Thursday, February 16, 2023

NJPW Battle in the Valley 2023 Preview & Predictions

This Saturday we'll be treated to not just one, but two big PPV events, the second of which is brought to us by New Japan Pro Wrestling!

That's right, NJPW returns to San Jose with a huge card that will not only feature a legendary bout for the IWGP World Title, but also the New Japan in-ring debut of Mercedes Mone!  The former Sasha Banks hopes to bring NJPW to a whole new audience as she vies for the company's new Women's Championship.  

But first let's look at the undercard.

Máscara Dorada, Josh Alexander, Adrian Quest & Rocky Romero vs. Kushida, Volador Jr., Kevin Knight and The DKC

I'm glad to see Dorada back in New Japan after WWE did absolutely zilch with the guy.  Back in 2015 when I first saw some of his matches I was very impressed, and when he signed with WWE I was hugely disappointed-but-not-surprised Vince didn't see any potential there.  If we added up all the wasted potential of WWE signees over the years we could just about squeeze it all into the Grand fuckin' Canyon.  Anyway I have no idea who wins this, but I'll pick team Dorada just for shits and giggles.

Pick: Dorada/Alexander/Quest/Romero

Strong Openweight Championship: Fred Rosser vs. Kenta

It's former NXT hopeful Darren Young vs. former NXT hopeful Hideo Itami!  Fred is the company's first Strong Openweight Champion and he's held the title since last May, so I could easily see Kenta taking it here to start some kinda US-based feud.

Pick: Kenta

Strong Openweight Tag Team Championship: The Motor City Machine Guns vs. West Coast Wrecking Crew 

The MCMGs have held this title since October, so this is less of a sure pick for me.  They could keep it longer.  Eh, I'll pick 'em I guess.  I have no knowledge of WCWC.

Pick: MCMG retain

Jay White vs. Eddie Kingston

Jay White is out the door presently by most predictions, and I assume this is a case of him tidying things up on the US side of New Japan.  White losing to Kingston seems counterintuitive, but Kingston getting a win over a former Grand Slam Champion would certainly be a feather in the cap.  Sounds like this is also a Loser Leaves match, so White's goin' down.

Pick: Eddie

Filthy Rules Fight: Tom Lawlor vs. Homicide

I've heard the name Tom Lawlor bandied about many times, as he's friends with Bryan Alvarez and Dave Meltzer, but I have yet to see one of his matches all the way through.  I assume this will be an enjoyable garbage match.  I also assume Lawlor isn't losing his signature gimmick bout.

Pick: Filthy Tom

NJPW World Television Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Clark Connors

Another TV Title defense for ZSJ, another fine showing for him as well.  No way he's dropping the title just yet.

Pick: ZSJ retains

IWGP Women's Championship: Kairi vs. Mercedes Moné

This is the big one, even though it isn't going on last.  Mercedes has a chance to really get more eyes on the NJPW product and I hope she succeeds.  I also hope to see her in an AEW ring eventually, as they could certainly use the help right about now.  Regardless, both of these women are stellar big-match wrestlers and this should be something special.  Hopefully Kairi has learned to take Mercedes' new finisher properly.  I'll be shocked if this isn't the Match of the Night.

Pick: Mercedes wins the title and goes on a NJPW world tour with it

IWGP World Championship: Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Has Tanahashi put his teeth back in?  Yeesh that looked like it must've been brutal.  Anyway, this is one of NJPW's best-ever rivalries and even at age 46 he and Okada are incapable of putting on a bad match or even an average match.  Will this live up to WrestleKingdom 9 or 10?  No.  Will it be a great main event anyway?  Almost certainly.  Considering this show is designed to get more American eyes on the product I'd have maybe picked a younger challenger more representative of NJPW's current product, as Tana is presented as one of the elder statesmen these days.  But this should be an excellent main event.  Okada is obviously keeping the title for a while.

Pick: Okada retains

And that's the Battle in the Valley 2023 lineup.  Not too shabby, and if Mercedes does indeed win the Women's Title it will have historic implications.  It's a good time to be a wrestling fan.

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