For some Superstars, winning this coveted title is the pinnacle of their career. For others, it’s just the beginning. Regardless, this list is not concerned with what was accomplished before or after a Superstar's title reign, but what they did during their time as champion. And of the many greats that have held the Intercontinental Title, these are the 25 best.
25.) Shelton Benjamin
Had it not been for the WWE Universe, who’s to say Shelton Benjamin would’ve ever won his first Intercontinental Championship, let alone be listed among the title’s all-time best champions? At Taboo Tuesday 2004, WWE fans voted for Benjamin to challenge then-titleholder Chris Jericho. (Benjamin won more than 37% of the votes, beating out the likes of Batista and Christian.)
The University of Minnesota All-American made the most of that opportunity, besting Y2J and embarking on a seriously impressive eight-month reign — the longest Intercontinental Title run in roughly a decade. Benjamin would go on to win the title twice more during his WWE career, though it’s worth noting he relied on his mother feigning a medical event at ringside to distract officials and illegally blast Ric Flair to begin the second one.
24.) Cody Rhodes
Next time you find yourself admiring the handsome and clean look of the Intercontinental Title’s white leather strap, you can thank Cody Rhodes. That’s because the second-generation Superstar revived the vintage look shortly after winning the championship for the first time in 2011.
Of course, there are non-cosmetic reasons Rhodes’ first reign was memorable, too, such as the fact that it lasted 236 days. Not satisfied with a single run with the title, Rhodes reclaimed the coveted prize from Big Show at Extreme Rules 2012, cementing his status as a defining Intercontinental Champion for his generation
23.) Stone Cold Steve Austin
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin won his first Intercontinental Championship with a broken neck. If that nearly inhuman feat is not the greatest testament to The Texas Rattlesnake's legendary toughness then nothing is.
A two-time Intercontinental Champion, Austin's first title win came at SummerSlam 1997 where a piledriver snapped his neck. Rather than quit, The Bionic Redneck managed to summon the strength to roll up Owen Hart for the victory. This devastating injury caused Austin to vacate the title, but the WWE Hall of Famer would make an amazing return to the ring to capture the championship again that very same year.
22.) Jeff Hardy
Although he wasn't the biggest man in the WWE locker room, Jeff Hardy was never the kind of Superstar who would back down from a fight. So it should come as no surprise that The Charismatic Enigma defeated dominant competitors like Triple H and Umaga on his way to winning an impressive four Intercontinental Championships. Due to his high-risk style, the majority of Hardy's reigns were brief, but his title matches were always exciting.
The enigmatic Goldust caused a major stir in WWE when he first arrived on the scene in 1995. Bizarre from the get-go, the gilded grappler used his warped personality and twisted talents to torture opponents like Razor Ramon and Savio Vega, and capture the Intercontinental Championship on three separate occasions.
Unsurprisingly, The Bizarre One became obsessed with the title during his early reigns, changing the classic black championship to his signature gold. The redesign must have helped, as Goldust went on to claim victories in defenses against the likes of The Undertaker and Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
20.) Jeff Jarrett
"Ain't I great?" That was the catchphrase of cocky country musician Jeff Jarrett and, in many ways, he lived up to this rhetorical question.
Capturing his first Intercontinental Championship from Razor Ramon at Royal Rumble 1995, Double J went on to win the title a total of six times over the next five years, besting the likes of Edge and The Godfather. This impressive collection of reigns puts Jarrett in second place alongside Rob Van Dam for total number of Intercontinental Championships held. Ain't that great?
19.) The Rock
The first time Rocky Maivia captured the Intercontinental Title, he was a fresh-faced newcomer who ran to the ring with a smile on his face. He may have been champion, but his nauseating perkiness caused the WWE Universe to chant, "Die, Rocky, die!"
This animosity led Maivia to become The Rock — an arrogant, eyebrow-raising villain with a bad attitude and a $500 shirt. With this newfound edge, The People's Champion had a second Intercontinental Championship run that lasted for an impressive 265 days and helped establish his reputation as The Most Electrifying Man in All of Entertainment.
From his four WWE Championships to 12 World Tag Team Titles, Edge has, perhaps, the most impressive trophy case in WWE history. And all of The Ultimate Opportunist's championship success can be traced back to his first Intercontinental Title win over Jeff Jarrett in 1999.
At the time, the victory was a shocking one, but the WWE Universe would soon grow accustomed to seeing Edge with a prize over his shoulder as he'd win the title a total of five times over the next decade. The Rated-R Superstar had to defeat top competitors like Randy Orton and Christian to achieve this success, but once he reached the top, he never let go.
17.) Greg "The Hammer" Valentine
Known as "The Hammer" due to his rough-and-tumble style in the ring, Greg Valentine truly earned this nickname during his brutal battles with Tito Santana over the Intercontinental Championship between 1984 and ’85.
After defeating Santana for the title in September, Valentine managed to retain his championship against Junkyard Dog at the inaugural WrestleMania. When Santana finally wrestled the title away from Valentine in a Steel Cage Match, The Hammer was so ticked off by the loss that he destroyed the prize in the center of the ring, leading to the creation of a new title design.
16.) Triple H
From his days as an uptight snob to his time in D-Generation X, Triple H has been an ever-changing figure in WWE, but one thing has remained constant in The Game's career — the Intercontinental Championship.
A five-time champion over the span of a decade, The Game first grabbed the title in 1996 when he was relatively new to the ring. By the time he was the most dominant man in WWE, Triple H reclaimed the Intercontinental Championship in memorable battles with Jeff Hardy and Kane and even defeated The Devil’s Favorite Demon at No Mercy in 2002 to unify Kane's Intercontinental Championship with the World Heavyweight Championship.
15.) Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam's six reigns as Intercontinental Champion are impressive enough, but consider what RVD accomplished with the title and his runs are even more remarkable.
In 2002, Mr. Monday Night defeated European Champion Jeff Hardy and Hardcore Champion Tommy Dreamer to unify those two titles with the Intercontinental Championship and bring an even greater legacy to the title. On top of that, his wild Ladder Matches against Eddie Guerrero and Christian were some of the genre’s best. At a time when WWE was inundated with flashy new titles, Van Dam made sure that the Intercontinental Championship — much like himself — remained one of a kind.
14.) Don Muraco
Don Muraco was a loudmouth who loved jawing with WWE fans, antagonizing backstage interviewers and bullying opponents with his blue whale strength. He was also a cornerstone in the foundation of the Intercontinental Title’s history.
The brutish beach bum became the fourth Intercontinental Champion ever when he dethroned Pedro Morales in June 1981. Though he lost the title to Morales later that year, he recaptured the championship in January 1983, beginning a reign that’d last all the way to February 1984. With an aggressive, unpretentious ring style that backed up his boastful attitude, The Magnificent Muraco added a rough edge to the Intercontinental Championship’s reputation as a technician’s title, paving the way for future hard-hitting champions like Big E and Bad News Barrett.
13.) Shawn Michaels
Long before his classic matches against The Undertaker, his multiple WWE Championship reigns or his christening as Mr. WrestleMania, Shawn Michaels made his name as a solo competitor thanks to his three runs as Intercontinental Champion.
A "Showstopper" even then, HBK's classic Ladder Matches against Razor Ramon are considered some of the best bouts of their era, and his battles against Jeff Jarrett, Diesel and Bret "Hit Man" Hart were just as good. Too often, Michaels' reigns ended in controversy, but his days as Intercontinental Champion were always exhilarating.
12.) Pat Patterson
On a balmy night in Rio de Janeiro in September 1979, Pat Patterson made history when he won a grueling tournament to unify his WWE North American Championship with the South American Championship to create the Intercontinental Championship.
While many of the details and footage of the one-night tournament have been lost over time, what remains clear is that the Canadian's amazing victory set the standard for this coveted title and ushered in an exciting new era for WWE
11.) Rick Rude
"Ravishing" Rick Rude may have only had one reign as Intercontinental Champion, but his time on top will go down as one of the title’s definitive runs. The physical embodiment of a champion, the abdominally inclined Rude pulled off the impossible when he defeated Ultimate Warrior for the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania V.
The Ravishing One went on to defend the championship for 148 days before dropping the title back to Warrior, but even the WWE fans Rude dismissed as "sweat hogs" were impressed by his reign.
10.) Tito Santana
Arriba! One of the most beloved WWE Superstars of the 1980s, two-time Intercontinental Champion Tito Santana became a crowd favorite thanks to his epic battles against the likes of Don Muraco and "Cowboy" Bob Orton over the title. Since these men were such vicious competitors, Santana was often bloodied and beaten by the end of their matches, but he never quit.
Still, the WWE Hall of Famer's most memorable championship rivalry was against Greg Valentine, which culminated in a legendary Steel Cage Match in Baltimore in 1985. High-risk, exciting and aggressive, the bout exemplified everything that made Santana great. It was because of performers like Santana that the Intercontinental Title established as reputation as the workhorse’s championship in WWE.
9.) Randy Orton
Some Superstars truly are born better. Take Randy Orton. From the moment he first set foot in a WWE ring, it was clear that the third-generation Superstar was destined for great things. This limitless potential was first realized at Armageddon in 2003 when Orton defeated Rob Van Dam for the Intercontinental Championship.
The Viper‘s run became the longest reign of the modern era as he defended the title for 210 days against Superstars like Mick Foley and Edge. In the eyes of many WWE fans, Orton's exceptional time as Intercontinental Champion restored the title's prestige after its 2003 revival.
8.) Pedro Morales
A defining Superstar of his era, Pedro Morales' name recurs again and again in WWE record books. For starters, the Puerto Rican Superstar was the first man to win WWE's Triple Crown (WWE, Intercontinental and World Tag Team Championships).Watch Pedro Morales putting his title up against Sgt. SlaughterOn top of that, Morales was the first Superstar to win the Intercontinental Championship twice, holding the title for a combined length of more than 600 days — longer than any other Superstar in history. With stats like that, there’s no disputing Morales’ position in the WWE Hall of Fame — and this list.
7.) Bret "Hit Man" Hart
After dominating WWE's tag team division as a member of the renowned Hart Foundation, Bret Hart established himself as a major singles star when he defeated Mr. Perfect for the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam 1991. The match showcased everything that the WWE Universe would come to respect about the WWE Hall of Famer, from technically brilliant reversals to thrilling near falls.
The “Hit Man” would continue to have fantastic matches as a two-time champion, including a showdown with The British Bulldog in front of 80,355 in London's Wembley Stadium at SummerSlam ’92. Hart lost the bout, but it remains one of his greatest performances.
6.) Razor Ramon
Say hello to the bad guy. A four-time Intercontinental Champion, WWE Hall of Famer Razor Ramon held the title for a combined 438 days during the peak of his WWE career in the mid-’90s. These lengthy reigns were full of memorable bouts against the likes of Jeff Jarrett and Goldust, but the peak of Ramon's Intercontinental Championship battles were his historic Ladder Matches against Shawn Michaels.
Thrilling and dangerous, these innovative contests, which happened at WrestleMania X and SummerSlam 1995, have been hailed as two of the best bouts in WWE history and inspired a whole new generation of Superstars to enter the ring.
5.) The Honky Tonk Man
Ask The Honky Tonk Man who the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time is and he won't hesitate to say himself. The Memphis native has reason to be cocky — he holds the record for longest Intercontinental Title reign of all time at an amazing 454 days.
Defeating Ricky Steamboat for the championship in 1987, Honky Tonk Man kept his guitar-strumming fingers on the title for more than a year by any means necessary, including — but not limited to — getting counted out or disqualified on purpose. It may not have been the noblest reign of all time, but it earned the rock 'n' roller his place in WWE history.
4.) Mr. Perfect
Few Superstars lived up to their moniker the way Mr. Perfect did. A remarkable athlete and a WWE Hall of Famer, the Minnesota native is best remembered by the WWE Universe for his two dominant runs with the Intercontinental Title in the 1990s.
Defeating Tito Santana in a tournament for his first championship, the arrogant grappler battled the legendary likes of The Texas Tornado and Bret "Hit Man" Hart in the years that followed. Perfect's second reign as champion was even more impressive as he held the title for an amazing 280 days, making him the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion of the decade. Simply perfect.
3.) Ultimate Warrior
Mowing down The Honky Tonk Man in 31 seconds to win his first Intercontinental Title, Ultimate Warrior displayed this type of explosive dominance again and again in his two runs as champion. Curiously, the wild man from Parts Unknown held the title for exactly 216 days during each of these reigns.
What's more impressive is that the WWE Hall of Famer never actually lost the championship during his second run, but vacated the title after defeating Hulk Hogan for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania VI. How many Superstars in WWE history can make a claim like that?
2.) Chris Jericho
Nine times. No Superstar even comes close to Chris Jericho's record-setting number of Intercontinental Title reigns. First winning the championship from Chyna in winter 1999, Jericho went on to defeat everyone from Jeff Hardy to Rob Van Dam to capture a staggering nine titles over the next decade.
The quality of Y2J's matches with the championship on the line is nearly unparalleled, especially his Mask vs. Title Match with Rey Mysterio from The Bash in 2009. Maybe Jericho really is "the best in the world at what he does."
1.) Randy Savage
On Feb. 8, 1986, Randy Savage defeated Tito Santana for the Intercontinental Championship in the historic Boston Garden, kicking off the greatest reign in the title's storied history.
For more than 400 days, Savage held on to the championship in the face of challengers like Jake "The Snake" Roberts and George "The Animal" Steele, and brought a higher level of credibility to the title through his amazing in-ring performances. When Macho Man did finally lose the championship, it was to Ricky Steamboat in one of the most acclaimed matches in WWE history at WrestleMania III. Even in defeat, Savage was still the greatest.