IWGP Heavyweight Championship
|IWGP Heavyweight Championship|
A.J. Styles, the current holder of the title, with the belt in May 2014.
|Current champion(s)||A.J. Styles|
|Date won||May 3, 2014|
|Date established||June 12, 1987|
|Promotion||New Japan Pro Wrestling|
The International Wrestling Grand Prix (IWGP) Heavyweight Championship is the top professional wrestling title in Japanese promotion New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). It was created in 1987 with NJPW founder Antonio Inoki defeating Masa Saito in the finals of the annual IWGP tournament.
Throughout the history of the championship, several wrestlers have been forced to relinquish the title due to an inability to participate in title defenses. When a wrestler has been injured or unable to compete for other reasons, tournaments have been held to determine the new champion.
In 2006, then-champion Brock Lesnar was stripped of the title for being unable to defend it; however, Lesnar claims he was owed money by NJPW and kept the physical belt. He signed with Antonio Inoki's Inoki Genome Federation (IGF) in 2007, losing the championship to Kurt Angle on the inaugural broadcast. Angle later lost the belt in a unification match to the NJPW-recognized champion Shinsuke Nakamura in 2008.
Title reigns are determined either by professional wrestling matches featuring wrestlers involved in pre-existing scripted feuds, plots and storylines or by other scripted circumstances, where wrestlers were awarded the title. Wrestlers are portrayed as either villains or fan favorites as they followed a series of tension-building events, which culminated in a wrestling match or series of matches for the championship. The inaugural champion was Antonio Inoki, who beat Masa Saito on June 12, 1987. Hiroshi Tanahashi and Tatsumi Fujinami share the record for most reigns with six. Shinya Hashimoto's 489 days is the longest reign in the title's history. Shinsuke Nakamura is the youngest champion at 23 years and 288 days, while Genichiro Tenryu is the oldest champion at 49 years and 311 days. Overall, there have been a total of 26 recognized champions, who have had a combined 60 official reigns.
|Reign||The reign number for the specific set of wrestlers listed.|
|Event||The event promoted by the respective promotion in which the title was won|
|Successful defenses||The number of successful defenses the champion had during his reign|
|N/A||The specific information is not known|
|—||Used for vacated reigns in order to not count it as an official reign|
Statistics correct as of September 21, 2014
|1||Inoki, AntonioAntonio Inoki||1||June 12, 1987||325||Tokyo, Japan||Summer Big Fight Series 1987||4||Defeated Masa Saito in a tournament final.|
|—||Vacated||1||May 2, 1988||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||Vacated due to Inoki fracturing his left foot.|
|2||Fujinami, TatsumiTatsumi Fujinami||1||May 8, 1988||19||Tokyo, Japan||Super Fight Series 1988||1||Defeated Big Van Vader.|
|—||Vacated||1||May 27, 1988||N/A||Sendai, Japan||N/A||N/A||Held up after a title defense against Riki Chōshū ended in a no contest.|
|3||Fujinami, TatsumiTatsumi Fujinami||2||June 24, 1988||285||Osaka, Japan||IWGP Champion Series 1988||7||Defeated Riki Chōshū in a rematch.|
|—||Vacated||1||April 5, 1989||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||Vacated so the title could be decided in a tournament.|
|4||Big Van Vader||1||April 24, 1989||31||Tokyo, Japan||Battle Satellite in Tokyo Dome||0||Defeated Shinya Hashimoto in a tournament final with Lou Thesz as the special referee.|
|5||Hashimikov, SalmanSalman Hashimikov||1||May 25, 1989||48||Osaka, Japan||Battle Satellite 1989 in Osaka Dome||0|
|6||Chōshū, RikiRiki Chōshū||1||July 12, 1989||29||Osaka, Japan||House show||0|
|7||Big Van Vader||2||August 10, 1989||374||Tokyo, Japan||House show||4|
|8||Chōshū, RikiRiki Chōshū||2||August 19, 1990||129||Tokyo, Japan||House show||1|
|9||Fujinami, TatsumiTatsumi Fujinami||3||December 26, 1990||22||Hamamatsu, Japan||King of Kings||0|
|10||Big Van Vader||3||January 17, 1991||46||Yokohama, Japan||New Year Dash 1991||0|
|11||Fujinami, TatsumiTatsumi Fujinami||4||March 4, 1991||306||Hiroshima, Japan||Big Fight Series 1991||3|
|12||Chōshū, RikiRiki Chōshū||3||January 4, 1992||225||Tokyo, Japan||Starrcade 1992 in Tokyo Dome||4||This match was also for Chōshū's Greatest 18 Championship.|
|13||The Great Muta||1||August 16, 1992||400||Fukuoka, Japan||G1 Climax Special 1992||5||This was also for Chōshū's Greatest 18 Championship.|
|14||Hashimoto, ShinyaShinya Hashimoto||1||September 20, 1993||196||Nagoya, Japan||G1 Climax Special 1993||4|
|15||Fujinami, TatsumiTatsumi Fujinami||5||April 4, 1994||27||Hiroshima, Japan||Battle Line Kyushu||0|
|16||Hashimoto, ShinyaShinya Hashimoto||2||May 1, 1994||367||Fukuoka, Japan||Wrestling Dontaku 1994||9|
|17||Mutoh, KeijiKeiji Mutoh
(formerly The Great Muta)
|2||May 3, 1995||246||Fukuoka, Japan||Wrestling Dontaku 1995||5|
|18||Takada, NobuhikoNobuhiko Takada||1||January 4, 1996||116||Tokyo, Japan||Wrestling World 1996||1|
|19||Hashimoto, ShinyaShinya Hashimoto||3||April 29, 1996||489||Tokyo, Japan||Battle Formation||7|
|20||Sasaki, KensukeKensuke Sasaki||1||August 31, 1997||216||Yokohama, Japan||Final Power Hall in Yokohama||3|
|21||Fujinami, TatsumiTatsumi Fujinami||6||April 4, 1998||126||Tokyo, Japan||Antonio Inoki Retirement Show||2|
|22||Chono, MasahiroMasahiro Chono||1||August 8, 1998||44||Osaka, Japan||Rising the Next Generation in Osaka Dome||0|
|—||Vacated||1||September 21, 1998||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||Vacated due to Chono's neck injury.|
|23||Norton, ScottScott Norton||1||September 23, 1998||103||Yokohama, Japan||Big Wednesday||4||Defeated Yuji Nagata to win the vacant title.|
|24||Mutoh, KeijiKeiji Mutoh||3||January 4, 1999||340||Tokyo, Japan||Wrestling World 1999||5|
|25||Tenryu, GenichiroGenichiro Tenryu||1||December 10, 1999||25||Osaka, Japan||Battle Final 1999||0|||
|26||Sasaki, KensukeKensuke Sasaki||2||January 4, 2000||279||Tokyo, Japan||Wrestling World 2000||5|
|—||Vacated||1||October 9, 2000||N/A||Tokyo, Japan||N/A||N/A||Vacated after Sasaki lost a non-title match to Toshiaki Kawada at Do Judge!!.|
|27||Sasaki, KensukeKensuke Sasaki||3||January 4, 2001||72||Tokyo, Japan||Wrestling World 2001||1||Defeated Toshiaki Kawada in a tournament final.|
|28||Norton, ScottScott Norton||2||March 17, 2001||23||Nagoya, Japan||Hyper Battle 2001||0|
|29||Fujita, KazuyukiKazuyuki Fujita||1||April 9, 2001||270||Osaka, Japan||Strong Style||2|
|—||Vacated||1||January 4, 2002||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||Vacated due to an injured achilles tendon.|
|30||Yasuda, TadaoTadao Yasuda||1||February 16, 2002||48||Tokyo, Japan||Fighting Spirit 2002||1||Defeated Yuji Nagata in a tournament final.|
|31||Nagata, YujiYuji Nagata||1||April 5, 2002||392||Tokyo, Japan||Toukon Special||10|
|32||Takayama, YoshihiroYoshihiro Takayama||1||May 2, 2003||185||Tokyo, Japan||Ultimate Crush||3||Was also for Takayama's NWF Heavyweight Championship.|
|33||Tenzan, HiroyoshiHiroyoshi Tenzan||1||November 3, 2003||36||Yokohama, Japan||Yokohama Dead Out||0|
|34||Nakamura, ShinsukeShinsuke Nakamura||1||December 9, 2003||58||Osaka, Japan||Battle Final 2003||1||Defeated Yoshihiro Takayama to unify the IWGP Heavyweight Championship with the NWF Heavyweight Championship on January 4, 2004, at Wrestling World 2004.|
|—||Vacated||1||February 5, 2004||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||Vacated due to various injuries.|
|35||Tenzan, HiroyoshiHiroyoshi Tenzan||2||February 15, 2004||26||Tokyo, Japan||Fighting Spirit 2004||1||Defeated Genichiro Tenryu in a tournament final.|
|36||Sasaki, KensukeKensuke Sasaki||4||March 12, 2004||16||Tokyo, Japan||Hyper Battle 2004||0|
|37||Sapp, BobBob Sapp||1||March 28, 2004||66||Tokyo, Japan||King of Sports||1|
|—||Vacated||1||June 2, 2004||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||Vacated after Sapp lost a K-1 fight to Kazuyuki Fujita.|
|38||Fujita, KazuyukiKazuyuki Fujita||2||June 5, 2004||126||Osaka, Japan||The Crush II||1||Defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to win the vacant title.|
|39||Sasaki, KensukeKensuke Sasaki||5||October 9, 2004||64||Tokyo, Japan||Pro-Wrestlers Be Strongest||2|
|40||Tenzan, HiroyoshiHiroyoshi Tenzan||3||December 12, 2004||70||Nagoya, Japan||Battle Final 2004||0|
|41||Kojima, SatoshiSatoshi Kojima||1||February 20, 2005||83||Tokyo, Japan||New Year Gold Series||1||This match was also for Kojima's Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship.|
|42||Tenzan, HiroyoshiHiroyoshi Tenzan||4||May 14, 2005||65||Tokyo, Japan||Nexess VI||1|
|43||Fujita, KazuyukiKazuyuki Fujita||3||July 18, 2005||82||Sapporo, Japan||Summer Fight Series||0|
|44||Lesnar, BrockBrock Lesnar||1||October 8, 2005||280||Tokyo, Japan||Toukon Souzou New Chapter||3||This was a three–way match that also included Masahiro Chono.|
|—||Vacated||1||July 15, 2006||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||Vacated due to Lesnar being unable to defend the title because of "problems with a working visa". Lesnar refuses to turn over the championship belt, and later is recognized by the Inoki Genome Federation as their first champion, using the same belt.|
|45||Tanahashi, HiroshiHiroshi Tanahashi||1||July 17, 2006||270||Sapporo, Japan||Circuit2006 Turbulence||4||Defeated Giant Bernard in a tournament final.|
|46||Nagata, YujiYuji Nagata||2||April 13, 2007||178||Osaka, Japan||Circuit2007 New Japan Brave tour||2|
|47||Tanahashi, HiroshiHiroshi Tanahashi||2||October 8, 2007||88||Tokyo, Japan||Explosion '07||1|||
|48||Nakamura, ShinsukeShinsuke Nakamura||2||January 4, 2008||114||Tokyo, Japan||Wrestle Kingdom II in Tokyo Dome||2||Defeated Kurt Angle on February 17, 2008 on the Circuit2008 New Japan Ism tour to unify the NJPW and IGF versions of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.|
|49||Mutoh, KeijiKeiji Mutoh||4||April 27, 2008||252||Osaka, Japan||Circuit2008 New Japan Brave tour||4|
|50||Tanahashi, HiroshiHiroshi Tanahashi||3||January 4, 2009||122||Tokyo, Japan||Wrestle Kingdom III in Tokyo Dome||3|
|51||Nakanishi, ManabuManabu Nakanishi||1||May 6, 2009||45||Tokyo, Japan||Dissidence||0|
|52||Tanahashi, HiroshiHiroshi Tanahashi||4||June 20, 2009||58||Osaka, Japan||Dominion 6.20||1|
|—||Vacated||1||August 17, 2009||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||Vacated due to Tanahashi fracturing his eye socket.|
|53||Nakamura, ShinsukeShinsuke Nakamura||3||September 27, 2009||218||Kobe, Japan||Circuit2009 New Japan Generation tour||6||Defeated Togi Makabe to win the vacant title.|
|54||Makabe, TogiTogi Makabe||1||May 3, 2010||161||Fukuoka, Japan||Wrestling Dontaku 2010||3|
|55||Kojima, SatoshiSatoshi Kojima||2||October 11, 2010||85||Tokyo, Japan||Destruction '10||1|
|56||Tanahashi, HiroshiHiroshi Tanahashi||5||January 4, 2011||404||Tokyo, Japan||Wrestle Kingdom V in Tokyo Dome||11|
|57||Okada, KazuchikaKazuchika Okada||1||February 12, 2012||125||Osaka, Japan||The New Beginning (2012)||2|
|58||Tanahashi, HiroshiHiroshi Tanahashi||6||June 16, 2012||295||Osaka, Japan||Dominion 6.16||7|
|59||Okada, KazuchikaKazuchika Okada||2||April 7, 2013||391||Tokyo, Japan||Invasion Attack (2013)||8|
|60||Styles, A.J.A.J. Styles||1||May 3, 2014||141+||Fukuoka, Japan||Wrestling Dontaku 2014||2|
List of combined reigns
As of September 21, 2014
|†||Indicates the current champion|
|Rank||Wrestler||No. of reigns||Combined
|1||Mutoh, KeijiKeiji Mutoh||4||19||1,238|
|2||Tanahashi, HiroshiHiroshi Tanahashi||6||27||1,237|
|3||Hashimoto, ShinyaShinya Hashimoto||3||20||1,052|
|4||Fujinami, TatsumiTatsumi Fujinami||6||13||785|
|5||Sasaki, KensukeKensuke Sasaki||5||9||647|
|6||Nagata, YujiYuji Nagata||2||12||570|
|7||Okada, KazuchikaKazuchika Okada||2||10||516|
|8||Fujita, KazuyukiKazuyuki Fujita||3||3||478|
|9||Big Van Vader||3||4||451|
|10||Nakamura, ShinsukeShinsuke Nakamura||3||9||390|
|11||Chōshū, RikiRiki Chōshū||3||5||383|
|12||Inoki, AntonioAntonio Inoki||1||4||325|
|13||Lesnar, BrockBrock Lesnar||1||3||280|
|14||Tenzan, HiroyoshiHiroyoshi Tenzan||4||2||197|
|15||Takayama, YoshihiroYoshihiro Takayama||1||3||185|
|16||Kojima, SatoshiSatoshi Kojima||2||2||168|
|17||Makabe, TogiTogi Makabe||1||3||161|
|18||Styles, A.J.A.J. Styles†||1||2||141+|
|19||Norton, ScottScott Norton||2||4||126|
|20||Takada, NobuhikoNobuhiko Takada||1||1||116|
|21||Sapp, BobBob Sapp||1||1||66|
|22||Hashimikov, SalmanSalman Hashimikov||1||0||48|
|22||Yasuda, TadaoTadao Yasuda||1||1||48|
|24||Nakanishi, ManabuManabu Nakanishi||1||0||45|
|25||Chono, MasahiroMasahiro Chono||1||0||44|
|26||Tenryu, GenichiroGenichiro Tenryu||1||0||25|
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