Updated: Sep 10, 2021
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It has been a few weeks where I either didn't have a lot to say about the singles matches in the upcoming episodes of AEW programming, or was just short on time! Apologies for being away longer than expected, but now it's time for maybe the biggest show in the short history of AEW, and I am back! To analyze!
Darby Allin vs CM Punk!!!!!!
You have no idea how psyched I am for this match. Possibly all of the exclamation points are a clue. Normally here at SMF, we don't preview a debut match, but we will make an exception this time, and look at Darby's offense stats and try and see what we can glean from that at least.
I have to do that much. Because, you know: I called it! Back in July!
So, yeah, follow my Twitter!
So, the thing about Darby Allin is that his mix of offense is very different from opponent to opponent, but the axis of that difference is NOT the challenge level of the opponent. His average mix for winning-record opponents is very similar to the mix against opponents with losing records:
He uses a few more grapples against less-challenging opponents, which is pretty common. But it's still his lowest frequency category of moves, even lower than strikes, And he gets a higher volume of offense in. While it's true that aerial and technical offense switch places as first and second most used, they are such a CLOSE first and second, that's barely a difference! In all, his offense mix changes very little on the basis of the perceived threat level.
HIs offense mix also doesn't demonstrate change over time, which we can see when comparing 2020 with 2021 so far:
Slightly higher production, but same fundamental mix. Now is the point where I, as the analyst, explain why Darby chooses a certain mix of offense in a certain situation, and what that means for what we can expect on Sunday. Problem being: I can't figure it out!
If you look at Darby Allin matches against different opponents, or different outings against the same opponent, you see totally different offense. For example, below are two wins over Sammy Guevara within a couple months of one another:
The first is a dominant outing with high production in every category except strikes. The second is an evasive affair with offense almost entirely focused on submission holds. Look at almost any two matches of Darby Allin, and the mix of offense is different, but it averages out the same almost any way you slice it, meaning that he isn't inconsistent, he is just consistent on a broader scope than a single match.
One aspect of Darby Allin's game that I feel I've made some sense of: he's grown more confident and mature as a competitor since losing the TNT Championship. Here is a comparison of his mix of offense in his successful TNT defenses compared with an average of his mix in the match where he lost the title and the matches since then:
Since coming face to face with the Redeemer, his use of counters and fouls have gone down, strikes and grapples are up, and he fights from underneath less. It shows a more mature competitor, less prone to desperately claw his way to victory, and with more confidence to mix it up physically and not rely on stick and move.
So we have one wrestler, Darby Allin, who is something of an enigma in spite of hours of data on his moveset. Versus a CM Punk, a total enigma with no data in an AEW ring, and seven years away from any ring whatsoever. I have no idea what to expect and cannot wait to find out!
Dr Britt Baker defends AEW World Championship against Kris Statlander
The challenger is a power wrestler so naturally grapples are her bread and butter:
However her grapple game has a disheartening tendency to collapse in the face of opponents she finds intimidating:
If she can grow beyond this weakness, I believe she will have a great showing, but even then, I doubt it would be enough against the dominant and confident champion.
AEW World Champion Kenny Omega defends against Christian Cage
This match may seem overshadowed by CM Punk's return match and the seemingly destined confrontation with Adam Page waiting in the wings. But while WE may see Christian Cage as a placeholder challenger whose defeat of Omega on the debut of Rampage seems a fluke, Kenny Omega doesn't appear to have gotten that memo.
Above are the averages for offense mix for the two over their AEW careers, but I believe that is a bit misleading, as Christian arrived so relatively recently. Below is Kenny's AEW matches divided into before and after becoming World Champion:
As you can see, Omega's mix is no longer as balanced or moderate as before. He has increased his volume of offense in all but one category, and his mix looks a lot more like Cage's now: a somewhat high volume mix of all but one category. Where for Christian that category is grapples, for Kenny it is the high flying. However, when he faced Christian one on one, and faced defeat for the first time in many months, this mix went entirely out of whack:
Whether it was lack of confidence, or effective counter-wrestling from Christian, Omega's grapples collapsed, and his technical wrestling didn't fare much better. If Omega doesn't want to go oh and two, he needs to get back on his own game plan.
Eddie Kingston Challenges TNT Champion Miro
If you look at their offense mix side-by-side, Miro and his challenger are surprisingly similar:
Many competitors change once they gain or lose a title as we have seen above. Not Miro!
Kingston, on the other hand, does seem to have changed quite a bit since the exploding ring fiasco:
The changes (FAR more grapples, and less reliance on the crutch of fouls) made him even MORE similar to Miro. The one caveat: the after stats are based on only two matches against tin cans. However, with his promises to go after Miro's neck with moves like the Exploder and the DDT, it sounds like we should not expect Kingston to revert to a stick and move strategy. Eddie has called his shot and this fight promises to be a surgical dissection. But will that be enough against Miro's raw power and zealotry?
We'll get the answers to all these questions and more on Sunday night!