WWE Hardcore Championship
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|WWE Hardcore Championship|
|Date established||November 2, 1998|
|Date retired||August 26, 2002|
The WWE Hardcore Championship was a hardcore wrestling championship in WWE (formerly the World Wrestling Federation) and was contested for under "hardcore" rules (no disqualifications, no countouts, and pinfalls count anywhere). In the latter part of the title's history, a rule was implemented allowing anyone to challenge the champion at any place or time, provided a referee was present (dubbed the "24/7 Rule").
Vince McMahon awarded Mankind the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) Hardcore Championship on November 2, 1998. After Mankind lost the title to The Big Boss Man, he never attempted to recapture it, mainly because of the main event push he received shortly afterward. At the time of conception, the idea was for the belt to be used in comedy segments to play on Mankind's reputation as a hardcore wrestler. But, as Mankind and hardcore wrestling became more popular with audiences, the Hardcore Championship became a more serious title. Its popularity led competitor World Championship Wrestling to create its own Hardcore Championship, a move followed by numerous independent promotions.
When Crash Holly won the belt, he introduced the "24/7 rule" which said the belt was to be defended at all times, as long as a referee was present. This allowed for many comic relief moments, such as the belt changing hands while the champion was asleep, and The Headbangers chasing Crash Holly around an amusement park in Brooklyn (Holly eventually escaped from a ball pit and ran from the building, still the champion).
At WrestleMania X8, Maven defended the title against Goldust. After they knocked each other out with trash can lids, Spike Dudley entered and pinned Maven to win the title. Then, in the backstage area, The Hurricane pinned Spike for the title. Mighty Molly (The Hurricane's sidekick) told The Hurricane to go to the "Hurri-cycle" before knocking him out with a frying pan when his back was turned and pinning him. While looking for a safe place, Christian won the title by pinning Molly after hitting her in the head with a door. As he was about to leave the building in a taxi, he was attacked and pinned by Maven, who regained the title and escaped in the taxi.
Trish Stratus faced Jazz (managed by then-Hardcore Champion Stevie Richards) for the Women's Championship, and lost due to Richards' interference. After the match, Bubba Ray Dudley attacked Richards from behind and pinned him for the title. Raven appeared and pinned Dudley, but quickly lost the title to Justin Credible, who was then pinned by Crash Holly. Dudley hit Holly with a trash can, but Stratus stole the pin on him. Dudley tried to attack Stratus from behind, but Jazz sprayed him with a fire extinguisher. Richards then stole the final pin of the night after Dudley accidentally powerbombed Stratus through a wooden table.
This rule has allowed the shortest title reigns and quickest title changes in WWE history.
The championship often changed hands at house shows, to give the audience a "big moment". In the end, the title always returned to its original holder.
Between the Invasion storyline and Wrestlemania X-8, the "24/7" rule was only used twice, during matches on the RAW editions of August 13, 2001 and September 10, 2001 respectively. Both matches were coincidentally between Kurt Angle and Rob Van Dam. On the August 13 edition, Jeff Hardy interfered and brought a referee with him, and pinned Van Dam for the title, setting up a match for them at that year's Summerslam. On the September 10 edition, however, Angle won the match, then was thrown off the entrance ramp by Steve Austin, who then also threw Van Dam off the ramp too. Van Dam landed on Angle and a referee counted the pin.
After the Invasion storyline, The Undertaker won the title from Van Dam. He defended against numerous opponents (usually smaller than him) and assaulted them after the matches (with the exception of Big Show). After Maven won the belt from The Undertaker on the February 5, 2002 SmackDown, the 24/7 rule resumed.
The 24/7 rule ended on August 19, 2002 when Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff suspended it after a six-minute Hardcore Battle Royal, won by Tommy Dreamer. Previously, a 24 hour suspension on the rule was in place for Rob Van Dam and Jeff Hardy's match at WWF Invasion. Commissioner Mick Foley also suspended the rule while Shane McMahon held the belt, to ensure he was still the champion at SummerSlam, to defend against Steve Blackman, whom he cheated out of the belt.
Unification and retirement
The title was unified with the WWE Intercontinental Championship on August 26, 2002, when Intercontinental Champion Rob Van Dam defeated Hardcore Champion Tommy Dreamer  This was one month after Van Dam defeated Jeff Hardy in a ladder match to unify the Intercontinental and European Championships.
On the June 23, 2003 episode of Raw, Mick Foley (who was the first champion, as "Mankind") was awarded the WWE Hardcore Championship belt (but not the championship) by the Raw authority figure, Stone Cold Steve Austin, for his contributions to hardcore wrestling.
Edge and Foley declared themselves co-holders of the championship in 2006, as part of a storyline involving alumni of the hardcore wrestling-based Extreme Championship Wrestling promotion. The title was not defended and soon quietly disappeared.
Origin of the belt
The WWE Hardcore Championship belt is a replica of the "Winged Eagle" WWF Championship title, which was smashed in several places and reassembled with two pieces of duct tape, and inscribed with the words "Hardcore" and "Champion" in marker.
When Bradshaw won the title in June 2002, he briefly renamed it the Texas Hardcore Championship, and wore a belt customized with the Texas flag and artificial bull horns. The original design returned when Raven reclaimed the championship. Tommy Dreamer used a variation of the belt with a New York license plate as a centerplate.
- The Hardcore Title changed hands 10 times in one night
- M. Milner, John; Bob Kapur and Richard Kamchen (April 7, 2006). "Bio: Tommy Dreamer". SLAM! Sports: Wrestling. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved July 31, 2009. "Dreamer lost a Hardcore vs. Intercontinental title unification match vs. Rob Van Dam."
- Guttman, James (June 23, 2003). "6/23 Raw review: Guttman's "alt perspective" review". PWTorch.com. Retrieved August 2, 2009. "Stone Cold then presented Foley with the Hardcore title and congratulated him"
- Keller, Wade (May 22, 2006). "Keller's WWE Raw report 5/22: Ongoing "virtual time" analysis of live show". PWTorch.com. Retrieved August 2, 2009. "Foley presented Edge with the old Hardcore Title belt....He whispered something to Lilian. She announced they are the new co-holders of the WWE Hardcore Championship. Edge, Foley, and Lita held the belt up together."
- "WWE Raw" (July 29, 2002)
- "WWE Raw" (August 26, 2002)