The WWE Intercontinental Championship a professional wrestling championship created and promoted by the American professional wrestling promotion WWE. Along with the WWE United States Championship, it is one of the two secondary titles of the promotion.
The championship was established by the then-World Wrestling Federation on September 1, 1979, after inaugural champion Pat Patterson unified (kayfabe) the WWF North American Heavyweight and South American Heavyweight championships. It is the third oldest championship currently active in WWE, behind the WWE Championship (1963) and United States Championship (1975), but the second oldest tenured championship, as the WWE has only owned the U.S. title since 2001. Although generally contested in the midcard at WWE shows, the Intercontinental Championship was defended in the main events of presentations such as WrestleMania VI, SummerSlam in 1992, the third and eighth In Your House shows, and Backlash in 2001. It has been called the "stepping stone" to a WWE world championship.
In November 2001, the then-WCW United States Championship was unified into the Intercontinental Championship. In 2002 after the first brand split, it became exclusive to Raw and the WWF was renamed WWE. Later that year, the European and Hardcore championships were unified into the Intercontinental Championship, which itself was unified into the World Heavyweight Championship. The following year, however, it was reactivated for Raw, followed by the United States Championship's reactivation as a counterpart title on SmackDown.
The WWE Intercontinental Championship was originally known as the World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship. Following the title's introduction in 1979, Pat Patterson became the inaugural champion on September 15. The title's creation came as a result of Patterson defeating Ted DiBiase to win the WWF North American Heavyweight Championship, and defending his title in a tournament to be unified with a South American Heavyweight Championship in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The title later became known as the WWF Intercontinental Championship.
Following the World Wrestling Federation's purchase of World Championship Wrestling in March 2001, the title was unified with the WCW United States Championship at Survivor Series 2001, causing the United States Championship to become inactive. The United States Champion, Edge, defeated the Intercontinental Champion, Test.
Following the WWF/WWE name change in 2002, the championship was further unified with the European Championship in a ladder match on July 22, and the Hardcore Championship on August 26. The Intercontinental Champion, Rob Van Dam, defeated the European Champion, Jeff Hardy, and the Hardcore Champion, [Tommy Dreamer]] respectively. As a result, Rob Van Dam was named the last European and Hardcore Champion. Then at No Mercy 2002, it was unified with the World Heavyweight Championship. The World Heavyweight Champion, Triple H, defeated the Intercontinental Champion, Kane, causing the Intercontinental Championship to become inactive. However, in May 2003, the title was reactivated by Raw co-General Manager, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and was recommissioned to be a secondary championship to the Raw brand. Shortly after, the WCW United States Championship was reactivated as the WWE United States Championship by the SmackDown brand, making the title its counterpart. During the 2009 WWE Draft on April 13, 2009, reigning champion Rey Mysterio was drafted to SmackDown, making the Intercontinental Championship exclusive to that brand.
The inaugural champion was Pat Patterson, who became champion after unifying his North American Championship with a "South American Heavyweight Championship" in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in September 1979. Chris Jericho holds the most reigns with nine. The Honky Tonk Man is the longest reigning champion at 454 days while Triple H is the shortest reigning champion by unifying the title with the World Heavyweight Championship immediately after winning. Ric Flair was the oldest champion, while Jeff Hardy was the youngest champion. Big Show was the heaviest champion while Rey Mysterio was the lightest champion. Chyna is the only woman in history to win the title.