NJPW Battle In The Valley HOT TAKE
"There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires."
New Japan Pro Wrestling will present its largest event on United States soil since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic this Saturday November 11th at 11 PM Eastern when NJPW takes to the FITE airwaves for the first-ever Battle in the Valley.
Emanating from San Jose, California at the San Jose Civic Center, Battle in the Valley will not only see some major battles taking place but also double as something of a celebration for NJPW having journeyed through the last 18 months as one of New Japan's grandest stars, Kazuchika Okada will make his first appearance Stateside in years.
Okada, one of the greatest in-ring fighters to ever hold the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, has always pushed the envelope in pursuit of being the best professional wrestler in the world, testing himself against competitors from every corner of the globe.
At Battle in the Valley, Okada will face, for the first time ever, Australian star Buddy Matthews, best known to WWE fans as the former Buddy Murphy. Whether it be competing in show-stealing matches at Wrestlemania or teaming alongside the legendary Rey Mysterio, Matthews has traveled the globe in pursuit of greatness.
In many ways, that makes Matthews not all that different from Kazuchika Okada, although Okada has succeeded on a much grander scale, having walked the aisle in both The Tokyo Dome and Madison Square Garden. The common denominating factor between them both, however, is an ever-present push from within that only comes from the hearts of champions. They each step inside the squared circle every night, wanting only to prove their dominance in the ring in a way that leaves no question for them or others who is the best in the world.
Okada and Matthews will each descend into the valley for combat and when one climbs for their return, they will do so with the knowledge that they have succeeded in a fight well worth fighting, the battle to prove one's self.
The main event of the Battle in the Valley will see one of NJPW's Tomohiro Ishii, renowned for his toughness inside the ring and one of the most respected competitors in the history of New Japan, clash with NEVER Openweight Champion Jay White. While Ishii's name is spoken with reverence in New Japan circles, White's name is spoken with a darker tone, one scripted by arrogance and disgust for all White and Bullet Club have perpetrated against the stars of New Japan.
For Ishii, this Battle represents his last stand in his quest for the NEVER Openweight Championship, having declared that if he is not successful in being able to best White, he will not challenge for the belt again. For one of New Japan's roughest combatants, he has placed himself with his back against the wall in this all or nothing confrontation. To capture the title, however, he's going to need to beat down one of professional wrestling's most notorious criminals - and one who has an endless league of assassins at his disposal.
The foundation of New Japan Pro Wrestling was built, battle by battle, on NJPW's stars fighting off the outside forces of combatants from outside of Japan, outside of professional wrestling and outside of territorial boundaries. Impact Wrestling World Heavyweight Champion Moose, one of the most controversial characters anywhere in professional wrestling after his Bound for Glory PPV thievery of the Impact title, will return to New Japan to face Juice Robinson at Battle in the Valley. Robinson has never shied away from a battle but with Moose, he'll find himself stepping out of the tag team realm, potentially setting the stage for a major springboard into singles competition. A victory changes the game for Robinson and shocks the entire world. It's not an understatement to say this is the biggest match in years for Juice Robinson and for Moose, it may be the moment when karma finally catches up to him.
Meanwhile, Josh Alexander, who saw his World Championship dreams in Impact Wrestling shattered before his family's eyes at Bound for Glory, seeks to rebound when he returns to New Japan Pro Wrestling. After catching the attention of fans worldwide with his appearances on FITE's NJPW Strong, Alexander seeks to test himself against one of New Japan Pro Wrestling's rising young lions, Yuya Uemura. The 26-year old Uemura has captured Greco-Roman Championships in the West Japan Collegiate Wrestling League in the past and has proven to have a special, masterful ability at the chess game that is professional wrestling, but in Alexander, he may indeed be clashing with a Grandmaster who had proven time and time again to be a wrestling wizard. This will be a moment where for a few minutes, the world stops and pays attention to one singular event, because Uemura vs. Alexander has all the makings of a classic rivalry that will play out over and over in the years to come.
Will Ospreay's United Empire will be at Battle in the Valley in full force. Ospreay, still claiming to be the rightful IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, will battle with New Japan Strong star Ren Narita. FITE viewers have seen Narita in the midst of his excursion here in the United States, seeking to prove himself as a fighter and make his name in professional wrestling. A victory over Ospreay would create an overnight sensation for Narita, but this is easily the biggest challenge of his career to date. For Ospreay, a win here may not even be the priority. Instead, shaming New Japan for stripping him of the title while beating down one of the stars earmarked to carry the company into the future; that sounds like something that would only stroke Ospreay's ego.
United Empire's TJP and Jeff Cobb step into the ring with New Japan Strong competitors Karl Fredericks and Clark Connors in tag team competition. Connors and Fredericks have forged a formidable team but Cobb's sheer brutality and TJP's sneering dominance of technical prowess may be too much for any tandem to prepare for. When Cobb and TJP step into the Battle in the Valley, FITE viewers across the globe will see tag team excellence.
Battle in the Valley will also feature a ten man tag team competition that will showcase the best from New Japan Strong as some of the greatest in-ring talents that New Japan Pro Wrestling has to offer as Fred Rosser, David Finlay, Rocky Romero, Alex Coughlin & Alex Zayne compete against Tom Lawlor, JR Kratos, Danny Limelight, Royce Isaacs & Jorel Nelson. With so many unique and special fighters in one place at one time leaves a myriad of possible outcomes and stellar performances from bell to bell.
The opening bout will see two of New Japan Strong's roughest bruisers in Brody King and Chris Dickinson seeking to break the will to fight for one of California's most enigmatic stars, the twisted Bateman & lucha sensation Misterioso. Dickinson and King are known for enforcing their will upon hapless foes, but will a very eccentric pairing prove to be the key to unraveling King and Dickinson's brutality?
FITE will once again be the home for New Japan Pro Wrestling's top flight action as the Battle in the Valley kicks off this Friday evening from San Jose, CA. None who venture through the valley will remain unchanged, but for all who stand witness to these battles will know, forever, that they saw history first-hand.
Mike Johnson is the lead reporter for PWInsider.com and has been writing about professional wrestling since 1996. He can be found on Twitter @MikePWInsider and MikeJohnsonWrites.com.