Jeff Jarrett tried his best to call it down the middle as special guest referee this past Sunday at the highly-anticipated National Wrestling Alliance Worlds title co-main event at The Crockett Cup.

“If you drew up a wrestler in 2022 that identifies and emulates an ‘NWA Worlds Champion,’ Matt Cardona — in my opinion — is that last on that list,” said Jarrett during a The Wrestling Inc. Daily exclusive interview discussing the NWA’s two-day, tag team-focused pay-per-view spectacular.

“He probably doesn’t like when I say this, but he’s the product of the WWE system,” Double-J said of the reigning champ, with whom he acknowledges a business relationship outside wrestling. “He was essentially born into [WWE] not just as a wrestler but as a fan. He grew up on WWE, a WWE fanboy from a young age, and I’m not saying good or bad. I’m just stating the facts.”

Since entering NWA late in 2021, Cardona has been a polarizing figure. Some applaud the long-time WWE veteran’s vow to “save the NWA,” while traditionalists — which six-time NWA Worlds Champ Jarrett admits he often is — decry the arrogant interloper’s audacious suggestion the company needs his help.

Cardona up-ended NWA’s favorite corn-fed clubber Trevor Murdoch for the “Ten Pounds of Gold” just last month at the company’s Oak Grove, KY, Powerrr Trip special. Even as Murdoch was quite literally still bleeding NWA backstage, Nick Aldis picked up the mantle, confronting the “Always Ready” new champ with a Crockett Cup challenge.

For many, Jarrett included, it is understandable how Aldis would fall next in line to defend the NWA’s legacy and honor against Cardona. A two-time champion, “The National Treasure” recently held “Sweet Charlotte” for 1,000-plus days before dropping the coveted title to Murdoch at NWA 73 last fall.

“I’ve got to tip my cap in so many ways to Nick Aldis and just what he’s meant, not just to the title but the brand as well,” said Jarrett, who he again admits is both a long-time professional colleague and friend. “[Aldis] has got the swagger… the broad shoulders… carries himself like a champion, but he’s done that since his feet touched U.S. soil.”

Asked about Aldis blatantly calling Cardona a “clown” on a recent weekly broadcast of NWA Powerrr, Jarrett seemed to chuckle… and perhaps agree. He quickly made an about-face, though, continuing to keep some semblance of impartiality discussing two people with whom he freely acknowledges personal relationships.

“Nick calls him a ‘clown,’ but if he’s a clown… Over the last 18 months, he’s been a very, very successful clown,” Jarrett said.

Since departing WWE less than two years ago, Cardona has entirely rebranded. He lodged a high-profile war against Game Changer Wrestling, including defeating Nick Gage for the World title. He’s the current IMPACT Digital Media champion as well.

“[Cardona] likes to say the ‘WWE was his developmental,’ and I think he says that tongue-in-cheek, but the success he’s shown since he left there… his track record speaks for itself,” Jeff Jarrett continued.

“He holds multiple titles around the globe, and he’s very engaged in his career,” the Nashville-area native expounded, “What I like most, is he’s taken the bull by the horns and really, really forged his own destiny. I’ve got a ton of respect for that!”

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