Mercedes Varnado, best known as 'Sasha Banks' during her run with WWE, is reportedly expected to make her professional wrestling return at New Japan Pro Wrestling's annual Wrestle Kingdom event next month, several sources with knowledge of the situation told PWInsider.com on Thursday (December 8).
The website said it hasn't received confirmation whether Varnado will appear prior to the live event, but confirmed it was told "NJPW is bringing in Varnado in to the event."
Wrestle Kingdom 17 will include two scheduled events, the first of which will take place at the Tokyo Dome on January 4, 2023 and the second at Yokohama Arena on January 21, 2023.
Varnado had previously teased a match against current and inaugural IWGP Women's Champion KAIRI -- who had previously wrestled in WWE as Kairi Sane -- in October.
The former RAW and SmackDown Women's champion also made several trademark filings in relation to her real name, which included Mercedes Moné, Moné Talks, Banks Moné and Statement Maker, under her company, Soulnado, which led to speculation of a wrestling return outside of WWE.
Banks, along with her tag-team partner and co-Women's Tag Champion Naomi, left during the live broadcast of RAW prior to their scheduled main event match in May and was suspended by WWE days later.
The duo won the women's tag-team during Night Two of WrestleMania 38 in April, which was Banks' third reign, having previously served as an inaugural champion in February 2019 and again in May 2020, both alongside Bayley, who recently made her return alongside Dakota Kai -- who was released by the company earlier this year -- and Iyo Sky (formerly known as Io Shirai.)
Banks has consistently been one of WWE's top female stars since debuting on its main roster in 2015, having won both the RAW and SmackDown Women's Championships a combined six times, as well as headlining Night One WrestleMania 37 with Bianca Belair, becoming the first Black women to jointly headline WWE's biggest annual event in history.
Naomi, a two-time SmackDown Women's Champion, has been a mainstay in WWE's women's division since debuting on RAW in 2012.
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