Last night on Monday Night Raw the legendary Mick Foley unveiled WWE’s latest prize, the 24/7 Championship. Aesthetically, the new belt is a bit of a disaster, looking like the sign for a random roadside diner, or perhaps the logo for some mediocre microbrewery, but the championship is something to get pumped about. Here’s why.
During the successful late-90s to early-2000s Attitude Era, WWE’s Hardcore Championship was defended under 24/7 rules. That meant anybody could beat up and pin the champion anywhere, any time, and under any circumstances, so long as they had a referee with them to count the one-two-three. The title changed hands during backstage interviews, in parking lots, and, in one memorable case, in a children’s ball pit. Both men and women like Molly Holly won the belt, and Raven ended up as a 27-time champ within the span of about two years. So yes, it was a bit of a mess, but it was a fun mess. Sadly, the Hardcore Championship was unified with the Intercontinental Championship in mid-2002, and surprisingly, WWE has never opted to revive the 24/7 rule. Until now, that is!
You can’t use the word “hardcore” in today’s PG WWE, but the new 24/7 Championship is the Hardcore Championship in everything but name. Following Foley’s announcement, a “championship scramble” was held, with most of the Raw undercard charging to the ring to try to grab the new belt. Eventually, Titus O’Neil managed to claim the gold, etching his name in history as the inaugural 24/7 champ, but seconds later he was blindsided by Robert Roode who became the title’s second holder. Roode’s illustrious reign lasted longer than O’Neil’s, but he didn’t manage to escape the show as champion, as visiting Smackdown star R-Truth absconded with the gold.
The first three 24/7 champs all have one thing in common – they’re all talented performers with a ton of potential that are barely being used by WWE. That was the real legacy of the 24/7 Hardcore Championship. It gave the company’s underappreciated stars something to do. Yeah, overlooked talent like Titus O’Neil, Robert Roode, R-Truth, EC3, Apollo Crews, Dana Brooke, Sarah Logan, and Lana (presumably the new belt will be just as open to women as the Hardcore strap) are probably never going to get 20-minute showcase matches on Raw or Smackdown, but now, with the 24/7 Championship, they can have some fun backstage segments and brawls, and, even if just for a few minutes, call themselves a champion.
I fully realize the 24/7 concept isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but, personally, I’m up for this nonsense all day, every day. And I bet most wrestling fans are with me.