Wrestling Gold: The History of the WWE Intercontinental Championship, Pt. 1

Kyle SchadlerChief Writer INovember 10, 2012

Wrestling Gold: The History of the WWE Intercontinental Championship, Pt. 1

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    Throughout the history of professional wrestling, the business has awarded championship belts in many divisions. While some have been forgotten over the years, some titles have stood the test of time.

    The WWE has seen almost 30 titles defended, but today only six remain.

    TNA Wrestling began with three titles—the NWA World and Tag Team Championships as well its own X-Division title, but today it owns its own belts and fans see six titles defended between its ropes.

    Ring of Honor Wrestling began with just two, but has since added another title to its ranks.

    While Shimmer has only been around for a few years, the most well-known all-women’s wrestling promotion currently holds two titles.

    Wrestling Gold will concentrate on the active titles of the companies listed, as well as the NWA World and Tag Team Championships, and any other active title the readers would like to see!

    That’s right, if there’s a championship you’d like to see included, it will be added to the series.

    For the return of Wrestling Gold, I present part one of the WWE Intercontinental Championship!

    The title was established in September 1979, but before that was the WWF North American Heavyweight Championship. Established just seven months beforehand, the North American title is seen as the predecessor to the Intercontinental title.

    The North American Heavyweight Championship was unified with the South American Heavyweight Championship to create the Intercontinental Championship, but some believe there was no unification and that it was just said to explain the introduction of the new title.

    WWE doesn’t recognize the two titles as the same, and they’re most likely not. Since the belt is a predecessor to the Intercontinental title, and it was “unified” with another to create it, I included its brief existence.

    On May 6, 2002 the title would be renamed the WWE Intercontinental Championship due to the issues over the initials “WWF” with the World Wildlife Fund, and it would be briefly abandoned in October when it was unified with the World Heavyweight Championship.

    The title would return seven months later and has been active ever since.

    For Part 1 of the title, the champions of the 1980s will be presented, which is the first 16 champions. So let’s get started!

    On a side note, I apologize for the three-month gap between editions. Due to my schedule, I didn’t have the time to complete any. I promise that there won’t be a gap like that between editions again!

Ted DiBiase

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    Defeated: Awarded

    Where: Allentown, Pa.

    When: Feb. 13, 1979

    Event: House Show

    Title Reign: 126 days

    Ted DiBiase would be awarded the title when he arrived in the World Wrestling Federation, making him the first WWF North American Heavyweight Champion.

    Ted DiBiase made his professional wrestling debut in 1975 in Mid-South Wrestling. He wrestled there until he made his way to WWE in 1979 for a short stint that would see him hold this title.

    For the next seven years, DiBiase would wrestle throughout the territories of the NWA and Mid-South before heading back to the WWE in 1987 as the Million Dollar Man. He spent seven years with the company and would capture the Tag Team Championship on two occasions with Irwin R. Schyster, very briefly hold the WWF World Championship and create the Million Dollar Championship.

    He would retire in 1994, but became a manager for his stable the Million Dollar Corporation. He left WWE in 1996 and made his way to WCW as a member of the nWo. He would leave the group the following year and began managing the Steiner Brothers. He remained as a manager before leaving in 1999.

    Now a Christian minister, Ted DiBiase pops up in WWE once in a while, like his 2009 induction into the Hall of Fame, and will make the occasional independent and convention appearance.

Pat Patterson

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    Defeated: Ted DiBiase

    Where: Allentown, Pa.

    When: June 19, 1979

    Event: House Show

    Title Reign: 307 days

    On Sept. 1, 1979, Pat Patterson would be recognized as the first WWF Intercontinental champion. It was announced that he won a tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to unify the WWF North American Championship with a title simply known as the South American Heavyweight Championship.

    It is widely believed among wrestling historians and fans that the tournament was fictional and was just a way to explain the new title.

    The North American title would continue on in Japan with Seiji Sakaguchi as the champion, but it would eventually be abandoned in 1981.

    Pat Patterson made his professional wrestling debut in 1958 as “Pretty Boy” Pat Patterson in Montreal. By the 1960s, he began wrestling in the territories of the NWA and formed a team with Ray Stevens. They were hated heels and would capture many Tag Team Championships together.

    In 1979, Patterson made his way to the WWE and wrestled for them until his retirement in 1984. After that, he became a commentator and a backstage agent for the company.

    In 1996, he would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and in 1997, Patterson found himself back on television as one of Vince McMahon’s stooges along with Gerald Brisco. The character would see him capture the Hardcore Championship in June 2000.

    When the storyline ended, he went back to his backstage duties full-time until leaving the company in 2004. He would return as a consultant the following year, though.

    Pat Patterson will also make the occasional appearance on WWE television.

Ken Patera

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    Defeated: Pat Patterson

    Where: New York City

    When: April 21, 1980

    Event: House Show

    Title Reign: 231 days

    Ken Patera made his professional wrestling debut in 1973 in the AWA. He soon found himself in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling where he had a bloody feud over the United Championship with Johnny Valentine.

    In 1976, Patera would unsuccessfully challenge Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF World Championship in a match that was a huge draw at the time. He would later fail at winning the title again, this time against Bob Backlund.

    The highlight of his WWE career would be holding this title and the NWA Missouri Heavyweight Championship at the same time. Patera would bounce around the WWE, Mid-Atlantics and the AWA until his arrest in 1984 for throwing a rock through a McDonald's window.

    He spent two years in jail and would return to WWE in 1987. He spent two years with the company before heading back to the AWA in 1989. He stayed there until the company closed its doors in 1991.

    He wrestled for the UWF and the independents throughout the 1990s, but I couldn’t find much about what he’s doing now. At 69 years old, I would assume that he’s retired.

Pedro Morales

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    Defeated: Ken Patera

    Where: New York City

    When: Dec. 8, 1980

    Event: House Show

    Title Reign: 194 days

    Pedro Morales made his professional wrestling debut in 1959. He wrestled mostly on the West Coast for the WWA and NWA territories before making his way to the WWE in 1970.

    His time with the company would see him winning the WWWF USA Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship. During his time as champion he would have a memorable match with Bruno Sammartino at Showdown at Shea that ended in a 75-minute draw.

    He left the company after losing the title to Stan Stasiak and spent the next six years in the NWA territories. He returned in 1980 and went onto win tag team gold with Bob Backlund and this title on two occasions.

    He became WWE’s first Triple Crown Champion as a result.

Don Muraco

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    Defeated: Pedro Morales

    Where: Philadelphia

    When: June 20, 1981

    Event: House Show

    Title Reign: 156 days

    Don Muraco made his professional wrestling debut in 1970 in the AWA. He also wrestled throughout the NWA before making his way to the WWE in 1981.

    His feud with Pedro Morales over this title was a bloody one and they would trade the title back-and-forth during the feud. After losing the title for the first time, Muraco went onto main-event shows with Bob Backlund over the world title in 60-minute draws.

    Upon winning back this title, Muraco would begin a feud with Jimmy Snuka. The feud would see them face off in the famous 1983 steel cage match in Madison Square Garden. He would have a brief feud with Hulk Hogan after losing the title for the final time and went onto become the first King of the Ring in 1985.

    He left WWE in 1988 and wrestled for Stampede Wrestling, the AWA and UWF. In 1992, Muraco found himself in ECW, before it was extreme. He managed to win the world title twice before leaving in 1993.

    He wrestled throughout the independents before retiring in 2003.

Pedro Morales

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    Defeated: Don Muraco

    Where: New York City

    When: Nov, 23, 1981

    Event: House Show

    Title Reign: 425 days

    Morales would retire in 1987 and become a Spanish commentator for the WWE. After being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995, he stepped away from wrestling.

    Morales now keeps a low profile and rarely makes wrestling appearances these days.

Don Muraco

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    Defeated: Pedro Morales

    Where: New York City

    When: Jan. 22, 1983

    Event: House Show

    Title Reign: 385 days

    After retiring, Muraco would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004. He remains retired and will make the occasional appearance at independent events and conventions.

Tito Santana

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    Defeated: Don Muraco

    Where: Boston

    When: Feb. 11, 1984

    Event: House Show

    Title Reign: 226 days

    Tito Santana made his professional wrestling debut in 1977. He wrestled for the CWF and GCW before making his way to the WWE in 1979.

    He would quickly win the Tag Team Championship with Ivan Putski and held onto the titles for six months. In 1983, he began to target this title, which he won the following year.

    After losing the title, he went down with an injury and made his return in the opening match of the first WrestleMania. He would win this title one more time before forming Strike Force with Rick Martel.

    They won the titles quickly from the Hart Foundation and held onto them for five months. The team would break up in 1989, which is the year that saw Santana win the King of the Ring tournament. He would be involved in various feuds before leaving in 1993.

    Later that year, he found himself in ECW. He would win the world title, but he left following year. He appeared briefly for WCW in 2000 and would retire that same year.

Greg Valentine

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    Defeated: Tito Santana

    Where: London, Ontario, Canada

    When: Sept. 24, 1984

    Event: Maple Leaf Wrestling

    Title Reign: 285 days

    Greg Valentine made his professional wrestling debut in 1970. The son of Johnny Valentine went by Johnny Fargo in the NWF. In 1974, he began using the name Johnny Valentine Jr., but soon changed it to Greg Valentine.

    By 1976, Valentine was wrestling for the Mid-Atlantic territories. He remained with them for two years, winning the Tag Team Championship with Ric Flair and Baron Von Raschke.

    He then left and made his way to the WWE. He stayed with the company for three years, being a top title contender the whole time.

    He would win the Intercontinental Championship in 1984 and held it for nine months before losing it to Tito Santana. Afterwards, Valentine formed the Dream Team with Brutus Beefcake and won the Tag Team Championship in 1985.

    In 1988, he formed Rhythm and Blues with the Honky Tonk Man, but the team would go nowhere. They broke up towards the end of 1990 and entered into obscurity until he left in 1992.

    Valentine returned to the Mid-Atlantics, now WCW, later that year. He formed a team with Terry Taylor and won the United States Tag Team Championship. After losing the titles, Valentine just decided to leave.

    He then returned to the WWE in 1993 as the Blue Knight at Survivor Series, but wouldn’t appear again until two months later at the 1994 Royal Rumble.

    While he has made the occasional appearance for WWE over the past few years, including being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004, Greg Valentine has been wrestling the independents since 1994.

    You can still see him there as well as at conventions.

Tito Santana

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    Defeated: Greg Valentine

    Where: Baltimore, Md.

    When: July 6, 1985

    Event: House Show

    Title Reign: 217 days

    After retiring, Santana would continue to make appearances for independent events, conventions and the WWE. He would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004 and continues to make the occasional appearance for them.

    Despite being retired, Santana will wrestle a match once in a while. His most recent occurred on Sept. 14 of this year for the Chikara promotion where he and his partners lost in the 2012 King of Trios tournament.

Randy Savage

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    Defeated: Tito Santana

    Where: Boston

    When: Feb. 8, 1986

    Event: House Show

    Title Reign: 414 days

    Randy Savage made his professional wrestling debut in 1973 in the territories of the NWA. He wrestled for various promotions before getting his big break in 1985 when he signed with the WWE.

    Savage would go onto have one of the most memorable careers in WWE history. He would only hold this title once and the WWE World Championship on two occasions, but the Macho Man was a larger-than-life superstar.

    He had many legendary battles with the likes of Ricky Steamboat, Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair while also delivering some of the most entertaining promos the WWE had ever seen. He wrestled for them until 1993 when he became a color commentator for the company.

    He remained in that role until 1994 when he found himself in WCW. His time with the company saw him win the World Championship four times while also having memorable matches against Hogan, Flair, Sting and many others. He remained with WCW until 2000, a year before the company was purchased by Vince McMahon and the WWE.

    He would lay low after that, only making the occasional appearance, before he returned to the spotlight in 2004 for TNA Wrestling when he appeared at Victory Road confronting NWA World champion Jeff Jarrett.

    He would make a few appearances, including a match at Turning Point teaming with AJ Styles and Jeff Hardy against Jarrett, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. He was scheduled to face Jarrett for the title and win the belt, but health reasons forced him to back out and leave TNA.

    Savage would retire in 2005 and make rare appearances until his passing on May 20, 2011.

Ricky Steamboat

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    Defeated: Randy Savage

    Where: Pontiac, Mich.

    When: March 29, 1987

    Event: WrestleMania III

    Title Reign: 65 days

    Ricky Steamboat made his professional wrestling debut in 1976 in the AWA. He wrestled for CWF as well as GCW before making his way to the Mid-Atlantics in 1977. Steamboat's first big feud came against Ric Flair over the Television Championship.

    He left the NWA in 1985 and made his way to the WWE. In WWE, he was given the nickname "The Dragon" and soon found himself in a storyline with Randy Savage.

    At WrestleMania III, the two of them would steal the show. Steamboat would win the title that night as well. He would leave a few months later, but he returned in November. Steamboat would announce retirement in 1988, though.

    He would come out of retirement in 1989 and went to WCW. Steamboat would win the NWA Championship from Flair during this time. He would leave in 1990 and appeared in Japan before returning to the WWE in 1991 as the Dragon. Before Survivor Series, he would leave the WWE again.

    He then returned to WCW and spent the next three years there. After winning multiple titles, he announced his retirement in 1994.

    During retirement, Steamboat would make appearances for various independent promotions. He would also pop up in TNA Wrestling as well as Ring of Honor. Steamboat would return to the WWE in 2005 and work backstage. He would make the occasional appearance on television before entering into a feud with Chris Jericho in 2009.

    After being inducted into the Hall of Fame the night before, Steamboat returned to the ring for the first time in 15 years at WrestleMania XXV match against Jericho. While Jericho won the match, Steamboat impressed the fans watching the show.

    Ricky Steamboat remains with the WWE to this day in a backstage role.

The Honky Tonk Man

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    Defeated: Ricky Steamboat

    Where: Buffalo, N.Y.

    When: June 2, 1987

    Event: WWF Superstars of Wrestling

    Title Reign: 454 days

    The Honky Tonk Man made his professional wrestling debut in 1977 in Memphis Wrestling. He wrestled for various promotions, including the AWA, Stampede Wrestling and the Mid-Atlantic territories of the NWA, before signing with the WWE in 1986.

    Originally a face, Honky soon developed into a cocky heel. His first big feud came against Jake Roberts and it resulted in a match at WrestleMania III. He soon moved onto this title, which was won during the summer of 1987.

    Honky would go onto have the longest reign in the title's history, a record that still stands today, and it took the Ultimate Warrior to finally take the title from him.

    He formed Rhythm and Blues with Greg Valentine after that, but the team went nowhere and he left in 1991. He debuted with WCW in 1994, but he would be gone by the end of the year.

    He returned to WWE in 1997 as the manager for Rockabilly, or Billy Gunn. The gimmick was short-lived and he left in 1998. Since then, Honky Tonk Man has been wrestling on the independent circuit, where you can still see him.

    He has made a few appearances for WWE, though, including the 2001 Royal Rumble, a match against Santino Marella in 2008 and to induct Koko B. Ware into the Hall of Fame in 2009.

The Ultimate Warrior

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    Defeated: The Honky Tonk Man

    Where: New York City

    When: Aug. 29, 1988

    Event: SummerSlam

    Title Reign: 216 days

    The Ultimate Warrior made his professional wrestling debut in 1985 in the CWA. As Rock, he soon formed a team with Flash, later known as Sting, and became the Blade Runners. The team also appeared for the UWF, but they wouldn’t win tag team gold together.

    In 1986, Warrior found himself in WCCW as Dingo Warrior and went onto win the tag team titles with Lance Von Erich. He would also capture the Texas Heavyweight Championship once before making the move to WWE in 1987.

    Warrior would enjoy much success, winning this title twice and having a memorable title vs. title match at WrestleMania VI against Hulk Hogan. The match saw a “passing of the torch” as the Warrior defeated Hogan for the world title.

    Upon losing the title to Sgt. Slaughter, he would go onto feuds with Randy Savage, the Undertaker and Jake Roberts. After an odd feud with Papa Shango in 1992, Warrior would leave the WWE.

    After appearing at various independent events, he made his WWE return in 1996. The return was short-lived and he made his WCW debut in 1998, a debut which I attended live! His time with WCW was short and he left that same year, announcing his retirement in the process. 

Rick Rude

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    Defeated: The Ultimate Warrior

    Where: Atlantic City, N.J.

    When: April 2, 1989

    Event: WrestleMania V

    Title Reign: 148 days

    Rick Rude made his professional wrestling debut in 1982 in the Mid-Atlantic territories. He wrestled throughout the Mid-Atlantics before making the move to WWE in 1987.

    As “Ravishing” Rick Rude, he would insult the male audience due to their physique not being like his and would kiss a woman in the crowd after every match. His most well-known feud with be with Jake Roberts over Rude’s advances onto Roberts’ wife.

    Rude soon moved onto Intercontinental champion, the Ultimate Warrior. Rude would win the title at WrestleMania V but lose it back to Warrior in August. They picked the feud back up when Warrior won the world title at WrestleMania VI. After failing to win the title, he left the company for WCW in 1991.

    Rude spent three years with WCW, winning the International Heavyweight Championship three times before retiring in 1994.

    After a brief stint with ECW, Rude returned to the WWE as the manager of D-Generation X. He would leave the company after the Montreal Screwjob and went back to WCW.

    His return made the history books as be appeared on Monday Nitro, a live show, then appeared on WWE’s taped show, Raw, an hour later. Rude joined the nWo upon his return in 1997 and remained with the group until an injury sidelined him in 1998.

    Rude would then begin training for a return to the ring, but he would pass away on April 20, 1999.

The Ultimate Warrior

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    Defeated: Rick Rude

    Where: East Rutherford, N.J.

    When: Aug. 28, 1989

    Event: SummerSlam

    Title Reign: 216 days

    The title was declared vacant on April 1, 1990 after the Ultimate Warrior defeated Hulk Hogan to win the WWF World Heavyweight Championship.

    Since his retirement, the Warrior has done multiple media appearances as a motivational speaker. His most notable would be an appearance at UCONN here in Connecticut where he made controversial comments about homosexuality.

    He would return to the ring in 2008 for Nu-Wrestling Evolution in Spain to win their world title. He would immediately vacate it, though, and returned to retirement.

    You can now see Warrior ranting on YouTube about various things.

Statistics/Part 2 Coming Soon

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    Longest 80s Reign: Honky Tonk Man (454 days)

    Shortest 80s Reign: Ricky Steamboat (65 days)


    Thanks for reading! Part 2 of the WWE Intercontinental Championship, which will feature the champions of the 1990s, will be up soon. At the moment, I’m aiming for Wednesday!


    Previous Installments

    WWE DivasTNA KnockoutsTNA Knockouts TagWWE TagTNA TagShimmerWWE US 1WWE US 2TNA TVTNA X-Division









    Information on the wrestlers provided by Wikipedia

    Title "Wrestling Gold" thought up by Jeff D. Gorman