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'Fresh' vs. 'experience'
On Raw, The World's Greatest Tag Team challenged The Hardys to their World Tag Team Championship at One Night Stand. Stepping up in response, Matt & Jeff Hardy not only agreed to Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin's challenge, but declared they will literally put the titles up for grabs Sunday night — high above the ring, in a Ladder Match.
Has The World's Greatest Tag Team committed a serious strategic misstep? Ladder Matches are almost universally regarded as a Team Extreme specialty, and coming up short in such contests can mean a dangerously long way down those ladder rungs. Regardless, a focused Haas & Benjamin told WWE.com after Raw that they'll be ready at One Night Stand.
"It figures that The Hardys would pick that type of match, to hope that they could find a weakness in The World's Greatest Tag Team," Haas said. "Evidently, they can't do it on the mat or in the air against Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin. Shelton and I are up for the challenge. We want that match. We're going to prove why Team Extreme is no match for The World's Greatest Tag Team."
"There is no match, no style, no opponent that The World's Greatest Tag Team cannot adapt to," Benjamin added. "We want to face The Hardys and beat them at their own game."
Jeff Hardy, who has spent a perilously large portion of his WWE career diving off the tops of ladders, is convinced that Haas & Benjamin stand no chance of knocking him or brother Matt off the top of the World Tag Team division come One Night Stand. "When it comes to Ladder Matches, that is our comfort zone," he said. "In competing and wrestling in general, when it comes to ladders…man, we're good to go."
Matt, who verbally included the ladder stipulation for their upcoming title defense, is also confident, but realizes that he and Jeff have an extremely tough climb ahead of them Sunday night. "I don't want to sell The World's Greatest Tag Team short. Both Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin are amazing athletes. They were both great collegiate and amateur wrestlers, and they're great professional wrestlers. Of course they stand a chance against Matt & Jeff Hardy; that's just how it is. But the fact is, it's like my motto says: ‘The Hardys will not die.' It's gonna take a hell of a fight to beat us…especially when the World Tag Team Titles are on the line."
Locker-room insiders consider Matt's approach toward The World Greatest Tag Team a tad more cautious than his brother's, though also more accurate. According to one source, Haas & Benjamin — who together shared the WWE Tag Team Championship on two occasions — are more than a little hot over Jeff's suggestion that they'll be out of their element in a Ladder Match. Benjamin's near-hostile reply to the speculation confirms it.
"There is no ‘out of our element' for me or Charlie. The Hardys have done great things in Ladder Matches, and they've been absolutely phenomenal. I've watched them, I've seen them and I'm impressed by them. Do they intimidate or scare me? Does it make me more apprehensive when I'm in a match with them? Of course not. I thrive on competition. The World's Greatest Tag Team thrives on competition. And we would like nothing more than to take those ladders and shove 'em down their throats."
Haas, meanwhile, points out an easily overlooked fact that may work to his and Benjamin's advantage: When Matt & Jeff aren't competing as World Tag Team Champions, the brothers focus on singles competition within their respective brands.
"I don't know if they're working as tight a unit as The World's Greatest Tag Team," he suggested. "I'm also not sure if they're going to really be able to rely on each other's durability; both have had tremendous injuries over the years, in singles and tag competition, for this type of match. Shelton and I are going in there fresh, so it looks like it's in our favor."
Going into a Ladder Match "fresh" is an interesting take, to say the least — and excludes what could be an overstated "experience factor" pointing heavily toward The Hardys' corner. Ladder-related injuries have claimed many a Superstar, regardless of whether or not they were even climbing the rungs. Or have we already forgotten the horrific facial disfigurement that took place at Armageddon last December, or Jeff's 20-foot drop that broke a ladder—and nearly Edge—in half during WrestleMania 23's Money in the Bank Ladder Match? Haas hasn't, and he wasn't even involved in either contest. But he also knows that the high-risk potential of shortening his career won't deter him at One Night Stand.
"If I worried about getting injured, where would I be?" he asked. "Do I get up in the morning and worry that when I'm crossing the street I'll get hit by a car? No. What's on my mind is what's hanging above that ring, and that's the World Tag Team Championship. I don't care what it takes — if I get busted open, if I break a leg, break a neck — as long as we achieve that goal, as long as we are victorious, then it's all worth it."
The Hardys have become ring legends before their time based on a similar "whatever-it-takes" philosophy. On occasion, however, fellow WWE Superstars and broadcasters have questioned Team Extreme's underlying motives for putting their bodies on the line with high-risk maneuvers; does their passion to entertain our fans sometimes override their desire to win? If one returns to Jeff's decision to dive off the ladder at WrestleMania 23, they'll also remember that he was perfectly positioned to reach for the briefcase and earn himself the No. 1 contender spot for a future World Championship opportunity over the next year.
"I could have gotten that briefcase down and won Money in the Bank, so I regret that," Jeff admitted. "At the same time, I knew getting the briefcase down wouldn't have been a show-stealer, and I had previously promised that I would steal the show. Sometimes it's about living for that moment and creating that memory."
"Every time Jeff and I wrestle, we want the crowd to look at the show and say, ‘That was the best match on the show,'" Matt explained. "But we really have our priorities set straight. We're not going to be distracted as far as trying to make the show better or ‘steal the show' by doing something amazing to spite us winning the match. We're going into this Ladder Match as the World Tag Team Champions, and we're planning on leaving One Night Stand as the World Tag Team Champions."