January 4, 2005
WWF Interncontinental Championship
Jeff Hardy (Challenger) vs. Triple H (Champion)
April 10, 2001
The Build Up
The parting shot of WrestleMania X-7 was Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin celebrating Austinís world title victory over the Rock. It came as a shock to many but it would be just one of the many surprises that lay in store that year.
If any year represented change, it was 2001. The purchase of WCW by the WWF. ECW closing its doors for the last time. The rise of Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho as top contenders. The debut of Paul Heyman, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, Rhyno, Shane Helms, Diamond Dallas Page, and Lance Storm. The invasion that followed soon after.
But even before much of that took place, the WWF seemed eager to surprise the fans. Such was the case on April 10, 2001.
In front of nearly 15,000 fans in Philadelphia, Jeff Hardy - not even two weeks removed from the historic TLC 2 - challenged Triple H for his newly won Intercontinental championship. The night previous in Boston, the Hardy Boyz and Lita scored an upset victory over Steve Austin, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon on Raw. But all three of the victors, including Lita, were beaten down following the match.
Minutes into the Smackdown telecast, Jeff, on behalf of his brother Matt and Lita, ran to the ring during an in-ring promo from Austin, Hunter, and Stephanie, dropped the two title holders with chair shots, and laid out Stephanie with the Twist of Fate.
The assault on his wife enraged Triple H to the point where he demanded a match with Hardy later in the evening. The bout was granted with most in attendance agreeing that it was a foregone conclusion Triple H would prevail. After all, this was the man that dominated 2000 by beating everyone the WWF threw at him. He retired Mick Foley. He was the first heel champion to successfully defend the world title at WrestleMania. He had beaten the Rock, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, even Stone Cold himself.
This was the man that came within an eyelash of ending the Undertakerís unbeaten WrestleMania record. And for all the tag team accomplishments Jeff Hardy had achieved during his relatively short stint as a WWF superstar, he was not of the caliber of Triple H. The death defying Hardy was a decorated tag team star but was unproven in the singles ranks. The title defense was expected to be nothing more than a spirited squash match with Hunter raising his hand in victory at its conclusion.
As the champion makes his way to the ring, a look of anger on his face, Michael Cole and Tazz mention that Lita and Matt were recuperating at home from the injuries sustained on Raw.
Wasting no time, Hunter unstraps the belt from his waist and slides into the ring where he meets Jeff head-on. After pounding away at the challenger with vicious punches and kicks in the corner, Hunter begins a more methodical offense as he throws Jeff to the floor. A camera backstage picks up Stephanie, still holding her neck, cheering on her husband.
Back inside the ring, Jeff changes the tide with a hurricanrana and a series of dropkicks. The challengerís momentum grows after reversing an attempt at the Pedigree and hitting a leg drop instead. Hunter again tries to gain the upper hand but falls victim to Hardyís Whisper in the Wind, leaving both men down on the mat. A 2 count follows.
Once both men reach their feet, Hunter moves out of the way of a charge from the challenger, sending Hardy sliding out of the ring, eventually hitting the floor accompanied by a loud thud. On the floor, a resilient Hardy slams the championís head into the ring steps. Seconds thereafter, the challenger attempts a running springboard off the retaining barrier but is caught and slammed to the concrete for his efforts. After shaking off the pain, Hardy tries a similar move from the apron to the floor but is caught a second time and is driven to the floor with even more force.
With the match seemingly at hand, the champion sends Hardy into the steel ring steps before pushing his motionless body back inside the ring. ECWís own Hat Guy can be seen in the crowd as Jeff attempts a comeback, only to fall victim to Hunterís knee to the face. Moments later, the champion methodically kicks, punches, and chokes away at the challenger while in the corner. Stephanie looks on approvingly as Hunter slaps Hardyís head and verbally berates the high flyer.
With no partner to tag out to, Hardy tries to pull himself up by the ring ropes but canít. Seconds later, the challenger is caught in a sleeper. In a last ditched effort, Hardy fights out of it with a jawbreaker and Russian leg sweep before heading up top, seemingly with intent to hit the Swanton.
Triple H grabs referee Tim White and shoves him into the ropes, causing Hardy to crotch himself across the top turnbuckle. White responds by twice shoving the champion, resulting in Triple H sending the referee flailing backwards across the ring.
As the referee is laid out, Hunter climbs the turnbuckles, grabs Hardy, and points to the crowd as if to say, ďThis is what happens when you mess with me.Ē Unbeknownst to him, Matt Hardy rushes down the ramp and into the ring, chair in hand. All Hunter has time to do is run head-first into a chair shot. With the damage done, Matt slides out of the ring as Jeff hits the Swanton off the top. The referee rolls over and the crowd explodes as Hunter is counted down for 3. A shocked and distraught Stephanie is shown backstage.
Hunter staggers around the ring cursing as Matt leaves ringside with both his brother and Jeffís newly won championship belt.
In 8 minutes and 6 seconds, Jeff Hardy had pulled off the upset of the year.
Fans that logged on to WWF.com the next day were met by a photo of Jeff covering the unconscious champion, with the accompanying graphic confirming the title change. It was one of the rare occasions in which it was the WWF themselves that leaked a spoiler.
Hardy would go on to lose the title back to Triple H the following Monday night and, for right or wrong, that would be the biggest singles win of his WWF career.
On a side note, this was not the first televised singles meeting between the two. They also faced each other during the 8/14/95 live edition of Raw, when Jeff was nothing more than a young enhancement worker. That match ended the same as their rematch 6 days after this title change, with the Pedigree.