|IWGP Intercontinental Championship|
|The current belt repaired by NJPW|
The IWGP Intercontinental Championship (IWGPインターコンチネンタル王座 IWGP Intākonchinentaru Ōza) is a secondary singles championship in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) promotion. "IWGP" is the acronym of NJPW's governing body, the International Wrestling Grand Prix. On October 3, 2010, American promotion Jersey All Pro Wrestling announced that it had reached an agreement with NJPW for the promotion to run its first shows in the United States. NJPW officially announced the tour, titled NJPW Invasion Tour 2011: Attack on East Coast, on January 4, 2011, during the Wrestle Kingdom V in Tokyo Dome event, announcing events for May 13 in Rahway, New Jersey, May 14 in New York City and May 15 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was also announced that during the tour, New Japan would introduce a new "IWGP Intercontinental Championship", which would become the promotion's fifth active title. The title is considered part of the "New Japan Triple Crown" (新日本トリプルクラウン Shin Nihon Toripuru Kuraun) along with the IWGP Heavyweight and NEVER Openweight Championships.
On April 8, 2011, NJPW announced the participants in the tournament to crown the first IWGP Intercontinental Champion. The list of participants included former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) performer MVP, who had signed a contract with NJPW in January 2011, Kazuchika Okada, who had been on a learning excursion to American promotion Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) since February 2010, Hideo Saito, who had been on a similar tour of Puerto Rican World Wrestling Council since September 2010, former IWGP Tag Team and IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Tetsuya Naito and Yujiro Takahashi of No Limit, NJPW regulars Tama Tonga and Toru Yano and American independent worker Dan Maff, who made his first appearance for NJPW during the tour. On May 6 it was announced that Tonga had suffered an injury, which would force him out of the tournament. He would be replaced by former TNA and Ring of Honor performer Josh Daniels. On May 15, MVP defeated Yano in the finals of the tournament to become the inaugural champion.
- Tournament bracket
Nakamura and elevationEdit
Through MVP's inaugural reign and the subsequent reigns of Masato Tanaka and Hirooki Goto, the IWGP Intercontinental Championship was largely a midcard title, remaining firmly behind the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and IWGP Tag Team Championship in importance. However, after Shinsuke Nakamura captured the title from Goto on July 22, 2012, Nakamura was already a former three-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion and, with his first reign of 313 days, the title began gaining importance. Nakamura also made the title international again, defending it in both the United States and Mexico. On May 31, 2013, while on tour with Mexican promotion Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre, with whom NJPW has a working relationship, Nakamura lost the title to La Sombra. This marked the first time the title had changed hands outside of NJPW. Nakamura regained the title back in NJPW two months later on July 20, and in the process became the first two-time holder of the title. Nakamura continued elevating the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, culminating with the IWGP Intercontinental Championship match receiving top billing over the IWGP Heavyweight Championship match at NJPW's biggest annual event, Wrestle Kingdom 8 in Tokyo Dome on January 4, 2014, where former multi-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi became the new champion.
Afterwards, Tokyo Sports wrote that the Intercontinental and Heavyweight Championships were now equals, while Dave Meltzer wrote that Nakamura and Tanahashi made the Intercontinental Championship feel like "the real world title belt". Nakamura regained the title from Tanahashi in another main event match on April 6 at Invasion Attack 2014 and Nakamura's association with the championship continued to 2016, when he successfully defended it against former IWGP Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in Tokyo Dome. On January 25, 2016, Nakamura was stripped of the title due to his departure from the promotion at the end of the month.
From 2012 to 2016, Nakamura held the IWGP Intercontinental Championship for a record five times and defended it at four consecutive Wrestle Kingdom events. The title was also associated with Nakamura as it was he who personally introduced the current title belt design shortly into his first reign in August 2012. He was outspokenly disapproving of the first belt design with bronze plates on a black strap for its resemblance to a 10 yen coin and saw it as a mockery of the IWGP. The new design featured gold plates on a white strap. The white strap was unprecedented for the IWGP and symbolized a clean slate for its holder to add to and define.
Naito and Double Gold DashEdit
Over the years, the title belt's physical condition got progressively worse. During Tetsuya Naito's first reign as champion, he began systematically destroying the belt, others like Jushin Thunder Liger and Hiroshi Tanahashi voiced their displeasure over Naito's treatment of the championship belt, throwing and kicking it around, forcing NJPW to have it repaired in June 2017. In April 2018, Naito won the IWGP Intercontinental Championship for second time, and began showing a sympathetic attitude towards the championship belt, leading him to win the IWGP Intercontinental Championship three more times until June 2019.
During this time, in March, Naito had the desire to hold both IWGP Intercontinental and IWGP Heavyweight Championships simultaneously. In August, after Kota Ibushi won the 2019 G1 Climax, he announced his intentions of challenging for the IWGP Intercontinental and IWGP Heavyweight Championships in both nights of Wrestle Kingdom 14 in Tokyo Dome. Naito's desire was derailed by Jay White, who also wanted to main event the second night of Wrestle Kingdom 14 and become the first-ever double champion in history, leading Naito to lose the championship belt to White on September 22 at Destruction in Kobe. On November 3 at Power Struggle, Naito challenged White to a rematch for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. Afterwards, Kota Ibushi and Kazuchika Okada would come to the ring, with Okada suggesting a fan vote to determine whether the main event of the second night of Wrestle Kingdom 14. The dual championship match for the IWGP Intercontinental and IWGP Heavyweight Championships won the vote, resulting in Naito receiving his championship rematch at the event. In the build-up to the event, the dual championship match being billed as "Double Gold Dash". On January 4, 2020 in the first night of Wrestle Kingdom 14 in Tokyo Dome, Naito defeated White to win the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, tying Shinsuke Nakamura record of most reigns as champion with five reigns. Later that night, Okada defeated Ibushi to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. The following day, in the second night of Wrestle Kingdom 14, Naito successfully defended the IWGP Intercontinental Championship and won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, after defeating Okada, to become the first double champion in NJPW history.
|1||MVP||1||May 15, 2011||Philadelphia, United States||148 Days||2||Defeated Toru Yano in an eight–man tournament final to become the inaugural champion.|
|2||Masato Tanaka||1||October 10, 2011||Tokyo, Japan||125 Days||3|
|3||Hirooki Goto||1||February 12, 2012||Osaka, Japan||161 Days||2|
|4||Shinsuke Nakamura||1||July 22, 2012||Yamagata, Japan||313 Days||8|
|5||La Sombra||1||May 31, 2013||Mexico City, Mexico||50 Days||1||This was a two out of three falls match.|
|6||Shinsuke Nakamura||2||July 20, 2013||Akita, Japan||168 Days||3|
|7||Hiroshi Tanahashi||1||January 4, 2014||Tokyo, Japan||92 Days||1|
|8||Shinsuke Nakamura||3||April 6, 2014||Tokyo, Japan||76 Days||1|
|9||Bad Luck Fale||1||June 21, 2014||Osaka, Japan||92 Days||0|
|10||Shinsuke Nakamura||4||September 21, 2014||Kobe, Japan||224 Days||3|
|11||Hirooki Goto||2||May 3, 2015||Fukuoka, Japan||147 Days||1|
|12||Shinsuke Nakamura||5||September 27, 2015||Kobe, Japan||120 Days||2|
|—||Vacated||—||January 25, 2016||Tokyo, Japan||—||—||Vacated due to Nakamura leaving NJPW.|
|13||Kenny Omega||1||February 14, 2016||Nagaoka, Japan||126 Days||1||Defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to win the vacant title.|
|14||Michael Elgin||1||June 19, 2016||Osaka, Japan||98 Days||0||This was a ladder match.|
|15||Tetsuya Naito||1||September 25, 2016||Kobe, Japan||259 Days||4|
|16||Hiroshi Tanahashi||2||June 11, 2017||Osaka, Japan||230 Days||4|
|17||Minoru Suzuki||1||January 27, 2018||Sapporo, Japan||92 Days||1||Suzuki won the title after the referee was forced to stop the match, due to Tanahashi's leg injury.|
|18||Tetsuya Naito||2||April 29, 2018||Kumamoto, Japan||41 Days||0|
|19||Chris Jericho||1||June 9, 2018||Osaka, Japan||209 Days||1|
|20||Tetsuya Naito||3||January 4, 2019||Tokyo, Japan||93 Days||1|
|21||Kota Ibushi||1||April 6, 2019||New York, United States||64 Days||1|
|22||Tetsuya Naito||4||June 9, 2019||Osaka, Japan||105 Days||0|
|23||Jay White||1||September 22, 2019||Kobe, Japan||104 Days||1|
|24||Tetsuya Naito||5||January 4, 2020||Tokyo, Japan||88+||2|
|†||Indicates the current champion|
|2||Tetsuya Naito †||6||586+|
|11||Bad Luck Fale||0||92|