The Intercontinental Championship. It’s one of WWE’s longest-tenured belts, having been in action since 1979, and it is often heralded as WWE’s second-most prestigious belt, behind only the WWE Championship. It has been held by countless legends and icons of the business and has been competed for in many legendary matches; Savage vs Steamboat at WrestleMania III, Shawn Michaels vs Razor Ramon at WrestleMania X, Triple H vs The Rock at SummerSlam 1998. I could go on. However, as with every championship in the WWE, for every great champion, there have been some serious stinkers. Whether the reign was very short and meaningless, it came at the expense of other, more deserving wrestlers or if the reign just wasn’t that exciting, these fifteen men (yes, they’re all men) had a pretty appalling time when it came to holding the white and gold strap.
Before we begin, I’d just like to make it clear that there will be no mention of Dean Douglas on this list. Yes, I know he held the belt for about 11 minutes, but, in my opinion, this reign was so short and so meaningless, that it didn’t really have that much of an effect on the championship or on Douglas himself. Also, it would just be way too easy to put that as my number one. So, without further ado, here are the 15 worst Intercontinental Champions of all time.
15 Dean Ambrose
I really didn’t want to put Dean here, but come on.
Despite all the assertions that he became the “forgotten” member of The Shield after the breakup of the group, Dean Ambrose has done very well for himself since the trio disbanded. He’s been a Royal Rumble runner-up, a Money in the Bank winner and he became WWE Champion in 2016, holding the belt for 84 days. Not bad at all. He’s also been Intercontinental Champion twice, defeating Kevin Owens at TLC 2015 and The Miz on an episode of SmackDown in late-2016 to hold the gold for a combined total of 216 days. That sounds pretty good on paper, right? Well, I’m afraid “on paper” don’t cut it in this list.
Despite holding the title for a pretty decent length of time, a lot of Dean’s time with the belt was largely forgettable. His first reign only featured one truly memorable match – a Last Man Standing match against Kevin Owens at Royal Rumble 2016 – and came to an abrupt end on an episode of Raw, when Ambrose lost the title back to Owens in a Fatal 5-Way match where The Lunatic Fringe didn’t even get pinned. It was Tyler Breeze who took the fall, for the pendants out there. His second reign (which was even longer than his first) was also largely forgettable, with Dean only defending the title twice on Pay-Per-View during his 152 days as champion; once at WrestleMania in a match so forgettable it was moved to the pre-show and then at Extreme Rules 2017, where Ambrose would lose the title to The Miz. The fact that Ambrose lost the IC title back to the person he won it from in the first place on both occasions shows that his time with the belt nothing more than an interval, a method of passing time before putting the title back onto someone WWE actually had ideas for. Dean isn’t a bad wrestler by any stretch and his time with the championship did nothing to harm the belt, but I can’t help but feel WWE really missed a trick with The Lunatic Fringe.
14 Dolph Ziggler
Oh, Dolph, what the hell happened to you?
Dolph Ziggler’s career has had its ups and downs in much the same way as a round-trip up Mount Everest has its ups and downs. After his early appearances on WWE TV as a golf caddy and male cheerleader (no, seriously), Ziggler appeared under his current gimmick for the first time in 2008. Since then, he has won numerous championships, headlined a few Pay-Per-Views and put on some solid matches. He was once one of the most popular wrestlers in the company; the pop the crowd gave him when he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase in 2013 is one of the biggest in history and many fans saw him as one of the future big stars of the WWE. Sadly, whether it was through injury or bad booking, Ziggler never quite reached the heights that many fans thought he deserved, and it was recently announced that he is going to have time off from WWE to be repackaged.
Ziggler is a five-time Intercontinental Champion, so it might surprise you to see that I’ve placed him on this list. However, when you think about it, a lot of those title reigns really didn’t amount to much. His first reign with the gold in 2010/11 was pretty good; he would hold the belt for 160 days and have some good title defences against the likes of Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger and Kaval (Low Ki for any Ring of Honor fans out there). As for the other four reigns, well... Since 2014, Ziggler has reigned for a grand total of 150 days with the Intercontinental Championship, ten days less than his one reign in 2010/11. The feuds he was involved in for the title haven’t been bad – his 2014/2015 feud with The Authority (in which he lost the belt twice) had the potential to make Ziggler a megastar, as did his 2016 feud with The Miz that saw him put his career on the line against the title at No Mercy – it’s just that nothing ever came from them. All of Ziggler’s post-2014 title reigns ended before he could establish himself as a top champion and failed to do what the IC title should do – elevate a midcard talent to the next level. It’s not that Dolph is a bad wrestler, it’s just that every time he gets close to the top, he always seems to fall back down, sometimes through no fault of his own. And that is a crying shame.
13 Ric Flair
Ric Flair on a “worst champions” list, who’d have thought.
For the third straight time, I’m expecting this entry to ruffle a few feathers. Ric Flair is, without a doubt, one of the all-time greats when it comes to pro wrestling. A 16-time world champion (or a 21-time champion if you ask Flair himself), Ric has won more world championships than anyone else in wrestling history except John Cena (who also sits on 16). He’s also won more United States Championships than anyone else, held numerous regional titles across America and main evented some of the biggest shows in wrestling history, including multiple editions of NWA/WCW Starrcade. His time with the Intercontinental title, however, well, that’s a different story.
Flair returned to the WWE in 2002 after a near-decade absence. Flair was a changed man when he returned to WWE, not least by the fact that he was 53-years-old. The aging Flair could still go in the ring (to a degree) and wrestled on a regular basis until his retirement in 2008, including at Unforgiven 2005, when he defeated Carlito for the Intercontinental Championship. Flair would hold the belt for 155 days, defending it twice on Pay-Per-View in that time against Edge and in a steel cage match against Triple H, before dropping it to Shelton Benjamin. Flair might have been in good shape for his age, but he was still a 56-year-old man holding a title designed to get younger talent over. Anyone who wrestled and lost to Flair in this time period look kinda stupid failing to defeat someone old enough to be their dad, and whilst I know wrestling is scripted and this sort of thing is allowed, it just didn’t fit the tone of the belt at all. I love you, Ric, but can’t say I was a fan of this.
12 Ahmed Johnson
This one is a little harsh.
Ahmed Johnson was, by all accounts, destined for big things in the WWE. Debuting in 1995, Johnson impressed with his large physique and powerful moveset, including his impressive-looking finisher, the Pearl River Plunge. He was booked in several squash matches in his early run with the company, had an on-screen partnership with Shawn Michaels and made history at King of the Ring 1996 by defeating Goldust to win the Intercontinental Championship, making him the first African-American ever to hold a singles title in WWE. Let’s just forget the massively-uncomfortable, slightly homophobic storyline that led to this match.
Johnson looked set to go onto bigger and better things when he won a number one contenders’ battle royal for the WWE Championship in the summer of 1996. Sadly, his scheduled title match never happened, as he was diagnosed with serious kidney problems shortly after winning the match. These issues would cut his IC title reign short at just 50 days and force him out of action for four months. He would return, but another attempt to push him to the main event in 1997 was also stopped by injury and Johnson would leave the company in 1998. Sadly for Johnson, what could have been a promising wrestling career was hampered by injuries and his time with the Intercontinental Championship suffered as a result. Whilst he could have gone onto great things had he not been hurt, I have to consider the facts and the facts say Johnson’s time with the belt was nothing to shout about.
11 Zack Ryder
Dammit, why do I keep putting wrestlers I like on this list.
Poor Zack Ryder has had one hell of ride in the WWE. Through the use of his YouTube channel, Ryder got over with the fans in a big way, forcing WWE to take notice and book him to win the United States Championship at TLC 2011. He would then lose that title after becoming involved in a storyline with John Cena that made him look like a total chump and then lost his team a match at WrestleMania and got kicked in the balls by his on-screen love interest, Eve, for good measure. Oh, and Eve and Cena kissed in front of him whilst he was in a wheelchair. It’s like Frank Sinatra once sang, “You’re riding high in April, betrayed by John Cena and hospitalised in May.” I think that’s how that song went.
Ryder’s time with the Intercontinental Championship followed much the same pattern. After months in the wilderness, Ryder found himself a last-minute replacement for Neville in the Intercontinental Championship ladder match at WrestleMania 32. With no one expecting him to win, Ryder shocked the world when he pushed Miz off the top of a ladder and captured the title, sending the Dallas crowd into a frenzy. The crowd reacted in a similar fashion the next night on Raw, but for all the wrong reasons. Ryder was challenged by Miz for the title and, thanks to the distraction from a returning Maryse, Miz won the belt, ending Ryder’s reign at just one day. Whilst I may have made Dean Douglas exempt from this list for his tiny reign, the case with Ryder was very different. He had great potential to have a solid reign with the title with the fans fully behind his underdog win, but, as they so often do, WWE wasted a golden chance to make a new star and Ryder fell back down the card. Maybe one day Ryder will have a decent length title reign that won’t end in humiliating fashion. And maybe one day, I’ll win the lottery and marry a supermodel. We both have the same chance, let’s be honest.
10 Luke Harper
Where is Luke Harper? Like, seriously? What happened to him?
Luke Harper is one of my picks for most underrated current WWE stars and I think a lot of people would agree with me. Debuting in 2013 as one third of The Wyatt Family (along with Bray Wyatt and Erick Rowan), Harper impressed with both his size and surprising athleticism, helping Bray in feuds against Kane, The Usos and The Shield. Not that they’d ever win, but there you go. He returned to prominence in 2017 when he turned babyface against Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton, with many people gunning for him to be involved in the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania 33. Sadly, he wasn’t, being replaced instead with a bunch of weird projections of insects. Hooray.
Harper became the first member of The Wyatt Family to win singles gold in WWE when he defeated Dolph Ziggler in late 2014 to win the gold during The Authority storyline. He would hold the title for just 27 days, before losing the title back to Ziggler in a pretty decent ladder match at TLC 2014. Like a lot of others on this list, Harper’s time with the belt was not used to its full potential. This could have been a chance for Harper to break away from the Wyatts and become his own man, but instead, he lost the title in under a month, floundered for a bit, then returned to the Wyatt Family later on in 2015. Hopefully one day Harper can take his rightful place higher up the card, if they finally find him. Seriously, anyone know where he is? Anyone?
Remember when he was called Prince Albert? Remember what that actually means?
Matt Bloom has had more wrestling gimmicks than Big Show has had heel and face turns. Ok, I’m kidding. Nobody has had that many gimmicks. He debuted in 1999 as “Prince Albert,” the personal tattooist of Droz, before being known as just “Albert” to team with Test under the management of Trish Stratus. He would then change his name to “A-Train”, which saw him team with Big Show to fight The Undertaker at WrestleMania XIX, before departing WWE for a career in Japan. When he returned to WWE, it was under the name “Lord Tensai,” a supposedly-Japanese wrestler, whose face and body was covered in Japanese symbols, because he was definitely Japanese. Bloom then worked under the name “Jason Albert” as an NXT commentator, before switching to his real name as WWE Performance Centre head trainer. So many different names, so many forgettable gimmicks.
Albert’s sole singles title in WWE came when he defeated Kane in a No Disqualification match on an episode of SmackDown in 2001. He would hold onto the title for 27 days, before losing it to Lance Storm on an episode of Raw in the midst of the Invasion angle. And that’s pretty much it. Honestly, I can find very little else to say about Albert’s time with the title. I know it came whilst he was a member of X-Factor (a stable comprised of Albert, Justin Credible and X-Pac), but honestly, couldn’t really tell you anything else about it. To have such a forgettable reign with the Intercontinental Championship, a title that’s supposed to make new stars, is a sign of a bad reign and whilst Albert would go on to bigger and better things for himself in Japan, he just couldn’t do the same in WWE. But still, he’s doing a great job down at the Performance Centre, so cut him some slack, you monsters.
8 Big Show
WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLLLLL... it’s a bad IC title reign.
Despite all the criticism he’s received over the years, I like Big Show. He’s been involved in some great storylines, he’s had some decent matches over the years and he’s hilarious. As morbid as it sounds, the sight of him hanging off the back of his “dad’s” coffin as the Big Boss Man drove away with it tied to the back of his car makes me laugh every single time. He’s also won pretty much every championship going in WWE, which is great too.
One of these title reigns came in 2012, when Show defeated Cody Rhodes at WrestleMania XXVIII to win his first-ever Intercontinental Championship. The storyline revolved around Show having never had a WrestleMania moment, with Rhodes highlighting this with a video package before the match of Big Show’s most humiliating WrestleMania failures, which I also enjoyed. Show got his big moment when he beat Rhodes for the belt, however, his moment would last just 28 days (which, admittedly, is a very long moment). He lost the title back to Rhodes in a tables match at Extreme Rules, after he accidentally stepped through a table. Yep. That’s what happened. He lost the title after stepping through some furniture. It was a bad reign that ended badly and Big Show deserves to be on this list.
Ok, we’re finally into the ones I really don’t like. Thank the lord.
Rikishi had a long and varied WWE career. From his time as a Headshrinker to the “thong-wearing fatty” days of the Attitude Era, Rikishi managed to always keep his gimmick fresh and new and, as a result, remained with the WWE for a solid decade plus. However, he was involved in the “Who ran over Steve Austin?” angle, which was a bit rubbish. In his time with the company, Rikishi was mainly a tag team wrestler, winning three tag team titles with numerous partners. This is unsurprising, considering how badly his time as singles champion went.
Rikishi won the Intercontinental Championship from Chris Benoit on an episode of SmackDown in 2000. Yes, Rikishi beat Benoit. I’m as shocked as you. This was to build a storyline surrounding the King of the Ring tournament, in which Rikishi defeated Benoit and Val Venis on his way to losing the final match to Kurt Angle. Again, Rikishi, in a King of the Ring final. Shocking. Rikishi lost the title to Venis just two weeks after he won the belt, with the feud being blown off at Fully Loaded. As much as I hate this title reign, the Fully Loaded match did have Rikishi jumping off the top of a steel cage onto Venis, which looked awesome. The reign was insignificant, it left Rikishi no more elevated than he was before and it was largely forgettable. His theme music was called “Bad Man”, but if this title reign had theme music, it would have been called “Bad Reign”. Alright, you come up with a better joke. Get off my back.
6 Billy Gunn
Sorry, Billy, but this reign was far from “bad ass”.
Billy Gunn is one of WWE’s accomplished wrestlers. Since his debut for the company in 1993, Gunn has captured a wealth of accolades, including 11 tag team titles, two Hardcore titles and the 1999 King of the Ring crown. He was also involved in several high-profile angles and storylines, including his team with Chuck Palumbo (Billy and Chuck) and the formation of The New Age Outlaws alongside Road Dogg, who would later go onto join D-Generation X in 1998. Not bad for a dude whose real name is Monty Sopp. Seriously, Monty Sopp. He sounds like a comedy adult film star.
Gunn had just one reign with the Intercontinental Championship and it took place in 2000. Gunn won the title from Eddie Guerrero on an episode of SmackDown, during Gunn’s feud with The Radicalz, a stable of ex-WCW competitors that had joined WWE earlier that year. Whilst the win did give Gunn some momentum (he had just returned to the company after a short absence), the reign lasted just 19 days, as Gunn would lose the title to another member of The Radicalz, Chris Benoit, at the Armageddon Pay-Per-View. Gunn was the textbook definition of a transitional champion, a way to move the belt from one member of The Radicalz to the next and a way of creating a much more interesting feud for the title – Benoit vs Chris Jericho – that took place immediately after. Gunn wouldn’t come close to the IC title again following his short reign and was quickly slotted back into the tag team scene. A forgettable reign that did nothing to elevate the champion, Billy Gunn was definitely not “The One” when it came to the IC title.
5 Road Dogg
LLLLLLLADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS, CHILDREN OF AL- ok, ok, I’m not doing the whole thing just for an opening joke. This was a bad reign, ok, a bad reign.
“Road Dogg” Jesse James, like his fellow New Age Outlaw, Billy Gunn, had a pretty varied and exciting career in the WWE. Debuting as The Roadie in 1994, Dogg’s early gimmick was that of, well, a roadie, assisting wannabe country singer Jeff Jarrett, and later feuding with him over who really sang one of Jarrett’s songs. The Roadie would then feud with The Honky Tonk Man (of all people), before aligning with Gunn in a move that transformed his career forever. As The New Age Outlaws, Gunn and Road Dogg captured tag team gold six times in the WWE and are widely regarded as one of the greatest tag teams of all time. As for Road Dogg’s singles career, well...
Like his partner, Gunn, Road Dogg has been IC champ just once. However, at least when Gunn was champion, there was a storyline to it. In the build-up to WrestleMania XV, Billy Gunn had been pursuing the Intercontinental Championship, even costing Ken Shamrock the title to Val Venis as a special guest referee at In Your House: St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Yes, there was a Pay-Per-View named after an actual massacre. WWE – because we don’t care about sensitivity. All signs looked towards a Gunn vs Venis match at Mania for the title, however, by the time WrestleMania rolled around, Venis wasn’t champion anymore, Road Dogg was. Yes, in a bizarre turn of events, WWE decided to give the title to the other New Age Outlaw and Road Dogg beat Venis for the gold on an episode of Raw. Dogg then defended the title at Mania in a fatal 4-way also featuring Venis, Shamrock and Goldust, before losing the title just one night later to Goldust, ending his reign at just 14 days. And, to make things even more confusing, the title Road Dogg had been after before he was IC Champ, the Hardcore Championship, was defended at WrestleMania XV by Billy Gunn! What happened? Did WWE suddenly realise they’d got the wrong Outlaw in each storyline and try and change it? Where’s the logic here? Road Dogg’s reign was short, confusing and entirely unremarkable, all of which put James’ title run squarely in the Dogg House. Why on earth didn’t he have a finisher called that?
4 Marty Jannetty
Poor Marty, I’m sure there’s someone out there who still loves you.
Marty Jannetty once had all the potential to become a world champion. Making a name for himself as one half of The Midnight Rockers (who became just “The Rockers” when they joined WWE in 1988) alongside Shawn Michaels, Jannetty impressed fans with his athleticism, speed in the ring and long, flowing hair. Although they never won tag team gold in the WWE, The Rockers were still one of the most popular teams in the company throughout the late-1980s. When the duo split in 1990, following the infamous superkick delivered by Michaels to Jannetty on a Barber Shop segment in 1991, everyone was ready to see Jannetty and Michaels go head-to-head in a heated blood feud that would take both men’s careers to new heights. However, as it turns out, they were only half-right about that.
Jannetty’s feud with Michaels granted him an Intercontinental Championship reign, when he defeated HBK on an episode of Raw in 1993, ending Michaels’ 202-day reign with the title. Finally, the fans thought, Marty has taken his revenge on the evil Shawn and can enjoy a long, fruitful reign with the title, slowly building him up as one of the company’s next top singles stars, before eventually- oh, wait, Jannetty lost the title back to Michaels just 20 days later. On an untelevised house show. And he would never win a singles championship in WWE ever again. Oh dear.
You see, Jannetty’s relationship with WWE was a little bit rocky during the early-'90s; he was supposed to have feuded with Michaels in early-1992, but ruined creative plans when he was placed under house arrest for allegedly assaulting a police officer and possessing Class A drugs. Then, at the 1993 Royal Rumble, Jannetty once again ruined a match with Michaels, reportedly performing whilst under the influence of alcohol. It’s probably that Jannetty’s soiled relationship with WWE was what put his long-awaited title win to an end so quickly, which is a real shame, as The Rockers’ breaking up had promise to be one of the hottest feuds in WWE history. Sadly, Jannetty’s title reign has to be considered one of the worst of all time and his name will forever be a footnote in the long and acclaimed career of the man he once beat for a championship.
3 The Mountie
Part of me misses stupid gimmicks like this.
The Mountie, also known as Jacques Rougeau, was a French-Canadian who, you guessed it right, dressed up like a Mountie. Red jacket, big hat, cattle prod, The Mountie was the real deal and was portrayed as a corrupt police officer who would do whatever it took to get his man, even if that meant breaking the law he was supposed to have enforced. The Mountie gimmick lasted around two years and even got Rougeau a victory at WrestleMania, using the cattle prod to cheat his way to a win over Tito Santana. Did he really need to cheat to beat Tito? I swear that guy never won.
At a House Show in January 1992, The Mountie shocked the wrestling world when he unseated Bret Hart to become Intercontinental Champion. Yep, Bret Hart, one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, was once beaten by a guy dressed up as a Mountie. Wrestling is strange. So, what was the reason for this shock change? Was Bret injured and this was a clever way to get the title off him? Was there a big singles push planned for The Mountie? Was this all to build to a huge storyline, culminating in a match at WrestleMania VIII in the most Canadian bout the WWE had ever seen? Well, as it turns out, Bret was actually renegotiating his contract at the time and WWE wasn’t sure he was going to re-sign, so they gave the belt to The Mountie just in case. Then, at the Royal Rumble, The Mountie lost the title to Roddy Piper in a disappointing match, ending his reign at just two days. Piper would then lose the belt back to Hart at WrestleMania, after it was confirmed The Hitman was staying with the company. The Mountie competed on that show in an eight-man tag team match, which he lost. Great. Another transitional champion, The Mountie was never meant to be anywhere near the prestigious Intercontinental Championship and was just in the right place at the right time. How could I have not put him on the list?
God, this was bad.
Former WWE superstar and now the most opinionated man in wrestling, “The Big Guy” Ryback was once a top prospect with the company. He would debut under the name “Skip Sheffield” in 2010 as a part of The Nexus, a faction comprised of the rookies from the first season of NXT, a red-hot stable that quickly fizzled out thanks to bad booking/Super Cena. In 2012, he re-debuted under the new name of “Ryback” and ran through his competition, quickly ascending to the top of the card, challenging numerous times for the WWE Championship towards the end of the year. After he failed to win the title on any of these occasions, he quickly fell down the card, teaming with Curtis Axel to no avail, turning heel and face a bunch of times and unsuccessfully challenging for the United States Championship in 2016, before being released. So, all in all, things really didn’t work out too well for Goldberg – I mean Ryback. Sorry, easy mistake to make.
Ryback’s Intercontinental Championship reign was, and I don’t use this phrase lightly, a dumpster fire from start to finish. He won the title following Daniel Bryan vacating the belt in 2015. The match he won it in was the worst Elimination Chamber match of all time and if you think I’m overexaggerating, you clearly haven’t seen the match. He then missed a title defence at Battleground following a staph infection in his knee, before beating The Miz and Big Show in a triple threat match at SummerSlam. Ryback would then lose the title to Kevin Owens at Night of Champions and this was a massive relief for every single fan watching, because boy, was Ryback’s reign really boring. Ryback just wasn’t that accessible as a babyface champion and fans really didn’t get behind him in the way that WWE needed them to. Ryback had a great look, but nothing else that made him stand out and his time with the IC title was a bad time for all involved.
1 Ezekiel Jackson
Yep, I’d forgotten about him too.
Ezekiel Jackson – there really isn’t much to say about him. He debuted in 2008 as bodyguard for The Brian Kendrick, was in a stable with William Regal for a bit, became the last ever ECW Champion (any original ECW fans reading this have just had heart attacks), joined The Corre, a group of former Nexus members who needed something to do, before breaking away from that group and feuding with one of its members, Wade Barrett, for the Intercontinental Championship. Do you remember any of this? If the answer is no, then you’ve just helped prove my point.
Jackson’s title win at Capitol Punishment should have been the emotional end to his feud with Barrett. Instead, very few fans actually cared, with Ezekiel failing to draw sympathy because he was about as exciting to watch as a sloth hill climb race. Again, Jackson had a good look, but he was an absolute charisma vacuum and very few people were behind him, hence why his reign today remains largely forgotten. A bad performer who had a bad reign during one of WWE’s worst-ever periods, Ezekiel Jackson might be largely forgotten about these days, but I will always remember him as my pick for the worst Intercontinental Champion of all time.