The Intercontinental Championship was first established on September 1st, 1979 and has been considered a stepping stone title for those that are in the upper midcard, but not quite ready for the main event scene. We have seen a lot of future superstars win this title, but their reigns may not have been very long.
While it’s a secondary title, the Intercontinental Championship has carried a lot of prestige as some of wrestling’s biggest names have held this title. Even main events of huge pay-per-views such as WrestleMania and SummerSlam have featured the Intercontinental Championship on the line, but it has been a while since we’ve seen it.
The Intercontinental Championship was traditionally a title reserved for the best 'worker' in the company. The guy that constantly put on the best matches every night and had a connection with the fans. The only thing that typically separated an IC Champion from World Champion would be either his look, his drawing power and in some cases, charisma. Looking at the lineage of the IC title, you'll find legends like Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Mr. Perfect, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. All guys who were arguably the best wrestlers in the company at the time they won it, but mega stars like Hogan or just bigger, less talented guys would hold the world title.
There have been some massively long reigns with this belt, with 20 of them lasting for at least 190 days. Who has held the belt for the longest period of time, though? Here are the wrestlers that had the 20 longest Intercontinental Championship reigns in the history of the belt that is now celebrating its 36th birthday.
20 Jeff Hardy - 190 Days
Just barely making his way into the list, Jeff Hardy won his fourth Intercontinental Championship on September 2nd, 2007 from Umaga on an episode of Monday Night Raw, not long after returning to the WWE after his first stint with TNA. Hardy’s fourth, and final, reign would be his longest at 190 days. Eventually, Hardy would lose his title to Chris Jericho in March of 2008 on Raw, and it was Jericho’s eighth reign with the title.
19 Pedro Morales - 194 Days
For the first time in his career on December 8th, 1980, Pedro Morales won the Intercontinental Championship (and third overall to hold the belt). Morales won the title at a house show in New York City from Ken Patera, and the win was a historical one. Morales became the first Triple Crown Champion in WWE history to go along with his Tag Team Championship with Bob Backlund and his WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Morales would hold onto this reign for a total of 194 days.
18 Razor Ramon - 198 Days
Razor Ramon would win his first Intercontinental Championship on September 27th, 1993 during a taping of Monday Night Raw by finishing in the top two of a battle royal with Rick Martel. The two faced off on the episode of Raw, with Ramon winning the belt. A month later, former champion Shawn Michaels would return to the WWE and challenge Ramon to the infamous ladder match at WrestleMania X. Ramon eventually lost his title to Diesel in April of 1994 after a reign of 198 days.
17 Shawn Michaels - 202 Days
Shawn Michaels’s first reign as Intercontinental Champion was also his longest, as he won the title on October 27th, 1992 during a taping of Saturday Night’s Main Event in Terre Haute, Indiana. Michaels held onto the title for a total of 202 days, and would eventually win the belt back two more times. This long reign had a memorable ending, as Michaels was challenged by former tag team partner Marty Jannetty on Monday Night Raw, with Jannetty winning the belt but losing it back to Michael just 20 days later.
16 Randy Orton - 210 Days
Coming in as the 16th longest Intercontinental Championship reign in history is a bit of a surprising one. It’s surprising in the fact that Randy Orton has only held the title once, but it was an impressive run that lasted for 210 days. Orton won the title from Rob Van Dam on December 14th, 2003 at the Armageddon pay-per-view, with Mick Foley acting as the special guest referee. Orton would eventually lose the title to Edge the next July at the Vengeance pay-per-view.
15 T-15. The Ultimate Warrior - 216 Days
The next two items on this list are going to be a bit confusing if you’re a younger fan, so just stick with us here, we can explain it. At the 1988 SummerSlam event in New York City, The Ultimate Warrior defeated the Honky Tonk Man (more on that reign later) to become Intercontinental Champion. Warrior would hold onto the belt for 216 days before dropping it to Rick Rude at WrestleMania V in Atlantic City. Don’t worry, Warrior wasn’t done with the belt just yet.
14 T-15. The Ultimate Warrior (Again) - 216 Days
That’s right, the Ultimate Warrior would win the belt back and match his previous reign with it down to the exact same number of days at 216. Warrior won the belt back from Rude at SummerSlam in East Rutherford, New Jersey just 364 days after his last reign started. After the next 216 days wrapped up, Warrior would vacate the Intercontinental Championshipin April 1990, shortly after winning the world title from Hogan at WrestleMania VI.
13 Tito Santana - 217 Days
Beating out the two Ultimate Warrior reigns by just one day is Tito Santana in his second run as Intercontinental Champion at 217 days. Santana was pitted against Greg Valentine on July 6th, 1985 in a steel cage at a house show in Baltimore. Santana’s long run as champion would be his last, as he dropped the championship to Randy Savage at a house show in February of 1986, which would set up one of the longest reigns in the title’s history.
12 Tito Santana - 226 Days
It feels like it has been a while since we’ve seen Tito Santana’s name, hasn’t it? Alright so his two runs as the seventh and ninth Intercontinental Champion of all-time weren’t very different, but still impressive. For Santana’s first reign as champion, he defeated Don Muraco in February of 1984 at a house show in Boston. The reign lasted for 226 days, and you can probably already guess how it ended. In case you don’t want to look back, he would eventually lose the title to Greg Valentine before winning it back.
11 Ken Patera - 231 Days
You already heard about Ken Patera’s reign as Intercontinental Champion earlier in this list when he lost the title to Pedro Morales. Before that, though, Patera was the second ever champion, defeating Pat Patterson at a house show in New York City on April 21st, 1980. Patera’s name hasn’t held up for future generations like some of the other Intercontinental Champions on the list, but having the 11th longest reign with the title is an impressive achievement, at 231 days.
10 Pat Patterson - 233 Days
Speaking of Pat Patterson as the first Intercontinental Champion, his first and only reign with the belt was a long one at 233 days. Patterson defeated Ted DiBiase to win what used to be known as the WWF North American Heavyweight Championship in Allentown, Pennsylvania in June of 1979. Patterson would then defeat Johnny Rodz in Brazil to create the Intercontinental Championship. As you can probably deduce on your own, Patterson would drop the belt in 1980 to Ken Patera.
9 Cody Rhodes - 236 Days
The most recent reign on the list belongs to the wrestler now known as Stardust, Cody Rhodes. Rhodes has had two reigns as the Intercontinental Champion, but his second one only lasted for 21 days. The first one was much more impressive, spanning 236 days after he defeated Ezekiel Jackson on an episode of SmackDown in August of 2011. Rhodes held off all challengers for his title until WrestleMania XXVIII when he lost to The Big Show, giving the giant his first WrestleMania moment.
8 Shelton Benjamin - 244 Days
Shelton Benjamin joins Cody Rhodes as the only other wrestler on the list to have achieved this run after the turn of the new millennium. Benjamin had three reigns with the Intercontinental Championship, but the second and third only lasted for a combined 110 days. The first one, however, lasted for a total of 244 days. Benjamin won the title from Chris Jericho at the now defunct Taboo Tuesday pay-per-view on October 19th, 2004. Benjamin would eventually drop the title on Raw to Carlito in June 2005.
7 The Rock - 265 Days
In 1997, we saw many superstars emerge in wrestling that would make the WWE the king of the business and establish the Attitude Era. Stone Cold Steve Austin was the champion on December 8th, 1997’s episode of Monday Night Raw when he handed the title to The Rock, which began his second reign as Intercontinental Champion. The Rock would hold on to the title for 265 days, before he finally lost to Triple H at the 1998 SummerSlam event. It would be The Rock’s last reign as he turned his attention to the main event scene.
6 “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig - 280 Days
“Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig would have two reigns as the Intercontinental Champion, and both of them were pretty impressive. In his first reign, Hennig would hold the title for 126 days, but was able to keep it for 280 days in his second reign. Hennig won the title from Texas Tornado at a November 1990 taping of Superstars of Wrestling after dropping it to him at SummerSlam. Hennig would then lose the title at the next SummerSlam, dropping it to Bret Hart and starting a long reign of his own.
5 Greg Valentine - 285 Days
We already touched on Valentine’s run a little bit earlier in this list, as he was the champion in between the two title reigns that Tito Santana had. Valentine’s reign in between was his only one, as he defeated Santana during the taping of Maple Leaf Wrestling on September 24th, 1984 in London, Ontario. Valentine’s only other title was a Tag Team Championship with Brutus Beefcake, but he would end up being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the 2004 class.
4 Don Muraco - 385 Days
In the early days of the Intercontinental Championship, wrestlers seemed to have extremely long reigns, and we now have gotten to the four longest, all of which spanned over one calendar year. Muraco’s second reign (and his last) was his longest of the two, lasting for 385 days. Muraco won the title from Pedro Morales (after losing it to him) at a New York City house show. Muraco would then drop the title to Tito Santana, which kicked off the 11th longest reign in the history of the Intercontinental Championship.
3 “Macho Man” Randy Savage - 414 Days
Tito Santana’s name pops up yet again, as his loss kicked off the third longest Intercontinental Championship reign in history. The Macho Man faced off against Santana at a house show in Boston on February 8th, 1986, and the impressive reign lasted for 414 days. The reign came to an end in one of the most famous matches in wrestling history, as Savage would drop the belt to Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III. It was a surprise ending as the roll-up ended the run and Savage would never hold the title again.
2 Pedro Morales
Pedro Morales’s second reign was the fifth reign in the history of the Intercontinental Championship, and it kicked off when he defeated Don Muraco at a house show in New York City on November 23rd, 1981. Morales’s reign lasted for 425 days before it kicked off Don Muraco’s reign that was fourth on this list. Morales would stick around for five more years after his reign ended, but he never won another Intercontinental Championship and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.
1 Honky Tonk Man - 454 Days
The longest reign as Intercontinental Champion belongs to a name that hasn’t appeared on this list, mainly because he only had one reign, the Honky Tonk Man. The Honky Tonk Man’s one reign was a historic one, and it all kicked off on June 2nd, 1987 during a taping for Superstars of Wrestling when he defeated Ricky Steamboat, who was only two months removed from his win over Randy Savage. The Honky Tonk Man held on to the belt for a record 454 consecutive days before losing at the 1988 SummerSlam to The Ultimate Warrior, kicking off his first reign that appeared on this list.