Updated: Sep 18, 2021
If you read (and love?) my Styles Make Fights (SMF) column, but are sometimes confused by the SMF stat blocks that I frequently refer to, or if you have seen my column promoted and are curious about it, but find the stat block daunting: this tutorial is for you. I will break down every aspect of the stat block, what they all mean and how I know.
Where Does the Data Come From, Anyway? Also: Why?
The SMF stat blocks are screen grabs from my SMF Dashboard which I use to analyze the offense style and the fighting strategy of AEW competitors. The data that is the foundation for the Dashboard comes from lots of time and effort from Craig and Tim of Pro Wrestling Musings. Craig is the founder of the site and created the method, definitions, and shorthand used for capturing data on how many of what categories of moves different competitors use, which he goes into in more detail about here: About Stats. Tim is our one volunteer to learn Craig's methods and take some of the data-collection load off of him. Craig captures the data from all of the matches on Dynamite, Rampage, AEW PPV, and the Women's Eliminator Tournament Specials, while Tim has done all of the Elevation episodes since its inception. I deeply appreciate all of their work and conscientiousness that allows me to do what I do.
As to the rationale, it is a common phrase from commentators in both real and worked combat sports that "styles make fights." The intent of the SMF Dashboard and series of columns is to take the data we observe on the moves used by professional wrestlers to see what we can learn and what we can attempt to infer from the frequency of types of moves about the style of the wrestler and what that means for what they are trying to accomplish within the story through what they do in the ring.
Overview of the SMF Stat Block
Here is an example of a screen grab of a stat block from the SMF Dashboard tool:
The first thing you may notice is that it's actually two stat blocks side by side. The SMF Dashboard is set up that way, because the whole point for me is to use these stats for comparisons: comparing the record and strategy of two rivals, or comparing the same wrestler at different times, or in different types of matches. Now let's zoom in on specifics!
The Input Field Section
At the very top of the stat block are three fields in light blue, which are the input fields. I have circled them in red below. These are the only cells on the dashboard that the user changes manually, to specify the data that they want to look at.
"Competitor" & "Matches" Input Fields
In the upper left is a field that isn't labeled, but that I could have labeled "Wrestler" or "Competitor." This field indicate which performer this stat block is about.
To the right of that is a field labeled "Matches" which will usually be on the default "All," but may be set to something else to narrow down which matches are being looked at. such as just wins, or one specific match, indicated by the opponent's name and a number to indicate which specific match in the situation where the pair of competitors have had rematches.
For example, in Orange's stat block to the right, "Chris Jericho 2" is specified, meaning that the stats shown in the rest of the block are just from the second match between Cassidy and Jericho. When a specific match is specified, the input field to specify the opponent is blacked out as moot, like you see highlighted with an orange circle.
Compare this to the "Matches" input field in Cody's stat block above: there, "Non-Win" matches are specified, meaning that we are only looking at his losses and at any draws.
"Opponent" Input Field
The input field that is labeled "Vs." is used to narrow down the stats being looked at by a specific opponent, or set of opponents grouped by win/loss record. Specifying a match and specifying an opponent are very similar, and in cases where the two have only one match in the data, the results are exactly the same. But if there have been any rematches between the two, that's when the differences come in.
Whereas the stat block we discussed above showed Orange Cassidy's stats in one specific match against Chris Jericho, to the left you see his stats against Chris Jericho in general. As you can see it indicates two matches and shows slightly different offense bars.
Why does it indicate two matches and not three? Remember that the data only includes standard-rules matches, which a Mimosa Mayhem match definitely is not! We don't want to make an invalid comparison between apples and Oranges.
Opponent by Win/Loss
One of the most valuable tools for understanding a competitor's strategy is to look at their offense against opponents grouped by their net win/loss record. Unfortunately, the win records in my data is a bit of a kludge. Since I don't have data to include on all matches, I can't use the worksheet to automatically track the complete win record of competitors. For the first few months, I would take the win record from the AEW website and enter it manually, but this was time-consuming. Once Elevation was introduced and Tim would provide me with stats for those matches, I decided that a net W/L for everything except Dark would have to be close enough. So from that point on the records are an automation based on the matches that are in the database. building off whatever record the competitor had the last time I entered them manually. Because the point is to be able to compare the mix of offense used against generally winning competitors versus the mix used on enhancement talent, I feel that precision isn't necessary to accomplish that. Below is an example:
On the left you see Red Velvet's stats in her 8 wins over opponents with a net win/loss record Less Than Zero, while on the right you see what she tried in her 4 upset attempts against opponents with a record higher than 2. The exact number the opponent has to be above (or below) is adjustable in the Dashboard—its latest improvement.
Date Range Input Fields
You also may sometimes see completely different input fields that are used to show a competitor's stats over a date range. For example, below is a pair of stat blocks for different eras in Darby Allin's AEW career:
I've circled in a green box the date range that the stats on that side cover. On the right, in a red box, you see the end-points of the dates covered by the stats on that side. The stat on the left are all of the matches of his TNT title victory & reign, while the right covers everything since (as of this writing.)
The Match Information Grid Section
Immediately below the input fields is a grid of match information. There are six columns, for: all matches, wins, losses, draws, non-wins, and non-losses. Columns that are irrelevant may be grayed out. Then there are three rows, for: number of matches, total match time, and average match time.
Keep in mind that this isn't intended to be an accurate reflection of the competitors current win-loss record, this indicates specifically what matches and how much match run-time plays into the stats in the rest of the stat block. We don't have stats from original Dark, so those wins and losses would not be in this grid. Also, tag matches, triple threat or handicap matches, no-DQ matches, etc. are all excluded as invalid comparisons. Only standard-rules AEW singles matches are included.
I'm sure most readers have read a grid before, but just in case: you follow a row heading to the right and a column heading down and the datum that is found where those headings meet is the answer to the question that they together form. For example, the three fields that are circled in green are the row heading for number of matches and the column heading for non-wins, and they meet at the number 5, so that is telling us that the number of Cody Rhodes matches in the database that were not wins is five. Non-wins include losses and draws, which (at 4 and 1 respectively) add up to five, so that makes sense.
Orange Cassidy's grid is a little different, because I have chosen to look at one specific match, his second match against Chris Jericho, so his column for "All" means "all of the matches that are under consideration, that reflect the offence data represented below" and in this case that refers to this one specific win. So the "All" column and "Win" column are the same, as circled in orange.
Even though Cassidy does have a draw on his record, it's not under consideration, and any time that the number of draws on the grid is zero, the columns for non-wins and non-losses are grayed out, seeing as, with no draws to consider, non-wins (for example) are the exact same as losses, so the column is redundant.
The Offense Style Mix Section
Finally, we get to the real heart of the SMF Stat block, the offense style mix! This section shows how frequently (relative to their gender division) the competitor in question uses five different categories (and three sub-categories) of offense.
Categories and Subcategories
Let's take a closer look at an offense style mix section:
To the right you can see the offense style mix section for Darby Allin's matches since losing the TNT title that we looked at earlier. To break it down there are five color-coded categories of offense: red for strikes, orange for "grapples," yellow for dives, green for technical wrestling (submission holds and reversals), and purple for unorthodox offense (fouls and taunts). Because this graph is intended to give visualization of the competitor's style, the words for labeling each bar are based on the type of wrestler who would use that type of move a lot: rather than "dives" the yellow bar is labeled "flier."
Three of the categories are split into sub-categories. Any strike whatsoever count towards the Volume Striker category: whether with an open hand, a fist, an elbow, a knee, a foot, even a headbutt. I used to call this "Pure Striker" but conversations with General Admissions Griff on the PWM Podcast convinced me that "Volume Striker" would be a better name. Volume Striker also includes those strikes which ALSO count toward the Power Striker category. Any strike which knocks a standing opponent off their feet counts toward Power Striker.
The orange category, Power Grappler, doesn't have subcategories but often causes confusion. I added the word "power" to hopefully make it more intuitive that this category does not refer to regular holds and tie-ups, but to moves where the wrestler grabs up and throws or drives their opponent to the mat, such as throws, slams, suplexes, or drivers. The name "grapple" for this category of move I believe com es from wrestling video games.
The yellow category I label "Flier," and Craig refers to as "Dives." This includes not only offense from the turnbuckle or springboarding off of a ring-rope, but also leaping offense from a standing position. In other words, any offense where the wrestler "intentionally leaves their feet," as JR would say.
The first green sub-category is Stretcher, which any hold that is intended to cause pain or injury counts toward. The second is Counter-Wrestler which includes any avoidance of the opponent's offense, such as a reversal, dodge, or block.
The final category is purple for unorthodox offense. The first subcategory, Rulebreaker includes all fouls. Fouls are defined as any attack that would normally lead to a disqualification or a warning five-count or any admonition from the referee. The other is Mindgamer, and is based on the competitor's use of Taunts. This encompasses any non-attack intended to confer an advantage, whether by provoking or confusing one's opponent, or by engaging the "fifth man" of the audience, or just by encouraging oneself.
Percentile of Frequency
To the right of each category or subcategory label there is a number in percent format and a color-coded bar to represent that number But what does that number represent? It should be clear that it doesn't represent the proportion of offense used by the competitor since they don't add up to 100%.
The fact is the number does not represent a percentage, but a percentile. So in the stat-block on the left we see that in the 32 and a half minutes of ring time with Chris Jericho, Orange Cassidy is a 98th percentile volume striker. This means that the number of strikes he used, divided by the ring time, is a greater rate than 98% of the strike rate in the rest of the ring time among other male competitors. But the rate of knock-down strikes was greater than that in only 38% of the ring-time in his division. Or, for example the proportion of time he had Jericho in a submission was greater than 19%, but his leaps per time greater than 98%.
The Offensive Strategy Section
Finally, at the bottom of the stat block there is the section on the Offensive Strategy, which is comprised of two percentiles represented by a green and a red bar, and a single word. First let's take a look at the percentile bars.
Offense Absorbed vs. Offense Delivered
This section puts all of the competitor's offense and puts it into a formula intended to represent my best estimate of the total impact of the offense. That formula is Total Offense = (Strikes + 4 * Strikedowns + 5 * Grapples + 5 * Dives + Seconds of Submission holds + 2.5 * Fouls + 10 * Finishing Moves). The number arrived at is divided by ring-time and compared to that of the rest of the division to arrive at a percentile and that is the % and green bar of "Offense Delivered." The same formula and process is applied to all of the offense of the opponent or opponents to get the number and red bar of "Offense Absorbed."
In the bottom left of the stat block is a single word intended to represent the strategy implied by the level of offense delivered and absorbed. This is arrived at by categorizing both levels of offense as high, medium, or low. Then every possible combination is represented by a word intended to describe the strategy. Below is a table of the strategies:
I regularly question if I have those quite right, but in any case that's what they mean!
Obsolete Stat Blocks
You may be perusing older installments of Styles Make Fights, and say to yourself: "these don't look quite like you described!" If so, firstly BLESS YOU for perusing my archives. Styles Make Fights columns are very of-the-moment, but I hope they have some lasting interest. Second, you are quite correct, there have been changes as Styles Make Fights has gone along. Improvements, I hope!
To the left is a stat block from the very first Styles Make Fights column, showing the stats for Eddie Kingston in his World title match against Jon Moxley. (The first one, as the second one wasn't standard rules, so wouldn't be in the data.)
Instead of sub-categories, each category of offense has one bar for the dominant of the sub-categories. So, "Balanced Striker 97%" means that the higher of Strikes and Strike-downs was 97% but they were close to each other, thus "balanced". If strikes had been significantly higher, the name would have instead said "Pure Striker" or if it had been strike-downs, "Power Striker." Similarly, "Stretcher 94%" means that the percentile for submission holds is 94% and significantly higher than the number for counters, the other subcategory of technical wrestling. However, the exact percentile for counters isn't shown, unlike with the current stat blocks, which is why I felt the improvement was needed, even if it is a bit more visually busy now.
If you made it through all of that, thank you so much. I hope that this information enriches your enjoyment of the SMF columns. If you are interested in using the SMF Dashboard yourself to make stat blocks to pursue your own curiosity, the second tutorial will cover that, and I will get that out as soon as I have it completed. I hope that this answers all possible questions, but if not, please reach out to me with any SMF-related question at the Twitter: @SergeiAlderman.