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RAW Magazine – January 2000

FLY BOYS
…through the air with the greatest of ease.
By Laura

In most careers there comes a defining moment, one that can either make — or break — a career. Whether it’s a business decision made behind a corporate desk or a touchdown pass in a bowl game, such moves can put a person on the page or sink ’em.

The world of sports-entertainment has seen an abundance of such moments — perhaps the most memorable being Mick Foley’s Hell in a Cell match against the Undertaker at PPV King of the Ring (June 1998). Mike Foley — Mankind — was already “over” as a Federation Superstar, but this match certainly took him “over the top.”

On October 17, 1999 at the PPV No Mercy, at the Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, four young athletes of the World Wrestling Federation competed in a ladder match in which the winners would receive $100,000 and the managerial services of Terri Runnels. This match not only raised the bar for ladder matches as a whole, but it was a match that Edge, Christian and the Hardy Boyz all agree had tremendous impact upon their careers.

“I feel that for all four of us that match was the defining moment of our career as of right now,” Matt Hardy said. “It’s the highest profile match we’ve been involved in, and it’s done more for all four of us than anything else has at this point.” This is especially true for the Hardy Boyz and Christian who, unlike Edge, have yet to hold a title.

However, this match was also very significant for the former Intercontinental champion. “I’ve definitely had some times and matches I felt were very important and turning points in my career,” Edge said. “The match with Owen at Breakdown in Hamilton, I felt that I proved what I can do, as I did the night I beat Jeff Jarrett for the Intercontinental title. But, I really think that when it comes to crowd reaction — when halfway through a match you have 20,000 people giving you a standing-O as you’re all lying on the mat — you kind of smile to yourself and say, ‘OK, yeah, we’re really doing something here.'”

These four young athletes amazed not just the crowd in the arena, but those watching from home as well. From their incredible, daring display of athleticism and acrobatics to the clear chemistry among them, one has to wonder how much preparation went into the match.

“Basically, we were all going to get together to go over [the match],” Christian explained. “But Edge got stuck in Florida, so he was unable to show up. This was on Friday before the Pay-Per-View. So we didn’t really go over anything, just placed the ladders in different positions and said, ‘What if we did this and what if we did that’ — just placing them in different positions. Then Sunday, the day of the show, we kind of put the stuff together in the afternoon.”

“The first time we actually went over any of it was in the match. For the big things, we went out before the show and got up on the ladder and got the feel for it and got the feel for tipping over the ladders and stuff like that. We really didn’t go out and rehearse the spots.”

Watching the Hardy Boyz, Edge and Christian fly off the ladders, performing high-risk moves, one may question if fear enters into the equation. From what all four said, it is before the match that fear — the most debilitating, and perhaps the most motivating emotion — takes hold. But, it dissipates once inside the squared circle.

Christian explains, “Since my very first match in the World Wrestling Federation — I debuted on a PPV and I was really nervous for that one — I guess [the fear] was about equal to that. It felt like my first match all over again. When the match was actually going I was fine; I was calm. But the anticipation was worse. Edge and I had to come down through the crowd, and we were in the storage room of a snack bar waiting for our music to play. I remember standing up there, pacing back and forth, and my mouth was dry and I kept trying to drink water to get rid of it, but my mouth just stayed dry the whole time! My legs were literally shaking — I was nervous. It was more anticipating of getting out there and doing it, than during the match.”

As Edge explains, “When you’re out there and you hear the crowd, your adrenaline is going so much that you don’t have any fear. Beforehand when you go out and actually climb the ladder, you say, ‘Wow, this is really high!’ You don’t realize how high they are until you actually get up there! But once out there, I didn’t think twice.”

The four knocked each other off and battered one another with both 8-foot ladders. At one point, Jeff Hardy did a leap-frog leg drop over the ladder, landing on Christian. At another, Matt did a moonsault off the top rope and onto the ladder, with Christian trapped beneath.

Perhaps most significant for all four men was the fan reaction. Never had any of them received such a pop from the fans, let alone a standing ovation. In fact, it was the fan reaction that was most meaningful. Each recognized that it was all about respect — respect from the fans for the 100% they were giving.

“It was an unbelievable feeling and [the pop] was like nothing I had ever heard before,” Christian said. “We wanted the match to start out slow and build, and kind of tease…I think we accomplished that pretty well. And then as the match moved along, the moves got bigger. The crowd was pretty quiet for the first four or five minutes, and then once we brought the ladders in and they started to pop it was unbelievable. It made me feel like the fans were saying, ‘That was awesome, what are these guys going to do next?’ That’s kind of what we were looking for.

“At the end of the match, it didn’t matter [to the fans] that we lost the match, didn’t matter that the Hardy Boyz won — they were applauding because we went out there and gave them everything both teams had. It was about respect…we went out there and worked our asses off and put on a good show. And I think they appreciated that and gave us a standing ovation. I think that was the most rewarding thing of the whole match.”

Edge said, “[The fan reaction] was a great adrenaline rush and made some of the pain we put ourselves through worthwhile because those ladders aren’t very forgiving! We all enjoy working with each other, and we’re all friends. So when you have that, you go in there and you don’t mind making your opponent look good, and they don’t mind making you look good — you’re all working together towards the same goal.”

For Jeff Hardy, the guy who won the match — the one who grabbed the bag of gold suspended above the squared circle — it wasn’t until after the match that it all hit him.

“It totally took me by surprise, that’s for sure,” Jeff said. “My breath was taken from me when I actually got the bag, so I was trying to concentrate on getting back to the celebration with Terri. When I got back there, I looked on the monitor and I saw what was really going on — the standing ovation — I couldn’t believe it. I was like WOW — there was no bad guy and there was no good guy. It was all about respect…it was just amazing. And then to come out the next night on RAW and the fans doing the same thing — it just gave me chills to be a part of something like that. I am a huge fan of ladder matches of the past — Shawn and Razor, The Rock and Triple H. It’s just great, man, to be a part of that.”

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