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 defense 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 Thanks NJPW, Tama Tonga Following Title Loss At Wrestle Kingdom 17
Anderson made his Wrestle Kingdom 17 entrance inside the Tokyo Dome on his own, with no support from Bullet Club members. Despite a sneak attack to Tama Tonga with the NEVER Openweight belt, Tama was victorious and unseated Anderson as champion in the end following two Gunstuns.
Taking to social media after the bout, the WWE star sent a heartfelt thank you to Tama Tonga as well as New Japan Pro Wrestling, saying he has immense love for the country and his fans in Japan. He also promoted his next appearance with WWE on January 9th.
“Thank You @Tama_Tonga, thank you @njpw1972. Few will understand the love and admiration I have for the country, fans and the people of Japan. Thank U. See you down the road Next stop: Birmingham, Alabama for @wwe Monday Night Raw, January 9. #theOC”
Thank You @Tama_Tonga , thank you @njpw1972 .
Few will understand the love and admiration I have for the country, fans and the people of Japan. Thank U.
🇯🇵 🙇♂️ 🙏 🇯🇵
See you down the road
Next stop: Birmingham, Alabama for @wwe Monday Night Raw, January 9. #theOC
— Karl Anderson (@MachineGunKA) January 4, 2023
Karl Anderson’s tweet indicates that his time with New Japan has come to an end for the time being as he focuses on his commitments to WWE.