New reports are stating that Sasha Banks “is not going back” to her employer at WWE. Part of this is simply due to plans to make an appearance for New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 17 in the Tokyo Dome. Wrestle Kingdom 17 is set for January 4, 2023.
The former WWE superstar’s future has been in question for some time since she and Naomi walked out on a Raw broadcast in May despite previously televised appearances
Instead of taking the high road, WWE management took an unusual step of airing the dirty laundry surrounding Banks and Naomi. WWE commentator Michael Cole stated in a SmackDown broadcast that the Women’s Tag Team Champions were suspended by the company and stripped of the titles.
However, that is not how it happened. Reports at the time would state that they handed over the belts to then-Head of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis before leaving.
Banks heading to Tokyo
In the months since walking out, there have been many conflicting reports stating that Banks was completely done with the WWE. At the same time, other reports state that she would be returning at any time. However, it appears a return is unlikely anytime soon.
Wrestling Observer Radio‘s (subscription required) Dave Meltzer is of the belief that “The Boss” is done with WWE in the interim. Meltzer had this to say on the matter:
She’s more trouble than she’s worth. She’s asking for so much money. Which is, of course, the attitude a month ago of ‘Oh my god how can she ask for so much money?’ January 4 Tokyo Dome and other dates, and Mercedes Vernado or whatever name she will go with, but as of right now – she’s done with WWE. It can change at any moment, but that’s the situation right now.”
I had talked with WWE about it and they basically had nothing to say as far as the situation. Obviously, we’d talked about this before, they [WWE] had been talking to both of them, but they had been talking to her [Banks] about a return and they were very far apart on money. That was the last that I had heard.
What she was asking for was a very high number for a WWE woman wrestler, but if you look at the amount of money that WWE takes in, she would still be underpaid. Everyone from Roman Reigns to Brock Lesnar is underpaid…That was the last that I had heard. Now, her contract was set to expire at the end of the year. However, as we’ve seen with so many people, they could freeze the deal.
However, it appears that Banks’ appearance at Wrestle Kingdom will not be an in-ring appearance, according to Meltzer. He had this to say on the subject matter:
She is going to the show, she will be on the show, she will not be wrestling on the show. She has dates booked with NJPW. In her deal, which I believe is not signed, she could still sign with WWE and this could all fall apart, but she has pretty much agreed to their terms. As far as they’re [NJPW] concerned, they have a deal.
She is going to be making appearances for NJPW in 2023. Barring a last-minute change and her backing out on what she has agreed to, she’s not going back to WWE, but you cannot always rule that out.”
While Banks (real name Mercedes Varnado) is not in the squared circle at Wrestle Kingdom 17, it appears that there is a deal in place to appear with Stardom and/or NJPW, assuming she does not resign with WWE. In the interim, she has already agreed to their terms.
Former WWE superstar Kairi Sane (now known as KAIRI) became the first-ever women’s champion in NJPW history last month. She won the inaugural IWGP Women’s Championship during the NJPW/Stardom Historic X-over.
The outcome of the title defense between KAIRI and Tam Nakano could determine Banks’ next step.