The dispute between Anthem and the Hardys over the “Broken Universe” intellectual property is still rolling along.
Sports Illustrated spoke with Reby Hardy, who is Matt Hardy’s wife and also former TNA Knockout Reby Sky. She was also a part of the “Broken Universe” storyline in TNA, along with her father (who played Senor Benjamin) and her son (who actually “wrestled” as King Maxel), and has been vocal on social media defending her family from Anthem’s claims that ownership of the IP belongs solely to the company.
Hardy answered questions that touched on a potential lawsuit against Anthem, whether Billy Corgan played a role mediating between the two sides, as well as detailed her opinion on the real root of the dispute between Anthem and the Hardys.
SI:Ed Nordholm of Anthem told Sports Illustrated that Anthem initiated multiple conversations with the Hardys regarding coming to terms on use of the “Broken Universe” gimmick. There are even reports that former Impact president Billy Corgan helped mediate discussions between the Hardys and Anthem. Is any of this accurate, and why have the two sides been unable to reach an agreement?
Hardy: Billy Corgan did offer to help mediate, which was surprising to me given Billy had his own legal battles and issues with TNA, but he was so invested in the “Broken” storyline and diplomatic to both sides. Billy almost got more traction in the process than even our lawyers. That was a really positive time for us, and we were very hopeful because Billy was getting through to Anthem and we actually had the chance to communicate. Our lawyers would go weeks at a time without hearing from Anthem, which is part of the reason why this has been dragging on, seemingly, forever.
Ed Nordholm never initiated any conversations. The lack of his communication is a big reason for this incident in the first place. Even during Matt’s contract negotiations, it would take weeks for Matt to get in touch with Jeff Jarrett and Ed Nordholm. Even days before his contract was set to expire, Matt still had a hard time getting a hold of Ed and Jeff Jarrett. This lack of communication is also a lack of professionalism; if you can’t be in talks with your talent while they’re under contract, or regarding something that is so important to you, like intellectual property, that speaks volumes to me. That’s such a slap in the face to people who worked for you and dedicated their livelihood for your company.
They’ve never taken initiation to start communication, they’ve never been quick to get back to us, and they’ve never been diligent about responding to us or our lawyers. The most communication we had was through Billy.
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SI: Anthem claims Matt Hardy asked for an extra $100,000 during his contract negotiations, and if he did not receive the additional money, he would then explore options with WWE. Is this accurate?
Hardy: That is not accurate, but it is laughable.
During contract negotiations, when I started to notice as well as hear from friends about Jeff Jarrett’s shady business tactics, I did two things: I immediately filed a trademark for “Broken” Matt Hardy, and started to record every conversation between Matt and anyone at that TNA office, including Ed Nordholm and Jeff Jarrett. For recording phone calls, it is legal with a one-party consent law in North Carolina, which is where we live, and Tennessee, which is where TNA has its office. If Matt wasn’t in North Carolina for those conversations, then he was in another state with a one-party consent. Matt made sure to protect himself, because no one from that company is protecting us.
In the phone call that Ed Nordholm is referencing, it is very clear that Matt did not hold Anthem up for any money. He did not request $100,000 more. Matt tried to make Impact great again, for real, and not just through a hashtag. He did everything he could for that company, and Ed Nordholm’s comment is so petty and unprofessional. Who do Ed Nordholm and Jeff Jarrett think they’re fooling? You could never even imagine Vince McMahon acting this way. Two days before his contract is up, Matt’s receiving drunk texts from Jeff Jarrett. Matt is an established star, and they treated him like he was insignificant.
SI: Is Anthem correct in its assertion that it owns the “Broken Universe” intellectual property?
Hardy: There is enough question in the contract, in terms of gimmick development and intellectual property, that our attorneys strongly feel that there is a case.
If there were no question about it, like Jeff Jarrett and Ed Nordholm continue to say, then I would not be discussing it, and neither would Matt. There is enough of a question in the contract that it is worth fighting over. If it were as cut-and-dry as Anthem is trying to make everyone believe, then we would have stopped pursuing it. That’s not the case. There are legal questions over the verbiage in the contract, and we have a good chance of winning this battle.
SI: Are the Hardys willing to go to court to pursue the IP? Are you optimistic of a judge or jury ruling in your favor?
Hardy: Going to the court is not like going to the grocery store. There is a lot of money involved in a legal case, which is another reason why Anthem is dragging this out as long as they can. Jeff Jarrett said, “Just keep dragging it out, they’ll get tired of spending money.” We would rather settle this like civil human beings, which is what we have tried to do for months and months.
There are so many things that, if we choose to go to court, we can also add into the case. Senor Benjamin, who is my father, never signed a release to have his image be marketed. Technically, they should not have been able to air his footage. They do not have a release for my son, Maxel, who had no written documents saying he could be on set at Universal Studios, which could jeopardize their relationship with the place where they film on a monthly basis. There is also the fact that I created—shot, directed, and edited—so much footage that I never gave them a release to use, either.
SI: Anthem also denies that it ever asked for a significant percent of Hardy merchandise, including Jeff Hardy’s art work and music, as well as stated that the contracts offered to Matt and Jeff were almost close to equal in terms of pay. Is the company being truthful, and where do we go from here?
Hardy: We literally have those documents in email form from Ed Nordholm.
In one of the contracts, Anthem snuck in a percentage the company would be owed from any income from ShopMattHardy.com and JeffHardyBrand.com. The fact that they would feel entitled to that is a joke. Jeff Hardy’s site is literally his paintings and music; it has nothing to do with wrestling and is an artistic venture. Why are they entitled to any of that? To slide that into the contract was a real shady move, and we have the documents to prove it.
Jeff Jarrett’s plan was to give Jeff Hardy all the money, and he actually said to pay Matt as little as possible because he believed Matt could not go anywhere without Jeff Hardy. I had reservations about WWE for a long time, but I forgot all of my reservations and our loyalty to the TNA brand after I learned that.
F--- these guys, to put it bluntly. After Matt financed his own shoots and put hours and hours of his own time writing the shows? F--- these guys. We didn’t have any scripts. They’re claiming IP, they’re claiming this is their character and development, but we never had one script or one shoot sheet. That was all Matt pouring himself into the character and dedicating himself to it.
The amount of time and effort he put into this made it his brainchild, which is why this is more of a personal matter than business. It was all our creation, and we can easily prove that it was all us, and it’s nothing but ego on their end. Matt refused to re-sign, they really believed that he could not go anywhere else, and we called them out on their bluff. Ed Nordholm actually told Jeff Hardy’s attorney, “Tell them to go to WWE.” Is that the way you negotiate? To try to get someone to sign a s--- contract to work at your s--- company for s--- money? When it comes down to it, this comes down to their ego versus all of the time, effort, and passion we have put into this project and gimmick.
This is a personal investment vs. ego. I feel like there will never be an agreement without going to court.