Saturday, September 12, 2009

History of the Intercontinental Title

First, a quick word: I, like many WWE superstars you'll hear today, I always loved watching Intercontinental Title Matches, it was where the real talent was, especially with up and coming superstars. Back in the day, if you won the IC belt, it was a stepping stone for you to become a bigger superstar and challenge for the World Title down the line. In recent years, the worth of this belt has been significantly lowered, much to my dismay. It used to be a staple of WrestleMania, but hadn't been defended since WM 18 until this year's 20 second excuse for a match. Hopefully, this belt can restore itself to it's former glory, but it's hard when there are so many other titles gobbling up TV time and storylines. So, when this set was released, I was stoked; and w/o further adue, a look back at the IC Title.

Disc I
1) Pat Patterson (c) v. Ted Dibiase (10/22/1979)- 4
2) Ken Patera (c) v. Pedro Morales (10/20/80)- 5
3) Pedro Morales (c) v. Don Muraco (12/28/82)- 3
4) Don Muraco (c) v. Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka (Steel Cage Match- 10/17/1983)- 4
5) Greg Valentine (c) v. Tito Santana (Lumberjack Match- 03/17/1985)- 6
6) Tito Santana (c) v. Randy Savage (02/08/1986)- 4
7) Randy Savage (c) v. Ricky Steamboat (03/29/1987)- 8
8) Ricky Steamboat (c) v. Honky Tonk Man (06/02/1987)- 3
9) Honky Tonk Man (c) v. Ultimate Warrior (08/29/1988)- 1
10) Ricky Rude (c) v. Ultimate Warrior (08/28/1989)- 5

Patterson stalls with the best of them; they are probably even posters memoralizing it in bath-houses all over San Fransisco. Dibiase is a fiery young babyface here and is coming with those big brawny punches; probably why he did so well in Mid-South. The match actually has a nice back and forth, with some rest holds in between and the finish is perfectly acceptable for a heel win. The pop for Morales blows me away!!! Dude was the man in his time. I thought they had a well paced match with good dynamic, Patera kept cutting off Pedro's comeback and wearing him down unti his Latin temper got the best of him and became a big schmoze. Next match had the same exact fin and while I think Muraco is the better worker, this match was much abbreviated. You have to love Pedro's mid match fit; he gets his ass whipped, then throws an object and the crowd goes into hysterics! Then we have the much ballyhooed cage match that Mick Foley has popularized when he hitchiked as a teenager to New York to see it. I think I would have threw myself in the Hudson after that wasted money. The match was barely 6 minutes long! The intensity was there, the blood was there, the cage bumps and brawling all there, but they did a quick accidental finish probably because they booked themselves in a corner. The famous splash comes after the match and still looks good, although Snuka's feet always landed first. The Lumberjack match was exactly what Todd Grisham said it was: a fight! Both guys were just pounding the hell out of each other, forearms, punches, and Tito's lethal knees were definitley peaking my interest; those Top Chef episodes on my DVR would have to wait for later. Valentine was playing the lumberjacks up big time, and there was no messy brawl at the end which is the norm these days. I dug this match the most so far. Next is the first title change on the disc up to this point. Savage uses what looked like a handweight to clock Tito in the mush for the win. Match was okay, but I expected more out of these two stellar workers. Savage was falling all over the place, but the match was like a bad Michinoku Pro sprint with no meat to it. The next match has been reviewed to death, so I won't reiterate anything me or the boys (Brian and Adam) haven't already said before about it. It does still hold up as a scientific battle of counters though. Next Dragon must do the ultimate job: to Honky. This was on Superstars, WWF's Saturday morning TV program so you can see the importance. Dragon leads Honky by the hand like a blind pedestrian through a funhouse. Only time Honky takes offense he throws these hideous punches Vince himself wouldn't use. The ending is a complete joke, as Dragon's shoulders weren't even down and the count was fast. Honky's famous reign ends quickly to Warrior in a pretty replayed squash. Nothing of note here. And finally, Rude proves again why he was such a superior talent, being Warrior's best opponent over the course of his career. He gets a lot out of Warrior here, with good timing and killing himself by taking every unprotected power move the face painted peon could dream up. One thing I found odd was the whole 3 minutes the referee is knocked down, Heenan nor Rude tried to cheat. It was kind of strange. They used some big moves but the match kind of lost steam towards the 20 minute mark as they were both repeating moves the other person did. Then the Piper interference was completely asanine and made Rude look like a fool.

Disc II
1) Mr. Perfect (c) v. Bret "Hitman" Hart (08/26/1991) - 8
2) Bret "Hitman" Hart (c) v. Davey Boy Smith (08/29/1992) - 7
3) Razor Ramon (c) v. Shawn Michaels (Ladder Match- 03/20/1994)- 7
4) Razor Ramon (c) v. Jeff Jarrett (01/22/1995) - 6
5) "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (c) v. The Rock (12/07/1997)- 4
6) The Rock (c) v. Triple H (2 out of 3 Falls Match- 07/26/1998)- 4
7) Jeff Jarrett (c) v. Chyna (Good Housekeeping Match- 10/17/1999)- 3

This is a classic tale in the fabric of the wrestling world; long dominant champion, having to back down due to injury, new rising star ready to take his mantle; does the champion leave on top, defiling the new star's aura, or does he do the right thing and make this rising warrior even better? This left a great taste in my mouth (that didn't sound good) as I think back to Mania 14 (which I just reviewed here) where Michaels was leaving the sport and made his final hurrah all about him, but Hennig couldn't have crafted a better portrayal of just being outworked and outclassed by Bret here. He couldn't do what he once did on defense, but he made sure Bret had a counter to everything he did and the match was superb with that formula. Crowd was great (MSG audience) and Piper especially on commentary really put over Bret's hard work so much better than Hitman could with his bumbling promos. Next match is another bonafide classic, as I have fond memories of this taking place the day before 6th grade and me staying up late watching from my bedroom floor at the amazing match before me. After reading the brilliant Bret Hart book, we know that Smith was a walking comatose zombie going in to this match and forgot the majority of his spots during it, so this is the Bret Hart Show. He's a fucking DAWG in this too, and pulls off some huge spots (superplex), and works a lot of little subtle things into his performance. Smith does his best to hide his intoxicated state, but there's several long rest spots where you can tell he's staring at the white spots before his eyes and one spot, where Bret planchas outside onto Smith, who's trying to get back in the ring so Bret grabs him by the neck and hurls him to the ground, like he wrestled a wild mare; that gave me a hearty chuckle. But all in all, including the memorable finish this probably still ranks up there with the greatest IC title matches of all time.

Again, here's another classic which I reviewed in full on Mania X review, so I won't go into detail here. It's the first star making ladder Match, and it has earned it's place amongst them. I think there have been many much better since then but the story was simple and made sense, as well as all the breathtaking spots. Enjoy it again if you're waiting for a TV dinner in the oven or some late night Skinimax to play before you pop a solo nut. I was more surprised by this match than anything; Jarrett was awesome at chicken shit heel and I loved Roadie's little touches to his character, spritzing Jarrett down with a water bottle and such. Ramon was confident in his performance and this was one of his better sympathy garnering performances of all time for him, not including backstage cries for help from his alcohol addiction at Nitro's in '97. The false finish and near falls that led to the end were stuff usually reserved for main event slots so it's refreshing to see it here. Definitley re-watchable. Austin v. Rock, as Todd Grisham informs us, was by far the best vote-getter from the fans when putting this comp. together. I guarantee they voted for the names only because outside of D-Lo's big backdrop through the truck window this thing dragged. The excitement is palable in the arena, as the Attitude era loomed, but why break out 2 , count 'em 2! seperate chinlock sequences for an 8 minute match?! Interference and ref bumps both littered the landscape of this battle and bogged it down with unecessary shit when they should have just let these 2 work. I love 2 out of 3 falls as a gimmick, you can really tell an elongated story and you get to see what a performer is made of when they have to go to extra innings, but this match was dirty with Russo's fingertips. 1st fall was eternal, with the high's and lows of any great title match with minimal work all for multiple people to infringe in the match to end the fall. 2nd was the same and by the time it was over the 30 minutes was near up, except we didn't know that until they had 2 minutes to work, which if you're going to do a draw gimmick, you have to build the suspense, not for 2 minutes! Another thing: Rocks' stomps were pitiful, his offense wasn't well executed and how many clotheslines could Helmsley do in one match! Should be a Trivial Pursuit question. It was hard to get into this match for any sheer number of those reasons but mostly because this was one of the most poorly contrived 2 of 3 falls matches I can remember. Jarrett's last WWE escapade ended in this hardcore (ad nasuem) snorefest. Chyna had no offense to speak of and was content on just bashing Jarrett repeatedly with a handful of household items at her convenience. Only thing I enjoyed was when Double J took liberties with the she-beast when he used a garbage can on her. Rest of this would be recycled for several years to come with different slobs and lazyasses and passed off as a "Hardcore" division, which even had it's own pathetic title belt. Remember, if we learned anything here, it's that the IC title belt is NOT a household item! Thanks for the clarification Vince, next time I try to use it to clean my fish tank I'll think back to this steaming turd.

Disc III
1) Chris Jericho (c) v. Kurt Angle (02/27/2000) - 4
2) Eddie Guerrero (c) v. Chris Jericho v. X-Pac (10/12/2000)- 3
3) Triple H (c) v. Jeff Hardy (04/12/2001)- 4
4) Rob Van Dam (c) v. Jeff Hardy (IC Title v. European Title Unification Ladder Match- 07/22/2002)- 4
5) Randy Orton (c) v. Edge (07/11/2004)- 7
6) Ric Flair (c) v. Triple H (Steel Cage Match- 11/01/05)- 7
7) Shelton Benjamin (c) v. Rob Van Dam (IC Title v. Money in the Bank Briefcase- 04/30/2006)- 5
8) Carlito (c) v. Johnny Nitro v. Shelton Benjamin (06/25/2006)- 4
9) Umaga (c) v. Jeff Hardy (07/22/2007)- 6
10) Jeff Hardy (c) v. Chris Jericho (03/10/2008)- 5

Man, Angle badly needed that shaved head look- he's got a hair comma growing from his forehead. Angle grabbed a nice armlock out of a pin attempt and that concludes our highlights from him here. Jericho pulled off a moonsault off the steel stairs that was visually a treat but executed with the impact of a fly landing on an picnic table. Angle was clearly still learning as Jericho mapped out an easy match for him to remember that included such blunders as Chyna intervening and getting bounced into the steel stairs. Angle's forearms were so telegraphed you could have handwritten a letter to Elizabeth Bennet and mailed it to LongBourne and still had time to block it. Not sure why this 3 way was even on here because besides the first quick dive sequence it was more bland than expired mustard. Eddie and Pac looked hung over. Loved Jeff's enthusiastic sells on Trip's punches here, just pushing himself back like he tried to cop a feel on Jean Grey and she tossed him across the room. They blew a powerslam spot off the apron so they redid it and even though it's a cool spot, it killed the impact. Title change was a shocker but this match didn't have much weight to it, just kind of a brawl to kill time on the show. The final European Title match was a sidenote here, but it felt too much like they were both going through the motions. Jeff taking a rolling Thunder on the ladder and you could see nothing was in his eyes, he looked near comatose. RVD didn't take time to sell much of anything, just whispering out the next spot. Only point garnering spot was Jeff getting the ladder kicked from underneath him and front flipping off hard to the mat. The "Young Lions" match as it was titled was actually as old school as jousting matches or green colored shoe strings and delivered big time. A classic shoulderblock sequence started this out and it was perfect for Orton's methodical style. It had it's share of big bumps and high impact moves and the crowd was kept into it the whole time despite cheering for Orton who was supposed to be the heel. Run time was nearly 27 minutes but the pace was pitch perfect and was a thrill to see such a old style match in so recent a time. Next match was equally as good but for different reasons: it was a sadistic affair that featured some of Hunter's finest facials before the match started, a cold dead stare, and possibly Flair's best and most dramatic match during his latter WWE tenure. These guys were best friends and if you're going to fight your best friend, it's going to be bloody and it's going to be violent. The blood flowed on both men and even though I wasn't a fan of how Flair hit the mat on some of Hunter's power offense, no one can sell pain and agony like Natch. The barbarism was turned up a notch as both men tried to channel Ric from the 80's and allowed themselves to be grated like parmesan cheese at an Olive Garden against the cage. Using simple steel chair shots to win isn't creative, but just felt right here.

RVD and Shelton was surprisingly everything opposite you think if you would hear those 2 names: All the high spots came off smoothly and accredited the athletic talent they are toted on so often. It's usually botch city with Shelton but RVD took some cool offense from him (powerbomb outside, samoan drop) and Shelton was on time for every spot and pulled it off. Finish was a little muddled but it kept both guys strong and I was pleasantly surprised. The next 3 way spot fest was basically that: a Collection of decent to well done high spots that the crowd popped for every time with nothing in between. No one really knew what to fill the time with when they weren't jumping off the ropes and it looked tepid and amateurish. That's my major complaint here and what basically classifies this as a glorified indy match. These two dudes were made for each other; Jeff was in complete Jack Skellington rag doll mode and had to have downed a bottle of green pills after the match to satisfy the pain inside. The Samoan beast was as relentless as any monster heel in recent memory and the match went off really well with that factor in place. Some cool near falls as well and I think this is what got the ball rolling with Jeff in higher spots on the card. The crowd was living and dying on his every move, that's how you get a crowd into a match. Our final bout was Jericho's record setting 8th IC Title win (which was since been broken by himself), it was an interesting chess game where both men was a move ahead of the other. The perfunctory Raw commercial break dropped a big wall into the pacing of this match but both men's timing on getting out of pins or moving away from offense at the right time made this into a different kind of match that's both thrilling to watch and rewatch again. Crowd ooh'd and aah'd appropriately along with it's ebbs and flows.

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