Why the IWGP Women’s Championship is important

TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 27: Utami Hayashishita enters the ring during the Women's Pro-Wrestling "Stardom" at Yoyogi National Gymnasium on November 27, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 27: Utami Hayashishita enters the ring during the Women's Pro-Wrestling "Stardom" at Yoyogi National Gymnasium on November 27, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images) /

STARDOM has announced that there will be an IWGP Women’s Championship. Their tweet says that “NJPW and STARDOM are creating this title for defenses not only in Japan but also in the US on New Japan Pro Wrestling events, appealing to the world with rich IWGP history!”

A follow up tweet announced that the inaugural IWGP Women’s Champion will be crowned at the NJPW x STARDOM joint show on November 20th at the Ariake Arena. There is clarification that the new title does not “usurp the Red and White Belts in any way. They are the main title for STARDOM events.”

The IWGP Women’s Championship will only be for NJPW events. STARDOM does say that it would be defended on big events of theirs. They have stressed that the World of Stardom title (red) and Wonder of Stardom title (white) are the main titles for the company.

The importance of STARDOM having a women’s title in NJPW

This is huge news, not just for women’s wrestling, but all of wrestling. NJPW has never had its own women’s division. Women didn’t begin competing in NJPW until a couple of years ago. The first time, it was a dark match only for the fans in attendance. This year at WrestleKingdom 16, there was one women’s match on the main card on Night 2.

In October 2019, NJPW’s parent company, Bushiroad purchased STARDOM. Even then, there wasn’t a guarantee that the two companies would work together. With Bushiroad purchasing STARDOM, it gave them more marketing opportunities to expand their reach.

Just 2.5 years later, there is a women’s championship to be defended on NJPW shows. NJPW has expanded to the U.S. with NJPW Strong. The Strong brand regularly puts on shows in various parts of the country. At a June press conference it was announced that STARDOM matches would start being on some Strong shows. Strong airs every Saturday on NJPW World and later on the company’s YouTube channel.

Bushiroad chairman, Tacky Kidani said “soon, much like overseas, the Japanese scene will be ‘gender-less’ and more integrated.” Bushiroad seems to think of STARDOM on equal footing with NJPW, or at least getting there. Creating an IWGP championship proves that STARDOM is important to both Bushiroad and NJPW, especially when it comes to moving the Japanese wrestling scene forward.

With NJPW’s partnership with AEW, we could see STARDOM women eventually crossover and vice versa. AEW wrestlers regularly appear on Strong. NJPW still has a relationship with IMPACT Wrestling as well. It’s possible that there’s some overlap between STARDOM and IMPACT.

Adding to the IWGP legacy

IWGP titles in NJPW have been around since the 1980s. IWGP stands for International Wrestling Grand Prix, which is NJPW’s governing body. Before the G1 Climax, there was the IWGP League. The winner of this tournament would get a title belt and it would only be defended in the IWGP League. Hulk Hogan was the first one to hold the title and he lost it a year later to Antonio Inoki, founder of NJPW.

There would be yet another tournament in 1987. This time, the title had to be defended at any scheduled match. This became the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

In 1985, the IWGP created tag team titles. This belt is for heavyweights. The IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships debuted in 1998.

From 2011-2021, NJPW had the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. With much controversy, in March 2021, it became unified with the IWGP Heavyweight Championship to become the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship.

Adding a women’s title under the IWGP name is a very big deal. A women’s title not only being recognized but sanctioned by IWGP is huge. This tells fans as well as talent that women are just as important. This title is not an NEVER Openweight title. IWGP carries a certain prestige that other titles do not.

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Although it will currently only be defended at NJPW events, it does not lessen its importance. This championship is key in expanding women’s wrestling in NJPW and giving them a bigger presence among NJPW fans.

Whoever is crowned as the inaugural IWGP Women’s Champion will make history. They will have the chance to make the title their own and to make it the standard for any woman who comes after. The importance of this championship should not be underestimated. This championship can change the trajectory of women’s wrestling in Japan and universally.