Wrestle Kingdom Rewind: Democracy in Action 【WK17】

Fan vote leads to IWGP Intercontinental Championship headlining Wrestle Kingdom 8. 

<– 2013: Love or Money      2015: Cold Rain–>

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The IWGP Heavyweight Championship had main evented every January 4 since 2008, and was the top title defended in the Tokyo Dome for much longer. As NJPW entered into a growth phase however, a new championship was born to symbolize NJPW’s advances overseas: the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. 

While the likes of MVP, Masato Tanaka and Hirooki Goto held the title with pride in its early stages, it was Shinsuke Nakamura who defined, and would be defined by the white and gold. His matches over the championship, and Nakamura’s irresistable charisma put the Intercontinental Championship on a level at least equal in stature to Kazuchika Okada’s IWGP Heavyweight title. 

Okada was set to face the G1 Climax winner Tetsuya Naito at Wrestle Kingdom 8. After a miraculous return from a career threatening knee injury, Naito fought through an intense G1 Climax field before finally submitting Hiroshi Tanahashi to win the summer’s greatest tournament. The delighted Naito was convinced that his win was enough to make him the main attraction in NJPW, but despite making what seemed to be all the right moves, Naito had not earned the respect of the fans. Not, at least, to the level of respect the audience had for Nakamura, and his rival Hiroshi Tanahashi. 

When Nakamura called out Tanahashi to battle him for the IC Championship in the Tokyo Dome, he was reigniting a rivalry that had long sat dormant. The Ace versus the King of Strong Style for the first time in 17 months was in itself incredibly attractive, and with the Intercontinental Championship on the line, doubly so. Fervour for the match was so great that a fan vote was put in place to determine whether fans thought the Intercontinental Championship should headline over Okada vs Naito, and the fans made their opinion known. 

How Naito would take the result, not just of the poll, but the match that would ensue, Okada retaining with the Rainmaker, is something that would drastically shape the rest of his career. In the meantime, Nakamura and Tanahashi showed up to tear the house down in the main event, Tanahashi ultimately lifting the Intercontinental gold for the first time in his career, albeit for a brief reign.

The junior heavyweight division would see a generational shift at this Wrestle Kingdom. Prince Devitt had hung onto IWGP Junior heavyweight Championship gold through 2013, but his year would be memorable for more than a lengthy reign with the junior gold. Amid battles with Hiroshi Tanahashi, Devitt split apart from Apollo 55 Ryusuke Taguchi, and formed BULLET CLUB, which became a dominant force through the year. 

There was still unfinished business in the junior heavyweight division though, and with rival Kota Ibushi, with whom Devitt had already had multiple memorable bouts in both the singles and tag ranks. Ibushi had never been victorious over his foe in the Tokyo Dome though, until tonight at least. Crashing Ibushi’s victory party though was a mysterious masked man with a unique challenge to the new champion, a masked man by the name El Desperado.  


Watch Wrestle Kingdom 8 here!