Predicting WWE and AEW Stars Who Will Win Titles in 2022December 29, 2021
Predicting WWE and AEW Stars Who Will Win Titles in 2022
Among the top questions heading into a new year for professional wrestling is which title reigns will come to an end and whom the next champions will be.
After all, aren't the belts what this is supposed to be about?
In 2021, AEW and WWE had not only a massive difference in their number of titles, but in title changes, too. AEW saw a grand total of seven new champions crowned, while WWE had 25 new 24/7 champions alone, with another 55 on top of that for the other titles.
Chances are there will be somewhere in that average range again for both companies in 2022, but who ends up carrying the straps is still up in the air.
Let's toss out some predictions for which AEW and WWE stars will capture a championship some time in the coming year.
If working alongside Vince McMahon has any benefits for Austin Theory, it should be that the boss gets to see firsthand that he is a major prospect for the future.
He has all the tools necessary and is young enough that WWE shouldn't be afraid to invest in him.
Theory should be giving them flashbacks to how things felt when Randy Orton was a rookie, so he should follow some of the similar paths to success, including winning some championships.
He's a perfect candidate to be the next United States champion whenever WWE wants to take the title off Damian Priest, but he could also work as part of a championship-winning tag team, too.
Raquel Gonzalez And/or Io Shirai
Every year, at least one major name from NXT should come up to the main roster to help out with the women's division. Developmental brands are supposed to make new stars. Once they reach that point, they should transition to Raw or SmackDown so they can compete at the next level.
It's long overdue for Io Shirai to make that jump, and Raquel Gonzalez is in a similar position. Both have held the NXT Women's Championship and now have nothing left to accomplish on that brand.
The key, though, isn't just to bring them up to Monday or Friday night and call it a day. They have to be booked as successful talent there, too.
The most efficient way to do that is to build them toward a title reign, similar to how Bianca Belair was able to ascend to the throne in 2021.
Both could be the next in line for Becky Lynch or Charlotte Flair, depending on WWE's priorities. It wouldn't be shocking at all to see Gonzalez, in particular, winning the Royal Rumble to go on to challenge for the Raw or SmackDown Women's Championship.
MJF hasn't technically won any championship yet in his AEW career unless you count the Dynamite Diamond Ring. It's not a belt, but it's treated as a high-profile acquisition nevertheless.
For three years in a row, he's won that. A fourth year is clearly not out of the realm of possibility.
However, more importantly, it's time for MJF to step up to an actual belt. He's long been one of the top talents on the roster and continues to level up. Sooner or later, he'll have to make good on his promises of being better than everyone with more than just his win-loss record.
Whether it's the TNT Championship, the tag team scene alongside his Pinnacle crew or the AEW World Championship itself, MJF is an undeniable talent who needs to hold gold in 2022.
Considering how he and Adam Page have battled each other in the past, he's a perfect next in line to take the belt off Hangman.
2021 was kind to Riddle, as he won the United States and Raw Tag Team Championships.
The start of 2022 should see something of the reverse, as he's assuredly not going to keep his tag titles alongside Randy Orton forever.
After RK-Bro splits, Riddle will hopefully win that feud and be ready for a push to the main event level.
In all likelihood, he's probably not the person WWE will choose to take down Roman Reigns, but he could be the guy to dethrone whomever wins the WWE Championship from Big E.
Riddle's popularity continues to grow, and even if he's still stuck in the upper midcard, it's likely WWE will want to give him the United States or Intercontinental Championship before the end of the year if he hasn't won the WWE title already, if not just to keep him as a featured star.
Most of the time, when WWE has someone in mind for a "next big thing in the company" push, the approach tends to be all-in.
In his first year, Brock Lesnar was catapulted to the top of the food chain in no time at all and won half the accolades available to him like it was nothing. Roman Reigns had a rather quick rise to the top, too.
Gable Steveson seems to be the basket WWE is putting all its eggs in. With all the releases from the past two years and the shift toward the Next in Line program, Steveson is essentially the poster boy for this new strategy.
WWE gave him a featured spot in the 2021 draft. He's yet to step in the ring, but a point was made to address him as a Raw Superstar, if not just for the media attention.
The same philosophy will go into his 2022. WWE will undoubtedly want to give him a championship as it will be a story that crosses over into mainstream media.
More than likely, it will be the United States Championship to tie into the Olympics. It plays to his past and is a much safer option than a world title.
In all likelihood, 2022 will not be the year Jungle Boy becomes world champion. But that's OK, as he's an underdog who can't jump straight to the top too fast. It's a work in progress, and he still has many more steps to take.
This year would be perfect for him to make several leaps toward that goal by capturing a different championship, though, if not two or three.
AEW has put the tag titles on some of the most prominent teams already, such as The Young Bucks, FTR and Lucha Bros. On the remaining list of obvious potential next champions are Santana and Ortiz, Dark Order and so on, but that list includes Jurassic Express.
That goes double if a trios title is created. Jungle Boy winning alongside Luchasaurus and Marko Stunt would be one of the top options alongside Best Friends.
More importantly, though, the TNT Championship is right up Jungle Boy's alley. While nobody will officially call it the midcard title of the brand, that is essentially its purpose. Like the old-school Intercontinental Championship, this is in many ways a workhorse title for someone AEW wants to highlight.
Be it taking down Cody Rhodes or someone else later in the year, Jungle Boy is the quintessential babyface who could put on great matches defending the belt nearly every week. After seeing all the progress he made in 2021, he now seems ready for this responsibility.
It's all but a certainty Bron Breakker will win the NXT Championship from Tommaso Ciampa at New Year's Evil on January 4.
Starting off the year with a new champion for the brand will be a major part of the NXT 2.0 refresh. While it's been a mess in a lot of ways, Breakker has been an overall success.
Having him come so close to winning the title before only to circle back around to a rematch could point in a lot of directions. Maybe he was supposed to win then and someone got cold feet that it would damage his look to get pushed so fast. Maybe it was just to drag this out as WWE had nothing else in mind and plays nearly each week by ear.
If Ciampa's overconfidence is proven right and he retains, it will be shocking. The story here is for Breakker to win and for these two to have a rubber match where Ciampa officially endorses Breakker as the leader of the new breed.
In order for that to happen, Breakker has to hold the belt.
Jade Cargill and Thunder Rosa
As it stands, the TBS Championship tournament comes down to Ruby Soho against either Thunder Rosa or Jade Cargill.
While AEW doesn't adhere as strictly to babyface and heel dynamics as other companies, it makes more sense for a heel like Cargill to go up against Soho in the final, rather than Rosa to be in that spot.
Rosa's destiny is likely to be the next AEW women's world champion after Dr. Britt Baker. Those two had one of the best matches of 2021 that helped put the entire division on the map. Revisiting that feud is only logical, and Rosa's popularity along with her experience as NWA women's champion puts her as the best candidate to hold the title next.
Since it wouldn't serve much of a purpose for Rosa to win both the TBS title and the world title, that leaves Cargill and Soho left to fight over the tournament final.
Soho is more than qualified to get the upset and hold the belt, but Cargill has been greatly protected. It's hard to imagine she will suffer defeat.
That would keep Rosa and Cargill away from each other for a while, too, as they won't have to fight over the same championship. Then, it will mean even more than this semifinal match when their paths cross again.
The Creed Brothers
Diamond Mine has had some rough starts with members not even making much progress or joining the team at all (see Tyler Rust and Marina Shafir), but while Roderick Strong is likely to drop the NXT Cruiserweight Championship at the start of the year, The Creed Brothers should at least pick up some of the slack.
Even as champion, Strong hasn't been treated with the same reverence as The Creed Brothers. Ivy Nile has had some wins, but she also pales in comparison to how much attention those two have received.
While not undefeated, they're always booked as dominant. More often than not, they wreck their opponents and win. If they lose, they tend to do so from shenanigans and disruptions.
Given how tag teams are treated in WWE, there's a good chance the singles pairs will be split up. Jacket Time might not last the year, particularly as they're comedic. Imperium could go elsewhere with WALTER, and reverting back to MSK as champions feels like a step back.
The Creed Brothers are climbing the ranks and will likely be the go-to picks to hold the NXT Tag Team Championship after whomever takes out Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner. In fact, WWE might even skip that reign and go straight to Brutus and Julius.
Adam Cole is far too good to be ignored for a single championship in 2022.
Much like Jungle Boy, he has multiple ways he could fulfill that goal this year.
Cole has many partnerships that could see him win gold in the tag division or possibly the trios division, if that comes to fruition.
Maybe it comes alongside Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly, or teaming with The Young Bucks is another. The Super Elite could even share titles under some extension of The Freebird Rule.
Cole could be the first winner of the Owen Hart Cup. He could even be the next to hold the Dynamite Diamond Ring if AEW doesn't want to give it to MJF again.
The TNT Championship, though, should be his focus. Cole is obviously world champion material, too, but instead of going back to a member of The Elite at the top of the company so soon after Kenny Omega's run, the secondary belt is a better choice.
Cole is a big name who could elevate that title. Around his waist, it will always feel like a big deal. Then, when he's ready to drop it, a guy like Jungle Boy would benefit greatly from beating someone with Cole's notoriety.
Rounding out this list are two types of honorable mentions: the obvious future champions and the long shots.
Charlotte Flair is a given. She wins at least one title every year, if not multiple times. Anyone with that reputation as a go-to for WWE should be considered a guarantee, so Becky Lynch, The New Day and Sasha Banks shouldn't be surprises, either, nor the regulars in the 24/7 title scene like Reggie, R-Truth and Akira Tozawa. Tamina will likely win that belt from Dana Brooke, too.
Some others who may not be certain but are worth talking about are as follows:
- Blair Davenport or Emilia McKenzie should dethrone Meiko Satomura for the NXT UK Women's Championship. Davenport may win it on January 6, and McKenzie could be the one who takes it off her down the road.
- Indi Hartwell, Sarray or Zoey Stark seem like the best options to follow Mandy Rose for the NXT Women's Championship. Put more stock in Stark than the others.
- Charlie Dempsey has been booked well. Watch out for him to win the Heritage Cup.
- Bryan Danielson is too good not to consider giving a title to. He may be above it and not need it, but no one would bat an eye if it happened.
- Wardlow could break out this year and win the TNT Championship.
- Toni Storm may not beat Flair for the SmackDown Women's Championship, but she's among the best-equipped to get a push to the main event this year. Maybe she does pull it off or wins one of the main titles later in 2022. Doudrop could be in that camp, too.
- Santana and Ortiz as tag team champions in AEW has to happen. If not 2022, when?
- Ridge Holland is in the midst of a slower push, but an Intercontinental Championship run isn't out of the question, nor a tag team title reign alongside Sheamus.
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.