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SLAM! Speaks: The greatest IC champ
By SLAM! Wrestling Staff



Sometimes, we at the SLAM! Wrestling offices can't help but wax nostalgic about the "good ol' days" when we were young'uns watching wrestling.

No, it's not because we're a bunch of crotchety old men now who complain about those crazy kids today (well, most of us at least). It's moreso because WWE feeds us the opportunities to reminisce about the way things were.

Such was the case recently with the release of The History of the Intercontinental Championship.

Shortly after this DVD arrived, we started going back and forth about who truly was the greatest IC champ in history, and as you'll see many of us made the argument for a title holder that was on top during our youth.

With that in mind, here is who we thought, as Santino Marella would say, is the greatest Intercontinental champion for all the times.

Mark Xamin:
The greatest Intercontinental champion of all time has got to be Mr. Perfect, Curt Hennig. We're always force-fed Honky Tonk on this subject, but Hennig not only had great matches with the title, he also managed to put over a guy that went on to become a legend. Some guy named Bret "Hitman" Hart. Hennig put Hart over with a bad back at SummerSlam '91 in a fantastic match. Without that match, would Hart have managed to shed the tag team label that was attached to him after years of teaming with Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart? Maybe, but this match sent him on his way and Hennig can be thanked for that.

Brian Elliott:
You don't have to believe that Bret Hart was "The best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be" to conclude that he, in fact, was the greatest Intercontinental champion of all-time. Holding the title at a time at which it meant something -- which largely rules out the period 1994 to present -- Hart won the title in spectacular fashion, defeating Curt Hennig in a brilliant match at SummerSlam 1991. From there, he had excellent bouts with Roddy Piper and Davey Boy Smith in 1992, before ultimately losing the title to the latter in front of 83,000 fans at the old Wembley Stadium. Hart even managed to sneak in a WWF first during his reign, as he fended off the challenge of Shawn Michaels in a Ladder match in July 1992.

Hart's cumulative time as IC champion -- he did drop the belt to The Mountie before regaining it from Piper -- may ultimately have been short, but that was only because he was soon required by the WWF for greater duty. As it stands, the quality of his work in 1991-1992 allows him to stand out in this category.

Greg Oliver:

A 1981 card headlined by Morales vs Muraco. Courtesy Maple Leaf Wrestling - Pictorial
Pedro Morales fit the bill for what the Intercontinental title role meant better than anyone. When he held the title, there was a sense of honour and pride with it. The belt meant something, and it was looked at as a true stepping stone to the World title. Of course, in Morales' case, he'd already held the World title years before. He was able to work many different styles, with many different opponents. I'll grant you it was a simpler era, with less going on in the ring -- but there is truth to the statement, less is more.

Marty Goldstein:
There were certainly other great champions, but the fact is Honky Tonk Man defined that title and made the phrase known to even the most casual of fans in the era.

People forget how much heat he got at house shows because he knew how to work. Check the Philadelphia match against Bruno Sammartino -- it was simple and magnificent. Thanks to his unique charisma and ceaseless promotional appearances, he stood out alongside the Hogans, Savages, Jake Roberts, Andres of the time. He followed Savage and Steamboat and bragged he was better. He called down other heels on the ex-champions list. Everyone remembers him.

The period of time he accomplished what he did, doing it then, that's what makes him the greatest. I'm just sayin'.

Russell Cohen:

He's cool, he's cocky, he's bad!
I vote for the Honky Tonk Man. Never has a man done so much with so little. Think about it -- he did bring the heat!!!

Matt Mackinder:
The greatest Intercontinental champions of all time have to be Tito Santana and Greg "The Hammer" Valentine. I know current-day fans are thinking, "who?" But go and watch these guys go at it back in the day for a title that once upon a time meant something. Titles nowadays are passed around more than a doobie at Woodstock. Santana (pre-El Matador debacle) and Valentine (pre-backwards shin guard) could both work, sell and draw gates wherever they wrestled. Every time out, these two had a classic match. Sadly, the majority of people that are reading this right now and going to Wikipedia to find out who Tito and Valentine are. But mark my words, they never had a bad match and they were usually over the IC strap.

Kenai Andrews:
For me, The Honky Tonk Man ekes out a close one over The Macho Man Randy Savage as the greatest Intercontinental champion for one simple reason: drawing money. In the years 1987-1988, if you were a wrestler, you usually were paid the most if you on the A-cards (headlined by Hogan) or the B-cards (headlined by HTM). Macho was more flamboyant and his reign still reigns an untouchable layer of intensity, but HTM made people pay money to see him get beat up -- for over a year. His Saturday Night's Main Event guitar shot on Savage and shove of Miss Elizabeth still holds up today, and he put over the Ultimate Warrior and numerous other faces during his run.

Bob Kapur:
I think the greatest IC champ was Shawn Michaels during his initial run. To me, the most important part of a championship reign is the interest you have in the feuds and matches. During his initial run, Michaels had some great feuds, notably with Marty Janetty, Rick Martel, and Tatanka, that always had you guessing whether he would keep the belt or not. It was compelling in that you were never sure if he would manage to hold onto the belt or not. At the same time, his feuds helped elevate all of his opponents. Few champs have been able to do both since.

Jon Waldman:
Ordinarily I would probably vote for Shawn Michaels in such a category, but it's extremely hard to do so when I recall how Michaels was unable to lay down for Dean Douglas when his run came to an end.

Instead, I look to a guy who had multiple runs at a similar time period -- Razor Ramon. Even during a time period when guys like Bret Hart and HBK were delivering quality matches at the WWF Heavyweight Championship level, Ramon was having great bouts with his strap on the line, fighting against guys like Jeff Jarrett. Razor also kept his title in what may very well be the best IC title match of all time -- the WrestleMania X ladder match against HBK.


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