Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Why I Wouldn't Have Put The TNA World Title Back on Jeff Hardy

What’s up doc? Wait, think I channelled Bugs Bunny there! What I meant to say was, how’s it going folks? Thanks a lot for everyone who took the time to comment on my last TNA article. It’s great to get feedback and create talking points.

For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I try to put across my opinions on the wrestling business. I don’t pretend to be an expert. I’m just a fan with a way to put my point across. I should probably also say that sometimes, I like to be controversial. I’ve been known to stir up some sh*t in my time. A prime example was a rant on one of TNA’s Gutcheck contestants on a recent episode of SLTD Radio. Like it or not, opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one and I’m not someone who’ll hold back in case I offend someone. Mark knows what I’m talking about! Haha..

With that in mind, let’s get to today’s topic, which is about why I wouldn’t have put the TNA World Title back on Jeff Hardy. I like to wind Mark up about Jeff Hardy and his ridiculous World Title belt, which looks like a cross between a Divas and reject Batman belt, but that’s a story for another time. I know that Tie-Up is a TNA site, but to get my point across, I have to go into some background, which means talking WWF/E, but I’ll try to be as brief as I can!

Background and WWE runs

I should start this off by saying that I WAS a HUGE Jeff Hardy fan. Probably everyone reading this started watching wrestling at the same time as me. I’d watched WWF/E in stages from the late 80’s, but it was when I was at high school during the mid to late 90’s that wrestling got huge. During that time, WCW and WWF/E were embroiled in a ratings war and wrestling fans had never had it so good. WCW had the nWo, Sting, Ric Flair and others, while the WWF/E had Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, DX and more.

WWF/E offered something that WCW didn’t: a thriving tag-team division with some of the best young workers in the business. We had teams like Edge & Christian and the Hardy Boys. I’ll go out on a limb and say that they’re two of the best tag-teams we’ve EVER seen. High-risk, high-octane offense that, more often than not, had the crowd on the edge (no pun intended) of their seats. At that time, Jeff Hardy came to prominence and became almost like a rock-star. Girls would go crazy and guys would just sit back in amazement at some of the dare-devil offense that the Hardys, in particular Jeff, would use. I think it’s fair to say that Matt was more technically sound and was more under-rated than Jeff. Everyone talked about Jeff. He was treated like “the star” of the team by fans.

Some of the matches that Jeff has been involved in, like ladder and TLC matches, have been just awesome and we’ve seen some crazy spots from him over the years. Looking back, Jeff almost killed himself on several occasions, like taking that spear from Edge off the ladder at WrestleMania. Nobody in their right mind would want to take that spot, but Jeff did it. 

When the Hardys broke up, Jeff became a bigger star than Matt. I was one of the fans who loved watching him, because he was unpredictable. You couldn’t guess what he was gonna do next and I’m not ashamed to say that I was a Hardy mark. Probably the best singles match of his first WWE run was the Ladder Match he had with The Undertaker for the Undisputed WWE Championship. It was just AWESOME and it showed what a great babyface Jeff was/is. He sells like a demon and makes his opponent look like a million bucks. That’s what a babyface is supposed to do and I’d argue that nobody has done it better than Jeff over the last 15 years or so.

He left WWE under a cloud in 2003-ish and had a brief stint in TNA for a few years (which was more or less pretty uneventful, so I won’t go into it) before heading back north. His second run in the WWE completely overshadowed everything he’d done before and he got rock-star receptions every week. However, his second run wasn’t without controversy. Jeff was suspended twice for violating WWE’s Wellness Policy. The second of those suspensions resulted in a 60-day suspension and Jeff losing his Intercontinental Championship. Even at that point, although I was pissed that Jeff could be that stupid, I was still a fan. The great thing about Jeff is that he doesn’t need to be pushed by “the machine”, whether that’s in WWE or TNA. The fans care about Jeff so the company he works for are forced into putting him in main-event level matches. I think even the most hardcore Jeff Hardy fans would admit that they never saw him being given a run with the WWE Championship. I’d probably have offered to eat my hat if that ever happened. Not because I thought Jeff couldn’t be champion, but that he wouldn’t be given a shot because he didn’t look like what WWE thought a champion should be.

Fast-forward towards the summer of 2008 and in four of WWE’s last five PPV’s that year, Hardy was battling for the WWE Championship alongside wrestlers like Edge and Triple H. Finally, at Armageddon 2008, Jeff beat Edge and Triple H in a triple-threat match for the WWE Championship. I’ve embedded the match below so you can hear the crowd, as well as JR on commentary, go bat-sh*t crazy when Hardy wins the title.

I’ll be honest and say that I marked out for that win because I never thought I’d ever see it. I felt fuc*ing ecstatic if I’m honest with you. An underdog that I’d cheered for for the best part of 10 years had made it to the top of the mountain. I didn’t care if it lasted a day or a week: Jeff Hardy was WWE Champion and nobody could take that away from him.

Through the fantastic world of the internet, everyone soon became aware that Jeff’s contract would expire 6 months later, but I never thought he’d leave. He’d been given an albeit short run with the WWE Championship, so I figured he’d re-sign with the WWE, stay and make a sh*tload of cash. I was wrong. Even another couple of runs with the World Heavyweight Championship weren’t enough to convince Hardy to extend his stay and he left when his contract expired in August 2009, after CM Punk beat him in what was effectively a “loser leaves town” match.

Phew, that’s the WWE part of this covered! Sorry it took so long, but I needed to explain why I was a Hardy fan. I say was because this was the point where the problems began and I started to lose faith (if that’s the right phrase) in Jeff.

Hardy’s Arrest and Second TNA Run

In September 2009, Jeff was arrested by the police for having various prescription and recreational drugs in his home. There was enough drugs there for the police to suspect Hardy of drug trafficking. Whether they were disco biscuits or paracetamol is irrelevant. For Hardy to be caught with that amount of drugs in his home was reckless and stupid. If he wanted to do drugs, that’s his call. He’s not a child and he was old enough to make his own decisions. If he had the physical ailments to warrant having so much prescription drugs at his house, he should’ve had the relevant paperwork. Of course, Hardy contested the charges and a legal battle ensued which lasted for almost 2 years.

3 months after the charges were brought against him, Hardy appeared on TNA’s first live Impact show of 2010, which also included the debut of Hulk Hogan brrrotherrr! I was surprised because I figured Jeff would head back to WWE eventually, but the more I thought about it, TNA’s lighter schedule was probably a better fit for Jeff, so I was fine with it. At that point, he was a huge star and TNA were trying to grow, so they’d have been stupid not to try to sign him.

Hardy’s run started with some tremendous matches because if there’s one thing you COULD say about Jeff, he delivers more often than not. Hell, we even got an outstanding tag-team with Jeff and Mr Anderson called “The Enigmatic Assholes”. That’s a pretty fair assessment of those two dudes if you ask me!  In mid-late 2010, Hardy wrestled in a tournament to crown a new TNA World Champion after the title was vacated. He made it to the finals where he’d compete with Kurt Angle and Mr Anderson for the right to be called TNA World Heavyweight Champion.

Shockingly, and for what was I believe the first time in his singles career, Hardy turned heel, aligning himself with Hogan, Bischoff, Abyss and Jeff Jarrett. I figured Hardy would be a sh*t heel champion, but he was actually pretty decent. It was around this time that we were treated to the first incarnation of Hardy’s ridiculous Divas rip-off TNA World Championship. I’m sorry. I understand that TNA (or any wrestling company) need to make money off merchandise, but a fuc*ing World Championship belt should LOOK like a World Championship, not something that a 7 year old could’ve drawn with some crayons. It looked ridiculous.

We saw a different side of Hardy. He’d often use cryptic messages and hide behind TNA’s authority figures to explain his actions or to get what he wanted. He lost the belt to Mr Anderson in January 2011, only to win it back at Against All Odds to begin his second run with the TNA World Championship. He lost it less than 2 weeks later (3 on TV because TNA were still taping Impact at that point) to a returning Sting.

Remember those problems that I mentioned earlier about September 2009? They reared their head again for EVERYONE to see in spectacular and horrific fashion in March 2011 at TNA’s Victory Road PPV, which is probably TNA’s most infamous PPV ever. Hardy was granted a rematch for the TNA World Championship against Sting in the main-event, which I’ve included below. Just take a look:

Remember earlier when I said that I wasn’t afraid to stir sh*t up or to express my opinion in case it offended someone? Well here goes, so prepare yourselves!

Hardy’s appearance at that PPV is one of the most unprofessional things I’ve ever seen in my life (and that’s coming from someone who was fired from a major supermarket chain for calling one of his colleagues a wizard’s sleeve. Think about it kids!) As unprofessional as I was, my job doesn’t include protecting someone’s physical well-being during a wrestling match. I don’t know much about wrestling, but I know that wrestlers have to be able to trust their opponents to protect them and make sure that they don’t injure each other. How could Jeff Hardy, clearly off his tits on drink and or drugs, have been able to do that? What an absolute moron.

It would be wrong for me just to blame Hardy for that though. TNA officials could clearly see what state he was in before sending him out there, so what the hell were they thinking? Mind you, we’re talking about a time where Vince Russo was still in TNA, so he probably didn’t see anything wrong with it, and Hogan & Bischoff were used to dealing with Scott Hall when he was wrecked, so they probably thought it was nothing. However, as bad as the TNA officials’ decision was to send Hardy out there, Hardy HAS to take the majority of the responsibility for his actions. Nobody forced him to pour the drink or put the pills down his throat except him. It’s bad enough to do that before a taped TV show, but to arrive on location for a live PPV in that condition was just moronic! What if he’d have missed a spot and Sting broke his neck? Nobody can tell me that the condition he showed up to Victory Road in wasn’t Jeff’s fault.

We didn’t see Jeff for months after that and ever since his return he’s been “on the road to redemption”. Big whoop! Sorry pal, but you’ve lost yourself a fan in me. I realise that means hee-haw in the grand scheme of things, but Hardy’s actions at Victory Road were unforgivable, at least to me. It’s good that he seems to have turned his life around, but how anyone can trust him not to do the same thing again is beyond me. He showed he had problems with addiction during his second WWE run and the cynic in me reckons that he probably left WWE because he knew TNA’s drug policy was less strict, so he’d probably get away with more.

I can almost hear you now: “But George, doesn’t everyone deserve a second chance?” Yes. Of course they do. The problem is that this isn’t Jeff’s second chance. It’s his third or fourth now, and going by his previous form, he’ll probably need another couple of “second chances” before he retires. For a professional athlete, that’s not good enough. People might sh*t all over RVD, but how many times has he been suspended? Once, and everyone’s well aware of how much Rob likes a crafty “herbal cigarette” every now and again.

To top it all off, if we can believe what we believe on ye olde interweb, TNA’s plans heading into the Bound for Glory series were for James Storm to win the tournament and face Bobby Roooooooode (wee Jeremy Borash ref for ya there!) for the TNA Heavyweight Championship of the World. However, Hulk Hogan (fresh off another sex-tape scandal) decided to stick his 24-inch pythons and 94-foot head into the situation and decided to put TNA’s weight behind one Jeff Hardy. That decision resulted in at least one good thing, A-Double winning the World Championship, but the ultimate goal was to put one of wrestling’s biggest liabilities (that’s just my opinion) on top of the mountain again.

The punters in the TNA crowd at Bound for Glory didn’t sound too happy when Jeff “earned his redemption”. Listen to their reaction below as Hardy beats Aries. I’d say just over half of the crowd, maybe more, are pissed beyond belief that Hardy won. Whether that’s got to do with how good Aries is, or how much the crowd are fed up of Hardy, is open to conjecture. I know what my opinion is.

We’re now at the stage where Hardy’s contract with TNA expires in early 2013 and nobody knows what he’s going to do. Again, the theme that’s been going through this article is my opinion on Hardy and here’s my two cents’ worth. I believe that TNA put the World Championship on Hardy as an attempt to make him stay with them. Effectively, they’re begging Jeff to stay and not go elsewhere.

For a man that should have, by all rights, been fired by TNA after Victory Road, the fact that he’s got TNA eating out of the palm of his hand is remarkable. If I was Dixie Carter at Victory Road, I’d have kicked his face-painted, addiction-riddled arse out of the company. Instead TNA “stuck by their man” and now they’re begging him to stay. It’s like a woman begging her husband to stay after he’s cheated on her: a ridiculous situation.

I’ve got no doubt that Hardy will do what he always does: what’s best for him. If he’s still happy to work a lighter schedule, then he’ll stick with TNA. If he wants a break, he’ll take a break. However, if he wants one more run at the top, he’ll jump ship to WWE. Ultimately, the decision is Jeff’s and if we stick to the form book, here’s what he’s done so far.

Left WWE, had a break, went to TNA. Left TNA, had a break, returned to WWE. Left WWE, had a break, returned to TNA. What are the odds on another WWE run? I’d say pretty high (no pun intended), but again, that decision doesn’t rest with me; it rests with Jeffrey Nero Hardy.

I might not like the fact that Hardy is TNA World Champion and I’m clearly not a fan of his crayon-designed Batman-reject World Championship belt, but I understand why TNA made him champion. Hardy is the most recognisable mainstream wrestler they have other than Kurt Angle or Sting. Hardy sells merch. He brings people in and the crowd get behind him. I understand all that, but for someone who fuc*ed up so severely over 18 months ago, they should have been sure that he wouldn’t do it again. I’ve got this uneasy feeling that he will though.

I started off this article by saying that I used to be a HUGE Jeff Hardy fan. I was. I used to love Jeff Hardy. I’d often play air guitar when his second WWE theme blasted over the PA. I even paid to download it and had it as my ringtone. I played it to death and marked out like a 5-year old when he won the WWE Championship. However, because I respect the dangers that every wrestler has to endure to make sure a match goes off without a hitch, I just can’t forgive Jeff’s unprofessionalism at Victory Road. Whether that means I’m a bad person, a smark or someone with unrealistic expectations is down to you.

It took us a while to get there, but somewhere in the last 3,000 words is my explanation of why I wouldn’t have made Jeff Hardy TNA World Champion again. Whether you agree or disagree, feel free to whack a comment below or send me a tweet @george_sltd.

Thanks for reading!

Peace out,