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WRESTLING COLUMNS

The Greatest Intercontinental Champion Of All Time
May 16, 2005 by Marko Lima


When you first read this, you might be thinking of the ever popular Honky Tonk Man, while some purists might insist that that particular title belongs to guys like Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, or even the late Curt Hennig or Owen Hart.

I for one would like to offer a different take on the subject, by throwing in the name of a man who's IC title reign is often overlooked on account of his later accolades and pushes.

That man's name is Randy Savage, better known as the Macho Man.

Crazy you might say" But here is my rationale:

Before Randy Savage became the IC champ, previous holders of that belt were guys who used a "no nonsense gimmick". No lights, no flashy clothing, not much of a gimmick if any at all. Before Savage there was Tito Santana, sound technical wrestler, not much of a gimmick. Before that you had Greg Valentine, very sound technical wrestler, but not much of a gimmick. Before him you had Santana again. And before that you had Muraco, big Hawaiian, not much of a gimmick.

Go back any further than that and it would probably be hard to find any televised matches on account of wrestling not having hit the scene till later.

Let me be clear on this: obviously if one were determined enough, you could go back and find matches of former IC greats such as Pat Patterson, or Pedro Morales. But those men were IC champs before a rather important period of wrestling history, some might even say it was the most significant one of all: the Hogan Era.

The claim that Hulk Hogan put wrestling on the map, merits some consideration at the very least. Perhaps the most correct spin would be to say that Hulk Hogan put wrestling on millions of TV sets in America during the 80's. Having said that, lets remember the 80's, Hulk Hogan, for all his popularity, wrestled very discreetly on TV. In terms of matches, he limited himself to Saturday Night's Main Events. Otherwise, he would cut a promo or two leading up to series of house shows against a particular opponent. Or smaller promos about Hulkamania running wild, and prayers, and vitamins and all that.

In any case, the wrestling shows at the time: Challenge, Superstars, etc...relied on other superstars such as Mr. Wonderful, the British Bulldogs, George the animal Steele, etc., to entertain TV fans. Now with Hogan NEVER defending the title on a TV show (note that these shows were taped), the IC belt was the main singles title that fans could follow.

Now Savage's gimmick wasn't strong by today's standards, but the single fact that he came out to that glorious theme song, accompanied by Elizabeth in her shiny dresses, made him stand out amongst the other superstars. Add to that the IC title and it all looked amazing, a complete package.

Back in those days, the IC champions were lighter, more technical wrestlers than the McMahon-beasts who challenged for the World Title. Savage fought lighter men like Tito Santana, Ricky Steamboat, The Dynamite Kid, etc., in matches that were entertaining enough to top just about every TV show that was shown.

With Randy Savage, the IC title gained an importance all on its own, while still operating directly under the shadow the Hulkamania. Sure everyone knew that WWF meant Hulk Hogan, but just about every wrestling fan knew who Randy Savage was as well. "Macho Man" was becoming a household name.

I remember the very first time I went to see a live wrestling show at Madison Square Garden. The opening match starred Nick Kininski. The Main Event was Randy Savage vs Pedro Morales. When that song started to play...the fans would go wild. Hogan may have ruled the heavyweight scene but Macho was the king of mid-carders.

Macho Man's impact in the IC title scene would culminate at Wrestlemania III when in front of 97,000 fans at the Pontiac Silverdome, MI, would drop the title to Ricky Steamboat in match considered by many to be the best match of the night...even though it was an under-card for what some call the greatest main event of all time, Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant for the World Title.

I remember the wrestling magazines from the day, PWI, AllStars, etc., all putting over the Savage-Steamboat match, claiming it was an amazing technical match that went back and forth from the very beginning. Not too long after the event, I would end up renting up the WMIII tape and confirm such claims. Truly a joy to watch for fans of vintage Savage-Steamboat. It was no mere coincidence that Savage was given the heavyweight strap later on, and he would go on to become one of the WWF's greatest stars of all time.

After Savage's IC title reign, other wrestlers with stronger gimmicks would lay their hands on the title, taking the prestigious title one step higher each time.

But it took one man to get World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Title off the ground and onto the map.

And not just any man.

A Macho Man.

Ooh Yeah!

by Marco Lima ..


LanceCrucifix wrote:
Now that you mention it, I look back and remember many of Mr. Savage's matches, especially the Steamboat match, perhaps one of the better matches of that era. Savage performed a jump over guillotine, which impressed the hell outta me, seeing as how the bigger dudes did little to know flying, I hold the Savage vs Dragon match in high regards, maybe the best match that has ever took place in my hometown of Detroit...
Jacob Kuhn wrote:
While I don't want to get into a debate about who is the greatest IC Champ ever, I felt I had to address a few of the things said here. 'Greatest' is a subjective term. Later in this rebuttal, I will mention who I think is the greatest, but first what makes someone the greatest"

While I have to agree with you that Savage was a great IC Champion and he did do a lot to put the title on the map, I can't understand why it's his gimmick that made him such. Before gimmicky wrestlers dominated the scene, wrestlers such as Tito Santana and Greg Valentine brought prestige to their titles as well. The reason for this is that they didn't have gimmicks to distract people from their wrestling ability. Each one of them had to rely completely on his ability.

The IC title has long been the wrestling purists answer to the WWF/WWE World Title. While clunky yet charismatic wrestlers such as Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Sargeant Slaughter, Yokozuna and Kevin Nash were dominating the World title picture, actual wrestlers were making the IC title exciting. Men like Valentine, Savage, Hennig, Kerry Von Erich, Santana and Rick Steamboat made this title worth watching. The Intercontinental Championship was not reliant on a gimmick; it was made by great wrestling matches.

Therefore, in my estimation, Shawn Michaels was the greatest IC Champ of all time. HBK has had the rare ability to make his opponents look much better than they ever could do himself. Michaels was the 90's answer to Ric Flair. He made the match with Tatanka the only watchable match at Wrestlemania 9. His matches with Mary Jannetty were legendary. Shawn Michaels even made the horrendous Scott Hall a valid IC champ with their classic series of matches. And as much as I hate to admit it, his matches with Jim Duggan were actually watchable too.

Shawn Michaels was to the IC title what Ric Flair was to the NWA title. They indentified with the belt and were able to make even the worst opponent put on an exciting match. Michaels did a lot in to keep real wrestling fans watching watching the WWF when WCW was putting on a far superior 'wrestling' product.
Rhey Higgins wrote:
You guys are all looking to the past too much for the best IC champ. Look at the past few we've had. For Orton, the belt and the extremely long reign that it followed really helped his career, which should be the main purpose of the belt. The same can be said for Shelton...who can honestly look at him and say they haven't seen him put on a good match except the New Years Revoluton travesty) since he's had that belt" But the greatest IC champ ever" That's easy. Jericho. He's made the belt his. He's the only seven time IC champ ever...that speaks for him al on it's own.
Steven Brooks wrote:
I have to agree on some things in this article and disagree with others. Now "greatest IC champ" will most likely give you dozens of names from many different fans. I would say that Savage was an incredible champion but Valentine, Santana, Jarret, Michaels, Hennig, Honky Tonk Man, and Jericho were also great champs. I think that there never will be a single greatest IC champ because everybody did there own to help it. Valentine and Santana showed everyone that IC champs were incredible wrestlers. Savage probably put the title on the map but not because of the gimmick. He is a great champ because he had the skill and charisma to draw the fans attention. Michaels and Hennig are probably the two most skilled men to hold the belt. They made sure every match was a memorable match that deserved praise. Honky Tonk Man is most known for his almost 15 month reign but he was more than that. He put you on the edge of your seat thinking the babyface was going to win right before BAAM! The babyface is with the guitar and the Honky Tonk Man retains because of a DQ. Jericho and Jarret showed fans the each reign is highlighted with something different so when you think of them you come up with 6 or 7 great memories. I just hope we can get another great IC champ sometime soon.
God of Gods wrote:
Great.. To be the greatest.. Thats a hard term to define. What really makes some one great. Is it pure wrestling abilty, looking flashy, holding titles ect. So many diffrent things to consider. The are most defenitly many great IC champs. both past and present. Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Randy Savage, Tito Santana, Orten, all worthy ppl of the title. All have done incredable things in the ring, no dubt of that. However, personaly i agree with Jacob Kuhn up their. I feel that shawn michaels is one of the greatest ever. (to the IC belt and everyhting else) Shawn Michaels had away of getting the whole crowd in to a match. Making matchs look incredable. being able to look flashy while still haveing great in ring abailty. His matches and fudes will never be forgotten.Even today i feel the best matches on raw are shawn michaels and hunter. All of the other IC champs were great, but michaels was the best.
OnlyDv8 wrote:
I don't think anyone could disagree with the statement that Savage was a great IC champ, but as was already stated the idea of greatest is purely subjective. The one point I would like to bring to this debate is why aren't the belts in wrestling worth anything anymore" Recently Triple H mentioned something about Ric Flair sinking into mediocrity in regards to the IC title, this sickened me. When I think of all the greats that held this belt and some of the matches- a few of which could be argued to be the best wrestling matches of all time, I find it laughable to have this title called mediocre. And why have the tag titles been relagated to being where good wrestlers go when they don't have singles storylines" What happened to the era of tag team specailists like L.O.D., Demolition, Hardy boyz, Dudleys, Strikeforce, etc." The only belt seemingly worth having is the World titles, and that's a damn shame. Too many great battles have been fought by great wrestlers to have these titles become second best. As far as the debate about which IC champ was the best, I have to say that although Savage makes my top five I still have to stick with Rick Rude. Perhaps because he was often underrated, or maybe because of his cocky pre-match ceremony , or his Rude Awakening neckbreaker... he had the look and the skills and no discussion of great IC champs would be complete without him.
Nathan Roden wrote:
I have to admit, Randy Savage was one of the all time greats, but in my mind he was not the greatest IC champ. One man, who carried the intercontinental championship on two separate occasions, is the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be: Bret "Hit Man" Hart. Savage, during his time with the WWE, does have some classic matches. One of which you have already named off, WM 3 against Steamboat. Even four years later at WM 7 where he was defeated by the Ultimate Warrior. However, I think he decided to jump ship to the WCW way to early. Bret Hart even said it during his training for WrestleMania 12, Randy Savage was one of the best. I'm sure I speak for a lot of people when I say that Bret Hart could beat Savage. When they were both in the WCW, they may have wrestled. Sorry, but I never watched WCW. Bret Hart is the best IC Champ, and that's the bottom line!!
TLove81 wrote:
I think that "Macho Man" Randy Savage in my eyes will always be one of the greatest IC champs of all time! because it was the match that put him on the map and everyone has talked about it the Wrestlemania 3 match with Ricky Steamboat. "Macho Man" Randy Savage will forever be one my favorite wrestlers because he was the type of performer who would give you, your money's worth a good example would be Wrestlemania 4.
Looneyboyo wrote:
I agree that Great is a subjective term, and also that there are half a dozen different candidates, but I'm surprised that one of my personal favourite IC champs seems to have been forgotten: Rowdy Roddy Piper. Aside from being one of the most charismatic wrestlers there's ever been, Piper had the ability to make any match entertaining (to me, at least). Plus, you have to mention guys like The Bulldog, Owen Hart and Goldust, all of whom had severely underrated runs with the belt.
Dave Kerstetter wrote:
Savage the greatest IC champ of all time"One would have difficulty arguing against him.His title match at WM3 will long be held as one of the best matches amongst any 2 wrestlers ever.Men like Macho and Steamboat brought prestige to the belt.One man's name is very conspicuous by his abscence.This man would have several epic encounters with then wwwf World champion,Bob Backlund.He was the second performer to regain the IC belt.The second longest IC title reign belongs to him.And do not forget,as he was the victim of the famous Superfly splash from the top of the cage at MSG.I am speaking of the Magnificant Don Muraco.thank-you for allowing me to voice my opinion.

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