The Hardy Boyz, Matt and Jeff, sent the wrestling world into a frenzy when they returned to WWE at Wrestlemania and were announced as last-minute participants in the tag team ladder match for the Raw Tag Team Champions; Wrestlemania hosts The New Day turning the match into a fatal four-way match as the match was about to start.
75,000 people inside the Citrus Bowl were losing their minds as The Hardys entrance music, while those watching around the world were promptly going apeshit at seeing one of the greatest tag teams in professional wrestling history return home.
Following an incredible swanton bomb off a 20ft ladder from Jeff that left the younger brother BROKEN, Matt climbed the ladder to grab the belts and beat the teams of Enzo and Cass, Sheamus and Cesaro and Gallows and Anderson to become seven time champions and create a memorable Wrestlemania moment.
The rumours had been swirling, and there was a suspicion that The Hardys would show up given that they had left TNA, were in town and performed the night before at Ring Of Honor's Supercard of Honor show, and the fact the stipulation to make the tag team title match a ladder match came out of of nowhere.
But that didn't make the moment any less memorable at all, as The Hardys return happened extremely quickly over Wrestlemania and was kept under wraps until the very last minute, as explained by Matt Hardy himself.
Speaking to SPORTbible in The Hardy Boyz's first and only sit-down interview since returning, he said:
"That's one of the beautiful things about World Wrestling Entertainment, sports entertainment and pro wrestling - it can be exciting. We try to do a good job of concealing it, keeping it a secret and there were a lot of rumours swirling obviously but we were able to maintain the secrecy a little bit. We literally walked into the building, walked up five floors of stairs and straight out in front of that sea of humanity so to walk out there was absolutely exhilarating in many, many ways and it was a moment that blew us away. The reaction we got was just so humbling, so flattering and it was incredible. It was truly one of the top moments of my career, no doubt."
The Hardys wrestled a gruelling ladder match the night before for ROH, where they lost the tag team titles to The Young Bucks, and the fact they were able to compete in another ladder match at Wrestlemania and this time taste victory, made it that much more special for Jeff Hardy.
" I think what made it work so great was we were able to do WrestleCon on Friday, do Ring of Honor on Saturday and then Wrestlemania Sunday - I don't think that's ever been done before. I went through two tables, got 20 superkicks Saturday night - it was a rough match! So then to go in front of 75,000 people, and still be strong and win the titles, it was huge."
Jeff, or 'Brother Nero' as he has been christened by his elder brother, still exudes craziness and took part in a series of death-defying stunts at Ring of Honor's show on Saturday. But even with how beat up The Hardys were from their match the previous night, there was no way they would be feeling the effects when Wrestlemania rolled around.
"I think he [Jeff] has always been more of the daredevil of the team, no if, ands, or buts about that - he's the charismatic enigma and a maniac for a reason. He's got that legacy that comes along with it," Matt explained.
"I was pretty good, we had a very aggressive ladder match the night before with the 'Bucks of Youth', and then to walk into Wrestlemania and have another one on another night, on the biggest show of shows was incredible. Adrenaline was going to get us through that no matter."
As the duo pointed throughout the course of the interview, before a live event at the Liverpool Echo Arena, their return was very much a swift deal - so much so that the first time they were reunited with chairman Vince McMahon was just before they went out through the curtain.
Remembering the first meeting with the boss again, Matt recalled:
"It was cool, it was very quick - the first time we saw him [Vince] physically face-to-face was in 'Gorilla Position' right before we went out and it was 'Hey, good to have you home, hug, hug' and then it was out to the ring to go and partake in a ladder match."
Further commenting on being back home, Jeff added:
"The overall sensation of everything was just like 'Welcome home' - the extended family and you're back where you need to be. I'd only seen these [tag team titles] on TV briefly when I watched Raw or Smackdown and to come back and win them, they're not as bad as I thought they were! They are pretty cool titles."
The Hardys latest tag team title win; which began their seventh reign in WWE, came exactly ten years to the day that they claimed the titles from Shawn Michaels and John Cena in a battle royal on an episode of Raw. Matt described the triumphant return as the beginning of a 'storybook tale' in the next run the brothers have in the sports entertainment juggernaut that is WWE.
"To return in that capacity on the biggest Wrestlemania that there's ever been, and to be in a ladder match, which is our speciality - we're obviously one of the pioneers of the ladder match, especially a tag team ladder match - the first deal that ever happened was us and Edge and Christian in a tag team environment - to return and have all the stars align, and then on top of everything, win the tag team titles it was truly amazing and almost like the beginning of a storybook tale in some ways as we have this next run, and in some ways too it was like the happy ending that so many WWE fans had waited for such a long time - we finally came back home and it felt like that to us."
The return brought so many nostalgia laced memories of the Hardy Boyz tearing it up against Edge and Christian and The Dudley Boyz back in the Attitude Era days, where the three teams well and truly changed the face of tag team wrestling in the company thanks to their all-action displays in the acclaimed 'TLC' series.
Matt stressed that the chemistry, particularly with Edge and Christian, was instant, and that the first tag team ladder match the two teams took part in at No Mercy 1999, was a monumental turning point.
"I think with Edge and Christian it always was the case. Those guys, like myself and Jeff, were huge wrestling fans, we were around the same age and of the same mindsets, we were pretty similar in stature and the way we wrestled so once we got with them we bonded, and the regular matches we had with them were always good so that showed we had a good chemistry and that we clicked. Once we did that first ever ladder match [at No Mercy 1999], that was truly the match that turned all four of us around the corner from just being WWE wrestlers to WWE superstars." he said.
Wrestling fans are divided when it comes to their opinion on which match in the trilogy is the greatest [Wrestlemania 16, Summerslam 2000 and Wrestlemania 17], therefore it only felt right to ask The Hardys what their preference was, as after all they were the ones in the ring, putting their bodies on the line.
And both brothers were in agreement that though they hold all of the TLC matches dearly, the Wrestlemania 17 match in Houston, which featured that awe-inspiring spear from Edge to Jeff Hardy from the top of the ladder, was the best of the bunch.
Asked which match he held in the highest regard, Jeff said:
"I would say the spear [from Edge], Wrestlemania 17 because I had always wanted to hang from those things that held those titles and we finally got to do it. Just to see that come from my mind to reality was breathtaking, and for it to be so good, it's one of the biggest things that stands out to me - that spear. I would say [it is] one of my craziest stunts for sure because that was a pretty long fall, but then the Swanton I did on Randy Orton years ago back in about 08 or 09, it was like 32 or 33 feet - that was pretty massive so that's up there with the swantons but all the TLC matches I hold dearly and always will."
Matt chimed in with his view, speaking of how the Wrestlemania 17 encounter was the most complete in terms of storytelling and psychology; something he places great emphasis on now that he's older.
"I liked the first tag team ladder match we had, the first TLC match we had in theory was the triple threat ladder match at Wrestlemania in 2000 - it was a great match, it was a spectacle but looking back because I'm older, there's a lot of things that bother me from a psychology standpoint but we were just three young teams, it was our first Wrestlemania and we went out there and they said 'Don't worry about time, timing's not an issue, we know you guys are doing a ton of crazy things, don't rush'.
"We were literally given a spot on Wrestlemania and told not to worry about time - that doesn't happen, that's not a real deal. That match was great, it was a spectacle and one of my favourites. Summerslam that year it got a little better, I thought it was strong from a storytelling and psychology standpoint, and then I thought Wrestlemania 17 was even better - I thought it continued to improve and evolve as we got better."
It's been a treat seeing Matt and Jeff mix it up with the current crop of tag teams on the Raw Brand, with a whole host of fresh match-ups in the pipeline during this current run for The Hardys. Cesaro and Sheamus were the first challengers for the Raw Tag Team Championships at Payback, and Matt rates WWE's batch of tag teams incredibly highly.
They're good and I like that there's attention being paid to the tag team division, and it seems like there's a renewed interest and now that we're back that's what we want to do," he said.
"I think it proves that a tag team division can be attraction, and sometimes it's not always treated as such in different aspects of the wrestling industry, but we had so many people talking about our match with Sheamus and Cesaro at the last pay-per-view for instance. Tag team wrestling is really important, especially when it's given time and it seems like it's important. There's a lot of great teams and a lot of potential to make the tag team division very good now."
And though the tag team titles and division is the priority for Matt and Jeff at the moment, they have reached the point where they no longer need to be in a tag team. They have proved to be top-tier singles competitors. After all, Jeff is a three-time world champion, a four-time Intercontinental champion, and Matt has won the ECW world championship, United States championship, European Championship, Hardcore championship and Cruiserweight championship in several stints in WWE.
While the brother vs brother rivalry has probably been overplayed, the potential match-ups for both Matt and Jeff as singles competitors is mouthwatering - and it's something that excites both men.
"I think the brotherly feuding might be over, I don't think people really want to see us fight each other but when you think back to the beauty of the Final Deletion, if ever something like that comes into play again then that's the only way I see us doing something like that but it's inevitable that we'll go do our solo things before we're done but right now it's all about the tag teams." Jeff said.
His elder brother Matt added:
"Speaking from my perspective, I think right now our goal, especially starting, coming back, being reintroduced to the WWE universe after being away for a substantial amount of time, really was to be a tag team - we became famous for being a tag team. I think down the road there will be a potential for both of us doing our own things; we're both strong singles personalities in many ways, and I think as performers we've grown as we've got older; we've got smarter.
"Just for starters, if we get to where we need to be, I think 'Broken' Matt Hardy against Bray Wyatt would be an amazing deal, and you look at him [Jeff] - him vs Seth Rollins, him vs Finn Balor, either one of us vs Roman Reigns - there's a lot of cool, interesting combinations of guys who became stars in the last five or six years that we've never worked against, it's totally like a fresh slate. So there's a lot of potential forces as singles competitors also."
Ever since The Hardys' homecoming, the "Delete!" chants have been off the charts. It's something that fans clicked onto while the brothers were doing their thing in TNA and it's transferred over to WWE, where the fans were joining in at Wrestlemania. There's one particular shot where Matt and Jeff are in the ring, looking on, as a sea of people are vigorously waving their hands - much to the appreciation of the Raw Tag Team Champions.
"It's extremely flattering especially since it is something that you have created yourself and it infects so many people, and it evokes emotion from them,"Matt said.
"It's super overwhelming and just really flattering more than anything else, and as far as being an artist in this profession that is what you live for."
Jeff Hardy formed his own band, 'PeroxWhy?Gen', with fellow wrestler Shannon Moore, back in 2003, and has a number of singles available to listen to on Spotify that have been released over the years. However, he says the closest he's felt to being a rockstar on stage and having a connection with the audience, has been the response from wrestling fans when he and his brother have uttered the lyrics, "I'll fade away and classify myself as Obsolete".
"You can't deny the fans," he said.
"Like at Mania we didn't have to do it [the delete signs], they [the fans] were doing it because they love it and that connection that's very rare - to connect with the people like that is very powerful. It's not the end of 'Delete' for sure.
"I finally know why I wrote that song 'Obsolete' now, I think it came outin 2013 and I was just obsessed with the word obsolete so now it's natural why that happened because it became a huge part of 'Brother Nero' and what I was all about and for them to use it in that one line, and I can even sing it now and people are backing up all the way. It's the closest I've ever felt to being a rock star up on stage and everyone knowing your words."
The question on the lips of wrestling fans, and fans of Matt and Jeff, is whether or not we will see more of the 'Broken' brilliance served up by the brothers in WWE. We've seen flashes so far, but legal issues with TNA have meant that it's largely been the classic Hardy Boyz doing the business in WWE so far, rather than the crazy, creative stuff they had been doing before then.
Matt, however, is hopeful that fans will see more of his broken schtick under the WWE umbrella, and says he 'would love' to have the rest of his 'House Hardy' join him at some stage.
"That is ultimately the goal. There are a couple of things we are working on now and yeah I think we'll get there. I would love for that to happen, I think that would be an amazing series of action figures with 'Broken Matt' and 'Brother Nero', Senor Benjamin, Queen Rebecca and King Maxel - all hail King Maxel!"
ALL HAIL KING MAXEL!
Featured Image Credit: WWE