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 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 Tama Tonga’s brother, Hikuleo, at NJPW Battle Autumn on November 5th. However, the defence didn’t go ahead as planned due to Anderson being booked for WWE’s Crown Jewel show the same day.
On December 14th, at NJPW’s World Tag League/Super Jr. Tag League Final event, the match finally took place. Contrary to expectations, Karl Anderson overcame Hikuleo to retain the title. Following the bout, Tama Tonga came out to confront the champion but was met by a Gunstun. Anderson then told Tonga he would see him at Wrestle Kingdom 17 and NJPW later made the match official.
Karl Anderson loses NEVER Openweight Championship at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17
Karl Anderson surprisingly entered the Tokyo Dome on his own with no support from Bullet Club present. Before the bell rang, Anderson attacked Tama Tonga with the NEVER Openweight Title and knocked him to the outside. As Tonga tried to get back to the ring, Anderson took him further out and dropped him on the ramp.
It wasn’t enough, though, as Tama made his way to his feet and blocked a Gunstun on the ramp. The pair fought on the apron with Anderson getting the upper hand to a chorus of boos from the crowd. Back in the ring, Tama Tonga rallied with hard strikes. Anderson retaliated with a TKO for two followed by a Neckbreaker from the top rope. However, Tama came back with a Supreme Flow for two, and after some back and forth hit a Gunstun from the second rope followed by another for the pinfall victory.
With the loss, it is likely that Karl Anderson has now completed his commitments to NJPW and will only be appearing in WWE going forward.