“Now I’m waiting on the corner in the back of your mind
It’s a lonely place to live, and I got nowhere to hide
‘Cause you told me that you’d never be afraid of heights again
Nobody ever thought that we could make it this high
You’re the only one I’d follow ’til the end of time
If we fall, we fall together baby, don’t think twice again”
– Billy Talent, “Afraid of Heights”
What is it that propels us to do the unimaginable? That which hurdles us into the mad unknown, worrying for nothing and being the entire moment? From ladders and heights precariously positioned, that is the case for Jeff Hardy, a timeless daredevil that captures the hearts of many.
The star I grew up watching was hungry. He was a star, a legend and a vibe in and of himself. Radios were playing the likes of KoRn, blink-182, Slipknot and Bush, and Jeff had the rockstar look about him. Young Corey was enamoured seeing him jump onto the Dudley Boyz with his brother Matt at the Royal Rumble in 2000; when he was speared out of mid-air, hanging onto the tag team belts at WrestleMania X7 by Edge. In the midst of the ‘Crash TV’ aura of the Attitude Era, Jeff Hardy opted not in the spectacle of trash and soap opera, but of the stunts that would capture eyes.
Tony Hawk’s innovative pioneer style of vert skateboarding and the painful yet hilarious antics of the Jackass crew inspired kids to ignore the mantra of “Do Not Try This At Home”, Jeff Hardy too had become one among these names as he was thrown through tables, ladders, and chairs but get back up to continue the match. By the sound of his theme song and his dance as he flailed his arms about, you knew odds and gravity were about to be damned with the middle-finger of the counterculture era of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
In a time where the roster was lined with charismatic and impressive workers, Jeff Hardy was no slouch. He was more than the spots he would become known for because he too was a storyteller, he could grab your attention in ways that made it nigh impossible to not root for him. The perennial underdog, like a Rey Mysterio or a Sting; it just doesn’t feel right if he isn’t a babyface.
In time passed since Jeff has seldom his appearance, save for a Brother Nero or a Willow. The style of an entire era is embodied in his character and his style; when you see him against the likes of Darby Allin or Seth Rollins, you still see that man who had his hand raised by Triple H after the Charismatic Enigma trounced him and Edge at WWE’s Armageddon 2008, or that same kid who made himself famous in his ladder match with The Undertaker on that 2002 episode of RAW. Such bold and daring performances befit him in any arena, be it a sold out WWE crowd or in a smaller Ring of Honor venue.
Yet, this welcoming of pain and agony warrants its own further punishment with scars not visible to us. How we treat those scars determines how we heal from them.
Jeff is no stranger to struggling, but we still try to accept him with open arms, because this is something we all struggle with. We’ve grown with Jeff, failed with Jeff and succeeded with Jeff, we want to believe someone can make it. This might be a hefty concept to burden on another person. Maybe it’s parasocial, maybe it’s hope.
Either way, we will stand up as he stands back up after every destruction and demolition he endures. We just hope he stands up again until he’s able to walk and when he’s able to walk, he is able to run. No longer does he have anything to prove to us in the ring with dives and crashes, yet he’ll do it to prove it to himself, no doubt.
When all is said and done though, Jeff Hardy will make that final Swanton Bomb and have that final moment in the light, he will know that through every thrilling descent and every broken bone along the way: it was worth it.
There will be no doubt to his amazing legacy; there will be no more words.