While the business side of professional wrestling boiled over with serious events, the televised product in 2022 was precisely what wrestling is supposed to be: fun. Some people found a place to shine, ways they could impress the audience, and make sure all the fans had a good time. Oh, and there was one match that floored me so much that I watched it twice a day for a solid week. Want to know what it was? Keep reading.
Best Gimmick: Sami Zayn
Zayn has always been a great performer in the WWE, but he hasn’t always had the best storylines. Remember when he was feuding with Bobby Lashley and, in a strange and misguided segment, brought out Lashley’s sisters? [Oh, look! It’s Max Caster!]
Since Zayn has aligned with Roman Reigns and the Bloodline, he’s been firing on all cylinders. Zayn ingratiated his way into the Samoan faction through actions and a bit buffoonery. His low-key feud with Jey Uso, who originally did not want Zayn to join the Bloodline, got over in a major way with the fans. Zayn may be a full-blown Uce since he and Jey Uso hugged it out at Survivor Series 2022. The true joy of watching Zayn work with the Bloodline has been his promos. Watching the boys try not to break character when Zayn talks only makes him more endearing. After years in character development hell, Zayn has finally found his groove.
Match of the Year: Anarchy in the Arena — AEW Double or Nothing 2022
It’s rare that a big match lives up to the hype, but Anarchy in the Arena overdelivered. The Blackpool Combat Club, along with Santana, Ortiz and Eddie Kingston, took on the Jericho Appreciation Society. It wasn’t just a bout. It was absolute jaw-dropping insanity in the ring, among the crowd, and up in the concession area. Turnbuckles came down. Barbed wire came out. Mustard was thrown and soundboards were smashed. It was the closest thing to a wrestling video game that appeared on-screen this whole year. Eddie Kingston created the most iconic wrestling image of the year when he walked toward the ring with a gas can in his bloodied hand. Entertaining, surprising, and violent as hell, Anarchy in the Arena is a match worth watching over and over again.
Best Commentator: Excalibur
Responsible for making “tope suicida” a household phrase, AEW’s commentator Excalibur is The Guy. Whether he’s teaming with announcing legends Tony Schiavone and Jim Ross or yukking it up with Taz on AEW Dark, Excalibur is a joy to listen to during matches. His encyclopedic knowledge of the names of wrestling moves and the histories of workers from different promotions make him a fount of information. If you’re watching wrestling with the hope of learning something about the business, then Excalibur is The Guy. We poke fun at him when he runs down an entire match card in one breath in under a minute. We’re not even mad. We’re impressed. Neither heel nor face, Excalibur understands the assignment. He calls the matches, he shares his knowledge, and there is no one better.
Employee of the Year: Jon Moxley
No one outside the business could have guessed that the Death Rider would be a team player. As tremendous of a wrestler as Jon Moxley is, Mox has earned boatloads of respect for carrying AEW on his shoulders through precarious times. When injuries forced some storylines to be dropped, Mox was there to pick up the slack. After The Elite and CM Punk were suspended after the Brawl Out at All Out, Mox delayed his personal vacation and kept fighting. Mox was one of the guys Tony Khan counted on to rally the troops. Mox was unafraid to make his private struggles with alcoholism public. His triumphant return from rehab only made his fans love him more. Under the craziest of conditions, Jon Moxley stepped up. There’s always one guy at work who doesn’t complain. He simply does what needs to be done, and does it with grace and precision. For AEW this year, that guy has been Jon Moxley. Now can we please give the guy some time off?
Wrestler of the Year: Chris Jericho
After decades in the business, Chris Jericho had arguably the best run of his career in 2022. He held the Ring of Honor championship and tore his way through both the ROH and AEW rosters with smug delight. Jericho reinvented himself with a variety of self-given nicknames (The Wizard, The Ocho, etc.). He became the leader of a great heel faction, the pompous group of sports entertainers known as the Jericho Appreciation Society. Jericho also whipped himself into tremendous shape, rocking a physique that guys twenty years his junior would slap their grandmothers for. His character is purely ego-based, but that’s not something he displays in his ring work. It’s good to see Jericho do the one thing some older performers don’t do. Jericho gets the younger guys over. He makes them look good and strong even in defeat. Love him or hate him (and he loves it when you hate him), Chris Jericho has been one of the greatest parts of an incredible wrestling year.