Isolating the Best Singles Workers by Chris Harrington (indeedwrestling@gmail.com)

The purpose of this exercise is to isolate which singles wrestlers appear to have the greatest impact on the overall star ratings (as assigned by Dave Meltzer in his Wrestling Observer newsletter) given to WWF/WCW/ECW matches.

Methodology
The first step was was compiling the star ratings data. Thankfully, this was completed completed by someone else - see starratingslist.blogspot.com
This website tracks all of the matches which Dave Meltzer has reviewed and rated three stars (out of possible five) or higher.

Next, the data is imported, the names are standardized and the matches are sorted into "pure" singles (just two competitors battling it out mano a mano) and tag varieties.  (We'll explore the implications from using "multi-man singles" matches such as the "Money in the Bank" ladder match at the end of this piece.) 

Dataset is 1,650 WWF/WWE/NWA/WCW/ECW matches: 1,125 singles, 109 multi-person singles, 416 tag.  It involves 443 wrestlers (Abdullah the Butcher to Zach Ryder).

For each standard singles match (competitor A versus challenger B) we want to know several pieces of information:
* What is the average star rating for competitor A's single matches overall? How many singles matches has competitor A had?
* What is the average star rating for challenger B's single matches overall? How many singles matches has challenger B had?
* What is the average star rating for singles matches where A wrestles B? How many singles matches did competitor A face challenger B?

Essentially, we're trying to determine whether a singles match between two wrestlers is higher or lower than the average singles star rating for each those competitors against other opponents. 
The premise is that the variance between the wrestler's average singles star rating against all other opponents and their average singles star rating against this particular opponent will be attributed as the effect their opponent has.

Only wrestlers with 10 or more singles rated matches against other opponents are listed:

Name Matches Feuds Feud Impact Match Impact Impact Average
Shawn Michaels 76 33 0.28 0.28 +0.28
Ricky Steamboat 22 12 0.24 0.31 +0.27
Mick Foley 31 14 0.28 0.19 +0.24
John Cena 52 21 0.21 0.16 +0.19
Ric Flair 68 31 0.17 0.20 +0.18
Brian Pillman 17 12 0.15 0.21 +0.18
Chris Benoit 104 34 0.16 0.19 +0.17
Brock Lesnar 12 9 0.15 0.19 +0.17
Ultimo Dragon 23 12 0.11 0.20 +0.15
Bret Hart 38 20 0.11 0.16 +0.13
Randy Savage 16 7 0.15 0.03 +0.09
Edge 62 23 0.04 0.11 +0.08
Rock 33 12 0.05 0.10 +0.07
Psicosis 14 6 0.09 0.06 +0.07
Kurt Angle 67 22 0.02 0.11 +0.06
Tajiri 10 8 0.03 0.07 +0.05
John Morrison 12 8 0.04 0.05 +0.05
CM Punk 30 18 0.01 0.08 +0.04
Shelton Benjamin 12 10 0.04 0.05 +0.04
Steve Austin 41 15 0.03 0.04 +0.03
Juvi 30 11 -0.01 0.04 +0.02
Owen Hart 17 9 0.00 0.02 +0.01
Jerry Lynn 11 7 0.00 0.02 +0.01
Rey Mysterio 99 35 -0.04 0.05 +0.01
Sting 28 13 -0.03 0.04 0.00
Dean Malenko 34 15 -0.04 0.03 -0.01
Christian 27 14 0.00 -0.01 -0.01
Jeff Hardy 28 12 -0.04 0.01 -0.01
Undertaker 46 20 -0.09 0.06 -0.02
Chris Jericho 93 35 -0.04 -0.01 -0.02
Rob Van Dam 23 16 -0.06 0.01 -0.03
Vader 22 14 -0.08 0.00 -0.04
Alberto Del Rio 10 7 -0.03 -0.06 -0.05
Scott Hall 10 7 -0.10 0.00 -0.05
Dolph Ziggler 16 11 -0.05 -0.06 -0.05
Eddy Guerrero 68 22 -0.10 -0.01 -0.06
Triple H 69 25 -0.09 -0.04 -0.06
Randy Orton 52 24 -0.09 -0.04 -0.07
Billy Kidman 30 13 -0.14 -0.05 -0.09
Lex Luger 11 6 -0.17 -0.02 -0.09
Finlay 13 6 -0.11 -0.09 -0.10
Diamond Dallas Page 25 14 -0.12 -0.14 -0.13
Matt Hardy 17 10 -0.14 -0.13 -0.14
Batista 18 8 -0.21 -0.08 -0.14
William Regal 15 8 -0.12 -0.17 -0.15
Hulk Hogan 11 7 -0.18 -0.12 -0.15
Chavo Guerrero Jr 18 9 -0.15 -0.20 -0.18
Marc Mero 10 6 -0.19 -0.22 -0.20
Sean Waltman 15 11 -0.22 -0.21 -0.21
Sheamus 19 11 -0.24 -0.27 -0.26
Jeff Jarrett 20 14 -0.35 -0.29 -0.32
Booker T 27 13 -0.35 -0.32 -0.33
Kane 11 9 -0.49 -0.54 -0.52

Commentary

Personally, concentrate on two major groups:
* Significant Positive Effect on OpponentsShawn Michaels, Ricky Steamboat, Mick Foley, John Cena, Ric Flair, Brian Pillman, Chris Benoit, Brock Lesnar, Ultimo Dragon, Bret Hart
(Runner-ups: Savage, Edge, Rock, Angle)

* Significant Negative Effect on Opponents:Diamond Dallas Page, Matt Hardy, Regal, Hogan, Chavo Guerrero Jr, Marc Mero, Sean Waltman, Sheamus, Jeff Jarrett, Booker T and Kane
(Runner-ups: Kidman, Luger, Finlay, Batista)

There's certainly some surprises in the list.  I knew HBK and Steamboat were great workers and expected Ric Flair, Bret Hart and Chris Benoit to do quite well.  However, I was certainly not counting on John Cena or Ultimo Dragon to break into the top echelon.  Likewise, I expected Kane to fare poorly. Still, I did not conceive that both Regal and Finlay would both find themselves on the negative effect list. 

This is the point when it's appropriate to start the long list of disclaimers associated with this approach.
First of all, all of the star ratings are the opinion of a single person - Dave Meltzer. This is not a reflection of what matches were popular, sold the most PPVs, drew the highest television ratings, sold the most tickets, etc. It was a reflection of how Dave felt about that match in front of that crowd on that day.  My dataset is only matches that were ranked 3 stars or higher.  I'm certain that if you normalize for total televised matches, you'd see that someone like Kurt Angle really stands out compared to someone like Hulk Hogan in that Kurt had a lot of great highly rated singles matches while Hogan didn't.  If I had the star ratings for every Hogan match (not just the three star plus affairs), his overall average would be a lot lower which could have a dramatic effect on what the "impact" residuals look like.  There's even the whole subject of which matches were being judged - secondary television shows (Smackdown!, WCW Saturday Night, ECW television) are likely underrepresented on this list.  PPVs are almost always rated which may be affecting John Cena's rating, though truth be told HHH and Kane have been on more PPVs over the years, so it's not like longevity alone drives a positive impact residual.  Lastly, this is only looking at pure singles matches - tag team analysis is a bit harder, but it'll be coming down the line.



Calculation Example
Randy Savage had 19 singles matches spanning both WCW and WWF runs.
4/21/86 Randy Savage vs. Tito Santana ****
3/29/87 Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat ****1/2
9/21/87 Randy Savage vs. Honkytonk Man ***
5/27/89 Randy Savage vs. Jim Neidhart ***1/4
7/29/89 Randy Savage vs. Brutus Beefcake ***3/4
1/27/90 Randy Savage vs. Jim Duggan ***1/2
3/24/91 Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage (Retirement) ****1/4
12/3/91 Randy Savage vs. Jake Roberts ***
4/5/92 Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair ****1/4
8/29/92 Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage ****
9/14/92 Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage ***1/4
6/18/95 Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage ****
1/22/96 Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage ***1/4
2/11/96 Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage (Cage) ***1/2
2/19/96 Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage ***1/2
6/17/96 Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage ***3/4
10/26/97 Randy Savage vs. Diamond Dallas Page ***1/4
10/27/97 Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage ***
6/15/97 Randy Savage vs. Diamond Dallas Page ***3/4

This breaks down into ten singles feuds: Savage/Flair (8x), Savage/Warrior (2x), Savage/DDP (2x), Savage/Steamboat (once), Savage/HonkyTonkMan (once), Savage/Santana (once), Savage/Duggan (once), Savage/Neidhart (once), Savage/Roberts (once) and Savage/Beefcake (once).

Overall, Randy Savage averaged 3.62 stars (68.75 stars per 19 singles matches).

We'll compare each feud to see the "effect" of Randy Savage on his opponents.
I'll list the singles match average for each competitor in all singles matches that do not involve the competitor.

Randy Savage (3.66) versus Ric Flair (3.75): 8 rated singles matches (average rating 3.56 stars). 
Savage went down -0.10 star points while Flair dipped -0.19 star points.

Randy Savage (3.56) versus Ultimate Warrior (3.50): 2 rated singles matches (average rating 4.13 stars). 
Savage went up +0.57 star points and Warrior jumped +0.63 star points.

Randy Savage (3.63) versus Diamond Dallas Page (3.32): 2 rated singles matches (average rating 3.50 stars). 
Savage went down -0.13 star points while DDP went up +0.18 star points.

Randy Savage (3.57) versus Ricky Steamboat (3.78): 1 rated singles match (average rating 4.5 stars). 
Savage went up +0.93 star points as Steamboat jumped +0.72 star points.

Randy Savage (3.65) versus Honkytonk Man (3.50): 1 rated singles match (average rating 3.00 stars). 
Savage went down -0.65 star points while HTM dropped -0.50 star points.

Randy Savage (3.60) versus Tito Santana (3.50): 1 rated singles match (average rating 4.00 stars). 
Savage went up +0.40 star points as Tito rose +0.50 star points.

Randy Savage (3.63) versus Jim Duggan (n/a): 1 rated singles match (average rating 3.50 stars). 
Savage went down -0.13 star points.  Duggan did not have any singles matches rated that didn't involve Savage.

Randy Savage (3.64) versus Jim Neidhart (n/a): 1 rated singles match (average rating 3.25 stars). 
Savage went down -0.39 star points. Neidhart did not have any singles matches rated that didn't involve Savage.

Randy Savage (3.65) versus Jake Roberts (3.25): 1 rated singles match (average rating 3.00 stars). 
Savage went down -0.65 star points while Jake the Snake dipped -0.25 star points.

Randy Savage (3.61) versus Brutus Beefcake (n/a): 1 rated singles match (average rating 3.75 stars). 
Savage went up +0.14 star points.  Beefcake did not have any singles matches rated that didn't involve Savage.

So, what was Savage's impact on other wrestlers?
Flair (-0.19) plus Warrior (+0.63) plus DDP (+0.18) plus Steamboat (+0.72) plus Honky (-0.50) 
plus Tito (+0.50) plus Duggan (n/a) plus Neidhart (n/a) plus Jake (-0.25) plus Beefcake (n/a) = 1.08 points over 16 matches spanning 7 feuds (since Duggan/Neidhart/Beefcake are excluded).

We found that on average when someone feuded with Randy Savage, the matches were +0.15 (1.08/7) star ratings higher than his opponent's normal average singles star rating for a match that did not involve the Macho Man. 

This positive impact is attributable to two feuds (Steamboat, Ultimate Warrior).  We can also normalize the impact over the number of overall singles matches by taking every single match individually into account and looking at the impact residual.  Using this method, the points add up to 0.55 points over 16 matches which is the noticeably smaller impact of +0.03.

Both values and their average are displayed in the table below.  To ensure that we were comparing enough matches, only wrestlers with 10 or more singles rated matches against other opponents are listed.

What happens when you add in "multi-person" singles matches?
If you don't control for it, each wrestler gets to count each singles pairing in the match as a separate "feud".
7/15/12 Dolph Ziggler vs. Tensai vs. Damien Sandow vs. Christian vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Sin Cara vs. Santino Marella vs. Tyson Kidd (Ladder) ****

Christian ends up with 7 feuds - one again every single wrestler.  When you consider that on average, multi-person singles have a higher star rating average (3.69) than tag (3.50) or singles (3.56) it quickly rewards people who participated in good matches such as the Money in the Bank Ladder match with lots and lots of impact residual points.

The new scoreboard leaders would be:
Drew McIntyre (0.42 impact avg)
Sin Cara (0.35 impact avg)
Edge (0.32 impact avg)
Shawn Michaels (0.3 impact avg)
Mike Awesome (0.3 impact avg)
Mark Henry (0.3 impact avg)
Santino Marella (0.29 impact avg)
Cody Rhodes (0.28 impact avg)
Ricky Steamboat (0.27 impact avg)
Matt Hardy (0.26 impact avg)
Jeff Hardy (0.24 impact avg)
Kane (0.23 impact avg)
Alberto Del Rio (0.22 impact avg)
Finlay (0.22 impact avg)
Daniel Bryan (0.2 impact avg)
Ric Flair (0.2 impact avg)
Christian (0.2 impact avg)
Evan Bourne (0.2 impact avg)
Psicosis (0.19 impact avg)
Brian Pillman (0.18 impact avg)
Bret Hart (0.18 impact avg)
Chris Benoit (0.18 impact avg)
Shelton Benjamin (0.17 impact avg)
Brock Lesnar (0.15 impact avg)
.
.
.
Lex Luger (-0.10 impact avg)
Diamond Dallas Page (-0.10 impact avg)
Sabu (-0.14 impact avg)
Hulk Hogan (-0.16 impact avg)
MVP (-0.16 impact avg)
Raven (-0.17 impact avg)
Goldberg (-0.17 impact avg)
Kevin Nash (-0.18 impact avg)
William Regal (-0.18 impact avg)
Chavo Guerrero Jr (-0.21 impact avg)
Sean Waltman (-0.21 impact avg)
Marc Mero (-0.22 impact avg)
Carlito (-0.3 impact avg)
Jeff Jarrett (-0.33 impact avg)
Ken Shamrock (-0.48 impact avg)

More careful controls need to be implemented to ensure points from each match are essentially only counted once.
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