Champions Summit: IWGP vs WWE (Part III)

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Photo: IPW:UK

It was recently announced by IPW:UK that on January 17, 2018, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Will Ospreay will be facing off against WWE United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne at IPW’s upcoming Magnificent Seven event, in what promises to be a great match-up of IWGP vs WWE.

An absolute dream match for many, the magnitude of a current reigning IWGP Champion from NJPW facing off against a current reigning WWF Champion was enough to bring out some excitement, especially from one of the combatants themselves.

Of course, Ospreay is incorrect. An IWGP vs WWE showdown has happened twice before actually, once in the 1980s and once in the 1990s, and both involved a certain WWE World Heavyweight Champion named Hulk Hogan.

IWGP vs. WWE: THE IWGP-WWF CHAMPION SERIES, 1985

Photo: fndcollectables.com/

During May and June of 1985, the WWF sent a contingent of stars over to NJPW for a series of 29 events called the IWGP & WWF Champion Series, headlined by IWGP Champion Antonio Inoki and WWF World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan. At the time, the IWGP Championship was won annually in a tournament (it would get its own belt as we know it in June of 1987), of which Inoki was the current reigning champion. Hogan defended his WWF World title twice on the tour, both against Tatsumi Fujinami, but the main event of the final night of the tour was IWGP Champion Antonio Inoki defending his crown against Hulk Hogan.

It was a sweet revenge match of sorts, as Hogan actually won the inaugural IWGP Championship tournament in 1983, just prior to rejoining the WWF. Inoki won the match via count out, but it marked the first time an IWGP Champion faced off against a reigning WWF Champion. The match was even immortalized in a 1985 Topps Trading Card.

Photo: TOPPS

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 1993

Photo: NJPW

Hulk Hogan accomplished the feat a second time nearly a decade later, when he appeared on the card for NJPW’s 1993 edition of NJPW Wrestling Dontaku. It was May of 1993 and Hogan had just won his 5th WWF World Heavyweight Championship nearly a month to the date earlier at WrestleMania IX off of Yokozuna in one of the more controversial title changes in WWE history. It would end up being his last WWE title in some time as Hogan would drop the belt back to Yokozuna in June and walk out on the WWF (over having to potentially drop the title to Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart according to some circles) before jumping to WCW the following year. But on May 3, 1993, Hulk Hogan walked into Fukuoka Dome as WWF World Champion and faced off against the current reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion The Great Muta in a non-title singles match, which the Hulkster won. An odd card, the only other WWF Superstars on the card were his manager, Jimmy Hart, and his then-best friend Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. Strangely, it also featured several WCW stars, including Sting and Scott Norton.

Photo: NJPW

To his credit, after being corrected on Twitter by dozens of fans, Ospreay did amend his initial Tweet.

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Jamie Greer is the Managing Editor and lead writer for Last Word on Pro Wrestling. A lifelong wrestling fan who started with the WWF in the early 80's, he now follows everything from the smallest indie to WWE. He's also written for WrestleZone, The Windsor Star, Windsor Independent and other publications. He lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, with his wife and son.

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