Awarding the Top WWE and AEW Performances for Week of Dec. 26

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2021

Awarding the Top WWE and AEW Performances for Week of Dec. 26

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    Credit: All Elite Wrestling

    The penultimate week of 2021 provided wrestling fans with another solid week of action and stories, thanks to veteran performers put in the position to succeed.

    From Sting wowing fans in North Carolina with a performance right out of the early days of his main event run to Paul Heyman captivating them with an emotional promo teasing the end of his career, it was a week that highlighted excellence and set the stage for weeks to come.

    Who took home this week's B/R Belts in honor of show-stealing performances?

    Find out now with this look at the best of WWE and All Elite Wrestling this holiday week.

Introducing the Belts

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    Before we get to the performers who defined the past seven days in WWE and AEW, these are the B/R belts at stake and what they represent.


    The Steamboat Championship

    Named after the consummate good guy Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, this belt is awarded to the top babyface of the week.


    The Piper Championship

    When he was bad, he was oh-so good. Named for the late "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, this belt is awarded to the best heel of the week.


    Hitman Hart Championship

    Arguably the best to ever do it, Bret "Hitman" Hart is defined by his in-ring excellence. This belt is awarded to the best male wrestler of the week.


    Stratus Championship

    A revolutionary performer who bridged the gap between generations of female performers, Trish Stratus is the namesake of this belt, presented to the best female wrestler of the week.


    Jarrett Championship

    Named for the founder and face of the company, this B/R belt celebrates the best in Impact Wrestling over the past week.


    Dusty Championship

    The legendary Dusty Rhodes had the gift of gab and the ability to captivate an audience with his words. This belt goes to the star(s) responsible for the best promo of the week.


    Gooker Championship

    Pro wrestling has a long and, um, dubious history of WTF moments. This belt is awarded to the stars, match or moment that had you asking "huh?!"


    5-Star Championship

    Lastly, this title is awarded to the best match of the week.


    Men and women are eligible for every title except Hitman Hart and Stratus.

    There will be no Jarrett Championship this week as Impact Wrestling was a recap show Thursday night.

Steamboat Championship: Sting

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    AEW Dynamite Holiday Bash took place in the historic Greensboro Coliseum, home of so many of Jim Crockett Promotions' biggest and most memorable events, and for Sting, it felt like 1989 all over again. The face-painted icon of WCW teamed with CM Punk and Darby Allin to defeated MJF and FTR in a blockbuster six-man tag match in which the former world champion was the clear star. 

    Sting turned back the clock, exploding into the match and then fighting from underneath like a valiant hero determined to earn the victory. He joined Punk and Allin in a trifecta of finishers to help put Dax Harwood down for the count and then stood tall with his partners in a post-match celebration encompassing three generations.

    The fans in Greensboro treated Sting like a returning hero, greeting him with the same raucous ovation they would have had it been 33 years earlier. He was the biggest star in a match brimming with them, and the emotion and excitement his presence created elevated the overall quality of it.

    The passion and energy he brings to his performances at age 62 is awe-inspiring and should be a reminder to the AEW locker room—and locker rooms across the industry—of what love for the industry looks like.

Piper Championship: MJF

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    Credit: All Elite Wrestling

    Great heels talk a big game and then run away from physical confrontation when the time comes.

    That is exactly what MJF did during Wednesday's main event, evading any sort of physical encounter with CM Punk. It was one of the prominent story threads during a fantastic six-man tag match and only served to further intensify the desire to see Punk get his hands on the scarf-wearing loudmouth of Long Island. 

    At one point, MJF took off through the crowd, sprinting up the stairs, and then back down and around the ringside area in an attempt to avoid a beating. It worked—for now. 

    MJF is such a smug, unlikable bad guy that it's no wonder fans are so eager to see him get his comeuppance. He will, and the match with Punk will be extraordinary because of the crowd heat. Until then, we're all cursed (blessed?) with his insufferable self.

Hitman Hart Championship: Adam Cole

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    Adam Cole again proved why he is among the elite in-ring performers in professional wrestling Wednesday with a fantastic showing against Orange Cassidy to kick off the Holiday Bash edition of Dynamite.

    The charismatic bad guy worked a dramatic match with Cassidy in which his own hubris threatened his ability to score the win. He overcame his overconfidence, though, and benefited from the debut of Kyle O'Reilly to secure the victory.

    Cole has been a picture of consistency for AEW and been routinely involved in some of the company's best in-ring action, thanks to a style that meshes well with others.

    Is he the flashiest competitor on the roster? No, but he is as great as anyone else, and when you see his name on the card, there is a reasonable expectation that excellence will result. It certainly did this week and, in the process, reminded us all how good Orange Cassidy is when he turns up the intensity.

Stratus Championship: Dakota Kai

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    The relaunch of NXT may not have been quite as responsible for in-ring excellence as its predecessor, but Wednesday night on USA Network, it did provide us a look at one of the unsung heroes of women's wrestling in 2021: Dakota Kai.

    Cap Kota battled Raquel Gonzalez in a Street Fight that was designed to settle their differences. She was intense and aggressive and threw herself around the ring in the name of punishing her opponent. She also took big bumps when the time came, including the powerbomb into the trash can that led to her defeat.

    None of this was new for her. Kai has excelled in ladder matches and War Games, proving doubly tough while putting both her own offensive arsenal and that of her opponents over. She is a selfless worker, responsible for some of the best women's matches in either rendition of NXT this past year, and a workhorse.

    The main roster is calling her name, and it is only a matter of time until she is competing on Monday and Friday nights—deservedly so, too. Matches like her war with Gonzalez on Wednesday prove why.

Dusty Championship: Paul Heyman

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    In an industry when promo segments take up 20 minutes at the top of the show, there was something refreshing about Paul Heyman's sit-down interview with Kayla Braxton that kicked off SmackDown. It wasn't long or loud, nor was it over-the-top. It didn't telegraph any main event for later in the show.

    It was simple, concise and emotional.

    Heyman's face was tired and worn. Greying stubble dotted his chin, and his eyes were glassy. This was a man experiencing great emotional torment in the week since Roman Reigns publicly fired him as special counsel. The lengths Heyman went to achieve the look really helped tell the story more than any words he could have spoken.

    What he did say, though, was equally as impactful. 

    He threw his life into being Reigns' "wise man." It was his greatest role. Without it, he's not sure he has a career anymore. It is the simplicity of it all that worked so well. Anyone who has ever left a job they were passionate about or broken up with a longtime significant other knows what Heyman was going through in that moment.

    He nailed the promo—the best of the week—and will figure to remain a focal point of the Reigns-Brock Lesnar feud.

Gooker Championship: Vince McMahon Loves Firing People

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    WWE released over 80 wrestlers this year because of budget cuts while the company experienced record profits. As if firing that many contracted people was not enough, the billionaire owner of the company went on Raw Monday night and bragged about firing people and loving to do it, especially around the holidays.

    Supporters of Vince McMahon would likely argue that he was hiding behind his Mr. McMahon persona, an evil and detestable, megalomaniacal villain, but history tells us that's not the case. How many times since the mass firings that left immensely talented wrestlers out of jobs has the topic of released talent come up on television? Out of the mouths of Superstars not named McMahon?

    WWE has taken a topic that has very seriously affected real-life people and made light of it repeatedly to generate a little social media buzz because nothing else on its show is doing so. There's nothing about it that screams "attitude" or makes anyone want to watch the show to see what the evil owner of the company is going to say next.

    If anything, it's groan-inducing. It's insulting to those who busted their asses for McMahon and Co., only to see their real-life dismissals played for a few tweets.

    Worst of all, nothing McMahon has done while bringing it up has helped Austin Theory or anyone he has shared the screen with since returning. It's time to get rid of the mentions of firings and, more importantly, put the evil McMahon character out to pasture because it no longer serves a purpose in this WWE Universe.

Five Star Championship: Dynamite 6-Man Tag Team Main Event

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    In case you haven't been able to tell by this point, the six-man tag team main event from Dynamite in which Sting, Allin and Punk battled FTR and MJF was great. It featured the top babyface and heel performances of the week, electrified the fans and had the Greensboro Coliseum rocking like Dusty Rhodes was about to whoop up on Ric Flair.

    It was a fantastic wrestling match, with strong individual performances and a reminder of how great FTR is to top it all off.

    The babyfaces went over, the heat between Punk and MJF was preserved, and the result is a showdown between top stars that fans will pay to see down the line.

    This was a great, old-school multiman tag team match. It was a party match of sorts: one that never got slow or boring, fed off the energy of the crowd and maximized the talents of its wrestlers. It was great, simply put, and ranks as one of the best matches of AEW in 2021.