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Our 11th Annual Cageside Cup for Performer of the Year goes to...

For a year’s worth of Sundays, Cageside Seats asked you to tell us about your favorite performances in pro wrestling. It’s all been building to this, awarding what we now call the Cageside Cup.

Nothing Honorary about this, former Uce...

He made us laugh, he made us cry. And for that, we’re giving him our highest honor (that he’ll probably never know about, and that nobody outside of this web community probably cares about. But it’s a big deal to us, damnit).

More on Sami Zayn and the rest of our Top Ten Performers of 2022-2023. But first, 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 11th year...

11 on down
  • Another year, another record for people placing in our weekly Top Ten and earning a spot in the annual Rankings.
  • I’m always fascinated by the random ties in the final Rankings, and I’ve never found one more fascinating than the Mysterios tying for 17th. It’ll never be a reason their year or their lives will be remembered as linked, but still think the universe was sending a message.
  • Not only did no women finish in the Top Ten for the first time ever, but you have to go all the way down to 24th to find the highest ranked female — reigning AEW Women’s champ Jamie Hayter.
10 (t) — Cody Rhodes, Mark Briscoe

Both men undoubtedly deserve to be here, and earned their spot in the Top Ten despite not being on television for much of the year. They’ll both also always be linked in our minds to a deceased relative we all miss very much — but not nearly as much as they do.

9 — CM Punk
8 — Wardlow

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. These fellas stopped racking up points for different reasons (although you could argue they’re both Tony Khan-related), but the net result is the same. They looked like early favorites to win, then...

7 — Jey Uso

He wasn’t the star of The Bloodline angle, but neither of the dudes who were would have been without him. The work he did also added depth to his own previous issues with the Tribal Chief, and may have set the stage for WWE to revisit that feud in the year to come.

6 — Orange Cassidy

How can you not love this guy? TK knows he brings the ratings, so he gets great spots on TV cards. Being a champ for much of the year didn’t hurt. But mostly this is in recognition of why he’s such a valuable piece for AEW. He’s a great character, and he can flat out go when he has to.

5 - Roman Reigns

Even when we’re chanting “f*** you” at him, we’re acknowledging him. Placing this high for how little he wrestles is testament to what an all-time great gimmick the Head of the Table is, and how it allowed a great performer to up his game even further.

4 — Gunther

Long a fan favorite for his in-ring skill and just the aura he brings to the screen, WWE actually booking his Intercontinental title reign in a way befitting his badass-dom was a welcome surprise.

3— MJF

He racked up a lot of his points with his World title run, but only a little more than half. Hate him or love to hate him, whenever he’s around he’s part of AEW’s biggest angles. He also usually a big reason those are AEW’s best angles.

2 — Jon Moxley

A much more divisive figure than I realized prior to this year, Mox stepped up and did excellent work serving as AEW’s centerpiece — at a time when they desperately needed him to. In exchange, they let him bleed a lot.

1 — Sami Zayn

He deserves this for the Royal Rumble-through-Elimination Chamber stretch alone. But the seeds for what turned into a legendary run were planted when he turned the Johnny Knoxville feud into something special at the end of the 2021-2022 campaign. That he kept gaining more and more momentum is what made his year special.

Zayn joins his tag partner on this list of winners:

2022-2023: Sami Zayn
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

Join us back here on Sunday for the start of the 12th annual chase for the Cageside Cup!

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