On May 20, 2019, the WWE 24/7 Championship was unveiled to, uh, minimal reaction. The belt itself looked like a joke, and bringing out Mick Foley to unveil the “not really the Hardcore” title was doomed from the start. Reports quickly came out that USA Network was pressuring WWE to do something to get ratings trending the correct direction again and this title was one of USA’s suggestions.
Good suggestion, USA Network!
Despite its inauspicious beginning, the 24/7 Championship has quickly become a legitimate reason to tune in to not just WWE’s shows but WWE’s social media as well. R-Truth was voted to be WWE’s most popular champion on WWE.com. 24/7 videos are dwarfing the views of most other videos on WWE’s YouTube.
The quick success of the title is thanks to the herculean efforts of R-Truth and Drake Maverick. But what are they (and the rest of its challengers) doing to make it the hottest thing in WWE today?
Show, don’t tell
Arguably the biggest of WWE’s myriad storytelling issues is that WWE has its personnel literally tell us the story they want to tell rather than act it out. Instead of putting in the work to create big moments, WWE’s announcers simply declare, “This is a big moment!” A huge offender of this is a mid-card champion declaring that now that they have the title, it matters. How many times have we heard a freshly crowned Intercontinental or United States champion declare that they are going to elevate the title and make it the most important title?
The 24/7 Championship takes the opposite approach. By the words of the competitors, the 24/7 Championship is a joke, right? R-Truth doesn’t even know the name of it! But their actions show just how important the championship is to them. R-Truth has gone to great lengths to win the championship, even crashing a wedding! Drake Maverick has traveled all over with posters and is so heartbroken over not having the title, he can’t consummate his marriage! While it’s presented in a funny way, the content shows just how much the title means to all of them.
Compare this to the Universal, World, Intercontinental, United States, and Raw/SD Women’s championships. Nobody ever seems to talk about wanting a championship unless it’s their turn to feud for it or a special event such as Royal Rumble or Money in the Bank is coming up. It’s especially problematic for the mid-card titles, where half the time it seems like even the champion doesn’t care about it.
But this is because every other title shares the same, massive flaw that the 24/7 Championship avoids…
The 24/7 Championship has clear, defined rules for earning title shots
Even though the rules are “anybody can win it at any time unless a match is specifically ruled to be a non-title match,” those are clear and defined. How do you earn a shot for any other title? Usually it’s the beaten-to-death trope of “X has beaten the champion!”
Why do you have to beat the champion to earn a chance to beat the champion? Why are those non-title matches not title matches? How do you earn a chance to beat the champion in the first place? Why do some wrestlers get chances for no reason while others can’t get one no matter what?
Dolph Ziggler’s first singles match in 2019 was a championship match against Kofi Kingston at Super Showdown. And for losing that match, he earned a championship match against Kofi Kingston at Stomping Grounds. Why? Remember what Kofi Kingston had to go through to earn his opportunity? Kofi is a great champion because we get to see how much it means to him, but we also got to see him win matches leading to the championship.
Baron Corbin legitimately earned his first Universal Title shot – he won a match at WrestleMania, he won a #1 contender qualifier, and he won a later #1 contender fatal 4-way, which he had reasonably earned his way into. Then he lost at Super Showdown. Then he lost at Stomping Grounds. Then he was given ANOTHER title shot. Why?
Lacey Evans’ first match on the main roster was a #1 contender match against Natalya. How did she get into that match? How did Natalya get into that match – she had only won one singles match in 2019? After winning a match between two non-contenders, Evans also lost two PPV title shots and was rewarded with a third. Why?
Because title shots are essentially handed out at random, it is impossible for the competitors to actually care about the titles because they don’t know how to get them. The 24/7 Championship has no such issues. Everybody involved can care about it because the only limit to them getting it is their own ingenuity, effort, and talent.
Watch an episode of Raw or Smackdown and ask of each match why it is happening and what the motivations of the wrestlers in the match are. It is surprisingly hard to do. Watch everybody involved in the 24/7 Championship chase and it’s easy! R-Truth and Drake Maverick are the top two competitors for it because they’re putting the most effort into it. They know that all they need for a title shot is a referee. Which means they can care about the title at all times.
Everybody else should care about titles this much too. WWE needs to create a structure that allows them to.
TV time matters
The titles on the Network shows (205 Live, NXT, NXT UK) are treated significantly better than the main roster titles. But as anybody who follows daprice82’s Wrestling Observer Rewinds knows, you don’t have anything if you don’t have TV. The Cruiserweight Championship rarely gets any time on TV and is relegated to PPV pre-shows. The NXT titles are relegated to their own (superb) PPVs and NXT’s call-ups are treated poorly. No matter how great they are treated, they can’t compete with titles getting exposure on TV.
The 24/7 Championship is regularly appearing multiple times an episode, multiple times a week. WWE is airing clips from Twitter. They are shining a massive spotlight on it. Only top titles receive the TV time the 24/7 Championship is receiving. The wrestlers are certainly earning that time, but far more often than not, the wrestlers who earn TV time don’t get it. WWE’s willingness to get behind the 24/7 Championship in full allows it to reach the levels it has reached.
A division is only as good as its top competitors
A title like this follows different rules than a normal wrestling championship. “Able to fall down” is about the only wrestling requirement to compete. What makes a top competitor in the 24/7 division is the ability to create and tell stories compelling enough to make people want to know what’s going to happen next. It is the purest form of “sports entertainment” because all of the focus is on the entertainment.
Drake Maverick has put in yeoman’s work in this regard, practically creating a storyline from scratch. What is better than a desperate babyface’s chase for the championship? It’s literally wrestling 101, and Maverick has executed it to perfection. R-Truth is the perfect foil, a bully who is so intent on the championship that he can’t even be bothered to learn its name – or Maverick’s. A man who is willing to crash a man’s wedding to take the title back.
The war between these two wrestlers is far more compelling than that at the top of most of WWE’s other divisions. It takes a great champion and a determined challenger to get fans to invest in any division of any combat sport. The fans are invested.
The 24/7 Championship should be the lowest title in all of WWE, not the one getting the most interest. But the wrestlers fighting for it show how much they care about it, WWE gives it significant time to continue to progress, and the fans are invested in it. It’s a broken record at this point, but if WWE could just learn from WWE, it would do itself and its fans a great service.