For reasons that I've never entirely understood, wrestling fans get very very upset when it comes to discussing match ratings. Of course the one man who most of this ire is directed against is Dave Meltzer who produces his ratings for the Wrestling Observer and has seemingly been doing so since the dawn of time.
Rather than choosing to ignore Big Uncle Dave's ratings, or going to the hundreds of other ratings sites on Planet Internet, the wrestling community instead chooses to lambast one individual's personal opinion. Somewhat ironically, this gives the Wrestling Observer ratings much more spotlight and imbues them with even more sense of meaning....which must really anger those easy-to-rile keyboard warriors.
The fact is that Meltzer has never said that his ratings are somehow canon, or that other opinions on match ratings are not valid. Yes, yes he will get into unnecessary spats with people on Twitter at the drop of a hat, but rarely is he to be seen saying that his ratings are 'facts'.
In truth a lot of the rage at Meltzer's ratings stems from the fact that he doesn't give high enough marks to WWE matches in the eyes of Vince McMahon's faithful followers. If the frothing Fed fans took some time to look anywhere else on the internet however they'd see that this is far from a view held by Meltzer alone, with ratings sites pretty universally panning most of what WWE spews out and calls wrestling.
But I digress. Based on the above issues, you would assume that there would be massive variances in the ratings of the general public, and those of the Wrestling Observer.
Thankfully, the last 12 months has seen the emergence of a great app that allows us to make this comparison. Grappl is a wrestling ratings app that allows you to enter your own star rating for almost any match that has happened on planet earth. All the big names are there (WWE, AEW and NJPW) but so are promotions such as Stardom, NOAH, RevPro and even GCW. So rather than whinging about someone else's ratings, why not go and download the app and start putting your own views across? Believe me it's a lot more fun. Seriously....if you take nothing else away from this, Grappl is great.
In this article I will be comparing the ratings provided by Dave in the Wrestling Observer for the NJPW G1 Climax, and the average ratings that are currently on Grappl to see what we can discern about the differences between the great unwashed and the high lord/evil (delete as appropriate) Dave Meltzer.
A couple of caveats, because everyone loves a good caveat...
Firstly, the Grappl ratings are a movable feast as people can enter ratings whenever they want. I've therefore taken the figures from 21st October 2020 which hopefully gave everyone long enough to get their ratings in for the final few rounds of the G1. There's currently between around 50-200 ratings for each match.
Secondly, Dave Meltzer's rankings can go below 0 stars and above 5 stars (another thing which seems to enrage the easily enraged) whereas Grappl works purely on a 0-5 star basis. This obviously has the potential to skew some of the averages, but over the course of the 91 matches in the G1, this tends to even itself out.
Right...on with the show!
Best Matches of the G1 - Meltzer v Grappl
Meltzer Match Rankings
Grappl Match Rankings
Looking firstly at the highest rated matches in the G1, we can see there is a definite correlation between Dave Meltzer's favourite matches and those who have used Grappl.
Unsurprisingly, the superb Kazuchika Okada v Shingo Takagi match features at the top of both lists, although Dave does believe that the war between Kota Ibushi and Minoru Suzuki was on a level pegging in terms of quality. Grappl users don't quite agree, bravely putting Suzuki and Ibushi down in third place on their listing (I won't tell Suzuki if you don't). As an aside, I think this is Suzuki's highest ever ranked match in the Wrestling Observer which is pretty bloody impressive for The King at the age of 52.
Elsewhere the two big surprises on Meltzer's top 10 are Jeff Cobb v Tomohiro Ishii and the always divisive Taichi against the newly divisive Will Ospreay. Both matches achieved a wopping 4.75, but fail to chart in the top 10 matches according to the good folk of Grappl.
Other than those anomalies however, every match that finds itself in the Grappl top 10 was given a 4.5 or higher by Dave Meltzer.
Great minds eh?
Best Wrestlers of the G1 - Meltzer v Grappl
Meltzer Wrestler Ratings
Grappl Wrestler Ratings
There are a few more differences on show here between the two sets of ratings, but first let's look at the similarities.
To begin with, and seemingly underlining his status as arguably the most underrated wrestler in the world right now, Tomohiro Ishii sits proudly atop both lists. This is despite the Stone Pitbull having gained only 8 points in the G1 itself, and having never really been considered as a genuine contender to win the trophy. Clearly though, whilst NJPW look set never to catapult Ishii into the running for the major titles in the promotion, he will remain king of the hearts and minds of both the wrestling community and the Wrestling Observer.
Similarly Shingo Takagi, another man who looks set to miss out on getting a run at the top belts, possibly due to his upbringing in Dragon Gate, was very high on both lists. And of course back-to-back G1 winner Kota Ibushi sits within the top three whoever is dishing out the star ratings. It is also notable that whilst many have questioned Kazuchika Okada's performances in 2020, particularly in his use of the tedious Money-Clip submission finisher, he remains high on the list of match ratings both for Meltzer and for the general public.
At the other end of the table, there is no love for supposedly loveable Toru Yano's in-ring performances as he brings up the rear in both cases, and perhaps surprisingly, G1 finalist Sanada fails to make it into the top 10 for either Meltzer or Grappl fans. Finally, slap-bang in the middle of both tables sits the legend Hiroshi Tanahashi, perhaps showing that whilst The Ace can still put on a banger, as he did with Tetsuya Naito in their opening match, he may be losing the ability to do it over a lengthy and grueling tournament.
In terms of differences, Will Ospreay is notable in being second in Meltzer's list, compared to fourth according to Grappl, and with a fairly hefty difference between the two average scores. Whether this represents a different view on Ospreay's in-ring performances, or perhaps an unwillingness from many fans to praise him after recent events, is unclear, but his isn't the biggest discrepancy.
IWGP and Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito actually has an almost identical score in both tables, but whereas his loyal fans on Grappl have him in joint sixth, Meltzer has him in eleventh. This appears to be a sign that whilst Naito might not always have the greatest matches in terms of in-ring quality, he is clearly still popular with his adoring LIJ posse who will forgive him the odd lapse.
Kenta also occupies a surprisingly low 19th for Meltzer, although this average score is partially explained by a rating of -1.0 for his match against Toru Yano. And elsewhere, former double champion Evil and his repeated shenanigans are clearly getting up the nose of the fans more than for Meltzer, as Grappl has him down in the relegation zone in 18th.
As a final point on these scores it is well worth noting that both for Meltzer and for Grappl users, almost every wrestler in the G1 has an average of over 3 stars. Considering the brutal schedule of the G1, and considering that WWE struggle to get any 3 star matches even on a good day, this really is a remarkable achievement and a further indication that if you are looking for match quality, Japan is the place to go.
Differentials - Meltzer v Grappl
At the end of this article is a table showing the ratings for each of the 91 matches in the G1 from both Meltzer and Grappl, ahs well as the difference between the two ratings for each match. Understanding that most people aren't as big a loser as me however and therefore have better things to do, I've narrowed it down to the five matches where Meltzer was much more generous than Grappl, and the five where Big Dave was much more critical than the general Grappl consensus.
Top five matches where Meltzer gave a higher score than Grappl
Evil v Sanada - 1.01 higher score
Tanahashi v ZSJ - 0.88
Ibushi v Suzuki - 0.87
Taichi v Ospreay - 0.87
Cobb v Ospreay - 0.76
The match between the former LIJ allies generated the highest positive difference between the two rankings, with Meltzer giving the contest a 4 compared to the average Grappl rating of 2.99. Certainly whilst the match wasn't a classic, largely due to the boring continuation of Evil's turn to the chair-based dark-side, I do think the end sprint between the two pushed it more towards the 4 than the 3.
Elsewhere we again see Ospreay causing controversy with Meltzer giving significantly higher scores for his matches against Taichi and Cobb than Grappl users were prepared to give, and there's much more love from Dave for the heavily matt-based contest between Tanahashi and Zack Sabre Junior.
Top five matches where Meltzer gave a lower score than Grappl
Kenta v Yano - 2.62 lower score
Goto v Yano - 1.37
Tanahashi v Yano - 1.23
Evil v Naito - 1.19
Yano v Sanada - 0.68
The main trend here is clearly that Dave Meltzer has a lot less time for Toru Yano's schtick than the general public, at least in terms of how it impacts on match quality. Dave gave his match with Kenta a -1. and the 18 second disaster against Goto a 0, whereas Grappl users were kind enough to at least give a positive number.
The most surprising inclusion here though is the Evil v Tetsuya Naito match which Meltzer granted only 2 stars compared to the far more generous users of Grappl who awarded it 3.19. Again I find myself siding with Meltzer on this one as I thought it was another boring slog between the two men who have been at the centre of New Japan's main story for the majority of 2020. Maybe 2 was a bit low though Dave.
A Startling Statistic
To finish off this rollocking run through the world of rating wrestling matches, I have also taken an average of the differences between the ratings from Grappl and those provided by Dave Meltzer across the entire G1 to show just how wrong the Wrestling Observer impresario is apparently getting it.
So here it is....
Drum Roll please....
Look away now Dave....
The average difference between Dave Meltzer's ratings and that of the public shared on Grappl is.....0.14.
Yes, you are reading that correctly, 0.14!!!
This really is a remarkable statistic considering that this is across all 91 G1 matches and certainly should make people think (well if you want to think anyway...if not how on earth have you got this far down the article?)
So next time you see a Dave Meltzer rating and reach for the Twitter-gun to unload both barrels about how wrong he is, maybe just take a deep breath and watch the match again. Because whilst the Wrestling Observer ratings should never be taken as gospel...they are the opinion of one man after all...it appears that when compared to the views of the wider wrestling community, they may not be as outlandish as you would like to think.
Every G1 Climax match rated by Grappl Users and by Dave Meltzer