Welcome back for the third entry in the ongoing series ranking some of the less-than-stellar champions in WWE history. The first two articles focused on the world and tag team titles, and now we come to the once-prestigious Intercontinental Championship.
The belt dates back to September 1979 when Pat Patterson was named the inaugural champion, and although the WWE will tell you he won a tournament in Rio de Janeiro for the honor, this is simply kayfabe.
In reality, the title was introduced as a long-term replacement for the WWF North American Heavyweight Championship, which Patterson held at the time of his "tournament victory." After the North American title was quietly abandoned in early 1981, the Intercontinental title was established as the company's secondary singles title.
Legendary names including Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, The Rock and Steve Austin all used the championship as a steppingstone to main-event status, making it a highly coveted title once upon a time. However, since the Attitude Era, the title has been switched with alarming regularity, almost to the point of irrelevance.
To put it into perspective, between 1979 and 1989, 11 men won the title for the first time. Between 1999 and 2009, 34 superstars enjoyed their maiden run as champion. With 70 different champions to choose from, there are a lot of options, so read on to find out who makes the list of worst Intercontinental champions in WWE history.
Santino Marella won his first Intercontinental title in his debut match in April 2007 when he was the "fan" in the audience chosen by Vince McMahon to face reigning champion Umaga. The newcomer was getting the absolute hell beaten out of him before Bobby Lashley interfered and destroyed "The Samoan Bulldozer," allowing Santino to score the huge upset.
I understand it was a nice feel-good moment for the audience, but the title was handed to him on a plate nonetheless. The goodwill soon wore off, as Santino engaged in a tedious feud with the clueless Chris Masters before dropping the belt back to Umaga 11 weeks later. In fact, putting the belt on Santino in the first place merely seemed like a way to extend the feud between Lashley and Umaga.
A second run with the title came in August 2008, and this time he didn't even need to pin anybody! In an inter-gender tag match with both the Intercontinental and Women's Championships on the line, Santino and Beth Phoenix defeated Kofi Kingston and Mickie James when "The Glamazon" pinned her fellow Diva. At least "The Italian Stallion" held onto the belt a little longer this time before he was dethroned by William Regal after 85 days.
I'm not hating on Santino here and actually think he's useful as a comedy jobber, but he deserves his spot on the list. Completely ignoring the fact he won both titles by doing almost nothing, defending the belt against the likes of Chris Masters and The Honky Tonk Man in poor matches hardly makes for a great champion.
Chyna became the first-ever female Intercontinental champion after defeating Jeff Jarrett in a Good Housekeeping match in October 1999. The match took place one day after Jarrett's WWF deal expired, and it was clear his mind was somewhere else.
Despite allegedly asking for (and receiving) a huge payoff to job to a woman while not under contract, the match still sucked. Not to mention that it was more than a little sexist that a weapons match suddenly became a Good Housekeeping match when a woman was involved, but such was the Attitude Era.
Interestingly, record nine-time Intercontinental champion Chris Jericho captured the belt for the first time when he ended Chyna's reign eight weeks later at the culmination of a somewhat bizarre feud between the two. Three weeks on and both were named "co-champions" after a title match on the first Raw of the century ended in a double pinfall, although this 20-day period is no longer officially recognized by the WWE.
"The Ninth Wonder of the World" won the title for a second time at SummerSlam 2000 during her entertaining affiliation with Eddie Guerrero; victory came when Chyna pinned Trish Stratus in an inter-gender tag team match that also featured "Latino Heat" and reigning champion Val Venis.
Eight days later and she was no longer champion after losing a Triple Threat match that also involved Eddie and Kurt Angle. This would be the last time Chyna would be involved with any male singles title, and 18 months later, she was gone from the company.
In all honesty, even as a woman, it speaks volumes about her in-ring ability when Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle and Eddie Guerrero couldn't wring a decent match out of her; those guys could make anyone of either gender look good in the ring.
And as the first woman to hold the Intercontinental title, Chyna's run with the belt could have been a watershed moment for female wrestlers around the world. Instead, it was a poorly booked mess with matches that were passable at best.
Unable to use his Johnny B. Badd gimmick after jumping ship from WCW in March 1996, "Wildman" Marc Mero debuted to save his real-life wife Sable from the services of Hunter Hearst Helmsley and kick off a feud between the two.
Surely devastated at being unable to continue his career as a Little Richard rip-off, Mero nonetheless captured the Intercontinental title a mere six months later after defeating Faarooq in a tournament final for the vacant strap.
A transitional champion in every sense of the word, Mero held the belt for only four weeks before losing to Helmsley on the Oct. 21 episode of Raw and came off a distant second in their rivalry that lasted into early 1997.
Never the greatest worker, facing the likes of Goldust and Fake Diesel hardly concealed his shortcomings. This would be his only championship in a disappointing time with the WWF, and Mero would spend a great deal of time on the injured list before departing from the company in 1999.
A generic midcard talent at best, the only entertaining thing about his act was Sable. Things are bad when your valet is more over than you are, and this forgettable run with the Intercontinental title remains a high point of his time with the company.
Despite sporting a mustache that could only be described as glorious, Marc Mero remains one of the worst Intercontinental champions in WWE history.
Billy Gunn had been with the WWF since 1993 and was one of the most accomplished tag team wrestlers in history. As one-half of the New Age Outlaws, part of the massively popular D-Generation X, he enjoyed huge success throughout the Attitude Era. Despite winning the 1999 King of the Ring tournament, his singles push that year had been a massive flop. However, that didn't stop the creative team from trying again.
Now known as "The One" Billy Gunn, the former "Mr. Ass" was feuding with WCW defectors The Radicalz when things came to a head on the Nov. 21, 2000, episode of SmackDown. In a Triple Threat match that also involved Kurt Angle, Gunn captured Eddie Guerrero's Intercontinental title. In his first pay-per-view title defense 19 days later, he dropped the strap to Chris Benoit. Once again, the Billy Gunn experiment had failed.
After his second singles push tanked, Billy spent the next few months treading water in the Hardcore Division. Forming an alliance with Chuck Palumbo would soon find him back in his tag team comfort zone, and would lead to one of the most controversial duos in WWE history. Unfortunately, Billy just didn't have the charisma, mic skills or proficiency to make it on his own.
Despite the creative team's insistence, Billy Gunn couldn't cut it as a solo competitor in the company. He was often great as part of a team, but his shortcomings were greatly exposed in singles matches. Feuding with The Radicalz, four of the best workers in the company, should have been a great start to his time as champion, but instead, the matches were as uninspired as his nickname.
Many were predicting big things for Ahmed Johnson when he burst onto the scene in late 1995 and bodyslammed Yokozuna (who was huge by this point) in his first televised appearance.
Eight months later, and he became the first African-American Intercontinental champion in history. It seemed as though main-event status surely beckoned, but there was one problem—he couldn't wrestle.
Johnson defeated Goldust for the title at King of the Ring 1996 and was champion for 50 days, and was even No. 1 contender to the WWF Championship before vacating the title due to a kidney problem.
Upon his return, he could never regain that initial momentum and dropped into a midcard feud with Faarooq and the Nation of Domination. This saw "The Pearl River Powerhouse" eventually join the group in June 1997 before he faded into obscurity and disappeared from the company entirely eight months later.
Resurfacing in WCW in 1999, Johnson had gained a large amount of weight and went on to form Harlem Heat 2000 with Stevie Ray. The duo were one of the worst tag teams ever, and he barely lasted six months with the company.
Ahmed Johnson was the recipient of a very fortuitous push, one that saw him well-protected by more experienced peers. Most of his major matches were either tag team or multi-man matches, which concealed his obvious limitations.
In fact, the WWF were so determined to make Johnson a success that Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker and The Legion of Doom count among his pay-per-view partners.
A classic Vince McMahon project, Ahmed Johnson was massively built, powerful and intimidating. However, he was also terrible in the ring and had zero charisma. He was a main-event star in the making as Intercontinental champion, but 18 months later, he was history.
With the news that Vince McMahon had purchased WCW making huge waves throughout the industry, fans salivated at the prospect of a full-blown war between the bitter rivals. Then everybody got a hint of where things where heading when Lance Storm became the first WCW name to invade Raw on May 28, 2001.
I understand he is a talented and respected worker, it just wasn't the name we were looking for.
Despite the fact his entire gimmick was centered around the fact that he was boring, "The Perfect Storm" was given a decent push during the giant missed opportunity that was the Invasion.
In fact, he was the only member of The Alliance to win the Intercontinental title during the whole angle when he defeated Albert on the July 23 episode of Raw.
Remember that these were the days before Storm's boring persona became ironic. The invading force capturing the WWF's secondary singles title should have been big news, not played out on television before an apathetic crowd.
The highlights of his 27 days as champion were a Sunday Night Heat victory over Scotty 2 Hotty and having his tights pulled down by Edge. Having advanced his character no further in the slightest, Storm dropped the belt to Edge in the opening match of SummerSlam 2001.
After the Invasion, he disappeared into the midcard shuffle, finally gaining cult status after adding dancing to his repertoire in 2003 before disappearing from television the following year.
Lance Storm is a gifted worker who could put on a decent match with almost anyone; that is a fact. Everybody remembers The Alliance, but nobody remembers that Lance Storm was the first man to officially invade WWF soil.
If I can be serious for a minute, he remains one of the most bland and forgettable Intercontinental champions in history.
On March 15, 1999, just one day after The New Age Outlaws lost to Val Venis and Hardcore Holly on Sunday Night Heat, Road Dogg pinned "The Big Valbowski" to capture the intercontinental title. After a DQ victory over Ken Shamrock and a no-contest finish against tag partner (and Hardcore champion) Billy Gunn, Road Dogg defended the gold on "The Grandest Stage of Them All."
In a four-corners elimination match, Road Dogg outlasted Ken Shamrock, Val Venis and Goldust to leave with the title. Given only 10 minutes, the match was incredibly rushed and lacked any real drama or intensity. The fifth match on a 10-match card, it became instantly forgettable, much like WrestleMania XV itself.
To make things even more nonsensical, Goldust became the new Intercontinental champion the following night. Moving back into tag team action with the Outlaws, this would be the last title Road Dogg would ever hold in the company before personal issues caused his eventual release in January 2001.
Much like longtime partner Billy Gunn, Road Dogg was never really cut out to be a solo star. Despite possessing great microphone skills and plenty of charisma, his limitations in the ring were better served as part of a duo. His Intercontinental title came straight out of the blue and then a fortnight later disappeared from memory—no surprise as the Intercontinental title changed hands 11 times in 1999.
It speaks volumes about how often the belt changed hands during the Attitude Era when Road Dogg was Intercontinental champion for only 14 days, yet still managed to successfully defend the belt at WrestleMania.
Retaining the belt on "The Grandest Stage of Them All" should be a defining moment in somebody's career, not a filler match 24 hours before a title switch on free television.
Following the breakup of The Rockers in 1991, Marty Jannetty had a hard time emulating the success of former partner Shawn Michaels. After the famous superkick angle, Jannetty was in line for a high-profile feud with "The Heartbreak Kid" that would culminate in a WrestleMania grudge match.
However, he was released from his contract the following year after an altercation with a police officer and the feud never happened.
Remarkably, he was given a second chance and returned in October 1992 and resumed his feud with Michaels. They managed one match at the 1993 Royal Rumble before Jannetty was released again after rumors he turned up at a Raw taping under the influence.
Only a few months later, Jannetty once again resurfaced on WWF television when he appeared out of the crowd on an episode of Raw to finally challenge "The Heartbreak Kid" for the intercontinental title. Jannetty scored the huge upset victory to end HBK's 202-day reign and win the belt, but his time as champion would last only 20 days before Michaels regained the strap at a New York house show.
Jannetty would spend the rest of the year feuding with the likes of Ludvig Borga and Doink the Clown before suddenly vanishing from the company yet again in 1995.
Sadly, we never found out if Marty Jannetty could have become more than just "the other guy" from The Rockers. The feud had the potential to catapult both men to singles stardom, but Jannetty's personal issues saw the feud delayed for two years as Shawn Michaels rose to the top.
Although he held the belt for less than three weeks and dropped it back to HBK in a non-televised match, this remains the highlight of his solo career.
An established tag team wrestler in the late 1980s as part of The Fabulous Rougeaus, Jacques was repackaged as The Mountie after brother Ray retired in 1990.
Given the gimmick of a corrupt member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for some reason, The Mountie would often electrically shock his opponents with a cattle prod to get the cheap victory.
Nothing more than a lower-card talent, The Mountie faced off against the likes of Koko B. Ware and Tito Santana before defeating Bret Hart out of nowhere to become Intercontinental champion on Jan. 17, 1992.
However, the greatest moment of The Mountie's career wasn't even shown on television, as the title change took place at a Massachusetts house show.
48 hours later, and The Mountie's time as champion was over. Beaten in less than six minutes by Roddy Piper at the 1992 Royal Rumble, Piper also won their rematch, and The Mountie disappeared back to the undercard. The gimmick had already run its course, and Rougeau left the company in October.
The Mountie was a lower-card performer with a ridiculous gimmick and shouldn't have been allowed near the Intercontinental title. It seems as though the title was only taken from Bret Hart to set up a rematch with Roddy Piper, with The Mountie stuck in no man's land.
Although he recovered and enjoyed tag team title success as part of the Quebecers duo, The Mountie was a dismal Intercontinental champion.
You wouldn't believe that Shane Douglas had a huge hand in establishing ECW as a serious promotion after seeing this train wreck of a gimmick. Presumably abandoning the Philadelphia outfit for financial reasons in 1995, Douglas was repackaged as an educated man who often carried around a chalkboard and a paddle that he called the "Board of Education."
Unsurprisingly, the gimmick didn't catch on with the audience, and reaction to the character could be described as lukewarm at best. Nonetheless, Douglas received a mini-push and was No. 1 contender to Shawn Michaels' Intercontinental Championship.
However, after "The Heartbreak Kid" was attacked outside a New York nightclub, he was forced to vacate the title, and the belt was awarded to Douglas on Oct. 22, 1995.
Immediately after being named champion, Douglas was put in an impromptu title defense against Razor Ramon. Eleven minutes later, and Dean Douglas was now a former Intercontinental champion. Douglas made his last appearance for the company in December and returned to ECW, where he enjoyed the best spell of his career.
Although there may be truth to the rumors that backstage maneuvering by The Kliq led to Douglas' lackluster run with the WWF, in fairness, his gimmick wasn't over in the slightest and any intensity he had previously displayed with ECW had seemingly evaporated.
You just can't make a list of worst Intercontinental champions without including someone who held the belt for 11 minutes at the top.
So, there we have it, the 10 names who I believe comprise the worst Intercontinental champions in history.
When writing this list, a lot of names nearly made the cut: Albert, D-Lo Brown, Test, Rikishi and Ezekiel Jackson to name but a few. Even JBL nearly made it, after his 27-day reign was swiftly ended by Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania 25.
These articles usually generate a lot of debate in the comments section, and hopefully this is no different. So, let's hear what you think.
Do you agree with the rankings?
Is there anybody missing you would have included?
Who do you think is the worst Intercontinental champion ever?
As always, sign off in the comments below!
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