At NJPW Dominion on June 12th, Karl Anderson defeated Tama Tonga to capture the NEVER Openweight Championship. Over the following months, he continued to compete in both NJPW and IMPACT Wrestling until his contract with the latter expired in August.
On September 25th he made his only defence of the NEVER title so far when he defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi during the last show of the Burning Spirit tour.
On October 10th, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows made their shock return to WWE, leaving the future of the NEVER Openweight Championship up in the air. When the pair signed their new contract, Anderson was already scheduled to defend the title against Hikuleo at NJPW Battle Autumn on November 5th.
However, WWE has announced that Gallows and Anderson will be wrestling at Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia on the same day, teaming with AJ Styles opposite The Judgement Day’s Finn Balor, Damian Priest, and Dominik Mysterio.
This has led to several announcements from NJPW, who threatened to strip Anderson of the title if he didn’t turn up for his scheduled match. This is the normal procedure for champions who are unable to defend a championship regardless of the reason. Jon Moxley was infamously stripped of the IWGP United States Championship in 2019 when he was unable to travel to Japan due to a typhoon.
However, NJPW has decided to make an exception in the case of Karl Anderson and has cancelled the scheduled defence with no mention of removing the belt from the star.
Dave Meltzer thinks NJPW expect Karl Anderson to defend the title
On the latest edition of Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer has speculated that the reason for the change is that NJPW have decided to “work an angle” as they expect Karl Anderson to defend the title at a future date.
“I think that at this point they’re working an angle and that they expect him to come and drop it [the NEVER Openweight Championship]. This may be another thing, you know, maybe WWE will allow him to come in and drop it.
“The old WWE, I remember in many cases, the big one being when Alberto Del Rio came back at the last minute, and he was the AAA World Champion. I remember being told by AAA, ‘Ah, it’s okay. WWE agreed to let him come back to drop it’. Who knows what the real story is, because WWE immediately told me, ‘Hey, he never told us of any commitments.”
“So I don’t know if he told them or they just pretended not to know but anyway, he never came back. So we’ll see what happens.
“I mean, they had to break their long-standing tradition that if you announce a championship match, and the champion isn’t there, that he forfeits the championship, and that has been something. Guys who basically had flight connection problems or, let’s say there’s a storm that delayed a flight or whatever like that, or somebody had a bad fever and couldn’t wrestle, they would strip them of the championship.
“Here, Karl Anderson is not there for a booking that has been announced, and it’s not even a last-minute thing.”
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