Mercedes Moné Honors Hana Kimura in First Match Since WWE Exit
Mercedes Moné (previously known as Sasha Banks in WWE) paid tribute to a top Japanese professional wrestler. At New Japan Pro Wrestling's Battle in the Valley pay-per-view event in San Jose, California, Moné defeated Kari to become the new IWGP Women's Champion. But before the match, fans noticed that Moné was wearing the same gear as Hana Kimura, a pro wrestler from Japan who died in 2020.
This was Moné's first match in New Japan. She left WWE in May after walking out during an episode of WWE Raw and has not wrestled until her match over the weekend. Moné first debuted in New Japan in January and announced she has joined the company and its sister promotion World Wonder Ring Stardom.
Mercedes Moné paying homage to Hana Kimura. #NJPW #BattleAtTheValley #njbitv #njpwSTRONG pic.twitter.com/5XXFOhemVW— Himanshu Doi (@Himanshu_Doi) February 19, 2023
Before the match, Moné spoke to Alex McCarthy of MailSport and said she can compete anywhere as IWGP Women's Champion. "I'm as free as a bird. I've got the choice to decide anything that I want to do. Especially tomorrow when I win the IWGP Women's Championship, I plan to take that title all over the world, not just New Japan," she said per RingSide News. "It's about to be a global championship. So wherever that championship ends up, whether it be on United States TV, Japan TV, Mexico TV, Germany TV, anywhere all over the world is wherever I choose to make it happen. So whoever has the best bag, whoever writes the best check for Mercedes Mone, that's where I might end up."
mercedes in the hana kimura gear 💖 pic.twitter.com/rhmCVg62p4— Let Them Wrestle (@LetThemWrestle) February 19, 2023
After the match, Moné was asked if she could return to WWE. "I guess people like to say 'never say never.' You never know in life. I never knew life would take me here," she said, per The Ring Report. "But I always have to follow my heart, so wherever my heart takes me is where I'm going to go."
Kimura died by suicied on May 23, 2020. It was reported that the 22-year-old wrestling star was a victim of cyberbullying and police charged two men for attacking her online. In her career, Kimura won the Artist of Stardom Championship two times and the Goddess of Stardom Championship at World Wonder Ring Stardom. Her mother, Kyoko Kimura is a former professional wrestler who has won multiple championships in various promotions.
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