Karl Anderson has become a busy man. After spending the last couple of years following his WWE release in Impact Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling (as well as some time in All Elite Wrestling), he returned to WWE with Luke Gallows in October to join AJ Styles in his fight with The Judgment Day.
Despite returning to WWE, though, the Bullet Club co-founder has continued appearing on New Japan Pro Wrestling shows, as he defended the NEVER Openweight Championship as recently as December.
WWE acknowledged this by having Styles mention that Anderson “was in Japan” during an episode of Raw, and that title defense against HIKULEO won’t be the last we see of Anderson in NJPW.
Rocky Romero discusses Karl Anderson working NJPW dates while signed to WWE.
NJPW’s Rocky Romero spoke with Renee Paquette on her Oral Sessions podcast and revealed the process of Anderson fulfilling his commitments with the promotion while under WWE contract (h/t to Fightful’s Jeremy Lambert for the transcription).
"Finally, he was like, ‘We’re going to sign and somebody is going to have to talk to WWE.’ Of course, that means me. I got on the line and there was some confusion on the dates they were actually going to do. There was the November 5th show that Anderson had already been announced for New Japan, but it was the same time the Saudi Arabia show was going on.Obviously, there was going to be a conflict right there. It started off real rocky. They went and did Saudi, we figured it out, got a new date and decided to turn it into a big angle because I thought that was the best way to deal with it, hoping that everything was going to work out, but not really sure. Finally, he went and did this last show and successfully defended the title, so now he’ll be at the Tokyo Dome to face Tama Tonga.”"
Indeed, Anderson will face former Bullet Club stablemate (and fellow co-founder) Tama Tonga for the NEVER Openweight Title at Wrestle Kingdom 17 on Jan. 4. Anderson defeated Tonga for the championship at Dominion on June 12 and has held it ever since. In WWE, Anderson and Gallows most recently defeated The Alpha Academy (Chad Gable and Otis) on the Dec. 19 episode of Raw.
With WWE scheduling a “Best Of 2022” retrospective for the Dec. 27 Raw, Anderson’s next in-ring appearance could be under the NJPW banner.
What could working NJPW and WWE shows mean?
Ideally, where there should be more of this, especially with WWE designating its wrestlers as “independent contractors”, but this feels more like a case of WWE allowing Anderson to finish up his contracted dates with NJPW before doing the honors for Tama Tonga at the Tokyo Dome. Besides, any thoughts of a talent exchange between NJPW and WWE would produce as much concern as it would excitement.
Still, the prospect of seeing a New Japan show that features contracted talent from WWE (Anderson) and AEW (Kenny Omega, who will face Will Ospreay) is an exciting one, not to mention Sasha Banks’ expected appearance at the event. Between that and the Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White main event, this is shaping up to be a must-see show.
Once Anderson completes his obligations, though, he and Gallows likely settle into their current role as a dependable upper-midcard team that bolsters a WWE tag division that needed some depth behind The Usos, The New Day (who are currently working in NXT), and The Street Profits.