Jeff Hardy vs. Carlito for the Intercontinental Championship
The concept that was originally Taboo Tuesday and had now become Cyber Sunday was a pretty interesting one. Now fan participation was nothing new as it had been done on smaller scales, mainly used as a plot to help ratings for TV shows. But it was very unique to base a whole PPV on the idea of fan participation where they can vote for matches, stipulations, costumes, etc. Of all the different options that fans can vote for, I would go far to say that the favorite is picking the opponent for a Superstar, particularly a champion. It was always interesting to see who the choices for fans to pick from would be as it could potentially provide some very unique and fresh matches that we’d never seen. This is especially the case when your champion is a face and one of the choices of opponents is also a face as it seems the fans choose to have the face/face matchup most of the time.
Following Unforgiven, the feud between Jeff Hardy and Johnny Nitro continued as the next night on RAW, Nitro retained the IC Title in a six-man match involving Hardy. On the 10/2 RAW, Hardy would finally defeat Nitro to become the new IC Champion and the next week, Nitro would attack Hardy after a match with the Big Show. On the 10/23 RAW, it was announced that Hardy would defend the title against either Nitro, Shelton Benjamin, or Carlito based on the fan vote. Later that night, Benjamin would pin Carlito in a tag match that involved Hardy and Hardy would argue with Carlito after the match. On the 10/30 RAW six nights before the PPV, Carlito would defeat Benjamin and Nitro in a Triple Threat match to build momentum to the PPV with Hardy watching from ringside. Going into the PPV, you pretty much knew it would be a race between Carlito and Nitro as to who the fans would vote for, and it was sad for Benjamin since he was clearly the third man in this vote.
Hardy obviously gets a big pop from the crowd as we see the three potential challengers await the results, and its revealed that the winner is Carlito with a whopping 62% of the vote as Benjamin gets 25% and Nitro gets 13%. I was a little surprised that Benjamin finished ahead of Nitro, but I guess the fans just wanted to choose someone different since Nitro had several matches with Hardy and it comes as no surprise that Carlito won decisively. Carlito gets a good pop from the crowd as well though his didn’t come close to the one Hardy got. Carlito offers a handshake to start as the crowd chants “Hardy” and Hardy accepts the handshake, and then the two men lock up with Carlito going behind Hardy and he hits a snap mare for a two count. Hardy hits a drop toehold and transitions into a rollup for a two count as both men try to gain the upper hand, and Carlito hooks a backslide for a two count as the crowd applauds in approval. They lock up again with Hardy hooking a headlock and then he knocks Carlito down, but then Carlito attempts a leapfrog which gets botched as Hardy tried to catch him and he backs Carlito into the ropes. They have a standoff until Carlito hits a dropkick to Hardy’s knee and then he hits a back elbow on Hardy, and then he hits a suplex on Hardy for a two count only for Hardy to duck a shot and he hits a dropkick on Carlito. He pounds on Carlito and hits a clothesline for a two count and then he avoids a springboard moonsault before hitting a modified enzurgiri that sends Carlito to the outside, and then he hits a baseball slide on Carlito. Hardy goes outside and hops onto the barricade before running across it, but Carlito catches him with a dropkick and he throws Hardy back into the ring for a two count. These first few minutes have been pretty interesting as they had a little rough chemistry early on, but have picked it up a bit as they’ve traded momentum.
Carlito hooks a submission on Hardy and grinds down on him as the crowd chants for Hardy, and Hardy fights to his feet and rams Carlito into the corner before pounding on him. Carlito slumps to the mat and Hardy attempts the seated dropkick only for Carlito to catch him with boots to the ribs for a two count, and then Carlito rides Hardy on the mat with a submission. Hardy fights to his feet and breaks the hold before hitting a jawbreaker on Carlito, and he gets a kick in only for Carlito to escape a Twist of Fate attempt by sending Hardy into the corner. Carlito rolls Hardy up and holds the tights for a two count and then he goes for another pin and gets a two count, and he pounds on Hardy’s ribs before going back to the submission. This has been an interesting match so far in that both men are keeping it on the mat and working various holds instead of flying around, and JR and King mention it as well on commentary. Carlito grinds down on Hardy until Hardy reaches the rope and forces the break, and Carlito stomps on Hardy before hitting a snap mare and a legdrop on Hardy for a two count. Carlito again goes back to the submission on Hardy and he continues to grind down on Hardy, but Hardy fights to his feet and breaks the hold only for Carlito to reverse a whip into the corner. Hardy catches Carlito with a back elbow only for Carlito to hoists Hardy onto his shoulders and hit a flapjack for a two count, and then Carlito hits a backbreaker on Hardy for a two count before hooking another submission on. Hardy fights to his feet and breaks the hold before faking Carlito out and catching him with a back elbow, and then he counters a hiptoss and hits a DDT on Carlito. Hardy hits a clothesline and a back elbow on Carlito before hitting a sleeper slam for a two count, and then he kicks at Carlito before hitting a stiff front suplex for a two count. Hardy goes up top as the crowd pops only for Carlito to get his knees up on the Swanton attempt for a two count, and then Carlito hits a springboard senton and a springboard moonsault on Hardy for a two count as the action finally starts picking up after slowing down in the middle. Carlito attempts an inverted DDT only for Hardy to escape though Carlito gets a stiff punch in, but Hardy avoids the springboard crossbody only for Carlito to again counter the Twist of Fate by shoving Hardy into the corner only for Hardy to hit the Whisper in the Wind for a two count. Hardy stomps on Carlito and goes up top only for Carlito to nail him first and he goes up himself, but Hardy blocks a hurricanrana attempt and then he hits a stiff Swanton which gets the three and Hardy retains the title.
I thought the match itself was pretty good as both men worked hard and put on a solid affair, but considering who was involved it was a bit of a disappointment. Like I said earlier, it seemed like they were going a bit too fast early on and struggled with chemistry, but when they slowed things down the chemistry did get better considering Hardy didn’t know until then that he would face Carlito. However, the match ground to a halt in the middle when Carlito began relying too much on the submissions and ground holds. I don’t mind them building to the end when they start taking more risks, but I think the match slowed down too much in the middle and hurt the flow a bit. The ending definitely helped bump the grade when they picked up the pace and built to the finish, and I think there was no question that Hardy was retaining regardless of who he faced. The crowd was pretty hot for the beginning though they did die off a bit in the middle, but they got hot at the end and popped for Hardy when he won. Hardy retains the IC Title over a game Carlito thanks to the fans’ vote, and both men move on as Hardy resumes his feud with Nitro and Carlito goes in limbo.
Final Grade: ***