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The WCW Hardcore Championship's five wildest moments

Following the success of ECW in the mid-1990s, the hardcore style of competition often displayed in the Extreme promotion was adopted by both WWE and WCW. Each organization commissioned new Hardcore Championships that could be defended at any time and under any conditions.

There were no rules in Hardcore Matches, leading to multiple champions in a short period of time. In WCW, the unorthodox matches and happenings surrounding the title that took place were both brutal and hilarious. WWE Classics examines five of the wildest WCW Hardcore facts and moments. ( PHOTOS | WATCH)

The Junkyard brawl that started it all

Finlay competes in the Junkyard Invitational at WCW Bash at the Beach 1999.

The unorthodox style of Hardcore wrestling was wildly popular in WWE and ECW in the late 1990s and the Atlanta-based organization followed suit. Initially, the WCW Hardcore Championship began as a trophy, with the winner being crowned at Bash at the Beach 1999. Rather than having the trophy winner be decided inside the squared circle using a bevy of foreign objects, WCW management held nothing back with a Junkyard Invitational to determine the victor.

The brawl actually took place in a junkyard and the birth of WCW’s Hardcore Championship division was in the chaos that accompanies such a style of competition.

The contest featured a veritable who’s who of ECW alums and weathered WCW brawlers including Fit Finlay, Ciclope, Jerry Flynn, Hardcore Hak (ECW’s Sandman), Horace Hogan, Brian Knobbs, Hugh Morrus, La Parka, Lord Steven Regal (William Regal) and Mikey Whipwreck among others. The only way to secure victory was by climbing over a chain-link fence and escaping the havoc.

The wild brawl featured cars being flipped over, explosions and a plethora of foreign objects such as tires, steel chairs and car bumpers. WCW spared no expense to capture the battle’s chaos and provide viewers with a full view of the action, using a helicopter to show a bird’s eye view.

With bent steel and burning wreckage left in the wake of the bizarre match, Fit Finlay escaped to win the Hardcore Trophy — the predecessor to the WCW Hardcore Championship.

Nothing more than monkey business

Terry Funk reveals himself dressed as a gorilla in a Hardcore Match against Norman Smiley and Shane Douglas.

On May 22, 2000, another ECW alumnus, “The Franchise” Shane Douglas, defeated Terry Funk for the WCW Hardcore Championship. Two nights later on WCW Thunder, The Franchise defended the title against two competitors he was certain he could defeat — Norman Smiley and Ralphus (a WCW truck driver who was originally recruited as Chris Jericho’s sidekick/bodyguard) — in a Three-way Hardcore Match. Smiley and Ralphus were allies at the time, making the battle seem more like a Handicap Match. Ralphus wasn’t one for a fight — as evidenced by the ridiculous gorilla suit he was wearing— thus making Smiley an easy target for Douglas.

On the outset, the gorilla suit made this match look like the type of thing that made viewers change the channel away from WCW in 2000, but seeing a grown man in a gorilla suit during a Hardcore Match was admittedly hard not to watch.

As Ralphus’ attempts to help Norman Smiley were all for naught, it seemed as though The Franchise would walk out of Saginaw, Mich.’s Wendler Arena with the title intact. Although, after Douglas put “Screamin’ ” Norman through a table, the gorilla was suddenly ready to fight and delivered a flurry of familiar punches to The Franchise. With the swing of a steel chair, Ralphus took down Douglas and pinned him to win the title. After the match, however, the man under the gorilla suit revealed his true identity: Terry Funk reclaimed the title!

A boy band’s greatest hit

It takes all of the members from 3 Count to put up a fight against WCW Hardcore Champion Brian Knobbs.

After losing to Norman Smiley in the first WCW Hardcore Championship Match, Brian Knobbs remained in the hunt, eventually defeating Smiley for the title, losing it to Bam Bam Bigelow and then winning it a second time at SuperBrawl 2000. Eight days after reclaiming the title, the Nasty Boy battled the boy-band 3 Count — Evan Karagias, Shannon Moore & Shane Helms — for the Hardcore Championship on Monday Nitro.

Knobbs’ attitude and experience as a brawler definitely played in his favor as he dismantled the three young competitors eager to make a statement. The Nasty Boy used everything at his disposal and simply overpowered each of the 3 Count members through sheer brawn.

Though it seemed retaining the title was a sure-bet for Knobbs, 3 Count certainly proved there was strength in numbers. The three highfliers unleashed a barrage of attacks on the former tag team champion and eventually sent him crashing through a table on the entrance ramp. Thanks to the falls count anywhere rules of the battle, all three members of the band pinned Knobbs to win the title.

Norman Smiley screams for his life

At Mayhem 1999, Norman Smiley defeated Brian Knobbs to become WCW’s first Hardcore Champion. Smiley — seemingly out of place in hardcore competition — also became the most memorable and prominent competitor to hold the title. Always sporting some kind of protective armor — like hockey pads, football gear or a baseball catcher’s outfit – Smiley’s screams often highlighted the fear and trepidation that came with a competitor not accustomed to brawling in such a style.

Although the WCW Hardcore Championship was indeed serious business, Smiley’s fear of being hit with foreign objects made his hardcore matches both memorable and hilarious. In addition, “Screamin’ ” Norman was also a reluctant champion. Although his two title reigns of 51 and 42 days, respectively, are the longest in the championship’s history, Smiley constantly tried to lose the title only to stumble into ways to win.

Even with WCW's disarray in late 1999 and 2000, Smiley’s reluctance and willingness to defend and compete for the WCW Hardcore Title created a hilarious level of unpredictability each week.

Terry Funk fights a horse

Terry Funk and Chris Candido bring their Hardcore Match all the way from the arena to a horse stable.

The WCW Hardcore Championship was at stake in some of the most unorthodox and brutal matches in sports-entertainment history, although none were more bizarre than Terry Funk vs. Chris Candido on the May 31, 2000, episode of WCW Thunder. Both competitors were ECW alums — no strangers to ruthless and strange contests — but nothing could really prepare either brawler for this particular battle for Funk’s Hardcore Title.

The battle at the Idaho Center began on the entrance ramp before spilling into the locker room area and onto a flatbed truck. From there, the Hardcore Champion drove his opponent to a nearby horse ranch, where the combatants traded blows amid thick mud and manure. Funk maintained the upper hand, delivering a crushing piledriver inside a horse stable. With both competitors in the mud, the horse next to them suddenly kicked the hardcore champion.

Though the legendary Texan won the match, the horse kick symbolized the chaotic nature of WCW’s Hardcore Championship – WCW commentator Tony Schiavone even referred to the moment as, “the highest spot of the night.”

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