Wed, 12/17/2008 - 7:11pm — J.R.
It is always good to arrive back in Oklahoma safe and sound after a 5 day road trip that at times felt longer. At least the weather was warmer in Buffalo and in Baltimore for the most part than it was back in Oklahoma while I was away. It was a momentous week within the WWE with Jeff Hardy joining the ranks of those who have held the coveted WWE Title. Most onlookers would likely have never put Jeff Hardy in the same sentence with the likes of Bruno Sammartino, the first, truly dominate WWE Champion, but the history books will now always reflect that the son of a rural mail carrier from North Carolina is among the men who have had the responsibility of holding the WWE's most coveted and tenured title.
When I first met Jeff and his older brother Mat they were a tag team who came to selected WWE TV tapings in the southeast and were normally used as cannon fodder for the featured, antagonistic tag teams of the WWE. Their matches occasionally aired on WWE Superstars but more often on WWE Challenge did not last long but the two brothers, who designed and sewed their own wrestling attire, never failed to make a memorable accounting of themselves albeit usually in a losing effort. Looking back on those days around '98 I don't recall the two teens ever winning a match.
Nonetheless the Hardy Brothers had the wonderful gift of passion and had excellent skill sets for their roles and I vividly recall that many tag teams requested to work with Matt and Jeff on those short, one sided bouts of that era.
Jeff's past has been well documented but it merits saying that the younger Hardy, not unlike many of us, has made bad decisions in his life but not without penalty. Jeff left the WWE the first time on my watch. I had one vision for him and he had another. I think I was right, and still do, while I'm sure that Jeff feels that he did what he needed to do at the time which unfortunately resulted in him leaving the WWE. Those days are more like a blur to me now but I can say that at no time did I ever feel that Jeff Hardy was a bad kid. Perhaps I could have done a better job in managing him and mentoring him but the bottom line is that he left the company and at the time I thought, "what a waste of talent."
Jeff's last misstep cost him a Wrestlemania appearance and the payday that would have gone with it including 60 days away from the business of which he was born to be a part. Lost income as a result of that indiscretion had to easily exceed six figures. That's a lesson learned the hard way but a lesson learned nonetheless.
I have read where some fans are uncomfortable with Jeff Hardy being the WWE Champion because of his past "strikes." I have read where some fans feel that because Jeff won the WWE Title at one of the WWE's perceived "secondary" pay per views that it is a tainted title win. Others have predicted that Jeff will be the proverbial "interim" champion and will be losing the title before new merchandise can be made and distributed.
Ironically, prior to Sunday's Armageddon PPV, one of the hottest topics on our Q&A section of our site and on other sites was "When is Jeff Hardy going to win the WWE Title?"
I prefer to look at Jeff's victory which came in one of the best Triple Threat matches I can ever remember broadcasting in a positive manner. The new champion is unique, young, deserving, innovative, and provides several options for a variety of challengers with which to have some potentially, excellent matches.
How long will Jeff Hardy be at the top of the WWE mountain as the WWE Champion? I have no idea other than the obvious answer, " until he loses it." I choose to look at this as an adventure for the talented, young man and to vicariously travel with him on it.
It should be a helluva ride.
One thing that I am thankful for is that I had the opportunity to be a part of the broadcast team that called the match Sunday. Those types of moments are still special to me and aren't just another day at the office. Years from now when I am off the road and selling BBQ full time for a living I can always pop in a DVD of that night or tune into WWE 24/7 On Demand and mentally re-create the extraordinary night when a life long wrestling fan who, from the age of 9, was raised by a single parent and who learned many of his skills on a trampoline lived the dream of a life time.
Like I said, it should be one helluva ride.
Congratulations Jeff and enjoy your accomplishment. You persevered and never quit. You deserve the opportunity and I for one hope that your WWE Title reign is as unique and memorable as is your personality and approach to the business.
"The Wrestler" is going to be in theaters every where soon and I am anxious to see it. I am not concerned about the perception some may get from the film as it relates to the wrestling business. From what I understand from those that have seen the film and by what I have read about it, "The Wrestler" represents an era of wrestling that wasn't a positive representation of the genre but an accurate one based on the individuals who chose to live their lives in an undesirable manner. The wrestling business is not unlike any other form of sports or entertainment in that it does have its non flattering side. That's what an entity gets when they deal with humans who have proved time and again that they are far from perfect. I can assure you that the wrestling business was a traveling Wild West show in the 70's when I got in it. For a young man from rural, eastern Oklahoma I saw things my first couple of years in the business of which I had never dreamed. When wrestling had territories that regularly ran the same markets weekly, the facilitating of many things not advisable was somewhat easy. Not every wrestler partook but enough did to adversely affect the perception of the business. The trend did not end after the 70's as temptations and circumstances helped facilitate more self destruction by those that lived life in the fast lane. However, without question, I can honestly say that things are much better now as it relates to the overall aspect of the business of which I am associated.
However, the past is what it is and history can't and shouldn't be erased but instead be utilized to better the future.
I am sure that for many of us who have lived most of our adult lives immersed inside the wrestling business that the film "The Wrestler" will remind us of many of our peers including many that are no longer with us. That won't elicit happy memories but the film's message could certainly be a sobering one and may help encourage those that emotionally invest in the fictional story of "Randy the Ram" to make better decisions in their lives no matter their vocation.
Speaking of making good decisions, I am proud that the superstar formally known as "Cherry" is heading back to college and taking a sabbatical from the ring. I applaud this young lady's decision as her education is vital in today's world and if she chooses she can always resume her wrestling career. Wrestlers with no college degree or nothing to fall back on if things don't work out for them in the business put themselves in a position to be paranoid and insecure more often than not which can't be deemed any thing but unhealthy.
Friday Night Smackdown is really in-ring, wrestling heavy this week which is a good thing from where I sit.
There's a wrestling connection between the only two players to ever be named AP college football All Americans, James Laurinaitis and Bill Fralic. Laurinaitis, Ohio State's #33 who will graduate with a bachelor's degree after his 4 years for the Buckeyes, is the son of Road Warrior Animal as we all know while Fralic once wrestled in Wrestlemania in a Battle Royal. Fralic and I were friends when I lived in Atlanta and worked with WCW and the Falcons and he was a wrestling fan while growing up in Pittsburgh and a Bruno Sammartino fan in particular. The younger Laurninaitis could end up in a WWE ring after his NFL career finishes but major money awaits James who is a guaranteed first round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Fralic even used the prospect of a pro wrestling career to leverage more money out of the Falcons who made him the #3 overall pick in the draft.
We are Toronto bound next week for a huge Monday in TO with Friday Night Smackdown being taped prior to Monday night Raw going live at 9, I assume. Nonetheless both Monday and Friday shows will emanate from Toronto while ECW will have a "best of" type show as I understand it Christmas week. The great fans in Toronto should get their money's worth as the ACC should be packed Monday night for a star studded evening.
Thanks for all your business in our on line store, in our restaurants in Oklahoma, and for telling your friends about our site. Don't forget that my Smackdown blog will go live on WWE.com Thursday evening or Friday morning.
We are still working on your holiday orders and if you hurry we will do our best to get your shipments to you when you need them.
(Credit: J.R's Blog)
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