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The Cubs Fan




I'm gonna start from the beginning and go slowly, so everyone's on the same page. The explanation's almost more fun than the results.

There is no official pro wrestling dictionary, and the 'correct' meaning of some of lingo gets argued around a bit. Ask a 100 wrestling fans what the word "mark" means, and if it's a positive or negative term, and you're probably going get a 100 different answers. (At least one will be the smart alec "Isn't that Sara's wife?" kind.) All of them are right to that person, and that's all that matters. 

On the other hand, a word that seems to have more a finite range of definitions is "work rate." More or less, it's the amount of actual wrestling done in a wrestling match. The more, the better, and fans seems to prefer enjoy matches and wrestlers that are said to have high work rate.

(Aside: Of course, there's more to being a wrestler, and putting on good matches, than just doing as many moves as you can in the time allotted. Things like selling and psychology are considered in addition to work rate when deciding if a wrestler is a good worker. And some claim that only another wrestler can only truly understand how good a worker other wrestlers are. This isn't anything that broad. I'm just focusing on the work rate aspect, no more.)

Work rate can, and has been, defined exactly as the moves down divided by the time given to do them. It's usually a qualities judgment; Big lumbering guys like the Big Show usually have very bad work rate and cruiserweight guys like Rey Mysterio Jr. have shown a very good work rate.

Confession: I love numbers and I'm a stat freak. It works really well in baseball, because so much can be numbered and observed to better understand why one player or one team does better than anyone else. Merging some high end math knowledge and results, and you can get many different ways of examining performance and make (somewhat) educated decisions on what changes need to be made to improve that performance. At the very least, you can use quantitative values to decide how good some one or some team is. 

Why not bring the same concept to wrestling? Why is work rate measured ONLY qualitatively - and not with quantities hard numbers? Why not try to actually do the math; divide moves by minute? My best guess is that it would take someone doing a detailed match summary, willingness to do some numbing counting and the lack of sense to think this all might be worth doing. That's me to a T. And the good thing about this site is that some recappers on it may be insane, but they're insanely persistent on getting those important details.

This is my theory: given a move by move breakdown for the match, it can be analyzed (counting/dividing) and mathematically approximate the concept of work rate. Work rate would be measured in something like "moves per minute" (a decimal number - maybe "X moves per every second works better?) and the numbers would resemble the qualitative remarks. (If they disagree, we try to mess with the system or re-examine our beliefs - I know which one most people would prefer.) 

The one big problem with this is defining what constitutes a wrestling move. (Actually, the time is a problem too, but nothing that'll be handled right here - try to figure it out!) Wrestlers do a lot of different things during a match - are punches and Irish whips equal to top rope splashes and the latest wacky move you just saw an indy guy do? My solution (which you may not agree with), is if someone usually takes a bump off it, it's a wrestling move. If they usually sell it but don't leave their position, it's not a wrestling move. (Haku, and other frequent no-sellers, are ignored for my sanity.)

Just to give you a better breakdown:

  • Most strikes do NOT count
    • Normal strikes (punches, kicks, forearms, chops, stomps, etc.) are NOT counted. 
    • However, specific 'named' kicks that usually take some one down DO count 
      • superkicks, enzuiguris, jumping side kicks, etc. 
      • If Tank Abbott was around, the Hand of Stone that knocks a guy down every time would count, but the other punches would not.
  • Blocked moves do NOT count. 
  • Clotheslines, shoulderblocks and similar running/flying moves (that might not be included if everyone was standing still) are questionable, but do count, for now.
    • Running moves that come up empty AND leave both people still on their feet do NOT count
    • In the same vein, a whip or charge that is an end upon itself (into the steps/corner/opponent) DOES count.
    • A whip that's just a prelude to something else does NOT count.
  • "drop"s of all kinds, and any move landing on a downed opponent DO count. There is a bump - it's just the wrestler giving the move who's taking it. 
  • Everything else is a wrestling move.

There's a lot of hair splitting up there, but someone taking a bump is the key. 

That's it - work rate defined, wrestling moves defined, now I can just sit back and throw numbers at you. Since it was the first show report I had in front of me, last weekend's WWF Heat is the test dummy.  We'll ignore the tag team match, because it's more complex than we're (mostly I'm) ready for, and concentrate on the three singles matches: Chavo Guerrero Jr. vs Scotty 2 Hotty, Albert vs Hugh Morrus and Hardcore Holly vs Mike Awesome. Every match ended at a really wonderful time to work with, which is a nice plus. 

If I had to make a qualitative judgment, before looking at any numbers (and probably what I would have said before watching any of the matches), the two participants in the first match will have the highest work rate, and the two in the middle will have the lowest, just because the smaller guys are more active in the ring. Will it hold up? I dunno, I typed all of this without actually checking the numbers. 

Let's make a chart! Actually, I'm still going back and forth about the running strikes (clotheslines, shoulderblocks, etc.) For fun, let's run both sets of numbers - with, and without them. 

of Moves
# of Non-RS
Match Time 
All Work Rate 
(moves per minute)
Non-RS Work Rate
(moves per minute)
Chavo 8 8 4 2 2
Albert 7 (3) 7 (3) 4 (2) 1.75 1.75
Hardcore 5 5 3.5 1.43 1.43
Awesome 7 (1) 5 (1) 3.5 2 1.43
Scotty 6 (4) 5 4 1.5 1.25
Hugh 4 4 4 (2) 1 1

Well. Chavo's where you'd thing he'd be. Hugh's in the right half, thought I wouldn't have figured him last. The running strikes don't make much in number of moves, like I thought they would, but given the short match lengths, do change around the middle four. The short time makes the numbers very unstable - one move, more or less, can dramatically change the average rates. 

However, the real story that better be sticking out to you is Albert. Higher work rate than everyone not a Guerrero? That definitely doesn't fit with our expectations. Here, I'll concede that the expectations might be the right things, though maybe not as strong as we'd like to believe.

What we're missing here, and maybe something that's worth studying (if we want to take it a step further), takes us back to the time issues I brought up earlier. You can't execute a wrestling move of you're not in control of the match, so perhaps instead of taking the full match time, only the offensive time should be included. (I'd go back and do another chart, but alas, I've already taped over this episode.)

Perhaps we'll try again with another show. Hopefully, this will get your motors running - does anyone of it make sense? Is it worth looking into further?

Footnotes/Clarifications for those checking up

(1) Awesome got crotched on the top rope while going for a splash (I assume), and I'm not sure if I should credit him with a move, Holly with a move, or no one. I ended up saying no one.
(2) Clock starts when they started fighting.
(3) Albert was duped into running into the ring post - I gave him running strike credit for a move that maybe you wouldn't give any.
(4) Scotty missed a corner charge and rammed shoulder first into the ringpost - that's full credit, because a bump is taken.

The Cubs Fan

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