The tale of Jeff Hardy: A daredevil wrestler whose biggest fight is against himself

The tale of Jeff Hardy: A daredevil wrestler whose biggest fight is against himself
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News of Jeff Hardy’s most recent arrest is infuriating, saddening, and now confirms that the iconic wrestler’s biggest fight will be against himself and the demon of addiction.

Sadly, it isn’t a shock, though.

Hardy was pulled over yesterday, June 13, in Florida on a hectic highway after several emergency calls were phoned-in relating to Hardy’s erratic driving. Dashcam footage released from the incident depicts Hardy being questioned by police about his behaviour, and sobriety - stumbling over when he’s asked to sit on the hood of the police cruiser.

It also shows police pulling guns on the AEW grappler as they approached the car.

He was then questioned about the stench of liquor on his breath, and the conclusion was clear. The sobriety evaluation confirmed Hardy’s drunkenness while in control of his vehicle and he was eventually charged with driving under influence (DUI), just days before he was to appear at a major event for All Elite Wrestling.

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Unfortunately for Hardy, this isn’t the first time we’ve been here.

In 2009, he was arrested on trafficking charges after a house search revealed over 200 Vicodin prescription pills, nearly 200 Soma prescription pills and half-a-litre of anabolic steroids along with trace amounts of powder cocaine. He served ten days in jail along with two-and-a-half years of probation along with a six-figure fine.

In 2018, Hardy was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving - with his blood-alcohol level hitting 0.25 - three times the legal limit according to a police report.

A year later, Hardy was arrested for public intoxication after reportedly passing out in a stairwell in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A few months later, he was arrested for driving while impaired in North Carolina.

Delving into the reasons why provides an easy link - Hardy is simply another in a long of broken wrestlers who have chosen to self-medicate to deal with the very real pain of performing. And Hardy has been performing for a very long time, and that has taken a very real toll.

A star of 90’s, 00’s and 10’s, the younger of the two Hardy brothers has put his body on the line since he was just 15 (his first ever televised match was in May 1994). That makes it forty years next year of blood, sweat, tears, glory and agony.

Especially when you consider the type of wrestling Jeff Hardy is known for - namely extreme manoeuvres that have involved reckless dives from, usually, at least 20-feet in the air.

Edge Spears Jeff Hardy - WrestleMania

These moves are celebrated. WWE is taking in YouTube revenue right now from Hardy’s career-long highlight reel

Hardy’s first exit from the ring came in 2003. WWE claimed his behaviour, drug use, refusal of rehab and poor ring performance were the reasons behind that exit. Hardy said it was ‘burnout’.

The truth, as it always does, lies somewhere in the middle. A top star for the company, Hardy was relied on to regularly put his health on the line to entertain fans. The full extent of Hardy’s journey through serious injury, arrests and various wrestling promotions after that first release is something to behold.

Hardy didn’t give up or seemingly take a great deal of time off after WWE. At Total Nonstop Action, Hardy had returned to headline act status, but his biggest impact was found back at WWE, which he rejoined in 2006, where he would reunite with his brother, Matt, and claim multiple titles, including the big one - the WWE Championship in December 2008.

The end of the line was in sight for Hardy, on a date that’s now familiar. 2009 brought the expiration of his WWE contract, and also a number of issues. Hardy had started to experience restless leg syndrome as well as two herniated discs. On his own and out of wrestling, it’s clear that Hardy was in a lot of pain.

For most - that’s a retirement. Already over the age of 30 at this point, and starting to pick up numerous injuries, no doubt from the constant impact to his nervous system from risky daredevil dives week-in, week-out, Hardy chose to push on in wrestling despite the injuries and despite achieving everything he could’ve dreamed of.

That first arrest, 2009, came in the same timeframe as his exit from WWE. Months later he was back in the ring for TNA, which arguably resulted in the lowest point of his career. Having been booked in the main event match against champion Sting, at 2011 Victory Road event, Hardy turned up to the venue noticeably intoxicated. Having advertised the match, Hardy was sent out to the ring despite being in no fit state to perform. Sting swiftly defeated Hardy in 90 seconds and could be heard saying "I agree" after fans chanted "bulls**t."


The pattern is common. Jeff comes back, he wins, he gets intoxicated, he becomes a no-show, he gets released. In August 2011, Hardy was brought back and his fall from grace was turned into storyline. In 2013, the promotion also had to conjure up a story to explain his absence from an event in the UK. He wasn’t allowed to enter the country due to past criminal convictions.

Another storyline was built around a major injury Hardy suffered. In 2015, he was knocked out cold after falling directly onto steel steps headfirst from the top of a cage - after already being hit in the head with a cowbell. The sickening fall resulted in a concussion of Hardy, likely the latest in a conveyor belt of blows to the head.

After all, those big bumps, which he had been taking for nearly two decades at this point will have resulted in serious if undocumented injury. Every splash and fall from Hardy would’ve been a minor explosion, knocking around already battered organs and electrifying his nervous system. Every blow to the head rattling his brain around his skull.

All of this brought a huge return to fame - due to his brother Matt’s creativity and ability to toe the line between cringe and genius. The pair of ‘broken’ characters and unique 'cinematic' matches hit the big time for TNA with their bizarre storylines that, against all odds, managed to captivate and pull in new eyes.

They eventually earned a return to WWE in 2017 with an internet-crushing comeback. As the duo trotted down the Wrestlemania ramp to raptures, it seemed like the dream ending. Jeff had bounced back from injuries and addiction, Matt from potential obscurity. It was all on the cards.

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Before his last return to WWE, Hardy eerily discussed his head injuries with Ring Rust Radio.

“Luckily, I’m only aware of about two or three concussions that I have had, but there’s really no way of telling how many overall. It’s a huge, serious issue in wrestling. I’ve rung my bells so many times, especially back in the day when chair shots to the head were legal. My goodness, I took so many of those.” said Hardy back in 2016

That was over five years ago. Between various championship reigns, Hardy suffered long-term shoulder and knee injuries, the ignominy of having a car accident wrote into his storyline. In 2021, a battered Hardy walked out on WWE and straight into AEW.

Just last month, Hardy suffered another blackout concussion during AEW’s Double or Nothing event. After his latest arrest, Hardy mentioned to police officers that he had an upcoming brain scan.

There’s no surprise then, that Hardy’s story is as much ‘Jeff doesn’t look right’ and ‘Jeff doesn’t seem ok right now’ as it is stories of triumph against the odds, and highlight-reel dives.

Hardy is a showstopper, one that seems to find the idea of actually stopping his own show agonising, and at 44 he’s barely toned down his act. One of his first matches in AEW saw him literally dive off the side of a building onto two wrestlers placed on tables below him. There were plenty of points when the end was in sight for Hardy. 2009, 2015, now - but he’s never stopped being an underdog or putting himself (and others) in true danger.

He’s only got so much emotional capital with fans, though, and while that is running dry due to this latest arrest, he is still proving to be a ‘Charismatic Enigma’. Wrestling fans are desperate to see him heal. With a fanbase he’ll rely on for opportunities, there’ll be no greater comfort than that.

As for AEW, the company has suspended him without pay and a new statement confirms their intention to help Hardy. Hardy himself will need more than a suggestion - and a warning sign exists in other wrestlers of his generation who have endured the trauma of multiple brain injuries and substance abuse issues on their lonesome.

What happens next is up to Hardy, but nobody has profited more from his recklessness in the ring than the promotions who have booked him. When personal responsibility is urged in the wake of arrests, promotions seem happy to issue the statement and take the easy road. WWE certainly did the same with his most recent release, claiming that he refused their offer to help him through rehab.

Anyone who enters a car intoxicated and intends to drive puts lives at risk. Jeff Hardy doesn’t escape that, but what he does have is a chance - likely the last one - to fade away slowly with his legend and enjoy the fruits of his labour, or burn out hard.

On the latter note, it might simply end up being another reckoning that the world of wrestling will ignore.

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