KAIRI was the first IWGP Women's Championship holder in New Japan Pro-Wrestling
Jeff Merchant,  NJPW,  Our Writers,  STARDOM,  Women's Wrestling,  Wrestling

Has New Japan Mishandled the IWGP Women’s Championship?

When it was announced that there was to be the creation of an IWGP Women’s Championship, I was ecstatic. The news proved that Women’s Wrestling in Japan had finally cemented a strong hold on the country and, by proxy, the world. Introducing the world to this championship, NJPW put together an international tournament that brought out the best of the best. With the final match of the entire tournament being Mayu Iwatani facing KAIRI, the IWGP Women’s Championship would have a strong first champion.

KAIRI would end up winning the fantastic match and be crowned the inaugural champion. While a shock to me, I wasn’t exactly upset either. Both KAIRI and Mayu Iwatani were the best choices for the championship so no matter who won, the belt would have a prestigious champion to start it off.

Of course, it would come to light that KAIRI won the title, primarily, because of a contract dispute between Mayu Iwatani and Bushiroad. I’m not gonna shit on Mayu for that. She has been the pillar of Stardom for years, holding down the fort when KAIRI and Io Shirai left for WWE. Mayu deserves everything she gets and more for being the best damn wrestler in the world for years.

Where do we go from that high start? Well, we take an absolute nose dive folks. KAIRI’s first defence of the belt should have been an instant classic. It should have gotten at least 20 minutes since KAIRI’s opponent happened to be Tam Nakano. However, what we were given was a shit sandwich. NJPW did both KAIRI and Nakano wrong by only slotting them for just over 5 minutes for their match. How in the hell can NJPW justify that, I wonder? I don’t care what the rest of the card looked like, Tam Nakano vs KAIRI was main event calibre and NJPW absolutely shit on all Joshi fans with that decision.

How does New Japan follow that up? They bring in Mercedes Mone. Mercedes, fka Sasha Banks, attacked Kairi after her match with Tam Nakano and set up a match at Battle of the Valley between herself and Kairi. Mone, a woman who had not wrestled a match in Japan, and got an immediate title opportunity. While baffling, I did kind of understand why they put her into the main event right away. Like her or not, Mercedes Mone has the WWE rub and the following from her time there. I was not offended by her getting a chance to face KAIRI. Where things go wrong though is how this went down.

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Firstly, I’m torn with Mercedes and her choice of attire for Battle of the Valley. On the one hand, it was a beautiful tribute to the late Hana Kimura. On the other, I kind of wish that she hadn’t used Hana’s gear as inspiration for her own. To me, Mercedes will never be on Hana’s level but I digress. We got more than 20 minutes of action this time, a classic match between two former WWE talents that sold out the venue before any other matches were announced. Where I have the problem lies in that Mercedes Mone walked out of California as the IWGP Women’s Champion.

I have to give it to KAIRI, she was nothing but class in losing to Mone. There’s just something wrong to me about Mercedes defeating KAIRI, a woman who should have held that championship for a long time, in her second defence. Firstly, from what I’ve read, Mercedes only has a three-match contract with Bushiroad and her final two matches have already been decided to be AZM and Mayu Iwatani.

Secondly, apparently, Mone brings more prestige to the title, according to folks in NJPW. How the hell is that possible? Why, just because she is a former multi-time champion in the WWE? No, I have a serious problem with that. KAIRI is one of the absolute best in the world and deserved so much better than to be shit on like that. NJPW even knew this wouldn’t fly in Japan so they made it happen in San Jose, where they knew Mone would get a better reaction.

Is Mercedes Mone a good wrestler? Yes, she absolutely is. Is she worthy of being the one to defeat the inaugural IWGP Women’s Champion? Absolutely not. There is no reason that Bushiroad or NJPW can give to justify this decision that I will accept. I’m sure a lot of it had to do with how much money they are paying Mone to appear.

There were other ways to capitalize on her star power than by screwing over KAIRI like that. Mone could have made appearances for Stardom and wrestled the likes of AZM, Starlight Kid, Tam Nakano and even Utami Hayashishita. She could have gotten some wins, in Japan, and then gotten the chance to face the IWGP Women’s Championship. But no, NJPW and Bushiroad fast-tracked Mone to a title that she did not deserve to win. In adding to her legacy, both NJPW and Bushiroad shit on the legacy of one of their best performers in KAIRI.

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It will likely be Mayu Iwatani that dethrones Mone at some point. The ICON of Stardom absolutely deserves that honour, but I will never accept Mone as the champion. You can agree with me or not, I don’t care.

I know what Mone brings to the table talent-wise. I also will never forget how she handled her WWE departure, which was like that of a spoiled child that didn’t get her way. Someone whose ego would allow them to walk out on a contract should not have been awarded a title in their first match outside of their former company. Do we teach our kids that if you don’t get your way, you pitch a fit and walk out on your obligations? How about when you go somewhere new, you make demands that are absolutely unreasonable because of your past actions?

NJPW and Bushiroad have already tarnished the IWGP Women’s Championship and I don’t know how long it will take to clense the title from this stain.

Close the World:txeN eht nepO

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