I?d never have thought I?d have reason to be sad about Jeff Hardy departing WWE but the one time spots-only king will be sorely missed. I will readily admit to being one of the many so-called ?informed? fans who predicted failure as the only eventuality for Hardy the younger. I was wrong. Over the last three years Jeff has evolved into a capable, dependable and astonishingly popular headline attraction. Jeff’s overall look hasn?t really progressed in over ten years, but his youth, handsome features and audience connection render this irrelevant. Jeff has finally grasped the concept of threading his awesome high-spots collection into a compelling ring narrative; seizing advantage of the reemphasis in WWE on storytelling. Working consistently with stellar talents such as Edge, Randy Orton and Triple H has certainly helped. Even his stick-work, at one time unbearable, has developed to the point he can be trusted to underline the nuances of an often convoluted, hack-penned storyline.
As the perpetual ineptitude of John Cena continues to prove, one does not always have to be a gifted ring general to garner a push in WWE. The key to the renaissance of Jeff Hardy lies in the one commodity he has never lost: popularity. Since turning (alongside brother Matt) in October 1999, Jeff has remained a babyface. The pretty-boys Hardy tandem were natural foils for the more brutish Dudley Boys and the mischief of Edge and Christian. It was clear from the screams that Jeff enjoyed slightly more of the amorous longing. It’s also important to note Management always considered Matt the more versatile of the brothers, correctly surmising that Jeff’s devil may care charisma was best confined to the righteous side of the fence.
After leaving WWE in mild disgrace in 2003, Jeff’s subsequent two years in TNA served to demonstrate the more contemptible aspects of Jeff Hardy and his more childish inclinations. Jeff never seemed to take TNA seriously and frankly took the piss on several occasions, no-showing the Hard Justice and Turning Point events in 2005 and generally sauntering about the place in a wacky-backy induced daze. Returning to WWE in 2005, it wasn?t a particularly auspicious start back in VinManLand, as Jeff initially floundered in the pack before discovering his rhythm in an excellent Intercontinental Title feud with Johnny Nitro/John Morrison in late-2006/early-2007, gradually progressing to the point a World Title reign seemed to be his for the taking in 2008. He made it (just) when on December 14th he finally achieved the dream of legions of Twi-hard girlies when he pinned Edge (via Triple H) at Armageddon, proving this old misanthrope wrong in the process.
Jeff Hardy has survived the eternal politicking of the locker room (Triple H did his level best to derail Jeff’s momentum in late 2007. If you know what it is to put someone over, you know what I?m referring to?) and his own caustic stupidity (x2 drug violations) to ride the crest of the wave of his own unbreakable popularity. Indeed, Jeff’s connection with the audience at large is nothing short of astounding. The girls have always adored him, but his eventual competitiveness with the stars and the (gasp) superior booking he has enjoyed has afforded him credibility with the Marks. He has attained the qualities most important to them. He has proven he can carry the load in major matches against various opponents, and he has been associated with WWE (a two-year absence aside) for nearly fifteen years. Credibility + Longevity = popularity. The enormous, heartfelt ovations that Jeff Hardy regularly soaks up must make John Cena (and Triple H) turn green with envy?
The WWE deserves considerable credit for consistently disregarding it’s own internal climate and persisting with Jeff Hardy. Such conviction ultimately yielded a headline star who the fans had craved and nurtured for numerous years. Jeff himself should be immensely grateful the fans believe in him; without them the seemingly infinite largesse of Vince McMahon would have long since dissipated into a desire to discard. All the same, I have developed considerable respect for the manner in which Jeff Hardy has developed from thrillingly expendable into completely indispensable. At a time when the overwhelming failure of WWE to produce any new, let alone viable, headliners is glaring to all who watch WWE programming, the loss of Jeff Hardy is a body blow. He has signed off in typically good form, doing his best to elevate and establish CM Punk’s new heel persona and setting the stage for the return of The Undertaker. It should surprise no one that WWE will take Jeff back the second he feels ready. For a man who was written off as washed-up in 2005, that must bring immense satisfaction.
I?d like to think we?ll see Jeff, on and off, throughout 2010. Much like his good friend Rob Van Dam, the door is always open for a dynamic cameo. As to when a full-blown Jeff Hardy comeback might happen, that I?m afraid I don?t know. The inhuman WWE schedule has taken a severe toll on Jeff who, for all his looks and attitude, is getting older like the rest of us. Whatever happens, Jeff Hardy has proven everyone who doubted him wrong by becoming every bit the star so many seemed to believe he was destined to be. He took his time getting there and the road has always been a tad rocky, but he will be missed sorely. His absence will only serve to reemphasise the dire condition of the WWE roster. This is a major, ongoing concern. For Jeff Hardy however, the only road to be travelled is a well-earned sabbatical. I must say it is nice, in a business at this point in time so cold and predictable, to be truly surprised. It is even more surprising to be glad about being wrong. Alas, glad I am. Have a good one, Jeff.
Daniel R. Browne.