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Unpredictability (or why the Hardcore Title needs to come back)
By: Matt R-W
I love unpredictability. Not knowing what is going to happen day in day out, for me anyway, is a good thing. It’s one of the reasons why I love my job - no two days are the same. If this way of thinking is applied to television, regardless of the show, people will have to watch it to see what happens next. Take Game of Thrones for example - no-one know what the next plot twist will be, who will be the next character to die or what big thing will happen. People are hooked on the unpredictability of it. This has been applied before in wrestling, during the Attitude Era, with the (then) WWF Hardcore Title. This was the definition of unpredictability. For those who didn’t watch in the 90s and early 00s, the Hardcore Title could be defended anywhere and anytime. So long as there is a referee to make a 3 count, matches could happen anywhere - in the ring, in the backstage area, theme parks - you name it, matches could happen there. For me, this concept of “anything could happen” is what attracted me to watching wrestling week in, week out. So this week I’m looking at why the Hardcore Title should be bought back, and why now is the most apt time for it.
A slow shift away from PG
WWE has been making a (subtle?) effort at the moment to edge away from PG rated content, and this fits the billing of old Hardcore matches. Would we necessarily see the same level as a Steve Blackman match? Probably not. However, there is usually a good pop for usage of a table, chair or, my personal favourite, the kendo stick. Would the WWE continue the lack of blood in the ring? For sure, and for good reason too. People don’t watch the WWE product for wrestlers to look like they have just finished a Mexican Death Match. They could ensure that the “weapons” used are made of lightweight materials which, whilst looking realistic, offer a much reduced chance of injuries such as concussions and spinal injuries. I couldn’t imagine at this time seeing intergender matches, but down the line that could be potentially added. It would add another dynamic to what could happen. However, we would have to see “normal” intergender matches taking place first.
Bringing back a “must watch” feeling
You never knew what would happen during a Hardcore match. WrestleMania 18 featured a Hardcore match that started as the 4th match on the show, but a mini storyline spanned the entire event. The (ill-fated) WCW invasion of the then WWF was started due to Mike Awesome pinning Rhyo for the Hardcore Title in Madison Square Garden. You never knew truely what was going to happen in both a Hardcore match and during the course of the evening. The only way to find out what was going down was to watch the show all the way through to the main event. Having the belt at House Shows could potentially drive backup attendance if the audience knew that there could be a title change occuring. Having a “must watch” feeling is TV ratings gold. The ratings have taken a bit of a battering in recent weeks / months, and it could be the shot in the arm that is needed to help them out. The ratings for Raw and SmackDown most weeks go down hour by hour - unpredictability could help these.
Talent crossing over different brands
This for me is a no brainer. With the fact that the Hardcore Title could appear at anywhere, and can change hands at any time, who knows where it would be seen at. The Champion goes to Full Sail to watch NXT? NXT Talent take a ref and sneak a pin the Champion. Cruiserweight on 205 Live gets the belt? Then a non-cruiserweight could appear and fight for the title without them knowing. Champion goes on holiday? Then we see a match at pool side. There would be spanners in the works (ie NXT and NXT UK recording episodes weeks in advance), but it would allow the time for talent to appear elsewhere. This exposure allows the talents to get over with large live crowds (if from NXT / NXT UK), allows talent to go to NXT / NXT UK to get that intimate connection with a live audience and can mean more talent can get put over. Everyone in this situation ends up a winner.
Being able to make use of the talent in place
If you look at Raw or SmackDown, you have (on average) 2-3 wrestlers in the main title picture, 4-5 in storylines that could build up for the secondary title on the show and then a cluster of tag teams. This leaves a lot of talent without a storyline, a purpose or a reason to be on the show. A title defended across brands would allow those talents some exposure to get over on TV, to sell some merchandise and prove that they are able to do the job they are being paid for. Playing the long game, would talent that isn’t being used properly be looking over at AEW/RoH/NJPW/Impact Wrestling if they had something to do within WWE?
Bringing back the Hardcore title could be a lot of fun, and there are loads of good reasons as to why, some of which I’ve looked at here. On the flip side, I can think of two counter arguments - does WWE really need another title and does it warrant time on TV, which could be taken away from other storylines. For me, the answer to both questions is a yes. Looking back at the lineage of the old Hardcore Title, it contains a mass of wrestlers who have gone onto the main event level, or already having been at that level - Matt and Jeff Hardy, Big Show, Rob van Dam, The Undertaker, Booker T and Bradshaw to name but a few. Talent putting over other talent is only a good thing. Adding the Hardcore Title back into the mix could go a long way to doing this. It could also bring back the must watch feel for TV and house shows and the unpredictability of programming that has been missed since the end of the Attitude Era.