By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
NJPW Battle in the Valley
Replay available via Fite.TV
February 18, 2023 in San Jose, California at The San Jose Civic
CM Punk was in the crowd, but he did not appear on camera.
NJPW Battle in the Valley Pre-Show
The broadcast team was Ian Riccaboni and Matt Rehwoldt. The ring had the NJPW Strong graphic in the middle along with some advertising.
1. Alex Coughlin beat JR Kratos
2. David Finlay beat Bobby Fish
NJPW Battle in the Valley Main Card
1. Impact World Champion Josh Alexander, Rocky Romero, Adrian Quest, and Mascara Dorada vs. Kushida, Kevin Knight, Volador Jr., and The DKC in an eight-man tag match. Scott D’Amore sat in on commentary, so he survived the attack by Bully Ray. Anyway, Kushida avoided Alexander’s finisher and then caught him in the Hoverboard Lock. Meanwhile, Knight DDT’d DKC and pinned him to win the match. Afterward, Volador challenged Romero to a hair vs. hair match.
Kushida, Kevin Knight, Volador Jr., and The DKC beat Impact World Champion Josh Alexander, Rocky Romero, Adrian Quest, and Mascara Dorada.
Powell’s POV: Good action to open the main show. I skipped the pre-show due to getting a very late start due to Elimination Chamber coverage, but I will go back and watch those matches when time permits. The lighting is very good, but the crowd doesn’t seem to be mic’d very well.
2. Fred Rosser vs. Kenta for the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship. Late in the match, Kenta grabbed the referee to avoid a move from Rosser. Moments later, Rosser ended up crashing into the referee. REF BUMP!!! Rosser applied an STF submission hold and Kenta tapped, but the referee was still down. Juice Robinson showed up at ringside and punched out Rosser with a roll of quarters. Kenta hit the GTS on Rosser and then the referee came through and counted the pin.
Kenta defeated Fred Rosser to win the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship.
Powell’s POV: A quality match with a disappointing finish. That said, the finish moves the title to Kenta while also setting up Rosser vs. Robinson. I know it’s been quite some time since Rosser worked as Darren Young in WWE, but I still appreciate the way he’s reinvented himself.
3. “The Motor City Machine Guns” Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin vs. “The West Coast Wrecking Crew” Jorel Nelson and Royce Isaacs for the NJPW Strong Openweight Tag Team Titles. Isaacs impressively hoisted up Sabin at ringside for a vertical suplex and held him there while taking a full lap around the ring and then dropped him onto the apron. The Guns did a lot of selling, but they eventually came back with their signature spots and got the win.
“The Motor City Machine Guns” Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin defeated “The West Coast Wrecking Crew” Jorel Nelson and Royce Isaacs for the NJPW Strong Openweight Tag Team Titles.
Powell’s POV: A good tag team match. The Guns always deliver and Nelson and Isaacs are a quality team.
4. Eddie Kingston vs. Jay White in a Loser Leaves NJPW match. Riccaboni noted that Bullet Club was banned from ringside. Late in the match, White set up for the Bladerunner, but Kingston gouged his eyes. White came right back with the Bladerunner, but Kingston rolled to the floor after taking it. White brought Kingston back inside the ring and covered him for a two count. White barked at the referee about the eye gouge. Kingston dropped White with a great spinning back first for a good near fall. Kingston stuck his fist out. White spat on it. Kingston hit two more spinning back fists and then performed a wicked suplex. Kingston performed another spinning back fist and a Northern Lights Driver, but White surprisingly kicked out. Kingston performed the move a second time and then pinned White.
Eddie Kingston defeated Jay White in a Loser Leaves NJPW match.
After the match, Kingston went to ringside and applauded White. Kingston told the cameraman not to show him and pointed at the ring, but he was still shown applauding White. Kingston headed to the back. A “thank you, Jay” chant broke out while White sold in the ring. White got a microphone. Suddenly, David Finlay entered the ring and hit White with a shillelagh. Finlay cut a promo about how he’s on the outside wherever he goes. The crowd chanted “Shut the f— up.” Finlay told them to shut the f— up. Finlay said he’s a fourth generation wrestler and told the trainers to “get this shit out of here” as they removed White from the ring.
Powell’s POV: The outcome was expected given that White just lost a Loser Leaves Japan match to Hikuleo. It will be very interesting to see where he goes next. White is truly one of the best in the world and would be a great addition to any roster. I’m a big fan of Kingston’s work and it was nice to see him in a meaningful match again. I didn’t see the Finlay attack coming and I liked his promo. I just wish the crowd was mic’d better.
5. Homicide vs. Tom Lawlor in a No Ropes, No DQ match. Lawlor, who previously referred to Homicide as a garbage wrestler, introduced a garbage can as a weapon. Homicide introduced a hammer and Riccaboni explained that it was there for the crew to use when they work on the lighting rig. Rehwoldt comically pointed out all of the other items the wrestlers pulled out. Riccaboni said they clearly put some items there prior to the match.
Homicide stabbed Lawlor’s foot with a fork. Later, Lawlor worked over Homicide with “silver knuckles.” Homicide eventually pulled out a door, which Riccaboni had no excuse for. Homicide leaned the door against the ringside barricade and eventually performed a Death Valley Driver from the ring and through the door on the floor and crashed through the door with Lawlor. Damn. Later, Lawlor set up a ladder in the ring and then dove off and hit a headbutt for a near fall. Lawlor drove his knee into the back of Homicide and then choked him out.
Tom Lawlor defeated Homicide in a No Ropes, No DQ match.
Powell’s POV: A wild brawl with some hammy Lawlor comedy sprinkled in early. It brought a little something different to the card and both guys worked really hard. I love that Riccaboni does his best to explain why certain things are under the ring, but it was comical to hear him essentially give up and blame the crazy wrestlers this time around.
6. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Clark Connors for the NJPW TV Title. Connors performed a brainbuster for a near fall. Sabre stuffed a Connors dive and then put him in one submission before transitioning into a half crab before Connors reached the ropes at the ten-minute mark. Sabre performed a Full Nelson suplex into a bridge for another near fall. Connors rallied with a spear and a powerslam for a two count. Connors performed a backslide for a two count. Sabre eventually went for his finishing sequence, but Connors countered into a rear naked choke. A short time later, Connors caught Sabre in an ankle lock, but Sabre countered into an armbar and got the submission win with only seconds remaining in the 15-minute time limit.
Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Clark Connors to reatin the NJPW TV Title.
After the match, Kevin Knight walked out and confronted Sabre near the entrance area.
Powell’s POV: A good match with Connors getting that late flurry before Sabre caught him and forced the submission. The closing minutes were strong and this was enjoyable, albeit perhaps a notch below expectations.
7. Kairi vs. Mercedes Mone for the IWGP Women’s Championship. A group of dancers performed on the stage and then Mercedes Mone made her entrance. Mone performed an nice sequence and nearly locked in the Bank Statement finisher, but Kairi escaped. Mone eventually took offensive control for a stretch and showed frustration over not getting the pin, becoming a bit more ruthless as the match went on.
Both women ended up down at ringside and returned at 19 to beat the count. Kairi caught Mone in a tree of woe position and then leapt from the top rope and double stomped her. Kairi applied a submission hold, but Mone rolled under the ropes to break it. They fought on the apron. Mone kicked Kairi down to the floor and then hit her with a meteora off the apron. Back in the ring, Mone performed a meteora from the ropes for a near fall. Mone lashed out at ther referee after failing to get the pin.
Mone performed a Stunner and then went for a meteora, but Kairi ducked it and rolled her into a submission hold. Mone nearly grabbed the ropes, but Kairi pulled her back to the middle of the ring and reapplied the hold. Mone countered into the Bank Statement, but Kairi reached the ropes. Kairi dropped Mone with a back fist and covered her for a two count. Kairi showed frustration. Sane slammed Mone and teased going up top for her finisher, but Mone grabbed her food and stopped her.
Mone caught Kairi with a belly to belly suplex for a good near fall. Money performed two of the Three Amigos. When she went for the third, Kairi countered into a wicked DDT. A “this is awesome” chant broke out. Both wrestlers got to their knees and traded punches and continued to do so as they stood up. Kairi went for a spinning back fist, but Mone pulled the referee in front of her and he took the back fist. REF BUMP!!!
Mone left the ring with Kairi right behind her. Kairi roughed up Mone and sent her to the floor next to the stage. Kairi leapt off the stage, but Money caught her and slammed her head into a speaker. Mone pulled out a table and set it up. Mone tried to suplex Kairi off the speaker, but Kairi slipped under her and powerbombed her through the table. Kairi dragged Mone back to ringside and threw her back inside the ring.
Kairi went up top and went for her Insane Elbow, but Mone put her feet up and booted Kairi, who came up selling a shoulder injury. Mone for a frogsplash, but Kairi put her knees up. Kairi put Money in a crossface. Mone bit the hand of Kairi to break the hold. Mone performed the Money Maker and then pinned Kairi to win the title.
Mercedes Mone defeated Kairi to win the IWGP Women’s Championship.
After the match, Mone offered Kairi a handshake. Kairi accepted it and then they hugged. Kairi put the belt around the waist of Mone and then raised her arm…
Powell’s POV: The best match of the night thus far and it’s not even close. It took a bit to get going, but it was very good once they did. I could have done without the post match respect that Kairi showed. It felt like Mone was being heelish, especially when she bit the hand of Kairi, so it felt odd that Kairi was willing to forgive and forget to quickly. Again, though, this was a very good match.
8. Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. Tanahashi performed an early High Fly Flow onto Okada at ringside. Okada came back and teased a Rainmaker. Tanahashi rallied and performed an in-ring High Fly Flow to the back of Tanahashi, then went for another when Okada was lying on his back, but Okada put his knees up.
Later, Tanahashi went for yet another High Fly Flow, but this time Okada caught him with a dropkick on the way down. Okada set up for the Rainmaker clothesline, but Tanahashi caught him in an inside cradle for a close near fall. Okada came right back with an enzuigiri and a pump-handle slam and then connected with the Rainmaker clothesline before scoring the pin.
Kazuchika Okada defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to retain the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship.
After the match, Okada got the mic and delivered an in-ring promo. He spoke in a combination of Japanese and English and talked about forming a dream team with Tanahashi.
Mercedes Mone came out to her entrance theme (which is already getting old). Mone entered the ring and danced while holding up her title belt. Okada took off his title belt and held it up with her.
Mone thanked the fans from the bottom of her heart. She said that she and Okada have a lot in common and could form their own dream team. She said that he likes to make it rain and she likes to make money. They held up their title belts again while her entrance theme played again. They went to the corners of the ring and held up their title belts and then went to the stage and held up the belts one more time to close the show…
Powell’s POV: A solid main event that was outdone by the Kairi vs. Mone match. I’m sure it was a treat for the fans in attendance to see this match, but it would have packed more of a punch a couple years ago. Of course, the damn pandemic probably caused the long wait for these two to finally meet in the United States. And, really, it still is cool to see Okada and Tanahashi share a ring together even their matches are not as epic as they once were.
Overall, this was a good show in front of what seemed like a lively crowd. Why do I just know that Mone’s entrance theme will haunt my dreams and be stuck in my head for the next week?
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