Returning to WWE on October 10, Karl Anderson’s future as the NEVER Openweight Champion was left up in the air. ‘The Machine Gun’, who initially won the title from Tama Tonga at Dominion, was scheduled to defend the title against Hikuleo at NJPW Battle Autumn on November 5 – the same day as WWE Crown Jewel.
Now signed to the sports entertainment giant, his WWE dates take precedence over prior commitments. He’ll wrestle at the Saudi Arabia show, currently slated to team with Luke Gallows and AJ Styles opposite The Judgement Day’s Finn Balor, Damian Priest, and Dominik Mysterio. As for Battle Autumn, a new match has been set for Hikuleo.
Karl Anderson’s Replacement Named For NJPW Battle Autumn
Instead of challenging Karl Anderson for the NEVER Openweight Championship, Hikuleo will instead take on Bullet Club’s Yujiro Takahashi. This comes after ‘The Tokyo Pimp’ made a direct challenge to Hikuleo. As of this publication, Karl Anderson remains the reigning NEVER Openweight Champion.
An NJPW-issued statement informed fans of the change, again stating that the organisation holds its champions to the “highest standard” of professionalism:
“Despite extensive efforts by New Japan Pro-Wrestling to negotiate with Karl Anderson regarding his scheduled match in Osaka at Battle Autumn on November 5, NJPW officials have still been met with no response, and have been left with no other option but to cancel the planned NEVER Openweight Championship match.
We apologise to fans who had been looking forward to watching Anderson wrestle.
After a challenge from Yujiro Takahashi, and at the direct request of Hikuleo, Osaka will now see a non-title special singles match between Yujiro Takahashi and Hikuleo.
NJPW holds its champions to the highest standard of professionalism. We deeply apologise for the inconvenience and disappointment caused by this matter.”
That Karl Anderson wasn’t stripped of the NEVER Openweight Championship implies a work, rather a legitimate shoot. It had previously been reported that both Anderson and Luke Gallows had committed themselves to a series of dates with NJPW that goes through Wrestle Kingdom.