After two years of a global pandemic forcing professional wrestling to find ways around the traditional means of presentation, restrictions eased in most parts of the world, allowing multiple stadium shows to happen and travel to occur, opening doors (forbidden doors) that hadn't been before.
That's not to say everything was sunshine and roses. A major shift in power occurred in WWE, forever changing certain aspects of its management. Meanwhile, as AEW entered its fourth year of existence, the promotion began experiencing growing pains - some were fixable, some weren't.
In counting down the Top 50 Wrestling Headlines of 2022, Wrestling Merchandise and Memories considered the following criteria:
Was the event unique to this year? Or does it happen quite frequently?
What were the overall ramifications for said event?
Did the development have a profound impact on how this wrestler or promotion did business?
Did this development receive any mainstream publicity outside of the wrestling community?
When possible, we have tried to add a date to each development. Some of them combine more than one event, and some lump a string of developments to demonstrate an overall trend.
If you'd like to be a part of this conversation, Tweet us at @canadianbulldog using the hashtag #Top50, or leave a comment below.
Ready? Here we go!
Wrestling Figure Database
While this website may not be headline news for every fan, one development we're incredibly proud of is the Wrestling Figure Database, with photos of nearly 1,000 wrestling figures and related articles. It was the most ambitious project in the nine-year history of our website.
Mandy Rose Released by WWE
The day after Mandy Rose lost her NXT Womens Championship to Roxanne Perez, ending a 413-day reign, word came out that she was released by WWE. According to reports, the company released Rose after she posted racy photos on her FanTime page.
Ricky Steamboat's Final Match
WWE Hall of Famer Ricky Steamboat stepped into the ring for one last match in Raleigh, North Carolina. The former NWA World Champion, age 69, teamed with FTR in a victory over Jay Lethal, Brock Anderson and Nick Aldis.
June 17, 19
Legendary Referees Pass Away
Over a three-day period, the wrestling world lost two of its most famous referees. Dave Hebner, one of the famous Hebner twins, passed at the age of 73, while Tim White, a WWE official and longtime assistant to Andre The Giant, died at the age of 68. Mickie Henson, a WCW and WWE referee, passed away in February.
Samoa Joe is All Elite
Fresh off of short-lived return to WWE, Samoa Joe showed up at Ring of Honor's Supercard of Honor XV event, signaling he had signed with ROH parent All Elite Wrestling. Joe would go on to capture both the ROH Television Championship and the TNT Championship.
February 9 / March 11
Swerve In Our Glory Are All Elite
While the AEW debuts of Swerve Strickland (formerly known as Isaiah Swerve Scott) and Keith Lee were separate events, the two ex-WWE performers soon decided to team up. As Swerve In Our Glory, the duo captured the AEW Tag Team Championship.
Ring Of Jericho
Throughout his career, Chris Jericho has always found ways to reinvent himself, and the same happened in 2022. In addition to forming the Jericho Appreciation Society, Jericho defeated Claudio Castagnoli to capture his eight world title, the ROH World Championship.
Jeff Jarrett's Busy Year
No one can accuse WWE Hall of Famer Jeff Jarrett of taking it easy in 2022. In addition to launching a podcast, Jarrett showed up in Game Changer Wrestling, NWA, AAA; main-evented in Ric Flair's last match; plus he held front office and on-air roles in both WWE and AEW.
There Goes The Money
In a year where there would be a lot of McMahon family turbulence, Shane McMahon was the first to leave WWE in 2022. Reports stated that management was unhappy with Shane O'Mac's restructuring of the Royal Rumble match to give himself more time in the bout.
The Judgment Day
WWE transformed what could have become a forgotten faction into a force to be reckoned with in The Judgment Day. Originally consisting of WWE Hall of Famer Edge and Damien Priest, the group would recruit Rhea Ripley, Finn Balor and Dominik Mysterio, while kicking Edge out.
Jeff Hardy's Turbulent Year
After being released by WWE the previous December, Jeff Hardy debuted in AEW in March, reuniting with his brother Matt. The reunion wouldn't last long; however; as Hardy was suspended by the promotion in June after his third DUI arrest in five years and has yet to return.
Wardlow Turns On MJF
After years of serving as MJF's loyal enforcer and corner man, Wardlow finally turned on The Salt Of The Earth at AEW Revolution, positioning Wardlow as a huge babyface. While he defeated MJF at the Double Or Nothing PPV, the red-hot rivalry ended somewhat prematurely.
Logan Paul Steals The Show
With only a couple of wrestling matches under his belt, expectations on influencer Logan Paul weren't high when he was signed to take on Roman Reigns at Crown Jewel. However, Paul silenced his critics with an incredibly-impressive performance at the highest level.
The first WWE roster change under Triple H's leadership took place at SummerSlam, when Bayley returned from a lengthy injury, accompanied by a re-hired Dakota Kai and NXT star Io Sky (formerly Io Shirai). As Damage CTRL, the trio caused havoc for the womens division.
Everybody Loves The Acclaimed
The Acclaimed (Anthony Bowens and Max Caster) transformed from a mid-card heel tag team to one of the most popular acts in AEW by year's end. After taking on Billy Gunn as a manager and developing their "Scissor Me, Daddy Ass" catchphrase, the duo captured the AEW World Tag Team Championship.
Cody Goes Through Hell
Prior to his Hell In A Cell match against Seth Freakin' Rollins, reports surfaced that Cody Rhodes had sustained an injury. Showing up to the match with a severely-bruised torn pectoral, Rhodes not only finished the bout but put on a gutsy and memorable performance in victory.
After months of hounding Roman Reigns to be included in The Bloodline and tension rising weekly between him and Jey Uso, Sami Zayn finally received what we wanted, when Reigns declared him to be an Honorary Uce. At that year's Survivor Series, Zayn solidifed his position in the group by turning on Kevin Owens.
WWE Hiring Spree
Under the leadership of Triple H, WWE managed to re-sign numerous talents that had been released in recent years due to budget cuts. Some of the returns included Karrion Kross, Scarlett, Dexter Lumis, Hit Row, Braun Strowman, Johnny Gargano, Candice LeRae, Mia Yim, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, and of course....
For the first time in history, AEW and New Japan Pro Wrestling promoted a joint pay-per-view called Forbidden Door. While the show was hurt due to the injuries of CM Punk, Bryan Danielson and Tomihiro Ishii, it was still received and was capped off by Jon Moxley becoming interim AEW World Champion.
Ric Flair's Last Match
Under the banner of the defunct Jim Crockett Promotions, WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair had his final match at age 73, and on pay-per-view, no less. The Nature Boy teamed with son-in-law Andrade El Idolo, defeating Jeff Jarrett and Jay Lethal and topping off a show that had representatives from WWE, AEW, Impact, GCW, AAA, ROH and NJPW.
MJF Strikes Gold
Maxwell Jacob Friedman, a/k/a MJF, seemingly fulfiled his destiny at AEW Full Gear, capturing the AEW World Championship from Jon Moxley due to unexpected help from William Regal. The victory followed a turbulent year for the outspoken Salt Of The Earth; one that had also featured...
Moxley Grabs The Gold
Jon Moxley became AEW's flag bearer during a turbulent 2022. After defeating Hiroshi Tanahashi to become Interim AEW World Champion, he unified the belt against CM Punk on Dynamite. Though Mox quickly lost the belt back to Punk, he then won a tournamenty to become the first three-time AEW World Champion.
The legend of Roman Reigns continued to grow in 2022 with The Tribal Chief successfully unifying the WWE World and Universal Championships at WrestleMania XXXVIII. Reigns has now held the Universal Title for about 850 days (a record) and the WWE Championship for over 275 days. Acknowledge him!
The McMahon-Helmsley Era Becomes Real
As part of the retirement of Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan were named Co-CEOs of WWE, while Triple H became Chief Content Officer, overseeing talent relations and creative decisions. In a way, life imitates art, as Triple H and Stephanie once ran WWE in storyline.
Following a successful All Out pay-per-view, newly-crowned AEW World Champion CM Punk launched a profanity-laced tirade in his press conference against co-workers Colt Cabana, Hangman Page and The Elite. Following the scrum, Punk and The Elite were involved in a backstage brawl, having lasting PR consequences on the company.
Nick Aldis Leaves NWA
Nick Aldis, who had been the biggest star in Billy Corgan's National Wrestling Alliance, announced he was stepping away from the promotion after a multi-year run. Aldis, who held the NWA World Title twice, decided after a change in plans at the NWA 73 show that he didn't agree with the group's direction.
Josh Alexander Regains Impact Championship
Josh Alexander's first go-round with the Impact World Championship only lasted a few minutes at the promotion's Bound For Glory event. He regained the title from Moose at Impact's Rebellion event and managed to hold the title for the balance of 2022.
Money In The Bank
Liv Morgan captured the womens Money In The Bank briefcase and later that night, she upset Ronda Rousey to win the SmackDown Womens Championship. Austin Theory won the mens briefcase but was ultimately unsuccessful when he cashed it in several months later.
FTR Become Top Guys
FTR (Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler) had their most successful year in wrestling since they began teaming almost a decade ago. The duo held tag team gold in AAA, Ring of Honor and New Japan simultaneously, while showing the world that both are also formidable singles competitors in AEW as well as being a Top Guys tag team.
Claudio Castagnoli is All Elite
Having completed a lengthy run with WWE, Claudio Castagnoli (formerly Cesaro) debuted at AEW's Forbidden Door event. Castagnoli would join the Blackpool Combat Club and twice capture the Ring of Honor World Championship.
Goldberg vs. Roman
WWE Hall of Famer Goldberg returned to WWE once again at the Elimination Chamber event from Saudi Arabia, this time to challenge Universal Champion Roman Reigns. The match (originally scheduled for WrestleMania XXXVI) ended in just six minutes when Goldberg passed out from Reigns' Guillotine Choke.
Okada vs. Ospreay
The main event of the second night of Wrestle Kingdom 16 pitted Kazuchika Okada defending his newly-won IWGP World Championship against Will Ospreay. Okada retained, earning 5 ¾ stars from Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer, his highest-rated match of 2022.
War Games at Survivor Series
Although War Games has been around for decades, the modified cage match made its WWE main roster debut at Survivor Series, with Bianca Belair's team winning the womens War Games, and Roman Reigns' group winning the mens.
Blackpool Combat Club
AEW created one of the most original factions in some time with the Blackpool Combat Club, a group of badass babyfaces. Founded by William Regal, the group included Jon Moxley, Bryan Danielson, Claudio Castagnoli and Wheeler Yuta.
Brock Breaks The Ring
Brock Lesnar always knows how to make an entrance, but he may have topped himself at SummerSlam. Driving a tractor to the ring, Lesnar leapt off it to start his Last Man Standing match with Roman Reigns. Then he used the vehicle to actually turn the ring over on its side.
William Regal's Turbulent Year
William Regal began 2022 being released by WWE as part of a shakeup in NXT. He would debut in AEW in March, creating the Blackpool Combat Club. However, before year's end, he was granted leave by AEW to rejoin WWE and work with his son.
Dominik Turns On Rey
Rey and Dominik Mysterio had been inseparable since Dom joined his father in WWE in 2020, but the son turned on both his father and Edge following the Clash At The Castle show. Dominik subsequently joined The Judgment Day and hasn't (yet) wrestled his dad.
Punk-MJF Feud Concludes
CM Punk's war of words with MJF began in late-2021 and carried over to 2022 with a pair of physical and gruesome matches. Punk won their Dog Collar match at Revolution to end the rivalry, although MJF's return in September was meant to rekindle the feud before Punk left the promotion.
Saraya is All Elite
Former three-time Womens Champion Saraya (formerly known as Paige) debuted for AEW at their Grand Slam event. Saraya would go on to face Britt Baker at AEW Full Gear, which would be her first match in roughly five years due to a neck injury that had forced her to retire.
Clash At The Castle
WWE hosted its first major event in the UK in literally 20 years with its Clash At The Castle event. Featured matches included UK hero Drew McIntyre battling Roman Reigns; Seth Freakin' Rollins against Matt Riddle; a six-woman tag team match; and a legitimate match of the year candidate between Sheamus and Gunther.
Sasha Banks and Naomi Walk Out
Prior to a defense of their WWE Womens Tag Team Championship, Sasha Banks and Naomi walked off of Raw, with reports citing creative differences with management. The pair were indefinitely suspended and haven't returned to action.
Tony Khan Buys ROH
In the largest wrestling acquisition since WWE purchased WCW, Tony Khan announced he had purchased Ring Of Honor. Immediately, ROH was integrated on AEW programming, including weekly television and pay-per-views, and competitors often crossed over between promotions.
Return Of The Fiend
After months of teasing the WWE audience (which included a unique viral video campaign, complete with QR codes and unusual clues), The Fiend Bray Wyatt returned at the conclusion of the Extreme Rules pay-per-view. Undergoing another transformation, the latest incarnation of Wyatt could be the most terrifying yet.
The Uso Era
The Usos (Jimmy and Jey) did The Bloodline proud in 2022, unifying the SmackDown and Raw Tag Team Titles with a victory over RK-Bro. Throughout the year, The Usos not only kept both belts (leading to a record reign as SmackDown tag champions), but also brought younger brother Solo Sikoa into the fold.
Stone Cold Returns
WWE Hall of Famer Stone Cold Steve Austin wrestled in his first match in 19 years at WrestleMania XXXVIII. After agreeing to appear on Kevin Owens' KO Show, the two ended up having a wild match instead. Austin returned the second night of WrestleMania to give a weak looking Stone Cold Stunner to longtime rival Vince McMahon.
MJF Walks Out
In the lead-up to AEW's Double Or Nothing PPV, MJF no-showed an autograph signing and was reported to be heading home. Instead, MJF made the following day's pay-per-view, cut a scathing promo on Tony Khan later that week, and walked out of the company for what would be several months.
RIP Scott Hall
WWE Hall of Famer Scott Hall passed away at the age of 63 following three heart attacks. Hall, also known as Razor Ramon, was one of wrestling's most influential performers in the 1990s as a founding member of the nWo. His career included successful runs in the AWA, WCW, WWF and TNA.
RIP Antonio Inoki
Antonio Inoki, one of the most legendary names in the history of Japanese wrestling, passed away at the age of 79. Although a WWE Hall of Famer and 12-time World Champion, Inoki was also a wrestling promoter and politician during his career. Famously, Inoki also faced Muhammad Ali in 1976, a precursor to what is now known as mixed martial arts.
Cody Rhodes Returns To WWE
The first night of WrestleMania XXXVIII included the much-anticipated return of Cody Rhodes to WWE. Since leaving the promotion in 2016, Rhodes reinvented himself on the independent scene and became a founding executive of AEW. For his second run, Rhodes instantly became one of WWE's biggest stars.
Vince McMahon Retires
Amid claims of sexual misconduct, extramarital affairs and hush-money agreements to keep alleged victims quiet, Vince McMahon announced he was retiring after serving 40 years as the head of what is now WWE. While time will tell whether the 77 year-old returns to the company he's the majority owner of, the allegations will undoubtedly cast a shadow over the life of a man who made sports entertainment a household name.