At New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s Sakura Genesis show today (April 8) in Tokyo, Mercedes Moné put her IWGP Women’s title on the line in a 3-way match against AZM & Hazuki. It was the former Sasha Banks’ first defense of the belt she won from KAIRI at February’s Battle in the Valley, and just her second match outside of WWE since 2012.
The Legit C.E.O. had her work cut out for her against the two young members of the Stardom (NJPW’s all-women’s sister promotion) roster, and that was clear after no one established control during a fast opening sequence.
.@azumikan1411 "Diving Body Attack"— njpwworld (@njpwworld) April 8, 2023
Watch Sakura Genesis live in LIVE in English on https://t.co/CcdQ1XamUA (outside Japan)#njSG #njpw #njpwworld pic.twitter.com/wi3ScUSuYp
Until a couple weeks ago, it looked like Moné would only be facing Stardom High-Speed champion AZM at Sakura Genesis. At times during this one, those two tried to clear Hazuki out of the way so they could settle things one-on-one, but no one was out of the action for long in this Triple Threat.
Sakura Genesis is TONIGHT!— njpwworld (@njpwworld) April 8, 2023
5th match IWGP WOMAN CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH/3WAY MATCH @MercedesVarnado @azumikan1411 @0929_hazuki
Watch Sakura Genesis live in LIVE in English on https://t.co/CcdQ1XamUA (outside Japan)#njpw #njsg #njpwworld pic.twitter.com/h6XaTg8clP
While the Legit C.E.O. proved she could hang with some of joshi’s best young stars in this, her first chance to shine in a Japanese ring...
.@MercedesVarnado "Running Double Knee "— njpwworld (@njpwworld) April 8, 2023
Watch Sakura Genesis live in LIVE in English on https://t.co/CcdQ1XamUA (outside Japan)#njSG #njpw #njpwworld pic.twitter.com/UmC0nBwalW
... each woman got time in the spotlight, and New Japan & Stardom succeeded in giving fans who tuned in for Mercedes reasons to seek out AZM and Hazuki matches after watching this roughly 15 minute affair.
The finish saw Hazuki hit Moné with a brainbuster, but when AZM went for a pin of her own after breaking up the cover, Mercedes recovered. The champ hit the High Speed titleholder with her new Moné Maker finisher, dropping AZM onto Hazuki before pinning her to keep the IWGP belt.
Moné didn’t have to wait long for her next challenger to emerge. As rumored, it looks like that will be two-time World of Stardom champ Mayu Iwatani. She stepped to the champ after the match, and got a quick response in the form of a slap to the face.
★第5試合— 新日本プロレスリング株式会社 (@njpw1972) April 8, 2023
メルセデス・モネvs AZM vs葉月
#njpw #njSG pic.twitter.com/8WMoYvPwwm
That dream match will happen at Stardom’s April 23 All Star Grand Queendom in Yokohama. Bushiroad, parent company of New Japan & Stardom, reportedly wants to make that the biggest women’s wrestling show Japan’s seen in decades. It’s also said to be the last date on Moné’s existing deal with Bushiroad.
April 23 Yokohama Arena— We Are Stardom (@we_are_stardom) April 8, 2023
Stardom All Star Grand Queendom
★IWGP Women’s Title Match
(C) Mercedes Moné
Live on PPV, don’t miss it!! pic.twitter.com/zPlY5yyrBH
Will that be the end of Mercedes dream run in Japan?