Jeff Hardy left the WWE in 2003, being fired from his role as a wrestler following one of his many battles with drug and alcohol addiction.
The former WWE Champion was just breaking out on his own in 2003, having split from his brother Matt Hardy and embarking on a singles career on Monday Night Raw.
Despite being smaller than the likes of Triple H and The Undertaker, Jeff Hardy was destined for superstardom. There was something about him that the fans were drawn to, an innate charism that cannot be taught or imitated.
The WWE noticed this, which is why they decided to split The Hardy Boyz up. This led to an immediate push for Jeff Hardy, which included multiple title reigns and some huge matches – most notably against The Undertaker on the July 1st, 2002 episode of Raw.
This was the famous ladder match for The Undertaker’s WWE Undisputed Championship (won months earlier from Hulk Hogan) that threatened to build Jeff Hardy into one of the biggest stars in the WWE.
Despite The Undertaker towering over The Charismatic Enigma, it was Hardy’s unwavering willingness to compete and refusal to give up that got the fans on his side against The Deadman. While he lost the match, he came out a much bigger star after the match, especially after The Undertaker showed him respect after trying to stand on his own following the punishment he took.
It also played host to one of the greatest commentary calls in WWE history, by none other than “Good Ol’ Jr” Jim Ross.
Climb the ladder kid! Make yourself famous!Jim Ross during Jeff Hardy vs The Undertaker
Soon after, Jeff Hardy won the European Championship from William Regal (despite being American), and would be the last proper champion in the belt’s history. A few weeks later, he would lose the belt in a unification match as Rob Van Dam absorbed the title into his own Intercontinental Championship, ending it’s lineage completely.
He also won the Hardcore Championship before it was retired, and despite a brief heel turn that lasted barely a month, he remained one of the most popular wrestlers on the roster.
This is what made firing Jeff Hardy in 2003 such a hard thing for the WWE to do.
Jeff Hardy Was Fired By WWE In 2003
The WWE were forced to fire Jeff Hardy on April 22nd, 2003, just weeks after WrestleMania X9. His behavior had become erratic, with his drug and alcohol addiction clearly taking its toll on the young WWE Superstar.
His work began to suffer, with both fans and management noticing a significant drop in his match quality. Not only did his ring work suffer, but he even missed out on entire matches – no-showing events is one of the worst things a wrestler can do, and he did it multiple times during this time.
WWE clearly put a lock of work into trying to make Jeff Hardy their next big star. After Steve Austin left the company after WrestleMania X9 (retiring from wrestling for good, outside of a return match in 2022) and The Rock went part-time to supplement his blossoming Hollywood career, Vince McMahon was doing all he could to try and build new stars for the future to replace them.
Hardy joined the likes of Edge, John Cena, Batista and Randy Orton as the stars booked to, potentially, be the “next face of WWE”, so when Hardy’s behavior turned it was like a slap in the face for all management had done for him.
Jeff Hardy failed a drug test in April 2003 and was released by the WWE – fired in all but name. According to WWE (with the incorrect date of his termination), “After refusing to go into drug rehabilitation, Hardy was released from WWE in May 2003”. They also called his drug issues a “poisonous drug addiction”, in the article talking about his 2006 return to the company.
While he did reject the WWE’s offer of going to rehab, this was not out of spite. Jeff Hardy revealed in an interview with WWE.com that he did not require rehab, and he simply “didn’t care to wrestle anymore” – turning to drugs to fill a void inside of him that once held his love for pro wrestling.
“I didn’t need [rehab]. When I was released from WWE, it wasn’t just about demons or demonic metaphors that relate to drug use. I failed numerous drug tests because I just didn’t care…didn’t care to wrestle anymore.”
“A sense of me believes that it might have just been a way out [of wrestling]. That’s in the past, and that’s forgotten about. I’m in a positive place now…and that’s what motivates me.”
His sacking left a big whole in the upper-midcard scene in the WWE. Jeff Hardy had left the company after a match The Rock on the April 7, 2003 episode of Monday Night Raw. The Rock won that match, but just being competitive with The Great One at this time in his career was an honor to any young star.
Jeff Hardy vs The Rock was the last time that The People’s Champion would wrestle on Monday Night Raw. He wrestled twice more in the following year (vs Goldberg at Backlash, and against Evolution at WrestleMania XX) before going full-time in Hollywood – he would not return to wrestle against until 2011, while Jeff Hardy only spent three years away from the company.
After a stint with ROH and TNA, The Rainbow Haired Warrior decided that he was ready to return to the WWE. Jeff Hardy returned from being fired just three years later, confronting WWE Champion Edge on the August 21 episode of Raw. While WWE were wary to push him as hard and as fast as they had, he quickly showed them he was back to his best, and an Intercontinental Championship reign (won from Johnny Nitro soon followed).
Over the next few years, Jeff Hardy blossomed into one of the top stars in the WWE. He even outsold John Cena in merchandise sales for a time, his T-shirts and arm sleeves being seen on every child in every arena the WWE visited.
He won both the WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Championships, engaging in incredible feuds with stars like Triple H, Edge, Matt Hardy and CM Punk before leaving the company – arguably in his prime – after his 2009 rivalry with Punk came to an end.
Why Did Jeff Hardy Leave WWE In 2009?
Jeff Hardy left WWE after losing a “Loser Leaves WWE” Steel Cage Match against CM Punk, in his bid to regain the World Heavyweight Championship.
This came at the end of a heated feud between the two world champions, dealing with CM Punk‘s straight-edge lifestyle and the drug and alcohol issues that have plagued Jeff Hardy for his entire career. It was one of the best feuds of the year, and began with CM Punk cashing in his Money in the Bank contract on Hardy, soon after he became champion.
Most “loser leave town” matches in WWE are used for storyline purposes. Sometimes they are used to give a wrestler some time off, maybe due to burn out. Other times it’s used for them to switch brands, as their time on Raw and Smackdown may have come to an end. There are many reasons to book the match and most of the time, the losing party comes back soon after, maybe even with a change of gimmick.
However, this was real for Jeff Hardy.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.