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10 Greatest WWE Intercontinental Champions Of All Time

Will Roman Reigns join this group of GOATs who've held the 'workhorse title'?

Okay, let's pretend for a second that Roman Reigns isn't a good wrestler. Because as much as we hate to admit it, he is actually a good wrestler. Matches like the main event of WrestleMania 31 prove that he's a skilled worker, although probably not as good as his monster WWE push would suggest.

But let's pretend for a second that he isn't good. Doesn't he seem a weird choice for Intercontinental Champion? The second oldest active title in WWE has long been the domain of excellent in-ring workers, from Randy Savage to Ricky Steamboat, Mr. Perfect to Bret Hart.

The WWE Championship is synonymous with superstardom. When we think of WWE Champions, certain names spring immediately to mind: Hogan, Rock, Cena. The Intercontinental Championship lurks just below that, a stepping stone for fantastic technicians just below the glass ceiling, some of whom could - in theory - go on to become the next household name.

But that doesn't tell the full story. A belt as long-standing as the IC title will naturally have a more layered history, and as easy as it is to picture Bret or Hennig wearing it gracefully around their waist, we may forget that some of the greatest Intercontinental Champions never fit that classic mould.

It's time to take a look at the best IC champs of all time, ever since Pat Patterson bravely won that fictional tournament back in 1979. Some fall within our smarky parameters, and some decidedly do not. Perhaps, after reading this, Roman won't seem like such an odd choice after all.

It won't stop us complaining about it, naturally - but it might make it a little easier to stomach.

10. The Miz


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Let's begin with the man Reigns beat to win the title: The Miz.

Miz is one of the greatest underdog stories in WWE history and has subverted the trope by doing so largely as a bad guy. His transformation from cocky reality-TV product to one of the most reliable wrestlers in the world has brought considerable IC success. He's held the belt seven times, the second most in history, and has restored credibility to it without being a ROH-style uber-worker.

It's no secret that, in recent years, the Intercontinental Championship has seen its prominence diminish greatly. We might have envisioned somebody like Daniel Bryan or Sami Zayn restoring its glory, but it actually came courtesy of a consistent, charismatic heel.

Miz's runs with the title have led to comparisons with another dastardly figure from its history - a name we'll get onto later in this list. But for now, let's salute Mr. Mizanian as the greatest Intercontinental Champion of the modern era.


9. Tito Santana


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Before WrestleMania III catapulted WWF into the stratosphere, simultaneously kicking the Golden Age into an entirely new gear, the Intercontinental Championship wasn't the storied, grand old belt we know today.

It had only been held by four different guys, and while it had gained some sense of prestige thanks to the efforts of Don Muraco and Pedro Morales, it still needed galvanising as WWF prepared to burst into orbit.

Enter Tito Santana, who enjoyed two lengthy Intercontinental Championship runs and really helped kick up the intensity associated with the title. His second reign began with a steel cage victory over Greg Valentine in 1985, one of the most important matches in the early days of the belt. Arriba indeed.

(I actually wasn't sure what "arriba" meant, so I've Googled it just now, and I've learned that it is 'an exclamation of pleasure, approval, or elation'. I always assumed it meant "look at me go!", or words to that effect. You learn something new every day.)

8. Mr. Perfect


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In the introduction, we talked about how stereotypical Intercontinental Champions aren't perhaps as common as they first seem - and about how the belt isn't solely hunted by excellent in-ring technicians.

Sometimes, however, this is the case.

There are few better examples of a real Intercontinental Champion than Mr. Perfect - an astounding technician, and a selfless wrestler interested in making his opponents look good. Just as Tito Santana toughened up the belt's reputation in the Golden Era, Perfect streamlined it for the '90s.

Fittingly, his first reign came after defeating Tito Santana, the final match of a tournament for the vacant title.

It's strange to think that Perfect only won the IC title twice, given just how well he and the championship complimented one another. Sadly, injuries would cut short his second reign and probably deprived of us of a few more perfect stints as champion.

7. Pedro Morales


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Like Mr. Perfect, Pedro Morales only won the Intercontinental Championship twice. However, he did so for a combined total of 619 days, making him the wrestler to hold the belt for the longest accumulative time. He is, to use a slightly forced analogy, the Bruno Sammartino of the Intercontinental Championship.

Morales also famously won the WWF Championship, but curiously enjoyed Intercontinental success after world title success. The relationship between the Puerto Rican hero and the IC belt was a mutually beneficial one; Pedro strengthened the championship in its early years, just as the gold helped bolster the latter stages of his career.

In wrenching the title away from Ken Patera in December 1980, Morales also became the first ever Triple Crown Champion in WWE history - a landmark achievement for a beloved wrestler.

Although his reigns may not be the most spectacular by modern standards, Pedro Morales gave the title an early dignity, one which continues to characterise it to this day.


6. The Ultimate Warrior


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So this is what we were talking about when we said the Intercontinental Championship wasn't all Bret Harts and Curt Hennigs.

Nobody would accuse the Ultimate Warrior of being one of the greatest IC title-holders ever in terms of wrestling ability. Despite his obvious limitations, the bulging babyface took the belt to the greatest heights of its entire history - the champion vs. champion main event of WrestleMania VI.

This almost felt like the title itself was getting a main event push. Suddenly the reigning Intercontinental Champion was headlining 'Mania, against none other than Hulk Hogan! Even more surprisingly, Warrior won.

Sadly, he wasn't allowed to continue for long as double-champion - we all love a double-champion, don't we? - as per the fickle rules of wrestling. It was instead vacated, although this begs the question: what would have happened if Hogan had won? Would he have scooped the IC title and then immediately lost it?

5. The Honky Tonk Man


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When we discussed The Miz and modern-day comparisons to a previous Intercontinental Champion, this is who we were talking about.

The Honky Tonk Man is probably the most despicable heel champ in the title's illustrious history. He's a stain on its lineage, in all honesty - but a damn entertaining one.

Honky Tonk Man's sole reign stretched from June 1987 to August '88, the longest in Intercontinental Championship history. Fans hated it, which meant that he was playing his role perfectly. They simply couldn't wait for someone to come along and knock the cheating coward off his perch - and when it happened, it was utterly spectacular.

Brutus Beefcake was supposed to be the number one contender heading into the inaugural SummerSlam PPV, but was forced out due to injury. His replacement was none other than the explosive Ultimate Warrior, who squashed Honky Tonk Man in under 30 seconds to end his reign of terror.

Today, such a booking decision would probably be scoffed at - a masterful heel being undone by a huge babyface in ludicrously quick fashion. However, the '80s were a simpler time, and this title change hit all the right notes - while proving the value of the previous champ's 454 days on top.

4. Bret Hart


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In August 1991, Bret Hart defeated Mr. Perfect to win his first Intercontinental Championship - relieving Hennig of the strain of competing with severe back injuries. He also relieved him of his duty to transform and modernise the Intercontinental Championship, making it more suitable and revered in a new, technical decade.

Hart took Perfect's formula as a masterful workhorse champ, and simply blew it out of proportion. His second reign was bookended by a pair of incredibly good matches; emotionally draining bouts that did all they could to make the title seem like the most important thing in the world.

The first was a tense face vs. face match with Roddy Piper at WrestleMania VIII. It started out as a technical affair, before degenerating into a shockingly bloody brawl (Hart actually faked being busted open hardway, but performed a sneaky bladejob on himself to add to the match).

The belt was lost four months later at SummerSlam '92, held, of course, in London, England. This bout was unquestionably the biggest moment of the British Bulldog's career, and one of the most important events in the history of UK wrestling. It's also cited by many as the best SummerSlam match of all time, with particular praise reserved for Bulldog's unique pinning predicament in the closing stages.

However, predictably, the brilliance of these matches must largely be attributed to Bret - one of the best workers of all time, and one of the greatest Intercontinental Champions.


3. Chris Jericho


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Jericho's history with the Intercontinental Championship may seem a little inconsistent, especially for someone so high on this list. There's been little rhyme or reason to Y2J's nine reigns; his status as a reliably popular showman simply meant that he stayed a viable contender for great swathes of his long WWE career. It can be considered a good thing, but it doesn't mark a particular stage of Jericho's career like it does for the Ultimate Warrior or Bret Hart.

Then again, the numbers speak for themselves. Y2J has held the Intercontinental Championship more times than anyone in its history, his earliest and most recent reigns coming nine-and-a-half years apart.

He's beaten opponents as diverse as Rob Van Dam, Christian, Jeff Hardy, Chris Benoit, and even Chyna (with whom he shared a short, unofficial reign as 'co-champion').

So yes, Chris Jericho may not have a defining Intercontinental Championship feud to cite above all others, but the belt always found a way back to him over the years, and he always made it look important.

2. Razor Ramon


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Razor Ramon may not have had the multiple reigns of Jericho, the longevity of Morales, or the consistent brilliance of Bret - but he did pretty damn well in all three categories.

Scott Hall could well be the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time in terms of versatility. He held it a respectable four times, more than most on this list. He clocked up the sixth-longest accumulative time with the belt, not too shabby at all.

Finally, and most importantly, he competed for the title in some amazing bouts - namely the pair of groundbreaking ladder matches with Shawn Michaels.

At WrestleMania X and SummerSlam 1995, Razor and HBK took the IC title to new heights, literally and figuratively. Although Hall didn't win a world title - and is often a popular name in conversations about the best never to do so - he must be considered one of the greatest Intercontinental Champions ever.

But, crucially, not the greatest...

1. 'Macho Man' Randy Savage


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Randy Savage only held the Intercontinental Championship once - but it was quite simply the greatest IC title reign of all time.

Although fans loved to cheer a babyface Macho Man for his incredible agility and charisma, he was unquestionably in his element as a bad guy. When he won the belt, it was done so in classic heel fashion.

At a Boston Gardens house show, Savage reached into his tights and drilled Tito Santana with a foreign object, covering his KOd opponent to win the title that would be his for the next 414 days.

For over a year, WWF fans across the nation were treated to Randy scheming his way to victory over a series of beloved babyfaces, from Bruno Sammartino to Roddy Piper to Jake Roberts. The eventual title change, when it happened, would have to be spectacular.

Nobody needed to worry. In one of the most beloved and respected matches in WrestleMania history, Macho Man finally dropped the Intercontinental Championship to Ricky Steamboat. Although nothing outrageous by today's standards, for a late '80s pro wrestling match, the pair put on a shockingly slick encounter.

The bout went down in history and is also perhaps the most important chapter in the storied past of the Intercontinental Championship. For that reason, and for his exemplary heel work in building up his reign over the previous year, it's only right to recognise Randy Savage as the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time.

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Jack G. King

Written by Jack G. King

Head of News at Cultaholic.com | [email protected]