“The numbers don’t lie, and they spell disaster for you at Sacrifice!”

Scott Steiner TNA Impact!, May 1, 2008

People love numbers in sports.

In my day job, I make models to measure and predict sports and athletes. I get to do this because people love to measure, capture and quantify what they see. They love to come up with lists and metrics about who is the best player. They love to bet on just who is going to win the title.

Numbers serve to expand our enjoyment of the sports we love by creating new narratives and experiences. While we are used to these numbers and metrics being everywhere in sports,  they’re a relatively new thing. The data and the tech simply weren’t widely available or fast enough 20 years ago to quickly do it unless you were willing to do hours of daily data entry.

But then it was.

As a wrestling fan, the idea of doing the same with wrestling is something I’ve been wanting to do all my life. It’s been a tantalizingly out of reach goal or out of reach until sites like Cagematch that actively archive the data for all wrestling matches taking place appeared.

It’s quite an exciting time to be a wrestling nerd like me. Particularly with AEW just waving their rankings around constantly.

Challenge accepted.

Enough preamble, what we are here to do is to create a mathematical system to rank all AEW wrestlers based on their matches and actual results and do it in a way that is logical, in line with sound mathematical principles and produces results that make sense in context. We want our work to line up with the work. It’s about capturing the narrative on paper.

Ultimately? We want to measure the HEAT. We want to see just who the omnipresent booker is using his pencil to push up and down the card and we want to do it in a way that makes sense in kayfabe and to the viewer.

Let’s talk a bit about the math.

The ELO ratings system is a system developed for rankings players in chess but it’s broadly applicable with adaptation to all sorts of things. One well-known application is for soccer . I’m not going to go fully into the details of the model itself but I will explain the basics and the specific model I’m using for wrestling, the specific adaptations that were required and why I wound up where I did.

The basics then.

Let’s begin with a singles match between wrestler A and wrestler B. Each wrestler in that match has a rating  RA & RB  which we can use to work out the probability of wrestler A beating wrestler B and based on the result of that match we can adjust each wrestlers rating up and down via a defined mathematical formula to a value that more accurately reflects their ability. If wrestler C came into the promotion then he or she would be assigned a baseline of 1400 ELO and would see their ELO adjusted as they had more matches.

This construction is too simple. It loses the nuance of the matches. Was the match a squash? Was it a broadway? Was it versus the champ? Was it versus a jobber? As I built various versions of this I ran the build, looked at the results, saw things that didn’t make sense and made changes until they did. I adapted it for wrestling. The first adaptation was splitting each match into segments. For that, I needed the match length data. For all roughly 2900 AEW matches so far.

For the purposes of the modeling, we are going to treat every match like a 20-minute time limit match divided into five segments (or units) as shown above unless otherwise listed. The split is set up so that each progressive length is about half as likely as the previous one (think coin flip outcomes). If wrestler A wins in a squash (i.e. within the first five minutes) he gets credit for winning all five units of the 20-minute match (5 Wins, 0 Draws, 0 Losses). If Wrestler B wins in segment five then he ends up with a win and four draws while the loser gets one loss and four draws. This allows us to more accurately measure the margin of victory and the booker’s intent.

Speaking of the booker and the booking: the type of event and the opposition will set the weight of the match in terms of the model. In Layman’s terms that means that a PPV event versus the champ is a more important and weighty datapoint than a wrestler power bombing a jobber on Elevation. PPVs and Dynamite get full weight. Rampage, Buy-Ins and other TV get 2/3s weight. Dark and the Jericho cruise get a 1/3 weight and Elevation gets a 1/6 weight. The data will also get multiplied by how much over or under the baseline the average ELO of the participants is.  And If it never made air or YouTube? Doesn’t count

Another nuance? Tag and trios matches affect singles rankings. Now I could treat a tag team composed of Wrestler A and B (The Alphabet Express!) as a separate entity altogether from A and B but I won’t. ELO scores for each individual member of each team will be carried over into tag action, averaged,  and the adjustments will be made to the team equally based on the result. So a newly formed tag team of two a-listers prone to violence will not be a rookie tag shooting up the charts but rather a very large and angry bear that just wandered into the tag division to deliver suplexes and adopt wayward proteges.

Another tweak is that when a new rookie comes into the promotion to face an established veteran in a singles match, rather than assigning that rookie a 1400 baseline ELO, I treat that match as a showcase match meant to establish that particular new wrestler’s bonafides, his lore if you will. So the rookie gets an ELO value relative to the outcome versus the established performer and the established performer keeps his previous ELO. Similarly, in the case of a time limit draw, both performers will simply end the match at the ELO of the highest ELO performer coming into the match.

Okay. No more explanations.

It’s time for the main event.

AEW Men’s Power Rank
Updated thru Battle of the Belts of 4/16/22

The link for the table is here: https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/arturo.galletti/viz/AEWELOv2/AEWRankTable

And for the first rankings, we have a somewhat surprising result: Scorpio Sky (The former TNT champ) is our #1 ranked AEW male singles wrestler. Even with his recent defeat to our #3 Sammy Guevara, Shy’s long win streak and recent impressive victories still see him at #1.  He’s followed by the AEW World Champ Hangman Page at #2, the new three-time TNT champion Sammy as #3, Malakai Black at #4 hanging around looking for a program, the likely next challenger for the world title CM Punk at #4, the former #1 contender other Adam at #6 then Wardlow at #7,  a rising Andrade at #8, the FTW champ Ricky Starks at #9, and the now 2-0 versus MJF Shawn Dean at #10 edging out Keith Lee there.

I can hear you complaining about Scorpio Sky at #1 but it’s actually very simple really:

The link for the run chart is here: https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/arturo.galletti/viz/AEWELOv2/AEWELOTrack

Scorpio Sky hadn’t lost in more than a calendar year before the Sammy loss and that was good enough to get him in the top five but it’s his win over Sammy and Wardlow that shot him into #1. He beat at the time #1 Sammy Guevara in under 12 minutes and followed that up with a win over #3 at the time Wardlow in under 10 minutes. You can argue about how he won but the model does not care and it shouldn’t. If you win the 2 highest ELO ranked singles men matches in AEW history and do it in under 12 minutes for both? You’re going to be number 1.

A heel champion winning in heel ways is an actual kayfabe asset.

The thing that does jump out to me is that Punk is primed push-wise for a title program. Black, Andrade and Keith Lee are the other three getting some steam. And the Captain Shawn Dean of course.

If you are wondering about MJF? He did lose to the Captain and he hasn’t gotten all the way back yet.

AEW Women’s Power Rank
Updated thru Battle of the Belts of 4/16/22

It’s absolutely unsurprising that #1 for the women is Jade Cargill (The TBS Champion). Not only has she not lost but she has recent victories over Rosa, Tay and Soho. Jade has been the #1 woman for the entirety of 2022 so far. For the rest of the top 10, we have #2 Thunder Rosa (The AEW women’s champ coming off a victory over #3 and #5), #3 Nyla Rose (who falls 1 after losing to Rosa), #4 Serena Deeb (who might be next for Rosa), #5 Britt Baker (coming back soon), #6 Ruby Soho, #7 Tay Conti, #8 Abadon, #9 Leyla Hirsh, #10 Kris Statlander.

Jade’s next opponent Marina Shafir is #15 after getting a win on television. Serena, Ruby and Soho all seem to be up-and-coming challengers with the DMD obviously lurking.

AEW Tag Team Power Rank
Updated thru Battle of the Belts of 4/16/22

Also unsurprising? The Blackpool Combat Club tag featuring Jon Moxley and Bryan Danielson starts life on the tag charts at #1.

This again makes sense in kayfabe because these are 2 aces working together and clearly being treated as tag aces. It looks to be inevitable that poor Jungle Boy will get the opportunity to play babyface in peril with #2 the Jurassic Express’ AEW tag title on the line to Mox and Dragon. For the rest of the top 10 we have: #3 FTR (now ROH and AAA tag champs),  #4 Santana and Ortiz have also been on a tear,  #5 is the reigning WON tag team of the year The Young Bucks, #6 is the lore boys Kings of the Black Throne, #7 is reDragon, #8 is the Gunn Club, #9 is the Acclaimed and #10 is the returning Top Flight.

Of note: Men of the Year, Team Taz and Darby/Sting both would all be on the list with a bit more action. The Hardys will be on the list soon enough.

I have a couple of final notes.  I will keep updating and posting AEW ELO rankings on the Voices of Wrestling Discord and on Twitter (https://twitter.com/DataStrictly). Also, I do have this set up for trios and women’s tags but the data is much more scarce there at the moment. Once those divisions kick in I’ll add them. Also? Once we have a bit more info on ROH we can consider adding it in.

Hope you enjoyed this!

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