It’s been a rollercoaster year for All Elite Wrestling. With the exit of Cody Rhodes to WWE, a plethora of unfortunate injuries to top talent and the infamous All Out media scrum incident, there have certainly been significant rough patches for the four-year-old organisation.
However, one of their major successes was the masterful development of up-and-coming talent. It’s something which AEW can be very proud of in 2022. Thanks to their prominent, consistent feature on Dynamite and Rampage, several stars now find themselves in a much better position at the end of the year compared to the start.
AEW’s roster is chock-full of these talents, but a particularly significant five are listed below.
Konosuke Takeshita made his debut for All Elite Wrestling on an episode of Elevation in April 2021. Still, it wasn’t until May 2022 that he would catch fire and fully engage the AEW audience. After a great showing against Jay Lethal on Rampage, Takeshita put on an awe-inspiring performance against “Hangman” Adam Page on the May 18th Dynamite. Their match earned 4½ from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and has been mentioned in several “match of the year” lists.
From that point, everybody wanted to work with Konosuke Takeshita. For the rest of 2022, he battled Jon Moxley, Claudio Castagnoli and Eddie Kingston in critically acclaimed televised one-on-one matches. With his appearances on AEW Dark & Elevation, he has wrestled twenty-five matches for the company thus far while pulling double duty with DDT in Japan.
Though Takeshita is still chasing that “big win” over an established AEW wrestler, he became officially “All Elite” on November 19th. This signing should spell success for his future as we edge into 2023.
Wheeler Yuta is proof of the success that a change of scenery can bring. At the end of 2021, Yuta was affiliated with the Best Friends. While the Best Friends are a fantastic faction on their own merits, at the start of 2022, Yuta became tempted by the formation of the Blackpool Combat Club with William Regal, Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley.
His entry into the group took time and effort. He had to fight for it and earn the respect of the BCC members. On the April 8th edition of Rampage, Wheeler Yuta engaged in a career-making bloody brawl with Jon Moxley. Yuta would kick out of Jon Moxley’s Paradigm Shift finish during the match in a bold demonstration of valour.
After the battle, he was finally welcomed to the Blackpool Combat Club by its leader William Regal, having gained admiration for his performance.
Being part of the BCC has done Yuta a world of good. One month after joining, he was entered into NJPW’s 29th annual “Best of the Super Juniors” tournament. He has also competed in big-time matches such as Blood & Guts in June and the Casino Ladder match in September. Most recently, Wheeler Yuta regained his ROH Pure Title from Daniel Garcia in December and will surely be a considerable part of Ring of Honor’s expected weekly output in 2023.
Ricky Starks’ stock has risen to astronomical proportions in 2022. After losing his FTW championship to Hook in July, Starks was attacked by former tag partner “Powerhouse” Hobbs, leading to the dissolution of Team Taz. Starks soon got his own back on Hobbs, defeating the larger man in an Unsanctioned Lights Out match on the September 21st Rampage.
From there, Starks entered the AEW World Title Eliminator Tournament in November, defeating Lance Archer, Brian Cage and finally Ethan Page to become the #1 Contender. Starks’ gutsy performances in these matches led him to a full-fledged babyface turn, with the AEW audience getting completely behind “Absolute.”
Ricky Starks entered a feud with AEW World Champion Maxwell Jacob Friedman, proving his mettle once and for all in an epic promo battle against him on December 7th. Starks delivered a continuous stream of zingers to the champion with the crowd’s backing in a segment which was a huge success. This segment alone was a testament to Starks’ suitability within the main event scene.
Though Starks was beaten via underhanded tactics by MJF, he is now moving onto a feud with Chris Jericho and the Jericho Appreciation Society in 2023. With Jericho helping names like Orange Cassidy, Sammy Guevara and Eddie Kingston increase their star power in the past, he will likely help “Absolute” Ricky Starks achieve the same success.
Jamie Hayter’s rise to the big-time was a slow burn, but one with a massively satisfactory pay-off.
Spending most of 2022 as second-fiddle to Britt Baker, Jamie Hayter worked extremely hard to build her reputation. Using the experience gained working with Stardom in Japan, Hayter brought her brand of strong-style to the AEW women’s division, competing in more prominent singles matches throughout the year.
Hayter competed in her first AEW Women’s Title match in a losing effort to Thunder Rosa in August. Another failed attempt at the title came at All Out as part of a Fatal Four-Way. However, these defeats would not deter her, as she eventually captured the AEW Women’s Championship from Toni Storm at Full Gear.
Jamie Hayter ended 2022 on a high with a great match in Dynamite’s main event against Hikaru Shida. Now established as a dominant champion, she is showing no signs of losing the title anytime soon. As for her future programmes, it is feasible that a falling-out with ally Britt Baker is on the cards at some point in the next year. If this takes happens, it will undoubtedly lead to a star-making feud for Hayter.
As The Acclaimed ride high with the AEW Tag Team Championships at the end of 2022, it is hard to believe that they had never teamed pre-AEW. Anthony Bowens and Max Caster joined the company as solo acts but now see themselves as one of the most over teams in wrestling.
Due to Bowens’ charisma, Caster’s witty raps and their excellent in-ring chemistry, the team amassed a strong fan following throughout the year.
Their popularity exploded at All Out in an outstanding performance against then Tag Team Champions Swerve in Our Glory. The match featured the famous “oh scissor me Daddy” chant, one of the funniest yet hardest-to-explain pro wrestling chants of the year. Don’t even try to explain this to a non-wrestling fan, by the way.
The Acclaimed were unsuccessful in defeating Swerve in Our Glory at All Out, but finally bettered their rivals at Grand Slam later that month in front of their New York hometown crowd. After four failed attempts at winning the AEW Tag Team Championships since 2020, this was a moment of redemption for the duo, which many fans agree was long overdue.
With a reinvigorated “Daddy Ass” (AKA Billy Gunn) by their side and an impressive recent victory over FTR, The Acclaimed are ready to continue their domination well into 2023.
Picking only five breakout stars was challenging, especially when talents such as Daniel Garcia, Hook, and Willow Nightingale turn heads weekly. As AEW moves into 2023, they shouldn’t worry about another injury crisis causing booking problems, now that they have a crop of “ready-to-go” mega-stars at their disposal.