New Japan Pro-Wrestling unveiled most of the card for their April 8 Sakura Genesis earlier this week. It included four title defenses, but the IWGP Women’s championship wasn’t among them.
Weeks ago, titleholder Mercedes Moné received a challenge from AZM, a 20 year old Stardom (the all-women’s promotion owned by New Japan parent company Bushiroad) talent, and that was reportedly the match for Sakura Genesis. Speculation about why it wasn’t announced with the rest of the card centered on the companies not wanting to give anything away about how AZM will be booked on some upcoming Stardom shows — including her first round match against Hazuki in their Cinderella tournament this weekend.
Then yesterday, Hazuki also challenged Moné for her title. Mercedes responded that “double the challenge equals double the Moné”...
... and we’ve got ourselves a three way that adds drama to Mar. 25’s AZM/Hazuki tournament match rather than spoiling it.
April 8— Mercedes Moné Varnado (@MercedesVarnado) March 24, 2023
Time to get the Moné#IWGPWomensChampion #njpw #njsg pic.twitter.com/vtRBTQrMy7
This is the first of two matches the former Sasha Banks is reportedly under contract to Bushiroad for. The second is expected to be another title defense (spoilers for Sakura Genesis, I guess) against Hazuki’s Stars stablemate Mayu Iwatani at Stardom’s April 23 show in Yokohama Arena.
Here’s the the line-up for Sakura Genesis:
• Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. SANADA for the IWGP World Heavyweight championship
• Mercedes Moné vs. AZM vs. Hazuki for the IWGP Women’s title
• Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs. Robbie Eagles for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship
• Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) (c) vs. Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) for the IWGP Tag Team titles
• Zack Sabre Jr. (c) vs. Shota Umino for the NJPW World Television championship
• Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI vs. Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI
• Tama Tonga, Hikuleo & Master Wato vs. KENTA, David Finlay & El Phantasmo
• Jeff Cobb, Aaron Henare & Francesco Akira vs. EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi & SHO