In the world of professional wrestling, the age-old battle of good versus evil serves as the foundation for riveting storylines and captivating matches. However, much like any sport, victories and defeats remain a driving force, motivating both fans and athletes.
Over the years, wrestling promotions like WWE and AEW have occasionally downplayed the significance of winning and losing, both through narrative and on-screen comments from Superstars. Champions would lose matches with seemingly no repercussions, and high-profile wins sometimes led to underwhelming follow-ups. While there have been improvements under new leadership, the issue persists, affecting both WWE and AEW.
AEW made waves by introducing a legitimate ranking system based on win-loss records upon its inception. This innovation added depth to the storytelling and elevated the importance of in-ring outcomes. While the ranking system eventually faded from the forefront, its impact lingered.
Wrestling enthusiasts have witnessed the transformation that occurs when a wrestler embarks on an undefeated streak. Conversely, they’ve seen the decline of wrestlers who suffer a series of losses. The reality is that wins and losses continue to hold a profound significance in modern pro wrestling, and there are numerous examples across WWE and AEW that demonstrate their importance.
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1. Winning Remains the Recipe for Success
Character development is undoubtedly crucial in a wrestler’s journey, but securing victories in matches remains the tried and true path to success in the wrestling world. Winning signals that a competitor is a force to be reckoned with, poised for greater accomplishments, provided they defeat legitimate opponents and not just local athletes. A wrestler’s ability to win decisively or in dominant fashion reinforces their credibility and potential as a top-tier performer. For instance, Gunther’s (formerly WALTER) unbeaten streak and Intercontinental title reign exemplify how consistent victories can elevate a wrestler’s status. Winning effectively establishes a performer as a “final boss” in the eyes of the audience.
2. Winning Isn’t Everything, but Perception Is Key
In wrestling, it’s not only about winning but also how a wrestler secures victories and capitalizes on them. Heels, or villainous characters, often resort to underhanded tactics to win. While it’s part of their persona, excessive cheating can harm their standing. Similarly, faces, or the heroic characters, must occasionally triumph in significant matches to maintain fan investment. A wrestler’s ability to win “the big one” is crucial for connecting with the audience. The manner in which a wrestler wins or loses significantly impacts their perception among fans.
3. The Long-Term Effect of Constant Losses
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While a single loss may not spell the end of a wrestler’s career, the way it’s executed and the subsequent bounce-back are critical. Prolonged periods of constant losses can be detrimental. John Cena, for instance, was a major attraction for WWE, but he often won matches even when it didn’t benefit his opponents. Some of these losses had long-lasting consequences, such as The Nexus’ loss to Cena at SummerSlam 2010. While Bray Wyatt eventually reached Hall of Fame status, his initial losses portrayed him as inferior to established main eventers. It took years for him to overcome this perception and solidify his elite status.
4. Bulletproof Booking Tells Compelling Stories
Established stars in wrestling reach a point where they become “bulletproof” from a booking standpoint. They can endure multiple losses and still remain popular with the audience. John Cena, who hasn’t won a televised singles match in over five years, and AEW’s Kenny Omega exemplify this status. Wrestlers at this level can withstand losses and use them as storytelling elements. When these stars eventually break their losing streaks, it becomes a significant moment in their careers.
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5. The Pitfalls of 50/50 Booking
Both WWE and AEW have adopted a practice known as 50/50 booking, where wrestlers often win and lose in a balanced manner. However, this approach has its drawbacks. 50/50 booking can harm a wrestler’s momentum, as seen with Wardlow in AEW. Wrestlers who experience start-and-stop pushes and inconsistent victories may struggle to connect with fans. A consistent string of wins, paired with strategic losses, is essential for developing future stars.
6. The Rise and Fall of AEW’s Win-Loss Ranking System
AEW initially introduced a ranking system based on win-loss records, which was a unique and engaging feature for fans. It determined title shot opportunities and added depth to storytelling. However, the system was eventually abandoned, partly due to its misuse and the overemphasis on squash matches to bolster win-loss records. A better approach is to clarify how opportunities are earned and reduce reliance on open challenges.
7. More Attention to Wins and Losses Creates Stars
Both WWE and AEW are continuously introducing new talent to their rosters. To get newcomers over with the audience, consistent wins and strategic booking are crucial. Wrestlers like The Creed Brothers have benefited from early victories, while the mishandling of talent like Cameron Grimes has hindered their progress. Wrestling promotions need to convey the message that these newcomers are worth investing in to create the stars of tomorrow.
Wins and losses continue to be an integral part of the wrestling business, differentiating between average performers and the extraordinary. While character development and storytelling are essential, the impact of in-ring outcomes on a wrestler’s journey should not be underestimated. Whether in WWE or AEW, the value of wins and losses remains a fundamental aspect of the pro wrestling experience.