New Japan Pro-Wrestling Unifies Its IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships

New Japan Pro-Wrestling confirmed on Sunday night that it is officially merging the IWGP Intercontinental Championship with its top title, the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. The decision came at the insistance of reigning double-champion Kota Ibushi, who won both championships from Tetsuya Naito at Wrestle Kingdom 15 in January. New Japan's IC title was first introduced back in 2011 and was eventually pushed as the 1B title to the Heavyweight's 1A.

The 2020 Wrestle Kingdom 14 event saw Naito win both the IC and Heavyweight Championships in back-to-back nights and over the following year both titles would be defended simultaneously in pay-per-view main events.

A new championship, the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, will be awarded to Ibushi on April 4 at the Sakura Genesis event. He'll defend both titles one more time against IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion El Desperado on March 4.

"A special press conference on March 1 heralded the announcement of the title, which will be known as the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship," the promotion stated in a press release on Monday. "The IWGP Heavyweight Championship was first conceived in 1983 as the award in an annual tournament, before becoming a regularly defended title with Antonio Inoki its first holder on June 12 1987. The IWGP Intercontinental Championship was first won by MVP in a tournament final in Philadephia in May 2011. Kota Ibushi won both titles on January 4, 2021 becoming the 73rd Heavyweight Champion and 27th Intercontinental Champion; he will now also be recognised as the first IWGP World Heavyweight Champion."

Jay White, who challenged Ibushi for both titles on the second night of Wrestle Kingdom 15, immediately unloaded his criticism against Ibushi and his fans following the announcement.

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