The History of the IC Title (part 4)
January 26, 2006 by Colm Kearns
A little over two weeks after winning the IC title Jericho faced Chyna in a rematch on an edition of Smackdown!, the match ended when both competitors shoulders were down while two referees counted to three. The decision was made not to vacate the belt as would be usual but instead to declare Chyna and Jericho co-champions. This situation involved Chyna and Jericho making separate title defenses but if one of them were to be pinned then both would lose the title. This angle may not have led to any classic matches but it did reawaken fan interest in the belt, when they saw Chyna helping her hated rival Jericho to win so she could remain IC champ they realised how important it was. This situation was resolved when Jericho defeated Chyna and challenger Hardcore Holly in a Triple Threat match at the Royal Rumble in Madison Square Garden to become the undisputed Intercontinental champion.
Jericho's joy was shortlived as he lost the title to European champion Kurt Angle at No Way Out in a more than good match a month later. During his run as champion Angle made several TV defenses and earned the ire of the WWF fans with his cocky but nerdy attitude. At WrestleMania in April Angle lost both his titles without being pinned in a two fall Triple Threat match featuring former WCW World champion Chris Benoit (who hit Jericho with a flying headbutt to capture the IC title) Chris Jericho (who pinned Benoit to win the European title).
Benoit may very well go down in history as the 'fightingest' champion ever. For the one month he held the title during his first reign he would defend it on every show be it RAW Smackdown or a PPV. This tactic backfired on Benoit when he lost the title to Chris Jericho on the May 5th edition of Smackdown. Unfortunately for Jericho he had earned the ire of the McMahon-Helmsley regime who were calling the shots on air in WWF at the time. On RAW less than a week after winning the title Jericho was forced to defend it against first Kurt Angle (whom he pinned), the Big Show (who he beat via countout) before finally losing to Chris Benoit.
Benoit reigned a month and a half during his second title run (which included a PPV victory over Jericho in a Submission match) before he dropped the title to veteran super heavy weight Rikishi Phatu (previously known as Fatu). Rikishi was no where near Benoit's standard of wrestling but he was popular and his size along wit a DQ victory over World champion Triple H made fans take him seriously. Rikishi didn't last long however, after two weeks he had lost it to the talented Val Venis. The two met again in a decent Steel Cage match at the Fully Loaded PPV that saw Rikishi execute an incredible splash from the top of the 20 foot cage, this did him more harm than good however and Venis was able to retain his championship. Also at this time Venis was feuding with the late great Eddie Guerrero and his 'mama cita' Chyna, this feud led to one of the oddest matches the Intercontinental title has ever been defended in; at Summerslam Venis and his manager Trish Stratus went up against Chyna and Guerrero with in a tag match with the stipulation that if Venis's team won he would retain the title but if he or Trish were pinned then the person who got the pin would become champion. The end result saw Chyna pin Stratus to become the IC champ.
Chyna was more popular than ever at the time but the fact that she pinned Stratus didn't help her credibility as champion much. To many fans this didn't matter and they were both outraged and intrigued when she lost the title to Guerrero in a Triple Threat match on RAW in early September. The match was originally scheduled to be Chyna versus Angle but Guerrero had WWF commissioner Mick Foley put him in the match to 'protect Chyna'. The match ended when the referee counted to 3 while Guerrero lay on the ground hugging Chyna while she was incapacitated with her shoulders down. Guerrero claimed this had been an accident but it was later revealed to be a reuse and he turned heel shortly thereafter.
After a good title run that included TV defenses against Road Dogg, Chyna and Val Venis Guerrero lost the title to Billy Gunn (who had recently returned from an 8 month stint on the injured list) on Smackdown in Florida. WWF had made a few attempts to push Gunn as a singles star (and would make a few in the future) and all of them failed. Gunn's mic skills were decent as was his charisma but neither were enough to distract from the fact that he was not a very good singles wrestler. After a little over a month with the title Gunn lost it to Chris Benoit at December's Armageddon PPV.
Shortly after regaining the IC title Benoit renewed his rivalry with fellow Canadian Chris Jericho. As I have previously documented the two had clashed before in a series of very good matches for the belt in the Spring of 2000 but their match at the 2001 Royal Rumble was to be perhaps their best ever. It was a classic Ladder match that managed to steal the show on what was an excellent PPV. The match ended with Jericho as the Victor thus winning his third Intercontinental title. This run may have been the best of Jericho's seven IC title reigns, he followed his fantastic match at the Rumble with a victory in a good Fatal Four at No Way Out that featured not only Benoit but also Eddie Guerrero and X-Pac both if whom were returning from injury. At WrestleMania X-7 he defeated William Regal in an above average opening match. Shortly after 'Mania' Jericho dropped the title to established main-eventer Triple H. Being a perennial World title contender Triple H was a strange choice for IC champ, his win was to help establish he and his partner Steve Austin as the dominant force in the WWF by having them hold all the major titles simultaneously, Triple H undoubtedly proved a dominant champion holding the belt for the next two months (save for period of a few days where he lost the title to Jeff Hardy and then won it back). It is debatable whether having a main eventer like Triple H hold the belt increased its prestige or whether the belt was overshadowed by its holder who clearly didn't need it to maintain his status as one of the company's premier wrestlers.
Triple H's fourth IC title reign came to an end when he lost the belt to Kane in a brutal Chain match. Kane was a big star but not a perennial World title contender and often made excursions into the mid card and feuded with stars of lower status. He made a decent champ, he held the belt for a month before losing it to Albert (later known as A-Train) thanks to interference from WCW star Diamond Dallas Page. Albert was certainly not every fan's first choice for IC champion. He was big, intimidating and passable in the ring but he was neither over enough or good enough to match the standard set by previous champions.
Thankfully his reign was a short one, he dropped the title to Lance Storm who was part of the invading ECW/WCW alliance and an extremely talented technical wrestler. However Storm too held the title a mere month before he lost it to King Of The Ring winner Edge at Summerslam. This was a far cry from Edge's almost pointless day long reign in 1999 by this time he was establishing himself as a singles star and winning the IC title was a big step towards making his mark in singles competition.
By this time Edge had engaged in a violent feud with his former partner (and on screen brother) Christian. The two met in the ring one month after Summerslam at Unforgiven in a match in which Christian somewhat surprisingly defeated Edge to become the new Intercontinental champion. A month later Edge regained the title in a Ladder match but only held it two weeks before losing it to Test a big powerful Canadian, decent in the ring but lacking a distinct character for most of his career. At this time however he was wrestling fairly well and had gotten over as a cocky heel and a traitor after he joined the WCW/ECW Alliance. His cheated title win set up a rematch with Edge (who by this time had won the WCW United States title) to unify the titles at the Survivor Series.
This would be a huge occasion for the IC title, the US belt was a prestigious championship in its own right and had been won by legends such as Sting, Rick Rude and Ric Flair. If the IC title was to survive the unification (which would happen if Team WWF defeated Team Alliance at the Survivor Series) then it would not only have its own treasured history but also carry that of the US title. In the event Edge defeated Test in what was quite a good match and Team WWF triumphed over the Alliance meaning that Edge was the Intercontinental champion.
Edge's reign was thankfully longer this time round, he held the title two months during which he engaged in an interesting feud with William Regal that featured good stiff matches highlighted by Regal's unique style. Regal won the belt at the Royal Rumble and then managed to defeat Edge again at No Way Out in February. A month later Regal lost the title in a rather disappointing match against former ECW star Rob Van Dam.
RVD made up for his disappointing win with a great feud with Eddie Guerrero (who had recently returned the company after overcoming his drug problem). Guerrero won his second IC title by defeating RVD in a good match at Backlash and then he retained it in a very good rematch the nest month at Judgment Day. A week later on RAW came the highlight of their feud when RVD retook the title in an excellent Ladder match that many fans call the best 'free TV' Ladder match if not the best Ladder match period. RVD's second run with the IC title included a DQ victory over monster rookie Brock Lesnar at Vengeance. He lost the title a week later to Chris Benoit. One month following Benoit's victory the two clashed again at Summerslam in a fantastic match the end result of which was that Rob Van Dam was once again the Intercontinental champion.
Everybodys Favorite Wrestler
Rob -- Van -- Dam
However less than a month after regaining the title RVD fell victim to former Undisputed World champion Chris Jericho who beat him via submission to win his fifth IC title. Jericho wouldn't last long either though, he dropped the belt to Kane two weeks after his victory.
Sadly WWE management decided that the IC title the bastion of the midcard for over twenty years was no longer needed. The Intercontinental title which had been held by some of WWF/E's greatest ever wrestlers and been contested over in some of the best ever matches was to be retired. To this day the motives for this decision are (at least to this writer) almost unknown. On air WWE had RAW General Manager Eric Bischoff announce a title unification match between Kane and World Heavyweight champion Triple H at No Mercy with the winner becoming the last IC champ and continuing on as World Heavyweight champion. On the night of the match WWF ran a fairly well produced music video tribute to the IC title (there was an extended tribute available on the No Mercy DVD) but sadly the match itself was nothing to write home about and no way to end a title as prestigious as the Intercontinental championship. It finished with Triple H pinning Kane to retain his World title, win the IC championship and unite the belts. It seemed to many a sorry fan that the title they had watched for so many years being defended by the likes of Shawn Michaels, Mr. Perfect and Chris Benoit was dead and buried.
by Colm Kearns ..
I personally do not understand why the I-C Title and the U.S. Titles are to be fought for by mid-carders. If your WWE Champion and your World Heavyweight Champions are the top two guys, then why are the secondary single titles relegated to being fought for by second tier athletes" In the days of old in the NWA, The United States Champion and then the World Television Champion were considered to be your number one contenders for the World Heavyweight Title. Now, you have the situation where the number one contenders are non-champions, which makes the I-C title and the U.S. title meaningless. I say at this point permanently retire both belts because they have no meaning.
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