Freddie Prinze Jr. discussed the politics of Jeff Hardy winning the WWE Title at Armageddon 2008 during this week’s Wrestling With Freddie episode.
“All the top dogs knew this (Jeff Hardy winning the title) is where the story is going. Vince knows this. Kevin Dunn knows this, Bruce Prichard, of course Freebird (Michael Hayes), as it’s his idea. I don’t believe the agents know until the moment that we’re about to speak of and Hunter for sure knows and Stephanie for sure knows,” Prinze recalled.
“We get in there and I believe it’s Armageddon was the name of the pay per view, and we sit down, and Michael makes his pitch for the match with the finish with Hardy going over for the championship. Nobody says anything and it’s super quiet. Vince goes ‘Does anybody have any thoughts?’ A couple of the agents speak up and they’re pro Jeff. He’s been working hard. We even did an angle,” Freddie continued.
“I get mad at the way the media treats wrestling. I just always hated it so we even pulled one on them where we took that Jeff storyline of him being this screw up that the WWE had, and we leaked a story that wasn’t even true with Jeff’s permission to like CNN or somebody and they bought it. So if CNN hears this, ha, got you suckers. Deal with that. It wasn’t even true and it was going to help us hide Jeff so that he could be this like surprise entrance and make this match like a triple threat I think is how the story was going to go. But yeah, they ran with that story and we got to burn them on it later, and Vince liked that we got to give them the middle finger because the media has never been good to the WWE or WWF.”
Freddie brought up how longtime WWE director Kevin Dunn didn’t want Jeff to be WWE Champion.
“I remember specifically Kevin Dunn did not want Jeff to be champion,” Freddie said. “He kind of shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘You gotta be kidding me with this.’ Vince didn’t say anything. He regards the opinion. He hears some other agents speak up and they say good things. I remember Arn Anderson said good things. Prichard hasn’t said anything yet. And then Hunter speaks up and goes, ‘Are we seriously going to fu**ing trust this guy?’”
“That was like a sniper bullet taking you out at the leg, an honest bullet, but a bullet just the same. I was nervous that someone might say it, because they would be right. But I believed the story we were telling or we’re trying to tell was worth the risk. I genuinely did. I thought we were telling an honest, interesting wrestling story and I don’t think that’s the easiest thing in the world to do. I don’t think you can just stick it on anyone. I think it has to fit the talent and this story fits.”
“So I’ve been preparing the whole time and Hayes was gonna let me take any more bullets for sure because he brought these guys in. He fought for the Hardys more times than anyone in the company. He knew the foundation we were standing on better than anyone. I knew that’s why he put it on me because I was smelling good to the boss at the time,” Freddie said.
Freddie knew at this point the only person who could shut down the idea was Vince McMahon.
“The only one who could really smash on me was Vince because anybody else I could speak to, on at least an equal playing field, maybe not as far as like wrestling knowledge but as far as like confidence and what I knew I brought to the table and the fact that I could walk away. So those are my only cards.”
“So I started pitching why this is a good idea. I’m telling ‘This is an honest story. We’ve done nothing but tell the truth. If he has a relapse, if he goes down again, you take the title off him. You’ve taken it off him before for stuff like that, on smaller belts. We’ve taken it off other people in a day. We can pull this off.’ I’m giving him this passion plea. It’s about five minutes long, and then Hunter starts shooting it down again.”
“I don’t want it to be a fight, I don’t want it to be an argument, and I don’t want to have enemies in the company, but I don’t want this whole story that we built up to let the fans of Jeff Hardy down again, and it’s my idea. There’s some pride and there’s some ego there that I believe is worthy of this brass ring, so to speak, right?”
“So we’re having our creative argument back and forth. Hunter starts challenging the merits of the story. But that’s hard for him to do, because I had this thing plotted out. So I got an answer for him at every stop. Then he brings up the reliability again. I’m kind of out of options. So I just hit him with, ‘Look, as unreliable as this dude has been, he’s the number one selling merch guy that we have in the company’, and I threw out his numbers from whatever week I saw. I said, ‘That’s off those armbands and his T-shirts. These fans believe in him more than any other wrestler in the company, and that includes you’, which I shouldn’t have said, but I did.”
“I wanted Jeff to go over in this friggin’ match. It gets kind of quiet. I’m looking at Vince and I said, ‘We came all this way. If we don’t make him champ now, we’re never going to do it, and if he screws up, it’s on me.’ Vince kind of sat there for a moment. Then he says, ‘All right. Everybody get out.’ and everybody means everybody except Bruce, Kevin and Hunter, so that means I have to go.”
“We’re all waiting outside. We want to know the answer. The production meeting on this day was on the same floor as the VIP cafeteria, so there’s this empty cafeteria behind us with a lot of free space. We’re sitting there and I’m looking at Freebird and I said, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘I don’t know. You know, you did your best.’ He’s like trying to prep me for failure. So now I’m like, shoot man, it’s just not gonna happen. Like, is it seriously gonna get killed right now? And listen, again, Hunter was proven right. At the end of the day, I mean, Jeff got in trouble. I think less than a year after this happened. They gave him the other belt, the other championship and then he got in trouble, and then got in bigger trouble and had to leave the company for a while. So at the end of the day, he was right.”
“All of a sudden, the door swings open and only Hunter comes out. He doesn’t even look at me. He walks by. So this now means two things. One, this dude doesn’t like me anymore, and is probably going to work against me now, which is what happened, and two, Jeff is going to be the World Heavyweight Champion, which is the whole point of this in the first place. So I’m willing to take these bullets, and I’m willing to get this story through so he can be the champion. I watched the match from like the back, like a side entrance. Hunter is not involved in the finish, because he did not believe in the idea and I respect that. We got that storyline through.”
H/T to WrestlingNews.co for the transcription