Jon Harder is a jack of all trades in the independent wrestling world. He produces a weekly podcast on independent wrestling called The Hardway, which has featured interviews with Jay Lethal, Bobby Fish, Leon St. Giovanni and more. Jon is the The Voice of American Championship Entertainment Wrestling and Women Superstars Uncensored . Harder does play-by-play for ACE's DVDs and iPPVs for WSU. In Beyond Wrestling, Harder is the manager of Leon St. Giovanni and JT Dunn. Previously at 411mania, I have interviewed Giovanni and Dunn .They have started the Professional Revolution, a war against the "unprofessionals" who run and perform in Beyond. Harder, Giovanni and Dunn will surely be looking to make an impact of some kind at Off the Grid, especially now that the location of the event has been made public, and now that they have already been signed for a match against The Super Smash Bros. Information for this Beyond Wrestling event is here .
TJ Hawke: In Part 1, we ended with us discussing how you were working for ACE. Besides being a commentator for ACE, you are also a commentator for WSU, Women's Uncensored Wrestling. How did you start to work for them, and what have the experiences been like?
Jon Harder: Basically, it all came off a whim. On certain ACE shows, the women of WSU would sometimes have a match or two on the card. In particular, I remember calling Mercedes Martinez and Angel Orsini face off with Jessicka Havok and Hailey Hatred for the WSU Tag Team championships back in November 2009. That match actually made me start following the WSU company, as it truly was a phenomenal contest. Over the next 18 months, I continued to call matches for ACE as well as the rare WSU match on an ACE card. Finally, during Wrestlemania 27 weekend in 2011, WSU ran two shows on that Saturday (the Women's J-Cup and the 2011 King and Queen Tournament), and the Mic (WSU promoter) asked if I was available for the weekend to just do some commentary for the shows. I instantly agreed, as WSU was picking up steam through fans and through the internet pay-per-view medium. I commentated those two events solo and almost immediately, the Mic hit me up and wanted me full time for all WSU DVDs. I was shocked and knew almost immediately, I had to pick my game up and work hard to call the best women's wrestling in the US.
When I got into wrestling, if I would have ever thought of doing commentary for a women's wrestling company, I'd be insane. But once I started, I realized it was the best thing to jump into. WSU is one of the best companies on the independent circuit, let alone a women's company. The women there are dedicated to the product and it shows. Mercedes Martinez is the BEST wrestler on the market right now. Her hard work all over the globe to spread women's wrestling has been phenomenal. Behind her is the best mix of women's wrestlers all over the globe. You have the MidWest Militia, with Sassy Stephanie, Allysin Kay, and in my opinion, the most evil woman I've ever encountered in my life in Jessicka Havok as the dominant faction in the company, along with Alicia, Brittany Savage, Serena Deeb, Rain, Jennifer Cruz (who might be the most hated woman in wrestling today) the Boston Shore, and the list goes on and on. Seriously, I never would have thought that I would be able to call matches for women who dedicated themselves to the art of wrestling and to watch them truly take it to the absolute peaks of their souls in the ring. They aren't divas, they aren't knockouts, they are wrestlers.
With that said, calling two iPPVs with some epic matches have been on the highlight reel. (Uncensored Rumble IV and Breaking Barriers II) Also, being able to call a piece of history with Mercedes Martinez and Lexxus on August 6, 2011 going 73 minutes was great. Those two women really took it to the limit and made history. Being able to call that alongside Cindy Rogers truly was, is and forever will be amazing. I technically can say I was a part of a record-breaking moment.
TJ: The role of the commentator is a hot topic in light of the WWE's direction of their commentary team. What do you feel is the most important part of the job? What has been the biggest lesion you have learned since starting to commentate shows?
JH: The absolute most important detail about being a commentator is, honest to God, doing your job and making the audience get invested in the show without coming off like you ARE part of the show. It's a confusing line, T.J., but I have to elaborate. The worst part about commentary, ESPECIALLY on the independent circuit, is watching a company's DVD and hearing the commentators not taking the show seriously or saying things that are an attempt at becoming a "character". A commentator's number 1 rule is to make everyone and everything else look good on a show, not themselves. As I said earlier, being a non-wrestler in the sport of kings, you have to earn every ounce of respect, and listening to some commentators and the way they do their role, it's embarrassing. You have to take it seriously and devote your heart and your voice to a show. When each and every wrestler is in the ring, they deserve the best called match possible. They are the athletes dedicating their time and passion to display their craft for an audience, the least we can do is commentate it the best way possible.
TJ: Is commentating something you want to do more of? Are the other places where you are hoping to soon work?
JH: I will not lie T.J., when I say I would love to do more commentary more. The thing is, I don't want to commentate the same style of wrestling every show I do. I mean, the few companies I do commentate for, it's all different styles. ACE is a hybrid, great story-telling company. WSU is the best women's wrestling. NWA on Fire has the old school vibe that wrestling definitely needs. I would love to just keep expanding and learning all different styles of wrestling and learn to commentate it. I'm a very particular man, T.J., and I would rather be able to commentate quality instead of quantity. More does not necessarily mean better. Sometimes, doing a few companies with a total mix of different styles, really changes it up. I guess I just don't want to prostitute myself for a million promotions, especially being very young in the business.
TJ: Not only are you active in the independent wrestling scene, but you have also become very active in the social media scene. As someone, as you said, who is very young in the business, what are some of the things that you keep in mind while you promote yourself and interact with fans? What lessons have you learned from some of the mistakes that higher profile performers have made?
JH: The art of using social media through wrestling still has not been perfected. Within the realm of wrestling, it really hasn't been utilized the right way at all. I remember seeing something awhile back that EVOLVE tried with Shiima Xion and Jimmy Jacobs back in 2011 and to me, it really could have been more. I really look at a lot of promotions and with the exception of promoting specific items, I'm not impressed. It's not necessarily a knock, social media hasn't been 100% utilized the way I would do it. Not only that, when it comes to wrestling, too many people use their social media accounts to promote WWE as if they are in the company instead of their own professional careers. In fact, it drives me crazy.
T.J., it leads me to this: Twitter and Facebook are the new wave of promoting a career. It truly is a revolution to do so. Granted, to build a fanbase, you have to master the re-tweet and the like statuses and hashtags and the whole shabang. Thankfully, I have the nerddom to do so. If you are in this business, you have to be you every step of the way. I have earned every friend request and every follow and that's without following a massive amount of people, all by spreading the word of professionalism. Crazy, yes, but one hashtag really has gotten me a small base of followers.
The only rule I have with social media that I follow AND EVERY PERSON SHOULD ALSO: keep your personal lives and drama off the Facebook and Twitter. Please, that drives me up the wall.
TJ: Besides Twitter and Facebook, you also have a very active website, which is the home for your podcast. However, I've noticed that more and more projects keep popping up on the site, some of which you have no direct involvement with. What is your plan for your mini media empire that you seem to be starting?
JH: As I talked about on last week's podcast, which you hear here #CHEAPPLUG, I want to take TheJonHarder.com and make this an independent wrestling haven for wrestlers to take a chance and try something different.
The majority of people that I know in and out of wrestling want to just sit back and relax and wait for things to come to them. Colt Cabana, who seriously is a major inspiration to me in wrestling, repeatedly talks on his podcast about taking risks to expand the Colt Cabana brand and if one thing falls through, he has multiple baskets to divulge into. I'm not getting any younger. I decided to take that risk to become more legit in not only wrestling, but in life.
To make yourself look legit, you need an official website. I took the cash and got TheJonHarder.com with it. The original goal was to use the site to make my podcast more legit by having my own domain, but once I realized I had some serious bandwidth with the site, I wanted to take things to another level. I started a funny little web-comic called MARKIN' OUT. I have my Blog of Professionalism. Obviously, the Hardway Podcast. But I wanted to do more.
I want to help young wrestlers out. I want to help them develop certain ideas and let them run rampant. Guys like Stan "The Man" Styles (@stms6969) is trying to expose himself by doing a WIN A DATE idea and letting us film it for the site. Guys like Chris Cayden (@thechriscayden) wanted to help expose himself by jumping on the site with a video webseries called "Catchin' Up With Cayden". Hell, my brother Greg (@hardergreg), who is not even in the wrestling business, help start up a pop culture blog called GOING HARDER for the site. It's not necessarily getting massive views a day, but people are looking.
I will not lie T.J., when I say I read the feedback from some of the fans from 411mania on Part 1 of the column. No one knows who I am and have no idea why a column was done on me. I agree. No one does know me. But this is the start of how people WILL. It won't happen overnight. But TheJonHarder.com is my personal project. You have to spend money to make money. I want to help young wrestlers and people out on the site. If I don't make a cent off sponsors, as long as they get a little more recognition, then that is my payback. Long term is the goal. Just like my podcast. Just like my website. Just like Professionalism. Just like my career. It's all for the long term.
TJ: First off, before we finish this, I just wanted to say thank you so much for taking so much time to do this lengthy interview. My last question is simple: what are your goals for your career in the professional wrestling business?
JH: T.J., I thank you for this. With all the legendary independent guys you've had on this column, it means a lot to know you thought enough to give me a two-parter. It means a lot and I hope this helps spread the word not only on me, but your column as well. I really appreciate it.
Now, my goal is pure and simple: to get to a point where I can make a living off this industry. It is honest to God the most impossible task to do, but some have succeeded. I just want to make history in the wrestling business and start something fresh and make a good living doing so. Whether it be through the Hardway, the website, my commentary, my writing, Hell, even one day possibly starting my own company. I just want to help keep independent wrestling moving and thriving and make something special for the future. It is an honest goal, but if I get to a point where that is not going to be fiscally possible, of course I'll stop. But I want to make this my living.
Quite simply, one way or the other, Professionalism will be infused into indy wrestling. Who's coming along for the ride? I know I'm ready for the long, winding road. Oh Yeah Daddy.
Harder's upcoming events:
February 17 Beyond Wrestling's Off the Grid
February 25 - ACE Overdrive in Union City, NJ ACEProWrestling.com
March 3 - WSU 5th Year Anniversary Show - Deer Park, NY - WSUWrestling.com
March 10 - ACE Destined 4 Greatness in Wallington, NJ
Thanks everybody for reading! You can send feedback to Twitter or at my email address: Shabang728@gmail.com. If you are a wrestling personality who would like to be interviewed by 411mania, you can also contact me in either of those ways.