Red's Pro-Wrestling Digest #86: 2022 Awards Edition

  • Match of the Year: FTR versus The Briscoes, Double Dog Collar
  • Men's Wrestler of the Year: Will Ospreay
  • Women's Wrestler of the Year: Syuri
  • Tag Team of the Year: FTR
  • Promotion of the Year: All Elite Wrestling
  • MVP: Jon Moxley, AEW
  • TV Program of the Year: We are STARDOM!!
  • Special Event of the Year: AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door

Digest

Welcome to the RW+B 2022 Pro-Wrestling Awards edition of the Pro-Wrestling Digest. Last year was a rough one for me and I sincerely appreciated the ability to watch so many amazing matches through it all. It's the small things that can help, after all.

So, that said, it's time to break down the awards and their winners.


Match of the Year

2022 featured a decent handful of matches that earned my five-star rating. Frequent visitors know that it isn't super common an occurrence for me to rate something that high because I consider it only worthy of sincerely perfect performances. Having six all in a year is pretty telling of how hard everyone worked during the review period.

Bars raising once again.

But, under a magnifying glass you'll see a victor taking the nod by literally a hair.

FTR and The Briscoes had one of the best rivalries of the year and put out a trilogy of matches that have been matched by few before them. They closed their program at Final Battle in a double dog collar war and it was a bloodstained masterpiece as well as one of the most amazing tag team matches of all time.

I'll be watching this one back a lot over the years and I think a lot of others will be, too.

Sadly, 2023 is a big question mark for the two teams.

The Briscoes remained canceled by the networks thanks to something stupid that was said years ago and are apparently stuck on a show that few people will see when it finally debuts.

FTR are major question marks with their deals ending in April. The current way that things are going makes it seem unlikely that they'd split but who fucking knows.


Men's Wrestler of the Year

This one admittedly wasn't that close. I sincerely believe that folks like Takeshita, Moxley, Okada, SHINGO, Sabre, Ishii, and El Hijo del Vikingo firmly re-established themselves as international aces of the art last year. Again, despite the long list of classics pumped out by that crew, it still wasn't even that close.

Why?

That's because Ospreay exists and he continues to be the best overall in-ring performer in the world. The manner in which he elevates everyone he works with, elevates every match just by simply being in it, and elevates himself as well as he continues to attempt murder/suicide in the ring deserves constant praise. He had classics with basically everyone that he encountered and gave some dudes their best matches and then this fucker ended the year with the a build to face Omega at Wrestle Kingdom.

Like I said, no one came close.


Women's Wrestler of the Year

STARDOM was so amazing last year that basically all of the serious players in this pool came from that company. To be more accurate, only like two that ranked high enough didn't perform their work in a STARDOM ring.

The roster was on fire, pumping out hits and silencing critics, but one stood out about the rest.

Syuri held the World of STARDOM Championship for 365 days after taking it from Utami back at the end of 2021. She then defended it successfully against a wave of talents, putting out classics against Giulia, Mayu, Risa, Momo, Tam, and Utami along the way and split to form God's Eye during the review period, too.

She did drop the strap to end the year, but don't expect her to remain silent in 2023.


Tag Team of the Year

This one was almost as easy as the men's wrestler of the year category. The Young Bucks/Elite were phenomenal more often than not, even with the drama, and teams like Swerve in our Glory, the Jericho Appreciation Society, the Blackpool Combat Club, Brawling Brutes, Imperium, Bloodline, New Day, The Acclaimed, Aussie Open, Briscoes, and Death Triangle all put in for some truly fantastic work, too.

They didn't quit hit the levels of FTR, though.

I know they can rub folks the wrong way, sometimes perhaps even deserving the heat, but they backed it up in the ring and gave us a series of classics against the Briscoes. They honestly nailed it in multiple matches against several different groups and really made tag team wrestling better for it all. They also held the AAA, IWGP, and ROH Tag Team Championships during 2022 making for one of the best yearly outputs from any team in the history of professional wrestling.

I can only hope that they are back sooner than later so that we can hear more raw, emotional promos and watch more raw, emotional wrestling. I smell something big for Revolution if WWE continues to make themselves look like a terrible place to work.


Promotion of the Year

This one wasn't super competitive, but New Japan and STARDOM deserve a shout out for sure. Some diehards I'm sure would make the case for WWE, especially under Hunter, Dragongate, AAA, or even CMLL. All had loads of fantastic content to be consumed by the masses and it really comes down to taste.

AEW was king for me, even with the warts.

They had some shaky programs and some backstage drama. They also mistreated Rampage and Battle of the Belts, treating them like afterthoughts more than not. The special events were all bloated to hell, too. Not everyone needs on every card, not every show needs to take an entire day to watch, etc. 

Oh, and speaking of bloated, don't get me started on their fucking roster that sees multiple worthy workers sitting on the bench while their boss tells folks that they should just be happy to have a spot on the team.

Still, the company was a true alternative to the looming titan that defines the art, like it or not. The roster stepped up, almost everything landed well, and the bright spots were in far larger number than not. Dynamite was consistently entertaining and featured high quality in-ring work time and time again, making two hours feel like one all while providing a modernized Monday Night Wars feeling product. The special events featured numerous MOTYC's for sure, but even their TV programs did with things like Moxley and Yuta and a bulk of the top shelf best of seven series that closed the year.

You're likely thinking of something they ran on TV that I didn't just mention, wondering why I'd fuck up so badly.

AEW also continued to work with outside promotions to great success which is always a nice sight. Even when things felt weaker than usual, you could appreciate the heart and effort behind most everything, too.

For that, I can't see any other place deserving this award.


MVP

This one easily could've gone to Roman Reigns or perhaps to the entire Bloodline group if we're being honest. The main reason many folks continued watching WWE in 2022 was this unit's angles and almost everything they'd touch worked.

There are a few others that I took notice of here, too. Kento Miyahara was a big one.

Jon Moxley surpassed them all.

AEW indeed had some rough spots last year, but Jon has repeatedly picked the company up and rallied the roster forward. He's been the guy Tony can turn to, no matter what's going on, and he guides the company through seemingly every tough turn that they take. Most importantly, he was that guy once again last year and, for that, he wins my MVP award.


TV Program of the Year

Dynamite rocked more often than not, Dragongate's Cutting Edge Battle!! was usually a treat but aired inconsistently like usual, Raw and even SmackDown were fun but only for a part of the year, and Impact overdelivered but admittedly worked best in smaller portions.

There was a lot of great TV content in the 2022 wrestling scene and Dynamite really did come close to taking this one. Note that they're the only one I mentioned above that didn't have an exception added on. The only issue is that there was one other show that delivered just a bit more often and it does so all with a weekly half-hour show that runs on YouTube.

Frequent visitors already know where this is going, but the winner is We are STARDOM!!, STARDOM's digest show. The weak episodes always have some worth and those aren't even that common. The rest tend to be good at their worst or amazing at best, and that's making up the majority.

Simply put, if you aren't watching We are STARDOM!!, you're missing out.


Special Event of the Year

Clash at the Castle honestly came very close and the 2022 Hana tribute show deserves a lot of love and respect. Those are the only ones that were considered outside of the eventual victor; a cohosted super show featuring New Japan and All Elite Wrestling talents. You could tell that everyone had something to prove because even the preshow rocked.

One of the best shows of all time, AEWxNJPW Forbidden Door was an amazing experience and even overdelivered on expectations when all was said and done and I am beyond excited to see if they are able to Godfather the next attempt because bars have rarely been higher.


Secondary Awards

  • US Promotion of the Year: AEW
  • Mexico Promotion of the Year: AAA
  • Japan Promotion of the Year: NJPW
  • Europe Promotion of the Year: Revolution Pro
  • Rookie of the Year: Takuma Fujiwara