It’s not like any year is calm and uneventful in the wrestling business, but 2022 was an absolute corker. Fans saw and heard things no one could have imagined the year prior. Attracting attention — and sometimes derision — from the mainstream media, wrestling was arguably never hotter or more controversial.
Cody Rhodes Departs AEW to Return to WWE: February 2022
AEW Executive Vice-President Cody Rhodes surprised the wrestling business when he left the company he helped create and returned to WWE. Some fans were perplexed by the move. Why would Rhodes want to go back to a place that had allegedly misused him and turned him into a face-paint wearing shadow of his older brother’s most famous character? According to Rhodes, the timing was right. “I had come from another company that I loved everything about it, everything,” Rhodes said on an April episode of WWE’s The Bump. “But I needed to move forward.” Almost immediately, Rhodes became a WWE icon by wrestling Seth Freakin’ Rollins in a Hell in a Cell match while suffering from a torn pectoral tendon. Bruised, battered, and reborn, Cody Rhodes proved to the world, and to himself, that you can go home again.
Tony Khan Announces Acquisition of Ring of Honor: March 2, 2022
Stalwart wrestling company Ring of Honor found itself in limbo after parent company Sinclair Broadcasting Group released all the talent from their contracts and stopped taping new shows, forcing the company to cease operations as a full-time promotion. Surprisingly, it was AEW owner Tony Khan to the rescue. Khan bought Ring of Honor for less than $4 million dollars. Soon, Ring of Honor talent began showing up on AEW television. ROH wrestlers like Willow Nightingale began garnering new fans. Commentators Ian Riccaboni and Caprice Coleman were brought back to their old company to call matches featuring ROH talent. It may have felt like the slowest invasion angle imaginable, but Khan introduced AEW fans to his new company in an organic way. Only time will tell if those fans will migrate back to the subscription-based Honor Club, where Ring of Honor will begin presenting new weekly programming in 2023.
Vince McMahon Retires from WWE: June 17, 2022
It was the day no one thought would ever come. After allegations of sexual misconduct and misappropriation of company funds, Vince McMahon quietly stepped away from WWE. McMahon established dominance in the wrestling business by purchasing multiple companies, essentially destroying wrestling’s old territory system and bringing in talent under the WWE umbrella. With the company’s flagship shows pulling in millions of viewers each week, WWE was making money hand over fist under McMahon’s reign. As we learned during the investigation, some of that money was used to stifle the voices of people with whom McMahon had initiated unwanted sexual encounters. It was a sordid story, and McMahon exited the company. WWE still thrives under its new leadership of Vince’s daughter, Stephanie, his son-in-law, Paul (Triple H) Levesque, and CEO Nick Khan. But in the end, Vince screwed Vince (and, allegedly, a whole lot of other people).
Forbidden Door Becomes First Cross-Promotion Event Between All Elite Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling: June 26, 2022
Promising dream matches between American and Japanese wrestlers, Forbidden Door sold out the United Center in Chicago, moving all pre-sale tickets in less than 40 minutes. After multiple guest appearances by NJPW wrestlers on AEW programming sent uninitiated viewers scurrying to the internet for information about the Japanese performers, the Forbidden Door between American and Japanese wrestling swung open wide on June 26. Jon Moxley took on Hiroshi Tanahashi in a championship bout. PAC became the first AEW All-Atlantic Champion. Beloved Japanese stars like Kazuchika “The Rainmaker” Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, and Minoru “Murder Grandpa” Suzuki made appearances. In the end, it didn’t matter if you knew every wrestler or their histories. Forbidden Door was an absolute banger, providing fans with the some of the finest matches of the year.
The Brawl Out at All Out: September 4, 2022
Wrestling fans were aghast when CM Punk publicly lashed out at his AEW co-workers and colleagues at a media scrum following the All Out pay-per-view event. Following Punk’s comments, a backstage brawl broke out between Punk and The Elite (Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks), causing all four performers to be taken off of AEW television for weeks. Storylines were changed or dropped. As of this writing, the results of AEW’s internal investigation have not been released. Punk’s diatribe and the kerfuffle it kicked up cast a negative light on AEW’s backstage atmosphere, causing some to believe chaos reigned in the locker room. While things appear to have calmed down in the weeks since, the fallout from the Brawl Out at All Out is still being felt.