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Our 10th Annual Cageside Cup for Performer of the Year goes to...

All Elite Wrestling

For a year’s worth of Sundays (plus one Saturday before and one Monday after WrestleMania 38 weekend), Cageside Seats asked you to tell us about your favorite performances in pro wrestling. It’s all been building to this, awarding what I just recently decided we’d start calling the Cageside Cup.

Not bad for a guy who didn’t even show up until August...

CM Punk’s win comes after Roman Reigns was in first place — often by a considerable margin — for most of the past year. It also happened despite him not having a performance eligible in the final vote of our tenth campaign. More on that in a bit...

For now, here’s a rundown of everyone who placed in our one of weekly Wrestling Rankings in 2021-2022 that determined who got the Cup as Performer of the Year:

Wish I had time to do some fancy graphs like I used to back in the early days of this thing - if anyone wants to take a stab at analysis, let me know and I can share the full spreadsheet I use to keep track of it week-to-week.

Even without those, here are some quick thoughts as we close the book on our tenth year...

11 on down
  • Another year, another record for people placing in a weekly top ten and earning a spot in the annual Rankings.
  • It was a wild year, and the Rankings showed it. August was a big moment atop the Rankings, but that month’s events are evident though out. NXT’s presence was waning anyway, but the 2.0 rebranding happening as Punk (and just before Bryan Danielson & Adam Cole) arrived cemented AEW replacing the formerly black-and-gold brand on ballots.
  • Personally, one of my favorite things about this is the weird, coincidental (?) ties which either make perfect or no sense. This year, the in for 42nd makes me want the Final Boss to join Blackpool Combat Club. Then feud BCC with the trio tied for 65th. Or the one tied for 68th.
10 (t) — Eddie Kingston, Kenny Omega

Speaking of weird ties, who’d have thunk these two would be linked after Kenny’s Deathmatch dud (and Eddie’s PTSD) knocked Kingston out at Revolution 2021? Omega’s Belt Collector run earned him a lot of votes before he left to get lingering issues dealt with after Full Gear. The Mad King’s proven he can make any feud compelling with just a few minutes of mic time, and deliver a kickass, believable match to pay it off.

9 — Cesaro

Every year, there’s someone who has an early run which keeps them in the top ten most of the year, but whose push fades and they end up not getting a lot of votes later. Call it the Damien Sandow Award. The Swiss Superman took that concept to another level this year. We all bought into the idea of WWE giving him another push when he was killing it in the post-WrestleMania 37 Universal title scene. Turns out it was not a push, and now he’s no longer with the company.

8 — Finn Bálor

Whatever we call it, one of the main points of this exercise was to merge the opinions of fans who look for different things from pro wrestling. Some folks value big wins, or meaningful storylines. Some just want to root for their faves. That’s not to say Bálor didn’t do meaningful things over the past 12 months. He was in the NXT title scene to start the year, got a post-SummerSlam program with the Tribal Chief, and is the current U.S. champ. But he also gets a lot more support than others with similar booking would thanks to some diehard fans. Which is great! Just pointing it out.

7 — Brock Lesnar

Long reviled as a “part-timer” and a “mercenary”, Lesnar cracking the top ten is pretty amazing. That’s just how popular his recent face run’s been, though.

6 - Sasha Banks

What I wrote about Finn also always applies to last year’s winner, but The Boss was a part of either the SmackDown Women’s title picture or the WWE Women’s Tag title picture whenever she was around this year. Also, she’s The MF’n Boss.

5 — MJF
4 — Hangman Page

These two young pillars of AEW were featured in two of the years best stories. Most of their points came from the Anxious Millennial Cowboy’s run to the World title, and Maxwell Jacob Friedman’s personal beef with his former idol.

3— Bryan Danielson

Probably the biggest surprise of the year for your friendly neighborhood counter & compiler. When he was going broadway with Page earlier this year, the American Dragon seemed poised to make a run for first place. His momentum fizzled, but he’s always one to watch.

2 — Roman Reigns

We acknowledged him all year, but some fatigue with his time at the top and that August shift in buzz we’ve mentioned multiple times here stalled his momentum. He had a chance to regain the lead with WrestleMania, but a Texas Rattlesnake and the Grandson of a Plumber stole the show on the Grandest Stage of Them All. Which meant our Performer of the Year was...

1 — CM Punk

We just really missed this guy. That he came back in love with the business/artform and guns blazing meant our enthusiasm for his return never wavered.


This is Punk’s second win. He joins The Man as our only two-time Performer of the Year:

2021-2022: CM Punk
2020-2021: Sasha Banks
2019-2020: Becky Lynch
2018-2019: Becky Lynch
2017-2018: Roman Reigns
2016-2017: AJ Styles
2015-2016: Kevin Owens
2014-2015: Seth Rollins
2013-2014: Daniel Bryan
2012-2013: CM Punk

Normally in these year-end gimmicks, we have you predict the following year. Gonna skip that this time because (a) we’re never right, and (b) we have a bigger issue to tackle.

As mentioned, the Standings/Rankings attempt to represent all kinds of fans — including “smart” ones who care about things like drawing ability and mainstream awareness. For that reason, and because in 2012 when I first started this WWE dominated the market much more than it does today, WrestleMania isn’t just the end of our year. It also got its own vote.

That’s changed a bit over the years as every non-AEW company flocks to the market ‘Mania’s being held in for shows, so that final vote can now encompass other Saturday or Sunday shows being held by promotions other than WWE. But it’s still mostly a ballot full of Superstars™.

Should it remain that way? I think there are valid arguments on both sides. It is an empirical advantage for WWE performers. But there really is nothing comparable to WrestleMania so maybe people who excel there deserve that advantage. Throw in the fact Punk just proved you can win this thing without being booked at the Showcase of the Immortals (and while not being around for the first four months of said thing), and... it’s a conundrum.

This has always been a community-driven process and site, so we’re going to let you decide. Vote in this poll, and hash out arguments in the comments. I’ll do my best to keep an eye on those and answer questions/keep the peace.

Poll

Should we still include a dedicated WrestleMania-weekend vote in the Wrestler Rankings?

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    Yes, keep a final week vote on Friday and end the season with a Sunday night one
    (184 votes)
  • 47%
    No, extend the final weekend to Sunday
    (177 votes)
  • 3%
    Other (Speak up in the comments!)
    (12 votes)
373 votes total Vote Now

Whatever we come up with, join us back here on Sunday for the start of the 11th annual chase for the Cageside Cup!