Gunther is set to defend his Intercontinental Title against Drew McIntyre in a heavily anticipated match-up on the SummerSlam 2023 card.
Gunther’s excellent title run has once more increased the prestige of the belt and his bouts are often the highlight of each Premium Live Event card.
During the 1980s and 1990s, the Intercontinental Title was usually one of the most important bouts on any card. Like Gunther’s bouts, they were often the highlight of the show. The title had a deserved reputation as the workhorse belt.
This feature looks back at the five best 1990s Intercontinental Championship bouts at the hottest event of the summer.
#5 Owen Hart vs Stone Cold Steve Austin – SummerSlam 1997 (August 3, 1997)
Stone Cold Steve Austin was the fastest-rising star in the WWF in 1997. After a white-hot feud with Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart had concluded, Stone Cold continued his war with the Hart Foundation by challenging Owen Hart for the IC Title.
The pair were well on their way to contesting a minor classic when disaster struck. Hart held Stone Cold too low on a Piledriver and recklessly rammed ‘The Rattlesnake’ head first into the canvas. Stone Cold was temporarily paralysed and after communicating this to the referee, Hart played for time and berated the audience.
Austin managed to crawl and in an unconvincing spot rolled Hart up for the pin and title. The image of Austin gritting his teeth and raising the belt whilst in agonising pain retains its power over two decades on.
Prior to the injury, the bout had been a fast-paced display of holds and counter holds with a mix of brawling which had the New Jersey crowd on the edge of their seats.
Not the five-star classic it was on course to be pre-injury. However, it was a damn fine match before that and is historically significant given the injury propelled ‘The Rattlesnake’ to the top of the card and superstardom.
#4 The Rock vs Triple H – SummerSlam 1998 (August 30, 1998)
The Rock was on the verge of turning babyface and was just three short months from being crowned WWF Champion. Triple H had established himself as an upper mid-carder as the leader of D-X and had his own designs on main event stardom.
This led to both participants working hard to deliver a thrilling encounter. The ladder was used primarily as a weapon, given the fact neither man was a high flier, but this only added to the grudge match feel. There were some brutal shots with the ladder including The Rock nailing a Peoples Elbow onto it.
The finish came when Chyna low-blowed ‘The Brahma Bull’ allowing Triple H to claim the title.
Packed full of non-stop action, the contest was a 25-minute thrill ride that elevated both men in the eyes of the fans and set them on the road to headliner status.
#3 Shawn Michaels vs Razor Ramon – SummerSlam 1995 (August 27, 1995)
When Vince McMahon worried that SummerSlam 1995 was short of quality match-ups, he changed the Intercontinental Title match from Shawn Michaels versus Sycho Sid to Michaels versus Razor Ramon.
He also added the ladder stipulation to set up a re-match of their WrestleMania X classic the previous year.
The result was a scorching match-up which was even better than their ‘Mania collision. There were multiple ladders, more ladder spots, and several call-backs to their previous encounter which built and built to a logical conclusion.
Everyone knows the famous spot at WrestleMania X when Michaels performed a splash from the ladder onto Razor. However, in this bout, he bettered that with a breathtaking moonsault from the ladder.
The finish came when Michaels tipped Razor off a ladder and (eventually) retrieved the IC belt.
Phenomenal match; probably the best WWF match of 1995.
#2 Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart vs Mr Perfect – SummerSlam 1991 (August 26, 1991)
The Intercontinental Title match at SummerSlam was a star-making bout for tag team specialist, Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart.
In a gruelling 18-minute encounter, Hart and IC Champion, Mr. Perfect constructed a near-perfect technical collision that built to a stunning crescendo.
The pair exchanged multiple holds and counter holds in fluid sequences which were unlike anything WWF fans were used to seeing in the early 1990s.
The classic ending came when Hart reversed a leg drop into his patented Sharpshooter to earn the win and title via submission.
One of the best pure wrestling matches in WWF/E history.
#1 Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart vs The British Bulldog – SummerSlam 1992 (August 29, 1992)
31 years have now elapsed since the old Wembley Stadium in London, England played host to SummerSlam 1992. The headliner for that show was the famous Intercontinental Championship bout between incumbent champion, Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart and hometown hero, The British Bulldog.
Three decades on and the contest remains the finest match-up ever to take place at the summer spectacular.
The match was a work rate classic as Hart carried Bulldog to an expertly crafted technical wrestling battle which thrilled the electric London crowd for all of its 26-minute duration.
The story was simple yet logical. Hart’s sister and Bulldog’s wife, Diana was caught in the middle and conflicted as to who she supported in the high-stakes match, with the brother-in-laws determined to prove who was the better wrestler. Diana was stationed ringside which only added to the drama of the bout.
The match built expertly with some big moves being hit by both men down the home straight. Bulldog focussed on his power moves whilst Hart kept trying to outwrestle his opponent.
In the end, Bulldog’s greater power was decisive as he reversed a sunset flip and hooked the legs, and sat down on Hart for the clean pin and title. The ovation was deafening and the pinnacle of Bulldog’s long career.
A true masterpiece that incredibly has not dated at all in the past 31 years.
You can watch all of these SummerSlam matches exclusively on the WWE Network.