5 Potential Jeff Hardy Feuds Ahead of Highly Anticipated WWE SmackDown Return
Following a lengthy absence from WWE TV, Jeff Hardy is set to return to SmackDown on Friday night.
A knee injury has kept him out of action for nearly a year, though he announced on a recent episode of WWE Backstage that he has been cleared to compete and has been ready to return for a while. He had been waiting for the Creative Team to find him something substantial for him to do, and considering he's on his way back, it looks like he won't be lost in the shuffle on the final stretch of the Road to WrestleMania.
It would be foolish for WWE to bring back Hardy so close to 'Mania only to not feature him in a prominent match at the event. Then again, he reunited with brother Matt around this time a year ago and was subsequently relegated to the Kickoff show.
Hopefully Hardy's popularity will ensure that he is given direction of some sort heading into WrestleMania, but his opponent is anyone's guess. Thankfully, the blue brand has a deep-enough roster that there are a handful of Superstars who would make for exciting opponents for The Charismatic Enigma on the Grandest Stage of Them All.
Ahead of Hardy's highly anticipated return to SmackDown, let's look at five feuds he could realistically have.
It's safe to say that after nearly a year of losing, Sami Zayn's Intercontinental Championship victory at Elimination Chamber on Sunday took many members of the WWE Universe by surprise.
That isn't to say he didn't deserve the honor, but the move came out of nowhere considering how he's been positioned as manager for Shinsuke Nakamurao over the past several months. Zayn is a terrific talent in the ring, but he lacks credibility because of how he's been booked as pest heel for so long.
It would be logical for him to face Braun Strowman in a rematch at WrestleMania, where The Monster Among Men would demolish him in a matter of minutes to take back his title. A much more interesting scenario would see Jeff Hardy challenge for the championship instead.
Hardy is a multi-time intercontinental champion and is exactly what SmackDown's midcard division needs. He and Zayn could have a quality match at the Show of Shows, not to mention that Hardy could bring back some much-needed prestige to that belt if he were to win it.
If Hardy doesn't compete for the championship in a one-on-one outing, it's possible the title is defended in a multi-man ladder match also involving Daniel Bryan, Strowman, Elias, Sheamus and others. Either way, he should have that belt back around his waist sooner rather than later.
Sheamus debuted in WWE right around the time Jeff Hardy was on his way out, and because of being separated by the Brand Split, their paths never crossed.
Interestingly enough, Jeff's first feud back in WWE as one-half of The Hardy Boyz was with Sheamus and Cesaro in the spring of 2017. Their first-ever one-on-one encounter on the May 15 edition of Raw ended in victory for Hardy, but The Bar ended the rivalry on top months later as the Raw tag team champions.
Both men are now on SmackDown and on their own again, so it is as good of a time as any for them to feud. They proved during the Bar vs. Hardyz series of matches that they have excellent chemistry, and SmackDown's midcard scene could use the star power.
Sheamus has been on a tear since returning to the ring at the onset of the year. He's made quick work of Shorty G and Apollo Crews in his matches with them, so someone will need to step up to him in the not-too-distant future and put an end to his bullying tactics.
Enter Jeff Hardy.
Hardy's speed versus Sheamus' strength would make for a fun match. In order for Sheamus to get to that next level of superstardom on SmackDown, he will first have to go through Hardy.
The Miz and John Morrison
Despite suffering a few losses here and there on SmackDown recently, John Morrison and The Miz have been the best thing to happen to the blue brand's tag team division in ages.
Within a month of reuniting, Miz and Morrison knocked off The New Day for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship at Super ShowDown. They went on to retain the twin titles against five of SmackDown's finest tag teams a little more than a week later inside the Elimination Chamber.
Unless they put the gold up for grabs in another multi-team match at WrestleMania or resume their rivalry with New Day, there aren't many fresh tandems left for them to defend against on the grand stage. A new duo may need to come together to combat Miz and Morrison, and no one on that brand has more experience in the tag team ranks than Jeff Hardy.
Hardy has already spent an ample amount of time as a tag team wrestler over the past three years alongside his brother, but with Matt now gone from WWE, someone such as Mustafa Ali, for example, would be the perfect partner for him.
Not only would they complement each other exceptionally well, but it would also be a fine way to get Ali back on WWE TV in a regular role. It isn't imperative that they win the SmackDown Tag Team Championship together, but perhaps a short-lived alliance leads to a longer feud between the two and a stellar series of matches.
Say what you will about King Corbin and his recent rivalry with Roman Reigns, but he's the quintessential heel and can serve as a fantastic foil to any beloved babyface, such as Jeff Hardy.
His reign as King Corbin hasn't been the greatest, but to his credit, he's made the most of it. His mic skills remain second to none, and he never ceases to get booed by any crowd he's in front of. That makes it incredibly easy for babyfaces to be cheered against him. Hardy is as popular as they come and would be the perfect person to put him in his place.
Following his loss to Reigns at Super ShowDown, Corbin doesn't appear to have a ready-made program for WrestleMania. Although he should by no means be a part of the Universal Championship picture, it's slightly surprising he isn't being treated like more a priority.
A feud with Hardy would change that and provide both men with a chance to shine under the bright lights of WrestleMania. To raise the stakes, Corbin should agree to ditch the king shtick (campy crown and all) if he loses. But even if that weren't the case, it would still be solid.
While not the most thrilling match on paper, it would guarantee Hardy a spot on the WrestleMania card and hopefully an easy win over the man who retired Kurt Angle the year prior.
Perhaps the best option available for Jeff Hardy to face at WrestleMania 36 is Daniel Bryan, who has been criminally underutilized for weeks.
Bryan's recent lack of direction on SmackDown can likely be attributed to WWE wanting to wait until after Elimination Chamber to kick off his WrestleMania program. However, no Superstar seems like an obvious choice for him to face on the Grandest Stage of Them All.
Granted, there is no storyline reason for Bryan to want to face Hardy, and vice versa. But surely a one-on-one bout between the two would be a better use of them than if they were to wind up in a multi-match at the event.
Their first singles matchup against each other occurred on a May 2018 episode of SmackDown, which Bryan won. The encounter was entertaining enough that it left fans craving more, and WrestleMania would be the right place for them to wage war again.
Hardy hasn't had a marquee match at 'Mania in more than a decade, and having him face Bryan would feel like a big deal. No one would have to turn heel, either; this could be a friendly, albeit competitive exhibition that makes the crowd cheer for whichever fan favorite they prefer.
Either way, the audience wins simply by watching them work their magic.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.