IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship
The IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship belt (2017-2023)
Details
PromotionNew Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW)
Date establishedMay 12, 2017[1]
Date retiredDecember 11, 2023[2]
Other name(s)
  • IWGP United States Championship
  • IWGP United Kingdom Heavyweight Championship
Statistics
First champion(s)Kenny Omega[3]
Final champion(s)Will Ospreay
Most reignsHiroshi Tanahashi and Juice Robinson
(3 reigns)
Longest reignJon Moxley
(2nd reign, 564 days)
Shortest reignHiroshi Tanahashi
(3rd reign, 13 days)
Oldest championHiroshi Tanahashi
(45 years, 169 days)
Youngest championJay White
(25 years, 110 days)
Heaviest championLance Archer
(124 kg (273 lb))
Lightest championKenta
(85 kg (187 lb))

The IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship (IWGP USヘビー級王座, IWGP US hebī-kyū ōza) was a professional wrestling championship owned and promoted by the New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) promotion. "IWGP" are the initials of NJPW's governing body, the International Wrestling Grand Prix (インターナショナル・レスリング・グラン・プリ, intānashonaru resuringu guran puri).[4] The final champion was Will Ospreay, who was in his second reign at the time of the title's deactivation. On December 11, 2023, the title was replaced by the IWGP Global Heavyweight Championship.

History

Background

On May 12, 2017, during the third night of the War of the Worlds tour, co-produced by New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) and Ring of Honor (ROH), NJPW United States Ambassador George Carroll announced the creation of the IWGP United States Championship.[1][5] The following day, NJPW revealed the title's official name as the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship.[6] The title is part of an American expansion plan which NJPW had made public in the months before the announcement. Plans had been made to run extended tours in the United States with California as the base, starting in 2018.[7] The plan was a direct response to WWE taking four wrestlers from NJPW in January 2016.[8] Tetsuya Naito noted how the new title had the same concept as the IWGP Intercontinental Championship,[9] which had been established during NJPW's May 2011 United States tour, promoted in conjunction with Jersey All Pro Wrestling (JAPW).[10] NJPW chairman Naoki Sugabayashi stated that he wanted the title to be defended at future NJPW events in the United States as well as events held by ROH.[11] The title has often been defended in non-disqualification/hardcore matches, including at Wrestle Kingdom 12, on night one of Wrestle Kingdom 14, and on night two of Wrestle Kingdom 16.

Belt design

The title belt was made red to distinguish it from the black IWGP Heavyweight Championship belt and the white IWGP Intercontinental Championship belt.[11] It features five plates; the American flag in the center plate with the words "UNITED STATES" imprinted over the flag, and "IWGP" imprinted on top and "CHAMPION" on the bottom. The first set side plates also feature the American flag with the words "UNITED STATES CHAMPION" imprinted over the flags, and the second set feature half the world globe on one and the other half on the other.

When Will Ospreay rebranded the title as the "IWGP United Kingdom Heavyweight Championship", he debuted a custom belt that was essentially the same design and still on red leather, but with the flags replaced with the Union Jack flag in the center and side plates, and replacing all the "UNITED STATES" imprinted words with "UNITED KINGDOM"; the second set of side plates retained the halves of the world globe.[12][13] Despite Ospreay's claim on the new name, the title was still listed under its United States name by NJPW.

Inaugural championship tournament (2017)

Inaugural and two-time champion Kenny Omega

The first champion would be crowned in a single-elimination tournament on the weekend of July 1 and 2, 2017, during NJPW's G1 Special in USA shows in Long Beach, California.[1][5] Jay Lethal was the first participant announced for the tournament on May 12.[1][5] On May 18, Hangman Page was officially added to the tournament.[14] The other six participants as well as the bracket of the tournament, confirmed as a single-elimination tournament, were revealed on June 12.[15][16] Kenny Omega went on to defeat Tomohiro Ishii in the final to become the inaugural champion.[17]

First round
(July 1)
Semifinals
(July 2)
Final
(July 2)
         
Michael Elgin Pin
Kenny Omega 22:31[18]
Kenny Omega Pin
Jay Lethal 12:56[3]
Jay Lethal Pin
Hangman Page 08:30[18]
Kenny Omega Pin
Tomohiro Ishii 31:20[3]
Juice Robinson Sub
Zack Sabre Jr. 10:04[18]
Zack Sabre Jr. Pin
Tomohiro Ishii 11:42[3]
Tomohiro Ishii Pin
Tetsuya Naito 15:51[18]

Establishment

Since its creation, the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship was defended in both Japan and the United States with the first Japanese defense taking place on September 24, 2017, at Destruction in Kobe and the first stateside defense taking place on October 15, 2017, at Global Wars: Chicago.[19][20] After it had been announced in November 2017 that former WWE wrestler Chris Jericho would be challenging for the title at Wrestle Kingdom 12 in Tokyo Dome, Omega stated that the title had already surpassed the IWGP Intercontinental Championship as the number two championship in NJPW.[21] However, the promotion ranked the title in the second tier, behind both the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships and alongside the NEVER Openweight Championship.[22]

Throughout 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented then champion Jon Moxley from traveling to Japan for NJPW events while keeping his commitments with All Elite Wrestling (AEW), with whom he is also contracted. His AEW contract also prevented him from appearing at NJPW's American events. This resulted in the championship not being defended from February 2020 to February 2021, when an arrangement was made between the two promotions to allow Moxley to appear on NJPW's American television show Strong in a title defense.[23]

With AEW and New Japan forming a working relationship, Jon Moxley was permitted to defend the title on AEW's flagship television program, AEW Dynamite. In May 2021, the title was defended in AEW for the first time, with Moxley defeating Yuji Nagata in his fourth title defense. At July 2021's AEW Fyter Fest Night 1 event, Moxley retained the championship for his record-setting fifth defense against Impact Wrestling's Karl Anderson. The following week on Night 2 of the event, Lance Archer defeated Moxley for the championship in a Texas Death Match for his second reign.

Retirement

At the 2023 Power Struggle, after Ospreay had defended the title against Shota Umino in the main event, Bullet Club leader David Finlay destroyed both the U.S. belt and Ospreay's custom belt with a mallet after attacking Ospreay and Umino's former mentor, Jon Moxley, and a three-way match was scheduled for three men at Wrestle Kingdom 18.[24] For the bout, although it was initially listed as for the U.S./U.K. championship, NJPW chairman Naoki Sugabayashi announced at a press conference on November 6, 2023, that a new championship would replace the U.S./U.K. championship.[25] On December 11, 2023, this title would be named the IWGP Global Heavyweight Championship.

Reigns

Two-time and final champion Will Ospreay, shown here with the original belt (right) and his custom-made rebranded IWGP United Kingdom Heavyweight Championship (left).

There were 18 reigns shared among 10 wrestlers with three vacancies up until the title's deactivation on December 11, 2023. Kenny Omega was the inaugural champion. Juice Robinson and Hiroshi Tanahashi are tied for the record of most reigns with three. Tanahashi also was the first Japanese wrestler to win the title, was the oldest champion when he won it at 45 years old, and his second reign in the shortest at 13 days. Jay White was the youngest champion at 25 years old. Jon Moxley holds two records with the title: his second reign is the longest reign at 564 days with five successful defenses, and he is the only wrestler to have held the title for a consecutive year.

Will Ospreay was the final champion in his second reign. He defeated Kenny Omega on June 25, 2023 at Forbidden Door in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Names

Name Years
IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship May 12, 2017 – December 11, 2023
IWGP United Kingdom Heavyweight Championship August 12, 2023 – December 11, 2023
Key
No. Overall reign number
Reign Reign number for the specific champion
Days Number of days held
Defenses Number of successful defenses
+ Current reign is changing daily
No. Champion Championship change Reign statistics Notes Ref.
Date Event Location Reign Days Defenses
1 Kenny Omega July 2, 2017 G1 Special in USA
Night 2
Long Beach, California, U.S. 1 210 4 Defeated Tomohiro Ishii in the final of an eight-man single-elimination tournament to become the inaugural champion. [3]
2 Jay White January 28, 2018 The New Beginning in Sapporo Sapporo, Japan 1 160 3 [26]
3 Juice Robinson July 7, 2018 G1 Special in San Francisco Daly City, California, U.S. 1 85 0 [27]
4 Cody September 30, 2018 Fighting Spirit Unleashed Long Beach, California, U.S. 1 96 0 [28]
5 Juice Robinson January 4, 2019 Wrestle Kingdom 13 in Tokyo Dome Tokyo, Japan 2 152 3 [29]
6 Jon Moxley June 5, 2019 Best of the Super Juniors 26 Final Tokyo, Japan 1 130 0 [30]
Vacated October 14, 2019 The championship was vacated after Jon Moxley was unable to wrestle in a scheduled championship defense at King of Pro-Wrestling due to travel issues arising from Typhoon Hagibis. [31]
7 Lance Archer October 14, 2019 King of Pro-Wrestling Tokyo, Japan 1 82 1 Defeated Juice Robinson in a no disqualification match to win the vacant championship. [32]
8 Jon Moxley January 4, 2020 Wrestle Kingdom 14
Night 1
Tokyo, Japan 2 564 5 This was a Texas Death Match. [33]
9 Lance Archer July 21, 2021 AEW Fyter Fest
Night 2
Garland, Texas, U.S. 2 24 1 This was a Texas Death Match. [34]
10 Hiroshi Tanahashi August 14, 2021 Resurgence Los Angeles, California, U.S. 1 84 1 [35]
11 Kenta November 6, 2021 Power Struggle Osaka, Japan 1 60 0 [36]
12 Hiroshi Tanahashi January 5, 2022 Wrestle Kingdom 16
Night 2
Tokyo, Japan 2 45 0 This was a no disqualification match. [37]
13 Sanada February 19, 2022 New Years Golden Series Sapporo, Japan 1 49 0 [38]
Vacated April 9, 2022 The championship was vacated after Sanada suffered a fractured orbital bone.
14 Hiroshi Tanahashi May 1, 2022 Wrestling Dontaku Fukuoka, Japan 3 13 0 Defeated Tomohiro Ishii to win the vacant championship. [39]
15 Juice Robinson May 14, 2022 Capital Collision Washington, D.C., U.S. 3 28 0 This was a fatal four-way match, also involving Jon Moxley and Will Ospreay. [40]
Vacated June 11, 2022 The championship was vacated after Juice Robinson was unable to wrestle in a scheduled championship defense at Dominion 6.12 in Osaka-jo Hall due to suffering from appendicitis. [41]
16 Will Ospreay June 12, 2022 Dominion 6.12 in Osaka-jo Hall Osaka, Japan 1 206 4 Defeated Sanada to win the vacant championship. [42]
17 Kenny Omega January 4, 2023 Wrestle Kingdom 17 Tokyo, Japan 2 172 1 [43]
18 Will Ospreay June 25, 2023 AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door Toronto, ON, Canada 2 169 3 During this reign, Ospreay rebranded the title as the IWGP United Kingdom Heavyweight Championship. [44]
Deactivated December 11, 2023 Replaced by the IWGP Global Heavyweight Championship. [2]

Combined reigns

Two-time champion Jon Moxley; he has the longest singular reign for the title at 564 days, and also the longest combined reign at 694 days.
Rank Wrestler No. of
reigns
Combined
defenses
Combined
days
1 Jon Moxley 2 5 694
2 Kenny Omega 2 5 382
3 Will Ospreay 2 7 375
4 Juice Robinson 3 5 265
5 Jay White 1 3 160
6 Hiroshi Tanahashi 3 1 142
7 Lance Archer 2 2 106
8 Cody 1 0 96
9 Kenta 1 0 60
10 Sanada 1 0 49

References

  1. ^ a b c d Currier, Joseph (May 12, 2017). "NJPW to crown first IWGP United States Champion in Long Beach". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Renner, Ethan (December 11, 2023). "NJPW introducing IWGP Global Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 18". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Retrieved December 11, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d e "G1 Special in USA". New Japan Pro-Wrestling (in Japanese). Retrieved July 2, 2017.
  4. ^ Fiorvanti, Tim (January 2, 2017). "What to watch for at New Japan Pro Wrestling's Wrestle Kingdom 11". ESPN. Archived from the original on January 3, 2017. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Johnson, Mike (May 12, 2017). "New Japan announces new championship, unveils belt". Pro Wrestling Insider. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  6. ^ 7月のロサンゼルス大会を前に“IWGP USヘビー級王座”の新設がアナウンス! ROHのリング上でベルトがお披露目!!. New Japan Pro-Wrestling (in Japanese). May 13, 2017. Archived from the original on May 13, 2017. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
  7. ^ Meltzer, Dave (April 10, 2017). "April 10, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Wrestlemania 33 review, WWE financials, more". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Campbell, California. pp. 29–31. ISSN 1083-9593.
  8. ^ 新日本、7月のロス興行はWWEへ「反撃ののろし」. Nikkan Sports (in Japanese). January 5, 2017. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  9. ^ 【新日本】内藤ICベルト破壊! US王座新設に怒り爆発. Tokyo Sports (in Japanese). May 19, 2017. Archived from the original on June 22, 2017. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  10. ^ Johnson, Mike (January 5, 2011). "New Japan to institute new belt in United States, NYC location and more NJPW in the States news". Pro Wrestling Insider. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  11. ^ a b Fiorvanti, Tim (July 2, 2017). "The ultimate guide to New Japan Pro Wrestling's 'G1 Special in USA' shows". ESPN. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  12. ^ https://whatculture.com/wwe/will-ospreay-introduces-new-njpw-title-belt
  13. ^ https://www.njpw1972.com/157711
  14. ^ 『G1 Special in USA』ロス大会“初日”を、現地時間・7月1日(土)、アメリカ国内でAXS TV で生中継! 4大タイトル戦、USヘビー級王座決定トーナメントも正式決定!. New Japan Pro-Wrestling (in Japanese). May 19, 2017. Archived from the original on January 9, 2018. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
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  41. ^ Lambert, Jeremy (June 11, 2022). "Juice Robinson Stripped Of IWGP US Title, New Champion To Be Crowned At NJPW Dominion". Fightful. Retrieved June 11, 2022.
  42. ^ Fritts, Chick (June 12, 2022). "NJPW Dominion live results: Six title matches, AEW interim World title eliminator Kazuchika Okada defends the IWGP title against Jay White in the main event, plus the AEW interim World title eliminator continues". Wrestling Observer Figure Four Online. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
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  44. ^ Powell, Jason (June 25, 2023). "AEW-NJPW Forbidden Door results: Powell's live review of Bryan Danielson vs. Kazuchika Okada, Kenny Omega vs. Will Ospreay for the IWGP U.S. Championship, MJF vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi for the AEW World Championship". Pro Wrestling Dot Net. Retrieved June 25, 2023.
Sporting positions Preceded byIWGP Intercontinental Championship New Japan Pro-Wrestling's secondary heavyweight championship 2021–2023 Succeeded byIWGP Global Heavyweight Championship