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NEVER Openweight Championship

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The NEVER Openweight Championship is a professional wrestling championship owned by the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) promotion. NEVER stands for "New Blood", "Evolution", "Valiantly", "Eternal", and "Radical" and was a NJPW-promoted series of events, which featured younger up-and-coming talent and outside wrestlers not signed to the promotion. The project was officially announced on July 12, 2010, and held its first event on August 24, 2010. On October 5, 2012, NJPW announced that NEVER was going to get its own championship, the NEVER Openweight Championship, the promotion's sixth active title. The title was originally scheduled to be defended exclusively at NEVER events, but this plan was quickly changed and since its foundation, the title has been defended on the undercards of NJPW events. The original concept of having younger workers wrestle for the title has also not been realized with all five holders of the title having been in their thirties or forties. Though named an "openweight" championship, NJPW has also categorized the title as one of the promotion's four heavyweight titles, alongside the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, the IWGP Intercontinental Championship and the IWGP Tag Team Championship.

Like most professional wrestling championships, the title is won as a result of a scripted match. There have been seven reigns shared among five wrestlers. Tomohiro Ishii is the current champion in his third reign.


Championship tournament

On October 5, 2012, over two years after the founding of NEVER, New Japan Pro Wrestling announced the creation of the project's first championship, the NEVER Openweight Championship. The title was originally created with the idea of using it to "elevate younger wrestlers". The first champion was to be determined in a sixteen-man single-elimination tournament, which was set to take place November 15 and 19, 2012. The title and the tournament were announced by New Japan president Naoki Sugabayashi and NEVER regular Tetsuya Naito, who was scheduled to enter the tournament, but was forced to pull out after suffering a knee injury. Much like regular NEVER events, the tournament also featured wrestlers not signed to New Japan; freelancer Daisuke Sasaki, Hiro Tonai, Kengo Mashimo, Ryuichi Sekine, Shiori Asahi and Taishi Takizawa from Kaientai Dojo, and Masato Tanaka from Pro Wrestling Zero1. The entire first round of the tournament took place on November 15 and saw Shiori Asahi, Yoshi-Hashi, Taishi Takizawa, Ryusuke Taguchi, Tomohiro Ishii, Kengo Mashimo, Karl Anderson and Masato Tanaka advance. The rest of the tournament took place four days later. During the second round, Kengo Mashimo defeated Ryusuke Taguchi, Karl Anderson defeated Shiori Asahi, Masato Tanaka defeated Taishi Takizawa, Tomohiro Ishii defeated Yoshi-Hashi. The semifinals saw Anderson defeat Mashimo and Tanaka defeat Ishii. In the finals of the tournament, Tanaka, the 39-year old, who, despite officially being affiliated with Pro Wrestling Zero1, has worked for New Japan Pro Wrestling regularly since August 2009, defeated Anderson to become the inaugural NEVER Openweight Champion. Though the title was originally designed to be defended at NEVER events, NJPW has not held a single NEVER event since the championship tournament.

  First round
(November 15)
Second round
(November 19)
(November 19)
(November 19)
 Karl Anderson Pin  
 Yujiro Takahashi 11:12  
   Karl Anderson Pin  
   Shiori Asahi 03:59  
 Hiromu Takahashi Pin
 Shiori Asahi 06:14  
   Karl Anderson Pin  
   Kengo Mashimo 06:14  
 Ryusuke Taguchi Pin  
 Hiro Tonai 08:19  
   Ryusuke Taguchi Sub
   Kengo Mashimo 07:54  
 Bushi Pin
 Kengo Mashimo 08:02  
   Karl Anderson Pin
   Masato Tanaka 15:12
 Kushida Pin  
 Masato Tanaka 13:02  
   Masato Tanaka Pin
   Taishi Takizawa 04:28  
 Captain New Japan Pin
 Taishi Takizawa 07:22  
   Masato Tanaka Pin
   Tomohiro Ishii 10:47  
 Tomohiro Ishii Pin  
 Daisuke Sasaki 08:39  
   Tomohiro Ishii Pin
   Yoshi-Hashi 06:57  
 Yoshi-Hashi Pin
 Ryuichi Sekine 07:14  


There have been seven reigns shared among five wrestlers with one vacancy. Masato Tanaka was the first champion in the title's history. He also holds the record for the longest reign in the title's history, at 314 days. Togi Makabe's only reign of 41 is the shortest in the title's history. Tomohiro Ishii is the only wrestler to have held the title more than once, being a three-time champion. Ishii is the current champion in his third reign, having defeated Tomoaki Honma for the vacant title on February 14, 2015, at The New Beginning in Sendai.

See also

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