wrestling / Columns

Top 7 WWE Intercontinental Champions

June 19, 2020 | Posted by Steve Cook
Honky Tonk Man Intercontinental Champion

AJ Styles added his name to a prestigious list when he defeated Daniel Bryan to become Intercontinental Champion. For most of the past two decades, the championship has been treated as something of an afterthought. However, when you look back at the names of people that have held it, you find out that nearly anybody that was a big deal in WWE held the championship at some point.

Roddy Piper. Ricky Steamboat. The Ultimate Warrior. Rick Rude. Shawn Michaels. Razor Ramon. Diesel. Triple H. The Rock. Stone Cold Steve Austin. Kurt Angle. Eddie Guerrero. Edge. That’s nowhere near a complete list of the luminaries that have held the IC strap, and none of these names appear on this list. That goes to show you how difficult it is to be recognized as one of the most magnificent WWE Intercontinental Champions of all time.

Heck, Don Muraco didn’t make the cut!

7. Pedro Morales

Pedro was the third man to hold the Intercontinental Championship, lending his credibility as a former WWWF Champion to the title. His 619 overall days as champion is still a record, though The Miz is only eighteen days behind and doesn’t seem to be on the verge of retirement anytime soon. Morales was the WWF’s first Triple Crown champion as well, though his influence & fame have somewhat diminished over the years. He certainly helped put the IC title on the map.

6. Bret Hart

The Hitman was among a number of men that used the Intercontinental Championship as a stepping stone to bigger & better things. Winning the championship from Mr. Perfect at SummerSlam 1991 established Hart as a viable singles competitor. He lost the championship to The Mountie, but would regain it at WrestleMania VIII from Roddy Piper in a rare clean defeat for the Rowdy Scot. Roddy was always very particular about who he would lose to, and he took the chance to help make Bret a star on that night. By the time Bret lost the championship to the British Bulldog in Wembley Stadium in a masterpiece of a match, it was clear that bigger things were on his horizon.

5. Mr. Perfect

Curt Hennig was the perennial IC champion when I started watching wrestling. To me, he still fits the bill of what the perfect secondary champion should be. They should be one of the best wrestlers on the roster. Their match should always be one of the highlights of the show. That’s how you get people to care about a championship that doesn’t have “World Heavyweight” on it. Mr. Perfect always carried himself like he was the most important man in the room, and that the Intercontinental Championship was the most important title in wrestling.

4. Chris Jericho

Jericho has held so many different championships all across the world that the name “Le Champion” fits whether he currently holds a title or not. He held the IC championship a record-shattering nine times during his time in WWE, with his first reign coming in 1999 & his last in 2009. I’m sure people will say he should be higher on the list, but he only had one reign that lasted over 100 days. His 318 overall days as champion is good for 16th all time, which doesn’t look great when you have the most reigns.

3. Randy Savage

You know that the Macho Man was going to be a top star the moment he entered the WWF. His charisma combined with his ability guaranteed that. Several months after his debut, Savage defeated Tito Santana for the IC strap and went on to hold it for four hundred and fourteen days. He lost it to Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III in what some still call the greatest wrestling match ever. The loss ate at Savage for months, and the Honky Tonk Man declaring himself the greatest IC Champion of all time mere weeks after defeating Steamboat drove Savage into a jealous rage & a babyface turn that would take his career to another level.

2. The Miz

Some of Miz’s IC title reigns have been marred by the fact they didn’t last very long. Miz had two IC title reigns in the span of eighteen months that lasted less than a day. He has ended up with eight title reigns and has held the title the second-most days of anybody. More than anybody else in recent years, Miz has managed to raise the value of the IC championship & make it something that established stars want to take from him. His later reigns with the title mattered.

People occasionally call for Miz to get another shot on top, but I maintain that this is the perfect spot for him. He needs to be that secondary champion that stirs the pot in the middle of the card, since he’s the best they have at it. I could see an argument for him being #1 on this list, but I have to go with the legend on this one.

1. The Honky Tonk Man

Four hundred & fifty-four days. That’s how long Honky Tonk managed to hold on to the Intercontinental Championship after a stunning victory over Ricky Steamboat. Nobody thought Honky would last long as champion, especially with capable men like Randy Savage, Brutus Beefcake, Junkyard Dog, Jake Roberts and others hot on his tail. Many a night, Honky would escape the arena with the championship by the skin of his teeth, often via countout or disqualification.

Honky paved the way for countless heel champions that got heat with fans by seeming very beatable. Fans would go to shows featuring his title defenses, hoping to see a title change hands live in their hometown. It seemed like a possibility every time Honky stepped into the ring. Somehow, he managed to last four hundred & fifty-four days, becoming the Greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time.