Jim Ross Reflects On Jeff Hardy’s 2003 WWE Release – “Go To Rehab Or We Can’t Use You”

Jeff Hardy

Jeff Hardy hit some incredible highs while with WWE, but his multiple runs with the company were not without struggles and controversy.

After taking his first steps into the company in 1994 as an enhancement talent, Jeff and his brother Matt were one of the most tag teams in the world by the turn of the Millennium. The pair were involved in the creation of the TLC match, while their outings in other Ladder Matches become the stuff of legend.

However, the team eventually split, and following the first-ever WWE Draft Jeff remained on Raw while Matt eventually headed to SmackDown. For years it had been believed that Jeff would branch out and become a huge singles star, but he left the company in 2003 due to burnout and substance abuse issues.

On a recent episode of his Grilling JR podcast, Jim Ross, who was WWE’s Head of Talent Relations at the time, reflected on Hardy’s departure.

“I think he was burned out, quite frankly, I think you hit the nail on the head there. He just wasn’t ready to settle down and to play by the rules. I remember I had, look Connie, I had several sit downs with Jeff, and probably more than I normally would have. I liked him. I still like him. I’m glad he’s with AEW, he’s a big addition to what we’re doing. So, but it was hard, it was hard for him.

He wasn’t sure what he wanted. But I knew what I wanted. I wanted a guy that was not getting high before he wrestled. I mean, that’s just insanity, suicide, can’t do it. So I think he’s a little bit burned out, you know, and some guys handled pressure and their ascension to the top of the card in different ways. It’s not an automatic fit. And I don’t know that he was ready for his ascension.”

Jim Ross Says Famous Jeff Hardy Match Was One Of The Most Memorable Of His Career

Ross went on to recall Hardy’s famous Ladder Match with The Undertaker on the July 1st, 2002 episode of Raw. Although Hardy didn’t win he went toe-to-toe with the legend earning his respect in the process. However, the enigmatic star didn’t really capitalise on what many believe is one of the best matches in Raw history.

JR said that the match was one of the most memorable calls of his career, but it didn’t pay dividends for Hardy in the weeks after the show.

“You know, I have seen a lot of tweets about the match he had with the Ladder Match of The Undertaker. And some of the calls that we’ve made. And it was just a high-pressure cooker scenario. All of a sudden, he signs himself in a ring with Undertaker in a Ladder Match that he damn near wins. One of the coolest tweets this week that I saw was, somebody said that my call made them truly believe that Jeff was going to win the title in the Ladder Match. And so it worked in that respect.

But it didn’t always work for the talent, the talent has got to still rise to the occasion and do all the things that they need to do and, and that match really put Jeff, somebody you know, you hear this all the time. It’s not how, it’s not about who goes over, but who’s gets over. And Jeff got over and that Ladder Match, even a losing effort. So it’s one of the more memorable matches that I’ve called in my career.”

Ross reiterated that the thought highly of Hardy not only as a performer but as a person, however, something had to give. The Hall of Fame announcer said that Hardy was told that if he didn’t attend rehab and get help, WWE would be unable to book him.

“Again, I had a great interest in Jeff’s success, but the main thing, my interest was health. And then he took that down one notch. And then there you got there you got Jeff, you know, trying to wrestle impaired. And that’s just insanity. We can’t do it. And I remember telling him that I said, you know, you got to go to rehab again, or we can’t use you. And it wasn’t a, there wasn’t a debatable topic. You know, it wasn’t a debatable topic, we’re not going to discuss, or what if we did this? What if, what if we do this, you get help. And if you get help, we will do business with you. And you’ll make a lot of money. You’re just, you’re getting over. But he didn’t, he didn’t see it that way.”

After being let go by WWE, Jeff Hardy headed out onto the independent scene and competed in Ring of Honor and TNA, eventually returning to WWE in 2006. The star went on to become World Champion before leaving in 2009.

Hardy returned to TNA before heading back to WWE for the third and final time in 2017. Despite remaining popular with crowds, Hardy left WWE in late 2021 following reports that the company was concerned for his welfare following erratic behaviour. The star went on to reunite with Matt in AEW, before being arrested and suspended in June 2022. Following a spell in rehab, he returned to AEW television in April 2023.

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