The History of the IC Title (part 2)
October 18, 2005 by Colm Kearns
The Ultimate Warrior was really over with the fans by the time he won his first Intercontinental title. As IC champion most of his title defenses were pretty poor but his immense popularity and the excitement he generated made up for it. Over seven months after his famous win over the Honky Tonk Man, Warrior walked into WrestleMania V as the IC champ and as yet undefeated in the WWF. His opponent for the night was 'Ravishing' Rick Rude (with whom he had been feuding for the last few months). Rude was a talented wrestler but most fans were confident that it would be another successful title defense for the wild haired muscle man from Queens New York. They were wrong. Rick Rude pulled off what was then considered a major upset by ending Warrior's unbeaten run (albeit with some help from Bobby Heenan) and winning the Intercontinental championship.
Rude made a good champion but his title reign lasted only until SummerSlam in August of 1989 when Warrior retook the belt in a much anticipated (and highly entertaining) WrestleMania rematch. By this time Warrior's star was on the rise and as his prestige soared so did that of the Intercontinental title. His title defenses were high profile matches against the likes of Dino Bravo, Randy Savage and 'Mr. Perfect' Curt Henning (not to mention several 30 second wins over Andre the Giant). In early 1990 Warrior became embroiled in a feud with immensely popular World champion Hulk Hogan. This rivalry culminated in a title for title all Face affair at WrestleMania VI. It was the main event of the biggest show of the year, featured the World champion and was contested in front of a live crowd of over 60,000 people, it was in short the biggest Intercontinental title match in history. Ultimately it was Warrior who would leave WrestleMania with both belts, this further added to the prestige of the Intercontinental title as it showed that the IC champ could compete on the level of the World champion.
Soon after WrestleMania Warrior vacated the IC title to focus on his duties as the WWF World champion. Vacating a midcard soon after winning a World championship was fairly commonplace up until about ten years ago (though previously it had been a compulsory rule as opposed to Warrior's voluntary surrender of the IC belt) so this relinquishment did little to reduce the title's value. An 8 man tournament was set up to fill the vacancy and the final came down to two time former IC title holder Tito Santana and 'Mr. Perfect' Curt Henning. The two men wrestled on April 23rd 1990 in Austin Texas and when the dust had settled Perfect was the new Intercontinental champion.
When he became champion in 1990, Perfect a high profile star having battled with Hulk Hogan over the WWF World title just a few months earlier and having also previously held the AWA World title for a whole year in the late 1980's. He had all the attributes to be a 'Perfect' Intercontinental champion, its a cliché but he was talented on the mic and even more so in the ring, he also had charisma to go with his great look. As champ he defended the title against Tito Santana and Brutus Beefcake on multiple occasions however he spent a lot of his time jobbing to Warrior in World title matches which took away from the idea (that had been created at WrestleMania VI) that the IC title holder could go toe to toe with the World champion.
Perfect was scheduled to face Brutus Beefcake at SummerSlam 1990 but a month before the event Beefcake was in a para-sailing accident that would keep him out of the ring for two years. Perfect looked to have no opponent for SummerSlam until he accepted the challenge of WWF newcomer and former NWA World champion Kerry Von Erich ten days before the PPV. At SummerSlam Von Erich shocked fans by upsetting Perfect in 5 minutes to win the IC title.
During his time as champion Von Erich continued to feud with Perfect and also feuded with Ted Dibiase. His bad blood with Dibiase would come back to haunt him as it was the 'Million Dollar Man' who helped Perfect regain the title from Von Erich in November. This time around Perfect held onto the belt for nine months despite the best efforts of Roddy Piper, Davey Boy Smith and others who attempted to wrest the title from him. He eventually dropped the title to Bret Hart at SummerSlam 1991 in Madison Square Garden. The match was undoubtedly a classic despite the fact that Perfect wrestled it in extreme pain due to a back injury, the brilliance of the match is a testament to his commitment and talent as a wrestler.
Like Perfect and Randy Savage, Bret Hart will be fondly remembered as one of the greatest Intercontinental champions ever. Bret will be forever associated with his multiple world title reigns and the Montreal Screwjob but this should not take away from his achievements as IC champ. Bret's fantastic in ring ability was in evidence during his first IC title run in 1991; he defended the belt in quality matches against the likes of Ted DiBiase and Ric Flair.
So it came as a surprise when he lost the title to the Mountie two days before the Royal Rumble in January 1992. The storyline was that Bret had a fever and wasn't at 100% in the match. The actual reason for the loss was that Bret was in negotiations for a new contract with WWF and had not yet signed, so they took the precaution of taking the belt off him.
Two days later, at the Royal Rumble in Albany, New York, Roddy Piper defeated the Mountie for the title. Piper was a huge star in the WWF, but the IC title was the first championship he had won there, so this win meant a lot to both him and the fans.
A little over two months later, in the jam packed Indianapolis Hoosier Dome at WrestleMania VIII, Bret beat Piper in what was both a rare face vs face clash and a really good match. For the next four months, Bret defended the IC title on a regular basis, most notably in the series of good matches with Shawn Michaels. His biggest challenge was to come at SummerSlam 1992, in front of over 80,000 people in London, England - Bret would wrestle his brother-in-law 'British Bulldog' Davey Boy Smith, with the Intercontinental title on the line. Being in his home country, Bulldog clearly had the fan's behind him, but he and Bret still had a lot to live up to; there match was to be the main event of a card that also featured Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior battling for the WWF title. Needless to day, Bret and Bulldog did not disappoint; they tore the house down with a fantastic match that still stands out today as one of the greatest in SummerSlam's 17 year history.
Bulldog proved himself a capable champion and held the belt two months in a title reign that was most notable for a series of wins over a young Shawn Michaels. However it was Michaels who would ultimately come out of the feud victorious as he defeated Bulldog in an edition of 'Saturday Night's Main Event' on October 27th.
The mid-1990's were not a good time for the WWF, a much publicised steroid trial did little to help their already decreasing popularity, during this time of low attendances and a small roster Michaels was a better IC champion than WWF could dare to hope for. He was a natural at getting heat from the fans and a fantastic in ring performer. He defended the belt in great matches against the likes of Tatanka (at Wrestlmania IX) and his old tag team partner Marty Jannetty. He also narrowly lost to Bret Hart in a wonderful WWF title match at the 1992 Survivor Series. His only detracting factor was his backstage attitude, which would come into play in the years following his first IC title win.
On May 17th 1993 in Madison Square Garden Michaels battled Jannetty in a match many regard as the best of 1993. The outcome saw Jannetty pin Michaels with an inside cradle to become the new Intercontinental champion. Jannetty's joy was short lived as Michaels won the belt back less than a month later in Albany New York.
Only a few months after regaining the title Michaels was stripped of it by WWF on screen president Jack Tunney for missing mandatory title defenses. Stories vary as to why he was really stripped of the belt; some say he failed a drug test others say he refused to job, either is possible but neither definite.
What is definite however was that WWF was now left without an Intercontinental champion. To settle this vacancy a 20 man Battle Royal was set up in which the last two remaining competitors would battle it out one on one for the IC title at a later date. After much fast and furious activity the final four came down to popular rising star Razor Ramon, former AWA World champion Rick ' The Model' Martel and the soon to be WWF Tag Team champions The Quebecers. The Quebecers attempted to double team Razor but 'The Bad Guy' turned the tables on them, he ducked Pierre's clothesline which caused the unfortunate Canadian to eliminate his partner Jacques, Razor then made short work of Pierre and it was down to 'The Model' and 'The Bad Guy'. They met two weeks later on RAW in an entertaining match that saw Razor defeat Martel to win his first IC title.
by Colm Kearns ..
Joshua Shibata, wrote:
Great column as always Colm just wanted to throw in my two cents about the Bret
Vs Bulldog match which was indeed a classic. Funny story is that Bulldog was
sooo nervous about the match that the night before he got totally wasted at a
local pub and actually arrivedat the show just minutes before his match. He was
in no shape to wrestle but he went out there with Bret. Five minutes into the
match he blew up and told Bret "You got to carry me brother". Bret did just that
(which really says alot about Bret's talent at the time) BUT the sad thing was
that Bulldog was still a little drunk so that Bret had to almost scream out the
spots to him. Some of them can be heard on the PPV and Bret actually got fined
for revealing at the time a guarded secret of wrestling. Bret can never get a
break he loses his title, carries a drunk bulldog to a 5 star match AND gets
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