Jeff Hardy showed back up at the Performance Center last night (May 29) to ensure Daniel Bryan defeated Sheamus to advance to the Intercontinental Championship Tournament final on June 12. Given that was less than two hours after SmackDown opened with Hardy’s “arrest” for suspicion of drunk driving and hitting Elias with his rental car, it was clear he was no longer in police custody.
But lest you think the Charismatic Enigma escaped from jail or something, WWE wants to make sure you know he was legally released. And not on bail or pending charges or anything... Jeff’s free and clear.
“WWE Digital has learned Jeff Hardy was released from custody by the Orlando police after successfully passing the required sobriety tests, therefore absolving Hardy of the charges of public intoxication, driving under the influence, and the hit-and-run on Elias earlier tonight.”
We’ll see where the angle goes from here. WWE definitely wanted us to think Sheamus was behind it. This certainly would be a good time for a justice-seeking agent with eyes everywhere to make their presence felt... luckily, SmackDown has one of those.
There’s been a fair amount of discussion about whether it was tasteless or inappropriate of WWE to use Hardy’s real-life struggle with addiction as part of this. “Taste” is subjective, so I can’t tell anyone how to react. I will say, as a recovering addict who works with people who are trying to get clean & sober as part of my own ongoing treatment, I was not offended.
If you believe pro wrestling is an art form - and I do - then it should be able to tell stories about every slice of life and aspect of the human condition. One of the most compelling aspects of wrestling stories is the blending and blurring of performer and character. Addiction angles should be on the table, and it makes sense that an addict would be involved.
Now, this may be a crappy addiction angle, and that would offend me. As long as the moral of the story isn’t alcoholics are weak people who can’t change or something, I can’t imagine I’m going to be outraged by it, though.
Maybe it leads to Jeff cutting a promo about how important his sobriety is to him, how it’s given him back his family’s love & his daughters’ respect, and how he won’t let anything threaten it. It would be a pulpy, entry-level look at recovery. But maybe one that reaches some people living with addiction.
Given WWE’s track record, I’m not terribly optimistic. The focus could go right back to a traditional good vs. evil story, with last night’s opening scene just existing to generate some buzz. My opinion, and anger-level, will change accordingly.
They seem to have invested quite a bit in telling Hardy’s redemption tale, and having just experienced an in-patient rehabilitation program for the first time, Jeff sounds more like someone who “gets it” than he ever has before. I’m willing to give all involved a chance to make the Charismatic Enigma a recovering addict babyface main eventer.
If you’re not, well, at least he’s been “absolved”.