Right now, there are online controversies regarding match ratings… Everyone always attacks Dave Meltzer for his star ratings, while recently, CageMatch.net’s star ratings and user ratings of matches have been creating attention. Just recently, Tony Khan was trolled by the USA Network’s social media account for his love of CageMatch’s ratings of his matches to vindicate his booking.
Folks, this hasn’t just been a recent debate… This has been going on for a long time, as star ratings began in the 1980s since Weasel Dooley placed them in his newsletter and it used to be up to 4 star ratings like many newspaper film ratings used to have. Dave Meltzer picked up on the ratings with his newsletter and then other online websites developed their own. This isn’t a recent fight… Now, where you’re seeing it gain steam is the fight between WWE and AEW as if match ratings matter.
I’m here to tell you that these match ratings don’t matter.
How you personally rate a match is what matters.
Did you hear what I just said? Let me repeat it…
How YOU personally rate a match is what matters.
And it doesn’t even need a star-rating. Did you enjoy the match, yes or no?
See folks, we’re micro-managing ever little detail of the wrestling business in order to possibly win a debate. My show has more total viewers… But my show has great numbers in the 18-49 demographic and that matters more. My show has more viewers and more attendees in the arena, but my show had more highly rated matches. In fact, I once had a wrestler attack me on an opinion that I had (something to the effect of “wrestlers can stay relevant as they get older because of their mic skills and personality, where as boxers and MMA fighters can’t”) and the wrestler quoted the amount of Dave Meltzer highly rated matches that he had to refute my point about him getting older.
This week’s debate over which televised title match was better has been hilarious… Jinder Mahal vs. Seth Rollins on WWE RAW or Hook vs. Samoa Joe on AEW Dynamite. Why are we having this IDIOTIC debate over which match was more relevant or received higher match ratings? Seriously, WHO CARES. What should really matter is which match entertained the masses more and which one will be remembered in the future? Which match made an actual impact on fans?
The FACT is that there is MORE to Pro Wrestling than the individual moves performed inside the ring. If the opposite were true, Chris Benoit would have drew money as World Champion in 2004. He was a pure in-ring technician and by SummerSlam 2004, the WWE gave the title to a very young Randy Orton instead (who in one month, dropped it back to Triple H). If moves inside the ring only mattered, then Dolph Ziggler would not only be in the WWE, but he’d be main eventing with nobody daring to challenge his spot. But athleticism inside the ring isn’t the only asset a pro wrestler needs to be on top of the business. You need charisma, personality, psychology, and communication skills to connect with fans to make them (a) want to watch any show you’re on (b) pay top $$$ to attend any live event where you’re performing and (c) pony up cash to buy up your merchandise. If you lack any of those 4 qualities mentioned, along with your in-ring ability, you’re not going to be a top draw.
Dynamite Kid, Ricky Steamboat, Rick Rude, Curt Hennig, Jake Roberts, Perry Saturn, Shelton Benjamin, and many great in-ring workers who would nail any move perfectly but also sell for their opponents like champs. Yet each guy listed, never made it to the tippy top of the wrestling business. Go ahead and argue Steamboat, but those 1989 houses for NWA/WCW were a bit low on attendance and Steamboat returned to be a midcard act when he rejoined WWE following this run. Houses grew again once Flair was champion again and feuding with Terry Funk, who drew strongly previously in his career.
But for the top draws… Hulk Hogan never put on in-ring clinics and he didn’t need to… He sold out that building based on the hype and shows leading up to that big event. Nobody considers Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant from Wrestlemania 3 to be the “greatest of all time”, but they certainly call it one of the most important matches of all time, right? Everyone jerks off all over Macho Man vs. Ricky Steamboat, but that Pontiac Silverdome was packed for Andre vs. Hogan, period, and Andre putting over Hogan is far more important than how many stars Macho vs. Steamboat received that night on the undercard.
Many of you crapped all over Bill Goldberg‘s return and his feud with Brock Lesnar during 2016 and 2017. You know who wasn’t crapping on it? WWE, because Bill Goldberg brought a lot of older WCW eyeballs back onto the WWE’s product to watch that feud. And I love their 2017 Wrestlemania match. Sure, it’s not the most technically sound match, but it’s pure chaos in a battle between 2 alpha males and it felt like a big event. Out of 5 stars, Dave Meltzer gave Brock Lesnar vs. Bill Goldberg 3.5 stars for their Wrestlemania 33 match. Yet, to ME, that’s my favorite match of the show. To Dave, it was AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon with 4 stars. Seriously… He gave 4 stars to AJ Styles selling everything and Shane doing his usual backyard wrestling routine rather than 2 of the biggest stars ever putting on an entertaining match.
The real problem with Star Ratings is who is giving them… If someone assigns stars to a match, that’s their opinion alone on how that match was rated. And their opinion could be biased based on who they are working for or their own tastes/preferences. Go watch video clips from the 1990s, as Dave Meltzer was very anti-WWE and his hatred of them seems to be rooted for his love of the older territory systems (which is why he supports local California indy promotions) or his ongoing love for New Japan. Even when WCW was hitting on all cylinders during 1996-1997, Meltzer was crapping all over that promotion and especially Eric Bischoff. Right now, Dave gives very favorable reporting and match ratings to AEW because the promotions have New Japan and California Indy wrestlers throughout its roster and Tony Khan will take Dave’s calls directly.
CageMatch is NOT immune to biases, either… Yes, the website assigns its own star ratings and then lets users vote with their own rating to create an average match rating also on the site. YET, as many websites have already proven, you can vote-bomb an individual match either way. It’s easy to create logins to these websites and trolls can aggressively vote something upward or downward. MetaCritic, Rotten Tomatoes, and the restaurant scene have seen trolling for years. Same with Amazon on ratings of their products.
There is no perfect match rating system other than your own. Why? Because it matters to YOU.
But I would like to finish this column to show a very clear bias that is out there on match ratings… Dave Meltzer‘s ratings in his Wrestling Observer newsletter are obviously skewed to his personal tastes. That’s fine, and he’s allowed to have his own opinion… BUT, when he’s touted as having a perfect match rating system and that nobody should ever question it, then I have some real concerns. Meltzer is vehemently anti-WWE and that is incredibly present in his ratings. That’s my issue… He’s going out of his way to disregard WWE wrestler accomplishment’s on having great matches, while inflating the value of other wrestlers by handing out 5-star matches (or higher) to wrestlers he personally likes. Kenny Omega could fall asleep in the ring, as he’s wrestling someone, and it would receive high stars. Same with the Young Bucks, who choreograph every single match ahead of time without any creativity. Always getting stars thrown at them.
Let me prove my point…
A while ago, someone made it a point that Dave Meltzer NEVER gave Kurt Angle any 5-star ratings. That’s crazy, because Angle has many absurdly great matches with Chris Benoit, the Rock, Triple H, Steve Austin, Brock Lesnar, Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio Jr., and many others from 1999-2006 in the WWE. Angle was an exceptional wrestler, period… And despite other publications giving Angle 5-stars for his matches, Dave Meltzer NEVER did.
So I made a counter-point to the Kurt Angle supporters to look at ALL of Dave Meltzer’s 5-star awards… In fact, Dave gave ZERO 5-star matches between WWE Badd Blood 1997’s Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker (Hell in a Cell) and WWE Money in the Bank 2011’s CM Punk vs. John Cena. Not one single match scored 5-Stars…
And you’re thinking in your head… Hmmmmm… Nothing, at all, from late 1997 through the first half of 2011? Just off the top of my head, Undertaker vs. HBK at WM 25, Kurt Angle vs. HBK at WM 21, Austin/HHH vs. Benoit/Jericho from RAW 2001, Foley vs. Triple H at Rumble 2000, any of the TLC matches, the Hardys vs. Edge/Christian No Mercy 99 Ladder Match, and I could go on and on with that STACKED WWE roster from the late 20th century, into the early 21st century. Nope, not a single 5-star match was awarded by Dave Meltzer.
Thus, to prove my point why Match Ratings from someone else doesn’t matter, thanks to their own personal biases, let me show you a 5-star match rating comparison between Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer versus another top publication rater, Scott Keith of RSPWFAQ.com. Scott remains one of the top event reviewers online and has been writing stuff online longer than I have (and I’m into my 25th year!).
Dave Meltzer’s 5-Star WWE matches will be in BOLD, while Scott Keith’s 5-Star WWE matches will be in ITALICS. Are you ready for this? In other words, based on my analysis above, what you’re about to see is a sandwich with Dave’s 5-Stars from 1997 and 2011 with many matches rated highly by Scott in between.
WWE Badd Blood 1997 – Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker (HIAC) (Scott Keith also gave this 5-Stars)
Triple H vs. Catcus Jack – Royal Rumble 2000
Dudleys vs. Hardys vs. Edge/Christian TLC – SummerSlam 2000
Triple H vs. Steve Austin (2 out of 3 falls) – No Way Out 2001
Dudleys vs. Hardys vs. Edge/Christian TLC – Wresltemania 17
Steve Austin/HHH vs. Chris Benoit/Chris Jericho – RAW May 2001
Steve Austin vs. Chris Benoit – Smackdown May 2001
Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H – SummerSlam 2002
Kurt Angle/Chris Benoit vs. Edge/Rey Mysterio – No Mercy 2002
Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels – Wrestlemania 20
Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels – Wrestlemania 25
WWE Money in the Bank 2011 – John Cena vs. CM Punk (Scott Keith also gave this 5-Stars)
So let’s see here… Between late 1997 through mid 2011, Scott Keith had 10 separate matches rated as 5-stars during this period of time. NOT ONE OF THEM received 5-Stars by Dave Meltzer. Not one!!!
And I could argue there were multiple matches under consideration and Scott Keith, himself, had a few matches at 4 and 3/4 stars that were on the verge of 5 stars. WWE during the 2000s was LOADED with talent from Austin, Rock, Angle, Michaels, Undertaker, Angle, Guerrero, Benoit, Mysterio, Edge, and many others. How anyone could disregard their matches, as a whole as Dave Meltzer did, is beyond me. Complete obtuse thinking.
And do want to see more Dave Meltzer hilarity? Since 2011, he has only awarded 5-Star ratings specifically to NXT matches aside from liking 2 specific matches on Wrestlemania 39 between Usos vs. Owens/Zayn and the Gunther/Drew/Sheamus match. Thus, NOTHING from mid 2011 through early 2023 on the WWE main roster obtained 5-stars.
Meanwhile, dozens of matches from New Japan Pro Wrestling not only received 5 stars, but actually went above that. That’s right, Dave started giving excessive stars to show his love towards his favorite promotion. Put any combination of Okada, Ospreay, or Omega together, and you’ve got 6 stars or more… Up to 7 stars for one of the Okada vs. Omega matches.
That is what you call BIASED…
But again, I’d be 100% fine if this was just Dave’s rating and personal to him… But when you have other online marks and even other wrestlers holding up his rating as the gospel, that’s where it becomes a problem. He’s clearly biased and if you just fart in New Japan Pro Wrestling, you’ll get the extra benefit of the doubt versus working in the WWE.
CageMatch ratings have their own bias, as do the user scores. A rating is an individual score that someone applies to a match based on their own tastes/preferences. Thus, Tony Khan and others look like fools when the hold up CageMatch’s ratings as gospel because THAT data can be manipulated and biased too.
As a wrestling fan, what should matter is how YOU feel about what you’ve just watched…
If you live and die as a wrestling fan based on how someone else rated a wrestling match, you’ll become a biased fan too and start to emulate the critic’s tastes/preferences. I always laugh when Wrestle Kingdom rolls around and the Observer boys are gushing over the matches, a bunch of online parrots start emulating their opinions as well.
THINK for yourself and TRY things… Don’t let these match ratings dictate what matches to watch or promotions to follow.
But if you don’t and let someone think for you, you’ll become them. And you’ll begin to micro-manage your wrestling opinions just like them. Then, you’ll become miserable just like them and yell at everyone on X(formerly Twitter) just like them too.
It’s your choice…
But again, just look at that incredible anti-WWE bias that Dave Meltzer had from Badd Blood 1997 through Money in the Bank 2011. So many great WWE matches happened between then, yet Dave gave out ZERO 5-star ratings. Why? Because he’s impaired as a wrestling fan because WWE destroyed the territory system that he loved as a younger fan and it’s personal to him. That, and he can be easily swayed by wrestlers who name moves after him.
Ignore the match ratings and think for yourself.
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