Last week it was announced after Ibushi defeated Naito that the IWGP World and Intercontinental championships have been unified. Ibushi will be awarded a new IWGP World Championship prior to his first official title defense at Sakura Genesis on April 4. Since Wrestle Kingdom 14, have been held by the same wrestler. At first Tetsuya Naito defended them together for the next year before losing them for a brief time to Evil before regaining the championships. Naito just dropped the gold to the Ibushi at Wrestle Kingdom 15 earlier this year and after defeating Naito at the end of February he's gotten his wish. Prior to the match Ibushi had shown his desire to unify both championships while Naito wanted to split the World and Intercontinental titles back up again.
In addition to the new belt design that will arrive on April 4, the IWGP World Title will bring forward the title lineages of the belts it replaces. This will officially close the book on the lineages of the IWGP World Title and Intercontinental championships. Capping the title history of both titles at thirty four and ten years respectively. In my opinion, it is never a bad idea for a company to scale back on championships to avoid oversaturation. Either way it is an interesting way to bring a new era into existence for one of wrestling's top promotions.
In 2019 the wrestling world in America turned upside down when All Elite Wrestling was founded, but this also turned wrestling upside down again in New Japan. The last time that New Japan was in 2016 when four stars would leave for WWE. With the Young Bucks, Cody, and Kenny Omega all leaving New Japan it left a major void in the roster. In the last twelve months Kota Ibushi has stepped into the role once occupied by his former tag team partner. Moxley would fill that void the best he can but his run in New Japan has been snake bite from the start for various reasons outside of the both parties control.
Stepping back and looking at the last twelve months I've praised in the past how New Japan handled the current situation plaguing the world. Due to this situation it has forced New Japan to lean more heavy on the home roster as opposed to looking to international superstars. Even without those names that walked away there is still a number of credibility within the ranks of New Japan and a tremendous amount of depth among roster filled with proven commodities.
In the past New Japan had kept the king on the throne for a little to long which ended up hurting them in the long run, because they never let fresh talent come through until it was too late and then they had to go through a re-build period. Tanahashi stepped back to allow Okada to take the reigns and after a dynasty of domination from Okada it is now Ibushi's time to take the reigns maybe not as the "Ace" of New Japan, but definitely as the leader of the promotion.
New Japan will recover and find normalcy just like every other promotion still find their way in this current societal climate. How will a possible working agreement with All Elite Wrestling help shape the future of New Japan in the still new years. The main question is which American stars would like to see end up ending heading to New Japan when the opportunity to travel intentionally returns for wrestlers?
I have spoken about New Japan on the website since the fall and they have been one of the many victims of the change in activity on the site. However, seeing as though we now have a new IWGP Junior heavyweight champion it is worth sharing the results. In a match consisting of Bushi, El Despardo and El Phantasmo we have the newest champion that being El Despardo who is now a double champion in New Japan holding both the IWGP junior heavyweight and tag team championships. Despardo becomes the first person since Kushida to hold both titles from the division at the same time and it caps off a seven year long journey for the mask man to reach the top of the division. Let's get to the keep the dive into the match:
"Yet the road to victory was a trying one for Suzuki-Gun’s masked agitator. Desperado started strong, sending BUSHI into El Phantasmo before suplexing the LIJ member, nominated for the bout by Hiromu Takahashi, onto ELP. Yet crotched by Phantasmo on the top strand, Desperado was subject to a top corner stomp, leading to two. Moments later, it was Desperado crotching ELP, but when he tried to follow up, BUSHI would intervene, landing his apron DDT before a top rope Frankensteiner got a nearfall."
"With the match now a one on one affair, ELP set to work on BUSHI, but the jet black death mask was just as hungry for his second IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. A slingshot headscissors over the top to the floor connected, but BUSHI’s momentum was soon stopped by ELP, who humiliated BUSHI by standing on his crotch in the corner. A beautiful quebrada demonstrated Phantasmo’s effortless athleticism, and the Thunder Kiss ’86 splash was equally effective. BUSHI kicked out of both moves however, prompting ELP to load his boot for Sudden Death."
"Desperado, with a new mask and an intense anger intervened however, and tore into the Canadian, and sent him to the floor where he was met with a tope suicida con giro. Desperado would place ELP on the top rope and looked for a superplex, but BUSHI would return to the ring, to his the Tower of Doom, getting near falls on both of his opponents."
For more details on the match and everything New Japan visit here!!
Where to find news, opinions, hype and all things New Japan.