New Japan Pro Wrestling will return to the US on Saturday, February 18, with a “Battle in the Valley” show at the San Jose Civic in San Jose, California.
This will be the second “Battle of the Valley” in the US, both in San Jose. The first event was in November 2021, with a card that featured mainly wrestlers from New Japan’s US dojo. There were some expectations – it was the first time Kazuchicka Okada had wrestled in the US since 2019 – and the main event was an outstanding battle for the NEVER Openweight Championship that saw Tomohito Ishii beat ‘Switchblade’ Jay White.
This year’s event still features wrestlers more known for their US work than wrestling in Japan – like Bobby Fish and Homicide – but there are some very interesting matchups on the card. That includes the post-WWE debut of one Sasha Banks, now going by the ring name Mercedes Mone.
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Sasha Banks Is Back
Kairi – another former WWE employee who went by Kairi Sane – became the inaugural winner of the IWGP Women’s Championship when she beat Mayu Iwatani at Historic X-Over in November. Women’s wrestling (or Joshi) has historically not been part of the New Japan production, with women’s wrestling having successful promotions in their own right in Japan. Stardom has been a sister promotion to NJPW over the years. Their crossover event to crown Kairi with a title to be exclusively defended on New Japan shows was incredibly well received.
At Wrestle Kingdom 17 – think New Japan’s version of WrestleMania – Kairi defended her title in a singles match against Tam Nakano. After the match, the arena went dark as unfamiliar music hit, and Mercedes Mone strode to the ring. She then confronted Kairi, challenging her to a match that will take place at “Battle in the Valley.”
This is a hot angle. It will be the former Banks’ first match since she walked out of WWE in May last year. Many saw a jump to AEW coming, but her signing with NJPW and Stardom was a surprise. Mone has legit star power, and she and Kairi can go in the ring. It is a match worth the price of admission on its own.
Eddie Kingston and Jay White have the potential to steal the show with their singles match, as to the Motor City Machine Guns as they face the West Coast Wrecking Crew. Most interestingly, however, the card will see the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship defended by either Okada or Shingo Takagi, pending their match at the New Beginning in Osaka on February 11. Okagda and Shingo can both go in the ring, so fans will have a banger on their hands whoever is champion come Battle in the Valley.