Wrestling in 2022 left us asking: is any door truly forbidden?
It was a year of cross-promotional partnership, of walls between worlds giving way. New Japan and AEW joined forces. STARDOM stars teamed with NJPW talent. One of AEW’s biggest success stories was a DDT wrestler tearing it up on their territory.
Even the isolationists of WWE got in on the act, welcoming the Impact Knockouts champ to the Royal Rumble, signing off on Shinsuke Nakamura wrestling in NOAH, and working with NJPW to have Karl Anderson compete in both places.
What were the year’s best and worst moments? Which wrestlers shined the brightest? What will we remember most when looking back at the year?
The Wrestle Inn team breaks it all down:
- Corey Michaels @coreymacdazzle
- Kay Quinn @KayfabeQuinn
- Ryan Dilbert @ryandilbert
- Adam Ryan @writeradam84
- Thumbly Squeezed @ThumblySqueezed
- Alex Morrison @Alex_m197
- CiaranRH @CiaranRH93
- Trent Breward @1UpCulture
- Ethan Vieira @SkullKickSquad
- Sam @nambasanreacts
- Steve Howard @stevehoward1972
1. What is your five-word review of the year in wrestling?
Kay: Past makes way for future.
Adam: What the hell just happened?
Alex: This is the Switchblade’s era.
Ryan: STARDOM’s better than your fav.
Thumbly: Can do without press scrums.
CiaranRH: Katsuyori Shibata wrestled thrice, guys.
Corey: No one out-pizzas the Hut™️.
Trent: Did that really happen? Yuup!
Ethan: Anything can happen in wrestling.
Sam: Wait, THAT was in 2022?!
Steve: Brawl Out Fight Bite Night
2. Favorite match that won’t make anyone’s Match-of-the-Year lists?
Corey: Claudio Castagnoli vs Zack Sabre Jr. at AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door (June 26).
The surprise and bombast of the former Cesaro wrecking one of the best technical wrestlers in this sport today to give a memorable debut that utilized both wrestlers to their maximum strengths.
Kay: Shun Skywalker vs Jason Lee at Glorious Gate 2022 – Day 1 (March 3).
I have honestly never seen a better midcard storytelling match. Jason’s desperate struggle against his monstrous stalker was expertly told through a mix of excellent wrestling and surprisingly convincing acting by both competitors that will grip you from start to finish.
Alex: Giulia vs Suzu Suzuki at 5STAR GP Final (October 1).
From the tears at the beginning to the tearful hug at the end, this was an emotional and hard-hitting match that was a bit overshadowed by the final. Even by me, when I made the final my match of the month. In retrospect, I actually preferred this one and I think anyone who loved this should watch. It reminded me of Cody vs Dustin (Double or Nothing 2019).
Ryan: Miyu Yamashita vs. Shoko Nakajima at TJPW Grand Princess 2022 (March 19).
Yamashita’s thrillers against Miu Watanabe and Mizuki are more likely to get love in top 10 lists, but her title match against Shoko was damn good, too. This straightforward story of heart versus power is engrossing, highly rewatchable and an ideal entrypoint to TJPW.
Thumbly: Tay Conti & Anna Jay vs. The Bunny & Penelope Ford at AEW New Year’s Smash (January 1).
Safe to say nothing featuring Tay will make favorite lists after the way the rest of the year went, but the earliest possible blowoff match of the year delivered a credible and bloody women’s street fight. TayJay fought their way to a well-earned and iconic victory via a barbed-wire enhanced Queenslayer submission. Surprisingly and impressively brutal, it set up Conti for a real babyface push before the Internet decided to Internet.
Adam: I’m going to go a bit off the beaten path here and highlight some independent wrestling. I’ll pick Steve Maclin vs. Mance Warner vs. 1 Called Manders vs. Crash Jaxon in a four way mayhem match from Wrestling Revolver “Smoke ‘Em If Ya Got ‘Em” on November 12th. With four of the toughest dudes around, this promised mayhem from the very beginning and that’s what you got. Brawling around the arena, doors being broken and Maclin taking some of the hardest chair shots I’ve ever seen in person. If there’s one thing I love in wrestling, it’s a wild and crazy no holds barred fight with weapons involved. This did not disappoint.
CiaranRH: This is a match I think has suffered due to there being an outlandish amount of great wrestling this year, but El Desperado vs Kazuchika Okada in the New Japan Cup (March 2) was an all-time performance from Despe. IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion vs IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, Despe proved his mettle (again) as a tremendous wrestler, his seamless and intuitive counters a masterclass in this bout.
Trent: Either of the Suzu Suzuki versus MIRAI matches. The time limit draw at NEW BLOOD (May 13) was far too good a match on what is typically something of a developmental show used to highlight up and comers in the joshi industry. Then they managed to outdo themselves again at Korakuen Hall during the 5 Star GP. There were bigger and better Stardom matches in 2022, but these two put on a couple of absolute clinics that shouldn’t be missed.
Ethan: Riko Kaiju vs Arisa Nakajima for the Beyond the Sea championship (May 13). This match follows the tale as old as time of mentor versus student dynamic, Riko Kaiju had debuted for SEAdLINNNG on 2020 and this was her first match for the top title against the senior that had taken her under her wing, Arisa Nakajima. This match goes 20 minutes and it is filled with nothing but violence, headbutts, multiple suplexes and any way that you can imagine to hurt someone. This match was a wonderful ode to violence.
Sam: Kazusada Higuchi vs Yukio Sakaguchi at DDT God Bless DDT 2022 was a beautifully violent story of two old friends that have drifted apart reaching back to one another in the middle of the ring. The absolute best in emotional storytelling in men’s wrestling this year, and Sakaguchi’s own little tribute to Inoki, an icon who had practically helped raise him. Higuchi is the wrestler Tam Nakano wishes she was.
Steve: Rey Fenix vs Bandido vs Laredo Kid vs Black Taurus from Ric Flair’s Last Match (July 31) stole the show with lots of fast paced action and spectacular moves. Watching the match live it was great to see how the crowd started off mildly interested but ended up fully invested and giving the four performers a deserved ovation.
3. Who was the breakout star of the year?
Alex: Despite fighting his biggest battle vs Tony Khan’s booking (or lack thereof), this has been Wardlow’s year. I know, he’s been around a while, but this year has really seen his popularity soar. His performance in the MJF rivalry deserves proper follow through, so my hope is that he starts to feature in some important stories next year.
Kay: Shun Skywalker. While Dragongate did already try to make him their ace last year, it was his heel turn this January that finally positioned him as the dynamic center and most wildly popular young talent of the promotion. If there was anyone who filled the void in high-grade wrestling storytelling left by Kenny Omega’s absence, it was him. Skywalker knocked it out of the park with both the tragic fall of MASQUERADE and his terrifying abuse narrative with Jason Lee. And at 26 years old, he is just getting started. In terms of story and character work, I don’t think anyone could touch him this year.
Corey: Kidd Bandit. Their rise to popularity was quick and sudden, with their name all over the scene. Bandit has had to live their life very publicly as they experience so many new things in real-time, winning everyone over as they put on show after show and creating a unique bond and connection with their fans, no matter the arena.
Thumbly: Dax Harwood. Ok, stay with me; yes, FTR have been big (even champions) in AEW for multiple years and were nationally known before then. But as they continued to gain momentum throughout 2022, Dax in parallel emerged as one of the hardest hitting and skilled singles guys on the roster too. It started in late 2021 out of necessity as Cash Wheeler patched up an arm injury, but continued this year through great showings with CM Punk, Will Ospreay, Adam Cole, and even Cash himself in the 2022 Owen Hart Cup. Cheers to the Axe, long may he swing. Also now that Twitter’s ending (maybe), we can call it: Dax done did the best Twits.
CiaranRH: Francesco Akira has exploded onto the scene in NJPW this year, debuting in Best of the Super Juniors as a member of the United Empire and his innovative offense becoming a talking point among fans on Twitter. His tag team with TJP has been better than anyone could have hoped, and at just 23 years old he has all the potential in the world for years to come.
Trent: Miu Watanabe has always demonstrated talent, but this year she went about showing everyone that she is the future of TJPW. By the time the Princess Cup final came around everyone wanted to see her climb past the Pillars. It wasn’t quite meant to be, but she did walk away as the International Princess Championship before the year came to an end. Join the L.O.V.E gang before she giant swings you off this planet.
Ethan: Mina Shirakawa entered the 5 star Grand Prix with a lot of stuff to prove to the fans and specially to herself, and to say that she delivered would be an understatement. She scored massive pinfall wins against the likes of Momo Watanabe and Saya Kamitani which earned her many title matches. Mina has always been a solid wrestler but I feel that this year she has improved massively and has seen her hard work pay off with the recognition of the fans, specially after her Wonder of Stardom bout with Saya Kamitani where she got a fractured jaw after a top rope move by the champion. Mina then went backstage to cut a heartfelt promo about how she couldn’t give up because she wouldn’t be proving to the fans that she is a pro wrestler. Much like Becky Lynch’s infamous concussion and broken nose after Nia Jax’s punch, this could be Mina’s path to superstardom so you shall keep an eye on her, because 2023 could be the best year of her career.
Adam: That’s a really tough question. There’s a lot of people who have had big standout years, especially on the independent scene. But I think I’ll go with the man who’s been on top of NXT most of the year, that being Bron Breakker. My favorite thing about Bron is that he’s not completely polished and his matches are still rough around the edges. Here’s a dude that recklessly throws people around the ring, will not hold anything back and is pretty much full of intensity at all times. His matches are fun and he’s had some killer bouts against Dolph Ziggler, Tomasso Ciampa, and Tyler Bate this year.
Ryan: Captain Cinnabon himself, Konosuke Takeshita. Fans of DDT knew long ago this guy was a beast, a wrestler who could do just about anything he wants to in a ring, but a whole audience got to take in all his glory this year. Takeshita had a tremendous run in AEW where he tore it up against the likes of Hangman Page, Claudio Castagnoli, and Jon Moxley.
Sam: Mei Suruga went from appearing on a chocolate brown mat on a free youtube show to getting a standing ovation at Arena Mexico. Mei is the truest of breakout stars in that she literally broke out of her home promotion and began appearing seemingly everywhere, all over the world, and winning over new fans in their thousands without changing a single thing about herself, just by being wholly unique, original, entertaining and straight-up damn good at wrestling.
Steve: Leon Slater is a young british wrestler who caught my eye with the performances he put in across the UK. His debut for Game Changer Wrestling led to him getting a lot more attention thanks to an incredible diagonal Coast to Coast.
4. What did you like least about wrestling in 2022?
Corey: The continued tribalism and gatekeeping. It’s never going away, but like, it’s annoying, y’know? Not to mention, massively embarrassing and cringe. Gotta get that clout though, can’t let strangers just be happy with their thing!
Kay: The vast amounts of backstage drama and questionable management decisions in a wide variety of promotions. And the ripples of those events in fan spaces.
Adam: WWE’s continued involvement with Saudi Arabia. The February event there this year was one of the absolute dirt worst WWE major shows in a long long time.
Alex: Stardom no longer booking Chanyota because a f*cking shampoo sponsor doesn’t like her porn career. Another example of the long tradition of demonising sex work. Just a reminder that Stardom was built on a foundation of gravure. The dissonance is astounding.
Thumbly: The base level of misogyny that comes along with being involved at any kind of event or crowd or fanbase (sporting or otherwise) in Society version 2022. But it does seem uniquely bad in wrestling. We want to think we’ve come very far yet the kinds of abuse hurled at performers, prominent hosts or journalists, and even just other fans for the crime of Vagina-Having is wrong. The fact that we need to still say it’s wrong is sad. People were stalked and harassed as recently as Full Gear last week (as I write this), and the vitriol directed towards any female fans with lots of followers is shameful. Shame on us, we don’t deserve any of them.
Steve: The negativity within the wrestling business. Whether it’s online, in boardrooms or in media scrums there are fans and those getting paid by the wrestling industry that need to have a look at themselves.
CiaranRH: The disappointing choice to keep fan noise restricted at events in Japan. It’s hard to find the logic at times and agree with the rules, and although we’ve been afforded plenty of special moments, they would have been incalculably more special with the full eruption of the Japanese audience.
Ryan: The NWA crowning Tyrus its world champion. Tyrus. TYRUS! The man with the agility of an elderly turtle. The man who was sued for sexual harrassment by his former co-host on Fox News. Billy Corgan took a look around the wrestling landscape and said this is the guy we want to be the centerpiece and franchise player of the NWA. Swing and a miss.
Trent: That there’s so many possible answers here. The backstage drama seemed to reach an all time high. But a special award goes to Vince Mcmahon who decided to pop a rating in the wake of his scandal coming to light. He came out, pulled the “Then, Now, Forever, Together” crap to thunderous applause like he was some kind of martyr. Not a good look for Vince or the audience in attendance.
Ethan: I feel like sometimes we all forget that professional wrestling is an art, because the visceral amount of hate from the fans towards the performers and the wrestlers themselves having so many issues with each other because of something that they supposedly love, is genuinely disappointing to see. We all follow wrestling because we like it right? That’s what we should always remember, we’re here because we love it.
Sam: Literally all of wrestling twitter (apart from myself)
5. What did you like most?
Kay: The incredible new talents bursting onto the scene. From Takuma Fujiwara to Takeshi Masada, there are so many fantastic young prospects in Japanese wrestling that I can’t help but be excited for the future.
Ryan: The blurring of borders, the increased overlap between promotions. Jun Akiyama wrestled in AEW. Max the Impaler crossed paths with Aja Kong. Suzu Suzuki and Prominence invaded STARDOM. Giulia teamed with Zack Sabre Jr. Tomohiro Ishii challenged for the Impact World Championship. Forbidden Door. Historic X-Over. My god. *insert Kevin Garnett “Anything is possible!” gif*
Adam: Does Vince McMahon resigning and Triple H taking over WWE creative count? WWE was in desperate need of a refresh in the creative department and with the shocking announcement of Vince McMahon’s retirement a mere week before SummerSlam in July, Triple H took over creative and quickly rejuvenated things. He brought War Games to the main roster, refreshed the commentary teams, allowed words like “wrestling” to be uttered on WWE television and he’s allowing WWE contracted talent like Karl Anderson and Shinsuke Nakamura to work dates in Japan.
Corey: The sheer unpredictability. Truly, anything can happen now. Vince McMahon stepped down, Shinsuke Nakamura being announced to face The Great Muta outside of WWE (and having WWE actually acknowledge it), then you have Karl Anderson pulling a Benedict Arnold and running off to WWE with the NEVER Openweight Title. The wildest things that would have normally been big news become afterthoughts, one after the other because there’s so much going on.
Thumbly: Orange Cassidy started a Twitch channel. He then won the All-Atlantic title, put on a captain’s hat, and proclaimed himself King Of The Ocean while watching old episodes of the original British edition of Gladiators on said Twitch channel. Five years ago I wouldn’t have known what the f$!* I was talking about, but it made me so very happy. Also all the Gladiators, across genders, were very pretty.
Alex: Seeing Moxley reluctantly accept that he’s the leader AEW needs, then cutting an impassioned, angry promo that both the fans and the locker room needed to hear in the wake of Brawl Out. He’s carried AEW twice now, opened the Forbidden Door and been instrumental in galvanising a divided locker room. Mox is one of the most important figures in wrestling at the moment – something he doesn’t particularly want – and he’s been completely unfazed by his importance.
CiaranRH: Did you guys know that Katsuyori Shibata wrestled thrice this year?
Trent: Totally not biased, but Jungle Kyona is back wrestling after a year and a half on the injury shelf and renewing her love for wrestling with an American tour after it had caused her so much pain in 2020.
Sam: On a more positive and constructive note, it feels like wrestling is finally returning from the dark shadow of the pandemic and stepping into the light. So many promotions grew by leaps and bounds, so many things we thought we’d never see came to pass, and Vince McMahon GOT GOT.
Steve: There has been so much great wrestling this year. So many matches have invested me due to the in ring action and crowds are almost back to normal to enjoy them. I also have to mention that the ‘feeling Ucey’ segment made me cry with laughter.
Ethan: Isn’t it just fantastic to see so many wrestlers travel the world and compete for so many different promotions? The rise of USA indies like DPW, Garden State Pro Wrestling and Prestige Wrestling is giving many wrestlers the opportunity to travel the world and accomplish dreams that for one reason or another, didn’t have the chance to do in the past.
6. What was the best promo/talking segment?
Thumbly: “I don’t hate you; I almost pity you.” So began one of the most surprising (at the time, impassioned, and ultimately impactful moments in AEW. Then World Champion “Hangman” Adam Page, after trading a few initial barbs, tore into CM Punk on the May 25, 2022 episode of Dynamite. A fire in his eyes to a level we’ve rarely seen, Page pulled back and talked about how he needed to stay on the high road because falling into negativity and hate wouldn’t be “the right thing to do” before firing up again and noting he’d be “defending All Elite Wrestling from” Punk. Yes, a lot of shit flowed from this segment and Page’s “worker’s rights” remark, but watching it in the moment, not knowing the backstage story, it still worked and felt as real as any wrestling did this year.
Corey: Jon Moxley, the AEW Dynamite following All Out 2022. Much like Dante Hicks from Kevin Smith’s Clerks, he wasn’t supposed to be there that day. Yet, his heart bleeds for the company and for the medium of professional wrestling. He’s willing to step up for this thing that he loves dearly, and you can just hear the passion dripping from his voice and each breath that escapes his lungs. When all is said and done, I personally feel he may have been the best AEW World Champion in the lineage of the company. It takes a lot to have a long reign, but it’s what you do with it that counts.
CiaranRH: Another shout for Jay White, but what do I pick? His clapanese promo showed off just how evilly intelligent King Switch is, but I think his promo after winning the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship stands firm as one of the best of the year as he persuaded the Japanese audience into cheering for their new champion.
Ethan: You could make an entire list just with MJF promos but I am going to choose the one he cut on William Regal on October 18th. MJF’s story has always been sensational, he always has a reason as to why he does things and the biggest villains are always the ones that feel justified. MJF called out William Regal for the lack of support when he met him at 19 years old and how he had to crawl his way to the spotlight. To end the promo Regal questions MJF and manifests that Maxwell has had it easy if all it took was a rejection email to motivate him, specially compared to William having to fight in Carnivals at just 16 years old. MJF is already brilliant but he is not a villain like William Regal, at least not yet, hence giving more room for everything to develop.
Kay: No surprise here, Shun Skywalker’s heel turn promo on January 12th. Seeing what was once one of the sweetest souls in Dragongate shatter his own mind in real time was in equal parts disturbing and heartbreaking. The violent outward projection of his guilt and self-loathing, the confusion over his happy fantasies being rejected, the overwhelming despair as everything was spinning out of control, it all came together in a fantastic, emotional performance that really makes you believe in the reality of this extreme character.
Adam: Tony Khan announcing on the March 3rd Dynamite that he’d bought Ring of Honor. A truly groundbreaking and landmark announcement that kept ROH alive when it’s heartbeat was faint. Even though question marks still loom about certain aspects of it (weekly TV, Honor Club, etc.), for an ROH fan like me it’s nice to see the company kept alive instead of the archives shoved in a vault like WWE would’ve done.
Alex: Jay White’s Forbidden Door promo (12th June). He graciously accepted our thanks for catalysing the birth of AEW by beating Omega resulting in him running away from NJPW to create the company we now love. This one came out of nowhere and is still my favourite promo of the year.
Trent: With a busted jaw and in need of dental surgery after eating a boot to the face from an errant Phoenix Splash, Mina Shirakawa delivered an impassioned plea asking for her time to come after she had worked so hard. Even without subtitles you can feel the raw pain and passion coming through. It transcended language barriers, but was made even better once you had the translation.
Ryan: What Trent said.
Sam: Eddie Kingston selling the American public on his lifelong dream of fighting the greatest wrestler of all time. Also Suzu Suzuki made me tear up with a promo in a language I don’t understand selling a match against a wrestler I’m not a huge fan of based on four-year-old backstage drama from a promotion I didn’t watch, so her, too.
Steve: I know I mentioned it in the previous question and it wasn’t a promo as such but Sami Zayn causing Jey Uso and Roman Reigns to completely break character with just two words.
7. What will you remember most about this year in wrestling?
Alex: Unfortunately I think muffin gate and Brawl Out, and the subsequent fall out, will be the most salient wrestling memory of 2022. There’s been some great matches and cool moments, but that was a landmark moment for AEW and could have had wide-reaching implications for more than just Tony Khan. I’m glad he handled this well.
Corey: Never knowing what to expect. So many constants known for years with many places and instances being an afterthought in a background, like a single person in a city crowd. This year will forever be an unforgettable time, because we live in a wild time as professional wrestling fans.
Ryan: STARDOM flexing its muscle again. The loaded roster got stronger. Utami somehow got better. AZM and Starlight Kid elevated the high-speed division. Syuri kicked ass. Plus, they got KAIRI back. In terms of in-ring production and just sheer number of bangers, nobody touched STARDOM, and the no. 1 joshi promotion is only primed to keep growing/improving/strutting.
Kay: The incredible mix of excitement and exhaustion. Every single week seemed to have some kind of major occurrence, from interesting crossover shows to lawsuits and you really did just never know what you were going to get.
Thumbly: It was ok to have, and to be, fun again. Danhausen landed on a national stage, Orange Cassidy beat Adam Cole & PAC (and burned the house down with Will Ospreay) while losing no character, and something as very silly as The Acclaimed’s scissoring campaign is the most over gimmick on Earth. With that in mind, let’s give recognition to Sami Zayn, who revitalized The Bloodline’s stories and WWE’s main event scene without ever challenging for the belt. He and his hilarious Honorary Uce-ness have been the best thing about WWE TV all year.
CiaranRH: Hey, guys. Did you know Katsuyori Shibata wrestled thrice this year? In all sincerity, the Royal Quest II weekend was special. I met the majority of the NJPW roster and was front row for both shows, good vibes all round.
Trent: The mayhem of backstage drama interspliced with another absolute banger year from STARDOM.
Ethan: The year had just started, STARDOM was having its first PPV of the campaign and to the surprise of all of us, PROMINENCE suddenly appeared on the stage to immediately declare war towards DDM. I remember genuinely losing my mind as soon as I saw them walk out, especially because I was not expecting to see a deathmatch faction working with STARDOM. They’ve been regularly featured all throughout the year and have had some of the promotion’s most memorable matches like Risa Sera vs Syuri for the Red Belt and Suzu Suzuki vs Giulia on the final night of the 5 star. PROMINENCE appearing for STARDOM has been a massive success.
Sam: Miyu Yamashita and Shoko Nakajima showing just how far the promotion they built has come, with an outright match of the year contender back where they officially debuted, Ryogoku Sumo Hall, in a dark match 10 years ago. Also Hiroshi Tanahashi walking into a United Center packed to the rafters with AEW fans and ¼ the normal human complement of working knees and by the end of it having them chant his name and wanting to see him defeat their own promotion’s ace. Also Konosuke Takeshita wrestling the very best AEW has to offer and blowing everyone away. Also Eddie Kingston fulfilling his lifelong dream by wrestling Jun Akiyama.
Steve: Going to my first live shows since before COVID. In particular at one of those seeing Brock Lesnar drive a forklift to the ring and lift in the air. It was completely shocking and a cool one off moment to witness.
Adam: The sheer unpredictability of everything. The year started off with question marks around the stability and future of ROH under the rule of Sinclair Broadcasting. Then, out of nowhere seemingly, Tony Khan buys ROH and runs a dream tag team match in Briscoes vs. FTR at Supercard of Honor, the first PPV under his ownership. The summer saw the shocking resignation of Vince McMahon amongst the growing weight of internal investigations of hush money payments. This year was one of incredible news stories that just seemed to keep happening one after another.
8. What wrestling-related purchase made you the happiest in 2022?
Ryan: For the first time since COVID hit, I bought tickets to a live wrestling event. What a surreal feeling it was to be in that warehouse in Houston watching Hyan, Dante Martin, Bryan Keith, Raychell Rose and company at AstroWorld 2022. Fans chanting, the sound of flesh hitting flesh, me taking crappy photos of larger-than-life wrestlers on my phone–nature is healing.
Kay: Tickets to my very first wrestling show in London (and roses to throw at my favorite joshi wrestler at said show). Seeing Veny live was absolutely incredible. I may potentially have died when she blew me a kiss and be writing this from the great beyond. But in all seriousness, there is a vast difference between seeing a show on a screen and experiencing it in person and I can only recommend trying it. Even if, like me, you have to get on a plane to get there.
Thumbly: My HouseHardy subscription. It’s a unique little community, and may seem odd to new people at first blush. But the warmth and fun that emanates from the Compound in Cameron comes through the computer screen and gives you a break from the world. Getting to see BTE bits and full-on matches back through the eyes of a brilliant wrestling and character mind, getting to know him and his family a bit more in a regular setting, and just having fun with like-minded fans–pure fun!. Reby Hardy, it must be said, is a great and hilarious hostess. It all got me through some tough times this year and I appreciated it all immensely. May it never be DELETED!
Corey: Technically, it was a Christmas gift, but going to see the 2022 Royal Rumble, live and in person. I didn’t care about the results, because I was too busy living the experience. Everybody’s apologies meant naught to me because when you’re actually in there, all washes away. Also, I was almost killed by the WrestleMania sign. #Survivor
Adam: I made several wrestling related purchases this year and it’s hard to pick. I took my son to his first ever live event, re-discovered independent wrestling thanks to a friend of mine having an extra ticket to the show that had Speedball vs. Moxley over the summer, and renewed my Impact Plus subscription for another year. I can’t say it’s my favorite but the thing I’ve gotten my money’s worth on and then some has been my Fite+ subscription. Like the rest of the world, I signed up when GCW announced they were going to be part of that and then my local promotion (Revolver) announced they’d be part of it too. I’ve really enjoyed going back through the archives of each one discovering matches I’ve only read about and shows I really wanted to see.
Ethan: This year I finally got the chance to attend another wrestling show for the first time since the pandemic hit, Miyu Yamashita had just started touring around the world again and I could not reject the chance to see her wrestle live. The show ended up being fantastic, I ended up meeting Yamashita and we also had a first ever match between Miyu and Alex Windsor.
Sam: I’m staring at my ticket to TJPW’s January 4th 2023 Korakuen Hall show right now. It’s beautiful. It’s magical. It’s mine, my own, my…precious.
Steve: It was tickets to the Progress Chapter 141 show when GCW were touring the UK. As much as I enjoyed the show, the moment I will treasure most was when Simon Miller gave my Wife and I a shout out (available to watch on the WWE Network!).
Alex: Wrestling merch is usually garish, so I was delighted when I found Jay White’s merch on PWTees. I can wear them outside wrestling shows!
CiaranRH: I’m going to cheat and say my plane tickets to Los Angeles, because I got to visit the LA Dojo and I took a bodyslam in an actual NJPW ring!
Trent: Unlike a lot of people here I haven’t been able to get back on the live show train post pandemic. So instead I threw down a bunch of money on a custom made Mayu Iwatani doll on Etsy and it came out amazingly. Mercifully she didn’t live up to her real life counterpart and get lost in the mail!
9. Which wrestler are you most rooting for to have a big 2023?
Kay: ISHIN (fka Ishin Iihashi). With his recent heel turn and title win, he is in perfect position for his first big push and he already has a rivalry ready to go. His undercard matches have all been absolute highlights this year and his storyline with Mochizuki Junior was quite compelling. If he learns from his Z-Brats stablemates in terms of character work, he could very much make 2023 his breakout year.
Corey: Ricky Starks. He’s taken a long road to the top, and he shows he has the chops to be a champion and make a title relevant. He has unreal charisma and promo ability and he’s perfectly adept in the ring and telling a story.
Adam: El Hijo del Vikingo. While I’m such lucha fans have known about him for a while, I think he’s unknown to a lot of American wrestling fans. However, he’s about to start a tour of the American indie scene and is wrestling in the US for, I think, the first time in his career. American fans are about to get a taste of what fans of AAA and lucha have seen for a while now, one of the most amazing wrestlers on the planet right now.
Alex: Jamie Hayter. Her organic build has been great to watch. It’s great to see. She oozes charisma, carries herself with absolute confidence and is easily amongst the top AEW wrestlers. Looking forward to next year being her breakout year.
Ryan: Suzume. TJPW’s buzzing bee impressed on shows big and small this year, looking every bit like a future star for the company. Here’s to her getting more time in the heart of the spotlight to show off all the heart and speed and spirit that makes her so fun to watch.
CiaranRH: Alex Coughlin. I’m lucky enough to call him a friend (hopefully he’d call me the same!) but his 2022 was muddled with injuries following his graduation from being a Young Lion. With a long World Tag League tour across Japan under his belt, hopefully 2023 will be a big year for the big man, wishful thinking we see him make his G1 Climax debut.
Trent: Unagi Sayaka had a disappointing 5 Star Grand Prix and then turned it all around by assessing the joshi independent scene in one of the greatest things to happen in 2022. She deserves the world in 2023. There are few wrestlers who bring pure unadulterated chaos to wrestling like her, and I mean that in the best possible way.
Steve: Sami Zayn is one of the best wrestlers of this century and I feel 2023 is the opportunity for him to become the biggest babyface in the WWE. He always seems to be such a great guy and has done amazing things with his Sami For Syria charity.
Thumbly: Leyla Hirsch. She had started to really find her character footing following a heel turn and feud with Kris Statlander (another viable candidate here) when she tore her ACL. She’s been pretty much MIA ever since getting it repaired. I hope this is setting up a sudden and shocking return where she gets back to the top of the women’s division rankings and receives a suitable push! The talent was there and, right at the end there, the attitude locked in too. It’s all primed for big things.
Ethan: Mio Momono hasn’t had the chance to wrestle a full calendar year in a while due to injuries and whenever she is fit, I truly believe that she is the best wrestler in the world. So in 2023 I want to see Mio having a healthy campaign and I would also love to see her finally claiming the AAAW championship that she has strongly chased ever since its reintroduction.
Sam: Yuki Ueno is the best wrestler in the world you probably haven’t heard of. One of the greatest babyfaces I’ve ever seen, who shocks and amazes and stuns in a way few others can. With Takeshita basing himself in the USA, Ueno stands as his heir apparent as the exciting young face of DDT, and I’d absolutely love to see what he could do. Also Hyper Misao, because everyone should always be rooting for Hyper Misao.
10. What’s something you are excited about for 2023?
Corey: I’m looking forward to how 2023 could possibly top 2021 and 2022. I want the most surreal things to happen. Forbidden doors becoming interconnecting hallways, with milestones and achievements adorning the house that we visit to escape our own lives. That’s the magic of professional wrestling.
Ethan: The popularity of joshi wrestling has exploded in the last years, not just STARDOM, but other promotions like TJPW and Ice Ribbon have become more well known as well. For 2023 I would love to see the whole joshi wrestling scene growing more and gaining many new fans internationally, the amount of passion, love and dedication that they put into their craft deserves way more worldwide recognition.
Kay: 2022 was a fantastic year for rookies and I hope that 2023 can be the year where these talents properly start coming into their own and establishing their unique styles, stories and characters. I can’t wait to see how they develop.
Adam: I’m hoping for the continued rise of ROH under Tony Khan’s watch. I’m hopeful that they will get a weekly TV show somewhere and that the ROH will become a place like it was in the past where young stars get noticed and grow into stars and a place … well, where honor lives.
Steve: With WrestleMania being in Los Angeles, I can see this as the year that wrestling will boom and become mainstream cool again (think Hulkamania, Monday Night War eras).
Ryan: This is the year I’m going to dive headfirst into Actwrest girl’Z. I keep hearing big buzz from trusted sources about how revamped and reenergized that promotion is of late. I’m looking forward to worsening my social life and putting more strain on my marriage as I get swept up by yet another joshi promotion.
Alex: Tony Khan booked three–yes, three–women’s matches on the Full Gear card. Not only that, but they all had competent builds and two had a complex, interwoven story. It’s taken three years, but I hope this is a sign of things to come in 2023. Also a mention to Giulia’s upcoming Red Belt reign. She’s been amazing this year and I can’t wait to see what she has for 2023.
Trent: Stardom has been on fire since the Pandemic hit, and it’s about time these women get to perform in front of a raucous crowd. I can’t wait for that first Korakuen Hall audience to be allowed to do more than just clap. Go back and listen to the first Korakuens of 2020 when the crowd were at a fever pitch. That’ll become the norm again and it will be beautiful!
Thumbly: The further return and development of NXT stars who had been cast aside. With Triple H in charge, what might the future hold next for folks like Bray Wyatt, Kevin Owens (who I’d love to feel more like a major player again), Io Sky (née Shirai), Asuka, and others who aren’t even around at the moment. A new year without Vince controlling TV is one to which I can look forward.
Sam: I’m going to my first wrestling show at Korakuen hall, and the first show from my favourite promotion, the TJPW January 4th show at Korakuen Hall. I just wanted to remind you, because I’m going to it. Did I mention that? That I’m going to the TJPW January 4th show at Korakuen Hall? Because I am.
CiaranRH: Maybe next year Katsuyori Shibata will wrestle FOUR matches?!