For many veteran, grizzled wrestlers in the WWF, WrestleMania means little more than a better-than-average payoff.

But for the young stars that grew up watching WrestleMania in the Hulk Hogan-Randy Savage-Roddy Piper era, it’s all about the opportunity to live out a lifelong dream on the biggest night on the wrestling calendar.

Growing up as teenagers in North Carolina, the Hardy Boyz were fanatical followers of the WWF. Now in the their early 20s, they view the chance to compete on a WrestleMania as a dream come true.

“WrestleMania is always exciting,” Jeff Hardy told SLAM! Wrestling in a one-on-one interview at the TSN studios prior to taping his appearance on Off The Record. “Last year we had the crazy match that was match of the year. Just being a part of WrestleMania was so dreamlike for me and here we are again and we’re fixing to do it again.”

Jeff & Matt Hardy

Last year at WrestleMania, the Hardys took part in a memorable tables, ladders and chairs match against the Dudleys and Christian and Edge that stole the show. It’s a match that both Hardys count as a career highlight.

“It felt good to be in such a high position on such a pay-per-view,” confessed Matt Hardy. “I think we went out there and definitely delivered. We did the first ever three-way ladder match on a WWF show and it was a memorable moment for us and a dream come true.”

Matt Hardy is particularly excited abut this year’s WrestleMania, stating “it should be the biggest one of all time in terms of generating revenue and mainstream media attention.” He’s also looking forward to working with the Dudleys and Edge and Christian on such a public stage as WrestleMania.

“It’ll be the third big pay-per-view we’ve done with those guys. We had those guys last year at WrestleMania and again at SummerSlam. I think this will be the big send off and then put an end to all of this once and for all. It’s kind of special. It should be a big, monumental night for us. We’ve done a lot of good business with those other two teams and WrestleMania 17 should be no different. I’ll be happy to do that, especially one big last match so we give the fans a payoff. It’s going to be exciting after WrestleMania to do some new stuff.”

Lita. — Photo by Stephen Laroche

Lita is also excited about the match at WrestleMania, but is equally interested to see how the ‘love interest’ angle with Matt will play out in the ensuing months.

“I’m curious to see what they do with the storyline with me and Matt, and how it develops. I love working with them,” she said.

Following last year’s incredible performance at WrestleMania where they sacrificed life and limb to put on an incredible performance for WWF fans, the Hardys became the targets of heavy criticism from journalists. Many within the wrestling media thought the physical risks and punishment they took in that match was too much and said they wouldn’t have very long careers if they didn’t slow down a bit.

Jeff Hardy is not only cognizant of the criticism, he thrives on it.

“I love the reputation of that. I love it when people tell me I’m not going to get up from something or be able to do something. That just leaves room for things to change even more when something might happen in the future to where we totally quit all of that and bring back all of out mat skills and technical skills. I like the idea of people thinking I’m not going to survive.”

Jeff says that pain and taking bumps is all part of the game and he takes it all in stride.

“There’s always little things that are knocking me and bothering me but other than that I feel good. I’m 23 and my reputation is I’m not going to have a long career and all that stuff but I’m just a big believer in that. I want to have a long career but I don’t jump to conclusion like (the media). What people think I do now, they still say I need to slow it down. I’ve slowed down a lot if you compare my first days in the WWF to now.”

Brother Matt agrees.

“I’ve actually slowed down. If you watch my matches now compared to a year ago, I’ve slowed down and refined my style a whole lot. If you go back and look at our careers what we did the first six months when we were working on the road compared to what we do now, it would be a big difference.”

“Jeff is getting into more of a mentality of a long term deal,” admitted Matt. “Save your body because you only have one. Jeff’s so amazing, and he’s young now that he doesn’t feel anything and he doesn’t think about it to a degree but it’s there in the back of his head and it’s getting through.”