Hulk Hogan is one of the greatest WWE Champions of all time, but did you know he was the first IWGP Heavyweight Champion?
Some people may not even know he wrestled in Japan, especially during the peak years of Hulkamania.
Hulk Hogan was first person to hold the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, starting a lineage that contained some of the most legendary names in wrestling history.
Hulk Hogan Won The First IWGP Heavyweight Championship
In 1983, Hulk Hogan became the first ever IWGP Heavyweight Champion. He won the belt by winning a tournament in Japan, which at the time was known as the IWGP League Tournament.
IWGP stands for International Wrestling Grand Prix. This is a fictionalised governing body, used by New Japan Pro Wrestling as the decision makers behind their title belts.
While everybody is now aware that the IWGP doesn’t exist, the belts are still named after them to preserve the history oft he championships.
However, Hulk Hogan is not always considered the first IWGP Heavyweight Champion. While he did win the IWGP League Tournament (which is now known as the G1 Climax).
Hogan beat legends like Antonio Inoki, Andre the Giant and Big John Studd to win the tournament and be awarded the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
This makes Hulk Hogan the first ever IWGP Heavyweight Champion, although it was not quite the same as the title we know today.
He Lost The Belt Antonio Inoki The Following Year
Hogan’s IWGP title was not a conventional championship belt. It was to be defended only once per year, against the following year’s winner of the G1 Climax.
This was, unsurprisingly, NJPW booker Antonio Inoki, who beat the likes of Riko Chosu and Tatsumi Fujinami to win his 4th G1 Climax tournament.
This earned him a shot at Hulk Hogan, and a chance to win this brand-new IWGP Heavyweight title belt.
He did just that, ending The Hulkster’s reign as the champion after one year, and zero title defenses.
However, this was not the same IWGP Heavyweight Championship that you’ve seen draped over the shoulders of stars like Kazuchika Okada, Shinsuke Nakamura and Kenny Omega.
This belt was retired in 1987, and replaced by a new championship of the same name. This was also won by winning the G1 Climax, but was defended more regularly, treating it more like a title belt than a trophy.
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