New Japan Pro Wrestling have announced that the new IWGP World Heavyweight Championship belt will be revealed on the March 30th ‘Road to Sakura Genesis’ event.
The reveal will come just days before champion Kota Ibushi will make his first defense on the title against New Japan Cup winner, Will Ospreay.
Ibushi spoke of his desire to unify the two belts in the immediate aftermath of his Wrestle Kingdom victory over former champion Tetsuya Naito, noting how the belts had essentially been defended in the tandem for over a year prior to his title win.
Both championships saw one final defense, at least in their current form(s), with Ibushi defending the Intercontinental belt against Naito, the man synonymous with it, and the IWGP Heavyweight against current Junior Heavyweight kingpin, El Desperado.
With the new lineage beginning at Sakura Genesis, the curtain will come down on two of New Japan’s premier singles titles.
The IWGP Heavyweight Championship was established in June, 1987, with company founder Antonio Inoki installed as the inaugural champion following a tournament.
The Intercontinental belt was introduced more recently, with MVP being the man to lift the gold following another tournament in January of 2011.
In a recent interview, champion Ibushi acknowledged that the decision might not be for everyone but rationalised that this was a ‘new belt for a new era’:
I want there to just be one title. I don’t know about the specifics, but I want the IWGP name to remain, and make a new championship. Things are changing, and I really want a new belt for a new era.
The IWGP heavyweight Championship is the very representation of NJPW. The Intercontinental Championship, as far as I’m concerned is the belt that Shinsuke Nakamura made. I have a lot of love for both, and what they each represent. Maybe that isn’t getting through to some people as much as I want it to; I think there are a lot of people that aren’t necessarily all for this, I respect that.
To catch a glimpse of the new title, and the history that comes with it, you can watch The Road to Sakura Genesis on March 30th, live on New Japan’s subscription streaming service New Japan World.