CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy, the WWE's Perfect Mix of Kayfabe & Reality
The Straight Edge Messiah vs. The Charismatic Enigma
In pro wrestling, feuds are about as common as grass is green. The concept is as simple as it gets: you have a good guy—the face—and you have a bad guy—the heel. The heel normally does something bad to the face, sparking a feud in the process.
Well, it is. But it isn't a thing that all can pull off. Especially when just about everything has been done.
So, when great feuds come it is something special.
At Extreme Rules 2009, the Money In the Bank winner CM Punk took advantage of an opportunity. That opportunity was in the form of Jeff Hardy.
In the months that followed, Punk entered a slow transformation that eventually made him the most intriguing man in pro wrestling today.
Meanwhile, Jeff Hardy took a very different path—that would lead him into wrestling obscurity.
Yet like the Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels feud before them, the crowd went against the morally right thing to do in favor of their high-flying hero.
CM Punk Twists the Fate of the Newly Crowned Enigma
After an epic ladder match against Edge, Jeff Hardy had finally become the new World Heavyweight Champion. The WWE Universe was in an absolute frenzy, as their favorite SmackDown Superstar had just won the holy grail of the WWE.
Then out came Mr. Money In The Bank, CM Punk. Punk was a face at the time and a former World Champion. In fact, Punk was one of the most over superstars in the WWE—but Jeff Hardy was even more over.
So CM Punk rushed to the ring, handed his black briefcase to the referee and pointed at Hardy. The referee ducked under the rope to hand off the briefcase and signal for the bell to be rung. Hardy pulled himself up by the ropes and stared at Punk in disbelief.
CM immeadiately nailed Jeff with a Go To Sleep, but somehow Hardy kicked out. The crowd erupted in cheers.
After his opponent showed signs of life, Punk hit the GTS and dropped down for the pin.
1...2...3! Your winner and NEW World Heavyweight Champion, CM Punk!
The crowd stayed mostly quiet during his victory celebration, for the first time in Punk's career.
What made it so special?
Like I said earlier, CM Punk was headed toward the mega-face label in early 2009. He had been World Champion before and it focused on him overcoming the odds.
The irony here is Jeff Hardy was the one attempting to overcome the odds, and failed this time around.
Not to worry. Jeff Hardy would come back with a vengeance.
The Friday following his cash in on Jeff Hardy, CM Punk tried to reason with the crowd.
He said he did the same thing one year before to Edge, and nobody complained. Yet when he cashed in on Jeff Hardy, people claim he 'stole' the World Heavyweight Championship.
Punk continued, saying that if he had to do it over again, he wouldn't change one thing. And now that he's champion, he will represent SmackDown with honor and respect.
However, neither Jeff Hardy nor the creatures of the night were buying it.
Hardy said that regardless of his reasoning, the Chicago native cashed in on the wrong guy.
After Edge came out and also demanded a title shot, Hardy knocked him out of the ring and hit the Twist of Fate and Swanton Bomb on CM Punk.
This eventually led to Punk and Hardy having a match at The Bash.
What made it so special?:
This was the beginning of a slow churning heel turn by CM Punk.
Although he was already being booed out of the area, Punk acted more as a tweener than a heel. Just listen to his tone in this video.
It isn't heelish, but a little too serious for his previous role as a face.
In my opinion, the tweener role is something that I could see him playing in the future. This is due to his overwhelming popularity with the internet crowd and even a percentage of casual fans.
Why is Punk so popular?
Well, because he simply has no flaws!
The Bash: The Foot, the Rope, the Eye
Jeff Hardy was once again World Heavy....
Wait, his foot was under the rope, the match is still going!
Just minutes later, CM Punk was trapped in the corner with an eye that was apparently "injured" earlier in the match.
So Punk "accidently" kicked the referee in the back, rather than Jeff Hardy. Therefore, CM Punk was disqualified, but still walked away with the world title in tow.
What made this so special?:
This was a very smart way to keep this feud going, and nearly complete the heel turn of the second city saint; CM Punk.
It got heat on Punk because he essentially found the easy way out, by faking an injury. In a way, it's bizarrely similar to the Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels feud I spoke of earlier—except the face was the one faking in that instance.
As far as Hardy, the false finish and the DQ (real) finish made him even more of a sympathetic figure for the kiddies to go cry themselves to sleep about!
Night of Champions Build-Up, Punk Officially Turns Heel
CM Punk claimed his eye was really hurt because he has never taken shortcuts in his life.
Jeff Hardy, once again, did not believe it and was angry that his opponent would take the easy way out.
In the coming weeks, CM Punk began to criticize Jeff Hardy for his "living in the moment" lifestyle, compared to his own straight edge way of life.
He told Hardy that he was a failure, due to his multiple suspensions and failed drug tests.
What made it so special?:
This is the part that made this feud great.
The WWE finally took advantage of something happening in real-life and converted it into an epic storyline. Without Punk's preaching, he may have stayed a tweener—and I would likely not be writing this today.
The funny thing is, Punk—the heel—was the morally correct one. Yet society is a forgiving place, and the fans took to liking Hardy over Punk.
However, as time now tells us, Hardy's mistakes have caught up to him. Just watch this.
In short, CM Punk was right.
Night of Champions: Hardy Gets His Revenge, Becomes World Champion
No tricks. No shenanigans. No false finishes. No disqualifications.
No, we saw none of that during Jeff Hardy and CM Punk's bout at Night Champions in 2009, unlike in their previous matches.
Instead, Jeff Hardy beat CM Punk right in the center of the ring.
In doing so he became the World Heavyweight Champion.
What made this so special?:
This was needed to keep the feud alive for one more month. Jeff Hardy had to win the title.
First of all, the WWE didn't want Hardy to lose to Punk three straight times, like Christian has done to Randy Orton recently. Evidently, Hardy was booked stronger on his way out the door than Christian during the biggest push of his career.
One could argue, absolutely. Nonetheless, this is the WWE we are talking about.
Summerslam Build-Up, the Match Itself
CM Punk and Jeff Hardy stayed at each others throats after Night Champions.
So Theodore Long gave CM Punk his rematch, and Mr. McMahon quickly added his own stipulation. Since Teddy couldn't handle them, there would be a special guest enforcer for the match.
The mystery built throughout the night until a familiar tune blared through the arena.
It was none other than the man who had betrayed his own brother—Matt Hardy.
Matt and Jeff had faced off at WrestleMania 25, ending a feud that was hot from the very start. Now, Matt returned to SmackDown, and Jeff was shocked.
Contrary to the obvious, this marked the face turn of Matt Hardy, after he pulled the referee on CM Punk.
An angry Punk assaulted Jeff and was granted his rematch in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match. CM Punk regained his gold before he was met with a special visitor—The Undertaker! View the highlights of here.
What made it so special?:
The addition of Matt Hardy was both unexpected and unpredictable. It was just another nice swerve to an already spectacular feud.
The match at Summerslam was of course great, which eventually also gave us the return of The Undertaker.
.... Hey, Hey, Hey... Goodbye.
Inside a steel cage with a "loser leaves the WWE" stipulation, CM Punk defeated Jeff Hardy.
Afterwards, the fans were in tears as Jeff bid his final farewell to the WWE Universe.
What made it so great:
Well, the emotion was great. Otherwise, Jeff Hardy could have possibly overtaken John Cena as the face of the WWE—that's how over he was.
Instead, Hardy is now inactive in TNA, and is in the midst of a trial that could land him in jail.
Real-Life Feud Between the Hardy's and CM Punk
Both Matt and Jeff Hardy were angry at CM Punk for cutting a couple of promos about Jeff after his departure.
So, as Matt always does, the fallen duo posted a video trashing CM Punk. Unfortunately the video was deleted, only leaving us with this picture as a reminder.
Classy, isn't it?
Thanks for reading everybody, may the Enigmatic Generation live on!