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The John Report: The 14th Annual WWE Johnny Awards – 2022 Edition!

wwe johnny awards 2022 final

Welcome to the 2022 WWE Johnny Awards. They are the awards where I honor the hard-working men and women of World Wrestling Entertainment based on their work over the last twelve months.

These are the very “prestigious” awards that I call the 14TH ANNUAL WWE Johnny Awards!

A few notes that I post every year before the Johnny Awards begin:

– This is World Wrestling Entertainment stuff ONLY. It says it in the title, but I want you to remember that when you ask why there’s no All Elite Wrestling, New Japan, Ring of Honor, Impact or anything else in here. It’s WWE only!

– These awards are based on my own personal choice. There were no polls or write-in votes. My name is on the awards, so I get to pick the winners. I don’t expect everybody reading this to agree with everything I write below, but I will do my best to explain all my choices. The awards are based on performance. It doesn’t necessarily matter if a person wins all their matches on television and titles really aren’t that important. It’s about performance more than anything.

– Regarding NXT, WWE’s third brand is included in every award as well. The NXT brand is awesome and I’m not going to ignore it. Anything that is WWE is considered for these awards.

– Another thing to remember is I try to have fun when I write about wrestling. I don’t take it too seriously and I don’t take myself too seriously. If you disagree with something that’s cool. Keep it civil in the comments and don’t be shy about offering your take.

If you want to check out previous year’s editions of these awards, check out the WWE Johnny Awards archive on TJRWrestling as well. It’s nice to look back on those articles to reflect on the last decade of WWE content and what I thought about it.

I’ve used a similar intro for several years. I do that because it covers everything I need to say.

THE 2022 WWE JOHNNY AWARDS

Each one will have a description of what the award is, the previous winners of the award (if the award existed in the last eight years), the winner of the award, the runners-up for the award, and then my extended thoughts on the award.

1. BEST MALE WRESTLER

To be given to the person that best combines workrate, character, promos and everything else into one. This is like WWE’s Superstar of the Year award when they did the Slammy Awards. Past winners – 2021: Roman Reigns 2020: Drew McIntyre, 2019: Daniel Bryan, 2018: Johnny Gargano, 2017: AJ Styles, 2016: AJ Styles, 2015: Seth Rollins, 2014: Seth Rollins, 2013: Daniel Bryan, 2012: CM Punk, 2011: CM Punk, 2010: Randy Orton, 2009: Chris Jericho

Winner: Roman Reigns (Runners-Up: Seth Rollins, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Sheamus, GUNTHER, Drew McIntyre)

roman reigns wwe universal paul heyman

It’s a repeat win for Roman Reigns. This was tough because I think Seth “Freakin” Rollins was very close to Reigns this year. Obviously, Rollins appeared on television more than Reigns and wrestled more, but I can’t ignore the high quality of Roman’s matches. There were numerous Reigns matches this year that I ranked at four stars or above including the stretch in the second half of the year when he had those great matches with Brock Lesnar, Drew McIntyre, Logan Paul (a guy competing in his third match) and the WarGames match. Those are all four star-plus matches in my eyes. Plus, his star power makes everybody around him better. It would be nice if he wrestled more and was on TV every week, but by doing things the way they do it, Roman’s appearances feel like a bigger deal now. I’m fine with it especially because he’s a married father of five that gets to be home for his kids a lot more than some wrestling dads get to be.

All the runners-up mentioned above had great years. Rollins is consistently great whether he’s a heel or face. I like his heel persona more than the babyface act he did to end the year. Seth’s rivalry with Cody Rhodes was incredible and he’s done great work to try to elevate guys like Matt Riddle & Austin Theory too. The Rollins-Reigns match at Royal Rumble had great build, Rollins actually won by DQ and then it was never brought up again, which is a big miss by the creative team. I would love to see a Reigns-Rollins rivalry in 2023 because both of them are thriving.

Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens are both thriving right now. I think if they had some more great PLE matches I would have considered them more, but both of them really were lacking in terms of the number of PLE matches. That’s no fault of their own. They don’t work the Saudi shows while Owens went several months without being on a PLE. From a pure entertainment standpoint, Zayn and Owens are unquestionably two of the best male wresters in WWE. No doubt about it.

I’ll also lump in Sheamus, GUNTHER and Drew McIntyre as three outstanding European wrestlers. GUNTHER beat Sheamus in that incredible match at Clash at the Castle while they had some other great matches too. Sheamus is one of the most consistent wrestlers in WWE in terms of having “banger after banger” as he says. Drew McIntyre continues to be outstanding although it’s going to be tough for him to recapture what he had in 2020 as my easy choice for Wrestler of the Year that year.

Some others worth mentioning include Bobby Lashley, Finn Balor, Ricochet, Matt Riddle, Carmelo Hayes in NXT and the NXT Champion Bron Breakker keeps getting better too.

For those that care, if I had to pick just one person as SUPERSTAR OF THE YEAR I’d go with Roman Reigns for that too.

2. BEST FEMALE WRESTLER

To be given to the best female performer.Past winners – 2022: Bianca Belair, 2021: Bianca Belair, 2020: Sasha Banks, 2019: Becky Lynch, 2018: Becky Lynch, 2017: Asuka, 2016: Charlotte, 2015: Sasha Banks, 2014: Paige, 2013: AJ Lee, 2012: Eve, 2011: Beth Phoenix, 2010: Natalya, 2009: Mickie James

Winner: Bianca Belair (Runners-Up: Becky Lynch, Liv Morgan, Rhea Ripley, Mandy Rose)

bianca belair wwe raw womens title

There are some years where this is a tough award to pick one person, but not this year. It’s definitely Bianca Belair. I remember giving her the “next big thing” award two years ago before she won any titles and writing about how she had all the tools to be a major star. Fast forward two years, she’s having great matches all the time, her promos are pretty solid and the fans are still behind her despite the fact that she wins about 85% of her matches. Sometimes fans turn on people that win a

If Becky Lynch didn’t have a shoulder injury that cost her four months then maybe she’d have been closer. However, I still think she had an impressive year. As a heel in the first month of the year, she was able to get booed even though fans wanted to cheer her. Lynch came back strong at Survivor Series and it feels right seeing her as a face again.

Liv Morgan had a breakout year by becoming the Money in the Bank winner and Smackdown Women’s Champion. I’m happy for her because she continues to get better. Liv is genuinely likable too.

Rhea Ripley thrived this year mainly as a character that is known for being a badass in The Judgment Day group. Mandy Rose had a fantastic year until her release a few weeks ago.

A lot of the bigger female names in WWE had extended absences like Bayley missing the first half of the year due to the knee injury, Sasha Banks & Naomi left in May, Charlotte Flair was gone since May (she returned on the last Smackdown of 2022) and Becky Lynch missed four months in the middle with a shoulder injury.

3. BEST FEUD

To be given to the best rivalry between two or more performers. Past winners – 2021: Edge vs. Seth Rollins, 2020: Sasha Banks vs. Bayley, 2019: Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano, 2018: Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano,2017: Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman, 2016: AJ Styles vs. John Cena, 2015: Bayley vs. Sasha Banks, 2014: Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority, 2013: CM Punk vs. Paul Heyman/Brock Lesnar, 2012: CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan, 2011: Randy Orton vs. Christian, 2010: The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan, 2009: CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy

Winner:Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins (Runners-Up: Bianca Belair vs. Becky Lynch, GUNTHER vs. Sheamus, Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar)

wwe raw cody rhodes seth rollins

It’s the second straight year that Seth “Freakin” Rollins picked up the win in this category. This time it was a rivalry with Cody Rhodes making his return as Seth’s unannounced opponent at WrestleMania 38. They had an outstanding match that was arguably the best at WrestleMania. Since Rollins complained about not having any prep time for Cody, they did it again with Rhodes winning that one too. The third match took place at Hell in a Cell inside HIAC with Cody wrestling the match after tearing his pectoral muscle. Cody won that match too and it was amazing. To cap it off, they had Rollins attack Rhodes on the Raw that followed to allow Seth to brag about taking Cody out. I thought it was an easy choice.

The rivalry between Bianca Belair and Becky Lynch lasted a long time from SummerSlam 2021 to SummerSlam 2022, but also had periods where it was just ignored because they were buying time until WrestleMania. It’s not like anybody thought Doudrop was beating for the gold, but she got a title shot along the way. The match quality was always good for Belair-Lynch and it felt like a personal rivalry too.

GUNTHER beating Sheamus at Clash at the Castle was an amazing match that had a memorable moment after it was over with Sheamus getting a standing ovation. It led to Sheamus going face with the Brawling Brutes too. I hope we get more matches between them in 2023.

Roman Reigns beating Brock Lesnar multiple times this year led to at least one great match at SummerSlam. I thought the build to that match (as well as the match itself) was better than the build to WrestleMania 38. The SummerSlam match was memorable thanks to Lesnar using a tractor to move the ring while Reigns was in it.

4. BEST MATCH

To be given to the best match. Past winners – 2021: Ilya Dragunov vs. WALTER @ NXT Takeover 36, 2020: Walter vs. Ilya Dragunov @ NXT UK October 29, 2019: Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole @ NXT Takeover New York 04/06/19, 2018:Unsanctioned Match: Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa @ NXT Takeover New Orleans 04/07/18, 2017: John Cena vs. AJ Styles @ Royal Rumble, 2016: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn @ NXT Takeover Dallas, 2015: Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins vs. John Cena @ Royal Rumble, 2014: The Wyatt Family vs. The Shield @ Elimination Chamber, 2013: Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk @ SummerSlam, 2012: The Undertaker vs. Triple H (Shawn Michaels as ref) @ WrestleMania 28, 2011: CM Punk vs. John Cena @ Money in the Bank, 2010: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels @ WrestleMania 26, 2009: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels @ WrestleMania 25

Winner: Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins in a Hell in a Cell match @ Hell in a Cell (Runner-Up: GUNTHER vs. Sheamus @ Clash at the Castle)

Cody Rhodes celebrates victory

This was so close for me. I rated the above two matches at five stars out of five, so I’m not going to list other nominees even though there were many great matches that I rated around 4.5* that are in the discussion too.

When I originally watched Cody vs. Seth in the Hell in a Cell match, I didn’t rate it five stars. Then I watched it again and I bumped it up to five stars. I watched it a third time this past week when deciding on the match of the year too. It just stands out to me because of the story of Cody working the match with a legit major injury, yet he got through it just fine and was so impressive throughout the match. Seth Rollins was outstanding during the whole match too. That’s the match I’ll remember most from 2022. I also feel like it was the best match.

I really liked GUNTHER vs. Sheamus at Clash at the Castle as well. A hard-hitting brawl with a loud crowd that was into everything they did. It would have been GUNTHER’s third straight match of the year in my awards, but he ended up in second place this year. I also think this was the best match of Sheamus’ career, which is impressive for a guy in his mid-40s that has been in the company for nearly 15 years.

Overall, it was a strong year for matches in WWE. I don’t keep track of how many matches I rate above ****+ in a year, but I feel like I rated more matches higher than that level this year than any year in the past.

5. BEST PREMIUM LIVE EVENT (PAY-PER-VIEW)

To be given to the best WWE Premium Live Event aka pay-per-view.Past winners – 2021: Money in the Bank, 2020: Royal Rumble, 2019: WrestleMania 35, 2018: Evolution, 2017: Royal Rumble, 2016: Money in the Bank, 2015: WrestleMania 31, 2014: WrestleMania 30, 2013: SummerSlam 2012: Extreme Rules, 2011: Money in the Bank, 2010: WrestleMania 26, 2009: SummerSlam

Winner: Clash At The Castle (Runners-Up: SummerSlam, Survivor Series, WrestleMania 38)

wwe gunther sheamus clash at the castle

Clash at the Castle – 9 (September 3)

SummerSlam – 8.25 (July 30)

Survivor Series – 8 (November 26)

WrestleMania 38 – 8 (April 2 & 3)

It was a good year for WWE PLE/PPV shows. Clash at the Castle was the best from top to bottom with no bad matches taking place as well as a great atmosphere for the first stadium show in the United Kingdom in 30 years since SummerSlam 1992. If Drew McIntyre beat Roman Reigns then maybe I would have rated it 9.5 out of 10 because the pop would have been deafening.

The others on there were all outstanding shows. I think it was one of WWE’s greatest years ever in terms of the quality of their PLE/PPV events.

6. BEST NXT PREMIUM LIVE EVENT (FKA TAKEOVER)

To be given to the best NXT Takeover special. Past winners – 2022: Stand & Deliver, 2021: NXT Takeover Stand & Deliver, 2020: NXT Takeover Portland, 2019: NXT Takeover New York, 2018: NXT Takeover New Orleans, 2017: NXT Takeover Chicago, 2016: NXT Takeover Dallas, 2015: NXT Takeover Brooklyn

Winner: Stand & Deliver – April 2 (Runner-Up: Deadline – December 10)

The Takeover name is gone, but I decided to keep the award. Here’s how I ranked the five NXT PLE specials this year. Stand & Deliver stood out as the best just ahead of Deadline.

Stand & Deliver (April 2) – 7.75

Deadline (December 10) – 7.75

Worlds Collide (September 4) – 7.5

In Your House (June 4) – 7.25

Halloween Havoc (October 22) – 7

7. BEST TALKER

To be given to the best person at delivering promos.Past winners – 2021: Sami Zayn, 2020: Kevin Owens, 2019: Daniel Bryan, 2018: The Miz, 2017: The Miz, 2016: Chris Jericho, 2015: Paul Heyman, 2014: Paul Heyman, 2013: Paul Heyman, 2012: CM Punk, 2011: CM Punk, 2010: CM Punk, 2009: Chris Jericho

Winner: Kevin Owens (Runners-up: Sami Zayn, Seth Rollins, Becky Lynch)

kevin owens wwe talk

It’s a battle between my fellow Canadians Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, who each won this award in the last two years. I’m going with Owens again mainly on the strength of his babyface promos in the last five months with Triple H booking the shows. Plus, the entire WrestleMania 38 match was built around Owens doing promos on Raw by himself to set up “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at WrestleMania. If Owens wasn’t out there doing Austin impressions, it may not have bene as impactful at WM. Owens proved his greatness on the microphone this year as a face and a heel.

Sami Zayn is consistently great on the microphone as well as in backstage segments. Zayn can be funny, serious and sells everything well with his facial expressions too. It’s been a lot of fun watching him try to make The Bloodline laugh at times too.

I like Seth Rollins promos a lot. Some people don’t, but I do. He probably gets the most promo time of anybody in WWE too because Raw is a three-hour show, he’s the most pushed male wrestler and there is time to kill. Seth’s wife Becky Lynch is the best talker among the women’s division and I don’t think it’s very close. Lynch has been terrific at promos especially during ascension to the main event scene in the last four years.

There are plenty of other good talkers worth mentioning like Paul Heyman, The Miz (lots of promo time, but not necessarily great moments), Roman Reigns, Sheamus and I’ll show some love to Bayley too. She’s an entertaining heel talker for sure.

8. WORST FEUD

To be given to the worst rivalry between two or more performers. Formerly known as the Katie Vick award. RIP Katie. Past winners – 2021: Randy Orton vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt & Alexa Bliss, 2020: The Miz vs. Otis, 2019: Shane McMahon vs. The Miz, 2018: Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn, 2017: Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt, 2016: Darren Young vs. Titus O’Neil, 2015: Dolph Ziggler/Lana vs. Rusev/Summer Rae, 2014: Brie Bella vs. Nikki Bella, 2013: Big Show vs. Triple H/Randy Orton, 2012: Kane vs. Zack Ryder/John Cena, 2011: Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler & Jim Ross, 2010 winner: Kane vs. Edge, 2009 winner: Triple H vs. Randy Orton

Winner: Everybody that feuded over the 24/7 Title (Runners-Up: Kevin Owens vs. Ezekiel, Madcap Moss vs. Baron Corbin)

There were wrestlers like Dana Brooke, Tamina, Reggie, Akira Tozawa & R-Truth taking part in 24/7 comedy segments this year and I hated it all so much. That’s my winner. Thank you Triple H for getting rid of that stupid 24/7 Title. I don’t blame any of the wrestlers. It was Vince McMahon’s “vision” that sucked.

This is not a shot at the performers. This is all about the creative team at the time being led by Vince McMahon. Poor Kevin Owens had to take part in this story where Ezekiel was the younger brother of Elias while Owens was adamant that Ezekiel was actually Elias. They even tried to introduce another character in the story, but then Vince McMahon retired due to being a horny grandpa and as soon as Triple H took over booking, he had Owens destroy Ezekiel. That led to Ezekiel being taken away on a stretcher never to be heard from again while Owens has thrived since then.

I didn’t care much about Madcap Moss beating Baron Corbin repeatedly after Corbin turned on his former ally. It got boring pretty quickly and then it lasted far too long.

9. WORST PREMIUM LIVE EVENT (PAY-PER-VIEW)

To be given to the worst PPV. They wanted us to pay money for this?Past winners – 2021: Fastlane, 2020: Super Showdown, 2019: Super Showdown, 2018: Crown Jewel, 2017: Battleground,2016: Fastlane, 2015: Royal Rumble, 2014: Tables, Ladders & Chairs (And Stairs), 2013: Battleground, 2012: Hell in a Cell, 2011: Over The Limit

Winner: Royal Rumble (Runners-Up: Crown Jewel, Elimination Chamber)

Ronda royal Rumble

I only rated three WWE PLE shows under 7 out of 10 this year. Here they are:

Royal Rumble – 6 (January 29)

Crown Jewel – 6.25 (November 5)

Elimination Chamber – 6.75 (February 19)

It’s rare for the Royal Rumble to win something like this, but I thought WWE made some poor decisions by picking Ronda Rousey and Brock Lesnar to win the Rumble matches. Neither choice was that exciting. The rest of the card was fine although the two major men’s title matches had screwy finishes. The other two shows were okay with some decent stuff, but again they were a bit disappointing overall.

10. BEST TAG TEAM

To be given to the two men that function best as a tag team. Past winners – 2021: The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso), 2020: The Street Profits (Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins), 2019: The Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish, 2018: The Bar (Sheamus & Cesaro), 2017: The Usos, 2016:The New Day, 2015: The New Day, 2014: The Usos, 2013: Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns, 2012:Team Hell No (Kane & Daniel Bryan), 2011:Air Boom (Evan Bourne & Kofi Kingston), 2010: The Hart Dynasty, 2009: Chris Jericho and The Big Show

Winners: The Usos – Jimmy & Jey Uso (Runners-Up: The Street Profits, The New Day, Pretty Deadly)

The Usos

I think it’s a no-brainer. The Usos have dominated the WWE tag team scene this year with a record-setting title reign that started in July 2021 meaning they’ve held the titles for nearly a year and a half. The Usos did lose in non-title matches many times, but they managed to keep the titles likely until WrestleMania next year. In addition to the length of their reign, Jimmy & Jey Uso are outstanding professional wrestlers that play their roles well within The Bloodline too.

The Street Profits were good again, but not pushed as much this year. The New Day’s Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods had a solid year while capturing the NXT Tag Team Titles this month. I also wanted to acknowledge Pretty Deadly for being an entertaining heel team in NXT. Those guys are fun to watch even though they do some silly skits too.

11. THE “NEXT BIG THING” AWARD

To be given to the wrestler that is most likely to be the “next big thing” in the new year.Past winners – 2021: Bron Breakker, 2020: Bianca Belair, 2019: Keith Lee, 2018: Velveteen Dream, 2017: Rusev, 2016: Shinsuke Nakamura, 2015: Sami Zayn, 2014: Bray Wyatt, 2013: Roman Reigns, 2012: Dolph Ziggler, 2011: Cody Rhodes, 2010: Alberto Del Rio, 2009: John Morrison

The new rule that began in 2019 is that it must be somebody that hasn’t won a title in WWE yet whether on NXT, Raw or Smackdown.

Winner: Logan Paul (Runners-Up: Grayson Waller, Cora Jade, Julius Creed)

logan paul roman reigns wwe crown jewel splash

It’s hard not to be impressed by what Logan Paul did this year with his first three matches taking place this year, including that great Crown Jewel match against Roman Reigns. I think Logan Paul is going to be in the Royal Rumble and will have a huge match at WrestleMania too. He should be healed from his knee injury, so I expect even more great performances from him.

I mentioned some NXT talent because it’s easy to like what Grayson Waller, Cora Jade and Julius Creed are doing. There are plenty of others, but I just think all three have main event potential some day.

12. BEST HEEL

To be given to the performer that is the best at drawing the ire of the audience and being a bad guy/girl. Past winners 2021: Roman Reigns, 2020: Randy Orton, 2019: Daniel Bryan, 2018: Tommaso Ciampa, 2017: The Miz, 2016: AJ Styles, 2015: Seth Rollins, 2014: Seth Rollins, 2013: Paul Heyman, 2012: Daniel Bryan, 2011:Christian. Award began in 2011.

Winner: Roman Reigns and The Bloodline (Runners-Up: Seth Rollins, Carmelo Hayes, The Miz, Austin Theory)

wwe roman reigns the bloodline sami zayn usos solo sikoa

Normally this goes to just one person or maybe a tag team, but I feel like I need to acknowledge (wink, wink) the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns and The Bloodline stable. That includes Roman’s cousins The Usos, their cousin Solo Sikoa, the “Honorary Uce” Sami Zayn and the “Special Counsel” Paul Heyman. That group collectively is so popular right now, they get huge reactions and cheat so much to help Reigns get wins. Reigns also helped The Usos become the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions too. The group constantly cheats to keep up their winning ways, which makes them easily the best heels in WWE.

I included Seth Rollins because he was a heel for most of the year and did a damn good job it especially feuding with Cody Rhodes & Matt Riddle. Carmelo Hayes is a top heel in NXT that is so fun to watch. The Miz really helped Logan Paul develop this year while also consistently getting heat even though some of the storylines he’s involved with are not that interesting all the time. I also mentioned Austin Theory because he’s gotten better as a heel this year too.

13. BEST BABYFACE

To be given to the performer that is the best at receiving the adulation of the audience.Past winners – 2021: Big E, 2020: Drew McIntyre, 2019: Kofi Kingston, 2018: Becky Lynch, 2017: AJ Styles, 2016: Dean Ambrose, 2015: John Cena, 2014: Dolph Ziggler, 2013: Daniel Bryan, 2012: John Cena, 2011:Randy Orton. Award began in 2011.

Winner: Bianca Belair (Runners-Up: Drew McIntyre, Kevin Owens, Bobby Lashley)

bianca belair wwe raw womens champion

Bianca Belair is such a likable pro wrestler that is genuinely a good person. That’s not a shot at others in wrestling that are good people too. I just think it’s incredible to hear the reactions she gets after being pushed so heavily for over two years. She deserves the love she gets from the crowd.

Think about the pop that Drew McIntyre got at Clash at the Castle. That was in Wales and he’s from Scotland, but it’s not like we can ignore that reaction. Drew is massively popular with the fans in his third full year as a top face.

Kevin Owens has only been a face for the last five months, so it’s tough to rate him higher than the other two.

I like Bobby Lashley more as a heel with MVP as his manager. He still had a really productive year for the most part.

If Cody Rhodes didn’t get hurt and miss the second half of the year then he probably would been a contender for this because he was really popular while he was active.

14. BEST RETURN/DEBUT

This spot used to be for Best WWE Network show, but I decided to replace it with best return/debut. This is for the best debut/return whether it’s somebody coming back from injury, a long absence or a debut.

Winner: Cody Rhodes at WrestleMania 38 (Runner-Up: Steve Austin at WrestleMania 38, Bray Wyatt at Extreme Rules, Mickie James at Royal Rumble)

cody rhodes wwe wrestlemania 38

This was tough to pick, but I am going with Cody Rhodes coming back to WWE after six years away. That’s because Cody left the company where he was a founder (AEW) to go back to WWE in his quest to become the WWE Champion some day. Going into WrestleMania, there were reports that it was going to be Cody against Rollins, but until you heard his music that night you just didn’t know for sure. The reaction for him was gigantic. To me, it’s up there with The Hardys in 2017 as one of the loudest return pops ever.

Steve Austin competing at WrestleMania 38 was a major thrill. Huge reactions for him on both nights too.

Bray Wyatt deserves a mention as well because he never should have been released in 2021, but he was. When he came back at Extreme Rules after “white rabbit” clues, the arena erupted because the fans missed him. It’s great to see Bray back “home” in WWE.

I had to mention Mickie James going into the Royal Rumble match as the Knockouts Champion in Impact Wrestling. You don’t see that sort of thing happen in a Rumble match. As a friend of hers, I’m so glad she had that moment. I certainly hope she can be back in WWE again before she retires, but if not, at least she had that Rumble moment she’ll cherish forever.

15. BEST TURN

To be given to the best babyface or heel turn that benefitted the performer the most.Past winners – 2021: Kevin Owens, 2020: Roman Reigns, 2019: Finn Balor, 2018: Daniel Bryan, 2017: Sami Zayn, 2016: AJ Styles, 2015: The New Day, 2014: Seth Rollins, 2013: Randy Orton, 2012: Big Show, 2011: Mark Henry, 2010: Kane, 2009: CM Punk

Winner: The Judgment Day – Finn Balor, Damian Priest, Rhea Ripley & Dominik Mysterio (Runners-Up: Kevin Owens, The Brawling Brutes – Sheamus, Ridge Holland & Butch)

finn balor the judgment day

The Judgment Day takes this because they all turned heel this year. Damian Priest joined with Edge at WrestleMania 38, Rhea Ripley joined soon after and Finn Balor was next, which led to that trio turning on Edge. Dominik Mysterio going heel on his father Rey and “uncle” Edge at Clash at the Castle was a big deal. Dominik also looks very comfortable as a heel now. The group is working very well even without winning any titles.

I’ve already mentioned Owens a few times. Going babyface in the second half of the year after Triple H took over booking was the right thing for him.

The Brawling Brutes turned basically because Sheamus was against GUNTHER and then they went on to headline Survivor Series, which is a pretty big deal.

16. MOST IMPROVED PERFORMER(S)

To be given to the performer that has shown the most improvement in the last year.Past winners – 2021: Liv Morgan, 2020: Sonya Deville, 2019: Rhea Ripley, 2018: Velveteen Dream,2017: Braun Strowman, 2016: The Miz, 2015: Bayley, 2014: Damien Mizdow, 2013: Roman Reigns, 2012: Ryback, 2011: Zack Ryder, 2010: Cody Rhodes, 2009: Kofi Kingston

Winner: The Creed Brothers – Julius & Brutus Creed (Runners-Up: Grayson Waller, Cora Jade)

creed brothers nxt tag team titles julius brutus

I think of the NXT roster for this because most of the wrestlers on the main roster are already well-established. For the NXT roster, we saw most of them in the second half of 2021 when NXT 2.0 started, so now there’s been a full year of watching them.

The Creed Brothers are my pick because they are elite prospects in their mid-20s that keep getting better. They remind me of The Steiner Brothers very early in their careers. If they keep progressing, they will be one of the best tag teams in wrestling. I’m also really impressed at their improvement on the microphone with Julius really standing out while Brutus performs well in his role too. I like these guys a lot.

Grayson Waller didn’t impress me that much in 2021, but he really got better this year. I think he’s going to be a big star on the main roster. The same can be said about Cora Jade too. Turning heel has helped her a lot.

I didn’t pick Roxanne Perez because she debuted in WWE this year. I also didn’t pick Mandy Rose because she got fired, but she improved a lot this year with her long title reign.

17. BEST WEEKLY WWE TV SHOW

To be given to the best weekly WWE television (or internet) show. Past winners – 2021: Smackdown, 2020: Smackdown, 2019: NXT, 2018: NXT, 2017: Smackdown, 2016: Smackdown, 2015: NXT, 2014: NXT, 2013: NXT.

Winner: Smackdown (Runner-Up: Raw)

logan paul roman reigns bloodline wwe smackdown

In past years I used to keep track of my weekly ratings (out of 10) for each show. I got lazy this year and didn’t keep track. I’m just going off the fact that I have liked Smackdown more in terms of match quality as well as big moments thanks to The Bloodline mainly being on that show. Raw is better with Triple H booking, but it’s still too long at three hours. I also think the absent WWE Title hurts Raw a lot.

18. BEST ANNOUNCER

To be given to the best announcer in WWE. It could be a play by play or analyst. Past winners – 2021: Pat McAfee, 2020: Corey Graves, 2019: Nigel McGuinness, 2018: Mauro Ranallo, 2017: Corey Graves, 2016: Corey Graves, 2015: Corey Graves, 2014: John Bradshaw Layfield, 2013: John Bradshaw Layfield, 2012: John Bradshaw Layfield, 2011: Booker T, 2010: Matt Striker, 2009: Jim Ross.

Winner: Wade Barrett (Runner-Up: Pat McAfee, Michael Cole)

wade barrett wwe smackdown

I’m going with Wade Barrett, who started the year on NXT and then was moved to Smackdown in the fall to cover for Pat McAfee after Pat took a job with ESPN College Gameday. While Barrett is mostly a heel announcer, he articulates his points so well while throwing in some humor when necessary.

Pat McAfee is likely back to Smackdown soon, but I have enjoyed Barrett being there a lot. It’s easy to like Pat’s boundless enthusiasm for pro wrestling and his ability to get a story over as if he was a seasoned pro rather than a guy that’s only wrestled a few matches.

The reason I mentioned Michael Cole is because I think he’s underappreciated after 25 years on the job. Cole also sounds a lot more fun, refreshed and excited about going to work in the last five months with Vince McMahon not yelling in his ear.

19. BIGGEST NEWS STORY

The stories of the year that we’ll always remember when looking back at the year that was. Past winners – 2021: WWE releases 80 wrestlers,2020: COVID-19 leads to massive changes to the wrestling business, 2019: Roman Reigns returns from leukemia battle in February, 2018: Roman Reigns announcing he has leukemia,2017: Kurt Angle returning to WWE after 11 years away, 2016: WWE signs four top New Japan stars,2015: Injuries decimate the roster, 2014: CM Punk leaving WWE, 2013: The WWE Network Still Isn’t Here, 2012: Jerry Lawler’s heart attack, 2011: The death of Randy Savage, 2010: The departure of several big names (Shawn Michaels), 2009: Shane McMahon leaves WWE

Winner: Vince McMahon retires leading to Triple H taking over WWE Creative Team (Runner-Up: Steve Austin wrestles first match in 19 years, Sasha Banks & Naomi walk out of WWE, Cody Rhodes Leaves AEW for WWE)

Vince McMahon

This was an easy decision and I don’t really think anything other than Vince McMahon retiring from WWE is close. Going into 2022, I doubt most people assumed Vince was going to retire from running the company he built around 40 years ago. The reason Vince retired is because of numerous hush money payments paid to women he had sexual relations with or simply women he wanted to keep quiet. Vince ended up retiring on July 22nd, which was a Friday, and that led to Triple H taking over for the last five months of the year. I know there are stories about Vince wants to be back running WWE, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. He’s moved and they have moved on. I’m certainly fine with it. At least I got to make “hush money payment” jokes a lot this year. Thanks, Vinny Mac.

I think if Steve Austin wrestled for the first time since WrestleMania 19 (all the way back in 2003) in any other year, that would be the top story. Austin coming back to wrestle in the WrestleMania main event on night one was pretty amazing. Austin also looked great in that match with Kevin Owens, which Austin won. There are rumors that Austin wants to wrestle at WrestleMania 39 in April too. I hope it happens.

Sasha Banks & Naomi walking out of WWE due to issues with the creative direction of their careers was a big shocker when it happened. Neither woman has come back to WWE since then while Banks will be at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom on January 4th, which will bring her a lot of attention. I feel like Naomi will be back in the Royal Rumble match although I don’t know it to be true. It’s just a feeling.

Cody Rhodes leaving AEW to return to WWE was a huge story earlier in the year. Like I mentioned earlier, I don’t think a lot of people expected it to happen after three years in AEW, especially from a guy that was an Executive Vice President in the company.

20. MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT

To be given to the most memorable moment of the year.Past winners – 2021: John Cena returns at Money in the Bank to confront Roman Reigns,2020: Edge returns at 2020 Royal Rumble, 2019: Kofi Kingston wins WWE Title at WrestleMania 35, 2018: Daniel Bryan announces his return to the ring after three years away, 2017: Hardy Boyz return to WWE at WrestleMania, 2016: AJ Styles debuts at Royal Rumble, 2015: Seth Rollins becomes WWE Champion at WrestleMania 31, 2014: The Undertaker’s undefeated streak ends at WrestleMania 30 when he loses to Brock Lesnar, 2013: Daniel Bryan wins WWE Title leading to heel Triple H/Orton, 2012: Brock Lesnar’s Return April 2 on Raw, 2011: CM Punk’s Promo June 27 on Raw, 2010 winner: Bret & Shawn embrace in the ring, 2009 winner: The Undertaker/Michaels match

Winner: Cody Rhodes returning to WWE at WrestleMania 38 (Runners-Up: Steve Austin main eventing WrestleMania 38 Night One, Brock Lesnar using a tractor at SummerSlam)

I already have covered a lot about Cody at WrestleMania and Austin wrestling as well. Regarding Brock with the tractor, it was such a unique thing as part of his entrance and also pushing the ring while Reigns was in it. Fun moment.

It’s Cody just ahead of Austin for me. It’s pretty close, though.

THE 2022 QUICKIE WWE JOHNNY AWARDS

Here are ten quick awards that I added just for this year.

BEST STABLE – The Bloodline

There are a lot of stables in WWE now that Triple H is running the show. I think The Bloodline has clearly been the best this year and are really going to remembered for many years down the road as well. The Judgment Day are the runners-up.

BEST THEME SONG – Cody Rhodes “Kingdom”

It’s such a great song that I have liked for several years now. I popped big for it when Cody returned at WrestleMania 38. I’m so glad that WWE kept that song for him rather than going for something else. I also want to acknowledge Roman Reigns’ theme song because I really like it too. Bray Wyatt’s song is outstanding also.

BEST FINISHING MOVE – “Nothing But Net” by Carmelo Hayes and “Frog Splash” by Montez Ford

It’s a tie. Carmelo Hayes of NXT does the prettiest top rope leg drop to the back of the head that I’ve ever seen. He gets so much height. A lot of people do the Frog Splash, but I think Montez Ford does it in a special way because of how high he leaps before executing the move. He’s incredible.

wwe nxt in your house 2022 carmelo hayes

WORST MATCH – Vince McMahon vs. Pat McAfee at WrestleMania 38

The impromptu match that saw Vince McMahon beat Pat McAfee at WrestleMania 38 is the easy winner in this category. It only went 3:45, but the fact that Vince booked it and nobody was able to talk him out of this terrible idea just shows how much of an egomaniac Vince was towards the end of his run in charge of WWE. Vince only won because of Austin Theory, but again, it’s the “worst” simply because it happened.

BEST TURN THAT IS COMING IN 2023 – Sami Zayn

This is me just wanting to write about how excited I am when Sami Zayn becomes a massive babyface. That guy has been one of my favorite wrestlers for over a decade and I’m so excited to see how far he can go in the babyface role. I think Zayn & Owens beating The Usos for WWE Tag Team Titles at WrestleMania should absolutely happen in April.

MOST DEVASTATING INJURY – Big E’s broken neck

Big E suffered a broken neck on the March 11th edition of Smackdown during a tag team match when Ridge Holland gave him an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. They didn’t do it properly because Big E landed on the top of his head. Big E has been out of action ever since then and is hopeful to return to wrestling in 2023 although there’s no official update other than Big E saying he’ll know more in March 2023. The runner-up here would be Cody Rhodes suffering a torn pectoral muscle before the Hell in a Cell, which led to him missing nearly seven months of action.

BEST PERFORMANCE(S) BY A CELEBRITY – Logan Paul

I admit as a 42-year-old man I didn’t know much about Logan Paul before I did research, but keep in mind that Triple H said the same thing publicly too. I am so impressed by how well Logan has taken to pro wrestling. He’s fit in very well. Shoutout also to Johnny Knoxville doing a great job at WrestleMania with Sami Zayn also. That match was a lot of fun.

MOST SURPRISING RELEASE – Mandy Rose

Losing your job the day after a 413-day NXT Women’s Title reign ended? I didn’t see that coming. A woman that didn’t close her FanTime subscription got fired because she reportedly makes a lot more money posing in bikinis with some “explicit content” instead of working for the company she’s been part of for seven years. I’m a fan of her and I’ll miss watching her, but at the same time I say more power to her for doing what she wants to do in life.

Mandy Rose

FUNNIEST PERFORMER – Sami Zayn

All of those moments with Zayn making me laugh in skits with The Bloodline stand out the most. Sami has a sharp with and the other guys in the group play off him so well. I was going to give it to R-Truth, but he wasn’t on television as much this year and I just don’t care about 24/7 Title comedy segments.

WORST JOB OF SELLING A STONE COLD STUNNER – Vince McMahon

This had to be mentioned because it was so bad. Watching Vince McMahon trying to sell that Stone Cold Stunner by Steve Austin was a reminder that a 76-year-old (77 now) shouldn’t be in a ring trying to sell wrestling moves. You made the right call choosing to retire, pal.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON WWE IN 2022

Since I always like to rate the shows out of 10, how about a rating for the year? Here’s how I rated the years since 2009.

2009: 5.5

2010: 5

2011: 7

2012: 7

2013: 6.5

2014: 5.5

2015: 5.5

2016: 6.5

2017: 6

2018: 6

2019: 6.25

2020: 5.75

2021: 6.75

2022: 7.5

I’m going with a 7.5 out of 10.

This part will be kept brief compared to other years. As I look at what I rated other years, I think I was probably harsh with some of those numbers. I liked WWE in 2022 a lot with Vince McMahon booking things for the first seven months followed by Triple H calling the shots since VKM’s retirement on July 22nd. Raw has been significantly better since Vince retired, Smackdown is better too and I think the quality of WWE PLE events has improved as well.

Maybe some of you might feel a 7.5 out of 10 is too high. I don’t know. I just think it’s been a strong year for PPV/PLE events, Raw, Smackdown and the company overall as Stephanie McMahon, Nick Khan and Triple H run the ship post-Vince McMahon.

There were a lot of fun things that happened this year along with some shocking news items. Going into 2023, I’m so excited to see how Triple H shapes the future of WWE going into his first Royal Rumble and WrestleMania as the booker. I have a strong feeling that WrestleMania 39 is going to be an all-time great show, so that’s something to look forward to. Bring on 2023!

In Closing

Before I get to the closing remarks, I just want you guys to know that this has been TJRWrestling’s biggest year ever by far. To be able to make a career out of writing about wrestling and having a team with me that I like, trust and enjoy working with, it’s an amazing feeling. I am fulfilled career-wise but also driven to keep growing so much. In the summer, we embraced a change on the site this year with more news posts than ever (usually 20-40 per day) along with all of my reviews and other features. It’s worked in a big way because we did record traffic this year in terms of page views. Thank you to our TJRWrestling news team, feature writers, everybody behind the scenes that helps us and all of you for reading. We love you guys like Vince McMahon loves hush money payments and appreciate your support so much.

I keep this part in every year: This is my favorite column to write every year. If you’re one of those people that reads a lot of my work without writing this is one of those times where I’m asking for your thoughts because I want to know what you thought. Don’t be shy. I reply to nearly every email. You can also contact me on Twitter or Facebook.

Thank you to my good friend Steve Melo for the banner at the top of this post. He also does the banners for every one of my columns including the always fun “preferred” Raw Deal banners, Smackdown banners, NXT banners, PLE/PPV banners and more.

I wish you all a safe and happy New Year in 2023. I’ll keep writing and I hope you’ll keep reading.

As I said, please don’t hesitate to contact me. My contact info is below. Thanks so much for reading!

John Canton – mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport