Ok, so the IWC now knows my pick as best IC champion...or at least my favorite.
A Championship spanning North and South
With that having been said, let's talk a bit of history. The Intercontinental Championship traces its history back to 1979 when Pat Paterson unified his "North American Championship" (a short lived WWF title lasting from 1979 - 1981) with a "South American Heavyweight Championship" won in a (phantom) tournament in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
The aptly named Intercontinental Championship would go on to be held by quite a few luminaries, many of whom would go on to win Heavyweight Gold (wow, I sound just like Josh Mathews!) such as Chris Jericho, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Ultimate Warrior, Chris Jericho and even Triple H (even if he had one of the shortest reign in the title's history).
There are also many great mid carders such as Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat, William Regal, Honky Tonk Man (longest reign) and Christian.
The IC title has had varying amounts of exposure in the past and is enjoying a resurgence in importance as of late.
Stepping stone to greatness
Much has been made as of late as to the IC Championship being a gateway to World Championship Gold and it is an argument that can be made. About half of the IC Champions (22 of 48 I believe) would at one time or another held Heavyweight gold. In reviewing some of the names who have held the belt, every other name on the list has gone on to Heavyweight gold.
While I am thrilled that WWE has chosen to spotlight the Intercontinental Championship more, how they're using it seems a little Schizophrenic to me. On the one hand, the way the IC strap is referenced, it would seem that those with the IC championship are on the fast track to greater accolades, i.e., Heavyweight Gold.
But the reality has been something a bit different. Recent holders include Kofi Kingston and Dolph Ziggler. while they've had their shots at the brass ring, neither have gone on to achieve gold.
Now not EVERY IC champ goes on to Heavyweight Gold, but one would think that with the emphasis being on that statistic, one would think Heavyweight Gold should be in the immediate future of the holder. I don't think this is or will be the case. I don't see Kofi or Dolph getting the Heavyweight strap anytime soon.
The de facto use of the IC seems to be as a reward for some of the better mid card wrestlers. The last wrestler to EVER see Heavyweight Gold who also held the IC strap was Rey Misterio back in June 2009.
The last few since Rey; Dolph Ziggler, John Morrison, Drew McIntyre and current champ, Koffi Kingston have all been teased with the Heavyweight Gold, but have not, and in my opinion will not get either Heavyweight Championship.
Pick a path and stick to it
I don't feel, if you are going to brag about how many former Intercontinental champions become world champions, should you then have said holders not capture the belt. Also, a stepping stone does denote that while prestigious, it is not as prestigious as a Heavyweight strap.
Even the name suggests this; Intercontinental - good. World - even better. Still, the Intercontinental Championship has been a good way for mid carders to stay in the spotlight.
History and numbers points to the idea that it has been used for both. This should change.
I believe that the Intercontinental Championship should be a legitimate stepping stone to World Heavyweight Gold. If for no other reason, the teacher in me looks at the names and see a logical progression - 'Intercontinental' speaks to the history of and significance of the Championship; North and South America. 'World' Heavyweight Championship speaks of, well, the world.
But beyond the Geographical syntax, the Intercontinental belt provides those wrestlers with the potential to be great champions some experience as a Champion. A way to learn the gravitas (or cowardice) that makes an entertaining champion.
I have never been a big fan of the Ultimate Warrior, but I think making him IC Champ was a good way to transition as the new standard bearer after Hulk Hogan (though we all saw how that turned out).
This idea of steppingstones brings us to the next Championship...