Sasha Banks' 1st Match as Mercedes Moné Revealed After WWE Exit, NJPW Debut

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 4, 2023

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 26: Mercedes Varnado attends Marvel Studios' "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" premiere at Dolby Theatre on October 26, 2022 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/WireImage)
Amy Sussman/WireImage

During her New Japan Pro-Wrestling debut under the name Mercedes Moné at Wrestle Kingdom 17 on Wednesday, former WWE Superstar Sasha Banks laid down a challenge for her first NJPW/STARDOM match.

Moné appeared following Kairi's successful IWGP Women's Championship defense against Tam Nakano, and attacked Kairi before challenging her to a match at NJPW Battle in the Valley in San Jose, California, on Feb. 18:

njpwworld @njpwworld

IT'S MERCEDES MONÉ!<a href="https://twitter.com/MercedesVarnado?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@mercedesvarnado</a> is in the Tokyo Dome!!!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/wk17?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#wk17</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/njpw?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#njpw</a> <a href="https://t.co/PD54lqLr1L">pic.twitter.com/PD54lqLr1L</a>

Per Felix Upton of Ringside News, Moné confirmed during the post-show press conference that her match against Kairi is official, saying: "I'm interested in many wrestlers, but the reason I decided to fight Kairi-san in the first place is because we have a 'past.' February 18th, San Jose, New Japan, I think it will be the best match in STARDOM history, so please look forward to it."

To Mercedes' point, she and Kairi wrestled each other on a few different occasions during their time together in WWE.

In fact, Sane's final rivalry in WWE during the summer of 2020 before returning to her native Japan saw her and Asuka feuding with Bayley and Sasha Banks.

Kairi defeated Banks in a match on Raw by disqualification before Banks and Bayley beat Kairi and Asuka to retain the WWE Women's Tag Team Championships. Kairi's last WWE match was a singles win over Bayley.

In February 2022, Kairi made her official return to STARDOM, and she went on to become the inaugural IWGP women's champion in November by defeating Mayu Iwatani in the finals of a tournament.

During her decade in WWE, Mercedes was as decorated as almost any woman in the history of the company, holding the Raw Women's Championship twice, WWE Women's Tag Team Championships three times and both the SmackDown and NXT women's titles one time each.

Moné brings unprecedented global star power to women's wrestling in Japan, and it stands to reason that she could help make the NJPW and STARDOM women's divisions more popular than ever.

Since Moné and Kairi already have built-in chemistry from their WWE rivalry, they have a chance to put on an incredible match right out of the gates, which would go a long way toward setting Mercedes on a path to success in Japan.

Listen to Ring Rust Radio for all of the hot wrestling topics. Catch the latest episode in the player below (warning: some language NSFW).