The Intercontinental Championship: wrestling historians regard it as many things. The workhorse title, one of the most prestigious championships to hold in all of wrestling, a launching pad to potentially become the next world champion. All of which have certainly been proven true throughout the championship’s 43 years. Sadly, what has also been proven true, are people’s remarks that the prestigious Intercontinental Championship (as Michael Cole has been told to call it every week) is nowhere near as prestigious as it once was. What with too many forgettable titleholders in recent years, no more high-profile rivalries over the championship…and virtually little-to-no major title defences on PPV or even weekly telly.
(Although that’s rapidly changing now with Triple H as Head of Creative and Gunther now IC Champ…)
But on the other hand, people are too willing to forget that the the 2010s did produce a first-rate lineage of Intercontinental Champs, who not only gave some much-needed prestige back to the title, but also used the belt as a stepping stone to even bigger things. These guys really left their mark on the Intercontinental Championship, and made it truly prestigious again.
Big E Langston
Before becoming part of The New Day we all know and love, Big E captured his first Intercontinental Championship in 2013 by defeating Curtis Axel. Enjoying a lengthy 167 day reign as champ, fending off the likes of Curtis Axel, Fandango, Damien Sandow and Jack Swagger (in an excellent title-showing at Elimination Chamber 2014)…Big E also used the title to move up the card then shortly joined the New Day after losing the belt in 2014, and the rest was history. The man definitely did alright for himself as IC Champ.
The late Jonathan Huber (and future Brodie Lee in AEW) was one seriously underrated athlete and tremendous talent. Part of the creepy & brilliant Wyatt Family, Luke Harper also achieved great success as a singles-wrestler, winning the Intercontinental Championship from Dolph Ziggler in 2014 and joining Team Authority for that year’s Survivor Series. Although his reign only lasted 27 days, it was memorable and culminated in a terrific ladder match at TLC 2014, where Harper lost the belt back to Dolph Ziggler. Jonathan Huber was a star who is still loved and missed to this day.
10. Daniel Bryan
Alas, what COULD have been. After being forced to relinquish the WWE Championship and being shelved in 2014 because of injury, Daniel Bryan would return in 2015 and find himself in the opening contest at WrestleMania 31; an utterly thrilling ladder-match against Luke Harper, Dean Ambrose, R-Truth, Stardust, Dolph Ziggler and Bad News Barrett, which saw Bryan claim his only Intercontinental Championship. And thus become the 26th Triple Crown Winner and a member of the Grand Slam Club.
With the ‘Yes’ Movement back in full-swing, Daniel seemed poised for a dominant Intercontinental title reign. Especially after a wicked title defence against Ziggler the next night on Raw. Unfortunately, injuries and concussions struck again, forcing poor Daniel to vacate the title after 44 days and retire from the ring for more than two-years. Nonetheless, Daniel Bryan’s epic Intercontinental Title victory is remembered much more than most from the last decade.
9. Wade / Bad News Barrett
The one-time Nexus Leader deserved so much more than what he received throughout his WWE career. However, something Mr. Barrett can be very proud of is his success as the Intercontinental Champion. Between 2011 and 2015, Wade racked up an impressive FIVE Intercontinental Title Reigns, feuding with the likes of Kofi Kingston, The Miz, Rob Van Dam and Dolph Ziggler, with his shortest reign lasting 58 days and his longest lasting 97 days!
It was before Wade’s fourth title win that he became “Bad News”, got SUPER over with audiences and really became a memorable IC Champ. Sadly, a shoulder-injury, daft booking and the Powers-That-Be telling Wade to STOP BEING POPULAR (idiots!) impeded him…but overall, Bad News Barrett was a damn fine IC Champ.
8. Dean Ambrose
When The Shield disbanded in 2014, poor Dean Ambrose (now AEW megastar Jon Moxley) REALLY had to wait for his big break as a singles-wrestler as opposed to Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. Thankfully, Dean FINALLY got his chance when he defeated Kevin Owens at TLC 2015 to win his first Intercontinental Championship. Successful title defences against Dolph Ziggler and a wicked feud with Kevin Owens followed, with the Lunatic Fringe retaining his title in a Last Man Standing Match at the Royal Rumble 2016; one of the greatest Intercontinental Title Bouts of the last decade!
Ambrose would lose the IC Title back to Owens after 64 days, THEN went on to become WWE Champion in 2016. A second Intercontinental Title win followed in 2017 (lasting 152 days) and his third & final reign in 2018 only lasted 28 days. Sadly, neither were as impressive or as eventful as Dean’s first run with the championship. Nevertheless, Ambrose did successfully use the title to springboard to even greater heights.
7. Kevin Owens
Fresh off his dominant NXT Championship run and Feud of 2015 with John Cena, Mr. Owens ended Ryback’s Intercontinental Championship reign, and went on to be a dominant, fighting champ for 84 days. Retaining the belt against the likes of Chris Jericho and Ryback, as well as picking up impressive non-title wins over Neville, Dolph Ziggler and Mark Henry, making it to the semi-finals of the WWE Title Tournament in 2015, and his previously-mentioned feud with Dean Ambrose…ALL raised the value of the Intercontinental Championship once again.
Owens’ second title win lasted 48 days, featuring him retaining the belt at Fastlane 2016 in a fantastic match with Dolph Ziggler and then Kevin ultimately lost the IC Strap in that brilliant ladder match at WrestleMania 32 (the one Zack Ryder won and we all rejoiced!). Although Owens would never regain Intercontinental gold, he would go-on to be the Universal Champion later in 2016…and naturally was awesome at it. KO + Intercontinental Championship = Greatness.
6. Drew McIntyre
Hindsight really is a funny thing; especially when it comes to Drew McIntyre in 2010. This was a far-cry from the wrestler/performer we all know & love today. Pushed to the moon, hand-picked as Vince McMahon’s ‘Chosen One’…frankly, I didn’t think Drew merited the push given how raw and green he was at the time.
Having said all that, Drew’s sole Intercontinental Championship reign WAS a huge-success looking back and then looking where Drew is today. After defeating John Morrison to end the previous decade at TLC 2009, McIntyre retained the title over Morrison, qualified for Money in the Bank at WrestleMania 26, battled the likes of Undertaker & Kane, viciously assaulted the likes of poor Matt Hardy, relied on his relationship with Vince to avoid being ‘officially’ defeated/stripped of the title, as well as bullying SmackDown General Manager Theodore Long, and entering a feud with Kofi Kingston. By the time Drew FINALLY lost the IC Championship to Kofi at Over The Limit 2010…he had reigned for 161 Days!
Eventful & packed with heat, Drew McIntyre’s one & only mighty reign with the Intercontinental Title stands above most in the belt’s history. Ten years after all that, Drew would finally fulfil his destiny as Vince’s Chosen One. Long-term success at its best.
5. Kofi Kingston
Before being part of The New Day, Kofi Kingston was already a popular mid-carder. Kingston had even captured his first Intercontinental Championship in 2008 from Chris Jericho himself! In the 2010s, Kofi picked up a further three Intercontinental Titles, further connecting with audiences and restoring the prestige of the belt.
Over with the crowd, a reliable performer and fantastic wrestler, Kofi spent plenty of time in the IC Title picture, feuding with the likes of Drew McIntyre, Dolph Ziggler, Wade Barrett, Curtis Axel and The Miz. With several stellar title victories and defences on his resume, Kofi Kingston ended up a proud four-time Intercontinental Champion. After that…a hugely successful stint in the New Day, plenty of amazing Tag Team Championships, ultimate glory as the WWE Champion…and surely an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame one day.
4. Seth Rollins
After achieving glory with The Shield, shockingly betraying the Shield, ultimate glory as WWE Champion and being the Wrestler of 2015…only to be injured, betrayed by the Authority and trying to work his way back up the ladder, Seth Rollins was at something at a crossroads before he won his first Intercontinental Championship in 2018.
Winning the belt in an excellent triple-threat match over the Miz and Finn Balor at WrestleMania 34, Seth truly personified the WORKHORSE aspect of the title in the modern-era. Retaining the title in epic-fashion against the Miz at Backlash, Seth then embarked on various open challenges on Monday Night Raw, as well as feuding with Elias and Dolph Ziggler over the belt. Rollins won his second Intercontinental Title from Ziggler at SummerSlam 2018, and continued to be an exemplary IC Champ throughout the rest of the year. Although his ultimate loss to Dean Ambrose at TLC 2018 was lacklustre, Seth Rollins ruled the IC Title scene for 190 days total, then went onto be Universal Champ in 2019. Another feather in the Architect’s cap!
3. Dolph Ziggler
When people say Dolph Ziggler should’ve been a successful World Champion and main-event-player… they always turn to Ziggler’s legacy as the Intercontinental Champion to put their case forward. Simply-put, Dolph is an amazing worker, and everything he’s done with the IC Title has just been phenomenal.
After feuding with Rey Mysterio over the belt in 2009 put his name on the map, Dolph Ziggler won his first of SIX Intercontinental Championships in 2010. For the next eight years, Ziggler was always a strong, ever-present contender for the Intercontinental Title. In a variety of different matches against so many different opponents, Ziggler was another modern-day star who embodied the workhorse-ethic that the belt symbolised, delivering several classic matches and feuds, with none-more-so than his 2016 rivalry with the Miz, which saw Ziggler triumph in the epic Title vs. Career affair at No Mercy 2016. Dolph is truly one of the best to have ever held the title.
2. Cody Rhodes
Really, we have so much to thank Cody Rhodes for when he became Intercontinental Champion. After mercifully ending Ezekiel Jackson’s reign in 2011, Cody went-on to hold the strap for an almighty 234 DAYS! That’s impressive in itself, but Rhodes also used the title to not only prove himself as a singles-wrestler, he went on to become the best Intercontinental Champ in years.
Exceptional on the mic and in the ring, the versatile Cody would further impress against the likes of John Morrison, Ted DiBiase Jr. and even Booker T! As well as amazing showings in the 2012 Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber whilst IC Champ. Cody’s reign will also be remembered for retiring the Attitude Era design for the Intercontinental Title and restoring the Classic Design. Although his reign hit a bump in the road with a daft Big Show feud, Cody finished a two-time IC Champ after dropping the belt to Christian. One of the reasons why Cody Rhodes is where he’s at today is because of what he did with this championship.
1. The Miz
After falling back down-to-Earth following his WWE Championship loss in 2011, the Miz won his first Intercontinental Championship in 2012 from Christian and had a solid-run. Then he had a second reign which lasted 24 hours, and a third reign which lasted 24 days, and a fourth reign which (AGAIN!) lasted 24 hours…it wasn’t looking good.
THEN the Miz won the title for a FIFTH TIME in 2016 and he cemented himself as one of the ALL-TIME GREATS to EVER hold the Intercontinental Championship! The Awesome One had long reincarnated as a Hollywood A-Lister, reunited with wife Maryse to form a white-hot heelish duo and proceeded to raise the trophy like it was the single-most-important prize in wrestling! Ending Zack Ryder’s 24-hour reign to much despair, The Miz went-on to defend the belt against the likes of Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and Cesaro at Extreme Rules in one of the best matches EVER for the title! He had memorable feuds with Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns over the strap, and a legendary rivalry with Dolph Ziggler which included the epic Title vs. Career showdown…he constantly defended it on pay-per-view and weekly TV…
OH, YES…and there was that AWESOME promo Miz delivered on Talking Smack against all his haters and Daniel Bryan.
When Miz had finished with the Intercontinental Championship in 2018, he was an EIGHT-TIME CHAMPION; the second-most reigns behind Chris Jericho (who had 9 reigns). Miz’s COMBINED NUMBER OF DAYS as champion was 592! Second only to Pedro Morales’ combined total of 617 days!
No question, The Miz isn’t just the greatest Intercontinental Champion of the 2010s…he’s one of the greatest IC Champs of ALL-TIME. Easily in my Top 10 ever.
So…what do YOU think of this list? Agree with the picks? Who were YOUR favourite Intercontinental Champions of the 2010s?
See you all again soon!
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