Ryan Pratt looks back at Jeff Hardy’s shock title win against Triple H on Smackdown! 20 years ago today.
We travel in time back 20 years to 2001. The scene is set at the First Union Center in Philidelphia, Pennyslvania. The main event of Smackdown! is for the WWF Intercontinental Championship between champion Triple H and challenger Jeff Hardy. But how did we get to this position, I hear you ask? WWF Chairman Mr. McMahon ordered a six-person tag team match, with the Two Man Power Trip of WWF Champion ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and Intercontinental Champion Triple H along with his wife Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley taking on Team Extreme, Lita with Matt and Jeff Hardy. The match came about after Lita showed her admiration and respect towards Linda McMahon after she called her husband out and stated she wanted a divorce on live television. The bout was scheduled for Monday Night Raw Is War on April 9th, and Lita pinned Stephanie McMahon to win the match for her team. Following the result, Austin and Triple H brutally assaulted the Hardy Boyz and Lita, with Matt and Lita needing treatment in a local medical facility after the attack.
A taped episode of Smackdown!, which aired on April 12th and was taped two days prior, opened up with the Two Man Power Trip cutting a promo on how they were the two most dominant men in the history of the WWF. They stated that they were unstoppable, and nobody, not even Team Extreme, could get in their way as Triple H “is that darn good” and Austin “is that darn cold”. Austin bragged about his actions over the last few weeks, having turned heel at Wrestlemania X7, bloodied announcer Jim Ross and beat up Team Extreme. Austin, with his back turned away from the titatron, told members of the crowd that he could have done it to them, Jeff Hardy runs out, steel chair in hand, and smashes the weapon over ‘The Game’s’ back, before hitting Austin. Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley slaps Jeff, who reacts by hitting her with the Twist of Fate before running up the ramp. Triple H and Austin lose it and go crazy. This leads to a furious Triple H demanding a match with Jeff Hardy, which commissioner William Regal puts in place for the Intercontinental Championship in the main event of Smackdown!.
Tag team specialist Jeff Hardy had the opportunity of a lifetime against Triple H, who started the match by unleashing his wrath on Hardy, punching and stomping away at the Team Extreme member. Triple H tried to dissect Hardy in a bid to retain his championship and gain revenge on the attack of his wife earlier in the night. Jeff came back, hitting numerous dropkicks, a headscissors and Whisper in the Wind, but ‘The Cerebral Assassin’ had the power advantage over ‘The Charismatic Enigma’. The two brawled around ringside, with Triple H on the offensive. Hardy tried to fight back, but the experience Triple H took control and inflicted punishment on his opponent. Hardy jumped to the top rope, but Triple H pushed referee Tim White into the ropes, causing Jeff to fall. ‘The Game’ pushed White to the floor, and with the referee down, went for a big superplex from the corner, when all of a sudden Jeff’s brother Matt Hardy ran down to the ring and smashed Triple H with a chair. With Jeff Hardy on the top rope and Triple H lying lifeless on the mat, Hardy hit the Swanton Bomb and went on to win the match and the Intercontinental Championship.
In what was a shock outcome and the first singles title win for Jeff Hardy in the WWF, the Hardy Boyz celebrated together, and the former champion threw a fit in the ring whilst Smackdown! went off the air. This result was a real upset, and with the odds stacked against Hardy, he defied them. Few could have expected that Jeff Hardy and Triple H would again feud seven years later, let alone with the WWE Championship at stake, as Hardy would go on to defeat ‘The Game’ to win the prestigious title in late 2008.
Ryan Pratt is a feature writer for WNS, looking back at some of the most memorable events and moments in pro-wrestling history. You can find his work on WNS under the hashtag #TDIWH, or follow him on Twitter @RyanPratt01.
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