Dave Meltzer's 'Drawing Ability' Ranking System Is Inherently Flawed

Discussion in 'The World of Wrestling' started by ilapierre, Nov 5, 2019.

  1. ilapierre

    ilapierre Getting Noticed By Management

    Jun 3, 2010
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    The bulk of the work done to prove a wrestler's ability to draw has been done by David Meltzer. And a lot of wrestling fans use his work to try and prove that one wrestler was 'objectively' better than another. Even though he has done a great job of compiling so much historic information about gates and revenue, it is beyond obvious to me that his compiling system is flawed and does not accurately reflect a wrestler's true overall contribution. And, just to note, in his list of top draws by year (if someone could post it for me - it's a list from 1909 to 2009) there are some glaring inaccuracies. The biggest IMO being Randy Savage's apparent 'lack of drawing power' that could not possibly be right. For example, he claims Hulk Hogan outdrew Randy Savage in 1988 when Savage was world champ for 12 months while Hogan was making movies and not actively wrestling for a big chunk of the year. And in 1992 a heel Ric Flair for the first time ever in WWF history outdrew anybody else including a face world champion Randy Savage who was riding high after his wedding, reinstatement and Wrestlemania victory. Savage main evented all over the world as champion against guys like Shawn Michaels and Ultimate Warrior in front of jam packed stadiums while Flair was only main eventing small town USA with Savage. But apparently, according to Meltzer's ranking formula, Savage was only ever headlining as champion in small town USA when he faced off with Flair! LOL I'd just like to say before I start that I honestly believe Meltzer has his 'favourites' (Flair) and his 'least favourites' (aka guys who challenge Flair's standing). And Meltzer 'purposely' manipulates his formulas to exaggerate his all time favourite wrestler's contribution while at the same time devaluing the overall legacy of certain all time greats (like Hogan, Hart, Taker, Sting, Austin, Michaels and Savage).

    So let's first pick apart how Meltzer decides that some wrestler from 1920 is a bigger draw than any wrestler from the past 40 years. I believe it is impossible to compare the drawing ability of a 1920s star like Jim Londos to a 1990s star like Bret Hart. For one, Londos drew gates only and was presented in his time as the once in a lifetime draw. There was no real merchandise nor PPVs. In Bret's time, there was. In the 1920s, Jim Londos or Ed Strangler Lewis were two of the handful of must-see draws. These guys did not wrestle a back breaking schedule 200 times a year like the Hitman did. But when they did wrestle they would often wrestle in front of massive audiences for nearly 2 hours. Fans love to use Meltzer's flawed drawing results to say Bret couldn't draw compared to all the other all time greats. But look no further than Bret and Bulldog at Wembley Stadium. Bret drew huge revenue according to Meltzer's flawed logic. Since that match closed SummerSlam92 (it closed instead of the real draw of Savage vs Warrior for no other reason than Davey Boy Smith's involvement), it was therefore that show's main draw. So you give the wrestling-starved English fans (who were just about as starved as an American audience from the early 20th century) a WWE PPV and the gate ends up being 10 times better than anything Jim Londos ever drew. But Meltzer doesn't care about Summerslam 92 (which is still today amazingly the fourth most attended card in the history of WWE). The whole method behind Meltzer's madness is to manipulate statistics to diminish Bret Hart, Randy Savage or Ultimate Warrior's overall drawing ability since his beloved Flair, the so-called GOAT, was completely left off this historic card. In his eyes, no matter what anybody else points out, it's only Flair who is the best there was, is and ever will be!

    Second, let's look at the screwy method Meltzer uses to tabulate who drew what gate at whatever show. The fact is nobody can know exactly why someone else buys a ticket or tunes in to a show. The established and accepted practice among Meltzer and his disciples is to give drawing credit to the main event aka the last match of the night. Although this would make sense in a perfect world, the world is far from perfect and certain wrestlers (ahem Triple H, Hulk Hogan, Bruno) have used their backstage standing throughout time to always go on last. So this method, which ultimately only reflects political maneuvering, does not sit well with me because IMO it is impossible to say for sure which match on the card is the actual draw. Here's an example of what I'm talking about. WWE drew me to watch Wrestlemania 18 with the third last match of the night between Hollywood Hogan vs Rock. I was NOT drawn in by the main event of Triple H vs Chris Jericho. I would not have watched that Wrestlemania without that Hogan match. But Hogan nor Rock are credited with drawing me. Only Triple H and Jericho are credited. That's a misrepresentation of the truth and incredibly misleading for future analysts and fans who'll use this to argue that Triple H was a huge draw in 2002. Same problem can be seen with Wrestlemania 7. I did not tune in to watch Hogan vs Slaughter play American Hero vs Foreign Villain. I watched the show, like a majority of the audience did, to see who would win the retirement match between Ultimate Warrior and the Macho King. But just like Summerslam 92, neither Warrior nor Savage are credited again with drawing anybody because Hogan wrestled last. Savage was also not given proper due for his Wrestlemania 8 match with Flair (all the credit goes to Hogan for his terrible match with Sid). And again in front of the biggest audience in the history of the business at Wrestlemania 3 where his match with Steamboat stole the show and is considered to be the greatest Wrestlemania match of all time. It is assumed Hogan and Andre drew the gate and Savage vs Steamboat was simply a pleasant surprise. But, looking back, Savage had a massive following as a heel before Wrestlemania (he made the IC championship feel like a legit second world title). It is plausible many fans bought their ticket not only to see a lethargic Hogan vs Andre match but also because there was a second huge match on the card. The storyline for Savage/Steamboat was definitely a draw in itself..To see if Steamboat could end Savage's 13 month reign of terror and finally get revenge on Savage for trying to end his career.

    The point I'm trying to make here is the Macho Man's drawing ability has never been calculated properly by Meltzer or his disciples because drawing credit has always automatically been given to Hogan who almost always went on last. Even though Hogan always fought against crap monsters in crap matches with the exact same crappy result, it is assumed that's the main reasons fans bought their tickets. So while massively-over, energetic fan favourites like Savage or Warrior broke their backs wrestling more entertaining matches lower on the card, the drawing credit would end up going to whoever fought generic good guy Hulk Hogan...so the lethargic King Kong Bundy, Sgt Slaughter, Sid Justice, Earthquake, Yokozuna etc all got rewarded instead. The Undertaker is another legend who is not given enough due for drawing major revenue. Over the last 10 years he is probably the number one Wrestlemania draw because of his unbeaten streak and longevity. Wrestling fans always expect his next match at Wrestlemania to be his last. But, if Taker's match does not go on at the very end of the night, (usually a placement reserved for whoever battles Vince's son-in-law), then he's not credited as the reason for all the revenue.

    Third, let's consider the fact that some organizations reach more people on a global scale. I think it is fair to say that Meltzer's process of calculating who is a better all time draw over-emphasizes WWE, Japanese and Mexican/South American-based wrestlers who had the luxury of wrestling in front of always rabid fans in massive sold out arenas and stadiums. WCW, NWA, AWA could never compete with the bigger organizations with a more global reach..where the wrestling organization itself is the main draw and where wrestling is an enormous part of the culture. Another factor to look at is the number of shows put on by said company in comparison to another. A company like WWE could travel the world, sell out stadiums and reach any market 300 times a year. While a company like NWA/WCW was stuck in the mid-south and sometimes put on shows in front of gymnasiums. Another thing to look at is ticket prices which vary in price over time and are not as pricey if the organization is smaller. For example, in 1920 it may have cost a fan $5 to watch an event. In 1995 a WCW Nitro ticket at Disney could possibly be free while a WWE RAW ticket could be $60.And in 2020 a ticket to Smackdown could cost $100. Another thing is that the potential viewing audience for a show can be affected by limited PPV access. For example, as a kid I could only watch a WWF PPV where I lived if I went to a bar. We did not have PPV access in our homes. I lived in Canada so I did not have any access to NWA or WCW PPVs until the late 90s. There were no bars anywhere airing anything but WWE PPVs. Not only did Canadians, the British, Australians or whoever have no access to watching these PPVs until the late 90s, but many Americans in the northern regions ALSO could not access these PPVs.

    All these issues I have lead me to my fourth major point. Meltzer's drawing rankings should NOT be the number one determinant of a wrestler's overall legacy because some of the best ever workers were a) big time over but spent a good deal wrestling as mid carders under Hogan in WWF OR b) wrestled outside of the WWF where there were less shows, less access to the product and where gate revenues were much lower. These legends include Sting, Ricky Steamboat, Mick Foley, Roddy Piper, Mil Mascaras, Terry Funk, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio Jr., Goldberg, DDP, Curt Hennig, Bruiser Brody, Big Van Vader, Lex Luger, Ted Dibiase, Scott Hall, Rick Rude, Jake Roberts and Scott Steiner. So because of the era or limitations of the organization they worked in, their overall drawing ability seems drastically underrated.

    My fifth major complaint is that a big fish in a little pond gets way too much drawing credit because this 'big fish' is almost always booked in the last match of the night to keep him happy inside his little pond. A big fish like Flair always got to main event in NWA/WCW or in any of the various territories he was free to roam. So Flair could tour America and wrestle every territories' main draw, while WWE-contracted wrestlers who didn't get to work with Hogan all had to work the mid-card. Had Flair been signed to WWE in say 1985, he would have only main evented in programs as a heel against Hogan and maybe Savage before being moved down the card and out of the main event picture like what happened at the end of 1992 when McMahon was done with him. Even though Flair would have gained mainstream exposure wrestling in WWF and sold piles of merchandise for McMahon, Flair remained loyal to the mid-south as long as he was being booked by Dusty in main event feuds for the belt he won way too many times. The over reliance on brand Flair is major reason WHY the NWA eventually folded.

    My sixth concern with some fans' preoccupation with statistics proving drawing ability is that some wrestlers, like The Rock, have had their legacy exaggerated due to the popularity of another wrestler. Don't get me wrong: The Rock is one of the all time greats, sure, but a lot of Rock's initial success can be attributed to Stone Cold Steve Austin, Vince McMahon and the Monday Night Wars. If The Rock missed the Attitude Era entirely, he may have faced difficulty replicating his success and rising the ranks of what we now know as the never ending PG era. The Rock's meteoric Attitude Era rise can be credited to this. Vince became the most hated personality after he screwed Bret. The fans wanted to see someone step up and kick Vince's butt. WWF had a very weak roster when Bret departed. But enter Stone Cold Steve Austin. Right place, right time. The business was about to explode and there was main event space for Vince to elevate new stars. Stone Cold Steve Austin was chosen because his popularity was off the charts. The world's biggest villain, Mr. McMahon, couldn't tour the circuit as a 52 year old man so he chose the Rock to represent him as the company's main event heel. However, Austin had many injury issues around the time of his drawing peak in 1998 and 1999. He did not always wrestle every night in main events or at PPVs during his peak. A lot of the time he was on the shelf recovering. Enter The Rock. He became the top draw instead of the injured Austin because he actually wrestled on the card. And often the fans were drawn not entirely by Rock wrestling, but by anticipation of what Austin might do to crash the main event. I'm not debating that the Rock didn't get massively over and didn't deserve to. What I'm saying is he got as huge as he did because of the timing of Austin's injury. Not to mention that a true test of his drawing ability can't be calculated because he never had a 15 or 20 year career like all the other GOATs. So IMO, factoring in the times and Austin's injury, both he and Triple H get a little too much credit from Meltzer and his disciples.

    This brings me to my last point. Some wrestlers draw without even needing to step foot in the ring. These guys and their presence on shows cannot be factored into a statistical formula that proves overall drawing power. The wrestler other than Austin that comes to mind using this example is Crow Sting. Hugely over with kids for his superhero-like gimmick, Sting never wrestled a day on the big stage of WWE until Wrestlemania 31. And when he did, he was not credited as the draw that day although he most likely was. Since he wrestled 27 combined years for NWA/WCW/TNA, he did not get the same massive mainstream exposure as say Hogan or Austin. And he didn't get to draw the massive gates he could have drawn working for WWF or in Japan over this lengthy period. However, Sting was arguably the most over character in the history of WCW when he began his Crow Sting phase and wouldn't speak. And during this period, WCW was the pre-eminent wrestling organization. Sting never wrestled in any of the main events during this time frame from late 1996 to Starrcade 1997. So is not credited as 'drawing'. But, what all of us old wrestling fans remember is that Sting vs the NWO was responsible for drawing record ratings during this exact time in which WCW beat WWE for 83 straight weeks. Sting and NWO were by far the two biggest draws in the wrestling world during 1997. Yet Meltzer likes to claim years later it was some nobody from Japan.. since his beloved Flair was squeezed out of the main event picture at WCW. Let's be real. The highlight of every single Nitro or Thunder that WCW put on in during the entirety of 1997 and early 98 was that moment at the end of the show where Sting would descend from the rafters to get revenge on the NWO. There is no way Meltzer or anyone can accurately record or represent Sting's drawing ability during this time frame when he wasn't wrestling but was still more over than almost anybody on the card, let alone anybody at any given time in the history of wrestling...One other thing to note about Sting's drawing legacy is that in 1998 when he did wrestle he had to compete with 20 other legends vying for the main event of an immensely stacked card. 75 percent of the matches WCW put on from mid 1997 to late 1998 were main event caliber. There was never an organization in the history of wrestling with so many potential main eventers. So Sting's overall drawing legacy, along with Hogan's, (yes Hogan!), Flair's, Savage's, Hall's, Nash's, Piper's, DDP's, and Goldberg's suffers as well too!

    I'm really torn on what I'm trying to say. Either Meltzer needs to restructure his system to truly reflect the wrestling zeitgeist of the times. Or wrestling fans who hold drawing ability above all else in their flawed GOAT arguments need to realize that Meltzer's work doesn't reflect what most of us remember as reality. If one insists that 'ability to draw' is above all else, then I believe it would be at least reasonable to include quarter hour ratings of TV segments during Raw or Smackdown. I can't speak on behalf of Attitude Era WWE because I was more focused on WCW Nitro and Thunder at the time. But from what I remember, the biggest quarter hours in WCW ALWAYS belonged to the company's most obvious draws. In order Hulk Hogan and the Macho Man. Followed closely by The Outsiders, Ric Flair, Sting and Roddy Piper. And then in mid 97 DDP replaced Flair for a year and mid 98 Goldberg replaced the injured Savage. WCW had so many legit main eventers whose combined presence no doubt drew the gates. But these guys weren't necessarily wrestling every show or even at all. So I don't believe any of these elite WCWers are fairly represented when it comes to ability to draw. To those arguing that Stone Cold, Rock and Triple H outdrew Hogan, Savage and the Outsiders because they were bigger draws: That is not entirely true. All Stone Cold, Rock and Triple H did more of was wrestle every night in the main event of about three times as many house shows for a company with more global appeal and universal reach. Why during the Attitude Era are Austin, Rock, Triple H and even Kane considered better overall draws (according to Meltzer's statistical system) than Hogan, Savage, Flair and the Outsiders? Because they were ALWAYS working together in the main event of every show and every PPV. The WWE roster was extremely weak between 1995-1999 in comparison to WCW and had nobody else to put on last. But this simple little fact is completely glossed over with the passing of time and misrepresentation/over reliance of statistics. Any statistical investigation into quarter hour ratings of the same time period, 1995-1999, should reflect a more clearer truth.

    Anyway, what do you guys think? I know this was almost as long as a thesis paper. But the way Meltzer determines drawing ability and the way his disciples hold drawing ability above all else frustrates me to no end. Drawing ability IMO is not the entire truth behind a wrestler's legacy and there's no sound scientific method to prove his conjecture.
    #1 ilapierre, Nov 5, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2019
  2. FromGlasgowScotland

    FromGlasgowScotland Dark Match Winner

    Sep 26, 2018
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    To be honest I never pay attention to anything Meltzer says, The man is just a wrestling fan like the rest of us. What match or wrestler one fan may dislike another one may enjoy it, What makes Meltzer the authority of what everyone should enjoy? We all have our own favourites as fans and human beings.

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