19/04/2024

Pictures: WWE

To say that this year has been crazy for WWE is an understatement.

2022 featured colossal and unexpected returns from former superstars such as Bray Wyatt and Cody Rhodes, WrestleMania 38 being the company’s most-attended and highest-grossing event in history and more notably, Vince McMahon’s exit as CEO after 40 years at the helm.

That is just a glimpse of what this year entailed and it is not over just yet, with the final Friday Night Smackdown of 2022 on December 31 headlined by Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn teaming up against Kevin Owens and John Cena.

It will be the 16-time world champion’s first match of the year, after last competing at SummerSlam in 2021 against the Tribal Chief for the Universal Title.

WWE are ensuring that the final Smackdown of the year will be can’t-miss and encapsulate the wild ride that 2022 has been in not only the company, but industry of professional wrestling.

With that being said, below is The Inner Sanctum‘s End of Year Awards for WWE.

Male Wrestler of the Year: Roman Reigns

It has been the case since mid-2020 that Roman Reigns is the best male wrestler in all of WWE and he receives the acknowledgment for 2022.

The Tribal Chief started the year off in tremendous fashion, as he became the longest-reigning Universal Champion of all time in January when he surpassed 504 days.

Fast forward to WrestleMania, he walked into the event having held the title for 581 days and defeated Brock Lesnar to unify both world championships.

Reigns also recently surpassed three full years without being pinned and has produced some incredible matches this year, including his SummerSlam main event against Lesnar, Clash at the Castle main event against Drew McIntyre and Crown Jewel main event against Logan Paul.

As of this writing, he has been world champion for 840+ days and although he has been operating on a part-time schedule since post-WrestleMania, the Tribal Chief has continuously set the benchmark in professional wrestling and is working at a level no one else has come close to.

Roman Reigns becomes the Undisputed Universal Champion at WrestleMania (Picture: WWE)

Female Wrestler of the Year: Rhea Ripley

Some would say that Bianca Belair is the female wrestler of the year, and that is justifiably so. The E.S.T. ended Becky Lynch’s Raw Women’s Championship reign at WrestleMania and has held the title since.

However, Rhea Ripley has revitalised her career since joining The Judgment Day in May and has become an integral part of Monday Night Raw, perhaps more than Belair.

She has made her faction a formidable force on the red brand, always posing as a problem for the opponent and wildcard to give The Judgment Day the best possible chance of victory.

Her captivating relationship with Dominik Mysterio has also been one to watch, which has been both humorous and intriguing. The highlight of their alliance was when the duo stormed the Mysterio household during Thanksgiving and brutally assaulted an injured Rey.

Although the Eradicator was sidelined for a period of time during the year, she has been booked in dominant fashion and is primed to have an even bigger 2023.

Ripley is a hot favourite to win the women’s Royal Rumble match and is the perfect candidate to dethrone the E.S.T. at WrestleMania next year.

Rhea Ripley and Dominik Mysterio on an episode of Monday Night Raw (Picture: WWE)

Match of the Year: Gunther vs Sheamus (Intercontinental Championship – Clash at the Castle)

In a highly desired dream match, Gunther defended his Intercontinental Championship against Sheamus at Clash at the Castle.

The story of the contest was the Celtic Warrior aiming to capture the only title that had alluded him from reaching grand slam status in WWE, and Gunther was standing in his path to glory.

Adding to this dynamic was the reunion of Imperium, Giovanni Vinci was finally introduced to the main roster to stand side-by-side with Gunther as well as Ludwig Kaiser.

The match was a hard-hitting affair, as the Cardiff faithful were firmly behind Sheamus to secure the gold.

It was an all-out war and while the Celtic Warrior could not accomplish his goal, this contest established the Ring General and set the precedent for what has been a flawless reign so far as Intercontinental Champion.

Imperium and The Brawling Brutes stare down before Gunther and Sheamus’ battle (Picture: WWE)

Premium Live Event of the Year: Clash at the Castle

In his first Premium Live Event that he had full control over since becoming Head of Creative, Triple H made the first United Kingdom stadium show in 30 years a great success.

SummerSlam was already formed by the previous administration when he stepped into the role, so all eyes were on how Triple H was going to book Clash at the Castle and the vision he had.

Principality Stadium in Wales held over 62,000 people, who were all invested for the whole duration of the show.

The main event was a 30-minute classic between Roman Reigns and Drew McIntyre, which was the first unpredictable match the Tribal Chief was involved in for a long time.

The card also featured the arguable match of the year between Gunther and Sheamus, Dominik Mysterio betraying his father and Riddle v Rollins I, which was the best contest in their rivalry.

Although the show only featured six matches, it proved that quality is always more important than quantity.

A panoramic view of Principality Stadium hosting Clash at the Castle (Picture: Wales Online)

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Tag Team of the Year: The Usos

Not only has Roman Reigns broken multiple records in 2022, but The Usos have also had a successful year, becoming the longest-reigning WWE Tag Team Champions in history.

The duo defeated The New Day, who were the previous record holders on the November 12 edition of Smackdown to assure themselves of the feat.

Jimmy and Jey also unified both the Raw and Smackdown Tag Team Titles to become the undisputed champions this year, prevailing over RK-Bro on the May 21 edition of Smackdown.

Despite losing a host of single and non-title matches that made them look weak, they won when it counted and are currently still the champions of 520+ days.

The Usos before their title defense against The New Day (Picture: WWE)

Manager of the Year: Paul Heyman

Paul Heyman is regarded as one of the best managers of all time, if not the best ever.

He has also been a part of this year’s most successful faction in The Bloodline and continues to play a vital role as the Special Counsel to Roman Reigns.

A pivotal moment for the Wise Man in 2022 was finally putting an end to his relationship with Brock Lesnar, assisting the Tribal Chief by costing the Beast Incarnate the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble.

Paul Heyman on an episode of Friday Night Smackdown (Picture: WWE)

Moment of the Year: Jey Uso embraces Sami Zayn at Survivor Series

Although it’s a Bloodline lovefest, it’s hard to ignore the group and what they have achieved in 2022. This included producing the most intriguing and emotional storyline of the year, that is projected to get even better heading into WrestleMania.

The angle involved Sami Zayn coinciding with The Bloodline as the ‘master strategist’, but it quickly became so popular with the fans and turned into something no one expected.

Zayn would transition into an ‘Honorary Uce’ and the ongoing issue that was making the storyline a success was the disputes between him and Jey Uso.

The Undisputed Tag Team Champion could never trust Zayn, but the latter proved his loyalty to The Bloodline by betraying Kevin Owens at Survivor Series inside WarGames.

The general consensus coming into the show was that Zayn was going to be betrayed by the group, but Jey finally embraced the Honorary Uce with a hug and accepted him into The Bloodline.

It was surprising to see and the highest point the storyline has reached to date.

The Bloodline stand tall after their victory at Survivor Series WarGames (Picture: WWE)

Dream match for 2023: Roman Reigns vs Bray Wyatt

A match between Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt would be a full circle moment, as the Tribal Chief kickstarted his monumental reign by taking the Universal Championship from Wyatt at Payback in 2020.

What also gives the former champion incentive to compete for the title is that he wasn’t pinned in the match, as it was a triple threat with Braun Strowman taking the fall.

Wyatt is also the biggest superstar on Smackdown at least outside of Reigns and The Bloodline, posing as an ideal babyface to end Roman’s reign.

Cody Rhodes at WrestleMania seems much more preferred by the fans though, and could be the direction WWE takes instead. If this championship match eventuates and Rhodes dethrones the Tribal Chief, there won’t be a reason to do Roman and Bray without the titles on the line.

However, it could be a situation where Cody only wins the WWE Championship and Reigns keeps the Universal Title post-WrestleMania, that he should eventually drop to Wyatt. 

Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman in their Universal Championship match at Payback 2020 (Picture: WWE)

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