Willow Nightingale reflects on NJPW STRONG Women’s Title win, would love to defend on AEW Dynamite, talks Mercedes Moné

Photo Courtesy: New Japan Pro-Wrestling

The first-ever STRONG Women’s Champion. 

At New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s Resurgence event in Long Beach, California, a one-night tournament was held to determine the first-ever STRONG Women’s Champion. Willow Nightingale, Mercedes Moné, Stephanie Vaquer and Momo Kohgo competed in the tournament. 

In the finals, Nightingale defeated Moné to become champion. Nightingale was invited onto Busted Open Radio and she stated that it is ‘surreal’ to have a win over Mercedes. Willow added that she’s a fan of hers and wanted to make herself and Mercedes proud. 

It’s very surreal because like you said, she (Mercedes Moné) is extremely accomplished. I’m a fan of hers and I think respect goes into what we do in wrestling through and through, but in an instance like this, I remember sitting on the couch and watching when she made her main roster debut on Raw and I went through the house screaming and my mom was like, ‘What’s going on?’ And I was very excited because I had gone to school in Boston and she was a Boston girl, she’s a woman of color and it really just seemed like everything she did, she truly believed in herself and it’s something that inspired (audio cut out)… Even before AEW and Ring of Honor, if this company doesn’t see the star power in me, I know the star power in myself and she was somebody I could kind of turn to and be like, that is the attitude that I need and she was in so many landmark matches and so especially going into this, I knew the possibility of facing her was there and I wanted to do her proud as much as I did myself and hopefully, this is something that could earn respect from her and the New Japan fan base.

Moné suffered a right ankle injury during the match. Willow said if she still has the title, she would love to defend against Mercedes when she is healthy. 

Willow feels there are more eyes on her than ever before and she is planning to get some training in at the New Japan Dojo in California. She expressed that she does not want people to view her title reign with an asterisk beside it.

I think people at this point are aware that Mercedes (Moné) is probably gonna be out for some time. She’s the only one that can tell you how long, exactly what happened to her and I do hope she gets well and recovers as quickly as possible. If I still have this title by the time she comes back, I would love a rematch. But with that being said, I think there are more eyes on me than ever before. I’m somebody who’s very used to people being on my side, people cheering me and people rooting for me and after this championship win, I did receive a lot of that. A lot of people saying, ‘You deserve it,’ a lot of people saying, ‘It’s about time.’ But there have also been a handful of people who don’t think I can live up to what being a champion is, especially of this caliber and now I recognize the fact that the championship is on me, right? They can’t change that and the only thing I can do is step up and prove to them that I am worthy of this title. So one of the things that I’m planning on doing is trying to find some time to head out to L.A., train over there at the New Japan Dojo. Really kind of look at my schedule and reevaluate how much training I can fit into being on the road on top of what I’m already doing. So for me, those are like the first steps because I know that I don’t want this to be something that people — when they look at the history books and they see Willow Nightingale is the first New Japan STRONG Women’s Champion, I don’t want them to see a little asterisk and be like, oh, well she only won because her opponent got hurt and it was an easy victory but that’s pro wrestling baby. That’s how it happens. If you get hurt, that day, the fight wasn’t on your side. The fight was on my side that night and here I am, champion, so the only thing I can do to move forward as a champion and that is wear this title with pride and do all I can to continue defending it for as long as I can.

It was brought up by Busted Open Radio host David LaGreca that he felt more of a spotlight should’ve been put on Willow during AEW’s slate of programming this week. 

Nightingale said it is a pay-per-view week for AEW and understands that is the primary focus. She does hope the title can be highlighted in the future on AEW or ROH programming. Nightingale added that she would love to defend the STRONG Women’s Title on the 5/31 Dynamite. 

This week, we are in Las Vegas for the Double or Nothing pay-per-view. We have a lot of plans already in action. We see that we’ve got Toni (Storm) versus Jamie Hayter coming up. We’ve got Jade Cargill versus Taya Valkyrie coming up and those are championships that have been spotlighted in our company because they are AEW Championships. I hope moving forward that we can feature this (NJPW STRONG Women’s Title) more and more. But, going into a pay-per-view, those are the matches that we’re gonna see and those are what are gonna be highlighted moving into it. So I am happy we were able to get a moment to spotlight this and talk about this and hope that the next time that I am in a ring for AEW or Ring of Honor, I’m able to show my strength, show that I’m strong as the title suggests and you know… Tony (Khan) knows what’s in the works for AEW and what Dynamite is gonna look like next week. I’d love to be included in that and really be able to show a fun championship match. But, I was very happy to at least say my peace and have a little hoorah. Walking in the back in the locker room and hearing everyone go, ‘Hey champ!’ is something that takes a little bit to get used to. But you know, I do it with a smile like this and say, ‘Thank you.’

There is an audio review of Resurgence here on POST Wrestling that was done by Karen Peterson and Bruce Lord

If the quotes in this article are used, please credit Busted Open Radio with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions. 

About Andrew Thompson 6002 Articles
A Maryland native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.