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.
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.
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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. Michael Elgin's only reign of 8 days is the shortest in the title's history.