Top 10 Wrestling Stories of the Year 2022: Vince McMahon Retires From WWE, Steve Austin Returns, AEW Backstage Brawl, More
Welcome back, TJR readers! Did you lose track of all the crazy wrestling news sometime last March? Perhaps you spent 2022 spending your hush money and missed wrestling. Worry not for I have returned with another edition of The Top Ten Wrestling Stories of the Year!
Before I begin the end-of-year review, I would like to take a moment to remember some of the wrestlers we lost this year. This last August we lost Wrestling and MMA legend Gene LeBell at the age of 89. This past October we lost former Tough Enough winner Sara Lee at the way too young age of 30. Also this past October we lost one of the most famous wrestlers in Japanese history, when we lost the legendary Antonio Inoki at the age of 79. Finally and perhaps most shocking of all, we lost Scott Hall/Razor Ramon this past March. Condolences to all of their families as the memories they gave wrestling fans around the world will never be forgotten.
10. Ric Flair Wrestles His Last Match
One of the greatest wrestlers of all time called it a career this year….again. This past July, 16-time World Champion Ric Flair wrestled his final match. Flair teamed with his son-in-law Andrade El Idolo to face Jay Lethal and Jeff Jarrett in Nashville, Tennessee in the main event of a show produced by Jim Crockett Promotions. The show ended up being a financial success, but the match itself was somewhat of a disaster. A noticeably slow Flair later stated that he got dehydrated during the match; to the point of even passing out twice during the match. Hopefully, this was the 73-year-old Flair’s last match, and he doesn’t try to have more retirement matches than ex-wives. (TJRWrestling)
9. Tony Khan Purchases ROH
Tony Khan decided this year that he was having so much fun owning a wrestling federation that he might as well buy another one. This past March, Khan announced that he had purchased Ring of Honor. Since the purchase, Khan has featured the ROH titles on his AEW programming, while also holding three ROH PPVs. Khan had hoped to land a television deal for ROH as well, but instead had to settle for planning to start a weekly show on ROH Honor Club for $9.99 in 2023. Almost ten dollars a month to watch a wrestling show will be a hard sell for Khan, unless of course, he can get Mandy Rose to post a couple of photos to Honor Club as well. (TJRWrestling)
8. AEW Signs Multiple New Wrestlers
Tony Khan continued 2022 right where he left off in 2021; signing as many free agent wrestlers as he could. Some of the notable names that Khan signed this year are Keith Lee and Buddy Mathews, who were signed this past February. March saw the three huge signings of Toni Storm, Jeff Hardy and William Regal. Khan continued the big signings in April, by bringing in Samoa Joe. This past June, Claudio Castagnoli signed with AEW. Former WWE Women’s Champion Paige/Saraya signed with AEW in September. Former WWE announcer Renee Paquette joined her husband Jon Moxley on the AEW roster in October. Finally, WWE Hall of Famer Jeff Jarrett joined the roster in November. We will have to wait and see if Khan has any huge signees planned for 2023, but I do know of a certain 41-year-old referee for New York that is currently available. (TJRWrestling)
7. Bray Wyatt Returns to the WWE
Over a year after being surprisingly released by WWE, Bray Wyatt returned to the WWE in October. This past September, WWE started playing Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” in the arena. WWE then proceeded to show QR codes on its programming, teasing the mysterious “White Rabbit” as well. After almost a month of anticipation, the “White Rabbit” was finally revealed at WWE Extreme Rules to be Wyatt. Wyatt actually competed in his first match at a WWE house show this week, with him just doing promos and vignettes before this. Wyatt has been often interrupted in these promos, by a mysterious figure known as “Uncle Howdy”. As the year comes to a close we still do not know who Uncle Howdy is, but I can confirm that no one has ever seen Howdy and John Canton in the same room together before. (TJRWrestling)
6. Roman Reigns Dominates 2022
When 2021 ended, Roman Reigns was on one of the greatest runs of his career. Reigns incredibly continued this dominance throughout 2022, going undefeated throughout the year. During this incredible streak, Reigns has defeated the top names in the WWE including Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 38 to unify the WWE and Universal Championships. Along with his impressive winning streak, Reigns also has also now held the WWE Universal Championship for over 800 days. Reigns also has had one of the most intriguing storylines of 2022 with his Bloodline faction, with an impressive 18% of wrestling fans actually not complaining about it. (TJRWrestling)
Levels above. ☝🏽🩸 #Bloodline#SurvivorSeries@WWEUsos@HeymanHustle@WWESoloSikoa@SamiZaynpic.twitter.com/JQQrQou9tl
— Roman Reigns (@WWERomanReigns) November 28, 2022
5. Sasha Banks and Naomi Walk Out of WWE Prior To Raw
WWE lost two of the biggest names in their women’s division this year. This past May, Sasha Banks and Naomi were the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions and scheduled to main event the May 16th episode of Raw. Banks and Naomi had other ideas, however, as instead of competing they choose to put the tag titles on John Laurinaitis’ desk before walking out during the middle of the show. Banks and Naomi were reportedly unhappy both with their contracts and creative, leading to them quitting. Since the walkout, neither Banks nor Naomi have returned to WWE, with Banks reportedly joining NJPW in 2023 and Naomi deciding to focus on her other job as The Usos designated driver. (TJRWrestling)
Believe this time
That I’m taking it personal ⭐️ pic.twitter.com/4LuSgUMSRy
— Mercedes Varnado (@MercedesVarnado) April 11, 2022
4. Cody Rhodes Returns To WWE At WrestleMania 38
When 2022 started, Cody Rhodes was an EVP, founder and top talent for AEW. This suddenly changed in February, when Rhodes shockingly left AEW. Rhodes would then continue to shock the wrestling world, by making a surprise appearance to defeat Seth Rollins at WrestleMania 38. Rhodes would then proceed to seemingly be on the run of his career, before being detoured with a torn pectoral muscle in June. The match between Rhodes and Rollins at Hell in a Cell in June is considered by many to be one of the best WWE matches this year, in part because Cody wrestled it with a torn pec. Rhodes actually appeared on Raw this week, with him currently being a favorite to win the Royal Rumble on January 28th. We shall have to wait and see if Rhodes can become WWE Champion in 2023, and finally capture the one title that his famous family has had a Hard Time procuring. (TJRWrestling)
The announcer absolutely KILLED it with Cody Rhodes' return introduction at WrestleMania 38
Can't wait to see Cody back pic.twitter.com/VSuqzcmLWL
— 𝔓𝔲𝔫𝔨™ of Burial Squad ☝️ (@TheEnduringIcon) December 26, 2022
3. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin Main Events WrestleMania 38 Night One
For the first time since 2023, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin returned to the ring. Austin defeated Kevin Owens in a Street Fight, during night one of WrestleMania 38. Austin would then appear during night two of Mania as well, giving Vince McMahon the worst Stunner in the history of wrestling. WWE reportedly is hoping to have Austin appear this April at WrestleMania 39, which will take place in Los Angeles, California. If Austin does appear he will likely not be giving another Stunner to McMahon this year, as Vince has proven that he doesn’t need any help to fall hard on his ass. (TJRWrestling)
2. AEW’s Backstage Brawl After All Out
Unfortunately for AEW, their biggest story of 2022 did not occur in the ring. On September 4th, CM Punk defeated Jon Moxley to capture the AEW Championship at All Out in Chicago. This ended up just being a footnote for the evening however, as an injured Punk then participated in a media scrum with Tony Khan sitting right next to him. Punk then proceeded to “shoot” on Colt Cabana, AEW EVP’s Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks and “Hangman” Adam Page, before telling anyone who had a problem with it to see him in his locker room. The Young Bucks and Omega decided to take Punk up on this offer, with chaos proceeding immediately afterward. Punk responded to the intrusion by punching Matt Jackson. Making matters even worse, Punk’s friend and AEW Producer Ace Steel was also in the room. Steel proceeded to hit Nick Jackson with a chair, as well as bite Kenny Omega. Punk’s dog was also in the room, with varying reports that he may have been injured in the scuffle as well. The fallout of the brawl saw Punk be stripped of the AEW Championship, while Omega and The Young Bucks were also stripped of the AEW Trios Titles. Omega and The Bucks have since returned to AEW after a suspension, while Punk is reportedly done with the company for good. Steel was fired also. This is obviously terrible press for AEW, with there being no possible way that the WWE could do anything to embarrass themselves more…. (TJRWrestling)
1. Vince McMahon Retires From WWE Following “Hush Money” Payments Revealed
The most influential person in the history of professional wrestling was forced into retirement this year. This past June it was reported that Vince McMahon had paid multiple women millions of dollars in “hush money” to try to cover up sexual misconduct investigations. This led to the WWE Board of Directors investigating McMahon, with him eventually announcing his retirement on July 22nd. WWE VP John Laurinaitis also faced allegations of sexual misconduct, with him being released from the company as well. McMahon’s daughter Stephanie and son-in-law Triple H have since taken over the daily operations of the company, with Triple H having creative control of the company. This has led to over 15 superstars that McMahon had released being brought back to the company. It was recently reported that McMahon is wanting to return to his position within the WWE. Most people, however, see No Chance in Hell of that happening. (TJRWrestling)
At 77, time for me to retire.
Thank you, WWE Universe.
Then. Now. Forever. Together. #WWE#thankful
— Vince McMahon (@VinceMcMahon) July 22, 2022
That concludes another edition of The Top Ten Wrestling Stories of the Year. Although I often joke, I have recently started refereeing with NYCW and FCWA, and respect more than ever what wrestlers do every week. I wrote an article all about it all right here. If you like what I do, despite my jokes being almost as bad as breaking a New Year’s Resolution. Then follow me on Twitter @Fowlerwrestlin1. Thank you for taking the time to read this each week and supporting me, and this site, throughout 2022.