Editor’s Note: Chris “mookieghana” Harrington posted this study earlier today and while it’s not as detailed with analysis as most of his other work including his look at the WWE Network yesterday and his usual crop of Bleacher Report articles, I thought it was a particularly interesting study for a number of reasons. If you read a Bryan Rose Raw report on this very site (RIP), you know his distain for what he called “rematchapalooza~!” which was the constant rematches every week on Raw. We’ve also made numerous complaints both on the podcast and in written works about the “even-steven” booking where a typical PPV build seems to feature guys trading wins back and forth. Lo and behold, somebody (Matt D.) asked wrestling statistics guru Chris Harrington if this was a real phenomenon and when we can trace the beginning of even-steven booking. Thankfully, Chris did the work and now we have some insights. Enjoy!

Distribution of televised/PPV Win records in WWF/WWE from 1980 to 2013

Matt D. writes:

Chris,

Do you think that there might be a statistical correlation between the birth of smackdown and the start of the “even-stevens” booking in the WWF? If not, then maybe with the death of WCW and the end of the Monday Night wars? If so, is it something that dropped with the brand split and less TV or maybe rose after Lesnar left and WWE might have been less apt to push someone as The Man?

Any thoughts?

Initial Thoughts

It’s a good question. Obviously, there’s challenges in quantifying what “even-steven” booking really refers to. Are we talking about person A and person B trading wins between each other? Are we talking about a lack of people being treated as “special” and exempt from losing? Are we discussing the idea that as a whole even the “pushed” wrestlers are losing at random moments to opponents that should be “beneath” them? (That’s a lot of “quotes”, eh?)

I could approach this by looking at some form of OCELOT ratings where we see what percentage of wrestlers “move up” a significant amount in rankings over a period of time and how that compares across eras. We could do that. However, that’s not how I decided to approach it.

My approach

  1. Collect and process WWF/WWE results from 1980-2013 from CageMatch
  2. Filter to TV/PPV matches (excluding Dark Matches)
  3. Calculate win-loss records for each wrestler and total number of TV/PPV matches by year
  4. Include all wrestlers that have at least 20% of the maximum number of TV/PPV matches for that year (i.e. Bryan/Cesaro had most TV/PPV matches in 2013 at 102 so cut-off would be 21 matches meanwhile Tony Garea lead the 1981 list at 41 matches so cut-off was 9 matches)
  5. Categorize each wrestler’s annual win-loss record into one of four categories: High [Above 71%], Mid [between 54% and 71%], Low [35% to 53%], Very Low [below 35%]. (These four buckets were chosen so that across the entire time-period, there would be an even distribution in each bucket.)
  6. Calculate what percentage of wrestlers from each year fall into each bucket over time.

Results

Distribution of Wrestlers by Televised/PPV Win Record by Year

Year High (71%+) Mid (54%-70%) Low (35%-53%) Very Low (<35%) Total
1980 12 4 3 10 29
1981 12 7 2 12 33
1982 20 5 7 17 49
1983 21 3 4 21 49
1984 23 9 4 18 54
1985 34 3 2 24 63
1986 29 14 2 22 67
1987 34 14 6 24 78
1988 34 12 4 25 75
1989 33 7 4 16 60
1990 40 3 4 21 68
1991 29 10 4 16 59
1992 35 7 3 17 62
1993 31 8 3 21 63
1994 33 2 0 21 56
1995 19 19 8 16 62
1996 10 11 9 10 40
1997 4 20 18 6 48
1998 3 20 21 10 54
1999 0 15 29 7 51
2000 1 17 26 6 50
2001 1 24 21 5 51
2002 4 26 27 12 69
2003 7 32 30 8 77
2004 5 22 29 15 71
2005 9 22 24 14 69
2006 7 23 34 14 78
2007 11 18 28 18 75
2008 2 25 24 17 68
2009 3 19 28 11 61
2010 2 20 33 16 71
2011 3 22 21 21 67
2012 5 17 19 15 56
2013 7 26 20 11 64
Total 523 506 501 517 2047

Analysis

  • I think it began before SmackDown starting airing.
  • From 1980 to 1994, the middle tiers (win records between 35%-54%) only compromised about 19% of the wrestlers.
  • In 1995 and 1996, appears to be the inflection point where the number of people in the very top echelon (previously 48%) and the very bottom (previously 33%) started to drop.
  • From 1997 to 2004 (the outermost bounds of what could be called the “Attitude Era”), there was very few people who were “protected” on top. However, it’s a very rag-tag group ranging from top-of-the-card performers (Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, Chris Benoit, Undertaker, Goldberg, Rock) to unusual midcarders (Steve Blackman, Dan Severn, Hugh Morrus, Rodney Mack, Val Venis, Jazz).
  • From 2005 to 2013, the percentage of wrestlers that had very high winning records was a little more consistent year-over-year: Batista, Big Show, CM Punk, John Cena, Sheamus, Undertaker. There was also several “flavors-of-the-month” which slip in such as Umaga, Snitsky, Alberto Del Rio, Heidenreich, Mark Henry, Ken Kennedy, Rob Van Dam and Ryback.