I’ve been doing this since 1996 and can’t recall a crazier year in terms of news like the one we just had this year.
The number of stories that 2022 provided us were just insane, stories that I thought I’d never write about. 2022 was the gift that kept on giving wrestling-wise, although not necessarily always the nicest content to write about.
For me, there are five stories which dominated 2022. If this year didn’t have such many shenanigans, each story could have been the top one.
VINCE MCMAHON RETIRES FROM WWE AFTER HUSH-MONEY SCANDAL
Vince McMahon leaving WWE for good was hands down, and without any shadow of a doubt, the biggest news story of the year. Never in my wildest dreams I thought I’d see that. Vince was practically immune to everything, he was like made of Teflon and survived every imaginable story thrown at him…
…until he was taken out by a woman.
Not even the U.S. government manage to overthrow him from his position. But horny Vince couldn’t keep it in his pants and kept shelling out money to cover it up. That, in today’s times, is a big no no and ultimately suffered the same fate that many other high-level ranking officials working for other top brands went through.
The sheer significance of this story was like a magnitude 10 earthquake on the Richter scale. Maybe some fans cannot grasp how big this is or was but we’re talking about the most influential figure in this industry walking away after 40 years. There have been rumors that Vince wants back after he blamed his close advisors on “bad advice” but chances of that happening aren’t very good. You would think advertisers and TV networks would not be up for it and it would hit WWE big time when it comes to money.
Many dreaded the day when Vince was to leave, but as we have learned, Vince leaving was probably the best thing to have happened to WWE in a very long time.
CODY RHODES LEAVES AEW, RETURNS TO WWE
The second most eye-popping story of 2022 was certainly Cody Rhodes quitting AEW and going back to WWE. I thought, just like many, Rhodes was AEW “for life” considering he helped build the company to take on WWE.
Boy, were we wrong.
From the initial rumors that he was working without a deal, to the delays in signing a new one, to eventually the Valentine’s Day break-up and return at WrestleMania, Cody’s 2022 has been a roller coaster ride. His WrestleMania entrance still gives goosebumps and fans welcomed the prodigal son with open arms. One thing that WWE nailed for his return was that they kept his American Nightmare gimmick intact from his AEW days. Gear, music, everything. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, and AEW Cody was not broken at all.
An injury has been keeping him out for the past six months, but big things are coming for the American Nightmare in 2023. Will he become the first Rhodes to win the big one in WWE? I certainly hope so.
Just like the Vince story, this was a big significant story in the world of professional wrestling. Cody was the first one to jump ship from AEW to WWE after several went the other way. WWE landed the biggest fish for their first “steal” and with not everything so rosy in AEW, more will follow.
STEPHANIE MCMAHON AND TRIPLE H ASSUME POWER AT WWE
The regime change in WWE was another top story. We often wondered, with Vince gone, who would take his place? We didn’t have to wait long to find that out. His daughter, Stephanie McMahon was named Chairwoman and co-CEO while Nick Khan, one of the most powerful men in the company, grabbed the other co-CEO position.
And then came the inevitable. Six months after the old regime gutted his team in a power play, Paul “Triple H” Levesque ascended to the throne as Chief Content Officer, bringing back many people who were unjustly fired under Vince and John Laurinaitis, and taking over the creative role Vince had. Simply put, the buck stops with Triple H now.
There seems to be a better vibe at WWE and more harmony backstage ever since Vince McMahon left the company. Triple H is said to be more approachable and he’s been one of the “boys” before so he knows the drill. WWE television improved big time with new ideas, better commentary, and sold-out events. While the “honeymoon” is “over” for the new regime, things are certainly moving in the right direction.
Remember in 1996 when Vince McMahon punished Hunter Hearst Helmsley for his involvement in the Kliq curtain call and lost many hog pen matches along the way? Fast forward 26 years and who is laughing now?
ALL OUT BACKSTAGE BRAWL
CM Punk coming to AEW was definitely the biggest story of 2021. Absent from the business for seven long years, Punk showed everyone that he still had it. Punk for AEW was a stroke of genius business-wise. He moved merchandise, he moved tickets, and thanks to him, AEW started a trend of $1 million-plus gates at pay-per-views.
But the honeymoon didn’t last long. CM Punk is an explosive character, many of who even brand as toxic backstage. While he was on his best behavior in the first couple of months, old CM Punk came creeping back.
An altercation with Hangman Page was the beginning of the end and a post-show press conference after All Out sealed the deal. The backstage brawl with The Elite dominated the news for several weeks and saw Punk and his buddy Ace Steel locking horns with Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks. Things got ugly, very ugly which led to the suspension of everyone involved.
Punk was injured and got stripped off his AEW World title that he had just won. The Elite got stripped off their AEW World Trios titles they had just won. A two-month suspension followed for The Elite. Steel lost his job. Punk is pretty much on his way out.
AEW President Tony Khan has to share the blame on this one. He was sitting right next to Punk when he decided to throw everyone under the bus during the press conference. Khan sat there, looking like a deer in headlights, nodding, instead of taking the microphone away and shutting down the whole thing. It was embarrassing. Embarrassing for Khan, for AEW. Punk was on a warpath and the young, inexperienced Khan let him run riot.
STEVE AUSTIN RETURNS TO THE RING AFTER 19 YEARS
Rounding up the top five biggest stories of 2022 has to be the return of Stone Cold Steve Austin to the ring after an absence of 19 years.
On any other year, this would have been number one on the chart. But that’s how crazy 2022 was. Austin’s return to the ring doesn’t even make the top three.
There were rumors in the months leading up to WrestleMania that Steve Austin was training to return to the ring. He had not wrestled since WrestleMania 19 and his loss to The Rock as neck and knee problems spelled an end to his career. Those rumors intensified when Kevin Owens started thrashing the state of Texas at every opportunity he could. Surely, someone had to come to shut him up. While not advertising a match, WWE said that Steve Austin was going to be the guest on the Kevin Owens show on night one of WrestleMania 38.
When the segment was upgraded to the main event, everyone knew what was coming: Steve Austin. Dallas. WrestleMania. Main event. You don’t need a Harvard degree to come to that conclusion.
Getting one of the biggest pops ever, Austin marched out and then rode an ATV to the ring, exchanged some words with KO and then was “tricked” into accepting a match. With two resounding “Hell yeah” from the crowd, Austin and Kevin Owens brawled in the ring and in the stands and the Rattlesnake won with the Stunner in the middle of the ring. Return: complete!
These are just five of the many stories which 2022 offered us. We can’t forget the likes of Sasha Banks and Naomi walking out, the whole MJF drama at Double or Nothing, Triple H bringing over a dozen previously-fired Superstars back, William Regal joining and quitting AEW in the same year, and many more.
Here are, month by month, the stories that stole the headlines in 2022.
- Triple H’s team at NXT gets gutted with William Regal, Gabe Sapolsky, Samoa Joe, and others released
- Impact Knockouts champion Mickie James announced as an entrant in the women’s Royal Rumble match
- Jade Cargill wins inaugural TBS title on first episode of Dynamite on TBS.
- MLW files antitrust lawsuit against WWE
- Cody Rhodes is revealed as a free agent and working for AEW without a contract
- Jon Moxley returns to AEW after two-and-a-half months out at an inpatient alcohol treatment program
- Brody King signs with AEW, makes debut on Dynamite aligning with Malakai Black
- TNT champion Cody Rhodes misses Battle of the Belts, AEW introduces interim title, and unifies the titles a few weeks later
- After causing mayhem at the Rumble, Shane McMahon is let go from WWE
- Cesaro leaves WWE after his contract expires
- Big E breaks his neck on Smackdown after belly-to-belly suplex gone wrong
- Cody and Brandi Rhodes depart AEW in major shock
- Tony Khan issues statement on the departure of Cody and Brandi Rhodes
- Cody Rhodes in negotiations with WWE for comeback after AEW exit
- Former NXT champion Keith Lee arrives in All Elite Wrestling
- Shane “Swerve” Strickland headed to AEW
- Buddy Matthews makes AEW debut, aligns with House of Black
- Triple H announces retirement from in-ring competition
- WWE pulls Network and TV programming from Russia due to the Ukraine war
- Jeff Hardy makes his AEW Dynamite debut
- Scott Hall passes away
- Toni Storm signs with AEW, debuts on Dynamite
- Tony Khan purchases Ring of Honor from Sinclair Broadcast Group
- Paige VanZant signs with All Elite Wrestling
- Vince McMahon opens up in near 90-minute interview on the Pat McAfee Show
- William Regal makes AEW debut at Revolution pay-per-view
- The Undertaker inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, tells fans “never say never”
- New era of ROH under Tony Khan starts with Supercard of Honor
- Samoa Joe signs with AEW, appears at ROH’s Supercard of Honor
- Cody Rhodes returns to WWE at WrestleMania 38 as Seth Rollins’ mystery opponent
- Steve Austin returns to the ring after 19 years and headlines WrestleMania Saturday
- Pat McAfee wows crowd at WrestleMania, describes experience as “f*cking awesome”
- Nash Carter of MSK fired from WWE after Kimber Lee accuses him of domestic violence
- WWE releases hit Dakota Kai, Dexter Lumis and others at NXT
- AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door pay-per-view announced for June 26
- Charlotte Flair written off TV following match with Ronda Rousey at Backlash
- Sasha Banks and Naomi walk out of Raw over creative differences
- WWE suspends Sasha Banks and Naomi indefinitely
- Stephanie McMahon announces leave of absence from WWE
- WWE moves Money In The Bank from Allegiant Stadium to MGM Grand Garden Arena following slow ticket sales
- Jim Crockett Promotions Presents: Ric Flair’s Last Match officially announced for July
- MJF no-shows AEW Fan Fest, status for Double or Nothing unknown
- Tony Khan makes fun of WWE for moving Money In The Bank to a smaller venue
- AEW gets “left behind” at Warner Bros. Discovery Upfronts in New York
- Owen Hart Foundation tournament kicks off on Dynamite
- CM Punk wins the AEW World title from Hangman Page at Double or Nothing
- Cody Rhodes suffers torn pec, gets inside Hell In A Cell against Seth Rollins
- John Cena returns to WWE TV to celebrate 20th year anniversary with WWE
- The Usos unify the Raw and SmackDown Tag Team titles
- Jeff Hardy arrested in Florida, charged with DUI and driving with suspended license
- Jeff Hardy suspended from AEW pending completion of treatment, Tony Khan says he has last chance to make things right.
- The Wall Street Journal uncovers $3 million “hush money” payment by Vince McMahon over affair with employee
- Vince McMahon opens Smackdown with quick appearance after WSJ bombshell news
- Vince McMahon steps down as WWE Chairman and CEO until investigation is complete
- Stephanie McMahon assumes power at WWE as Chairwoman and CEO
- MJF lights up Kia Forum with worked-shoot promo for the ages, calls Tony Khan a “f*cking mark” on live television
- CM Punk injured, to undergo surgery but Tony Khan lets him remain champion
- Bryan Danielson out with unspecified injury, rumored to be another concussion
- AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door pay-per-view takes place
- Claudio Castagnoli makes AEW debut at Forbidden Door
- In extraordinary developments, Vince McMahon announces retirement from WWE
- WWE uncovers an additional $14.6 million in unrecorded expenses by Vince McMahon
- Claudio Castagnoli wins the ROH World title at Death Before Dishonor
- Brock Lesnar arrives at TD Garden for Smackdown, learns Vince McMahon has retired, leaves arena and then changes his mind and returns to the show
- Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan announced as permanent co-CEOs of WWE
- Triple H resumes role of WWE Executive Vice President of Talent Relations and then takes charge of all WWE’s creative control
- Bayley, Dakota Kai, and Io Shirai return at SummerSlam
- AEW introduces the World Trios titles with new champs to be crowned at All Out
- Ric Flair wrestles his last match and wrestling legends turn up for the event
- Karrion Kross and Scarlett return to WWE on Smackdown
- Dexter Lumis returns to WWE on Raw
- John Laurinaitis is fired from WWE for his involvement into the hush money allegations
- Hit Row, minus Swerve Strickland, return on Smackdown
- WWE announces the launch of NXT Europe in 2023, and the end of NXT UK with 22 stars released from contract
- Jeff Jarrett is released from WWE again
- Johnny Gargano returns to WWE on Raw
- NXT and NXT UK titles to be unified at NXT Worlds Collide premium live event
- Eddie Kingston gets suspended for a backstage altercation with Sammy Guevara
- CM Punk delivers “receipt” to Adam Page in unscripted moment on Dynamite
- Thunder Rosa injured, interim AEW Women’s champ to be crowned at All Out
- Jon Moxley beats CM Punk in a couple of minutes to become undisputed AEW World champion
- WWE holds Clash at the Castle, the first stadium premium live event in the United Kingdom for the first time in 30 years
- The curtain falls on NXT UK with NXT Worlds Collide
- MJF returns to AEW at All Out in show-closing angle
- CM Punk goes all out on Colt Cabana, Hangman Page, The Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega in fiery post-show press conference
- CM Punk, Kenny Omega, and The Young Bucks in backstage altercation following media scrum
- All Out backstage brawl brings suspensions to all involved
- CM Punk suffers torn triceps, out for up to nine months
- Punches, bites, and flying chairs: the backstage brawl at AEW All Out
- Malakai Black gets time off due to personal issues
- Braun Strowman returns to WWE on Raw
- Black and gold NXT logo returns, 2.0 is dropped from name
- AEW World and Trios titles vacated after backstage brawl
- WarGames coming to the Survivor Series for the first time ever
- WWE sends fans on a detective run with White Rabbit teasers
- Candice LeRae returns to WWE on Raw
- Former WWE Divas champion Paige signs with AEW, debuts under her real name Saraya
- Japanese wrestling legend Antonio Inoki passes away
- After weeks of teases, Bray Wyatt returns to WWE at Extreme Rules
- WrestleMania 40 is announced for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the Lincoln Financial Field
- Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson return to WWE on Raw and align themselves with AJ Styles
- Zelina Vega returns to WWE on Smackdown and brings Legado del Fantasma with her
- Former Tough Enough winner Sara Lee passes away at age 30
- Renee Paquette signs with AEW, debuts on Dynamite
- Ace Steel is released from AEW, becoming the first All Out backstage fight casualty
- Andrade El Idolo is sent home after backstage fight with Sammy Guevara
- Ava Raine, the daughter of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, is unveiled as newest member of The Schism
- Emma returns to WWE on Smackdown
- Holy Ucey! The Bloodline break character after Sami Zayn floors them with one-liner!
- Jeff Jarrett joins AEW few months after being let go from WWE
- Logan Paul takes Roman Reigns to the limit, tears meniscus and MCL at Crown Jewel
- Ricky Steamboat returns to the ring in six-man tag match with FTR
- Impact signs major global TV deal with DAZN
- Becky Lynch returns on Smackdown and joins the WarGames match
- MJF wins the AEW World title at Full Gear
- The Elite return at Full Gear after two-month suspension
- The Usos break The New Day’s tag team title reign record with 484 days as champions
- Sarah Logan returns to WWE with the Viking Raiders
- Thunder Rosa is stripped off her AEW Women’s title due to injury
- KAIRI becomes the inaugural IWGP Women’s champion
- Mia Yim returns to WWE on Raw
- Two WarGames matches takes place at Survivor Series, Sami Zayn helps The Bloodline reign supreme
- Nick Aldis announces he’s leaving NWA, gets suspended for giving notice
- Rumors of William Regal leaving AEW begin to surface
- Eric Young “killed off” on Impact, returning to WWE
- Tegan Nox returns to WWE on Smackdown
- William Regal done with AEW, Tony Khan explains the reasoning behind the decision
- WWE Hall of Famer Barry Windham in ICU after massive heart attack
- New Japan Pro-Wrestling bringing Sasha Banks in for Wrestle Kingdom 17
- Matt Riddle ordered to go to rehab after second failed drug test in a few months
- Vince McMahon refusing to settle two rape allegations as WSJ exposes another one
- Mandy Rose fired from WWE less than 24 hours after dropping NXT Women’s title
- John Cena to team up with Kevin Owens vs Bloodline in final Smackdown of 2022
- Bronson Reed returns to WWE on Raw
- Former TNA commentator Don West passes away at age 59
- Charlotte Flair returns and wins the Smackdown Women’s title in impromptu match