In Defense of Cinematic Wresting: Part 5 - The New 24/7

Ever since WWE went to a PG product in the summer of 2008, longtime and older fans have decried the more kid-friendly product, wishing for the days of the Attitude Era. Even though blood, boobs, and badasses found massive audiences in those times, it also must be said that that was all during the Monday Night War, and a record number of people were watching wrestling during that time anyways.

Yes, I’m one of those “product of its times, and that’s not always a good thing” kind of people. Deal with it.

As I explored in part two of this column, the WWF/E Hardcore Championship was one of the wildest things in this era, and one of its best features was that it gave a whole lot of people something to do. It put a lot of lower to mid card wrestlers on TV, and literally defined several of its holders, including the Holly Cousins, Crash and Bob, soon to be “Hardcore”. The first holder was Mankind, and it was given to him by Vince McMahon as a joke. Over two decades after this consolation prize was created, Mick Foley, crooked smile and all, would introduce the WWE Universe to a new boss, same as the old boss… sort of.

During the 2019 Money in the Bank event, it was announced that a new championship would be announced the following night on RAW. During that broadcast, Mrs. Foley’s baby boy himself came down and presented the 24/7 Championship, a spiritual successor to the Hardcore Championship he originated. Like its predecessor, the 24/7 title could be defended anytime, anywhere, so long as a WWE official was present to count the fall. In deciding the first champion, however, it was decreed that simply taking possession of the title as it lay in the middle of the ring would do it.

Which is somehow better than taking a man’s eye out to win a match. Yes, I’m still bitter about that.

Titus O’Neil, the charismatic and clumsy Gator himself, would be the first 24/7 Champion, in a feel-good moment for a man that just feels like such a good man. The title would change two more times on that night, as Robert Roode rolled O’Neil up on the entrance ramp shortly after his victory. Later in the show R-Truth rolled up Roode in the parking lot to lay claim to the green strap.

The title’s first night was eventful, sure, but the Albany crowd shat all over this. You can’t help but feel awful for Foley, as the beloved Hardcore Legend was booed upon the reveal of the new belt, as many fans were hoping for the Hardcore Title to return. This feels like a “but I wanted (this color)!” tantrum from a small child, and that’s about all one needs to know about the fickleness of wrestling fans. I mean, fuck, when not even Mick bah-gawd Foley can’t get something over, what is the world coming to? The thing wasn’t his idea, and while Crash Holly would have been the better pick to introduce a 24/7 Title, he’s unfortunately been gone from this world for years now.

I mean, they booed Mick Foley! What the fuck? Sorry, getting away from the point.

This isn’t going to be a full breakdown of the 24/7 Championship’s brief history, but when you consider the possibilities, as well as the original Hardcore Title’s skits, anything can happen. Even better, we have social media these days, allowing for more content to be distributed at a moment’s notice. Cuz that’s what we need in an already over-saturated market. Jokes aside, the first instance of the on location nature of the title was on a golf course on June 2, on which Jinder Mahal got the jump on R-Truth to win the 24/7 Title, only for Little Jimmy’s keeper to roll Mahal up moments later to regain the title.

Not even a week later, Jinder was not hindered, as he rolled up Truth on the tarmac at Frankfurt Airport, en route to the next Saudi Arabia show. On that flight, Truth would - and I kinda hate wrestling as I type this - pin a sleeping Mahal while over the Red Sea to regain his baby.

Then we come to Drake Maverick, formerly Rockstar Spud, who was looking to make a name for himself beyond his role as the 205 Live General Manager. Disguised as Carmella, Truth’s friend and dance break partner, Maverick rolled up Truth to win the title for the first time, allowing him to go into his wedding to Renee Michelle as a champion! What a special day!... that was then ruined by R-Truth, who interrupted the proceedings to win back the gold. And Truth was the babyface in all of this.

While Drake would regain the title on July 1, his wife was, putting it generously, fucking over it, and wanted to, erm, consummate the marriage. Two weeks later, the two got a hotel room and - and I sincerely hate wrestling sometimes - R-Truth snuck a referee, dressed as a bellhop, into the hotel to get one over on Maverick, who lost the title in his literal tighty whities.

By this point, unless you know the next phase of the story, you might be wondering if things can get any worse. What if I told you that the next phase involves a pregnant woman? Enter Maria Kanellis, the once bubbly Diva turned fiery wife of Mike Kanellis (nee Bennett), who won the title while pregnant. Worry not, she simply pinned her husband with a foot on his chest to win, no bumps for the mother-to-be here. But what comes next defies explanation and must be seen to be believed…

And we’re only three months into the title’s existence at this point. More is more sometimes, but here? Yikes on a bike. There’s so much ground to cover, and we’re not even to the belt’s second birthday as of this printing.

Going back to social media and the title for a bit, this title has not limited to WWE Superstars. FOX Sports correspondent Rob Stone, Boston Celtics player Enes Canter, Knox County, TN mayor Glenn Jacobs, WWE Senior Account Manager Michael Giaccio, music producer Marshmello, NASCAR driver Kyle Busch, Santa Claus, American football star Rob Gronkowsi, and the Gobbledy Gooker have all held the title as of this printing.

And a partridge in a fucking pear tree, I think. It’s a workin’ partridge. From Partridges R Us.

So in this situation, one must ask: qui bono? Who benefits? Is it R-Truth, the title’s biggest star, most prolific titleholder, and the goofiest, Brock Lesnar breaking-est man on the RAW roster? Is it the attention-centered world of social media, looking for the next trend or viral moment? Is it the celebrities who can, and have, gotten in on the madness and have their name etched forever in WWE history, for better or for worse? Is it WWE, who have gotten title changes on two New Year’s Eve shows, the latest of which happened on fucking TikTok (ya don’t stop)?

Honestly, who cares? The 24/7 Championship is a reminder of the silliness of the wrestling world. For every blood feud and grudge match, a bit of levity helps for a fuller experience. And while some pundits have argued that “funny don’t draw money,” I would argue that the 24/7 Title was never intended to draw money. I mean, they sure as hell aren’t selling many replica belts of the “minimalist meets art deco by a high school student” design. At its core, wrestling cards are a variety show. Not everything has to be a technical marvel or garbage wrestling or heated rivalry tempered through months of escalation. Like in film, a one-liner or sight gag can help the overarching story to breathe just a little. It’s comic relief, sure, but it’s made for some interesting moments, and while the era of Pandemia has kneecapped the possibilities, there is still a will, and therefore still a way.

And who can honestly say that they did anything of substance, much less won a championship, on a plane? Or in an OB/GYN appointment? Or on TikTok?

In our final installment, we’ll look at the cinematic wrestling of the year that was 2020. We’ve told these stories to get to here, and boy, is there plenty to tell.


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