There are few championships in wrestling that can be as specifically tied to a particular era more than the WWF/E Hardcore Championship. After being resented to Mick Foley in late 1998 by Vince McMahon, it went on to be a huge part of WWE programming until its retirement in 2002. Characterised by wide brawls, chair-shots and all kinds of shenanigans, the hardcore division was a massive part of the much-loved Attitude Era, and with all things Attitude being very much in vogue with WWE these days, it should come as no surprise that WWE have released a Blu-ray focusing on the short but highly eventful history of the Hardcore Championship.
It’s not the most conventional set-up for a DVD or Blu-ray, but the roundtable nature of the Raven, Mick Foley, and Rob Van Dam presenting this release makes for interesting watching. RVD frequently seems to have no idea what is going on, while Raven seems to be having a great time basically mocking the whole production while Foley tries to hold it all together. It’s a bit of a train wreck, but there’s something really entertaining about it.
The match quality here is patchy at best. The hardcore division is very much of its time, and as such some of the action is really repetitive especially during the early matches in the division. It gets a bit formulaic and dull, and although there are loads of fun spots it has not aged well as a whole, with matches involving the likes of Al Snow, Hardcore Holly, Big Bossman and Tazz dominating proceedings.
The comedy hardcore matches that came about as part of the 24/7 gimmick were probably the biggest highlight of this Blu-ray. It was great to revisit some of the gimmicky title changes featuring Crash Holly being chased round various locations including a children’s play centre, and being pinned while he was asleep. The 24:7 rule essentially rendered the Hardcore title as comedy belt, which was probably for the best really by that stage.
At points during this Blu-ray I actually felt quite uncomfortable. Knowing what we now know about concussions, head injuries, and the long term effects of excessive blows to the head this made for quite grim watching. With Foley sat in the studio gleefully presenting this show, despite having to retire due to head injuries doesn’t sit well with me, and given the recent Daniel Bryan retirement, and the lingering memory of the Chris Benoit tragedy something about this doesn’t feel right. It is of course a product of its time, but I would have preferred a more thoughtful reflection on whether it was damaging to the business as a whole, rather than its legacy being a combination of violence and fun, which it undoubtedly is, but with bigger consequences too.
The History of the Hardcore Title: 24/7 is a bit of a mixed bag. As someone who enjoyed the Attitude Era at the time, it is hard to go back and watch something that typifies that era so strongly, that becomes so tediously dull so quickly. Much of the matches don’t hold up well to 2016 eyes, and some of the content I a little unsettling, saved by the 24/7 stuff and the Foley/RVD/Raven dynamic. If you’ll pardon the pun, this is definitely one only for the hardcores.
EXTRAS: A plethora of full matches featuring some of the biggest superstars of the WWE's boom period, including The Undertaker, Big Show, The Hardys, and many many more.