Let’s look back at the best AEW moments of 2022!
While the strength of AEW draws largely from its world-class roster, long-term stories, and exciting pro wrestling, much of its identity also comes from the talent using their own voices to tell their stories. From deranged tirades to magical returns, to the little things in between, let’s take a look at the best moments outside of the opening and closing bells to take place on weekly TV all year round.
Cody Rhodes’ Exit Promo
Due to the ambiguous nature of Cody Rhodes’ arc in AEW, it was always difficult to tell what his next move would be, or how it was supposed to be “interpreted.” Does he want us to boo? Does he want to want us to boo? Is he even listening at all? Ahead of his TNT Championship defense against Sammy Guevara in a Ladder match, few people expected that this impassioned speech on Dynamite would be his last in the promotion he helped create.
And what a way to go out. Rhodes embraced his ego and industry-altering accomplishments, amid the backdrop of a ladder that he would not reference or climb until the very last minute. Rhodes talked about how everything CM Punk talked about doing 11 years earlier—working with the biggest promotions, changing the wrestling world—Rhodes actually did; and how the future of AEW was built with his foundation, all as the crowd ping-pongs between cheering and chanting for him to shut up. This is a promo with tons of re-watchability, given the greater context.
Jon Moxley’s Emotional Return
In a moment that will be far more real than anything on this list, Jon Moxley returned to AEW television after announcing in late 2021 that he had entered himself into an alcohol treatment program. As one of the most beloved figures in the industry today, just his entrance and rejuvenated presence back on this Dynamite was enough of a moment on its own for fans to soak in.
Then, Moxley headed to the ring and talked about how there is no shame in getting help when you need it, and that it is, in fact, the bravest thing that you can do for yourself. Moxley would punctuate this heartfelt return by declaring that, now, all he drinks is blood. We love you, Mox.
It doesn’t matter nearly as much that the follow-up is that MJF called himself the devil, and that the greatest thing the devil did was to convince the world he doesn’t exist. The biggest takeaway from MJF’s tell-all on Dynamite, where he talked openly about being a victim of bullying and discrimination in high school, due in part to his Jewish heritage; and on top of that, the impact that his childhood hero CM Punk retiring out of nowhere had on him at the time; is that everything he said about what he had felt was genuine.
Gaslighting and “bigger picture” aside (of MJF getting Punk’s guard to go down, ahead of their Dog Collar match), this was MJF the toxic human being, being uncharacteristically vulnerable and open in communicating his hurt, and saying things of greater substance than he ever had up to that point. It is the biggest testament to his skill that when the smoke cleared, he wasn’t some big hero, or some liar faking abuse for clout—he simply left everyone feeling uneasy.
Max Caster’s rap on a debuting Samoa Joe
Every entrance by The Acclaimed’s Max Caster and Anthony Bowen is a guaranteed show-stealer regardless of which show they are on, but in the top tier of these intro raps would have to be the one dropped on a debuting Samoa Joe. It being Joe’s AEW debut in an Owen Hart Tournament Qualifier, one would think that he would’ve had an uncontested ovation, but the beat dropped and The Acclaimed went ahead and contested it.
“Imma lay this dude down like a sex position,
I’m Main Event Max, he’s X-Division.
So I’m sending you home.
You’re not a tough guy, Joe; you’re just injury prone.”
Jon Moxley: “It is not my job to show you respect”
Prior to the Match of the Year contender that was Jon Moxley v Wheeler Yuta on Rampage, the two competitors cut underrated pre-match Promos of the Year with Mark Henry ahead of the main event. New ROH Pure Champion Yuta brought up the fact that he had come closer and closer to beating Moxley every chance he had gotten, and that Moxley was facing a different man who wasn’t scared of this match.
Moxley’s response was terse and straightforward, and set the stage perfectly for the star-making bloodbath that was to come:
“Let’s be very, very clear. It is not my job to show you respect.
Tonight, I have one job: spill your guts all over the mat, so we can find out exactly, finally, once-and-for-all, what you are really made of.”
MJF: “You f****** mark”
The delivery and set-up of this promo is unlike any other. First, the set-up. MJF had not been shy to drop references on TV about his contract expiring in 2024, leading fans to speculate on and buy into countless rumors of his discontent and uncertain future with the promotion—a story looming ironically in the background of MJF’s rivalry with his defiant employee, Wardlow. So, in a sense, this promo didn’t come out of nowhere.
Now, the delivery. After being powerbombed to oblivion by Wardlow 3 days prior at Double or Nothing, and speculation on MJF’s unhappiness at an all-time high, the AEW original delivered the second promo of his life in 2022, with a pointed and targeted slandering of both Tony Khan, as well as the fans who MJF felt kept taking him for granted.
They could cheer all they want. “Too little, too late.”
Orange Cassidy Returns
Amid the buzz of the biggest cross-promotional supershow of the year; full of moments like Jon Moxley finally coming face-to-face with Hiroshi Tanahashi, and newly-minted IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, Jay White confronting both his vocal challengers, Adam Page and Adam Cole, all taking place on the same episode; the loudest ovation would arguably come from the return of “Freshly Squeezed” Orange Cassidy.
Weeks prior, NJPW’s United Empire (Will Ospreay, Jeff Cobb, The Great O’Khan, and Aussie Open) walked through the “forbidden door” and made enemies out of FTR and Roppongi Vice. Then, the big equalizer showed up. After 3 months of recovering from a shoulder injury, the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” hit on Dynamite, and Orange Cassidy comes walking in and stares down the leader of the United Empire and IWGP US Heavyweight Champion, Ospreay, setting up a match at Forbidden Door in 1 electric minute.