Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays.
If you’re reading these words, I hope that you’re having yourself a very happy holiday season. 2021 was another wild and crazy year, but we made it to the end. 2022 is right around the corner, but before we get to 2022, we have to get through Christmas.
Christmas means a lot of things to a lot of people. For the sake of this column, though, let’s talk about presents. More specifically, I want to go over the things that I want from the professional wrestling world in 2022. Not only am I writing it here, but to make sure my bases are covered, I sent a letter to Santa Claus himself and told him about everything listed.
Some of these things are easy to get. Others are more of the pie-in-the-sky variety. The only consistent thing here is that I want to see everything listed take place at some point in 2022. Finally, this is my list. MY list. Just like any Christmas list, there are things I want to see that you might not care about having, and vice versa. Remember that.
These items are listed in no particular order. Now that everything is out of the way, let’s rock and roll.
New Japan Pro Wrestling World Available On PS4/PS5: Yes, I asked for this exact same thing last year. No, I didn’t get it. I just want to be able to watch the New Japan product easier.
There is zero desire within me to watch lengthy wrestling matches and shows on my phone. I love my computer monitor, but it’s nowhere near as amazing and as incredible as my television, where I watch numerous streaming services through my PS5. It’s so much easier, and certainly preferable, for me to do it that way, instead of sitting at my computer. I’m already sitting at my computer enough during the week as I prepare for, and then write, these columns every week.
Help a brother out, New Japan.
Wrestling Fans To Mind Their Business: I don’t care if Sammy Guevara and Tay Conti are dating, nor do I care if they’re fuck buddies. It doesn’t matter to me if either of them is sleeping with the rest of the AEW roster, or if they’re completely celibate. I don’t care if someone cheats on someone else.
You shouldn’t, either.
It’s just weird to me that people get so worked up over the personal lives of wrestlers and wrestling personalities. It isn’t just the fans. There are too many sites and blogs that report on these things like they’re TMZ or some shit like that. So-and-so unfollowed So-and-so on Twitter, so that clearly means they broke up! Oh shit, So-and-so liked a tweet that said something about So-and-so, so they definitely hate each other! Let’s post 14 “news” pieces about it, with updates as we get them!
The only real exceptions to this rule, in my book, are when wrestlers are hurting other people (verified stories about assault or sexual misconduct, etc.) or hurting themselves and doing illegal things (getting arrested for DUI, etc.) in their “real” lives. Even then, there’s a line that people will still cross. For example, when Jimmy Uso has gotten into some of his legal issues, people will bombard Jey Uso, Roman Reigns and Naomi with some vile tweets and comments. What do they think they’re achieving by doing that?
A lot of it definitely has to do with social media. When wrestlers tweet out of character and they’re able to converse with RandomDude8675309 about puppies, you’ll see a ton of folks feel like they know the wrestlers on a much deeper level than just seeing them on television. Social media is a tremendous tool that gives way to tremendous tools.
Just mind your business, people. Let people like Sammy Guevara and Tay Conti live their lives, whatever it is they’re choosing to do.
Jeff Cobb To Become A Main Event Guy In New Japan: In last year’s Christmas Wish List column, I said something similar about Shingo Takagi. I mentioned the otherworldly hot streak that Shingo was on since joining New Japan, and how he had yet to really break through into the main event scene.
Not only did I get what I wanted there, but Shingo would go on to become the top guy in the promotion, winning the IWGP World Heavyweight Title in June.
For 2022, I want to see Jeff Cobb follow a similar path. Cobb is also on a crazy hot streak in New Japan. He doesn’t have a singles match in 2021 that I would rate at less than three stars, and he has picked up pinfall victories over some of the top names in the company like Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi. Over the last few months, he has been moving up the proverbial ladder, and I think it’s time to push him even more.
Oddly enough, not only do Shingo and Cobb have similar in-ring styles and backgrounds, but they were also born in the same year. That has nothing to do with anything. I just thought it was interesting.
If I had my way, the timeline would even match up, with Cobb coming out of the upcoming Wrestle Kingdom event looking strong. At Wrestle Kingdom 15, Shingo defeated… wait for it… Jeff Cobb to successfully defend his NEVER Openweight Title in a Match Of The Year contender, and it helped propel him to the top. Wrestle Kingdom 16 sees Jeff Cobb participating in a six-man tag match, teaming with his United Empire stablemates Will Ospreay and Great-O-Khan to take on the Los Ingobernables de Japon trio of Tetsuya Naito, Sanada and Bushi. The next night, Cobb will take on Naito in a big singles match. Let’s give Cobb the win, at least in the singles match, and he can move up to potentially challenge for the IWGP World Heavyweight Title at Sakura Genesis around April or at Dominion in June.
Bron Breakker Not To Get Screwed Up: I don’t need to say a lot here, because I’ve already done a column about the guy. His brief tenure in NXT has been done so well, and he appears to be on a clear path to becoming the NXT Champion much sooner than later. All I’m asking for is for him to remain true to the character. It’s working. There’s no need to make any drastic changes, whether he sticks around NXT for the long-term or if he gets moved to Raw or Smackdown. There is so much potential there.
Shit, while we’re at it, let’s say a lot of the same about Hook. Again, I’ve already done a column about him, so there’s no need to go into too much detail. I’m just saying that there’s the potential for something special with Bron/Hook, and I hope it doesn’t get ruined.
The “Forbidden Door” To Continue, Without It Having That Name: Pro wrestling has always been a wild and crazy business, but that level of wild and crazy has been turned up several notches in recent years. In this “generation” alone, you have numerous wrestlers showing up to wrestle in NXT (and sometimes the WWE main roster) that you just swore would never wrestle for Vince McMahon in any way, shape or form. More recently, we’ve seen AEW open their doors to the likes of Nick Gage and to multiple members of the New Japan roster.
I love that shit, and I want to see more of it. I’m still holding out hope that Shingo or Okada show up on AEW programming at some point. It seems like AEW is going to be my best option for things like this now. With NXT shifting its focus from “independent wrestling supershow” to “we want to push you if you’re in your early 20’s” seemingly overnight, I don’t think we’re going to be seeing a lot of the top free agents showing up there. With WWE deciding it would be a great idea to release 80-something on-screen talents in 2021, something tells me they aren’t looking to go on a huge spending spree to bring in new, expensive talent.
Whatever happens, can we move on from the “Forbidden Door” name already? It’s lame, and it has been driven into the ground. Keep it dead and buried. Just make the moves happen.
Something… Anything… With Roman Reigns & The Rock: Months ago, there was a ton of speculation about WWE possibly bringing The Rock in for a mega match against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania. It made a ton of sense. There was too much talk and discussion about the Anoa’i family for there not to be some sort of an appearance from the family’s most famous member. Some fans speculated that Reigns vs Rock would be for the Universal Title, while others speculated that Reigns could lose the title before WrestleMania and have their match be its own thing.
Hopes were dashed when the rumors swirled around that Rock wouldn’t be involved in anything at the upcoming WrestleMania. Instead, there was talk about Rock and Reigns doing something at WrestleMania 39 instead. The good thing about that is easy to figure out. WrestleMania 39 is coming to us from SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. Inglewood is ten miles away from Hollywood, California. The Rock is, arguably, the biggest star in all of Hollywood. That’s fantastic and all, but… WrestleMania 39 is over 15 months away! The Rock will be a month away from his 51st birthday when WrestleMania 39 rolls around. That’s a long, long, long time from now. It’s practically an eternity in the world of wrestling.
It would be one thing if we had a guarantee that, yes, The Rock will be appearing on WWE programming in the road to WrestleMania 39 for a highly-anticipated match against Roman Reigns. Unfortunately, we don’t have that guarantee. There’s certainly a lot of money to be made in making that match, but… and I can’t believe I have to even type this out… Dwayne Johnson may be in the middle of a full-blown run for the Presidency of the United States in 2024. In the last four elections where there wasn’t an incumbent, nominees launched their campaigns an average of 531 days before the election took place. That’s approximately one year and seven months. The 2024 election is in November of that year. Do the math. What is one year and seven months before November 2024? April 2023… also known as when WrestleMania 39 is happening. That would lead me to believe that either…
The Rock is not wrestling at WrestleMania 38 or 39.
Dwayne Johnson is not running for President in 2024.
By God… The Rock is going to wrestle Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 39, win, and then create the ULTIMATE “WrestleMania Moment” by legitimately announcing his candidacy in the middle of the ring during a post-match promo.
So many options!
In all seriousness, I just want to see something between Rock and Reigns in 2022. I’m rapidly losing hope that we’re going to see them wrestle, but even a segment would work for me. It’s such an easy thing to write. Reigns is the “Head Of The Table” and has mentioned that everyone in his family, top to bottom, eats because of his success. Have him say that he’s the “biggest star” in the family. Talk about how he’s successful in and out of the ring. Blah blah blah. As he’s talking, he is interrupted by The Rock, and the roof blows off of the building. It creates a “moment” and it helps to build Reigns even more, as if he needs it. There can be physicality during the segment, even if they don’t actually lock horns. You know the routine… Rock and Reigns have cut their promos, and then The Usos go in for the attack, only to be thwarted as Reigns leaves the ring. One of the Usos gets a Rock Bottom and he rolls out of the ring. The other Uso gets a Rock Bottom, and then he’s on the receiving end of a People’s Elbow. Boom. Everybody’s talking. Hooray!
Just give me something, WWE! I want it now! *Veruca Salt voice*
First-Time World Champions: I don’t need a new one every month, but I’d still like to see it happen sprinkled throughout the year.
If you look at the current AEW roster, there’s a couple of names that could realistically be involved in this conversation. Darby Allin, Jungle Boy and Miro jump out at me. There are other names, but it depends on your definition of what a true “World Title” in wrestling is. Some people think a “World Title” is a title that has been defended on multiple continents, or at least multiple countries. Others feel a “World Title” is only the top belt in the top promotions, which would pretty much narrow it down to only a few in the business. MJF is a former CZW World Champion. Does that count? Eddie Kingston held that same title, as well as the CHIKARA Grand Championship. Does that count?
Switching over to the current WWE roster, there are also some names that realistically stand out. Damian Priest, Omos and Xavier Woods, for sure. If you want to add NXT to the mix, then Bron Breakker and Carmelo Hayes belong in the conversation. Again, though… what makes a real “World Title” in wrestling? Cesaro is a former PWG World Champion and a wXw World Heavyweight Champion. Do those count? Riddle is a former Evolve Champion? Does that count? Austin Theory is a former Evolve Champion, too, as well as a former FIP World Heavyweight Champion and a former Crash Heavyweight Champion. Do those count?
Jumping back to AEW, Jade Cargill, Ruby Soho and Tay Conti are definitely the stand-out names to mention in the women’s division. If you don’t count the WSU World Title, then you can add Kris Statlander to the mix.
When it comes to the women of WWE, it’s easy to point out Liv Morgan, Cora Jade and Dakota Kai here. Depending on the definition of what a World Title is, you can add Doudrop, Toni Storm, Shotzi and Xia Li.
I’m not saying all of those names should or will become World Champions, mind you. They just have paths to the tops of their divisions that are, to varying degrees, easy to see playing out. It’s a lot of fun to see these types of stories play out, and on top of that, we need to see some more stars made and solidified.
Your Continued Support: Yes, it’s time for me to be sappy again.
Folks, I’ve been doing this column thing for 14 years now. I’ve seen it all and I’ve written about it all. None of it would matter without your support. So many of you have been there from the beginning, and that means the world to me. I will never be able to thank you enough for your support, whether you’ve read all of my columns or this is the first time you’ve clicked a link of mine. Your support is amazing.
I have no idea how long I’ll be doing this. Maybe I’ll be sitting in a special orthopedic computer chair when I’m 80 years old, still amazed that Charlotte Flair is still winning Women’s Titles in WWE. Who knows? What I do know is that I still have a ton of fun doing this, and as long as that continues, I’ll be around to do what I do.
Thank you. For everything. Here’s to another year together.
There you have it. The things I’m asking Santa Claus for in 2022. Your lists are probably very different, so I want to hear from you. Hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind. I hope you all have as enjoyable a holiday season as you can possibly have. Cherish the time you get to spend with the people you love most. Aloha.
Weekly Power Rankings
- “Hangman” Adam Page vs Bryan Danielson: Easily one of my favorite wrestling matches to ever air on “free” television. I don’t have anything else to add to the heaps of praise that people have been leaving for the match, but I will say a couple things that are on my mind. First and foremost, had this exact match taken place on a pay-per-view, I would place it as one of my all-time favorite matches, period. There were so many commercial breaks to deal with. Yes, picture-in-picture helps, but it still takes some of the fun out of things. On a related note, I’ve seen some people say that AEW should find a way to go commercial-free on Dynamite or Rampage for big matches like this. The idea is fine, but that’s also very expensive. It’s one thing if you’re commercial-free for a brief period. This would’ve meant no commercials on Dynamite for well over an hour, counting match introductions, the match itself, and anything in the post-match. We don’t know what kind of money AEW is making, but if we’re being real, they’re still a relatively new company. Their viewership is still averaging under a million viewers every week. That isn’t a knock on them. It’s just a true statement. There’s no way it would financially behoove AEW to spend that kind of money right now. My final point is that Bryan Danielson has had two matches against AEW World Champions. One match was to basically see if he could “earn” a title shot, and the other was an actual title shot. He has gone to a time-limit draw in both matches. I certainly don’t expect them to, but AEW can’t go to that well again. It’s what happens when you’re building multiple up so strongly that neither person can take a loss. Anyway… this was a fucking fantastic match. Enough of my wall of text.
- Pete Dunne vs Tony D’Angelo: Full disclosure… I wasn’t as big a fan of Tony D’Angelo as a lot of you have been. It was an interesting character, especially in 2021, but people jumped all over his jock without actually seeing much of anything that he could do in the ring. NXT is finally giving him a chance to win people over with his in-ring work, and it’s paying off. He did so well as a part of War Games, but this match against Dunne has been his best work yet. It was a loss, but he didn’t look lost out there, and seemed like he belonged in the ring with one of the best wrestlers alive today. Dunne needed the win to stay strong as a top talent in NXT, but D’Angelo showed that he has the potential to be a top talent for the brand, too.
- Hikaru Shida vs Serena Deeb: This has easily been one of the best women’s feuds in AEW history, and it really came out of nowhere. Serena Deeb has always been really good, but she went from being away from a big spotlight for years to being a major competitor, earning herself a new set of fans. Shida and Deeb have had a really fun trilogy of matches over the last two-plus months, with Shida winning two of them, but both women came out looking better and stronger than they did going in. Both women should be in-line for title shots now. Kudos.
- Smackdown’s Final Segment With Roman Reigns, Paul Heyman & Brock Lesnar: A lot of folks think it will end up being some kind of “swerve” that we’ll see play out at Day 1, but it was still a big surprise to see Roman Reigns fire Paul Heyman and then take him out with a Superman Punch. Heyman and Reigns continue to shine in their roles, working the story to perfection with Heyman being torn between his allegiance to Reigns and the Anoa’i family, as well as his friendship and partnership through the years with Lesnar.
- Tommaso Ciampa’s Opening Promo On NXT: Ciampa has been such a big part of NXT for so long, but he doesn’t often get to cut lengthy, entertaining promos. This was one of the times he did, though. Ciampa was excellent as the intelligent veteran that was able to play mind games with the young, emotional Bron Breakker.
- Eddie Kingston, Lucha Brothers, Santana & Ortiz vs Daniel Garcia, The Acclaimed & 2point0: I’ve said it time and time again, and it fits here… AEW does a great job of having these six, eight, or ten-person tag matches with more action than anybody can really keep track of. This was another instance of that.
- Sasha Banks & Toni Storm vs Charlotte Flair & Shotzi: The feud between Toni Storm and Charlotte Flair has been as stupid as can be, but with Storm pinning the Smackdown Women’s Champion here, maybe we can move to it being bigger and better. Toni desperately needed a big win as a member of the Smackdown roster, and she got it here.
- BOLA Continuing To Get Stronger: Last week, I mentioned how strong the roster was for PWG’s upcoming Battle Of Los Angeles tournament. Jonah Rock, Alex Shelley, Black Taurus, Lio Rush, Daniel Garcia, Kevin Blackwood and Jack Cartwheel made for a very solid roster. Since my last column, PWG has announced the additions of Bandido, Lee Moriarty, Davey Richards, Aramis and Jonathan Gresham. Bandido is the current PWG World Champion, and until a couple weeks ago when he had to vacate it due to testing positive for COVID, he was also the RoH World Champion. Gresham is the man who won the RoH World Title at Final Battle. There’s so much diversity and star power in the BOLA field, and we might only be halfway through seeing who is involved.
- Big E & Bobby Lashley vs Seth Rollins & Kevin Owens: Rollins and Owens are finally on the same page, even though that will definitely end at Day 1, when they’re both competing for the WWE Title. That’s good. What’s even better is something I didn’t even know I wanted until Raw, and that’s a face run for Bobby Lashley. I don’t know if we’ll see a full-blown face turn for him, but I think he can pull it off. He won’t be a face like Hulk Hogan in the 80’s, but he doesn’t have to. Time will tell.
- A Potential Tease For Riddle vs WALTER: MSK is working with Riddle, who is their “Shaman” in this storyline. They’re currently feuding with Imperium, as they try to win the NXT Tag Team Titles back. We got the tease this week, with Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel mentioning that MSK has their “Shaman” but Imperium has their “General.” Of course, that is WALTER’s “title” with the group. Riddle vs WALTER could be a Match Of The Year candidate. I have no doubt about that whatsoever. With Barthel and Aichner having a lot of momentum right now, a six-man match featuring Riddle & MSK taking on all three members of Imperium could, and should, be amazing, too. Color me intrigued.
- Bianca Belair vs Doudrop: It would still be infinitely better if Doudrop were still Piper Niven, but I’m just happy that she’s actually getting to participate in good matches now, compared to the nonsense she was doing with Eva Marie. Bianca is now on a roll, winning the last seven matches she’s been involved in on television and pay-per-view, potentially putting her squarely back into the Raw Women’s Title picture after Day 1. You know… where she belongs.
- Orange Cassidy, Chuck Taylor, Trent & Rocky Romero vs Adam Cole, The Young Bucks & Bobby Fish: Let’s see… this was an AEW match involving eight people. You know what that means. Quality. Tons of action. Lots of fun.
- AJ Styles Working With Grayson Waller: Not only does AJ add some star power to NXT, but he will give quite the “rub” to Waller by even being involved in a storyline with him. It is pretty clear that NXT sees some big things in Grayson Waller’s future. Another thing that’s clear is that WWE trusts AJ Styles to make any and everybody he works with look great. Even if Waller loses to Styles, he can still look like a star with a good performance. I guess we’ll just have to see if he’s got it in him.
- Finn Balor vs Austin Theory: I don’t know just quite what it is yet, but WWE is doing SOMETHING with Austin Theory. He has been involved in multiple segments with Vince McMahon himself, and has been in the ring with some of the biggest names on the Raw roster since coming over from NXT in October. His matches are getting a good amount of time, and he’s able to look strong in both wins and losses. In outside-of-WWE interviews, he has made mention that he wants to face John Cena, as well as wanting to face Vince McMahon at WrestleMania. Can you imagine? I’ve said it before, but Theory is someone who has everything Vince McMahon would possibly want in a star, so are we seeing some of that play out right now? We could be.
- THE Brian Kendrick Returning… To Die: Brian Kendrick has always been very, very good at this pro wrestling thing. One of the best things he does, though, is take an ass kicking. He’s returning to the ring in NXT, but it will be to face Harland, where he will surely be murdered in brutal fashion. At least he’ll make it look good, so there’s that.
This Week’s Playlist: “Quentin Tarantino” by RZA & Flatbush Zombies… “Mr. Pyrex Man” by Benny The Butcher… “Hold On To Me” by Lauren Daigle… “Been About It” by Andy Mineo & Lecrae… “Jericho” by Andrew Ripp… “Too Good” by Moonchild… “Sauce” by Jerome Thomas… “Pressure” by Ari Lennox… “Left For Dead” by Memphis May Fire… “Witching Hour” by Black Map… “HORIZON” by BEFORE MY LIFE FAILS… “All I Really Know” by Sevendust… “So Called Life” by Three Days Grace… “Forsaken – The Aftermath” by Within Temptation… “Ease My Mind” by The Faim… “I Hate U” by SZA… “MONEY” by LISA… “Yonaguni” by Bad Bunny… “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” by K-Ci… “Love You Down” by Ready For The World… “Daydreamin” by Tatyana Ali, Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz… “Here I Am” by Rick Ross, Nelly & Avery Storm… “Time 4 Sumaksion” by Redman… “Rockin’ That Shit” by The-Dream… “My Love” by The-Dream & Mariah Carey… “Love vs Money: Pt. 2” by The-Dream… “Rockin’ That Shit (Remix)” by The-Dream, Fabolous, Juelz Santana, Rick Ross & Ludacris… “I Luv Your Girl” by The-Dream… “You” by Lloyd & Lil Wayne… “Player’s Prayer” by Lloyd