If you're a pro-wrestling fan with an affinity for high-flying action and Superstars who perform death-defying, top rope stunts in all of their matches, then chances are you never missed a single match that featured Jeff and Matt Hardy. The Hardy Boyz were one of the WWE's most popular tag team draws, and both Jeff and Matt skyrocketed into stardom with the company, resonating with audiences all over the world.
So why, in 2009, did Jeff up and leave the WWE?
When did the Hardy Boyz debut?
Although they officially became a tag team in 1993 where they cut their teeth on independent circuits, which included backyard trampoline wrestling, the Hardy Boyz grinded and slowly but surely built a name for themselves until they finally caught the attention of the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) in 1998.
Their "Xtreme" persona was punctuated by a raver aesthetic, dyed hair, and gravity-defying moves.
In 2000, Lita joined their tag team to turn it into a trio, becoming "Team Xtreme" and ushering in a whole new force to be reckoned with in professional wrestling. They quickly became some of the most popular Superstars the world of Sports Entertainment has ever seen and were a mainstay in fan-favorite storylines, iconic matches, and merchandising deals from t-shirts, to school folders, video games, and anything you can think of.
It's also to important to consider that they debuted during the vaunted "Attitude Era" that saw the breakthrough of Superstars that had broad, cross-platform appeal. We're talking The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Undertaker was arguably at his best during this time, as was Kane. As the years progressed and a new slew of Superstars began to gain fandom, like Brock Lesnar and John Cena, Matt and Jeff Hardy were still very big stars.
So why did Jeff Hardy leave the WWE in 2009?
From 2006 - 2009, Jeff Hardy really was a main event fighter, taking on the likes of Triple H and John Cena, and even The Undertaker in contests that could've easily been featured on a pay-per-view and would be considered well worth the money.
In mid-2002, the Hardy Boyz had split (it happens a lot with popular tag teams to keep things fresh in the organization) and this was after they ran amok on other WWE duos.
The Dudley Boyz, and Edge and Christian were always battling with Jeff and Matt Hardy, with the latter team being the clear fan favorite in most places they performed.
And although Jeff was getting a lot of love from the WWE's writing room, towards the end of April 2003, he took a break from wrestling for Vince McMahon's company.
"Erratic behavior" was cited as being the primary cause. His in-ring performance suffered. There were rumors of drug use, and he would sometimes just flake on events.
Jeff has gone on record to say that his 2003 departure was due to being burnt out — life on the road is difficult, after all. He ultimately cleaned up his act enough to join TNA Wrestling for a few years.
But he returned to the WWE in 2006 and was immediately welcomed by fans, earning a ton of belts in the process, including two WWE World Heavyweight Titles. Not bad for someone who was just on a break.
Jeff had sunken low, but battled back and managed to climb to the top of the world's biggest wrestling platform yet again. But his comeback was mired in some controversy as well. In 2008, he was found in violation of the WWE's wellness policy, earning himself a 30 day suspension in the process. It was rumored that he was set to be the winner of a huge "Money in the Bank" ladder match at Wrestlemania XXIV before that suspension.
His last match was a Steel Cage bout against then-champion CM Punk. Jeff initiated the challenge and CM agreed to the match with one condition: Jeff had to agree to leave the WWE if he lost, which is exactly what happened. Jeff Hardy actually left the WWE, so the writer's must've put in the wrestler's departure as part of the show's official storyline.
However, it's important to note that Jeff didn't leave because of substance abuse or due to a suspension.
His gritty, dangerous style of pro-wrestling (is there even really a "safe" way to do it, anyway?) caused him a multitude of injuries that he wanted to take time to heal up. A lingering neck problem and two herniated disks meant Jeff had a lot of work to do to get back to fighting shape, or just not be in perpetual pain.
Instead of returning to the WWE, immediately, Jeff fixed his injuries and wrestled with TNA for another 7 years or so, earning a bunch of title belts in the process.
He returned to the WWE in 2017, and again, had to take time off to go to rehab. He made another resounding return on March 13, 2020 on SmackDown! in front of an empty arena (coronavirus, yo!). And even though the roar of the crowd wasn't there, it was clear that the man hadn't lost a step and his passion for wrasslin' remains.
He's still a mainstay of the WWE again and fans are overjoyed to see him on the mat again.