TL;DR: The issue is likely that the EFI for VMWare isn’t finding the Boot.EFI file. You just need to tell it where it is. Scroll to bottom of article for instructions.
I have an old Xserve with ESXi 6.5 on it that I got Monterey running on, however when I used Nakivo to make backups the flash boot, verification, and even restore all resulted in a kernel panics. I played with settings for a while, but couldn’t see to figure out why they were no good.
This evening I found the linchpin the back-ups are fine, but the EFI boot data is getting wiped at some point. As a result the new VM doesn’t know where the boot.efi file for MacOS 12 is and as a result it freaks out. The good news is that all we have to do is put the location back in and things should work again.
To re-add the boot.efi location back into the list you need to do the following Hold down option at boot then go to Enter Setup>Configure boot options>Add boot option>Preboot,(it will have a lot of location data behind it)>[UUID WILL BE HERE]>System>Library>CoreServices>boot.efi There are a lot of other boot.efi.[other stuff here] files. You just want the regular one that is just plain ol’ “boot.efi”. Once you pick it then hit enter. It should ask for a description, hit enter and put “MacOS Boot” or whatever you want to call it. At this point I also recommend turning off the other boot items. To do this you need to go to Setup>Configure boot options>Enable or disable boot options from there you can just disable all the other, although I would leave the CD/Rom. Then that should be it. Reboot it and your hopefully good to go!
If you just need to boot into the machine and don’t care about adding just do “Boot from file” instead of “Configure boot options” when you are setting the EFI.