WWE has five titles - no, I'm not counting the Internet Championship - and it's fair to say that four out of those five are holding up well. Seth Rollins has had a long, if not totally well received, run with the WWE world heavyweight championship. Rusev and John Cena did a fantastic job building up the U.S. title, which now also sits upon Rollins' shoulders. Although staleness is setting in, Nikki Bella is on a record breaking tear as Divas Champion. Finally, The New Day just won the tag titles, so all is right in the world in that regard.
Then there's the Intercontinental title sitting in the middle of a maze of mediocrity with no exit in sight.
Currently, Ryback is the occupant of the Intercontinental strap and although he's an easy target that I would love to shred, this is not really his fault. Due to a nasty staph infection in his knee, "The Big Guy" has been out for nearly one-third of his 87 day reign as champ. No, the title has been mistreated for a long time now and things could have been different if Daniel Bryan's injuries didn't get the best of him. It was clear that WWE wanted Bryan and Cena to bolster their secondary titles when each guy won their respective match at WrestleMania 31.
Cena held up his end of the bargain; Bryan let Sara and ZZ get to the final four of Tough Enough.
For much of 2014 and early 2015 the IC title was passed around like that terrible appetizer that literally nobody at the party wants. After Big E's 167 day reign, here is the list of champions:
"Bad News" Barrett
First off, who let Harper to the party...and can someone get him a decent shirt? None of these runs lasted for more than 90 days, so fans never really got a chance to latch onto anyone.
No, the blame can't go to those guys either because Big E was still finding himself, so even his run wasn't the best. Before him was Curtis Axel - who had a respectable 155 day run - but did anyone really like the guy? Even when he was pushed to the moon fans didn't react, so he lost both the title and Paul Heyman while gaining a Ryback in one clean swoop. Stupid!
Continuing further back in time we have a Barrett, Miz, Barrett sandwich; seriously, how many chances are they going to give Barrett with this thing? Before those two it was a bunch of short runs from Kofi Kingston, Miz, Christian, and Cody Rhodes.
When I initially thought about this article, I posed the question: "Who was the last great Intercontinental champion?" Scrolling through Wikipedia's list of champions, I had to go back to 2011 when Cody first won the title. Not only did he eventually
debut brought back the forever awesome "white leather" variant, but he had a whopping 236 day reign. With his old-school comic villain gimmick solidly intact, he brought the title up a few notches with consistency and quality. To find a champion that went 200+ days, you would have to go all the way back to 2004 when Shelton Benjamin held it for 244 days. Length is not the sole determinate in greatness, but Rhodes cut highly underrated promos during this time and had some fine feuds with John Morrison, Booker T, and, in particular, Randy Orton.
Now, I'm not saying Cody Rhodes is the greatest Intercontinental champion ever or anything like that; instead I'm saying it's been a really long time since we've had a memorable Intercontinental champion. So what's the solution? I hate to fantasy book, but here we go...
It's entirely possible Rollins will drop the WWE title and continue to run with the U.S. championship and I would assume Cesaro, Kevin Owens, and maybe Rusev will eventually get in on the action. So why not try the "Daniel Bryan" approach again? Give it to someone like Bray Wyatt or Roman Reigns and let them run with the title for awhile. Maybe get rid of "Stardust" and give it to a reinvented Cody Rhodes. There was a point in time when he was incredibly over with crowds (The Brotherhood vs. The Shield and when he nearly won the Money in the Bank match in 2013) so why not give him another shot?
Just like the U.S. title, it's going to take some time, but WWE just needs to get an actual storyline going with a champion that fans really react to. Until then, the Intercontinental title will continue to be stuck in that awful maze.
By the way, there is one person who I left out who can shoulder the blame for the title's downfall. The man who originally defeated Cody Rhodes at WrestleMania 28...
Don't start crying!
All photos via WWE.com