New Japan News

Kota Ibushi Reiterates Desire To Unify IWGP Heavyweight And Intercontinental Titles

Kota Ibushi has made his first public appearance since leaving Wrestle Kingdom 15 with both the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Titles.

Speaking at New Japan’s press conference for their forthcoming ‘New Beginning’ shows, Ibushi doubled down on his post match statements from Wrestle Kingdom, stating his rationale for wanting to unify the two belts:

I do have one thing I want to say. I said this after the match on the fifth, but I want to put it out there again. I want to take these two belts and unify them. This isn’t something I take lightly. I have a big connection with this Intercontinental belt. And the Heavyweight Championship is the top prize in NJPW. But that said, I still want to make these two things into one. Last year, these belts were defended together, right? One belt didn’t change hands without the other. So if we take these two and make them one belt, that makes you the strongest and the best, all in one. Maybe not everyone can see it right now, but there’s no doubt in my mind, it’d make for something awesome. I have a big plan for this. So I’ll say it again, on the record. I want these two belts to be one.

The Golden Star was pressed on the specifics of his plan, in particular whether he envisaged one physical belt going forward and on the timescales of such a merger, given his looming February 11th showdown with SANADA:

(On there being one physical belt) If possible, I think that would be the best way. In the end, nobody challenged for just one title and not the other. I’m saying this even understanding the importance and the significance here. Maybe some people won’t be happy about it, but in the end, nobody went for just one title. Splitting the two back up would be confusing, so I think it’s really better to just have one. Maybe it might be different, a new design, perhaps, but that’s what I want to do here.

I’d ideally like it to happen as soon as possible. To all intents and purposes, these are one championship, correct? And it’s the same deal in this match against SANADA, so. I love them both with all my heart, but…

The IWGP Intercontinental Championship was established in 2011, with current RAW superstar MVP the inaugural champion following a three day tournament.

Prominent holders of the seemingly in-peril championship include Ibushi’s Wrestle Kingdom Night 1 foe Tetsuya Naito, who held the belt a record six times, and Shinsuke Nakamura, who registered the title’s longest reign at 313 days.

With thanks to New Japan Pro Wrestling for the transcript. Head over to njpw1972.com to read Ibushi’s full press conference comments.