New Japan Pro Wrestling unveiled their new IWGP World Heavyweight Championship belt yesterday at a ceremony in Korakuen Hall. Kota Ibushi relinquished the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental belts at the ceremony before the new belt’s reveal.
After a video celebrating the two titles’ merging, NJPW officials presented Ibushi with the new title. Ibushi is now officially the inaugural world heavyweight champion, ending the historical lineage of the two titles.
Some fans are upset with New Japan rebooting the lineage of their top prize. However, the new championship represents the past and present merging to dictate the future.
IWGP Heavyweight Title matches often represented the best of professional wrestling. Let’s say Ibushi defends the world title against Hiroshi Tanahashi in May. It’s not as if fans will hold Tanahashi in less esteem because he only a former heavyweight champion.
The trophy has changed, but the accomplishments of the wrestlers who battled for New Japan’s top prize for 34 years will never go away. The new lineage is as much a marketing tool to generate interest as it is a creative choice to freshen things up.
No one will forget the past, and to be honest, I don’t think New Japan expects anyone to either.
Now, as for the physical world title itself, it’s…different. I’m not too fond of it. The new title’s winged look is reminiscent of the WWE Divas Championship and Jeff Hardy’s TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Two of the most despised pieces of championship hardware…EVER!
The belt was crafted with a literal representation in mind. The center plate mixes aspects of the four IWGP Heavyweight Title designs, while the side plates are modeled after the two Intercontinental belts
As I write this post, the new belt is already starting to grow on me. It has a nice gold sheen that is fitting of a champion. You got to give New Japan credit for using the new design to honor what came before it.
Pictures are one thing, but the real test of how the belt holds and looks on camera will occur this Sunday at Sakura Genesis. The show will air on New Japan World (4:00 AM EST), featuring Kota Ibushi making the first defense of the new IWGP World Heavyweight Championship against 2021 New Japan Cup winner Will Ospreay.