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 - Bill Camp

Boy how the months seem to melt away. Anyway, last month I said I would talk about the history of the Intercontinental Title, so here goes.  The title actually gets its start as North American Heavyweight Title.  Why they changed the name I have no idea.  But it all started when Ted DiBiase, a hot young prospect who was tearing things up in the Mid-South territory, appeared on WWF television as the North American Champion sometime in 1979.  Perhaps they were cashing in on DiBiase’s recognition with the Mid-South, since their championship was the North American Title, but at the time DiBiase arrived, he wasn't their champion; Mr. Wrestling II probably was. In fact DiBiase hadn’t been the champion since 1976.

Anyway, DiBiase was a consummate babyface, and Bill Watts, who just took over the Mid-South territory was probably looking to get him some national exposure by sending him to other promotions, and to be recognized by the WWF was something special indeed.  After appearing in arenas and on television for about 6 months, the WWF decided to take the title off DiBiase.  Enter Pat Patterson.

Patterson was managed by The Grand Wizard of Wrestling then, which meant he was an automatic World Title contender then.  Patterson was a heck of a worker then too.  He went on television in Allentown, PA and won the belt from Ted DiBiase with the help of some brass knuckles on June 19, 1979.

A lot changed during Patterson’s reign.  The Wiz traded him off to Capt. Lou Albano, but Patterson balked at the trade, and refused to be managed by “that slob.”  Subsequently, Patterson turned babyface, and began defending the belt against heels.  But then they decided to sever the belt’s ties to Mid-South (which were, in actuality, non existent anyway), and drop the North American Title all together.  They held a phantom tournament in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, the traditional place for phantom tournaments in the WWF going back to Buddy Rogers’ first World Title win for the group.  The result was Patterson announced as being the first ever Intercontinental Champion sometime in September of 1979.  In an interesting sidenote, Japanese wrestler Seiji Sakaguchi won the (technically defunct) North American title on November 8, 1979 in Otaru, Japan, but was never recognized in the title’s namesake.  By March of 1981 the title was no longer active even in the Orient.

One of the heels he defended against was a former Olympic weightlifter named Ken Patera.  Yeah, I know the commentators sometimes said he won medals, but he didn’t.  Still, it’s quite a feat to just make it as far as the Olympics, and his greatness should not be tarnished over that fact.  Anyway, Patera was seen as something of a monster at that time, and rightfully so.  He looked awesomely strong and was another protégé of The Grand Wizard of Wrestling.  So on April 21, 1980, Ken Patera ended a near one year title reign by Patterson with a bearhug.

It would take a real superstar to beat Patera, who even escaped challenges from Bruno Sammartino with his title in tact.  So when Pedro Morales made his triumphant return to the WWF he seemed like the man to do it.  That was the beauty of having so few former World Champions back then; they were something special because they were in such an elite class.  But all at one time, the WWF had every babyface World champion the promotion ever had up to that time: current champ Bobby Backlund, Pedro Morales, and Bruno Sammartino were all running around the horn at the same time.  Anyway, Pedro had a series of matches with Patera at New York’s Madison Square Garden, and had a tough time resting the belt off of him, but finally, on December 8, 1980, Morales was crowned the new champion.

Morales met one tough challenger in Greg Valentine, who on national television, suplexed him on the concrete floor.  Not those wimpy pads they have on floors surrounding the ring today, he was suplexed on the concrete!  That set up a hot feud, and further established Valentine as a demolition man, who already injured Jay Strongbow’s leg, and was challenging Backlund for the title (not necessarily in that order).  More...

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