Jeff Hardy and CM Punk.
The following piece was contributed by avid wrestling fan and analyst JR. Follow him on Twitter at @StarNinja99.
Hello readers, and welcome to the second edition of Spotlight On. Together we'll look back in time at some of the most crucial matches in the history of wrestling.
Today we talk about a match that had years of Repercussions for both participants. After a long feud between these athletes, one would leave the company, while the other would sore to new heights.
This was the last match in the highly personal feud between Jeff Hardy and CM Punk.
CM Punk mocks Jeff Hardy wearing his face-paint.
The Build Up:
Jeff Hardy was just ending a very personal fued with his brother coming out of Wrestlemania 25. Jeff was looking to get back into the Main Event on Smackdown again. He wanted the World Heavyweight Championship.
CM Punk had just made history. He'd won his second Money In The Bank match in a row on the grandest stage of them all, and was deeply invested in the result of the championship match between Jeff Hardy and the reigning champion, The Rated R Superstar, Edge.
And so, at Extreme Rules, when Jeff Hardy and The Creatures of the Night successfully ran through Edge, Punk was ready. He cashed in his Money In The Bank Contract on a bruised and injured Hardy after a brutal ladder match. It took two Go To Sleeps to put him away, but Punk walked out of Extreme Rules with the World Heavyweight Championship, thus setting up a long running feud.
Edge would get a chance to get his title back, and Hardy would get his shot at redemption on the
June 15th episode of Raw, only eight days later. Jeff Hardy was on the verge of a win, hitting a Twist of Fate, followed by a Swanton. Before he could take advantage, however, Punk pulled him off of Edge, smashed him into the steel steps, and picked up the pin.
With Punk's increasingly dirty tactics were obvious, Hardy wanted his title back more than ever. He would get the chance at The Bash.
It was a fast paced match, certainly. After many near falls and near finishes, Punk would go for the GTS, but it would be countered into a Twist of Fate, followed by a Swanton Bomb, and a pinfall. It appeared Hardy had won, but the referee realized Punk's foot was under the ropIn the end, however, Hardy's attempts would be futile, as CM Punk would kick the referee in the back of the head, ending the match with a disqualification, and thus retaining his championship, and ending the segment in a brawl.
Punk would go on to claim he had injured his eye during the match, and had merely missed the kick. Hardy refused to believe this, leading to a full fledged heel turn from Punk.
Punk would go on to flaunt his Straight Edge lifestyle in Hardy's face, citing Jeff's problems with drug abuse and the strikes against him in the Health and Wellness policy.
This would lead to a very personal and very impressive match at Night of Champions, where Jeff Hardy would counter a GTS into a Twist of Fate, hit a Swanton Bomb, and regain the World Heavyweight Championship.
Punk would take the loss with dignity, at least until the following Smackdown, where he would blindside Hardy with an assault, leading to a rematch the next week, where Punk would lose his chance thanks to Jeff Hardy.
But the Straight Edge Superstar would get the last laugh, taking on Hardy at Summerslam in a TLC match. Hardy would set Punk up on the Announcers booth, go to the top of the ladder, and Swanton Bomb off the ladder onto the table. Hardy would greatly hurt himself, however, allowing Punk to climb the ladder and take back the World Heavyweight Championship. As if Kharma had caught up with him, however, The Undertaker would Chokeslam him in mid celebration.
This set up the final confrontation between the two on the August 28 edition of Smackdown, a steel cage match for the title, with an added stipulation: the loser would leave the WWE.
CM Punk prevents Jeff Hardy from escaping the cage.
The cage lowers, and Jeff Hardy's music hits first. He does his usual phyro entrance, and starts clapping hands with the crowd. Punk attacks him from behind, beating him down on the ground. He slams him into the cage, takes off his shirt, exposing the bandages on his chest and waist, and puts the belt aside, going right after Jeff. He drops him and catapults him into the steel, coming around toward the door, and throwing Hardy to the ground. A suplex follows this blatant attack, and finally Punk gets Jeff in the ring, and the bell tolls. Punk goes for an immediate escape, but is brought down by Hardy, who throws a couple punches, only to fall to
couple of kicks.
He hits him in the spine with another kick, and Jeff is down. Punk goes for the escape, but he's brought down by the tights. Hardy sneaks in a bit of offense here, but is brought down by a suplex from Punk.
CM Punk goes for the escape, and Hardy meets him, and tries to slam Punk's face into the cage, but is countered, and ends up hitting his own skull of the cage, and falls to the ground. Punk goes for a pin, but Hardy kicks out at two. Frustrated, Punk drops a leg on Hardy, and begins to go for the door, but his foot is caught by Hardy!
Punk tries to drag him, but finds this too cumbersome, and instead grabs Jeff by the hair, pulls him up, and delivers a right hand. Hardy manages to get in his own punch, changing the momentum of the match. Hardy kicks Punk back into the ropes, goes of the ropes himself, and goes for a cross body, but Punk ducks it! Punk picks up Hardy, and attempts to drive him into the cage, but Hardy reverses with an elbow, and drives the Straight Edge Superstar into it instead! Hardy springs Punk into the cage four times in a row, then hits an inverted atomic drop, goes for a pin, but only gets two!
Hard goes to throw Punk into the corner, but Punk counters, and Hardy hits the corner, goes right up, and hits CM Punk with a Whisper In The Wind! Hardy struggles to pin him... but Punk kicks out at two and a half! Smackdown is going to commercial.
The match comes back with Hardy in the corner, trying to climb the steel cage. Punk grabs him by the leg, but Jeff sends him away with a series of kicks to the face. Jeff Hardy turns, and hits Punk with a cross body off the top rope! He goes for the pin, and its a near fall. Hardy, frustrated, goes for the door, but his leg is caught, and Punk drags him back! Punk goes to catapult him into the cage, but Hardy takes hold of the cage in mid air, and begins to climb frantically! Punks on his heels, but Hardy has made it to the top!
Punk manages to drag him down to the top rope, throwing rights, but Hardy manages to get away, and goes to climb the opposite side of the cage! Punk holds on to Hardy's jeans, and goes for a superplex, but Hardy counters with his fists, sending Punk off the top of the ropes to the floor! Swanton Bomb!
Hardy struggles for the pin... but Punk kicks out again! Punk struggles to his feet, going to climb out, but Jeff Hardy is crawling for the door! CM Punk drops to the ground and goes to grab him, trying to drag him back into the ring by his leg. Hardy is brought back in... the door closes... And Hardy manages to spin kick Punk in the face! Punk is caught on the apron between the ropes and the cage, and before he can get out, Hardy comes of the
ropes and pancakes him!
Both men are down, and hurting, and Smackdown once again goes to commercial.
We come back, and Punk is crawling for the door. Hardy is on him, trying to drag him back. Punk gets his hands on the floor, but Hardy is pulling him back in. Punk grabs the steel steps, screaming that he was out! Hardy drags Punk in by the leg, and knocks him off his knees. Both men trade a series of back and forth blows, with Hardy coming out on top. Hardy goes for a Twist of Fate, but Punk counters by sending him into the ropes! As he comes back, Punk puts him up on his shoulders for the GTS, but Hardy counters into a back slide, only getting a two count!
Punk drags Hardy up, and hits him with a knee to the spine, goes for a pin, but only gets a near fall. Punk gets Hardy to his feet, goes to flip him for tge GTS... But Hardy lands clean, and gives Punk a Twist of Fate!
Hardy drags himself over to the corner, slowly trying to climb. He makes it to the top... But Punk hangs on his leg! Hardy struggles out with kicks and punches, and manages to start his descent... But Punk hangs on, leaving both in a very dangerous hanging position!
Punk pulls him back in, and Superplexes Hardy! Both men are down.
Punk drags himself up to his feet, and starts to climb... He catapults himself to the top... Bur Jeff Hardy is up and moving! He holds on to Punks head, using him as leverage to climb... But gets an eye rack, and falls to the mat. Punk hits the floor! Punk wins!
Punk lays on the floor, obviously in extreme pain, and laughs maniacally. Hardy looks like he just saw a ghost, and simply stares off into space, obviously upset. Punk waves goodbye, still laughing, and holds his title close to himself, walking back to the Gorilla Position, This Fire Burns fading away.
Hardy sits up, and runs his hand through his hair. "Thank you Jeff.". Chants ring out across the stadium.
WWE Champion CM Punk
I always did love this match, but there is a very different reason why I wanted to highlight it in this series, and that is simply the very different paths this match took these two supreme wrestlers on when it was all said and done.
Jeff Hardy would leave the WWE as per the stipulation of the match, but the WWE believed he was simply taking some time off to heal up some injuries he had sustained and to deal with his ever ongoing drug problems. He would be out of action until January 2010, where he would amazingly show up in TNA at a live Pay-Per-View. The WWE, who did not know, took him out of the Smackdown promo immediately.
Punk would stay on with the World heavyweight Championship, retaining first against The Undertaker, then dropping the title to the same man at the Hell in a Cell Pay-Per-View. He would get a Slammy for this Match for "Shocker of the Year". Punk would then go on to form the first of two stables, The Straight Edge Society.
Jeff Hardy would spend about half of that year as one of the top Babyface draws in TNA, that is until 10-10-10, where he and the newly formed "Immortal" would screw everyone in the company by taking over. This made Hardy the TNA World Champion, and the leading heel in the company. He would hold the belt, which had been remade to look like himself, for the remainder of the year.
Punk's Straight Edge Society would eventually fade away, and he would be sidelined temporarily from an injury. During this time, Punk would take up Commentary on Raw, proving the man's humor and charisma even while on the injured list. After he had healed up, he took over the remnants of Wade Barrett's Nexus, purged those that did not have the "Faith" he wanted, and began anew with several new faces.
Jeff Hardy would lose his title to a returning Sting at a TNA out of town taping, leading to a rematch for his World Title at Victory Road, which would go down in history as one of the worst Main Events in TNA history, if not in the history of Professional history. Sting would drop Hardy into the Scorpion Deathlock only Ninety seconds.
Hardy had supposedly shown up to drugged up to compete, so the TNA Management had to make a quick decision on what to do. They decided to have Sting win before Hardy could do much harm to himself or Sting. The fans were enraged, and so was Sting.
Now, on the other end of the spectrum, Punk went into Wrestlemania for a match with Randy Orton, proving to be one of the better matches on the card. Still not happy, Punk revealed to the World after becoming Number One Contender for the WWE Championship that his contract would end on the night of the Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View, and that he had no plans of resigning. Things got into a fever pitch when Punk pulled off his now famous shoot promo, an act that will go down in history as what put CM Punk completely over the top with the fans.
TNA Champion Jeff Hardy
While things were hot for the WWE, and Punk, respectively, Jeff Hardy was off for most of the year due to that incident at Victory Road. He would eventually come back on August 23, and he would start to main event again towards the end of the year, but a lot of fans have cited distrust towards him due to the Victory Road incident. Indeed, even the coming back promos for Hardy beat him over the head with his mistake week after week.
In this match to leave the WWE, would it not have been possible for the company to decide to keep Hardy on and have Punk take a leave of absence? They could have easily held on tight to Hardy, one of their top money drawers, instead of sending him packing. Sure, Hardy's drug problem was already out of control, but the company has been known to overlook such things.
When you look back at this match, you simply can't help but think to yourself What If? What if Punk had lost and taken a hiatus, would he ever have the chance to cut the shoot promo and catapult himself to the top? What if the WWE had kept Hardy on, and ended up causing them as much embarrassment as he did TNA? What if Punk was simply sent packing? Would he have hiked on over to TNA, or moseyed on down to Ring of Honor and put them over the roof? What if the WWE Wellness program had helped Hardy get clean? Surely he would have had a few more top contender matches by now? What if? What if? What if?
Its an intriguing thing to think about, but then again, so are most things that shape the destiny of the Pro Wrestling Industry. And that is why this match should be recognized as a pivotal point in our industries history.