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Jeff Hardy, Released by WWE, Leaves Behind a Complicated Legacy

Jeff Hardy complicated legacy

WWE released Jeff Hardy, a few days after an incident on Dec. 4 in Edinburg, TX, during which he left a six-man tag team match in progress and left through the crowd. He was sent home after the incident and released today, as first reported by Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.

This ends Hardy’s third stint with the company which began at WrestleMania in 2017. He and his brother Matt Hardy made a surprise return in a four-team Ladder match. He’d been with the company since, staying on through Matt’s departure in early 2020.

The Hardys worked together until Jeff suffered an injury in September of that year. He worked mostly as a singles wrestler upon his return in April 2018. Since that time, he was in the valuable role of popular babyface who could win house show matches (when the good guys usually win in WWE’s system), while putting over top-level heels on television without losing the fans’ interest in him.

Hardy’s years of experience, goodwill with fans and work rate allowed him to keep that connection with the crowd.

Unfortunately, trouble related to substance abuse has followed Hardy throughout his career. Those issues led to his initial release from the WWE in 2003. He cited burn out.

He was arrested in 2009 and plead guilty to trafficking controlled prescription pills. He spent ten days in jail in 2011 as part of his sentence. Earlier that year, he came to the ring in no shape to perform for a pay-per-view match with Sting at TNA’s Victory Road event.

He had more issues during this current WWE run. There was a public intoxication arrest in July of 2019. Hardy then took a DUI charge in October of that same year.

His issues make him a difficult hire for AEW, despite his brother’s presence there. After more than one reunion in the past, there could also be an issue with diminishing returns for putting the Hardys back together. Matt has his own storylines going and adding Jeff to the roster may be opening the company up to risks it doesn’t care to take.

If this signals the end for Jeff in one of the major U.S. companies (and it’s a bit too soon to say that with any finality), his career will be looked back upon as a fascinating one.

The Hardy Boyz are a truly legendary team, one that brought a revolution to tag team wrestling during a rivalry with Edge and Christian in 1999 and the early 2000s. The four of them brought a fast-paced, high-impact style that was pleasing to fans and hard on bodies. They popularized the tag team ladder match as a concept. Adding in Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley, they built the Tables, Ladders and Chairs match into a fan favorite stipulation match.

The six of them elevated the tag team division. Their matches in various combos were highlights of a big-drawing run for the company. It wasn’t easy to steal a show from the Rock or Steve Austin, but at times they succeeded.

He proved he was just as adept at singles wrestling in his second WWE run. He main-evented multiple pay-per-view shows, winning and losing the World Heavyweight Title and the WWE Championship. His feud with CM Punk won the “Feud of the Year” award from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter in 2009. He was one of the top stars in the business during this period.

Once back in TNA, the Hardys innovated the cinematic match with the “Final Deletion” build-up and its surreal, match-as-film presentation. It was one of the most polarizing matches in wrestling history. Some felt it moved the art form forward. Others felt it was one of the worst things ever put on a wrestling show.

What no one can deny is its influence. Cinematic matches are part of both WWE and AEW’s worlds now.

Hardy had most recently been beating Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss, either in singles or in tag team matches with Drew McIntryre, on the UK tour. He was also part of the RAW team at Survivor Series. He gave Austin Theory a boost early in Theory’s call-up to the RAW roster by putting him over on TV in October.

His role on TV can go to someone else, but few workers can brag of a legacy that includes so many memorable moments. Hardy has paid a price, though, with substance abuse and legal issues tarnishing his legacy.

Hopefully he can get the help he needs in some way and get back on track. Perhaps the rigors of travel and his hard-bumping style just aren’t the right combination for making that possible at the moment.

Jeff and Matt Hardy have brought real, long-lasting innovations to pro wrestling. It would be much better to see the man have one final healthy, sober match than to see it all end with him wandering away from the ring and slipping over a barricade into the crowd, leaving his co-workers behind and bewildered.

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