Sasha Banks Is Heading to Japan!
One of the biggest stories in wrestling is the contract status of Sasha Banks, real name Mercedes Vardano. The story broke last week that Banks was set to make her debut in New Japan Pro Wrestling, likely under the name Mercedes Moné and now we have much more info.
Banks left WWE last spring, and according to Fightful, talks with WWE fell apart in the summer and she was granted a release with the condition that she wouldn't start taking new dates until 2023. Dave Meltzer reports that Banks and WWE were far off on money. Banks wanted a contract comparative to Becky Lynch and Charlotte, but WWE felt she was not worth that price and talks fell apart.
When McMahon left and a new regime was in place in the Fall, talks resumed again and terms were agreed to, but again the money was the big disagreement and ultimately talks fell apart again. Meltzer reports WWE internally does not feel she would be a main eventer in the next five years worth that price tag. I'm sure Vardano will prove those doubters wrong soon enough.
Voices of Wrestling reports that her deal is the largest per-appearance deal that Bushiroad, New Japan and STARDOM's parent company, have ever agreed to, even larger than Chris Jericho's a few years ago. Bushiroad has locked in a schedule of dates with Banks, all major shows, and its believed some of the shows will be New Japan shows in the States. The hope is with her large following, she can attract a new audience to the company's all-women league, STARDOM.
What happens to Banks' tag team partner, Naomi? She has a difficult decision to make. Her contract is about to expire and she can either sit at home, or sign a new deal with WWE and return as a solo act.
Mandy Rose Fired Over Explicit Fan Page
Mandy Rose lost her NXT Women's Championship on Tuesday and was released by the company shortly after. The reason was that company officials were made aware of the racy photos and videos Rose was posting to her fan page. There is a belief that she was earning more from the fan page than her WWE contract and took things too far in recent days with topless and sexually suggestive photos.
Earlier in the day, NXT head honcho Shawn Michaels was approached by coach Matt Bloom who made him aware of a leak of photos from Mandy's private, paid fan page. Afraid of blowback from sponsors, the decision was made to take the title off of her and release her that day. WWE officials felt there wasn't much choice they had.
Rose seemed in good spirits after and even posted a message to her fan page thanking fans for support, before upping the monthly charge from $25 to $40. A woman's got to eat! Rose was champion for 413 days.
New Japan will finally allow cheering and booing again
New Japan has announced starting with their big WrestleKingdom shows, cheering and booing will finally be allowed again, as long as the chants don't exceed 10 seconds (so no signing along to songs.)
The full announcement reads
“Chants for wrestlers, boos, cheers at a typical length are allowed at full capacity. Call and response, cheering catch phrases (eg: De! Ja! Pon! Kaze ni Nare!) and counting with the referee is allowed at full capacity. Lengthy chanting/singing (eg. for the entire duration of an entrance) is not allowed at full capacity. The Tokyo Dome will feature special sections for fans who want to show extra support. Masks continue to be required.”
“The truth is that professional wrestling is best enjoyed with a full crowd, letting out their voices in support of their favorites, and booing rule breakers,” said President Takami Ohbari. “Pro-wrestling exists because of the synergy between wrestlers and their fans, and the energy they have is the energy our wrestlers thrive on. It’s that energy that is worth the asking price for tickets and plenty more.”
He also said, “Starting in 2023, we will be implementing new guidelines that will see us transition into a return, in principle, to cheering at events. Every venue that recognizes this transition will have our new guidelines implemented. As the culmination of our 50 year celebrations, and with the significance of the Antonio Inoki Memorial event in mind, Wrestle Kingdom 17 in Tokyo Dome will be the first event with these guidelines in place. In April I was a part of our events in America. I saw for myself the excitement of the crowd there, and how incredible true pro-wrestling with vocal crowds can be. That was a frustrating experience given the restrictions on Japanese crowds at the time, and I made it a focus to bring cheering back to fans starting in September, with the aim of having vocal crowds in the Tokyo Dome January 4"
Here is the full card for WrestleKingdom as it currently stands:
- IWGP World Heavyweight title: Jay White defends against Kazuchika Okada
- IWGP United States title: Will Ospreay defends against Kenny Omega
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight title match: Taiji Ishimori defends against Hiromu Takahashi, El Desperado, and Master Wato in a four-way match
- Keiji Mutoh, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Shota Umino vs. Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, and BUSHI
- NEVER Openweight title: Karl Anderson defends against Tama Tonga
- NJPW World TV title: Ren Narita vs. Zack Sabre Jr. to determine first champion
- IWGP Tag Team titles: FTR defend against YOSHI-HASHI and Hirooki Goto
- IWGP Women’s title: KAIRI defends against Tam Nakano
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team titles: Francesco Akira and TJP defend against Lio Rush and YOH
- Antonio Inoki Memorial Six-Man Tag: Togi Makabe, Satoshi Kojima, and Yuji Nagata vs. Tatsumi Fujinami, Minoru Suzuki, and Tiger Mask
- Opening match: KOPW 2023/New Japan Rambo
- Opening match: Ryohei Oiwa vs. Boltin Oleg in an exhibition match
What's on TV tonight?
WWE is promising a big Smackdown tonight on Fox at 8pm:
- Roman Reigns returns
- WWE Intercontinental Championship: Gunther (c) vs. Ricochet
- WWE Women's Tag Team Championship: IYO SKY & Dakota Kai (c) vs. Liv Morgan & Tegan Nox
- Hit Row (Top Dolla & Ashante Adonis) vs. Legado Del Fantasma (Joaquin Wilde and Cruz Del Toro) vs. The Viking Raiders (Erik & Ivar)
AEW Rampage is on at 10pm eastern on TNT:
- Jon Moxley vs. Sammy Guevara
- Britt Baker vs. Skye Blue
- Wardlow in action
- Dustin Rhodes, Orange Cassidy & Best Friends vs. Kip Sabian, Trent Seven & The Butcher and The Blade
- We'll hear from FTR
- Jim Ross sits down with Preston Vance
More News Bits
WWE was filming a new WWE 2k commercial this week. Bad Bunny and Logan Paul were in town shooting and are expected as playable characters in the game.
AEW's new hire of Senior Vice President and co-Executive Producer Michael Mansury is already paying off. Mansury is planning on launching a new look and new set design for AEW shows. It's been about two years since they got a graphics refresh and the sets are virtually the same since the show debuted so it's exciting to see what they have planned for the future.
One of the big highlights of Dynamite this week was Chris Jericho's shocking loss to virtual unknown Action Andretti. Jericho had planned this loss for months after seeing a match Andretti had with QT Marshall during an AEW Dark taping on 10/11 and decided he had wanted to make Andretti a star, but thought it would be best to wait until after he had lost the ROH title.
The best of seven series between the Elite and Death Triangle in AEW just got even wilder. This week's match will be no DQ. If the series goes to a match six, it will be a falls count anywhere match and if a final seventh match is needed, it would be a ladder match.
WWE is planning a big live show in India on January 18th in a 5,000 seat arena. They will be showcasing some of their Indian stars on the show.
Here are spoilers for the next two weeks of NXT.
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.