Biggest Wrestling Stories of 2022 | WWE and AEW

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This year was either the best or worst, or maybe both, in pro-wrestling history. New Japan and AEW had a joint show. A current NJPW champion is wrestling for WWE. William Regal leaves AEW the same year he joined the company. And none of those items made the top 10 biggest wrestling stories of 2022.

Ranked according to how much they dominated the wrestling landscape this year, here are the stories that made 2022 so historic for wrestling fans in both the WWE and AEW.

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Photo byJesse Dittmar/NY Times

Biggest Wrestling Stories of 2022 - WWE + AEW

10. Naomi and Sasha Banks Walk Out of WWE

In hindsight, this was really a sign of things to come. WWE’s backstage culture reached a point so bad that two current champions left hours before WWE RAW due to disappointments in booking. As much as the walking out of the company was a story, almost more was made of how WWE dismissed the two as “unprofessional” on live TV despite the justifications of their concerns. Since then, rumors of when and where these two will return to the wrestling landscape have also helped to make this a top-10 wrestling news story of 2022.

9. Big E Injury, Superstar Breaks Neck

As sad as this year got was the injury of Big E, which saw the recent WWE champion tragically break his neck on live television. A move gone wrong while tagging with the New Day against the Brawling Brutes saw initial scares for the young superstar’s life. Since then, Big E’s health has been reported to be much better than what could have happened given the terrifying circumstances, but still, doubts remain if Big E will ever wrestle again. Get well soon, Big E.

8. Shane McMahon Released From WWE Following Royal Rumble Booking

Shane McMahon reportedly did such a bad, nepotistic job booking this year’s Royal Rumble Men’s Match that it cost him his role with WWE. Reports allege that Shane prioritized his own role in the Royal Rumble, was hard to collaborate with and did such a poor job that Vince McMahon was quoted as saying “I’ll make sure he never gets another pop from a crowd again.” And just like that, the son of WWE’s owner and CEO was out. I’m sure that won’t leave a gap to be filled by others later…

7. Jeff Hardy Released From WWE, DUI News

Sadly, Jeff Hardy’s long, controversial battles with substance abuse continued this year. He left WWE after WWE officials reported that they wanted the future hall of famer to check into rehab when he refused, citing he didn’t feel he needed to. This release led to his eventual signing by AEW, where he reunited with his brother Matt, and took part in some controversially risky matches.

Jeff Hardy was then arrested with a DUI, checked into rehab, and was released by AEW in response to the events. Hardy has had many issues with substances over his illustrious career, and here’s hoping that the latest battle will be the last and he can return to the ring in 2023.

6. Return of Bray Wyatt (and others to WWE)

After an event that will be covered later on in this list took place, suddenly WWE was looking much more appealing to recently released talent. While stars like Dakota Kai, Hit Row and Karrion Kross made a huge impact following their return, one name dwarfed the others.

Bray Wyatt was released when he was one of WWE’s most popular talents in what many saw as the exclamation point on wasted potential from the booking of Wyatt. This year, when White Rabbit started playing during commercials of RAW and QR codes were seen popping up in the background of WWE programming, it led to speculation of the most improbable happening. Social Media was entranced by googling a song from the '70s, finding coordinates to a giant rabbit in Europe, and ultimately clues to a return for Extreme Rules.

Sure enough, the Eater of Worlds had one of the greatest WWE returns of all time in 2022. Due to everything that led up to it, Bray Wyatt's return more than deserved the attention it received this year. 

5. MJF Threatens to Walk Out of AEW

Now AEW champion, it’s hard to imagine AEW without MJF. But at one point this year, that seemed very possible. He had unapproved interviews with the likes of Ariel Helwani, where he buttered up going to WWE and criticized owner Tony Kahn. He publicly demanded more money. And, he no-showed engagements right before being booked to lose a match in the climax of his two-years-in-the-making feud with Wardlow.

No one knew what would happen with MJF once he was removed from AEW TV following a swear-filled tirade on Dynamite. But, despite all the doubt and speculation, not only did MJF return, but he was crowned AEW champion within the same wild year.

4. Stone Cold Wrestles First Match In Two Decades

This year was so insane that this isn’t a top-three wrestling news story. Stone Cold had the perfect last match against the Rock at WrestleMania 20 years ago. Since then, he has refused multiple opportunities to return, citing health concerns.

But this year, a feud with Kevin Owens seemed to be different. Owens wasn’t just hinting at a segment with the Rattlesnake, but he was actively threatening the hall of famer. Even stranger, the interview segment we got was scheduled for the main event of night one of WrestleMania. Then, the impossible happened. Stone Cold wore a knee brace to an interview, hopped on his ATV, and turned back the clock for one more match against KO.

And more unexpectedly, it was great. Stone Cold’s “one last ride” was somehow worth the wait. It was also somehow not close to the biggest story this year.

3. Cody Rhodes Leaves AEW to Sign With WWE

The founding Executive Vice President of AEW leaves the company. Then, he returns to the company that he stated left him in the dust and ruined the legacy of his father. Cody Rhodes seemingly turned his back on the company he was as credited with making as any person besides Tony Khan.

To return to WWE, and wrestle Seth Rollins at WrestleMania, Cody Rhodes apparently sold his soul. But also, was AEW using the American Nightmare to his full potential? Maybe the truth lies somewhere in between. But for now, we live in a world where WWE’s biggest threat became their most popular talent.

2. CM Punk Press Conference, Brawl Out Controversy

Almost a year after his AEW debut, CM Punk was gone from the company. For now, at least. Following winning the AEW Championship at All Out, CM Punk had a box of muffins while losing his mind at the company he was now champion of. Sat next to Tony Khan, Punk called his contemporaries babies, shredded his peers, and claimed that he was being mistreated. This led to a brawl backstage where Punk was confronted by the EVPs of the company in the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega.

Depending on whose side you believe, a door was kicked in, a man was bitten by another man, and a dog was rescued from the melee. No matter what insanity took place, the reality was that CM Punk was injured during the match he took part in and has been missing from AEW since due to either injury or punishment from this incident, or both. The Elite were suspended for close to two months. And at the moment when CM Punk was crowned as AEW’s hero, he gave the company the biggest black eye they’ve had in their company's history.

1. Vince McMahon Steps Down From WWE, Triple H Becomes Head of WWE Creative

Despite every other story this year, despite the brawls and the returns, the biggest wrestling news story of 2022 is the biggest wrestling story ever. Vince McMahon, the innovator and face of pro wrestling for over 40 years was forced to step down from his role in WWE following several allegations.

At first, McMahon not only denied these allegations, he but was also publicly appearing on WWE TV to do so. But as the settlements were revealed and the scope of this scandal came to light, WWE officials reportedly convinced Vince to step down from his company.

In a year that saw Triple H announce his official retirement from wrestling and step back from his role in WWE/NXT due to a heart condition, and Stephanie McMahon stepping down from her role to spend time with her husband, those two figures were suddenly promoted. Steph was now running the company alongside Nick Kahn, and Triple H was head of WWE creative. This was a change many fans had wanted for years, but it was seemingly squashed in 2022, until they were realized.

It should be noted that Vince McMahon has announced he wants to return to the company, allegedly, but that might be the biggest story next year. For 2022, an era is over, along with the craziest year professional wrestling has ever seen.

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