On This Day – July 1, 2002 – Jeff Hardy faced off against WWE‘s resident American badass for the WWE Undisputed Championship in a ladder match. While Hardy wouldn’t find himself holding championship gold by the end of the night, he would find himself with newfound respect from the fans and from the champion himself – The Undertaker. With WWE entering the Ruthless Aggression Era in 2002, Vince McMahon and Co. were set on allowing their matches to reflect this sentiment. Thus, the ladder match stipulation was introduced for this match. In honor of this historic moment, join us in recapping the build and setup for this contest.
At this point in Hardy’s young career, the future Charismatic Enigma was considered to be a tag-team-only performer. Alongside his brother – Matt Hardy – Jeff found difficulty in separating his career from that of his own sibling. By this time, Jeff had been a 5-time WWF World Tag Team Champion, a 3-time WWF Hardcore Champion, a WCW World Tag Team Champion, a WWF Intercontinental Champion, and a WWF Light Heavyweight Champion. Missing from this list of accolades, though, was a title that he would challenge for on this night – the WWE Undisputed Championship. However, his opponent was of a different caliber compared to the opponents Hardy had been used to facing.
The Undertaker, at this time, was in the midst of fleshing out his “American Badass” persona. As a 3-time WWE Undisputed Champion himself, Big Evil had become used to the main event lifestyle. At WWE Judgment Day 2002, The Undertaker defeated Hulk Hogan to become the new WWE Undisputed Champion. He would successfully defend his title against Rob Van Dam, Randy Orton, and Triple H over the next month. However, his biggest challenge would come tonight in a ladder match against Jeff Hardy.
A Quick Build
On this episode WWE Monday Night Raw, we get two segments hyping up this contest. First, we get a backstage segment with Jeff Hardy who is being interviewed about his upcoming contest. He talks about how a ladder match is different from any other match, and how he has been in a bunch of them – whereas, The Undertaker hasn’t been in a ladder match before. Hardy proceeds to climb the set backstage to prove that he can climb things. Wow, what an athlete, right? In the second segment, Vince McMahon informed The Undertaker that he would be facing off against The Rock at WWE Vengeance, whether he has the title or doesn’t by then. ‘Taker would not take too kindly to the allusion that he could lose his title to Hardy tonight. He tells McMahon that Hardy would not be able to stand by the end of the night. Let’s get into this contest!
Ladder Match for the WWE Undisputed Championship:
The Undertaker (c.) vs. Jeff Hardy
Prior to the match, Hardy – mid-entrance – would dropkick a ladder straight into Big Evil. This would lead to a diving crossbody to the outside of the ring, and the bell would ring. With the match underway, Hardy would go on the offensive. Somehow, this young superstar was capable of holding his own against The Undertaker from the early going. Eventually, ‘Taker sends Hardy flying off the apron into the announce table with a ladder shot. He’d set up the ladder in the middle of the ring and begin to climb. However, the American Badass wasn’t done with the former tag team champion just yet.
Bolting to the outside, The Undertaker would toss Hardy all around ringside. Jim Ross is going crazy on commentary, begging for someone to “save this man.” Bringing the match back into the ring, ‘Taker would continue to dominate. Hardy would mount a small comeback, but it would be very short-lived.
Hardy begins to gain more momentum and climbs up the ladder for the first time in the match. However, Undertaker would lift him off the ladder to attempt a Last Ride Powerbomb. Instead of hitting the maneuver, Hardy would reverse it into a hurricanrana to send ‘Taker outside the ring. The crowd is red-hot at this point. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler on commentary make this experience even better. Hardy climbs to the top of the ladder, but Undertaker makes his way inside the ring and strikes him with a chair before he can grab the title.
Eventually, Hardy gets to his feet and drops Taker with multiple nasty chair shots to the head. Hardy would proceed up the ladder, only to be stopped by The Deadman again. ‘Taker would proceed to climb to the top of the ladder and chokeslam Jeff Hardy to the canvas. That was an insane bump and one of my favorite spots of this match. In the finish, The Undertaker grabs his belt down from the top of the ladder to retain the WWE Undisputed Championship.
Match Result: The Undertaker (c.) defeated Jeff Hardy via Object Retrieval in 14:05.
Walker’s Star Rating: 4.25 Star Match
Overall, this match is one of the best Raw main events I have ever personally seen. From Hardy’s high-octane start to the insane bumps throughout this one – it is easy to see why this match sparked Jeff Hardy’s singles run.
After the match, Hardy would get back to his feet, leading to The Undertaker dropping him with the Last Ride Powerbomb post-match. ‘Taker would get back on his bike, only to drive backstage until…
“HEY! YOU HAVEN’T BROKE ME ‘TAKER! I’M STILL STANDING!”
Oh my God, Hardy is barely up but he is standing. ‘Taker storms down to ringside and props Hardy up. He raises Hardy’s hand as a show of respect – and just like that, Jeff Hardy is a made man.
An Intense Clash
Following this match, Hardy would soon find himself with championship gold around his waist. On the following episode of WWE Raw, Jeff Hardy would defeat William Regal to become the new WWE European Champion. He would only hold the belt until July 22, 2002, where he would lose the title to Rob Van Dam in the famous WWE Intercontinental Championship / WWE European Championship Unification Ladder Match.
The Undertaker would go on to drop the title to The Rock at WWE Vengeance 2002, leading to a feud with Test – which would conclude at WWE SummerSlam 2002 with ‘Taker winning.
Overall, this match was one of the greatest matches to grace the red brand – and it all went down On This Day.
Check out yesterday’s OTD here: June 30, 2021.