The leader of the IMPERIUM stable boasts the longest tenure as NXT’s United Kingdom Champion and presently maintains the longest reign as Intercontinental Champion in 34 years.
Moreover, Gunther was officially crowned as the longest-reigning Intercontinental Champion in WWE history on the September 4 episode of WWE RAW. This historic recognition occurred as he defended his title in the main event against Chad Gable.
Notably, this defense took place just days before Gunther was set to surpass The Honky Tonk Man’s record for the longest reign as Intercontinental Champion.
— WWE (@WWE) September 5, 2023
The match against Chad Gable carried significance, given that Gable had previously dealt Gunther his first defeat on the WWE main roster by securing a count-out victory in their initial Intercontinental Championship encounter.
On June 10, 2022, Gunther embarked on his journey as the Intercontinental Champion by defeating Ricochet on an episode of SmackDown. As of September 8, his reign will reach 454 days. While The Honky Tonk Man’s reign also lasted 454 days.
GUNTHER has broken The Honky Tonk Man’s record and he now has the longest WWE Intercontinental Title reign in history. pic.twitter.com/P58g3ZGKDS
— Wrestling News (@WrestlingNewsCo) September 7, 2023
Gunther’s record-breaking reign will become official when he defends his title on September 8. Gunther has now surpassed The Honky Tonk Man’s record, establishing himself as the WWE Intercontinental Title’s longest-reigning Champion in history.
During his reign, Gunther actively defended his title against a roster of top-tier competitors. He faced Sheamus at Clash at the Castle and engaged in a Triple Threat match at WrestleMania 39 Night Two. He also took on Braun Strowman, Shinsuke Nakamura, Ricochet, and Matt Riddle in notable defenses of his Championship.
Honky Tonk Man’s Intercontinental record in WWE
Wrestlers like Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, The Rock, Steve Austin, Triple H, and others used the Intercontinental Championship as a stepping stone to the main event scene, showcasing their talents as mid-card Champions before ascending to the world title.
Although the Elvis impersonator Honky Tonk Man didn’t share the same background as these individuals, he still achieved championship success with a gimmick that some might argue had limited potential.
In 1987, Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage delivered a memorable title match at WrestleMania 3. However, it’s often overlooked that Steamboat’s Championship reign was short-lived, ending abruptly due to the Honky Tonk Man’s underhanded tactics.
Honky’s victory was a product of circumstances, as originally, Jake Roberts intended to defeat him for the title. As per reports, drug test issues prevented this outcome, ultimately paving the way for Honky Tonk Man’s iconic Championship run. It’s worth noting that Hulk Hogan played a pivotal role in persuading Vince McMahon to take a chance on giving Honky the Championship.
While the Intercontinental Championship typically served as a springboard to the main event, Honky Tonk Man’s gimmick and limited potential set him apart from past champions who used the title as a launchpad.
Throughout his reign, Honky Tonk Man secured controversial victories through underhanded tactics. He cheated his way to a win over Ricky Steamboat and skillfully defended against Brutus Beefcake’s attempts to shear his iconic hairdo.
However, his Championship reign came to an abrupt and unsatisfying conclusion when The Ultimate Warrior defeated him at SummerSlam 1988.