The second-best title in a pro wrestling promotion has always been an effective means of helping a mid-card talent ascend to main event status. The NWA and WCW had the United States Championship. ECW had the Television Championship. And TNA has the X-Division Championship. Since 1979, the WWE Intercontinental Championship has been one of the most prestigious titles in all of wrestling. However, that is no longer the case.
WWE Intercontinental Championship
The lineage of the Intercontinental Championship and the list of WWE wrestlers who have held it make it one of the most sought-after titles in history. Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Ultimate Warrior, Bret Hart, Roddy Piper, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, RVD, Chris Jericho, Ric Flair, and CM Punk are just a few of the WWE legends who have worn the Intercontinental belt.
Besides great wrestlers holding the Intercontinental Championship, the title has also served as the vehicle for some of the greatest rivalries and matches in WWE history. At SummerSlam in 1988, The Ultimate Warrior destroyed The Honky Tonk Man to become Intercontinental Champion. Four years later, The British Bulldog and Bret Hart headlined SummerSlam in England in a match for the Intercontinental title. And the legendary WrestleMania X ladder match between Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels was contested for the Intercontinental Championship.
But the importance of the Intercontinental Championship in the WWE seems to have gone the way of grunge music and mullets. In 2014, the Intercontinental Championship is so meaningless that it wasn’t even defended at WrestleMania XXX. The current champion, Big E Langston, has no storyline and he never talks. The previous champion, Curtis Axel, has no charisma and he needed Paul Heyman to talk for him.
Back when pro wrestling fought to hold onto the illusion that it was a real sport, belts and championships were more important. After all, boxers, Olympians, football players, and all athletes only compete to win championships. Although storylines and angles have always been necessary to keep wrestling fans tuning in and buying tickets, all championships, especially the Intercontinental title, were the focal point of most rivalries and feuds.
But today, the WWE is more Hollywood and reality television than sport. And the WWE would be the first to admit this. Of course, its main title is still important. However, with the emphasis on “entertainment” rather than “sport,” the WWE creative team doesn’t feel it is necessary to expend a great deal of energy towards marketing its secondary belts. Otherwise, Dean Ambrose might actually defend the U.S. title at least once a year.
On CM Punk’s DVD “Best in the World,” Triple H made a telling remark about how the WWE views champions and championships. He said, “I believe the man makes the title, not that the title makes the man.” This proves that WWE executives no longer believe that becoming champion carries any real value for its wrestlers. It’s a sad commentary on the once-prestigious Intercontinental Championship.
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