For years, wrestling fans around the world considered the Intercontinental Championships as the workhorse championship, the title was held by some of the best wrestlers on the card; wrestlers like Rick Rude, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Curt Hennig, Bret Hart, Owen Hart, among others. But which specific matches made this belt what it is today? Continue reading as we rank the 10 greatest matches in the history of the Intercontental Championship.
10. Jeff Jarrett - Shawn Michaels- In Your House II, The Lumberjacks
Fresh off of his singing debut earlier in the night in his hometown of Nashville, Jeff Jarrett defended his Intercontinental Championship against The-Heart-Break-Kid, birthday boy, HBShizzle, Shawn Michaels. It looks to be Double J's night as of course he already did the performance, but, his protege, the Roadie (future Intercontinental Champion himself; the Road Dogg), defeated the 1-2-3 Kid off of a top rope piledriver. In a back and forth contest, Shawn would take one terrifying looking backdrop (took a worse one against Taker, of course).
A great match is a chess match of psychology, and not many Jeff Jarrett matches were like that, but this is easily his best match, and out of his six runs with the IC title. A very, very underrated match that often goes forgotten about, Jarrett and Michaels would steal the show, with Jarrett, the hometown boy as the villain, what a heel. I guess if you make fun of Garth Brooks and Conway Twitty enough, Nashville will hate you. After 20 minutes on the dot, Shawn would finish Jarrett off after Jeff Jarrett would call for the Roadie to trip the Showstopper, but Michaels would reverse and the Roadie would trip Jarrett, right into Sweet Chin Music. Boom! 1-2-3, Shawn would go home on his birthday with his 3rd Intercontinental Championship.
9. Randy Orton - Mick Foley- Backlash 2004, Hardcore Match
After the young, arrogant "Legend Killer" Randy Orton threw "The Hardcore Legend" down a flight of stairs, Mick Foley would return in the Royal Rumble to cost Randy Orton a World Championship shot (which he'd win later on in the year from Chris Benoit). Mick Foley would team with the Rock to face Orton, and his partners in Evolution, Ric Flair and Batista in a 3 on 1 Handicap match at WrestleMania 20, but heading into Backlash Foley wanted something brutal...something where his inner-Cactus can come out, a hardcore match.
In a great psychological, but extremely physical contest, as hardcore as hardcore could be. Mick Foley heads back to the days of C4 Explosives and Barbed Wire Matches, Mick would challenge for the IC title, using everything to his and Orton's disposal, including a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire, or a barbed wire table...thumbtacks, you name it. He almost even set the baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire on fire (before the stopping of Eric Bischoff). After a grueling matchup, the former WWE Champion didn't win, but put up one of his matches of career, proving that he could still go, and why he's the greatest superstar of the Attitude Era. The young Randy Orton went from midcarder to superstar.
8. Chris Jericho - Chris Benoit- Royal Rumble 2001, Ladder Match
After months of one of the most intense, underrated rivalries of the Attitude Era came to a halt in the final matches of a plethora. The Rabid Wolverine defended his Intercontinental Championship against The Ayatollah of Rock N' Rolla in a ladder match! The first in the history of the Royal Rumble, Benoit and Jericho would steal the show (even with Austin winning the Rumble). Even though guys like Shawn-Razor revolutionized the ladder matches, and by this time we had tables ladders and chairs (an idea pitched by Commissioner Foley, bang bang), Y2J and Benoit did different things with the ladder that had never been done before, including a Walls of Jericho on the ladder itself. A great match has a lot of things put into it, one is the drama. This match was chocked full of drama, and it showed in the performance those two went out and put on. There's not much you can say about a ladder match, but these two went out and made a ladder match a common place in the WWE after this.
7. Hulk Hogan - The Ultimate Warrior- WrestleMania VI
This next match isn't on it for the match it was, it's on it because of how big it was. In 1988, a new sensation swept the WWF fans, from the mysterious and eerie location of Parts Unknown, the Ultimate Warrior. Of course, for the past 6 years, after defeating the Iron Sheik, the Hulkster would become the biggest icon in America, and the only wrestler to cover Sports Illustrated. This match, winner take all; Toronto Skydome, Hulk Hogan - the Ultimate Warrior for the WWE Championship....and the Intercontinental Championship.
In the end, the passing of the torch, Warrior would hit his big splash, as the crowd would go nuts, including future Intercontinental Champion, Edge.
6. Rey Mysterio - Chris Jericho- Extreme Rules 2009
The most recent of the 10 matches on the list, this match standouts for total different reasons. First off this is extreme rules, anything goes. Rey Mysterio won his first Intercontinental Championship from John Bradshaw Layfield in 25 seconds, the month before at WrestleMania 25, making JBL quit the WWE. After an outstanding contest, Chris Jericho would take away Rey's pride, taking the mask completely off his face in the 619 setup to gain the victory in an unforgettable match, the best Intercontinental Championship match in recent memory, with the face-paced style, gaining Chris Jericho his record setting 9th, and final Intercontinental Championship in his Hall of Fame worthy career.
5. Razor Ramon - Shawn Michaels- WrestleMania X, Ladder Match
In a match that not only revolutionized and virtually set the bar for the ladder match, but kicks off our fabulous five, it's WrestleMania X, Shawn Michaels - Razor Ramon, in the first of two PPV ladder matches for the title. Both Shawn and Razor thought they were Intercontinental Champion, so what better way to settle the issue than the Grandest Stage of Them All, in a ladder match? In the Worlds Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden, two young talents that had something to prove went in, and in the second ladder match in WWE history stole the show on the biggest stage imaginable. Bump after bump, spot after spot, The Heartbreak Kid and The Bad Guy would put on one of the most exciting matches of the entire era, in a back and forth contest, Razor would backdrop Shawn off the ladder and grab the belts, becoming the undisputed Intercontinental Champion! This match would set the bar for some of the most famous ladder matches in history, including WrestleMania 2000's now infamous Triangle Ladder Match, and the TLC Trilogy.
4. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper - Bret "Hitman" Hart- WrestleMania 8
In a time where blood was never a factor in the WWF, Bret Hart (beaten to a bloody pulp), went up against the "Hot Rod" Roddy Piper (RIP). Not many matches that end up with the winner drenched in blood is a technical masterpiece, but, out of many, many Intercontinental Championship matches, this was one of the best wrestling matches, not only for the IC title, but ever put on. In a very technical, but physically aggressive match, Roddy Piper and Bret Hart put on a clinic, even after the fact Piper spit in Bret's face, after Piper defeated the Mountie for his only title in the WWF the PPV before. Piper would lock in the sleeper hold looking to end it, when Bret would kick off the ropes and get the pinfall, as Piper would hand him the belt, and leave with Bret, but put on a match talked about to this day.
3. Davey Boy Smith - Bret Hart- SummerSlam 1992
One year after winning the Intercontinental Championship from Mr. Perfect at Summerslam the year before, in front of 80,335 people jam packed in Wembley Stadium, in England, Bret Hart defended against his brother-in-law, The British Bulldog, Davey Boy Smith. After having to follow Warrior-Savage, Taker-Kamala, and Berzerker-Tatanka (there's a forgotten match), in the main event of one of the biggest Pay Per View's of all time, Bret and Davey went out and for 25 minutes put on the match of the year, and one that to this day is still talked about. Both trained in Stu Hart's Dungeon and after years of feuding in the tag teams (just throw in Jim Neidhart and The Dynamite Kid), knew each other so well, a chess match of sorts, and in the end, Davey Boy Smith, with the Jacknife Rollup, fell to his knees and pinned Bret, to a standing ovation, and a celebration between Bret, his sister Diana, and her husband Davey in one of the most famous moments in WWE History.
2. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat - Randy "Macho Man" Savage- WrestleMania III
In what many consider to the day, the greatest match ever put together, Savage-Steamboat makes it's way into this Top 10 at number 2.
"Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant sold the event, But when you come right down to it, there were two other people that stole the event and that was Rick Steamboat and Randy Savage wrestling for the Intercontinental title."~Stu Saks, PWI
Ricky Steamboat (accompanied by George Steele, who challenged Savage for the IC title at WrestleMania II) and Randy Savage (accompanied by the First Lady of Proffessional Wrestling Miss Elizabeth), in front of a sellout, indoor attendance record, of 93 thousand people, stole the show at WrestleMania in one of the most athletic displays, and most entertaining pieces of art ever put on display at the grand stage of WrestleMania. Much like Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith, a chess match of two guys that knew each other, and a match that came in place after Savage sidelined Savage. In one of the most dramatic matches of all-time, a cocky Savage made one fatal mistake, and fell into the small package to have his shoulders pinned to the mat. One. Two. Three.
Jimmy Snuka - Don Muraco-Steel Cage, Madison Square Garden-Even in a short match, this match makes honorable mentions not for the match itself, but for the moment. After Snuka headbutted Muraco through the cage, he took him back in, scaled to the top ,and hit a Superfly Splash. And guess who was in attendance? A young Mick Foley, and in his words, that's what made him want to do what he did for a living.
Bret Hart - Shawn Michaels-Ladder Match-Before the IronMan before the Montreal Screwjob (however after their first Survivor Series match), Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels would face off in the first ever ladder match in WWE History, setting the bar for Shawn v Razor both times, or Y2J v Chris Benoit, Dolph Ziggler v Luke Harper, Jeff Hardy v Eddie Guerrero and every ladder match that has been contested for the Intercontinental Championship.
Shawn Michaels - Marty Janetty, Raw 1993-After Shawn Michaels threw Marty through the barber shop window, he'd beat Janetty at the 1993 Royal Rumble event, after Janetty would fail a drug test. Marty would return in May, dressed as a fan after Shawn said he'd fight anyone. In the Main Event, and 1993 Match of the Year, Janetty would defeat Shawn for his only championship in the WWF.
Triple H - Marc Mero-Intercontinental Championship, Raw 1996-In a match that often goes forgotten about, HHH would convince Marc Mero to put his newly won Intercontinental Championship on the line, and after a fantastic contest, Mr. Perfect would blast Mero with a chair, giving Triple H his first of five Intercontinental Championships.
Lance Storm - Edge, Summerslam 2001-In the midst of the Invasion Angle, Edge and Lance Storm, one of the greatest technicians in WWE History, would go out and put on a clinic, but when Christian missed the spear and Lance Storm hit Christian, it gave Edge the opportunity to hit the Impaler, or Edgecution, whatever you'd like to call it, for the win to cap off a great match, Edge would call his Grandma (entertaining as always).
What match made number one, and is the greatest Intercontinental Championship match of all-time?
1. Mr. Perfect - Bret Hart- Summerslam 1991
Here it is....Number one. Bret Hart faces off against Curt Hennig at Summerslam 1991. On a show with The Ultimate Warrior teaming with Hulk Hogan, Miss Elizabeth and Randy Savage's wedding, and the Mountie going to jail, the second match on the show shined brighter than all of it, in quite possibly the greatest matchup of all time, especially considering the condition of Mr. Perfect. Given 20 minutes to shine, they proved why the Intercontinental Championship was considered the workhorse title.
There's an old saying in the business, the best matches are between two best friends, this match is proof of that theory. Friends from childhood, Mr. Perfect and Bret Hart put on classic after classic, but, this one always stood out to the fans, and is what both men will forever be remembered by; especially Curt Hennig, who did this all on an injured back. In a fast paced clinic, including some rather interesting ways to cheat, such as kicking the bottom rope while Bret's crotch was in between it, Perfect and Bret will forever be etched in stone as the greatest IC title contest of all time.
Bret Hart would catch a crotch leg drop, counter into the sharpshooter, and even though Hennig would submit, it's the match that cemented his legacy. Bret took his tights off as he and the Coach fled and Bret held up his first Intercontinental Championship.
Will Kevin Owens put on even more classics with guys like Ziggler, Cesaro, The Miz, and Daniel Bryan? We'll find out in the near-future.