“The Secondary Championships: A Legacy of Mediocrity?” Part: 2
This the second of a two-part series will give brief examinations of various periods in the histories IC Championship, a brief rundown of notable names that have held the Championship and some notes about the period. Then, I will give a rating of 1-10, signifying the level of prestige that the belt seemed to hold at the time, and my conclusions.
The Intercontinental Championship
Then, on September 15th, 1979, Pat Patterson appeared as the inaugural Intercontinental Champion on the basis that as he was already the North American Champion and had won a tournament held in Rio de Janerio, Brazil to win the (fictitious) South American Championship, he then unified the two titles, thus creating the Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship. Since that time there have been 66 different champions and the title has changed hands 127 times.
While the history of the IC Title is not as long, varied or as dramatic as the US Title, the Intercontinental Championship is considered just as prestigious. It was created as a secondary Championship during the ‘Golden Era’ to the then newly dubbed World Wrestling Federation World Heavyweight Championship. Its early Champions included: Ken Patera, Pedro Morales, Don “the Rock” Muraco, Greg Valentine, Tito Santana, and Randy Savage. This list of first champions is prestigious, but not nearly as great as the first Champions of the US Title.
Wrestlemania III, an event which broke all previous records for attendance for a sporting event in North America changed the game and heralded the end of the regional promotions and Championships. At this event Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat defeated Randy Savage to win his first IC championship in what is considered one of the best matches in WWE history. Champions of this era included: The Honky Tonk Man, Rick Rude, The Ultimate Warrior, Mr. Perfect, Bret Hart, Roddy Piper, The British Bulldog, Shawn Michaels, and Razor Ramon. This time was notable for Honky Tonk Man’s historic 454 day run as Champion, and Ultimate Warrior’s successful title for title challenge of Hulk Hogan’s WWF Championship at Wrestlemania VI.
This period starts when Razor Ramon defeats Shawn Michaels in what is considered the first ladder match in WWF/E history at Wrestlemania X. But, this period would end as Edge would unify the IC Title with the WCW US Title against Test at the end of the infamous Invasion angle. The Title was held at this time by such luminaries as: Diesel, Jeff Jarrett, Bob Holly, Goldust, Ahmed Johnson, Marc Mero, Owen Hart, Steve Austin, Val Venus, Road Dogg, Chyna, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero, Billy Gunn, Jeff Hardy, Kane, and Christian. During this period, several time World Champion Triple H would defeat Chris Jericho for the IC Championship. Also, Jeff Jarrett would go on to set a record of holding the title 6 times. Also, like the period of 1990, this period receives a boost of a lot of names winning the title who would go on to become memorable World Champions, but has quite a few people who would become known as perennial Mid-carders.
With the WCW US Title unified with the IC Title would seemingly double its prestige for a time. But it would be later unified with the newly created World Heavyweight Championship by Triple H, adding to that title’s prestige. Christian would win a tournament for the reactived IC Title 6 months later. Also, wrestling legend Ric Flair, who had held the US title 5 times, would win the IC for the very first time. Chris Jericho would win the IC title for an unprecedented 7th time. Memorable Champions of the time included: William Regal, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, Randy Orton, Shelton Benjamin, and the aforementioned Ric Flair. The unification with the US Title is rendered pointless by having the title absorbed into the World Heavyweight Championship.
In this modern period, we see the WWE attempt to elevate a number of new names to the top of the mid-card in an attempt to groom them for a World Title run in the near future. But we see them being elevated by more well known names. People holding the title at this time have been: John Morrison, Umaga, Kofi Kingston, Santino Marella, CM Punk, JBL, Rey Mysterio, and Drew McIntyre. With veterans like Chris Jericho, JBL, Rey Mysterio, William Regal putting over younger guys as they need to be elevated, the future is hopeful for the Intercontinental Championship.
Unlike the US Title, the IC Title has never had the illusion of being a primary title, but on the other hand, it’s never been treated as nearly worthless by its promotion. As a rule, the WWF/E has usually treated the IC Title with the respect it is accorded by only being just a step below the World Title. Sadly, the men most commonly associated with the IC Title are usually considered chronic mid-carders. Honky Tonk Man, who held the IC Championship for over a year, was never given a run with the World Title. Jeff Jarrett, who would go on to be King of the Mountain in TNA was rarely accorded a chance to challenge for the World Championship. Chris Jericho wallowed at the top of the mid-card for years before being given a chance at the WCW World Title.
On the other hand, there are many bright points. Various Champion vs. Champion bouts, Michaels and Ramon’s runs with the belt, Jericho and Benoit’s matches over the title. Intercontinental Champion the Ultimate Warrior defeating World Champion Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania VI.
Overall, I have to give the Intercontinental Championship a rating of: 7 to the United States Championship’s rating of 6 for Prestige.
Despite rarely being given the consideration it deserves historically, the US Title comes out smelling pretty good. It has very little to be ashamed of, despite the waning days of WCW.
As I said in Part 1, A secondary Championship is worth the most when men of some prestige in the business defend it and lose it to younger, more hungry talent who haven’t made as much of a name for themselves. A Championship is just that and should be vied for. In this way the IC Title is treated slightly better historically than the US Title.
The current IC Champion is Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston is the number contender. So, there is great potential, but that’s all it is. It remains to be seen if either of these guys can make the title their own.
Also, consider if the WWE truly does plan to unify the US and IC championships together in the very near future given the current contenders and champions. Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston, and The Miz. Who would your undisputed unified champion be? Chances are they’d revert it to be the unified Intercontinental Championship, but we’ll see.
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