WWE Intercontinental Championship
|WWE Intercontinental Championship|
The current WWE Intercontinental Championship belt
|Date won||May 31, 2015|
|Date established||September 1, 1979|
The WWE Intercontinental Championship is a professional wrestling championship in WWE, which is currently held by Ryback. Along with the WWE United States Championship, it is one of WWE's secondary titles. Although generally contested in the midcard at WWE shows, the title was defended in the main events of WrestleMania VI, SummerSlam 1992, the third and eighth In Your House events, and Backlash 2001. The championship has been called a "stepping stone" to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
On April 10, 1989, the championship was first defended outside of North America, by Rick Rude against The Ultimate Warrior in Milan, Italy. On March 30, 1991, Mr. Perfect made the first Asian defense against The Texas Tornado at a WWF co-promotion with Super World of Sports in Tokyo, Japan. It first came to Africa on April 6, 1997, when champion Rocky Maivia pinned Savio Vega in Durban, South Africa. Shelton Benjamin made the first Australian defense on April 7, 2006, pinning Gene Snitsky in Brisbane.
WWF North American Heavyweight Champion Pat Patterson became the inaugural champion on September 1, 1979. It was said he had unified his title with the South American Heavyweight Championship, in a tournament in Rio de Janeiro, although both the tournament and South American Championship were entirely fictional.
On October 17, 1999, Chyna became the only woman to hold the Intercontinental Championship by defeating Jeff Jarrett at No Mercy. Following the World Wrestling Federation's purchase of World Championship Wrestling in March 2001, the title was unified with the WCW United States Championship at Survivor Series 2001, causing the United States Championship to become inactive. The United States Champion, Edge, defeated the Intercontinental Champion, Test.
In 2002, Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff began consolidating his brand's singles championships. On July 22, 2002, he announced that the Intercontinental Championship would be unified with the European Championship in a ladder match, which saw Intercontinental Champion Rob Van Dam defeat European Champion Jeff Hardy. On August 19, 2002, Bischoff made a six-minute gauntlet match for the Hardcore Championship, with the winner facing Van Dam in a second unification match the next week on Raw. Tommy Dreamer successfully retained his title in that match, but lost to Van Dam in a hardcore match the next week. As a result of the victories over Hardy and Dreamer, Van Dam is regarded as the last European and Hardcore champion in WWE history; these were his first and fourth reigns with those respective titles.
Bischoff, however, was not done. On September 30, 2002, he announced that there would be one more unification match. In this match, the Intercontinental Championship would be unified with the recently reactivated World Heavyweight Championship, which had been awarded to Triple H by Bischoff following the decision by SmackDown General Manager Stephanie McMahon to make reigning Undisputed WWE Champion Brock Lesnar and his title exclusive property of her show. The match took place at No Mercy the following month and saw Triple H defeat Intercontinental Champion Kane, making him the sole singles champion of the Raw brand.
On May 5, 2003, Bischoff's now Raw co-General Manager, Stone Cold Steve Austin, announced live on Raw, over Bischoff's objections, that he was reactivating the Intercontinental Championship and that any former champions on the Raw roster were eligible to enter a battle royal at Judgment Day for the title. Christian won the battle royal to claim the championship and restore a secondary singles title for Raw wrestlers to compete for and giving the brand a total of four championships, which included the World Heavyweight Championship and the former WWF Tag Team Championship, which was renamed the World Tag Team Championship. Eventually WWE would do the same thing for SmackDown and created a separate set of titles for that brand; for its secondary title, SmackDown reactivated the United States Heavyweight Championship that had been unified with the Intercontinental Championship in 2001, placing the WWE name on it while claiming the lineage of the old WCW title of the same name (much as they did with the Cruiserweight Championship when that became WWE exclusive).
During the 2009 WWE Draft on April 13, 2009, reigning champion Rey Mysterio was drafted to SmackDown, making the Intercontinental Championship exclusive to that brand. On October 2, 2011, at Hell in a Cell, Cody Rhodes introduced a modified version of the classic belt design with the white strap, with an added modern WWE "scratch logo" and other embellishments. Since August 29, 2011, when all WWE programming became "Supershows" featuring wrestlers from the full roster, the title has been defended on both Raw and SmackDown. On August 18, 2014, the Intercontinental Championship belt design (along with all of the other championships in WWE) was updated with the new logo in place of the long-standing scratch logo. On May 31, 2015, the championship was contested for in an Elimination Chamber match for the first time.
In the 2010s, WWE was criticized for their scripting of the Intercontinental Champions. In 2013, Darren Gutteridge of Pro Wrestling Dot Net wrote that the "title has proven an albatross for the past decade, with almost all title holders doomed to tread water, usually only beating people decisively when the title is on the line". The albatross metaphor was also used to describe the title in 2014 by James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch, while Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer said that year that "the IC title isn't booked to mean much". Various commentators in 2014 and 2015, including from the Baltimore Sun, Rolling Stone, PWInsider and Pro Wrestling Dot Net have pointed out that the Intercontinental Champion often loses non-title matches, while Mike Tedesco of Wrestleview questioned how Intercontinental Champions "losing too much" is "supposed to bring prestige to the Intercontinental Championship".
Brand designation history
Following the WWE Brand Extension on March 25, 2002, all titles in WWE became exclusive to either the Raw brand or SmackDown! brand. The following is a list of dates indicating the transitions of the Intercontinental Championship between the Raw and Smackdown brands.
|Championship moved to the Raw brand.|
|Championship moved to the SmackDown! brand.|
|Date of transition||Notes|
|March 25, 2002||Rob Van Dam was drafted to Raw following the brand extension, making the Intercontinental Championship exclusive to Raw.|
|July 30, 2002||Chris Benoit defects to SmackDown! as Intercontinental Champion|
|August 25, 2002||Rob Van Dam regains the championship, returning it back to Raw|
|April 13, 2009||Following the 2009 WWE Draft, the Intercontinental Champion at the time, Rey Mysterio, is drafted to SmackDown! and brings the title to the brand. The title remains with SmackDown! until the discontinuation of the brands on 29 August 2011.|
The inaugural champion was Pat Patterson who, as the WWF North American Champion in September 1979 was also declared "South American Heavyweight Champion" after "winning" a fictitious tournament in Rio de Janeiro. Patterson unified the two championships into the Intercontinental Championship.
There have been 75 different champions. Chris Jericho has the most reigns with nine. Pedro Morales held the championship for a record total of 619 days and The Honky Tonk Man had the longest uninterrupted reign at 454 days, from June 2, 1987 until August 29, 1988. Dean Douglas had the shortest reign at just 13 minutes 52 seconds. Chyna is the only woman in WWE history to win the title. The youngest champion was Jeff Hardy, who won the championship at 23 years old, while the oldest champion was Ric Flair, who won the championship at Unforgiven 2005 at the age of 56. There have been ten vacancies throughout the title's history.
The current champion is Ryback, who is in his first reign. He defeated King Barrett, Sheamus, R-Truth, Mark Henry and Dolph Ziggler in an Elimination Chamber match to win the vacant title on May 31, 2015, in Corpus Christi, Texas, during the Elimination Chamber event.
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