McGuire’s Mondays (holiday week edition): As 2022 winds down, we have to recognize its place in the history of pro wrestling and all the lasting effects it left on WWE and AEW


By Colin McGuire, Staffer (@McGMondays)

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining F4Wonline’s Josh Nason on his podcast series that is aimed at chronicling the year in wrestling. Each episode features a different guest and is dedicated to a different month. As luck would have it, I drew September.

As in, the September that provided MJF’s return.

As in, the September that featured the infamous Brawl Out episode after AEW’s All Out pay-per-view.

As in, the September that brought us WWE’s Clash At The Castle, which felt like the mark of a change of guard in WWE.

As in, the September that saw the tease of Bray Wyatt’s comeback begin.

As in, the September that gave Malakai Black the space to say he wanted to recalibrate his life, which led to his stablemate Buddy Matthews proclaiming he needed to go away for a while.

As in, the September that allowed NXT to change its colors from fluorescent back to the much-beloved black and gold.

We could do this all day, but we all know you want to go back to messing around with your Christmas gifts, so I’ll digress. September was a hell of a month pretty much all around the wrestling world. The wild thing about it is that those 30 days weren’t even the craziest 30 days of the calendar year. That’s because any month that has “Vince McMahon resigns from WWE” on its marquee is forever going to be the month that wins said award.

Speaking of McMahon, the bombshell report of his workplace behavior coupled with his initial defiant reaction of actually appearing on television consistently for a hot minute … coupled again with his decision (forced or not) to leave the company he nurtured into a worldwide phenomenon serves as a microcosm for all 2022 proved to be. And what did it prove to be?

The most interesting year in the history of pro wrestling.

I know, I know. It’s common practice to swim in the sea of hyperbole these days and making Grand Statements has become about as frequent as a DQ finish on Raw, but as we wrap this year up, I’m having a hard time finding a more fascinating year in the history of this stuff. One might argue 1994, when the aforementioned McMahon was fighting for his professional life as the 18-day steroid trial brought mainstream attention to the product. Plus, from a wrestling standpoint, ECW was finding its footing, Ric Flair and Vader wrestled in something called a Thundercage match, and Hulk Hogan – He Who Was The Face Of WWE During Its Glory Years, jumped ship to rival WCW.

There’s also 2001, which was a year that provided a headline many people thought they would never see: WWF buys WCW. Seeing McMahon pop up on WCW’s Monday Nitro was a trip and a half, and the move allowed all us wrestling nerds to fantasize about all the neat matches that could take place (but really never did). In addition to that shocker, 2001 also happened to be the year of The Great Stone Cold Heel Experiment that didn’t quite pan out for anyone. Sure. I can buy that those years are candidates.

But they don’t eclipse everything that’s happened over the last 12 months. It wasn’t just the consistency of the impactful developments; it was the frequency with which impactful developments occurred. Having been back in wrestling for only a handful of months, CM Punk hit his stride as he was one-half of one of the best matches of the year – his dog-collar match with MJF at Revolution. He then became a champion again … only to have it all overshadowed by injuries and a post-event tirade that will forever live on in infamy, especially how it seems that nobody in AEW will ever go on the record and talk about it.

Punk’s ebbs and flows throughout 2022 would be a good lead story for any other year, but in the case of the one we’re talking about, it might not even be above the fold. And I say that because Punk’s pseudo meltdown would only be a sidebar to the bigger story here, and that story is the fundamental flaws in AEW that showed their faces for the first time in the company’s existence. For the last few years, AEW has been heralded as a God send for those who want to edge away from sports entertainment and return to good, old-fashioned pro wrestling. It’s been the new shiny thing in American wrestling and it’s been a beacon of hope for a lot of fans.

But 2022 changed that as it exposed the company a little bit for not being The Land Of Happy. Too many wrestlers with too many expectations showed up (and those expectations were mirrored by a ton of fans, too) and more than a few people were let down. Whatever’s going on with Miro continues to be written about months after his debut. Don’t forget the Malakai Black and Buddy Matthews statements that they insist meant nothing, even if reports argued otherwise. And Cody Rhodes, who helped found the company at the very beginning, walked back to WWE and I don’t care how many times he or Tony Khan smiled and said nice things about his departure, you aren’t convincing me that there weren’t deeper issues at play. You think about that and you think about some of those comments CM Punk made at the All Out presser, and I’m not so sure that company has the shiny, Heaven On Earth perception that so many had for it for so long.

Meanwhile, across the street at WWE, McMahon’s departure has thus far proven to be the kick in the pants the company needed. Not only do wrestlers want to leave some companies to go back to WWE now, but the programming, booking and wrestling has been almost universally lauded as the stench of McMahon’s creative ineptness has worn off (I maintain that as long as “Not Vince McMahon” was running WWE, people would love it instantly anyway, but that’s a conversation for another day). Even NXT 2.0, or whatever the hell it’s called now, is receiving some praise for its development of young talent as some argue that AEW needs an NXT-like system that could help wrestlers grow.

Things haven’t been perfect, of course, but they’ve been a much-needed step forward for a company that might be making more money than it’s ever made, but had also been facing some of the fiercest backlash from a fanbase that doesn’t want to see its product suck as bad as it’s sucked (and boy did it suck sometimes). Granted, the shadow of McMahon rumbling about how he wants to make a comeback isn’t helping things, but there is a sense of hope in WWE now that has been missing for quite some time, and no matter what business you’re in, when the industry leader is succeeding … well, a rising tide lifts all boats, right?

Actually, such is the story of 2022: From a drama standpoint, there was a lot of bad. How could WWE survive Vince McMahon’s scandal and departure? How could AEW survive its biggest mainstream star’s desire to lash out and then leave (or, at least so we think he’s leaving?). There are disgruntled wrestlers everywhere and can’t there just be a place where these athletes can work, have fun and make a living? The deluge of news in 2022 was tons of fun for all of us who love the gossip and the intrigue, but I’m not so sure it was all that great for those who actually had to live through it.

Still, there’s hope for 2023. WWE will (presumably) reach its one-year mark under the Paul Levesque regime, AEW will get further away from the Brawl Out stain and conventional wisdom suggests there won’t be nearly as much nonsense that goes on behind the scenes in either company. Because there’s no way it could top everything in 2022 …

… right?

We’ll see. Until then, let’s pour one out for 2022 and all it brought – the good, the bad and the very ugly. Because if nothing else, it sure was quite the ride.


Readers Comments (2)

  1. I can’t imagine any other year ever matching up with 2022 for the simple fact of Vince stepping down the way he stepped down.

  2. Happy new year to all .net staffers and BTL commenters!

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