Sasha Banks’ last WWE match was nine months ago.
In that time, New Japan created the IWGP Women’s title, and KAIRI won it at their Historic X-Over show with their sister promotion Stardom. Then on Jan. 4 in the Tokyo Dome, moments after KAIRI defended the title, Banks debuted as Mercedes Moné to challenge her for the belt.
That match finally happened at Battle in the Valley, going on second-to-last as a co-main event on Feb. 18 in San Jose. Moné entered first, in attire inspired by the late Stardom favorite Hana Kimura.
MERCEDES MONE IS IN SAN JOSE! #njBITV pic.twitter.com/cODv3xSawg— FITE (@FiteTV) February 19, 2023
The sellout Northern California crowd was excited to see Mercedes, but there was also plenty of support for the woman she wrestled in WWE when she was Kairi Sane.
They meet again... #njBITV pic.twitter.com/jRNkQeJMyo— FITE (@FiteTV) February 19, 2023
Moné didn’t waste time showing that she’s not the same wrestler that walked out of Raw last May, mixing in an array of lucha-inspired arm drags and transitions she learned while training in Mexico late last year. As the match went on, we saw more of the moves we usually associated with Mercedes in WWE... and the attitude that made her The Boss.
Mercedes has a new aggression about her! #njBITV pic.twitter.com/g8P4pbVKoN— FITE (@FiteTV) February 19, 2023
The Pirate Princess sold long enough to set-up her comeback, a sequence that left both wrestlers down on the outside and almost gave us a double countout finish. They each managed to beat the 20 count, and the champ remained in control back inside the ropes. The Sliding D and a forearm off the top only got two, and Moné barely reached the ropes to break a submission as the match hit the 15 minute mark.
The challenger stormed back, hitting a meteora for two and kicking off a sequence of nearfalls and false finishes from both wrestlers... including Mercedes almost winning with the belly-to-belly suplex her former WWE friend and foe from the Bay Area has been known to use. That was followed by a homage to Eddie Guerrero with a Three Amigos attempt, but it was another Eddie-inspired move that made a bigger difference when Mercedes pulled the referee into the path of KAIRI’s Cutlass.
With the official out of it, it was anything goes on and around the ramp. It was Moné who brought out a table, but it was the champ who powerslammed Mercedes through it.
THE CEO GOES THROUGH A TABLE #njBITV pic.twitter.com/xhEHN7iCcS— FITE (@FiteTV) February 19, 2023
KAIRI managed to get her foe back in the ring and went up to top for the InSane Elbow, but Moné got her feet up to counter. KAIRI returned the favor by getting her knees up on a Frog Splash. Both women struggled to get up from that, but as they did Mercedes was able to hit the finish that didn’t quite land in Tokyo — the Moné Maker.
Afterwards, the two exchanged a handshake and a hug, then KAIRI fastened the belt around the second woman ever to wear it.
Respect is shown. #njBITV pic.twitter.com/godN39PJEl— FITE (@FiteTV) February 19, 2023
If this was any indication, Mercedes post-WWE career and New Japan’s women’s push should both be a lot of fun to watch.
Get all the results from Battle in the Valley here.