Counterfeit Pennies: How Jeff Hardy Could Have Helped the Road to WrestleMania

I have been thinking long and hard about the answer to one particular question ever since the night of the Royal Rumble: Why didn’t Jeff Hardy win the WWE Championship?

The reason I continue to be perplexed by this is because once in a lifetime, the WWE has a chance to elevate a wrestler in the eyes of the fans based on a trend of increased buzz generated by walloping crowd reactions, perfectly timed spots, and well-planned angles. The last time this happened was with the elevation of Stone Cold Steve Austin, and if you look at the cast of characters that have been at the top of the card on Raw over the past ten years, there hasn’t been anyone else – aside from a fleeting moment with Chris Jericho – where the fans actually felt like they were in on the success of the person who became the WWE Champion.

Since these chances do not come around all too often, I see a missed opportunity in Jeff Hardy. By giving him the belt, WWE would have created a proverbial goldmine for themselves due to the Hardys’ sustained popularity. Even more important, the creative team would have made the Road to WrestleMania that much more interesting without even having to compromise the main event they currently have in place.

The rumors started after last year’s WrestleMania that WWE was already looking ahead to Orlando, where they had a tentative plan in place to have John Cena square off against Triple H in some way, shape or form. I give Vince McMahon and Company credit here for trying to at least formulate a plan, but at the same time there should always be room for flexibility. Over this past year, there was no real storyline in place with Cena and Hunter that makes me want to see them square off at WrestleMania, and I am sure WWE agrees with me at least somewhat because they’ve already thrown in Randy Orton to make this a Triple Threat match. And why have they added Randy Orton? Not just because he’s the current WWE Champion, but because he’s really the only common thread that tenuously ties the main event together in some way.

Aside from injuries, however, the storylines should be open to change even when it comes to booking WrestleMania’s Main Event for another more important reason: Because in city after city, in wrestling stop after wrestling stop, the fans scream and chant for change. Not to sound too much like Barack Obama here, but the fact of the matter is that Jeff Hardy would have been a refreshing change of pace for WWE lately, as I can’t even remember the last time the fans were able to rally behind a true babyface on Raw. Even with all of the appreciation I personally have for John Cena – who I think is severely underrated in the IWC – there is no denying just how polarizing he has been for fans at venues all over and across the country. And let’s face it, it would have been nice to see Jeff Hardy win the WWE title at the Royal Rumble just for the sheer idea that it would have meant that our collective voice as a passionate audience could still heard as long as we scream and chant and cheer loudly enough.

With all of this said, allow me to suggest what could have transpired after the Rumble to keep the fans happy and also keep WWE’s original intentions in place for WrestleMania. If he did win the title at the Rumble, I actually saw Jeff Hardy assuming the role that Mick Foley used to fill as third or fourth guy in the mix who could credibly be seen as Championship material. Winning the belt would have cemented Jeff’s place as a legitimate main event star, and then the creative team could have booked Orton-Hardy II at either Raw or No Way Out, with Cena and Triple H lurking in the background. This would have made for a more dramatic month post-Rumble, and even if Hardy’s reign here would have been quick, it would have set the table for him to realistically chase the belt once WrestleMania was over.

This also would have helped the Money in the Bank match in an indirect way, since Jeff could have lost the belt and then won a qualifying match that could be seen as his second chance to shine. He could have cut a promo about having a taste at the top and thirsting for more, and then other MITB participants could have come in and said how hungry they are for a chance at the title as well.

In addition, we all know that all of the MITB participants are going to have that one big promo where they all come to the ring to make their individual cases as to why they should and will win the match. At the very least, therefore, Jeff being a recent WWE Champion could have made the whole recycled vignette all that more appealing. Perhaps MITB could have also been changed up by having all heels except for Jeff, and then all the heels would gang up on him during the match only to have Jeff find a way to win. I could only imagine how passionate J.R. would have gotten when he called that one, and that would have been a great way for Jeff to keep his momentum going.

At the end of the day, I just feel like WWE could have done much more with the increased buzz surrounding Jeff Hardy ever since he connected with the Whisper of the Wind on Umaga during the cage match they had on Raw.

And ultimately, by not giving him the belt at the Royal Rumble, the Road to WrestleMania has unfortunately been reminiscent of a leisurely cruise rather than a high-octane chase……….

Links and Things

Matthew Michaels reviewed TNA’s first house show in New York City, which took place this past Thursday night at Webster Hall. I happened to also be in attendance, and Matthew definitely hits the nail on the head with his commentary and analysis.

Meanwhile, Mark Allen chimes in with This Week in ‘E, which chronicles all the latest developments and trends this side of Stamford, Conn.

Lastly, my good friend Big Andy Mac recently moderated a special edition of VS. – The Comeback, where Danny Cox gets beaten like a government mule, to coin a phrase. Trust me when I say that this is the type of carnage you can only see if you are either a part of a 50-car pile-up or logged on to Pulse Wrestling!

That’s all for now…CB.

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