Updated: Sep 10
If this is your first Styles Make Fights, please read the introductory post, to be sure you understand our premise, then come right back and join us!
Last week I talked about the upcoming #1 contender's match for the NWA World Championship, as well as the TNT title defense. I noted how, historically, Leyla Hirsch uses more throws and suplexes against easy wins, and leaves her feet more when attempting a bigger challenge. I expected to see Hirsch take this one, but it would be her toughest win to date: her first win over a competitor who also has a winning record, and I believe her first over an opponent with any wins at all. So I was very curious to see if her offense mix in a win over a competitive opponent would look more like past losses to tough opponents or past wins over soup cans?
Wouldn't you know, her strategy in this situation was use both aerial maneuvers and grapples!
I noted last week how Lee Johnson seemed to have been flailing about for an effective mix of offense in his competitive matches and was dismissive of the possibility he would do any better against God's Favorite Champion. I hereby eat my words and humbly apologize to Mr. Johnson. He may not have gotten the W, but he showed us the blueprint for chopping the Bulgarian battler down to size.
And the key to it is volume. You can't compete with the effectiveness of Miro's individual strikes so your strikes need to outnumber his, and by a LOT. Note that Miro's percentile as a POWER striker is 100%, but my system is only set up to show the higher of the two. If it showed his pure striker bar, it would be at a measly 8%. His percentile on average as a pure striker is 76%, so that's a massive collapse, which goes hand-in-hand with a similar collapse in grappling effectiveness, which fell from a mean in the 66th percentile all the way down to a mere 4%.
"Stick and move" is a cliché for a reason, and Lee Johnson utilized that strategy to perfection. It wasn't enough to become TNT Champion only because Miro is an absolute dreadnaught. But one with a chink in the armor now shining through.
A final amusing note from last week: Lee may have cribbed this killer playbook! Compare Lee Johnson's mix of offense against Miro with Darby Allin's, (more successful in the end,) strategy to bring down the much-larger Bear Bronson two nights prior on Elevation:
This coming week, the biggest thing going on in the world of AEW is the live premiere of the new Friday show, Rampage. So far the only announced match and presumable main event is the AEW World Championship defense in Dr. Baker's beloved hometown of "Brittsburgh."
Red Velvet vs AEW World Champion Dr. Britt Baker, DMD
How will upstart Red Velvet respond (strategically) to the biggest opportunity of her career so far, a try at dethroning the dominant (and arrogant) AEW World Champion? Here's a look at the big picture: the two adversaries' average offense mix for all their respective matches:
It should be noted however, that this is a rematch. Early on in her AEW career, Red Velvet had a meeting in the ring with Britt Baker. It did not go well for her:
That doesn't look anything like her average match, and that obviously didn't work out for her. But the truth is, none of Red Velvet's matches look like her "average" match. If you've been reading my column for long, you know that I have themed an entire column around attempting to make heads or tails of Red Velvet's lack of consistency in her offensive strategy. Of course, Red Velvet is a raw rookie developing before our eyes: at least some of that inconsistency is accounted for as improvement. Below is a comparison of her offense mix charts before and after her first win:
However, even since she began winning more often than losing, her approach is not consistent from match to match. If you look at her wins and losses based on the winning record of her opponent, she has lost to every winning-record opponent she has faced, and defeated all but two of her adversaries with losing records. However, that is misleading: in both of those cases her opponent was at zero net wins. and their defeat of Velvet put them back into the winners' column. So let's look at her approaches to her victories versus her defeats, which in this case will show the distinction between her approach to a match depending if she went into the match confident or intimidated:
And look at that! You would never call that these are the same wrestler, except they have the same name and picture shown. When I wrote an SMF about Red Velvet before, I was not able to resolve to my own satisfaction what story was being told by Velvet's inconsistent strategy. With the benefit of time for more thought and to accrue more data, I have come to a conclusion: the story is that of a rookie who is very effective on offense when she is confident, but extremely ineffective at counter-wrestling when her confidence is shaken.
There are many wrestlers who use counter-wrestling very effectively, not only as defense, but as a transition into their own offense. Orange Cassidy is the sine qua non at this. But when Velvet is on the back foot? Her striking game is still damn impressive, with a strikedown rate that mostly holds up and is among the best. But her grapple game and her domination of offense both fall off a cliff when she is on the defensive with counter-moves.
If Friday night's match gives you the impression that Red Velvet really got killed by the champ, I would be willing to bet that you will see that she focused on counters rather than grapple moves. If we see something more like Lee Johnson's recent near-upset, I would be willing to bet that the plot of the offense mix will show the opposite. My bet is that we will see something somewhere in-between... but closer to the latter.
AEW Dynamite Quick Hits:
The first episode of AEW Rampage may be the big news this week, but we still know what that means when it's Wednesday night! There are a few matches scheduled worth looking at, so I will cover each briefly. Daniel Garcia is having his Dynamite singles debut, telling "the new gunslinger in town" story. He has nothing against Darby personally, just that he's built a reputation that Garcia can profit off of, if he can prove that he is even better.
Daniel Garcia's stats are based on just two singles matches, which isn't a great sample pool, but those matches were surprisingly relevant: losses on Elevation to Lee Johnson and to Joey Janela. Johnson has a very similar mix of offense to Allin, as we noted above, while Janela has a similar no-holds-barred approach to the niceties. If one were inclined to read too much into the situation of Garcia getting an opportunity at a highly-ranked competitor after losing to two lower ones, one might theorize that Garcia was indirectly scouting Allin with those specific matches, while holding back, himself, to limit Allin's ability to scout him on tape.
Darby's average mix of offense is likely misleading in this matchup, as a majority of his matches have been against significantly larger adversaries. Below are a couple examples of how that has changed when he's fighting someone more his own size, like with Garcia:
I wouldn't be at all surprised to see more grapples than typical from Allin on Wednesday, and possibly even strikedowns!
Kris Statlander and Nyla Rose looked at each other sideways last week, which is reason enough, I suppose. They have a surprisingly similar mix of offense considering one is a fan favorite and the other soaks in the boos of the crowd.
However, both have rarely locked horns with anyone close to their own size; the only real example being their previous go at one another:
Why did both of them throw the heart of their offense, grapples, straight out the window? I'm chalking it up to not being used to beating up someone their own size and expect them not to change it up quite so extremely this time round.
Finally, Chris Jericho faces his last obstacle to getting the match he wants with Max Friedman, in the mountainous personage of Wardlow. Here are the offense stats for each man:
There are two reasons not to put too much stock in stats for this match: Jericho has never faced anyone near as big as Wardlow in AEW, and Wardlow has never faced anyone with a record of accomplishment nearly like Jericho in a standard-rules match. More importantly, Max is involved and desperate to put a stop to Jericho's Labors before they reach him. So there WILL be shenanigans!