Predicting What's Next for the Biggest Wrestling Free Agents in 2022
2021 has been a difficult year for wrestling. Some of WWE's most exciting modern performers were released for budget reasons, including Bray Wyatt, Braun Strowman, Ember Moon, Taya Valkyrie and more.
Ring of Honor will also close its doors for three months at the start 2022 and ended the contracts of talent such as Jonathan Gresham, Bandido and The Briscoe Brothers.
This has left 2022 as one of the most intriguing years in the industry.
It's possible the landscape of wrestling as we know it will change dramatically. WWE and All Elite Wrestling sit atop the pack, but there are many companies beyond them, from New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Impact Wrestling to National Wrestling Alliance and Game Changer Wrestling.
For now, though, with just the current talent and opportunities we know about, here are the expectations for some of the hottest free agents around the world in wrestling.
No Official Contracts Known
The former Bronson Reed cleared up his visa issues and immediately went to work. He has appeared for both New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Impact, though he does not have an official contract for either. He has a major feud building with Josh Alexander that could indicate he is most invested in Impact long-term.
Prediction: Signs with Impact officially in 2022.
The former Buddy Murphy has made a few big appearances, including facing Kazuchika Okada in NJPW during the G1 Climax winner's United States run. He has a chance to nail down his role by proving himself in great matches over the next few months.
Prediction: Spends 2022 working a variety of indies before earning a contract with NJPW.
Martinez has made several appearances with Impact, including challenging Mickie James for the Knockouts Championship, but she doesn't seem to have signed full-time. It is possible the veteran will continue to roam from promotion to promotion in search of fresh competition.
Prediction: Signs with Impact later in 2022.
Forging Their Own Path
No one has forged quite the unique path in wrestling as EC3 post-release. He has been telling his own stories on his own pay-per-views. It clearly has intrigued the former Braun Strowman, now The Titan, who has joined him going wherever he goes.
The two made an appearance at ROH Final Battle, and it looks like they will be indelibly linked no matter where they go next. It could be Impact. It could be AEW. It could be that EC3 continues to "free his narrative" on his own terms alongside The Titan.
Prediction: Remain free agents but make major appearances for Impact and NWA.
Matt Cardona/Chelsea Green
It feels only right in this group to shout out one of the most impressive free-agent runs of 2021. The former Zack Ryder has reinvented himself and is forging his own path. He could even be Impact or NWA world champion soon.
Green is engaged to Cardona and has clearly bought into his idea of taking over the independent scene. She has made appearances for ROH, Impact and NWA, with her eyes set on winning Impact gold recently.
Prediction: Remain free agents working any and all promotions, including winning gold in Impact and NWA.
ROH Contracts Ending
When ROH Final Battle went off the air, The Foundation stood tall. Gresham defeated Jay Lethal to win the "original" Ring of Honor World Championship. This was a celebratory but also somber moment as the end of the promotion as many know it.
Gresham's future is wide-open. His new promotion, Terminus Wrestling, which he will run alongside Baron Black, debuts on January 16 and includes wrestlers from many different promotions. He could choose to focus on his promotion or sign with a company that can help him build it, such as AEW.
Prediction: Focuses on Terminus but makes at least one appearance for AEW to face Bryan Danielson.
The former ROH champion was unable to face Gresham at Final Battle after testing positive for COVID-19 before the event. Still, Bandido remains one of the biggest stars leaving the promotion.
He is the kind of talent whom both NJPW and AEW will be looking at closely. His next big wrestling date is set for Terminus, which could be an opportunity for him and Gresham to put their names out there.
Prediction: Signs with NJPW in early 2022.
The Briscoe Brothers
Given that AEW's FTR immediately challenged The Briscoe Brothers at ROH Final Battle after Jay and Mark Briscoe won the ROH Tag Team Championships for the 12th time, it looks like the Briscoes will be joining a loaded AEW tag team division before long.
Prediction: Sign with AEW as early as their contracts allow.
While ROH was not known for its women's division, Rok-C established herself as the first and perhaps only ROH women's world champion. At Final Battle, Deonna Purrazzo challenged her to a future title match, so she could be headed to Impact or AAA to fight The Virtuosa.
Prediction: Signs with Impact by mid-2022.
Many could be argued to be the hottest free agent on the open market, but few have a resume that can match Johnny Wrestling's. The Rebel Heart put NXT on his back and brought the third brand to the brink of relevancy before WWE smacked it down.
His ability in the ring is unquestioned, and he showed his adaptability by changing with the evolution of NXT. WWE values him, but looking to the open market suggests he is open to finding the best deal possible. AEW is likely to give the most comparable offer, so it will be down to Gargano to decide between them.
Prediction: Re-signs with WWE after taking time off to spend with his new child.
Undisputed Era dominated NXT for a long time, and KOR was a stalwart of the group. When it broke apart, it was important that he got his time to shine after spending much of his career working under Adam Cole.
However, he was lost in the shuffle as most of Undisputed Era left NXT. With Bobby Fish waiting in AEW, it seems the perfect time to reform reDRagon, or even add Cole to the mix for a new UE run.
Prediction: Signs with AEW before the end of 2021.
While Kross and Scarlett did not have the same impact on NXT as the two names above, they did make a mark in the final days of the original brand. The Herald of Doomsday is likely to demand a high price following a dominant run in WWE, so that may price everyone but AEW out of fully signing him.
However, with how much talent is on the market, AEW may not be interested. If nothing else, both could have a future in Hollywood. According to Fightful Select, Kross has already been cast for a lead role in an action movie (h/t SEScoops).
Prediction: Work the independent scene and test the waters in Hollywood throughout 2022.
Recent WWE Women's Division Releases
The release of The War Goddess was a major shock late in the year. The 33-year-old was putting on reliably decent matches in NXT, but her release seemingly came down to budget cuts. As a solid veteran and a self-professed nerd, AEW is the perfect destination for Moon, fitting a similar mold to Ruby Riott.
Prediction: Signs with AEW in early 2022.
Valkyrie's brief run in NXT as Franky Monet was a flop because WWE never knew how to use her, but she's the type of talent every company should crave. She was a very important part of the Knockouts division in Impact, and she is a stalwart of AAA. Both will be happy to bring her back.
Prediction: Works as a top free agent in Impact, AAA and NWA.
After three ACL injuries, Tegan Nox went through far too much only to get released the moment she made it to the main roster in WWE. She was well-liked by many and is still only 27 years old, and there will likely be a bidding war for her services. AEW will surely bid high for a talent of her caliber.
Prediction: Signs with AEW after testing the independent scene.
Another great female talent, Yim is a 12-year veteran with a proven track record. It will likely come down to AEW, Impact or NWA given their women's divisions, and perhaps she will end up going where fiance Keith Lee goes.
Prediction: Tests the independent scene before signing with AEW.
Recent WWE Releases: Men
Wyatt was made in WWE, building a legacy as a charismatic storyteller with a unique mind for the business. His friend and special-effects collaborator, Jason Baker, told Alistair McGeorge of Metro that he had been working on a horror film with Wyatt that would start production at the end of November.
While Wyatt could attempt to get a foot in the door in Hollywood, wrestling is in his blood. It's unlikely he will abandon it. AEW is the only company with the kind of spotlight that could utilize his unique storytelling skills fully.
Prediction: After some convincing from Tony Khan into 2022, AEW signs Wyatt to a massive deal.
Morrison is a journeyman who has worked for just about every major promotion in the world. He could sign with any major company, but he and wife Taya Valkyrie have an opportunity to work wherever they want. If he signs anywhere, Impact would be the most obvious answer.
Prediction: Morrison takes the free-agent route, working multiple top promotions.
The Limitless One is an unbelievable talent. He signed with WWE in 2018 at a time when far fewer competitors were in the market for talent. Now he enters it as a unique big man with insane athleticism. The fit with AEW feels perfect, though he should test the water to find his fit.
Prediction: Tests the independent scene before signing with AEW by late 2022.
Isaiah 'Swerve' Scott
Just as Scott was beginning to take the next step to stardom with Hit Row, the rug was pulled out from under him. He is the type of talent who defines the business, and there is certain to already be a major bidding war for his talent.
It appears he already has friends in AEW, and that is the company that will be willing to pay the most for his services. It seems like an obvious fit.
Prediction: Signs with AEW as soon as he is able.