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The official card for Wrestle Kingdom 17 includes WWE and AEW stars, but no Sasha Banks

New Japan Pro Wrestling

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s biggest event of the year, Wrestle Kingdom 17, takes place next month on Jan. 4 in the Tokyo Dome.

NJPW is reportedly spending a lot of money to bring Mercedes Varnado aka Sasha Banks to the event. With the cat out of the bag, many fans were interested to see if Banks would be officially announced for the show during NJPW’s press conference earlier today.

The full card for Wrestle Kingdom 17 has been revealed, but Sasha’s potential involvement with the show is being kept a secret for now. It’s possible that NJPW can’t publicly say a word about Banks as long as she remains under contract with WWE, which might be the case until the end of this month. However, the official lineup of matches does include WWE and AEW stars like Kenny Omega, Karl Anderson, and FTR.

Here’s what it looks like, per NJPW’s web site:

• IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Jay White vs Kazuchika Okada

• IWGP United States Championship: Will Ospreay vs Kenny Omega

• IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Taiji Ishimori vs Hiromu Takahashi vs El Desperado vs Master Wato

• Keiji Muto’s Last NJPW Match: Keiji Muto, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Shota Umino vs Los Ingobernables De Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI)

• NEVER Openweight Championship: Karl Anderson vs Tama Tonga

• Ren Narita vs Zack Sabre Jr.

• IWGP Tag Team Championships: FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler) vs Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI)

• IWGP Women’s Championship: KAIRI vs Tam Nakano

• IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships: Catch 2/2 (Francesco Akira & TJP) vs CHAOS (Lio Rush & YOH)

• Antonio Inoki Memorial Match: Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima & Togi Makabe vs Tatsumi Fujinami, Tiger Mask & Minoru Suzuki

• KOPW 2023 Qualifier New Japan Ranbo (Kickoff match)

• Three Minute Exhibition- Ryohei Oiwa vs Boltin Oleg (Kickoff match)

There’s one obvious spot for Sasha Banks to show up on this card, and that revolves around the lone women’s match. As of right now, the obvious speculation is that Banks will make an appearance after KAIRI’s match is over to issue a challenge for the IWGP women’s championship.

President Takami Ohbari also announced new guidelines regarding fan cheering and crowd noise at future NJPW events, starting with Wrestle Kingdom 17. Here are the updated guidelines in English, courtesy of NJPW’s Twitter account:

Ohbari: “After heading to Us events in April, 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.”

“Guidelines were created with careful consultation with the government infectious disease panel, and the Japan Sports Authority”

“An important distinction is that rules concerning ‘no “loud voice” cheering’ have not changed at events. However, the definition of cheering has been allowed to change after our consultations to allow an in principle, and effective return to cheering.”

“Current government rulings state that long singing, rally songs etc are not allowed. However, counting with a referee, cheering with a catchphrase like 1,2,3 daa, or chanting for wrestlers is allowed under our guidelines.”

“As rally songs are disallowed, so are chants that might be longer than, for example, the chorus of a song. Singing to the length of a wrestler’s entrance would be disallowed. But with chants pre pandemic lasting an average of 10-20 seconds, this is not a significant issue”

“We appreciate they may be concerns, and we will always move forward with fan safety first and foremost. We still ask fans to attend with masks in the interest of safety and consideration to patrons.”

“There may be some venues or municipalities that do not recognise our guidelines. Please understand that some events may not allow vocal crowds. For now, the Tokyo Dome will have these guidelines in place. We thank Tokyo Dome Corporation for their support.”

“For those fans that do want to cheer even longer and louder, sing and show extra support, there will be a limited section of socially distanced seats made available. We hope all fans attend and enjoy Wrestle Kingdom 17.”

Are you hyped up to watch NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17 in a few weeks, Cagesiders?

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