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Being a Jeff Hardy fan/mark is not easy. There tends to be a lot a ridicule from the so-called "smarks." After all, he's no Chris Benoit. :rolleyes: "He can't cut a decent promo, he can't mat wrestle, all he does is highspots, etc. " As much as I like to watch his matches, I have to agree with the naysayers up to a point.

To be honest, part of me wasn't looking forward to last night's match. I thought it would be the same old song. "Jeff cuts a promo sounding like he just drank a bottle of NyQuil. Then the match filled with highspots and restholds. Another squash job" and so on. I know making the transition from tag team (where you can throw in a bunch of highspots knowing you will have some time to recover) to singles style isn't easy. The field is littered with former tag members who tried to make it as a singles wrestler and failed, Case in point, Billy Gunn. Honestly, as much as I like Jeff in the ring, I didn't think he could make it as a singles wrestler without major effort. People used to say he was the next coming of Shawn Michaels - I thought they were basing that more on the fact both were goodlooking blonde men who didn't fit the big man mold than actual ability.

So I watched Raw, the mark part of me hoping against hope and the smart part of me fearing the worst.

First up was Jeff's promo with Terri. What a pleasant surprise. He looked alive, even happy. He made me believe he cared about the upcoming match. Sure, he came across a little hyper as he ran around but at least he looked like he cared, for once. The monotone voice and blank stare were gone.

Next was a second promo with Jeff getting himself hyped for the upcoming match. Again, he seemed excited and ready to go. I found it amusing to compare his voice tone with the re-appearing Lita's. God love her, she tried. Amy, while you're out recovering, look into some speech lessons. Enunciation is your friend. She speaks as if she's trying to pry something sticky -oh the obvious jokes abound - off the roof of her mouth.

The intros rolled. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Jeff, you are an attractive man. STOP PAINTING YOURSELF. The match began. Here's where I held my breath. How could Taker pull off a decent ladder match? Would it be just another squash? Why does Taker have a pompadour now? Questions, questions. (BTW, CRZ and Hyatte, I forgot there are no disqualification in a ladder match but thanks for setting me straight. I would like to pull the "I'm just a silly girl", giggle and toss my hair but I don't think it would fly well.)

And I marked out. Repeatedly and loudly. Didn't expect to, but I did and I'll admit it. Jeff had, in my opinion, the match of his career so far. Better than the TLC matches, better than when he briefly won the IC title from Triple H. I didn't expect to be awed during a match with Taker. I didn't expect to be impressed with Jeff's stamina. And I really didn't expect the way the match wrapped up. I figured after the Last Ride, it was over. Taker would ride off and the credits would roll over a static shot of a semi conscious Jeff face down on the canvas, gasping for breath. I marked out more for the sight of Taker raising Jeff's hand than I did seeing him almost grab the belt. It felt like a passing of the guard. Even though Taker won, this match elevated Jeff.

The industry, first WCW and now WWE, have been accused of not pushing the new people, of keeping the veterans around past their prime, of having a glass ceiling. When the N.W.O. was signed, I'll admit to thinking the exact thing. "Great, they're signing dinosaurs. No one under thirty eight will be pushed. They'll start gimmick matches like First to Break a Hip Loses and Dentures on a Pole. It'll be horrible!" I was considering not watching anymore. But now, there are fresh faces appearing daily. John Cena, Rey Mysterio Jr, Jamie Knoble, the kids from Tough Enough have appeared. Rob Van Dam is getting a good push towards the upper card. Vince is booking with an eye towards the future instead of looking through the past. Even the veterans seem to be kicking it up a level. Maybe the ratings freefall was enough to scare people out of complacency. Maybe when Austin left people realized their jobs were not guaranteed and that the WWE can survive without their services. Maybe seeing empty seats having to be covered with dropcloths to fool the television shook Vince. I really don't care what happened to change things, I'm just glad they changed. Give me a match like last night's main event anyday. Give me some fresh faces and moves. Give me someone so eager for a place with the company they will go all out.

Give me these and I'll give you a company that will start to redeem itself and stop the downward spiral.

[slash] wrestling

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