Before I start this piece, I want everyone to understand that I get the appeal of Jeff Hardy.
Jeff was one of the most over WWE wrestlers of the past 20 years. Since his days of being mentored by Michael PS Hayes and his exploits in the New Brood, I have followed his career. I will always think of Jeff fondly as he has provided so many fantastic wrestling memories over the past two decades. From his break out moment in the Ladder match for the managerial services of Terri Runnels, to his coming out party as a singles star against The Undertaker in 2002 to his collection of TLC matches over the years, as well as all his death-defying stunts littered throughout his career, Jeff Hardy was and is amazing. Huge respect.
And I get why Tony Khan has brought him in. People love him still to this day and they still have a special connection with the daredevil from North Carolina. Seeing Jeff enter with his trademark physical charisma, coupled with hearing his familiar theme music, brings back happy, warm memories for most who got to experience him before signing with AEW. He almost always looked shit cool and he can still pop the crowd by removing his mesh tee shirt at the age of 44. His YouTube views of his clips in AEW tell the story, with some of his AEW clips hitting three million views. I get that side of it.
But as much of a fan of Jeff Hardy that I was, I can’t say that I have enjoyed much of his AEW run thus far and I feel the writing is already on the wall.
When he departed WWE, I fully expected him to end up in AEW in some form and when his familiar theme music hit as his brother Matt was being beaten down, I was filled with happiness at that moment, especially with how AEW have handled legends like Sting and Christian Cage in the past year or so.
Sadly, that was the peak of his return in my eyes.
From seeing him awkwardly try to replicate his familiar dance as he waltzed carefree to the ring, while Matt was in peril, Jeff’s return has left me completely underwhelmed from that point onward.
He is a shell of his former self at only 44 from years of the physical toll that wrestling has put on his body. In his initial debut he looked far from agile, with his trademark Swanton Bomb finisher being delivered with anything but his former grace. He moved gingerly, with so little of the fast pace that made him a treat inside the ring.
Do I expect Jeff Hardy from the tables match at Royal rumble 2000? No, that would be absurd. I am well aware that this would always be a far cry from the Jeff Hardy of 2002 or 2008, when he was arguably at his most popular. But at 44 going on 45, Jeff’s few performances in AEW pale in comparison to others on the show. At this point in his career, he has lost more than just a step. He is slow, awkward and uninspiring inside the squared circle. He can’t move anywhere close to as freely as he once did, and his fast-paced matches were a huge part of his appeal to me as a younger fan.
When you compare him to others his age, like say AJ Styles, he is way off AJ’s level in terms of mobility, stamina and agility. Even Chris Jericho, a man a good few years old, is still capable of working an excellent match despite his age. Now, neither Styles nor Jericho put their bodies through the punishment Hardy has and I can see why Jeff’s physical state is what it is. The evidence has been clear as day that he isn’t a performer that can wow me anymore. His matches have done nothing for me since he joined All Elite Wrestling. The tag team tables match was a slow, unstructured mess in which he relied far too much upon the same crazy stunts that he made famous. However, in 2022 I feel worried watching the broken Jeff Hardy almost cripple himself from the top of a ladder. In 2000, it was fresh, new and hot as hell. In 2022, it’s a worrying sight seeing him go to the crazy stunt well at almost every opportunity.
And when he is trying to wrestle a straight match, it’s a dull, plodding affair. His latest effort with Bobby Fish was nothing short of two old dogs fighting to stay relevant in a sea of young hot talent. I could care less sadly about Jeff Hardy anymore. Beyond nostalgia, I have no interest in seeing his once young agile performer struggle to get out of first gear in ever match. I’m not knocking the guy, I’m impressed he can still move at all, considering the bumps he has taken over the years, but as a wrestler, his body appears to be done.
What makes things worse, is that AEW already has a fairly bloated roster, filled with hot young talent I’d rather see.
Give me Lee Moriarty, Shawn Dean, Alan Angels over the broken-down Jeff Hardy.
Give me more Ricky Starks, more Swerve and more Jungle Boy than this past their prime star of 10 years ago.
The nostalgia of Jeff Hardy and any fondness for his past glories will only last so long, for me, it’s already run its course. You are left with a man who sadly can’t do it anymore, who unfortunately hasn’t got the verbal skills or charismatic personality to keep my attention at this point in his career. Like a model whose looks have faded as they’ve aged, as Jeff’s wrestling ability has diminished and boyish good looks have gone, there is sadly not much left for him to present to fans in 2022.
And that’s why he continues to perform the crazy stunts. He has nothing left. With his body shot and his mic skills lacking, tossing himself off a 20ft ladder remains the only way he can continue to pop the crowd once his entrance music stops.
I want to remember Jeff Hardy for all the great memories he has provided me over the last 20 years. I don’t want to see him continuing to hurl his body from huge heights for the applause, I don’t wanna see him crippled by age 50 and I don’t want to see his legacy tarnished by sub-standard performances like so many other wrestlers who didn’t know when to call it a day. I would say he should take a leaf out of Sting’s book, but I’d say not only is the elder Sting perhaps in better condition despite his age, but Jeff was never as accomplished as Sting in between the ropes.
Stinger’s critically acclaimed performances have been assisted by teaming with CM Punk, Sammy Guevara and Darby Allin. Hardy has no such support, either tagging with his equally broken down brother or by going it alone in singles which leaves his short comings extremely exposed. If things are to change for Hardy, he needs to be protected more going forward.
It’s only two months into the AEW career of Jeff Hardy, but I feel that the future is not hard to predict. If he continues to tag with his brother or wrestle singles matches, regardless of how “dreamy” these matches are, I have very little interest. The nostalgia has worn off. I’m over Jeff Hardy, I’d be happy for him to have one last hurrah on pay per view, put someone over and ride off into the sunset as an in-ring performer.
Sadly, I feel he is going to run himself into the ground at his body’s expense. I hope to be proven wrong.
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