Joseph Campbell explored the monomyth in the field of comparative mythology in his revolutionary work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, published in 1949. Commonly referred to as "the hero's journey" comprised of seventeen stages of a basic pattern in mythology and stories spanning the ages, Campbell borrowed the term from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake.
It is said that any student of film, media, and entertainment should be familiar with the hero's journey. Knowingly or not, the classic story arc uses the premise of the monomyth to create compelling entertainment.
Sometimes, the career and lives of entertainers can be codified in the monomyth. Of the two Hardy brothers, it is Matt who embodies the classic hero.
In 1987, single parent Gilbert Hardy bought his sons a trampoline for Christmas. Matt made a makeshift wrestling ring out of the gift so that he and his younger brother, Jeff, could emulate The Rockers. Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty, along with famed wrestlers Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat, acted as the heralds for the young Matt.
There was no refusal of the call to adventure. Matt was drawn to wrestling immediately, impassioned by the aerial athleticism, and began self-training using the trampoline and his own ingenuity.
The first place that the future superstars wrestled for was the Trampoline Wrestling Federation, a literal backyard promotion, and it was the brainchild of Matt Hardy.
NWA performer The Italian Stallion gave Matt and Jeff their debut in his North Carolina territory. Eventually, the Stallion began sending the brothers to the WWF as enhancement talent.
While the Stallion certainly functioned as the supernatural aid in opening the door to the major leagues, he also laid the first threshold before the talented youngsters.
The fees that the Stallion commanded for the appearances were astronomical. It was difficult, but Matt cared less about the money, and more about learning the wrestling industry.
Beginning in 1994, Matt and Jeff worked here and there for the WWF. In the meantime, Matt displayed his acumen for the business side of professional wrestling. He called his first promotion ECWF—East Coast Wrestling Federation. Not only did Matt acquire sponsors and show times, but he taught himself to sew in order to outfit himself and his wrestlers.
OMEGA Wrestling, the Organization of Modern Extreme Grappling Arts, was established by Matt in 1997.
Though the promotion lasted for a mere two years, as Matt and Jeff signed full-time contracts with the WWF in 1998, it notably launched the careers of Shannon Moore, Joey Mercury, Lita, and Gregory Helms.
Once Matt achieved his childhood dream of wrestling under contract with the WWF, one might think that the trials and tribulations would pale in comparison to the knowledge that he had been reborn from the belly of the whale.
However, as one of the thousand faces of the iconic hero, Matt had just begun his road of trials.
He and Jeff would form the Hardy Boyz, briefly managed by Michael Hayes, and attained their first WWF Tag Team Championship on June 29, 1999.
A month later, after losing the straps, they split with Hayes to become part of the New Brood. That lasted for a scant month or two before the Hardyz teamed up with another hot young team, Edge and Christian, to end Gangrel’s association with all four stars.
Edge and Christian were an intricate part of the rise of the Hardy Boyz, and vice versa. The quartet put on a series of truly magnificent matches, culminating in the first tag team ladder match at No Mercy.
The Hardy Boyz won the match and the managerial services of Terri Runnels. An epic two year rivalry between the wildly popular tag teams had begun.
During this time period, and going forward, the temptress figure emerged. Lita, who began dating Matt in 1999, joined the on-screen duo. The trio called themselves Team Xtreme and were extraordinarily popular.
2001 saw both Matt and Jeff receive singles pushes. Jeff captured the Intercontinental Title and Matt won the European Championship.
Though Jeff seemed to be the more beloved of the two brothers, it was Matt who became the longest running American born European Champion.
Matt enjoyed his first successful heel turn in 2002 with his Version 1.0 gimmick. The ups and downs of 2003 would see his brother, Jeff, released from the WWE for no-showing events and addiction issues.
His own career, on the other hand seemed to be progressing forward.
He won the Cruiserweight Championship, which he successfully defended at WrestleMania XIX. The stable of Mattitude Followers, comprised of Shannon Moore and Crash Holly, elevated Matt’s status in the eyes of the fans.
However, in order to spend more time with his real-life girlfriend, Lita, Matt moved to Monday Night RAW.
During a program with Kane, he turned face. His career growth fell victim to the temptress as, after Matt abandoned a successful gimmick to move to RAW, the enterprising Hardy discovered that Lita was cheating on him.
The blade in his back was planted by fellow Superstar, Edge. Not long after the emotionally traumatic revelation, Matt was released from his WWE contract.
The fans were vocal and visual in their displeasure, often chanting and bearing signs saying “You screwed Matt” and “We want Matt.”
His apotheosis preceded the atonement with the father figure. In the Twist of Fate DVD, Matt states that he felt that he had lost everything. The business he loved and his long-term girlfriend were gone.
Though he took independent bookings and appeared on Ring of Honor, his dream of greatness in the WWE seemed at an end.
Matt engaged in behavior that he is not proud of, including calling in to the “Byte This!” webcast and starting a heated argument with Lita. Yet, a mere four months after his release, Matt was resigned by Vince McMahon.
Despite the obvious pain over the disintegration of his relationship with Lita and the betrayal by Edge, Matt agreed to work a program with future Rated R Superstar.
Personal feelings aside, the two men put on a stellar show each and every time that they stepped into the ring together.
Having attained his ultimate boon, accepting the use of his personal trials in storylines, it was time for Matt to cross the return threshold. He gamely made the most of his predetermined defeats and humiliations at the hands of Edge and Lita, gaining immense popularity with the fans.
When he returned to Smackdown, he enjoyed such successes as ending the undefeated streak of Mr. Kennedy, several wins over the veteran Road Warrior Animal, winning his sixth WWE World Tag Team Championship with Jeff and the WWE Tag Team titles with MVP.
More recently, he won the United States Championship and the ECW World Heavyweight Championship.
In the last few weeks, Matt has embarked on a new stage of his career. With a successful heel turn at the Royal Rumble that allowed storyline and real-life rival Edge to win the WWE Championship from his brother, Matt continues to prove his dedication to the business.
Overshadowed for so long by his younger brother, Matt has the opportunity to seize the spotlight. There is no question that Matt is the more technically sound of the two Hardy brothers. Matt also has a better potential to develop into a truly strong promo deliverer.
He has become the master of two worlds. This is his chance to seize the freedom to live his dream.
Jeff may be the flashier of the brothers, and Edge might have the advantage in titles won, but only Matt has the breadth of experience to be compared to the monomyth.
Matt is the classic hero, on a Hardy’s Journey.