|The Bucks, for example, know about Chikara, so they should take an idea…
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
“Wins and losses mattering” is all the rage nowadays now that All Elite Wrestling is on the scene trying to bring something fresh and I guess “legitimate” to the table. Outside of Kenny Omega just needing to end his one-match losing streak, I’m not sure how that’s manifested so far, although to be fair, it’s only been three shows. On one hand, that’s a small sample size. On the other, well, whether it’s your third or 103rd show, you shouldn’t have to be screaming the core values every other sentence. Wrestling hasn’t always gotten it in regards to “showing and not telling” but really, showing is way better than telling. One other company in this decade has tried pushing the “wins and losses matter” party line as a vocal selling point, and that’s EVOLVE.
Already, AEW has it better than EVOLVE, which didn’t have a top Championship until around the time Dragon Gate USA failed. Wins and losses only matter to the viewing audience at home inasmuch as they need to have stakes behind those wins and losses. EVOLVE didn’t have a season. It didn’t keep standings. The roster wasn’t uniform. For at least two years, the only titles you could possibly win on an EVOLVE show belonged to the Dragon Gate brand. Sure, you can peddle pap about the winner’s share of the purse, but no one at home really gets any satisfaction out of that. Most fans don’t care about what they get paid, kayfabe or not, and leftist fans think that everyone should get paid the same, win or lose, and it should be more than what the promoter takes home, NO WAR BUT CLASS WAR. Pride is the other answer, but at the end of the day, no one cares about pride either unless that pride is attached to a feud that fans can attach to. EVOLVE wasn’t really good at those either, with its most notable feud early on, Jon Moxley vs. Brodie Lee, ending in both of them getting suspended from the company. Sure, they both could still wrestle for DGUSA which was a thing at the time, but COME THE FUCK ON.
AEW has already announced titles, which, wins and losses mattering matters a lot more when you have something to wrestle for than if the stakes are nebulous and undefined. However, the roster isn’t uniform, and usage won’t be uniform either, which I get it. Wrestling is a variable business, and even New Japan Pro Wrestling can’t run a G1 Climax-style schedule all year and has to max out at 20 wrestlers in two blocks. How do you bridge the gap between saying that records are important and making the fan believe those stakes are real? Jim Ross halfheartedly yelling it between snide complaints that seem to be too bitter to be worked comments isn’t going to do it. The best answer is to look at a wrestling promotion which has best integrated the idea that match results mean something and having a well-established storytelling template and vibrant feuds and angles.
I’m talking about Chikara Pro Wrestling, of course.
A promotion that the old codgers who like to talk about match results mattering, or not mattering more accurately, love to pile shit on Chikara, which they feel isn’t “wrestling” because it has things like anthropomorphic wrestlers, time travel, slow motion, and mad science. Personally, I think those things add color to any wrestling promotion, but that’s just me. What Chikara has that is most germane to the “real sport feel” argument is the fact that it has a concrete way of making sure wins and losses matter, and I’m talking about the points system.
Chikara has two Championships that fall under this jurisdiction (the Young Lions Cup is the only one that doesn’t). The Grand Championship and Los Campeonatos de Parejas, and both titles require that the challenger has three points before they can get a match for that/those belt(s). You earn a point by winning a match, or by gaining a fall in an elimination match. You lose ALL your points when you lose a match or are eliminated from an elimination match. The beauty in it is its simplicity. Wins are coins, literally, as Chikara uses oversized coins or medallions to signify a point. How you earn them is simple, how you can lose them is simple. There are no riders or qualifiers. A rookie doesn’t have to jump through further hoops if they win three straight singles matches. And the way Chikara books its cards with multiple multi-competitor matches to the key of trios and atomicos matches, the idea that you have go to 50-50 booking out of necessity to not dilute title matches goes away.
A top-three wrestling promotion in silliness (can’t overlook Kaiju Big Battel or Inter Species Wrestling) in America runs with a pure sports foundation that has worked ever since los CdP were introduced. No other company has an excuse to fail at implementing their “wins and losses matter” trappings, and yet how many companies really have succeeded doing something like that? I’d argue only Chikara and New Japan, and the latter only during its round-robin tournament seasons (G1, Best of the Super Juniors, both tag leagues). You can’t just look at WWE diluting wins and losses (and WWE has done a terrific job of making sure nothing matters at all over the last 20 years), and say “I’m not going to do what they’re doing.” Trying to sell people on match results mattering absent a story backing it with a negative promise is untenable. You need a plan. Chikara has one. Honestly, wrestling is so steeped in unoriginality, that maybe AEW SHOULD copy the points system. I mean, one of its referees, Bryce Remsburg, has been with Chikara since its inception. Its roster has former roster member Chuck Taylor. The Young Bucks held los CdP there. If Mike Quackenbush is offended that they would steal that idea, then shame on him, because good ideas are the ones most worth emulating.
Whether it’s the Chikara way or some other different but effective manner, wins and losses mattering has to have some kind of concrete foundation. It can just be something Omega tells Ross to say on commentary during his matches when he’s sad that he’s coming off a loss, no matter how many wins he was booked to have beforehand. No matter how badly wrestling promotions past or present have been in this department, win/loss records need to be shown, not told, and even with that backing, you probably still need to have a strong creative department thinking of angles to put with those wins and losses anyway. In fact, saying that you really treasure match results? Yeah, that’s just another angle that you run. Funny how it all comes back to the script, isn’t it?