Math Doesn’t Lie: The Rock Is a Shell of His Former Self and Can’t Work a Match
Last night I got into numerous heated arguments with people who swore up and down that last night’s Elimination Chamber match was “a really good match” and that “The Rock can still go” and that he “wasn’t gassed at all, he just likes to breathe hard”. Needless to say, I saw things much differently. To me, The Rock did look gassed, he didn’t seem like he could effectively work the match like he could ten years ago — not even close.
But hey, I’ll be the first to admit, greatness — or even just good-ness — is often in the eye of the beholder. Maybe I was just being too hard on The Rock because I’m a bitter internet CM Punk fanboy. Sometimes you have to take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself the tough questions: who am I? why am I here? does The Rock suck or do I just suck?
Let’s bring a little objectivity into the equation, shall we?
Inspired by the self examined life, recognition of my own biases, and my love of data, I decided to run a little experiment. I wanted to know just how many minutes The Rock “worked” his match with CM Punk at Elimination Chamber. So, the match still fresh in my DVR, I re-watched it and, with my trusty stop watch timed whenever The Rock “worked”.
Now let’s define “worked”. For my experiment I used the loosest definition of working imaginable in order to be charitable to the Rock. Working was defined as:
- Any time a wrestler delivers an offensive move, including strikes
- Any time a wrestler moves their feet while standing (walking, running, climbing)
- Any time a wrestler lifts their own bodyweight while in a submission (for example, when Stone Cold Steve Austin does a pushup while in the Sharpshooter)
- Any time a wrestler carries any portion of an opponent’s body weight.
- Kicking out of a pin (though this only takes a fraction of a second, so it’s negligible when actually timing a match)
What doesn’t count as “working”:
- Lying prone on the mat or outside the ring
- Not standing under your own power
- Resting in somebody else’s hold such as a headlock or armbar
- Standing, but not otherwise moving
- Talking trash
You might notice that my criteria for “working” basically includes anything an elderly person might call “exercise”.
Now, there’s a lot of downtime in wrestling matches — this I know. So this experiment, of course, needs a proper control. So, I reached back into the annals of time and pulled out, what I consider to be, a match that controls for some of the variables: Royal Rumble 2002 The Rock vs. Chris Jericho for the Undisputed Title. This match ran almost as long, was for a championship, had a similar storyline, and was against a similar “work horse” type of opponent. It also had bunch of screwy stuff happen, similar to Elimination Chamber. One important difference, though, is that The Rock was trying to win the title, not defend. I leave it up to my readers to determine whether that’s a huge issue. I encourage everyone to go back and watch it. It’s a decent match. By comparing these two matches, we should be able to see whether or not The Rock has lost a step (or two or six, or a hundred) and either provide evidence backing up my claim that The Rock is a shell of his former self, or give reason to suspect I am being too hard on Rocky.
2002 Royal Rumble: The Rock vs. Chris Jericho
Approx Bell-to-bell Match Time: 18 minutes
Rocky’s total “worked” minutes: 7 minutes 41 seconds
Percent of match “worked”: 42.5%
2013 Elimination Chamber: The Rock vs. CM Punk
Approx Bell-to-bell Match Time: 20 minutes
Rocky’s total “worked” minutes: 4 minutes 30 seconds
Percent of match “worked”: 22.5%
The most striking thing about the data is that The Rock worked more than 3 minutes longer in a match that was 2 minutes shorter in 2002. But the most compelling statistical evidence that The Rock’s production in the ring has totally fallen off the map is the 42.5% 2002 workrate vs. 2013’s 22.5% workrate. That’s a 47% decline — if these numbers actually capture anything close to the normal workrate in each respective time period, the Rock is nearly half the performer he once was in the ring.
And let’s be clear, The Rock was NEVER a workhorse. Jericho carried him through most of that match in 2002, so it’s not like he went from absolutely stunning to just sort of good. He went from average-to-above-average, to half of that — otherwise known as god-fucking-awful. It’s almost as if — wait for it — he’s eleven years older than he was in 2002!
For those of you I’m pissing off right now, go ahead and do your own experiment, or tell me why my data and/or methodology is flawed. I welcome that sort of debate. But don’t come at me with blind claims of The Rock’s greatness or tell me he didn’t look tired or that “he’s in the best shape of his life” without evidence.
I also want to emphasize that I know that “work rate”, however it’s defined, is not the only thing that goes into making a wrestling match. I am the first to acknowledge the importance of a proper storyline, a great build, and the little things wrestlers do in the ring to get the crowd into the match. But work rate is at least somewhat important, right? At the end of the day, we pay to watch or see live what occurs in the ring. We’re there for “the dance” if you will. After the hype, the dance will either stand on its own merits or it won’t. The Rock can promote the dance; he can put butts in seats, no doubt. But, ironically, The Rock isn’t bringing it to the dance anymore. For some, that won’t be an issue, but for those who are interested in the art of pro-wrestling, Rocky matches are becoming quite the waste of time.
Now I know I’m going to get a lot of flack for writing this column, but believe it or not, I’m not a Rocky hater. I gave him the benefit of the doubt for last year’s lackluster ‘Mania performance, but after seeing him not deliver in three very high-profile matches, I just can’t suffer the nonsense coming from Rocky apologists any longer. The dude was gassed at Elimination Chamber, he can’t work. Stop living in denial! It’s pathetic! Then again, maybe you should live in denial; keep on those rose-colored Attitude Era tinted glasses, because if you’re expecting Cena to carry him at Wrestlemania 29 better than Punk did, you need to — as the Rock circa 2002 might say — stop smoking those funny cigarettes The only thing you’re getting out of Cena-Rock is mediocrity. Just like last year. Twice in a lifetime.