Is ESPN Really Paying Someone to Make WWE Power Rankings?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of power rankings. They’re a great source of conversation and debate among sports fans, bloggers, and analysts alike. And I also (for a time) was a gigantic pro wrestling fan–from the middle school years until, rather embarrassingly, well into my college years and beyond. (OK, I still get a kick out of watching it every now and then, but it’s nothing like the good ol’ Stone Cold Steve Austin and Rocky Balboa days, before his 9th return to the ring after filming a movie.) But ESPN has gone a step far, in my opinion, with their latest foray in the power rankings craze.

Despite my being four months late to the party (the WWE Power Rankings page under ESPN’s Playbook site launched January of this year), time will never run out on the clock to completely rag on the website that prides itself on being the “World Wide Leader in Sports” for employing some former video-game writer to be their Pro Wrestling beat reporter. And can someone please explain to me the science that goes into deciding who the top 10 roided-up entertainers are in a scripted sport that relies more on the story lines and between-match promos to keep fans interested than the actual matches?

I set out to answer the question for myself, and in going through the 13 weeks of “power rankings” of the WWE’s roster of wrestlers, I’ve learned three things about them and how they’re constructed.

  1. There is absolutely no science to this. Plain and simple. In the 13 weeks of top 10 rankings, 26 different names appeared on the list. But it’s not even just names, there are combinations, tag teams if you will, that appear one week, and then the individuals from that tag team appear separately the next week. It’s madness, I tell you! Taking this unreasonably further, aside from the debut week for the board, there were no fewer than three new unranked individuals that appeared in each new power rankings chart. Still further, nothing stopped those unranked people (or tag teams) from cracking into the top 5–only in two of the 13 weeks did a newly-ranked person not leap to the top of the chart. In week 11–March 19th’s Power Rankings–four of the top five were brand new faces. And for those who care about these things, there was only one lady wrestler ranked in these first 13 weeks, and she was ranked 10th… What a mess this is.
  2. Jon Robinson–that former video game writer in charge of this thing–sucks C.M. Punk’s cock frequently and hard. Punk (the man who’s “so good at being bad, it’s crazy to think of him as anything else but the best heel in the business”) is far and away the “most consistent” pro wrestler out there according to the expert. He’s been in the top 10 every week, in the top 5 in 11 of the 13, and ranked number 1 for a power-rankings best 7 weeks. Robinson has advocated for Punk being the guy to “put the 1 in 20-1,” or, in essence, being the first man to beat The Undertaker at WrestleMania. And when he dropped to sixth, it of course was not Punk’s fault: “I don’t know what happened to the writing (or lack thereof) on Raw last night,” Robinson writes. “[But] even the dependable ‘best in the world’ seemed to fumble through his segment.” Get off it, man.
  3. If you’re going to find someone to put this kind of thing together, they better be one crazy weirdo who can devote one hell of a lot of time to professional wrestling. Credit ESPN for finding that man, whose craziness is evidenced through his bio that appears at the end of each post: Ever since he first handed the ball to Bo Jackson in “Tecmo Bowl,” Jon Robinson has been mesmerized by the world of sports video games. He’s been covering the gaming beat professionally for over 15 years, starting his career writing as “Johnny Ballgame” for GamePro magazine before becoming the founding editor of IGN Sports. Robinson co-wrote the book “The Madden Phenomenon,” and his two latest works, “Rumble Road” and “WWE My Favorite Match,” were released by Simon & Schuster in July 2010 and July 2012. What a cool kid…

I really don’t know what to make of all this. It’s kind of embarrassing if you ask me. I get the idea that ESPN wants to try to connect with a wide range of audiences, and I get why some people would be fooled into believing that professional wrestling is a sport. I’m perfectly fine with including some WWE coverage (or TNA even), because it falls under the category of “entertainment”. (I mean, if poker and the spelling bee can be on ESPN, why not include some fake fighting?) But what baffles me is why they decided to completely disrespect the concept of the Power Ranking by diluting their pages with this fake crap. Not to mention the money being wasted on hiring someone to arbitrarily pick names for this list each week.

Does anyone else feel the same way about this? Or am I just being an over-analytical nut job?

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