Happy New Year everyone! For anyone who missed last week, (a) I’m marking one year at Cageside with my “Best of 2022” awards, (b) go back and read Part One for my Match and Male & Female Wrestlers of the year, and (c) I’m very grateful to get a chance to talk about wrestling with you fine folks, both here and on Bleav, whether you agree or disagree with my takes.
So without further ado, here’s part two of my wholly unoriginal, obligatory and extremely meta professional wrestling year in review for 2022.
Breakout Performer of the Year: Logan Paul
At the risk of sounding like the out of touch, elder millennial that I am, I had no clue who Logan Paul was when he came to WWE. I wasn’t sure what he did, why he was famous, or why he was on my TV screen. Quite frankly, I did not care about Logan Paul.
He very quickly won me over.
This man has no business being as good as he is, just three matches into his pro wrestling career. But he just has it. You know, it. That thing that no one can describe, but you instantly know when someone has it. Yea, he has it.
Part of what makes Logan Paul so good is that he knows how to work a crowd. I’ll never forget sitting in the AT&T Stadium press box, watching his match against the Mysterios at WrestleMania 38. His first ever match in WWE is on the biggest stage of them all and he’s competing against one of the greatest of all time. That’s a ton of pressure and it didn’t phase him at all.
There was a point in the match when he climbed up to the top rope. Boos were just raining down from the thousands in attendance and Paul had the wherewithal in that moment to stare into the crowd, give a little smile and an Eddie Guerrero shoulder shake before delivering a big frog splash.
It was at that moment I said the following sentence verbatim, “Son of a b——, this guy gets it.”
Logan Paul burst onto the scene in a big way in 2022, even going toe-to-toe with Roman Reigns at Crown Jewel. He is going to be a major player for years to come.
Most Valuable Performers: Sami Zayn and Jon Moxley
Let’s just go ahead an award the MVP like they would in Major League Baseball. But instead of the National and American Leagues, I’m going to name the WWE and AEW most valuable performers.
I’m doing this because, well, this article is arbitrary. I can just make up the rules as I go along. Also, I can’t pick between them, so I’m choosing to highlight them both.
If you polled a thousand wrestling fans, I’m confident a vast majority of them would say that the arc involving the Bloodline this year has been the best storyline of 2022. Sami Zayn is the straw that stirs that drink (I was going to make a Bloody Mary pun, but couldn’t make it work) and he’s earned this article’s “prestigious” honor.
Zayn has proven himself as one of the most versatile performers in all of WWE. You need him to sell a match with Johnny Knoxville? Done. You want him to take a scoop slam from Wee Man and get pinned in a giant mousetrap? No problem. Need someone to spice up the Roman Reigns\Brock Lesnar feud for a few weeks, Sami is your guy.
Whatever you give Sami Zayn, he’ll find a way to make it work. More often than not under the previous regime, he would turn chicken (you know what) into, well something other than chicken salad because that’s still disgusting. I digress.
His comedic genius is effortless and his interactions with the Usos have been so beloved that a months long story culminated with a hug inside WarGames and the crowd went nuts.
It also doesn’t hurt that Sami is genuinely just a really great human being. There’s no need to wonder why he is one of the most over guys in the entire company. His solo babyface run is going to be huge whenever WWE finally pulls the trigger and separates him from the Bloodline.
Jon Moxley deserves praise for completely different reasons. Not taking anything away from him as a performer, but when AEW really needed someone to step up as a leader in the locker room, Mox was there.
As a matter of fact, Mox has always been there. A flagbearer for All Elite Wrestling since the day he debuted at Double or Nothing.
Tony Khan really wanted CM Punk to be the face of his company. The AEW founder paid handsomely to bring Punk out of retirement and for good reason. He’s arguably the most popular pro wrestler of the last decade. Name me any other performer who’s name was chanted on a regular basis, seven years after his last match.
CM Punk was given the ball and asked to run with it and take AEW to the next level. He fumbled. Twice.
First it was a freak injury when he broke his foot on Dynamite the next show after he defeated Hangman Page for the AEW World Championship. He needed months of rehab. Jon Moxley was there to pick up the slack.
When Tony Khan booked Punk to take his title back from Jon Moxley, his new World Champion immediately lambasted his company’s EVP’s during the All Out press conference. We all know how that ended.
Even if the Brawl Out at All Out didn’t go down, Punk wouldn’t have been the AEW World Champion for very long. He tore his triceps during his match at All Out and would have had to relinquish the title anyway. Guess who was there once again - Jon Moxley.
During the most tumultuous few weeks in AEW history, it was Mox who stepped up to provide stability and leadership. He along with Chris Jericho and Bryan Danielson rallied the troops and pulled the locker room together during a pivotal time that could have proven to be detrimental to the future of All Elite Wrestling.
When Tony Khan has needed him the most, Jon Moxley has always been there. Whatever is best for AEW, you can bet on Mox coming through to do whatever is necessary. Including putting over the white hot young heel in MJF.
Can my man finally take his damn vacation?
Feel Good Moment of the Year: Saraya’s return match at AEW Full Gear
Go ahead and call it a comeback - a miraculous one. At no point in 2022 was I happier watching a wrestling match than I was when Saraya stepped into the ring as an active competitor at Full Gear for the first time in 5 years.
After spending so much of her remaining time in WWE off of television, not even utilized in a managerial role, Saraya was a bit rusty when she got to AEW. She’ll be the first one to tell you that it took her a little time to get her feet wet, especially when trying to go blow for blow on the mic with Dr. Britt Baker.
Once she stepped into the ring in Newark, Saraya was back. She delivered on the big stage just like she did years ago. After everything she’s been through, it was a win just getting cleared to compete. Being that good her first time out, was a very exciting bonus. Cannot wait to see what this next stage of her career looks like moving forward.
Honorable mention: Liv Morgan winning the SmackDown Women’s Championship
Hard work and determination really do pay off in the long run. No one exemplifies that more than Liv Morgan. Her finally winning the big one was just such a feel good moment for not only Liv, but for all of her supporters who watched her bust her butt over the years and never gave up on her.
And while her run with the Championship may not have been what we all had in mind, there’s always hope that she’ll get another chance in the future.
See you next Friday with a hot opener for 2023!