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The Kayfabemetrics Institute’s First Annual Award Show of Awards From Other Award Shows

It’s like ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ threw an award show for WWE superstars

WWE/Ringer illustration

As we stand at the end of 2022, the mathematicians (Hank and Dean, the VenPurr Bros.) in the Palace of Wisdom have, with my guidance, run a number of simulations using the most powerful computers Kayfabemetrics Institute has to determine which awards best match the accomplishments for a given WWE performer across the multiverse of all award shows and slates.

Machine learning being machine learning, there are still some bugs in the system, so nearly every year you end up with a new crop of awards and recipients deemed worthy by the patented Award Show of Awards from Other Award Shows Algorithm (The ASAOASAs for short) which we (meaning me, Handsome Hank, and Dashing Dean) then convert into a shorter list suitable for publication.

These are our picks for the best of the best when it comes to awarding professional wrestlers with achievements and commendations they are not qualified or eligible to receive.

Edgar Martínez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award (MLB): Roman Reigns

Presented annually to the most outstanding designated hitter (DH) in Major League Baseball.

Although Roman Reigns has had one of the most dominant runs of all time over the past two years (especially in the first six months of 2021), only the second half of it is eligible for the purposes of this exercise. Which, for Roman, is a period in which he has dropped from competing in 10 TV matches in 2021 to just two in 2022, a decrease in production which would have been evened out overall—had he kept up the same house show schedule in the second half of the year as he did in the first. Instead, he stopped performing on house shows almost entirely starting in June, and, with that, essentially ceased in-ring appearances outside of premium live events almost completely.

So, with Reigns’s part-time status becoming perhaps the defining feature of this phase of his career, it just felt right to award The Tribal Chief with the most prestigious award available to someone that does half the work of their peers. That doesn’t mean he’s less valuable or seen as less important by the company at the moment—he’s still ranked third on our WWE Power Board and will likely headline his seventh WrestleMania (out of the last nine overall for the company) this spring—but it is becoming harder and harder to reconcile (or, for the company to justify) his part-time status with his outsized influence on the company’s future plans.

Believe that.

Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (Academy of Television Arts and Sciences): Logan Paul

Given in honor of an actor who has delivered an outstanding performance in a guest-starring role on a television comedy series for the primetime network season.

As The Ringer’s own resident wrestling encyclopedia, Phil Schneider, has spent all year telling us that Logan Paul’s first few matches in the WWE have made him borderline legendary already. Although he might not be the best pound-for-pound celebrity wrestler of all time, he’s on the very short list in terms of in-ring quality, while being more legitimately famous than almost anyone else on the active roster (outside of, maybe, Becky Lynch, Brock Lesnar, and Roman Reigns).

This is unprecedented, essentially, in the history of wrestling. Putting aside someone like the late Kevin Greene (or, as much as I dislike him as a basketball player and weirdo person, Karl Malone), there’s never been a bona fide celebrity that has the legitimate chops to be world champion of a major wrestling promotion (though, as everyone knows, it hasn’t stopped major wrestling promotions from doing so before). As hinted above, it’s easy to forget just how good Bad Bunny and Floyd Mayweather Jr. were, but given how much smaller they are than Paul (or most of the people on the roster), it’s unlikely they would find themselves anywhere near a WWE main event outside the context of their celebrity.

It almost feels as though Paul could get too much screen time to be eligible for this award next year—similar to Peter MacNicol’s post-award disqualification. Once he recovers from his injury, however far he wants to go in professional wrestling could very well be a function of his willingness to commit to the grind that comes with a starring role as a full-time WWE superstar.

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (NHL): Seth Rollins

Awarded to the “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

For our purposes, this award is less about exhibiting sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability, than it is about being willing to job-out constantly while maintaining the latter. Which, if you’ve been following along all year, is why there’s simply no other choice for the WWE’s Lady Byng award than Seth “Freakin’” Rollins.

During his “rivalry”—rivalry implies some kind of competitiveness, hence the scare quotes—with Cody Rhodes earlier in 2022, Rollins managed to lose all 19 of their matches, which is on some Washington Generals-ass shit. But, because he is Seth “Freakin’” Rollins, starring every week on Monday Night Rollins, the end result of Seth crawling through 500 yards of shit was Cody Rhodes looking like a star big and bright enough to take down Roman Reigns and carry the company into an unprecedented era. Rollins, along with most of the main event’s gatekeepers on the roster, also helped raise the profile of Austin Theory, and his work with Bobby Lashley has put The Almighty back on the main event track after Lashley took the scenic route through Mount Omos at this year’s WrestleMania.

For his troubles, Rollins got more over than he maybe ever has, despite losing for almost exactly two months straight—from April 15th to June 13th, he lost every match—even picking up a United States title run for good measure in the aftermath of his routine drubbings by The American Nightmare. (That he was also the only person to “win” a singles match against Roman—he was awarded a DQ victory after he passed out in a chokehold Reigns refused to let go of—this year and last, feels like an important bit of information over the next four months.)

Nearly every morsel of news in anticipation of WrestleMania has Rollins involved as a backup plan or prominently involved in the main event of one of the event’s two nights, something that seemed completely impossible just a few months ago. This just goes to show there are always benefits to playing The Game the right way.

The FWAA’s Outland Trophy (CFB): Gunther

“Presented to the nation’s best interior lineman.”

The Outland Trophy is a relatively obscure one, at least to folks who aren’t fans of college football, but it is an extremely prestigious (because football dudes understandably love big beefi bois) honor handed out yearly to the best interior linemen of the season in college football. For our purposes, we’ll be bestowing this to the Meatiest Man To Slap Meat this year, our beloved Intercontinental Champion Gunther, The Ring General.

There were a number of extremely qualified candidates for the 2022 award—some were performers with whom Gunther had matches worthy of Phil’s weekly top three, like Sheamus (and his Brawling Brutes, as even Butch “works big”) and Bron Breakker—but Gunther stood out, and not just because he spent his time preparing for the main roster by getting into the best shape of his career.

His Clash at the Castle Intercontinental Championship match against Sheamus in Wales was an all-time classic, a 19-minute-39-second tour de force of brutality and busted blood vessels: the very game in which the Welsh crowd turned it from a great match to a mythical one, through nearly atmosphere alone. Gunther’s also been a workhorse on “free” TV, with six title matches—one title win and five title defenses, the last three of which have all gone for more than 18 minutes—on SmackDown since taking the championship from Ricochet in June.

With Braun Strowman seemingly being positioned as his next opponent, Gunther may, for the first time on the main roster (and, potentially, in his career), be the much smaller man in a fight—Strowman is billed as 4 inches and almost 100 pounds heavier than Gunther—which will be the first real test of the Austrian’s range as a performer on this big of a platform. But with Gunther’s rookie year going about as well as anyone’s ever has (outside of Brock Lesnar putting up late-career Barry Bonds stats in his first year on WWE TV), it’s the assumption of the Institute that he will look a lot more like James Harrison than Leon Lett if he’s given a chance to run with the ball.

Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences): Sami Zayn

Performance by an actor in a supporting role.”

This is a bit of category manipulation on behalf of The Bloodline, as Sami Zayn is not a supporting actor in terms of the amount of screentime he’s received in this new role. But in terms of his place within the group itself, Zayn’s performance is not dissimilar to something like Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting.

As the therapist for the titular Will Hunting, Dr. Sean Maguire, Williams doesn’t meaningfully interact with the full cast of characters in the movie the way Zayn does weekly, but his purpose in the movie as a perpetual counterbalance to all the different stakeholders in Will’s life—each of them (whether it be Ben Affleck’s Chuckie, Minnie Driver’s Skylar, or Stellan Skarsgard’s Professor Lambeau) pulling Will in different directions for self-centered, if not necessarily selfish, reasons—feels right in terms of Sami’s status as the “glue guy” of The Bloodline. Zayn spends nearly all of his time, even when working, trying to do what’s best for everyone involved on an individual level, while still maintaining the integrity and sustainability of the group itself because he both believes in the potential of the group and he feels it’s the right thing to do.

Like Sean does with Will’s mental well-being vis-à-vis his potential, Sami sees in the Bloodline a chance to redeem himself for how far he’d fallen over the past few years—even if preserving or championing it may destroy other older relationships for him. What may come of that in the aftermath of this story line (or, in Maguire’s case, when the final credits roll on that part of his life) was far less important to both of them than doing what they felt was the right thing in the moment.

Now, we’re not sure if we want to watch Sami “go see about a girl” instead of going to see a Red Sox World Series game, but it’d definitely be nice to see him working in a prominent spot on the card for Elimination Chamber this February.

Nobel Prize for Physics (The Royal Swedish Academy of the Sciences): Bianca Belair

“Those who have made the most outstanding contributions for humankind in the field of physics.”

Bianca Belair is number one on our Power Board, our draft rankings, and our hearts as wrestling fans, but you may be wondering how she’s made the “most outstanding contributions for humankind in the field of physics.” Which, of course, makes it obvious that you didn’t read the very first piece ever written about the Big Board, which focused on Belair.

Because if you had you’d understand that, in terms of physics, her place at the center of the Women’s division has completely warped half of the WWE universe around her. Without most of the Four Horsewomen for significant chunks of the year and other stalwarts like Alexa Bliss and Asuka missing significant time, this was a perfect opportunity for Belair to make herself the biggest star in the women’s locker room and, at least based on her appearing at the beginning or end of nearly episode of Raw, it seems like she was able to accomplish exactly that.

Bianca Belair certainly feels like as big of a star as Ronda Rousey—is there literally anyone out there who thinks Rousey is doing a better job or is a better champion than Belair?—despite not having nearly as much cultural cache as the UFC Hall of Famer. Even when Charlotte Flair comes back, she’ll still feel like the most important women’s performer on the roster.

In calling Flair (and Rhea Ripley) out explicitly during the Survivor Series WarGames post-show press conference—while sitting next to Becky Lynch, after defeating Ripley’s WarGames teammate Bayley in their third consecutive PLE match—she’s made it very clear that she is the one calling the shots and determining the future worlds she plans on bringing into her orbit before ultimately overtaking them completely as her star grows ever-larger.

The George Mikan Most Improved Player (NBA): Dominik Mysterio

“This award is designed to honor an up-and-coming player who has made a dramatic improvement from the previous season or seasons. It is not intended to be given to a player who has made a ‘comeback.’”

If there were some kind of collective version of this award, it would have most certainly been given to The Judgment Day, who has turned into the best possible version of “Cybergoth Dance Party, But Make it Wrestling” imaginable. Unfortunately, while individuals who used to suck (and now suck less) can get rewarded with actual trophies—the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year can also be awarded to someone who simply wasn’t good at one point and now is again, but it mostly goes to players coming back from injury—teams that do the same are usually just rewarded with surprise playoff berths before getting swept out of the first round.

With Mysterio, however, he has this lovely trophy, a great new girlfriend, a fresh outlook on his relationship with his father Rey and the rest of his family, as well as a burgeoning rap sheet. He’s also managed to get way more comfortable on the mic and in the ring, with his ability to “work to character” in particular developing at a pace that makes it clear that he’s been closely watching his family and their friends ply their craft for the majority of his life.

There’s a special combination of things that made Rey Mysterio, well, Rey Mysterio, and no one should begrudge Dominik if he never quite makes it as far in the business as his dad does. But if Dominik keeps on this path—while starting to fill out like an actual athlete and not some guy’s kid who hangs around at the gym on his tablet—there may be a future as a Miz-esque mid-card workhorse that any father would be proud of.

Grammy for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package (The Recording Academy): Rob Fee/Bray Wyatt

Although I’m on the record as enjoying the return of Bray Wyatt a great deal, it’s clear that this slow-playing of Wyatt’s breakdown (and, in particular, his seemingly nonsensical and, at the very least, meandering promos) has rubbed some people the wrong way, a perspective which has been addressed in kayfabe by the current object of the Eater of World’s “affections,” LA Knight.

But, while there’s certainly some chatter about how the actual work has gone, there’s been nearly universal acclaim for the packaging in which it came. Although I don’t know Rob Fee from Adam (Page, Cole, Driver, or T. Firstman), it seems like a good idea to have someone who has spent time deep into as supremely fucked a continuity shit pile as the one at Marvel (which I say as someone who has over 1,500 Marvel comics in their collection).

Wyatt is a complicated character to get right, not because wrestling can’t handle layered and complex characters (though it’s certainly not its strong suit). It’s that it is simply difficult to have everything go right in any wrestling-related environment, and for a character built so completely on mystique as whatever this incarnation of Windham Rotunda ends up being, the level of precision required to not break the illusion does not lend itself to WWE’s particular brand of live entertainment.

Like the acoustics of a particular recording space, the crowd reaction to a given bit of sports entertainment spectacle can shape how the audience watching at home (or even live) perceives it, no matter how good the actual material is on its own. But, in a weird way, as in-ring work becomes more uniformly passable-to-good, what happens in between the ropes has begun to matter in a different manner than it once did.

You don’t buy Wyatt gear and psychotic props or follow the surreptitious QR codes because you think he’s going to bust out a five-star work rate master class of a match, but because he’s dope, his entrance is dope, and it feels cool to own a piece of this thing that we are experiencing or have experienced together. Like listening to a remastering of an old collection of records or checking out the expertly-done liner notes for a favorite song, Wyatt’s return was great not because it was good wrestling; Wyatt’s return was great because it was made by people who wanted to make good wrestling doing the best job they could, making it clear they cared about what they were doing while trying to guide the fans in experiencing what they want them to with specific choices they made. Nothing lasts forever, but sometimes it’s okay for it to look awesome while it’s here.

Mr. Miss Irrelevant (NFL): Sonya Deville

“Nickname given to the last pick of the annual National Football League draft.”

Although she is not often spoken about on the pages(?) of The Ringer, Sonya Deville’s name is one that is often bandied about in The Palace of Wisdom. Mostly because she just has the worst GD luck ever. The only performer in our system to ever have a negative push, she is literally the only person we legally allow to be referred to as “getting buried” as her time on TV—where she has essentially become designated cannon fodder for gauntlet matches on SmackDown—is almost never used to portray in anything other than an actively negative light.

To be clear, we don’t think this is a reflection on a Daria Berenato the human being, or even Sonya Deville the character (who does yeowoman’s work every time she appears on-screen, even in kayfabe), but just a return of the old-school character jobber who exists entirely to paint by numbers in matches designed to get baby faces over at the expense of heels looking for steady paychecks. Her work exists closer to someone like the Mulkey brothers or George South, where (as we’ve discussed before) their spot on the roster made sense for a promotion based on the idea of an actual sport, rather than as a character jobber like The Brooklyn Brawler or Barry Horowitz.

With her MMA background and previous success before her life got turned upside down following a horrifying stalking incident, the return of Deville to the positive side of the push ledger doesn’t seem completely outside the realm of possibility, but perhaps this string of bad luck may lead to her ending up as the WWE’s Brock Purdy: a hero to all, cherished by millions and well on their way to a championship no one ever imagined they’d win.

Best Villain (MTV Movie & TV Awards): Bayley

Bayley’s return at SummerSlam was the opening salvo in Triple H’s war against stagnation in the Raw Women’s division—and also, sure, the first big return in what would become an almost annoyingly long string of them. From the first second Bayley was onscreen, it was clear that she hadn’t come back as the erstwhile Hugger character upon which she had built the first half of her surefire Hall of Fame career, but as the kind of über-Karen wrestlemonster that she had devolved into over the course of her up-and-down relationship with Sasha Banks.

With two capable henchwomen in Iyo Sky and Dakota Kai, Bayley now had enough muscle to make at least some of her more nefarious plans come to fruition. While Bayley treated Banks as though she saw them as equals of whom Bayley was first among, there seems to be a more hierarchical (albeit chaotic) relationship between Bayley and the rest of Damage CTRL. There’s also a real joie de vivre that Bayley seems to get from heeling out on nearly everyone who crosses her path (outside of Bay Area athletes like George Kittle).

Although she was unable to achieve her goal of world domination, or at the very least capturing the Raw Women’s Championship, she put herself back in the mix for the main women’s match at every PLE until, eventually, a bigger bad comes along and she either beats ’em or joins ’em.

Nick Bond (@TheN1ckster) is the cofounder of the Institute of Kayfabermetrics and provides weekly updates to The Ringer’s WWE Power Board.