Ranking the 4 Nominees For Best WWE Moment at 2022 ESPYs

Erik BeastonJuly 13, 2022

Ranking the 4 Nominees For Best WWE Moment at 2022 ESPYs

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    Photo credit should read AMER HILABI/AFP via Getty Images

    ESPN announced the final four contenders for its WWE Moment of the Year ESPY award Tuesday, and among them are three from the company's monumentally successful and momentous WrestleMania 38 weekend.

    The Undertaker's Hall of Fame induction, Steve Austin's trio of stunners and Cody Rhodes' return all made the cut, while Big E's emotional Money in the Bank cash-in rounded out the list.

    Which one should be the favorite to take home the hardware when the cable network presents its award ceremony on July 20 and which two that did not make the final four should have been stronger contenders?

    Let's take a look.

Should Have Been Contenders

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    Roman Reigns Unifies the WWE and Universal Championships (WrestleMania 38)

    Regardless of your opinion about WWE unifying its top titles or Reigns not appearing regularly to defend them, there is no denying that a title unification match in the main event of WrestleMania is a huge deal and probably should have been a stronger contender for the ESPY than it was.

    The Tribal Chief is the biggest star in WWE, and beating Brock Lesnar to bring both world titles together is a huge victory, the likes of which do not come around every day. It is almost a testament to the number of moments the company has presented over the last year that this one did not make the final four.


    Ronda Rousey Returns (Royal Rumble)

    The Baddest Woman on the Planet made her long-awaited return to WWE programming in January in the Royal Rumble, winning that 30-woman match and setting herself up for a WrestleMania showdown with Charlotte Flair.

    Everything that has followed it has been less-than-spectacular, but there is no taking away from the fact that Rousey's return following a three-year hiatus, and just four months after giving birth, was a huge moment in WWE's 2022.

4. Stone Cold Steve Austin Stuns Mr. McMahon, Theory and Pat McAfee at WrestleMania

2 of 5

    The story of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's WrestleMania 38 in relation to the ESPYs should have been his return to the ring for the first time in 19 years. His win over Kevin Owens in a surprisingly physical, legitimate main event match was an incredible moment and provided the audience something it was sure it would never see again.

    Instead, Austin's Stone Cold Stunners to Mr. McMahon, Theory and Pat McAfee made the final four contenders.

    In a world so obsessed with social media and things going viral, it is not a total surprise that voters chose that moment over Austin's in-ring return. It did feature the comically bad McMahon Stunner, Theory doing his best Scott Hall/The Rock impersonation with his selling of the move, and the exclamation point to McAfee's magical moment, all of which sparked conversation and delivered massive impressions during the show.

    Still, despite all of that, Austin's first match in 20 years absolutely should have been the choice here. The Stunners, while entertaining, are very easily the fourth-best of the available options.

3. Undertaker Inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame

3 of 5

    The Undertaker is the greatest character ever created by Vince McMahon and one of the most iconic Superstars in WWE history. His induction into the WWE Hall of Fame was always going to be a massive and emotional moment. When that time came on April 1, it did not disappoint.

    There were tears following a long embrace with McMahon at the beginning, laughs along the way and a deep appreciation for everything the fans, his boss and the industry had given him.

    It was the first time the man behind The Phenom let down his guard and, as Mark Calaway, let himself be vulnerable, humorous and the complete opposite of The Deadman. The fans ate it up, showering him with a thunderous ovation that lasted several minutes before he ever uttered a word.

    The unforgettable moment absolutely belongs on the list and would rank higher if it was not for the incredibly stiff competition at the top of the countdown.

2. Big E Cashes in Money in the Bank Briefcase and Wins the WWE Championship

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    For a decade, Big E built his star, first as a silent bodyguard for Dolph Ziggler, then an undefined singles star, before linking up with Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston and forming one of the greatest factions in WWE history, The New Day.

    His journey to the top of the company was not sudden nor overnight. It was arduous, with no guarantee that he would ever achieve the goal he had set for himself to become the world champion.

    Then came the 2021 Money in the Bank pay-per-view, his win in the namesake ladder match and the guaranteed title opportunity. After just over a month of holding the coveted briefcase, he cashed in on the September 13 episode of WWE Raw and defeated Bobby Lashley to win the elusive WWE Championship.

    It is fitting that the fans voted for his cash-in to be included among the nominees for this ESPY because it was those same fans who, along with E, Woods and Kingston, allowed The New Day to go from a failing gimmick to one of the hottest acts in the company.

    Click the video above. Watch the reaction to Big E's victory. Thousands of fans are on their feet, screaming and jumping for joy over the fact that one of the hardest-working guys in the company, with a personality larger than any of his biceps, had finally achieved the ultimate goal of winning the top prize in the company.

    Regardless of how the rest of the reign went (that is a whole other article for another time), there is no denying that Big E's monumental moment belongs on this list and would be the favorite to win the award was it not for one of the most unforgettable returns in modern WWE history.

1. Cody Rhodes Returns to WWE at WrestleMania

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    Cody Rhodes left WWE in 2016 to embark on a self-discovery of sorts. No longer content to be wasted by the company's creative processes and painfully unhappy with his situation, he turned to indie wrestling, Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro-Wrestling to grow, evolve and rediscover himself.

    Then, in 2018, he co-promoted All In and changed the wrestling world forever. A year later, he joined The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega and Tony Khan to create All Elite Wrestling. After three years of building that company into a legitimate No. 2 entity in the industry, Rhodes departed.

    On April 2 at WrestleMania 38, he returned home in a moment most expected but were never really ready for. "Wrestling has more than one royal family," played over the PA system, and the roar that rained down from the stands inside AT&T Stadium was deafening. The American Nightmare and grandson of a plumber made his way to the ring in the sort of homecoming reserved only for the very top stars in professional wrestling.

    The prodigal son returned, delivered a banger of a match against Seth Rollins and basked in the glory of the WWE fans, all of whom were extremely happy to have him back.

    Historically speaking, it was a massive comeback. For the two years prior, WWE had watched its former talent go to AEW and help make it into a wrestling powerhouse. To have one of that company's EVPs make the jump back to WWE was a massively important, historically significant moment the likes of which one will be hard-pressed to find any time soon.

    The moment, the fanfare and the overall importance of it help make Rhodes' return the frontrunner to win the ESPY, and deservedly so.

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