The WWE Hardcore Championship’s Humble Beginnings
The history of the WWE Hardcore Championship dates back to November 2nd, 1998, with WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley (Mankind) as the inaugural champion. Whenever the WWE Hardcore Title would be defended, it would be contested under “hardcore rules” (no disqualifications, no count-outs, falls count anywhere) and once the WWE Hardcore Title was more established, a new rule was implemented where any WWE talent was allowed to challenge the reigning WWE Hardcore Champion at the time at any place or time provided a referee was present and this would be dubbed as the “24/7 rule”.
The “24/7 rule” was introduced by Crash Holly when he captured the WWE Hardcore Championship and this rule would lead to the shortest title reigns and the quickest title changes in WWE history. The title would often change hands at house shows in order to give the fans in attendance a huge moment, but in the end the title always returned to its original holder. At WrestleMania 2000, a Battle Royal, which was contested under Championship Scramble rules, took place and the title would end up changing hands 10 times in the span of 15 minutes, the most number of times the title would change hands in history.
WWE Hall of Famer Eric Bischoff, who was the RAW General Manager at the time, would be a major factor in the demise of the “24/7” rule. The rule would be suspended before a 6-minute hardcore battle royal eventually won by ECW legend Tommy Dreamer. On August 19, 2002, the “24/7” rule would meet its demise immediately following the hardcore battle royal.
The WWE Hardcore Championship’s Notable Reigns
Several WWE legends and Hall of Famers have held the WWE Hardcore Championship throughout its history such as Molly Holly (as Mighty Molly), Trish Stratus, Hardcore Holly, Jeff Hardy, Christian Cage, Rob Van Dam, Bubba Ray Dudley, Raven and The Undertaker.
There were 240 reigns throughout the title’s history shared among 52 wrestlers, with Raven having the most championship reigns at 27. Big Boss Man’s fourth WWE Hardcore Championship reign was the longest in history at 97 days, while Steve Blackman ranks #1 in combined championship reigns by length at 172 days across six reigns. A number of championship reigns only lasted less than a day due to the “24/7” rule and that is the reason why it is virtually impossible to determine which former WWE Star had the shortest reign during the Battle Royal, which saw the WWE Hardcore Title change hands numerous times, but the longest reign in the Battle Royal was Viscera as he held the title for nearly seven minutes.
Each WWE Hardcore Title reign happened during the company’s Premium Live Events, house shows or on TV events such as WWE Monday Night RAW or WWE SmackDown.
The WWE Hardcore Championship’s Eventual Demise
On August 26, 2002, the WWE Hardcore Title would be unified with the WWE Intercontinental Title, when then-WWE Intercontinental Champion RVD (Rob Van Dam), the final WWE Hardcore Champion, defeated then-WWE Hardcore Champion Tommy Dreamer and this would happen one month after Rob Van Dam beat Jeff Hardy in a Ladder Match to unify both the WWE Intercontinental Title as well as the WWE European Title.
Despite the WWE Hardcore Championship not being featured and defended on WWE TV for almost a year, it would make a sporadic appearance on the June 23rd, 2003 episode of WWE Monday Night RAW when WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley (as Mankind) was awarded the WWE Hardcore Title belt, but not the title itself by the WWE RAW authority figure at the time WWE Hall of Famer “Stone Cold” Steve Austin for Mick Foley’s contributions to hardcore wrestling.
After Mick Foley (Mankind) lost the title to Big Boss Man, he never attempted to recapture it, mainly because of the main event push Mick received shortly afterward. When the title was first established, the idea was for it to be used in comedy segments for none other than hardcore legend and WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley as a way to play on his reputation as a hardcore wrestler. His Mankind character and hardcore wrestling would however become more popular with audiences and the WWE Hardcore Championship became a more serious title. Its popularity would then directly result in WCW creating their very own Hardcore Championship, a move that was then followed by numerous other independent promotions.
WWE Hall of Famers and ECW legends Edge and Mick Foley would then declare themselves as co-holders of the WWE Hardcore Title as part of a storyline with the ECW promotion. The WWE Hardcore Title would no longer be defended and would soon disappear quietly. The WWE Hardcore Championship was considered one of the most defining titles in the Attitude Era and the championship title itself was rumored to have been a replica of the “Winged Eagle” WWF Championship belt, a belt that was smashed in several places and reassembled with two pieces of duct tape and inscribed with the words “Hardcore” and “Champion.”
The title belt would undergo several changes as WWE Hall of Famer “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig stole the WWE Hardcore Title and smashed the center medallion with a hammer during an interview, which happened in the middle of his feud with then-WWE Hardcore Champion and fellow WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan and this would result to a replica belt being used for the remainder of the storyline. A variation of the title would be used in June 2002, when WWE Hall of Famer JBL won the title and briefly renamed it the WWE Texas Hardcore Title and a second variation would be used when ECW original Tommy Dreamer, in his last title defense, used a belt with a New York license plate as a centerplate and the reason for the changes was because the original championship had become so damaged from wear and tear.
WWE listed this as one of its urban legends and they were unable to determine whether this theory was true or not, but the original title was later sold as memorabilia by former WWE employee Mel Phillips and authenticated by championship title makers Dave Millican and Reggie Parks and this longtime rumor would be debunked. Despite all the chaos surrounding the WWE Hardcore Championship and the changes it had to undergo, it remains as one of the most defining titles, not only in the Attitude Era, but also in WWE history.