Wins & Losses Matter: the CM Punk Situation

From day one, we have been told that "wins and losses matter" in All-Elite Wrestling. In this series, I compare and discuss the recent results and the officially published rankings to the competitive standings based on my own patent-pending schedule-strength sensitive rankings system. An explanation of the inner workings of the W&LM Tier-based ranking system may be found here: W&LM Intro. Links to each divisions' spreadsheet are located at the bottom of the spreadsheet section of this website.

I had been hoping to post editions of this column more regularly, perhaps weekly, but I have found that there is a very narrow window to talking about competitive standings in AEW without the information being immediately out of date. AEW generally puts out their official rankings Wednesday, and most of the wrestling relevant to those ranks actually occurred a week prior. And generally only a few hours before another Dynamite airs and the most current official rankings are no longer relevant to the most recent matches.


That's why right now is the perfect moment for a new installment: not only is the new men's singles World champion going on the shelf, and the plan for crowning an interim champ worth examination in its own right, it has led AEW to release a rare midweek emergency rankings, for comparison's sake.


Here are the official rankings that came out on Wednesday, showing the changes due to the Double or Nothing event:

Wardlow and Adam Cole very logically on the rise, due to their massive wins over (not ranked, but exceedingly competitive) Friedman and Joe respectively. But then Friday night in a live Rampage shocker, new champion CM Punk announced that he would be going on the DL, that he offered to relinquish the championship, but the boss had turned him down, and that instead an interim champion would be crowned, leading to a unification down the road when Punk is cleared.


The plan for crowning this interim champion is, fundamentally, a mini-tournament of sorts. Below is a diagram of the Interim Eliminator plan, courtesy of @WrestlingMills:

Basically, this is a cross between the Trans-Pacific women's Eliminator Tournament from February 2021, and the process used to crown Chris Jericho the first men's singles champion in AEW in August 2019. Like the first, there is a Japanese and a US half to the brackets, and they only meet in the finals. And the competitiveness of the Japanese half is entirely beyond our scope. And, like the second, there is one wildcard contender who earns their way in by winning a battle royale. And the other is a top contender. In that first mini-tournament, there was not yet a ranking system. That top competitor to face the wild card was chosen by having the only two main-event level stars face one another for the spot. But on Friday we were told that this spot would go to Jon Moxley, as the top-ranked competitor.


But the last rankings we had seen, Wardlow had been number one! However, those rankings did not take into account the matches which occurred Wednesday, so we were left to assume that Moxley had moved up the ranks. AEW did not leave us to wonder for long, within an hour releasing a new set of rankings on an unusual day for them to be released. One could fairly call them emergency rankings.

Outside of kayfabe, it is perfectly self-evident that the real reason Jon Moxley moved up the rankings is because they needed him to—because Moxley fit with the plan to crown an interim Champion and Wardlow did not.


However, within kayfabe, that leaves a question, which I prefer to treat as two questions, separately:

  • If we assume that the top four competitors in the rankings released in the afternoon of June 1 had a paper-thin margin between them, is there any reasonable case to be made that the results of matches Wednesday evening could have led to the fourth-ranked contender, Jon Moxley, overtaking the top three: Hangman, Cole, AND Wardlow?

  • Promotional considerations aside, would Jon Moxley genuinely be the #1 contender in AEW men's singles based solely on wins, strength of schedule, and maths? And if not, how far off is he, and who would be the rightful contender?

Regarding the first: Wednesday night, Jon Moxley had a major singles win in the main event of the show. Adam Cole did not have a singles match, and the former champion did not appear at all. So it is perfectly logical that if they had been barely ahead of Moxley he might have overtaken them. Wardlow, however, also had a singles win on Dynamite. Now it's possible that simply winning in a main event is worth more. But could strength of schedule explain the difference?


Below is a bar chart showing the strength of schedule of Moxley's opponent, Daniel Garcia:

This plot shows Garcia has had numerous uniformly unsuccessful upset attempts against competitors in the top three subtiers. And nothing but success against a wide range of wrestlers at a lower level than that.


Below is the same plot, but for Wardlow's opponent. JD Drake:

This shows that the match with Wardlow was Drake's only attempt at an S-ranked competitor, and that he has had one or two singles attempts against a wide range of tiers, but all unsuccessful with the sole exception being against a completely winless opponent.


I think it's clear that Garcia was the much more valuable of the two wins, so it's not unreasonable that if we take the validity of the June 1 ranks as a given, the June 3 ranks could follow based on Dynamite results without stretching logic too thin.


But if we don't start with any such assumption. who would the real top contenders be, based just on results and math?


Before Double or Nothing, when Hangman was still champion, these are the rankings based on my system:

Other than CM Punk, none of the top ranks should have been based on my system, although, Mox and Cole are significantly more justifiable than Nese and Lethal.


And here are my rankings from after Punk put Hangman's reign to sleep:

Now, the official ranks and my version are far more in line, with complete agreement who the top three should be, if not the exact order.


Finally my rankings including the June 1 Dynamite:

So, even though a case could be made that Moxley's Wednesday win was better than anything his competitors did, per my system, it would not have been enough to make a difference, because Mox already has a record of beating guys as good or better than Garcia, so we don't learn anything new about his competitive level from that win.


By my Tier system. the former champion would still be the top contender. Or, if you disqualify him from top contention due to having just lost it, then Wardlow. So my system and the official would have agreed on that much on Wednesday, but no longer on Friday!


There's not much way I can see the official rankings being derived from real math, for the most part, but most of it is close enough that one can suspend belief if one tries. Other than outliers such as Jay Lethal that make no sense at all, which I think can safely be chalked up to kayfabe corruption on the part of whatever kayfabe governing body one imagines to be in charge of them!








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