The Intercontinental Championship has been among the most important title belts in wrestling history. WWE fans have witnessed the title become an unofficial stepping stone for future stars in the main event picture. The likes of Steve Austin, The Rock, and Seth Rollins had reigns with the Intercontinental Championship before getting their biggest wins as WWE Champion. WWE loves to test the waters of rising stars with a secondary title before moving up to the bigger role.
There are also the stories of superstars struggling to have a great run with the title and losing all momentum. This opportunity has been known to take someone to the next level or send them falling lower down the totem pole. Both sides will be examined when it comes to the aftermath of their runs with the mid-card title. These are the greatest Intercontinental Champions in WWE history along with the five worst champs as well.
10 Best: Bret Hart
Bret Hart was one of the first major instances of a superstar thriving with the Intercontinental Championship and getting a bigger WWE Championship due to it. Past instances like Randy Savage and Ultimate Warrior were essentially set in stone since their looks and personas put them over the top to Vince McMahon.
Hart did not fit the mold of a larger than life character with a superhero physique that had become the norm in WWE’s main event picture. However, the incredible matches and moments during Bret’s Intercontinental Championship reign put the confidence in WWE to give him a bigger run. Hart became the face of WWE after Hulk Hogan left partially thanks to the Intercontinental Championship run.
9 Worst: Ezekiel Jackson
Vince McMahon had huge plans for the future of Ezekiel Jackson as a rising star on the main roster. The end of the ECW brand featured Jackson defeating Christian to become the final ECW Champion as the first sign of his push. Jackson would upgrade to the Intercontinental Championship as part of the Smackdown brand.
The hope was that working with better performers and having a run with a respected title could help him get to the next level. Jackson however regressed and failed to live up to expectations from management. Fans lost more interest in the Intercontinental Championship rather than gaining interest in Jackson.
8 Best: The Miz
The Miz is the best Intercontinental Champion in recent years due to the importance he added to the title. History has seen Miz win the title eight different times for second place on the list of most title reigns and total spent as champion.
Miz’s rise of bringing the title back to relevance started when he ended a short Zack Ryder title reign when his wife Maryse returned as his manager. The reign would allow the Intercontinental Championship to shine on the Smackdown brand following the brand split. Miz would find more success with the title on Raw helping cement it as credible once again before dropping it to Seth Rollins. The title means a lot more now thanks to the incredible work of Miz.
7 Worst: Wade Barrett
Some wrestlers will remain in mid-card purgatory without ever getting a chance at the top level. WWE would showcase Wade Barrett that way as he was consistently in the Intercontinental Championship picture. The five title reigns of Barrett in his various characters never connected to help him break out on the next level.
WWE viewed Barrett as someone that was missing something. The runs as Intercontinental Champion ending in disappointment every time is likely the main event Barrett never had a world title reign. Barrett’s failure to make an impact with the IC Title hurt his standing in WWE which culminated in him leaving when his contract expired.
6 Best: Mr. Perfect
The identity of the Intercontinental Championship would see it become known as the “worker’s title” during the 90s. Prior champions like Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat helped lay the foundation, but Mr. Perfect was the one to take it to another level. Perfect delivered outstanding matches against the likes of Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Texas Tornado during his two reigns.
The incredible work of Perfect helped influence future Intercontinental Champions like Edge, Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan. Perfect never was portrayed as a legitimate contender for the WWE Championship, but his two reigns as Intercontinental Champions allowed him to create a legacy as a great champion.
5 Worst: The Godfather
The Attitude Era had its fair share of great moments with a stacked main event picture, but the mid-card often suffered for it. This was the first period where the Intercontinental Championship started to lose its luster as a respected and valued title.
The Godfather was the perfect example at just how pointless the title was for a few years. His reign as the Intercontinental Champion featured dull matches that rarely lasted beyond a few minutes due to his limitations. There were also certain matches where his opponent would choose to leave with his ladies rather than competing for the title.
4 Best: Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho has a record-breaking nine Intercontinental Championship reigns. The long career with multiple runs in WWE allowed Jericho to dominate the mid-card picture on a few different occasions throughout the years.
Jericho’s early days would see him win the Intercontinental Championship as a rising face character. A later run would see another memorable reign with his serious heel character using it in a classic feud against Rey Mysterio. Jericho’s variety of title reigns places him among the best and legendary Intercontinental Champions.
3 Worst: Dean Douglas
Shane Douglas still rants today about how poorly his WWE run went in the mid-90s. Vince McMahon used Douglas’ background in teaching to create the Dean Douglas character. The character was a huge disappointment that helped sink any chance of Douglas succeeding on the big stage.
Dean’s peak moment came when he was awarded the Intercontinental Championship via the forfeit of an injured Shawn Michaels. WWE, however, would have Douglas lose the title within a few minutes to Razor Ramon. The failed minutes-long IC Title reign destroyed Douglas to the point where he left WWE and never returned shortly after.
2 Best: Randy Savage
Randy Savage deserves a top spot on the most beloved Intercontinental Champions due to his role in elevating the title. During Hulk Hogan’s dominance as the WWE Champion, Savage used the IC Title to step up in a major way.
Savage had the title for over a year and is among the most popular champions for it. The title needed a top-level performer to step up and make it relevant. Savage just did that as a crowning moment early in his WWE career.
1 Worst: Ahmed Johnson
The worst Intercontinental Champion of all-time is a wrestler that had a chance to move to the next level but instead fell backwards. Ahmed Johnson was among the most pushed mid-carders of the time with Vince McMahon seeing star potential in him.
One run with the IC Title lasted under two months as Johnson did poorly showcasing his limitations as a worker and a personality. Johnson never received another title reign in WWE and his status as a rising star ended before he was quickly released.