Here we are…the finale of my series for the Intercontinental Championship. From the 1980s to the 2010s, we’ve looked at the absolute best wrestlers that personified everything an Intercontinental Champion should be. The glory they brought to this prestigious title, through hard work, breaking records and producing some of the most amazing storylines and rivalries.
We’ve looked at the Top 10 Wrestlers from each decade – as well as the VERY Honorable Mentions! – who made the Intercontinental Championship what it is today…but what about the matches themselves? Which are the greatest bouts that have captured audiences’ imagination for generations? What contests are first & foremost in people’s minds when it comes to the Intercontinental Title?
Thank you so very much for all your support/feedback across this series! I’ve loved writing it so much! And now we conclude with The Top 15 IC Championship Matches of ALL TIME!
15. The Rock Vs. Triple H – SummerSlam 1998
It was the Attitude Era. The World Wrestling Federation was on fire in 1998, with the company featuring a stacked roster and non-stop action & excitement from top-to-bottom. The mid-card was no exception with The Rock and Triple H. Both had long evolved from their personas of Rocky Maivia and Hunter Hearst Helmsley, respectively, to become leaders of the Nation of Domination and D-Generation X. And Rocky had now truly proven himself as the People’s Intercontinental Champ.
The factions feuded fiercely all throughout the summer of 1998, especially their leaders over the Rock’s Intercontinental Championship, which Triple H was determined to reclaim. A Ladder Match was set in Madison Square Garden for SummerSlam, with Triple H at a psychological and physical disadvantage after the Nation had humiliated Chyna on Raw and the Rock had attacked Triple H’s knee with the Title Belt on Sunday Night Heat.
This Ladder Match was a real war of attrition with the Rock and Hunter determined to one day make the main-event, and here they truly climbed the ladder (pun intended!). Not only showcasing their potential, but also further proving the value of the Intercontinental Title as a stepping stone to the World Championship. In the end, Chyna got her revenge by punching Rocky in the plums and allowing Triple H to bag his second Intercontinental Title.
14. Dean Ambrose Vs. Kevin Owens – Royal Rumble 2016
In the 2010s, the Intercontinental Championship had fallen into a decline with forgettable champions and non-existent rivalries, but things rebounded in 2015 when Kevin Owens picked up his first IC Title and had a great three-month reign with the belt. Then he lost it to the Lunatic Fringe Dean Ambrose (or Jon Moxley to AEW fans!) at TLC, and their feud kicked into overdrive.
With Ambrose constantly getting under Owens’ skin – and the Prizefighter responding with brutal assaults – a Last Man Standing Match was set for the 2016 Royal Rumble. Simply put, it was utter carnage with champion and challenger using all means at their disposal to try and keep the other down for the 10 count.
After twenty furious, chaotic minutes, Owens tried to finish Ambrose off with a moonsault as he lay helplessly on steel chairs. At the last moment, Ambrose returned to life and pushed the challenger off the top rope; sending him crashing through two tables on the arena floor. Owens couldn’t get back up, and Ambrose retained the Intercontinental Title. It was a feud and match that did a lot to make the Intercontinental Title mean something again.
13. The Miz Vs. Dolph Ziggler – No Mercy 2016
The renaissance of the Intercontinental Championship continued well into 2016, thanks to the Miz. Since winning the title for a fifth time the night after WrestleMania 32, the Miz had embarked on arguably the greatest run of his career. Reinvented as a Hollywood A-Lister, with his wife Maryse at his side, raising the Intercontinental Belt high like it was the most prestigious title in all wrestling, the Miz had successfully retained the championship over and over again for months.
Dolph Ziggler had repeatedly failed to reclaim the IC Title from the Miz, and after being humiliated by the Miz’s video package highlighting the most embarrassing moments of Ziggler’s career, Dolph was prepared to retire if he couldn’t defeat the Miz for the Intercontinental Championship at No Mercy.
In one of the most emotional, gripping stories in recent memory, Dolph Ziggler overcame interference from Maryse and the Spirit Squad to finally defeat Miz for the belt and save his career. It was another rip-roaring triumph that showcases just how much the Intercontinental Championship means to wrestlers.
12. The Miz Vs. Cesaro Vs. Kevin Owens Vs. Sami Zayn – Extreme Rules 2016
Well into the midst of his amazing run as the Intercontinental Champion, The Miz was under threat from three challengers. Cesaro had been cheated out of the title the previous month at Payback, and Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens’ years-long feud had now spilled over to the IC Title picture. Owens was determined to get the IC title back and rid himself of Zayn simultaneously. Both Cesaro and Sami were determined to claim their first Intercontinental Championship, and the Miz was determined to stay on top at all costs.
The resultant Fatal Four-Way at Extreme Rules 2016 was one of the most thrilling and exciting four-ways of all time and further restored the prestige of the workhorse title. Miz, Cesaro, Zayn, and Owens all gelled together to produce twenty outstanding minutes of action, where any competitor could’ve walked out with the Intercontinental Title. In the end, the Miz managed to escape with the championship again by pinning Cesaro whilst Kevin & Sami continued brawling at ringside.
11. Gunther Vs. Sheamus – Clash At The Castle 2022
Anybody who says that the Intercontinental Championship doesn’t mean anything anymore may not have seen GUNTHER’S work. Under the Triple H regime in 2022, Gunther truly flourished with the Intercontinental Title, defending it prominently on weekly television, bringing strength, brutality, impeccable mat-wrestling, and the traditional workhorse-quality that the belt demands. And in WWE’s first major UK stadium show in thirty years, Gunther was now set to defend the belt against Sheamus; a proud WWE veteran who had accomplished everything in his career…EXCEPT winning the Intercontinental Title.
With Gunther’s Imperium faction and Sheamus’ Brawling Brutes fighting each other from ringside to backstage, champion and challenger were left to battle by themselves. The result was a vicious, brutal wrestling match that restored so much glory to the Intercontinental Title. Many fans & critics regarded it as the Match of 2022, and even Dave Meltzer rated this one five-stars! Gunther retained the belt after an epic twenty minutes, but afterward, Sheamus was cheered, applauded, and thanked by the Cardiff audience. Not just for his amazing performance on this night, but for 13 years of his life devoted to WWE.
10. Chris Jericho Vs. Rey Mysterio – The Bash 2009
It was one of the best feuds of 2009. Rey Mysterio had proven himself to be one of the best Intercontinental Champs of the 2000s since capturing the belt from JBL at WrestleMania 25. But his title was under threat from the greatest IC Champ of the decade. Jericho had attacked Rey whilst disguised as a fan wearing a Mysterio mask. Rey had retaliated by costing Jericho a match, and then hiding among other Mysterio fans who were wearing masks! (Genius!)
A fantastic series of matches ensued on pay-per-view with each one better than the last. After retaining the belt at Judgment Day, Rey lost the Intercontinental Championship to Jericho at Extreme Rules. Another match was set for The Bash, where Mysterio would be forced to unmask if he lost. In what was one of WWE’s greatest matches of 2009, Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio tore the house down in an outstanding match full of speed, aerial offense, and technical wizardry. In the end, Jericho tore the mask off Rey…only to reveal a SECOND mask underneath!
Bewildered, the champion fell prey to the 619 and a springboard splash! Rey retained his mask and picked up his second Intercontinental Title!
9. Chris Benoit Vs. Chris Jericho
Of course, this feud has been forgotten due to the godawful Benoit Tragedy, but in 2000 (the single-greatest-year for WWE), the Intercontinental Championship was fiercely warred over by Benoit and Jericho. The two-Hart Dungeon graduates traded the IC Title back-and-forth on television and pay-per-view throughout most of 2000 in many stellar encounters, and the rivalry spilled over into 2001, where Benoit had the Intercontinental Title again, and Jericho demanded a title-shot.
Benoit agreed to face Jericho in a ladder match at the Royal Rumble. Benoit had the advantage going in, with three pay-per-view victories over Jericho and injuring the challenger’s shoulder heading into this title defense. The Intercontinental Title has been contested for in many Ladder Matches throughout history, and this was one of the greatest; featuring several amazing (and in hindsight unnecessary) spots like Benoit’s suicide dive through the ropes being foiled by Jericho’s mid-air chair shot to the head.
Benoit ruthlessly targeted Jericho’s shoulder throughout, but the challenger ultimately prevailed to finally prevail over his nemesis and regain the IC Championship.
8. Roddy Piper Vs. Bret Hart – WrestleMania 8
After eight years in the WWF without ever holding a title, the late great Rowdy Rowdy Piper finally picked up his first championship at the 1992 Royal Rumble when he defeated the Mountie for the Intercontinental Belt. The fans rejoiced for the formerly villainous Piper, who was now a much-beloved babyface. Hot Rod’s one-and-only reign with the IC title has been regarded as one of the best reigns in the belt’s history, given that it was Roddy’s only major championship run in WWF/E. And it would lead to what many fans & critics regard as the match of his career.
Former IC Champion Bret Hart was coming for Piper, and despite his respect & love for Bret and the Hart Family, Hot Rod was not gonna let anyone take his prize from him. The match itself was a fundamentally sound classic, made all the more intense when Hot Rod actually busted Bret open with a vicious jab. When the ref was down, fans feared that Piper would resort to his devious ways and use the ring bell to clobber a helpless Bret. In a moment of crisis, Roddy ultimately listened to the fans’ pleas and instead tried to use his Sleeper Hold to win.
However, Bret skilfully countered and scored a rare-pinfall over Roddy Piper to win his second Intercontinental Title. Afterward, Piper put the belt around the Hitman’s waist and left the ring with him in a comradeship. It’s a beautiful moment that fans always remember from WrestleMania 8.
7. Mr. Perfect Vs. Bret Hart – SummerSlam 1991
Madison Square Garden and SummerSlam have both provided many an unforgettable moment for the Intercontinental Championship over the years, and in 1991, one of the greatest came courtesy of Bret Hart and the late, great Curt Hennig. Since The Hart Foundation split-up, the Hitman had climbed up the ranks as a singles-competitor, knowing the Intercontinental Championship was an essential prize. And after chasing Mr. Perfect at house shows for months, Bret finally got his chance at SummerSlam.
Mr. Perfect had long proven himself as one of the greatest Intercontinental Champions of all-time, but his performance in this match truly cemented his legacy. Hennig had severely injured his back going in to SummerSlam, but you never would’ve known given how perfectly he wrestled here.
This was another masterclass of wrestling, with Bret even kicking out of the Perfect-Plex and ultimately reversing a leg-drop into the Sharpshooter to capture his first Intercontinental Title, much to the delight of his family and Madison Square Garden! The valiant Curt Hennig would eventually return to the ring in Survivor Series 1992, and Bret would go on to be arguably the greatest IC Champ of all time.
6. Gunther Vs. Sheamus Vs. Drew McIntyre – WrestleMania 39 (Night 2)
Heading into WrestleMania 39 with an incredible 297-days as Intercontinental Champion, Gunther had truly dominated the scene with several prominent title defences on SmackDown and a record-setting performance of 71 minutes & 25 seconds in the 2022 Men’s Royal Rumble. Now Gunther was forced into defending his Intercontinental Title in a Triple-Threat Match against arch-rival Sheamus AND former WWE Champion Drew McIntyre after interfering in a No. 1 Contender’s Match between the two challengers.
On paper, it was the makings of another hard-hitting match. But like Clash At The Castle 2022, THIS match wildly exceeded all expectations! It was an absolutely vicious, brutal triple-threat bout that the whole SoFi Stadium was into, and all three gladiators were fiercely determined to win! Once again, Sheamus came SO close to finally bagging the IC Championship when he hit a Brogue Kick on Gunther, only for McIntyre to pull Sheamus out of the ring before the three!
In the end, Gunther retained in dominant fashion when he powerbombed Sheamus onto McIntyre, then hit another powerbomb on Drew for the pin! All commentators and fans wildly applauded what was one of the greatest matches ever for the IC Title, at WrestleMania, and in all three men’s careers.
5. Randy Orton Vs. Cactus Jack – Backlash 2004
Since winning the Intercontinental Championship at Armageddon 2003, Randy Orton had established himself as one of the most elite competitors to ever hold the title. Part of Evolution – who now held all gold on the Raw roster – the Legend Killer had a stronghold on his championship. No one could take the belt off him on television…and it was during this time where his feud with Mick Foley intensified. After spitting in the Hardcore Legend’s face, pinning him in a handicap match at WrestleMania 20, Randy arrogantly agreed to face Cactus Jack in a Hardcore Rules match for the Intercontinental Title at Backlash 2004. With Orton’s Evolution teammates banned from ringside.
Simply put, it was the most bloody and violent bout ever waged for the Intercontinental Championship, with Cactus Jack once again proving himself the King of the Deathmatch. But it was also the match that made Orton’s career and cemented his legacy as a truly great Intercontinental Champ. Orton’s skin was ravaged by barbed-wire and a bare-skin landing in thumbtacks! Cactus even delivered a flying-elbow onto Orton right off the stage! And yet, the Legend Killer not only survived all the horrific punishment, he dished it out in kind and conclusively defeated the Hardcore Legend with an RKO onto a barbed-wire baseball bat.
The Legend Killer had retained the IC title all by himself in a match that remains the greatest match of both men’s careers…and Orton was now well on his way to fulfilling his own destiny.
04. Hulk Hogan Vs. The Ultimate Warrior – WrestleMania 6
It was the most epic, high-stakes showdown of all-time. The Ultimate Warrior had truly dominated all before him as the Intercontinental Champion. His popularity, star-power, and invincibility had risen to incredible heights…to the point where he was locked on a collision-course with WWF Champion, the Immortal Hulk Hogan. WWF President Jack Tunney set the main event for WrestleMania 6…the Ultimate Challenge. Where the winner would walk out of Toronto, Canada, with BOTH the WWF World and Intercontinental Championships.
In this historic battle of the titans, Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior wrestled arguably the match of their lives. Everybody in the Skydome was on their feet, providing an electric atmosphere for this legendary battle. Both these invincible champions – these white-hot babyfaces – were so evenly matched, the bout could’ve gone either way. It’s not just one of the greatest WWF/E Championship matches in history. It’s also one of the greatest Intercontinental Title bouts of all time.
In the end, Warrior shockingly avoided the Hogan Leg Drop and nailed a second Warrior Splash to become the only man to hold both the WWF and Intercontinental Titles simultaneously. It was the highest level the Intercontinental Championship ever reached and the crowning moment of the Ultimate Warrior’s career.
3. Shawn Michaels Vs. Razor Ramon – WrestleMania 10 & SummerSlam 1995
For this spot, it’s two matches in one! In my opinion, both these bouts are part of the same legendary story…and both are just so damn perfect it would be criminal to ignore either of them!
The genesis of the initial build-up was one of the greatest in WWE history. Shawn Michaels had been suspended and forced to vacate the Intercontinental Title. Razor Ramon had won the strap, and then when the Heartbreak Kid returned…he was carrying an exact replica of the title belt he claimed he’d never been beaten for! A ladder match was set for WrestleMania 10 in Madison Square Garden, with the winner being the UNDISPUTED Intercontinental Champion!
As mentioned earlier, the Intercontinental Title has become synonymous with the Ladder Match, but the one at WrestleMania 10 was so pioneering, so groundbreaking, it became the blueprint for Ladder Matches we know today. It remains a timeless, perfect classic with Shawn and Razor proving the lengths that they would go to becoming the Intercontinental Champion.
At WrestleMania 10…after so many breathtaking spots and an incredible performance from both men, Razor retrieved the title belts to prove to the world that he was THE Undisputed IC Champ.
Fifteen months later, the two met again in a ladder match at SummerSlam 1995, with Shawn now the IC Champ. It was another five-star masterpiece, yet also different from the previous epic at WrestleMania 10. Again, both men pulled out all the stops to be the Intercontinental Champion, with Shawn performing many aerial attacks off the ladder and the Bad Guy taking Shawn off the ladder with the Razor’s Edge.
This time round, Shawn was able to prevail with the Intercontinental Title in his possession, and the two rivals shook hands in respect. When people stress just how much both the Ladder Match and the IC Championship mean wrestling, they refer to Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon.
2. Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart Vs. The British Bulldog – SummerSlam 1992
Ever since winning the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam the previous year, Bret Hart had taken on all challengers, defending it proudly on weekly television, and partaking in some of the greatest matches ever for the championship against Mr. Perfect and Rowdy Rowdy Piper. But at SummerSlam 1992, the Hitman was in for the fight of his life as his brother-in-law Davey Boy Smith (the British Bulldog) was set to challenge him in the main-event at Wembley Stadium in London, England.
The Bulldog had the home field advantage, tensions were rising between champion and challenger, and the Hart family was being torn apart, with members picking sides, and Diana (Davey’s wife and Bret’s sister) caught right in the the middle. It all exploded in the main event, when the brothers-in-law collided in a grueling contest that has been regarded by many as the greatest bout in the history of SummerSlam.
Both Bret and the Bulldog were evenly matched, yet Wembley Stadium were screaming for their hero to win. After twenty-five incredible minutes, the Bulldog was finally able to pin the Hitman to capture the Intercontinental Championship in what was undoubtedly his crowning moment. Ultimately, Bret congratulated Davey on his hard-fought victory, and the family reconciled with a group hug. Another epic moment in wrestling that will be remembered forever.
1. ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage Vs. Ricky Steamboat – WrestleMania 3
Yup…everyone’s heard of THIS one. Over THIRTY-SIX years later, people STILL love Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat from WrestleMania 3. Many fans regard it as not just the greatest Intercontinental Title match of all time, but also the greatest match in the history of WrestleMania.
The set-up was simple; Intercontinental Champ Randy Savage had attacked Ricky Steamboat by driving the ring bell from the top rope and into his larynx; putting the Dragon out of action for months. Steamboat returned with a vengeance, challenging the Macho Man for the Intercontinental Title. The match itself barely lasted fifteen minutes, but Savage and Steamboat wrestled at such a breakneck pace, attempting as many pins as possible to wear the other out.
With amazing aerial offense, technical ability, and unmatched intensity, the Macho Man and the Dragon fought tooth-and-nail in a display that captivated 93,173 fans in attendance, and millions more around the world.
In the bout’s closing moments, Savage tried to use the ring bell again, but George “The Animal” Steele prevented him from doing so, allowing Steamboat to counter a bodyslam into a pinning-predicament for the win and the title! There have been so many emotional triumphs and legendary moments associated with the Intercontinental Championship, but none more so than the Dragon’s unforgettable victory over the Macho Man.
Do you agree with this list? Please discuss with us your favourite Intercontinental Championship matches of all time! Thank you so very much for all your support and feedback on this series! See you all again soon and Happy Easter, everyone!