In January 2003, Hardy briefly turned into a heel (villain) after he attacked Van Dam and Shawn Michaels .    It ended a month later when he saved Stacy Keibler from an attack by then-villain, Christian .  In February, he had a brief program with Michaels, which saw the two team up.   Then, in storyline, Hardy began dating Trish Stratus after saving her from Steven Richards and Victoria in March.  Hardy and Stratus had a brief on-screen relationship that saw the duo talking backstage and teaming together in matches. Hardy competed in his final match (his first departure) against The Rock and lost.   Hardy was released from WWE on April 22, 2003.   The reasons given for the release were Hardy's erratic behavior, drug use, refusal to go to rehab, deteriorating ring performance, as well as constant tardiness and no-showing events.   Hardy also cites "burn out" and the need for time off as reasons for leaving WWE. 
I am thankful for the years I have been the Hulk because it has taught me a lot about pantomime. I’ve learned to be comfortable in front of the camera, showing all those emotions behind the white eyes and the teeth. When I did this speaking role, I only needed, at most, two takes. It was a breeze. I get a lot of attention these days, and although the intrusions—the kids, and the women who want to touch and kiss me—are sometimes difficult to deal with, I still love it. I waited a long time for this, and I want more. My goal is to do a film, maybe a television movie. I love the feeling of being in front of a camera. There I am no longer shy.