10 future Intercontinental Champions
The Intercontinental Championship has been one of sports-entertainment’s most coveted prizes for 40 years. Many of the Superstars who have held it have gone on to become WWE Champions and WWE Hall of Famers. But right now, we’re looking toward the future.
Shinsuke Nakamura was the latest Superstar to capture the title for the very first time and etch his name into history when he bested Finn Bálor in July. Could one of these Superstars be the next to follow The King of Strong Style into the history books? WWE.com’s editors weighed in on why these 10 grapplers will be holding the Intercontinental Championship sooner rather than later.
Ali rarely enjoys a size advantage, but he pours his heart and soul into every match, and despite suffering some adversity (Randy Orton’s boot prevented him from stepping into the Elimination Chamber earlier this year), the aerialist has bounced back and come agonizingly close to capturing several championships, having competed in bouts for the WWE Title, Cruiserweight Championship and, yes, the Intercontinental Title.
Simply put, Ali is due to break through in a championship fight. Given his propensity for soaring through the skies with the 054 and other breathtaking aerial attacks, as well as possessing the dogged determination and endurance required to go toe-to-toe with WWE’s best in long matches, Ali is the perfect Superstar to carry the prestigious workhorse title.
Once he has the gold, 30-minute masterpieces and booming chants of “This-is-awe-some” won’t be far behind. – JON CHIK
As proven by his recent string of Match of the Year contenders with the likes of Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan, Buddy Murphy is clearly on the upward climb. Already an unquestioned workhorse of WWE, it only makes sense that WWE’s Best Kept Secret begins literally and figuratively hustling his way toward the workhorse title.
He was a powerhouse on 205 Live, where he dominated as Cruiserweight Champion, and heavyweight titles are undoubtedly in Murphy’s future. In the Intercontinental Title’s case, it’ll be around his waist sooner than later. — RYAN PAPPOLLA
LOOK, I COULD JUST TYPE “ONEY LORCAN LOVES TO KICK A**. THROW ‘EM UP.” AND THAT WOULD BE ENOUGH JUSTIFICATION AS TO WHY THE BOSTON BRAWLER IS GOING TO BE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION SOMEDAY, RIGHT? BUT THAT’S NOT DOING ONEY JUSTICE. LORCAN’S ONE OF THE HARDEST-HITTING SUPERSTARS IN WWE. NOT TOO MANY PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO LIVE UNDER A PARK BENCH TO GET READY FOR A FIGHT IN THE RING. ONEY ONCE GOT SO FIRED UP ABOUT A MATCH THAT HE TOLD MR. MCMAHON TO “ROCK ‘N’ ROLL.”
YOU CAN’T DENY THAT TYPE OF INTENSITY. DON’T BE SURPRISED IF THE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP DECORATES LORCAN’S PARK BENCH IN THE NEAR FUTURE. OH YEAH, ONE MORE THING: ONEY RULES. – BOBBY MELOK
Once a fierce campaigner of bringing a more grounded and technical style of competition to WWE 205 Live, Drew Gulak changed his entire game in 2019 when he ditched the slogans and focused on being the best and most ruthless competitor in the squared circle. Gulak’s strategy paid dividends when he captured the WWE Cruiserweight Championship at WWE Stomping Grounds 2019. He soon declared that his change is what led him there, that change is the rule of law and that he is the law. It’s that same attitude – and The Philadelphia Stretcher’s ability and confidence – that puts him in the running as a future Intercontinental Champion. Gulak’s technical acumen already puts him in the same category of great Intercontinental Champions like Bret “Hit Man” Hart and Mr. Perfect, and if Gulak truly is the law, there’s no stopping his eventual rise to Intercontinental glory. – KEVIN POWERS
Tyler Bate’s chances of becoming Intercontinental Champion in the future stand at 100 percent for the sole reason that he is the very definition of a workhorse and is therefore destined to hold the workhorse title. In his short time with WWE, The Big Strong Boi has already battled his way through an elite tournament to become the first-ever United Kingdom Champion at age 19, making him the youngest competitor to hold a singles title in WWE history. He’s also a former NXT Tag Team Champion alongside his Moustache Mountain cohort Trent Seven and has proven himself week in and week out on NXT and NXT UK, including an almost supernatural effort against U.K. Champion WALTER at NXT UK Takeover: Cardiff. Translation: The Intercontinental Title is nothing more than a matter of time and logistics. – MIKE BURDICK
If you aren’t familiar with former WWE United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne, here are the Cliff’s Notes: The 5-foot-10 BruiserWeight boasts a vicious in-ring style that can cut down any opponent of any size. He’s a ruthless brawler with the creativity to torment the opposition. Still only a 25-year-old, Dunne simply cannot be intimidated, making him a threat to anyone standing on the other side of a 20x20.
Plus, his 685-day reign as UK Champion is the longest of anyone since 1984, so if he ever captures the Intercontinental Title, good luck prying it from his teeth. — JEFF LABOON
If you took the best qualities from Intercontinental Champions of the past and molded them into a Superstar, it would take the form of Velveteen Dream. With charisma like The Rock, the in-ring ability of Shawn Michaels and a wardrobe that rivals “Macho Man” Randy Savage, no Superstar’s future is brighter than the NXT North American Champion. HBK himself said the sky’s the limit for the Vainglorious Superstar. Every time he enters the ring, he puts on a show-stealing experience, which is why it’s only a matter of time before the Intercontinental Title is around the waist of The Dream. – MATT ZIMMER
After delivering Rey Mysterio a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match defeat so humiliating that it almost made The Ultimate Underdog hang up his mask for good, Andrade cemented himself as the supreme Superstar to watch, and this ruthless competitor – with the guidance of the equally cunning Zelina Vega – is primed to wear WWE’s prestigious Intercontinental Championship, joining such iconic Latino titleholders as Pedro Morales, Tito Santana, Eddie Guerrero and, yes, even Mysterio. But when it comes to Andrade, it’s not about honoring the great champions of the past, nor is it about celebrating one’s own past accomplishments. It’s about forging ahead by any means necessary, because the future is here, and it’s “tranquillo.” – JAMES WORTMAN
Apollo Crews is ready to break down the door and convert recent close results against some of WWE’s best into Intercontinental Championship success. Last month on SmackDown LIVE, Crews took current Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura to the brink and would welcome the opportunity to pay back the cheap shots The King of Strong Style delivered following the non-title match. Crews’ top-level mix of athleticism and power is reminiscent of previous Intercontinental Champions such as Bobby Lashley and Kurt Angle. Now, with a name like Apollo, Crews is ready to join the WWE mythology of greats. – BRAD ZAK
Reigning WWE United Kingdom Champion WALTER is custom-made for the Intercontinental Title. Given the championship’s reputation as the purist’s title — a prize especially coveted by hard-hitting technicians — it’s hard to fathom a more suitable Superstar to carry the title than The Ring General, who treats the sport of wrestling about as seriously as a widow planning a wake. It’s not so much a question of if WALTER will capture the title at some point, but when he’ll win it. Also, considering his dominant reign thus far as the U.K. Champion, it’s entirely possible he’ll be a dual champion by the time that milestone occurs. – JOHN CLAPP