Established during a brutal tournament in Puerto Rico won by the great Pat Patterson, the WWE Intercontinental Championship has been heralded as a symbol of excellence for most of its almost forty-year history. Like a lot of titles during the early Attitude and Ruthless Aggression Eras, there was a lot of “hot potato” going on with the title. But in the last few years, superstars who grew up idolizing the likes of great past champions like Randy Savage, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Mr. Perfect have worked tirelessly to help re-establish the title as something to strive for on the card.
The current champion, Finn Bálor, certainly has what it takes to have a good long title reign. He’s also reminiscent of some champions of old, in that he’s won this title in his mid-thirties. Whether age is what makes and IC champion great or not is up for debate. What isn’t up for debate (at this time) is this list, the youngest wrestlers ever to nab the title.
10 D’Lo Brown: 26 Years, 9 Months, 5 Days
D’Lo Brown, besides being the best CPA to ever don a pair of tights, was also one of the bright spots of the Attitude Era undercard. His first Intercontinental title win happened while he was still 26 years old.
Even more significantly than that, when he defeated Jeff Jarrett on Monday Night Raw, D’Lo was also the European Champion. With this title win, D’Lo became the first ever Euro-Continental champion.
9 Johnny Nitro: 26 Years, 8 Months, 22 Days
When a wrestler won the Intercontinental Title, it used to mean that he was the number two guy in the company and they were on their way to possibly becoming the world champion one day.
Savage, Bret, Shawn... yes, there were some that didn’t quite get there, but Johnny Nitro seemed poised to be on the right track towards eventually becoming the Man. For some reason, it wasn’t in the cards for him. But he still was one of the youngest to win IC gold at just under 27 years old.
8 Test: 26 Years, 7 Months, 19 Days
Test was the kind of guy that Vince covets - big, blond, and beautiful in a ruggedly handsome way. He took out Edge to win his only IC belt during his career.
He’d also lose it back to him in WCW US Title vs. WWE IC unification match at the 2001 Survivor Series. He wouldn’t even hold the belt two full weeks, unfortunately the story of Test’s career - briefly reaching the precipice before getting knock right back off.
7 Carlito Caribbean Cool: 26 Years, 6 Months
The second generation superstar didn’t just beat Shelton Benjamin for the Intercontinental title. He did so the night he was drafted to Monday Night Raw.
According to Bruce Prichard on Something To Wrestle, Carlito quickly grew complacent, even with the strap. He would lose the title to Ric Flair, the oldest person to capture the belt to date at 56 years old.
6 Cody Rhodes: 26 Years, 1 Month, 10 Days
Cody’s first run with the IC title was the first one in nearly seven years that lasted over 200 days. Of course, nowadays, he’s only beginning to unveil the size of the boat the WWE missed on him, but back then, he was a young gun barely having turned 26 when he took out Ezekiel Jackson.
Cody can also be credited with being the guy who debuted the current white strap, reminiscent of the original title held by the superstars of yesteryear.
5 Rocky Mavia: 25 Years, 9 Months, 11 Days
At some point, he was not just one of the youngest WWE superstars to be Intercontinental Champion. Much like his initial WWE Title run, Rocky Mavia’s first IC title win made THE youngest IC champion ever at that time.
He would defeat Hunter Hearst Helmsley in one of their earliest matches together - on Thursday Raw Thursday in a classic match from an iconic show.
4 Edge: 25 Years, 8 Months, 24 Days
It would be over two years before Edge would win his second IC title. But the future Rated-R Superstar got to feel the awesome emotions of what it's like to win the title in your hometown.
At a Toronto House Show in 1999, Edge defeated Double J. He’d lose it back to him the next night at Fully Loaded. However, there aren’t a lot of people who can claim they won a big title in their hometown.
3 Drew McIntyre: 24 Years, 6 Months, 7 Days
Long before Drew McIntyre was destroying people on Raw and Smackdown as the Scottish Psychopath, he was meandering around Smackdown as Mr. McMahon’s Chosen One. He won the title at the inaugural TLC event in 2009.
To further the Chosen One character, at one point during his reign, Smackdown GM Teddy Long stripped him of the belt and held a tournament for the title, which Kofi won. But Mr. McMahon reversed all of this, leaving the history books to show one complete title run.
2 Randy Orton: 23 Years Old, 9 Months, 13 Days
As the two most decorated athletes of their generation, the question deserves to be asked: who is better - John Cena or Randy Orton? The two have battled so much over the years that at one point the fans just groaned about it and tried to look away.
As to who's better, only one of them can (currently) lay claim to being a Grand Slam Champion, which means they’ve won the IC title. It’s something that Cena has never done. Meanwhile, Orton’s first singles title was the Intercontinental championship, which he won at 23. Much like his fellow Legacy teammate Cody, it had been years since someone had held the title for over 200 days before Randy, and that man was the Rock.
1 Jeff Hardy: 23 Years, 7 Months, 10 Days
If you’re going to start trying to push a tag team specialist, not only should you give him a set of wins, but it certainly helps to give him a big win for the IC title against an established guy. It worked from Bret Hart when he beat Mr. Perfect and again for HBK when he beat Davey Boy.
It started to work for Jeff Hardy as well when he defeated Triple H at a SmackDown taping. He’d lose a mere few days later, but the fan reaction was a good gauge of just how much the fans would be behind Jeff when and if the WWE ever pulled the trigger on launching his singles career.