Tribute to a Favorite Match
December 21, 2005 by Joshua "JRC" Cobb
I'm a semi-avid reader of the occasional columns here at OWW. Though I haven't been coming to the site for very long, I love the columns a lot, namely a recent one on Cena written by JT, and I felt spurred to write this one. This will be my first OWW column, and I'm not sure when I'll write another one since I really don't think I'm the greatest of wrestling fans and/or analysts. I just really felt that it was my time to contribute a little something to the site.
That being said, this column you're about to read was a big moment in my insignificant history as a WWE fan. (I grew up almost solely on WCW and refused to get into WWE until around WrestleMania X-8). I started to really get into WWE and some of its wrestlers, and I focused a lot of my attention on the likes of Kane and Jeff Hardy, who both stand today as two of my all-time favorites, Jeff Hardy in particular. And this was proven to me after one very special match that you may all remember.
This column is a tribute to the feud and the eventual match that solidified my admiration for two of the WWE's biggest names. Let's first dive into the extensive back-story of the feud; the whole build-up, if you will. It all began in early June 2002.
At the time, the Undertaker was at the top of the business as the Undisputed Champion. And he was in the midst of his Big Evil streak that started with a surprising heel turn on November 26th, 2001. He captured the title from Hogan on May 19th, 2002, and from there weaved a bloody path of destruction that claimed Randy Orton as a victim on
Smackdown!, as well as matches with Kurt Angle and Triple H. He was ready to focus his attention on the likes of Angle, Rock, and Triple H, who all wanted that title badly. But this wasn't without two big thorns in his side.
Matt and Jeff Hardy.
On the June 3rd edition of Raw, Jeff Hardy was upset that they don't "live for the extreme" anymore. Matt couldn't understand. Jeff called them both hypocrites. And he decided to show Matt what he was talking about. Later that night, the Undertaker defeated Tommy Dreamer, and eventually dumped the bucket of Dreamer's own vomit over him. As Taker stood satisfied, he received a hard dropkick from behind as Jeff Hardy sent him right into the pile of Dreamer's vomit. Undertaker immediately went backstage for him, but only found Matt. He then told Matt to give Jeff a message, and then proceeded to destroy him and throw him into a cement wall.
The following week, Undertaker comes out to the ring, and in classic heel fashion, makes a stage worker hold up his title. After addressing Triple H about their King of the Ring match, he addresses Jeff Hardy and what happened the previous week. He then calls out Jeff Hardy. Instead, he gets Matt Hardy with a ladder, upset at the disrespect he received last week. During this, Jeff comes out of the crowd for a sneak attack, but instead meets a Chokeslam. Matt runs in for the save, but instead is destroyed, and set up for the Last Ride. Jeff is back up, clipping Taker's knee and sending him down with Matt landing on him. The Hardys then proceeded to take down Taker with the ladder. Then came one of the highlights of the night: Jeff Hardy set up the ladder and to the cheers of the crowd, sprung himself off the top turnbuckle and over the ladder, landing hard with a Legdrop on Big Evil.
It was a moment of victory, but everyone knew it wouldn't last. On the June 17th edition of Raw, Jeff Hardy defeated Raven, as Undertaker watched from the stage. The two got into a stare-down after the match was over, but nothing happened. At least not yet. Undertaker had a match later that night with Matt Hardy. It was a complete squash
match, but as Undertaker went for the pin, Jeff Hardy pulled the referee out of the ring and got involved with Undertaker. Raven stepped in, taking out Jeff Hardy and allowing Undertaker to win with a Last Ride. Raven then proceeded to handcuff Jeff Hardy to the top rope. We then watched helplessly as our favorite defiant Hardy boy was wailed on again and again.
For some reason, I thought the feud might have been over. Undertaker had gone on to a match with Angle, and a win over Triple H at the King of the Ring. But it was not over. On the June 24th Raw, Vince gave a speech to the wrestlers around the ring, though I can't remember exactly why. All I remember is that in the process, he gave Jeff Hardy
a non-title match against the Undertaker that very night. Like most of us predicted, it was over after a Chokeslam and a vicious Last Ride. But, never say never; Jeff Hardy got on the mic, and challenged Undertaker for a shot at the Undisputed Championship, in a Ladder Match no less. To everyone's surprise, Undertaker accepted.
And the stage was set for the match that this whole feud had fueled. By this time, I was already deeply into the feud, even with all the other things going on in WWE at the time. And now the wrestler I was calling my favorite, Jeff Hardy, was going to fight Big Evil for the biggest prize in Sports Entertainment. I was hooked, as I hope many of you were as well.
Something nagged at me, however. This wouldn't just be another semi-squash match, would it" I mean, it seemed pretty obvious to everyone that Undertaker was going to leave RAW as the champion. Some of the more cynical of us probably even thought the match would be just another "put the champ in a match with a useless wrestler" matches. I only hoped it wasn't.
Already I was psyched up. I was laughing from how awesome the match began. This could not be a bad match, could it" Even with the standard prattling that Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler were making about how Undertaker has never been in a ladder match, or about history possibly being changed that night. It had to be a good match.
And it was, but it didn't seem like it at first. Jeff Hardy dropkicked the ladder onto Taker, and was writhing in pain moments later as the ladder connected to his face, ribs, and sent him to the announce table. The match hadn't even gone 5 minutes, and Hardy was already on the floor, Taker climbing the first two steps. It was over. But Undertaker wanted to destroy this kid. He promised Jeff Hardy wouldn't stand again that night. It was all that we could have expected from this match of David vs. Goliath.
As Hardy was smashed into the announce table, he received several chair hits to the ribs. He was kicked, and he was kneed, he was smashed onto the ladder. You could hear screams of terror from girls in the crowd as Jim Ross went on about how he didn't deserve to have his career ended.
The match just made you HURT watching it. Just made you hug your ribs as you watched this kid take the punishment. But he kept taking it, over and over again. And then, as roughly five more minutes passed in the match, we witnessed magic happen.
Corkscrew. Springboard Legdrop. Hardy brings a much larger ladder in and goes for the belt. Hardy counters the Last Ride with a Hurricanrana and goes for the belt again. He's touching it. The crowd is crazy. *I* am crazy. And then he's hit with a chair. Chair shot after chair shot, and after that, chair shot again. I'm reeling in imaginary pain once more. Here comes the Last Ride. This is it. This has to be it.
Then came two of the loudest chair shots I think I've ever heard as Jeff Hardy countered the Last Ride with one hit, and simply blasted the big man with the other, leaving Jim Ross yelling "KNOCKOUT SHOT!!" By this time I was standing basically in front of my TV, rooting my favorite wrestler on. I listened to J.R. scream the words: "CLIMB THE LADDER, KID! MAKE YOURSELF FAMOUS!!" It sent shivers down my spine.
Typing those words and proofreading those words even sent a shiver down my spine. I watched Jeff touch the belt again, as J.R. screamed how close he was to immortality.
It was a deterrence. Undertaker climbed the opposite side. As my excited-ness started to go down, I watched Jeff Hardy continue to climb, even after those two shots. We could see his hand literally on the strap of the belt, ready to yank it down.
It was over. The Undertaker did exactly what we all thought he would do, and defeated Jeff Hardy in the Hardy specialty - the ladder match - to keep his crown. But the fact was they kept us cheering the whole time. We knew damn well that Jeff was not going to win that match, but we were rooting for him anyway. We wanted to see this kid, after taking all that pain, standing amongst a roaring crowd with the top prize of the WWE held high.
But what happened only moments later was the next best thing.
Undertaker almost collapses out of the ring, his body exhausted from going through the match, the ref trying to raise his hand as he just goes back to his bike. As it starts up, he looks back, and Hardy slowly stands. Of course, Undertaker comes back in, and like the sadistic champion he was, delivers a Last Ride.
But Hardy wouldn't give up. Undertaker rode back up the ramp, and out came Jeff Hardy's voice via microphone. He belts out the words in a broken voice. "Hey!! Taker! You haven't broke me! You haven't broke me, Taker!! I'm still standing!!" He said the words as he was fighting to stand, mocking how Undertaker vowed to kill off his ability to stand that night.
Undertaker stormed back to the ring as Jim Ross was begging Hardy not to do it, noting how defenseless he was. Taker propped him up, grabbed his head, and pulled back his fist. About to destroy Jeff Hardy again. But then, he drops his hands away. He stares at Jeff Hardy, and raises Hardy's fist high as the kid's music begins playing. He lets go, and Hardy falls to the mat. We then watch as we can see Taker mouthing the words "That's one tough son of a bitch" and "You're one tough son of a bitch." Undertaker walks away from the ring with a genuinely surprised look on his face, looking back a few times, as Jeff Hardy stares at the arm that Taker just raised, his music blaring through the arena the entire time.
On the risk of sounding sappy, that was a moment I'll never forget. That moment and the match before it, even if it did only last around 10 minutes, was one of the greatest matches I've witnessed in my few years watching the WWE. It solidified my respect for Jeff Hardy, planted more fanboy in me for the Phenom, and also marked the beginning of Undertaker's slow turn back to a babyface. It was a match that all of us can remember thinking back, and was even nominated for RAW Match of the Decade, and rightly so.
I think I've gone on long enough on my little tribute here, to the feud and the match that changed a lot about how I felt about wrestling. If you loved the feud and the match as much as I did, I hope this column let you relive it again. If you'd like, share your thoughts about that. In closing, the Jeff Hardy & Undertaker feud is the one I'll most certainly remember for a long time amongst the many great feuds of 2002.
by Joshua "JRC" Cobb ..
Rob Scribner wrote:
Excellent column Josh. I relived the moment myself and felt a slight shiver. I would change a word...Keep up the good work!!
Tyrone Hunter wrote:
My man, sweet column. I can understand how Jeff Hardy can be you favorite wrestler, reminds me of being the Kurt Cobain of wrestling today. I do remember that match myself and I didn't think it was bad, I enjoyed it myself and was, yes, surprised that the Undertaker raised Jeff's hand, instead giving him a beating. So my response to your column is already said. I enjoyed reading your column, but I dunno 'bout headlining it "Tribute to a Favorite Match." Sounds like this match to you my friend was more memorable than a favorite.
Drew Cooper wrote:
I know exactly how you feel. I mean, I had no idea Jeff and the Undertaker could have taken it to the extreme. That match really allowed me to make Jeff Hardy one of my favorites. Now, Jeff is a much bigger star, and I would like to see that match again, because we may just see a different ending. Nice column.
mike c. wrote:
Thanks Josh for letting me relive that match too. I loved that whole feud with the Hardys and Taker and the match was a good one. To see one of our guys, who was not huge or the best technical wrestler get a title shot showed that the WWE was willing to give all different kinds of wrestlers a push. Now it's all these guys with little to no ability (see Chris Masters).
Jeff is one of my all time fav wrestlers. I love that he is wierd and artistic (which seems to freak out many red-blooded macho guys who are too insecure to root for someone who is different from them).
Jeff was getting such a great push at this time as he also went on to win the European Championship. It's too bad he didn't keep getting pushed. As Hardy fans probably know, he's had a few no-shows in his days and has struggled with drug use. He just recently no showed the Turning Point PPV for TNA and his job is in jeopardy. Hopefully, he will be able to turn his life around and give to the business more of himself and make a rise to the top. (Eddie Guerrero did and I hope Jeff can too). He's a young guy, coming into the biz when he was in his teens and maybe he needs to mature and travel his own path b4 he can overcome whatever demons he may have to deal with. I would say he needs Christ, just like Eddie did. I hope to see more of Jeff in the future and hope there is never a self destruction of Jeff Hardy DVD.
John Austin wrote:
This is a great article. Indeed this was one of the
moments in wrestling that stick out in your head even
after all these years. Im sure there are millions that
agree that they were touched by that moment as well,
case in point how you notice the fans in the picture
all with that same endeared look on their faces and/or
applauding. It makes me sad that both the WWE and TNA
are guilty of misusing Jeff Hardy who is one of the
most entertaining characters in the business today.
The same can even be said for The Undertaker, who
without a doubt in my opinion has become the greatest
star ever in the WWE. Although he has gotten much
recognition, I still think that he deserved a HELL of
a lot more. Maybe it will be made up to him by
Wrestlemania if this is indeed his "Last Ride" (pardon
the pun). Jeff Hardy is still relatively a young man
in the business, so as great of a moment as that was,
I dont think it will be his greatest as long as
whichever company he is working for in the next few
years makes proper use of this talented performer.
Mike Caffery wrote:
Joshua "JRC" Cobb - thank you! With the WWE (and wrestling in general)
suffereing a bad patch at the moment, it is always nice to remind ourselves
of what can be achieved by the WWE writers when they put their mind to it.
As for the column, wow, it has been a while since I've read one that has
stirred my emotions with such ferocity. I too was feeling that 'tingle' down
my spine. What is more remarkable is i have'nt even seen the match that you
were describing (im a sporadic wrestling fan and was on vaction from wwe
Your column intrigued me so much that im gonna try and find a copy of it on
DVD, hopefully it will cover the whole feud that u described.
On a sad note, your column did (with no intention) remind us what a great
star Jeff Hardy could have been as opposed to the washed-up drug addict that
Keep up the good work and hopefully you will bless us with another column
Matt Carey wrote:
I also remember that match, very well. It was a great moment and could have been even bigger if Jeff was able to stay motivated(or clean). It could have been the catalyst that sent Jeff to the main event. Instead, it was his last great moment in the sun.
Jon F. wrote:
Great Article. Thank you for reminding us of this unexpected great match.
Gemma Mason (England, U.K) wrote:
I havn't even seen the match you were discribing but reading your article i could imagine it in my mind and i am now going 2 have to find the DVD and watch it.
Jeff Hardy is a great wrestler it's was a shame that others don't understand him as he is diffrent to them, he is quick, agile and a risk taker.
It is a shame that he's turned to drugs and not to the wrestling fans that adore him when he was going through a ruff patch.
We'll all just have to hope and pray that he can turn his life around before it's to late. if he needs inspiration all he needs to do is read some of the signs that people do 4 him or look up2 Eddie.
I personally believe that since Jeff left and the Hardy Boyz split thw WWE has gone down hill. i want 2 c team xtreme bk on our screens again.
Ernesto Diaz wrote:
I remember this match very well. I could see it in my head just by reading this very detailed article. Both Taker and Hardy put up a hell of a fight. Very good article.
Micael Holm , Karis (Finland) wrote:
this was truly my favorite match of all time ,remember this match very well ,even tough Jeff Hardy didn't win , he got the respect he earned .
hope Jeff Hardy comes back to WWE.
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