If you collect modern wrestling trading cards, chances are you’re all too familiar with the woes of Upper Deck and AEW.
A slew of production delays has seriously impacted collector interest in what was not too long ago a red hot trading card product.
Many collectors, such as myself, still eagerly await news of the next Upper Deck AEW trading card release, but some have bailed since the days of $250-300 hobby boxes (which now cost less than $75 per box), and some of us who still buy in to their new products now proceed with caution when a pre-order is announced.
The saving grace is that when a new Upper Deck AEW trading card product is finally released, more often than not, it’s a hit.
Which brings us to their latest release, 2022 Upper Deck AEW Skybox Metal Universe. Sure, it’s a mouthful, and most people will just refer to it as AEW Metal Universe, but whatever you want to call it, it’s an absolutely awesome set of cards.
As you can probably tell by the name of the set, 2022 Upper Deck AEW Skybox Metal Universe was due to be released last year, but not unlike the other Upper Deck AEW sets before it, it kept getting pushed back and back, almost to the point where some collectors doubted it would ever actually be released, but finally, on August 30, 2023, AEW Metal Universe hit the streets, and for the most part, the early reactions have been very positive.
One of the biggest draws to 2022 Upper Deck AEW Skybox Metal Universe is that it caters to nostalgia, but rather than focus on wrestlers or wrestling cards of the past, AEW Metal Universe showcases AEW talent on a style of trading cards that were popularized by basketball cards of the late 1990s, so these cards are flashy, bold, gaudy, and everything else you loved (or hated) about late ’90s trading cards, and while I admit I wasn’t collecting trading cards in the late ’90s, I love the style of those cards, and I love 2022 Upper Deck AEW Skybox Metal Universe.
Each hobby box of 2022 Upper Deck AEW Skybox Metal Universe comes with 15 packs of seven cards, and while there are no guaranteed hits (autographs or relics) in these boxes, there are lots of inserts, so for about $150 per hobby box, you get a good number of a pretty wide assortment of cards. Plus, the typical hit, like autographs, aren’t really the main attraction here. What everyone wants from Metal Universe sets are Precious Metal Gem cards, which are rarer and more valuable than many autographs.
So, I was pretty excited to open my first pack of 2022 Upper Deck AEW Skybox Metal Universe, and while I knew and understood my odds of getting a Precious Metal Gem (or PMG) weren’t very good, you can’t blame a boy for trying.
My first pack began with base cards of Taz, Tay Melo, and Lance Archer, and the base cards look great. I love the slightly raised profile of each wrestler, and the cards are very flashy and full of ’90s attitude. I then got a William Regal Planet Metal die cut insert. Of course, I wished the card was actually metal, but that’s a minor qualm. Next, there was a Scorpio Sky blue parallel card, which I would eventually learn was a high number short print card, which fall one per pack. I then finished the pack with Wardlow and Samoa Joe base cards, so it was a pretty basic pack, but a good example of things to come.
In my second pack of AEW Metal Universe, I got Sammy Guevara and Julia Hart base cards (Hart’s first AEW trading card, for those keeping track), then I got a Nick Jackson 1997-98 Metal Universe Retro card, which has a very spacey, trippy design to match Jackson’s spacey, trippy outfit. I then got a Sammy Guevara high number SP, followed by a great looking base card of The Butcher, looking like a crazed biker at Altamont, then “Daddy Ass” Billy Gunn and Serena Deeb.
My third pack started with a Jade Cargill base card, then a Technicians insert of Adam Cole, followed by a Rey Fenix high number SP, a Keith Lee base card, and a badly damaged Wheeler Yuta base card. This card had a big bend in the upper left hand corner of the card, which had me worried about the condition of other cards in the box, but thankfully, for now, it wasn’t a more valuable card.
Pack number four began with base cards of Kip Sabian and Thunder Rosa, then I got a great Penelope Ford Metal Universe 97-98 Retro purple parallel card serial numbered out of 199. The color and texture of this card is really top notch. Then I finished the pack with a Claudio Castagnoli high number SP, and base cards of Nick Jackson, Miro, and good ol’ Jim Ross.
The first card of my next pack was a base card of HOOK, looking bratty as ever. 2022 Upper Deck AEW was HOOK’s rookie card, so with this also being a 2022 release, I asked myself if this would also count as a rookie card, of sorts? Anyway, after that was a good looking base card of Excalibur, and a Sammy Guevara Technicians insert. This is my second Technicians insert of the box, and I can say I don’t really care for the design, which is like a generic blueprint design. After this came an Adam Cole blue high number SP, and base cards of Athena and Buddy Matthews. It’s funny, I initially thought this pack felt heavier than the others before it, but I guess it was just my mind playing tricks on me.
I was a little nervous to open my sixth pack of the box, because the last pack in this spot had the damaged Wheeler Yuta card, so I crossed my fingers and ripped in with extra care. My first card in this pack was a nice Bryan Danielson base card, then it was a Darby Allin Skybox Premium insert. This is a beautiful gold card of one of my day one favorite AEW wrestlers, so I was very happy with this, even if it’s not that rare of a card. Next came an Orange Cassidy high number SP, and base cards of Lee Moriarty, Aubrey Edwards, and Max Castor, so this was easily my favorite pack of the box, so far.
My seventh pack included a die cut insert of Sting called The Merch, which is basically a card cut to the shape and style of a t-shirt. It’s a really silly card. When you look at it, you can’t help but laugh, so I think it’s a fun inclusion, though I can imagine other sour pusses disliking it. This pack also included a blue Bryan Danielson high number SP and a Kenny Omega base card from his mustachioed AEW champion era.
My eighth pack of Metal Universe began with a base card of Swerve Strickland, who has many Topps trading cards from his time in NXT and WWE, but this is his first AEW card. Next came a base card of Kris Statlander, then a very sparkly Turn Up the Heat insert card of Rey Fenix, who was a perfect choice for this insert set. Then I pulled a Chris Jericho high number SP, and a Tony Schiavone base card.
In my ninth pack of AEW Metal Universe, I pulled base cards of The Blade, Ruby Soho, and The Bunny (funny to get The Blade and Bunny so close to each other), then a very cool Orange Cassidy 97-98 Metal Universe Retro insert, a blue Leyla Hirsch high number SP, and base cards of William Regal and Rush.
After this, I had six packs to go in my box of 2022 Upper Deck AEW Skybox Metal Universe, and while I knew there were no guaranteed hits in the box, I was still hoping to pull something bigger in the packs to go, and if nothing else, my next pack at least gave me something interesting. It began with base cards of Dante Martin and Rey Fenix, but then I pulled another Skybox Premium insert, this time of “Stokely Long Hathaway,” as it says on the card. I’ve seen on Twitter/X that this is a recurring error on some of these Skybox Premium cards, but if you’re going to get an error card where somebody randomly has the word Long inserted in the middle of their name, Stokely Hathaway aka Big Stoke is probably the best person this could happen to.
In my next two packs, I pulled a Dante Martin 97-98 Retro, a Ruby Soho high number SP, a Chris Jericho The Merch insert (yeah, they’re still silly), and a blue Tay Melo high number SP, then I was down to my final three packs of the box.
In my 13th pack, I pulled a Thunder Rosa high number SP and a Sting Palladium insert, which was probably my favorite card of the box. Palladium is an acetate insert, so in other words it’s a clear, plastic trading card. The only elements of the card that have any color to it is the wrestler, their name, and the word Palladium. I love it.
In pack number 14, I pulled a high number SP of Dr. Britt Baker, MD and a Keith Lee Bonzo Gonzo die cut insert, which was maybe the most ’90s looking card of the whole box, and as for my final pack of the box, I pulled a Cash Wheeler Skybox Premium insert, a PAC high number SP, an MJF base card, and my last card in the box was a base card of Anthony Ogogo.
So, while I may have gotten more inserts overall than the average hobby box, this certainly wasn’t a “big” box, in terms of hits or resale value, but I think 2022 Upper Deck AEW Skybox Metal Universe is a tremendous looking set, full of great inserts and huge hits, if you’re lucky enough to pull one, and for the current price of $150, I’m hankering to open another box of AEW Metal Universe.
2022 Upper Deck AEW Skybox Metal Universe is available now from online retailers and local card shops.