A JDB Writing
Wrestling envelops many different aspects. It’s not just what happens inside of the ring, but what happens outside in regards to promos. While promos are important, we have to recognize one simple fact:
Nobody grew up watching pro wrestling only for the promos. (At least I hope not)
If I assume correctly, you prefer to watch what happens in the ring. That is in fact what the sport is based around — the events that take place within the squared circle. Much in the same light, you would think you want what happens in the ring (what you’re watching for) to take up a good portion of the show, correct?
So the million dollar question (laughs in Ted DiBiase): Does it matter how little or how much wrestling takes up each show each week, and what does that say about you as a fan?
In the past week I found an old Reddit post of a user who compared months of match times of Monday Night Raw. The user compiled these and compared three 3 years: 1999, 2009, and 2018. The results aren’t surprising, but interesting.
In 1999, during the much revered Attitude Era, roughly 24% of Monday Night Raw was made up of actual wrestling.
Average match time was a little over 4 minutes. Now the user only took one month out of the years for comparison (it’s a lot of data crunching), but results are mostly the same across the board in most sample sizes.
However, as the years went on, so did the match lengths. In 2009, 27% of Monday Night Raw was made up of wrestling, and in 2018 that number jumps to 30%. This was before Raw jumped to the current three-hour format.
Before we get into how the landscape looks now, an important topic of discussion:
Do Match Times Matter?
At a first glance at this question, most (including myself) would say “no, of course not.” There are plenty of long matches that were absolute garbage. On the other hand, Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 33 was an absolute banger. It didn’t need to go more than 5 minutes, the crowd was hot, and it was fantastic.
But getting back to the original question: Well it depends on a number of factors, of course:
-Importance of the Match
-Names on the Marquee
With this, however, comes an undeniable point:
Most of the greatest wrestling matches in history go for well over 20 minutes. And with that, aren’t we watching professional wrestling? Shouldn’t most of what we watch be made up of actual wrestling?
How Much Wrestling is in Your Wrestling Show?
I crunched some data myself. I took the last 7 episodes of each major brand on television (AEW/RAW/NXT/Smackdown) and broke them down by the numbers. This includes average length of each match, amount of total wrestling per show and what percentage of a wrestling show is actually wrestling:
Note: Accounting for commercial breaks and specific run times would be much too tedious, but you would still get similar results.
-Average Match Length: Approx. 8 minutes
-Average Amount of Wrestling Per Show: Approx. 60 minutes
-Percent of Wrestling That Makes up the Show: 33%
-Average Match Length: Approx. 10 minutes
-Average Amount of Wrestling Per Show: Approx. 60 minutes
-Percent of Wrestling That Makes up the Show: 42%
-Average Match Length: Approx. 7 minutes
-Average Amount of Wrestling Per Show: Approx. 37 minutes
-Percent of Wresting That Makes up the Show: 30%
-Average Match Length: Approx. 11 minutes
-Average Amount of Wrestling Per Show: Approx. 56 minutes
-Percent of Wrestling That Makes up the Show: 47%
While Raw has the most wrestling by the minute over any show, it’s because it’s a three-hour show. Only about a third of Monday Night Raw is actually wrestling. It gets much worse for Smackdown, but better with NXT. Not surprisingly, AEW fills nearly half of its show with actual wrestling on average with 47%.
But let’s compare this to a sport that I truly love. Football.
In any football game on Saturday or Sunday, the average time of actual action on the field only measures 11-15 minutes per game. The rest of the 60 minutes of game time are spent in-between plays. The average football play only lasts around 5-10 seconds. In total, that’s only around 25% of a game of football made up of dudes actually playing football.
Clearly, the viewing public is perfectly fine with the mechanics of how football works in regard to its action. The NHL holds much lower ratings than the NFL, yet they hold more action per game time minute.
On the other hand, what if you played a video game with more cutscenes than actual gameplay? Would you enjoy it? Would you justify its quality based on the cutscenes, even if the gameplay was bad? Or if it was the other way around, great gameplay, but very little of it, would that make it any better?
What does this say about professional wrestling?
It’s a bit amusing all of this. We watch professional wrestling, and yet bell-to-bell, we end up with less than we think. While AEW carries the most pro wrestling per minute compared to any WWE brand, it’s still less than half of the entire show on average. Though, out of the seven shows I measured, Dynamite did have over 60 minutes worth of wrestling on three different weeks.
Perhaps match times do not matter to you, but I have to ask: Why are you a wrestling fan that doesn’t care how long a match goes?
While I don’t watch Raw or Smackdown, it’s a bit insulting that they only offer so little of their show with actual wrestling. If I were to play a video game made up mostly of cutscenes, I would kindly ask for my time and money back.
If the gameplay was terrible, then this makes it even worse.
How much wrestling do you need per show, and does it speak to your type of fandom with how little or how much wrestling is enough for you per week?
I want more, because overall, I am watching wrestling — not people talking about wrestling. But that’s just me. What about you?