The 2000s was a beautiful decade for the Intercontinental Championship. Starting with the year 2000 – the single-greatest year for then-called World Wrestling Federation – the Attitude Era was still going strong, with new faces rising to take their rightful place in history, and the overall product being virtual perfection. The mid-card was SO strong, and a new generation of gladiators claimed Intercontinental Gold to continue its legacy as one of the most prestigious championships a wrestler could hold.
When the Attitude Era ended, and the Ruthless Aggression Era began, the Intercontinental Championship scene remained strong and glorious (we WON’T talk about the title being temporarily retired from October 2002 to June 2003, alright?), with so many newcomers building & building upon the championship’s prestige and make more epic history, former tag-team specialists now looking for their big break as a singles star, and even legends who had moved away from the world title picture gave themselves and thus the IC title a new lease of life. Overall, the 2000s really gave us some absolute legends as Intercontinental Champion.
When Christian became absolutely jealous of Edge’s success as the 2001 King of the Ring, and then the Intercontinental Champion…Christian turned heel with a one-man Con-Chair-To to his former-best chum. Then won his first Intercontinental Championship at Unforgiven 2001, subsequently joining the Alliance during the whole Invasion storyline. Fast-forward to 2003, Christian got a new haircut, upgraded his heel persona and enjoyed another two dastardly reigns as IC Champ before finally losing the title to Rob Van Dam in one of the greatest Ladder Matches ever on Monday Night Raw. Captain Charisma used his time as IC Champ wisely to get to where he is today. For his Peeps, of course.
Johnny Nitro/John Morrison
When MNM sensationally split-up in 2006, Johnny Nitro went from SmackDown to Raw, and picked up his first Intercontinental Championship at Vengeance 2006 in a spectacular triple-threat against Carlito and Shelton Benjamin. After that came a great feud with Jeff Hardy, which saw the belt change back-and-forth in various ladder and cage matches. Then when the real-life John Hennigan upgraded himself to John Morrison, he defeated the legendary Rey Mysterio to win his third & final IC Title in 2009 for an impressive run. John, you did alright with this one, mate.
On paper, Kurt Angle’s sole IC Title reign seems inconsequential compared to his glorious world title reigns; especially given that his run only lasted 35 days. But it was EVERYTHING that Kurt did with the championship in that time that was so unforgettably brilliant! Beating Chris Jericho at No Way Out 2000 for the title whilst already European Champion, Angle became the third, final and most successful ‘Euro-Continental’ champion of all time. And when he lost both titles at WrestleMania 16, Angle wasn’t even involved in either loss! Kurt Angle would never have ascended to main-event status if not for his brilliance as the Euro-Continental Champion! It’s true! It’s true!
Already a former world champion, tag champion and established main-eventer, Kane picked up his first Intercontinental Championship at Judgement Day 2001 by beating Triple H in a brutal chain-match (the best bout ever in Kane’s career, in my opinion) and although his first reign only lasted 39 days, Kane was a fighting champion, successfully defending it on weekly TV against the likes of Kurt Angle, Edge, Christian and Rhyno before dropping it to Albert (of all people!) after some incredibly good matches between the two. Kane won his second IC Title in 2002 by beating Chris Jericho, and although his second reign lasted 20 days, Kane remained a fighting IC Champ, as well as a Tag Team Champion simultaneously, winning one of the greatest TLC matches all by himself! The Big Red Machine can be proud of his work as Intercontinental Champ!
In the twilight of his career, Ric Flair won his only Intercontinental Championship from Carlito at Unforgiven 2005. He became the oldest champion in history at 58-years-old, his reign lasted 155 days before dropping the title to Shelton Benjamin, and he feuded with the likes of Edge and his former Evolution bestie Triple H. The greatest moment of that run was unquestionably a classic cage match at Taboo Tuesday 2005, which saw the Nature Boy retain the title against Triple H. It was one of the greatest IC Championship bouts in the title’s history and another classic courtesy of Ric Flair. WOOOOOOOO!!!
Santino was absolutely ace. Ergo, he was an absolutely ace Intercontinental Champion. Picked at RANDOM by Vince McMahon (yeah, right!) from the Milan, Italy audience during 2007 to challenge then-champ Umaga on Raw, Santino scored a shocking upset (with Bobby Lashley’s help!) to win his first title in WWE! Marella reigned for 77 days before dropping the title back to Umaga. In 2008, Santino was now partnered with Beth Phoenix and ‘Glamarella’ became a successful power-couple, holding both the Intercontinental and Women’s Titles respectively, after Beth scored the win at SummerSlam 2008. And of course, there was the genius ‘Honk-A-Meter’; Santino’s week-by-week attempt to break the Honky Tonk Man’s unbeaten 64-week reign. He failed miserably…but it was STILL genius!
10. Eddie Guerrero
Shortly after Eddie Guerrero’s fantastic run as the European Champion came to an end in 2000, Latino Heat soon moved onto the Intercontinental belt, albeit ‘accidentally’. Shortly after his beloved “Mamacita” Chyna picked up another historic Intercontinental Championship, Eddie asked Commissioner Mick Foley to insert him into her title defence against Kurt Angle. Chyna had been knocked out by Kurt, Eddie took care of him and then ‘accidentally’ pinned Chyna whilst trying to revive her. Only a legend like Eddie could’ve pulled that off…!
Of course, it was a precursor to Eddie’s inevitable lying, cheating, & stealing. Eddie turned heel, and reigned with the Intercontinental Championship for 80 days before dropping it to Billy Gunn. At Backlash 2002, Eddie Guerrero won his second Intercontinental Championship from Rob Van Dam and held it for 36 days, feuding with RVD throughout the entire reign, retaining the title at Insurextion and Judgement Day before finally dropping it to Van Dam in one of the best Ladder Matches ever on Raw. Eddie had one of the greatest careers of all time, and the Intercontinental Title remains an important part of his legacy.
9. Triple H
Triple H had already picked up two Intercontinental Championships in the 90s. His first reign lasted 115 days as Hunter Hearst Helmsley, and his second reign came after defeating the Rock at SummerSlam 1998 but was cut short when Hunter had to vacate the title due to a knee injury. Helmsley used his IC Title victories to get to the main-event level. But even after HHH had cemented his legacy as a THAT-DAMN-GOOD WWF Champion…Triple H went back to the Intercontinental Title in 2001 and continued to be an amazing champ
Uniting with former arch-nemesis Steve Austin to form the Two-Man Power Trip, ‘The Game’ defeated Chris Jericho to win his third IC Title. This reign only lasted 7 days before he was shockingly upset for the title by Jeff Hardy! Hunter got the belt back three days later, and with Austin, renewed his hostilities with the Undertaker & Kane. The Two-Man Power Trip beat the Brothers of Destruction for the Tag Titles at Backlash 2001, with Hunter becoming the second-ever Grand Slam Champ, and he and Austin (who was WWF Champion) now had all the gold and power in their possession.
Triple H was finally dethroned by Kane for the IC Title at Judgement Day after 34 days, and then in 2002, Hunter unified the IC Title with the World Heavyweight Championship. Although Triple H’s time with the championship was brief in the 2000s, the Intercontinental Belt transcended to the main-event whilst in his hands.
8. Chris Benoit
Obviously, it’s very hard to discuss Chris Benoit without thinking about the horrific and inexcusable Benoit Tragedy. But in the context of this list, Benoit the WRESTLER remained a fighting Intercontinental Champion. Determined to make an impact in the WWF after jump-shipping from WCW in February 2000, Benoit immediately set his sights on championship gold, and found himself in the two-fall triple-threat match at WrestleMania 16 for the European and Intercontinental Titles with Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho.
Benoit won the Intercontinental Championship that night, and then took on all-comers on Raw, SmackDown and Sunday Night Heat, with his heated-rivalry with Chris Jericho standing above all other challengers throughout 2000 and into 2001. The title switched back-and-forth between the fierce rivals in an excellent series of matches, with the greatest being an epic Ladder Match at Royal Rumble 2001. Benoit picked up his fourth & final Intercontinental Championship in 2002 before losing it to Rob Van Dam at SummerSlam. Benoit’s reigns may have been brief, but he always made them count, and then he ultimately claimed the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 20.
Edge had already won his first Intercontinental Championship in July 1999 from Jeff Jarrett. Alas, his reign only lasted 24 hours, but the groundwork had been laid for Edge’s success as a singles-wrestler in the 21st Century. After becoming 2001 King of the Ring, Edge again set his sights on Intercontinental gold and regained the title from Lance Storm in a damn-fine match at SummerSlam. He lost the belt a month later to a jealous Christian at Unforgiven, but got his revenge in a Ladder match at No Mercy. Sadly, it was another brief reign when he lost the belt to Test 15 days later, but Edge scored another thrilling triumph at Survivor Series when he unified the IC title with the United States Championship.
Edge’s fourth reign lasted 63 days before he was defeated by William Regal at Royal Rumble 2002, and then Edge picked up his fifth & final championship by ending the Legend Killer Randy Orton’s almighty reign at Vengeance 2004. After 57 days, Edge surrendered the title due to injury. Although his reigns were brief, Edge was a happy & proud Intercontinental Champion, using his time with the belt to grow as a performer, wrestler and superstar, before going-on to be the world champion. Another classic success!
6. Jeff Hardy
The Hardy Boys rank among the greatest tag teams of all time, and both Matt and Jeff had already proved that in their feud with Edge & Christian and the Dudleys from No Mercy 1999 to WrestleMania 17. But it was during April 2001 when Jeff received his first big break as a singles-wrestler. During Team Extreme’s feud with the Two-Man Power Trip, Jeff Hardy scored a shocking upset over Triple H for the Intercontinental Championship on SmackDown! He also made history as the youngest Intercontinental Champ ever, winning the title at 23-years-old! Jeff sadly lost the belt back to Hunter three days later, but the victory cemented Jeff’s single-status as a superstar.
Hardy would win his second Intercontinental Championship over five years later on 02.10.2006, then embarked on wicked feuds with Johnny Nitro and Umaga in some absolutely fantastic matches (the best being a cage match at New Year’s Revolution 2007 with the former, and a rollercoaster match with the latter at the Great American Bash later that year). Defending the title regularly on weekly TV and on pay-per-view, Jeff even challenged for the WWE Championship whilst Intercontinental Champion! From 2006 to 2008, the Charismatic Enigma had captured the belt four times at this point, spent a combined total of 323 days as IC Champ, and became yet another wrestler who successfully went on to be WWE World Champion. So amazing was Jeff as the Intercontinental Champ, he won the belt for a fifth & final time in 2020.
5. Shelton Benjamin
From late 2002 to early 2004, Shelton Benjamin was one-half of the World’s Greatest Tag Team (with Charlie Haas); and they had plenty of credentials to back up that claim. When the World’s Greatest Tag Team was split-up in the 2004 Draft Lottery, Shelton ended up on Raw and immediately became a huge singles-star by beating Triple H for three weeks running! Fast-forward to Taboo Tuesday 2004, the fans voted for Benjamin to challenge Chris Jericho for the Intercontinental Championship…and Shelton won!
Shelton’s first run with the title was a spectacular 244-Day reign (the LONGEST of the 2000s), resplendent with first-class title defences against Christian at Survivor Series 2004 and Chris Jericho at Backlash 2005. Shelton entered the first-ever Money in the Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania 21 as IC Champ, and raised the value of the title even higher with his performance in that bout, becoming the MVP of MITB matches going forward.
Shelton picked up another two great Intercontinental titles in 2006, feuding with the likes of Ric Flair and Rob Van Dam (the highlight being an excellent Winner-Takes-All match for the IC Title and MITB briefcase at Backlash 2006), before dropping the championship in a fantastic triple-threat at Vengeance 2006 involving Carlito and Johnny Nitro. Although Shelton Benjamin may never have reached world-title heights in WWE, as an Intercontinental Champion, there ain’t no stoppin’ him! NAAAAHHHH!!!
4. Rey Mysterio
On paper, Rey’s two Intercontinental Championship reigns from 2009 may not seem impressive (his first lasted 63 days, his second lasted 68 days), but Mysterio MAXIMISED his time as champion to not only provide one of the best Intercontinental Title runs in years, he also reminded us why Rey Mysterio is one of the most spectacular & awe-inspiring wrestlers of all time.
Beating JBL in a shocking 21 seconds at WrestleMania 25 to become Intercontinental Champion, Rey became the 21st Triple Crown Winner in WWE, then embarked on a legendary feud with Chris Jericho. A series of classic matches on PPV (Judgement Day and Extreme Rules) – with each one better than the last – saw the title change hands between the rivals. And it culminated in an epic Title-vs.-Mask affair at The Bash 2009, with Rey ending the feud, and moving-on to a rivalry with Dolph Ziggler, with the title-defence at SummerSlam really putting Ziggler’s name on the map. After losing the title to John Morrison, Rey Mysterio became involved in high-profile feuds with Batista & CM Punk, regained the World Championship in 2010, and then won the WWE Title in 2011. The Intercontinental Title brought Rey back to the Promised Land, and vice versa.
3. Rob Van Dam
One of the most popular newcomers to have come to the WWE during the whole Invasion storyline, Rob Van Dam immediately achieved success as the greatest Hardcore Champion of all time. Then in 2002, he won his first Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 18 from William Regal. One of the most spectacular, innovative and amazing athletes of all time, RVD also cemented himself as one of the greatest to have ever held this championship.
Although Van Dam didn’t enjoy an undefeated, record-breaking run like his unforgettable 23-month reign as the ECW World TV Champion, Mr. Monday Night nevertheless made history many times as IC Champ. From 2002 to 2006, Rob was a six-time champion, involved in thrilling feuds with the likes of Eddie Guerrero, Brock Lesnar, Chris Benoit, Christian, Randy Orton and Shelton Benjamin, partook in several classic matches on TV and PPV, unified the Intercontinental Title with the European and Hardcore Championships, briefly held the IC Title and MITB briefcase simultaneously…and of course, went on to become WWE Champion at ECW One Night Stand 2006. Just like every other time, RVD was the Whole F’N Show as Intercontinental Champion.
2. Randy Orton
Randy Orton’s sole Intercontinental Championship reign from Armageddon 2003 to Vengeance 2004 stands above most in the title’s lineage. Lasting 210 days, it was the longest reign of any IC Title-holder since The Rock’s 264 day run from December 1997 to August 1998. Having joined the ranks of Evolution and established himself as the Legend Killer, Randy simply shined brighter than ever with the gold. Improving more-and-more as a heel, on the mic and in the ring, the Legend Killer reigned supreme with Evolution; who now had every male championship on the Raw roster.
Defending it routinely on TV, Orton’s IC Title reign also revolved around his legendary feud with Mick Foley. Having dared to spit in the Hardcore Legend’s face, Orton scored the winning pinfall on Foley at WrestleMania 20 when Evolution beat the Rock ’n’ Sock Connection, and then at Backlash 2004, the Legend Killer retained his title against Cactus Jack in one of the bloodiest, most brutal classics EVER waged for the Intercontinental title; a No-Holds-Barred Match that remains the greatest bout in both Randy and Mick’s careers. And when Orton was finally dethroned by Edge at Vengeance 2004, the WWE Universe rejoiced!
A month after that, Orton became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion of all time and the rest was history.
1. Chris Jericho
Really, who ELSE could it have been for single-greatest Intercontinental Champion of the 2000s? After beating Chyna for his first Intercontinental Championship at Armageddon 1999, Chris Jericho brought the championship into the new millennium, and from 2000 to 2009, the man dominated the decade overall as IC Title holder; being involved in so many legendary storylines/feuds and classic matches involving the championship.
Feuding with a who’s-who of wrestling, Jericho battled Chyna, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, William Regal, Triple H, Kane, Rob Van Dam, Christian, Shelton Benjamin, Jeff Hardy, Kofi Kingston and Rey Mysterio over the Intercontinental Title; continuing to make the title one of the most prestigious in all of wrestling, as well as put over so many new stars/titleholders for the belt. Jericho even has the distinction of co-holding the IC Championship with Chyna in a storyline that worked brilliantly!
Although Jericho’s accumulated total of 311 days as Intercontinental Champion is surpassed by others, Y2J nonetheless still holds the record for most title victories with a staggering NINE IC Championship wins! Not just one of the greatest technical wrestlers/performers who ever lived, Chris Jericho easily ranks in my Top 10 Intercontinental Champions of ALL TIME.
So…what do YOU think of this list? Agree with the picks? Who were YOUR favourite Intercontinental Champions of the 2000s?
See you all again soon!
Make a one-time donation
Make a monthly donation
Make a yearly donation
Choose an amount
Or enter a custom amount
Your contribution is greatly appreciated.
Your contribution is greatly appreciated.
Your contribution is greatly appreciated.DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly