Sasha Banks, real name Mercedes Varnado, is rumored to be heading to Japan to appear at their big annual event, WrestleKingdom on January 4th. PWInsider broke the story saying the largest Japanese promotion (and arguably the third largest promotion in the world) will be flying Varnado out to the event, but it has not been confirmed if she would be appearing on camera.
The event will feature the first IWGP Women's Championship defense on a New Japan show, with KAIRI, the former Kairi Sane, defending the title. I could see Banks coming out and challenging KAIRI after her successful defense. In October, KAIRI shared a screenshot of Banks' Instagram story that featured a fan-made match graphic of the two of them competing.
The name "Sasha Banks" is copyrighted by WWE, so Varnado will likely use a different alias. She recently trademarked the phrases "Mercedes Mone'," "Mone' Talks," "Bank Mone'," and "Statement Maker."
Varnado hasn't wrestled since walking out on WWE in May of 2022. She has made a few select signing appearances at comic conventions.
In September, Triple H was asked about Varnado's status during an interview with Ariel Helwani. "Time will tell," Levesque responded. "I think in a lot of ways communication breakdowns are terrible. There was a communication breakdown there, for whatever reason. Starting back up that communication is not a difficult process but it can be a process and you have to go through the process. But she's an unbelievably talented woman who can do just about anything she wants, it just comes down to what does she want to do now. She's an unbelievable performer that I believe in with everything I have."
According to Fightful, the annual Thanksgiving convention WrestleCade tried to book Varnado but was told she wasn't taking any wrestling-related bookings until after the new year. Fightful was not able to confirm Varnado's contract status with WWE sources. New Japan sources would not confirm or deny the news to Fightful, with the news outlet noting the Japanese company is quick to deny false information, so it could be a positive sign.
Does this also mean Varnado is gearing up to join AEW? She would certainly create a huge spark in the division and boost the profile of AEW.
Varnado's next public appearance will be during a live stream on December 14th on Bayley's Instagram page for the charity Family Giving Tree. Perhaps she will make some vague reference to her future then.
What's on TV this weekend?
WWE Smackdown kicks off a busy weekend tonight at 8pm on Fox:
- Kurt Angle's birthday celebration
- WWE Undisputed Tag Team Championship: The Usos defend against Sheamus and Butch
- Shayna Baszler (w/Ronda Rousey) vs. Shotzi (w/Raquel Rodriguez)
AEW Rampage has a big show at 10pm on TNT:
- Jon Moxley vs. Konosuke Takeshita
- AEW All-Atlantic Champion Orange Cassidy title defense
- Regina Di WAVE Champion Hikaru Shida defends against The Bunny
- Lee Moriarty & W. Morrissey in tag team action
- Athena, Ruby Soho and Tay Conti promos
ROH Final Battle is tomorrow afternoon on PPV with this card:
- ROH Champion Chris Jericho defends against Claudio Castagnoli
- ROH Tag Team Champions FTR defend against The Briscoes in a double dog collar match
- ROH TV Champion Samoa Joe defends against Juice Robinson
- ROH Women’s Champion Mercedes Martinez defends against Athena
- ROH Pure Champion Daniel Garcia defends against Wheeler Yuta
- ROH Six-Man Tag Team Champions Dalton Castle & The Boys defend against The Embassy
- Swerve in our Glory vs. Shane Taylor & JD Griffey
NXT Deadline is tomorrow night at 7pm on Peacock:
- NXT Championship: Bron Breakker (c) vs. Apollo Crews
- Men’s Iron Survivor Challenge match: Carmelo Hayes vs. JD McDonagh vs. Grayson Waller vs. Joe Gacy vs. Axiom
- Women’s Iron Survivor Challenge match: Zoey Stark vs. Cora Jade vs. Kiana James vs. Roxanne Perez vs. Indi Hartwell
- NXT Tag Team titles: Pretty Deadly vs. The New Day
- Alba Fyre vs. Isla Dawn
WWE RAW has the following matches announced for next week:
- Raw Women’s Championship number one contender’s match: Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley
- United States Championship number one contender’s match: Seth Rollins vs. Bobby Lashley
- Candice LeRae vs. IYO SKY
AEW Dynamite Winter is Coming next Wednesday has announced:
- AEW World Championship and Dynamite Diamond ring winner takes all: MJF (c) vs. Ricky Starks
- House of Black in action
- AEW World Trios Championship best-of-seven series: Death Triangle vs. The Elite (Death Triangle leads 2-1)
Wrestling News from Around the Internet
Variety reports John Cena was announced as appearing on the last Smackdown of the year on December 30th on Fox. It will be his second television appearance this year.
Both Roman Reigns and Drew McIntyre suffered ruptured eardrums during the War Games match. This was the injury that resulted in McIntyre being "medically disqualified," as was noted in the last column. Neither man is expected to be out too long.
Tony Khan revealed during a conference call that he is letting William Regal out of his contract early, on the condition that he cannot appear on WWE TV and only work backstage as an agent. Regal approached Khan and said that he wanted to help train his son, Charley Dempsey in NXT, and Khan understood and granted Regal a conditional release. Regal offered this confusing promo on AEW TV to announce his exit. He also posted this charming tweet:
Khan revealed that he has been dealing with serious family issues the last few months with his mother suffering two strokes since September. He noted his mother is on the road to recovery.
Barry Windham is also in stable condition after being in the ICU for a heart attack.
Becky Lynch is still dealing with shoulder issues, telling Verge Magazine "Truth be told, my shoulder still isn’t feeling right. So to say I was nervous is probably a bit of an understatement. But once you get out there, once you get in front of the crowd and you feel that energy, then you forget everything else. There’s not another feeling like it."
The highlight of this week's AEW show was the amazing promo exchange between Ricky Starks and MJF:
Khan hinted during the media call that ROH's TV will be addressed on this weekend's show.
Wrestling Observer reports WWE creative is working on plans to bring Charlotte back.
Also in the Observer, Dave Meltzer updates the rumor last week about the Rock winning the Rumble. He labeled the idea a "pie-in-the-sky scenario," and just the one WWE would prefer, but nothing is locked in. There is discussion of Reigns defending a championship both nights of WrestleMania, with one night being Dwayne Johnson and one night being Cody Rhodes, with consideration being given to splitting up the belts into two again so both Raw and Smackdown have world champions. Meltzer is quick to note that nothing is locked in and the scenario will likely change in the next few weeks.
WWE is pitching E! on a new reality series about couples, and according to the Wrestling Observer, one of the names pitched is the former Zack Ryder, Matt Cardona, who is not currently signed. Cardona's wife, Chelsea Green, recently resigned with the company.
Renee Pacquette was really sick this week and missed AEW TV. Moxley was also sick but was in good enough shape to travel, knowing that the BCC angle needed follow-up. He was healthy enough to wrestle Takeshita, which was taped for tonight's Rampage.
According to the Wrestling Observer, Miro is healthy and ready to go. He was pitched an angle and he did not like it, which is why he hasn't been on TV since the last PPV. Both sides are talking about how to reintroduce Miro and he is expected back soon.
During recent interviews, Thunder Rosa is hinting at a February return.
The son of Umaga, Zilla Fatu, started training to be a wrestler this week at Booker T's Reality of Wrestling school in Houston.
Do you enjoy pro wrestling? Knotfest Wrestling has a bi-weekly column filled with wrestling news. Read previous editions of this column here. You can always follow me @robinjection on Instagram and Twitter and @Squaredcirclpit.