What always astounds me is that when anyone leaves the WWE and goes on to wrestle anywhere else, for some we finally see their full arsenal come into play. WWE matches are largely cookie cutter affairs with wrestlers limiting their move-set, dumbing down their skills for a number of reasons. In NXT and WWE, I never understood what the big deal was surrounding Sasha Banks, now Mercedes Mone. Whether in NXT or WWE proper I saw her as a decent talent but not an overly impressive one. Many watching Mone’s debut in NJPW saw a completely different talent. Although she was a little rusty around the edges and there were some awkward moments, Mone proved that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to her in-ring work. It is a shame we weren’t allowed to see or only saw glimpses of this Mone in WWE.

Mone’s NJPW in-ring debut wasn’t any ordinary match though. It was for Kairi’s IWGP Women’s Championship.

Mercedes Mone came to the ring accompanied by a whole slew of dancers. The interesting thing is when the bell rung it was Kairi the crowd is cheering for.

Mercedes Mone is ready for war. Courtesy: NJPW, Fite TV.

Mone is impressive right out of the gate. She bounces off the middle rope, flips Kairi over into a Bank Statement. Mone lets Kairi know she was THAT close to losing. A flying head scissors and a drop kick sends Mone out of the ring. The crowd chants for Kairi. Kairi bowls Mone over with a running knee strike off the apron.

A chop to the chest sends Mone into the ropes screaming in pain. Mone ducks out of the way laying in open-hand chops in a corner. The double knees in a corner scores Mone a two count. Mone grabs Kairi’s hand and tries to walk the top rope. Kairi pulls her down and Mone ends up in the tree of woe. Mone handstands out of it and kicks Kairi right off the top rope.

With Kairi on the apron, Mone runs over to the opposite corner guillotining her on the steel turnbuckle supports. Mone flips a single-arm DDT into an arm bar. Mone hauls off and slaps Kairi in the face and rips the fur off of one of her boots throwing it at Kairi. Mone stands on Kairi’s shoulders so she is being strangled in the ropes. Kairi reverses things pulling Mone right into a steel post. Kairi then runs Mone into another post. She tries it again. Mone reverses it sending Kairi into a post. Both women barely beat the 20 count back into the ring. Kairi hits (kind of misses) a double stomp on Mone from the top rope. Kairi picks up the pace with a jumping neckbreaker and a spear. At this point, the crowd is divided in their support.

Mone hits the double knees off the apron to Kairi on the floor. She hits another double knees off the top rope for a two count. Mone just snaps. She cannot believe she didn’t get the pinfall. Mone rips off her vest and the fur on her other boot. Kairi rolls through another double knee strike catching Mone in a submission. Mone switches that into her crossface but Kairi gets a foot on the ropes.

Mone runs off the ropes. Kairi just cracks her with the backfist Cutlass to the face for a two count. Kairi pancakes Mone. Mone stops Kairi from delivering the Flying Elbow Smash from the top rope by holding onto her leg. Kairi lays Mone over the second rope. As Kairi runs off the ropes Mone swings her into a Belly-To-Belly Suplex for another two count.

The match breaks down into a slugfest. As Kairi attempts another Cutlass, Mone pulls the official in the way. Kairi chews Mone out for what she did. Mone denies she did anything wrong. Kairi starts punching the crap out of Mone as both women roll out of the ring. Kairi drags Mone up the rampway.

Kairi is ready to slam Mone through a table. Courtesy: NJPW and Fite TV.

Kairi gets a head of steam looking for double knees off the ramp. Mone avoids that strike and slams Kairi’s head into a massive speaker. Mone sets up a table. Mone brings Kairi to her feet. Both women are standing on the speaker. Kairi slips out of a suplex and powerbombs Mone through the table.

Mone puts her legs up stopping Kairi’s Insane Elbow. Mone goes for a frog splash. Kairi puts her knees up thwarting that move. Kairi puts Mone in a crossface bending her almost in half. Mone bites Kairi’s wrists until she lets the hold go. Mone pins Kairi with The Moneymaker slam to win the IWGP Women’s Championship. Mone brought Kairi to her feet. Mone raised Kairi’s hand as both women bathed in the spotlight.

Battle in the Valley also saw Eddie Kingston and Jay White fighting for their lives in a Loser Leaves NJPW match.

White made Kingston wait by circling ring and talking trash as the bell rung. White eventually ducks out of the ring entirely. The crowd boos. Kingston lays down in the middle of the ring. White sneaks back into the ring after guillotining Kingston on the top rope. One punch from Kingston though has White scrambling to the floor. Kingston holds open the ropes for White begging him to return.

White takes over laying the boots and shoulder tackles to Kingston in a corner. Kingston retaliates with some head butts and a nasty clothesline. A knife edge chop drops White to the mat. A double underhook suplex in a corner slows Kingston down for another suplex and a two count. Eddie hits with some backfists and a T-bone suplex of his own.

White connects with a Flatline and lifts Kingston off the mat for a German Suplex. Kingston pops right back up and then he slumps back down. White gives Eddie chops in a corner. Eddie pulls down his straps and dares White to chop him some more.

Kingston stops a Bladerunner by going to the eyes. Eddie shoves the official. White low-blows Eddie with the official distracted. White hits Bladerunner. Eddie rolls out of the ring avoiding a pinfall. An angry White grabs the official by the throat backing him into a corner. A surprise backfist scores Eddie a two count. As White attempts to stand Eddie offers to to bump fists with him. White looks confused. White spits at Eddie. Eddie unloads with several backfist punches and a Northern Lights Driver. White still kicks out stunning the crowd. Kingston picks up White, hugs him and pins him with another Northern Lights Driver. White now has to leave NJPW.

After the match, Jay White staggers around the ring. The crowd starts shouting…Too Sweet!

Jay White takes to the microphone but before he can say anything David Finlay hits him with a shillelagh in the back of the head.

“You had this company by the balls and you let it go? You had this business in the palm of your hand and you let it be taken from you?” asked Finlay.

“Jay, I mean this from the bottom of my heart. F–k your era and f–k California and Japan and Ireland and anywhere else because no matter where I go, I am on the outside,” continued Finlay with his tirade saying he doesn’t wrestle in a country. He wrestles in a business.

The crowd start telling Finlay to shut up but less politely.

“Why don’t YOU shut the f–k up? ” replied Finlay explaining that his family has been in the business for four generations. Finlay asked the officials to get that “piece of s–t” White out of the ring so the segment could close with a “clean” shot of him.

In the main event of the evening, Kazuchika Okada put his IWGP World Heavyweight Championship on the line against his hand-picked challenger, Hiroshi Tanahashi. Okada retained when he drop kicked The Ace as he came off the top rope with a High Fly Flow. Okada pins The Ace with a pump-handle slam and a Rainmaker Clothesline.

NJPW Battle in the Valley 2023

Support Slam Wrestling and order Battle in the Valley (Feb 18th) with the link above.

NJPW Battle in the Valley 2023 Results

Kushida, DKC, Kevin Knight and Valador Jr. versus Adrian West, Mascara Dorado, Rocky Romero and Josh Alexander

Kevin Knight flies high. Courtesy: NJPW / Fite TV.

The crowd is cheering for Kushida right out of the gate. Alexander and Kushida start things off with some fantastic hold for hold, counter for counter wrestling. When Rocky enters the chats rise up. He tags out immediately to piss off Valador Jr. Valador and Dorado engage in some cool lucha action. DKC batters Romero with his martial arts skills. Kushida puts Adrian West on his shoulders Doomsday Device style. Knight hits West with an incredible drop kick. Look out Jumpin’ Jim! As Kushida puts Alexander in the Hoverboard Lock, Knight pins Adrian West with a Pendulum DDT.

Winners: Kushida, DKC, Kevin Knight and Valador Jr.

Rating: 6 / 10

Kenta versus Fred Rosser (c) – Strong Openweight Championship Match

Roser gets in Kenta’s face. Courtesy: NJPW / Fite TV.

It is so good to see Rosser having a successful second life in wrestling. He really has become reborn in New Japan Strong. The crowd cheers for Kenta. He backs into a corner and points out this fact to Rosser. Kenta backs Rosser into a corner and slaps him in the head. Kenta rolls out of the ring. Kenta kicks Rosser in the face. Rosser trash talks Kenta and asks for more. Rosser goes to the floor and climbs over a barricade. He demands they take the fight to the floor where they can get as nasty as they want to be. Kenta obliges so they begin brawling. Kenta takes Rosser down with a series of stiff kicks. A kick from Kenta knocks Rosser over the ringside barricade.

Kenta rakes Rosser’s eyes and DDTs him on the ring apron. Rosser gets into the game with some leg drops and big boots. Kenta gets a two count with a top rope clothesline. Rosser slams Kenta on the ring apron and hits him with a senton on the floor. Rosser gets a two count with a clothesline back in the ring.

Kenta locks in the Game Over. Rosser is able to make it to the ropes. Kents signals for Go To Sleep. Rosser flips the GTS to a chicken wing submission. Kenta manages to escape with the help of the official. Things break down into a slugfest in the middle of the ring. Kenta launches Rosser into the official. Rosser turns a GTS into an STF with a chicken wing. Kenta taps but the official is still in Dreamland.

Juice Robinson, Kenta’s Bullet Club pal, comes down to the ring. He distracts Rosser and then hits him with the Left Hand of God with brass knuckles, a roll of coins or something? It is not really clear. Kenta pins Rosser with Go To Sleep.

Winner: …and new Strong Openweight Champion, Kenta.

Rating: 7 / 10

The West Coast Wrecking Crew versus The Motor City Machine Guns (c) – Strong Openweight Tag Team Championship

The Crew attacks the Guns before the bell even rings. Jorel Nelson performs a great feat of strength by picking up Sabin for a suplex on the floor and just carrying him around. Issacs slams Sabin into the ropes. Shelley starts wrestling a singles match as Sabin is out on the floor. The Machine Guns give Issacs a double super kick in the face. Sabin takes out both members of the crew with a dive on the floor. Sabin runs in and accidentally kicks Shelley in the head. The Crew give The Machine Guns double German Suplexes. The Guns win with the double team in the end.

Rating: 6 / 10

Eddie Kingston versus Jay White – Loser Leaves NJPW Match

Winner: Eddie Kingston.

Rating: 8 / 10

‘Filthy’ Tom Lawler versus Homicide

Homicide gets stabby. Courtesy: NJPW and Fite.

There are no ropes in this match. Lawler has some trouble getting his pants off over his boots. When he finally does so the crowd cheers. Lawler puts on boxing gloves. Homicide nails him with a punch and gets a two count. Lawler smashes a trash can lid over Homicide’s head. Lawler takes a lap around the ring before kicking Homicide in the back. Lawler then works over Homicide with a chair. Lawler runs down the entranceway and Homicide throws a chair in his face. Homicide beats Lawler upside the head with some baking sheets and hits a DDT.

Homicide pulls a ladder and a kendo stick from under the ring. Homicide blasts Lawler with the stick. Homicide finds some cutlery under the ring, namely a bunch of forks. When Lawler puts Homicide in a leg lock, Homicide stabs his foot with one of the forks.

Lawler drops Homicide on a ladder and smashes half of a door on his head. Lawler drapes a chair over Homicide’s head and climbs a ladder. He drops a falling headbutt on the chair and Homicide for a two count. Lawler slaps on a submission and because Homicide cannot read for any ropes, he taps out.

Winner: ‘Filthy’ Tom Lawler.

Rating: 7.5 / 10

Zack Sabre Jr. (c) versus Clark Connors – NJPW World Television Champion

As per the rules, the match has a 15 minute time limit. Connors throws everything he has at Sabre but cannot keep him down. Zack even kicks out of a powerbomb slam. Connors puts Sabre into a rear naked choke and an ankle lock. Sabre won’t submit. Connors submits to Sabre’s Fujiwara Armbar.

Winner: …and still NJPW World Television Champion, Zack Sabre Jr.

Rating: 6 / 10

Kairi (c) versus Mercedes MoneIWGP Women’s Championship

Winner: …and new IWGP Women’s Champion, Mercedes Mone.

Rating: 9 / 10

Kazuchika Okada (c) versus Hiroshi Tanahashi –  IWGP World Heavyweight Championship Match

Winner: …and still IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada.

Rating: 7.5  / 10


NJPW Battle in the Valley

I think it was incredibly dumb to stage this show on the same day, same night as WWE’s Elimination Chamber. They potential audience could have been much larger and the event could have had more of an impact than it did. The event was fantastic from top to bottom with something for every kind of wrestling fan. At $20.00, you are getting your money’s worth and much more. The only disappointment as far as flow goes was The West Coast Wrecking Crew versus The Motor City Machine Guns. That match just seemed unpolished for some reason which is unusual for both teams.