The WWE Intercontinental Championship title belt, to use its Sunday name, has seen better days. Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, it was a way for the promotion to rubber-stamp a wrestler as being a future world champion (Randy Savage) and/or a skilled worker (WOYAH) and/or both (Bret Hart) in the eyes of the fans. Nowadays these modern kids with their PlayStation 3s and their 14 annual PPVs and their tri-branded hotheadedness and their bippin’ and their boppin’ and their jippin’ and their joppin’ just don’t get it the way they used to, so when it comes time for Big Grandaddy Ofemall to throw his annual party, the ol’ IC strap is left on the sidelines.
In 2007 the champion, Umaga, was but a humble ethnic stereotype losing to an uppity coloured fellow in a bout put together so two rich white men could get their rocks off, Trading Places style, yet with nary a slip of a Jamie Lee Curtis boob in sight. In 2006 the champion, Shelton Benjamin, was instead better best used for running up inanimate objects and then jumping off of them. In 2005 the champion, Shelton Benjamin, was instead better best used for running up inanimate objects and then jumping off of them. In 2004 the champion, Our Randy, participated in the funniest Handicap Match of all time, losing out to Mick Foley & The Rock whilst Batista tried to learn how to be cool and Ric Flair utilised the word ‘motherfucker’ as his unique taunt (sadly, no WWE video game makers cottoned on). In 2003 the champion, nobody, didn’t exist. (Given WWE retroactive historical policy, this may count as a fifth reign for Chris Benoit, none of which ever occurred.) In 2002 the champion, Rob Van Dam, successfully defended the title by beating William Regal with no particular problem in a not particularly problematic opening match.
Now, in 2008, the champion is Chris Jericho and he shall not be defending the title but shall instead be trying to outdo Shelton Benjamin when it comes to running up inanimate objects and then jumping off of them. So given that the last Mania outing for the IC title was rather bland, what other fond Mania memories of it are there? Well, here’s the top five…
1. Randy Savage vs Ricky Steamboat, WrestleMania III (29 March 1987)
This should come as a surprise to none but the ignorant. Savage/Steamboat still holds up well as one of the greatest Mania matches of all time, if not one of the greatest matches ever. Its certainly the hallmark of a generation for whom the ‘best match ever’ tag will either go to this or to Flair/Steamboat, with the generation after most likely plopping for Bret/Austin or something that involves the running up and jumping off of inanimate objects (see below). Anyway, it’s no wonder this match stood out so much by 1987 standards. It was preceeded by Butch Reed and Koko B Ware fighting over whether having bleached blond hair or dancing with a parrot was more offensive to black people. It was followed by Alice Cooper. Of course, Savage is now all sexnuts crazy and blackballed from WWE, whilst Steamboat is a respected road agent who will indeed get a DVD retrospective in the forseeable future.
Macho Man being beckoned…
2. WOYAH vs Hulk Hogan, WrestleMania VI (01 April 1990)
Technically, this counts as an Intercontinental Title match. WOYAH successfully retained and also picked up the glorious looking ol’ Eagle Belt that used to represent the WWF Championship. This was also more or less the greatest in-ring performance of Hogan’s career, since he was the one charged with carrying WOYAH through Pat Patterson’s meticulously scripted match. For all that Savage/Steamboat was ahead of its time, this one was very much of its time, since the mammoth WOYAH push was indicative of the musclebound malaise of excessive style over essential substance in popular culture at the dawn of the decade. Instead of Wolverine, we got Cable. Instead of First Blood, we got Rambo III. Instead of The Clash, we got Guns N Roses. The WWF tried to grasp the zeitgeist with WOYAH, WCW tried to do the same thing with Sting, and then it all got a little hazy for a while. I mean… really…
3. Bret Hart vs Roddy Piper, WrestleMania VIII (05 April 1992)
Very unusually for 1992, Vince McMahon saw fit to book a major face vs face match on PPV. T’was a truly simple build… Bret had been the IC champion but was forced to forfeit it to #1 contender, The Mountie, on account of illness (in reality a contract dispute, the simplest one he would ever have over a title). Piper got a title shot against Mountie soon afterwards and won the belt. Bret came back and wanted a title shot. The two had for many years been cordial due to Piper’s ties with the Hart family. As the big title match got closer though, tempers frayed. The story continued into the match itself with Piper almost losing his temper and walloping Bret with the ringbell, yet thought better of it. That act of benevolence came back to haunt him though, with Bret eking out a narrow victory off a roll-up. Simple. Neat. Classic. Timeless.
Check out Mean Gene switching Piper on
4. Razor Ramon vs Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania X (20 March 1994)
Running up stuff. Jumping off of it. The running was a bit slower and the jumping a bit safer than what was to come a few years down the line but the drama was undeniably there. Personally, the Bret/Owen Cage Match from SummerSlam was and remains the best match of 1994, while their effort at Mania X was the better match of the evening, but that’s no slight on this one. It just raises the question… is Money in the Bank the new, modern version of the Intercontinental Title of old? And who doesn’t like cheesy wrestling music videos?
OMG NOT THE 1ST EVER LADDER MATCH
5. WOYAH vs Rick Rude, WrestleMania V (02 April 1989)
The only other contender was the Triple Threat from WrestleMania 2000, yet that involved someone who never existed and for some reason gave top billing to the European Title. So, we’re back with WOYAH. The rematch with Rude from SummerSlam was the stronger match all-in-all but this one doesn’t involve a guest appearance by Piper’s bare buttocks so, goodie. Of course, Rude won due to Bobby Heenan interfering, since this was back in the day when managers were not identikit slappers or bland besuited bores. So let’s all listen to The Brain…
Until next time…