This Sunday night at WWE's Battleground pay-per-view, the Intercontinental Championship will be decided in a Battle Royal featuring several of WWE's top stars. Former World Heavyweight champions such as Sheamus, Rob Van Dam, Alberto Del Rio and Dolph Ziggler will vie for the opportunity to hold the title that Hall of Famers like Ricky Steamboat, Bret Hart, Tito Santana and Don Muraco helped legitimize.
WWE has a long and storied history of high-profile Intercontinental Championship matches in the month of July. The Rock and Triple H battled at Fully Loaded in 1998, while Rikishi and Val Venis tore the house down with a superb Steel Cage match in 2000.
In July 1995, Jeff Jarrett defended his title against Shawn Michaels in a huge match at the second In Your House event. Taking place in Nashville, Tennessee, the center of the country music universe, the Jarrett character was heavily spotlighted. Michaels, on the other hand, was in the middle of a push that would ultimately result in his first WWE Championship win 10 months later at WrestleMania.
Any time two Superstars as talented as Michaels and Jarrett lock up in a major championship bout, expectations are sure to be high. Were they able to meet those expectations? Find out in a moment.
But first, take a look at all that went down leading up to the match.
At the 1995 Royal Rumble in January, Jeff Jarrett capitalized on interference from his sidekick, The Roadie, and a knee injury suffered by Razor Ramon to capture the Intercontinental Championship. It was the biggest victory of Jarrett's career to that point and ignited a heated rivalry between he and Ramon.
The two competitors would battle on several occasions in the months that followed. No matter how much fury Ramon unleashed on the country music Superstar, however, Jarrett always managed to escape with his title. At WrestleMania XI, in their biggest match to date, Ramon failed to wrest the title away from his opponent. It was a deflating night for the Bad Guy, even if he left the Showcase of the Immortals with a disqualification victory.
Jarrett, a classic heel, would hold onto the title for the next few months, all the while touting his unmatched singing abilities. It was revealed just prior to the In Your House pay-per-view in July that Jarrett would make his debut as a singer at the event, which would emanate from Nashville, Tennessee.
At the same time that Jarrett was enjoying the biggest push of his career, Shawn Michaels was as well.
The Royal Rumble event was very good to Michaels, as it was for Jarrett. Entering the annual Battle Royal at No. 1, Michaels outlasted 29 other Superstars to become the first man to ever win from the pole position. The win not only earned him the traditional championship opportunity at WrestleMania XI, but it also earned him the right to be accompanied to the ring for that match by Baywatch star Pamela Anderson.
At WrestleMania, Michaels turned in one of the better performances of his career, wrestling circles around WWE champion Diesel. Unfortunately, it was not enough to dethrone the champion. Michaels' first WrestleMania title opportunity ended in heartbreak.
One night later, his relationship with Sycho Sid ended in back-break, as he was repeatedly powerbombed by the maniacal Superstar. The assault turned Michaels babyface, and HBK's huge push toward the main event was underway.
July's In Your House Intercontinental Championship match against Jeff Jarrett would be one of the first major bouts he competed in as one of the faces of WWE's New Generation era.
The match is a five-star classic that's straight out of the old school of professional wrestling.
The Roadie, later known to fans as "Road Dogg" Jesse James, was an underrated manager type for Jarrett. He was as influential in getting heat for the Intercontinental champion, and his interference throughout the bout helped tell the story.
Michaels bumped all over the ring, making Jarrett look like a million bucks. He sold everything Jarrett did tremendously and garnered great sympathy as he fought through the pain and interference at ringside. He did, however, capitalize on a moment of miscommunication between Jarrett and Roadie, scoring the win, and the title, off of Sweet Chin Music.
It was easily Jarrett's greatest performance inside a WWE ring, likely fueled by the fact that he was competing in front of a hometown crowd. As for Michaels, it was merely the first classic in a three-year stretch full of them.
Jarrett would exit WWE shortly thereafter. He feuded briefly with Ahmed Johnson before debuting in Ted Turner's WCW. It was the first on many jumps between the two powerhouse promotions for Jarrett.
Michaels would forfeit the Intercontinental Championship in October 1995 following a real-life altercation with several Marines outside of a bar in Syracuse. The beating he received made it impossible for him to defend his title and as a result, he was forced to hand it over.
He parlayed the real-life events into a major storyline that culminated in him returning to WWE at the Royal Rumble in 1996 and winning the 30-man match for the second year in a row.
From there, he would go on to capture the WWE Championship from Bret Hart at WrestleMania and embark on a main event run that would see him become the greatest worker in the business.