5 Most Historic Intercontinental Title Reigns

The Honky Tonk Man

Gunther defeated Chad Gable on the September 5, Raw to ensure he surpassed The Honky Tonk Man’s 35-year record as longest reigning Intercontinental titleholder. He officially broke the longstanding record three days later.

The longevity of the Austrian’s reign ensures it will be remembered and revered for decades to come. It is now arguably the most historic reign in the belt’s 44-year history.

This feature looks back at the five most historic Intercontinental title reigns in WWE history.

#5 Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart (April 5, 1992 – August 29, 1992)

Bret 'Hitman' Hart Intercontinental Title

Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart’s second Intercontinental title reign was bookended by two all-time classic matches. Hart defeated ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper in a superb contest to lift the strap at WrestleMania VIII. In the process, he inflicted Piper’s first pinfall loss in the WWF in a passing-of-the-torch moment to kick off his reign in style.

‘The Hitman’ dropped the gold to The British Bulldog in one of the greatest technical masterclasses ever at SummerSlam 1992 inside Wembley Stadium. The match was the high point of The Bulldog’s entire career. It still retains its historical significance three decades later.

So impressed were WWF bigwigs by Hart’s performance, that he was selected to dethrone Ric Flair for the WWF Championship just two months later.

In between those two five-star classics, Hart tangled with Shawn Michaels in the first Ladder Match in WWF history at a television taping, which was another superlative offering.

Hart’s second IC title reign is epitomised by epic, famous matches and all-time classic moments.

#4 The Rock (December 8, 1997 – August 30, 1998)

The Rock Intercontinental Title

The Rock’s second Intercontinental Title reign was far more significant than his first. The Rock, then known as Rocky Maivia captured his first IC strap, just three months after his WWF debut on the February 13, 1997 Raw.

However, fans loudly rejected the concept of the rookie as Intercontinental Champion and he dropped the title two months later to Owen Hart.

However, by the end of 1997, Rock had turned heel and joined the Nation of Domination. The Rock’s attitude change led to a swaggering confidence, despite an inauspicious start as champion. He was handed the belt by incumbent champion, Steve Austin who longer had any interest in defending the strap.

This time ‘The Brahma Bull’ held the gold for eight months. At 265 days, it was the longest IC title reign since Mr Perfect’s 1990-91 title run. The belt elevated The Rock to headliner status as he had entertaining feuds with the likes of Ken Shamrock and Triple H.

The Rock finally dropped the strap to Triple H in a classic Ladder Match at SummerSlam 1998. Much like Hart six years earlier, dropping the belt catapulted him into World Title contention.

‘The People’s Champion’ lifted the WWF Championship three months later at the 1998 Survivor Series.

#3 Randy Orton (December 14, 2003 – July 11, 2004)

Randy Orton Intercontinental Title

Randy Orton was earmarked for stardom since his debut in the summer of 2002. He was granted membership to WWE’s answer to The Four Horsemen, Evolution with the legendary Ric Flair and Triple H as mentors.

He captured the Intercontinental Title from Rob Van Dam in the only highlight of the Armageddon 2003 card. Much like The Rock five years earlier, Orton used the belt to elevate himself to headliner status.

He reigned as champion for 210 days; the longest IC title run since The Rock’s five years earlier.

The highlight of Orton’s reign was his conflict with the Hardcore Legend, Mick Foley. After pinning Foley in a Handicap Tag Team match at WrestleMania XX, he defeated him once more in a Street Fight several weeks later at Backlash.

Their Backlash collision was an outstanding match and remains one of the highlights of ‘The Viper’s’ career. In a brutally bloody, violent war, Orton cleanly pinned Foley to retain the gold, which solidified him as a headliner in waiting.

Orton defeated Shelton Benjamin at Bad Blood in a decent battle and dropped the strap to Edge in a choice collision at Vengeance on July 11, 2004.

Much like Hart and The Rock before him. Orton’s IC title loss was designed to enable him to challenge for the World Title.

Four weeks later at SummerSlam, Orton became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history by pinning Chris Benoit.

Orton’s 2003-04 IC title run was the most significant Intercontinental Championship reign of the decade.

#2 The Honky Tonk Man (June 2, 1987 – August 29, 1988)

The Honky Tonk Man Intercontinental Title

The Honky Tonk Man seemed like an unlikely choice to supplant Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat as Intercontinental Champion on June 2, 1987.

Indeed. Steamboat was only months removed from winning the belt from ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage in their seminal WrestleMania III collision. However, ‘The Dragon’ had communicated to WWF Chairman, Vince McMahon that he wanted to take some leave to help take care of his newborn son. That necessitated a title switch.

The original choice to dethrone Steamboat was ‘The Natural’ Butch Reed. However, when Reed inexplicably failed to show at the arena, comedy mid-carder, The Honky Tonk Man was given the nod instead.

By accident, the WWF had stumbled onto a winning formula. The WWF fans felt Honky was unworthy of the title and attended live events in droves to see him drop the gold. However, he never did, which resulted in nuclear heat for all of his title defences and established him as a top box office draw.

For 35 years, Honky’s title run was the longest in the history of the belt, lasting an epic 454 days.

His title loss at the inaugural SummerSlam in 1988 remains one of the most famous moments in company history. He dropped the belt to The Ultimate Warrior in just 31 seconds, which cemented Warrior’s status as a headliner of the future.

Relieved of the gold, The Honky Tonk Man could never recapture his prior status and slipped down the pecking order. However, his reign as “The Greatest Intercontinental Champion Of All Time” was secure until…

#1 Gunther (June 10, 2022 – present)

Gunther Intercontinental Title

After 35 years the longest Intercontinental Title reign in history has finally been supplanted.

Gunther upended Ricochet in a memorable encounter on June 10, 2022, and his reign continues unabated.

The Austrian has enhanced the IC title and restored its former reverence with his first-class performances and impressive aura. There appears to be no end in sight to his historic reign as he seeks to extend his title record still further.

Gunther’s reign is superior to Honky’s due to the first-rate title defences he has engaged in, which has yielded two five-star match ratings from Dave Meltzer. His matches with Sheamus at Clash at the Castle and Sheamus and Drew McIntyre at WrestleMania 39 are all-time classics and will live long in the memory.

He’s also engaged in memorable defences against the likes of Matt Riddle, Shinsuke Nakamura, Chad Gable and many others.

Much like Bret Hart, The Rock and Randy Orton before him, Gunther’s reign will surely lead to a WWE World Title run in the near future.

You can watch all of these Intercontinental Title reigns exclusively on the WWE Network.