As we’re moving closer to the end of the year, it is time to reflect on wrestling in 2022. AEW added eight women to their roster this year, the most of any company. Based on ring success, social media buzz, and overall excitement for the performer, I will rank the signings from worst to best. I won’t include women who wrestled in the company but didn’t get a contract. As always, if you disagree with my list, you can post your own list in the comments or tweet me @abbimcmillen or @WWTalkPod.
8. Paige VanZant
Paige VanZant was introduced to AEW audiences in 2021, but ultimately wouldn’t be officially signed until March of 2022. She formed an alliance with Dan Lambert, Scorpio Sky, and Ethan Page and entered into a feud with Tay Melo. She had her first (and only) match at Double or Nothing teaming with Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky to take on Tay Melo, Sammy Guevara, and Frankie Kazarian. Although her team got the victory, fans were very critical of Paige’s ability in the ring, and she hasn’t wrestled another match since.
AQA faced Jade Cargill for the TBS Championship on February 9th and signed with AEW on February 11th. In June, she retired from wrestling after wrestling on Dark, Elevation, Ring of Honor, and some independent promotions.
6. Renee Paquette
Although she’s not a wrestler, Renee Paquette is an important figure in the world of wrestling. She has her own podcast, The Sessions, where she interviews not only wrestlers, but other athletes, life coaches, and people from all walks of life. She also has a show that she does with the Cincinnati Bengals, a Sirius XM show with Miesha Tate, her own cookbook, and tons of other projects. Renee was signed to AEW in October and has been doing a lot of the backstage interviews for AEW. Fans were very excited to see a familiar face in the interviewer role and she has already made an impact in the Saraya and Britt Baker feud. She joins her husband, Jon Moxley, in the company. She stated on The Sessions that she is super excited to be back in wrestling since and has felt its absence in her life ever since leaving WWE in 2020.
5. Madison Rayne
Impact legend, Madison Rayne, was signed to AEW in August 2022 as a coach and as a wrestler. The AEW women’s division has been heavily criticized because of the lack of television time and poor booking decisions by management, so fans were relieved when veteran Madison was signed as a coach. Fans were even more excited when it was announced that she would also be wrestling for the company. She challenged Jade for the TBS Championship in her second match with the company. She has also routinely appeared on Dark, Elevation, Dynamite, and Rampage since signing with AEW. Rayne most recently has formed an alliance with Skye Blue that has seen the pair face off against Britt Baker and Jamie Hayter, The Baddies, TayJay AS, and other teams.
Athena, known as Ember Moon in NXT and WWE, debuted in AEW at Double or Nothing in May 2022, helping Kris Statlander and Anna Jay finish Anna’s match against Jade Cargill. She has been a regular on Dark and Elevation, especially since she changed her attitude and has been attacking anyone who gets in her way, including referees. A lost the TBS Championship to Jade Cargill at All Out. She recently feuded with Mercedes Martinez, the returning Ring of Honor Women’s Champion, leading to a match at Final Battle. Athena became Ring of Honor Women’s Champion after a great match. Since her debut, Athena seemed underutilized in AEW/ROH, so fans were glad to see her win gold.
Saraya, known as Paige in WWE and NXT, made her AEW debut at AEW Dynamite: Grand Slam in September. She had AEW’s loudest debut reaction. Due to a neck injury, Saraya hadn’t competed since 2017. A few weeks after her debut, Saraya announced on Dynamite that she had been cleared to wrestle again. Saraya won her first match since 2017 against Britt Baker at Full Gear. In January, Britt Baker and AEW Women’s Champion Jamie Hayter will face Saraya and her partner in a tag team match. Seeing Saraya wrestle again after five years away due to her neck injury has been amazing.
2. Willow Nightingale
Willow Nightingale has competed on AEW prior to 2022, but she wasn’t officially signed until October 2022. Fans have instantly fallen in love with her, with some fans knowing her from her time in Ring of Honor. She challenged for the TBS Championship several times and wrestled on Dark, Elevation, Dynamite, and Rampage. Nightingale also works for independent promotions like Beyond Wrestling, TJPW in Japan, and DDT Pro Wrestling. She recently faced Trish Adora at Ring of Honor Final Battle. Willow will have many more opportunities in AEW and ROH. I’m excited for her in the AEW women’s division in 2023.
1. Toni Storm
Toni Storm made her AEW debut in March 2022 when she surprised the Bunny in an Owen Hart Foundation Tournament qualifying match. She had a great 2022 after Storm won. She lost the AEW Women’s Championship to Thunder Rosa at Forbidden Door. Thunder Rosa’s injury prevented her from competing at All Out. Toni, Britt Baker, Hikaru Shida, and Jamie Hayter fought for the interim AEW Women’s Championship. Toni was a great champion until Full Gear when she lost to Jamie Hayter. After Dynamite, Thunder Rosa relinquished the AEW Women’s Championship, making Jamie Hayter and Toni Storm undisputed champions. Toni Storm tops this list because she won the AEW Championship in her first year.