Planet Kayfabe: NoDQ Year End Awards
By: “KCA” Paul Matthews
Providence, Rhode Island
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone. It’s been a while since my last column and it’s been a wild year in wrestling. 2022 has been the year where I watched more wrestling than I have in a few years. A lot has happened and I’m going to get into all 20 categories in the NoDQ year-end awards and who I voted for and why.
Male Wrestler of 2022:
Yeah, ya think I just blindly hate AEW, don’t you? Well, I don’t. I don’t think most people will argue with my choice here, but I’ll explain why I chose him over Roman Reigns. Jon has been an excellent champion and representative for AEW. As has Roman Reigns, but the tiebreaker for me was workload. Roman is the face of the biggest promotion in the world in 2022, but 2022 has been more about the presence of Roman Reigns.
I would say 2022 has been a down year for AEW. Not just in numbers, but also in content and perception and just overall coolness. “Hangman” Adam Page ended 2021 as their world champion out of a mere promise by Tony Khan and held the title for almost 200 days before dropping it to CM Punk. Most people would say Hangman was not a great world champion. CM Punk got the title as Khan’s biggest “get” to date and pretty much had the whole company built around him, but injuries plagued Punk and the company’s 2nd champion, Jon Moxley, was called upon to hold the title.
Moxley was made interim champion, but his run got over so much during the summer that it called into question the whole interim champion concept and that Jon should just be recognized as an actual world champion. Moxley would beat CM Punk of Dynamite to be recognized as an official world champion.
Just over a week later CM Punk was handed the ball again but dropped it. Yeah, you know the whole press conference story from All Out, but what people forget is that CM Punk sustained another serious injury and would have had to vacate the title anyway. So once the fog cleared from this clown show, who did Tony Khan call? Jon Moxley. Jon Moxley who was supposed to be on a much-earned vacation, but then had to come back and clean up the mess made by a petulant middle-aged manchild and a few dopey EVPs.
Moxley would hold the title for another couple of months before putting over MJF at Full Gear in November. This is why I went with Moxley. If Roman Reigns sat this year in WWE, it would have sucked for them, but in AEW not only did Moxley have a great year in the ring, but he always went above and beyond and really bailed out this company when they were going through a PR nightmare. AEW may have come off as a clown show but Jon Moxley didn’t. Through all that mess, he showed what a world champion should be for a brand.
Female Wrestler of 2022:
Women’s wrestling has taken a step back this year in my opinion. I’m going with Bianca Belair, but I like how over Rhea Ripley has gotten in recent months. To avoid a recentcy bias, I went with Bianca. No one from AEW was under consideration by me.
Tag Team of 2022:
This was an easy pick for me. Online I see a lot of debate about this topic. Usos, FTR, Young Bucks, Acclaimed… It’s not even close for me. It’s the Usos. They’ve had a great year and always deliver great matches on TV and on PPV. Plus, their roles in The Bloodline have just added to their legacy in pro wrestling.
I mean, what has FTR done that’s so great? I don’t get it. They’ve had some good matches Whoop-dee-doo. A lot of wrestlers have good matches. Does anyone talk about them? I know some of you are big FTR fans, but I just don’t get the appeal. They are good in the ring but are about as charismatic as a pair of white crew socks and look about as flashy as well. Are we really comparing them to The Usos who not just have great matches but also come out looking and acting like superstars? Give me a fucking break.
Match of 2022:
Cody Rhodes vs Seth Rollins (Hell in a Cell)
Cody wrestled this match with a torn pec which earned him a lot of tough-guy points from the fans and wrestlers alike. Also, it was a great match. Seth Rollins seemed to be on a big of a skid going into 2022, but his program with Cody Rhodes really reminded us of how great Seth Rollins is as a wrestler… even though his current “Drip” gimmick isn’t for everyone.
I almost went with Sheamus vs Gunther for the match of the year. That would be my 2nd choice.
PPV of the year:
I’m not a big fan of the two-night format, but I feel this was clearly the best event of the year. Not just the event itself, but I feel Wrestlemania is where WWE’s fortunes started to turn a bit. WWE had an undeniably great show at the same time when AEW was starting to lose some ground with the wrestling fan public. There was a time not too long ago when AEW was very close to beating Raw in the ratings. Not anymore. WWE pulled ahead after this event.
The event saw the return of Cody Rhodes with his full AEW presentation. After a couple of years of everyone wanting to jump on AEW’s bandwagon, WWE got themselves a great get themselves in the form of an EVP and co-founder of the company in Cody Rhodes. While the details of Cody’s AEW departure may never be made public, you an use your imagination. Of all the EVP’s, Cody took the role the most seriously. I’d say he took his role more seriously than Tony Khan even took his, but as time went on Khan took more and more power away from the EVP’s and Cody was unhappy with his position in the company, both as an executive and on the card. Cody comes back to WWE with a hero’s welcome, goes over Seth Rollins and he’s a bigger star than ever.
The event also saw the return of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Not only did Austin have a match, but he bumped and looked damn good out there. He really had a match. Austin had his old babyface fire and watching him out there really felt like 1998 again… in a good way. Not like when I’m watching Jeff Jarrett and Billy Gunn on Dynamite.
Wrestlemania 38 wasn’t just WWE’s best show, but it also turned their fortune around a bit. They had the best show at the best time to win back some fans from AEW and it worked.
Finisher of 2022:
The Usos, 1-D
The announcer of 2022:
I had to go with someone. The commentary isn’t as bad as it has been in recent years. Plus, even Michael Cole isn’t so bad without trying to spit out all of Vince McMahon’s corporate talking points in one breath, but I had to pick someone. Sorry, I’m not a Pat McAfee guy.
Breakout star of 2022:
It may seem odd to pick a 38-year-old ring veteran as the breakout star of 2022, but age doesn’t really matter for this category. Sami Zayn has had a good run in WWE. Probably better than most people expected him to have, but, since joining The Bloodline, it has put him on an even higher level. He’s more over than he’s ever been and has been an incredible addition to the group.
His culture-clash delivery is amazing. “My dogs!” Of course… he’s still great in the ring, too, but its his time with The Bloodline that has really got him over huge to a point where people still aren’t ready for this group to end yet.
The catchphrase of 2022:
Not much to say. An obvious choice. The early 2020’s will be the age of acknowledging Roman Reigns. 2022 is no different. We’ll see what 2023 brings.
Faction of 2022:
Again, another obvious choice. None of AEW’s 50 or so factions have come close. The Blackpool Combat Club started out as something kind of cool, but then fizzled out. The Jericho Appreciation Society is not that good in my opinion. The Inner Circle was much better. The JAS just seems cheap to me. Jericho acts like he’s the first wrestler to use WWEisms outside of WWE for heat, but he’s not and its actually been done to death.
What else do we have? The Dark Order? Come on. The Brawling Brutes are a fun team, but obviously not at that top level. The Imperium could become a bigger deal, but they’re fine at the midcard level. It’s clearly The Bloodline in 2022.
Comeback of 2022:
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin
At Wrestlemania 38 Austin wrestled his first match in 19 years against Kevin Owens and it was a legit good match. Not only did Austin give you his all after nearly two decades away from the ring, but his return really helped pop Wrestlemania again.
Cody Rhodes’ return to WWE was also very close for me, but I had to go with Austin.
Headline of 2022:
Vince McMahon scandal and retirement
We are here. The post-Vince McMahon era of WWE. Kinda… He still owns the company. He’s just not involved with creative or any of the business decisions anymore. This is probably the biggest wrestling story since WCW went out of business in 2001 and McMahon purchased the company.
Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan are co-CEO’s and Paul Levesque (Triple H) is heading creative. The only thing that could top this as a headline is if the company was sold or went out of business and that ain’t ever happening… The going out of business part. As for a sale? Very much possible.
As for Vince McMahon, despite the rumors of him wanting back in his own company, I doubt it will happen. He didn’t retire just because he thinks he’s too old, like he said in his tweet. That’s not Vince at all. He was forced out by the board of directors and was likely given the option to retire with some dignity or be removed publicly from his own company. Retiring was the better option both for Vince, the company and his family. If Vince was entirely uncooperative, I’m not sure they’d be so willing to have his daughter as the new head of the company, but it all worked out and everyone other than Vince seems to be happy with the end result… Maybe Brice Prichard and Kevin Dunn are still a bit upset. That’s about it and who gives a fuck what those assholes think.
Theme song of 2022:
Babyface of 2022:
If Cody Rhodes didn’t sustain that torn pec, I likely would have gone with him, but Jon Moxley is my choice for babyface of the year. There was no other strong babyface in WWE that I can really point to and I chose Moxley for many of the same reasons I picked him for wrestler of the year.
Heel of 2022:
Look at that I picked two AEW guys even though I feel its been a down year for the company. Roman Reigns would also be a good choice, but he doesn’t really get the heel heat he used to these days. Fans have embraced or… acknowledged him. He’s a heel but he’s not really hated anymore.
MJF has been one of the brighter spots of AEW in 2022. His promos have been great and the year ended with him becoming the world champion. MJF is one you could also argue has lost his heel edge lately with more fans cheering him, but he’s still very much a heel and 2022 has been a good year for him and his making a mark on the wrestling business.
Its tough to pick one for this since both WWE and AEW have bloated rosters. I went with Ricochet because I feel like WWE could be doing more with him. Not more as in a big push and make him world champion. No… No no… More as in he could be the best mid-show wrestler they’ve had in a long time.
If I booked Smackdown, I’d make sure Ricochet had a high flying match every week. Keep the promos to a minimum. He’s not a good talker at all. Ricochet should just be like a mid-show fireworks show for the fans.
A fairly easy choice for me. Every time MJF talks, I feel I need to listen to it. You never know what he’s going to say or how far he will take it to get a response. I do feel he has become a bit tamer since his big promo on Dynamite back in June, but he is still the best talker in wrestling right now. He truly comes off as unfiltered… at least he did before he started doing this bullshit where he’s putting over Tony Khan to the live crowds to try and win back some cool points for him. If anything, if MJF wants to get some of those boos back, he should stop putting over Triple H and start putting over Tony Khan more.
Gunter – Intercontinental Champion
WWE Friday Night Smackdown
Promotion of the year:
This is an actual category, but if I was, like how it is for the Wrestling Observer, I’d vote for WWE. I’ll keep it simple. Smackdown has been my favorite televised wrestling show this year. Also, WWE’s ratings have gone a little up and AEW’s have gone a little down. WWE also had the best PPV this year. AEW has had some good PPV’s but the TV hasn’t been that great in my opinion.
Rampage is a nothing show. It was unnecessary in the first place and in 2022 it’s been a non-factor. Tony Khan bought ROH, but he’s such a mark for the company that he’s trying to keep it alive and what for? AEW fans want AEW and ROH fans don’t see this as truly being ROH so why even bother? Maybe it would have been better off it was just a tab on Peacock instead of overpaying for a dead wrestling promotion with a very small following just to make sure WWE didn’t get it. That right there is a total money mark move and don’t tell me otherwise. Now, Tony Khan doesn’t just have all these AEW shows to manage but is now trying to give ROH a pulse again.
And… hey for $10 a month you can watch 4 new ROH shows on their streaming service. Yeah. Good luck with that one in 2023, Tony. If he really feels there is value in the ROH name, he should have just used it as his answer to NXT, let someone else manage it, and just focus on Dynamite.
That along with a few PR disasters and Tony’s weird interviews over-exposing him as a bit of an unlikable rich kid mark has hurt AEW along with the on-screen content simply just not being as good as it was in late 2019 through 2020.
Then look at WWE. The whole Vince story could have destroyed them, but instead, Vince exiting the company is the best thing that could have happened. Lockerroom morale is the highest it’s been in many years and perhaps even decades and in 2022 you started to hear more and more wrestlers consider WWE an option over AEW. Something that simply did not happen between 2019 through 2021.
Again, opinions about the shows aside, one could just look at the numbers. WWE is on the rebound and AEW has been in a state of slow but steady decline. 2022 was WWE’s year.
Thanks again for reading, everyone. Aaron Rift removed the non-awards this year, which is a decision I mostly agree with. Awards should be a positive thing that you earn. Not a negative thing that is selected for you because of bad booking or just having an off year.
However… I’m going to insert one choice for the most overrated — Bray Wyatt. I already wrote my concerns about his return and I don’t feel like any one of my points has been proven wrong yet. Go read that piece to see what I’m talking about. He’s in this feud with LA Knight and Knight just comes off as so much cooler and fresher that I want to see him go over. Instead, it’s going to be the fat emo headcase and his dumbass imaginary friends. I’m so done with Bray Wyatt and he hasn’t even been back that long. People want to compare him to The Undertaker and what a fucking joke that is. If this were 20 years ago this piece of shit wouldn’t be any higher on the card than Mideon. Never mind Undertaker.
Happy new year, everyone. Best wishes for 2023 to you from me. Life is getting busier for me than is has been in recent years, but I’m going to try to stay regular with these columns and keep in touch with those of you who have stuck around.
All the best to you and NoDQ going into the new year. Take care and God bless.