The WWF Hardcore Championship was introduced in 1998 thanks to the surging popularity of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) and the edginess of the Attitude Era. Every title match for this championship would be contested under hardcore rules. This meant no disqualification, no count out, and falls count anywhere.
The title was originally meant to be a comedy angle to play off on Mick Foley’s hardcore background, but the title would evolve into being one of the most popular championships within the WWE Universe. The popularity would lead to the championship to be prominently featured in four different WrestleManias, from 15th edition to 18th.
Even in 2015, people still remember the Hardcore Championship. A few months back, the WWE posted a poll on their website asking which retired championship they would like to see back. After over 159,000 votes, the Hardcore Championship was the runaway winner with 46 per cent of the vote, with the Cruiserweight Championship finishing second at 18 per cent. While it’s great to see a lot of people supporting the title to make a return to the WWE in 2015, these polls typically are not an indication that a change is coming.
While the title came to prominence during the Attitude Era, it also faded away as the golden era of wrestling started to die down and transitioned to the Ruthless Aggression era. The title would be retired after nearly a four-year run. While it is likely the championship will never be resurrected in the TV-PG era, let’s take a look at 10 things you need to know about the WWF Hardcore Championship.
Here are 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The WWF’s Hardcore Championship.
10. The Championship Was Born On November 2, 1998
The golden era of professional wrestling occurred because of the WWE’s Attitude Era, in the late 90’s, as well as the rise of the ECW after Paul Heyman took over the company. The common denominator between the Attitude Era and ECW was the hardcore style. Many believe that ECW was the catalyst for the Attitude Era.
To capitalize on the new wave of hardcore, Vince McMahon created the WWF Hardcore Championship. The Attitude Era was a time where there were many secondary belts thanks to better development of the midcard talent, and this title added a little spice to the championship lineup for the near four years it was in existence.
9. Mick Foley Only Had One Reign
When the Hardcore Championship was invented, there was not a match or a tournament for the belt, it was presented to Mick Foley (who was Mankind at the time) by Vince McMahon. It wasn’t meant to be a serious title, but more of a comedy angle for Vince to mock Foley as the Corporation treated him poorly.
Oddly enough, the first ever title reign for the Hardcore Championship would be the only reign for Mick Foley. He held the title on its initial reign for 28 days before the Big Boss Man of the Corporation would defeat him for it. The main reason why Mankind never had another run with the title was because he was thrust into the main event picture shortly after his defeat by Boss Man.
8. The 24/7 Rule Started With Crash Holly’s First Reign
The Hardcore Championship would take on an entirely new dimension when Crash Holly (the kayfabe cousin of Bob “Hardcore” Holly) won the title in February of 2000. In an interview with Lillian Garcia, Crash would state that he would defend this belt 24/7 no matter where he is (as long as there is a WWF referee present). This would be known as the 24/7 rule, and it would stick for the remainder of the title’s inception.
Crash would gain notoriety in the WWF thanks to instituting the 24/7 rule. He would become a crowd favorite, and be labeled as the “Houdini of Hardcore” due to his amazing ability to escape from getting defeated anytime and anywhere. One of the best moments of the 24/7 rule was when Crash snuck into a room where Jerry Briscoe was sleeping, and pinned him with one finger while the ref silently counted.
7. The Replica Belt
While there is no concrete evidence of the origin of the belt, many speculate that a replica of the past WWF Championship belt, better known as the Double Wing belt, was used as the Hardcore Championship. Obviously the belt was destroyed and pieced back together with some wrist tape and a Sharpie to create the belt we have come to love.
It would make sense that the WWF used a replica belt to destroy and use as the Hardcore Championship because it is very unlikely that the WWF would want to take an official title belt that could cost five figures to destroy.
6. Belt Changed Hands 10 Times At WrestleMania 2000
WrestleMania 2000 was the first WrestleMania where the Hardcore Championship was contested in the 24/7 rule. Crash Holly was the title holder coming into WrestleMania thanks to his win in the Newark Airport (of all places) by beating Pete Gas of the Mean Street Posse after Pete Gas originally pinned him in the airport earlier that day.
That was the insanity and fun of the 24/7 rule. At WrestleMania 2000, the title changed hands 10 times from Crash to Tazz to Viscera to Funaki to Rodney to Joey Abs to Thrasher to Pete Gas back to Tazz, then back to Crash Holly. Then when the 15-minute time limit ended and the smoke cleared, Crash Holly’s cousin Bob walked out with the title, but his reign ended when Crash pinned him the next night on Raw.
5. There Have Been 124 Title Changes At House Shows
In the world of the WWE, a house show is a live event that is on a smaller scale than a Raw or a Smackdown. There is less pyro, production, and typically there is not a TitanTron either. These house shows are typically at smaller venues and are also not televised. In most house show matches, the faces go over the heels to send the crowd home happy and major developments don’t usually occur.
However, when you throw in the 24/7 rule for the Hardcore Championship, anything could truly happen at a house show and it did. The title changed hands an astonishing 124 times from when the 24/7 rule was put into effect to the end of the title’s run. The wildest house show occurred on May 2, 2002 when the title changed six times in Glasgow, Scotland.
4. The Lethal Weapon
Steve Blackman was a constant fixture in the midcard of the Attitude Era. His moniker of the “Lethal Weapon” was due to the fact that he had an extensive martial arts background, and would typically use it as part of his arsenal. He competed in the WWE from 1997 until 2002, almost the exact same time the Hardcore Championship was around.
Blackman would become a fixture in the Hardcore Division due to his ability to use weapons combined with his martial arts skills. His only singles title would be the Hardcore Championship, and out of everyone that has held the belt, Blackman has the most combined days as champion at 172 over 6 different title reigns.
3. Boss Man Had The Longest Consecutive Reign
Before the 24/7 rule, the only way to win the title would be inside of a WWF ring, and no one was more successful at obtaining the Hardcore Championship than the Big Boss Man, who was the Corporation’s enforcer during the Attitude Era. Boss Man was the second person to ever hold the belt as he defeated Mankind a month after the belt was introduced.
From July to October of 1999, Boss Man would be in a big feud with Al Snow where they would trade the title back and forth a few times. Boss Man’s fourth and final reign is the longest reign in the history of the title at 97 days. He would never regain the title during its 24/7 period, and sparingly was used the rest of his tenure from 2000 to 2003.
2. Raven Had The Most Reigns
Raven is one of the most talented wrestlers of all time and has had a residence in every major promotion throughout his career that began in 1988. He would be a member of ECW right around the time it made its transition from Eastern Championship Wrestling to Extreme. He would have countless brutal battles with Tommy Dreamer that would vault him into the hardcore legend status.
As for his time in the WWE, he would almost wrestle exclusively in the Hardcore Division, and his trademark would be to bring a shopping cart full of weapons to his matches. Raven holds the record for most championship reigns at 27. Obviously the 24/7 rule helped Raven have so many title reigns, and the second closest competitor for reigns would be the “Houdini of Hardcore,” Crash Holly at 22.
1. The Championship Was Retired On August 26, 2002
As the WWF became the WWE and shifted away from the Attitude Era around 2002, many of the things that were associated with this era would start to disappear as well, including the beloved Hardcore Championship. Mick Foley was no longer a full-time wrestler, so the WWE chose two of the most qualified stars to have the final match for the title.
On August 26, 2002, two ECW originals in Tommy Dreamer and Rob Van Dam fought to unify the Hardcore Championship and Intercontinental Championship on Monday Night Raw in New York City. They were only given about eight minutes, but they made those eight minutes very entertaining in what would be a fitting send off for the hardcore title that would be retired shortly after with Rob Van Dam as its final champion.