What Fresh Hell: WWE’s Edge, the Part-Time Rated-R Superstar

Part of the deal with tracking what WWE does every night is finding yourself very aware of how a match might go, sometimes down to the minute, even before it happens. I’d be damned if I didn’t know as soon as Edge’s match against Damian Priest was announced for Raw in Toronto almost exactly how long it would be—Edge’s standard non-Rumble match since the beginning of 2021 is 19 minutes and 32 seconds, and this match was 19:35—and that they would be put on last (because it’s his hometown and, even if it wasn’t, he’s the biggest star working the show).

In the Palace of Wisdom, for admittedly selfish reasons, we also hoped/wished/prayed a great deal that the result would be a win for the Rated R Superstar. It’s not like we’re huge fans of him, out here trying to get him some shine. To be up front with everyone, the VenPurr Bros. prefer Christian and yours truly has never been into his aesthetic all that much, though I find his in-ring work to occasionally border on grotesquely magical.

Nor does he need our help to make his numbers look great. Edge’s accolades are truly on some Booker T–level shit: 31 titles overall, including a record 14 tag team championship reigns and 11 runs with the WWE and World Heavyweight championships collectively. He’s also won the King of the Ring, the Rumble (twice), and has held the Money in the Bank contract twice (successfully cashing in on John Cena and the Undertaker).

Instead, our lives are just made infinitely easier when an Edge-level performer maintains the status quo. That’s because, like Richard Nixon before him, Edge tore asunder the fabric of our country is a big ol’ pain in the ass for folks like us. With Tricky Dick, it was once asked “How can one evaluate such an idiosyncratic president, so brilliant and so morally lacking?” and as a boy, sitting in front of a spreadsheet, just trying to figure out where Edge fits on our WWE Power Board, that hits me in the feels.

Now, for Nixon, the man who said it—James MacGregor Burns, in response to an academic survey on presidential achievement—was (you’d have to hope) referring to things on the disgraced former president’s résumé like abuses of power against his political enemies, the Watergate scandal, federal overreach in the War on Drugs, his horrifying anti-semitism, or the many, many other terrible things he did in office.

With Edge, his being born in Canada makes it essentially impossible for him to abuse the power of our presidency, and with his reputation for being a dastardly heel (and his canonically unfortunate history with secret tapes), it’s easier to focus primarily on Edge’s weird schedule.

Since the start of 2021, Edge has worked just 16 matches, including Monday’s win over Priest. He had another bout on Raw in the ThunderDome era against Randy Orton and SmackDown matches against Seth Rollins and Jey Uso (he’s also worked the annual day-after-Christmas house show at Madison Square Garden against Kevin Owens). Otherwise, everything else has been on a “premium live event.”

This presents for us any number of issues, but most notably, that any match he has can have massive implications on his standing in our system. Brock Lesnar—who, with eight matches since January 2021, provides Edge’s closest analog from a scheduling perspective—and his WrestleMania loss this year are the best example of this phenomenon. In the current system, the Beast’s loss in just this one match caused our big beefy king to drop from top 10 to (almost) not mentioned at all.

Now Brock is even more selective than Edge, as although he also worked the big live event at Madison Square Garden back in March, there was simply no way that Cowboy Brock would show up at WrestleMania Backlash or Hell in a Cell to work a match. For Lesnar, it’s only the finest and freshest meats the WWE has to offer that’ll get him out of his home on the range, whereas Edge seems willing to appear at the opening of an envelope as long as it’s airing live on Peacock. Which is why, after losing out on the “damned numbers game” against the Judgment Day following Hell in a Cell, Edge missed only one PLE (Money in the Bank) as an official participant.

He then came back down the stairs (?) from Hell—wearing an outfit that felt like Adam Copeland, the man who plays Edge, just walked up to the clerk at Hot Topic and asked them, “Are you a bad enough dude to make me the coolest guy on Daddington Island?”—at SummerSlam. When he was a member and presumed leader of Judgment Day, in addition to being much better dressed (seriously, why did he do this, he had such a cool look), he was also appearing nearly every week to cut promos and stir the pot with various mid-card babyfaces that had nothing else happening for them at the time.

It was good, honest work, to be sure. But since we don’t yet cover promo time (for reasons we’ll explain when the Angels win the pennant), all we have to go on are matches in which Edge is an official participant. Which erases a lot of random Spears and “The Sinister Minister” and Nick Bockwinkel impressions that get people interested in Edge the character, while creating an inverse effect for Edge the wrestler where actual in-ring appearances on Raw or SmackDown can have outsize importance on his standing. This would be especially true if those appearances were to end up as losses, but even a victory on this stage can do damage if the match isn’t long enough.

Obviously, had Edge come out and lost on Monday, not only would we have been shocked, but (even if it happened after a considerable amount of chicanery), it probably would have lowered our collective opinion of him. Certainly it would have led some people to see it as an attempt by WWE to change our perception of him (a nice way of saying nerds online will claim they are “burying him”). This is to take nothing away from Damian Priest (who, spoiler alert, was called the “future of this industry” by Copeland during a post-show speech to his hometown crowd), but he’s not on the Hall of Famer’s level in terms of wins, losses, and general power dynamics.

The caveat for WWE (and us) is that neither is Raw at this point, which is why unless Edge is winning something like the 20-minute match he did this week, the “downstream effects” for him can mean a steep drop on our board even after winning. And this, again, independently makes a kind of emotional sense: If Edge came on Raw and had a somewhat hard-fought but decidedly not epic “free TV” match against someone like Priest, fans may feel as though they were cheated because they spent less time with Edge than, say, Ciampa and the Miz.

All of this is exacerbated by the pull each individual person can have if their fortunes significantly change how the Power Board looks and feels. If anyone were to go on a long enough winning or losing streak, their numbers would shift. But because Edge’s (and Lesnar’s, as well as Cody Rhodes’s and even Ronda Rousey’s for now) numbers can shift so quickly, it has an effect on the stability of our numbers as a whole. This could be a problem, as the role Edge has in WWE should work the same way crown molding does when you are house hunting.

In This Old Wrestling House, the Bianca Belairs, Roman Reignses, and Becky Lynches provide heat and electricity while performers such as Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley, and, again, Belair add structural integrity. The Miz (along with his fellow Brooklyn Brawlers) crucially function as a plumbing system to keep the whole system running (which, for anyone who knows how much we love and honor Richard Trethewey here, is about the highest distinction we can bestow on someone at the Institute). Details and work like what Edge and Lesnar perform are there to further draw in folks already interested enough to be looking at the house that closely in the first place, not to play the role of summer beam for the entire way the company promotes itself.

To minimize the impact of these performers in our system—which is to say, to prevent them from skewing our numbers so much that they warp our understanding of the relative value of everything around them, like heated tiles in a bathroom with mold problems—we had to do some handiwork. Otherwise Edge would have a POP+ score of almost 400 without restrictions (Belair, our current no. 1, has a score of roughly 270 on any given day) as he did during the first-ever Power Board (which happened even before I became John Cena’s therapist).

The mechanism we decided on was the On-Show Percentage metric (which we’ve discussed in passing). A fairly straightforward formula, it takes the total matches of everyone in our tracking system, finds the average number of matches per performer, and then assigns a number for the amount of matches a performer has relative to that average. The end result is a top five in OSP that looks something like this:

Outside of Seth Rollins—who spent the second quarter of this year losing literally every single working night to Cody Rhodes—there is certainly a correlation between those who work the most and those who do the best in the power rankings. But this disinfectant proved just a bit too powerful to use equally without an occasional dilution, as any value Edge (whose OSP would be .180) and Lesnar (who’d now have just a .09 OSP) had in our system was almost completely destroyed. So we came up with a compromise of sorts, in the form of a minimum OSP, which turned out to be .375 (we can show our work, but basically 3/8 shows per cycle, when they are regularly appearing, worked best as a standard).

This is all, of course, a very number-intensive way of saying that while we intentionally drove down someone like Edge’s worth, it was still important to acknowledge the value they have to the company. (Is that you asking, “What about someone who, like Cody Rhodes or Ronda Rousey, arrived late to the party and can essentially never catch up to whatever the average number of matches is because they missed the first half of the eligible period?” Well, you’ll be happy to know that for them, we use something like a sliding scale which presupposes that they will work roughly the average amount of matches as everyone else when healthy and adjust accordingly, at least until we start the new “season” at next year’s WrestleMania.)

We even gave something of an exclusive perk to Edge (though it would obviously be available to anyone similarly eligible) in the form of a Hall of Fame bonus that is equivalent to that of holding a world title. This may seem extreme until you listen back to literally any time such a performer is introduced or even discussed on TV, you are nearly as likely to hear the words “Hall of Famer” as you were to hear “premium live event” under the previous regime. We treat it like a big deal because the WWE has made it very clear that they see it as a big deal (at least from a promotional point of view).

With all that, we think we’ve given an accurate depiction of Edge’s relative importance as it stands today. Not quite in the main event, but always knocking on the door, while working with folks he can elevate—lest we forget a solo Damian Priest ranked almost exactly where Edge did before we began handcuffing him to Finn Bálor—in strategically promoted matches to maximize his literal value to the company in a dollars and cents kind of way. When Edge (again, spoiler alert) retires next year, we’ll probably have this conversation again (though, hopefully at that point, he’ll have the decency to stop showing up every other PPV and drop off our tracking system).

As we develop more and more ways to measure value (if you have ideas, feel free to send them our way and we’ll incorporate them; we’ll even name them after a wrestler of your choice), the approximate worth of something like a Hall of Fame ring might change and it’s possible (wink) that we may even start incorporating more concrete examples of legacy to measure the value of WWE’s competitors. There’s a world of perceived value to be extracted and measured out as part of what the WWE produces, but it is our goal to never treat what we do like what baseball has become, where our ability to enjoy the product is completely subsumed by growth curves and who has team control over which contract. Wrestling is fun, and in its own ways, helps explain how the world works.

So for now, we—like WWE—find it better to work with the devils you know than the devils you don’t.

Nick Bond (@TheN1ckster) is the cofounder of the Institute of Kayfabermetrics and provides weekly updates to The Ringer’s WWE Power Board.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.