New Japan Announces Match to Crown New IWGP Heavyweight Championship

New Japan Pro-Wrestling confirmed back on May 20 that, due to the neck injury he suffered at Wrestling Dontaku weeks prior, Will Ospreay had vacated the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. Over the weekend the promotion finally confirmed the title's future, booking a match between Kazuchika Okada and Shingo Takagi for the vacated championship at the Dominion event on June 7 at Osaka-Jo Hall. IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion El Desperado vs. Yoh and Kota Ibushi vs. Jeff Cobb were also confirmed for the show, which was delayed a day due to Japan's latest state of emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ospreay's injury was just the latest chapter in what's been a rocky year for New Japan's top title. Ibushi won the Heavyweight and Intercontinental titles back at Wrestle Kingdom 15 in January, then opted to merge the two in March and create the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. The title's new design was immediately panned by fans (with many comparisons to WWE's infamous Divas Championship) and Ibushi shockingly dropped it a month later to Ospreay.

After beating Takagi for the second time in 2021, Ospreay was supposed to face Okada at New Japan's next Tokyo Dome event only for those plans to be scrapped. "The Rainmaker" utterly dominates New Japan's record books, holding the IWGP Heavyweight championship a combined 1,790 days with 30 defenses across five reigns. He hasn't been champion since dropping the title to Tetsuya Naito at Wrestle Kingdom 14 in January 2020.

Ospreay has provided some updates on his injury since the announcement, saying that he's still trying to be back in the ring by the end of the year. Prior to his injury the British star openly called out both CM Punk and Drew McIntyre to matches.

"Before I was champion, a man who sparked a whole lot of interest in pro-wrestling, CM Punk said he'd like to face Will Ospreay," Ospreay said in a press conference. "Now I have the biggest prize in pro-wrestling, so if you really want to prove you were the best in the world and not the best of a bad bunch, come over here and try and take this."


"I firmly believe I am the best British wrestler of all time," Ospreay said. "There is not a single British wrestler that has ever ventured to Japan and climbed to the top of the mountain. Dynamite Kid, British Bulldog, didn't get to the top of the mountain. Pete Dunne, great wrestler, didn't come close. I can name a bunch of British wrestlers who didn't do what I have done. But I would like to test myself against another British wrestler that calls himself the best. A man that held the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Drew McIntyre, he called himself the best British wrestler that ever lived, so if there was ever a chance that we could work out the visas, I'd love IWGP World Heavyweight Champion vs WWE Champion between two British wrestlers."