Bold Predictions for AEW and WWE in 2022
2021 was anything but predictable in professional wrestling, which means 2022 could be just as much of a fiasco.
Nevertheless, there are some trends that look set to continue, as well as some ideas hinted at that may take place over the coming months.
With a little educated guesswork and a lot of speculation, let's gaze into our crystal balls and toss out some bold predictions for what's to come out of All Elite Wrestling and WWE in 2022.
WWE Will Be Up for Sale
WWE released nearly half its roster in 2021 alone as well as countless other employees behind the scenes. The general reason for these decisions from the company has been budget cuts, with no other elaboration.
Since WWE reports record profits every quarter, it has become increasingly more suspicious why costs have been trimmed over and over. Even at the expense of the on-screen product that is struggling in the ratings, knowing full well the morale is getting worse, WWE keeps doing it.
There has to be a reason, and it's looking more and more as though the cause could be that WWE is gearing itself up for a sale.
The higher WWE can inflate its numbers, the better the company looks on paper for any potential buyers, which will drive up the asking price.
Most interested parties won't likely be avid viewers of the programming and will have no idea how bad it's been lately. They'll simply look at the business assets, the name recognition of WWE and all the facts and figures before making their offers.
In 2022, the boldest prediction of all would be that, much like the random announcement of the Peacock deal for 2021, WWE will simply announce it has officially been in talks to sell, if not been outright sold.
Watch out for Comcast, by way of NBCUniversal, to be the most likely buyer as it has had a long history with WWE via USA Network and now with Peacock.
Shockingly, Even More Releases
Speaking of those releases, every time a new group gets fired, fans are left wondering how WWE could possibly afford to lose even more wrestlers. The list of Superstars gets whittled down more and more to the point where it's impossible for WWE to hold a women's Royal Rumble in 2022 without depending heavily on NXT and bringing in outsiders.
Still, somehow, it's probably going to continue.
That's been the most consistent thing in 2021: a new set of releases every couple of weeks.
Over 86 people were fired, averaging out to one-and-a-half per week, even though they've been mostly announced in groups.
Considering WWE fired people en masse on April 15 two years in a row, it's worth predicting the same day will be another set of releases. April 15, 2022 could spell the end of a dozen or so careers with the company, sadly.
Black Wednesday could be WWE's philosophy going forward well into the future, where everyone will be hoping for that WrestleMania payday and crossing their fingers they aren't part of the annual spring cleaning that immediately follows.
Tony Khan Will Drop Some Wrestlers, but Hire Many More
A good number of AEW stars signed three-year contracts when the company started in 2019, meaning they will be up for renewal or departures at various points this year.
Lance Archer is among the first with his deal up in February. Joey Janela's deal expires in May.
Tony Khan is nowhere near as trigger-happy to fire people as Vince McMahon has been. While WWE let go nearly 100 wrestlers alone, AEW only saw one true member of the roster leave in 2021: Big Swole. There have been other departures previously, but Awesome Kong was already more of a coach, Ivelisse wasn't a regular performer and Shanna was barely there.
However, Khan may look at someone like Jack Evans and think he's not proved himself worth the investment to continue. People like Sonny Kiss and Peter Avalon, who have become less featured in recent months, may not be safe.
Likewise, Khan knows there are some major players up for the taking now and in the coming months. Free agents from WWE like Johnny Gargano and Bray Wyatt, plus potentially more who are released or leave in 2022, and wrestlers from the now on-hiatus or possibly defunct Ring of Honor could be in his sights.
It stands within reason Khan would let go more of the AEW roster in 2022 than ever before in order to make room for signing others whom he feels will bring more to the table.
WWE Will Get Rid of the Cruiserweight Division and Rename 205 Live
Joe Gacy's short feud with Roderick Strong for NXT WarGames called attention to something that has been a long time coming, which is the dismantling of the cruiserweight division.
McMahon has never had much patience for tag team wrestling, but he's clearly had even less of an admiration for the cruiserweight division. At least the tag teams have always stayed active, even if there have only been a handful of teams available.
By contrast, the Light Heavyweight Championship and subsequent Cruiserweight Championship came in as focal points but quickly turned into afterthoughts. Eventually, Hornswoggle was the last champion before it was retired.
The same pattern is repeating itself. With the Cruiserweight Classic and a new title lineage, the modern-day WWE Cruiserweight Championship started off with a bang. 205 Live was a show dedicated entirely to that division.
The cruiserweights soon found themselves on Raw, then no longer appearing on pay-per-views, followed by being rechristened as part of the NXT brand.
Now, 205 Live hasn't been live for months and has stopped featuring wrestlers under 205 pounds. It's just an extra show for random NXT talent, much in the same vein as Main Event is for Monday Night Raw Superstars.
Gacy called for the end of the weight limit, gender specificity and for the name 205 Live to be changed. While he didn't win the title at WarGames, Roderick Strong lifted the weight limit for his title, anyway.
Now, Strong is set to face NXT North American champion Carmelo Hayes at New Year's Evil for a title unification, which indicates the endgame.
Not only will the cruiserweight title be tossed aside when Hayes wins, but a follow-up will be WWE renaming 205 Live to something like NXT Evolve to officially kill the division.
AEW Will Introduce Trios Titles
A trios championship has been teased since essentially the start of AEW, but nothing has come about quite yet.
2022 is the year, though. After the TBS Championship has had some time in the spotlight and is properly settled in, AEW will announce a tournament to crown the inaugural champions.
For an added prediction, the finale will take place in the summer at one of the special television episodes, Fyter Fest or Fight for the Fallen.
The first champions could be SuperKliq (or Adam Cole with Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly), Jurassic Express, Death Triangle or Best Friends (Chuck Taylor, Trent and Orange Cassidy).
Adam Cole Will Split from the Elite
Nothing lasts forever, including professional wrestling factions. Even the best of the best like D-Generation X and The Four Horsemen break up.
The Elite had a powerful year in 2021 with The Young Bucks capturing the AEW World Tag Team Championships and Kenny Omega reigning supreme as AEW world champion for many months. The group was at its largest so far, too, with The Good Brothers making appearances, Don Callis, Brandon Cutler and Michael Nakazawa backing everyone up and Adam Cole joining his friends while bringing Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly in as associates by proxy.
If Roderick Strong joins AEW and aligns himself with his former Undisputed Era brethren, The Elite will be too big to sustain itself for the long term, much in the way the nWo had to split in WCW.
It makes the most sense for Cole to be the leader of the offshoot with O'Reilly and Fish (with or without Strong) by his side to contend with Omega and The Young Bucks.
In 2022, it will be too hard to find groups that can contend with something as large and numerous as The Elite, so AEW will have to break it in half.
Dominik Mysterio Will Turn Heel on His Father and Unmask Him
Several months back, Dominik and Rey Mysterio were doing well together. They captured the SmackDown Tag Team Championships and were having the time of their lives.
The past few months, though, have been a bumpier ride.
While it hasn't been as much of a focal point lately, there were several weeks where Dominik continued to lose or cost his father a victory, leading to arguments. Dominik felt his dad was smothering him, while Rey argued he was just teaching and Dominik wasn't listening.
This will eventually rear its ugly head once more, and it will lead to their downfall in 2022.
At some point this year, Dominik will turn heel on his father and start a feud with him. During that feud, he'll unmask Rey as the ultimate sign of disrespect.
This could even lead to Dominik wearing the mask or a variation of it to mock his father, or that can come about later on after they've resolved their issues.
Elimination Chamber Will Take Place in Saudi Arabia
WWE previously ran commercials teasing the next upcoming pay-per-views, featuring Day 1, Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania 38. Since then, nothing has happened to confirm the presence of Elimination Chamber.
The current lineup of pay-per-views has lots of unnamed events, but they're all given dates and venues, such as the May 8 show at Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.
As it stands, nothing is announced for February or March. That's suspicious, as that's traditionally where Elimination Chamber is placed to either act as a way to crown a No. 1 contender, or for the champions to go through a gauntlet to test their merit before defending their titles at The Grandest Stage of Them All.
There is a strong chance this February or March event was taken off the calendar because it will be replaced with another Saudi Arabia show—likely the return of Super ShowDown. Every one of those pay-per-views has been shrouded in some mystery until just before the event, sometimes with the date and venue not being advertised until days away.
Considering every Saudi Arabia show has had some sort of gimmick attached to it (Greatest Royal Rumble, World Cup, King of the Ring and Queen's Crown tournaments, etc.) WWE may hold the Elimination Chamber there to make it an even bigger spectacle.
Miscellaneous Smaller Predictions
Rounding out this list are some smaller predictions that are worth a quick honorable mention:
- Seth Rollins will turn babyface later in the year to be one of the bigger rivals for Roman Reigns.
- Goldberg will be fed to Reigns, too. It may happen at Elimination Chamber or later in the year after WrestleMania, but The Tribal Chief will have his previously scheduled match with Goldberg in 2022.
- Despite being opposite heel and face, finally, Bobby Lashley still won't get his desired match with Brock Lesnar.
- Nor will Riddle get a match with Lesnar or Goldberg. He will, however, face Randy Orton at WrestleMania 38 after RK-Bro drops the Raw Tag Team Championships around February.
- Bron Breakker will not only win the NXT Championship at New Year's Evil, but he'll also be rushed up to the main roster sooner rather than later. WWE will be impatient, and he'll be on Raw or SmackDown by SummerSlam.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.