In the midst of a true golden period for professional wrestling across the globe, New Japan Pro Wrestling’s upcoming pay-per-view can not be discounted for its importance to the business as a whole.
Saturday night’s Battle In The Valley will mark the highly-anticipated return to the ring for Mercedes Mone (fka Sasha Banks), who is paving her own path after walking out on WWE nine months ago.
The show sold out based solely on the announcement that Mone would be in action, but the card is now stacked with two current world champions and countless other big names from multiple companies.
At the top of the card, IWGP World Champion Kazuchika Okada will defend his title against the legendary Hiroshi Tanahashi in a match that could main event any show in the world, while a singles match between Jay White and Eddie Kingston has the potential to steal the show.
But if you look further down the card, the inclusion of Impact World Champion Josh Alexander in an exciting eight-man tag team match is a massive boost, and will further showcase the Canadian’s ability to a more widespread audience.
Speaking exclusively to The Sporting News prior to the event in San Jose, the 35-year-old couldn’t hide his excitement as he continues a truly historic run across North America and abroad.
“Personally, I am very excited and I think the vibe around the company is super exciting – this show has sold out just based on the announcement that Mercedes Mone was going to make her debut at it,” Alexander said.
“If you look at this card all the way from the top down, there is something from everybody and it’s a showcase for professional wrestling…you can really tell that New Japan is trying to bring in all these different wrestlers.
“It’s a different kind of environment, there are lots of different things in play – but the same holds true whether I’m main eventing in a singles match or when I’m lower on the card in a four-on-four tag match.
“Every time I go out there I want to steal the show and make sure every fan that is ordering on pay-per-view or any fan that has bought a ticket gets their money’s worth and sees the best of Josh Alexander.
“It’s wonderful because guys like myself and Eddie Kingston and all these people from other companies can come in and showcase our talents in New Japan, which is one of the global superpowers in pro wrestling and has been for decades.
“On the flip side of that, it’s a cool thing for New Japan – they have a stacked roster, they could put on cards all day long – but they are coming over here to North America and they know I might be more familiar to some North American fans if they are just tuning into New Japan for the first time.
“It’s just a cool way to bring it all together and showcase New Japan in North America and break into that market.”
Alexander has cemented himself as one of the best technical wrestlers in the world today, surpassing a plethora of famous names to become the longest-reigning Impact World Champion in the company’s 20-year history.
Names that are synonymous with the pro wrestling industry such as Sting, Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe and AJ Styles have all held the same title that Alexander currently holds, and that’s something that holds plenty of significance to the 18-year veteran.
“I’ve been asked this question so many times, and I can only say it seems surreal because it really does,” he said.
“It hasn’t really set in for me and I don’t think it really will until my career is done and over with. I’m in those history books and there might be someone that is climbing in that day-by-day and they might be the day to overtake my record…people will have revered me for what I have done, rather than what I’m doing right now.
“I can never stop and smell the roses…for me, it’s just what is the next challenge? I always want to keep working and I always have my eyes in one direction.
“It certainly is surreal, but there is no complacency in me whatsoever because I just love what I do every day and I know I am privileged to be able to do it.”
The upcoming show for NJPW will open so many eyes to the product and that is undoubtedly due to the presence of the aforementioned Mercedes Mone, who is joining the company’s all-female affiliate promotion Stardom.
With multiple championship victories in WWE, millions of followers on social media, a devoted fanbase and the deserved standing as one of the greatest women’s wrestlers in history, this is a major boost for the Japanese-based company in their bid to conquer the global game.
Alexander admits that even from a fellow talent’s perspective, the aura surrounding Mone’s debut in the company and the future of her run is something to behold.
“I’m super excited – I think women’s wrestling as a whole has taken leaps forward in the past 10 years,” he said.
“For Mercedes stepping out of WWE and coming over to Stardom and New Japan Pro Wrestling, I think it’s an excellent way for her to showcase her talents.
“She is obviously doing it for a reason, because she wanted to be a part of that more than anything else. Someone like her, she can call her shot and go and work wherever she wants – but she chose this for a reason.
“I don’t know what fans are familiar with anymore, because there is so much pro wrestling to consume on a weekly basis. If they are just taking a chance because they were solely WWE fans and they want to see Mercedes Mone, the entire card will seem like something fresh to them.
“I think everyone is going to get to see something special and I’m excited to get a front-row seat at the monitor in the back to see it happen.”
The event could also spell the end of one of the great runs in NJPW history, with former world champion ‘Switchblade’ Jay White looking more and more likely to be headed for a major US promotion.
The Kiwi sensation has cemented his legacy and while Alexander will be disappointed to see him move on, paid tribute to his influence and work ethic in both Japan and abroad.
“It’s all been the Switchblade Era for the past half a decade,” he said.
“I first wrestled Jay early on in Ring Of Honor and that was a completely different Jay from what we have seen these past three or five years as he has ascended to the very top of New Japan.
“It’s just a testament to the guy’s talent and ability – much like I just said about Mercedes, Jay can call his shot and work wherever he wants.
“He is a valuable commodity in this business, no matter what company it is, and I would be sad to see him go.”
As for the aptly-named Walking Weapon and his future within NJPW, there are certainly some goals in mind.
Former world champion Shingo Takagi tops his list of dream matches in Japan, but Alexander’s desire to have a run in the country for the first time and potentially compete in the G1 Climax is at the forefront of his ambitions.
“I don’t think I have made it a secret that the one thing that has alluded me in pro wrestling is to wrestle in Japan,” he said.
“It’s the one thing on my bucket list – the biggest goal I set for myself 10 years ago was that I just needed to get to Japan and it has alluded me left and right.
“For whatever reason, it has not happened yet but four years ago I never had a contract for a major company in pro wrestling and look what happened.
“I’ve never been someone to say it’s never gonna happen – I’m just that person that when it needs to happen, it will be at the very perfect time, just like me signing that contract with Impact Wrestling.
“Maybe this year’s G1, maybe next year – but I would embrace anything to be able to get over to Japan and get in front of that fanbase to show what I can do.”
What time is NJPW Battle in the Valley?
- Date: Saturday, February 18 | Sunday, February 19
- Start time: 10 p.m. ET | 12 p.m. JST | 3 a.m. GMT | 2 p.m. AEDT
NJPW’s Battle in the Valley takes place on February 18. The main card starts at 10 p.m. ET | 12 p.m. JST | 3 a.m. GMT | 2 p.m. AEDT.
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How to watch NJPW Battle in the Valley
|Country||Date||Channel + Live Stream (main card)|
|United States||Sat., February 18||NJPWWorld.com, FITE|
|Japan||Sun., February 19||NJPWWorld.com|
|United Kingdom||Sun., February 19||NJPWWorld.com, FITE|
|Australia||Sun., February 19||NJPWWorld.com, FITE|
Fans can watch Battle in the Valley on NJPWWorld.com. Outside of that, fans will be able to watch the event on FITE.tv.
NJPW Battle in the Valley price: How much does the event cost?
- The event will be available on FITE.tv for $19.99.
- On NJPW World, the event will cost ¥2,990, approximately $22.70 USD and $33 AUD.
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NJPW Battle in the Valley location
Battle in the Valley takes place inside the San Jose Civic in California. The arena can hold up to 3,000+ people. When Mercedes Mone was announced for the show, the event sold out right away.
NJPW Battle in the Valley match card
- Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP World Heavyweight Title
- Kairi (c) vs. Mercedes Mone for the IWGP Women’s Title
- Zack Sabre Jr. (c) vs. Clark Connors for the NJPW World Television Title
- Tom Lawlor vs. Homicide in a Filthy Rules Fight
- Jay White vs. Eddie Kingston
- The Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin) (c) vs. West Coast Wrecking Crew (Jorel Nelson and Royce Issacs) for the Strong Openweight Tag Team Titles
- Fred Rosser (c) vs. KENTA for the Strong Openweight Title
- Mascara Dorada, Josh Alexander, Adrian Quest, and Rocky Romero vs. Kushida, Volador Jr., Kevin Knight, and The DKC
- David Finlay vs. Bobby Fish
- Alex Coughlin vs. J. R. Kratos