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WRESTLING COLUMNS

The History of the IC Title (part 3)
December 12, 2005 by Colm Kearns


Razor would go on to be one of the most dominant Intercontinental champions of the 1990's. His first major feud after winning the title was with IRS (Mike Rotundo) whom he defeated at the 1994 Royal Rumble. However he had a tougher challenge for his gold in the form of former IC champ Shawn Michaels. Michaels had returned from suspension and brought with him his own IC title belt. The storyline was that Michaels continued to call himself champion because he hadn't been defeated for the belt but WWF authorities recognized Razor as the official title holder and he continued to defend the belt. This angered Michaels and he went to increasing lengths to aggravate the 'Bad Guy', Michaels interfered in his matches (including the bout against IRS at the Rumble) and brutally attacked his on screen friend the 1-2-3 Kid. Finally Razor could take no more and he accepted Michaels challenge.

The stage was set for WrestleMania X in Madison Square Garden, Razor and Michaels would clash in the first ever televised WWF Ladder match (in which both IC belts would be suspended from the roof). The match itself was a classic that set the standard for any future contest of this kind. Ultimately it was Razor who triumphed; retaining his Intercontinental title and destroying any claim Michaels had to being the 'real' IC champ in the process.

It was Michaels' bodyguard Diesel who unseated Razor when he defeated him for the belt in April. During his reign Diesel gained a DQ victory over WWF champion Bret Hart in a really good match at the 1994 King Of The Ring. This win over an established main event star like Hart no only put Diesel over as a force to be reckoned with it also added to the prestige of the IC title. Diesel lost the belt back to Razor at Summerslam in Chicago after Shawn Michaels accidentally superkicked him.

Razor would hold the title for the next five months during which time he successfully defended it against many different challengers most notably then King Of The Ring Owen Hart and former World champion Bob Backlund. However his number came up at Royal Rumble 1995 in Tampa when he lost the belt to Jeff Jarrett. Jarrett (who would go on to hold the belt a further 5 times) won the match with a small package, the match had been restarted when Jarrett goaded Razor into continuing after the 'Bad Guy' was counted out. This set up their rematch at WrestleMania XI in which Razor gained a DQ victory but Jarrett kept the title.

Surprisingly it was not Razor but Bob Holly who succeeded in wresting the title from Jarrett though not in the manner he no doubt hoped for. Holly pinned Jarrett in a title match in April but after the match it was discovered Jarrett's feet were on the ropes during the pin. The result was declared null and void and the belt was held up. To clear up this controversy the two had a rematch in Moline Illinois, the eventual result saw Jarrett defeat Holly to become a 2 time IC champion. A month later Jarrett lost the title to Razor Ramon in Montreal. Ramon did not have much time to bask in the glory of his third IC title win as Jarrett won the belt back three days later.

At the July 'In Your House II' PPV Jarrett defended the title against Shawn Michaels in a bout that a lot of fans will agree was the best match of 1995 and the finest of Jarrett's long career. It was a fantastic 20 minute encounter that saw Michaels pin Jarrett to capture his third Intercontinental title.

Although he had been IC champion twice before this was the first time Michaels had been a face champion but he was proving to be a good on; at Summerslam he beat he retained his title against Razor Ramon in another classic Ladder match and in September he teamed up with WWF World champion Diesel to win the Tag Team titles. Sadly WWF's plans for Michaels were thrown awry when in October when Michaels was genuinely attacked by a group of thugs outside a nightclub in Syracuse New York. Injured Michaels was forced to forfeit the title to number 1 contender Dean Douglas (known elsewhere as Shane Douglas) at the October In Your House PPV. Later in the same night Douglas lost the belt to Razor Ramon. On that night Razor set the record for the most IC title wins (which would later been surpassed) and Douglas became the shortest reigning Intercontinental champion.

Razor successfully defended his title for the rest of 1995, his opponents included his former partner the 1-2-3 Kid and future World champion Psycho Sid. But his toughest challenge came in a strange form, in January he began feuding with the bizarre Goldust who had begun showing his not so platonic affection for the 'Bad Guy', this aggravated the Razor and eventually he challenged Goldust to a match at the 1996 Royal Rumble all of this was part of Goldust's plan however, a plan that paid off when he defeated Razor (with a little help from the 1-2-3 Kid) for the IC title.

Goldust managed to hold on to the belt for three months before he seemed to have lost lost it to Savio Vega. Vega hit Goldust with the title belt and covered him for the win but a second referee disputed this call and as had happened in the Jarrett/Holly situation of 1995 the title change was ruled null and void and the champion would be decided in a rematch. Goldust was victorious in the rematch thanks to Steve Austin's interference. There was no question about the legitimacy of WWF rising star Ahmed Johnson's title win at the King Of The Ring in Milwaukee. Johnson pinned Goldust after a spinebuster and his signature Pearl River Plunge. WWF were building Johnson up as their next big thing and gave him a run with the IC title not only to push him but also to see how he'd to with the responsibility of being champion.

Two months later Ahmed was attacked and injured by WWF newcomer Farooq and the title was declared vacant. One month later Marc Mero beat Farooq in the finals of an 8 man tournament to become the new Intercontinental champion. After the match Mero was congratulated by former IC title holder Mr. Perfect.

But one month later Perfect proved his alliance with Mero was a hoax. Perfect was scheduled to return to the ring to wrestle Hunter Hearst Helmsley but he feigned injury and convinced Mero to wrestle in his place and put the title on the line, Mero seemed to be in firm control of the match until his so called friend Mr. Perfect blasted him with a chair thus allowing Helmsley to win the title. Helmsley made a good champion, after successfully keeping Mero at bay for the remainder of 1996, he started 1997 by feuding with Goldust. This was an entertaining rivalry that included matches between the two at the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania (by which time Helmsley had lost the title). In February he lost the belt to talented rookie Rocky Maivia. Maivia may have been good in the ring but despite being booked as a face he was hated by fans for his 'goody two shoes' attitude and he bombed as champion. After a successful defense against The Sultan (who would go on to future success as Rikishi) at WrestleMania he dropped the belt to Owen Hart in April.

By this time Hart was a hated heel as a member of the Hart Foundation and he made great champion. He retained the title against the likes of Psycho Sid and Goldust, in the summer he began a violent feud with the by now hugely popular 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin. Their long awaited match came at Summerslam in East Rutherford, New Jersy. Austin triumphed, winning his first singles title in the WWF but unfortunately he broke his neck during the match when Hart botched a piledriver. It says a lot for the toughness of Austin that he could finish the match at all.

This was bad for WWF, Austin their most popular star was poised for a dominant IC title reign which would serve as a precursor to his eventual World title win but his neck would keep him out of the ring for the next few months. Fortunately WWF would capitalize on this and Austin's time as the rebellious face that WWF were afraid to let wrestle would skyrocket his popularity. As for the Intercontinental championship it was once again to be decided in an 8 man tournament.

The tournament final came at WWF's Badd Blood PPV in St. Louis in October where Owen Hart battled Farooq in a rare all heel encounter. Austin (who was at ring side to present the winner with the IC belt) helped Hart grab the win when he nailed Farooq with the title. A month later at the Survivor Series Austin defeated Hart in an emotionally charged but quite short match to win his second IC title.

During his second reign Austin greatest challenger was The Rock (previously known as Rocky Maivia). Austin beat Rock at WWF's PPV in December. However the next night on RAW WWF owner Vince McMahon (who was feuding with Austin at this point) demanded that the two wrestle in a rematch, Austin with his aversion to authority refused and McMahon demanded he forfeit the title to The Rock which he did and followed it up by stunning Rock and stealing the IC title. The next week Austin hurled the belt into a river.

While all of this may have cemented Austin as a huge rebellious face it certainly devalued the IC title which in the space of a week was voluntarily forfeited and tossed into a river. However over the next few months The Rock would prove more than capable of restoring the belt's prestige. He began his reign with an awesome feud with Ken Shamrock, the two men wrestled for the title at the Royal Rumble and at WrestleMania XIV and both were solid encounters that saw Shamrock battle not only Rock but also fight off his cohorts in the Nation Of Domination and seemingly win the title only to see it returned to 'the people's champion' minutes later when the referee reversed his decision. In June Rock and his 'Nation' began a war with Triple H's Generation X faction. Rock and Triple H wrestled each other in a really good 2/3 Falls match at Fully Loaded in July. By this point Rock had held the belt for 7 months and was a hugely over heel, the fans couldn't wait to see him finally lose the title and they thought their wish had been granted when Triple H hit his signature Pedigree on Rock with the scores tied at 1-1 but unfortunately for the challenger the 30 minute time limit expired just as he had hit the move. Once again 'the people's champion' had managed to slip away with his title intact.

The inevitable rematch was set for Summerslam in Madison Square Garden the very next month. It was to be a Ladder match (the first in WWF for three years) and fans who had witnessed the HBK/Razor classics had high expectations for this IC title bout. They were not disappointed, it may not have matched HBK/Razor in quality but it certainly wasn't far behind. It was Triple H who came out of this show stealer with the belt. Not only was it a great match but it also had two major consequences, the first was that Triple H aggravated his knee and would spend the next few months on the injured list and the second was that it helped turn The Rock from one of the most hated heels on the roster to a hugely popular superstar, Rock was so charismatic that fans had practically been waiting on an excuse to cheer him and his fantastic performance in the Ladder match earned him the fan's respect and gave them the excuse they had wanted.

Because of his afore mentioned knee injury Triple H was stripped of the title in October after going two months without being able to defend the belt. The title vacancy was to be settled in a one night tournament on the October 12th edition of RAW is WAR. By the end of the night it was the 1998 King Of The Ring Ken Shamrock who won the tourney beating Steve Blackman, Val Venis and X-Pac along the way. This win would set the tone for Shamrock's reign as IC champ: dominant. He would go on to hold the belt for four months and during this time he defeated Mankind, Vader and Billy Gunn (in a good match at the 1999 Royal Rumble). In February of 1999 he lost the belt to Val Venis thanks to the crooked officiating of guest referee Billy Gunn.

1999 would not be a good year for the Intercontinental title; frequent title changes and sub standard champions would diminish the belt's prestige over the next 12 months. Venis looked to be a competent champ but he lost the title a mere month after winning it to Road Dogg a popular and fairly talented wrestler but primarily a tag team star. Road Dogg managed to retain his title in a 4 way at WrestleMania XV but he didn't go much further than that as he lost it to Goldust on the following night's episode of RAW.

Goldust wasn't champion any longer than Road Dogg, he was defeated by The Godfather on April 12th and again in a rematch at Backlash (he left the WWF shortly there after). The Godfather was popular but he wasn't popular enough to excuse the fact that he was a sub standard in the ring. Despite he held the belt longer than most had in 1999, his eventual loss came at the hands of Jeff Jarrett on May 25th in under 4 minutes.

Fans who despaired at the IC title's recent loss of value saw a glimmer of hope in Jarrett's victory. He was a more than competent in ring performer and an established WWF midcarder. But Jarrett's title reigns in 1999 would be marred by pointless losses. The first of these occurred at a Toronto house show on July 24th 1999. Jarrett was to face Ken Shamrock but instead WWF decided to have Jarrett drop the belt to Edge to capitalize on the shock factor. The next night at the Fully Loaded PPV Jarrett recaptured the title. This may have served a purpose if it helped elevate Edge to singles stardom but it didn't after his title loss Edge went back to teaming with Christian and would not become a successful singles wrestler for another two years.

One week after regaining the title Jarrett lost it once again, this time to European champion D'lo Brown. Over the next few weeks the two men had an interesting feud that teased that Jarrett's long time manager Debra would leave him. This continued until Summerslam in Minneapolis where Jarrett with the help of Debra and D'lo's former partner Mark Henry defeated won both titles. The next night on RAW Jarrett presented Henry with the European belt and thus began the D'lo/Henry feud. D'lo was popular and quite good in the ring so you couldn't be blamed for thinking that WWF had big plans for him if they made him the first man to simultaneously hold the European and IC championships, sadly this was not the case after a final European title reign following a win over Henry D'lo did little of note for the rest of his WWF tenure. By the time Kurt Angle was billing himself as 'Euro-continental' champion six months later D'lo's double belt winning feat was largely ignored. These pointless changes made the IC title look like a useless piece of metal that was traded between wrestlers with no meaning or value not something that had once been a prestigious prize used to help create future main eventers.

Two months after Summerslam the IC title reached its lowest point or reached a wonderful landmark depending on who you talked to. On October 17th female wrestler Chyna defeated Jarrett in a 'Good Housekeeping' match to win the Intercontinental championship. In the weeks leading up to this match Jarrett had been portrayed as a women beating sexist while Chyna was seen as a women fighting for equality in a man's world. The 'Good Housekeeping' stipulation was made after Jarrett's pronouncement that women should stay at home. The match itself was good for what it was and when Chyan pinned Jarrett after breaking his own guitar over his head the crowd at the Gund arena cheered loudly. Despite this fan opinions differed on the win; some fans thought that this was the first step towards gender equality in wrestling while others said that Chyna was only given the title because she was a woman and if she was a man no one would consider her a good enough wrestler to hold the title. Her defenders said that she was over enough with the fans to excuse this and while this was true in most cases there were exceptions, she was booed in her first match against Jarrett at Unforgiven and later against Chris Jericho (though this was probably due to Jericho's own popularity). Also during her first title reign her only TV show defense was against perennial jobber Stevie Richards. Despite these shortcomings Chyna had an entertaining feud with Chris Jericho, she defeated Jericho at the 1999 Survivor Series but failed to repeat this feat at Armageddon in December when she lost the title to Jericho. Jericho was a fantastic wrestler and his promos were nothing short of wonderful, his IC title win was the first step to the title regaining its prestige.

by Colm Kearns ..


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