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The World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Hardcore Championship was a hardcore wrestling championship defended in World Wrestling Entertainment, (formerly the World Wrestling Federation) under hardcore rules.

History

Vince McMahon first awarded Mankind the belt, originally known as World Wrestling Federation (WWF) Hardcore Championship, on November 2, 1998. After losing the title to The Big Boss Man, he never attempted to recapture it, mainly because of the main event push he received shortly after he lost the belt. At the time of the belt's conception, the idea was that the belt was to have been used in comedy segments to try to push Mankind's reputation as a famous hardcore wrestler, but as Foley was getting over with the crowd as well as the rising popularity of hardcore wrestling at the time, the Hardcore Championship seemed to gain a life of its own. Its growing popularity led competitor World Championship Wrestling to create their own Hardcore Championship, a move followed by numerous independent promotions. Following the beginning of the Brand Extension, the Hardcore Championship became exclusive to the smackdown brand.

24/7 Rules

When Crash Holly won the belt, he introduced the "24/7 rule"; which meant the belt was to be defended "at all times...as long as there was a referee present." This allowed for many comic relief moments, including the belt once changing hands while the champion was asleep, and a segment on an episode of SmackDown! where The Headbangers chased Crash Holly around Funtime USA, an amusement park in Brooklyn, New Yorkmarker with Crash escaping repeated attempts to take the title from him before escaping from the ball pit and running from the building. There was also a moment at WrestleMania X8 where the title was involved in a strange twist of events. The champion going into the event, Maven defended 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 defeated Spike to win the title. Mighty Molly then defeated The Hurricane to become champion (and the second female to do so). As she was trying to escape with the title, Christian won the title by slamming a door into Molly's head as she was running to a taxi. Christian was about to leave the building in the taxi, but Maven, who lost the title earlier in the night, rolled Christian up to regain the title. Maven then escaped in the taxi and celebrated as Christian was left all alone in the parking lot, whining and cursing bitterly.

The addition of this rule is said to have made the division both more interesting and unpredictable, adding a vast array of holders and matches. Still, others believed this rule cheapened and devalued the championship for the same reasons. This rule has led to the shortest title reigns and quickest title changes in WWE history. During this time, four women have held the Hardcore Championship: Molly Holly, Trish Stratus, Terri Runnels, and Bobcat. Also during this time, the championship would change hands at house shows in an attempt to allow the fans in attendance to see something big. In the end, the title would always return to its original holder.

The 24/7 rule was enforced until August 19, 2002 when Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff decided to suspend it following a six minute Hardcore Battle Royal won by Tommy Dreamer. Prior to this 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 (2000) to defend against Steve Blackman, whom he cheated out of the belt.

In 2006, Mick Foley proclaimed Edge the Hardcore Champion, before Edge proclaimed them both co-Hardcore Champion.

Unification and retirement

The title was finally retired on August 27, 2002 when WWE Intercontinental Champion Rob Van Dam defeated Hardcore Champion Tommy Dreamer to unify the titles. This was exactly a month after Van Dam defeated Jeff Hardy to unify the WWE Intercontinental Championship and the WWE European Championship

Origin of the belt

The WWE Hardcore Championship belt itself is a replica of the "Winged Eagle" WWF Championship title that was smashed in several places and reassembled with two long pieces of duct tape with the words "Hardcore" and "Champion" written in marker. A long-standing rumor stated that this belt was the same one that was stolen by Mr. Perfect from Hulk Hogan on a 1989 episode of Saturday Night's Main Event and destroyed with a hammer at the end of the episode.

When Bradshaw won the title in June 2002, he briefly renamed it the Texas Hardcore Championship, and brought a custom belt to the ring with a Texas flag and oversized bull horns. The belt used by Bradshaw was the old Stone Cold Steve Austin "Smoking Skull" Championship belt. The original design was resumed later in June when Raven reclaimed the championship. Tommy Dreamer would use a variation of the belt with a New York license plate where the center plate should be.

Mick Foley announced himself and Edge as the new co-holders of the title (after the belt's official retirement), however this announcement is not recognized by WWE as an official WWE Hardcore Championship reign.

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