By: Matt Ederer
I love wrestling. I also love the standard pro wrestling rating system, where wrestling matches are awarded a grade from 0–5 stars.
Now before we get too deep into this, let me state that star ratings are clearly a silly thing to love. I mean, it’s a little bit arrogant for anyone to rate anything at all. I can understand why some people hate critics, and I understand the whole “Don’t say that about muh precious (insert niche thing here) _____” attitude, despite insulting it in this very sentence. This is a ridiculous pursuit, and I will not argue that for one second.
Having said that, I’m just gonna go ahead and do it anyway. When we talk about pro wrestling here at Sportsfap, we will throw out a rating between -5* and 5* for every match we watch. These are a celebration of wrestling; meant to help you navigate the murky sea of Everything That Ever Existed. These are not a be-all-end-all judgement on the wrestling business, or the performers in that specific match. Please direct all complaints and concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE SPORTSFAP STAR RATINGS SCALE
5 * — A++, 100/100, GOAT CONTENDER
An all-time classic wrestling match, a defining or groundbreaking match, one that is celebrated by fans and wrestlers alike, the absolute pinnacle of a certain style of wrestling.
IE -Flair/Steamboat (whole trilogy), Misawa/Kawada (almost always), Misawa/Kobashi (a whole bunch of them), Warrior/Savage (fight us), Royal Rumble 1992 (fight us 29 times) Hart/Austin (yep), Omega/Okada (once I think, not all of them), WALTER/anybody (ANYBODY ALL THE TIME)
4.75 * — A+, 95/100, ALMOST GOAT CONTENDER
An all-time, inarguably classic match with one minor flaw that stops it from being perfect. Oftentimes the flaw is that the full match is not available. This is the most arrogant of all of the star ratings, by far. I feel gross even typing this. Who are we to judge? (SPORTSFAP MOTHER FUCKIN DOT COM, I’m told) But yeah, if you think being a critic and rating shit is gross, this is the grossest rating by far. “mehhhh, your amazing and perfect match wasn’t amazing or perfect enough for meeeee”.
IE – Rock/Austin from Mania X-7 (the one that ends in a heel turn that ruined the wrestling business forever), a lot of would be 5* Lawler/Dundee matches are 4.75* IMO because we don’t have the full match available.
4.5* — A+, 90/100, CLASSIC
Something that is inarguably great, but not on the short list of greatest. A classic match, and a match of the year contender, but maybe not a GOAT contender? Idk, who knows, what are we even fucking doing here, let’s continue for a hundred plus more words anyway.
IE – Cody/Dustin, majority of the Omega/Okada matches, Roman/Lesnar/Seth from Wrestlemania, Cena/Umaga
4.25 * — A, 85/100, GREAT
Arguably a classic. A fringe match of the year contender in any year from 1900 to about 2012ish, before the “too much wrestling” era. Often in 2020, a great match that has so much stuff packed into it, that it loses you a little bit.
IE – Most of PWG from 2015-18, About 2-5 NXT Takeover matches per show, Cena/Styles feud, Money in the Bank, Royal Rumble or Elimination Chamber matches when they are great but not life-altering. Specifically MITB II with Flair and Finlay, Rumble 2020 both men’s and women’s, Elimination Chamber 2019, etc.
4* — A-, 80/100, GOOD
A VERY GOOD WRESTLING MATCH. It won’t be discussed as a match of the year contender, or discussed much at all tomorrow outside of the hardest core nerdlingers. You might use the term “cult classic” to describe a match like this, if your head were fully ensconced in your asshole like mine is.
IE – Orton/Rollins at Mania with the insane finish, Stevie Richards / Tommy Dreamer Kendo Stick match from the July 2002 Raw where Eric Bischoff debuts which I will ride for until the day I die
3.5* — B, 70/100, SOLID
Good. That’s all. Just good. Solid professional rasslin, but maybe something you won’t carry with you onto your deathbed, or into next month.
IE – Lots of Dad-Rock Jericho in this 3.5*-4* range
3* — C, 60/100, SLIGHTLY ABOVE AVERAGE
Slightly above average, possibly because of lowered expectations. A good, fun, or surprisingly fun or good wrestling match.
IE – Lots of 2017–19 Miz in this 3* range.
2.5* — D, 50/100, AVERAGE
An average professional wrestling match. The baseline. The standard fare. All I know is my gut says maybe.
IE – Most of Raw, Most of Smackdown
2* — 40/100, SLIGHTLY BELOW AVERAGE
Bad, but not without its charm. If a 2* match were a failing student and you were the teacher, you would bump it up to 50% anyway and hope that it got its shit together next year. That analogy probably doesn’t make sense but let’s not pretend any of this stuff makes any sense now.
IE – WWF Hardcore Title on a bad day, WWE 24/7 Title on a good day. Lots of Baron Corbin in this 2*-2.5* range.
1* —20/100, MUCHLY BELOW AVERAGE
Bad, but largely forgettable. If this match were a failing student and you were a teacher, you would just fail it and hope you found a different job by next September.
IE – Longtime fans will note that this 1-2 range is where the WWF/E Women’s division was positioned for five decades.
0* — 0/100 – WASTE OF TIME
Not good, not worth seeing again, in fact it was a total waste of your time seeing it in the first place. Having said that, at least it didn’t openly insult your intelligence as a fan, or openly attempt to ruin pro wrestling for the rest of us forever. A terrible match, not a damaging match.
-1*, WORSE THAN WORTHLESS
Awful, but yet, so bad it’s watchable. In no way “good” — more like, “fascinatingly terrible”. But again, in no way “good”.
IE – Mr. T vs Roddy Piper Boxing Match from WM 2 is the all-time example of this dynamic. Lots of late-career Piper in this -1* range actually
-5*, AFFRONT TO THE “SPORT” THAT MAKES WRESTLING AND ITS FANS SEEM LIKE THE IDIOT TRASH BAGS WE PROBABLY ARE
Something so bad that it’s genuinely embarrassing that you sat through it. Something so bad that your grandfather would be rolling around in his grave were he dead.
IE – Jenna Morasca/Sharmell from TNA comes to mind? Hogan/Warrior II from Hallowe’en Havoc? I would argue the 2018 HBK & HHH v Kane & Undertaker Saudi Arabia match? But not the Undertaker/Goldberg SAudi Arabia match, which was a gentleman’s -1*
Two more general notes about how we rate matches here at Sportsfap:
1- It seems that most people, namely Dave Meltzer (who we mention only because he is the preeminent wrestling reviewer who has ever lived, and not to insult him) rate match based only on the moves that happen in them. They observe (~!) the combination of stunts performed once the bell rings, analyze the athletic feats presented before them like an Olympic gymnastics judge, and give a grade based on the execution of wrestling moves they saw that day, and nothing else.
We (I) think of it a bit differently, and perhaps incorrectly, who’s to say. To our mind at Sportsfap, the commentary of the match matters, the storyline used to build the match matters. Not going too long matters and not doing too much matters. The things that occur before and after the match help to inform the rating of the match itself. It all matters. You can use a combo of all of those things.
There are 5* matches based purely on bell-to-bell ring work. There are also matches that get a boost (or a penalty) based on the build-up to the match, the commentary during the match, and everything else. I don’t want to just look at the bell-to-bell action of a wrestling match, and say “well it would have been ***** but the Canadian Dragon botched that 360 spinning tombstone, so it’s only ****3/4”. That’s not what wrestling is about, IMO.
2 — When we look back on older matches, we will do our best to put ourselves in the mindset of the time. In 1989, Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat didn’t care about how their match would look in 2020, and they shouldn’t have, as that would have been completely insane. But they did know how the 1980’s went, and they were actively trying to top everything that had ever happened in a wrestling ring previous to that night. We’re not going to watch a match from 1987 and say “that didn’t hold up”. We’re gonna tell you why it was awesome in 1987.
Make sense? No, why am I doing this at all, what is my life becoming? OK!
— — —
At the end of the day, wrestling can be boiled down to two (or more) performers going out in front of a crowd and creating something out of nothing. The athleticism, the execution, the crowd reaction, the meat and potatoes in the ring, and the seasoning around it. The spectacle of professional wresting. The theatre of it all. All of it matters.