October 2, 2012

How Sports Can Help The WWE

     I just finished watching tonight's episode of WWE Raw, something I do occasionally because as much as I love the idea of pro wrestling, it hasn't been good enough to watch consistently for a really long time.  Though I was pleased enough to abandon the "How to Fix the WWE" post I've been stalling on for the last couple of months, there was one nagging issue I still have with the WWE in general.

     Matches are too predictable.

     Every time I watch, there are a few matches featuring the fan favorite or the "unstoppable" new guy versus some lower-tier wrestler, and everybody knows there's no way the lower-tier wrestler is going to win because it would make no sense.  I even predicted this year's Royal Rumble winner based on crowd reaction and storylines in the weeks leading up to it, and that's a 30-man match.

     Contrast that with a sports league like the NFL.  How many times have we seen a 2-9 team get a random win against a playoff contender?  It happens quite a bit.  Not so much that it seems unusual, but enough to let you know that anything can happen in any contest.  And despite this unpredictability, the NFL is full of intriguing storylines throughout the season.  They don't have to be written and meticulously planned.  They just happen.

     Here's what the WWE should try.  Give everybody a true winning percentage, the chance that they would win against an average wrestler.  For chronic winners like Sheamus and Ryback, that could be 90 or 95 percent.  For the top bad guys, it would be in the 70 to 75 percent range, because as much as I think they deserve a fair shake, I understand that the majority of people want to see them lose.  For the more unknown competitors, put it at 10 or 20 percent.  These percentages could change depending on fan reaction and a desired build-up for certain characters.  Next, come up with the stories that will lead up to each match, just like it would normally be done.  Then for each match, use Bill James's Log5 formula to determine the probability of each competitor winning.  Finally, use a random number generator like random.org to find out who will emerge victorious.

     It would make for a much better product.  Every part of the show would be suspenseful.  Writers would have to think on their feet and adapt to the outcomes.  As a result, maybe we would end up with a wide variety of story arcs we don't normally see.  Competitions, fixed or otherwise, are better when there's a sense of unknowing.  Sure, sometimes we end up with undesirable results like Boise State's 2010 loss to Nevada.  But we also get classic moments like Appalachian State's win over 5th-ranked Michigan in 2007.  And as long as they don't happen too often, those classic moments will be better than anything that makes perfect sense.