WWE news: It's 20 years since Mick Foley won the inaugural Hardcore title… the belt that the likes of Undertaker, Rob Van Dam and Crash Holly all went on to hold
SunSport looks back at the history of the title.
What was the WWE Hardcore Championship?
The championship – an old smashed-up world title belt taped back together – was contested under hardcore rules. No DQ, no count outs, and falls count anywhere.
Inspired by Mick Foley’s reputation as a “hardcore legend” in Japan and ECW, the title was given to Foley’s alter ego Mankind by the devious Mr McMahon.
But Mankind quickly lost the title to Big Boss Man and early matches were dominated by Al Snow, Road Dogg, Boss Man, and Hardcore Holly.
Those early matches created he blueprint for WWE’s hardcore matches and many staples of the Attitude Era.
There included brawls that went all around arenas (including to backstage areas and even outside), weapons under the ring, lots of head shots, and crazy stunts.
Chairs, trash cans, shopping trolleys, road signs, kendo sticks, baking trays, fire extinguishers, and even bowling balls were regular additions to hardcore matches.
What was the Hardcore 24/7 rule?
The title would later become adopted by pint-sized hero Crash Holly, who introduced the 24/7 rule – which turned the hardcore matches into comedy skits.
Crash would defend the title 24 hours a day – any place, any time, any opponent – as long as there was a referee present to count the pinfall.
This led to some of the funniest and most inventive moments of the Attitude Era, as Crash found himself defending the title in hotel rooms, at the airport, and even the circus centre.
Regular competitors from this period include The Mean Street Posse – Pete Gas, Rodney Gas, and Joey Abs – and ‘The Stooges’ Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco.
During this rule the title would often change multiple times in one night and the division became a spot for superstars who were otherwise floundering on the card.
Mideon, Viscera, The Headbangers, Tazz, and Prince Albert were all involved in memorable moments.
Who were the best Hardcore Champions?
Aside from Crash Holly, Al Snow, Hardcore Holly, Big Boss Man, and Road Dogg, other notable Hardcore champs include Bubba Ray Dudley, Kane, Big Show, and Tommy Dreamer.
Raven held the championship a record 27 times.
Rob Van Dam brought legitimacy to the title in 2001, when he put on top matches with Jeff Hardy, Chris Jericho, and Undertaker.
Four women held the title – Trish Stratus, Molly Holly, Terri Runnels, and one of the Godfather’s hos.
The championship was eventually unified with the Intercontinental Championship in August 2002.
In less that four years, there were an incredible 240 reigns by 52 wrestlers.
Should the Hardcore Championship be brought back?
It’s hard to imagine the Hardcore title fitting into 2018 – a far more sanitised era in WWE.
Borrowing from ECW, the Attitude Era was ultra-violent compared to today’s product. Head shots from chair and other weapons have been rightly banned thanks to much greater awareness of concussions and their long-term effects.
Blood is also a rarity now and matches are stopped for doctors to attend to injuries.
Modern WWE wouldn’t be able to do hardcore matches justice – for the same reason that Hell in a Cell, TLC, and Extreme Rules matches rarely live up to their reputation in modern WWE.
Hardcore matches are style of wrestling that carries too many risks for the modern family friendly product.
But there is room for a division in WWE that offers fan something different and stands out from the rest of the product.
WWE could feasibly promote a toned-down version of hardcore wrestling if it was played for laughs – but it would never reach Attitude Era-levels of violence.
What are the best Hardcore Championship matches?
Sun Sport runs down 11 of the Hardcore Championship’s best matches and moments:
Al Snow v Road Dogg: Raw – January 4, 1999
In the first landmark match of the hardcore division, Al and the D-O-double-G fought out of the arena and into the snowy streets.
Al Snow v Hardcore Holly: St Valentine’s Day Massacre – Feb 14, 1999
After years of going nowhere in the mid-card, Bob Holly found is calling in WWE by going “hardcore”.
In this match the action went into the Mississippi River and ended when Holly wrapped Snow in chicken wire for the pin.
Fun Time USA: SmackDown – March 16, 2000
In one of the 24/7 era’s most popular skits, the Headbangers ambushed Crash at the Fun Time USA kids centre and fought through the playground equipment.
The cameraman was the real star after following the Headbangers down a slide mid-action.
Chaos at WrestleMania: WrestleMania – April 2, 2000
WWE staged a 13-man free for all, which saw the title change hands 10 times in 15 minutes. It was mostly wrestlers walking around and clobbering each other on the head with a variety of weapons.
Crash goes to the circus: SmackDown – April 20, 2000
The Mean Street Posses took part in some the 24/7 rule’s best moments and usually ended up fighting amongst themselves for the title.
In this memorable skit they followed Crash to the circus and fought in full clown costumes.
Sleeping on the job: SmackDown – May 16, 2000
Gerald Brisco became champ when he pinned Crash while he was asleep. The 24/7 rule really did mean 24/7.
Brisco’s quiet celebration – trying not to wake Crash – is still hilarious.
The Stooges in evening gowns: King of the Ring – June 25, 2000
Pals Patterson and Brisco began feuding over the title, leading to this peak Attitude Era moment – a hardcore evening gown match between the two aging wrestlers.
It ended in surprise when Crash ran in and pinned Patterson to take back his Hardcore Championship.
Shane takes a fall: SummerSlam – August 27, 2000
Shane McMahon took one of his legendary bumps during a Hardcore title match with Steve Blackman.
The opponents clambered up the set and Shane plummeted more than 20ft after Blackman hammered him with kendo stick shots.
Kane in a golf cart: WrestleMania X-Seven – April 1, 2001
The biggest high profile moment for the title came in a Kane v Big Show v Raven triple-threat, which was fought all around the arena.
Kane and Big Show smashed through a wall before all three had a hilariously low-speed golf cart chase.
Rhyno gets trollied: Backlash – April 29, 2001
ECW alumni Rhyno and Raven put on an incredible weapons filled match at Backlash – the best match of the division by this point (if you’re talking action instead of comedy).
The big spot came when Rhyno went to gore Raven but missed and charged headfirst into a shopping trolley.
Undertaker sends RVD to hell: Vengeance – December 2, 2001
While the Hardcore Championship was usually reserved for mid-card action, the legendary Deadman set his sights on the title.
In his “American Badass” phase, Taker choke slammed RVD off the stage and through a table.
The History of the Hardcore Championship is available on DVD & Blu-ray from WWEDVD.co.uk.
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