Sasha Banks (Mercedes Varnado) reportedly negotiated her WWE exit back in the summer, and just finalized her NJPW deal last month.
As we’ve noted, it’s been reported that Banks is set to have a limited per-appearance contract with NJPW, which will see her appear at the big Wrestle Kingdom 17 event, scheduled for January 4 at the Tokyo Dome, in Tokyo, Japan. A second night has been announced for January 21 at the Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan, but it remains to be seen if Banks will appear at both shows. It was also reported that Banks and WWE did not agree to a new contract as they were far apart on money, with Banks asking for a high number. Banks is set to make major money with NJPW as her fee is said to be “significantly higher” than what NJPW paid for Chris Jericho, making her the highest-paid contracted wrestler to NJPW and Stardom parent company Bushiroad. Specifics of Banks’ NJPW pay has not been revealed, but Jericho made $100,000 per appearance.
In an update, a new report from Fightful Select notes that Banks’ WWE exit was negotiated “months ago,” likely in June when Raj Giri reported that she had been release from her contract, a report he stood by, despite Banks’ remaining on the active WWE roster.
WWE still has not confirmed Banks’ departure, and she is still listed on the official WWE roster as of this writing, along with Naomi. It was recently reported that WWE could potentially freeze Banks’ WWE contract for time off, or end up re-signing her by giving in to her demands, but this new report indicates that she has already negotiated the release, which is in line with another recent report that said she is “done” with WWE.
Banks’ NJPW contract is said to be “a go” and was agreed upon as far back as the last week of November. The news of Banks’ Wrestle Kingdom 17 appearance was first reported on December 8.
The working relationship between AEW and NJPW has led to more speculation on Banks possibly joining AEW. This new report notes that sources familiar with Banks’ NJPW deal have not heard of anything regarding AEW and Banks just yet, but the sources also said that does not mean it’s not happening.
It was recently reported that promoters trying to book Banks for WrestleCade in late November were told that she is not taking any pro wrestling bookings until after January 1. The updated report notes how when sources were asked if this was “contractual,” they said it was. Sources also said WrestleCade was far from the only wrestling-related operation that has tried to book Banks. The Big Event in New York is another convention that those close to Banks claim was interested.
There was also talk that some conventions tossed around the idea of re-branding themselves as “entertainment” conventions to get around the technicality of being a pro wrestling convention, in hopes of booking Banks before January 1, but that did not happen.
As we’ve noted, Bushiroad Founder/President Takaaki Kidani reportedly led the charge to bring Banks to NJPW as he wanted a top WWE star to come to NJPW, and was willing to pay a lot of money. It was noted that while Banks will make a lot of money with NJPW, and more than she’d make in WWE, but in total, NJPW won’t book her on enough shows to where would make in the long-run what she’d make in WWE. However, Banks working just a few shows for NJPW here and there will leave her plenty of time to work on other projects, and possibly work for AEW.
Banks is rumored to face inaugural IWGP Women’s Champion KAIRI (fka Kairi Sane), perhaps at NJPW’s first major international event of 2023, which is Battle In The Valley on Saturday, February 18 from the San Jose Civic Center in San Jose, CA. KAIRI will defend her title against Tam Nakano at Wrestle Kingdom 17, and a successful title defense plus a debut appearance by Banks could set the stage for a huge Banks vs. KAIRI match at Battle In The Valley. It should be noted that the Banks vs. KAIRI talk is strictly rumor for now, and has not been confirmed. Banks is also rumored to be Saraya’s mystery partner to face Britt Baker and AEW Women’s World Champion Jamie Hayter on the January 11 edition of AEW Dynamite from Los Angeles, but that also is just rumor for now, and something Saraya commented on this past week.
Banks and Naomi have been away from WWE since walking out of a RAW taping in mid-May, due to creative differences, and while holding the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles. It was recently reported that Naomi and WWE were working on a new contract, but there’s been no follow-up reports on her status.
Stay tuned to WrestlingHeadlines.com for more.