Across professional wrestling, 2022 was an interesting and unexpected year. Every promotion had major moments that impacted the future of the company. All Elite Wrestling is no different, with multiple instances that impacted not only the status but the future as well. Looking forward to the new year, here are three big stories that fans should watch as a fresh 365-day calendar approaches.
Will CM Punk return?
“Brawl Out” was one of the biggest stories of 2022. AEW was forced to make big adjustments and remove its biggest stars from television for months. The Elite have returned, walking right back into the AEW Trios title picture. But there is no word on if or when CM Punk will return. Many are hoping that Punk does return and those involved with the fight find a way to work together.
The outcome of this matter is anyone’s guess, but each is a massive story to watch in 2023. Punk’s return to AEW would have the potential to kick off a mass of momentum that helps the promotion build not only in the ring but outside of it as well. He could leave wrestling entirely, which would be an interesting wrinkle in his legacy in the industry. What if he made the jump to WWE as a part-time performer? That moment would be an early candidate for the story of the year in 2023. Regardless, AEW fans will have their eyes on this story as both the in-ring and outside-the-ring situation plays out.
MJF’s run as champion
The moment finally came at AEW Full Gear. MJF has the AEW World Championship around his waist. This is the moment that fans have wanted to see, even before the dispute that pushed MJF off television for months earlier in the year. Now, the prevailing question is where his story with the title goes because there are multiple directions it could take.
There are several names that would be strong challengers for MJF. Ricky Starks was up first and that’s an angle they could go back to in the future. Bryan Danielson is the next name up, but expectations are that he will fall as well. Looking beyond those two, individuals like Kenny Omega, WARDLOW, Eddie Kingston, Orange Cassidy, and others build out a deep men’s division.
MFJ consistently talked about the “bidding war of 2024,” pointing toward the idea of his contract ending and taking the championship to another organization. While that may or may not be true, it’s a compelling story to see who is the name that steps up to defend the home court from someone threatening to do one of the worst crimes in pro wrestling.
The women’s division continues to flourish
While drama runs rampant in the AEW men’s division, the women’s division has continued to flourish. The AEW Dynamite match between Hikaru Shida and Jamie Hayter felt like a culmination of all the work that was done throughout 2022 to elevate that division. Fans refused to stay quiet on the matter and pushed the company to do a better job of highlighting the talented women on the roster. From Thunder Rosa finally winning the championship in a steel cage match, Saraya’s big debut, to Hayter’s rise and crowning – 2022 saw some advancement of women’s wrestling in the promotion.
But the work isn’t done. There are several stories to tell in women’s wrestling for AEW in 2023. Everyone is looking at that January 11 show as a potential appearance for Sasha Banks/Mercedes Mone and that would completely change the dynamic of women’s wrestling throughout the industry. Even if she doesn’t make the jump, AEW has a major story in its back pocket when Britt Baker eventually turns on Hayter.
Plus, don’t take your eyes off Jade Cargill and the Baddies who have their own opportunity to take over the division or split into their own angle. There’s a lot to look forward to with women’s wrestling in AEW if they continue to build on this moment.
2023 stands to be a big year in professional wrestling and eyes will watch closely on how these situations play out.