History has just been made by New Japan Pro Wrestling. On the second night of NJPW Castle Attack, Kota Ibushi successfully defended the IWGP Intercontinental Championship against Tetsuya Naito. Following the match, Ibushi was approached by El Desperado, who bested BUSHI and El Phantasmo for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship earlier in the night. Showing no fear, El Desperado challenged Ibushi at NJPW’s 48th Anniversary Show. In more surprising news, it was confirmed that the IWGP Intercontinental and Heavyweight Championships have been unified by NJPW.
The idea of unifying the IWGP Intercontinental and Heavyweight Titles has been touted by Ibushi in the past. However, up until recently, this has simply been an idea and little more. The news of the titles being confirmed came from Naoki Sugabayashi, the chairman of New Japan Pro Wrestling. With the two top singles championships in the company being unified, they will now be collectively known as the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship.
In a recent article by Tokyo Sports, Sugabayashi expanded on this decision. “As a result of discussions on the company side, we decided to respect the will of the current champion,” said Sugabayashi, which led to the creation of the IWGP World Heavyweight Title. In addition, the new championship will feature a unique look and an entirely new lineage. The winner of the 2021 New Japan Cup, which will carry out throughout March, will determine the first challenger for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship.
— NJPW Global (@njpwglobal) February 28, 2021
With the dissolving of the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, it can be argued that the NEVER Openweight Championship has risen as the new secondary title in New Japan Pro Wrestling. It is currently held by Hiroshi Tanahashi, who is not only considered one of the biggest stars in the company but recently retained against Great O-Khan at Castle Attack. Keep in mind that the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship, currently held by Jon Moxley, is being defended in America. This lends further credence to the idea that the NEVER Openweight Championship will be treated as the new secondary title in Japan.
Kota Ibushi, the inaugural IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, will face El Desperado at the NJPW 48th Anniversary Show. Their bout will be non-title.
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