Friday, October 31, 2014

Did SmackDown usher in the era of "even-steven" booking?

The Query

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
YearHigh (71%+)Mid (54%-70%)Low (35%-53%)Very Low (<35 p="">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
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
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 the "even-steven" booking may have started before SmackDown began. 
  • 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.
Full list of wrestlers by year available at indeedwrestling.com.

Notes: This doesn't differentiate between tag teams and singles matches. Losses are not qualified by whether they were clean or whether it was DQ/Count-Out/interference/etc.

Analysis by Chris Harrington (@mookieghana)

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