WWE 2022 Awards for Best Match, Wrestler, Tag Team, PPV, Storyline, Promo and Moment

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured Columnist IVDecember 29, 2022

WWE 2022 Awards for Best Match, Wrestler, Tag Team, PPV, Storyline, Promo and Moment

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    Fans are still buzzing about the barn burner between Sheamus and Gunther from Clash at the Castle all these months later.
    Fans are still buzzing about the barn burner between Sheamus and Gunther from Clash at the Castle all these months later.Credit: WWE.com

    The level of excitement surrounding the WWE product has skyrocketed from where it was at the onset of the year for a variety of reasons, most notably because of the major shift in power behind the scenes with Triple H taking over for Vince McMahon.

    While far from perfect, both Raw and SmackDown have shown noticeable improvement from a quality standpoint since the summer. Triple H has done an effective job of fixing many of McMahon's biggest wrongs, including bringing back many familiar faces into the fold.

    However, that isn't to say WWE wasn't completely uneventful prior to The Game taking the reins. In fact, 2022 will likely go down as one of the company's most monumental ever, especially from an on-air standpoint with everything that happened.

    From superb pay-per-views to outstanding action to shocking moments, it was a year to remember. Of course, 2023 will have a tough time topping it, but the top takeaway from 2022 is that virtually anything can happen.

    Let's look back at the year that was for WWE and recognize all of the excellence it had to offer.

Best Moment: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin Makes In-Ring Return (WrestleMania 38)

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    When 2022 got underway, it's safe to say no one had "Stone Cold" Steve Austin stepping back in the ring for a full-length match on their WWE bingo card for the year.

    The Texas Rattlesnake last laced up his boots in 2003 before riding off into the sunset. He's gotten physical and has delivered more than a few Stunners since then, but the idea of him ever wrestling again appeared to be off the table.

    That was, however, until WrestleMania 38.

    Rumors ran rampant heading into the event indicating that it was at least considered a possibility internally. Even after Kevin Owens outright invited him to appear at WrestleMania, no one knew for sure what Austin planned to do at WrestleMania until it actually arrived.

    WWE could have easily had him lay out Owens on his own talk show, drink a beer or two and call it a night. Instead, he went so far as to accept an impromptu challenge from Owens to face him in a No Holds Barred match that lasted almost 15 minutes.

    He took more bumps than expected and looked like the Austin of old, jean shorts and all. It was a magical moment in a packed house in his home state of Texas. You couldn't script a better sendoff for such an iconic figure, especially considering this one took place on his terms.

Breakout Star of the Year: Logan Paul

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    Bestowing this award to Austin Theory or a Liv Morgan would be perfectly acceptable considering their respective rises to super stardom in 2022, but no one came into their own as a performer and adapted to the spotlight this year quite like Logan Paul.

    Paul previously appeared for WWE in 2021, but it wasn't until WrestleMania 38 that he finally made his official in-ring debut for a midcard match with The Miz against The Mysterios. The build was fairly simple, and Paul wasn't expected to do anything out of the ordinary.

    Despite that, he exceeded all expectations with the stellar showing he had and wound up winning. That was only the beginning of the breakout year he had, which also included besting Miz in a super fun match at SummerSlam and challenging Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship at Crown Jewel.

    Say what you will about the social media guru and how he conducts himself, but when that bell rings, he doesn't look out of place and his athleticism whenever he's on offense is always impressive. He even finished his main event match with Reigns while knowingly injured.

    Look for Paul to be back in the not-too-distant future a bigger and better star than he was previously. He has a real knack for wrestling and can go far if he decides to dedicate his life to it eventually.

Best Return: Cody Rhodes (WrestleMania 38)

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    The idea that Cody Rhodes, one of the founding fathers of All Elite Wrestling, would be back in WWE at this time a year ago would have been unfathomable.

    Even as talk heated up of Rhodes' AEW contract expiring in early 2022, it still seem far-fetched he would leave considering he had no real reason to. In mid-February, he quietly exited in shocking fashion and let speculation run wild regarding his wrestling future.

    All signs pointed to him being the mystery opponent for Seth Rollins at WrestleMania 38. Not only did WWE lean into it by teasing a Rhodes return on television, they delivered the ultimate 'Mania moment and in spectacular fashion.

    Rhodes emerged from the ramp at the event with the exact presentation he had the last time fans saw him in AEW mere months earlier. The reaction was raucous because fans in attendance knew what they were seeing was special.

    Everything about it was exceptionally executed, right down to the instant classic he had with Rollins. He came off like an absolute star that night and set the tone for the hot run that would follow.

Best Promo: Bray Wyatt Addresses the Audience (SmackDown, Oct. 14)

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    WWE wasn't without its talented talkers in 2022, but with one promo, Bray Wyatt managed to capture the attention of the entire WWE fan base.

    The White Rabbit viral marketing campaign was handled practically perfectly. It gave fans more of an incentive to tune into Raw and SmackDown to find clues they could decipher to determine who the mystery vignettes were supposed to be for.

    Wyatt was the odds-on favorite, but fans couldn't be too sure until they saw him live and in living color at Extreme Rules. The return itself was wonderful and closed out the event with an incredible cliffhanger, but all eyes were on what he'd do or say in his first appearance back on SmackDown.

    The promo he cut on the Oct. 14 edition of SmackDown was unlike anything we had heard from him before. He spoke straight from the heart, acknowledged the audience and his own absence and essentially sent the message he had changed.

    For the first time ever, he wasn't playing a character, and it was riveting television.

    His emotional monologue was cryptically cut short by a mysterious masked figure that popped up on the Titantron halfway through. His mic work has since become competitive and his feud with LA Knight has begun to drag, but it's not impossible for his run to be redeemed seeing as how it got off to such a stellar start with this masterpiece of a promo.

Best Storyline: Sami Zayn Joins The Bloodline

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    Had it not been for Sami Zayn, there's a good chance the Bloodline saga would have grown and stayed stale many months ago.

    Roman Reigns' run felt like it peaked at WrestleMania 38 when he bested Brock Lesnar to become the undisputed WWE universal champion. There was no more mountain left for him to climb and there weren't many compelling challengers waiting in the wings, either.

    Enter Zayn.

    It was only a few weeks removed from WrestleMania that he became an unofficial scout for the stable and started to do anything he could to get in their good graces. The angle escalated when Reigns deemed him the "Honorary Uce" in September and accepted his assistance.

    Zayn's work alongside the group since then has been masterful and consistently one of the best parts of WWE programming. He's shown unbelievable range as a character and has brought the best out of everyone involved.

    The endgame will obviously see Zayn get exiled and likely beaten down in brutal fashion, but WWE has been wise to milk this for all it's worth and tell a sensational story in the process. It's undoubtedly some of the strongest long-term storytelling the company has done in decades.

Rivalry of the Year: Seth Rollins vs. Cody Rhodes

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    As previously noted, Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins tore the house down on Night 1 of WrestleMania 38. What made the match more impressive is that there was no established bad blood between them, so they largely had to tell a story on the fly.

    That wasn't the case in the rematch at WrestleMania Backlash. Rollins wanted to prove that he could win with enough preparation and that he was superior to Rhodes. Once again, though, Rhodes emerged victorious, this time by holding onto Rollins' tights. However, turnabout is fair play, and with Rollins being ready to cheat right before that, the fans were fine with Rhodes playing that same game with him and scoring a second straight win.

    Rollins proceeded to go off the deep end and grew desperate to avenge those losses. The only way they could settle their score was inside Hell in a Cell, and even with a legitimately torn pectoral muscle, The American Nightmare pulled out the clean sweep in what was a grueling display of heart and fortitude.

    Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar and Becky Lynch vs. Bianca Belair were also engaging feuds, but both had their best moments in 2021. Gunther vs. Sheamus is a solid choice as well for as long as it lasted, but Rhodes and Rollins carried Raw for a two-month stretch post-WrestleMania and hit every note with their tremendous trilogy of matches.

Best PPV: WrestleMania 38

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    The returns of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin to the ring and Cody Rhodes to WWE alone make WrestleMania 38 the best pay-per-view of the year, but the rest of the card was filled out extremely well on Night 1 and on Night 2.

    In addition to the obvious with Austin and Rhodes, Night 1 also featured the best match of the weekend between Becky Lynch and Bianca Belair for the Raw Women's Championship. It was an awesome encounter that saw Belair reign supreme to become the new champ.

    Although Charlotte Flair vs. Ronda Rousey underwhelmed, Drew McIntyre vs. Happy Corbin was better than it had any right to be given the subpar build, and Logan Paul's in-ring debut alongside The Miz against The Mysterios went off without a hitch.

    Night 2 wasn't as critically acclaimed but still featured a few gems, most notably Sami Zayn vs. Johnny Knoxville in an Anything Goes match, a terrific Raw Tag Team Championship Triple Threat match, Edge vs. AJ Styles and Pat McAfee vs. Austin Theory.

    WWE had a terrific track record when it came to their premium live events in 2022. The only other event to come close to 'Mania was Clash at the Castle, which was WWE's first major overseas pay-per-view in almost exactly three decades. That, too, was a phenomenal piece of business.

Best Tag Team: The Usos

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    Within the confines of WWE, The Usos were the greatest tag team of the year, and no one else comes close.

    RK-Bro and Alpha Academy ripped it up in the Raw tag team division in the first half of the year, and both tandems deserve their props. They had some fun matches together and were responsible for a number of entertaining segments on Raw as well.

    That said, The Usos' resume of matches in 2022 speaks for itself, in addition to how they never gave up their grasp on gold.

    They dominated as SmackDown tag team champions before unifying the titles with the Raw Tag Team Championships in May. From there, they ran roughshod over WWE's entire tag team scene and knocked back every pair of contenders who stepped up for an opportunity.

    Their long list of fallen victims include The Mysterios, The Street Profits (with whom they had one of the best bouts all year at Money in the Bank), The New Day, The Brawling Brutes, Hit Row and plenty of other makeshift duos.

    Throw in how they also broke New Day's record as the longest-reigning tag team champs in WWE history, and there can be no question why this award belongs to them.

Best Match: Gunther vs. Sheamus (Clash at the Castle 2022)

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    On paper, Gunther vs. Sheamus sold itself. It didn't need an elaborate build because the mere idea of them sharing a idea and battering each other with stiff shots was enough to get WWE fans excited.

    Sure enough, it was everything you could have hoped it would be and then some.

    The Cardiff crowd at Clash at the Castle provided the perfect atmosphere as they were rowdy throughout and into all of the action. Sheamus was wildly over, Gunther was a brilliant foil for him, and all of Imperium reuniting beforehand was the icing on the cake.

    The audience wanted to see nothing more than Sheamus get his moment and win the Intercontinental Championship for the first time in his career. He came close but ultimately fell short, which resulted in a disappointed crowd once it was over.

    The standing ovation Sheamus received afterward was well deserved and seemed to plant the seeds for a future match. They had one more encounter on SmackDown in October that was also top-notch, but the original remains superior.

    These two could very well fight forever and no one would complain.

Best Wrestler: Bianca Belair

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    Roman Reigns can top anyone's list for WWE's Wrestler of the Year and it wouldn't be wrong. Seth Rollins is a fine choice as well given his run of matches.

    But Bianca Belair has had a more impressive 2022 than either of them.

    For all the high-profile matches he's had, Reigns wasn't active enough to justify him getting this spot. As for Rollins, not often lately has he won when it has mattered most, so perhaps he'll win the award once he's a more prominent player.

    Belair's stint in the women's Royal Rumble match in January was a whopping 47 minutes long, and she bounced back from losing by coming out on top inside the Elimination Chamber to challenge Becky Lynch for the Raw Women's Championship at WrestleMania 38.

    The reign she's had since then has been nothing short of remarkable.

    Her various matches with Lynch have all been great, she and Asuka took it to another level, she defeated Carmella and Sonya Deville multiple times, and her hardcore battles with Bayley pushed the limit of what the women in WWE are capable of.

    Amazingly, she's still as over with the audience as ever and has had some commendable character work as well. She has been the female face of WWE all year long and has represented the company with pride.

    What's scary is that this is only the beginning for Belair and the first of many more awards to come in her career.

    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.