Why We Need More Nuance in Pro Wrestling Officiating
On the 21.04.21 episode of AEW Dynamite Darby Allin defeated Jungle Boy to defend the TNT Championship. In the closing stretch of this match Jungle Boy was in control of the match and locked in the Snare Trap twice. Allin got to the ropes the first time but resorted to pulling Jungle Boy's hair and gouging his eyes the second time. He then managed to catch Jungle Boy in the last supper and win the match.
As Darby Allin gouged Jungle Boy's eyes referee, Bryce Remsburg, applied the 5 count. Darby Allin stopped the eye gouge before 5 meaning he was not disqualified, however Jungle Boy was unable to keep the Snare Trap locked in due to the brief rule breaks. Meaning Allin escaped what was presented as the end of the match without the hair pull/eye gouge.
The use of eye gouges, hair pulling and may other types of dirty offence is illegal in the fictional world of pro wrestling. The referee will apply a 5-count to warn the wrestler to break the hold or be disqualified. Whereas, low blows, interference and weapon shots result in immediate disqualification. This mimics the structure of real sports, however I am arguing it's over-simplified and as AEW establishes itself as the higher quality alternative to WWE it needs to address the plot holes in face/heel dynamics.
Neither Jungle Boy nor Darby Allin wrestled a saintly match, which is good because it leads to a more interesting match. But where is the line? What's to stop wrestlers utilising eye gouge after eye gouge after eye gouge as long as they never last more than 5 seconds? This is a major problem in New Japan where wrestlers like Taichi, Suzuki and EVIL do this repeatedly and rather makes a mockery of the idea of rules at all and the conduct/intelligence of faces that take this offence without response.
The inspiration of PWMusings In-ring Statistics is football stats. I was a football kid; playground football, junior football, Fifa, Football Manager, Fantasy Football... I was obsessive and I've always been numbers-literate so making the link when people started talking about wrestling statistics in a narrow manner in 2019 was natural.
As you can see in the stats from Liverpool's 2-0 loss to Burnley in 2016, football is influenced by rule breaks too. However you cannot just commit yellow card fouls and avoid red card ones like in wrestling. Too many minor fouls add up to a major consequence. Footballers are sent off for two yellow cards and you can receive a yellow card for persistent fouling. Therefore footballers have a line to tread. Taichi would be sent off for persistent fouling all the time.
The other thing that happens on the football field is they apply context to fouls. If you trip an opponent on the halfway line, 50 metres away from your goal, you can get booked or be penalised with the opponent receiving a free kick. However if you do the same thing when your opponent is just about to kick the ball into your goals, you would be sent off for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. This is what Darby Allin did to Jungle Boy.
To me, Darby Allin essentially fouled Jungle Boy when he was about to score the winning goal. So the usually petty foul should be upgraded to a major foul and result in a DQ like a low blow. Which would lead to a rematch presumably. This respects the intelligence of the viewer, challenges match layout in the future and allows Darby the same character development. Scratching and clawing with gravity.
Some may call this pedantic, but that is a sleight on wrestling as a whole. It doesn't have to be as badly officiated as WWE or NJPW. They have already implemented the 10 count for partners to get out of the ring in tag matches. Let's keep thinking and elevating the product.
Thank you for reading!