In this article, I will attempt to break down Cody's 10 TNT Championship matches, all the way from him winning the red strap against The Murderhawk Monster at Double or Nothing, to losing the new and improved title to Mr. Brodie Lee of the Dark Order.
I will provide some analysis in each of his individual matches, with stats and graphics provided by Craig Leask, ending with an overall analysis of his entire title run including his declining match offense percentage, the percentage difference between Cody's TNT title matches and his matches prior, and his apparent gameplay between wrestlers his sizes and horses.
There is also a companion podcast episode of "Wrestling with Statistics" that goes along with this article. You can listen to that here or watch it here.
Match #1: Lance Archer - Double or Nothing - May 23, 2020
In Cody's first match against Lance Archer, the pressure was definitely on him. Lance had his number since before the world went into a spiral, and Cody wasn't going to let that distract him. But Cody has seen Lance Archer before in NJPW and in his 5 AEW Dynamite matches prior to this match (where Lance's total AEW match time at the time was 47 min and 9 secs). Lance was a monster and Cody felt that in the first 10 minutes of this match with Archer taking control. But Cody was able to out reverse Archer literally one too many times (13:12) by reversing Archer's Blackout into two back-to-back Cross Rhodes (a staple in Cody's big matches. Watch it, folks, he does it a lot). For Cody, this match was about running the marathon and reversing Lance when the opportunity knocked and truly taking advantage of it. Where Lance took control of the first half of the match, it wasn't a dominating performance either, only being ahead in offensive value by 10 pts. Cody took the shots where he could and played the long game, a tactic I'm sure he took from the opponents of Mike Tyson. And in this tactic, he was able to get the majority of match offense (52%) and win his first match in his TNT Title reign.
Match #2: Jungle Boy - Dynamite #35 - June 3, 2020
Remember the good 'ole days where we all watched this match and were like, "woah, Cody is really taking it to Jungle Jack Perry". Cody took a week off from this Lance match and came back swinging, outdoing Jungle Boy in 8 of the 13 categories presented in this graphic. In Flow of Offence, Cody's 2nd highest peak matched Jungle Boy's highest. Even when Jungle Boy was able to get some sort of offense halfway through the match, Cody followed it up by playing defense and limiting The Boy's offense until Cody can overpower The Boy and win. And for a guy that is sort of a high-flyer, The Boy wasn't able to get anything in this match besides 2 dives. It's apparent to me that The Boy's gameplan here was to outstrike Cody and reverse where he can. The problem being that strikes don't really matter in a match unless you can strike them down and reversing moves is good as long as your opponent doesn't match you in reversals. Cody picked up another win and moved on, with one Cross Rhodes I might add.
Match #3: Marq Quen - Dynamite #36 - June 10, 2020
Two weeks previously, Marq Quen injured his ankle on a dive to the outside causing him to leave a match early. Cody being the Ace that he is, recognized this and decided to make that his strategy. And it worked for him. The majority of Cody's offense is leg attacks in this match, resulting in Marq Quen's leg to give out during a springboard move, which Cody immediately continued the attack by slamming Quen's leg into the ring post. Like the previous week, if your opponent is known for aerial maneuvers, find a way to limit that. However, based on the numbers, Cody did not do as good a job on this task as last week but as the Flow of Offense graph dictates, this wasn't Cody's fault. During the match, Arn Anderson tries to get involved and this leads to Quen's highest peak of offense, outdoing Cody's highest peak by 15 points. But despite this high peak, it wasn't enough because Cody was able to catch Quen in an ankle lock into a knee lock/calf crusher-esque submission, causing all that leg work to pay off. Commentary puts over the fact that if Quen didn't come into this match with a hurt ankle, Quen could have had Cody's number. Could that be true? Who's to say. I'm only the Nostradamus of Booking. But I can say that Cody has proven how to limit his opponents known moveset masterfully and knows when to pick the correct spots.
Match #4: Ricky Starks - Dynamite #37 - June 17, 2020
Now I love Ricky Starks. He was an easy standout on NWA Powerrr and has the charisma to sell me on a match between him and broom. If you haven't seen Starks's sign my name promo (a promo that Cody liked on twitter previous to this match), it's 100% worth the watch. But enough gushing, let's talk about how "Absolute" Ricky Starks absolutely lost this match. Cody has entered the 4th match of his TNT title reign, in 5 weeks. At this point, quite honestly, Cody was slowing down. Each week, Cody's match offense percentage was dropping (52%->47%). The average match offense percentage difference is 52% vs 48%. Additionally, looking at the chart below, there is a fairly strong idea that as the matches went on, Cody was getting less offense per match. And that's how you back up your ideas with data. Another issue Cody has was that this a match where he was facing an opponent that he couldn't prepare for. Cody was in danger. But Cody is a good wrestler that had the skills to take out 3 previous wrestlers and what he learned was that you need to limit your opponent's specialty and when it doubt, reverse the hell out of your opponent. And with that tactic in mind, Cody eeked out a victory. If you look closely at the dotted line on the Flow of Offence graph you can see Cody and Starks were fairly even during the beginning of the match. But Cody kept to what got him to the dance and was able to outfight Ricky Starks. After several back and forth pin attempts, Cody was able to get Starks in a surprise Cross Rhodes (1) to win the match. This match was close. And with big bad Jake on the horizon, Cody was getting tired and he's starting to fall behind in this marathon.
Match #5: Jake Hager - Fyter Fest Night 1 - July 1, 2020
This is the halfway point of Cody's TNT Title marathon. Cody is falling behind in his matches and he's starting to get lucky. Now, a 6'4", undefeated MMA Hoss stands before him. What would your strategy be? You could try to submit him but again, he's undefeated in MMA. You could reverse again and again until he tires out. Or you could chop that tree down and just punch him over and over again until you can pin him. Well, luckily for Cody, he's a jack of all trades. Why not try all three? Cody starts the match out swinging, getting the majority of the offense in the early goings. When he got the chance, Cody reversed it, counter Hager hold for hold. However, Hager was too much, slowing down Cody immensely, and taking control of the match. And this match was all over when Hager caught Cody in an ankle lock and getting slapped by Hager's wife, causing Dustin to get to Cody's defense. This distraction caused Cody to roll-up Hager and pin him by the skin of Cody's teeth. I truly believe Cody lucked out in this match. Just looking at the rent he was on week to week and even in this match, it's hard to argue otherwise. Could it be just a skilled veteran that knows what to do to get the roll-up? Maybe. But it's certainly hard to tell since luck is the one stat no one can track. On to another week.
Match #6: Sonny Kiss - Fight for the Fallen - July 15, 2020
At this point, Cody has gotten a week off from defending the TNT title, his first off week in quite a while. And BOY was he refreshed. Cody dominated Sonny Kiss in this match, taking home 64% of the match offense, his highest in his entire reign. Sonny Kiss starts the match with a solid showing but after 4 minutes in, Cody turns the match around and takes Kiss to task, ending the match with a quick Cross Rhodes (1). Personally, I see this match as a reboot for Cody's TNT title reign. Cody was able to use the week off to freshen up and hit the ground running. Truly impressive.
Match #7: Eddie Kingston - Dynamite #42 - July 22, 2020
Cody faces his second surprise challenge here in the form of Eddie Kingston. Not only that but his first and only stipulation match in his title reign in the form of a No Disqualification match. This is a tough match for Cody because despite having a small break and coming back strong against Sonny Kiss, all of that goes out the window against Kingston. A guy getting powerbombed onto tacks definitely is going to be a little worse for wear. What is interesting to me about this match is the idea that this was run more like a brawl than anything else. Kingston and Cody come out swinging at each other, totaling 110 strikes (a Suzuki level of strikes). And the weapon usage from Kingston here is an insane amount, hitting Cody 8 times with various objects. In that same fight mentality, this match didn't end in a pinfall. It ended with a man quitting via submission. Cody was manhandled during this match but he's been preparing for this marathon since the beginning. Determination and survival are the names of the game.
Match #8: Warhorse - Dynamite #43 - July 29, 2020
We've now arrived at probably the most controversial match I read on twitter. Many people watched this match and said that Cody was burying Warhorse. That Cody is actin like Cena and Triple H. Well, read that graph again folks. Cody had, and this is not a misprint, 39% of this match's offense. 39%! 1/3 of the match was in Cody's control. When discussing this match on the award-winning Wrestling with Statistics (award pending), Craig went through the numbers and discovered that almost all of Cody's offense came during the commercial break of this match, meaning to TNT viewers, Cody had >20% of the match offense. This was no burial. But in the story of this match, Cody, despite getting not a lot of offense, was able to consistently reverse and strikedown Warhorse. In a weird way, this match was made a lot like a Hoss match, where Cody was picking his spots and taking advantage of the opportunity. Now I'm early awaiting Cody to challenge Warhorse at your local indie for the IWTV Independent Wrestling Championship.
Match #9: Scorpio Sky - Dynamite #45 - August 12, 2020
Cody was able to have a slight off weak before this match, having only a tag match with Matt Cardona the week previous. As you can see it in the graph below, Cody's match offense was falling fast, going from 64% to 39%, nearly completely reversed. This week off afforded a slight reprieve for Cody. Not much compared to the first half of his TNT title reign, but enough to earn the victory here. When it came to reversals, Cody matched Scorpio Sky, essentially making that important stat null and void. But there was one stat that I find truly important and that's Finishers. Earlier in this article, I wrote that Cody saves the Double Cross Rhodes finisher spot for important matches. He used against Lance to win the title and here, Cody also goes for two. Cody originally goes for one, thinking he's got Sky's number, but after an initial kick out, Cody follows up with his 2nd Cross Rhodes. I'm not saying this is a consistent trend for matches Cody finds important, I'm just saying if/when he wins the World Title, he better use 3 finishers.
Match #10: Mr. Brodie Lee - Dynamite #46 - August 22, 2020
Here we are. The end of an era. After winning the title at Double or Nothing and 9 semi-straight title defenses, Cody loses it all in 3 minutes against The Exalted One, Mr. Brodie Lee. "What happened?" I hear you asking. And I know you want answers, but quite honestly. I have no idea. Cody showed up, hot out of the gate with his 12 strikes and 1 reversal, but after that, nothing. Utter destruction until the very end at the hands of Lee. Was Cody upset and distracted when his wife lost in the match previously? Did he party too hard when the Natural Nightmares won their match earlier in the night? I have no clue. To me, Cody had an off night and Brodie took advantage of that. Everything that Cody used in his title reign: reversing and making the most of it, grinding down his opponents with submissions, limiting his opponents' strengths, even luck, all flew out the open air of Daily's Place. Cody fell apart.
And thus ended the rise and fall of Cody's TNT Title Reign. 10 matches over the course of 13 weeks. I would argue that this was the thing that got many wrestling fans through the arduous Summer of 2020. But with the individual stats out of the way, let's look at Cody's title reign as a whole.
The graph above looks at the Match Offense percentage, Strike down Rate percentage, and Reversal Rate percentage of each of Cody's 10 TNT Title matches. Looking at Match Offense Percentage (MOR), we see that as the weeks go on, Cody's level of offense decreases, albeit with some slight outliers due to some off weeks of recovery. But the negative trend remains the same. His highest MOR was against Sonny Kiss with 64% and his lowest was 39% against Warhorse, a decrease of 25% match offense in a few weeks time. Cody's Strikedown Rate (SR) and Reversal Rate (RR) are kind of all over the place but a trend does appear in regards to Cody's SR vs Hoss wrestlers (Archer, Hager, Kingston, Lee). And Kiss as well, but, uh, ignore that. Oh look, a new graph!
This graph examines the Percentage Difference in the Move Categories between Cody's TNT title matches and all of his 9 other single matches in 2020. And weirdly for Cody, there is a lot of red. You would think that Cody would try to beat down his opponents more with his strength, but in a smart move, Cody focused his strategy on grinding down his opponents with submissions, a move that can do a lot of damage and strain without exerting a lot of energy. Another interesting note is both Cody's Fouls and Taunts. Maybe people argued that Cody appeared more heelish during the title run, however, he actually had 16% fewer fouls than 2020 matches prior to Double or Nothing. I bring up his 38% increase in taunting because I wonder if fans believed Cody was acting more heelish because he was more confident during his matches, so much so that he chose to taunt a lot. Or maybe it wasn't confidence, but rather Cody wasn't taking these matches too seriously? Who's to say, but I can for sure say that Cody had a tough time knocking down his opponents, sporting a 166% decrease in Strikedowns. My theory on this is that 4 out of 10 of his opponents were wrestlers I would describe as Hoss, making them difficult to knock down. Prior to winning the TNT title, none of his opponents were Hosses (barring Wardlow in a steel cage match, great match live by the way).
The previous two graphics look into the Move Usage Difference between Cody and his opponents. For example, vs Archer, Cody had 41 strikes, Archer had 30, meaning Cody had 11 more strikes vs Archer. Do that for an entire table and you get the first image above. Sadly for Cody, a lot of red is present here as well, with Cody having fewer moves than his opponent 50% of the time during his reign (38% green). Counting across the table, Cody's best performance was against Jungle Boy, winning 8 of the 13 Move Categories, followed by Sky (7), Quen (6), and Kiss (6). Unsurprisingly, Cody's worst performance was against Brodie Lee, only winning 1 Move Category of Strikes. It's also fair to point out that Cody only won this category because he punched Brodie Lee 4 more times. Quite the slim margin. Cody's best Move Category going down each column is Grapples (power moves, slams, etc.), winning in 6/10 matches. His worst Move Category is Dives, which makes sense and is consistent. Cody is not known for his diving nor does it coincide with Cody's submission based strategy.
The second image is a graph that puts the table's information in an easier to read colorful format. Here we can easily see that Cody dominated in his matches against Jungle Boy, Marq Quen, and Sonny Kiss. Conversely, we can see the pain that Cody had to withstand against the likes of Archer and Kingston.
As I was combing through the stats, I starting noticing a trend of Cody's performance during bigger men compared to his typical equivalents. So these two graphs look at the 13 Move Categories breaking down the average move usage between Normal Matchups and Hoss Matchups. For Hoss, Cody's approach, like many, was to strike way more (avg. 9 more times). The issue is that despite hitting the tree more, the tree rarely fell down, with Cody's Avg. Strikedowns in Hoss matches being 0.75, a little less than half of Cody's avg, against Normal wrestlers. Additionally, looking at the second graph, you can see that Cody's Strikedown Rate was 9.5% less against Hosses. But if you can't knock Hosses down with your fists, throw your entire body at them. Cody's avg. Dives during Hoss matches were triple that of Normal matchups. Interestingly, Cody's Avg. # of Submission Seconds against Normal-sized wrestlers was more than double that of Hosses. One would think that when fighting a larger man, you need to wear them down, a task submissions are made for. However, on reflection, most submissions take place on the mat, and if you can't knock over your opponent, it will be hard to submit. Additionally, Hosses are typically more powerful than their contemporaries so the amount of time a Hoss is under a submission will typically be less. These two ideas extend to Pin Attempts and possibly Reversals/Reversal Rates as well. Finally, Cody nearly tripled his taunt output in Normal Matchups compared to Hoss Matchups. This is interesting because Cody had less Match Offense Percentage in Normal Matchups to Hosses. Maybe if Cody was taunting less, he could have had more control in his Normal matches and won faster. Note for the next title reign Cody.
Ryan Neitzey is the co-host of both the Wrestling with Statistics, a stats and analytics review podcast, and Hit the Books, a weekly Raw and Smackdown fantasy booking podcast (2 years strong!). Listen to these shows where ever podcasts can be found. Outside wrestling, Ryan works in the film and TV industry and lovingly takes care of his cat in Georgia. Follow him on Twitter @HitTheBooksPod.