Will Sasha Banks Be At The Tokyo Dome?

(Photo Credit: Sasha Banks)

Just last week, I penned an article about Sasha Banks’ future in pro wrestling, discussing the latest rumors around the next move in her career. The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer reported that there were “money talks” between the two sides before he reported that she was backstage at a WWE live event in Mexico, which would suggest that fences could be mended between the two parties. While I never doubted her talent or star power, I mentioned that prehaps it was best that she step away from the sport for an extended period of time to start fresh down the road. More than anything, I emphasized that the company might be hesitant to invest too much stock or television time into her character upon her return because she has a track record of walking out on a live television show just before it went on the air. That’s not good business, and at some point, the office has to measure the risk/reward of the Sasha Banks situation. What if she was unhappy with a creative direction before a live pay-per-view when she’s booked in the main event and refuses to go to the ring?

A publicly-traded, global company with literally billions of dollars in revenue based on its broadcast rights fees can’t take that type of risk.

On the other hand, I explained that the options in sports entertainment give her more leverage with a negotiation, and the fact that she filed for trademarks on variations of her name appeared to put WWE management on notice that if they didn’t meet her expectations of a contract, she at least took the steps to potentially work elsewhere.

Today, (I still don’t have access to my Twitter account that was mistakenly flagged as spam last week so anyone with any info on how to get it unsuspended, please e mail me) Sasha’s name was trending on social media, with reports from PWInsider’s Mike Johnson, the most accurate reporter in the sport, that the real-life Mercedes Varnado is expected to appear on Wrestle Kingdom 17, New Japan’s signature event at the Tokyo Dome, in January. This creates several interesting possibilities, as NJPW’s parent company, Bushiroad, also owns Stardom, considered by many to be the top women’s wrestling group in the world. Former NXT star, Kari Sane, is the current IWGP Women’s champion, and there was a crossover event recently held with New Japan and Stardom talent. This would open the door for an IWGP Women’s title match at the Tokyo Dome, considering that there’s a more direct affiliation with the two Bushiroad-owned organizations.

Obviously, this would be a huge deal for New Japan, and it’d be another way to expand its foreign audience, which is what Chris Jericho’s stint with NJPW did a few years ago with an increase in subscriptions to its streaming service. Granted, the Japanese style will always be a niche product in the United States by nature, but it’s always wise to find ways to expand that profitable niche.

As far as if it will actually happen, Mike Johnson is one of the very few reporters that I’d give the endorsement to, if he reports it then it’s accurate. That being said, there was a time when stuff like this would be considered fantasy booking on an obscure video game or some random E-fed message board in the corner of the internet, but the industry evolved dramatically within the past five years. Some might criticize Chris Jericho’s amount of TV time on Dynamite, but his surprise appearance to attack Kenny Omega to set up at match at Wrestle Kingdom in 2018 really was a landmark moment in the industry. You can’t write-off something as unrealistic if the talent is willing to explore their options.

At the same time, things came together for New Japan over the past decade, minus some rocky times during the pandemic, that allowed the company to flourish and expand under Bushiroad’s ownership. The parent company’s willingness to invest in the organization allowed for stability and the expansion of merchandise, as well as more accessibility to the Japanese league allowed revenue streams that made it possible for major names like Jericho and Jon Moxley to work for the company. Simply put, when the organization was on the brink of collapse in 2005 after Antonio Inoki’s failed MMA experiment, the group couldn’t afford big names from the United States.

But, the pieces of the puzzle seem to have organically fit into place to open to door for Sasha Banks to work for New Japan at the Tokyo Dome, which isn’t something anyone would’ve guessed last year.

As I wrote last week, the WWE women’s division is probably the most solid group in the entire company with Bianca Belair, Bayley, Becky Lynch, Alexa Bless, Nikki Cross, Charlotte, and others. So, the WWE doesn’t necessarily need Banks to solidify the division, and at the same time prehaps Banks doesn’t need the WWE either. If Sasha overestimates how big of a star she actually is, is another discussion for another time. The point being, the WWE can afford anyone with the record-setting profits they will continue to bring in based on the previously mentioned TV deals, but they might decide that Sasha’s conditions for a return to the company wouldn’t be worth the contract, based on the current depth of the division.

So, that opens to door for Sasha to make big money in Japan for either a one-off or a series of matches. There’s a level of flexibility working in Japan because on its tour schedule so Banks could make a hefty amount of cash without any of the long-term commitments that are usually associated with pro wrestling contracts. When you take into account her success at a relatively young age in the WWE, she already made enough money to presumably have some financial security so maybe she wants to take the time to accomplish some different “artistic” goals in the sport before she eventually hangs up the boots. In some ways, Banks’ working for the WWE for several years at a young age and then potentially going to Japan is the reverse of the usual path. For example, Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura did much of their “legacy work” in New Japan before they signed with the WWE and had the chance to work a lighter style to avoid the extra toll on their bodies as they got older.

The reports don’t confirm if Sasha will just be in attendance or if she will appear in front of the live crowd, but if there’s any realistic possibility to get Sasha Banks on the card for Wrestle Kingdom, I’d say that the Bushiroad executives get her in the ring for a match at the Tokyo Dome, not just an appearance to set up a bout at a smaller venue. In some ways, this might be the best solution for everyone because it allows Sasha to accomplish some personal goals, and as much criticism as Jim Cornette might get these days, he’s right with the notion of, “how can we miss you if you don’t go away?” If Sasha works internationally for another year or so, it will make her eventually return to WWE that much bigger, which is exactly why Cody Rhodes returned with such momentum at Wrestlemania this year.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Instagram @jimlamotta89