Why Jeff Swanton Bombed his Career
by, 10-27-2012 at 11:30 AM (4236 Views)
August 25th 2009 - That'll be the date etched on Jeff Hardy's memory, that's the date he wrestled his final match for World Wrestling Entertainment, in that match he'd main event the show in a Steel Cage match for the WWE World Title in a losing effort to CM Punk.
All through 2009 the rumour mill was going into overdrive about whether or not Jeff was going to re-new his WWE contract, many conflicting and often contradicting reports would come out almost daily, one thing was for sure, Hardy was gaining momentum and interest that only one other man in the business (John Cena) was garnering at the time, his stock was sky high, yet somehow he managed to flush it all down the drain.
His rise to prominence was predicted long before the WWE seemingly decided to pull the trigger on him but he himself would appear to be his own worst enemy on numerous occasions.
Since his arrival as a regular in the WWF as a member of the Hardy Boyz in 1999 he (and Matt) tapped into the Emo market, whether it was intentional or coincidental is a matter of opinion but one thing is for certain, they gained a pretty strong following from the beginning and that following only got bigger as time passed.
In 2002 after the 'Heyday' of his Tag Team glory days he was given an opportunity to Main Event Monday Night RAW in his first World Title match, a match against The Undertaker, there was no-way it was ever going to be a successful challenge but the hope was that he'd do enough to capture the imagination of his loyal followers and an opportunity to see if he could work the bigger matches against the higher standard of Pro Wrestler's the WWF at the time had to offer.
I think it's fair to say that match was a resounding success and surely gave everyone watching a glimpse of what the future may hold, while it was a losing effort, Hardy looked a million bucks against one of the strongest WWF/E characters of all time, he was shown to have guts and heart, while not enough on its own, when added to ability and recklessness it does have an alluring quality that we as fans/viewers buy into, even if we don't always like the guy portraying these characteristics.
Jeff Hardy was a vulnerable character and as was mentioned previously often portrayed as quite reckless, we'd be told how he would put his body on the line, unfortunately that recklessness would follow him in his personal life too, a recklessness that would have serious consequences on his future career and how it would go on to pan out.
His recklessness would come into play more prominently after that Undertaker match, his drink and drug use became more frequent as his stock rose, he was living the dream and was out partying every night to milk as much of that dream as possible, ironically, if Milk was what he was drinking he'd have been in a far better physical and psychological condition, still it all added to his character, here was this flawed genius that his fans watched in the ring and on TV and here he was partying with them, it all added to their belief he was 'One of us', strangely the more damage he did to his career the more the fans seemed to love him.
By 2003 Vince McMahon had enough, at that time you could pretty much get away with whatever you wanted to get away with so long as the standards you set yourself didn't drop, Jeff's out of hours antics were not only bringing in bad publicity but they were without question effecting his game and most importantly caused him to no-show events, possibly the biggest no-no in McMahon-land, at this time the WWE where so overloaded with talent that McMahon didn't want or need someone that brought so much negativity to the table when despite his popularity wasn't close to being the star his fans thought he should be.
It was over 3 years until he was seen again in the WWE, the landscape had changed dramatically, gone where The Rock, Steve Austin, Brock Lesnar, Chris Jericho and Goldberg, Eddie Guerrero had died, Kurt Angle and Christian had signed for TNA, JBL had retired from in ring activity and Shawn Michaels had made it clear he wasn't interested in a World Title run, Cena, Batista, Orton and Edge had been promoted as the new guys to lead the WWE, numbers didn't match up though, Hardy sensed opportunity would come his way this time around.
His biggest win of his singles career came almost a year and a half later, he had some pretty big wins over Shawn Michaels and Umaga as well as John Morrison but he managed to beat Triple H clean at Armageddon 2007, it was presented as a fluke but a clean win over HHH is a clean win, many cynics believe Triple H only did this to derail the hype surrounding Chris Jericho's comeback and it certainly pushed Hardy higher up the ladder, it led to a main event feud over the WWE title with Randy Orton that would climax at the 2008 Royal Rumble, before this match Hardy's in ring recklessness was again highlighted and his lack of concern for his own well being was once again the focus of how much he wanted to win the WWE Title, it also served to re-establish that unique bond he has with his fans, many old fans still loved him and at this time many new fans began to warm to him, he was still considered a 'spot monkey' but that was often overlooked.
Once again his WWE Title opportunity was a losing effort, it's believed he was going to be given the belt that night right up until a few hours before the show when John Cena declared himself fit for action, that move was enough to keep the title on Orton (the Cena/Orton feud hadn't been allowed to finish due to Cena's injury) but Hardy went from strength to strength, he again beat Michaels in a great singles match on RAW, he also looked extremely strong in the Elimination Chamber at No Way Out 08, he pinned Jericho and hit finishers on Umaga and Shawn Michaels before others else got the pins, he was eliminated last in that match.
He then qualified for the WrestleMania XXIV Money In The Bank match and by all accounts was the heavy favourite to win that match and go on to win his first World Title, true to form though Jeff Hardy became his own worst enemy again, he failed a Wellness test 7 days before the biggest night of his life, he subsequently dropped the IC Title and lost the chance to win the MitB at WrestleMania, as it was his second violation he was suspended for 60 days.
When he returned he had lost all his momentum although to be fair he was so hugely over that it wasn't going to take much to rectify that, he returned beating Umaga on two occasions, not the achievement it would have been a year earlier but for a comeback feud it done the job it was required to do.
Surprisingly he was drafted to SmackDown! This to many suggested that the WWE had run out of patience with him but when you take a closer look you can see why it was done, SmackDown! was moving to a new channel, one that demanded more star power, that was why Edge and The Undertaker remained on SD! while Jim Ross and most shockingly Triple H were drafted, rather than being a demotion, it was actually a show of faith, they believed him to be a big name, that was a major boost for Hardy.
Having arrived on SmackDown! Hardy immediately became involved in the World Title scene, he recommenced his 'respect feud' with Triple H that they touched upon in late 07 and this time there was more edge to it, while Hardy still appeared vulnerable, he was once again shown to have heart, guts and determination and to his credit his in ring ability considerably improved during this period, he was involved in PPV title matches on 3 PPV's in a row and despite coming up just short it only heightened the fans belief that he'd finally make it, he was due to compete in the Title match at Survivor Series but was 'taken out' having been found unconscious in the stairwell, many had feared Hardy had blown his last chance but it was revealed it was a storyline, poor taste given his own past and what had transpired in the WWE in the recent past, still, it was a storyline and fans could breath a sigh of relief.
He was back in contention for the Title at Armageddon 08, a year after beating Triple H clean, this was the match they finally pulled the trigger on him, Jeff Hardy won the WWE Title on this night beating Triple H and Edge in a triple threat match, this only told half the story though, while his fans thought he smashed through the glass ceiling he didn't, for one reason or another he barely appeared on WWE TV and didn't wrestle throughout his first Tenure, in fact his first defence came at the Royal Rumble and he lost the title due to the shambolic heel turn of his brother, this of course was Vince McMahon's reaction to fans working out that the 'guy' behind Hardy's stairwell attack was due to be a returning Christian, this set everyone back, it gave new Champ Edge no-one to feud with until after No Way Out 09, it turned Matt Heel when he was enjoying his best run as a singles, it left Christian in limbo and subsequently stuck in ECW and demoted Jeff from World Champion and main eventing PPV's to mid-card feuds with his brother, horrible decision that hurt Jeff more than anyone.
After a feud with Matt, one I personally believe he lost he was finally given the chance to reclaim the Title, he entered a feud with Edge, it was an exciting feud and once again he came up just short, the more he lost the more the fans seemed to love him, his vulnerability was his greatest asset.
The re-match at Extreme Rules gave the fans the moment they where all waiting for, having hooked Edge through the ladder in a mimic crucifixion pose, Hardy was able to stand over Edge and all his fans knew at that point that Jeff was going to clinch the World Title, the fans went crazy for him, but just when the fans thought they where seeing the beginning of something special CM Punk would appear, lay him out and win the World Title a mere minutes after Jeff realised his dream, the drama was fantastic, the victim was perfect.
Hardy would beat Punk for the title two PPV's later leading into SummerSlam, Hardy was hot as anyone in the business at this point, it was widely accepted though that Jeff just wasn't interested in re-signing on another long term contract, at the time it was suggested that Hardy wanted time off to heal from numerous injuries, Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) and two herniated discs in his lower back, it'd be fair assumption to think he'd need time off but Hardy was never a big fan of being tied to the Wellness policy the WWE had and he himself saw this as an opportunity to 'be free' of that for a few months before re-signing again in early 2010 and sticking to the regulations everyone contracted to the WWE is bind too.
It's almost impossible to imagine that anyone would wait until they where on the brink of being considered into that top bracket level by WWE then decide to take time away to 're-charge', Hardy had put his body through torture on numerous occasions to become a top guy, then when everything began to fall into place, despite the Wellness violations and the fact his contract was running out, the WWE choose to stick with him, but like he has all through his professional and personal life choices, the recklessness shown through again.
He went from the brink of Superstardom to a guy who was charged and convicted of "trafficking in controlled prescription pills and possession of anabolic steroids, after a search of his house yielded 262 Vicodin prescription pills, 180 Soma prescription pills, 555 milliliters of anabolic steroids, a residual amount of powder cocaine, and drug paraphernalia" and was damn lucky not to be given jail time longer than the 10 days he got.
His first 14 months in TNA was shambolic, he lived the life he wanted to when he declined the WWE offer and it wasn't exactly a shrewd move, he was a bloated joke and a shadow of his former self, it peaked when he got so wasted he wasn't in any fit state to compete in the Main Event of a PPV, one of the most unprofessional things done by a full time performer in a main stream Wrestling promotion in the last 15 years.
I think it's fair to say in the last year Jeff Hardy has turned his life around and physically he's probably back in his best shape and mind-set since around 2007 but for me he'll never again have the opportunity to be that true blue chip star that he could have become in late 2009/early 2010 and whether you love him or hate him, like him or are just indifferent toward him that's a shame considering how much he put his body through and how close he came.
In my own view I find it ironic that the recklessness and vulnerability that got him so over was the very same thing that annihilated his career.