It’s not secret I wasn’t a fan of last night’s I Quit match between John Cena and Rusev at WWE Payback 2015 — to say I disliked it would be an understatement. Here’s what I had to say last night immediately following the match:
“Hated this. I knew it would be gimmicky but this was every WWE/John Cena hardcore match. Barricade spot, explosions, we even had the Cena STF with the rope — enough already. This did nothing for me from beginning to end and the continued plummeting of Rusev’s career is upsetting and confusing.”
As the dust settled today, many more people joined my side and declared their passionate hatred for said match while some took it a step further and damned any and all I Quit matches, including my Voices of Wrestling podcast co-host Joe Lanza:
"I Quit" matches stink 99% of the time.
— Voices of Wrestling (@voiceswrestling) May 18, 2015
I decided to take a look at the history of I Quit matches on WWE PPV and see if it’s true that they stink 99% of the time as Joe proclaimed. For the purposes of this I’ll be using Wrestling Observer editor Dave Meltzer’s 5-star rating system. Yes, it’s someone’s subjective opinion but it allows us some barometer with which to compare historic match quality. I’ll also utilize some of the work done by Chris “mookieghana” Harrington (@mookieghana) in figuring out average PPV star ratings in a given year.
So, do I Quit matches usually suck according to Meltzer’s ratings? Surprisingly, no. If we use 3* as the midway point six of the 11 have been above the mark. If we drop that down to 2*, 10 of 11 performed above. The only “I Quit” match in WWE PPV history to get below 2* was the infamous Bret Hart vs. Bob Backlund “I Quit” match from WWE WrestleMania 11.
I’ll definitely agree with Meltzer on that rating, though I’d even go further as that’s one of my least favorite matches of all-time. Dull, uninteresting, crowd-killing all topped off by guest referee “Rowdy” Roddy Piper insisting on asking Hart and Backlund “WHAT’D YA SAY?!” every 15 seconds:
The two top-rated I Quit match was Breaking Point 2009 featuring man of hour John Cena against Randy Orton in one of their 6,421 PPV matches (okay, it’s a little less but pretty close) and John Cena vs. John Bradshaw Layfield at the 2005 Judgement Day PPV. While I’m a much bigger fan of Judgement Day than Breaking Point both have their merits and are great choices as top I Quit matches, certainly two of my favorites. The 2005 Judgement Day one is famous for a literal John Cena bloodbath.
Without a doubt the most famous WWE “I Quit” match was The Rock vs. Mankind at the 1999 Royal Rumble. This was famous not only for taking place during one of WWE’s hottest periods creatively, financial and publicity-wise but also for its placement in the great pro wrestling documentary Beyond the Mat. It’s still one of my most memorable matches ever though as I’ve gotten older and became more aware of the severity of head damage the numerous shots to the back of Mankind’s unprotected head gets a bit disturbing.
The rest of the list is listed below:
I wanted to take this exercise to another level and look at how I Quit matches perform compared with other matches in a given calendar year. Thankfully, Chris Harrington previously ran the numbers and calculated the average yearly star ratings for WWE PPVs. This took into account all WWE PPV matches and included DUDs or negative ratings. These are also unweighted so there’s no extra statistica maneuvering given to gimmick matches, placement on the card or anything of the sort — these are simply the average WWE PPV star ratings in a given year.
When we put “I Quit” matches up against their yearly PPV average, surprisingly they perform quite well:
Much to my surprise, only three matches: John Cena vs. The Miz (Over the Limit 2011), Beth Phoenix vs. Melina (One Night Stand 2008) and the aforementioned Bret Hart vs. Bob Backlund (WrestleMania XI) underperformed their yearly averages.
The top three to exceed their yearly average were, without much surprise John Cena and JBL (Judgement Day 2005) and John Cena/Randy Orton (Breaking Point 2009). As mentioned earlier, both received 4¼ stars and beat their yearly averages by 2.04 and 1.66 stars respectively.
The biggest exceeder also shouldn’t be a surprise: The Rock vs. Mankind (Royal Rumble 1999). No, it’s not because the match itself was highly rated — it received 3 ¾ stars — but that 1999 was such a dire year for in-ring WWE action. The yearly average for 1999 is a putrid 1.44 making the Rumble 1999 “I Quit” match 2.31 stars better than its yearly average.
But yeah, totally wish we could go back to the Attitude Era (no thank you).
I hope we learned that not every “I Quit” match is terrible and certainly not 99%. With that said, if I never see John Cena in another one again I’ll be a happy man. I’m not betting on that happening though.