Hello, wrestling fans! 2022 has been a rollercoaster ride of moments. Today, I would like to bring you the first of a four-part series covering every significant TV and backstage moment in the crazy world of wrestling. Because pro wrestling in 2022 isn’t over yet, this series will conclude in December, and then we can collectively decide on the “Best Of”, and “Worst Of” categories. There may yet be a few more twists and turns as we head to the finish line. Before then, let’s detail every major wrestling moment of 2022. This issue includes the first quarter of the year between January 1st and March 31st.
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.
With that said, we are concluding the first part of the series. Keep checking back because I am keen on posting the second part by the end of the month. 2022 has been a crazy year of wrestling moments! And I hope this series highlights all of its proudest occasions and bitter difficulties. Have a wonderful week and thank you for reading!