wrestling / Columns

Top 7 Worst WWE Intercontinental Champions

June 11, 2023 | Posted by Steve Cook
Zack Ryder WWE Matt Cardona Image Credit: WWE

We are in the midst of one of the greatest Intercontinental Championship reigns of all time. The man they call Gunther has cut through his competition like a hot knife through butter. It’s been a joy to watch, just some incredible matches from a dominant human being. He was the longest-reigning United Kingdom Champion, and has held the IC title for longer than just two people. The Honky Tonk Man’s record of 454 days has never been in more jeopardy than it is right now.

I’ll be honest with you guys. I was looking to honor Gunther’s run as champion by listing some of the greatest Intercontinental Champions of all time. Thing is, I already did this back in 2020. In my defense, do any of us remember what we were doing during 2020? If you’re like me, you barely remember what you did last week! So, instead we’re going to look at the worst Intercontinental Champions of all time.

7. Road Dogg

The New Age Outlaws had found much success since forming their team in 1997, having won the WWF Tag Team Championship on three separate occasions, with each reign lasting over 100 days. (This was nearly impossible to do during the Attitude Era.) Once 1999 hit, Road Dog & Billy Gunn decided that they needed a change of pace, and each man began targeting singles gold. Road Dogg entered the Hardcore Division, and won that championship the night after he & Gunn lost the Tag Team Championship.

Meanwhile, Billy would target the Intercontinental Championship. It didn’t go too well for him, as Ken Shamrock proved to be a tough nut to crack & there was a lot of drama between Ken’s sister Ryan and his top challengers for the title. The March 15 episode of Raw is War saw Dogg & Gunn challenge for the titles opposite of the ones they had been targeting, and at the end of the night we saw Billy Gunn as Hardcore Champion & Road Dogg as Intercontinental Champion. Yup, one of those patented Russo swerves!

Road Dogg’s reign lasted two weeks, but he lasted as champion long enough to defend the title against Shamrock, Golduse & Val Venis at WrestleMania. Billy would lose the Hardcore title at WM to Hardcore Holly in a three-way also including Al Snow. The matches would have made more sense had Dogg been in the Hardcore match while Gunn was in the IC match, but shocking results leading to strange story directions were the order of the day in 1999.

6. Santino Marella

Marella won the Intercontinental Championship on his very first night, coming out of the crowd for an open challenge against Umaga. He won with some help from Bobby Lashley, then went on to feud with Chris Masters for 77 days before losing the title back to Umaga. About as uneventful as it gets, but it did get Santino a foot in the door.

About a year & a half later, he wound up winning it back in a way that I would have sworn Vince Russo had booked if Russo wasn’t in TNA in 2008. It was a Winners Take All match pitting Santino & Beth Phoenix against IC Champion Kofi Kingston & Women’s Champion Mickie James. Beth pinned Mickie, so Santino got to be IC Champion again for 85 days. He came up a little short on the Honk-O-Meter he was plugging during his TV appearances.

Santino was always a nice wrestler to have on a card. Wrestling needs to be funny sometimes, and Santino provided comic relief in spades for WWE for many years. Unfortunately, Santino’s brand of comedy didn’t lend itself well to good title reigns. It was tough to buy into Santino Marella as somebody that deserved to hold the title that folks like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels & Randy Savage had held on their way to the top. Even the ol’ Honky Tonk Man seemed more deserving back in his day, and his entire job was to be seen as undeserving.

5. Zack Ryder

Given Matt Cardona’s immense online following, I expect a lot of grief over their main man’s inclusion on this list. However, I think that the circumstances of Zack Ryder’s run as Intercontinental Champion merit its status. We mentioned Ryder’s winning the championship in the Top 10 Opening Matches. That was a good time. A shocking moment that nobody expected to happen. Zack Ryder got to hear his music at WrestleMania, and he got to win the Intercontinental Championship in a ladder match. Good times, right?

Not so much. The very next night on Raw, Ryder defended the IC strap against The Miz, a man whose name has become synonomous with the title during this century. The lovely Maryse made her return to help cost Ryder the championship, which I had mixed feelings about. It’s not like I could ever be mad to see Maryse. As far as Ryder’s situation went, it didn’t really help. He returned to his place down the card, never to touch singles gold again. At least not in WWE & not as Zack Ryder.

4. Kane

Kane held the Intercontinental Championship twice for a total of 59 days as recognized by WWE. Both reigns took place in the 2001-02 time period and weren’t all that notable. To be honest, his title reigns probably weren’t much less notable than most of the ones taking place during the Invasion & 2002. A ton of unremarkable events took place around this title at the time. However, there is one thing that demands he take a spot on the list.

WWE was in a mood to condense secondary titles in 2002, and had already gotten rid of the Hardcore & European Championships. Rob Van Dam had unified those titles with the Intercontinental Championship in singles matches with Tommy Dreamer & Jeff Hardy, leaving the Raw brand with two singles titles. While all this was going on, Brock Lesnar won the Undisputed Championship and decided he was going to be exclusive to SmackDown. This left Raw without a major champion, so Eric Bischoff awarded a World Championship to Triple H. The World Championship wasn’t exactly seen as legitimate by many fans, so they had Triple H beat Kane to unify those titles and make Triple H the King Champion of Everything.

This means that Kane was responsible for ending the original Intercontinental Championship. Which is bad enough without even mentioning that the build-up for this big Winner Take All Match involved the shocking revelation that Kane’s old high school girlfriend…you know what, either you already know about Katie Vick or you really don’t need to know. That might be a topic for another day. We’ll just wrap this up by saying that Kane sucks.

3. Marty Jannetty

It was May 17, 1993. Monday Night Raw was on the air, and Shawn Michaels was looking for competition. A man in a hood came down to the ring and revealed himself to be Marty Jannetty, Shawn’s former tag team partner that hadn’t been seen in months. After some hemming & hawing Shawn went through with the match, and ended up losing thanks in part to Mr. Perfect keeping him from leaving.

It was an incredible moment that I still remember watching to this day. Unfortunately, I can’t say I remember much of Marty’s title run. He allegedly defeated Bam Bam Bigelow by countout on an episode of Raw, I’ll take their word for it. Marty would lose the title back to Shawn on a house show in Albany, NY, which featured the debut of a tall guy named Diesel as Shawn’s bodyguard. I feel like that would be more well remembered if there was any footage at all.

A man of Marty Jannetty’s talents could have had a much better run with the Intercontinental Championship. Had things broken right, perhaps we’d look back at him the same way we do other IC champs of the time. Unfortunately, Marty just wasn’t reliable enough to be a long-term champion, and didn’t have enough sway over his superiors to overcome his issues. 20 days was probably all they could trust Jannetty with, to be honest.

2. The Mountie

Don’t get me wrong, Jacques Rougeau made some great contributions to pro wrestling. He was responsible for three of the best wrestler-sung entrance themes of all time. The Mountie was a good annoying heel presence during his time under the gimmick, and his teams with his brother Raymond & Pierre Oulette were very effective. However, the idea of him as Intercontinental Champion could only be as a means to transition the belt from one babyface to another.

So that’s exactly what happened. The Mountie beat Bret Hart on a house show in Springfield, Massachusetts two nights before the 1992 Royal Rumble. It was explained that Bret had a 100+ degree fever, as most WWF fans at the time wouldn’t have bought that sort of result otherwise. Unfortunately for Mountie, he had to defend the championship against Roddy Piper at the Royal Rumble, and since Piper didn’t have a fever the result wasn’t really in question.

Two days as Intercontinental Champion, then the Mountie fell down the card and wasn’t seen or heard much from again until forming the Quebecers with Pierre about a year & a half later. It wasn’t exactly the star-making run that Bret had with the title.

1. Dean Douglas

1995 saw Shawn Michaels become one of the top babyfaces in the WWF. He had been quite the unlikeable character since ditching Marty Jannetty, but eventually the fans had to recognize his in-ring ability. Unfortunately Shawn was still pretty unlikeable outside the ring, which led to him taking an off-screen beating that led to him needing to vacate the Intercontinental Championship.

The top contender at the time was Shane Douglas, who had hit his peak in ECW as a trash talking antagonist. He had the in-ring skills and the verbal ability to be one of the top stars in the business. Unfortunately, this didn’t translate to 1995 WWF, where it was decided that since he had a teaching license he needed to be a Dean. That sort of reasoning worked out perfectly a few years prior when they decided that Paul Bearer needed to manage the Undertaker because he was actually a mortician…not so much for Dean Douglas. He also wasn’t a popular character backstage, so anything that could possibly work against Douglas during this run did.

He did get to be Intercontinental Champion…for a little less than twenty minutes. Douglas was scheduled to wrestle Michaels at In Your House when Michaels had to vacate the championship, so he got to take the belt out of Shawn’s hands & pose with it. Then he was forced to wrestle Razor Ramon in a title match, and lost. It’s tough to think of a way that things could have gone worse for Douglas that would be able to be aired on WWF television.

Thanks for reading! Hit me up at [email protected] or on the social media with thoughts, comments or suggestions. Until next time, true believers!