The ECW World Heavyweight Championship had it’s origins in 1992 when the promotion was a small regional outfit called Eastern Championship Wrestling. It became a World title in August 1994, when ECW and Shane Douglas famously double crossed the NWA and renounced the NWA World crown, that Douglas had just won.
For the next seven years, ECW was a rebel outfit and the ECW World Title was at the centre of it’s many controversies. The belt was revived in 2006, when WWE brought ECW back as a third brand. In late 1998, WWE created the Hardcore Title. A symbol of the Attitude Era, the Hardcore belt led to violent, weapon-based brawls that had never been seen before in the company.
As former ECW stars began to sign for WWE, many of them found themselves in WWE’s Hardcore division. Eleven wrestlers would ultimately hold both the ECW World Title and WWE’s Hardcore Championship. This feature lists all of them.
Taz was a dominant ECW World Champion. He memorably choked out Shane Douglas to claim his first ECW Title at Guilty As Charged on January 10, 1999. That reign lasted for eight months, until he was dethroned by Mike Awesome in a Triangle Elimination bout at Anarchy Rulz on September 19, 1999.
Taz became Tazz when he entered WWE with a bang at the 2000 Royal Rumble. However, his star soon diminished and ‘The Human Suplex Machine’ found himself in WWE’s busy Hardcore division. Tazz had a fleeting relationship with the Hardcore Title. He won the title twice at WrestleMania 2000 in a specially stipulated match-up, but it was Hardcore Holly who walked out of the show as champion.
He won and lost the Hardcore Championship on the April 11, SmackDown, before he shockingly regained the ECW Title from Awesome on ECW on TNN. WWE had allowed Tazz to return to ECW for several shows to relieve the WCW-bound, Awesome of the belt.
Tazz dropped the strap to Tommy Dreamer nine days later. He never reigned as ECW or Hardcore Champion again.
Raven was another mainstay of ECW who held their World crown on two occasions. Both of Raven’s ECW World title reigns were lengthy. He dominated the company between 1996-97 with a series of intense and controversial moments.
Most notably, his infamous feud with The Sandman, wherein Raven brainwashed The Sandman’s wife and son into joining his ‘Nest’ which was truly something to behold. Those manipulative aspects of Raven’s character were nowhere to be seen when he debuted in WWE in September 2000.
Raven was little more than a generic Hardcore wrestler in WWE. However, at least he was a prolific champion. The former ECW World Champion was a record 27-time Hardcore Champion. He won his first Hardcore strap on the December 22, 2000 Raw, defeating Steve Blackman. Raven’s 27th and final Hardcore Title reign occurred on a House Show in Terre Haute, Indiana on August 17, 2002. Raven departed WWE and jumped to TNA in January 2003 where he embraced his ECW character once more. That led to an NWA World Title reign in 2005.
Rhino burst onto the ECW scene in 1999 and quickly rose through the ranks. After a lengthy Television Title reign, Rhino finally captured the ECW World Championship on the company’s final pay-per-view, Guilty As Charged on January 7, 2001.
Rhino became Rhyno, when he joined WWE in the spring of 2001. He quickly made a statement in the Hardcore division, when he defeated Kane to lift the belt on the April 17, SmackDown. He defended the strap against old ECW rival, Raven, in a tremendous bout at Backlash 2001, on April 29, 2001.
Rhyno would claim the Hardcore belt on two more occasions during the summer of 2001. The ‘Man-Beast’ suffered two herniated discs in October 2001 and was side-lined until February 2003. By the time of his return, the Hardcore Championship had been deactivated.
Mike Awesome returned to ECW in September 1999 and inserted himself into the World Title bout between champion, Taz and his challenger, Masato Tanaka. Awesome dethroned Taz to win his first ECW World Championship and traded the belt with Tanaka in a brutal series of brain rattling matches over the winter.
He dominated the company until he shockingly jumped to WCW in April 2000, whilst still recognised as ECW World Champion. That led to ECW boss, Paul Heyman cutting a deal with WWE, to allow them to bring back Taz to the company on a temporary basis to relieve Awesome of the belt. Taz would drop the title to Tommy Dreamer just over a week later.
After a disappointing run in WCW from April 2000 to March 2001, Awesome shockingly resurfaced in WWE in June of 2001, pinning Rhyno to lift the Hardcore Championship. Taking advantage of the 24/7 rule, Awesome smashed Rhyno with a pipe and defeated him moments after the ‘Man-Beast’ had reclaimed the gold from Test.
The former ECW World Champion was the first WCW contracted wrestler to win a WWE Championship. His reign as Hardcore Champion would be short-lived however, as he was defeated by Jeff Hardy on the July 12, SmackDown. Awesome would never hold the Hardcore Title again and was side-lined by injury in November 2001 and released from the company the following year.
Tommy Dreamer was regarded as the heart and soul of ECW. Whilst most of ECW’s major players departed the company between 1999 and 2000, Dreamer remained until the company’s final show in January 2001.
Despite his high profile in ECW, Dreamer didn’t actually win the World Title until CyberSlam on April 22, 2000. He defeated Tazz, but then dropped the strap to Justin Credible in an impromptu challenge that same night.
‘The Innovator of Violence’ was part of the ECW faction that invaded WWE on the infamous July 9, Raw. However, Dreamer struggled to find a role in WWE and like so many former ECW stars, found himself competing primarily in WWE’s Hardcore division.
He claimed his first Hardcore strap on the April 15, 2002 Raw. Much like his ECW World Title reign, this title run also lasted less than a day. Dreamer would drop the title to former ECW rival, Steven Richards. Despite his fleeting inaugural reign as champion, Dreamer would soon become one of the most prolific Hardcore Champions in the title’s history.
Dreamer would win a further 13 Hardcore straps, predominantly on house shows. He lost his 14th and final Hardcore Championship to Rob Van Dam on the August 26, Raw. The title was deactivated immediately following RVD’s victory.
Although the Hardcore Title was defunct, Dreamer received a new lease of life when ECW was brought back as a third brand under the WWE umbrella in 2006. Three years later, Dreamer would win his second ECW World Championship, almost a decade after his first, at Extreme Rule on June 7, 2009.
He dropped the belt to Christian the following month. Dreamer was released by WWE in January 2010 and would re-emerge in TNA that summer.
Justin Credible reigned as ECW World Champion in the dying days of the promotion. He upended Tommy Dreamer to win the belt at CyberSlam on April 22, 2000 and reigned as champion for 161 days before losing the title to Jerry Lynn at Anarchy Rulz on October 1, 2000.
Credible remained in the main event picture until ECW closed it’s doors in January 2001. He quickly found work in WWE and aligned himself with X-Pac and formed the much maligned X-Factor faction, also including Albert. The former ECW World Champion played a minor role in the Invasion storyline during the Summer and Autumn of 2001 and disappeared from television thereafter.
However, Credible would lift the Hardcore Title on eight occasions, between May and July 2002. Incredibly, none of those reigns even lasted a single day. Credible’s WWE tenure was extremely disappointing. The only distinction being the fact he was one of 11 former ECW World Champions who also held WWE’s Hardcore Championship.
Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam was synonymous with ECW during it’s original run, having been one of the company’s top stars from 1996 until it’s demise in early 2001. However, he did not capture ECW’s World Championship until he wrestled for WWE in June 2006.
When WWE decided to bring ECW back as a third brand in the summer of 2006, RVD was selected to be the figurehead. He defeated John Cena for the WWE Championship at One Night Stand on June 11 that year and two nights later was also crowned ECW World Champion, when Paul Heyman awarded him the title.
‘The Whole F’N Show’ had begun his WWE career in the Hardcore division, as so many of his fellow ECW alumnus had done. However, RVD made the Hardcore belt feel special and important and contested innovative bouts with the likes of Jeff Hardy, Chris Jericho, The Rock and The Undertaker with the gold on the line.
‘Mr Monday Night’ won his fourth and final Hardcore belt, when he defeated Tommy Dreamer to unify the Hardcore strap with the Intercontinental Title. In doing so, he became the final Hardcore Champion in the title’s four year history.
The Big Show
In February of 1999, The Big Show debuted in WWE at the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre pay-per-view. His signing was heralded and he was ear-marked to be a major player in the company for year’s to come. In fact, his contract guaranteed him nearly a million dollars per year for a decade.
For a variety of reasons, Show’s early WWE career did not meet expectations and just two years later, at 2001’s February event, No Way Out, the giant defeated Raven for the Hardcore Championship. In Show’s case, this title win was a demotion. The former WWE Champion lost the title just three weeks after winning it, before regaining it in May. His second reign would also be short-lived.
The 7-foot monster won a third Hardcore strap on a Florida House Show on July 12, 2002. The Big Show found more stability and a higher profile as ECW World Champion in 2006. He dethroned RVD for the title on the July 4, 2006 ECW show. The giant defended the belt on a near weekly basis until December, when he dropped the gold to Bobby Lashley in an Extreme Elimination Chamber Match at the much maligned December To Dismember pay-per-view.
Show left the company following the event and did not resurface until February 2008, when he returned to promote his famous WrestleMania XXIV bout with Floyd Mayweather.
Kane won the Hardcore Title in an infamous Triple Threat battle at WrestleMania X-7, which also included the reigning champion Raven and former title-holder, The Big Show. Regrettably, after the incredibly fun and bonkers match in which he won the belt, Kane’s reign as figurehead for the Hardcore division was short-lived.
He held the belt for 16 days before dropping the title to Rhyno on the April 17, SmackDown. That title reign was the ‘Big Red Machine’s’ solitary Hardcore Championship run. Kane won the ECW World Championship in an 11 second squash match when he crushed Chavo Guerrero with a single Chokeslam at WrestleMania XXIV.
The ‘Devil’s Favourite Demon’ was champion for three months and interestingly held the title across three different brands. When he won the title, Kane was a SmackDown Superstar. Following his ECW Championship win, he defected to the ECW brand, but was then drafted to Raw on June 23, 2008.
Six days later, Kane dropped the gold to ECW Superstar, Mark Henry, making the title exclusive to ECW once again.
Matt Hardy was not synonymous with the Hardcore Title. In fact, he only ever spent three days as champion. Hardy dethroned Crash Holly to win the belt on the April 24, 2000 Raw. However, he lost the strap back to Holly on the April 27, SmackDown. It was Hardy’s brother, Jeff who had many more memorable moments across his three reigns as Hardcore Champion between 2001 and 2002.
His reign as ECW World Champion was much more eventful. The former member of Team Extreme won the belt in a Championship Scramble at Unforgiven on September 7, 2008. From there, Hardy successfully defended the strap against former champion, Mark Henry on several occasions.
After a 127 day title run, Hardy dropped the title to Jack Swagger on the January 12, 2009 episode of ECW. He would never hold another singles title in WWE.
Christian spent less than one day as Hardcore Champion in his illustrious career. His title win occurred at WrestleMania X-8, when incensed over failing to wrest the European Championship from Diamond Dallas Page earlier on the show, Christian smashed Mighty Molly in the head with a door.
Holly had just defeated The Hurricane to win the Hardcore Title by way of the 24/7 rule. Christian lost the belt later in the night when Maven pinned him with a roll up out out of a taxi, as the champion attempted to leave the Toronto SkyDome.
If ‘Captain Charisma’s’ relationship with the Hardcore Title was fleeting, his run as ECW World Champion was dominant. He traded the ECW Championship with Tommy Dreamer between April and June 2009, before kicking off a 204 day reign as title-holder. Christian dropped the belt to Ezekiel Jackson on the final night of the belt’s existence. The title was deactivated immediately following Jackson’s victory on the February 16, 2010 ECW show.
The ECW World Title, much like the Hardcore Championship was now defunct.
You can watch all of these title reigns exclusively on the WWE Network.