Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter

Despite recent reports, Chris Jericho is not under WWE contract and has been a free agent since his WWE contract expired in May, according to Dave Meltzer in the latest edition of The Wrestling Observer. Jericho will be facing IWGP U.S. Champion Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 12 on January 4th, 2018 at the Tokyo Dome in what is currently a one-shot deal. It will be his first match outside of WWE since 1999, when he left WCW to sign with WWE.

Jericho and Omega had been verbally feuding on social media over the past couple of weeks and it was clear that they were building to something. As noted via Wrestling Observer Radio, Jericho got the idea for a match with Omega while watching the build-up to the Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather fight this past summer. Jericho wanted to come up with something big that people thought they would never see and approached mutual friend, Don Callis, who works as the English color commentator for New Japan Pro Wrestling events on New Japan Pro Wrestling World. Callis approached Omega with the idea, and then they took it to NJPW head booker, Gedo. They had a secret meeting in August in New York, however the deal wasn't completed until October. The promo from Jericho above that aired this past weekend at NJPW Power Struggle was filmed about two weeks ago in Los Angeles, shortly after the deal was finalized.

"The last couple of months, I've been working on it," Jericho said of the deal on the most recent episode of Talk Is Jericho. "Keeping it a secret from all of you was actually so surprised and happy that it ended up staying a secret. Nobody knew until the match was announced at the end of Kenny's match in Osaka [Japan] the other day, which was in the middle of the night for everybody."

According to The Observer, Jericho's last WWE contract expired at WrestleMania 33 this past April, however he signed a one-month extension that ended in May when he dropped the WWE U.S. title to Kevin Owens on SmackDown Live. Jericho worked a few WWE shows in Japan over the summer as well as one episode of SmackDown in late July as a surprise, however those were as a free agent. As noted, Jericho was asked to work WWE TLC against Finn Balor in late September after Bray Wyatt was forced to pull out of the show, however he couldn't do it due to other commitments.

Meltzer noted that people close to the situation expect Jericho to return to WWE in 2018, with one source saying that it could be as early as the RAW 25th anniversary show in January. It was noted that Jericho returning at the RAW 25th anniversary would be a bigger deal coming off of a high profile NJPW match, given the response that AJ Styles received coming from NJPW. It was noted that WWE is said to have no issue with Jericho doing the match with Omega.

Jericho is working with ROH for his cruise next year in October, with Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks being confirmed for the cruise. Jericho had originally approached WWE about having NXT talent perform on the cruise, but they turned it down.

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William Windsor contributed to this article. Follow Raj Giri on Twitter at @RajGiri_303. Got a news tip or correction? Send it to us by clicking here.