What It’s All About
We hear it all the time from the commentary desk: “Styles Make Fights.” But what does that mean in practice?
As promised, I am initiating a weekly column where we explore that idea by using my “Styles Make Fights” Interactive Dashboard to preview a fight scheduled for the following night's AEW show.
For more details on how this interactive tool works, please take a glance at the "Styles Make Fights" introductory post!
Eddie Kingston vs. Lance Archer
So let’s see what we can learn by using this tool and applying it to an upcoming match. The biggest singles match announced for tomorrow night’s Dynamite show is Eddie Kingston versus Lance Archer--the boiling over of an animosity that has long been simmering. Neither is a fan favorite, but they don’t care about that, they each just don’t like the other!
Just looking at the win loss records the favorite to win should be clear:
They both have winning records, and they both came up just short in their respective quests for gold, first against Cody Rhodes, and later against Jon Moxley. However, 14/3 is significantly more winning-er than 6/5. And Archer also obviously has the advantage in weight and reach.
However, Archer’s advantage is actually a lot bigger than it seems. Kingston’s wins are padding earned almost exclusively against tin cans. The highest profile win that he can claim is against Matt Sydal, a competitor whose style couldn’t be more different from Archer's.
Comparing Styles with the SMF Dashboard Tool
Now we’re getting to the part about styles, and how they make fights! So, let’s take a look at the offense blend of the two antagonists, head to head:
These two charts are VERY similar, which is NOT good news for the underdog of a matchup! Both are very strong strikers, both use an average amount of throws and slams, both fly very occasionally. Kingston is a bit more technical, and Archer fights even dirtier than Kingston, but their mix of offense is extremely similar. This is even more notable when combined with their offensive balance: both are good at delivering a lot of punishment, while allowing relatively little to be returned to them. When they face each other, something's got to give!
So let’s take a look at examples where they have each faced opponents with very similar mixes of offense in the past. In Eddie’s case that’s Jon Moxley--the two of them are practically mirrors of one another:
In their one standard-rules meeting, both men stuck to their usual strategy--Eddie was very successful at delivering a lot more offense than he allowed returned to him, and he refused to give up. But none of that was enough to pull off an upset.
Archer also had a match against Moxley, but it was no-holds-barred, so not in our data set. The opponent with the closest offense mix that he had a standard match with was Dustin Rhodes. Below on the left, you can see Dustin’s typical mix of offense--very similar to Lance, Eddie, and Jon. On the right, however, is the offense mix looking only at Dustin's match against the Murderhawk:
As you can see, Dustin's offense completely collapsed. All that he was able to land on Archer were punches and kicks, and they were not very effective. Is this what we can expect tomorrow night?
The Bottom Line
Paths to an Upset?
I am a big fan of Eddie Kingston’s work, especially since he went All-Elite. I’d love to see him get his first truly high-profile singles victory. But for him to pull off this upset, business-as-usual is not going to cut it. He is an underdog in this match already just looking at win records, weight, and reach. But taking fighting styles into account, he is even more of an underdog. His usual playbook is to dominate his opponent and control the match, a playbook that will not work against a much larger man looking to do the same thing to him. He needs to change things up significantly to have a chance against a fighter so similar in style, except bigger.
He needs to change his strategy, and NOT to just-punching-a-lot, as we can see from Archer’s one-sided destruction of Dustin Rhodes. One strategy that could boost Eddie’s chances of earning the upset might be to use the exact opposite of his usual offensive balance: don’t try to maximize his own offense and minimize his opponent’s like usual, but instead let the Monster come to him, then endure, outlast, and wait for Archer to punch himself out and leave a big opening. Not to say that he should let Archer deliver all the punishment he wants to: Kingston needs to counter, duck, run, and evade, to waste as much of Archer's energy on missed strikes and chasing as possible. Emulate the defensive strategy, (if not necessarily the offense style,) of elusive competitors such as Orange Cassidy or Darby Allin.
In this week’s installment of AEW’s Road To… series, Eddie proposed that both men leave their allies out of their conflict tomorrow night. This is obviously a ploy to eliminate the x-factor of Archer’s manager, the legendary Jake Roberts. But we know from his "I Quit" match against Moxley, that when he has said he will go it alone, he has meant it. However, another path to victory for Kingston might be to go back on his words this time, and to cheat and lean on his allies even more than usual.
If, on the other hand, Kingston stubbornly sticks to his usual offensive mix AND leaves his “family” backstage, it looks almost inevitable that he will get shut down hard by the Murderhawk.
We’ll find out tomorrow night if I was right! Thanks for taking the time to read.
After this preview was completed, Eddie Kingston was asked by Fanboy Nation about his strategy for the upcoming confrontation:
I love it when people ask me, “Eddie, what’s your game plan?” Wait, I’m supposed to have a game plan? You know what I mean? Like, if there’s an opening, I’m gonna punch you in the face. If there’s an opening, I’m gonna kick you in the knee. If there’s an opening, I’m gonna bite your ear. If there’s an opening, I’m gonna try to gouge your eye, we’re fighting, man! This is not… you know what I mean? We’re not, we’re not, you know what? We’re not playing. You know what I mean? I know me and Lance do not play. No offense to no one else on the roster, but a lot of the young guys don’t understand that fire. They, they wanna do the cool stuff, which is great, cause I can’t do it, so I give them... you should see me in the back when some of these guys come into the back, after they’re doing all their crazy flips and stuff, I give them a hug, like “What is going on? Are you guys okay?” Cause, like, I can’t do it! But one thing I can do is punch you, kick you, and fight you. And that’s all I’m gonna do is just… I’m gonna fight you. You wanna wrestle and grapple, I can do that, but I’d rather punch you in the face than put you in a hammer lock.
Caveat: any competitor who is asked about their strategy for an upcoming opponent is likely lying through their teeth, and I hope that is the case here. Because Eddie just described exactly what I had already described as the strategy most likely to lead him to an ignominious defeat. Eddie has said before that he will become everything he hates in order to succeed in AEW. And that's what he needs to do tomorrow night, regardless of pride: fight like a coward, like a guy who's scared to take a punch. Beg off, get in the ropes, frustrate Archer, and then let him use him as a punching bag till he's tired and making mistakes.