Top Five WWE Intercontinental Champions of All Time – Selambe

On September 1st of this year, the WWE will be celebrating the forty-fifth anniversary of one of the most competitive, important championships in pro wrestling history. This year is the forty-fifth anniversary of the Intercontinental Championship. A championship that has captivated fans around the world with some of the greatest matches in pro wrestling history.

How important is the Intercontinental championship? Thirty-six former champions have ended up being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.  Winning the Intercontinental Championship is a huge addition to any wrestler’s resume. Of all the champions in history, who are the best to have ever won the Intercontinental Championship?

When talking about Don Muraco, only one word can describe him, magnificent. The first heel wrestler in WWE history to have won the Intercontinental Championship twice, Muraco was a cornerstone of the early 1980s.  His feud with another Intercontinental champion, Pedro Morales, is what brings Muraco onto this list for starters. Muraco is the only man to have beaten Morales for the Intercontinental Championship he did it twice.  After that, his feuds while champion would become legendary.

While holding the Intercontinental Championship he challenged Bob Backlund on several occasions for the WWE Championship and nearly took the title. But one feud stands alone during Muraco’s two reigns as Intercontinental champion, his feud with Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. In perhaps the feud of 1983, Muraco and Snuka traveled and fought in some legendary battles culminating in one of wrestling’s most famous matches.

On October 17, 1983, in front of a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden, Muraco and Snuka competed in a steel cage match for the Intercontinental Championship. Both men were bleeding and bruised, beating each other up inside the cage. However, a headbutt by Snuka onto Muraco was enough to send Muraco over the top rope and out the cage door to retain the title. After the match, Snuka brought Muraco back into the ring and hit the Superfly Splash from the top of the steel cage as the crowd went crazy. Muraco may have won the match but didn’t look like a winner on that night.

Muraco is one of the most underrated heels in the history of pro wrestling and his two reigns as Intercontinental Champion are some of Muraco’s best work in his career and should not be overlooked. Muraco as Intercontinental Champion was truly magnificent.

When discussing the Intercontinental title, Randy Savage is one of the first names that pops up in a lot of people’s minds. The Macho Man was a one-of-a-kind wrestler who could do it all in and out of the ring and his reign as Intercontinental Champion is a great example. After defeating Tito Santana in the Boston Garden on February 8, 1986, Savage would hold onto the title for thirteen months.

Savage chased Hulk Hogan across the country to try and win the WWE Championship and ultimately failed. However, Savage was being chased as well. Wrestlers such as Santana, George “The Animal” Steele, Bruno Sammartino, and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat among others would challenge Savage for the Intercontinental title. Savage would at times get away by the skin of his teeth to retain his title while other times would have to cheat to win. But that was Randy Savage’s game plan.

When discussing the greatest Intercontinental Championship matches of all time, Savage defending against Steamboat at Wrestlemania III is at or near the top of the list of the greatest matches ever. This fourteen-minute classic match stole the show at Wrestlemania III.  It was the final stop for Savage’s reign as Intercontinental champion, but he was on to bigger and better things. His reign was a memorable time in the career of Savage and after almost forty years is still talked about as one of the best.

How is it possible that one wrestler can be in two great Intercontinental championship matches? Let alone win the title in both of those matches?  That’s what Bret Hart did within the span of less than a year. Hart’s first title victory came at Summerslam 1991 when he defeated Mr. Perfect in front of a sold-out crowd in Madison Square Garden. Then, for an encore nearly seven and a half months later, Hart defeated Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania VIII in another classic featuring two fan favorites.

Bret Hart was a perfect example of a fighting champion. Whoever wanted to challenge for the title, Hart would take them on. Wrestlers such as Skinner, the Mountie, Shawn Michaels and Ted DiBiase among others wanted a shot at the champion. Hart was truly the “excellence of execution” when he was Intercontinental champion. He would have one of the best matches on the show every night making the Intercontinental title more prestigious than it already was.

Bret Hart’s final match as Intercontinental Champion was another classic, however he was on the losing end. He was defeated by the British Bulldog at Summerslam 1992 in front of over 80,000 fans in Wembley Stadium in London, England. Like Savage, this set up Hart’s career for bigger and better things to come as he would be the face of WWE for most of the 1990s.

Razor Ramon is without a doubt one of the greatest wrestlers to have never won the WWE Championship, but he’s also one of the greatest to have held the Intercontinental Championship. The first wrestler to have won this title four times, Ramon was at his absolute best when the lights shined bright. After winning his first Intercontinental Championship, Ramon was in the middle of an interesting situation as Shawn Michaels, the previous champion, was never defeated for the title and he laid claim to the title. How do we figure out who is the real Intercontinental Champion?

At Wrestlemania X, we got our answer in a ladder match. Michaels and Ramon had one of the greatest ladder matches of all time and was the measuring stick for all future ladder matches. Ramon climbed the ladder to success and retrieved the championship to become the one and only Intercontinental champion. While that match might have been the defining match of Ramon’s reign as champion, he had some great matches against other challengers.

Diesel, Jeff Jarrett, Owen Hart and Goldust would challenge Ramon for the Intercontinental Championship. Ramon was the Intercontinental Champion at the right time when the title needed a strong champion to defend the title. The mid-1990s and the Intercontinental title was Ramon’s time, and nobody could touch his work.

Some fans might think this is a recent selection, but in almost two years look at what Gunther did as Intercontinental Champion. A title that for a long time was thought to be irrelevant, Gunther brought the title back from the dead and made it important to wrestling fans of the 21st century. As the champion for almost two years, a record that might never be touched, Gunther would steal the show almost every time the title was on the line. Receiving praise from both critics and wrestling fans around the world, Gunther revived the Intercontinental title.

Gunther joined a very select group of wrestlers this year by being only the fourth wrestler in Wrestlemania history to have entered Wrestlemania defending the Intercontinental championship two years in a row. The other three? Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, and the Rock.  Those three ended up having great success and surely Gunther is on his way to greatness. His matches against Sheamus, Drew McIntyre, Chad Gable, and Tomasso Ciampa are some of the best matches for the Intercontinental title in recent years and had fans talking the next day.

When Gunther defeated Ricochet for the Intercontinental title, no one knew on that night that history would be made by Gunther. After losing the title to Sami Zayn at this year’s Wrestlemania, ending a reign that lasted 666 days, Gunther’s reign was immediately put among the best title reigns of all time. Gunther may very well go down in history as the greatest Intercontinental champion of all time. His matches show he can take anybody on and win, Gunther was a one-of-a-kind champion with a reign that will truly never be forgotten.

Don Muraco, Randy Savage, Bret Hart, Razor Ramon & Gunther are the greatest Intercontinental champions of all time in my opinion. They put in the time and effort, the work and passion that must be in a champion.  Maybe in the future another wrestler or two could challenge these five men in claiming to be the greatest Intercontinental champion of all time.  But as far as I’m concerned, these men are the very best. Their reigns are legendary and define one of wrestling’s greatest titles, the WWE Intercontinental Championship.

What do you think?

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