, and they were revolutionary. Those matches helped establish us, but in many ways, turned us into ‘spot monkeys.’”
The wrestling business, while often criticized as fake, is often more real than reality. “Broken” Matt Hardy explained the keys to longevity in the business.
“As you evolve, you learn that wrestling is not necessarily about stunts or spots,” said Matt. “You need to go out and show the audience that they can love you for the persona you are – not because of the risk you’re willing to take or the jeopardy you’re willing to put your body in. That is something I try to stress to the wrestlers nowadays – there is an epidemic of spot monkeys in the business. They often are so concerned with the fans’ reactions that they’re willing to kill themselves, while I am trying to help them move past that. It is not about the move, it’s about the moment you create, and that’s what I’m doing through my broken brilliance.”
Jeff admitted that he has learned a great deal from Matt, especially while in the role of “Brother Nero.”
“I’ve learned that I can still be loved if I perform well, and I learned that from the broken brilliance of Matt Hardy,” said Jeff. “I’m sure I’ll want to relapse and jump off something high again, but for now, I’m feeling really good. It’s been very helpful to set new boundaries for myself and not always go as big. I have two daughters, and I want to be around for as long as I can to play with them and teach them to do whatever they dream of doing. I want to be healthy enough to do that, whether it’s riding dirt bikes, wrestling as the womens world tag team champions, or anything.
“I had a lot of time off when I broke my leg, and I felt nothing but a complete guilt trip. I won’t be able to let go off that guilt until we win those titles back. We were the world tag team champions for Impact Wrestling, but because of my broken leg, we never got to defend those titles. So naturally, I felt guilty and I want to make up for that, and the only way to do that is to win the world tag team titles again – and actually defend them for a good, successful long run. That’s my plan, and I’m going to kick it into high drive at Bound for Glory. The world will see what they never expected from me, and it won’t just include jumping off something high. It’s more character-driven, and I’m going to let my mind go free, so it’s going to be must-see.”
Impact Wrestling has not always been synonymous with “Must See,” but that has changed with the Hardys in 2016 – which included a moment when Jeff boxed a kangaroo that Matt claimed contained the ghost of Smokin’ Joe Frazier.
“I had to take Brother Nero back to his primal instincts,” said Matt. “My soul existed in an African vessel hundreds of years ago as the leader of a tribe, and my tribe fought for honor. We didn’t fight by swinging off the trees or hanging on the vines. We actually fought in hand-to-hand combat with weapons and shields, and that is what a battle is all about. Professional wrestling’s battles have gotten away from that, so I took Brother Nero to my personal zoo to fight Smokin’ Joe Frazier, whose spirit is embodied in a kangaroo. You’ll notice that Brother Nero learned from that fight, and used some of the same kicks from the kangaroo on Crazzy Steve. He’s finally tapping into his primal instincts.”
Professional wrestling was created to provide real-life magic for its fans—not concussions or broken bones to the wrestlers—which is a part of the art not lost on Matt.
“Now that the world is seeing my broken brilliance, I am bringing back that magic that has been lacking for so long,” said Matt. “The Undertaker is full of magic, so he is our first choice to join us. The broken universe that I have been creating, and the reason Brother Nero has been gravitating to it, is because it is full of magic. Professional wrestling has moved so far to the athleticism side and people are overly indulging in the stunt monkeys, but that’s why there are so many injuries all the time. You need to break open your soul, break open your mind, and remember that pro wrestling is magic. My goal is to open up a ‘Broken Universe,’ which is different than the typical wrestling universe, which is watered down with too many guys taking too many chances for a cheap pop.”
Perception and reality are a constant battle in wrestling, as well as with the Hardys. While Jeff was championed for over a decade as the more accomplished singles star, he admitted that it is his brother who he continues to learn from and seek counsel.
“The roles have been reversed,” said Jeff. “Ever since I broke my leg, and then ‘broke’ my brother, which created what you see right now, I have been in his shadow. He is brilliant, and what he’s doing now is brilliant. It’s the best s--- he’s ever done, in my opinion, and I feel like Jeff Hardy is the one with the broken stupidity. I’m the one who’s willing to jump off s---, but the real brilliance is from ‘Broken’ Matt Hardy, and that’s to be smarter. That’s pretty legit overall for your career and what you can do moving forward, and Matt’s been a great teacher. There is something very true and real to Matt’s broken brilliance.”
As for Bound for Glory this Sunday, the Hardys promised that their performance will be worth the price of the pay per view.
“When this Great War takes place at Bound for Glory against the demonic Decay, we will finally illuminate Impact Wrestling from its cloak of darkness,” proclaimed Matt. “We are not only going to render Decay obsolete, we’re also going to delete them until their vessels have perished.”
News of the Week
WWE’s Clash of Champions had a sole mission this past Sunday, and that was to legitimize the Universal Championship.
The result, however, was a failure.
The Universal Championship is still in its infancy, having only existed since August 21, and the belt was worn by Finn Bálor for less than twenty-four hours before he was forced to relinquish it. Triple H then returned to single-handedly pedigree Owens’ two opponents—Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins—during the finals of a mini-tournament to make Owens the second ever Universal Champion.
Since his title win, the focus has almost entirely revolved around whether Stephanie McMahon knew about Triple H’s plan to interfere. In the background of that storyline, which has seen Raw’s ratings drop to all-time lows, is Kevin Owens, arguably the most talented wrestler in WWE.
Owens’ victory over Seth Rollins at Clash of Champions included interference from Chris Jericho, a knocked out referee, and a second referee—sent, of course, by Stephanie McMahon—to count the winning pinfall.
Owens is fully capable of having a great run as champion, but he also needs an opponent to bring out the best in him. Instead of feuding with a fellow heel in Rollins, WWE could have inserted Cesaro into the main event picture and helped elevate Owens to another level. Instead, Owens remains the world champ in the shadows of Raw’s top storylines, while the spotlight remains on Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. Cesaro, by the way, really should have won that ridiculous best-of-seven series with Sheamus, which ended… in a draw.
Last night’s Smackdown main event between AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose—which included John Cena on commentary—confirmed the obvious.
Smackdown is far better than Raw.
The two-hour Smackdown had a compelling finish, as Styles rolled up Ambrose moments after Cena cost Ambrose the WWE championship and effectively built up their triple-threat match at No Mercy.
Raw has struggled since the brand split. With such a thin roster, Raw has struggled to produce three entertaining hours of content. Although Smackdown also deals with the same personnel issues, the problem is far less pronounced with only two hours of programming to fill. Smackdown’s two hours seemingly fly by, while there are too many instances when Raw continues to drag.
In other news…
• Mick Foley is much more than just the general manager of Raw. He is also a devoted friend, and he is raising funds for his friend, Gordon Bailey, who is fighting an inoperable brain tumor. Foley agreed to match the first $10,000 in donations for Bailey, who is a legendary figure in the professional Santa community.
• Where is the silver lining for Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson? Formerly known as Doc Gallows and Karl “Machine Gun” Anderson, the talented duo lost twice in twenty-four hours to The New Day. The brand split—which removed AJ Styles from The Club—has allowed WWE to creatively stifle Gallows and Gun.
• Did Randy Orton’s search for Bray Wyatt on Smackdown give anyone else flashbacks of the old Ultimate Warrior-Jake “The Snake” Roberts vignettes? If only Wyatt could have locked Orton in a room full of vipers…
• Speaking of flashbacks, the WWE’s decision to end the Brock Lesnar/Randy Orton feud at an untelevised house show this past Saturday in Chicago harkened back to memories to the WWF’s glory days in the 1980s when major storylines took place off television. Unlike SummerSlam, fans were treated to a legitimate finish to the match as Lesnar cleanly pinned Orton. Chris Jericho, who admitted to a backstage altercation with Lesnar after he concussed Orton at SummerSlam, was not on Saturday’s card.
• The ongoing TNA financial situation remains in flux, but expect Bound for Glory to air this Sunday. Of course, whether Shane McMahon will enter the middle of the six-sided ring and announce “I now own TNA!” is an entirely different question.
• There is no end in sight for John Cena’s singles drought on pay per view. Cena last won a singles match on PPV over a year ago on September 20, 2015 at WWE’s Night of Champions over Seth Rollins. Since then, he is winless in two matches with AJ Styles and one with Alberto Del Rio.
• Ring of Honor’s All Star Extravaganza pay per view is set for this Friday. Two matches that stand out are IWGP Intercontinental champion Tetsuya Naito vs. Jay Lethal, as well as Ladder War 6, which features The Young Bucks, Motor City Machine Guns, and ROH world tag team champions The Addiction.
• Booker T shared some of his time with Sports Illustrated, and a story with his insight on race and politics will post this Friday on SI.com.
• The Week in Wrestling will open next week with a feature story on WWE women’s champion Charlotte.
The Nitro Files with Eric Bischoff
The Nitro Files with Eric Bischoff will delve into a moment from WCW’s Monday Nitro. Bischoff hosts his “Bischoff on Wrestling podcast,” as well as delivers a “Controversial Video of the Week” with 120 Sports’ Nick Hausman, and plans on proving every week in the Nitro Files that the “truth is out there.”
Chris Jericho has entertained the past two weeks on Raw by talking incessantly about writing a list.
Eric Bischoff recalls Jericho’s original list, which debuted on Nitro eighteen years ago on March 30, 1998.
“That idea originated with Glenn Gilbertti, aka the Disco Inferno,” said Bischoff, who was WCW’s president during the zenith of Nitro’s success. “I just spoke with Chris Jericho, and he told me it was really Disco’s idea to come up with that segment and to roll through the commercial break.”
Jericho, who was WCW’s Cruiserweight champion at the time, was building his feud with Dean Malenko, who proudly called himself “The Man of 1,000 Holds.” After defeating Marty Jannetty, Jericho cut a promo—one that extended through a commercial break and into a second segment—one-upping Malenko as “The Man of 1,004 Holds.” Naturally, Jericho then proceeded to read the list.
“The credit behind ‘The List’ goes to Disco Inferno, Terry Taylor, Raven, and Mark Madden from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, as well as, of course, Chris Jericho,” said Bischoff. “They knew the storyline, they knew the angle, and they knew what we were trying to get across. Throughout the day, during pre-production, they were bouncing around ideas all afternoon, and they created a great way to position Chris against Dean Malenko.
“Dean is a great guy, by the way, and people who don’t know Dean do not understand that he really is a dichotomy. He’s really two different people. At the time, Dean was the stoic, traditional wrestling move wrestler, but he also had an amazing sense of humor. Dean Malenko billed himself as ‘The Man of 1,000 Holds,’ because he really was a technically-oriented wrestler. Chris Jericho, being the character that he was – and still is, to this day – took that to an entertaining and comedic level. So the group of guys got together during the day and asked, ‘How can we really cut a promo that contextualizes and frames that match-up?’ And they came up with ‘The Man of 1,004 Holds,’ and that was really Glenn Gilbertti.”
Bischoff, who thrived within the framework of live television, admitted that Jericho’s promo was the type of content that separated Nitro from Raw.
“I was never nervous about Chris’s promo,” explained Bischoff. “I was a risk-taker. I liked taking chances, and that’s some of the magic that made Nitro as special as it was. We didn’t go in on a Monday morning on the live day of a live broadcast with a firm set of plans that we were going to execute come hell or high water. It really was a cooperative effort with almost improvisational ideas once talent got the format and understood where we were going in the show, and this was a perfect example of the kind of fluid creative that people still remember to this day in the ‘Man of 1,004 Holds’ promo.
“Chris started it, then we went to a commercial break that was probably two-and-a-half to three minutes and, when we came back, Chris was still standing in the ring, which was a brilliant idea. Much credit to Disco Inferno, but also to Chris for being able to pull it off in such a believable way.”
While Bischoff is humble enough to admit he did not know Jericho would turn into such a legendary figure in wrestling, he always had immense respect for “it,” which is Jericho’s creative input and his ability to entertain.
“Early on, Chris saw himself as a creative, entertaining, talented performer that could be at the very top,” said Bischoff, “which is one of the reasons Chris ended up leaving WCW and going to WWE, even though I essentially tried to bribe him with as much money as I could dig up from the coffers at the time. Chris knew he wanted to go to WWE because he wanted to be on the biggest stage in the industry. Chris was never going to be denied.”
Exclusive Lucha Underground clip
Lucha Underground continues its third season tonight on El Rey Network, and also can be viewed through iTunes.
The Shoot: Joey Ryan
Joey Ryan is a fixture on Lucha Underground, as well as one of the premiere independent wrestlers in the United States and Japan. He shares, in his own words, how he transformed into the character of Joey Ryan.
Creating Joey Ryan
“I am an ass----. I am a piece of sh--. I am sleazy.”
These are the things that I constantly remind myself of as I get closer and closer to show time. As I stare into a mirror, I look at myself with a weird mix of disgust and pride.
My attire tonight is Hawaiian print professional wrestling trunks, which look like swimwear that Magnum PI might have sported in the 1980’s. My matching Hawaiian print neckerchief only adds to the flamboyance I strive to portray. I wear my aviator sunglasses; the kind of sunglasses that an ass---- cop might wear while he’s writing you a ticket for only driving two or three miles over the speed limit. My hair is thick and teased and reminiscent of a lion’s mane. My perfectly groomed facial hair is a style of mustache that is twenty-five years past its social acceptance, and leaves me resembling a 1980’s adult movie star. The ensemble also includes my knee-high bright white wrestling boots which personify the loudness of my character. My outfit is accessorized with white kneepads and athletic wrist tape. The old familiar stench of baby oil reminds me that I have about half of a bottle rubbed into my thighs, arms and chest, making me glisten in the bright lights. The baby oil magnifies the hair on my chest, making it stand out even more, adding to the sleaze factor.
Looking at myself, it is a wonder that I need to be reminded to be an ass----, a piece of sh--, or sleazy – as if anyone who looks like this could be anything but. The next thing I see is the stage manager running into the room to tell me, “Five minutes until you’re on!” She is a beautiful woman, a wife of one of the other wrestlers but is seen by the majority of us as one of the boys. I grab my loud and tacky Hawaiian shirt, which will serve as my entrance wear, as well as my cigarette and lighter. I hand my prop inhaler to the referee and tuck what’s left of the bottle of baby oil into the back of my trunks and head towards the standby position to get ready to go on.
Sometimes I wonder if I am a prop comic or a professional wrestler. We are now less than five minutes away from my transformation from Joseph Ryan Meehan to a man with rock star charisma, a man with movie star looks, and the man who is single-handily bringing sleazy back to professional wrestling: Joey Ryan!
Tonight, we are at The Mayan Theater in Downtown Los Angeles. The company I am working for is Lucha Va Voom, and Lucha Va Voom is not your average wrestling show. It’s a hybrid mix of comedy, burlesque dancing, and professional wrestling. If you take a quick trip through the dressing room, you will see a variety of different performers walking around. Male, female, gay, straight, midgets, a multitude of different nationalities speaking a variety of languages, and even celebrities who have come just to watch the show are hanging out. Everybody is so comfortable with everything there. Most performers feel free to walk around naked or half naked in their costumes for the show despite photographers from various news outlets who are there covering the event. In fact, being in costume and character will only help the story.
It’s very much a family at Lucha Va Voom. Most of the wrestling is in the tradition of Lucha Libre—a Mexican style of wrestling, complete with masked characters. I am one of the few who are without a mask. Because of this mixture of entertainment, it is rare to find an actual wrestling fan in the audience. The Mayan Theatre will be packed with about 2,000 people who are out on dates or out on the town looking to get drunk and have a good time with their friends. The wrestling on these shows almost calls to be a parody of the wrestling I would do on a regular show. Everything needs to be gimmicky, shtick-y and way over-the-top. Lucha Va Voom is by far my favorite place to work.
I find myself in the entranceway about to ascend into the arena. Still reminding myself of the kind of person I am going to portray. Ass----. Sleazy. Bad guy. The art in it is not acting like I’m trying to be any of those things but as if that is actually who I am. Nobody thinks of themself as a terrible person, so if you’re trying to be one, then it’s less believable to the audience. Joseph Meehan might know that he needs to be all those things, but Joey Ryan has to think he’s being cool, hip and sexy. After all, good is only a point of view. If the audience believes that Joey Ryan thinks he is being good while committing these horrible acts, then I have captured their imagination and they have become emotionally invested in my work.
The production at Lucha Va Voom is top notch and they display each wrestler on the giant video screens as they are about to make their entrance. I hear, “You’re on!” I light up my cigarette and begin to smoke in front of the camera and I hear the ring announcer at the stage area say my name in Spanish. Then I hear the DJ start playing my entrance music of “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”. With two scantily clad ring girls at my sides, I make my entrance and head to the stage. As soon as the audience sees me, the crowd starts to roar. It’s a mixture of cheers, boos, laughter and delight. I am a real spectacle. The reaction of the audience boosts my adrenaline and now Joseph Meehan no longer exists. There is only Joey Ryan.
I don’t even notice that I’m struggling to breathe as my lungs fill with cigarette smoke. At this point, I am the star of the show and I must act as such. An audience can see right through somebody pretending or somebody with a lack of confidence. Right now, I must believe that there is nobody better at what I do than me. I pause for a moment to acknowledge the audience before I kick my leg up onto the railing which leads into the ring. With my crotch in the faces of the people who are just on the opposite side of the barricade, I take a puff of my cigarette and try to look as despicable as possible. At this point, I am no longer an ass---- or piece of sh-- or sleazy. I am cool, hip and sexy.
When I get to the stage in front of the ring, now with 2,000 pairs of eyes fixed upon me, I begin a slight dance to the melody of my theme music. In my best stripper impression, I begin to take off my Hawaiian entrance wear shirt to the roar of the audience. I then pull out the rest of the baby oil that I had securely placed in the waistband of my trunks and begin to pour the rest of the oil all over my body. I try to incorporate an awesome mix of sleaze and seduction in this act as I pull the waistband of my trunks open and pour the last of the bottle down the front of them. This gets a huge reaction from the audience as I begin to rub all the oil over my body. I then head from the stage area into the ring. Before I get into the ring, I take one last look at the audience and again kick my leg up on the ropes of the ring. Once there, I take one last puff off of the cigarette and then step into the ring. This is all before any wrestling actually takes place. I look around at the audience sitting ringside and make lewd gestures towards the females in the crowd. This would not make my mother proud. Then I turn my attention to the entranceway and await my opponent.
For anybody that knows the real me, it is glaringly apparent why I have to constantly remind myself to be in character. If you took a time machine to visit me before the age of 20, you wouldn’t believe I was even capable of this. The real me is shy and awkward. I have trouble making eye contact, and I don’t speak very coherently. I prefer not to talk about myself unless I am specifically asked, so small talk is nearly impossible without the right partner. I tend to keep thoughts to myself, which always makes people assume that I want to say something but am not comfortable in doing so. Maybe that’s something that is true but, either way, more times than not it creates tension in what should be relaxed situations. Often times, I get accused of being bored in social settings because of my shyness.
Whether it’s on a date or at a party, people think I am not having a good time because of my tendency to be introverted. I believe a lot of this stems back to my childhood. My lack of confidence might be attributed to being the youngest of four brothers and often being picked on. Maybe being a chubby kid and not having the faith in myself to talk to girls in my adolescence has somewhat stemmed over. It could also simply be genetics or environment as a trait I picked up from my father, who shares some of the same tendencies. As I reached my teenage years, my preferences switched from being a fan of sports to a fan of comic books. I became a bit of a dreamer and locked myself away for hours with just my comics. I developed a very vivid imagination and often drifted into fantasy worlds. This imagination inside me would eventually lead to my most successful idea once I learned to use it and manipulate it with abandon instead of keeping it bottled inside me. It led to my greatest creation: the creation of Joey Ryan.
The question I am asked most is how or where I came up with my alter ego. The simplest answer is that I stole it.
I stole it and then tweaked it. Growing up in the 1980’s and having three older brothers, I was a fan of the professional wrestling of that era. Once I realized that I could creatively do anything I wanted in the realm of professional wrestling, I went back to what drew me into being a fan.
In the 1980’s, wrestling was more fun and like a real-life cartoon. Wrestling these days is very MMA influenced and is striving towards realism. Everybody wants everything to be presented as real as possible. As much as I appreciate that style, there is an aspect of fun missing that can be brought to it as well. The 1980’s were an era where you believed that Hulk Hogan could go toe-to-toe with Superman. I’m not referring to the era of the early 1990’s, when they had garbage men and hockey players, or guys dressing up to play superheroes as wrestlers. The 1980’s were when wrestlers could look and feel like superheroes without dressing up like them, or announcers telling us they were supposed to be superheroes. I decided that’s what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a 1980’s wrestler in the 2000’s.
I pondered long and hard about what I could take and use. I decided that the man who personified everything that was cool and hip back then was Magnum PI. However, this is where the tweak comes in. For as cool and hip as Magnum PI was, if you were to see somebody today who looked like that, your first instinct would be that he was creepy or sleazy. That is when the light went off in my head! I would be the biggest bad guy in wrestling that I could be by acting and looking like the biggest good guy from the 1980’s. It was brilliant! It was an idea that I am still proud of today.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t just jump from being a shy and chubby kid to a 1980’s bad ass overnight. It was a long and hard journey to get there, and one that still requires tweaks and changes and growth to this day.
~ Joey Ryan
Joey Ryan will be live this Sunday at Beyond Wrestling’s “Midas Touch” show in Somerville, MA.
Weekly Top 10: Wrestle Kingdom’s Biggest Matches
This edition of “The Weekly Top Ten” delves into the top ten matches of Wrestle Kingdom 10, which can be viewed beginning this Friday night on AXS TV’s New Japan Pro Wrestling show with commentary from Jim Ross and Josh Barnett.
New Japan Pro Wrestling’s version of WrestleMania takes place every January 4th at the Tokyo Dome and is known as Wrestle Kingdom.
The 2016 event – which was Wrestle Kingdom 10 – was headlined by AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, as well as a heavyweight title match for the IWGP championship between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada.
AXS TV will air the event for the first time on American television with a special four-week program beginning this Friday, September 30.
AXS TV’s Wrestle Kingdom 10 episode schedule includes:
Friday, September 30 – The IWGP Intercontinental championship match between Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles, as well as the IWGP junior heavyweight championship affair between Kenny Omega and Kushida
Friday, October 7 – The first NEVER Openweight six-man tag championship match featuring Toru Yano and the Briscoe Brothers vs. Bullet’s Club Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi and Tama Tonga, plus Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito and the IWGP tag team championship between Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows vs. Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma
Friday, October 14 – The IWGP Junior Tag Championship four-way match, which pits reDRagon vs. Roppongi Vice vs. Ricochet and Matt Sydal vs. the Young Bucks, as well as the NEVER Openweight championship between Tomohiro Ishii and Katsuyori Shibata
Friday, October 21 – The IWGP Heavyweight Championship classic between Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi
Jim Ross will connect with the Week in Wrestling next Wednesday to discuss Wrestle Kingdom 10.
Five Questions with… Brandi Rhodes
Brandi Rhodes made news with her recent signing with TNA Impact Wrestling. The former WWE ring announcer, and wife of Cody Rhodes, is excited to work with her husband, as well as get in the ring.
SI.com: After a successful run as a ring announcer, why did you decide to wrestle? And why did you choose to wrestle for Impact Wrestling?
Rhodes: I was brought into WWE many, many moons ago as a developmental talent. Developmental means you’re training to wrestle, and I did that with FCW, and then with my second run at NXT as a wrestler. I spent a lot of time wrestling at NXT. That was not seen because I was also an announcer. When you’re an announcer, they try to protect you and make sure you don’t get hurt or injured, or anything that would hinder you from your TV work. I was hired to be a wrestler, and I spent all that time training, learning, and working, so this is my chance to showcase that.
Impact has always had a focus on their Knockouts. Back when WWE was not so focused on their Divas, Impact was still focused on their Knockouts. They were actually the stronger women’s division for a long time, and that was the place to watch a match more than a couple of minutes. I’m excited knowing that the attention will be given to what I want to do.
SI.com: The wrestling world knows you are married to Cody Rhodes. Was there one moment when you realized he was the one for you?
Rhodes: Cody and I had a connection pretty quickly. We were engaged pretty quickly, but my moment where I knew this was definitely the person for me was when Cody asked me on a date to Halloween Horror Night at Universal Studios. Nobody had ever asked me on a date to Halloween Horror Night, and I had never been even though I am a horror fanatic. I go to all the haunted houses that I can get my hands on, and I grew up in Michigan, where there are a lot of back-woodsy haunted attractions. I had wanted to go to Halloween Horror Night for years, but no one was ever interested. That was our second or third date, and that’s the moment I realized that that was the best thing to happen in a while. We made a weekend of it, had the best time ever, and now we go back every year. It’s kind of our place. I think it was pretty mutual that that was our place.
SI.com: Will you keep your “Being Brandi Runnels” web page active while you are with Impact Wrestling? And are you working on any other projects?
Rhodes: I plan to continue to update my website, but I’ve been working on a book, so most of my writing goes into the book. I’m writing a horror novel, and there is an excerpt on my website.
SI.com: What surprised you most about ring announcing in WWE?
Rhodes: I don’t think people realize how difficult that job really is. Whenever the show is live, it’s usually still being written as it is going on. Many times, I would be on live television and have no idea what the next match is, and I’d have no clue who was coming out next. The last person to know is always the announcer, and it’s always your fault if you make a mistake—even if you didn’t know. I was always on top of everything and never said the wrong name or the wrong town. It’s definitely not an easy task, and people think we wear headsets, but we don’t. It’s either figure it out or go. I had a pretty lucky run there getting out all of the correct information.
SI.com: Cody’s father, Dusty Rhodes, had an incredibly compelling mixed tag team match at WrestleMania VI with Sapphire against the “Macho King” Randy Savage and Sherri. Are you hoping to create your own magic in mixed tags with Cody, or forge your own path as women’s champion?
Rhodes: That match was incredible, but Cody and I—even though we are a real-life couple—are not necessarily a team in wrestling. I would love the opportunity to get in the ring with my husband and mix it up a little bit, but we are both focused a lot on our individual careers and cheering each other on that way, as opposed to being a team. My decision to go to Impact and be a Knockout is a decision I made for myself, and I’m very excited about it. As soon as I walk in the door, I’ll be seeking out the Knockouts title.
Tweet of the Week
No matter what happens with the future of TNA Impact Wrestling, the Hardys will eventually win the Great War.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.