I recently interviewed TNA World Champion Matt Hardy, who is perhaps not-so-affectionately known as "Big Money Matt" ahead of his title defense against EC3 at Tuesday's Lockdown edition of TNA Impact.

The eccentric Hardy was in rare form spoke about his wife, EC3, Lockdown, Jeff Hardy, and played word association with us. You can see highlights of the video interview above, and read much more in the exclusive interview below.

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I'm here with TNA World Heavyweight Champion, Matt Hardy. Matt, how are you?

"Please reintroduce me if you want to do this interview."

...Okay. I'm here with TNA World Heavyweight Champion, the iconic Matt Hardy. Matt, how are you doing and does that suffice?

"That is acceptable. I'm doing great. Every day is great when your name is Matt Hardy. You don't understand how great it is to be Matt Hardy."

Do you play the piano, Matt?

"I play a little bit. My wife plays amazingly. My wife is an incredible pianist, I don't think there's anything my wife can't do, in all actuality."

It's a beautiful home, the kind of thing I've only seen in pictures.

"I know."

I gotta get right into it. Why the change in attitude? I see these people that you're calling internet nobodies, these are the same people who stood by you after your controversial WWE release in 2005. What gives, Matt?

"It comes down to this, Sean. I came to make TNA great again, to help TNA. But the TNA fans refuse to accept my because I built myself. They rallied behind a monster like EC3. The criticism I got because I was older or because I look differently or because I didn't have 8 abs at the same time was ridiculous. The more I thought about it, the more my wife said to me 'start taking and stop giving,' she was right. I wish I would have done this ten years ago. I would have went much further and much faster. The only things that matter to me are the TNA World Heavyweight Title, my bank accounts, my family, and those who support me."

Did the mean tweets hurt your feelings? It seems like you're brushing it off your shoulder now.

"I have always received mean tweets. When you're as successful and famous and wealthy and famous and stellar and immaculate as Matt Hardy, people are going to help you. They're jealous, and the only way they can express that jealousy is by tweeting at me. They send me filth, despicable words. At first it bothered me. Back in the day when I had feelings, I had emotions too. I did an anti-bulliying video in Ring of Honor because I was being bullied so bad by Kevin Steen. I thought that when I came to TNA, they're backed by a global company, they're more mainstream, they'll appreciate me and all my hard work and my amazing legacy, but they didn't. The biggest favor I've done for myself in my career was getting over my fear of being an asshole. Right now I do what I want and no one can stop me. I'm only worried about me and my family."

We talk about mean tweets, and I found one right here. It's from 2010, when TNA changed the structure of their ring, and it says 'What happened to the other two sides of TNA's ring? Matt Hardy ate them.'

"Oh, that's HILARIOUS. You know who tweeted that? Some big fat lard-ass, who won't put a picture of himself up on Twitter and is sitting behind his keyboard. Click click clickity clack, 'Oh here's the great Matt Hardy. I'll make fun of him because I'm insecure about myself. I'll make fun of someone rich and famous and handsome who can take it,' and that happens all the time. These people know how great I am. They post rants, it's cathartic for them."

Have you and your brother kept in touch since the incident?

"I sent him some flowers at the hospital after he was injured by Eric Young. It's like 'You don't want to cross Matt Hardy,' and if you're out there challenging me for the title instead of supporting me, bad things are going to happen, and Eric Young gave him a piledriver off the ring apron through a table. I sent him some flowers, I hope he feels better and can walk normally. He had a good run while it lasted, an amazing run. I supported him while he was world champion and on top, and I feel like it was selfish of him not to support me."

Speaking of Eric Young, any chance we'll see you on one of his hunting shows?

"Ehhh......egh...hunting is kind of beneath me. I don't do things like that. I go to the steakhouse and order the finest cut of filet. That's all that Matt Hardy does."

Okay. You have a big match Tuesday at Lockdown against EC3.

"They're all against me, Sean. It's a #HardyGate going on. When I beat EC3 at Bound For Glory, he filed an injunction and almost put TNA out of business. He personally tried to destroy me and Dixie, and Dixie personally asked me to relinquish the title, it was the only way to save Impact Wrestling. Looking back, why? Who cares? It should have brought it home then, and it would be sitting on my wife's piano for months and months. Who cares about Impact Wrestling? They haven't done me any favors. I finally exact revenge on EC3, doing the same things he did to me, and now Dixie and TNA management is villainizing me? I'm not going to file an injunction, I'm a fighting champion. Now they want to put me in a cage with EC3 to keep Tyrus out, and my wife out, and Maxel out. They're worried about Maxel! Rockstar Spud illegally came into the match last week, EC3 does it too."

Did you approach Tyrus or did he approach you?

"I went to Tyrus and said that I saw EC3 was treating him like trash. If you notice, there's a pattern, EC3 treats people like trash. I said I was willing to pay double what EC3 was paying him as long as he made sure I won that Last Man Standing match. I was putting my career on the line. This is an ultimate chess move. Whenever I asked Tyrus to take double, he took much less. Tyrus just wants to be loved and cared about. He's a big teddy bear, and I love him like family. I was blown away by Spud. He treated Spud like rubbish, and Spud had his back. I know Spud is going to try to cheat and level the playing the field, but every time EC3 makes a move on the chess board, I'm ready for it."

"Matt Hardy has been defying the odds since I was a Hardy Boy. All of the odds are stacked against me, but I will overcome HardyGate. Dixie Carter, EC3 won't win. If there's a will, there's a way. I'll go in there and win, and this will be the match where I pin his ass. Then these internet nobodies can shut up."

EC3 still hasn't been pinned or submitted, so that would be a big feather in your cap. We've seen a big turnover in the TNA roster with Mike Bennett, Trevor Lee, Maria, Rosemary showing up, and people like Austin Aries leaving. What do you make of this?

"It's the evolving wrestling roster, it has to change. Some talents will feel like they've done all they can and go somewhere else. I feel like that was the case with Austin Aries. I think it was time for him to try something else. I think the Decay is going some crazy things. Mike Bennett was my prodigy in ROH, I'm very happy to see him in TNA. I wasn't sure about his attitude at first, but now that I'm TNA World Champion, he's kissing my ass a little bit. I think Mike Bennett one day is going to be the world champion, 4 or 5 years down the road when I decide to retire and relinquish the championship, I think he could be the guy."

I'm kid of surprised you didn't just say that TNA was freeing up money for you, but it's good to know you have a level head.

"I'm very level headed and business minded. If you saw my check, Sean, you'd probably s--t your pants. It's huge, they have me covered. I have to build a bunch of great soldiers to fight underneath me. I could go out there and fill two hours of TV time, but not every single week. I need some soldiers, some pawns in my chess board. I'm the king. I have to make sure my pawns and soldiers are as strong as possible."

What's your TNA contract status?

"I'm in the middle of a renegotiation now. If you thought my prior contract was big, this one's going to be huge."

Is there any chance of a WWE return? Can they afford you?

"TNA have sold the farm to try to keep Matt Hardy on board, and it's going to happen. They have to meet my demands. I'm the champion, and I am the heart and soul of Impact Wrestling right now, no one is close. I don't know who it'll be 5 years down the line, maybe EC3, maybe Mike Bennett, once I step away, but right now my future is Impact Wrestling, and my job is to make TNA great again."

You recently had some words with Big E on Twitter. What was that about?

"I'm not familiar with these young upstarts, and put a name with a character that had strap ons on their head, right? I think at first he was offended, but I was like 'hey, we're just sports entertainers,' and everything was fine. I like those New Day guys. I researched it and they're okay in my book."

Daniel Bryan was forced to retire at a young age. How did you feel about that?

"I love Daniel Bryan. He's a great human being and an amazing athlete. I regret that he had to retire, because I wanted to beat him. I never got to wrestle him, so I wanted to beat him before it was all said and done. Bless his heart, injuries happen, especially when you're human. I'm a little more than human, I'm an anomaly in this business. He was at the top of his game, and it's one of those things that come with wrestling. Most of them are sports entertainers and most of them will break at some point. They're human."

What were your thoughts on longtime TNA star AJ Styles moving to WWE?

"Someone like AJ Styles, he needs to stop giving and start taking. Apparently he was willing to take WWE's offer, and he's doing whats best for him and his family. I can't blame him for that. He's doing what I'm doing, I can't hate a guy for copying what I'm doing and taking my lead."

We'll close this interview with some word association. I'll throw out a name and you give me your thoughts on them.

"Sure."

Dixie Carter.

"Conspiracy."

EC3.

"Serial asshole."

Norv Fernum.

"Stepping stone."

Shane Helms.

"Great."

Gangrel.

"Vampire."

Michael Hayes.

"Insane."

Jimmy Jam Garvin.

"Great promo."

Ronnie Garvin.

"Stone, hands of."

Tigre Uno.

"Luchador, flip out!"

Mike Tenay.

"Professional. Workrate."

Don West.

"Muppet."

Jeff Hardy.

"Selfish."

Matt, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Do you have anything to leave the fans with before Lockdown this Tuesday on Pop TV?

"You should thank me. You should check out Lockdown on Tuesday, because I am going to whip EC3's ass. I'm going to defy the odds, and you're going to see that Matt Hardy is stronger than death, and he's going to destroy the 'ass kicking machine' and retain the TNA World Heavyweight Title."

"Also, Sean, I want you to know how gifted and blessed you are right now. You have had a few minutes to share my essence, to sit under my learning tree, and very few people get the opportunity to do this. I get on elevators with people and they look at me and they get that gleam in their eye, knowing they're seeing someone special. I'm only with them for a few seconds, but it's the most important seconds of their life, and you got to share minutes with me here. I want you to remember that. Thank the lord, God, whoever you pray to for that."

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