The last version of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship is generally regarded as one of the most beautiful title belts in pro wrestling, and the IWGP Intercontinental Championship isn’t far behind. The two belts have been contested together since last year’s Wrestle Kingdom 14, and immediately after current champ Kota Ibushi won them at Wrestle Kingdom 15 he began campaigning to unify them. After defending just the Intercontinental Championship against Tetsuya Naito at Castle Attack, New Japan Pro Wrestling agreed to unification, and further promised a new belt.
The new IWGP World Heavyweight Championship is here and, uh... Well, see for yourself.
Well, it’s not the belt I would have designed, to be polite about it.
Comparisons have abounded on social media, with folks likening it to everything from the “butterfly belt” that represented the old WWE Divas Championship, to the classic Decepticon logo from the Transformers, to Cody Rhodes’ Nightmare Family neck tattoo. I rather think it looks like the head of a Helmasaur, first encountered in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, myself.
Jokes aside, the belt design was clearly well thought out and is full of references to IWGP Heavyweight Championships past, as the press release explains:
The history of the four generations of IWGP Heavyweight Championship are acknowledged through its center plate. The upper part of the belt had a radial design which recalls the original circular IWGP Heavyweight design, while the upper profile of the belt carries the second generation IWGP ‘crown’ motif.
On the plate itself, we see a pair of wings which represent those on the third generation title belt, while the central Lion Mark brings to mind that on the fourth generation Heavyweight belt. Meanwhile, the title’s side plates evoke the IWGP Intercontinental Championship design.
Going into more detail on the center plate we see the concept of flight into the world at large. The Lion Mark in the upper center represents the sun above the Earth below. Flames emanating from the sun are those of the Fighting Spirit, which is also represented by a sword piercing the world below from top to bottom. Five gems around the central globe represent the continents, as well as NJPW’s five decades of history. Each gem is set in a fang like position, bringing to mind a lion gripping the world in its teeth, while wings emanating from the globe represent taking flight into the world.
Indeed, viewed in the context of the previous generations of IWGP Heavyweight Championship design it does look a lot less out of place, with the shape of the main plate (which is the most jarring and surprising part of the whole design to me) being a clear compromise between that of the second and third generation titles.
But I think most of us, especially with Ibushi’s talk of combining the best aspects of both the previous titles, were looking for maybe something a little less historic and a little more of a direct and obvious successor to the twin title belts that have been retured. Kota himself seems to feel much the same given his statement recorded in the press release and replicated below:
On receiving the brand new title, Ibushi stated that perhaps he ‘didn’t make (himself) understood when talking about combining the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships,’ but that he had ‘deep love’ for both legacies and will now ‘carry them forward onto a new worldwide stage’.
Ibushi will defend the new belt for the first time at Sakura Genesis on Sunday (Apr. 4) against New Japan Cup winner Will Ospreay.
There you have it, folks
How do y’all feel about the new IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, Cagesiders?