Hi folks! 2022 has been exceptional with its rollercoaster ride of moments. Today, I would like to bring you the last of a four-part series covering every significant TV and backstage moment in the crazy world of wrestling.
Because I’m lumping in the first three volumes with the last, you may have already read most of this before. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know when the new content begins. I’m putting this altogether in one package for those who didn’t catch my original posts from September, which can be found at the following links: #1 – #2 – #3
January 5 – AEW Dynamite Debuts on TBS. William Regal, Road Dogg, and Others Released by WWE
When AEW announced its migration from TNT over to TBS, some fans were skeptical. Would it get higher ratings? Or could it spell disaster? TBS is known for its rich history of airing shows for World Championship Wrestling, Georgia Championship Wrestling, and Mid-South back in the day, so AEW looked to honor tradition. On the show, we were treated to the following card:
- AEW World Championship Match: Hangman Page (c) vs. Bryan Danielson
- TBS Women’s Championship Tournament Final: Jade Cargill vs. Ruby Soho
- AEW World Tag Team Championship: Lucha Brothers (c) vs. Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus
- Malakai Black vs. Brian Pillman Jr.
- MFJ vs. “Captain” Shawn Dean
- Wardlow vs. Antonio Zambrano
The show was a success, with 1,010,000 viewers tuning in, and a 0.43 rating point in the 18-49 year old demographic. AEW has since consistently reached slightly fewer than that, although recent episodes in August-September have gone over the 1 million mark. The important thing is the move to TBS did not damage ratings for Dynamite.
In WWE, the trend of releasing talent because of “budget cuts” that started in 2020 and throughout 2021 continued. The biggest name was William Regal, which was shocking because of his loyalty and spectacular work in NXT. Many fans assumed Regal would have a job for life in WWE. Other released names included backstage personnel like Road Dogg, Ace Steel, long-time main roster writer Ranjin Singh, and NXT wrestlers Timothy Thatcher, Danny Burch, Hideki Suzuki, and more.
It looked like there was no end in sight for releases in WWE. With William Regal gone, was anybody safe? There was a sense that anybody could be let go at any time, and stories of WWE selling flared up once again. With stifling creative processes and many superstars feeling they had no job security, morale continued to plummet.
January 29 – Brock Lesnar Loses the WWE Championship and Wins the Royal Rumble on the Same Night / Mickie James Makes History
With WrestleMania around the corner, it was highly predicted that WWE would find a way to get Brock Lesnar & Roman Reigns to face each other in an undisputed title match at the biggest show of the year. There were several ways to go about it after Roman Reigns had to be pulled from Day 1. WWE had Brock Lesnar lose the WWE Championship to Bobby Lashley, so he could later enter the Royal Rumble and earn his shot. His victory was frustratingly predictable. Lesnar would go on to Elimination Chamber and win the WWE Championship, to set up the undisputed title match at WrestleMania 38.
Despite being contracted to Impact Wrestling and serving as its Knockouts Champion, another significant moment was Mickie James entering the women’s Royal Rumble match. It was the first time in decades that another promotion’s champion not only wrestled a WWE match but could bring their championship for their entrance. WWE referred to Mickie James as the “Impact Women’s Champion”. Many fans saw it as a historical moment because WWE had been inside its bubble (universe) for so long that nobody ever expected another company to get publicity on a major show.
February 2 – Shane McMahon Released by WWE for Getting Too Involved With the Booking of the Royal Rumble
Not long after the Royal Rumble, reports claimed that Shane McMahon had heat with Vince McMahon, other members of management, and the WWE roster. For several years, Shane McMahon had helped with the booking of the annual event, but this time, he had gone too far.
While there aren’t many details, they said that Shane McMahon tried too hard to put himself in a prominent position by going over several superstars. Shane reportedly buried other producers and changed things Vince McMahon wanted, so Vince had no choice but to release his son quietly. Shane entered the match at #28, eliminated Kevin Owens, and lasted 5 minutes and 38 seconds before being thrown out by Brock Lesnar. He has yet to return to WWE, and no further details about the incident have been revealed.
February 15 – WWE 205 Live Ceases and Is Replaced by NXT Level Up
After years of mediocrity, WWE’s 205 Live brand, which had originally featured cruiserweights under the 205 Ib weight limit, was scrapped altogether. Because of its poor viewership, the brand was given to Triple H to serve as an extra show for NXT in its later months. In some of its last episodes, 205 Live saw competitors over the weight limit, along with women’s wrestling becoming a regular fixture.
The 205 Live brand had reasonable success in the beginning because the division was plentiful with athletic talent. TJP. Rich Swann. Neville. Mustafa Ali. Tozawa. Brian Kendrick. Austin Aries. Gran Metalik. Ariya Daivari. Cedric Alexander, just to name a few. The show provided quality cruiserweight wrestling, with Neville bringing prestige to the title with his lengthy reign and defenses. WWE tried pushing 205 Live on PPV with title matches, including Buddy Murphy, Tony Nese, and Ariya Daivari. They didn’t get over in Vince McMahon’s eyes, and it doomed the brand after everyone knew it wouldn’t be a regular thing.
Triple H did his best to highlight the championship on NXT, but the pandemic hurt its momentum and it never recovered. WWE eventually unified the Cruiserweight title into the North American Championship, when Carmelo Hayes defeated Roderick Strong in a unification match. They replaced 205 Live with NXT Level Up, which features mid-carders and enhancement talent from the NXT 2.0 brand.
March 1 – New Japan Pro Wrestling Celebrates 50 Years With an Anniversary Show
To celebrate 50 years as a promotion, New Japan Pro Wrestling held a show at the Nippon Budokan. The main event featured a six-man tag with legend Tatsumi Fujinami teaming with current stars Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada, against another legend Yoshiaki Fujiwara teaming with Zack Sabre Jr & Minoru Suzuki.
Much of the show used present stars with a hint of legends providing nostalgia, which proved the right thing to do. In an era where New Japan may not be at its very best following a brutal period of dealing with the pandemic, this was a glimmer of light. It showed that New Japan recognizes its past and is ready to maintain its dominance over Japanese wrestling for another 50 years.
March 2 – Tony Khan Announces the Purchase of Ring of Honor
Back in October 2021, Ring of Honor announced it had released its entire roster and would go on hiatus before coming back strong. Here is their statement:
“Throughout the pandemic, our top priority was to keep everyone healthy and safe, and despite not producing any live events over 18 months, we were able to keep everyone fully contracted. We now find ourselves at a time where we need to make changes to our new business operations and are planning a pivot for Ring of Honor, with a new mission and strategy.
The year will culminate with a Final Battle in December, and we will be taking the first quarter of 2022 to work internally to reimagine ROH. ROH has the most dedicated fans in the industry, and we appreciate their loyalty and patience as we reconceptualize ROH. We anticipate returning to live events in April for the Super Card of Honor with a new fan-focused product and provide a unique experience for wrestling fans.”
The statement showed their willingness to get Ring of Honor back to business in a way that proved better for them and their fans. It didn’t happen because Tony Khan had a major announcement lined up for AEW Dynamite. Following the revelation that he had bought Ring Of Honor, rumors circulated that Tony Khan had acquired it for roughly $40m. This was false, as he later clarified that he bought the promotion for less than the $4.2m the UWF went for in 1987.
Since March 2nd, Ring Of Honor has hosted only two shows in Supercard of Honor XV (the last under the old management), and Death Before Dishonor (the first under Tony Khan). They completed the sale of the company on May 4th. Fans have been waiting for an announcement to tell them when Ring Of Honor will get back to regularly airing episodes, but this has yet to happen as of September. The brand’s championships continue to be defended on AEW programming.
March 11 – Big E Suffers a Broken Neck From an Overhead Belly-To-Belly Suplex
On an episode of SmackDown in a tag team match, former WWE Champion Big E suffered a neck injury from Ridge Holland’s botched belly-to-belly suplex. Last month, he gave us an update saying that he does not need a neck brace to go about his day-to-day life, but is still not medically cleared to be taking bumps.
He hopes that someday his neck will heal properly so he can return to action, but is not getting in the ring until there’s no risk. Ridge Holland had his confidence severely knocked by the incident and was grateful that Big E will live a normal life. His goal is to gain back the trust he may have lost.
March 14 – Scott Hall Passes Away
The the saddest news of the year is that of Scott Hall’s passing. The legendary “Bad Guy” had left his mark on the wrestling business, although his battles with alcoholism may sometimes have hurt his career’s potential.
Whatever happened behind closed doors, Scott Hall was a character that his fans and peers sorely miss. Every wrestling company paid tribute to him. Last year, WWE inducted him into their Hall of Fame. Fellow Kliq members and Diamond Dallas Page attended his funeral. RIP.
March 25 – Triple H Officially Announces Retirement From Wrestling
In September 2021, WWE reported Triple H had undergone a procedure following a “cardiac event” caused by a genetic heart issue. He later told us he had viral pneumonia and his heart was not working as strongly as it needed to. After being fitted with a defibrillator, he could no longer risk getting physical.
Triple H has recently said that he has no problem with that because he has done everything there is to do in wrestling, and he gets enjoyment out of seeing others succeed. He cherishes their breakout moments like they are his own. He opened the second night of WrestleMania 38 on April 3rd by leaving his boots in the ring, to signify to anyone who didn’t know that his wrestling days are over.
April 1 – The Undertaker Inducted Into the WWE Hall of Fame
The 2022 Hall of Fame ceremony began WrestleMania weekend on a beautiful note. Long-awaited inductions of former WWE Superstars like Vader & The Steiner Brothers were applauded and recognized, but none more so than the legend of The Undertaker. No wrestling Hall of Fame can be legitimate without The Undertaker, who epitomizes what it means to be a household name in the wrestling business. Visibly nervous, the man behind the character spoke with pride, honor, and respect. He thanked everybody who made The Undertaker possible.
As far as Hall of Fame inductions go, it will be known as one of the greatest of all time. Everything was befitting of the legacy of the character, and the hard work of the man behind it. There is some frustration there too because his passion was such that he fought so hard not to retire. We know that if he could physically wrestle at a level he’d accept, The Undertaker would still walk down the aisle. There will be no one else like him. And while it’s sad that it had to end, at least we know he can sit back and enjoy his retirement resting in peace.
April 2 – Stone Cold Steve Austin Has His First Match in 19 Years / Cody Rhodes Returns to WWE After 6 Years Away
Did this really happen? It was one of the most surreal moments of the year. For almost two decades, Stone Cold Steve Austin was adamant that he was done wrestling. He never ruled out one last match, but year after year, he would reaffirm that he was finished. Austin is an old-school guy who grew up having to get over in the backend of Ric Flair & Hulk Hogan’s era, so he never wanted to take the spotlight.
He’s a huge advocate of looking forwards. But also, he recognizes that sometimes it helps if a legend puts another guy over, in a roundabout way of passing the torch. While Steve Austin returned for one last hurrah by getting a victory over Kevin Owens, it helped to see Owens on his level. It was nostalgia done in the right way because it wasn’t overblown and newer fans got to experience a Steve Austin match for the first time (without looking back on old shows).
Also, on Night 1 of WrestleMania 38, Cody Rhodes made his return to WWE after six years away. It was surprising because he’s one of the leading guys in forming All Elite Wrestling. So many fans assumed he would be there for life. And even more of a shocker was Cody Rhodes returning with the “American Nightmare” gimmick he had gotten over on the indies, Japan, and AEW since leaving WWE.
Vince McMahon would usually want something he owns, but he let Cody have this. I believe McMahon knew that had he returned as “Dashing” Cody Rhodes, or even Stardust, it would have been ridiculed as a lost opportunity. He returned with enormous fanfare, and not long before picking up his injury, many were talking about him being the one to dethrone Roman Reigns.
April 3 – Roman Reigns Unifies the WWE & Universal Championships / Vince McMahon Wrestles His Last Match
Depending on who you ask, night 2 of WrestleMania 38 was majorly satisfying or disappointing. After months of severe hype, Roman Reigns & Brock Lesnar fought in a match that was fairly average and ended with Reigns beating Lesnar clean with no shenanigans. WWE billed it as the biggest WrestleMania match of all time, but we know it was nothing but a tagline to sell tickets. It lacked the same intensity we saw months later at SummerSlam, which was a far more memorable affair. Still, what Roman Reigns did at WrestleMania 38 was historic for the reason of unifying the WWE & Universal Championship.
They had done it before, first with the WWE & WCW Championships, and again much later with the WWE & World Championships. Roman Reigns created history because it had never been done with the WWE & Universal Championships. Yeah, many fans are sick and tired of him. They’d love nothing more than someone to beat him, but there are others who are happy he’s on top. If someone beats him (he could get injured and have to vacate) it will be a bona fide major moment, but I’m not expecting it until next year’s WrestleMania.
In a moment of possibly telegraphing what was to come, Vince McMahon threw himself into a match with Pat McAfee. Yes, he won the match, but most will remember it for the aftermath with Stone Cold Steve Austin. McMahon’s last interaction in a wrestling ring was Austin hitting him with one of the worst Stunners anyone has ever given anybody. If you listened close enough, you could hear Mick Foley crying with laughter from the comfort of his sofa. Austin laughed it off too, but there was an underlying message here. To me, it felt like this was Vince knowing it would be his last opportunity to do this, and he may have seen it as his sendoff before retiring.
April 29 – WWE Releases Several NXT Superstars
Dexter Lumis, Dakota Kai, Malcolm Bivens, Harland, Persia Pirotta, Sanjana George, Draco Anthony, Mila Malani, Raelyn Divine & Paige Proinzivalli. WWE released them less than a month after WrestleMania 38 generated over $200 million in the Dallas and Arlington regions of Texas.
As we know, Dexter Lumis & Dakota Kai later returned to WWE and are now playing big roles on the main roster. Malcolm Bivens returned to being Stokely Hathaway, and Harland as Parker Boudreaux in AEW. Persia Pirotta possibly lost the most because she was regularly featured on NXT 2.0. The only positive to come of this news is there have been no further releases since then.
May 16 – Sasha Banks & Naomi Walk Out of WWE / Jim Crockett Promotions Revived to Produce Ric Flair’s Last Match
The wrestling world still awaits the result of the incident involving Sasha Banks & Naomi. Unhappy with their booking, the tag team champions walked backstage, dumped their titles on the desk, and walked out. WWE management was furious, and lines being fed to the announcers disgraced the pair in public. They have since appeared at fashion shows and other venues while serving a suspension.
Nobody knows when, or if, they will return to WWE, but it’s rumored to be more likely with Triple H in charge of creative. New tag team champions were decided months later in a tournament. I only like speculating to a point, so until more details emerge, it’s a wait-and-see situation that could go either way.
May 20 – The Usos Unify the Raw & Smackdown Tag Team Championships
Randy Orton and Matt Riddle formed an unlikely team of RK-Bro that gained them a ton of popularity and championships. However, when rumors circulated that Randy Orton was working injured, WWE threw RK-Bro into a feud with The Usos. Wanting to prove who the best team is, WWE teased a unification match. This didn’t happen right away, though, because it looked like WWE had second thoughts about it.
However, by May it had become clear that Orton needed to take time away to heal a back injury, so WWE went ahead with the match on an episode of SmackDown. The Usos made history by becoming the first team to unify the Raw & SmackDown titles. It made all the Bloodline the undisputed champions of WWE.
May 29 – Adam Cole & Britt Baker Become the Inaugural Owen Hart Cup Winners
While some WWE fans groaned about Martha Hart selling the Owen Hart name to be used by AEW, I believe they did right by his legacy. It’s understandable why his widow would not want to associate her late husband’s career with the company responsible for his death, but that’s a topic for another day. What we should celebrate are the tournaments leading to the inaugural winners of the Owen Hart Cup.
Booking two significant others like Adam Cole & Britt Baker is symbolic of the relationship Martha had with Owen. Since his passing, the Owen Hart Foundation has raised over $4m toward scholarship funds and a homeowners program. The added exposure serves to help more people realize their dreams. His legacy continues to provide a positive influence.
June 1 – MJF Cuts a Worked Shoot Promo Before Being Taken off TV
After the news of MJF no-showing a fan signing, reports became rampant about his status with AEW. It was assumed he was unhappy with his contract, which he alluded to in (what management called) an unscheduled interview with Ariel Helwani. Despite this, MJF showed up at Double or Nothing to work a short match with Wardlow to end their feud. A few days later, on the next episode of Dynamite, MJF was given the time to vent and tell the world how he felt. He did not hold back, cutting a promo that was likely more real than him portraying a character.
Tony Khan likely felt it was healthy for MJF to get how he felt off his chest publicly, and the result resonated with fans. Some of his comments rubbed other AEW talent the wrong way, as they felt he was insulting and ungrateful. He eventually returned this month, immediately highlighting how he was making “way more money” than he was before. Whatever tension there was between MJF and Tony Khan has since been resolved, although it may not seem that way because his character still references the “bidding war of 2024”. In reality, Tony is letting him do this to garner heat. MJF has since said that he had no issue over how he was used, but with the money he was being paid.
June 26 – AEW & NJPW Produce Their First Cross-Promotional PPV Event
New Japan is arguably the biggest cross-promoter in wrestling history. In the past twenty years, it has had ties with Ring of Honor and TNA Wrestling to varying degrees. The last big cross-promotional event was the ROH/NJPW G1 Supercard at Madison Square Garden, which highlighted what New Japan does best, while simultaneously showing the decline of ROH. By the end of the year, New Japan had launched its American brand of wrestling shows and was no longer working with ROH.
NJPW was not initially interested in working with AEW because of its uncertainty over how successful it would be. And then, of course, the pandemic hit, and travel restrictions made things difficult. By 2021, New Japan had talent exchanges with AEW, Impact, GCW, MLW, and possibly more. Having a super show was off the table, however, because COVID-19 restrictions made it a logistical nightmare. At the end of the year, it looked more of a possibility, and Tony Khan began talks with New Japan about producing the Forbidden Door event. Sadly, several top stars like CM Punk and Bryan Danielson were injured not long before and things had to change.
Still, the event was satisfying. I wouldn’t say it will go down as the greatest of all time, but it didn’t suck either. 4 hours of quality wrestling and Claudio Castagnoli’s AEW debut. That’s what I’ll remember it for. Oh, and having English and Japanese announcers, which I thought was a sweet touch. Forbidden Door highlighted an American promotion with a major TV deal cross-promoting with New Japan for the first time since WCW at the often-forgotten “Collision in Korea” in 1995. That’s significant enough to mention here.
July 22 – Vince McMahon Retires
The unexpected retirement of Vince McMahon is likely to go down as one of the most significant moments in wrestling history. 5 days before, WWE announced that he had stepped down as the Chairman & CEO of the company he owned since 1980. This was because of a pending investigation into hush-money being paid to employees he had affairs with. The investigation revealed at least $12m had been paid in nondisclosure agreements involving Vince McMahon & John Laurinaitis.
Despite the more questionable choices made in his career, Vince McMahon will be remembered for dragging professional wrestling up from the territory days into global mainstream appeal. He did so without mercy for the established traditions and made a juggernaut based on the kayfabe breaking concept of sports-entertainment. The in-ring action may have suffered, but he introduced professional wrestling to a new generation of fan who would otherwise not have cared.
Until we know the details of the allegations made against him, I’m not prepared to detail his career too much. I do not believe we are at the stage of celebrating his career, but it’s acceptable to acknowledge his endless passion for making WWE as big as it became. Many of us would not be here writing and reading about wrestling if it were not for Vince McMahon, and that’s a fitting way of rounding off a career that nobody will ever be able to emulate.
July 25 – WWE Under New Management
A few days after the announcement of Vince McMahon’s retirement, WWE appointed a new management structure. At the top, Stephanie McMahon & Nick Khan each share Vince’s business responsibilities as Co-CEO’s, while Triple H became the new Chief Content Officer. It speaks to the volume of work Vince McMahon did every day to need three people to cover everything.
While it’s difficult for fans to notice any difference on the business side, the effect of Triple H taking over creative was quickly felt. They only made subtle changes on the way to SummerSlam, because Vince had already written the basics, but the shows after that were the proverbial reset button. Some (but not all) of the changes include:
- Several released WWE Superstars returned. Some NXT stars who had worked on the brand a long time were called up.
- WWE abolished the name change philosophy that Vince McMahon adopted in his latter days. Only a few have yet to have their names changed back to what they were.
- More emphasis on wrestling and bringing prestige to the United States and Intercontinental Championships. Less back-to-back rematches. The 24/7 Championship disappeared from television, but remained on live events.
- Many of Vince McMahon’s banned words became free to use. Production plugged fewer replays and commentary given more freedom to express. Mentioning other wrestling companies and moments outside the universe was allowed.
- NXT 2.0 was eventually rebranded back to the original black & gold that Triple H built, simply becoming “NXT” again.
- More logical storytelling and subtle references to reward fans for paying attention.
July 30 – Bayley Returns With Friends
If anything screamed Triple H being in charge, it wasn’t Bayley returning by herself, but long-time NXT star Io Shirai and the released Dakota Kai joining her at SummerSlam. Io Shirai is a former NXT Women’s & Tag Team Champion, while Dakota Kai had also been a Tag Team Champion. Having been out for over a year with a torn ACL, Bayley’s return had been long awaited by the WWE Universe.
Before this, she had been established as one of WWE’s biggest heels and was in the middle of getting Bianca Belair over. Since then, Bayley, Iyo Sky, and Dakota Kai (Damage Control) are doing their best to run the women’s division. Winning the tag team titles was an encouraging first step. It remains to be seen if Bayley can get back on top of the division as a singles champion.
July 31 – Ric Flair’s “Last Match”
Jim Crockett Promotions returned for one night to feature a card under the banner of “Ric Flair’s Last Match”. It was historic for being the first show since 2000 (Brian Pillman’s Memorial show) to have varying involvement from major and other wrestling promotions from around the world, including: WWE, AEW, NJPW, NWA, Impact Wrestling, ROH, AAA, MLW, GCW, Terminus, OVW, Progress, DDT, BLP, FSW, and PWR.
Three title matches were scheduled on the card, including for the Impact World & Knockouts Championships, along with the Progress World Championship. Big names like The Undertaker, Bret Hart, Mick Foley, and others were in attendance. The show stayed true to the JCP format and paid tribute to former employees. In the main event, Ric Flair entered with the original “Big Gold Belt” (sometimes called the “Real World’s Heavyweight Championship”), which is the title Ric Flair took with him to the WWF after WCW Vice President Jim Herd refused to give him the $25,000 deposit he was owed.
In the main event, Ric Flair teamed with AEW’s Andrade El Idolo against Jeff Jarrett & Jay Lethal. Some reviewers mentioned how uncomfortable it was to watch Flair perform, and he later admitted to passing out twice from dehydration. After winning the match, a bloody Flair got on the microphone and thanked everybody. In the aftermath, he stated he wanted to stay true to this being his last match, but later backtracked by saying that he regrets the idea to bill it as his last.
August 17 – Kenny Omega Returns
Kenny Omega’s absence from All Elite Wrestling had been noticeable for sometime. Many fans knew he had to take time off, and he did so in November 2021 to get surgeries for his knees and hernia. In the meantime, Kenny worked extensively on AEW’s first video game, Fight Forever. Don Callis made the fans groan when he teased Omega’s return a month or so before.
When AEW announced a trios tournament, they teased Hangman Page teaming up with the Young Bucks. But when this fell through and nobody had been announced, many fans were hoping on Omega returning to reform The Elite. On an episode of Dynamite, Omega returned as The Young Buck’s mystery partner. Still taped up, Kenny looked tentative in his offense as Callis explained that he’s not 100% yet, but is cleared to wrestle. Omega soon got back into the swing of things. The Elite won the tournament by defeating the Dark Order in the finals to become the inaugural AEW Trios Champions.
August 18 – The Evolution Of NXT UK
While on the way to crowning a new NXT UK Champion (after Ilja Dragunov vacated) in a tournament, WWE announced the brand would close its doors in September after almost four years of activity. The reason given was that they felt the brand had outgrown the UK and would prosper more so by relaunching as NXT Europe in 2023. NXT UK struggled more than any other brand during the pandemic because the UK government had stricter guidelines for COVID-19 than the United States. Even after shows began airing again, it took a long time to get crowds back.
I feel like this period, combined with WWE’s tendency to forget it exists (never advertising it), led to a downfall in viewership and interest. Many of NXT UK’s top stars had already moved on to America without the same caliber of talent to replace them. To show how little WWE cared for NXT UK viewers, they had Tyler Bate appear on an episode of NXT 2.0 with the NXT UK Championship, to challenge Bron Breakker in a title vs. title match at Worlds Collide. Because they taped NXT UK in advance, the appearance gave away the result of the final and spoiled the tournament. Other NXT UK Championships were scheduled to be contested at Worlds Collide.
September 3 – WWE’s First UK Stadium Show In 30 Years
For the first time since SummerSlam ‘92, the UK got a stadium show called Clash At The Castle. It was also the first PPV in the UK since Insurrextion in 2003. Triple H later said that it was the most successful international event, along with being the highest rated UK PPV and best-selling non-WrestleMania event in WWE history.
The show was headlined with Drew McIntyre challenging Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship. It saw the debuts of NXT Superstars Solo Sikoa & Giovanni Vinci. Most fans will remember Clash At The Castle for the epic encounter between Gunther and Sheamus for the Intercontinental Championship. Following his loss, Sheamus got a standing ovation from the crowd. It was a fitting show for a crowd of over 60,000.
As a British fan, I am happy with what WWE provided, although I wish it had highlighted more UK talent (only Butch & Ridge Holland were from the UK and stood at ringside for the IC title match). With the upcoming closure of NXT UK, it would have been encouraging to see that the company had not given up on British wrestlers.
September 4 – Worlds Collide Ends NXT UK
Aside from the NXT UK Heritage Cup, every other championship from the brand was contested at Worlds Collide. Four tag teams competed for the NXT & NXT UK Tag Team titles. Mandy Rose, Meiko Satomura, and Blair Davenport fought in a triple threat to unify both brand’s women’s titles. In the main event, the NXT Champion Bron Breakker accepted the challenge of NXT UK Champion Tyler Bate. Predictably, both NXT Champions of Breakker & Rose won their matches and held both brand’s titles. In a tag team match also involving Gallus, the NXT Champions, The Creed Brothers, and NXT UK Champions, Brooks Jenson & Josh Briggs, lost their titles to Pretty Deadly.
Unlike other unifications in WWE’s history, the company decided that Bron Breakker, Mandy Rose, and Pretty Deadly’s reigns would not be recognized. Therefore, Tyler Bate, Meiko Satomura, Brooks Jenson & Josh Briggs remain the last champions in NXT UK history. As a British fan, it was sad to see these championships go, but if WWE can go one better with NXT Europe, then I’ll be happy knowing that this pain was for the greater good.
September 6-7 – CM Punk & The Elite Suspended After A Backstage Fight
Yeah, this is probably the biggest “drama moment” of the year. When I saw the media scrum later (didn’t watch it live), it felt like an elaborate work to me. Some of it felt real, especially the Colt Cabana stuff, and possibly the comments about Hangman Page, but throwing insults out there about MJF and The Elite too? All while sitting next to Tony Khan? It didn’t seem plausible to me that CM Punk would be so unprofessional and destructive. He had talked about respecting peers before, so had this not been a work, then it would be hypocritical.
He should have been happy, having just beaten Jon Moxley to become the undisputed AEW World Champion. This should have been the beginning of a new era where CM Punk would help build AEW to another level. Instead, he allowed his frustrations to take the perception of AEW down a peg, all while embarrassing Tony Khan in front of the media. Had anybody not wondered about the atmosphere backstage in AEW, they would be now. I’m struggling to figure out if CM Punk did this because he thought he was invincible, or that he seriously thought this was the right move.
Perhaps something happened earlier in the day, and this was him venting, not realizing the shitstorm he was about to create. The fans have become accustomed to him dropping pipebombs, but when this starts happening outside the confines of a wrestling show. When it has the goal of harming the reputations of people you work with. It’s bound to spark an uneasy situation, and that’s exactly what happened when The Elite confronted him backstage.
I’m not about to detail everything we were told about that alleged fight, because one day we’ll probably hear all about it on an episode of Dark Side of the Ring. However, what I will say is it’s some of the dumbest crap I have ever heard in wrestling. Three guys who are meant to be EVPS, the undisputed World Champion, and his trainer who also works as a producer, can’t be mature enough to put their egos aside and talk it through like adults? They have to cause drama after one of AEW’s most successful PPVs.
Like I said in a previous article, I don’t care if none of them come back, although at least Kenny Omega looks like he’s trying to make amends by plugging the video game in Japan. The Young Bucks do their passive aggressive thing on social media, and Punk remains quiet while probably seeking legal advice. Meanwhile, Jon Moxley, Chris Jericho, Bryan Danielson, and the rest of the roster have to step up and do their best to damage control a situation that should have got nowhere close to this. What happened to the meeting they had? There were rumors that there were backstage tensions, so they called a meeting and Tony Khan said it was positive.
He said it was simply a matter of doing some housekeeping. Yet, while it looked like they had turned a corner, clearly there remained some underlying tensions between CM Punk and others that were not addressed properly. Instead of that getting sorted out behind closed doors, Punk threw it out there while eating cupcakes during a scrum that was supposed to be about plugging the future of AEW. If you have issues with someone, do it like a professional and talk to them. Otherwise, nobody else wants to know.
Yes, I know wrestling sites like these have always thrived on the backstage drama. Fans find it intriguing to know what happens behind the curtain. But rarely, like in this case, the toxicity draws the curtain away and is on show for the world to see in its glory. Naked and without shame, the heat between CM Punk, The Elite, and whoever else, burned everybody. When I tuned into Dynamite, Tony Khan admitted this was not a work. Without bluntly saying so, he confirmed the reports were true and my heart sank for every talent sat backstage.
They formed AEW to get away from politics and to provide a place where the love of professional wrestling can be celebrated. No egos. No drama. Go out there and show the world what you’ve got. And since then, the roster has impressed me with how it has stepped up. They have shown us how professionals do it. CM Punk and The Elite should take notes, but knowing them, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re still playing the blame game.
September 21 – Saraya (Paige) Here!
God, I love when wrestling springs up a surprise. Sir-rey-uhh here! She may be rusty on the microphone, but the fact is that she is a draw. Probably the most popular British women’s wrestler of all time. She’s already doing the right thing by pushing for more emphasis on AEW’s women’s division.
To be fair, Tony Khan should have been doing this anyway… but now he has an expensive signing giving him the evils if he doesn’t. I believe she will get back into the groove soon, and it helps that she has many great minds and talkers around her. Saraya has to remember that while she enjoyed a lot of success in WWE, she did not reach her peak. There’s still much to learn, and I believe she could be better than she was in WWE if she isn’t complacent.
She needs to realize that improving her mic game to better develop a character is what will get her back to the top. And I’m not saying this to be critical. I want her to succeed because I want what is best for her, and I see what Jamie Hayter is doing. I’d love nothing more than to see her and Saraya revolutionizing women’s wrestling in AEW.
October 8 – Bray Wyatt Returns!
The new content begins here. In the months leading up to Bray Wyatt’s return at Extreme Rules, WWE left QR codes and other cryptic messages for the fans to find. Many referenced the White Rabbit, which I detailed (probably too much) in this piece: My Hot Takes On 5 Heated Wrestling Topics (9/22)
When Wyatt returned, he brought with him a band of misfits representing characters from the Firefly Fun House. There was a lot of talk about whether they would become regular characters portrayed by WWE Superstars like Alexa Bliss, Bo Dallas, Nikki Cross, Baron Corbin, Joe Gacy, Liv Morgan, and others. It was fun to speculate, but nothing came of it, and the progress WWE had made with the White Rabbit was all but forgotten.
Now, what has happened since Wyatt’s glorious return is up for debate. Some will say they love the slow build, while others claim everyone has already grown tired of it. Yet, no matter what has transpired, Bray Wyatt’s long awaited return, and debut of a new side of his character, has been cemented in history. We may always remember 2022 as the year Wyatt finally returned home after two years of absence.
October 27 – STARDOM’s Syuri Tops PWI’s 150 Women’s List
Since 2008, Pro Wrestling Illustrated has issued an annual listing of the best women’s wrestlers in the world. It began with 50, but over time it has come to include 150. Since then, it’s safe to say that it has heavily favored American stars, especially those working as WWE Superstars. However, something changed last year, when the PWI recognized Utami Hayashishita as #2 and Syuri as #7. It was giving a lot more love towards Japanese wrestlers, especially those working in STARDOM, a promotion that has helped develop some of the best women’s wrestlers in the world today.
So, it may have surprised many fans to find out that Syuri got the top spot this year over Bianca Belair, Thunder Rosa, Becky Lynch, and Jade Cargill. Why was that? Without reading the publication it’s tough to know, but it may have something to do with being the World Of Stardom Champion all year with at least 10 title defenses. Bianca Belair and Jade Cargill can make claims to having the most dominant years in their respective careers, while I have to question the placings of Thunder Rosa and Becky Lynch. Still, every list of subjective, and PWI is likely to continue with this trend of giving Stardom’s wrestlers an equal footing to those on bigger platforms.
October 28 – “Are You Feeling Ucey?!”
It needs little explanation. In what was probably the most entertaining segment of television anywhere in the wrestling world this year, Sami Zayn got The Bloodline to crack while giving birth to the term “Ucey”. What a legend!
November 9 – WWE Retires The 24/7 Championship
Since Triple H took over the creative process from Vince McMahon, the 24/7 Championship was effectively buried for months. The title did not have long to live. Dana Brooke became noticeably frustrated with her position and shared this via some Twitter remarks that did not make it any better.
When it came time to get the golden shovel, Nikki Cross defeated Dana Brooke for the title. She carried it backstage in a trance and unceremoniously failed to dump the title in the trash. It was a befitting end to a championship that had been a running joke almost since its inception. And against my better judgment, I took the time to make a list of every 24/7 Champion in its history. I don’t think anybody cared.
November 19 – AEW Full Gear Sees The Wrestling Returns Of The Elite & Saraya
After the drama in the aftermath of AEW’s All Out media scrum, many fans were wondering if we’d ever see the returns of CM Punk or The Elite. When vignettes of Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks aired in the buildup to Full Gear, it was telling of what they had found in the investigation.
The Elite returned as challengers to Death Triangle’s Trios Championship, a title that they never lost. Despite losing, it went over well and sparked a best of 7 series. On the same show, Saraya wrestled and won her first match (against Britt Baker) in almost 5 years, since being forced to retire with a neck injury. Also, MJF made history by becoming the sixth wrestler to claim the AEW World Championship by defeating Jon Moxley.
November 26 – WWE Hosts 1st Main Roster WarGames Matches At Survivor Series
Triple H is a big fan of WCW’s old WarGames gimmick, which was clear when he brought it back for NXT in 2017. There have been eight NXT WarGames matches, with 5 for the men and 3 for the women. This was the first time since 2017 that NXT did not have WarGames, as it instead happened at Survivor Series on the main roster for the first time. Bianca Belair’s team of herself, Alexa Bliss, Asuka, Mia Yim & Becky Lynch saw off the challenge of Bayley’s Damage CTRL, Nikki Cross, and Rhea Ripley.
In the main event, The Bloodline fought in a story focused match against Sheamus, Butch, Ridge Holland, Drew McIntyre & Kevin Owens. It was significant for subduing the tumultuous relationship between Sami Zayn & Jey Uso, therefore bringing The Bloodline on the same page for the rest of the year.
November 30 – AEW Writes William Regal Off TV By Having MJF Turn On Him
At Full Gear, AEW fans were left shocked by what looked like William Regal’s betrayal of the Blackpool Combat Club. Siding with MJF, the two finally stood together almost two weeks later, when the new AEW World Champion introduced his new title belt on Dynamite. With the story they had told between MJF & William Regal, the partnership looked set in stone for a long time. And then it wasn’t, because MJF unexpectedly turned on Regal by knocking him out.
In the news, the change of plans soon became clear. William Regal had been looking for a way back to WWE after being released on January 5th. Wanting to work with his son, who is currently working as Charlie Dempsey in NXT, was cited as one of the biggest reasons he wanted to return. Tony Khan accepted his request not to renew his contract, and it is a formality that Regal will return to backstage duties in WWE soon.
December 14 – Mandy Rose Released From WWE The Day After Losing NXT Women’s Championship To Roxanne Perez
There’s clearly some wires crossed here, as Mandy Rose lost her job following a lengthy NXT title reign. The issue stems from the content she was sharing on her FanTime account, which was said to be too risque for WWE’s liking. It breached their standards, and although Rose is an independent contractor, WWE feels like it had to set an example by releasing her from the contract.
This has been an ongoing situation since Vince McMahon and WWE imposed strict guidelines on what their superstars could do with their live streaming and other platforms. Since Vince stepped down, some of those guidelines have eased somewhat, but Mandy had been pushing the limits. Some will say she had it coming, while others will say WWE hasn’t got a right to impose itself on something that it probably shouldn’t have anything to do with.
Mandy Rose is apparently making a ton of money with this service, so it wouldn’t be fair if she put an end to it to appease WWE. However, she was on a television product with children in mind, and WWE wouldn’t like the idea that she isn’t setting an example by cutting back on showing her naked body for profit. In their eyes, they could have come under fire for promoting somebody who was clearly profiteering from adult content. So, Mandy refused to do anything about this, and WWE felt like she left them no choice.
It’s a funny one, and I’m sure there are others in WWE (like Zelina Vega) who will be wary about crossing the line. Although, provided they are making enough money, perhaps they won’t care? It’s crazy to think that WWE isn’t compensating these women to where they don’t feel the need to provide a subscription service. Wouldn’t that be a better deterrent?
And with that said, I hope you have enjoyed this extensive list of wrestling moments in 2022. Have a Happy New Year! Thank you for reading.