Updated: Sep 10
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Last week, I previewed the grudge match between Christian Cage and his career rival, Matt Hardy. Seeing as they already demonstrated a good contrast of styles, I didn't expect to see them change up their mix of offense a lot—with the caveat that since turning heel, Matt relies more on grapples and less on strikes—and for the most part that's how it went down. Below is the average of the two men's mix offense, up until their confrontation against one another, (and, in Matt's case, since turning heel):
And below is the mix of offense used by each man in that one specific match last Wednesday:
Both men flew a bit more than usual, (though starting from very different "usuals,") perhaps as callback to their high-flying days when their feud originated. Christian fouled more and used technical wrestling less, which makes sense in such a heated feud against such an inveterate rulebreaker. But overall they "danced with what brung em," sticking to their tried and true, particularly when it comes to offensive strategy. Matt dominated offense even more than usual; Christian rope-a-doped even more than usual, letting Matt wear himself out on offense before hitting his Killswitch without warning to pick up his first singles victory over his old rival.
New AEW World Champion, Dr. Britt Baker, DMD has her first defense against a monster who beat her only five months ago. In spite of this history, nobody expects Baker's run at the top of her division to end so soon, with all the momentum and confidence that she has now.
Below is the average offensive mixes of each competitor up to now:
Averages can be misleading, and Britt's offense mix is a great example. Her average indicates that both grapples and striking are major parts of her game. But, generally, she picks one of the two to focus on in a given match. Before her title shot I theorized that she had switched from striking to grappling specifically as a counter to striking expert, Hikaru Shida. After the fact, it became clear that this was not the case, as Baker used more strikes than grapples versus Shida.
My current and, (I believe,) improve theory is that Baker focuses on strikes against more challenging opponents and focuses on grapples against easier victims. Below is a comparison of her offense mix facing opponents with winning records, contrasted with the mix against those with losing records:
In absolute terms, her striking doesn't actually change, but her use of throws and suplexes declines so sharply that striking seems a much more significant proportion of her overall mix when facing a more competitive opponent.
Nyla, on the other hand, shows a VERY different side of herself when faced with a more competitive opponent:
Against most opponents she utterly dominates with both strikedowns and throws, ragdolling her victim and barely allowing any offense, taking the time to showboat, but finishing them off quickly. Looking at her average mix against more skilled opponents, her offense seems to completely collapse relatively. However, even when she is put on the backfoot by skill and technique, she usually still ekes out a victory, hanging on till she is able to engage her clincher, the Beast Bomb.
Contrariwise, when Nyla first faced and defeated Britt, her typical offense did NOT collapse, despite Britt having a better winning record than many competitors Nyla had struggled against:
As you can see, Britt used far less grapples, which is typical for her against more competitive opponents, (and for anybody against a much larger opponent,) but Nyla's strikedown and grapple did NOT collapse as they had against skilled and offense-dominating opponents such as Hikaru Shida or Thunder Rosa.
In my judgment, Britt didn't have the confidence or momentum to suppress the attack of the Native Beast in their first encounter, but that as champion it will be a very different story.