AEW Blood and Guts - In-ring Statistics
At long last, it happened! Other a year later than it was originally scheduled to do, but on the 5th May 2021, The Pinnacle clashed with the Inner Circle. In a match that divided fans due to a mix of ungodly expectations and an interesting match structure, AEW Dynamite hit number one on cable in America for the very first time.
In this complex 5v5 match up, I've taken an ambitiously complex and in-depth approach. Below you will find a breakdown of the match befitting of the word break down. I have broken the match into 10 different phases based on the structure of the match rather than increments of time.
The ten phases of this match are the 8 phases of the alternating introductions of the competitors and the 'Match Beyond', in two parts. This has been split into two parts because after MJF and Jericho left the enclosure, it became impossible to track the action in the ring as it was off-camera, therefore the narrative frame of the match was focused on only Jericho and MJF.
I have also introduced the idea of 'Big Offence'. This is based around my findings that simple strikes rarely indicate narrative control or domination in wrestling matches. It is hard to prove any in-ring metric is linked to a winning performance, but strikes are often linked to losing performances.
Therefore, Big Offence refers to all offence out with simple/non-knockdown strikes. This encompasses Strikedowns, Grapples, Dives, every 5 seconds of Submission and all Weapon Attacks; including those that are non-knockdown Strikes.
Phase 1 - Sammy Guevara vs Dax Harwood
Sammy Guevara was a complete star in this match. He started the match and wrestled throughout, often very involved in the action. The first phase of this match was devoted to putting him over as he took 73% of the offence, with Dax only managing 2 hits that were not simple Strikes.
Guevara's numerical dominance was underscored by the heaviness of his offence. 21% of his Strikes were Strikedowns, and he hit a Grapple and 2 Dives as well. Alongside his 36% Reversal Rate, Sammy Guevara was a technical and explosive house of fire.
Phase 2 - Sammy Guevara vs Dax Harwood/Shawn Spears
With a 2 on 1 advantage, The Pinnacle did not take advantage of this advantage. I described it as having your serve broken on today's episode of the Pro Wrestling Musings' Podcast. Sammy Guevara managed to maintain his Match Offence advantage and only lost the Big Offence Total by 1.
Against a lone opponent, Spears and Harwood only managed 2 big moves. A grapple from Harwood and Spears' Strikedown chair shot. A potentially costly opportunity.
Phase 3 - Sammy Guevara/Ortiz vs Dax Harwood/Shawn Spears
Here's where we really see a difference between quality of offence. The Pinnacle achieved very little here, to the extent their 11 Strikes somewhat mask that in the Match Offence. Rather serendipitously, Inner Circle managed as many Big Offence as The Pinnacle's total. 8 big moves plus 3 additional weapon shots make up Ortiz and Guevara's total, here.
Phase 4 - Sammy Guevara/Ortiz vs FTR/Shawn Spears
If The Pinnacle missed the opportunity yo make their advantage really count the first time around, Cash Wheeler made sure that that was not to be the case on the second go round. He came in like a man possessed and set the tone for The Pinnacle to completely white wash Inner Circle in this period.
This 100% of the Match Offence and 15 Big Offence, FTR as a team were presented as an irresistible force.
Phase 5 - Sammy Guevara/PnP vs FTR/Shawn Spears
The combination of Santana and Ortiz had a big act to follow after FTR washed over Ortiz and Guevara. Although he thrust the advantage back into the hands of his team, he did not have quite the all encompassing affect of Wheeler.
With almost two thirds of the Match Offence and just over two thirds of the Big Offence, the Inner Circle took advantage of their fresh man but understandable did not hit the notes of their opponents in the previous period.
Phase 6 - Sammy Guevara/PnP vs FTR/Shawn Spears/Wardlow
Predictable, Wardlow had a similar impact to Cash Wheeler, as soon as he got involved his opponents got nothing. The one Strike/Strikedown the Inner Circle achieved occurred as Wardlow slowly entered the ring.
He did not have the sweeping effect of Wheeler with his team achieving 6 less Big Offence than the previous period that they held the advantage. An impressive feat however, considering the challenge Wardlow was presented with as the Inner Circle circled the wagons to attempt to subdue their opponent.
Phase 7 - Sammy Guevara/PnP/Jake Hager vs FTR/Shawn Spears/Wardlow
The theme of the fresh man swinging the pendulum back to the Inner Circle but without as much momentum as when it swings in the other direction. Jake Hager brought the Strikedowns as he came into the ring. He also hit a very impressive Vader Bomb in his opening salvo.
A 10-0 whitewash in terms of Big Offence, is a huge endorsement of Hager's presence and an indication that he may have a future if Jericho is not around for a while.
Phase 8 - Sammy Guevara/PnP/Jake Hager vs The Pinnacle
Another period of numerical advantage for The Pinnacle and another huge swing of the pendulum, again more so to their advantage than it swung to their disadvantage the previous period. However, not for the first time they did not take advantage of their offence in a big way. Instead taunting and unfocused simple Strikes, they neglected larger impacts.
Phase 9 - Inner Circle vs The Pinnacle
This period is the part of the match that saw all of the participants in play and 'ends' as MJF and Jericho leave the cage. As you can see it was a sweeping 'win' for the Inner Circle.
With a barbaric flurry of Weapon Attacks, Strikedowns, Grapples and some lengthy and often foreign object assisted Submissions, the Inner Circle decimated The Pinnacle. The Inner Circle not only took almost three quarters of the Match Offence in this chunk of the match but they hit 87% of the Big Offence in this phase.
On the most recent episode of the Pro Wrestling Musings podcast, Gareth mentioned his observation that it did not seem that any team really tried to win the match until the end. This is both hard to and inadvisable to argue with. I would suggest the narrative strand here is that the Inner Circle were so caught up in punishing MJF, they left the back door open for him to slither out from under their tightly applied grasp.
Phase 10 - Cell Top Showdown - Chris Jericho and MJF
When MJF and Chris Jericho left the cage it was now impossible to follow what was going on in the ring. There was still action in the ring, it would have looked ridiculous to the live crowd and the occasional background shots if not. You could still hear it and get slight glimpses but it was impossible to gather any data.
The statistics here indicate what happened but don't really give us much takeaways about the booking, there's simply not enough there. Which is what often happens in short matches, or theatrical squashes, however at the end of a blood-feud during a frenetic match; 9 manoeuvres in 5 and a half minutes is an exceptionally slow pace to end such a match.
Flow of Offence - Match Offence Percentages
As you can see the only one of the 8 periods of the pre-bell action did not follow the pattern of Inner Circle advantage followed by The Pinnacle dominating while they had the extra man advantage. The other notable periods are 9 and 10, where the Inner Circle dominated when it was 5v5 and MJF took the advantage via low blow atop the cage.
It is also worth noting, The Pinnacle did eventually take advantage of their alternating numbers advantage in comparison to the Inner Circle's alternating fresh man advantage as there peaks were much higher during this period of the match.
Flow of Offence - Percentage of Total Big Offence Used
This way of looking at the match does throw doubt on The Pinnacle's domination during the pre-bell portion. Although The Pinnacle tended to get in more offence during their advantage, the Inner Circle got in way more Big Offence when the pendulum swung back to their fresh man advantage. Underscoring how motivated they were to really punish The Pinnacle.
Overview - Total Offence
In a 34 minute match, these are huge totals. Thus highlighting the stacked nature of the offence in this fearsome showdown. The Inner Circle's 60% share of the offence really put them over as a dominant force in defeat. Why they were given this after week's of getting one over on The Pinnacle is confusing, hopefully it will make sense retrospectively in a couple of weeks.
What else do you see from the overall in-ring offence? Let us know in the comments below!