IWGP Heavyweight Championship History

The International Wrestling Grand Prix (IWGP) Heavyweight Championship is the top singles title in New Japan. It was created in 1987 when Antonio Inoki beat Masa Saito in the finals of the annual IWGP Tournament.

To this date there have been 56 IWGP Heavyweight Champions. They are listed below in order of reign along with which reign it was (some won it multiple times), length of reign and number of successful defenses. All records are based on the official records from New Japan’s title history pages on their official website, http://www.njpw.co.jp.
1-Antonio Inoki. 1st reign. Length: 6/12/1987-5/2/1988. Successful defenses: 4. Vacated title on 5/2/1988 due to injury.

2-Tatsumi Fujinami. 1st reign. Length: 5/8/1988-5/27/1988. Successful defenses: None. Title held up (vacant) after 5/27/1988 defense against Riki Choshu ends in a No Contest.

3-Tatsumi Fujinami. 2nd reign. Length: 6/24/1988-4/5/1989. Successful defenses: 7. Vacates title on 4/5/1989 ahead of a special tournament.

4-Big Van Vader (Leon White). 1st reign. Length: 4/24/1989-5/25/1989. Successful defenses: None.

5-Salman Hashimikov. 1st reign. Length: 5/25/1989-7/12/1989. Successful defenses: None.

6-Riki Choshu. 1st reign. Length: 7/12/1989-8/10/1989. Successful defenses: None.

7-Big Van Vader (Leon White). 2nd reign. Length: 8/10/1989-8/19/1990. Successful defenses: 4.

8-Riki Choshu. 2nd reign. Length: 8/19/1990-12/26/1990. Successful defenses: 1.

9-Tatsumi Fujinami. 3rd reign. Length: 12/26/1990-1/17/1991. Successful defenses: None.

10-Big Van Vader (Leon White). 3rd reign. Length: 1/17/1991-3/4/1991. Successful defenses: None.

11-Tatsumi Fujinami. 4th reign. Length: 3/4/1991-1/4/1992. Successful defenses: 3.

12-Riki Choshu. 3rd reign. Length: 1/4/1992-8/16/1992. Successful defenses: 4.

13-The Great Muta (Keiji Muto). 1st reign. Length: 8/16/1992-9/20/1993. Successful defenses: 5.

14-Shinya Hashimoto. 1st reign. Length: 9/20/1993-4/4/1994. Successful defenses: 4.

15-Tatsumi Fujinami. 5th reign. Length: 4/4/1994-5/1/1994. Successful defenses: None.

16-Shinya Hashimoto. 2nd reign. Length: 5/1/1994-5/3/1995. Successful defenses: 9.

17-Keiji Muto. 2nd reign. Length: 5/3/1995-1/4/1996. Successful defenses: 5.

18-Nobuhiko Takada. 1st reign. Length: 1/4/1996-4/29-1996. Successful defenses: 1.

19-Shinya Hashimoto. 3rd reign. Length: 4/29/1996-8/31/1997. Successful defenses: 7.

20-Kensuke Sasaki. 1st reign. Length: 8/31/1997-4/4/1998. Successful defenses: 3.

21-Tatsumi Fujinami. 6th reign. Length: 4/4/1998-8/8/1998. Successful defenses: 2.

22-Masa Chono. 1st reign. Length: 8/8/1998-9/21/1998. Successful defenses: None. Vacated title on 9/21/1998.

23-Scott Norton. 1st reign. Length: 9/23/1988-1/4/1999. Successful defenses: 4.

24-Keiji Mutoh. 3rd reign. Length: 1/4/1999-12/10/1999. Successful defenses: 5.

25-Genichiro Tenryu. 1st reign. Length: 12/10/1999-1/4/2000. Successful defenses: None.

26-Kensuke Sasaki. 2nd reign. Length: 1/4/2000-10/9/2000. Successful defenses: 5. Vacated title on 10/9/2000 after losing a non-title match.

27-Kensuke Sasaki. 3rd reign. Length: 1/4/2001-3/17/2001. Successful defenses: 1.

28-Scott Norton. 2nd reign. Length:3/17/2001-4/9/2001. Successful defenses: None.

29-Kazuyuki Fujita. 1st reign. Length: 4/9/2001-1/4/2002. Successful defenses: 2. Vacated title on 1/4/2002 due to injury.

30-Tadao Yasuda. 1st reign. Length: 2/16/2002-4/5/2002. Successful defenses: 1.

31-Yuji Nagata. 1st reign. Length: 4/5/2002-5/2/2003. Successful defenses: 10.

32-Yoshihiro Takayama. 1st reign. Length: 5/2/2003-11/3/2003. Successful defenses: 3.

33-Hiroyoshi Tenzan. 1st reign. Length: 11/3/2003-12/9/2003. Successful defenses: None.

34-Shinsuke Nakamura. 1st reign. Length: 12/9/2003-2/5/2004. Successful defenses: 1. Vacated title on 2/5/2004 due to injuries.

35-Hiroyoshi Tenzan. 2nd reign. Length: 2/15/2004-3/12/2004. Successful defenses: 1.

36-Kensuke Sasaki. 4th reign. Length: 3/12/2004-3/28/2004. Successful defenses: None.

37-Bob Sapp. 1st reign. Length: 3/28/2004-6/2/2004. Successful defenses: 1. Vacated title on 6/2/2004 after losing in K-1.

38-Kazuyuki Fujita. 2nd reign. Length: 6/5/2004-10/9/2004. Successful defenses: 1.

39-Kensuke Sasaki. 5th reign. Length: 10/9/2004-12/12/2004. Successful defenses: 2.

40-Hiroyoshi Tenzan. 3rd reign. Length: 12/12/2004-2/20/2005. Successful defenses: None.

41-Satoshi Kojima. 1st reign. Length: 2/20/2005-5/14/2005. Successful defenses: 1.

42-Hiroyoshi Tenzan. 4th reign. Length: 5/14/2005-7/18/2005. Successful defenses: 1.

43-Kazuyuki Fujita. 3rd reign. Length: 7/18/2005-10/8/2005. Successful defenses: None.

44-Brock Lesnar. 1st reign. Length: 10/8/2005-7/15/2006. Successful defenses: 3. Vacated title on 7/15/2006 due to visa problems, but refuses to hand over belt. Title becomes known as IWGP 3rd Belt-an unofficial title not recognized by New Japan-and is recognized as 1st IGF Champion using the IWGP belt. New Japan creates new belt to replace old belt held by Lesnar.

45-Hiroshi Tanahashi. 1st reign. Length: 7/17/2006-4/13/2007. Successful defenses: 4.

46-Yuji Nagata. 2nd reign. Length: 4/12/2007-10/8/2007. Successful defenses: 2.

47-Hiroshi Tanahashi. 2nd reign. Length: 10/8/2007-1/4/2008. Successful defenses: 1.

48-Shinsuke Nakamura. 2nd reign. Length: 1/4/2008-4/27/2008. Successful defenses: 2. Unifies title with IWGP 3rd Belt on 2/17/2008. 3rd Belt abandoned.

49-Keiji Muto. 4th reign. Length: 4/27/2008-1/4/2009. Successful defenses: 4.

50-Hiroshi Tanahashi. 3rd reign. Length: 1/4/2009-5/6/2009. Successful defenses: 3.

51-Manabu Nakanishi. 1st reign. Length: 5/6/2009-6/20/2009. Successful defenses: None.

52-Hiroshi Tanahashi. 4th reign. Length: 6/20/2009-8/17/2009. Successful defenses: 1. Vacated title on 8/17/2009 due to injury.

53-Shinsuke Nakamura. 3rd reign. Length: 9/27/2009-5/3/2010. Successful defenses: 6.

54-Makabe. 1st reign. Length: 5/3/2010-10/11/2010. Successful defenses: 3.

55-Satoshi Kojima. 2nd reign. Length: 10/11/2010-1/4/2011. Successful defenses: 1.

56-Hiroshi Tanahashi. 5th reign. Length: 1/4/2011-Present (Current Champion). Successful defenses: 6. Next defense: 9/19/2011 vs. Shinsuke Nakamura.