hardcore

WWE – The History Of The Hardcore Championship 24:7 (Cert 18)

2 Disc Blu-ray / 3 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 426 minutes approx.

“Hardcore” wrestling was around long before to ECW adopted it to differentiate their product from the family friendly fare of the WWF and WCW in the 1990’s. When the Monday Night Wars got serious, both companies spiced up their products by copying the ECW “Hardcore” style.

Arguably the first true example of “hardcore” would be the Tupelo Concession Stand Brawl in Memphis in 1979, involving Jerry Lawler & Bill Dundee vs. Larry Latham & Wayne Ferris (later the Honky Tonk Man). The post match brawl spilled out of the ring to the arena concession stand where anything and everything was used as a weapon, serving as a template for later WWF and WCW Hardcore matches.

With Mick Foley almost killing himself on numerous occasions for the WWF, Vince McMahon honoured him with the storyline presentation of the Hardcore Championship in September 1998, which was reportedly (but unconfirmed) the old WWF title belt that Mr. Perfect destroyed in a 1990 angle with Hulk Hogan.

As the first Hardcore champion, Mick Foley is the head of the round table discussion interspersed between the matches, along with the last ever champ Rob Van Dam and the man with the most title reigns, Raven (constantly disputing the recorded 27 times as 39 times). Providing a sardonic narration is Tommy Dreamer, the man who lost to RVD in the final ever Hardcore Title Match.

What is most interesting is hearing these three talk with candour, fondness and pride towards their contributions of this brutal style. As odd as this may sound to us, they all talk as if they were creating art with these matches and the violence was mere added colour – ironic as Raven’s gimmick was bringing a shopping trolley of weapons to the ring!

But this is the WWF/WWE version of Hardcore and for those who recall the heyday of the title’s existence and the mayhem it engendered the early matches are very much atypical of the garbage brawl bouts they eventually became. The first ever title defence by Foley against Ken Shamrock shown here is a basic wrestling match with a few nasty bumps and a chair involved.

It wasn’t until The Big Bossman won the title and feuded with Al Snow that the violent weapon-fests began to form the basis of the matches. As we see, undercard talent such as Bob “Hardcore” Holly, Steve Blackman, Test and others found their calling and were soon getting TV and PPV spots beating the hell out of each other anywhere and everywhere with anything not nailed down.

Once this began to take off, the challenge was for each match to top the previous one, thus we are reminded of such sights as Snow and Holly brawling in the Mississippi river, or Snow and Bossman ending their Summerslam ‘99 match in a bar across the road from the arena! It was a wild a crazy time and it added a missing edge to the WWF product which WCW soon copied with less success.

However this almost cartoon violence style of match has a limited cachet in terms of sustainability, and the repetition is apparent watching this release, the novelty soon losing its lustre. When you’ve seen one match where a wrestler is hit with a rubbish bin in the arena car park, you’ve seen them all, so dipping in an out of this collection is advised.

The next chapter of this title’s 3 ½ year existence is the 24/7 rule, instigated by Crash Holly, vowing to defend his title round the clock, anywhere, provided an opponent has a ref with them. This is recalled in fun and unique moments such as Crash being jumped at the airport, or a kid’s play centre by all and sundry, but again this got tired quite quickly, and was quietly phased out until being resurrected in 2002.

Remember Raven’s 27 (39?) title reigns? That was due to the 24/7 rule. To spice up house show matches Raven would start the match as champ, lose it four or five times to random ambushers then regain it at the last minute. But Raven himself wasn’t fond of this formula, with Foley and RVD agreeing, all three feeling it undermined the prestige the belt could have had with proper booking.

In fact the belt did enjoy some prestige when RVD joined the WWF in 2001 as part of the Invasion angle, being the only enemy to be cheered by the WWF fans. As demonstrated by the series of great bouts collated here, not only did RVD eschew the garbage brawling for cool prop assisted spots but he also brought wrestling back to the matches. Even The Rock did some chain wrestling against RVD in a great TV match included here.

But it was a step backwards for the title once RVD dropped it to The Undertaker (!) and once it became exclusive to RAW after the first brand split in 2002 when the 24/7 rule was reinstated. Back at the round table and the consensus is one of disappointment at the belt being treated as a joke again after RVD took it to the main event.

As far as the match listing goes, the violence on display has long been toned down in WWE of late, making the sight of people taking unprotected chair shots to the head a very uncomfortable one. However they have avoided matches with excessive blood which may explain the absence of the infamous Hardcore Battle Royale from WM XVI.

One thing this particular trip down memory lane achieves is to make the Hardcore Championship seem more important than it actually was. It would have been nice if Foley let the others talk more, or if Raven actually finished a sentence, but the laid back, intimate presentation is a nice juxtaposition to the mayhem of the match content.

Not an ideal collection to binge watch but it will revive some fond memories of the period when the Hardcore Title’s existed.

 

Extras:

English HOH Subtitles

 

Blu-ray Only:

Smackdown – 26th August 1999 – WWF Hardcore Title Match – Al Snow (c) vs. Big Bossman

Monday Night RAW – 28th February 2000 – WWF Hardcore Title Match – Crash Holly (c) vs. Mark Henry

WWF Backlash – 30th April 2000 – Six Man WWF Hardcore Title Match – Crash Holly (c) vs. Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Hardcore Holly vs. Tazz vs. Perry Saturn

Monday Night RAW – 21st August 2000 – WWF Hardcore Title Match – Steve Blackman (c) vs. Test

WWF Unforgiven – 24th September 2000 – WWF Hardcore Invitational – Steve Blackman (c) vs. Crash Holly vs. Test vs. Perry Saturn vs. Sho Funaki vs. Al Snow

Monday Night RAW – 13th August 2001 – WWF Hardcore Title Match – Rob Van Dam (c) vs. Kurt Angle

WWF Unforgiven – 23rd September 2001 – WWF Hardcore Title Match – Rob Van Dam (c) vs. Chris Jericho

Smackdown – 3rd January 2002 – WWF Hardcore Title Match – Undertaker (c) vs. Big Show

Smackdown – 7th March 2002 – WWF Hardcore Title Match – Goldust (c) vs. Rob Van Dam

Monday Night RAW – 8th April 2002 – WWF Hardcore Title Match – Bubba Ray Dudley (c) vs. Booker T

 

Rating – ****

Man In Black

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