The agony before the thrill
The pain that was etched across Jeff Hardy's face last Monday on Raw was like an X-ray that revealed the anguish in his heart. In the 24 hours that had passed since he came up short in his attempt to take the WWE Championship from Randy Orton, he replayed the key moment in the match over and over again.
With the raucous, sold-out Madison Square Garden behind him at Royal Rumble, Hardy had Orton reeling. Our fans -- and the Intercontinental Champion -- could sense history was in the making. Hardy could feel the WWE Championship within his grasp as he prepared Orton for a Twist of Fate. But in an instant, the Legend Killer turned Hardy's Twist of Fate into a reversal of fortune. In mere seconds, Orton dimmed Hardy's championship dreams with an RKO.
It was a difficult pill for Hardy to swallow. After coming so close to realizing his lifelong dream, it would have been easy to accept his setback at Royal Rumble. After all, he already holds one of the most prestigious titles in WWE, the Intercontinental Championship. But don't expect Hardy to abandon his hunt for sports-entertainment's top prize. (WATCH)
"I was so close to becoming the WWE Champion. I guess you can say I'm sort of at a crossroads right now," Hardy said. "I could give up and be satisfied with where I'm at. Or I can do everything in my power to get back to where I was. So, at No Way Out, I can win the Elimination Chamber, and come WrestleMania, become the new WWE Champion. The Royal Rumble was not the end of the road for Jeff Hardy; it was only the beginning."
The HBK Parallel
Hardy's words are undoubtedly music to his fans'ears. But his path to WWE gold will not be easy. He must first go through five other very hungry Superstars -- Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Umaga, JBL and Chris Jericho -- in the Elimination Chamber at No Way Out on Feb. 17. This will be Hardy's first experience in the Chamber, the most ominous, unforgiving structure in WWE history. The Elimination Chamber is both friend and foe to its participants -- it can be used as a weapon, but is world-renowned for mangling bodies and shortening careers.
If Hardy needs any inspiration for his World Title dreams, he can look at the career of one of his opponents at No Way Out, Shawn Michaels.
Like HBK, Hardy first made his impact in sports-entertainment as a revolutionary tag team specialist. They have both held the Intercontinental Championship on multiple occasions. And like Hardy, Michaels came up short the first time he challenged for the WWE Championship on a big stage. In fact, he failed a few times before he became the legend that he is today.
In the 1992 Survivor Series, HBK pushed WWE Champion Bret "Hit Man" Hart to the limit only to lose via submission to The Sharpshooter. He challenged Diesel for the WWE Championship in 1995 at WrestleMania XI, but was ultimately overpowered. However, HBK persevered and realized his dream when he finally won the gold from Hart at WrestleMania XII.
So, maybe Hardy should keep this old saying in mind as he continues to pursue the WWE Championship: If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. It has worked for other Superstars, especially a certain Showstopper. And who knows? Maybe Royal Rumble was just one of the first chapters in the growing legend of Jeff Hardy.