WWE have introduced a brand new title belt: the 24/7 Championship. With the long-awaited rise of WWE's women's division and the Raw/Smackdown brand split supposedly still in effect, there's no shortage of titles on the company's main roster. Men's single titles currently include the WWE and Universal Championships, the second-tier Intercontinental and United States titles and the purple Cruiserweight Championship. Female wrestlers can compete for either the Raw or Smackdown women's belts and, of course, there are three sets of tag team titles up for grabs too. And that's without even delving into the NXT and NXT UK brands.
Despite that abundance of gold, WWE revealed at this past weekend's Money In The Bank event that Mick Foley himself would be unveiling a brand new championship on the following night's episode of Raw. Naturally, fans feverishly began to speculate as to what the new belt could be and given Foley's close association with weapons-based matches, many predicted that WWE were bringing back the fan-favorite Hardcore title from years past. With WWE currently committed to PG-rated programming however, it wasn't immediately clear how the notoriously bloody Hardcore division could be re-introduced.
The answer arrived on last night's Monday Night Raw, as Foley took to the ring and introduced the 24/7 Championship. Like the Hardcore belt once was, the 24/7 title can be contested at any location and at any time without a moment's notice, however that seems to be the only quality the two championships have in common. A wild scramble to the ring decided the new belt's first holder, with veteran Titus O'Neil coming out on top. He was almost immediately pinned by Robert Roode, who was in turn ambushed and defeated by R-Truth. Interestingly, WWE ominously announced at the end of the night that the future of the United States Championship would be addressed next week.
It's no secret that WWE's television ratings have been badly struggling in recent times and with upcoming rival company AEW announcing a significant TV deal of their own, Vince McMahon is introducing new twists almost every other week in an attempt to keep his product interesting. From random unannounced NXT call-ups to the baffling "Wildcard Rule," the 24/7 Championship feels like the next gimmick designed to create unpredictability and claw back viewers.
Unfortunately, the reaction so far has been largely negative. Firstly, the design of the 24/7 Championship belt has been widely panned, with its drab, uninspiring "24/7" logo and seaweed green strap. Furthermore, the decision to have Foley introduce the new belt understandably built anticipation for the return of the Hardcore title but what fans actually got is a highly watered down version with many of the best elements removed and booking the rarely-seen O'Neil as the inaugural winner doesn't offer the new addition much prestige either.
If next week's announcement confirms suspicions that the U.S. title is being dropped to make room for the 24/7 Championship, it's likely many WWE fans will be highly disappointed given the history behind the established United States Championship, currently held by Rey Mysterio. These unfavorable sentiments were even partly acknowledge by Foley himself, who admitted in a backstage interview that the 24/7 Championship perhaps wasn't what fans were hoping for and certainly, the reaction in the arena was noticeably muted.
WWE Smackdown airs tonight on the USA Network.