Today in Wrestling History January 5th – Wrestle Kingdom Night Two, IWGP Intercontinental Championship

Hamish Woodward

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Today in wrestling history’s post is for the 5th of January. In recent years, today’s date has held the NJPW event “New Years Dash”. New Years Dash has traditionally been the start of New Japan’s calendar, with the January 4th Tokyo Dome show, dubbed “Wrestle Kingdom” since 2007, been the culmination of a year of story telling in the promotion.

However, the past three years have been different. New Japan Pro Wrestling, starting in 2020, held Wrestle Kingdom as a two-night event. Since then, January 5th has held the second night of the two-night spectacular. So, lets take a look at the different events in wrestling history that took place on January 5.

The first Two-Night Wrestle Kingdom – 2019

Today in wrestling history in 2019, NJPW changed the game regarding wrestling pay per views. Like Wrestlemania, their big show is Wrestle Kingdom, and is the end of a year long build up of stories, rivalries and matches. Also like Wrestlemania, it had been the same for the past 13 years and nobody saw any reason to change it.

But they did. NJPW made the bold move of making their biggest show of the year a two-night event. Wrestle Kingdom 14 was the first of it’s kind, broadcasting a Night one and Night two. Night one was on the traditional January 4th, with the second night being broadcast on January 5th, 2020.

The show was an historic one. It was announced in the build up that there would be IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championship matches on night one, with the winners of each facing each other in the main event of night two. The winner would hold both belts, and they would be merged into a new championship, the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship.

The first night saw Kazuchika Okada defeat Kota Ibushi to retain his IWGP Heavyweight Championship, whilst IWGP Intercontinental Champion Jay White lost to Tetsuya Naito, who booked his place in the January 5th main event.

Naito would defeat Okada in a fantastic match on January 5th at Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night two. He won both championships and fulfilled a destiny that had been written for him years ago.

First NWA Heavyweight Champion – 1948

Orville Brown defeated Sonny Myers to win the National Wrestling Association Heavyweight Championship on this date in 1948. The January 4th bout would a huge one for Brown. He held the belt for over six months, which is when the National Wrestling Alliance would be formed.

When the NWA was formed, he defeated Frank Sexton to unify his championship and Sexton’s Wrestling Alliance Heavyweight Championship. As well as unifying various other championship, Orville Brown would be crowned the first ever National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Champion in the organisations history.

Sadly, a unification match against Lou Thesz was set for 1949, bit injuries meant that the match was cancelled. A car injury to Brown causes severe injuries that forced him to end his career. He vacated the championship, which was awarded to his would-be opponent Lou Thesz.

NJPW Introduce the IWGP Intercontinental Championship – 2011

On January 5 2011, NJPW introduced their newest title belt, the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. The belt was announced as part of New Japan’s first tour into the United States, and planned an eight-man tournament to crown the inaugural champion.

In the list of names in the tournament included future IWGP Heavyweight Champion, New Japan stalwart Toru Yano and former WWE superstar MVP.

MVP would defeat Toru Yano in the final to be crowned the first champion, which would be held by legendary wrestlers like Shinsuke Nakamura, Tesuya Naito and Hiroshi Tanahashi.

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