You know what made the Hardcore Title so fun — apart from the giddy abandon of the 24/7 rule and the surreal sight of Al Snow and Hardcore Holly fighting for it in the Mississippi River? It was the championship’s complete lack of pretense. Where every other sports-entertainment prize was presented with bloated pomp, the Hardcore Title wasn’t encumbered by legendary lineages or epic main events — it was just a good excuse for guys to whack each other with garbage cans.
The honesty of the Hardcore Championship’s insanity made it WWE’s most entertaining piece of hardware during its brief existence. And while it was relevant for less time than Chumbawamba, the busted title still managed to create some unique sports-entertainment records that stand to this day. With “extreme” on the minds of everyone in the WWE Universe, WWEClassics.com offers up eight things you may not have known about this unpredictable hunk of metal.
Sure, Ric Flair’s 16 World Championship victories will forever stand as an unbelievable feat, but The Nature Boy will have to come out of retirement if he wants to match the title-winning prowess of Raven. A former ECW standout who often pushed a shopping cart full of weapons to the ring in WWE, Raven held the Hardcore Title on 27 separate occasions — a record not just for the Hardcore Championship, but for any title in WWE.
The grungy lowlife from The Bowery beat Steve Blackman on the Dec. 22, 2000, episode of Raw to win his first title. His subsequent reigns were always brief — his longest lasted 31 days — but gritty bouts like his WrestleMania X-Seven title defense against Kane and Big Show were impossible to forget. Raven won the Hardcore Title for the final time on Aug. 17, 2002, putting him five reigns ahead of runner-up Crash Holly.
The Hardcore Championship was introduced on the Nov. 2, 1998, edition of Raw when Mr. McMahon awarded the title to Mankind. The WWE Chairman offered the prize up as a present to the kindhearted brawler with the caveat that Mankind not interfere in a bout between The Rock and Ken Shamrock later in the evening.
The oddball title may have become a sports-entertainment footnote in the hands of any other Superstar, but Mick Foley — a competitor with a knack for making the best of any situation — turned a championship that looked like it had been handmade by a hyper third-grader into something worth fighting for. One week after being gifted the piece of outsider art, Mankind successfully defended the title against Shamrock in a physical brawl that ended on the entranceway. In the wake of that exciting bout, it was clear that Mr. McMahon had introduced something that was more than just a booby prize.
When Crash Holly introduced the unique 24/7 rule to the Hardcore Title — stipulating that the championship was up for grabs 24 hours a day, seven days a week — challengers of all makes and models rolled out to steal Holly’s prize, including WWE’s Divas.
During the three-plus years the Hardcore Title was around, four women managed to snatch the extreme prize, albeit briefly. An unnamed female associate of The Godfather became the first woman to win the championship when she pinned Crash Holly on the May 15, 2000, edition of Raw. Molly Holly and Trish Stratus followed in the unnamed woman’s high-heeled footsteps with reigns that lasted for less than a few minutes each. Even non-competitor Terri Runnels had a brief reign as Hardcore Champion after pinning a downed Stevie Richards in the middle of a backstage interview.
The original Hardcore Title that Mr. McMahon presented to Mankind was a battered WWE Championship that had been haphazardly taped back together. The majority of the Superstars who carried the title after The Hardcore Legend held that same version, but two dangerous competitors put their own spin on the shattered prize when they got their hands on it.
Sixteen-time Hardcore Champion JBL paid tribute to his Texas home by introducing a new Hardcore Championship with the Lone Star State flag emblazoned on the front of it. Tommy Dreamer — a native of Yonkers, N.Y. — gave the title an Empire State makeover by replacing the front plate with a New York license plate and affixing NYC police and fire department badges to the sides. In fact, Dreamer’s version of the title was the one that was later unified with the Intercontinental Title by Rob Van Dam.
As much as sports-entertainment appears to be a young man’s game, Superstars in their 40s and even 50s have done surprisingly well in the ring. Graying competitors like Hulk Hogan and Chavo Classic were winning championships well into their golden years, but it was a Hardcore Champion who became the oldest man to win an active title in WWE.
It was on an edition of Raw on June 19, 2000, when a 59-year-old Pat Patterson — a brilliant mat technician who was then known as one of Mr. McMahon’s bumbling “stooges” — pinned his 53-year-old partner in crime Gerald Brisco to win the Hardcore Title and set a sports-entertainment milestone. Patterson actually held the title for six days — a decent amount of time for the slippery title — before losing it to Crash Holly in the middle of Pat’s infamous Hardcore Evening Gown Match against Brisco at King of the Ring 2000. The less said about that debacle, the better.
Not long after the introduction of the 24/7 rule to the Hardcore Championship, a raucous Battle Royal took place at WrestleMania 2000 that set the standard for title changes in WWE. On that night in Anaheim, Calif., Tazz, Viscera, The Mean Street Posse, The Acolytes, Hardcore Holly, Kaientai, The Headbangers and Crash Holly collided in a no holds barred brawl with a 15-minute time limit.
The rules stated that the last Superstar holding the championship when the clock ran out would be declared the winner, but title changes also counted during the bout. The championship shifted hands 10 times in the ensuing carnage — including a 24-second reign for the Posse’s Rodney— as the combatants battled through the bowels of the Arrowhead Pond. In the end, Hardcore Holly pinned his cousin Crash to officially win the title and the bout.
Whatever happened to the Hardcore Title? It became part of the Intercontinental Title’s lineage on the Aug. 26, 2002, edition of Raw when Intercontinental Champion Rob Van Dam beat Hardcore Champion Tommy Dreamer in a Ladder Match to unify the prizes.
At that time, WWE was overflowing with championships after the introduction of WCW to the roster, so WWE officials attempted to streamline the title picture with a number of unification bouts. Between 2001 and 2002, the European, United States and Hardcore Titles were all absorbed into the Intercontinental Title’s lineage before that championship was later unified with the World Heavyweight Title. Of course, the Intercontinental and United States Titles both re-emerged, but the Hardcore Title remains defunct.
For most WWE Superstars, maintaining the Hardcore Title was like holding onto a greased-up pig — hard to do and inadvisable by medical professionals. In fact, of the 52 competitors that carried the championship, no one had a reign that lasted for 100 days. But the Superstar that came the closest was The Big Boss Man.
The Cobb County, Ga., lawman who underwent a career renaissance during The Attitude Era became the second Hardcore Champion when he defeated Mankind in a Ladder Match on the Nov. 30, 1998, Raw. But it was Boss Man’s third reign with the title — which began at the expense of rival Al Snow — that lasted the longest. Still, although he holds the record, the former cop’s reign wasn’t exactly epic. Boss Man’s historic run lasted only 97 days — not quite Bruno Sammartino numbers, but more than enough time to set the standard.