Jeff Hardy's wrestling career will be remembered as one of the most exciting, innovative and crowd-pleasing that the industry has ever seen. He was reckless, risky and fearless in the ring. Yet it was that same approach to his life that managed to undo an in-ring career still worthy of Hall of Fame consideration in all its pitfalls. That's how good he was. Imagine how good he could have been.
This summer series will examine talents, moments and matches that crumbled under the weight of their immense potential.
Jeff Hardy's highlight reel shouldn't ever be aired for free. Even his two-minute Titantron video accompanying his theme music should carry some type of charge.
Few wrestlers dared to even think of the stunts he actually pulled off. He never met a ladder, building, stage or scaffold he didn't want to jump off of. It was that brand of daredevil wherewithal that made him one of WWE's hottest babyfaces despite limitations in the critical category of promos.
Hardy's long career in the WWE was cultivated through a legendary tag team run alongside brother Matt as The Hardy Boyz. The pair would help rewrite spot-fest history. They dazzled crowds with their performances in ladder matches with the likes of Edge & Christian and The Dudley Boyz. WrestleMania X-Seven is widely regarded as the spectacle of all spectacles in wrestling lore. TLC II, featuring a breathtaking encounter between the aforementioned teams, is a big reason why.
Fans became so enamored with Hardy's apparent disregard for his body's well being in favor of their approval, he was basically grandfathered in by the time his singles career rolled around. His run as a babyface beginning in 2008 was one of the hottest WWE has ever seen.
Never had so much charisma been celebrated in a superstar with such little vocal effort. Hardy's work stood on its own. He wasn't a Shawn Michaels, Jimmy Snuka or Rey Mysterio. He was a combination of all three.
Unfortunately, those similarities didn't end with the in-ring acumen. Hardy's struggles with substance abuse drowned what could have been a gold mind for WWE to this day.
Hardy had been previously released from his WWE contract after struggles with drug use affected his in-ring performance. His subsequent refusal to go to rehab was the final straw. Lucky for him, WWE has a well-documented history of overlooking red flags with top-tier talent. Recent Money in the Bank winner Randy Orton can attest to that.
In 2008, Hardy was the odds-on-favorite to win WWE's Money in the Bank match. To that point, no winner of that match had failed to win a world championship. To this day, only one has. Prior to his next WrestleMania moment, Hardy violated WWE's wellness policy. He was once again walking on a tight rope like only a true daredevil, but not in the way that would give fans their money's worth.
Hardy would go on to win multiple world championships. However, in three reigns, he would never hold either the WWE or World Championship for over 42 days. WWE realized the talent they had. His undeniable popularity was strong enough for officials to overlook his still-looming demons.
It just wasn't strong enough to maintain WWE's trust, which was evidenced by multiple transitional, short-leash stints as world champion.
This case was a blessing in disguise, however, as Hardy would go on to TNA, where his problems with substance abuse continued.
Hardy bottomed out during a match with Sting at TNA's Victory Road pay-per-view. The match was basically reduced to a pinfall after one minute due to Hardy being in no condition to compete.
Hardy has since cleaned up his act. He's still wrestling for TNA, and he's still pleasing crowds. But every year that passes in the second-stream promotion is but a mortgaged year of sold out arenas and a legacy that would have been untouchable had he been right.