From 'Rainbow-haired' to red with rage

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January 06, 2008

Jeff Hardy's match with Randy Orton at Royal Rumble is no longer about just winning his first WWE Championship. Thanks to the self-proclaimed "one-man dynasty's" brutal attack on Jeff's brother Matt, this showdown is now also about his family's honor and spilling the WWE Champion's blood.

Orton made his rivalry with Jeff personal last week when he kicked a visiting Matt Hardy, who has been out of action since his emergency appendectomy in November. The Legend Killer first attacked Matt by booting him in the stomach, and then punted him in the skull for all the world -- and especially Jeff -- to see. Jeff, who was in a match with Santino Marella at the time, frantically raced to the locker room as our fans in the Greensboro Coliseum gasped. By the time he got to the locker room, he could only look on helplessly as officials tended to an unconscious, facedown Matt. Orton, meanwhile, had already slithered away. (Watch the attack)

Jeff paced back and forth, his hands cupped behind his head as he gritted his teeth. The hollow echo of slamming metal reverberated in the halls of the arena as the usually laid-back Intercontinental Champion kicked and slammed a string of lockers. He refused to give comment to WWE.com as he accompanied Matt when he received further medical treatment. Jeff has remained silent on his state of mind since the attack, as sources close to him say he has spent a lot of time in the past week holed up in his studio, devoting himself to his art -- his passion outside the squared circle. Some suspect he is merely seeking an outlet for his rage in his paintings; others told WWE.com that Jeff is stewing.

And who could really blame him? What must have been going through Jeff's head as he saw Orton hold up an unconscious Matt by his hair and then see -- and hear -- the sickening smack of Orton's boot against his skull? Matt is not only Jeff's brother, but his best friend. They have shared a passion for the squared circle since they were boys, honing their awe-inspiring daredevil maneuvers. The Hardys bonded as they watched their heroes on TV, made their own ring attire and championship titles, dreaming of one day competing and being champions in WWE.

All these images flood Jeff's mind when he thinks of his brother. He and Matt have realized their dream, first as a team, winning the World Tag Team Championships together, and then rooting each other on as they pursued their individual title inspirations. Jeff knows his older brother will always be there for him -- that's why Matt was in the coliseum last Monday to show him support, as always.

But Orton, ever the cold-blooded sadist, ruined Jeff's night -- in his own hometown -- and turned it into a family affair, perhaps by design. The Legend Killer has made attacking his opponents' family his favorite pastime -- just ask Dusty and Cody Rhodes and John Cena. (Relive Orton's personal attacks)

After watching Orton brutalize his father, Cody wanted a piece of him -- but then Interim Raw GM Jonathan Coachman intervened. Maybe Cody should thank Coach because Orton may have ended his young career before it really started. And some critics suspect Orton's attack on Cena's dad left the former champ so blind with rage that it left him vulnerable -- and led to his WWE Title reign-ending injury.

So, Randy Orton may believe that he has taken out an insurance policy for his WWE Championship by attacking Matt Hardy. He may love seeing the "Rainbow-haired Warrior" whipped into a red-hot frenzy, no longer hyper-focused on the WWE Title. But perhaps Orton better beware. Orton may have unearthed a side of Jeff Hardy that he doesn't really want to see -- and signed his championship reign's death warrant at Royal Rumble.

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