IWGP Women's Championship To Be Defended In The United States In 2023

The IWGP Women's Championship scene got a lot more interesting yesterday upon reports that Sasha Banks was being brought in by New Japan Pro-Wrestling for Wrestle Kingdom 17 next month. Wrestle Kingdom just so happens to also be where KAIRI will put the IWGP Women's Championship on the line for the first time, defending against Tam Nakano. Speculation has ramped up quickly that Banks' presence at the Tokyo Dome could be to set up a match between herself and KAIRI, especially after both wrestlers teased a match against one another back in October. 

In the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter, it was noted that the next defense of the IWGP Women's Title after Wrestle Kingdom would take place on February 18 in San Jose, California, offering a potential date and location for the prospective KAIRI vs. Banks match. Should that encounter shift from fantasy to reality, that February date would be Banks' first match since a WWE house show this past May, provided Banks doesn't step into the squared circle anywhere else between now and February. Banks, as many will recall, would walk out of WWE a few days later, along with her then-WWE Women's Tag Team Championship partner Naomi. Both women were subsequently suspended indefinitely and their titles were vacated; neither has returned to the company since.

Banks have nevertheless kept busy in the meantime, appearing at Celtics games, filming movie roles, and preparing for whatever in-ring return she has in mind by training in Mexico with Juventud Guerrera. A series of recently filed trademarks for Banks' real name, Mercedes Varnado, in addition to ones for the name Mercedes Mone' and other catchphrases have also hinted that a return to wrestling could be imminent.