IWGP Intercontinental Championship

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IWGP Intercontinental Championship
IWGP Intercontinental Championship.jpeg
IWGP Intercontinental Championship belt
(May 2011 — August 2012)
Details
Promotion New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW)
Date established January 5, 2011[2]
Current champion(s) Hiroshi Tanahashi
Date won June 11, 2017[1]

The IWGP Intercontinental Championship is a professional wrestling championship owned by the New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) promotion. "IWGP" is the acronym of NJPW's governing body, the International Wrestling Grand Prix.[8] The title was officially announced on January 5, 2011, and the inaugural champion was crowned during NJPW's first tour of the United States the following May. The title is unofficially considered part of the "New Japan Triple Crown" (新日本トリプルクラウン, Shin Nihon Toripuru Kuraun) along with the IWGP Heavyweight and NEVER Openweight Championships.[9]

Being a professional wrestling championship, the title is won as a result of a predetermined outcome. Overall, there have been sixteen reigns shared among ten wrestlers. Hiroshi Tanahashi is the current champion in his second reign, after defeating Tetsuya Naito on June 11, 2017.[1]

History[edit]

Championship tournament[edit]

On October 3, 2010, American promotion Jersey All Pro Wrestling announced that it had reached an agreement with NJPW for the promotion to run its first shows in the United States.[10] NJPW officially announced the NJPW Invasion Tour 2011: Attack on East Coast tour on January 4, 2011, with shows taking place on May 13 in Rahway, New Jersey, May 14 in New York City and May 15 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,[11] and the following day added that during the tour, the promotion would introduce the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, with the inaugural champion to be crowned in a tournament taking place over the three shows.[2] Participants for the tournament were announced on April 8, 2011. The list of participants included former World Wrestling Entertainment performer MVP, who had signed a contract with NJPW in January 2011, Kazuchika Okada, who had been on a learning excursion to American promotion Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) since February 2010, Hideo Saito, who had been on a similar tour of Puerto Rican World Wrestling Council since September 2010, former IWGP Tag Team and IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Tetsuya Naito and Yujiro Takahashi of No Limit, NJPW regulars Tama Tonga and Toru Yano and American independent worker Dan Maff, who made his first appearance for NJPW during the tour.[12] On May 6 it was announced that Tonga had suffered an injury, which would force him out of the tournament. He would be replaced by former TNA and Ring of Honor performer Josh Daniels.[13] On May 15, MVP defeated Yano in the finals of the tournament to become the inaugural champion.[3]

Tournament bracket
Round One
(May 13)
Semifinals
(May 14)
Final
(May 15)
                 
MVP Sub
Kazuchika Okada 12:45[14]
MVP Sub
Tetsuya Naito 10:57[15]
Josh Daniels Pin
Tetsuya Naito 12:28[14]
MVP Sub
Toru Yano 09:27[3]
Dan Maff Pin
Toru Yano 10:38[14]
Toru Yano Pin
Yujiro Takahashi 07:47[15]
Hideo Saito Pin
Yujiro Takahashi 08:28[14]

Nakamura and elevation[edit]

Shinsuke Nakamura, who held the title five times between 2012 and 2016

Through MVP's inaugural reign and the subsequent reigns of Masato Tanaka and Hirooki Goto,[16][17] the IWGP Intercontinental Championship was largely a midcard title, remaining firmly behind the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and IWGP Tag Team Championship in importance.[18][19][20] However, after Shinsuke Nakamura captured the title from Goto on July 22, 2012,[21] Nakamura was already a former three-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion and, with his first reign of 313 days, the title began gaining importance. Nakamura also made the title international again, defending it in both the United States and Mexico.[22][23] On May 31, 2013, while on tour with Mexican promotion Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre, with whom NJPW has a working relationship, Nakamura lost the title to La Sombra. This marked the first time the title had changed hands outside of NJPW.[24][25] Nakamura regained the title back in NJPW two months later on July 20, and in the process became the first two-time holder of the title.[26]

Nakamura continued elevating the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, culminating with the IWGP Intercontinental Championship match receiving top billing over the IWGP Heavyweight Championship match at NJPW's biggest annual event, Wrestle Kingdom 8 in Tokyo Dome on January 4, 2014,[27][28] where former multi-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi became the new champion.[29][30] Afterwards, Tokyo Sports wrote that the Intercontinental and Heavyweight Championships were now equals, while Dave Meltzer wrote that Nakamura and Tanahashi made the Intercontinental Championship feel like "the real world title belt".[31][32] Nakamura regained the title from Tanahashi in another main event match on April 6 at Invasion Attack 2014.[33][34][35] Nakamura's association with the championship continued to 2016, when he successfully defended it against former IWGP Heavyweight Champion A.J. Styles at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in Tokyo Dome.[36][37] On January 25, 2016, Nakamura was stripped of the title due to his departure from the promotion at the end of the month.[38][39][40]

From 2012 to 2016, Nakamura held the IWGP Intercontinental Championship for a record five times and defended it at four consecutive Wrestle Kingdom events.[41] The title was also associated with Nakamura as it was he who personally introduced the current title belt design shortly into his first reign in August 2012. He was outspokenly disapproving of the first belt design with bronze plates on a black strap for its resemblance to a 10 yen coin and saw it as a mockery of the IWGP.[21][42] The new design featured gold plates on a white strap. The white strap was unprecedented for the IWGP,[22] and symbolized a clean slate for its holder to add to and define.[43] Over the years, the title belt's physical condition got progressively worse, most notably during the reign of Tetsuya Naito, who began systematically destroying the belt, forcing NJPW to have it repaired in June 2017.[44][45]

Reigns[edit]

There have been sixteen reigns shared among ten wrestlers. MVP was the first champion in the title's history.[3] Shinsuke Nakamura holds the record for most reigns at five.[21][26][33][46][47] His first reign of 313 days is the longest reign in the title's history. La Sombra's only reign of 50 days is the shortest in the title's history. Hiroshi Tanahashi is the current champion in his second reign.[1]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]