The New Year is bearing down on us swiftly. In professional wrestling, the New Year creates hope that new stars will be elevated in their promotions to meet the expectations of fans. The same can be said for All Elite Wrestling heading into 2022. Looking ahead, these are five names that stand out as the leading vote-getters for a big run in the next 365 days.
Ricky Starks has star potential, and not only in his name. The 27-year-old, Louisiana native was a spark for AEW when he was signed early in the pandemic. Everything about his look, microphone work, and abilities in the ring gives off the presentation that he’d be a great main event feature. In 2021 he secured the FTW title, but that belt hasn’t meant much in AEW-lore.
Next year, Starks could see himself moving up the ladder and into storylines at the top of the card. Starks was named as one of the people that fans want to see work with CM Punk, and that’s still a possibility. Team Taz is feuding with Dante Martin currently, and that could lead to a situation where Lio Rush and Starks share the microphone and ring. There are more than a few paths to seeing more of Starks in the limelight next year and he’s someone that would thrive in that position.
Say what you want about Jade Cargill, but she is a “star” in the making for AEW. Her look is attention-grabbing, much like Chyna during her early run in WWE. But the attitude and personality that she delivers at the same time is unique in a way that makes her a person that can’t be ignored. As her in-ring abilities continue to develop, it’s important for AEW to book her accordingly along the way.
Cargill is expected to be the woman that comes out of the TBS Title Tournament holding that belt around her waist. AEW has done an excellent job protecting the value of its titles and Cargill having a strong run as the first champion would be more of the same. But one should expect Cargill to have a big 2022 as she moves into her position of being a top name in this AEW women’s division.
MJF is wrapped up in a feud with one of the most important names in wrestling, CM Punk. While the focus is on them, there’s a budding angle between him and Wardlow that is set to explode at any moment. It’s going to take some time to get there, but when it does expect this to be a star-making moment for the big man.
Many expect 2022 to be the year where MJF becomes the AEW World Champion. It’s an understandable prediction to see him defeating “Hangman” Adam Page at some point. But along the way, seeing him split from Wardlow would help establish a future opponent that could either be a brief main event feud, or the first one to welcome him when his title run is over. Wardlow has the look and is slowly establishing the in-ring work as well. Expect him to become a bigger name next year.
Many are wondering who is the woman that will take the AEW Women’s Championship from Britt Baker. It’s an interesting question because her run as champion has started to lose momentum. However, Jamie Hayter as a foe would be a quick boost of a feud and potentially lead to the next woman to hold that champion.
Since joining AEW earlier this year, Hayter has looked great in her role. While she’s playing the position as second to Baker, it’s clear that a split is going to come. When she lays out Baker and does the “D.M.D” for the first time, fans will be looking at another made star in the women’s division. She should be the woman to take the belt from Baker early in 2022.
Jungle Boy is the only member of the “Pillars” of AEW to not hold a title. Expect that to change in 2022. He and Luchasaurus are poised to get their hands on the AEW Tag Team Championships at some point. The duo remains excessively over with the fan base. But what if there’s a world where Jungle Boy turns on his crew to become a singles performer and captures the TNT Championship.
Imagine a singles match between Sammy Guevara and Jungle Boy with that title on the line. That match could headline an AEW Dynamite or Rampage any week. It’s a pathway to Jungle Boy having a big 2022 where he should be expected to have some gold around his waist.
2022 is shaping up to be another big year for All Elite Wrestling. As the brand continues to carve out its space in wrestling, expect these five individuals to be centerpieces for their run in the next 12 months.