Sasha Banks left WWE earlier this year with no clear path for the next steps in her career. Some assumed she’d return to WWE, especially following Vince McMahon’s departure, while others pointed to just about every other path she could take, from walking the red carpet in Hollywood to wrestling for another promotion.
On Thursday, the first inkling of what’s next came from a PW Insider report, detailing that Banks — real name Mercedes Varnado — is slated to be at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 17 event next month. It’s unclear if this would be an appearance or if she would have a match against someone.
WWE, under Triple H’s guidance, is very much operating differently than how it did in the past. That includes partnerships and crossover opportunities, beginning with Mickie James walking to the ring as part of the Royal Rumble wearing the IMPACT Knockouts Championship, something that would have been hard to believe during McMahon’s time in charge of the company.
It’s continued in recent months, with WWE acknowledging NJPW and the Bullet Club after re-signing current NEVER Openweight Champion, Karl Anderson. Shinsuke Nakamura is slated to work a match for the Japanese promotion NOAH against The Great Muta and Anderson is in line to face off against Hikuleo sometime next year, likely at Wrestle Kingdom 17 in the Tokyo Dome.
This could simply be another step in WWE broadening its partnerships, with one of its biggest stars — someone who, as of this writing, still appears on the promotion’s active roster — stepping onto another massive stage. Or it could be the first sign that Varnado has begun making her first post-WWE appearances in the squared circle.