Many fans & critics have regarded the 1990s as the DEFINITIVE decade for the Intercontinental Championship. And it’s VERY hard to argue! The 90s were simply a glorious time for the WWF Intercontinental Title. Arguably the greatest storylines, the most heroic triumphs, controversial moments, the most classic matches for the IC Belt dominate these golden years. Some of the biggest superstars of all time would hold this title, and then go-on to hold the ultimate prize; the WWF Championship.
So much history was made with the workhorse title over-and-over again in the 90s. Frankly, it was really difficult to narrow it down to a Top 10 (and honourable mentions) given the number of first-class titleholders from this particular decade. Even those who never became world champion in WWF/E could be eternally proud of what they accomplished with the Intercontinental Title around their waist. What a time it was to be a fan!
I simply cannot chronicle the 90s without mentioning the late, great Joanie Laurer. Everything Chyna did throughout her WWF tenure was groundbreaking, and the absolute height of her career came when she defeated Jeff Jarrett in a Good Housekeeping Match at No Mercy 1999 to become the first and only woman to hold the Intercontinental Championship. That in itself will always be amazing, but the Ninth Wonder of the World’s reign was equally historic, lasting 56 days and remembered for a great program with Chris Jericho. Chyna retained the title against Y2J at Survivor Series and then lost the belt to him in a competitive match at Armageddon. Chyna later co-held the IC Title with Jericho after a controversial rematch, and then solely won the belt for a second time at SummerSlam 2000 for a much shorter reign. Chyna’s legacy with-or-without the championship will never be forgotten.
You could argue that Kevin Nash wasn’t a memorable Intercontinental Champion, but actually he achieved great success winning and holding the title. With help from his buddy Shawn Michaels, Diesel defeated Razor Ramon on 30.04.1994 to win his only IC Title, holding it for an impressive 138 days, and simultaneously holding the Tag Titles with HBK. Diesel lost the Intercontinental belt back to Razor at SummerSlam, and after vacating the Tag Team Belts when he and Shawn split-up, Diesel then beat Bob Backlund to become WWF Champion, and thus the first-ever wrestler to bag the Triple Crown within a calendar year. Not bad, eh?
You could also argue that D’Lo’s sole Intercontinental Championship win doesn’t deserve an honourable mention – given that it only lasted 27 days – but I WOULD argue that “YES. IT DOES”. He became the FIRST-EVER Euro-Continental Champion, when as European Champion, he defeated Jeff Jarrett for the IC Title. A superb heavyweight-wrestler with the speed and athleticism of a cruiserweight, D’Lo Brown was one of the greatest European Champions of all-time. Holding both European and Intercontinental Belts in the Summer of 1999 was the pinnacle of Brown’s career, and a historic moment. You better recognise!
When this UFC/MMA legend transitioned to the world of wrestling, he was just simply awesome at it. Another of the Attitude Era’s greatest stars, Ken Shamrock had legendary feuds with the Rock and Owen Hart before finally picking up the Intercontinental Championship in October 1998, winning the vacant title in an 8-Man Tournament, beating the likes of Steve Blackman, Val Venis and X-Pac. The World’s Most Dangerous Man enjoyed a great 125-day reign, triumphing over the likes of Mankind (in a great bout at Judgement Day), Steve Blackman, and Billy Gunn, joining Vince’s Corporation, winning the Tag Titles with the Big Bossman to become a dual champion, before finally losing the IC Title to Val Venis at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre 1999. Shamrock’s WWF legacy seems to be overlooked today for some strange reason.
This legend…this UTTER LEGEND…followed in his brother’s footsteps to become a proud two-time Intercontinental Champion in 1997. Ending Rocky Maivia’s reign, Owen became a dual-champion, holding the IC Belt whilst being Tag Team Champs with the British Bulldog, a TWO-TIME SLAMMY AWARD WINNER(!) and a proud member of the Hart Foundation. Owen’s feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin also intensified during this time when he pinned the Rattlesnake in the main-event of Canadian Stampede, then lost the title to Austin at SummerSlam after breaking Austin’s neck with the infamous piledriver. Owen defeated Faarooq in a tournament-final at Bad Blood: In Your House to regain the belt, and then lost it to Austin again at the fateful Survivor Series 1997.
‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper
One of wrestling’s biggest legends, the arch-nemesis of Hulk Hogan, one of the major players of the Rock ’N’ Wrestling Era, Roddy Piper somehow went eight-years in the WWF without ever holding a title. That all changed at the 1992 Royal Rumble when Hot Rod put the Mountie to sleep to win the Intercontinental Championship. Roddy’s only major championship reign in WWF was also one of the best in the title’s history, lasting 77 days before being defeated by Bret “Hitman” Hart at WrestleMania 8; in what was not only one of the greatest IC Title matches of all-time but quite possibly the greatest match of Piper’s career as well.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley / Triple H
Hunter Hearst Helmsley was in the doghouse in 1996 following his involvement in the infamous Kliq Curtain Call-incident at Madison Square Garden. After serving his time, Hunter won his first Intercontinental Championship in October 1996, beating Marc Mero (with a little cunning & help from Mr. Perfect). Triple H’s 1st reign lasted 115 days and then at SummerSlam 1998, Triple H defeated the Rock in a classic Ladder Match to regain the title in an epic moment. Alas, Hunter had to forfeit the championship after 44 days due to a knee injury. Triple H is another guy who used the IC Championship to elevate himself towards the WWF Title. And then in 2001, Triple H truly cemented himself as one of the all-time greats to ever hold the belt.
10. ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin
Compared to other greats, Stone Cold Steve Austin’s time with the Intercontinental Championship isn’t so much remembered for the wrestling side of it as it is for the unfortunate circumstances surrounding his 1st reign and the wild-antics Austin got up to with the belt to spite management and his enemies. Nonetheless, the Rattlesnake’s moments with the IC Title were not only infamous, it was yet-another great success that paved the way for a future world champion.
Already a Tag-Team champion with Dude Love, Stone Cold’s legendary triumph at SummerSlam 1997 over Owen Hart ended in disaster when he received a botched Tombstone Piledriver that legitimately broke his neck. Austin was forced to relinquish both the Intercontinental and Tag Titles due to the injury and proceeded to spite authority by stunning Vince McMahon, interfering in Owen’s matches to ensure he remained IC Champion ready for revenge, constantly attacked Owen, and then finally beat him to regain the title at Survivor Series.
After Owen, Austin moved onto his legendary feud with The Rock, who audaciously stole the Intercontinental Belt from him. In a wild, brilliant brawl at D-Generation X: In Your House, Stone Cold used his pick-up truck to beat-up the Nation of Domination and then decisively beat the Rock to retain the championship and retake the physical belt. To spite Vince’s orders to defend the title against The Rock the next night on Raw, Austin willingly surrendered the IC Championship to his rival, gave him a Stone Cold Stunner, THREW the belt into the Piscataqua River to infuriate the Great One, then went after the WWF Championship…the rest is history. Although the Rattlesnake’s IC Title reigns were very brief, they were legendary…and that’s the Bottom Line!
Dustin Rhodes is a proud, honoured member of the legendary Rhodes Family. And like his late, great father Dusty, and his exceptional brother Cody, Dustin is a first-class wrestler who has a legacy he can be proud of. In 1995, Dustin struck gold in more ways than one when he became Goldust; a bizarre, mysterious, sexually-provocative heel and absolutely fascinating character. And at the 1996 Royal Rumble, Goldust scored a shocking upset when he defeated Razor Ramon himself to win the Intercontinental Championship!
Goldust battled some huge names whilst champion; such as Rowdy Roddy Piper in the infamous Hollywood Backlot Brawl at WrestleMania 12, the Ultimate Warrior at In Your House, and even retained the title against The Undertaker in a Casket Match on Pay-Per-View! Goldust enjoyed two great reigns in 1996 before losing the title to Ahmed Johnson at the 1996 King of the Ring, and then won the belt for a third & final time in March 1999 from the Road Dogg Jesse James before losing it to the Godfather two weeks later.
Flamboyant, dynamic, a master of psychology & excellent in the ring, Goldust’s success as the Intercontinental Champion is always remembered. The title remains a crucial part of his legacy…and vice versa.
8. The British Bulldog
The late, great Davey Boy Smith; my favourite British wrestler of all-time, one of the biggest legends to have graduated from the Hart-Family Dungeon…scored one of the absolute greatest Intercontinental Championship triumphs of all-time. Heading into SummerSlam 1992, held at Wembley Stadium in London, England…the Bulldog defeated his brother-in-law Bret “The Hitman” Hart in the main-event – the match of his life – to win his only IC Title. In front of 80,355 of his homeland fans, Davey Boy emerged victorious in not just the greatest match of his career, but also the greatest SummerSlam match of all time.
Bulldog’s thrilling title victory was simply perfect, glorious and unforgettable. Sadly, the reign itself was very forgettable, lasting only 59 days with nothing of note. However, Davey Boy DID drop the title to Shawn Michaels on the last-episode of Saturday Night Main-Event in an excellent match. And for scoring the greatest victory of his career in his homeland on the biggest stage imaginable…that alone earns Davey Boy Smith a spot in the Top Ten here. The British Bulldog’s crowning moment will always be remembered for the generations still to come.
7. The Ultimate Warrior
Granted, most of the Ultimate Warrior’s success as the Intercontinental Champion was achieved in the 80s. He’d been a dominant champion who’d reigned supreme for so long in the previous decade. And in comparison, Warrior was only IC Champ for 91 days in 1990 (his total accumulated time as Intercontinental Champion stands at an almighty 434 days!).
HOWEVER…Jim Hellwig not only brought the Intercontinental Title into the 90s, he also took it to the HIGHEST LEVEL imaginable! The ULTIMATE platform…the ULTIMATE CHALLENGE at WrestleMania 6! In front of 67,678 screaming fans at the Skydome in Toronto, Canada…the ULTIMATE Intercontinental Champion challenged WWF Champion Hulk Hogan in the main-event and scored the ULTIMATE TRIUMPH! After one of the greatest matches of all-time, Ultimate Warrior did what no one else has done before or since…he stood tall as BOTH the WWF World and Intercontinental Champion simultaneously. Shortly after defeating the Hulkster, Warrior was ordered to surrender the Intercontinental Title by WWF President Jack Tunney, then moved-on to defending his WWF Championship…and the Intercontinental title was left in a glorious state; primed & ready for the next legendary titleholder (more about HIM later!).
6. Jeff Jarrett
You can say what you want about Jeff Jarrett as a main-eventer and a world champion. As a MID-CARDER and an INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION…no-one can deny that Jeff Jarrett is one of the best of all-time. An excellent wrestler and a versatile personality, Jeff made PLENTY of history with the title. Throughout his two stints in the WWF, Jarrett became the first SIX-TIME WINNER of the IC Championship! Still an impressive achievement to this day!
His first three reigns took place throughout 1995, where Jeff had excellent matches with the likes of Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels; his title-loss to HBK at In Your House possibly being the greatest match of Jarrett’s career! The remaining three reigns took place in the Attitude Era in 1999. He defeated the Godfather in memory of his friend/tag-partner Owen Hart, then exchanged the title with young-stars like Edge & D’Lo Brown. Jarrett’s sixth and final IC Title reign is notable for numerous reasons. At SummerSlam 1999, Jeff became the second Euro-Continental Champion after beating D’Lo for both European and IC Titles, and at No Mercy 1999, Jeff lost the IC Championship to Chyna in a Good Housekeeping Match. After the historic loss, Jeff controversially left WWF for WCW.
One of the reasons why Jeff Jarrett deserves to be in the WWE Hall of Fame today is because of EVERYTHING he did for the Intercontinental Championship.
5. Rocky Maivia / The Rock
Who was the BEST DAMN Intercontinental Champion of the Attitude Era? Why, it was the PEOPLE’S Intercontinental Champion, of course! But I will admit, Rocky’s time as IC Champ didn’t get off to the best of starts.
A third-generation wrestler and magnificent athlete, Dwayne Johnson took the name Rocky Maivia as a tribute to his father Rocky Johnson and grandfather High-Chief Peter Maivia. After his successful debut at the 1996 Survivor Series, Rocky defeated Hunter Hearst Helmsley to win his first Intercontinental Title soon after. Alas, the plain-boring babyface being pushed to the moon REALLY didn’t sit well with fans, and bombarded poor Dwayne with chants of “Rocky Sucks!” And “Die, Rocky, Die!”. The late 90s were a REALLY harsh time…
Dwayne’s second-go-around with the title was MUCH more like it! After being awarded the belt in December 1997 – and now officially going by the moniker of The Rock – the Great One held the IC Championship for an impressive 264 days! He enjoyed a great feud with Ken Shamrock, gave a brilliant interview with Gennifer Flowers at WrestleMania 14, deposed Ron ‘Faarooq’ Simmons to become the new leader of the Nation of Domination (taking that faction to even greater heights!) and leading his troops against D-Generation X in one of the best faction rivalries of the Attitude Era, ultimately renewing hostilities with Triple H and finally dropping the Intercontinental Title in that terrific ladder match at SummerSlam 1998!
As Intercontinental Champ, the Rock grew & grew on the mic and in the ring, FINALLY becoming the People’s Champion. Then at Survivor Series 1998, the Rock won his first WWF Championship. Another legendary success story…IF YOU SMELLLLL WHAT THE ROCK…is cookin’.
4. Mr. Perfect
No one is perfect…unless of course, your name was Curt Hennig. This all-time great simply earned & deserved the moniker of ‘Mr. Perfect’ because of his talent in-and-out of wrestling; successfully scoring strike-after-strike, holes-in-one, no-look three-point basketball shots, running through the pool table, hitting home runs and nailing perfect bulls-eyes…and going on an impressive undefeated streak that ran for two-years!
After the Ultimate Warrior vacated the Intercontinental Championship, Mr. Perfect rebounded from his first-ever-loss; winning an eight-man tournament to claim the IC Title for the first-time by beating former champ/utter legend Tito Santana in the finals. Perfect retained his new title against Tito the following week then held the title for 126 days before he was upset for the gold at SummerSlam 1990 by Texas Tornado (Kerry Von Erich). Perfect regained the championship from the Tornado on 19.11.1990, then held the title for a magnificent 280 days! The single-longest reign of the 90s! After successfully retaining the Intercontinental Title over-and-over again, Curt’s reign finally came to an end courtesy of Bret Hart’s Sharpshooter at SummerSlam 1991 in one of the all-time classic IC Title Matches. Technically-gifted with flawless timing and athleticism, Curt Hennig was truly one of the greatest ever. Though he may never have reached World-Title Status in WWF, Curt Hennig was indeed the PERFECT Intercontinental Champion.
3. Razor Ramon
Hey, Yo! Scott Hall wasn’t a bad guy…he was THE Bad Guy! Oozing and greasing with style, charisma, swagger, attitude and all the talent in the world, Razor Ramon made history on 04.10.1993 when he defeated Rick Martel for the vacant Intercontinental Championship. And Razor went-on to make SO much history with the title.
In the 90s, Razor became the first-ever FOUR-TIME Intercontinental Champion, which is still an impressive accomplishment to this day. Ramon’s accumulated time as champion totalled 434 days! Those achievements are amazing just by themselves…but first-and-foremost, it’s Razor’s feud with fellow Kliq buddy Shawn Michaels that truly cemented him as one of the best ever IC Champs! Two of the greatest matches of all-time were contested for the Intercontinental Championship with Ramon in the thick of it. No one will EVER forget the Bad Guy triumphing over HBK at WrestleMania 10 in the Ladder Match to become the undisputed IC Titleholder. Another (EQUALLY GOOD!) Ladder Match at SummerSlam 1995 will always be remembered as well! Razor’s feuds with Diesel, Jeff Jarrett and Goldust are another big part of his success with the title. For all of this and more, Razor deserves a high-ranking not just on this list, but on the list for all-time great Intercontinental Champion. Another wrestling legend who is still missed to this day.
2. Shawn Michaels
As we know, the Heartbreak Kid is one of the absolute greatest wrestlers – if not THE greatest wrestler – of all time. Shawn was another legend who used the Intercontinental Title to move-up the card and then achieve success as the WWF Champion. To this day, Michaels’ time as IC Champion is remembered for both being unforgettable in the ring, and controversial at the same time.
Shawn won his first Intercontinental Title from the British Bulldog on the final Saturday Night Main-Event in October 1992, then went-on to challenge Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart for the WWF Championship at Survivor Series 1992! Although that title-shot ended in defeat, HBK remained IC Champ and continued to defend the title against all-comers. He lost the belt to his old-friend Marty Jannetty on 17.05.1993 in what was regarded by many as WWF’s best match of 1993! Shawn would regain the title a few weeks later…and then was suspended for failing a drug-test, and stripped of the championship. Shawn turned the negative into a positive by returning from suspension with HIS Intercontinental Championship! Claiming he’d never been beaten for it, and thus perfectly setting-up Shawn & Razor Ramon’s Ladder Match Classic at WrestleMania 10. He would officially regain the title from Jeff Jarrett in 1995 and triumph over Razor in an equally-classic Ladder Bout at SummerSlam. Unfortunately, Shawn’s notorious-90s-ego got him into trouble when he was assaulted outside a bar in Syracuse, New York. Thus he had to forfeit the title to Dean Douglas (who lost it to Razor in no-time! That Kliq…). Despite all the infamy, Shawn still remains another legend who made the Intercontinental Belt mean so much.
1. Bret Hart
After having long-proven himself as a tag-team specialist with Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart as The Hart Foundation, Bret Hart was now primed for singles-competition and immediately set his sights on the Intercontinental Championship in 1991. After chasing after Mr. Perfect at live-events, Bret FINALLY bagged the title in Madison Square Garden at SummerSlam. It was the FIRST of THREE all-time classic bouts for the Intercontinental Championship that the Hitman partook in. Arguably the BEST-EVER matches for the IC Title, and for that alone, Bret would rank very high on this list.
But week-after-week, show-after-show, Hart would defend the Intercontinental Championship proudly and valiantly like it was the single-greatest-prize in wrestling. Bret took on all-comers and personified everything a workhorse should be; especially with the Intercontinental Title. After losing the title to the Mountie in January 1992, Bret would regain the championship in ANOTHER timeless classic against Rowdy Roddy Piper at WrestleMania 8! Bret continued to defend the title proudly throughout 1992, including against Shawn Michaels in the first-ever ladder match in WWF! And then the Hitman took the belt all the way to Wembley Stadium – in the main-event of SummerSlam – losing it to the British Bulldog in a match for the ages. With two unforgettable reigns – totalling 288 days! – Bret Hart made arguably more history with the Intercontinental Championship than any other superstar. And of course, he went on to become one of the greatest WWF Champions of all-time. Not just the greatest IC Champ of the 90s, but for my money the BEST IC Champ there was, is and ever will be!
So…what do YOU think of this list? Agree with the picks? Who were YOUR favourite Intercontinental Champions of the 1990s?
See you all again soon!
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