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Ready for a Samoan Goliath
You wouldn't think that Jeff Hardy, world-renowned for his death-defying leaps of faith in the ring, would fear anything in the squared circle. But he admits that one rival has given him nightmares.
Jeff winces whenever he relives his encounters with this WWE Superstar. He recalls this savage's primeval yell and the way he extended his thumb before he spiked him in the throat when he won the Intercontinental Championship last February.
Jeff suffered a similar fate in subsequent wars with the Samoan Bulldozer. But this Sunday at The Great American Bash, he has the opportunity to confront and exorcise his 348 pound demon by winning the Intercontinental Championship.
"Every time I'm in the ring with him, it's like I'm in a bad dream," Jeff admitted. "It's like I'm in a nightmare -- he's a monster, and you just got to do your best to survive. Hopefully, that's what I'll do at The Bash, and win the Intercontinental Championship for a fourth time."
The native of Cameron, N.C., is heartened by the fact that some Superstars have exposed rare chinks in the Samoan Bulldozer's armor in recent months. Bobby Lashley was able to topple Umaga at WrestleMania 23 in the Battle of the Billionaires. And in perhaps the greatest upset this year, the then-unknown Santino Marella came out of the crowd in Italy and pinned the monster's shoulders to the mat -- with a big assist from Lashley.
Jeff knows he probably won't have that kind of help in his corner this Sunday when he stands across the ring from Umaga. But after surviving previous battles and closely watching Umaga over the past few months, he believes he has figured out a way to snag the Intercontinental Championship out of the jaws of the Samoan Bulldozer.
"I know Umaga better than I ever have before in the ring," said the master of the Swanton Bomb. "There are a few things I think I can do differently to counter some of his devastating tactics. I'm going to try to use everything I have in me to make it work."
Jeff refused to reveal the specifics of his new strategy against Umaga. He believes that the monstrous champion is not really the savage beast that wreaks havoc in WWE rings worldwide. Umaga apparently understands the prestige of the Intercontinental Championship and showed particular sadistic glee when he decimated Santino Marella to reclaim the gold and turn back his challenge in a rematch.
When approached by WWE.com about his upcoming match with Jeff Hardy, Umaga screamed and chased our reporter away. The Samoan Bulldozer held his championship with his teeth and swung it like a lasso as his eyes fell into a vacant stare.
Jeff is well aware of the challenge ahead of him -- it has haunted him in his dreams for months. But fear also fuels this daredevil; it's part of his lifeblood.
"It's always excited me to a certain extent being the David against the Goliath," he said. "I've had success against bigger guys. There's an old saying, ‘The bigger they are, the harder they fall.' The challenge is you gotta make them fall."