After winning the Intercontinental title for the third time at Wrestle Kingdom 13, Tetsuya Naito began a year where the spotlight was firmly on the Intercontinental title. There were also some great feuds for the title with some huge names in the company. It felt as if everyone wanted a taste of the Intercontinental title. This is the History of the IWGP Intercontinental Title part 6. You can catch up on the earlier parts right here.
The first person who wanted a shot at Naito’s title was TAICHI. After being missed off the 2019 G1, the Holy Emperor made it his job to cause chaos. What better way to do that than to take the newly won title off Naito during the New Beginning in Sapporo tour. It was a match that showed how good an athlete TAICHI could be when he put his mind to it. However, it also just showed how much of a fighting champion Naito was.
But, there was one person who managed to get the better of Naito. It was someone who has always had this long-time rivalry with the LIJ leader in the form of the Golden Star, Kota Ibushi. The match was set for April 6th at G1 Supercard in New York City. As expected, it was a crazy and unpredictable match from the start to the end. For many, it was a match that was on the borderline dangerous. It was a match between two daredevils with no consideration for safety.
History of the IWGP Intercontinental Title Part 6
Not only was it a win on a massive stage for Ibushi, but it was his first-ever Heavyweight title. Moreover, it was the belt that his idols had held from Hiroshi Tanahashi to Shinsuke Nakamura. You could see the pride on the Golden Star’s face as he raised the title at Madison Square Garden.
It is one thing winning a title, but another to keep hold of it. There was always going to be someone waiting in the wings for a shot at the title with its prestige. This time, it was the Submission Master, Zack Sabre Jr, at Sengoku Lord on April 20th. Although the two are opposites, they never cease to create magic in the ring.
However, in the end, Ibushi got the better of Zack with his crazy, high-flying offense and stopped ZSJ’s dream to win IWGP gold in a match that went just under 30 minutes.
With that successful defense, it seemed like we might have started a new era for the title. Yet, as always, there’s one person who cannot stay away from the Intercontinental title scene: Tetsuya Naito. At Dominion in June, Naito came back to win back his beloved title and cut Ibushi’s reign short at just 64 days. Like at G1 Supercard, it was a nail-biting bout full of athleticism, high-flying, and of course, strikes galore.
History of the IWGP Intercontinental Title
Naito and the Intercontinental title seemed destined for each other. This win set a precedent for the G1 and also put a giant target on the champion’s back. One of those was Jay White, who managed to cause an upset in the G1, beating Naito, which ruined the Ungovernable One’s chance at winning the tournament. It also led to the Switchblade demanding a title match during the Destruction in Kobe show on the 22nd of September.
ICYMI: A huge Intercontinental Championship match is set for Destruction in Kobe!
— NJPW Global (@njpwglobal) August 26, 2019
The match itself was nothing short of spectacular, combining the talent and personalities of two very different men. It was also full of psychology and mind games from the very beginning, which had been the consensus in the lead-up to this match. Naito started straight away with his high-speed and high-risk offense. But Jay White confirmed just how good of a defensive wrestler he was. Whatever was thrown at White was countered, whether with his world-class suplexes or his ability to change the match’s pace to suit him.
With the added help from Gedo on the outside, the result almost seemed obvious. It was a victory for the Switchblade. What made it even sweeter was seeing the fans leave the arena early after their beloved Naito lost. It was a heartbreaking moment for the fans.
Naito Aspires To Become a Double Champion
After White won the title, Naito just couldn’t let go of the idea of being a double champion. For that, the Ungovernable One needed to get back his Intercontinental title, but it wouldn’t be easy. Jay White intended to keep that title and walked around with this arrogance that only the Switchblade could have.
However, there was a long list of people waiting for a shot at the title. The first came in the form of long-time nemesis Hirooki Goto who came out and challenged Jay straight away. However, the Switchblade easily defended the title in an amazingly brutal match at Power Struggle. Now, it was time for Naito to get his rematch, and he set the stage for Tokyo Dome. It was time for history to be written on the biggest stage of them all.
The IWGP Intercontinental Title
As Wrestle Kingdom came around, it felt as if the Intercontinental title was as prestigious as the Heavyweight title on the road to the Double Dash. On the first night, Jay White would defend the title against Tetsuya Naito. Whoever won this match would go on to the second night to challenge whoever won the IWGP Heavyweight title match on January 4th to hold both titles.
48 HOURS AWAY!
Will El Ingobernable seize his destino at last, or will the Switchblade snatch it from him in the #DoubleGoldDash?
— NJPW Global (@njpwglobal) January 2, 2020
From the second that bell rang, you could see the determination in both men’s eyes. This match was not only just for the title, but it was to prove who was the better wrestler. Both men have such different styles that perfectly manage to blend, whether it is the unpredictability of Naito or the ground-based offense of White.
Throughout, it seemed like White had the advantage with help from Gedo at ringside and this unrivaled confidence. However, as always, the underdog Naito came back fighting with a new surge of adrenaline. With one final Destino at the 33-minute mark, Naito was one step closer to his dream of holding both belts. Tetsuya Naito and Kazuchika Okada were one step away from cementing their place in New Japan history.
🦁WRESTLE KINGDOM 14 in Tokyo Dome🏟
8TH MATCH IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT AND IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL DOUBLE CHAMPIONSHIP🤼♂️‼️ @rainmakerXokada(69th IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION)🆚@s_d_naito(24th IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION)‼️
Watch #njwk14 NOW on https://t.co/Tj7UBJ4PjP #njpw #njpwworld pic.twitter.com/i73zSTRtA1
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) January 5, 2020
History of the IWGP Intercontinental Title
The Most Charismatic Men in New Japan
Going into the second night, adrenaline and excitement were high as the main event loomed closer. With Kazuchika Okada beating Kota Ibushi the night before, the match was set between two of the best and most charismatic men in New Japan. Needless to say, the match delivered more than anyone could have imagined.
It was a match that combined athleticism, strength, and storytelling from the minute the bell rang to the final 1, 2, 3. We saw different sides to both athletes, with a more unpredictable side to the usually Tranquilo Naito and this over-confident and sometimes crazy Okada. It felt like you couldn’t tear your eyes away from the screen because you probably would’ve missed something amazing. We saw Rainmakers, Destino’s, and even a beautifully executed Stardust Press, which we haven’t seen in what seems like forever.
Yet, in the end, as the night drew to a close, the fans were treated in the best way possible. Just after the 35-minute mark, Naito managed to hit one final Destino to get the win and wrote his name in the history books. It was a fairy tale ending like no other.
With the first-ever dual IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion crowned, it felt like the perfect ending for Tetsuya Naito and New Japan fans. However, if we’ve learned anything from professional wrestling, it’s that nothing lasts forever. The following months proved that with the Intercontinental title going through a lot, courtesy of the Bullet Club. This was part six of the History of the IWGP Intercontinental Championship.