The History of the IC Title (part 5)
March 15, 2006 by Colm Kearns
To the surprise of very few the decision to retire the Intercontinental title was a very unpopular one among fans and some of the wrestlers who felt it gave more direction and meaning to the midcard. Thankfully and perhaps surprisingly WWE responded to this reaction by reneging on the retirement of the title and in May of 2003 RAW co-general manager (and former IC champ) Steve Austin reinstated the Intercontinental title on and edition of RAW. To crown a new champion Austin set up a Battle Royal at the upcoming Judgment Day event which would feature all of the former IC titleholders competing on RAW and multi-time WCW champion Booker T.
The match ended in controversial circumstances when it came down to Booker T and Christian, Booker tossed out the future NWA champion and had seemingly won the match but unfortunately for him the referee was unconscious. Christian seized the IC belt and used it to level Booker T and then threw him over the ropes to where the now conscious referee was watching to become the new Intercontinental champion.
For the next few weeks the Booker and Christian continued to feud with Booker coming close to winning the title on several occasions. Booker finally won the IC title on July 7th when he defeated Christian in a decent match on RAW. Sadly just as Booker seemed poised for a strong title run he suffered an injury and he was forced to drop the title back to Christian in a house show just a month after winning it. With booker injured, Christian feuded with Rob Van Dam. This culminated in a terrific Ladder Match on RAW in late September which saw RVD capture his fourth Intercontinental title.
RVD proved himself as good a champion as he had been before but on the October 27th edition of RAW he rather inexplicably lost the belt to Chris Jericho who was an established big star and really didn't need the title. Perhaps even more inexplicably (from a booking standpoint) was that since Chris Jericho had cheated the win Steve Austin ordered an immediate rematch (inside a steel cage) which saw RVD recapture the title. This exchange made Jericho the shortest reigning IC champion (a minute shorter than Dean Douglas in 1995). While the two title changes in one night may have excited the fans it ultimately served no purpose rather than devaluing the title.
A more meaningful title change came two months later when Randy Orton defeated RVD in a good match at Armageddon in Florida. Orton was a talented young star and his title win was the first step towards cementing his status as a true midcard star. Over the next seven months Orton would prove himself to be one of the best Intercontinental champions of all time. His first major feud was a classic one, a bloody and lengthy battle with the legendary Mick Foley. It began following Foley's refusal to answer Orton's challenge in December; Foley would not appear in the WWE for the next month despite Orton's taunts. His eventual return came as a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble in which he rushed to the ring and hit Orton with a clothesline that sent both men to the arena floor and out of the Royal Rumble. The feud raged on and at Wrestlemania Orton pinned Foley in a 3 on 2 Handicap match. One month later the two finally met 1 on 1 for the title in a Street Fight. The match itself was a fantastic brutal affair that saw Orton retain following two RKOs. The next few months saw Orton defeat rising star Shelton Benjamin in a good match at Badd Blood in June before losing the title to Edge at July's Vengeance. The match was decent but it saw the live crowd rather strangely cheer Orton which may have fuelled WWE's decision to make Orton's ill fated face turn a month later.
Edge's fifth title reign included a win in a Triple Threat over Chris Jericho and Batista at Summerslam but in early September he was forced to vacate the title due to a groin injury. To settle the vacancy RAW general manager Eric Bischoff set up a Ladder Match between Chris Jericho and Christian at Unforgiven in September. The Ladder Match was good but nothing out of the ordinary, the finish saw Jericho facebuster Christian off the ladder and seconds later become the Intercontinental champion for the seventh time. In doing this he broke Jeff Jarrett's five year record for the most IC titles held.
Jericho made a good champion but many fans felt he was above the IC title and should be competing in main events. Despite these reservations Jericho still made a good transitional champion and that he was, one month after winning the title he lost it to Shelton Benjamin in an entertaining encounter at Taboo Tuesday. Shelton would go on to become the longest reigning Intercontinental champion in six years and although he was undoubtedly a great champion he suffered from lack of a long and meaningful feud such as his contemporary Orton had with Mick Foley. At the Survivor Series he defeated Christian in a quality match but that's as far as that feud went. He had a decent feud with Maven but it culminated in Maven being squashed twice in one night at New Years Revolution. A good but short feud with Chris Jericho led to a great match at Backlash. He also had several good TV defenses including a Triple Threat win over Christian and Jericho, three more than acceptable matches in a mini feud with Gene Snitsky and a DQ loss to the unpinned Muhammad Hassan. His incredible eight month run came to an end on June 20th when he was defeated by RAW newcomer Carlito Caribbean Cool.
When I began writing this article in late August I wrote that Carlito was an ideal champion; a talented midcard star who defended the title on a fairly regular basis, sadly although the information was true when I wrote it, it soon became outdated. Carlito had the talent and mic skills to be a good IC champ but beyond a few rematches with Benjamin during his first few weeks as champ he rarely defended the belt. In September he lost the title to the legendary Ric Flair in a decent match at Unforgiven.
At 56 Flair was the oldest IC champ ever, he was also one of the greatest wrestlers of all time and it seemed the IC title was merely a richly deserved 'thank you' gift to Flair. Flair proved more than that however, he began wrestling better than he had in years and defended the title against young talent such as Carlito and Trevor Murdoch. Unfortunately Flair began an excellent feud with his former ally Triple H and for a while the IC title was largely forgotten. This continued until January when Flair successfully defended the title against Edge (who would win the WWE title that same night). A little over a month later he lost the title to the now heel Shelton Benjamin.
Only time will tell whether or not Benjamin will prove as good a champion as he was in his first reign and how much the IC title will help his ascent up the card. We fans can only hope that Benjamin does justice to the legacy of the Intercontinental title every time he defends it. The IC title is a championship that has helped the careers of so many past stars and given us some of the greatest matches we have ever been privileged to witness. It has undoubtedly cemented its status as the greatest and most prestigious 'secondary' title in the world of pro wrestling. We can only hope that Benjamin and his successors will continue the tradition of great champions such as Perfect, Hart, Michaels, Benoit and all the others that have made the title great.
by Colm Kearns ..
Kevin Roberts wrote:
I have no doubts that Shelton Benjamin will carry on the legacy of the IC belt and make it mean something. Shelton is an out-of-this-world athlete and an outstanding performer. I dont see him dropping the ball because he's just too talented and he's only gonna get better. I like his heel turn nad I think it will help him in the long run. Shelton has Booker T-like star power potential and he is still very young. Booker T is an extremely talented performer and a respected veteran. Shelton will remained focused and become the Booker T of the future, maybe not on the mic, but definately in the ring. I cant wait to see him grow.
Do we really need a One Hundred Year history of the denigrated Intercontinental Championship" Part 5 of what" Part 5 of a thousand" I say bring this to a close. It's not as if the IC Title is a serious championship anyway. Kind of like the U.S. Title, pretty useless and not worth having.............
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