It appears as though Sasha Banks is a pro wrestling free agent ahead of her upcoming appearance at the NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17 event in January 2023.
Many questions have been raised about the wrestling future of Banks/Varnado after it was reported earlier this week that she is expected to appear at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17 on January 4th. Was it something that WWE allowed or was she able to book it on her own? This goes back to May 2022 since that was the last time Sasha Banks appeared on a wrestling show.
Due to frustrations with WWE’s creative team led by former WWE Chairman Vince McMahon at the time, Banks chose to walk out of WWE with fellow Women’s Tag Team Champion Naomi. They gave up their titles and left the company while they were criticized on air for it.
To provide some clarity on Banks’ contract situation, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer tweeted this saying that New Japan believes Banks is free to appear in 2023:
“This deal is not through WWE, so if the appearance isn’t blocked legally by WWE, it means she will be a free agent by that date. WWE can still sign her but NJPW believes she is free and clear by 1/4.”
While speaking on Wrestling Observer Radio, Meltzer said that Sasha Banks was done with WWE, at least for now, while also adding that it’s possible she could go back.
“She’s not going back to WWE, but you cannot always rule that out. Maybe they’ll just say ‘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 4th 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.”
As Meltzer continued, he talked about Banks appearing at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17 on January 4th.
“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.”
It was back in October when Banks teased a potential match with KAIRI, who WWE fans know as Kairi Sane. Since KAIRI is the current NJPW Women’s Champion, there’s a possibility that Banks could be going to Wrestle Kingdom 17 to set up a match between the two women that worked together plenty of times in WWE.
There was also a story from Fightful Select in recent days about how there are several people in AEW were excited about the possibility of Banks/Varnado potentially appearing for AEW. That’s because on the December 7th edition of AEW Dynamite, a match was made for the January 11th edition of Dynamite in Los Angeles. That match will see Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D. team up with AEW Women’s Champion Jamie Hayter against Baker’s rival Saraya and a mystery partner. Since it’s a mystery partner that is over one month away, there has been a lot of speculation that it could be Sasha Banks in that spot using her real name Mercedes Varnado.
As for Sasha Banks potentially returning to WWE, there was a report in August, shortly after Triple H took over WWE’s creative team as the Chief Content Officer, that Banks and Naomi agreed to a WWE return. Since that hasn’t led to a television return, it’s unknown if that’s true.
During her incredible WWE career for nearly a decade, Banks is a former six-time WWE Women’s Champion and three-time Women’s Tag Team Champion. Sasha Banks also headlined night one of WrestleMania 37 with Bianca Belair in a historic match because it was the first time that two black women headlined a WrestleMania.
It’s also possible that Sasha Banks could still reach an agreement with WWE if she wants to return, but she could be interested in trying different things.