Jeff Hardy: The Rock Star High Flyer vs. the Tragic Hero

Double A .Correspondent IIDecember 27, 2010

Have you ever cut yourself and at first glance it seems like just a scratch? You rinse it off, reach for a bandage, and then go back to whatever it was you were doing, only to find a few moments later that the blood has already seeped through? A slight sting sets in and you realize the wound was worse than you originally thought.  A bandage does not always do the trick.  Some wounds are too deep, too painful, and too severe to be healed by a bandage alone.  Unfortunately for me, this was the case with my family.  I stopped the pain for a while, but in the end it was not enough, I was not enough. 

I was planned, conceived, and brought in to this world for a reason. I was born a band-aid baby. A tiny piece of material designed to adhere and stretch around my family still reeling from losing my sister, Lindsay, 16 months prior.  I was to heal my mother’s broken heart, reconnect the tendons of an already disintegrating marriage, and to soften the blow of a stillborn baby on Christmas Eve.  Talk about pressure.

I’m not spoiling any plot twists by telling you it didn’t work.  Sure, I held the family together for a while, three years to be exact, but in the grand scheme of things, I wouldn’t exactly call it a success.  In the end, my father’s genetic predisposition for addiction and depression combined with the loss of my sister proved to be a lethal combination for my parent’s marriage.  My mother, after growing up with two alcoholic parents and trying to do the right thing, could only give him so many chances and just like that the bandage was ripped off.  I watched my dad walk away, taking a part of me with him.  

 Thus began the feuds within.  My father struggled to come to terms with alcoholism and the price he paid for it.  All the WWE PPV's and live events in the world could not change the past.  His inability to connect to me and my sister, aside from avenues such as wrestling or gifts, would leave us with a subconscious feeling of inadequacy and worry, in which we rally against still to this day.  

 In life, the good guys or "faces" do not always win.  Even though I had always viewed my dad as an unconquerable hero, the older I got, the more his battle with addiction started to spread.  Pretty soon it was no longer a well hidden family secret.  It had spread until every facet of his life was affected by his alcoholism and he seemed down for the count.  

 I guess that as a kid I was drawn to the feuds I saw in the WWE events my dad took me to because no matter how badly my heroes seemed to be beaten, they always lived to fight another day.  Sure, the bad guys or "heels" got a victory here and there, but at the end of the feud, it was usually the "face" that emerged victorious.  For a kid living in the midst of a war zone, this brought reassurance and hope that the feud my father seemed to have embarked on with himself, would eventually be won. 

 I guess that' also what makes wrestling so interesting to fans; on some level, we can all relate in some way to the feuds—internal and external—that we pay our hard earned money to see.

 Family history aside, feuds are arguably the bread and butter of the wrestling business.  With the right heat and passion, it can mean the difference between sky-rocketing to the top or being banished into obscurity. Often overlooked, however, are the feuds that rage on inside the superstars themselves. The stakes are higher, the wounds deeper, and certainly can make the difference between greatness and irrelevance.  

 Sometimes it is not the lack of storylines, pushes, or talent that holds a superstar back. You can fight against management, lobby for better storylines, fiercer opponents, a fresh gimmick, but how do you beat your inner demons, your inner foe?  That is the question that plagued my father for years, and as we've seen many times before, several superstars as well.  

 According to Aristotle, a tragic hero is defined as a person of stature and greatness whose one downfall comes not from fate or villainy but from the hero himself.  It is what makes him easy to identify with and makes his loss that much more tragic.  To me, Jeff Hardy is the epitome of Aristotle's tragic hero. 

 I watched Jeff Hardy explode onto my screen as a part of Team X-treme with his real life brother Matt Hardy.  Watching him left me in awe.  I had never seen anything like it.  The bumps and risks he took in the ring dazzled the crowd and it seemed like I was being a witness to greatness. 

However, it wasn't all rainbows and sunshine.  In 2003, after making a name for himself as a singles competitor and having a legendary ladder match with the Undertaker, Hardy was released from the WWE.  Erratic behavior, no-shows, drug use and refusal for rehab were cited as the reasons.

It didn't take long for him to go to ROH and eventually TNA.  He came close to tasting championship gold a few times but never quite made it.  TNA soon found out that Hardy's troubles that plagued him in WWE were far from over.  The no-shows started happening more often and eventually he parted ways with their promotion as well.  

In 2006, promos started appearing on Monday Night Raw hinting at his return and he finally was seen back in the ring August 21, 2006 to defeat Edge by DQ. This marked the beginning of the Jeff Hardy Era.  He won the Intercontinental Title twice and came together with Matt Hardy for tag team action.  This, however, was short lived.  

In 2008, during a March 3rd episode of RAW, Hardy lost the Intercontinental Belt to Jericho.  This was due to a 60 day suspension he received for violating the Substance Abuse and Drug Testing Policy in WWE. 

He was then drafted to Smackdown and had a few unsuccessful tries at the Championship belt.  After being found "unconscious" in his hotel stairwell before a PPV, Edge replaced him in a World Heavyweight Title match and won the best.  He went on to defeat Edge and HHH at Armageddon and finally became World Heavyweight Champion. 

In 2009, While champ, he was victim to several "accidents" where his brother Matt was finally revealed as the attacker, setting the two brothers up to feud. Their feud culminated in Jeff beating Matt in an "I Quit Match" at Backlash.  

Hardy became champ again, defeating Edge.  However, his reign was short lived as CM Punk used his MITB contract and took the belt.  This set up an epic feud.  You had Punk, the straight edge superstar versus a known drug user.  Fans cheered Hardy and booed Punk.  At Night Of Champions Hardy won the World Heavy Weight Championship once again, however shortly dropped it back to Punk in a steel cage match, with Hardy being forced to leave WWE as a result of losing.  In real life, Hardy left due to injuries and needing time off.  He left at the height of his WWE career.  The pops he received rivaled Cena.  He couldn't have been more over with the fans, my 9-year-old nephew included. 

Shortly after leaving WWE, on September 11, 2009, he was arrested and charged with possession and trafficking prescription pills and anabolic steroids.  A search of his house resulted in large amounts of Vicodin, Soma, steroids, cocaine and other drug paraphernalia.  Not only did this damage his rep, it caused my nephew to throw all his Hardy swag away and lose all his love for his favorite WWE superstar.  

Eventually, Hardy made his way back to TNA where he currently holds their Championship belt.  When I heard that he was on TNA, I was excited to see the high-flyer that dazzled me for years back in action.  However, when I tuned into TNA that was not the man I saw.  What I saw, was the shell of a once great in-ring performer.  Moving through the motions, delivering all the right moves but completely devoid of passion and feeling. 

To me, it is obvious that Hardy's inner demons and his battle with substances is far from over.  We all have problems and issues we must face and work through.  However, Hardy's and the way he chooses to deal with them, has possibly cost him his career and could eventually cost him his life.  Not only did he burn a bridge with Vince McMahon, he is one step away from obscurity as his antics will surely begin to wear on TNA as well.  I have the same hope for Hardy that I once had for my father.  I hope he emerges from his battle victorious.

 In conclusion, to me, the greatest feud in pro-wrestling today is Jeff Hardy versus Jeff Hardy.   The rock-star high flyer versus the tragic hero.