Since the merging of the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships, and the introduction of the IWGP World Heavyweight Title, there has been a lot of opposition to the change within the western New Japan fanbase. The reasons have varied, from the switch being wholly unnecessary to the new title having an…interesting look. But there’s one reason that people bring up that makes little sense to me. And as time has gone on and this point has been repeated over and over again, it’s actually started to annoy me. So I am writing this column to make one thing perfectly clear.
The lineage of a title does not mean nearly as much as you think it does.
Allow me to explain.
The WWE Intercontinental Championship has a lineage filled with pro wrestling legends, Hall of Famers, and icons of WWE history. Take your pick: Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Ultimate Warrior, Shawn Michaels, Ahmed Johnson. The list goes on and on. But over time, the company stopped putting the title on guys that were on their way to the top of the cards. They leaned on the legacy of the title to make it matter when lesser stars like The Miz, Curtis Axel, and Jamaican-accented Kofi Kingston held it. And as a result, the title went from being a legitimate headlining championship to a mid-card belt that every new champion claims will have its former glory restored once they get going.
There’s an old cliché, “The man makes the title,” and it’s true. The Intercontinental Title mattered because men who mattered held it. It rang true for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, it rang true for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, and it currently rings true for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship.
The first defense of the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship was at Sakura Genesis 2021. It saw 2-time G1 winner and Wrestle Kingdom main eventer Kota Ibushi defend against 2-time Best of the Super Junior winner and the holder of the New Japan Cup Will Ospreay.
After Ospreay won the title, he challenged multiple-time Wrestle Kingdom main eventer Kazuchika Okada to a title match, only to be interrupted and challenged by one of the best wrestlers of his generation and former NEVER Openweight Champion in Shingo Takagi.
Four wrestlers who matter are fighting at the top of important shows in the New Japan schedule for this supposedly meaningless championship.
There are valid reasons to dislike the changing of the top title in New Japan. I agree that it was a needless change. I agree that the new World Heavyweight Title belt doesn’t compare to the V4 Heavyweight Championship, which is one of the best-looking titles in wrestling history. But bringing up the lineage of the old title will not get me on your side.
The men make the titles, and New Japan certainly has the men to make this title.