How many times have you come up with an idea, and then you have no idea how to measure it to see if it’s successful? Nick Bond writes (and thinks and dreams) about professional wrestling. While acknowledging that WWE promotes a scripted sport, which he describes as subjective, Nick identified a clever way to measure how wrestlers are performing over time. In this fast-moving conversation, Nick talks about what he was trying to solve for, how he found a model to build on and how he continues to refine his POP Plus metric, now used by The Ringer to help rank and contextualize pro wrestlers.
Find your host, Adam Pierno at www.adampierno.com
The Strategy Inside Everything is the podcast for people who thinkfor a living. If you have an idea, a question or you want to pushback onsomething you hear in this episode, go to https://thatsnotaninsight.com and leave a message or a voicemail for me. The mostinteresting messages will be added to future episodes. Music for The Strategy Inside Everything is by Sawsquarenoise. Host Adam Pierno is an author, speaker and strategyconsultant. Learn more atadampierno.com.
A P 0:02
This is The Strategy Inside Everything. I’m Adam Pierno. The Strategy Inside Everything is the podcast for people who think for a living. If you have an idea, a question or you want to push back on something you hear in this episode, go to thatsnotaninsight.com and leave a message or a voicemail for me. The best and most interesting messages will be added to future episodes. And I can’t wait to hear from you. All right, welcome back to another episode of the strategy inside everything. Today’s guest is writer at the ringer, Nick bond. He’s also the creator of what we’re going to talk about today. kayfabe metrics. Nick, how are you?
Nick Bond 0:23
I’m doing great. How about you?
A P 0:25
I’m good. We just passed in the night. By the way. I was on Long Island and I and I missed you. I passed your back, man. Yeah,pass your exit. And I was like,
Nick Bond 0:32
oh, what were you doing out at 66? Buddy, that’s pretty far.
A P 0:36
That’s where we are. Maybe that’s where we are. So Long Island. As a wonderful funny story about this episode, Nick was kind enough to make time for me earlier, we talked about a great article that he had written. And if you’re a wrestling fan, you want to read about it, because it translated to me about what makes a good heel a good villain in wrestling. And while we were talking, he introduced me to this thing that he had created, which were, which I realized was a much more juicy topic for this audience. So I’m grateful, Nick, for both conversations. But I’m especially grateful that you offered to come back and do this when maybe we’ll release the other one down the road or as a special episode or something because it was pretty good.
Nick Bond 1:13
And so it’ll be a little bit less intensive. Because we talked last time if people don’t know we talked about, but as you kind of mentioned heels and faces and like
A P 1:18
And how to make it make sense.
Nick Bond 1:19
Oh, jargon, all of it. It’s all carny stuff. Specifically, it’s kayfabe. Speak but it’s its carny base, you can actually speak kayfabe.
A P 1:27
Yes. And people on the inside of wrestling and even even smart marks even like educated fans of wrestling do speak in the language which makes it somewhat inaccessible. But but makes it really interesting for people on the inside of it. They know the language. And that’s that’s kind of a hook of being a fan of wrestling. As you know,
Nick Bond 1:45
It can be a problem when you’re trying to write about and you’re like I can’t I have to explain what that word means.
A P 1:51
Yeah, well, it depends, I guess on who’s your audience. If you’re trying to write something broadly accessible, you use you translate it, but if you’re trying to write something for insiders, you you see, you stay
Nick Bond 2:02
I used to have a website called Juice Make Sugar, which if you don’t know, there’s a video called Fun with Ahmed to it is Ahmed Johnson, he was a wrestler in the 90s. He did a video Pat, he did videos for one of the video games and they’re pretty incomprehensible, because it’s just him shouting. And they do like the slogan, whatever they think he’s saying at the bottom and whatever, juice make sugar. So I made a website out of that. And that was like hardcore, deep dive stuff. So it was all almost written in a different language. But when I wrote for like, I wrote a thing called How to watch wrestling on digg.com. And that was very much like 110,000 feet. Here’s what here’s like, what to look for. Here’s how it works. And everything got an explanation had footnotes, like literally like 40 footnotes, which is like, this is what this means this is what this means. So you can get very jargony and and it’s it becomes a problem for communication from, like marketing yourself as a writer perspective. Yeah. So that I can definitely,
A P 2:56
it’s very similar to trying to pick up the new issue of vendors or X Men and all the footnotes that say, see Avengers 31 from like, you know, 99, they’ll do anything for the
Nick Bond 3:08
Exactly. And it’ll be like it’ll be because what happens in that context is it’ll be an offhand mentioned by one of the characters and they’ll have like an asterisk in the bottom, they’ll have like, see, Editor’s Note, see blah, blah, blah, and be like, we’d have to buy another one. I thought this was a container.
A P 3:22
And this is not I didn’t sign up to be a fan for life and need to purchase a compendium I just wanted to read one story about Nick, sorry, buddy, how it works. Let’s talk let’s just agree on some rules of the road for this conversation. Professional wrestling as a sport. Is it real or not?
Nick Bond 3:37
It’s scripted. So the physicality in many ways is real, and close enough to see the guys take actual bumps like that is real. Are they really hitting each other as hard as they can? No, because they would die? Are they really slamming each other as hard as they can? No, because they would die. But they’re probably trying to approximate while doing so as best as they can. The thing that is different about it relative to what I call objective sports, as opposed to I consider wrestling, I get a subjective sport, in the way that you do like gymnastics, or whatever where it’s judged almost, is that it’s scripted at the end, right? Like there’s a plan at the end. Sometimes it goes a ride, but for the most part, what was scripted to happen at the end of the match happens at the end of the batch. That doesn’t mean that the promotion didn’t make a decision. And that decision was in an allocation of resources. I think that’s the best way to think about is like all the decisions that are made as we get more into how I do the measurements or decisions being made by a company to do something in the same way that you start somebody a quarterback because you think you can win a game. It’s the that’s where it’s very, very, very similar that you put people in position to win games by win gains in that the metric for that is selling tickets to put what they call putting butts in seats.
A P 4:46
And is it is it TV ratings is a tickets is it online clicks like
Nick Bond 4:51
it’s all of the above but I think that I’m writing a piece on this. It’s gonna be a big piece. It’s gonna be the biggest piece I’ve ever I’ve ever written on the differences between Vince McMahon, who was the owner of the company since 98, he left the company about 363 months ago, three, four months ago, his son in law Triple H took over. And there’s there’s real dichotomy between the two. But back when Vince started, the book to the house show is what they call it. So another one would happen is you put on TV show, like once a week, once a month, and people would watch it. And then you would want to go to the house show in their local area, because the characters they saw on TV, were going to be in their neighborhood that has completely flipped for WWE, specifically other companies. That’s still the case for the most part that you’re trying to get people to go to your live shows. WWE wants people to go to the live shows, and particularly want the community to live televised defense and live Pay Per View events. But the main concern is maintaining not necessarily increasing TV ratings, because how they make a lot of their money is like merch and stuff like that, obviously, that scales on TV in a way that it doesn’t and other mediums, but they’re my rights packages. That’s that’s where they get their revenue. That’s their primary revenue source year to year is
A P 6:04
and that that’s important, because what did you were you assigned the role, the job of creating the power board and coming up with a kayfabe.
Nick Bond 6:14
So funny story about that. I had a day off just hanging out, you know, join myself and I like texted Shoemaker and it was like, Hey, man, do you also need to do the peacemaker reviews? And you’re like, No, but rarely don’t deal with the review for the content of the podcasts. They produce the podcasts, and he’s like, Hey, would you be interested? And I was like, Yeah, I would totally love my dream job, David. Yes, that would be awesome. Yeah. And then like a day later, he texts me. He’s like, Hey, man, I know, this is weird. But have you ever, like thought about how to measure value in the WWE? And I was like, Oh, honey, that’s my life’s work. I had written I had created with this fella named Matthew Timmons, great guy, he kind of invented this, like the core conceit of this. And I kind of built on it. And basically, I sent him my white paper that I had written on the concept and all the databases I had created. And he was like, 10 minutes later, so yeah, man, you got the job. But this is a little crazy. Because he thought he’d be like, oh, yeah, I wonder if Nick ever thought about those. Like, it’s all I think about buddy, I think about my, my wife, my child and in math and wrestling.
A P 7:20
Can we go back? Two steps, actually, did you study? Or are you just applying math out of a passion for trying to figure out how to measure something that is, I like your use of subjective Yeah, so
Nick Bond 7:32
um, how do I put this I am very good at math. When I buckled down, I’m like exceptionally good at math. But I buckled down. I am a garbage fire. I studied political science and economics in college. So economics is really I mean, I’m not a finance guy. I’m an Economics guy. Does that make sense? So I’m trying to find value not like leverage margin. Does that make sense?
A P 7:57
Yes. It makes a lot of sense. Okay, so yeah, at some point, you’re a wrestling fan. And us you have the skill in math when it’s applied. And at some point, you say, I wish I wonder if there’s a way even though I know wrestling is scripted. These are tremendous athletes. I wonder if there’s a way to create an objective measurement in the subjective sport,
Nick Bond 8:22
A P 8:22
where do you start
Nick Bond 8:23
what’s the entire system is based off of a very quickly explained a slugging percentage is a function of the basis you hit right? divided by the number of I believe at bats at bats and plate appearances do different things. We don’t have to discuss that. But basically, you take the amount of hits and a singles worth one point doubles worth two triples worth three and a homerun is worth four, when you divide that by the number. So if you had somebody who had four slugging percentage, like four point out, they’d hit a homerun literally every single time they got it. That’s where it comes from. So house shows or live events are ones in between house shows and televised shows. So they do things on the network or on peacock now, like small taped house shows, essentially, those are two sets of doubles, Ron SmackDown, or triples, and any pay per view is a homerun. And that’s kind of how I
A P 9:10
so you are measuring it based on appearances. And each ways is like a base a wins at those things.
Nick Bond 9:17
And that’s where it’s important. So everything is measured as it’s so to get very quickly to difference between a plate appearance and a tap at a plate appearance. All iPads are plate appearances, but not all plate appearances are iPads every time you show up and stand in the batter’s box or show up and have a match that counts in our system. But it might not count say if you had a no contest, double DQ double count out that doesn’t count towards your winning percentage or think about it like a batting average. But any law actual loss will so that’s that’s where the distinction comes in in terms of
A P 9:49
bats don’t let me reset so listeners are keeping up. So Nick is basing it on baseball which has, you know, the batting as if even if you’re a casual baseball fan but slugging percent They’re just measuring your percentage of basis that you get per. At Bat, which is a very particular in baseball, which is why people hate baseball is a different is a specific type of appearance, the nuance between the type of plate appearance, you might have changes the slugging percentage and your OBP. And your batting average. That’s important, because he took that model. And then then you applied it to wrestling. But obviously, we don’t have that bets. In wrestling, we don’t have any of the same stats as other pro sports. So you used wins instead of hits. And then instead of appearance, or at bats or plate appearances you used a type of match, or how the matches were broadcast, who was in attendance each match
Nick Bond 10:46
isn’t, is a plate appearance, each win is a hit. And when you get a hit, what determines how far you got, let’s say first base, second base, third base home run, is the importance of the show. And the way I explained it in the white paper I wrote is think about wrestling as though you would baseball. If the team could script that the player that hit the home run to win the game like Eric judge is gonna hit the home run to win the game. That’s basically what wrestling is. So basically, what I’m saying is no, you chose this guy to win at this level. That means you’re allocating this many resources to him, that means to your company, he has this much value relative to his peers. And the same way that that guy generated. The value Aaron judge generated that now. How How have you tweaked it from
A P 11:33
the original formulation of this, of this model?
Nick Bond 11:36
We also so I basically what I did is I took the core of the plugging percentage mechanic and I added what we mentioned earlier gimmicks, so title matches, and those are all marketing facts, those are all marketing, things that add value to whatever is especially on how shows right. Champions almost always perform on how shows because power shows are really important to understand. That’s the thing that like, nerds like you and I would go pay to see a show that no one else saw, just so we could see live wrestling. Like when you pay to go see a live event, you are a very serious fan who wants to pay to see specific things happen. So you have like champions lose all the time, but they never lose officially, they always lose by the queue and stuff like that. But the fact that they are booked in a championship match means that they have value to the company and the company is allocating promotional resources to them. And this is all too, we don’t determine the kayfabe and metrics doesn’t determine who’s good or bad, right, determines how the company is allocating resources to them. And that’s the most important distinction for people to understand is that like, this is a company allocating resources and time promotional time, specifically, because that’s the other component, we have the gimmick component, which is like fancy matches, big prominent matches, stuff like that. And then the time component is a sliding scale. So if you have a very long match, even if you lose it, they just give you 25 minutes of their two hour show. If
A P 13:01
you have a 24 minute match at WrestleMania. For example, you’re even if you take the loss, they gave you that that screen tied to your most important event, or
Nick Bond 13:11
yes, that’s exactly what it is, is that, oh, you know how in sport, they’re like, Oh, they’re misusing them, they’re not being fair. That’s how they talk about athletes and professional wrestling. And they’ll say they’re burying somebody, as opposed to pushing them. And that’s actually the power of the pop number that we use at the ringer is the power of the push. And the opposite of push is a barrier. The only time you get buried is when you lose quickly on TV. To somebody that’s it. That’s the only time when you get what they call squashed. When you get embarrassed on TV as the only time your values actually being pushed down in a meaningful way. They’ll tell you that they don’t want. They are allocating TV time they’re allocating resources to you promotional resources to you, they don’t want you to look bad. They just might want somebody to look better relative to you. Does that make sense? If everybody else so
A P 14:01
I do want to ask about squash matches then. So if I’m, if I’m a former, you know, lower first tier, I’m on the TV card somewhat regularly. You know, I split my wins and losses on the Fox TV show, then, yes, I get put in a series of squashes where I lose in you know, under five minutes or under three minutes, I’m assuming Oh, that’s very bad for does that mean that’s very bad for you? Can I predict anything based on that for that
Nick Bond 14:30
athlete? So usually you can but sometimes it’s counterintuitive because sometimes I want to break people down to build them back up. So what you do is you check the swing right because the Austin theory I just wrote a piece on it. I actually thought it was that great. And then everybody was like this is like the one that’s gotten traction behind it. Before he left. Vince had hand picked publicly Austin theory. A nice young man is about 24 He’s from Atlanta. Looks great. All that stuff great in the ring. He had been handpicked by events to be the one of the features of the company. And then when Vince left, literally the storyline became like your daddy isn’t here anymore. Like, you got to stand on your own. And he got he lost a bunch of matches. And then last week, he was the closing segment of the show, he beat up the most prominent champion on the show. And earlier in the show, but two segments earlier, he had a 15 minute match. And that’s a push, but they’re trying to tell a story. So it’s going to be incremental, right? That is usually how somebody’s getting buried works. You can also look at somebody like Sonia Deville is the only person bless her heart in our system that has a negative value, because every time she’s on TV, and that’s the point of her character, and it’s wonderful. She’s very good at it. She has a negative to give you an idea of the number one person in our system is Bianca BelAir, her pA plus is 253. And Sonia is is negative to literally like 100 times better pushed or more resources are allocated efficiently to Bianca for promotional purposes. But also you do need people like Sonia and that’s why he tracking this stuff is important because you can literally see like how they structure their cards. Because what I can’t do is tell you who’s going to win or lose. What I can do is tell you who’s going to be on the call. Yes, that’s how you actually translate the value. And you can say, well, Bianca is almost certainly going to win because how hard she’s pushed, but the marginal stuff of let’s say you’re looking at somebody has like a score of and this is completely arbitrary. I’m just making this up 100 150 Which is to say they are pushed 1.5 times the average, because the average is 100. Right? The way we have our system, so 150 would be your just, you know, push slightly better than somebody that person, let’s say they went up against somebody who had a 1.4 times or 140 I can’t guarantee they’re going to win a win or lose. That’s not how it works. But I can say Ronda Rousey is gonna beat Sonia, because Ronda Rousey is a champion and Sonia is barely on TV and her whole job.
A P 17:00
So with jobber, who’s whose job is to help?
Nick Bond 17:04
Yes, exactly. And jobbers are basically people who’s driving I wrote a piece called The MS and the new Brooklyn brawlers, which is about this general idea of paying people to live they are literally paid to make other people look good to go back to that no one wants the people on their show if they’re doing a good job to look bad.
A P 17:22
If I look at the way this sort of measurement is used in floodings business or elsewhere, it’s typically used as some kind of forecast where you say, all right, Aaron, Judge has 59 home runs, and he is batting over just around 300. So he’s been up twice today and struck out. So this third one, he should get a hit in one of his last two at bats. If the trend holds. And you’re making forecasts. And then in baseball, the The annoying thing is that then you look at the pitcher and then you look at lefties and righties. And then you look at the shift and the shift is off and all the things that affect the stats. Does the pop plus that you’ve created here lead to any kind of successful forecasting that you’ve seen? Or Has anybody tried to leverage it that way? Or is it more just
Nick Bond 18:08
nobody’s tried to leverage it. But I think the important thing to understand it and your when you use it as a perfect example. What you and I both know, as baseball nerds, batting average doesn’t tell you, right? Like, what actually tells you a lot about who’s gonna get an extended like extra tip, right, like Fielding, independent pitching and feel independent hitting and stuff like that. That’s actually the predictive stuff. That’s the next level stats, right? And those we haven’t gotten to where we’re at right now we are at the stage of development, because you have people like Chris Harrington Mookie gonna, on Twitter was is like one of the godfathers of this field. But he focused almost exclusively on the concept of what he called wrestle nomics way more advanced way more mathy stuff than me about regression to the mean and all of that and standard deviations, all that fun stuff. Right.
A P 19:03
So his is based on kind of an average performance. I don’t know. From a
Nick Bond 19:07
financials though, he pulls the financials, which is how he got a job at AWS, he does that for Aw man, because he became such an expert in different markets react to different things. So that’s I am more of the like, I’m really good with slugging percentage and I’m an okay writer. But that’s not to say that this didn’t take a lot of work or there wasn’t a lot of work put into it or this doesn’t tell you anything, but those predictive capabilities are not quite where it is yet. Beyond like I couldn’t if I were to pick Pay Per View matches every every month right? I don’t think I would do insanely well. I probably do better than average or flipping a coin right? But not crazy better. Because WWE sense it’s predetermined, knows what they’re doing right so they know their per Seeing somebody really hard. And they might want to use that leverage that they’ve that promotional leverage right to platform somebody else by having them feel like, you really should, if you’re listening to this and want to use this, all of this stuff is marketing, all of it is marketing a brand to your consumer, like all wrestling is why they have logos, while every individual wrestler you’ve ever seen almost to a person has a logo that has been designed, and T shirts, you can buy and catch rate. It’s all marketing, it’s all marketing these folks to your fans, that’s all it is, and figuring out who’s the best person to put her arm around her at the end of our shows when people come back the next time to see that person in the show again,
A P 20:42
do you get people offering suggestions or challenging the pop plus measure or or trying to strengthen?
Nick Bond 20:49
I’ll tell you what, not not as much as I thought I was gonna get as it seems to be doing wow, like I do get comments. But there wasn’t like I this is fun. But could you please change the background. But for the most part, no, people haven’t really challenged it. I think as my informations accurate, nothing’s crazy. It’s not like especially because I added another mechanic I didn’t, I didn’t get a chance to mention this. The most important mechanic in terms of determining who gets towards the top of the power rankings that we have is how many shows they’ve been on relative to everyone else. So for instance, when it is on show percentage, so it’s o SP, as opposed to OBP. And basically what we do is we take a raw score that we have the pop score, and we multiply it by the OSP. And that’s how we get your, like your weighted pop score, which then gets passed. So the Plus comes from the 250 comes from and this is how era works in baseball, you can era plus which is you take the average of all areas, all qualifying areas in the entire system, and you divide it in the average, you then take the average and you go okay, so like let’s say somebody had one right, trying to make sure I can do this. So made of slugging percentage of one. So we have a song entrepreneur to 1.2 right the average was one right for the entire league. Let me let me reset that. If you had an average right of one for slugging percentage in the entire league, and somebody had a 1.2 slugging percentage, that is a S L G slugging percentage plus of 120, because the average is 100, essentially. And that’s how the system is set up. So that’s where you get these kind of
A P 22:38
an average or a mean or median, right? Yes.
Nick Bond 22:41
Yeah, but the on show percentage, that mechanic is the thing that makes like Drew McIntyre, a top five guy, because Drew McIntyre has worked 100. Let me I think it’s 193 matches
A P 22:52
192 As of the site update, maybe there was a could have been something.
Nick Bond 22:57
Yeah. So last week, as of last week, he had 192 matches over two years. So your award him because not only are they telling you when we put him in on a show, it’s going to be in a position to when we’re going to put him on every show. Yeah, all of them. If like he appears all the time, all over the place. He works every night. That is something which is why he gets despite the fact that he hasn’t been presented as the strongest performer on this show. He is consistently put into position to challenge the other like top competitors. Because he is he does well all of the time. He doesn’t do great ever Does that all make Does that make sense? Like he never outperforms is what you expect. But he always just really well consistently the 190 times they have in front of you. So that’s something our system rewards because that to me is the thing that tells you how the performer is performing because how often a function
A P 23:57
of so we use Aaron judge as a as an example in in batting average in baseball. So let’s talk about Drew McIntyre. As you and I talked about before we hit record. Aaron judge had a great year, but he has this history of injuries is is but once you push once he could stay on the field for pretty much 100 games. 150 games I think he appeared in this year. He was the superstar that they had the Yankees have been waiting for. Your Drew McIntyre. Yeah. Is he getting the push as a function of his skill, his technical ability his athletics, or is it is some part of it durability that he can take these bumps and continue to show up? You know, at the end of the week for whatever the second show, is the house show? That’s at the end of the week?
Nick Bond 24:41
Yes, both. It’s honestly a comedy. In other words, Aaron judge isn’t going to get 100 420 bats. If he’s batting 243 and hitting, slugging 600. For half the season. six senators. Yeah, exactly. Like he’s just not gonna get as many at bats. So it is a function of both, but the as always the most important ability is availability. And that is key is if you have somebody because honestly these people have families. In terms of your I don’t want to say your commitment, because it’s not about these folks, these men and women dedicate their lives to this company and to the fans. But it is a matter of like, do I want that to be my life? Not necessarily a lot of people like Ronda Rousey. Obviously, she’s an incredibly big star relative to a lot of the people on the show. She shows up how shows she does, how she just doesn’t do all you can she has a two year old, like, and what’s crazy is Becky how often Becky and Seth were but they traveled with their child. And I ever say to you, it’s my daughter’s birthday today. We’re recording on the 16th. Her her due date was the same as Roe, who is Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch’s child. Like she’s my kids age almost exactly. And they brought her around the country got blood seemed to work well, like, but it’s like that’s the way you do it. That’s the only way you can do it. When you have a family like there. There’s wrestling is known for like the history of broken families and stuff like that. And that has changed immensely in the last 15 to 20 years. And part of it is that you’re no longer expected to work three hunt I did for funsies. Right? So I’m weird. I did Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. I did like two years of that. Randy Savage had 400 matches in two years 400. That’s insane. To make a direct has 193 And I’m like, Damn, dude, you might want to slow down. And he had more than double that. And it’s like, you wonder why had a heart attack. But he’s got a solid like, to your body? Yeah, like, so that’s that’s part of it is that it’s a labor thing. And these are independent contractors. So they’re not required, necessarily, in the way that the contracted employee, whether they’re supposed to make their contracted dates, right. But like, I think the dynamic is a little different. Like you’re not signed up for the roster. Like if you can’t make it? No, it seems like they’ll work stuff out with you, if you have a family emergency or something like that. Because card says the card is subject to change, it’s a little bit more, it’s a little bit more dynamic of a relationship than sports. Also, they’re not required by the commissioner or anything like that to report injuries. So you don’t know who’s injured or not. Right. Like sometimes they’ll release a statement. But in sports, because of gambling. I don’t know if everybody knows this, but literally because of gambling. That’s why you need to or not. Yeah, that’s the only reason you would actually care. Unless you were a family and wanted to go see. But I mean, like come on.
A P 28:16
I mean, it’s up to you to play. You know, it doesn’t matter for the quarterback.
Nick Bond 28:21
It doesn’t exactly look, I don’t need to know if there’s six, the seventh man on the bench is playing. But I do need to know if if I’m betting.
A P 28:32
You mentioned that that you wrote this. You created this. It is published on the ringer, and the ringer, it has a content deal with WWE. That’s amazing. Tons of podcasts under writing. Oh, yes. It’s actually I’m surprised by how much wrestling content is there? Has.
Nick Bond 28:48
I feel so blessed to be able to be part of it? Like I got so lucky in so many different ways with it. Yeah, it’s, it’s awesome. I mean, really,
A P 28:57
really, this, the stories that are written about wrestling take on a different tone, which is I want to which is what I wanted to ask you about. Because if you’re writing about football, pro football, or college football, too, it doesn’t really matter. There are the objective wins and losses and performance. But the writing about wrestling has this weird Well, I guess it’s true or pro sports to your writing, at the same time about what happened in the ring, what it means for the character, and what the company is doing. And more broadly, like the strategy of the company, all in the same sentence. Sometimes that’s like you have to refer to Yeah, well, it’s everything from the
Nick Bond 29:39
it’s very similar to writing about Paul and I know this because I was political science major. It’s very, very, very so I wrote a piece about six years ago about Trump. And like, I know a lot of people complain now but we’re leaving right now. Everything is wrestling. I promise you if you give me 10 minutes I say like that anything you say to me, I can basically tell you how close it is to wrestling. I used to have five Yeah. So like, yeah, that’s what it’s like writing about politics because you have to contextualize everything in such a way that it becomes like you or you have to accept that you’re going to remove context and make it less. Total story, right? Where with sports, they won, they lost period. They got injured, they didn’t get injured. It’s much more straightforward. I used to work in a website called the classical where, right now, David Roth. Some people may know he writes for a website called the defector. He used to be a Deadspin bunch people, people like vice and stuff like that we used to write about sports, but we wouldn’t write game stories or anything. Actually. Deadspin is also a great example of this. Deadspin used to write no game stories, except for one game story. Every time the Cardinals lost for an entire season, they wrote a game story written as though it was a just a game with a call of gamer for them, but written in the way that they had hoped to lose. It’s like really, it was satire was explicitly satire, but like, most websites, the ringer doesn’t write game stories, per se, they do occasionally. But they do follow up stuff for podcasts. That’s how they do their gamers. Right. So like, that’s where a lot of that comes from when I Sorry, what was the original question? I
A P 31:16
mean, you were talking about how it’s all writing about politics. Now. Every every story has to be content. Yeah.
Nick Bond 31:22
So yeah. And the other thing is, is you don’t want to, I don’t say you don’t want it. But there is these like this fandom, right? Have these performers like I remember the only time I’ve ever gotten any smack talk or anything online from somebody that about something I wrote that was kayfabe, or metric related? Was this random person I wrote about Alexa Bliss once right? There’s like it’s crazy. Alexa Bliss in 2017. Last like one p two straight out shows. I was like, oh, that’s crazy. It’s like people pay to see her lose all the time. And have L Alexa Bliss fans, 39 or whatever. So it’s like, arguing with me about this. And I’m like, and they’re like, it’s not canon and all this stuff. And I’m like you are you are a nerd beyond nerds. I do not have time for this conversation. But what you have is these people who are like, that’s not that doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t mean what you think it is. And it’s like, that’s where you kind of have to, I never lead with my chin when I write. I don’t necessarily like I’m not afraid to like, say how I actually feel. But I always want to make it as clear as possible, how I actually feel and with politics, that can also be hard, because you’re not trying to place a value judgment on the things you’re saying, right? You’re trying to say this is what’s happening. And this is what it means relative to what this means. So like, if you’re talking about policy, right, you’re like, Okay, this is the policy. Now. This is the policy with the policy changes that are being suggested would do. That’s what a news story should be about a policy change, right. But what ends up happening is it’s all inside baseball stuff. It’s all horse race coverage. It’s not it’s processed stories is what they call it. And a lot of wrestling journalism for a very long time was processed stories. And I think it’s starting to become a lot more. And this is Shoemaker. This is David Shoemaker. He is the person in charge of content at Wu at the ringer for WWE. He was really the first person he started at that’s been with a dead Wrestler of the week calm. And it was every year it was essentially every week, it was a elegy a eulogy everyone to put it to a past performer who had had left us and it was some of them were really beautiful pieces of writing like David’s an excellent writer. But that was the first time I think a lot of us went, Oh, I can. Oh shit. Like you can do stuff. Like. Exactly, you can write about what we talk about when we talk about plank, right? Which is, which is what the classical was about was what we talked about. We used that we had our most popular thing we were at the class was a thing called Why We watch we did like 60 of them. Because people had it and we what it was it somebody who literally write about like their favorite basketball player and just talk about why they love them. It was all vibes based, right? Like, and that’s what wrestling writing can be. But you do want to structure it a little bit, right? Because it’s such an insular world. You want to give people scaffolding that they can they can like engage with it on because it can be hard like you said you’ve been while you watch but it’s like we can get into like oh well Is he okay? Like you watch and you’re like Oh Was he okay? Oh, he’s selling well, we mean he saw like there’s so much interest intricacies like I wrote in the theory piece like we don’t know there’s a wrestler about 20 years ago who lost what they call the money the brake brief pace you can read the piece to better understand what the money the bank case does. But there was no way of knowing if you got hurt during before or after the match that but what ended up having a storyline is it just went away. So you don’t know like what could have happened to that where like, when you watch regular sports, right? You’re like, oh, they don’t have the right guard and that guy keeps giving up sacks Right. Like they just fill the hole and create a completely new universe and a new reality in a way that is just simply not the case with other sports. So these people are not interchangeable is the biggest difference between sports and there’s no value over replacement player in terms of quality. There’s only value in there not even value in terms of replacement player in terms of push. It’s how much more of a how much more of the company giving you then you’re giving the company like I said, we are measuring allocated value not
A P 35:28
production. Do you measure this? I know it’s published for for WWE? Do you measure it for AW or other promotions?
Nick Bond 35:37
Guys, I have a
A P 35:42
full time job buddy else who does
Nick Bond 35:44
that? So I will say this. So what gets complicated with AWS, they don’t really do have shows. You need the structure, right? You need how shows the twos, threes and fours. So like WCW right back in the 90s. I just did a piece on Vader, who’s my old one, my two or three all time thing rest of the day man named big van Vader is actually a couple of us with the Boy Meets World for anybody. He’s the wrestler that appears and boy he meets world. I wrote a piece on him. And what was really interesting was trying to figure out how to allocate points or like, you know, value to the different kinds of shows they had on WCW at the time, because there’s like WCW, Saturday night, which is their flagship show, right? So that would be the equivalent of a modern day raw SmackDown in WWE, like worldwide and pro and power and have all these things and you’re like is this A B? So it shows is the C show is like like this worse than a house show. So it becomes this like you’re trying to figure out you’re trying to translate old languages into modern times, is what what can happen with Aw, like I said, they just don’t have
A P 36:50
shows is different. So
Nick Bond 36:53
it’s so different, that it’s difficult. And you couldn’t do this with any of the animals you just couldn’t. Because all independent and if anybody doesn’t know independent wrestling promotions are basically like independent record labels, or independent venues. Like you can go play at them, but you don’t you’re not contractually obligated to them. For the most part. Some places are do have people on contract. For the most part. You are like the definition of a freelancer unless you’re at the highest level like you’re Kevin Owens, who’s now WWE when he was performing as Kevin Steen, he was signed to RLH. But also worked at p wu chi which is Pro Wrestling Guerrilla RLH is the east coast in the biggest East Coast immersion Ring of Honor in the biggest west coast was Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. And he worked both. But there was also an understanding between those two promotions that it’s beneficial to cross promote across the country. So that that’s where you kind of like you can’t do this really with you would have to revamp the system, which is fine, I could do it. But it becomes that’s why I can’t necessarily just do it for a W or impact, or ml W or missing.
A P 38:02
It also then I guess over time, have you thought about how this could be an indicator of health of WWE as a promotion? Because if I look at, you know, you mentioned Drew McIntyre wrestling, you know, 192 matches, you might look over time, that the the mean, or the median number of matches is, is declining over time. It’s 101. Today, but maybe two years, it’s it’s 115. Because they’re put it there. They’re doing well. So they’re having more shows Oh, definitely.
Nick Bond 38:33
Well, yes or no. So yes, but I will say this, the last two years or the previous two years to this one were obviously messed up for reasons. So they didn’t have house shows basically authored 2020. And most of 2021, they started doing house shows again in July of 2021. So those numbers are skewed, wildly, you’re talking before that the highest you would get would be like 180 a year, right? That’s like the highest high end that’s usually tag teams, because you’re I’m not saying you’re doing half the work, but you’re not doing as much work as you would be if you’re a singles competitor, right. And if you’re, if you’re hurt, your partner can just work most of the match and the way to do this if you’re single is competitive. So like that’s where so I would come back if we can do this again in two years. If I’m still working with the rare and I will tell you whether or not that’s true, but yes, I think it is you can see the ways in which raising the average is good, but they have also streamline their operations. So the usages have, I think I can do this. Just give me a second. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, was their schedule. Friday was the house show Saturday and Sunday were house shows Monday and Tuesday were raw and then the smackdown taping so it’s five days in or out and then you would fly home on Wednesday and then fly out on Thursday night because you had to report did you have to be at the arena at three o’clock for show Now they were to house shows and one televised show and pay per view every month. So you’re talking per week they’re working three to four as opposed to every week working five and then sometimes six. Like some people would if you weren’t like you would work a house you know, I’m saying like they would work crazy things and maybe not necessarily work. But it was consistent. You were working five every week. Yeah, two days off. That was it. So like that’s a big change. Because now they they branded specifically the two house shows. They’re the Sunday stunner in the Saturday night’s main event for anybody that grew up in the 80s. That’s that was very funny to me. I was like, wow, that is really devalues.
So yeah, that’s, that’s where like, I think that dynamic will change. So I can’t say definitively that, but I can say yes, it tells me their back on house shows and house shows are always indicative of the business doing well. If you’re having house shows, you’re not having last house shows for anything other than like a pandemic, things are going well. So there are metrics you can use to tell I have to get into and this is where it becomes difficult, really needs to do to figure out how it’s working for them is yeah, the ratings are actually going up. But trends are helpful, right. But how show attendance and how show gates are the two big things that help would help with that aspect of it in terms of the health of the company, because like I said most of their revenue is from licensing deals, live rights and the Saudi money, which is literally started to put the Saudi money in perspective, I think it is more than every ticket sold to every WrestleMania in history times two, I think the total amount of tickets sold at WrestleMania is like 220 million, which you know, good work if you can get it. I think the Saudi deal is like 500 million. Like, it’s an insane, I think it’s 10 years, 50 million a year. So like, that’s where it comes from. So like, that’s the difference you’re talking about is like they don’t need the day to day stuff. But what I would actually want to check is like they’re there. And they actually do have these metrics. It’s in their their investors reports. That’s actually how you tell that was the health of the company, relative to the performers, right? Because what would actually then we’ve talked about it, but it’s only the first year so we’re not really going too crazy. What I’d eventually like to do is associate things like social media flop followers and, and merchandise sales and stuff like that. That’s really where you get the infusion of is this this is the x fit. This is the you know, the the fielding independent stuff. This is the really advanced stuff that like lets you gear into the future and see what
A P 42:50
reliant it’s depending on the charisma of the athlete and how the athlete reaches the audience on there. Yes.
Nick Bond 42:55
And the aesthetics of the athletes. That’s really really important. Like, I don’t like their performance. I don’t like love but I love their shirts, right? You know what I’m saying? Like there’s a lot there’s people I do love actually, the better the other way it’s like I love Drew McIntyre all the shirts are like, nerd metal shirts, which God bless you if you’re like, No, I’m not I like like wearing like, I like wearing stuff that if you look at it, you’re not like, Oh, this is a wrestling shirt. You’re like, oh, that’s a cool shirt. Or that’s, you know, that looks nicer. It’s not gaudy. Also, it’s black. I hate black. It’s an all wrestling shirts, basically. Like almost all the shirts I have for wrestling are not black. It’s like whatever they have what I’m like, I’m gonna support this just because this is what
A P 43:33
I’m gonna buy. I just hope someone gets the idea that they can do not black. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So
Nick Bond 43:40
like, but that’s where you’re really getting the like health of the company in the big picture sense. But I definitely do agree with you. And I definitely do think there is value in looking at the average amount of matches everybody’s working. Because that’s actually the reason that’s a one because it shows you how healthy the roster is. And that’s really important because like to have their biggest stars are out right now. Becky Lynch, who is the baby their biggest star outside of? No, she’s the biggest star her and Roman are either the biggest stars. And Charlie player who’s one of the greatest wrestlers of all time are both out. Charlotte’s not actually heard as far as I can tell. She’s working through some stuff. And also she just got married. So you know, take some time off. You’ve earned it. You’ve been the best wrestler in the company for the last five years. takes time off. And Becky separate your shoulder. So she’s recovering from that. But those are two people also had 100. Becky had like 80 matches and Charlotte had 114 When she left like she had 114 in May. Like she was a workhorse. So like these are that’s where you actually see the value depleted. You’re like, oh god, they’re missing people. Like the amount of people I have with over 100 matches that haven’t worked because they’re hurt. It’s like
A P 44:44
I wouldn’t give me we might use this because it’s like, going back to baseball. It’s like relief pitchers that are innings eaters. I know I have to get through a week I know I have to get through nine times 654 innings and if someone can Throw eight innings a week without complaining like that’s a valuable person.
Nick Bond 45:05
Yeah, that’s what your backyard as he said he him and Seamus and guys like are there any theaters there on the TV to get beat up or beat people up for 10 to 15 minutes every single time. Because they’re good at it. And they if people want to see him for 15 minutes, that’s the biggest thing is people aren’t gonna change the channel when those big boys are bumping into the load
A P 45:20
management model where they’re looking and saying okay, oh, definitely have more than 100 appearances.
Nick Bond 45:28
Yeah, oh, definitely. I definitely think that they kind of go hey, man, but also you these are athletes, these are high. Some of the highest level professional athletes there are in terms of like, not obviously, they’re not Justin Jefferson on the Minnesota Vikings, right. But they’re like that lineman. They may not be as big but they’re, they’re that skilled athletes and they’re that trained and that relative to their peers that good. So like, These people don’t want to look money, a lot of them, like the new biggest capital. Yeah, I’m not the biggest capitalist, but I get it. So, ya know, that’s a lot of it is you can’t, as long as they’re putting on the show that they’re supposed to, you can’t necessarily tell them, hey, don’t work can’t work unless you’re going to take them off. So that’s where it becomes complicated. But what you can do is go slow it down, slow it way, way, way down. Like there’s, there’s people who in the territory days, when take bumps, they wouldn’t they’re not touching the mat. Like, they’re gonna powder the outside and they’re gonna lose by counter but they’re not taking a bump
A P 46:35
for protecting them. They’re, they’re protecting the
Nick Bond 46:39
product or their bodies was smart. Like the one of the big things that a lot of the older guys are like, you don’t need to be doing all that buddy. Not that it’s not cool. Like you’re gonna hurt yourself. Like there’s like Randy Orton is one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. He does like 10 moves, it’s all the way he rolls out of the rain. We sit in the corner and we look at his opponent the way he slides, we glides in the rain. That’s what makes him Randy Orton, not by the fact that he can like do a hammer lock, and then do like a backflip or whatever now, it’s never been him. It’s about getting people to engage with the thing that you’re presenting, and he does it exceptionally well. And that’s what as you get older performers do. Drew McIntyre doesn’t do all the moves he did when he was a kid. Brock Lesnar used to do Brock Lesnar used to do a backflip,
A P 47:33
which is if you do for people who aren’t familiar, he’s I don’t know how close he is.
Nick Bond 47:38
six foot four 285 pounds. And he’s better he has muscles in places other people don’t have places like yeah, he’s one of the
A P 47:48
key has evolved human.
Nick Bond 47:52
Yeah, Pat McAfee calls him the alpha male of our species, but he looks like he honestly looks like a gorilla person. Like he books like a person that they were like, no one’s gonna make him look like a gorilla. But that’s what he looks like. And he did a backflip and they were like, Let’s not doing man, you’re gonna literally break your necks.
A P 48:09
Nick, this is amazing. Where
Nick Bond 48:14
was this? Okay,
A P 48:15
I’m sorry. It’s delightful.
Nick Bond 48:20
Nobody’s ever said that.
A P 48:23
communicates your passion for this. And your your interest. I love this. I think for people listening. The idea of how do you derive the formula is there’s a science, there’s math behind it. But if you weren’t interested in it, if you weren’t passionate about solving that question, you wouldn’t have done it. So I think I think the labeling is it’s actually helpful.
Nick Bond 48:52
The next year th e and one CK s t er, and that is on Twitter for the time being. I think I’m on Instagram with that too. But I only have like four pictures on Instagram. I’m more of a lurker on Instagram. And you can check me out at the ringer.com/author/nick-bond or wrestling dot the ringer.com. That’s the PowerBoard we just talked about. And you can see the numbers. And then I do a little copy blurb. A lot of jokes in that, that are specifically for me, like a lot of Venture Brothers jokes
A P 49:19
and stuff like that gets 80% of them, I think.
Nick Bond 49:23
Thank you, buddy. You’re so nice to me.
A P 49:26
I think I just enjoy, just enjoy what you’re doing. Well, thank you for doing it to all those places in the show notes here. But I appreciate the first conversation. I appreciate the second conversation and God willing, we will we will meet again.
Nick Bond 49:40
Oh yeah, anytime, buddy. I’m happy to be regular on this. I love
A P 49:44
you man. Thanks again. The Strategy Inside Everything is produced by me, Adam Pierno If you like what you’ve heard, leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. Actually, I have no idea if that helps, or if it’s ever done anybody any good. If you really want to help the show, and you liked what you heard, share it with someone else who you think will dig it. That’s the best way to help the show and keep the conversation growing. New Music for the strategy inside everything is by Sawsquarenoise. If you have an idea, a question or want to push back on something you hear here, go to thatsnotaninsight.com and leave a message or a voicemail for me. If you want more information on your host Adam Pierno you can find it on adampierno.com and learn about my books, speaking and consulting practice. Thanks so much for listening.
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