The WWE Intercontinental championship was envisioned as more than a mere stepping stone to the World championship. It was viewed as a legitimate, prestigious title in its own right, and has been held by some of the greatest wrestling legends.
However, there have been times that the celebrated mid card title has been held by a champion who failed to make a significant splash, or were downright terrible in the role for a variety of reasons.
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Here are five of the best Intercontinental champions of all time, and five of the worst.
#1 One of the best: Honky Tonk Man
Long side burns? Check. Hair slicked back? Check. Coming to your town in a pink Cadillac? Check. Greatest Intercontinental champion of all time? Totally checked.
Honky Tonk Man was a fixture of the WWE during its Rock and Wrestling era. In fact, given his portrayal of an Elvis wannabe and certifiable musical chops, Honky Tonk Man was probably the perfect Rock n Wrestling talent.
His lengthy reign of 454 days is still a record for an unbroken run. Just don't listen to any of his interviews of podcasts unless you can tolerate salty and vulgar language!
#1 One of the Worst: Big Show
Big Show's IC title run was as brief as it was perplexing, and uninteresting.
Show won the title from a red-hot Cody Rhodes, who was generating massive heel heat. Big Show had already been World champion, so winning the IC strap did little to advance him or his character. To make matters worse, Show didn't really feud with anyone other than former champion Rhodes, whom he dropped the title to less than a month later.
Big Show's reign wasn't terrible, but it wasn't memorable. In fact, most people don't even recall Big Show's run with the belt.
#2 One of the Best: Ultimate Warrior
The dearly departed Jim "Warrior" Hellwig was perhaps the only man larger than life enough to follow in Honky Tonk Man's footsteps as IC champion. After demolishing Honky Tonk Man at the first SummerSlam in under a minute, he went on to reign until Wrestlemania 6 with only a brief interruption in his reign via Rick Rude.
Warrior's popularity and fan favorite status changed the scope of the IC title picture. Now fans were eagerly hoping the champion would retain instead of being defeated. Warrior technically never lost the IC belt a second time; He vacated the title after cleanly pinning Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 6.
#2 One of the Worst: Ryback
Sometimes, a wrestle management has a particular interest in will be given a title reign in order to 'legitimize' them. This has worked well for some wrestlers, like John Cena. For others, however, the title reign simply isn't enough to get them over.
Ryback is the latter. Despite a monster push and an IC title reign, the Big Guy really didn't do anything memorable when he was champion. In fact, many believe that instead of the IC belt elevating Ryback, Ryback actually lowered the stock of the championship.
#3 One of the Best: Pat Patterson
Pat Patterson was the first ever Intercontinental champion. His reign wasn't as lengthy as Honky Tonk Man's, nor as electrifying as the Warrior's. However, he was the very first IC champion and deserves recognition because of this fact.
As far as how he actually won the title...that's a story in and of itself. Allegedly, Patterson won the IC strap in a tournament held in Brazil. The only problem was the tournament never took place! It later became an in-joke on WWE programming when Patterson assumed an on screen role as one of Vince McMahon's 'stooges.'
#3 One of the Worst: Ahmed Johnson
A fixture of the brief time between the New Generation and Attitude eras of WWE, Ahmed Johnson is almost unknown today, in spite of being a former IC champion.
Johnson was huge, and had a great look. Unfortunately, he was stiff and clumsy in the ring, often causing legitimate injuries. Usually to himself, but sometimes his opponent would be hurt as well.
And when it came to promo skills, well...let's say Ahmed wasn't the most articulate superstar of all time...
Ahmed Johnson would eventually be released by WWE, and begin a brief and utterly unimpressive run in rival WCW before they gave him the ax, too.
#4 One of the best: Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho is the man with the most IC title reigns. Nine times Jericho has held aloft the Intercontinental championship, literally and figuratively elevating it.
Jericho is a 'safe' champion to put the belt on, because he's already a no questions asked superstar AND he's both willing and able to work with, and put over, new talent. His numerous reigns involved high profile feuds with a veritable who's who of WWE 2000s era talent.
#4 One of the worst: Billy Gunn
When a reporter asked Jim Ross how far the WWE intended to push Billy Gunn in 2000, Ross famously replied "to the moon!"
Alas, the moon refers to Gunn's favorite pre-match pastime rather than his actual elevation. Dropping the popular if admittedly limited "Mr A**" character in favor of the ill-conceived "the One" gimmick didn't really help him much. Gone was the bad boy attitude and nonconformist ways, replaced with another white man 'elitist' gimmick.
Gunn fell flat in this persona, so much so that he lost his IC title in less than three weeks to Chris Benoit.
#5 One of the Best: Pedro Morales
Morales is the man who held the title longest during multiple reigns, at 619 days. His reign was something of a surprise, given that he had aged out of his prime and was on the waning side of his career.
Nevertheless, during the early 1980s he was a fixture in the title picture as either champion or challenger. He feuded with other legends such as Superstar Billy Graham and Larry Zybysko, and was one of the most active champions of all time. However, some of his legacy is tarnished as he often lost bouts due to DQ or count out, though he retained the title on these occasions.
#5 One of the Worst: Shane "Dean" Douglas
Not many photos exist of Shane (dubbed "Dean" by WWE) Douglas as Intercontinental champion. But what do you expect when his reign was less than twelve minutes?
Dean Douglas's snobby college professor character actually never pinned anyone to 'win' the title. Rather he won the title by forfeit when Shawn Michaels was injured and unable to defend.
His happiness was short-lived, however, when Razor Ramon arrived to squash him in mere minutes to win the title. Due to the fact that he 1. Never actually won the title and 2. Lost it in minutes during his very first defense makes Dean Douglas the WORST Intercontinental champion of all time!
There you have it; Five of the best IC champions of all time, and five of the worst. What's your favorite IC title memory? Please comment and let us know.