Was 2022 the wildest year in wrestling history?By Matthew Martin| January 4, 2023 Wrestling Blogs It is mid-December (as I write this) and unless something like Vince McMahon showing up on Dynamite happens within the next three weeks, I think I’m safe enough to post this. Then again, if I hit “send” and then a “VINCE McMAHON IS ALL ELITE” tweet pops up in my newsfeed I will not even be surprised. It would be the cherry on top of what has been, without reservation, the wildest, most zany, most outlandishly unpredictable year in pro wrestling I have ever seen. Let’s rewind… JANUARY The year started off with Roman Reigns contracting COVID-19, forcing a main-event change to the January 1 PPV entitled “Day One” mere hours before start time. Big E was champ at the time (remember that?) and Lesnar ended the night reclaiming the belt. Meanwhile, on the AEW side, Cody Rhodes cut one of the weirdest promos of his life and then wrestled his last match in AEW the next Wednesday. Speculation swung wildly between “he’s retiring to work in Hollywood” to “he’s working everyone and prepping for a big heel turn” to “he’s leaving the company he helped start.” It ended up being the latter. At the Royal Rumble, Shane McMahon was given booking power over the big battle royale match and ended up booking himself to be the most important character in the whole shebang, leading to his ouster with the company. Oh, and also the Impact Knockouts Champion appeared and was billed as such…on WWE TV. Throughout the month, WWE burned through a ton of its roster, trimming the fat for what many speculated might be the first hints of a sale. Among the departures are Samoa Joe and William Regal (who had been with WWE since before WCW folded). Both ended up in AEW within the blink of an eye. FEBRUARY (The) Brian Kendrick is granted his WWE release and, within an instant, is booked in AEW. The match never occurs due to shenanigans from his past coming to light. Keith Lee debuted with AEW this month and floated around the upper midcard before settling in as a popular tag team act. Cesaro is another WWE staple that was given the boot, leaving after eleven years with the company. At this point, the number of releases leads to many wondering if there isn’t an ulterior motive to flood the marketplace, knowing that Tony Khan will not be able to resist signing too many talents. If so…well played. MARCH Scott Hall passes away. Go watch his WWE Hall of Fame speech. He was one of the greatest ever to do it. Not long after, Triple H—still recovering from a cardiac incident—officially announces his retirement, making his final match a tag team contest with Shinsuke Nakamura, taking on the team of Robert Roode and Samoa Joe (a Japanese house show from June, 2019). To say The Game had a long and decorated career would be an understatement. While he was never “the guy” in the company, he was frequently the guy that The Guy feuded with, whether that be Austin, Rock, or Cena. His retirement signaled his shift full-time into a backstage role, a move that would be even more important in the coming months. This month also, Big E breaks his neck, likely ending his wrestling career. Also, Cain Valesquez is charged with attempted murder, and Sunny kills a 75-year-old man in a DUI incident. She is charged with manslaughter. It’s March. This is her third arrest THIS YEAR. APRIL Sometime around here, Colt Cabana stops appearing on Dynamite in segments featuring The Dark Order. Something’s up with that, and the fans notice and quickly point fingers at CM Punk, with whom Cabana has had very public spats. Ring of Honor has its first PPV of the Tony Khan era and the Briscos have the first of two match of the year candidates with FTR. NJPW and AEW announce Forbidden Door, a cross-promotional PPV. Fans go wild speculating about the talent involved. At this point AEW seems like an unstoppable steam train, continuing to gain more and more momentum. They’re adding new talent left and right and it’s getting to the point where they might need more TV hours to showcase them all. Tony Khan might need some help booking, too. All said, things are going great, so no need to panic. WrestleMania season kicks off with Cody Rhodes returning to WWE, bringing with him his entire AEW schtick. It’s surreal to see and the cartoony superhero persona plays to big ovations with the family crowds on Raw in ways it never worked on Dynamite. Also, Steve Austin returns to WWE (!) to wrestle (!!) Kevin Owens (!!!) in the main-event of WrestleMania (!!!!!!!!). He looked like he could work twenty dates a year for the next decade if he wanted. He ends the night giving Vince a stunner. FORESHADOWING! MAY MJF no-shows a pre-PPV meet-and-greet. A worked-shoot (or is it just a work…or was it all a shoot?) follows and MJF finally appears on the PPV to do the job to Wardlow, who was red-red-hot at the time. At the end of the PPV, CM Punk wins the AEW title from Hangman Adam Page. The feud for the belt left a little to be desired, and at one point Hangman declared he was wrestling to defend the whole company from Punk. It was a throwaway line that no one cared about…except for Punk. More on that later, you better believe it. Also this month, Sasha Banks and Naomi walk out on WWE, leaving the Women’s Tag Title vacant (and presumably dead). They still have not returned. Stephanie McMahon, after working as an executive with WWE for twenty years, announces she’s leaving the company to focus on her family. Leaks from within WWE (of unknown origin, but many speculated they came from Nick Khan) paint her in a very bad light, criticizing the quality of her work. To say people were speculating wildly about the immediate future of WWE would be an understatement. As far as we could tell, it was Game of Thrones seasons 1-4 going on inside Titan Towers. JUNE MJF appears on the first Dynamite of the month, and cuts a pipebomb promo in which he calls Tony Khan a “F*@#!* Mark” and demands to be fired. His mic cuts out and he storms off. He does not return (for a while). CM Punk also appeared on TV as the new champ. In celebration, he leaps into the crowd and injures his foot. Later that night he increases the injury and breaks his foot. Khan hopes to have him back soon so he declares the title will be defended on an interim basis. The weeks leading up to the Forbidden Door PPV feature a rash of injuries and the after-effects continue to negatively affect the company to this day. The show was a smash, however. Sting was doing sentons and titty-twisters. It was bananas. Cesaro (now Claudio Castagnoli) debuts for AEW. Jeff Hardy is arrested for DUI, ending his run with the company that had only lasted a few months. I didn’t even mention that he signed with AEW. Meanwile, Cody Rhodes tears his pectoral muscle and wrestles (!) in a HELL IN A CELL MATCH (!!) with the gnarliest-looking bruise that covers half his torso. Soon after, the WWE board is forced to begin an investigation into chairman Vince McMahon regarding hush money he paid a former employee vis a vis sexual favors. Immediately after the announcement, Vince appears on Smackdown to flaunt his power. Fans shower him with boos. Just kidding. He’s lauded as usual.