After 3 days of trying and almost giving up literally 3 hours ago, I finally found a way to get it working.
*Step-by-step instructions below:
*if an option is listed and it is not detailed below, do NOT use it unless you know what you're doing. The below worked for me after many, many failed attempts
1. Download nvidia-geforce-graphics-driver-lite-472.12-win8-win7-64bit-standard-28-09-2021 from PureSoft apps - https://puresoftapps-nvidia.blogspot.com/2021/09/nvidia-geforce-graphics-driver-47212.html - more drivers available to suit your needs
2. Download NVCLEANinstall - https://www.techpowerup.com/download/techpowerup-nvcleanstall/
3. Run the drivers downloaded from step 1
4. Do NOT try to install those drivers when prompted by the setup
5. Run NCLEANinstall
6. Select "Use driver files on disk"
7. Click on "Browse"
8. Select "setup.exe" from the folder generated in step 3
9. Click on "Next"
10. A list of components to install will be shown. Select "HD Audio via HDMI" and anything else you might like. I chose HVENC and HvFBC also.
Do NOT select PhysX. It will cause the installer to fail. You can download and install PhysX separately
11. Click on "Next"
12. Select "Add hardware support"
13. From the "Template" list, search the for the start of your DEV. In my case, it was "1ED0" which matches with "RTX 2080 with Max-Q design". For compatibility's sake, for being fed up with the hoops I'm made to jump through and for being tired, I chose that one.
14. Right below the "Template" drop-down list, there is an option called "Id" and next to it is a greyed-out option called "Installed: DEV_****". It will be YOUR card's device ID
15. Even though it is greyed out, click on "DEV_****"
16. Click on "Name" and put a name for the card as it will show up in Device Manager with this name. Mine was "burn in hell nvidia - driver"
17. Leave the "Rebuild digital signature" checkbox alone.
18. Click on "Next"
19. Use the "Show in folder" option to copy the new driver setup to a folder of your choice; Also, use the "Build package" option to create an .exe installer for this custom driver.
20. Install your creation.
21. Click on "Install anyway" in case any prompt shows up. Reboot when prompted.
22. Google: "Physx download" and....download and install PhysX
23. Grab two drinks: one is to nurse the headache, the other is to celebrate this small victory.
Have steps to install Windows 7 in UEFI mode on modern systems and/or to multiboot Win10/8.1/7 if anyone's interested also.
Hope the steps above help. Cheers!