OWW Wrestler of the Week: Jeff Hardy

HeadLocker — Jay Shannon
OOWW Wrestler of the Week: Jeff Hardy
Our resident philosopher, Jay Shannon, profiles the wild and crazy life of Jeff Hardy. Hardy surprised a lot of people by taking the World title from C.M. Punk at Night of Champions.

Jeff Hardy is an enigma in the world of pro wrestling. He has been a World champion. He has also been fired from the WWE and TNA for various infractions, including no-showing a TNA event. Jeff defeated the crafty C.M. Punk to take the World title at Night of Champions.The win catapulted the wild child of wrestling to this week’s OWW Wrestler of the Week.

Getting the Job done

Jeffrey Nero Hardy was born on August 31, 1977 in Cameron, NC. From very early on, Jeff wanted to be a professional wrestler. When Jeff began his wrestling career, he worked the indy shows in and around North Carolina, still a hot bed of pro wrestling. Jeff would join his brother Matt and several others to form the OMEGA wrestling group. It was an organization to help promote a more extreme style of wrestling. Some of the most famous members of the elite group were Matt and Jeff Hardy, Shannon Moore and Gregory “Hurricane” Helms.

Jeff was given a chance to work for the then-WWF at the age of 16. He served as a jobber for matches from 1993 until 1997. His biggest profile matches were against Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) and the 1-2-3 Kid (Sean “X-Pac” Waltman). Jeff came up on the losing end of almost every match during this time. Jeff’s major wins came on the indy circuit, where he worked as Jeff Hardy and the Will o’ the Wisp (a masked character).

The Rise of the Hardyz

In 1998, the brothers were signed on with the WWF and sent to Florida to train with Dory Funk, Jr. Creative wanted the team to become the next Big Team, so they partnered them with tag team legend, Michael Hayes, to learn the intricacies of tag teaming. Hayes would even serve as a manager of the brothers, for a short time. Some sources say the brothers were scripted to become the new Fabulous Freebirds, but the idea was scrapped (if it ever truly existed).

On July 5, 1999, Matt and Jeff won their first tag championship, defeating Ron “Farooq” Simmons and John “Bradshaw” Layfield aka The Acolytes. The Hardyz would only hold the tag belts for a month before dropping them back to Farooq and Bradshaw.

Following that first run as tag champs, the Hardyz aligned themselves with Gangrel as The New Brood. The Hardyz feuded with Edge and Christian, who had been members of the original Brood contingent. The feud was quite short-lived, as the Hardyz split with Gangrel. Jeff and Matt then utilized the services of Terri Runnels as a manager. The Hardyz “won” Terri after defeating Edge and Christian in the first tag team ladder match in the WWF/E.
Terri was quickly replaced by long-time friend, Lita. The trio became known as Team Extreme. The Hardyz joined Edge and Christian and the Dudley Boyz in the first ever Tables, Ladders and Chairs match at the 2000 edition of Summerslam. While the Hardyz didn’t win, they did put on a Match of the Year-level performance. The three teams would continue to feud for the next two years.

Jeff strikes out on his own

By 2002, the Hardyz had pretty much run their course in the WWF. It was decided to split up the team and have them run solo. The start of the split happened in 2001, when Jeff was given a run as the Light Heavyweight champ, the Intercontinental champ and the Hardcore champ. This push led to the first of the Hardy Wars. Matt, much like he would do again in 2009, began to show jealousy towards his younger brother’s success. Matt demanded a match against Jeff at Vengeance. Lita served as the special ref for the match, which Jeff eventually won. The feud wasn’t getting the kind of heat that the WWF wanted, so the storyline was abandoned. To give the Hardyz and Lita some time off, Undertaker (storyline) injured the three of them.

When the Hardyz returned at the Royal Rumble, there was no mention of their previous feud. In fact, they were pushed as a stronger team than ever when they feuded with Brock Lesnar. Lesnar had hit his F-5 finisher on Matt. the feud culminated with a tag match, pitting the Hardyz against Lesnar and his manager, Paul Heyman. The Hardyz lost the battle.

After that nowhere feud, Jeff was given another singles push. He had an amazing ladder match against The Undertaker for ‘Taker’s Undisputed Championship. Although Jeff lost, he really impressed the Powers-that-be. Hardy won the European title and was the final European champion. He lost a unification match to Rob Van Dam. RVD’s Intercontinental title was also on the line.

Personal Demons

Jeff had gone from his European championship loss to a program with Trish Stratus. Jeff had saved Trish from Right to Censor. They were scripted for an on-screen romance and a strong program with RtC. On April 23, 2003, the wrestling world was shocked when Jeff was suddenly released from his WWE contract. Jeff initially stated he left due to Burn Out. Later, it would be revealed that Jeff was released due to his drug usage, erratic behavior and slipping performance in the ring. The final straw came when Jeff refused to go into rehab.

After a month off, Jeff returned to OMEGA (his old home territory). He resumed his old Will O’ the Wisp character. He took severe hazing from the crowds, who were very disappointed in Jeff’s behavior. Jeff also made a one-shot appearance in Ring of Honor. His appearance was tough for Jeff. The hostile crowd ridiculed and heckled him during his entire time in the arena. Jeff’s frustration at the negative reactions led him to walk away from wrestling to focus on a motocross career. The motocross schtick went absolutely nowhere and Jeff decided to return to the ring wars.

The TNA days

In 2004, Jeff signed on with Total Non-stop Action (TNA). He immediately set his sights on Jeff Jarrett’s World title. He wasn’t able to defeat the TNA Founder for the belt. Jeff would also feud with Abyss and others in the unofficial Hardcore division. Hardy also joined forces with Randy Savage and A.J. Styles to battle the Kings of Wrestling (Kevin Nash, Jeff Jarrett and Scott Hall).

TNA would stay with the company for only slightly over a year. Jeff no-showed several events, claiming travel problems. When he no-showed the Turning Point 2005, he was removed from TNA TV. He did worked a few house shows during the spring of 2006 before finally leaving the company.

A Second Chance in the WWE, almost blown

Hardy returned to the WWE with an incredible push. He was set against Edge during his re-debut match on Raw. He won the match by count-out when Lita pulled her then-paramour out of the ring. Hardy had a few matches against Edge but couldn’t capture the top title. He switched his focus on the Intercontinental title, held by Johnny Nitro (John Morrison). Hardy would defeat Morrison to begin his second run at I-C champ on 10/02/06. He would lose the belt back to Nitro, about a month later, on the 11/06 edition of Raw. One week later, Hardy would take the title back to start his third title reign.

Beginning in late November, Jeff was partnered with his brother, Matt, for the first time in five years. They started on ECW, battling the Full Blooded Italians. The brothers would join Team D-X to battle Team R-K-O at Survivor Series. The Hardys would become involved with a nasty tag team feud with MNM (Nitro, Joey Mercury and Melina) after the Hardys injured Mercury with a mis-placed ladder shot to the face. During this months long feud, Jeff would drop his I-C title to Umaga.

Both Jeff and his brother, Matt, competed in Wrestlemania 23‘s Money-in-the-Bank Ladder Match. Jeff took himself and Edge out with a spectacular Legdrop move that sent both men through a ladder. The following night, despite appearing to have injured himself at Wrestlemania, the Hardys won a 10-team Battle Royal to take the tag titles. They would then feud with Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch, the team they last eliminated to take the straps.

After dropping the belts to Cade and Murdoch, Jeff switched his focus back to the I-C title, still held by Umaga. Jeff was pulled from all house shows and TV tapings, soon after The Great American Bash.

While Jeff, at the time, stated he was taking time off to heal from unspecified injuries, it would later be announced that he had failed the Wellness Program. When Jeff returned after his 30 days off, he went past Mr. Kennedy to challenge Umaga. Umaga, who was facing his own suspension, dropped the belt to Jeff. Jeff then began one of the biggest pushes of his career. He both teamed and feuded with Triple H in what was called a Respect Feud. Jeff would go for the World title but his demons caught up to him. Jeff was suspended for sixty days during the first week in March. He was forced to drop his I-C title to Chris Jericho. Jeff was walking a fine line that he came very close to crossing.

Going for the Gold

Jeff returned from his second suspension, just in time to get drafted to Smackdown. He was immediately placed into the title hunt. He competed in the Championship Scramble, but fell short. After failing at No Mercy and Cyber Sunday, Hardy won his first WWE title, defeating Triple H and Edge at Armageddon.

Jeff became the victim of several bizarre accidents. Most people thought that Edge was behind all the accidents. At Royal Rumble 2009, Jeff dropped the WWE belt to Edge, after Matt Hardy attacked his brother. That began a nasty “brother feud” that went through Backlash. After taking the final battle, an “I Quit” match, Jeff set his sights on the World title, held by old foe, Edge. Jeff would defeat Edge in a brutal Ladder Match at Extreme Rules, only to immediately lose the title to C.M. Punk, who cashed in his Money-in-the-Bank 2009 Briefcase.

Jeff and Punk had a strong match at The Bash. Punk retained his title by kicking the ref, thus gaining a DQ loss. The title stayed with Punk. The two were set to battle again at Night of Champions. After one of the most dramatic matches on the card, Hardy nailed the Swanton to gain his second World title.

In Conclusion:

Jeff Hardy seems to have over-come his past demons. He is riding on top of the world, currently. How long that will last is impossible to tell. One more strike could send Jeff into WWE Oblivion. While not one of my favorite wrestlers, I do respect his daredevil style of wrestling. Winning the World title in the main event of Night of Champions was the key that garnered Jeff this week’s OWW Wrestler of the Week award.

— Jay Shannon
[email protected]
(7/28/09)