WWE's Best Wrestler of 2022 So Far, Wardlow as AEW TNT Champion, More Quick Takes
From controversies and suspensions to potential departures and injures, it was a certainly a week to remember in wrestling—and one that will have important implications for a long time to come.
Despite Vince McMahon voluntarily stepping down as CEO and chairman of WWE on Friday until the investigation pertaining to his alleged executive misconduct concludes, nothing is expected to change creatively. That much was apparent at the end of SmackDown when Brock Lesnar returned yet again to confront Roman Reigns and rekindle that rivalry for the umpteenth time.
WWE should be using this time as an opportunity to experiment with new stars and storylines instead of sticking to the status quo. That said, even with several names out injured for the foreseeable future, a core group of elite athletes remain and one in particular has done an exceptional job of elevating the product all 2022 long.
Meanwhile in All Elite Wrestling, the road to Forbidden Door is reaching a fever pitch, though some of the most interesting angles right now have nothing to do with the event itself. Christian Cage's heel turn on Jungle Boy, which went down Wednesday night, is a prime example of that.
This installment of Quick Takes will look at the brilliant execution of Christian's betrayal, Wardlow setting his sights on TNT title gold, Happy Corbin potentially kicking off a feud with Pat McAfee, and more.
Friday's SmackDown Further Proves WWE Is Content with Resting on Its Laurels
It wasn't long after news broke about Vince McMahon temporarily giving up the reins of WWE on Friday (but not creative control) that it was also announced he'd be appearing on SmackDown later in the night.
This was the same show headlined by a rare Undisputed WWE Universal Championship defense from Roman Reigns. Instead of ushering in any change whatsoever, this episode instead reinforced that WWE is adamant about not diverting from the status quo even in uncertain times.
McMahon saying absolutely nothing of note should have been expected but was still disappointing, and the return of Brock Lesnar at the end of the evening encapsulated everything that is wrong with the current WWE product.
Lesnar vs. Reigns ran its course months (if not years) ago, yet the company insists on continuing to book them in matches together because of the "box office" appeal. The problem is that no one else on the roster can remotely come close to their level if they're not afforded an opportunity to even try.
Injuries and other setbacks are bound to happen, but it's how the company reacts that makes or breaks the product. Sadly, it's so far failed to capitalize on these circumstances and has been content with coasting until the conditions improve on their own instead of making the brands the best they can be in the meantime.
Christian Cage's Heel Turn Was Long Overdue Yet Perfectly Executed
Despite largely being beloved by the crowd during their lengthy reign as AEW world tag team champions, Jurassic Express had a relatively uninteresting run due to never being the focal point of the division.
Rather, it seemed as if the attention was almost anyone else: The Young Bucks, FTR and even reDRagon. So, it was the right call to have them lose the titles to the Bucks on Wednesday's Dynamite, especially now it allows the Jungle Boy vs. Christian Cage program to finally get underway.
The veteran had been teasing a turn on Jungle Boy for quite a while, and he's only become more of a mentor to him on screen since then. Thus, that long wait for his betrayal made the moment that much more meaningful, and its execution was fantastic.
Although Christian managing Jurassic Express for nearly a year was always meant to culminate in the fashion it did, it took him out of the ring for a significant amount of time. Now he'll have a chance to actually "outwork everyone" (as the slogan on his shirt suggests) and not be relegated to the sidelines.
The Instant Classic has traditionally been better as a heel than as a babyface, so he's in the right role heading into this rivalry with his former protege. If booked properly, this can be what takes Jungle Boy to the next level.
Wardlow Should Salvage the AEW TNT Championship
It isn't a stretch to say that the AEW TNT Championship has never meant less than it does right now.
That's entirely due to how it's been handled since the start of the year. The interim title nonsense with Sammy Guevara and Cody Rhodes served no purpose, Scorpio Sky's reigns have been forgettable, and the crowd turning on The Spanish God hardly helped.
There is little value in holding that title at the moment, so while Wardlow winning it may sound strange, it would actually be the best thing for the belt.
He's teased contending for the championship in recent months and rightfully so. MJF cost him the title in March in a match against Sky, and it would make storyline sense for him to avenge that loss sooner rather than later.
Wardlow has wisely been protected as of late and has been perceived as one of AEW's most important prospects. He isn't quite ready for the main event spotlight just yet, but a dominant run with the TNT title would boost his stock and could do wonders for the championship itself as well.
Happy Corbin vs. Pat McAfee Program Has Potential
Happy Corbin doesn't often get the credit he deserves for being the quintessential heel.
Booking is to blame for some of his characters not being the most exciting, but he's the perfect foil for any popular babyface if the storyline makes sense and the two have quality chemistry together in the ring.
That could soon prove to be the case with him and Pat McAfee if what happened on Friday's SmackDown between the two was any indication.
Corbin was fresh off his latest loss to Madcap Moss when he decided to channel some of his frustrations toward the beloved announcer. McAfee responded with a few verbal shots of his own before leading the entire crowd in laughing the heel out of the arena.
Their quick interaction may well end up meaning nothing, but it would be an intriguing next program for Corbin if WWE decides to go in that direction. Plus, McAfee's performance at WrestleMania 38 was impressive, and fans wouldn't mind seeing a sequel at SummerSlam.
Regardless of who wins or loses, Corbin and McAfee could bring the best out of each other and breathe new life into SmackDown with their program.
Seth Rollins Just May Be WWE's Best Wrestler of 2022 So Far
Seth Rollins should be considered the best all-around performer for WWE in the first half of 2022, and that's in spite of him not winning at a single pay-per-view since Survivor Series last November.
The resume of matches he's put together in the last six months has been second to none. In addition to his excellent outing with AJ Styles on a recent episode of Raw, he's also ripped it up with the likes of Cody Rhodes (stealing the show on three straight PPVs), Roman Reigns, Randy Orton and Kevin Owens, among others. Now it appears Riddle is up next.
His character work has been especially stellar this year, and the only thing missing from his evolution has been a babyface turn. Surely that's coming in the not-too-distant future (since fans are ready to embrace him again anyway), but until then, he's been holding down the fort on Raw as the de facto top heel.
Despite suffering three losses to Rhodes, it's still going to be interesting to see where WWE goes with The Visionary from here with Riddle and how it ties into the Money in the Bank briefcase if at all. That's a testament to the talent of Rollins and his ability to lose nothing in defeat at this point.
Several others have come close to laying claim to the title of WWE MVP in 2022 so far, but Rollins hitting this sort of stride after almost a decade on the main roster is truly remarkable. With that being said, the best may be yet to come.