Matt Hardy, a controversial former WWE and TNA Impact Wrestling star, headlined a show in the area on Saturday, which caused some contention, but delighted local fans.
The show, organized by the Mariners Lodge Free and Accepted Masons, the Barnegat PBA, and National Pro Wrestling Superstars, featured local and national wrestling heroes for a crowd of more than 250 at Barnegat High School on June 2.
The show raised more than $2000 for the PBA and the Masons, the organizers said.
Prior to the show, some regarding Hardy's run-ins with the law, which included DWI and drug charges.
Hardy faced at least three different arrests, reports say, the most recent in September 2011 after a police raid of his North Carolina home revealed he had been possessing 20 vials of anabolic steroids and one hit of ecstasy, police said.
But the wrestling company sponsoring the event contended that Hardy had cleaned up his act.
“As far as my mental state of mind I’m great, regardless of whatever issues I've had," Hardy told Patch on Saturday. " People make mistakes, and either you fall from your mistakes or you learn from them.”
Hardy has performed for more than 18 years. Together with his brother Jeff he formed the “Hardy Boyz” tag team in the WWF/WWE, capturing the companies' tag team titles six times. Perhaps his best-known involvement with the WWE was in the company’s first ever “Tables, Ladders, and Chairs” match at WrestleMania which later became one of the defining moments of the WWE’s famous “Attitude Era”.
Hardy had recently adopted a new slogan, "Stronger Than Death," as part of his act.
“I feel good, I’m happy about life, I’m happier than I’ve ever been," he added.
The fans said they were not bothered by the controversy.
“That’s life, out of the ring activities [are part of] life, it can also happen in major league baseball [or] football,” said Artie Corr, 63 who attended the show with his grandson Michael who is 10.
Corr is a supporter of NPWS having attended over 15 shows with his grandson. Corr likes the personalized nature of the shows and the affordable entertainment value they provide, he said. The NPWS’ shows have bridged a gap for Corr and his grandson so they can bond together, he added.
“We see sports figures now who are on interview shows and stuff, who have had controversial backgrounds,” said Corr. “I like to give everybody a second chance because I believe that it is important. If you blow it or you mess it up or you fall back [and] the demons reach out and grab you again then you can’t complain to anybody.”
Hardy competed in the show in a tag team main event while also staying around during intermission to sign autographs for the local fans. A line wrapped around the outside of the ring area filled with fans flocking to meet Hardy.
"I actually enjoy these small shows because there’s no politics, there’s no pressure," Hardy said. "Doing one or two shows a week my body is fine, it’s not the grind of doing five shows a week and wrestling 250 shows a year.”
Also appearing on the card was Hardy’s former TNA coworker known as “Robbie E” who plays a Jersey Shore reject character. The wrestler himself is somewhat of a local legend having grown up in New Jersey and competed on the Indie Wrestling scene. The former TNA Impact Wrestling Television Champion competed in a triple threat match while also offering a seminar to the local wrestlers on how to improve their technique.
“This [character] isn’t that much different than what I was doing on the indie scene, I’m still the same kind of wacky guy or whatever granted it’s changed to more the Jersey Shore, but I go to those clubs regularly so it’s kind of like who I am,” said Robbie E.
The event featured a number of local talents including: The Equalizer, J.D Smoothie, Jersey Kidd, Nicky Oceans, and Corey Havoc among others.
The NPWS continue their tour of the tri-state area in July as they will head to Island Heights for another star-studded show. The full lineup is yet to be announced, but information on the show can be viewed at www.nwswrestling.com or www.facebook.com/nwswrestling