Jeff Hardy has recalled how he managed to “p**s off” The Undertaker ahead of his star-making performance in a Ladder Match against the legend on Monday Night Raw.
Viewers tuning into Raw on 1st July 2002 knew they were getting a Ladder Match for the Undisputed Title, but what they didn’t realise, was that they were going to witness one of the most famous matches in Raw history.
While The Undertaker was terrorising the roster as Big Evil, Jeff Hardy was beginning to branch out from being a tag team specialist. He’d briefly flirted with singles action winning the Intercontinental Title, as well as the Hardcore and Light Heavyweight titles, but this was different. After losing a match the previous week, Hardy challenged Taker to a match of his choosing, a Ladder Match.
The match didn’t have the usual ridiculous stunts associated with the younger Hardy, though he still managed to cheat death a couple of times. This time the story of the match was about the young underdog refusing to quit against his bigger and more sadistic opponent.
After touching the gold on a couple of heart-stopping occasions, leading to the now legendary “Climb the ladder kid, make yourself famous!” line from Jim Ross, Undertaker finally got the better of his fearless foe. But neither the brutality of the match or a post-match Last Ride could finish off Hardy. He somehow pulled himself to his feet and called Taker back to the ring. However, instead of continuing the assault, he raised Hardy’s hand as a sign of respect.
Speaking in a new interview with talkSPORT’s Alex McCarthy, Jeff Hardy recalled that famous night, saying that the match did wonders for him, before describing how he managed to get on the wrong side of the Deadman before the match began.
“It was weird because ladders were like, my thing at the time. My big thing from the other TLC matches and whatnot. So for ‘Taker to do that for me was just huge for me in general, especially for my solo career without Matt, it just did wonders for me,
“Just putting together sports with the Undertaker… One of my fondest memories was getting on his Harley [Davidson] out there and pretending I was doing a nac nac on a dirt-bike and that p***** him off and he came after me [laughs].
“The whole story of the underdog versus the man and the legend, but he couldn’t keep the underdog down no matter what he did to me and then the sign of respect at the end and me collapsing as RAW goes off the air with me looking at my hand like ‘did that really just happen?’ It was a miracle.”
Hardy went on to remember the backstage reaction to the match, explaining that everyone was pleased with the outcome.
“Yeah, everyone was very pleased. I don’t know if we got the standing ovation, I think we might have, but everyone was very pleased with the match and it was very deserving.”
The Undertaker later admitted that he was proud of the match, despite being well out of his comfort zone.
Jeff Hardy was most recently in action at Survivor Series where he competed on Team SmackDown, having moved to the brand in October. The ‘Charismatic Enigma’ was the last man standing on his team, putting in a spirited effort before eventually being pinned by Seth Rollins.
H/t to talkSPORT for the transcription.