Who Was The Greatest Intercontinental Champion Of The 90s?
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, so I decided to slightly modify an idea I’ve used in the past where, instead of doing one monster tournament to determine the greatest Intercontinental Champion in WWF/WWE history (a question I don’t know that I’m equipped to even answer since I never saw Ken Patera or Pedro Morales in their heyday, and not many people who won it after 1998 really mattered much), I’d single out the decade I think was the golden age of the title, the 90s. Over the next few days, I’ll match up everyone who held the title during that decade and gradually whittle them down until we get to the guy I think was the greatest Intercontinental Champion of the 90s.
Before we start, and for those who haven’t seen me do these in the past, this isn’t fantasy booking. This is me matching up pairs of former champions and then deciding, based on criteria including length/number of title reigns, quality of competition, money drawn (if applicable), and any other intangibles I feel are pertinent, who did the better job of being Intercontinental Champion. You’ll see what I mean as we progress, but let’s not waste any time in kicking off the opening round. We don’t have an even 32 people for this one, so four guys get byes and we have 12 first round matches.
Texas Tornado vs Road Dogg
The Road Dogg was a huge player in the WWF during the Attitude Era, but mainly as one half of the New Age Outlaws. While he did have some singles success, his IC Title run, which lasted all of a month or so, was about the high end of it. Kerry Von Erich, on the other hand, more or less started his WWF run by winning the Intercontinental Title from Mr Perfect at Summerslam 90. Perfect had only suffered a handful of losses even though he had been in the company for over two years by that time, and though the Tornado didn’t really set the world on fire as the champion and then lost it back to Perfect only a few months later, just beating Perfect made a huge impact. Kerry probably won’t go far in this tournament, but he had a much bigger impact with his reign than Road Dogg did, so he advances.
Owen Hart vs The Godfather
Godfather was a very entertaining character (and one he rode into his current career outside of wrestling), but who even remembers that he was the Intercontinental Champion? He only held the title for a month, and the most notable thing about it was that he was supposed to lose it to Owen the night he died. Owen wasn’t an all-time great IC Champion either, but he has the distinction of pinning the Rock clean to win his first IC Title, more or less putting an end to the wretched Rocky Maivia persona. Owen goes over, but again, probably not going to go far.
Ken Shamrock vs Chyna
Again, two late 90s guys who weren’t exactly memorable champions, but Shamrock did win a one night tournament over some pretty tough competition to win the title, successfully defended it against some good challengers, and even added the tag title to his collection while still the IC Champion. Chyna got crammed down our throats, won the title in a Good Housekeeping Match, then did an angle where she shared the IC Title with Chris Jericho. Shamrock advances.
Chris Jericho vs Steve Austin
This is exactly the kind of match that illustrates why this isn’t your typical tournament. In any normal fantasy booking scenario, Austin would probably go over Jericho, but in this case, Jericho easily wins. Austin did win the IC Title twice, and because he broke his neck winning it the first time, he had to give it up before even defending it. Then he won it back, defended it once against the Rock, and gave it up again because he didn’t think it was a good enough title for him. Jericho has won the title more than anyone in WWF/WWE history (though most came after the 2000 cutoff), and has had some absolute classic matches with people like Chris Benoit, William Regal, and others with the title on the line. Jericho advances, and Austin goes down in the first round.
Marty Jannetty vs Razor Ramon
Razor was one of the few guys who made the IC Title “theirs” for a prolonged period during the 90s, basically owning it from 1993 through early 1995. He won it four times, a record that stood for years, and defended it against Shawn Michaels in the famous, defining ladder match at Wrestlemania X. I was losing my mind over how happy I was when Jannetty beat Michaels for the title on Raw, but he only held it for three weeks before losing it back to Shawn and heading back to jobberville. Razor advances.
Edge vs Diesel
Diesel was an imposing figure as the Intercontinental Champion, and challenged Bret Hart for the title while the IC Champion at a time you didn’t often see that. Edge would go on to be a great Intercontinental Champion after 2000, but he only held the title for one day during the 90s. It sucks for Edge that the 2000 cutoff came into play, because Diesel was the greater champion during the 90s and will move on.
The Mountie vs Ahmed Johnson
Okay, neither of these guys were all timers, but Ahmed had a much more dominant win and title run, and the Mountie’s two day reign became a punchline for years to come. Mountie’s out, and Ahmed moves on.
Dean Douglas vs Mr Perfect
Not even close, Perfect held it twice and was the first guy in the 90s to establish it as the “worker’s” title, while Douglas had it handed to him before losing it ten minutes later to Razor Ramon. It’s one of Shane’s favorite things to whine about from his WWF stay, but we’re done with him and Perfect moves on.
Val Venis vs Shawn Michaels
Again, not even close. Val was a great worker, but he held the title for like three weeks, lost it, and turned into a censor a couple of months later. Shawn made himself with the way he carried the Intercontinental Title, using it as his platform to drag killer matches out of every stiff they threw him in there with. Guys like Tatanka and Crush never had matches as good as when they challenged Shawn, he was involved in the shocking title loss (and MOTYC) to Marty Jannetty, won it back, did two ladder matches for the title (though only one as champion), and made it his personal mission to upstage the WWF Champion on every single show. No contest here, Shawn advances and will probably keep advancing.
Jeff Jarrett vs Marc Mero
Marc Mero was the Intercontinental Champion for like a month before losing it to Triple H, while Jarrett held it a bunch of times without really making much of an impact. Jarrett gets the nod on sheer volume of title reigns alone.
Ultimate Warrior vs Goldust
Goldust was a very memorable character early on, and the controversial ways in which his character behaved while feuding with Razor Ramon definitely got him attention. He did have some good matches as champion, including the Hollywood Backlot Brawl with Roddy Piper, but the Warrior ended the Honky Tonk Man’s record-setting IC Title reign in under a minute, traded it back and forth with Rick Rude in two very good matches, started squashing Andre the Giant at house shows every night in title defenses, then defeated Hulk Hogan in the main event of Wrestlemania VI to become the first man to ever win the WWF Title while already holding the IC Title. That’s a pretty radical list of accomplishments, and it’s going to be hard for anyone in this tournament to top it. Warrior advances.
Bret Hart vs Roddy Piper
The Intercontinental Title was the one and only title Piper ever held in the WWF at that point, but it was only done as a thank you from the WWF before he left, and also to set Piper up to put Bret Hart over at Wrestlemania 8. This, by the way, is the first pairing in the tournament to actually feature two guys who were involved in a real life title change. Bret behaved as IC Champion the same way he did as the WWF Champion: he defended it against anyone and everyone the WWF threw in there with him, and he had great matches with everyone from the British Bulldog, Shawn Michaels, and Mr Perfect to the Barbarian and Haku. Bret moves on to the next round.
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That leaves the British Bulldog, Triple H, the Rock, and D-Lo Brown as the four men getting byes to the second round. We’ll pick this up then, but for now, thanks for reading and please send all your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Okay, we’re back with the second round of our pseudo-tournament to determine the greatest Intercontinental Champion of the 90s! This isn’t fantasy booking where I decide who I want to put over as the better wrestler, because the men who had stronger runs as champion, long reigns, multiple title reigns, classic matches, or even major historical moments during their reign are the ones who move ahead. We have 16 men left after yesterday’s opening round, so let’s keep it going!
Owen Hart vs British Bulldog
Owen and the Bulldog obviously have a long history together: Bulldog married Owen’s sister, they were longtime tag team partners and the WWF Tag Team Champions together, Bulldog beat Owen to become the first European Champion, they were the cornermen when Bob Backlund beat Bret Hart for the WWF Title in the I Quit match, and they were both in the revived Hart Foundation. They were also both pretty forgettable Intercontinental Champions, neither had any major title defenses to speak of, and the only reason Bulldog gets the nod and will advance is because he won the IC Title by beating Bret in the main event of Summerslam 92, in Wembley Stadium, in front of 80,000 or so of his fellow Brits.
Razor Ramon vs Triple H
Triple H is a god among men in WWE these days, but as the Intercontinental Champion, he was famous for three things: losing it to Rocky Maivia in what became Rock’sfirst title win, regaining it from Rock a year and a half later in a ladder match, then vacating it almost immediately due to a knee injury. I’ve already established Razor’s cred in his first round match, and Triple H doesn’t have enough IC Title history to match it.
Ken Shamrock vs The Rock
I gotta go with Rock here, he’s another guy who used the IC Title to establish himself when he re-debuted as a member of the Nation of Domination. Shamrock was okay, but he never really defended the IC Title, and before he even won it, he actually failed multiple times to defeat Rock to win it. Rock did more with it, and it was his springboard to the stardom he eventually attained, so he moves forward.
Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! WHY DID THIS MATCH HAVE TO BE HERE????? Okay, I have to think about this, so I’m going to do the rest of the matches and come back to this at the end.
Texas Tornado vs Jeff Jarrett
Tornado got a big win right as he entered the WWF by beating Mr Perfect for it, but Jarrett held the title more times than Kerry, and held it longer. Jarrett squeaks by since he wasn’t the strongest champion of all time, but he does move on.
D-Lo Brown vs Ultimate Warrior
I already said yesterday that the Warrior had a more dominant run as the Intercontinental Champion than just about anybody, and D-Lo held it once, for a month, and more or less as a joke to add it to his European Title and make him the “Eurocontinental” Champion. No joke here: Warrior advances.
Diesel vs Ahmed Johnson
Talk about the battle of the behemoths! Neither of these guys exemplify a “typical” Intercontinental Champion of the 90s, but they both did well enough to make it here, and Diesel will be the one of them continuing on to the next round. Ahmed was imposing, but he gave the title up after only a couple of months due to the first of what would turn out to be many injuries that hampered his WWF career, while Diesel had a pretty solid run and a memorable title loss to Razor Ramon at Summerslam 94, so Diesel will move on.
Mr Perfect vs Chris Jericho
They were both great champions, but Perfect is going to get the nod here for two reasons. First, half of Jericho’s IC Championship history comes after the 2000 cutoff. Secondly, Jericho never really made it “his” title quite the way Perfect did, to the point where it looked like the king had fallen when Bret Hart finally beat him at Summerslam 91. Tough break for Jericho, but he’s out and Mr Perfect gets to move on.
Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels (Take 2)
Okay, I put it on the side, took a walk and thought about it, and here’s what I came up with: their reigns as Intercontinental Champion were nearly identical. They both used it to transition from tag team specialists into eventual World Title candidates, they both made a habit out of outworking whoever the WWF Champion was at the time, their matches were of equal quality, their opponents were of roughly equal quality, and they spent about the same amount of time as champion. So, I had to fall back on the “when all else fails” tiebreaker: who was better for business?
To answer that question, I decided to use each man’s greatest match as champion to break the tie by seeing which meant more in the big picture. Shawn’s greatest match as Intercontinental Champion was the ladder match with Razor Ramon at Wrestlemania X, it became the ladder match by which all others would be judged, and grew to legendary proportions even if, strictly speaking, he had other matches that were better from a technical standpoint.
As legendary as the ladder match became, I’m going to end up giving the nod here to Bret since his best match as Intercontinental Champion (and the one Bret himself considers the best in his career) was the match where he lost the title to the British Bulldog in Wembley Stadium. It was one of only two times I can recall where an Intercontinental Title match main evented a PPV, and not only did it main event, it main evented a PPV in front of 80,000 people at WEMBLEY STADIUM, years before WWE started selling out stadiums for Wrestlemania. It was better than the ladder match (in my opinion), and it showed what an awesome worker Bret was because Davey Boy blew up about two minutes in, and Bret spent most of the rest of the match wrestling himself.
The ladder match was good and certainly historic, but I don’t think it measured up to Bret vs Davey at Wembley, and since the match was key to drawing that crowd at Wembley (as opposed to the ladder match being promoted underneath the two WWF Title matches at Wrestlemania X), I have to go with Bret here. He advances and, tragically, Shawn Michaels goes out in the second round.
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Well, I did NOT expect to have that match in the second round (and was truthfully hoping to avoid it altogether), but there’s our first major shocker of the tournament. I’m back tomorrow with the quarterfinals, but until then, thanks for reading and send your feedback to email@example.com!
Welcome back to Day 3 of the pseudo-tournament to determine the greatest Intercontinental Champion of the 90s! We had a pretty big shocker yesterday when Shawn Michaels went out in the second round, but eight men remain as we move on to the quarterfinals!
Just a quick refresher on the rules: this isn’t fantasy booking, it’s a different kind of tournament where I compare the two men matched up and determine, based on criteria including who was better for business, had better matches, quality of opposition, drew more money if applicable, and other intangibles, who did a better job of carrying the Intercontinental Title. All the crummy, two week champions from the late 90s have already bitten the dust, so let’s get on and kick off the quarterfinals!
Razor Ramon vs Diesel
Another pairing of men who were involved in not one, but two real life title changes in 1994. Diesel was a tough customer and was on a real roll in 1994, riding the momentum of his Royal Rumble performance to his win over Razor for the Intercontinental Title. He would go on to win the tag title as well and then close the year by beating Bob Backlund in eight seconds for the WWF Title, but he spent more of his time as Intercontinental Champion pursuing other titles than defending the one he had. Razor had a stronger track record of defending the IC Title, including the ladder match and his series with Diesel, and he also held the record for most IC Title reigns for a number of years, so he advances and Diesel goes home.
Ultimate Warrior vs Bret Hart
Geez,what luck for Bret, huh? I don’t think there’s any question that Bret was a far superior worker and had better matches, but Warrior was also squashing Andre and slamming him like it was nothing. Yes, it was about all Andre could manage at that point in his career, but you also just never saw ANYONE, even Hogan, manhandle him that way, especially not the secondary champion. Both men main evented PPVs as Intercontinental Champion, with Warrior winning the WWF Title in his, though Bret’s drew a bigger crowd by about 20,000 people. Warrior beat a weak champion to win his first IC Title, but Bret lost his first IC Title to a weak champion, so which is worse?
As much as I can’t believe I’m about to write this, Warrior will advance here because, with all the other factors being roughly equal as I pointed out above, Warrior was made out to be a bigger deal as Intercontinental Champion than Bret was. Warrior was obviously being gromoed for the WWF Title very early on and was getting pushed hard, while Bret was just meant to do what IC Champions do, and only got his WWF Title on a whim when nobody else was available. Brert’s matches were good and he did headline Wembley, but Warrior main evented Wrestlemania as IC Champion, which is bigger in my opinion, had some excellent matches with Rick Rude, and yes, beat Andre, which nobody Bret beat as IC Champion was even close to. Against everything my insides is screaming at me right now, Bret is out and Warrior is in the semifinals.
Jeff Jarrett vs Mr Perfect
I like Jeff Jarrett and thought he worked hard as the Intercontinental Champion, but he just never had that streak of awesomeness that Perfect had when he was the Intercontinental Champion. Perfect’s title defense always seemed more important, and while Jarrett was always portrayed as lucky to be champion and requiring luck or outside interference to get by, Perfect came off like somebody who could hang with whoever he was in the ring with. Jarrett got this far by getting lucky draws, but his luck runs out here and Perfect moves on to the semifinals.
The Rock vs British Bulldog
This isn’t even close, because even though the Bulldog won his Intercontinental Title in one of the greatest matches of the 90s, he only held it for a month and a half and then left the company after rarely even defending the title. Rock held the Intercontinental Title for probably about a total of a year between his two reigns, had great matches with everyone from Ken Shamrock to Ahmed Johnson to Faarooq to Owen Hart and even Steve Austin while champion, and even though he wasn’t main eventing (yet), he was getting over enough that you could make the case that he could draw on his own even on a show without the WWF Champion. He obviously went on to bigger and better things, but Rock’s time as Intercontinental Champion was always underrated, and he deserves to advance to the semifinals, which he does here.
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We’re down to the final four: Razor Ramon, Mr Perfect, the Rock, and (*shudder*) the Ultimate Warrior. We’ll wrap this up tomorrow with the semifinals and finals of the tournament, but for now, thanks for reading and send all your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org!
After three arduous, and in some cases astonishing, days of matches between former champions, we’re down to the semifinals and finals of my pseudo-tournament to crown the greatest Intercontinantel Champion of the 90s! This isn’t fantasy booking, it’s a series of head-to-head comparisons where I judge two former champions based on length/number of reigns, quality of competition, money drawn as champion (if applicable), and other intangibles to determine who performed the job of Intercontinental Champion the best.
We’re down to the final four, so let’s not waste any time, we’re on to the semifinals!
Mr Perfect vs Razor Ramon
Perfect and Razor are pretty even in terms of the usual deciding points. They spent about the same amount of time as champion, both did the job of IC Champion and had good matches at the IC Title level without ever seriously being treated like future World Title contenders, and neither was ever really put in a position to draw as champion. Both were good, solid champions who made it “their” title for a couple of years, and put over the new guy when they finally gave it up for good.
However, I’m going to go with Razor here, for a couple of reasons. The first is quality of competition, as Razor’s higher end opponents were people like Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Goldust, and IRS, and I think that group is a higher collective caliber than Perfect’s top challengers like the Big Boss Man, the British Bulldog, Kerry von Erich, and Bret Hart. Also, as great a worker as Perfect was, his only “classic” match as champion that people really remembered was the title loss to Bret. Razor’s ladder match with Shawn hit legendary status, and though both were good matches (and happened in the same arena), I gotta give the nod to the ladder match and Razor Ramon, who moves on to the finals.
Ultimate Warrior vs The Rock
Another pretty even matchup, as both men used the Intercontinental Title to springboard to the World Title and Wrestlemania main events, neither were good workers (or at least Rock wasn’t until after his IC Title days), but both had personalities and in-ring styles that drew people in without needing to be able to outwork the world. Both men were facing and defeating World Title caliber opponents, and both were definitely draws (or could be them if needed) during their IC Title reigns.
However, as insane as this sounds, I have to give the nod to the Warrior AGAIN. For as good as Rock was, Warrior’s competition (Andre, Rude, Dino Bravo) was slightly higher caliber than Rock’s (Triple H, Mick Foley, Ken Shamrock), and again Warrior main evented Wrestlemania as the IC Champion. That alone has been the key to Warrior getting this far, and it gets him into the finals as Rock falls by the wayside.
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Before we get into the finals, I think this is a good time to reflect on how these comparisons have shaken out and what it says about the Intercontinental Title, even in its glory days. Even though it’s regarded as the worker’s title, all the workers went out early and were beaten out by people with the all-time great matches and main events in huge buildings for major PPVs. The fact that the guys in the big time matches also had a much higher ratio of going on to World Title success than the workers really drives home the point that, as good of workers as they may be, that’s not usually enough to get you to that top level in and of itself.
Now, you could make the point that, by virtue of being the secondary champion, these guys aren’t always put in a position to draw on their own, but you’ll notice that the guys the WWF saw something in did get the big matches while Intercontinental Champion. Bret defended the title in the main event in Wembley, Warrior main evented Wrestlemania VI, Shawn and Razor blew everything else at Wrestlemania X away, Rock never main evented as IC Champion, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that nothing was going to hold him back once he got his big shot.
It’s nice for the wrestling purists to believe that the ability to chain wrestle for an hour is all that matters, but this really is an entertainment business above all else, and the results of this tournament, playing out according to the factors it’s basing the decisions on, really bears that out.
Speaking of the tournament, on to the finals!
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Razor Ramon vs UIltimate Warrior
Okay, everyone who thought this was going to be the final match, raise your hand! Yeah, didn’t think so. I really wish I had more to write here, but it’s pretty open and shut as, once again, I have to go with the Warrior. Razor had an impressive run with the title, but it was at a time when business was down across the board, and he never had a chance to main event anything of note. I’ve already gone down Warrior’s list of accomplishments when he was the Intercontinental Champion, and Razor just doesn’t come close to matching any of it. The one thing he could rely on in this situation is the ladder match, but as good as it was, Warrior topped it with the Hogan match at Wrestlemania VI. Honestly, Razor got lucky to get this far because better Intercontinental Champions went down before they had the chance to go head-to-head with him, and as unlikely as the winner turned out to be, the second place guy wasn’t any more of a foregone conclusion.
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I swear I didn’t plan this out this way, or come in with a secret plan to throw out some twist winner, and I really did expect Mr Perfect, Shawn Michaels, or maybe the Rock to win, but this isn’t about who the better worker is, it’s about who did a better job of being the Intercontinental Champion. As much as I would have preferred to have somebody else win this one, if I’m being completely honest and impartial, no Intercontinental Champion in the 90s was a bigger deal in terms of the big picture of business, marquee matches, and quality opponents than the Ultimate Warrior, who against all common sense, is determined by the criteria of this tournament to be the greatest Intercontinental Champion of the 90s.