With the big Intercontinental Championship Ladder match coming up at WrestleMania, I thought it would be interesting to write about the history of the Intercontinental Championship, through all the championship's highs and lows and how it went from being one of the most prestige’s championships in the industry to one of the most forgotten ones.
To follow the journey of this Championship to today’s time we must go back to 1979 when Pat Patterson became the first ever IC Champion but I’m sure little did Pat know, that championship he held would become one of the most recognizable championships in the wrestling world. The early years of the championship really helped to give the championship its identity. Epic championship reigns from Randy Savage (414 days) and The Honky Tonk Man (record breaking 454 days) helped glorify the championship while epic moments that revolved around the championship helped to define it. One of the first great matches contested for the gold was at WrestleMania 3 where Ricky Steamboat defeated Randy Savage in a match that many call the greatest of all time. The Championship was even defended in the main Event of WrestleMania 6 alongside the WWE Championship, can you imagine if the IC Championship was defended in this year’s WrestleMania main event?
Does anybody remember the 1st ever ladder match at WrestleMania 10, the one that helped define two decades worth of future ladder matches? What was hanging in the balance that night? None other than the Undisputed Intercontinental Championship and if we want to talk about Ladder matches, how about the one 4 years after WrestleMania 10 that saw The Rock and Triple H battle for the right to be called Intercontinental Champion at Summerslam 1998. Then since I mentioned Summerslam lets go back 6 years to 1992 when the British Bulldog defeated Bret Hart in an instant classic in front of his home fans in Wembley Stadium. What did Bulldog walk out with that night? He walked out with the Intercontinental Championship.I would of course also be stupid not to mention Chris Jericho in an article about the Intercontinental Championship, after all he did hold it a record 9 times. Jericho himself said as a kid he wanted to grow up and become Intercontinental Champion, how many kids are saying that today? The point I’m trying to make here is that the early years of this championship created moments in time that you can not only see on the Network but also are ingrained in the minds of wrestling fans. Something the modern day IC Championship just fails to do.
So what happened to this Championship? Well first off, like I said before it doesn’t have any modern moments attached to it like it did 20 years ago. Can you remember a classic WWE moment in the past 10 years that has involved the Intercontinental Championship? Of course maybe we can count the awesome IC Title match at WrestleMania 25 between JBL and Mysterio that lasted a whopping 21 seconds and how can I forget the epic championship reign of…. Curtis Axel? The fact of the matter is that this Championship just isn't making memories anymore and maybe this Ladder match at WrestleMania can put a stop to that but this title needs so much more than a couple good moments attached to it.
From 1998-2001 (years of the attitude era) there were 10 people who held the Intercontinental Championship who can now call themselves a former World Champion and 6 who can say they have main evented a WrestleMania but from 2008-2011 only 4 can call themselves a world champion and only 1 can say he main evented a WrestleMania and since 2011 only Dolph Ziggler has used the Championship as a springboard to a World Championship. A title that once helped to build main eventers is now being taken for granted. The WWE thinks they can give a superstar the title with the hopes the championship will get the wrestler over but in reality it is the other way around, it’s the superstar that gets the championship over. The WWE gives guys nice long championship reigns but honestly by the time the reigns come to an end, more times than not the former champion is sent into the lower card to struggle and fight to stay relevant. Big E, Curtis Axel and Drew McIntyre all had longer title reigns than Stone Cold, Edge, Triple H or any reign of Jericho but yet one of those superstars is no longer with the company and the other two are fighting to stay relevant.
The way to really fix this broken championship and bring glory back to it is to make memories around the champion and strap wrestlers that truly deserve it so that they can bring back prestige the IC Championship and so that they can use it as a springboard to main event status and help the title do what it is meant to and that’s make careers, not destroy them.