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Cook’s 2022 Wrestling Year-End Awards

It’s a trip back in time to 2022–as Steve Cook rounds up the best (and a little worst) of the year just for you!

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WWE The Usos 2022

It’s a trip back in time to 2022–as Steve Cook rounds up the best (and a little worst) of the year just for you!

Hey kids! Steve Cook here, and it’s kind of funny because the last time you read my words on this website I was writing about something I didn’t really want to write about. We continue that theme today, as I have a bit of a confession for you folks. It’s something that I’ve been hiding from wrestling website higher-ups ever since I started writing about this so called sport.

I don’t like participating in year-end awards.

At first, it was because I was already overworked with school and trying to make something of my life. Then it was pure laziness. Nowadays, it’s a combination of laziness and the fact that I don’t feel particularly qualified to participate in these things. Pro wrestling is one of many interests that take up my time away from work. That means that I don’t watch as much pro wrestling as my fellow writers, or as many of you reading.

Multiple websites list the top 100 matches at the end of a year…I know I watch far more than 100 matches per year, but the odds of me remembering 100 matches at the end of a given year aren’t great. As many have pointed out, the plethora of great matches on TV/PPV/streaming is awesome for fans, but leads to fewer matches really standing out from the pack. Plus, most of the matches I end up watching are old matches, and I don’t think people would appreciate my listing a Bret Hart match from 1986 at #1. Not quite what the folks are looking for, right?

Even though I don’t like to do year end awards, I still do when certain people ask me. I don’t like disappointing my bosses any more than I already do, so I fill out the awards, send them in and hope the people enjoy them. Unfortunately, I’m not the only writer out there that doesn’t have the time or doesn’t feel qualified to present awards. It turns out that I have some material left on the cutting-room floor.

Now, the middle of February seems a bit late to be doing a 2022 year-end awards column. Then again, Hollywood gives out all their year-end awards around this time of year as well, and I’m pretty sure Uncle Dave hasn’t given his out either. So now seems as good a time as any to give you Chairshot readers a super duper exclusive: my 2022 Year-End Awards! I’m even going to include some extra comments on the end of each one revealing if my mind has changed since turning them in back in late December 2022. Sound good to you? Sounds good to me!

* The Biggest Disappointment of The Year

5. Ronda Rousey’s return doesn’t catch fire
4. Hangman Page does little after his AEW Championship reign
3. Cody Rhodes tears a pec after getting off to a hot start in WWE
2. Tony Khan fails to get ROH a TV deal
1. CM Punk’s AEW Championship reigns & eventual departure

CM Punk

The fact that CM Punk’s arrival in AEW gave the company a boost can’t be denied. Punk’s return to professional wrestling interested a good number of fans that had been waiting since 2014 to see their favorite wrestler actually wrestle. Punk came off like a big star, and his segments were often the highlight of the AEW week. Putting the AEW Championship on him made all the sense in the world.

Unfortunately, a foot injury forced Punk to vacate the championship just days after winning it. In the ensuing months, Punk grew agitated with a talent roster that he felt didn’t give him the respect he deserved. A certain percentage of the talent roster grew agitated with the influence that Punk seemed to hold over Tony Khan. Things were said to the dirt sheets. Punk decided it was necessary to bury a talent on television, then he went on a tirade against some members of management after regaining the AEW Championship at All Out. The Young Bucks took offense, punches were thrown in a locker room, and we haven’t seen Punk on AEW television since.

Regardless of whose side you’re on in this whole fiasco, it’s a shame that what started out as such a good comeback run for CM Punk ended in the fashion it did.

February Thoughts: I feel pretty good about this choice. As time passes we tend to forget how much fun most of Punk’s stuff in AEW was. The best thing AEW fans can hope for is that Punk & the Elite will eventually be smart enough to try & make money off their dispute, like most people in the wrestling business that have legit heat with each other eventually do.

* The Best Non-Wrestler

5. Jose the Assistant
4. Stokley Hathaway
3. William Regal
2. Paul Heyman
1. Pat McAfee

Pat McAfee WrestleMania 38

I was never really a fan of McAfee’s media work prior to his employment by WWE. He was a little too much, like he was constantly on a Red Bull bender or something. He hasn’t really changed, which is part of what his fans love about him. McAfee is McAfee, and people either love him or hate him.

That said, I can’t deny the positive effect he had on SmackDown once starting as color commentator. McAfee, as usual, was a bit too much for fans like me. He did increase the energy level on the show, and you could tell that he was happy to be there and very into what he was seeing. So much so that Michael Cole got more interested in being there than he had been in years. Pat did get into the ring three times, but I’ve been advised that he qualifies as a Non-Wrestler so he’s getting my vote here.

February Thoughts: Heyman’s the early leader in the clubhouse for 2023, but McAfee’s contributions to SmackDown while he was there still can’t be denied. It’ll be interesting to see how involved he gets with WWE during football off-seasons, as I expect him to be on College Gameday for years to come.

* The Best Tag Team of The Year

5. The Briscoes
4. Lucha Brothers
3. Motor City Machine Guns
2. The Usos
1. FTR

It was a very strange year for Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler. Fans spent most of 2022 complaining that FTR weren’t featured enough on AEW television, and the fans probably had a point. Thing is, whenever FTR did appear on AEW television, or on ROH PPV events, or anywhere else they appeared, they delivered. We’re talking about a team that held the AAA, IWGP & ROH tag team championship. It’s tough to say a team that held three different tag team championships in 2022 was underutilized, but plenty of people would tell you that.

Underutilized or not, FTR took part in more of my favorite matches of 2022 than anybody. Harwood also had a nice singles run that didn’t result in many victories but did result in quality matches. FTR never let me down in the ring this year, so they’re the pick for Tag Team of the Year in a year with plenty of quality selections.

February Thoughts: Pretty good year for the Top Guys, I thought. Spots beyond the top two were a bit of a cluster that could have gone any type of way, it was a solid year for tag teams.

* The Worst PPV/Major Show of 2022

5. Ric Flair’s Last Match
4. WWE Elimination Chamber
3. AAA Rey de Reyes
2. The WRLD on GCW
1. WWE Royal Rumble

I’ve always had a special place in my pro rasslin fan heart for the Royal Rumble. It was my favorite event pretty much every year when I was a youngster. Something about thirty people entering the ring at two minute intervals with the winner getting a shot at the world champion at WrestleMania just did it for me, you know what I mean? It was the biggest stars in the WWF all in the same ring at the same time, often with interactions you weren’t expecting. Ax & Smash coming in at 1 & 2. The 92 Rumble with Flair working with pretty much everybody. People talk about going to WrestleMania as their Holy Grail of wrestling fandom…for me it was going to the Royal Rumble back in 2012.

Not that the 2012 Rumble was especially great, but the 2022 version was even worse. People hoped that Sasha Banks would have a big night, especially when she came out first. Instead they got Ronda Rousey in the return that nobody was really asking for, and nobody’s really cared about since. The men’s match didn’t feature a big star returning to win, as Brock Lesnar had already lost a championship earlier in the evening, and rebounded later in the night to win that prize. Honestly, the most exciting thing to come out of this show was all the backstage gossip about Shane McMahon trying to build the men’s Rumble match around himself. Shane would just be the first McMahon to find themselves on the outside looking in during 2022.

February Thoughts: At least the 2023 Rumble was better. Not among the best of all time, but I doubt it’ll make worst of lists unless 2023 is just a complete banger of a year for everybody.

* The Best PPV/Major Show of 2022

5. ROH Supercard of Honor
4. AEW Full Gear
3. WWE WrestleMania XXXVI Night One
2. AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door
1. WWE Clash at the Castle

Clash at the Castle came at a very important time for WWE. It was the first major show after all of the Vince McMahon allegations came out and the changing of the guard happened. WWE needed to send a message via quality & presentation that their fans could still expect everything from before, and more. Also, the show happened to be in Cardiff, Wales. The United Kingdom hadn’t seen a show in one of their stadiums since 1992. They were more than ready to pack one.

They got a darn good show too! Gunther vs. Sheamus alone was worth the price of admission. Dom Mysterio finally showed his true colors as the bastard heel he’s meant to be right now. Liv Morgan got a nice win, as did Damage CTRL. The only real weak point, which wasn’t really one because the match was really good, was Drew McIntyre not going over Roman Reigns. I know WWE gets off on the number of days of a title reign and that’s why it didn’t happen, but those fans would have gone absolutely banana over a Drew title victory, especially after “Broken Dreams” got used during his intro. A missed opportunity to make somebody. Other than that, the show had a limited number of matches that got enough time to breathe and achieve their full potential, which most shows could have taken a lesson from this year.

February Thoughts: I didn’t review or watch Clash at the Castle when it first aired, which more often than not means I won’t go back to watch it unless it seems utterly necessary. Glad I did!

* The Best Wrestling Storyline of 2022

5. Josh Alexander vs. Moose
4. Paul Heyman’s Choice Between Roman Reigns & Brock Lesnar
3. Cody Rhodes Returns to WWE
2. CM Punk vs. MJF
1. Sami Zayn is the Honorary Uce

WWE SmackDown has largely been built around the Bloodline for ages now, and it’s been a pretty good choice. Early in the year, “Wise Man” Paul Heyman had to prove his loyalty to the Tribal Chief, which he did in spades. The Usos have been doing their thing. Solo Sikoa has become part of the mix. Then there was Sami.

It took awhile, but good ol’ Sami Zayn has managed to make himself part of the Bloodline. It started with him helping out here & there, to the point where Roman Reigns made him and Honorary Uce. Jey Uso didn’t buy into Sami’s act though, and spent months telling everybody that Sami was bad news. Roman didn’t seem sold on Jey’s claims, even giving Sami an official Honorary Uce t-shirt. It even got to the point where one week Solo didn’t want his brothers coming down to ringside with him, asking Sami to come with him instead. Sami finally earned Jey’s trust at the Survivor Series, and the Bloodline has lived happily ever after since then. (This was written before the 12/30 edition of SmackDown, just in case John Cena & Kevin Owens cause some trouble.)

February Thoughts: This is still going pretty well. Although, the Bloodline is no longer living happily ever after as I write this.

* The Best Promotion of 2022

5. New Japan
4. AAA
3. Impact Wrestling
2. AEW
1. WWE

Triple H WWE Creative

Remember when people thought that Vince McMahon was the only person capable of running WWE? Business experts were convinced that if Vince passed away or stepped down, WWE would go into the toilet financially. After all, Vince had single-handedly won the wrestling war. He’d killed all the territories. He ran WCW & ECW out of business, and nobody had competed with him for two decades. Obviously, Vince was the one guy that knew what was going on. The experts didn’t have a ton of faith in his daughter & son-in-law as the heirs apparent. Oh, and both Stephanie & Paul Levesque had seen their power wane in recent months.

Then Vince had some stuff come out. He was forced to step down, though he remains the top shareholder. While business experts were concerned at first, wrestling fans were pretty darn happy. The diehards believed that Vince’s ideas had resulted in less entertaining programming. His way of dealing with talent had been criticized in comparison to Triple H, who seemed to support all of the Internet’s favorite wrestlers & was responsible for NXT when it was at a creative peak. A regime change was just what was needed to turn the perception of WWE around.

After Vince stepped aside, the machine kept humming along. Triple H brought back most of the people that had been fired. Stephanie & Nick Khan kept the confidence WWE’s partners had in them high. It’s tough to deny that WWE’s future looks as bright as it ever did. Even if the company gets sold, there’s no reason to think it’s going anywhere but at least the level it’s at now.

February Thoughts: Vince is back, but WWE is still rolling along pretty strong. It must be true if even your humble correspondent says it.

* The Best Matches of 2022

5. Adam Page vs. Bryan Danielson (AEW Dynamite 1/5/22)
4. El Hijo del Vikingo vs. Rey Fenix (AAA TripleMania: Mexico City)
3. Gunther vs. Sheamus (WWE Clash at the Castle)
2. FTR vs. The Briscoes (ROH Supercard of Honor 2022)
1. FTR vs. The Briscoes (ROH Final Battle 2022)

LOL to me casting aside #4 during my review of that show as “there are too many MOTY contenders.” This is why people should not pay attention to my match & show ratings, I’ve yet to learn what the hell I’m doing. Easier to pop off in list columns than try to rate a match or a show. Vikingo & Fenix were freaking awesome. They weren’t as awesome as FTR & the Briscoes. I missed one of their matches, and that one would have likely made the list too. Two of the best tag teams of the 21st century that immediately had chemistry? That was bound to light the world on fire, and get ROH more PPV buys than they’d seen before Tony Khan bought the company.

People wanted to see these two teams go at it. People were even more excited with dog collars involved. Dax, Cash, Jay & Mark all went all out. The dog collar match has quite the history, and they lived up to it. They spilled blood by the pints. It was ridiculous.

February Thoughts: RIP Jay Briscoe.

* The Best Weekly TV Show of 2022

5. Impact Wrestling
4. WWE NXT
3. WWE Smackdown
2. AEW Dynamite
1. Tales From The Territories

Tales From The Territories wasn’t the ratings hit that Dark Side of the Ring was. Which isn’t surprising. Television viewers tend to flock towards negative stories. Tales From The Territories wasn’t telling negative stories so much, it was just old rasslers telling stories from back in the day. The truth of the stories definitely varied.

The show definitely varied based on who was available to tell stories on a territory. Which makes it a shame it didn’t happen a decade or two ago when more people were alive to discuss these things. The early-season Memphis shows had a great cast of characters. Jeff & Jerry Jarrett, Dutch Mantell, Jimmy Hart & Jerry “The King” Lawler are all among the best story tellers in pro wrestling. Bret Hart appeared on an episode. The Mid-South show with Jim Ross, Ted DiBiase, Jake Roberts & Michael Hayes also featured four of the best story tellers in pro wrestling. It was a bit different from DSOTR, in that it was just old rasslers telling stories, instead of stories being told to make rasslers look bad. I liked it. Maybe some of you didn’t.

February Thoughts: It’s a very good thing they did the Andy Kaufman episode of Tales From The Territories, just in case Jerry Lawler’s stroke actually takes this time. It probably won’t, since he’s the King and when he pulls down the strap everybody’s in trouble. It’s a good reminder to get these veterans to tell their stories while they still can.

* The Most Improved Performer of 2022

5. Ridge Holland
4. The Gunns
3. Solo Sikoa
2. Powerhouse Hobbs
1. The Acclaimed

Max Caster & Anthony Bowens moved their way up through the ranks in 2022. They went from being regulars on Dark to entertaining characters that would pop up on Dynamite & Rampage here & there. Max’s raps were entertaining, while Anthony’s tagline gained more and more recognition. Their pairing with Billy, Austin & Colton Gunn helped everybody out. Billy openly wishing that the Acclaimed were his sons instead of Austin & Colton got the Gunns over as proper heels while Max & Anthony got the approval of the people.

As the Acclaimed got more popular they kept getting bigger matches. They were able to rise to the occasion and give fans the matches they expected from AEW Tag Team championship matches. The sky should be the limit for these guys.

February Thoughts: Caster & Bowens just ended their first reign as AEW Tag Team Champions. They might get them back from the Gunns pretty soon, or from somebody else at a later date. I do believe they’ll get those titles back, as they’re among AEW’s most over homegrown acts at the moment and everything they touch turns to gold. Or at least not crap.

* The Best Women’s Wrestler of 2022

5. Mandy Rose
4. Roxanne Perez
3. Jordynne Grace
2. Jamie Hayter
1. Bianca Belair

Most of our more established names saw limited action in 2022. Bayley & Becky Lynch both missed extensive time due to injury. Charlotte Flair missed time due to injury and I can’t remember what else. Sasha Banks left. WWE was left without their Horsewomen, and it was Bianca that stepped up and carried the torch.

Since defeating Lynch at WrestleMania, Belair has gotten more time to establish herself on top of the food chain. She’s managed to maintain her popularity as a dominant champion, which often isn’t easy.

February Thoughts: Can’t really argue with that list for 2022. Looks like the Horsewomen might be returning to form for 2023, which will give Bianca some competition.

* The Best All-Around Performer of 2022

5. CM Punk
4. Kevin Owens
3. Roman Reigns
2. MJF
1. Sami Zayn

Sami Zayn Roman Reigns

Many of us remember the days where Sami travelled the indies wearing a mask and never speaking English. He was a fantastic in-ring performer, but it was fair to wonder if his style would translate to a bigger stage. Would he be able to carry a storyline that didn’t revolve around in-ring affairs?

Then he went to WWE, ditched the mask and became Sami Zayn. His matches don’t get as many snowflakes as they did back in the day, but his character has helped carry WWE’s biggest storyline through 2022. WWE fans are tremendously interested in the future of the Bloodline, and Sami’s involvement with the group. This is mostly due to Sami’s efforts in getting the group and himself over with their interactions.

February Thoughts: Sami’s still getting it done, and will be facing off with Roman Reigns at Elimination Chamber. Evidence of how well WWE is doing with its fanbase right now: Most years, fans would be mad that Sami is getting his shot at Roman at Elimination Chamber instead of WrestleMania. This year, people seem fine with it. Sami’s not becoming a cause celebre just because WWE has chosen Cody Rhodes for the WrestleMania main event spot. WWE has trained their fans well.

* The Best In-Ring Wrestler of 2022

5. Gunther
4. El Hijo del Vikingo
3. Dax Harwood
2. Seth Rollins
1. Jon Moxley

Moxley was tasked with carrying the AEW main event scene on his back throughout 2022. No matter who came and went, Moxley could be relied on to make things interesting. His matches would be the biggest fights on the card and live up to main event billing. While Moxley tended to rely on blood soaked brawls, he could still hang in technical matches and whatever else the day needed. If a never say die Babyface was needed, Mox could fill that role. If a bastard heel was needed, Mox could do that just as well. Either way, the match would deliver and send AEW fans home happy.

Granted, I might be biased in favor of my fellow Greater Cincinnatian.

February Thoughts: If I had to take one back, it would probably be this one. Like I said at the top, I haven’t seen as much as many of you have. I’m still higher on Mox’s work than most, but I think I’d probably change this to Vikingo because he’s just so damn fun to watch. Might be tempted to move Gunther up a bit too.

* Larry Csonka Award For the Hardest Working Performer of 2022

5. Seth Rollins
4. Dax Harwood
3. Taichi
2. Shingo Takagi
1. Jimmy & Jey Uso

The Bloodline was the major storyline for WWE in 2022. Roman Reigns went all part-time on us, showing up when it was convenient. Sami Zayn was an Honorary Uce, but even he didn’t put in as much ring time as Jimmy & Jey. The Usos were definitely fighting champions during 2022, working more matches than anybody else in WWE & anybody else documented in North America. Maybe there’s some indy folks that slipped under the radar, but the Usos were working every WWE house show they could to keep the Bloodline part of things.

The Usos have made mistakes. Mistakes that would have gotten them fired if not for their Bloodline. They know that. That’s why they work their asses off now to make people believe that they are the ones. We’re all allowed to make mistakes. Jimmy & Jey both have. They’ve proved their worth in the ring since.

February Thoughts: Yep, this was the right choice. I might nix the second paragraph as I’m not sure how relevant it is to the topic, but Jimmy & Jey were among the hardest workers in 2022. They wrestled the most matches and were unsung heroes in the Bloodline storyline on television. Jey especially seems in line for big things in 2023.

2022 is officially in the rear view mirror! Stay tuned to see what we’ve got for you as 2023 continues to unfold…whatever it is, good times will definitely be involved.


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Opinion

Greg DeMarco’s Top 5: The Final Opponent For John Cena In WWE

It’s obvious that John Cena is nearing the end of his legendary career, and he’s suggested ending it at WrestleMania 41. Who should be his final opponent?

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John Cena Last Match Randy Orton WWE WrestleMania 41

It’s obvious that John Cena is nearing the end of his legendary career, and he’s suggested ending it at WrestleMania 41. Who should be his final opponent?

John Cena recently appeared on the Pat McAfee Show, the Monday after his surprise (but mostly expected) WrestleMania 40 appearance during Cody Rhodes’ win over Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Championship. During that appearance, he confirmed what many expect, that he is nearly done with his in-ring career. But Cena even tossed out the idea of a time-frame, detailing that his acting schedule will likely take him through Christmas, and maybe Hollywood could “pump the brakes” to allow for one final run.

That run could easily begin at the Royal Rumble with a surprise entrance (or entering himself via TV appearances as part of the build), with a tease for his 17th world title win before finally settling in on his final match.

Fantasy booking and storytelling aside, the goal here is the final match–more specifically the final opponent. With a John Cena, you’ve got a ton of options. As such, it’s hard to narrow it down to 5, and one of your favorites is likely missing–be warned!

Greg DeMarco’s Top 5: The Final Opponent For John Cena In WWE

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Miz – A feud with John Cena gave The Mix a WrestleMania 27 main event–and a WrestleMania  main event victory on top of it. Miz has been receiving more love than ever lately, and a match with John Cena would not be misplaced. Maybe he can use their WrestleMania 33 contest (and Cena’s personal aftermath) as fodder for it, too.
  • AJ Styles – The man who once made it popular to “BEAT UP JOHN CENA” is also nearing the end of his run, and could be the one candidate on this list that could realistically give us a double-retirement match. He would also be the guy who retired both The Undertaker and John Cena (and would probably end up being the guy who lost in both).
  • The Rock or Cody Rhodes – Both great options, but you have to figure their dance card for WrestleMania 41 is already full, potentially standing across the ring from one another. Either is an amazing option (including “Thrice In A Lifetime”), but I just don’t think it’s in the cards.
  • Trick Williams – Potentially a surprising addition to the Honorable Mentions, but the comparisons are there in terms of in-ring style/ability, promo skills, and the interplay they had in NXT (remember, it was Cena who is credited with encouraging Trick to not be afraid to go for it himself despite his relationship with Carmelo Hayes).

5. CM Punk

The fifth spot on this list was nearly interchangeable between several of the honorable mention names, but it really came down to Punk and Seth Rollins for me (with a hint of AJ Styles). The 2011 feud between CM Punk and John Cena was legendary, and is a moment that will forever be seen by me as the one that truly cemented CM Punk as a member of the growing list of all-time greats in WWE.

Punk is uniquely qualified for this match as he would make it mean more than a showboat for John Cena’s career and final match. It’s entirely believable that CM Punk would want to put John Cena’s career into the ground, and WWE has the video archive to support it.

Despite being #5, this could actually be a dark-horse for the match we get, and I can’t see anyone reasonably being upset about that.

4. Roman Reigns

John Cena and Roman Reigns have had two separate legendary programs. the first saw Cena, at times, embarrass Roman in promo exchanges in a feud that took place in the “pre-Tribal Chief” era. The second is more fresh and likely more memorable, as John Cena put Roman Reigns over in a football stadium in Las Vegas at SummerSlam (although it might be more remembered for the return of Brock Lesnar).

Reigns, a legend himself at his point (he’s featured alongside Steve Austin at the top of the “Forever” portion of the Then/Now/Forever/Together video that recently debuted) would provide a pairing akin to The Undertaker serving as Shawn Michaels’ retirement opponent at WrestleMania 26 9notice I didn’t say “final opponent). The end of Roman’s 1316 day world title reign has brought about a new appreciation for Reigns, which would further enhance this pairing at WrestleMania 41.

3. Bron Breakker

Bron Breakker is the picture-perfect definition of a juggernaut in WWE, a fast rising star who almost seems like a lock to main event WrestleMania one day (you never know–Seth Rollins JUST got his first WrestleMania main event last weekend). Breakker recently said farewell NXT as the natural in-ring competitor makes a transition to full-time main roster competition.

https://cdn.wrestletalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/bron-breakker-john-cena-nxt-october-11-b.jpg

Breakker also fits the category of who “needs it.” Bring the man to retire John Cena would be quite the feather in the cap of Breakker’s early career, and would give him a moment that would be relived for generations to come. The only question mark is WWE “trusting” Breakker with this moment, as a sudden change of character could mean that Cena’s final match wouldn’t be seen or discussed as much. Breakker, to me, has given no reason for anyone to suspect that might happen, regardless of any controversies his father and uncle have been linked to.

2. R-Truth

Despite being 5-years older than John Cena, and making his in-ring debut in the same year (1999), R-Truth’s childhood hero hanging up the boots will undoubtedly be a hard-hitting moment for the  man who has basically become the WWE Mascot. Truth emulating Cena in his matches, and of course the RawAfterMania moment with Cena, Truth, and The Miz hitting a Fifteen Knuckle Shuffle (thank you, Michael Cole) on The Judgment Day makes this a near can’t miss final match for both John Cena and the WWE Universe.

R-Truth himself is equally deserving of this match, as it would be a reward for all of his years in the ring as part of a career that seems age defying while proving that age is not only a number, but also a number that can be ignored (see Child Hero, John Cena).

While a rematch of their 2011 WWE Capital Punishment main event is an unlikely WrestleMania 41 match-up, it’s one I believe everyone would love to see.

1. Randy Orton

I mean, is there anyone more perfect? John Cena and Randy were inseparably linked for a good portion of their careers, and have shared the ring more times than Big Show has turned babyface/heel. Both are far into legendary status at this point, and Orton specifically is obviously focused on enjoying this stage of his career.

But Orton is still delivering great performances inside the ring, too.

Randy Orton vs John Cena was an exciting proposition many years ago, became a punchline for WWE booking a few years ago, but is now coming full circle as the perfect match-up to end the amazing career of John Cena. It has my vote, and should have yours, too.

Even if R-Truth would be the most fun option.

What say you? Who is the best candidate to stand across the ring from John Cena in his final WWE match, potentially at WrestleMania 41? Who did I leave out?


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Opinion

Greg DeMarco’s WrestleMania 40 Saturday Results & Review

It’s the Granddaddy Of ‘Em All, WrestleMania! Night 1 of WrestleMania XL and Greg DeMarco has your results and review!

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Sami Zayn WrestleMania 40

It’s the Granddaddy Of ‘Em All, WrestleMania! Night 1 of WrestleMania XL and Greg DeMarco has your results and review!

It all comes down to this–at least for the first night! A loaded card in front of a packed house, and I’d expect everyone to deliver one hell of a performance.

Women’s World Championship – Becky Lynch vs. Rhea Ripley (champion)

Greg’s pre-show prediction: Rhea Ripley retains

In my opinion, this match should be the main event of Night 1, but The Rock is back and that was going to take precedence (even if I disagree). Becky won this title shot at the Elimination Chamber, even though they were already building the feud before that event in Perth. Ripley herself main evented that event in a stadium, defeating Nia Jax.

  • It was revealed during her entrance that this is Becky Lynch’s “Flu Game,” as she has temperatures as high as 102 degrees throughout the week.
  • Rhea Ripley enters to a life performance of her entrance theme, which you can tell she dug.
  • Prime logo is center ring, just the black outline with “Prime” in the middle, and it is not at all bothersome. I can’t believe people made such a big deal out of bitching about that.
  • The stage looks dope, not at all “too small” as some had said. The whole environment looks great, honestly.
  • Rhea Ripley has been dealing with a wrist injury. She said on the Pat McAfee Show she didn’t expect to work with the wrist brace on tonight, but there it is.
  • Corey Graves points out that Becky’s training was likely impacted by her illness, and Pat McAfee scoffs at him for stating the obvious. I hope that isn’t what we get all night.
  • Commentary notes that is is 52 degrees and windy in the stadium, and I am reminded of Nick Khan’s comments about moving an outdoor WrestleMania to late April in the future, if they don’t get an indoor building (he did say “2026” when talking about that, which likely means the 2025 venue is indeed set).
  • Rhea’s Prism Trap is a fell of a submission finisher. Add in the body lock the way she did, and it’s even more impressive.
  • I just noticed the “Prime” turnbuckle pads and it’s…weird. I just didn’t expect it and can’t think of the last time we didn’t have the WWE/WWF logo on the buckles outside of Black and Gold NXT. WrestleMania 2?
  • I am also noticing that Dude Wipes seems to have sponsored the ring posts. Kudos to WWE (and the wrestling industry behind them) for being so damn desirable to sponsors!
  • That combo to get into the Riptide was fantastic–and the kickout was even better.
  • During the DisarmHer you can clearly see the commentary position, and Michael Cole is legit reclined all the way back. Love it–Cole is living his best life.
  • Rhea’s Riptide into the buckle before the proper Riptide was pretty sweet as well. Made Becky look insanely strong in defeat.

Winner via pinfall AND STILL your Women’s World Champion: Rhea Ripley

Hell of an opener, and if you didn’t know Becky was sick, you wouldn’t have known. Props to them both. That would have satisfied as a main event, but can now go down as one of the best openers in WrestleMania history.

Ladder Match for the Raw Tag Team Championships and Smackdown Tag Team Championships – DIY (Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano) vs. Awesome Truth (The Miz & R-Truth) vs. New Catch Republic (Pete Dunne & Tyler Bate) vs. A Town Down Under (Austin Theory & Grayson Waller) vs. The New Day (Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston) vs. The Judgment Day (Finn Balor & Damian Priest, Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions)

Greg’s pre-show prediction: Awesome Truth (Raw titles) and A-Town Down Under (SmackDown)

As many expected, the belts are hanging separately, meaning we are most likely splitting the tag titles here. Triple H and company have put some serious work into building up the tag team divisions of both brands, and even though I expect the two winners to not be actual “teams,” but either way I actually like the way they didn’t make a big deal out of splitting the titles up, they’re just doing it. They have been defended separately since being unified, albeit rarely.

  • R-Truth makes a joke about DIY being DX and that’s now taken off. I love it.
  • The Miz is very under appreciated. Can literally do anything.
  • Someone is struggling with the “Titan Tron” videos tonight.
  • Not gonna lie, I am the biggest Pat McAfee fan, but he’s actually quite annoying right now.
  • Sign of the night: SANTA DESERVED IT.
  • Lots of green in this match, half of the teams wearing their “WrestleMania Green” gear.
  • Also, loving the Consequences Creed gear for Woods.
  • God Bless Finn Balor for taking that Airplane Spin into the ladder.
  • 205 combined years of experience in this match. That’s an average of 17 years (Waller has the least with 7, Balor and Miz are tied for the most with 23).
  • “Dunne Mountain?!?!” Thank you Michael Cole for fixing that.
  • HOT TAG TO R-TRUTH!
  • Poor Finn Balor, not he takes the AA to the ladder after John Cena’s Five Moves Of Doom
  • R-TRUTH WITH THE PIN!
  • Hilarious.
  • A-Town Down Under gets the SmackDown tag titles!
  • And Grayson gets tossed through a ladder, still holding a title!
  • The match does continue until the Raw tag titles are also retrieved.
  • If Theory also got the Raw tag titles down, I will laugh my ass off.
  • Birminghammer is a fantastic name for a tandem (somewhat) Burning Hammer.
  • Tornado DDT through a table!
  • Air Raid Crash from the ladder!
  • And we still have more tables set-up.
  • JD McDonagh trying to get Finn–who has taken a beating–to get the Raw tag titles.
  • McDonagh through the tables!
  • PERFECTLY placed Razor’s Edge onto that chair.
  • Dude, that ladder is trashed. (And very unsafe.)
  • AA sends Damian outside!
  • I think everyone wants R-Truth to get this. EVERYONE.
  • YES!

Winners via belt retrieval, AND NEW:

  • SmackDown Tag Team Champions – Grayson Waller & Austin Theory
  • Raw Tag Team Champions – R-Truth & The Miz

Really good Ladder Match, but it’s hard to have a bad one. The tag team titles are split and it was really well done. It made perfect sense to do it that way, not make a big deal out of it and just let it happen. I am excited to see both teams win–not because I picked both, but because I think one team (Waller/Theory) have amazing futures and the other (Miz/Truth) will be a lot of fun, even if their run will probably be short lived.

Santos Escobar (with Legado Del Fantasma members Angel, Humberto, & Elektra Lopez) & Dominik Mysterio vs. Rey Mysterio & Andrade (with The LWO members Carlito, Joaquin Wilde, Cruz Del Toro, & Zelina Vega

Greg’s pre-show prediction: Dominik and Santos win, giving Dominik “revenge” for his loss at WrestleMania 39.

Look, this match doesn’t make a lick of sense–Dominik shows up two weeks ago and finds his way into another WrestleMania match with Rey? Definitely shoehorned. But Dominik is outstanding, so if this gets him on the card, I’ll take it.

  • More green in this match, and I am here for it.
  • Innovative Double Cross Body by Rey & Andrade.
  • Dominik showing experience beyond his years, making sure the ref sees his tag with Santos.
  • At this moment, I am wondering who turns–Carlito or Andrade. Gotta assume it’s one of them.
  • Three matches in and I don’t even notice the Primo logo in the center of the ring or on the turnbuckle pads.
  • Santos Escobar trying to unmask Rey Mysterio, as if we don’t all have Google.
  • Corey Graves making a great point about Rey taking some responsibility for the issues in his life, and Michael Cole immediately dismissing it.
  • It’s so hard to do a really good Dragon Screw Leg Whip, and Andrade (along with Dominik and Santos) just pulled off two to perfection.
  • Camera shot of Rey’s cross body shows the heaters above the ring. Good–keep ’em warm!
  • This could have easily been an 8-man tag team match. Maybe we get that Monday on Raw (which can also be where the turn happens, making my prediction here likely wrong).
  • Joaquin Wilde gets to do his NXT spot at WrestleMania, and that’s probably more important than officially being in the match.
  • Two masked men–definitely the Kelce Brothers–are here.
  • My bad, it was Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson. Good call, honestly. Great pop for them, too.
  • Looking at the reply, Dominik sold that ringpost spot like a champ.

Winners via pinfall (Rey on Santos): Rey Mysterio & Andrade

Fun tag team match that served its purpose. Needed? Maybe not, as I really wanted to get Liv Morgan vs. Nia Jax onto this card. But when you can get Rey & Dominik on the card, everyone will be happy. and of course the Jason Kelce & Lane Johnson appearances.

Brother vs Brother: Jey Uso vs. Jimmy Uso

Greg’s pre-show prediction: Jimmy Uso follows in the footsteps of Owen Hart and Matt Hardy and beats the “more talented brother.”

They’ve wanted this match all their lives–and the preview video was insane. Very well done.

  • Jey in the WrestleMania whites tonight.
  • And we get a hot start to the match!
  • “Big Brother Jimmy” is always a fun thing to hear.
  • More Dude Wipes sponsorship on this one–you have to wonder if having Dude Wipes on the posts for the opener was in error.
  • Superkicks. Lots of Superkicks.
  • Very enjoyable YEET/NO chants from the crowd.
  • Jey just kicking the hell out of Jimmy, including a Jumping Super Kick.
  • This has “Fight Without Honor” feels from old school ROH, where the winners have respect after. We will definitely see these guys together again.
  • Jimmy apologizing to Jey. Crowd is not buying it.
  • Of course it was BS, and Jimmy gains the advantage.
  • SPEAR. USO SPLASH. DONE.

Winner, via pinfall: Jey Uso

Jey breaks the babyface curse by beating his heel brother. Thought we might get an embrace between them, instead we faded out. A good match that was more about the story than the in-ring action. I can see some feeling like this hasn’t “lived up to expectations” because of the high expectations you’d have for an Usos match. Their best work will always be as a team, but I know this is a lifelong dream come true for both.

As for all the Superkicks, I mean….it’s an Usos match.

Six-Woman Tag Team Match – Damage CTRL (Dakota Kai, Asuka, & Kairi Sane) vs. Naomi, Bianca Belair, & Jade Cargill

Greg’s pre-show prediction: Bianca, Naomi, & Jade win when Jade scores the pin (probably on Kairi, who always seems to eat the fall)

This match is all about getting Bianca Belair on the card (she had to be), and Jade Cargill’s debut. It also got Damage CTRL on the card, which they truly deserve–even if it is to lose.

  • Respectfully, Dakota Kai. (Good thing the ring and surrounding area is heated)
  • Not gonna lie, Jade looks nervous. But this is a six-woman tag, and her portion is likely highly choreographed. Gonna be all good.
  • As I watch and enjoy the match (but am not typing much lol), this seems like a match where we’re all just waiting for Jade to come in and win.
  • No one has told Jade about the tag ropes yet, apparently.
  • And now Jade is in, and Damage CTRL makes her look like a million bucks.
  • Dakota Kai nicely gets herself into position for the finish, and Jade gets her WrestleMania win.

Winners via pinfall (Jade on Dakota): Jade Cargill, Naomi, & Bianca Belair

We knew what this one was about going into it, and that’s what it should have been. Jade still ain’t ready. I know it might be an “ego hit” for her to go to NXT, but she needs it. If Giulia can go to NXT, so can Jade.

Intercontinental Championship – Sami Zayn vs. GUNTHER (champion)

Greg’s pre-show prediction: Sami Zayn pulls off the major upset and is the one to dethrone Gunther

Gunther has had a stranglehold on the Intercontinental Championship, defending it like crazy in 2023 but slowing that down here in 2024. It’s not fair to say he’s outgrown the title, but that might actually be the case. It’ll be really interesting to see what happens with Imperium leading up to the draft, and at the WWE Draft itself.

  • Sami Zayn was the perfect wrestler to have their journey form backstage to the ring followed by the cameras. From his family to Chad Gable to Kevin Owens, it was all so perfect–maybe too perfect? (Not in that someone will screw him, but in that it might be too heavily foreshadowing his win?)
  • Gunther looked oddly nervous standing on that stage.
  • You know, the Intercontinental Championship is basically a third world title at this point. And we could see the end of a legendary reign. I think this deserved the Samantha Irvin In-Ring Introductions (aka “Japan Style”) treatment.
  • Gunther is smiling confidently now, we’re good.
  • Crowd is ON FIRE for these guys (and evenly split with their chants for each guy).
  • This is the 21st time the Intercontinental championship is defended at WrestleMania, and it makes you wonder what in the hell they were thinking for the other 11.
  • Looks like Dude Wipes is back on the ringpost!
  • Hell of a nearfall, followed up by a Helluva Kick from Gunthcr, and one from Sami!
  • That finish….AMAZING.

Winner via pinfall, AND NEW Intercontinental Champion: Sami Zayn

The athletes… the moments… the storytelling… professional wrestling is such a beautiful business. Sami Zayn’s win over Gunther was everything I had hoped it would be when I picked Sami to win. Absolutely beautiful.

Cody Rhodes & World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins vs. The Rock & Undisputed WWE Champion Roman Reigns

Greg’s pre-show prediction: Seth & Cody get the win after tons of interference and surprise appearances, making Roman vs Cody on Sunday a match where The Bloodline is banned from ringside.

So much involved in this one. As you know, If Rock & Roman win, Sunday’s WWE Championship match will be held under Bloodline Roles. If Seth & Cody win, then that mach will see ZERO Bloodline involvement. Personally, if Cody is winning the title, I’d rather it be straight up. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I am wrong.

  • Honestly, after the introductions, I realized I was just watching!
  • This was very much Steve Austin vs The Rock inspired, with them fighting all over the stadium, and pushing the envelope.
  • I loved The Rock basically neutering the referee–normally I hate that, but here it works.
  • That finish and the condition of Rollins both lay perfectly into night 2, I would imagine.

Winners via Rock pinfall on Rhodes: The Rock & Roman Reigns

Per rule, Sunday’s main event will now be Bloodline Rules. And given that, my prediction of Roman retaining might be harder to pull off. This was a good return for The Rock, and perfectly played into the whole story. Job well done.


Greg DeMarco’s Overall Thoughts for WWE WrestleMania XL, Saturday (Night 1)

in a vacuum, this was  highly enjoyable show. Night 2 might end up being legendary if both Bayley and Rhodes win, and it could overshadow Night 1. But the scene was fantastic, production was top notch as always, and the fans went home having enjoyed one for the ages. The Triple H Era s well underway, and will likely kick into a higher gear with Night 2.


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