IWGP Heavyweight Championship
The IWGP Heavyweight Championship (IWGPヘビー級王座 IWGP hebī-kyū ōza) is a professional wrestling world heavyweight championship owned by the New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) promotion. "IWGP" is the initialism of NJPW's governing body, the International Wrestling Grand Prix (インターナショナル・レスリング・グラン・プリ intānashonaru resuringu guran puri). The title was introduced on June 12, 1987, in the finals of an IWGP tournament. The current champion is Kazuchika Okada, who is in his fifth reign.
|IWGP Heavyweight Championship|
|Promotion||New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW)|
|Date established||June 12, 1987|
|Current champion(s)||Kazuchika Okada|
|Date won||April 6, 2019|
The championship has been represented by four different belts. The current fourth generation belt was introduced in March 2008. The title forms what has unofficially been called the "New Japan Triple Crown" (新日本トリプルクラウン Shin Nihon Toripuru Kuraun) along with the IWGP Intercontinental and NEVER Openweight Championships.
An early version of this championship was introduced in 1983 for the winner of the IWGP League 1983. Since then, the championship was defended annually against the winner of the IWGP League of the year. The current IWGP Heavyweight Championship arrived only in 1987, replacing the old version.
The current version is defended regularly and is the top championship of the NJPW.
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, Brock Lesnar was stripped of the title for refusing to defend it, claiming he was owed money by NJPW. The company went on to crown a new champion, while Lesnar kept the physical belt. He signed with Antonio Inoki's Inoki Genome Federation (IGF) in 2007, and lost the championship to Kurt Angle on the promotion's inaugural event. Angle later lost the belt in a unification match to the NJPW-recognized champion Shinsuke Nakamura in 2008.
Overall, there have been 69 reigns shared among 29 wrestlers. Title changes happen at NJPW-promoted events. Big Van Vader, Salman Hashimikov, Scott Norton, Bob Sapp, Brock Lesnar, A.J. Styles, Kenny Omega and Jay White are the eight non-Japanese wrestlers to have held the title, with Hashimikov being the first and only Soviet-born champion, while Omega is the first Canadian champion. The inaugural champion was Inoki, who defeated Masa Saito on June 12, 1987, in a tournament final. Hiroshi Tanahashi holds the record for most reigns, with eight. At 720 days, Kazuchika Okada's fourth reign is the longest in the title's history. Okada has the most successful defences in that reign with 12 and with a combined five reigns, also holds the record for most days as champion at 1,516. Kensuke Sasaki's fourth reign holds the record for shortest reign at 16 days. Over his five reigns, Okada successfully defended the title 29 times, the most of any champion. With zero, Big Van Vader's first and third reigns, Salman Hashimikov's only reign, Riki Choshu's first reign, Tatsumi Fujinami's third and fifth reigns, Masahiro Chono's only reign, Genichiro Tenryu's only reign, Scott Norton's second reign, Hiroyoshi Tenzan's first and third reigns, Kensuke Sasaki's fourth reign, Kazuyuki Fujita's third reign, Manabu Nakanishi's only reign, Hiroshi Tanahashi's eighth reign, and Jay White's only reign are all tied for least successful defenses.
|No.||Overall reign number|
|Reign||Reign number for the specific champion|
|Days||Number of days held|
|Defenses||Number of successful defenses|
|+||Current reign is changing daily|
|No.||Champion||Championship change||Reign statistics||Notes||Ref.|
|1||Antonio Inoki||June 12, 1987||IWGP Champion Series 1987||Tokyo, Japan||1||325||4||Inoki defeated Masa Saito in a tournament final.|
|—||Vacated||May 2, 1988||—||—||—||—||—||Vacated due to Inoki fracturing his left foot.|
|2||Tatsumi Fujinami||May 8, 1988||Super Fight Series 1988||Tokyo, Japan||1||19||1||Fujinami defeated Big Van Vader to win the vacant title.|
|—||Vacated||May 27, 1988||—||—||—||—||—||Title held up after defense against Riki Choshu ended in a no contest.|
|3||Tatsumi Fujinami||June 24, 1988||IWGP Champion Series 1988||Osaka, Japan||2||285||7||Fujinami defeated Riki Choshu to win the vacant title.|
|—||Vacated||April 5, 1989||—||—||—||—||—||Vacated so the title could be decided in a tournament.|
|4||Big Van Vader||April 24, 1989||Battle Satellite in Tokyo Dome||Tokyo, Japan||1||31||0||Vader defeated Shinya Hashimoto in a tournament final to win the vacant title.|
|5||Salman Hashimikov||May 25, 1989||Battle Satellite 1989 in Osaka Dome||Osaka, Japan||1||48||0|||
|6||Riki Choshu||July 12, 1989||Summer Fight Series 1989||Osaka, Japan||1||29||0|||
|7||Big Van Vader||August 10, 1989||New Japan Pro Wrestling||Tokyo, Japan||2||374||4|
|8||Riki Choshu||August 19, 1990||New Japan Pro Wrestling||Tokyo, Japan||2||129||1|
|9||Tatsumi Fujinami||December 26, 1990||King of Kings||Hamamatsu, Japan||3||22||0|
|10||Big Van Vader||January 17, 1991||New Year Dash 1991||Yokohama, Japan||3||46||0|
|11||Tatsumi Fujinami||March 4, 1991||Big Fight Series 1991||Hiroshima, Japan||4||306||3|||
|12||Riki Choshu||January 4, 1992||Super Warriors in Tokyo Dome||Tokyo, Japan||3||225||4||This match was also for Choshu's Greatest 18 Championship.|
|13||The Great Muta||August 16, 1992||G1 Climax Special 1992||Fukuoka, Japan||1||400||5||This was also for Choshu's Greatest 18 Championship.|
|14||Shinya Hashimoto||September 20, 1993||G1 Climax Special 1993||Nagoya, Japan||1||196||4|||
|15||Tatsumi Fujinami||April 4, 1994||Battle Line Kyushu||Hiroshima, Japan||5||27||0|
|16||Shinya Hashimoto||May 1, 1994||Wrestling Dontaku 1994||Fukuoka, Japan||2||367||9|
|17||Keiji Mutoh||May 3, 1995||Wrestling Dontaku 1995||Fukuoka, Japan||2||246||5||Mutoh previously won the title as The Great Muta.|||
|18||Nobuhiko Takada||January 4, 1996||Wrestling World 1996||Tokyo, Japan||1||116||1|
|19||Shinya Hashimoto||April 29, 1996||Battle Formation||Tokyo, Japan||3||489||7|
|20||Kensuke Sasaki||August 31, 1997||Final Power Hall in Yokohama||Yokohama, Japan||1||216||3|
|21||Tatsumi Fujinami||April 4, 1998||Antonio Inoki Retirement Show||Tokyo, Japan||6||126||2|
|22||Masahiro Chono||August 8, 1998||Rising the Next Generation in Osaka Dome||Osaka, Japan||1||44||0|
|—||Vacated||September 21, 1998||—||—||—||—||—||Title was vacated due to Chono's neck injury.|
|23||Scott Norton||September 23, 1998||Big Wednesday||Yokohama, Japan||1||103||4||Norton defeated Yuji Nagata to win the vacant title.|
|24||Keiji Mutoh||January 4, 1999||Wrestling World 1999||Tokyo, Japan||3||340||5|
|25||Genichiro Tenryu||December 10, 1999||Battle Final 1999||Osaka, Japan||1||25||0|||
|26||Kensuke Sasaki/Power Warrior||January 4, 2000||Wrestling World 2000||Tokyo, Japan||2||279||5|
|—||Vacated||October 9, 2000||—||—||—||—||—||Vacated after Sasaki lost a non-title match to Toshiaki Kawada at Do Judge!!.|
|27||Kensuke Sasaki||January 4, 2001||Wrestling World 2001||Tokyo, Japan||3||72||1||Sasaki defeated Toshiaki Kawada in a tournament final to win the vacant title.|
|28||Scott Norton||March 17, 2001||Hyper Battle 2001||Nagoya, Japan||2||23||0|
|29||Kazuyuki Fujita||April 9, 2001||Strong Style 2001||Osaka, Japan||1||270||2|||
|—||Vacated||January 4, 2002||—||—||—||—||—||Fujita vacated the title due to an injured achilles tendon.|
|30||Tadao Yasuda||February 16, 2002||Fighting Spirit 2002||Tokyo, Japan||1||48||1||Yasuda defeated Yuji Nagata in a tournament final to win the vacant title.|||
|31||Yuji Nagata||April 5, 2002||Toukon Special||Tokyo, Japan||1||392||10|
|32||Yoshihiro Takayama||May 2, 2003||Ultimate Crush||Tokyo, Japan||1||185||3||This match was also for Takayama's NWF Heavyweight Championship.|||
|33||Hiroyoshi Tenzan||November 3, 2003||Yokohama Dead Out||Yokohama, Japan||1||36||0|
|34||Shinsuke Nakamura||December 9, 2003||Battle Final 2003||Osaka, Japan||1||58||1||Nakamura defeated Yoshihiro Takayama to unify the IWGP Heavyweight Championship with the NWF Heavyweight Championship on January 4, 2004, at Wrestling World 2004.|
|—||Vacated||February 5, 2004||—||—||—||—||—||Title was vacated due to Nakamura suffering various injuries.|
|35||Hiroyoshi Tenzan||February 15, 2004||Fighting Spirit 2004||Tokyo, Japan||2||26||1||Tenzan defeated Genichiro Tenryu in a tournament final for the vacant title.|||
|36||Kensuke Sasaki||March 12, 2004||Hyper Battle 2004||Tokyo, Japan||4||16||0|
|37||Bob Sapp||March 28, 2004||King of Sports||Tokyo, Japan||1||66||1|
|—||Vacated||June 2, 2004||—||—||—||—||—||Title vacated after Sapp lost a K-1 fight to Kazuyuki Fujita.|
|38||Kazuyuki Fujita||June 5, 2004||The Crush II||Osaka, Japan||2||126||1||Fujita defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to win the vacant title.|
|39||Kensuke Sasaki||October 9, 2004||Pro-Wrestlers Be Strongest||Tokyo, Japan||5||64||2|
|40||Hiroyoshi Tenzan||December 12, 2004||Battle Final 2004||Nagoya, Japan||3||70||0|
|41||Satoshi Kojima||February 20, 2005||New Year Gold Series||Tokyo, Japan||1||83||1||This match was also for Kojima's Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship.|
|42||Hiroyoshi Tenzan||May 14, 2005||Nexess VI||Tokyo, Japan||4||65||1|
|43||Kazuyuki Fujita||July 18, 2005||Summer Fight Series 2005||Sapporo, Japan||3||82||0|||
|44||Brock Lesnar||October 8, 2005||Toukon Souzou New Chapter||Tokyo, Japan||1||280||3||This was a three-way match, also involving Masahiro Chono.|||
|—||Vacated||July 15, 2006||—||—||—||—||—||Title was vacated due to Lesnar refusing to return and defend it. Lesnar kept the physical championship belt, and later was recognized by the Inoki Genome Federation as their first champion, using the same belt.|||
|45||Hiroshi Tanahashi||July 17, 2006||Circuit2006 Turbulence||Sapporo, Japan||1||270||4||Tanahashi defeated Giant Bernard in a tournament final for the title.|||
|46||Yuji Nagata||April 13, 2007||Circuit2007 New Japan Brave tour||Osaka, Japan||2||178||2|
|47||Hiroshi Tanahashi||October 8, 2007||Explosion '07||Tokyo, Japan||2||88||1|||
|48||Shinsuke Nakamura||January 4, 2008||Wrestle Kingdom II in Tokyo Dome||Tokyo, Japan||2||114||2||Nakamura 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. Angle had previously defeated Brock Lesnar for the IGF version of the belt.|
|49||Keiji Mutoh||April 27, 2008||Circuit2008 New Japan Brave tour||Osaka, Japan||4||252||4|
|50||Hiroshi Tanahashi||January 4, 2009||Wrestle Kingdom III in Tokyo Dome||Tokyo, Japan||3||122||3|
|51||Manabu Nakanishi||May 6, 2009||Dissidence||Tokyo, Japan||1||45||0|
|52||Hiroshi Tanahashi||June 20, 2009||Dominion 6.20||Osaka, Japan||4||58||1|
|—||Vacated||August 17, 2009||—||—||—||—||—||Title vacated due to Tanahashi fracturing his eye socket.|
|53||Shinsuke Nakamura||September 27, 2009||Circuit2009 New Japan Generation tour||Kobe, Japan||3||218||6||Nakamura defeated Togi Makabe to win the vacant title.|
|54||Togi Makabe||May 3, 2010||Wrestling Dontaku 2010||Fukuoka, Japan||1||161||3|
|55||Satoshi Kojima||October 11, 2010||Destruction '10||Tokyo, Japan||2||85||1|
|56||Hiroshi Tanahashi||January 4, 2011||Wrestle Kingdom V in Tokyo Dome||Tokyo, Japan||5||404||11|
|57||Kazuchika Okada||February 12, 2012||The New Beginning||Osaka, Japan||1||125||2|
|58||Hiroshi Tanahashi||June 16, 2012||Dominion 6.16||Osaka, Japan||6||295||7|
|59||Kazuchika Okada||April 7, 2013||Invasion Attack||Tokyo, Japan||2||391||8|
|60||A.J. Styles||May 3, 2014||Wrestling Dontaku 2014||Fukuoka, Japan||1||163||2|
|61||Hiroshi Tanahashi||October 13, 2014||King of Pro-Wrestling||Tokyo, Japan||7||121||1|
|62||A.J. Styles||February 11, 2015||The New Beginning in Osaka||Osaka, Japan||2||144||1|
|63||Kazuchika Okada||July 5, 2015||Dominion 7.5 in Osaka-jo Hall||Osaka, Japan||3||280||3|
|64||Tetsuya Naito||April 10, 2016||Invasion Attack 2016||Tokyo, Japan||1||70||1|
|65||Kazuchika Okada||June 19, 2016||Dominion 6.19 in Osaka-jo Hall||Osaka, Japan||4||720||12|
|66||Kenny Omega||June 9, 2018||Dominion 6.9 in Osaka-jo Hall||Osaka, Japan||1||209||3||This was a no time limit two out of three falls match in which Omega won 2–1.|
|67||Hiroshi Tanahashi||January 4, 2019||Wrestle Kingdom 13 in Tokyo Dome||Tokyo, Japan||8||38||0|
|68||Jay White||February 11, 2019||The New Beginning in Osaka||Osaka, Japan||1||54||0|
|69||Kazuchika Okada||April 6, 2019||G1 Supercard||New York City, U.S.||5||221+||4||First time the title has changed hands outside of Japan.|
As of November 13, 2019.
|†||Indicates the current champion|
|1||Kazuchika Okada †||5||29||1,737+|
|3||Keiji Mutoh/The Great Muta||4||19||1,238|
|6||Kensuke Sasaki/Power Warrior||5||11||647|
|9||Big Van Vader||3||4||451|
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