Shannon: Wrestler of the Week — Jeff Hardy

HeadLocker — Jay Shannon

OWW Wrestler of the Week — Jeff Hardy

Our resident philosopher, Jay Shannon, looks at the new WWE champion, Jeff Hardy. Jeff defied the odds at Armageddon and Swantoned himself into championship gold.

Jeff Hardy surprised a lot of critics when he took the WWE title from Edge at Armageddon. Jeff’s career has been a chaotic roller coaster which saw him fired by the WWE, hired by TNA, and then re-hired by the WWE. Jeff nearly shot himself in the foot with the WWE on his return, thanks to the Wellness Program. Jeff Hardy has been at the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. On Sunday, he reached the highest peak, yet. Jeff Hardy is this week’s OWW Wrestler of the Week.

The many identities of Jeff Hardy

Jeffery Nero Hardy grew up in South Carolina. From the time he was a young boy, Jeff loved professional wrestling. He wanted to be like his heroes: Sting, Shawn Michaels and the Ultimate Warrior. Jeff and his older brother, Matt, practiced and got themselves in good condition before looking into giving professional wrestling a try. During the mid 1990s, the WWF often used local talent to “job” to their established stars. Both Jeff and Matt were used by the WWF, from time to time. Jeff’s first match was a losing outing against Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) in 1993. Jeff also battled the 1-2-3 Kid (Sean “X-Pac” Waltman), always losing to him.

In addition to his occasional WWF work, Jeff, along with Matt and several friends, started their own promotion to help train each other. The TWF (Trampoline Wrestling Federation) would bring in people like Shannon Moore, Gregory Helms, and Joey Matthews(Mercury) . When Jeff received his recent Slammy, he threw a shout out to the old TWF with his comment “It all started with a trampoline”. While working for TWF and OMEGA, Jeff tried out several different characters. His most well known was Willow O’ The Wisp. The character name was later converted into the name of Jeff’s move off the ropes. During this time, he was also Iceman (a tribute to Dean Malenko), “Mean” Jimmy Jack Tompkins, and The Masked Mountain. Jeff worked up and down the east coast for most of the major independents. Matt and Jeff were approached by the WWF about a full-time position in the company.

The birth of the Hardy Boyz

Jeff and Matt’s work on the indies circuit came to the attention of road agents for the WWF. They were, of course, familiar with the two from their early work as jobbers. Matt and Jeff were sent to the legendary Dory Funk, Jr. for training as singles and as a team. They were in the same training class as Kurt Angle, Christian, Giant Bernard (A-Train), The duo was eventually brought up as a jobber tag team. Once the team began to gain a following, they were repackaged slightly and brought out as a high-flying daredevil team in the mold of Gagne/Brunzell, The Rock and Roll Express and others of the genre.

Matt and Jeff were further trained in tag team warfare by tag team specialist, Michael Hayes. Hayes taught the brothers some of the things that made The Fabulous Freebirds such a legendary group. Hayes also served as their manager for a short time. The brothers were also managed by Gangrel and Terri Runnels during the early days of their career. Jeff tasted gold for the first time on July 5, 1999, when he and Matt won the tag titles from the Acolytes/APA. They held the belts for only a month before dropping them back to Bradshaw (JBL) and Farooq (Ron Simmons).

Matt and Jeff went through a phase as The New Brood feuding with Edge and Christian (Cage). The Hardyz employed a somewhat Gothic look and feel. That union would dissolve quickly as Matt and Jeff brought in their friend, Lita, to act as their manager/valet. The trio were known as Team Extreme. The Hardyz’s main feuds during this time were against the Dudley Boyz and Edge and Christian. Somewhere along the way, Creative decided to split up the brothers.

(High) Flying solo

Jeff had an incredibly successful run as a singles star. He defeated Triple H for the Intercontinental title. He also had a run with the Light Heavyweight (later Cruiserweight) title by bearing Jerry Lynn. Jeff even ran with the Hardcore belt after taking out ECW legends, Mike Awesome and RVD. Jeff lost the Hardcore title to The Undertaker.

During this time, the Hardys were set against each others in a Family Feud brawl. Lita was placed in the middle. The two had several brutal battles, until the Undertaker attacked all three members of Team Extreme. Jeff went on a break, basically because the WWE didn’t really have anything for the brothers to do. When Jeff came back, he went after the Undertaker. Undertaker held the Undisputed title, at the time. Jeff wasn’t able to wrest the title from Undertaker but he did earn Undertaker’s respect. Jeff moved on to feud with William Regal. Jeff would eventually take Regal’s European title. Jeff would later face Rob Van Dam in a title unification match (European/Intercontinental).

Hardy went back and forth between heel and face. Hardy began to show up late for his appearances and No-Showing. After numerous warnings, the WWE terminated Jeff Hardy.

Back to the Basics

After the humiliation of his release, Jeff went back to his old OMEGA stomping grounds. He cast off his Jeff Hardy identity, in favor of his old Will O’ The Wisp character. Jeff received horribly heckling from the fans. Chants of “You Were Fired” rattled the rafters both in OMEGA and in Ring of Honor (where Jeff made a single appearance). Jeff then disappeared from sight to gather his thoughts and figure his next move.

The Charismatic Enigma

In 2004, Jeff accepted an offer from TNA to join the company. He immediately focused on the X-Division. His first TNA match was against A.J. Styles, the then-champion. Jeff also tried to take the World title from Jeff Jarrett. Hardy came up short in both attempts. Jeff would feud with the Kings of Wrestling (Jeff Jarrett, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash).

Jeff would also feud with men like Abyss, Monty Brown and Rhino. Jeff was being prepared for a run as the X-division title. Those plans were scrapped when Jeff began to show up late to shows, just like in the WWE. When Jeff pulled a No Show at a PPV event, he was suspended. Jeff’s contract was not renewed. Jeff was effectively fired by TNA.

Brothers Reunited

In 2006, Jeff was offered a second chance with the WWE. Jeff went to Raw and focused on Johnny Nitro’s (John Morrison) Intercontinental title. After losing in the initial outings, Jeff eventually won the gold. Jeff and Matt were rumored to be considering a reunion match. The match would happen on an episode of ECW (November 21, 2006). The brothers defeated the Full Blooded Italians.

After the tremendous success of their initial outing, the Hardyz were placed in various tag matches. At Armageddon, the Hardyz botched a ladder move that injured Joey Mercury. Johnny Nitro then set his sights on Jeff Hardy for damaging Mercury’s face. They fought over Jeff’s Intercontinental title. Jeff would lose the belt but not to Nitro. Umaga snuck in and took the title from Jeff.

At Wrestlemania, Jeff made a huge 20 foot leap from a ladder onto Edge during the Money in the Bank Match. Both men had to be carted out of the arena. Jeff would bounce back to join Matt in beating Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch in a 10-team battle to capture the World tag team titles.The Hardyz would eventually lose the titles to Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch.

To Hell and Back

After losing the tag belts, Jeff returned to battling Umaga over the Intercontinental title. In the middle of the feud, Jeff was suddenly taken of television. The initial report was that Jeff had suffered a bad fall against Mr. Kennedy. Later it was revealed that Jeff had received a 30 day suspension due to a first failure against the Wellness Program. Jeff returned in August to take the Intercontinental title from Umaga, who was facing his own 30 day suspension.

Hardy got a huge push after winning the Intercontinental title. He both teamed and feuded with Triple H. He also renewed his battles with Umaga when the suspension was served. Those feuds were child’s play as compared to his feud with Randy Orton. Matt Hardy had been sidelined with a major health crisis that required an emergency appendectomy. Orton attacked Matt’s mid-section when Matt came to visit on Raw. Jeff attacked Orton and eventually hit a Swanton off the top of the Raw scenery rigging.

In the middle of his huge push, Jeff failed the Wellness Program for a second time. He was pulled from the Money in the Bank match at Wrestlemania. During his time off, Jeff’s house burned to the ground, killing his beloved dog. Jeff returned to Raw and took up the feud with Umaga. The 2008 Draft sent Jeff to Smackdown.

When Jeff was sent to Smackdown, he was confronted by MVP. MVP ridiculed Jeff for the series of events that had befallen Hardy.When MVP blamed Jeff for the dog’s death, Jeff lost his cool. Jeff destroyed MVP in a series of matches. Those matches elevated Jeff into the WWE title picture.

Jeff would be involved with the Championship Scramble match at Unforgiven. Jeff would come up short in that battle. He would return to face Triple H at No Mercyand Cyber Sunday. Hardy was attacked by an unknown person, the night before Survivor Series. Triple H was set to face Vladimir Kozlov in a regular match, instead of the originally planed Triple Threat match. Edge ran out to take Hardy’s place, thanks to his “wife”, Smackdown GM Vickie Guerrero. Jeff ran out to attack Edge but Edge still managed to win the WWE title.

Jeff would join Triple H in a Triple Threat match against Edge at Armageddon. Almost all the critics (myself included), gave Jeff no chance of winning the title. Jeff defied the critics by hitting his famous Swanton on Edge to win the WWE title.

In Conclusion

Will Jeff Hardy self-destruct, yet again? That’s impossible to tell. Jeff is a great performer but his demons have derailed him on several occasions. If he can keep himself in check, Jeff Hardy could find himself mentioned alongside his childhood idol, Shawn Michaels, as one of the best pound for pound grapplers of his era. For now, Jeff is riding the wave to glory. He deserves all the praise in the world for gaining the WWE title. For proving the critics wrong and taking the WWE title, Jeff Hardy is this week’s OWW Wrestler of the Week.

–Jay Shannon
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(12/15/2008)