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AEW go-home shows: a test of opposite momentum

Pro Wrestling

AEW go-home shows: a test of opposite momentum

Is winning the worst thing Bryan Danielson could do before his title shot?

Bryan Danielson just completed wrestling a gauntlet of foes heading into AEW Revolution on March 5, risking injury (mostly in kayfabe) but also gaining that much-coveted “momentum” that commentary loves to talk about. By the time he and AEW World Champion Maxwell Jacob Friedman (MJF) face off in their 60-Minute Iron Man match, Danielson will look like the king of the world — but then, doesn’t wrestling convention say that Danielson will lose in the end?

It’s classic wrestling booking: you want to keep your champion strong, as they’re the face of your company. However, to get more eyes on their next championship defense and put a seed of doubt in the minds of the audience, the challenger picks up a head of steam for a month or so, heading into the big show. Maybe the champion even loses a fall to the #1 contender on the final TV episode before the pay-per-view event, otherwise known as the “go-home show.”

While that is certainly a working formula for championship matches, the notion that “the champ always loses on the go-home show then wins on pay-per-view” has transformed over the years, so that fans often hedge their bets that if ANY wrestler loses on the go-home show, “50/50 booking” (in which each wrestler in a promotion is built to be equal to every other wrestler) indicates the wrestler has to get their shine back that Sunday.

AIPT did a study on this commonly held belief back in 2017 that’s well-researched, but that one focuses on the big guy, WWE. With WWE having 70 years of history and 30 years of Monday Night Raw alone, a time-strapped investigator can only be asked to look at so much data. So, examining only a year of wrestling go-home shows made a lot of sense in that case.

Today’s subject — the much newer All Elite Wrestling — has both a shorter history and far fewer pay-per-views on their yearly calendar, even with the new fifth, cross-promotional show that is Forbidden Door. With a lighter data set as well as a generally different booking philosophy from WWE, we decided to revisit pro wrestling’s “law of opposite momentum” using AEW’s entire history of pay-per-view events, spanning from 2019 to 2022, to see what trends lie within.

AEW go-home shows: a test of opposite momentum
The numbers don’t lie?

The method

Because the trend that we’re looking for is based on the winners of go-home show matches, the method we used to collect data was to look at the match results from the final episode of Dynamite (and, when applicable, Rampage) before a pay-per-view. Though the focus of this research was more on go-home show winners, we did also take time to note those who lost on the go-home show, to see if this resulted in a loss of “momentum” heading into the loser’s pay-per-view or Buy-In match.

So, ignoring matches in which neither competitor wrestled on the pay-per-view (e.g. the “Best Friends and Santana and Ortiz” Clause), the go-home show competitors were split into four categories:

  1. Won on the go-home; won on the pay-per-view (W/W)
  2. Won on the go-home; lost on the pay-per-view (W/L)
  3. Lost on the go-home; won on the pay-per-view (L/W)
  4. Lost on the go-home; lost on the pay-per-view (L/L)

Multi-man matches on the go-home that lead to tag matches at the pay-per-view (e.g. United Empire wrestling on Dynamite, then Great O-Khan and Jeff Cobb wrestling on Forbidden Door) count the tag team as one unit, meaning an L/L for United Empire would be one result, not two separate losses for Cobb and O-Khan. However, singles matches on go-home shows do count as momentum-builders for tag team matches on PPVs, and more than one go-home show match can affect the same PPV match (e.g. Jurassic Express and Orange Cassidy got one result each heading into their All Out 2021 Buy-In match).

Also, there is a fifth “Miscellaneous” category that doesn’t count toward the end results, used to describe the 10 matches that were head-spinners during data collection (though, eventually, all ten match results were correctly sorted out).

AEW go-home shows: a test of opposite momentum
Source: AEW

Won, then won again

The most joyous category for any wrestler, the double-winner result, happened the very first time it could have, as Shawn Spears beat Brandon Cutler prior to getting another win over Joey Janela at Full Gear 2019.

Though there’s one show in 2022 that toes the line (which we’ll go over in the Miscellaneous section), every go-home Dynamite in AEW’s history has at least one match where someone won on the pay-per-view after getting a last-minute win on TV. This honor most often went to the usual suspects: Jon Moxley, Jungle Boy, MJF, and Wardlow — all of the guys who wrestle the most and win the most on TV.

Jungle Boy, he is the only wrestler with the honor of getting two go-home victories in the same week, beating Anthony Bowens on Dynamite and Bobby Fish on Rampage, before teaming with Christian Cage and Luchasaurus to defeat the SuperKliq at Full Gear 2021.

Despite the 30 match results that made it into this category, it’s hard to describe any trend other than “the winners win.” Between Britt Baker, the Elite, and all of the men mentioned earlier, this “total domination” category is for the competitors that typically do just dominate Dynamite week-to-week.

AEW go-home shows: a test of opposite momentum
Source: AEW

Won, then lost

The result that brought us here today, the “win on the go-home, then lose at the pay-per-view” result, happened three times with Full Gear 2019. PAC beat Trent before losing to Adam Page; Private Party became #1 contenders for the tag team championships by beating Dark Order but lost their PPV match to SCU; and as mentioned earlier, Emi Sakura could not replicate her Dynamite win over Riho at Full Gear.

Though the ratio of W/W to W/L didn’t remain at 3:1 going forward (in fact, the next show was quite W/W heavy), it still happened pretty frequently. However, one thing that stands out within this category is how frequently the women’s division is represented.

As described in the opening, the win on a go-home show is often to build up a title challenger. But unless the World Champion is Jon Moxley (who, as we established, always wins), the World Championship feud is often set up by one last promo between the two competitors on the go-home show. The women, meanwhile, are often winning tournaments or tag matches to get one last bit of credibility before the Women’s Champion knocks them down a peg.

Sakura, Nyla Rose, Thunder Rosa (twice), Ryo Mizunami, Kris Statlander, Tay Conti, and Toni Storm have all won go-home shows before losing their Women’s Championship match. Nyla Rose and Toni Storm also have the distinction of being two women who have won go-home show matches right before losing their Women’s Championships.

The other group that ended up here just about every time was a tag team match against the PPV opponents. While PAC and Fenix’s match against local competitors got them a buy into the W/W category, every single time there’s a tag team match on Dynamite or Rampage in which the competitors are facing off that weekend, someone on the winning team will lose on PPV, be it a traditional tag match, a trios match, an 8-man, or even a direct rematch (as seen with Ortiz and Ruby Soho trading wins with Sammy Guevara and Tay Melo on All Out 2022’s go-home Rampage and Buy-In).

Across all divisions, there are 49 competitors who won their go-home show matches before losing it all on the big show.

AEW go-home shows: a test of opposite momentum
Source: AEW

Lost, then won

The opposite of our last category, this is the group for underdogs, people who were given a kick in the pants before the pay-per-view. Now, in theory, this is the category that should grow every time that someone notches a W/L result since, historically, the person a wrestler beats on the go-home show is their PPV opponent, typically in a tag match. However, against the 49 W/L matches, there are only 20 total L/W matches, and of those 20, only 11 of these have anything to do with their opponents.

After the aforementioned Sakura/Riho match, the first wrestler to enter this category was on the same set of shows, as Adam Page’s team with Kenny Omega lost to Le Sex Gods on the Full Gear 2019 go-home Dynamite before Hangman beat PAC at the PPV. Next PPV cycle, things would come almost full circle, as PAC lost to Omega on Dynamite before beating Orange Cassidy at Revolution 2020.

For the most part, these other, non-feud-related losses on Dynamite and Rampage precede wins against last-minute opponents. Kris Statlander (Double or Nothing ’20), Private Party (All Out ’20), Kyle O’Reilly (Double or Nothing ’22), Lance Archer (Forbidden Door ’22), Eddie Kingston (Full Gear ’22), and even the Sammy and Tay match described in the W/L category all fit into this one, mostly consisting of Buy-In matches or matches squeezed between marquee bouts on the main card.

But, with only 20 results in this category, the underdog story is far from the most likely momentum-builder for AEW wrestlers.

AEW go-home shows: a test of opposite momentum
Source: AEW

Lost, then lost again

This category is the most hopeless position, the one with no light at the end of the tunnel. Whether you’re a faction lackey pulling double duty before the show, or a tag team competitor branching out into singles matches, the people here are typically focused on the wrong thing the week of their big match, and end up losing the big one.

This lack of focus is reflected in five clear-cut losers. Sammy Guevara was doing Inner Circle business when he lost to Jurassic Express on Dynamite, then he lost to Darby Allin at Revolution 2020. A year later, Cody Rhodes lost to a debuting Jade Cargill and Shaquille O’Neal before losing the inaugural Face of the Revolution ladder match.

That same month, Jurassic Express came around and lost to FTR and Tully Blanchard before being the final eliminated team in the Tag Team Casino Battle Royale — a match that FTR weren’t even in. More FTR business came later in the year, as Dax Harwood lost to PAC on Rampage before his Tag Team Championship match at Full Gear 2021. And, finally, The DKC lost to Hook before he and the other NJPW young lions lost to Max Castor and Gunn Club at Forbidden Door.

Now, a couple of wrestlers fit into the “lackey loses for their stable on TV, then loses again on PPV” slot but no one suffers for their team like Sammy Guevara. Sammy appears in the L/L section more than anyone, starting with the aforementioned Darby Allin match, then losing next PPV cycle to Matt Hardy before the Elite and Hardy defeated the Inner Circle. Tack on his and Ortiz’s losses to MJF and Wardlow before Full Gear 2020, and his and Jericho’s loss to Blackpool Combat Club two years later, and Sammy Guevara comes away with four L/L results to his name.

However, of the 23 L/L results we’ve collected, there is one match-type that does nothing but collect victims.

AEW go-home shows: a test of opposite momentum
Source: AEW

Miscellaneous

Whenever AEW is building to a Casino Something match (be it Ladder, Battle Royale, or Tag Royale), it typically means that the 2-4 go-home show competitors will compete on Dynamite and/or Rampage, and those competitors WILL LOSE that weekend. Fenix beat Orange Cassidy heading into Double or Nothing 2020, then Orange lost to Brian Cage in the Casino Ladder Match. Santana and Ortiz beat Best Friends before All Out 2020, but they all lost to Lance Archer in the Casino Battle Royale. Conti’s win over Penelope Ford before All Out 2021 proved that women aren’t immune to this curse, and all four men who fought on Dynamite before the Casino Ladder match at All Out 2022 did so for naught, as three of them collected separate L/L results in one fell swoop.

The other two match types to watch out for are ladder match qualifiers. While two of these ladder matches are covered by the Casino Something subcategory (in which the winner never, ever wrestles before the PPV), the Face of the Revolution ladder match stands on shaky ground. The first go-around, Scorpio Sky hadn’t wrestled in two months before grabbing the grass ring. However, in 2022, Wardlow was one of three competitors in that match to compete the week of the show, beating Cezar Bononi in route to winning the ladder match. The Face of the Revolution stipulation still has two W/Ls and one L/L to its name, but Wardlow proves that you can wrestle the week of a ladder match and win the PPV match.

AEW go-home shows: a test of opposite momentum
Source: AEW

The final results

Table 1: AEW go-home show match results versus the competitors’ pay-per-view results.

Category# of Results% of Results
Win/Win3024.590%
Win/Loss4940.164%
Loss/Win2016.393%
Loss/Loss2318.852%

Looking at every competitor’s go-home show performance versus their pay-per-view performance, Table 1 does show that the Win/Loss category does have the most results, but it’s not as overwhelming as one would expect.

However, if we look only at wrestlers who win their go-home show matches, the so-called “momentum boost” only results in a win 37.975% of the time — in which case, a heavier majority of match winners do lose their pay-per-view outings, with a rate of 62.025%. With this in mind, one can conclude that wrestlers who win on go-home shows are more likely to lose at the PPV, but it’s far from a certainty.

Meanwhile, with a ratio of 23:20, the respective difference between Loss/Loss results and Loss/Win results is inconclusive, as there is less than 7% difference between the two categories.

With no clear path from wrestling on the go-home show to wrestling on the PPV, one would think that simply skipping Dynamite and Rampage would be your best bet for winning, but there are two flaws with this line of thinking: 1) a lot of the time (and especially in early AEW), the wrestlers who don’t compete on TV are facing each other at the PPV, making this a moot point, and 2) once you start getting into battle royales and ladder matches where only one person can win — AND the winner is often a surprise entrant — the number of losses for people who don’t compete on TV start to stack up even more than they do as is.

In conclusion, the wins and losses of AEW wrestlers on go-home shows do not definitively lead to any clear results on pay-per-view, though a wrestler is slightly more likely to lose on pay-per-view if they win on that last TV show. There’s no way to guarantee a win, but there is one way to guarantee a loss: wrestling on the go-home show before a Casino Something match.

Every February, to help celebrate Darwin Day, the Science section of AIPT cranks up the critical thinking for SKEPTICISM MONTH! Skepticism is an approach to evaluating claims that emphasizes evidence and applies the tools of science. All month we’ll be highlighting skepticism in pop culture, and skepticism *OF* pop culture. 

The Critical Angle is a recurring feature that uses critical thinking and skepticism to analyze pop culture phenomena. Rather than repeating the same old arguments, we put them to the test. AIPT Science is co-presented by AIPT and the New York City Skeptics.

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