Ranking the 10 Best WWE Men's Matches of 2022 so Far
Say what you will about the weekly WWE product, but there has been no shortage of exceptional in-ring action from the Superstars of SmackDown and Raw so far in 2022.
The pay-per-views in particular have featured some stellar wrestling this year. Many matches delivered across both nights of WrestleMania 38, and every event since then has had at least one or two barn burners.
What's interesting is that the WWE Championship and the Universal Championship haven't been frequently defended as of late because of Roman Reigns' waning schedule. The rest of the roster has more than made up for his absence by bringing the goods every time the bell rings.
The tremendous trilogy between Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins was a recurring highlight throughout the spring. Plus, tag team wrestling has been heating up again, largely thanks to RK-Bro and The Bloodline.
As we surpass the halfway mark of 2022, let's look back at WWE's 10 best men's matches of the year up to this point and what made each of these encounters so excellent.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Kevin Owens (WrestleMania 38)
While not a five-star mat classic, Stone Cold's return was exactly what it needed to be and then some. Few fans thought they'd ever see The Texas Rattlesnake lace up his boots again, but at 57 years old, he had an outstanding performance, and Owens was the perfect opponent for him.
RK-Bro vs. The Street Profits (Raw, May 9)
This clash was contested for the Raw Tag Team Championship and came at a time when Street Profits were portraying tweeners. That didn't hinder the audience's enjoyment of this outing whatsoever, however, as they had fantastic chemistry and produced a wildly entertaining affair.
Edge, Damian Priest and Rhea Ripley vs. AJ Styles, Finn Balor and Liv Morgan (Hell in a Cell)
The Edge vs. Styles storyline unfortunately didn't live up to the lofty hype, but it did feature some quality matches, with this one being the best of the bout. It was wonderfully paced, and all six stars had their time to shine. This was the swan song for this incarnation of Judgement Day before Edge was booted from the group on the next night's Raw.
Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens vs. The Usos (SmackDown, January 21)
Rollins and Owens were an awesome team for as long as their alliance lasted. Prior to Rollins' remarkable match with Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble, he and Owens first battled The Usos in a strong SmackDown main event and had the crowd very much behind them even as heels.
Pat McAfee vs. Austin Theory (WrestleMania 38)
Following McAfee's two critically-acclaimed matches in NXT, it was always more a matter of when and not if WWE would let him showcase his skills on the main stage. WrestleMania proved to be the best possible place for it to happen, and Theory sold his offense amazingly well. This was a blast from start to finish, and McAfee was a mega babyface in the building that night.
10. Sami Zayn vs. Johnny Knoxville (WrestleMania 38)
This is bound to be a polarizing entry considering it was less of a match and more of a spectacle, but it was arguably among the biggest highlights of either night of WrestleMania 38 and deserves recognition on this list.
Sami Zayn single-handedly carried the build to this bout in the leadup to WrestleMania 38. The idea of WWE extending his Royal Rumble program with the world-renowned Johnny Knoxville was initially laughable, but they exceeded all expectations with entertaining shenanigans.
Their Anything Goes match at 'Mania was pure chaos in the best way possible. It was essentially structured as a Handicap match with the entire cast of "Jackass" teaming up against Zayn, but Zayn made every single second of it work.
In the end, it was Knoxville who had his hand raised in victory, but Zayn is such a pro that he was no worse for it. This had no business being anywhere near as fun as it was.
9. Roman Reigns vs. Riddle (SmackDown, June 17)
Roman Reigns started to wrestle less and less on WWE TV once he regained the Universal Championship in August 2020, but now his appearances are far and few between thanks to his new Brock Lesnar-esque contract.
Thus, his defense of the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship on the June 17 edition of SmackDown felt like a special occasion. Riddle had his beef with The Bloodline and wanted to avenge them putting his partner Randy Orton on the shelf by taking Reigns' title from him.
It was tough to take Riddle seriously as a legitimate threat to the championship, but some of those nearfalls down the stretch were suspenseful, nonetheless. Riddle put his goofy demeanor aside and showed he has what it takes to be a main-event-level talent in WWE.
Reigns won with a swift spear in mid-air, but only after Riddle proved his worth in defeat. At a time where SmackDown could use all the help it can get, this was an exciting attraction that injected new life into the blue brand, if only for one week.
8. Big E vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens vs. Bobby Lashley (Day 1)
It's amazing how the addition of a single Superstar to a match can take it to that next level of excellence.
That isn't to say the originally-advertised Fatal 4-Way between Big E, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens and Bobby Lashley for the WWE Championship at Day 1 would have been subpar. However, Lesnar being thrown into the mix at the last minute after his previously scheduled opponent Roman Reigns had to miss the show certainly upped the stakes and made the outcome less predictable.
All of a sudden, there were several more matchups that were now possible involving Lesnar. Most notably, this gave fans the chance to witness him and Lashley sharing the squared circle for the first time ever.
Their hoss fight was everything fans hoped it would be, and the rest of the match was exciting as well. It was all action for a full eight minutes, and everyone played their part perfectly.
The only two drawbacks were that it could have lasted longer and the finish that saw Lesnar pin Big E to take the title. Lesnar becoming champion was interesting, but the decisive loss marked the end of Big E's time as a main-eventer.
7. Alpha Academy vs. RK-Bro vs. Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens (Raw, March 7)
One of the sole advantages to Raw being a three-hour program is that it gives certain matches more time, which in turn can create classics.
This Triple Threat tag team match for the Raw Tag Team Championship from the March 7 edition of Raw could (and should) go down as one of the best Raw matches of the last decade.
RK-Bro, Alpha Academy and the duo of Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens had been at odds for months. All of their animosity came to a head in this pay-per-view-worthy encounter that embodies why tag team wrestling is so special.
The chemistry these six men had was off the charts. In the contest's closing moments, Randy Orton caught Chad Gable in a beautiful RKO mid-moonsault, and Riddle followed up with the victory soon after.
The crowd was elated to see the gold back in the grasp of the uber-popular RK-Bro, who have been responsible for elevating Raw's tag team division to heights it hadn't reached in years.
6. The Bloodline vs. Drew McIntyre and RK-Bro (WrestleMania Backlash)
There was a negative reaction from fans to the announcement that the WrestleMania Backlash main event would be a six-man tag team match, and understandably so.
To not put anything up for grabs a month removed from what was billed as the biggest main event in WrestleMania history for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship was a bit of a letdown. Despite that, the six-man tag team affair we ended up getting was terrific.
RK-Bro and The Usos were a few weeks away from unifying the tag titles, while Drew McIntyre was hot on the heels of Roman Reigns, so the match made sense. What made this matchup so great was the electric atmosphere and the big-fight-feel the fans in attendance gave it.
After starting out slow, they picked up the pace and captured the crowd in a frenzy. It could have gone either way, especially with one of The Usos taking the losing fall, but it was actually Reigns who laid out Riddle for the victory.
The Bloodline reigned supreme once more, and even if you weren't happy with the result, there was no denying that they closed out the show on a high note.
5. Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins (WrestleMania 38)
If anyone attempted to predict which performers would be a part of this list six months ago, surely Cody Rhodes' name would not have been mentioned considering where he was at that point.
Within a matter of minutes, he left the promotion he helped build from the ground up and journeyed back to where it all started for him. Having him return at WrestleMania 38 of all places (and saving it as a surprise) was the icing on the cake.
The stadium erupted when his "Kingdom" entrance music played, American Nightmare presentation and all. The match that followed between him and Seth Rollins was an absolute gem and served as an immediate example of what Rhodes is capable of to any unfamiliar fans.
It was the drama-filled wrestling clinic WrestleMania needed, and Rhodes emerged looking like a massive star. He couldn't have asked for a better homecoming.
4. The Usos vs. The Street Profits (Money in the Bank)
A last-minute addition to WWE's best bouts of 2022 so far, The Usos vs. The Street Profits from Saturday's Money in the Bank event was tag team wrestling at its finest.
This, of course, was not a first-time-ever encounter. Anyone who has been following the product in the last year is well aware that they already did battle over the SmackDown Tag Team Championship several times in late 2021.
They took their intensity up a notch at Money in the Bank and ultimately stole the show. The Usos dominated the early goings of the match, but once The Street Profits started fighting from underneath, the crowd came alive and rallied heavily behind the babyfaces.
This was an exceptional effort from both Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins, and The Usos were on their A-game as always. Street Profits came oh so close to dethroning the champs but fell short to The Usos' 1D finishing move.
Ford pointing out his shoulder was up during the referee's three-count should leave the door open for what should be an equally exhilarating rematch.
3. Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins (WrestleMania Backlash)
Coming out of WrestleMania 38, Seth Rollins claimed he only lost to the returning Cody Rhodes because he wasn't prepared for who his opponent would be.
In his mind, in order to determine who the superior Superstar truly was, they had to have a rematch at WrestleMania Backlash. Kicking off the show that night allowed them to set the bar so high that no one else would be able to top it.
Compared to their original encounter, this was a bit better paced and the audience was completely invested in the action because the shock of Rhodes being back had obviously worn off since early April.
It was just one thing after another, and they refused to slow down. They traded finishers several times over, but all it took was Rhodes holding the tights (after Rollins attempted the same) to secure that three count.
This was a wild ride and a beautifully crafted one at that. Rhodes scoring a second straight victory over Rollins on pay-per-view was impressive, but whether he could pull off the hat trick remained to be seen.
2. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins (Royal Rumble)
Before kicking off his feud with Cody Rhodes at WrestleMania, Seth Rollins first had his sights set on Roman Reigns and his Universal Championship at the onset of the year.
These two former Shield stablemates rekindled their rivalry when Rollins showed up on SmackDown and boasted about how Reigns could never beat him when it mattered most. All signs pointed to Reigns finally getting that elusive win over Rollins at the Royal Rumble, but Rollins won by disqualification instead.
This match featured one of the hottest crowds all year. The decision to have them open the event was a wise one because they were rowdy for everything they did, and every nearfall felt like it could end it.
Rollins' mind games as he dressed up in his old Shield garb and entered through the crowd Shield-style was what put this over the top. A clean finish likely would have earned this the top spot, so here's hoping it isn't long before we see them run it back.
1. Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins (Hell in a Cell)
The top spot can most definitely be debated, but it's hard to argue against it belonging to this storytelling masterpiece.
The first match was fantastic, and the rematch was somehow even stronger. But this outing was practically flawless. As soon as Cody Rhodes unveiled his torn pectoral muscle to the world, a hush came over the arena, with some fans in total disbelief that he opted to continue to compete despite the nature of the injury.
Rollins took full advantage of it throughout and nearly won, but Rhodes persevered and refused to give up. Let the record show that this took place inside Hell in a Cell and both men used the demonic structure to their advantage whenever possible.
Rhodes' injury only worsened as the match progressed, and Rollins was determined to extinguish his flame for good. Torn pec and all, Rhodes retaliated and connected with multiple Cross Rhodes for the emphatic victory.
It's still too early to say where it ranks among the best ever, but Rhodes' valiant performance that night solidified him even more of a star than he already was and guaranteed he'll be holding world title gold once he gets back.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.