After Hiroshi Tanahashi won the IWGP Intercontinental title off Tetsuya Naito Dominion in 2017, the Ace of New Japan finally had a chance to make the title his legacy. This would be after the departure of Shinsuke Nakamura. To read the previous four parts click here, here, here and here. This is History of the IWGP Intercontinental Title part 5.
History of the IWGP Intercontinental Title Part 5:
It was time to create a new chapter
Alongside a defense against Billy Gunn, there were two amazing and stand out defenses Tanahashi had with the title. The first was against Kota Ibushi at Power Struggle in Osaka (5th November 2017). It was then we saw the start of the brilliance that we’ve come to expect from a Zack Sabre Jr and Hiroshi Tanahashi match. This took place at Destruction in Hiroshima.
One match which was also significant in New Japan was the title defense against Jay White. White had recently returned to New Japan from an excursion with a new persona and attitude. It was almost unheard of for someone just returning from an excursion to have such a high-profile match. But the bout was set for Wrestle Kingdom. Although it was a win for the Ace, it was a match that made people take notice of Jay White. It started a longstanding feud between the two which would only intensify over the years.
Despite holding the title for a respectable 230 days, there was only one man that the Ace had failed to beat. For years, the King of Pro Wrestling Minoru Suzuki had been creating havoc wherever he went. It even led to the entire Suzuki Gun faction being exiled to Pro Wrestling NOAH until 2017. After it seemed as if Tanahashi was unstoppable, Suzuki came out to challenge the once in a century talent for a title shot. This was slated to take part at the New Beginning in Sapporo show on the 27th of January.
With his first reign with the intercontinental title, the Suzuki Gun leader was out to prove why he is one of the best in New Japan.
Considering the dominance Minoru Suzuki has, it was surprising to see his one and only reign as Intercontinental Champion only lasting 92 days with only one successful defense against Togi Makabe on the 46th Anniversary Show in March 2018.
After someone like Suzuki holding the title, the person who took it back off them had to be someone extremely talented and with a special connection to the Intercontinental title.
No matter how much Naito despised the Intercontinental title, it seemed to be drawn to him.
Although the Ungovernables second reign with the title only lasted just over a month with no successful defenses, it soon became symbolic of Tetsuya Naito, something that he both hated and secretly probably loved at the same time.
This title defense was cut short at the 2018 Dominion Show at Osaka Jo Hall. After unsuccessfully challenging Kenny Omega for the United States title earlier at Wrestle Kingdom, Chris Jericho challenged Tetsuya Naito for the title at one of the biggest shows in New Japan.
In a brutal match that lasted just under 20 minutes. Jericho defeated Naito winning a title that Jericho had made his own in WWE; it was just adding to the legacy of Jericho and the concept of the Intercontinental title.
History of the IWGP Intercontinental Title Part 5
However, the title reign was far from what many fans wanted.
Many thought and expected that Jericho winning a New Japan title would mean that Y2J’s presence in New Japan would be much more prominent. Despite a reign that spanned over 200 days, Jericho only had one title defense during that time and that was during the Power Struggle Jr Tag League in 2018 against EVIL.
Whether fans expected more and what Jericho wanted from the reign were two different things. However, so Jericho didn’t have an obligation to defend his title within a specific time, especially when nobody challenged him for it and that meant he didn’t have an obligation to be in New Japan during the tours.
However, eventually, a challenger stepped up and once again Tetsuya Naito found himself challenging for this title at Wrestle Kingdom 13. For someone who showed so much disdain for the title, he seemed very eager to get it back. In the lead up to the show, there was a lot of banter between the two wrestlers with Naito even mocking Y2J and his facepaint.
In the semi-main event at the Tokyo Dome, it was Y2J v Naito for the title. Just like their bout at Dominion, it was as vicious as anyone could expect with tables, guardrails, weapons, and violence. There were nothing these men wouldn’t do for the title. For most of the match, it seemed like Jericho had Naito’s number. However, as always, Naito found a way to fight back towards the end. Jericho should’ve remembered that however many rules he can break, Naito can double that. In the end, after hitting Jericho with the Intercontinental belt, he hit the Destino and picked up the win. Naito recaptured his title back.
History of the IWGP Intercontinental Title:
There seemed to be a metaphorical elastic pulling Naito to the Intercontinental Title.
After winning the title for his third time, it was one of the most exciting times for the title. It was not since Shinsuke Nakamura and Naito were at the helm of it.