Induction: Triple H vs. Kozlov – Can’t Hardy Wait

26 Submitted by on Thu, 16 November 2017, 20:00

WWE, 2008

For long-time fans of WWE, Jeff Hardy’s journey through the ranks was one of the most inspirational in wrestling history.

After starting at the very bottom, debuting at age 16 as a last-minute replacement for an enhancement talent in 1994…

…the decided underdog Jeff toiled in obscurity before capturing the tag team titles with brother Matt in 1999…

…upsetting Triple H for the Intercontinental title in 2001…

…and nearly winning the WWE Undisputed Title in an even more monumental upset against the Undertaker in 2002.

Along the way, Jeff had setbacks in the form of drug abuse, suspensions, and a stint in TNA…

(Guess which one WWE wouldn’t acknowledge on TV)

…but in October 2008, Jeff Hardy came the closest he had ever been to winning the world title…

…losing by an eyelash to WWE champion Triple H.

The next month, he set out to finally make good on his lifelong dream by capturing the sport’s highest and most coveted prize, and wrestling fans in Boston and around the world would have the chance witness the long-awaited culmination of his career.

Instead, fans were subjected to the biggest Survivor Series disappointment since the Gobbledy Gooker.

The match was originally scheduled to pit Triple H against the charisma-bereft rookie Vladimir Kozlov…

…with Jeff Hardy locked out due to his recent lack of extremeness.

Once Jeff Hardy proved to Vickie Guerrero that he was just as Xtreme as he used to be…

…she added him to the match – which was a really good thing when you imagined not only how pumped fans would be to see Jeff Hardy win the title, but how godawful it would have been with just Hunter and Vladimir.

And if you couldn’t imagine how godawful that match would have been, you were in luck, as WWE would give it to you anyway…

…thanks to one of its most tasteless angles in years.

The morning of the pay-per-view, WWE.com announced that Jeff Hardy (who had a well-known history of drug abuse) had been found unconscious in the stairwell of his hotel, the obvious implication being that he had OD’ed.

Mainstream media outlets reported the story as if it were real, giving the company free publicity. All publicity is good publicity, or at least WWE was hoping so, as on the surface there is no publicity worse than having CBS News announce the near-fatal overdose of yet another WWE talent.

Of course, we would later learn that the “real” story was that Hardy had been attacked by an unknown assailant…

…but all we knew at the time was that his status for that night’s Triple Threat match was up in the air.

A very solemn JR and Tazz opened Survivor Series by basically bragging about how much press coverage the Hardy angle got, without specifying whether WWE would deliberately renege on its promise of a Jeff Hardy match, or whether they would be gracious enough to throw the fans a bone (a bone they paid $39.95 or more for).

Hours later, following an interview where the Russian challenger spoke in what WWE Network dubbed, “a foreign language”…

…JR and Tazz confirmed that Jeff Hardy, despite being perfectly healthy in real life, would not compete as advertised.

That left the WWE Title Match as a one-on-one encounter between challenger Vladimir Kozlov, the undefeated newcomer well-versed in the martial art of sambo…

…and Triple H, whose only sambo experience was that racist feud he had with Booker T.

It would be a pretty tough sell, so to drum up some last-minute hype for the new match, WWE played a promo package…

…which of course centered around Jeff Hardy…

…who, as you may recall, would not be in the match.

If you will, imagine that, after AJ Styles took Jinder Mahal’s place in the match against Brock Lesnar this Sunday at Survivor Series…

…WWE made up some BS storyline excuse at the last minute as to why AJ wouldn’t be on the card and why Jinder would wrestle Brock after all.

Needless to say, the anticipation was not exactly killing the crowd. What would kill the crowd was the match itself, not to mention the bait-and-switch angle that preceded it.

Kozlov started the match with a waistlock, from which Triple H escaped to apply a headlock. Barely a minute into the match, and the fans were already chanting, “Boring”…

…that is, when they weren’t chanting, “We want Hardy”. The announcers lamented that Hardy’s absence was beyond anyone’s control – except of course for WWE Creative, the people who abruptly and deliberately pulled Jeff from the match for the sake of a storyline.

Fans may have had their hearts set on a wild three-way brawl with lots of drama, thrilling stunts, and a Jeff Hardy title victory, but they would just have to settle for the exact opposite of all of that.

To soften the blow, Ross reminded the home audience that Triple H didn’t like to take chances.

After three solid minutes of the most basic of holds, Kozlov finally broke free to deliver the first “big” move of the match – a shove into the corner and an attempted headbutt that Triple H dodged, sending the Moscow Mauler very gradually into the turnbuckle.

Helmsley immediately put Kozlov in a wrist lock.

This match was so basic, 95% of it could be re-enacted in WWF Attitude for the Playstation without once pausing to check the moves list.

After a few more minutes highlighted by shoulder thrusts and punches, all executed at what JR generously called a “deliberate pace”, Triple H hit the first actual big move of the night, a spinebuster, to stem the “boring” chants. The bad news was, we were already halfway through the match.

The good news was, we were already halfway through the match.

Trips then attempted a Pedigree, which Kozlov escaped and countered with a headbutt to the chest before taking an unconvincing back bump. This doesn’t sound like anything special, but it was actually one of the highlights of the match…

…meaning that the production truck replayed it not once but twice as the “Boring” chants resumed.

Again, Hunter attempted in vain to pop the crowd, this time with his patented corner flip to the outside, drawing some oohs and aahs.

But then it was back to more shoulder thrusts and headbutts.

The fans began chanting, “USA”, finally buying into the whole America vs. Russia angle. No, scratch that; they actually began chanting, “TNA”.

Kozlov hit a running powerslam for a two count, but when that garnered zero reaction, he really kicked it into high gear with a waistlock.

He kept that waistlock on for a good minute before executing a body slam, a backbreaker, and another waistlock. JR assured the fans that the boring, boring action they were witnessing was simply part of Kozlov’s strategy.

“That is Kozlov’s style. He isn’t a high-flyer. He’s not going to take any unnecessary risks.” It wasn’t flashy or exciting, but what did fans expect to see when they ordered this pay-per-view? Triple H vs. Kozlov vs. Jeff Hardy?

Oh, right.

Another pin attempt by Kozlov failed to end the match, drawing boos from the crowd, who either really wanted Kozlov to win the title or were afraid he’d now have to apply yet another waistlock.

Kozlov then applied yet another waistlock as Tazz gushed about what great strategy it was.

Triple H finally managed to get to his feet and perform a Pedigree, but he failed to capitalize on it, instead staying on the mat with Kozlov to take a breather.

Maybe he was thinking back to that match with Booker T and assumed that the Pedigree would keep Kozlov down for another two or three minutes, but Triple H’s hesitation opened the door for Smackdown GM Vickie Guerrero to intervene.

Vickie proudly announced that the match would be a Triple Threat match after all.  And who would the third participant be? Balloons? A dinosaur? The Playmate of the Month?

A giant turkey?

How about Jeff Hardy, who the fans actually, you know, paid their money to see?

No, because that would be a waste of a perfectly good opportunity to avoid a false advertising suit.

So it was Edge. Or, more specifically, Bearded Edge, who, after being chokeslammed to hell by The Undertaker at Summerslam, had spent the intervening months felling timbers in the Pacific Northwest.

Some fans actually popped for Edge, because at least it meant the end of the 15-minute rest hold that WWE called a match currently unfolding in the ring.

Others resented Edge for coming in fresh against two men who had already expended nearly a dozen calories apiece.

But before Edge could pick up a cheap victory, in rushed Jeff Hardy, who looked barely the worse for wear, despite being deemed in no condition to perform by WWE’s medical staff.

Clearly, WWE and TNA are two very different places.

Jeff swung for the fences at Edge, only to hit Triple H with a chair by mistake.

Then he smashed Kozlov over the head, too. The only thing more jarring than the chair shots themselves was the fact that they were executed after June 2007.

Edge put an end to Jeff’s run-in with a spear…

…then pinned Triple H to win the title.

The story had a happy ending, though, as fans finally got to see Jeff win the big one a month later…

…provided they paid another $39.95 to order WWE Armageddon on pay-per-view.

Please watch your back this weekend, AJ.

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Written by

A wrestling fan ever since the days of Wrestlemania IX, Art graduated from college in the same building where Art Donovan called King of the Ring 1994. He also runs the “How Much Does This Guy Weigh?” blog, where he reviews New Generation-Era Monday Night Raws. Follow him on Twitter @Art0Donnell.

Email at: art@wrestlecrap.com

26 Responses to "Induction: Triple H vs. Kozlov – Can’t Hardy Wait"
  1. Chris V says:

    I didn’t pay money for this show, so my feelings would probably be different if I had to actually watch this match.
    I enjoyed reading the results as the show happened though, because Edge was my favourite wrestler at the time, and I thought it was great that Edge came back to take advantage and win the title.

  2. Sean (select) Bateman says:

    Art, do not mention the Gooker just yet. It’s not the end of the year yet. Also, nice r

  3. #OPC says:

    I don’t remember Edge coming out and winning here at all. I remember his Rumble win, and when he stole Kofi’s spot in the Elimination Chamber, but for some reason this one skips my memor

  4. Adam S says:

    I remember being disappointed that this was a show in Boston that I wasn’t going to.

    Then I remember watching the PPV and not being disappointed anymore…

  5. CF says:

    1) “Along the way, Jeff had setbacks in the form of drug abuse, suspensions, and a stint in TNA…”

    Subtle….

    2) “…and Triple H, whose only sambo experience was that racist feud he had with Booker T.”

    If that crack were any more savage, it would have a Slim Jim endorsement deal.

    3) ‘…that is, when they weren’t chanting, “We want Hardy”. ‘

    The Modern Era’s “WE WANT FLAIR”?

  6. Si says:

    Given WWE just recently rewrote their own kayfabe (Shane being badly injured in the HIAC fall) because one mainstream outlet reported it as real, it still seems bizarre that not much more than a year after Benoit and Signature Pharmacy they ran an kayfabe OD storyline just to get their name in the press.

  7. Jimbolian says:

    That is one game I’m dying to see get inducted: WWF Attitude for PS1/N64. That game has aged QUITE terribly. Just like most things WWF in 1999, this was crap that was overlooked at that time until now.

    • Jerm says:

      Aged terribly? That game was garbage at release.

    • Art0Donnell says:

      My brothers and I played it all day the summer it first came out. I didn’t realize anything was amiss with the game until Smackdown came out for Playstation the next spring. When I tried playing Attitude again, I discovered the awful truth.

      It’s a shame, because the match options were insane. I always say that Attitude was the best wrestling game ever, except for the gameplay.

      Fun fact: Matt and Jeff Hardy did the motion capture.

      • The Doctor of Style says:

        Stable Match was the best! (For those of you who never played Attitude, 4 teams of 4 each sent in a wrestler, and when s/he was eliminated, they’d send in their next member.)

        I think No Mercy had that, but I don’t understand why the Smackdown/2K games have never had one all these years.

        • CP says:

          No Mercy didn’t have that.

          I’m trying to remember what the mode was called but there was a match that was basically the Royal Rumble except you could be pinned, submitted, or KOed in addition to being tossed. Each elimination earned you cash, with more paid for pins and submissions, and anyone could enter the match including unlockables. If they did and you eliminated them, you unlocked them without having to buy in Smackdown Mall.

  8. John says:

    You forgot to mention that Jeff & his brother Matt were the jester door men at King of the Ring 1995.

  9. Zeke says:

    “and Triple H, whose only sambo experience was that racist feud he had with Booker T.”

    I spat out my drink at this line. Great induction as always, this was some pretty underhanded bollocks from WWE.

  10. Andre Reichenbacher says:

    I *always* hated Vladimir Koslov. And here’s why:

    He never smiled, he always scowled.
    He had no charisma or personality and was one of the worst promo/interviews in the business.
    He wrestled in white trunks, making it look like he was wearing underpants.
    He had had an *extremely* boring and uninteresting in-ring style.
    The year he got a major push (don’t ask me why) he wasn’t at Wrestlemania, which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he hadn’t gotten over.

    And after that they turned him into a complete joke. He started wearing red, doing segments with Santino Marella, smiling like an idiot, and was released soon afterwards. And WWE was better off because of it.

    I hate it when undeserving people get pushes in wrestling only because of their look or because they are buddies with the bookers. I always have and I always will. Koslov sucked ass!

    • Guest says:

      I can think of at least 5 other wrestlers besides Kozlov that got pushes that were undeserved….incidentally at least one of those would be Santino the other four?

      – Sting culminating in that 2015 NOC match which was his second and last
      – Brock Lesnar in 2016 (no Brock’s first stint with the universal title wasn’t fun either)
      – Dean Ambrose’s U.S. title run
      – Sheamus’s MITB win to Universal title run.
      – Goldberg’s two-month stint as universal champion which necessitated taking the title off of Owens just to hype up the Wrestlemania rematch with Lesnar that NO ONE ASKED FOR.

    • C Boz says:

      Though I might get some heat for this, other than the ring wear I have the same opinion of Randy Orton. The epitome of boring to me. Still better than singles-era Bobby Eaton (I said singles! The Bluebloods rule).

  11. Hulk6785 says:

    Not only did fans have to pay another $40 to see Jeff Hardy win the WWE Title just a month later, but they also had to pay another $40 two months later to see Jeff lose the title back to Edge at the 2009 Royal Rumble.

    • Lee W. says:

      To which I can’t say that I wasn’t particularly disappointed that I had to wait another 3.5 years before we got cable TV again after we got rid of it in 2002

  12. Ben Scott says:

    I was going to say this might be a bit weak for a WrestleCrap induction… Until you reminded me that Jeff came out anyway. I remember that pissing me off to no end.

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