For many years in WWE, the Intercontinental Championship was viewed as the stepping stone for superstars. It was the title they held when you knew that they were destined for bigger things, i.e, the World Championship. Given the lineage it had and the men who held the title, there was no doubting the prestige of it. It would main event shows and it wasn’t viewed as a “step down” or a “mid-card” championship.
In the eyes of many, it’s still the second-most prestigious championship in WWE – more so than the Universal Championship. It may not be presented that way, but one can’t blame fans for having a sense of emotional attachment to the title. The Intercontinental Championship was, for a long time, the #2 ranked title in the company, up until the merger with WCW where the United States Championship was brought over.
Even if the title was second on the pecking order, it was clear that the prestige of it had taken a hit over the years. Whether it was short title reigns, meaningless feuds or otherwise, the once-prestigious title didn’t have the same value that it once did. It had taken many years, but it seemed that with each passing year, it was merely a placeholder belt filled with mostly meaningless reigns. While it would be wrong to call a title as just a prop, the Intercontinental title, had, for many years, felt like just that. It was only in the mid-2010s and afterward that the conversation began to re-emerge about bringing back the prestige of the title.
While it would be unfair to say that there were no good champions between that period, it was truly The Miz in 2016 who brought back a whole lot of prestige to the championship. He had what many considered the best Intercontinental Championship reign in years and it was only a year after John Cena had what many considered the best United States Championship reign in years.
While there have been good reigns following that, none were able to live up to those standards and it felt like ever since the prestige of both the “mid-card” championships have once again been reduced. Now, it applies even more so to the Intercontinental Championship, but what must WWE do to bring back the prestige?
For one, it’s a long-term process that requires a commitment for years. That’s something that WWE doesn’t seem to have the patience for these days and it’s a shame because it can do a whole lot of good to many superstars and the programming, especially with a roster that’s becoming increasingly crowded. It requires going back to the roots – giving the mid-card titles to superstars who WWE intends to push. This means the end of meaningless, short reigns where the title is passed from superstar to superstar as if it’s nothing. It should be treated like how it used to – a stepping stone to something bigger.
The second and most important aspect, especially since WWE loves having Brock Lesnar as a part-time champion – is to start having the title main event shows and on occasion, pay-per-views as well. The title needs to be a part of some meaningful storylines that engage active interest and get the desired investment from fans.
These are some of the core things about these mid-card titles that need some major changes, but from the look of it, they’re not ones that will happen anytime soon. All we can hope is that WWE starts to value mid-card titles and have them main event shows, particularly in the absence of a full-time champion.