I’ve heard and read a lot of wrestling talk (and talk about wrestling, www.shiningwizards.com Son!) and there seems to be a general acceptance of not only Dave Meltzer’s opinions about wrestling (which is fine; different strokes and all), but also his vaunted Five-Star match rating system.
And frankly, that pisses me off.
First of all, it isn’t really a Five-Star system. Maybe it started out that way, I don’t know, but it’s now a Twenty-Star system thanks to the inclusion of 1/4 and 1/2 stars. What the fuck is 1/2 a star??
I’ll tell you what it is, it’s a cheap tool used by gutless people who don’t have the balls to call it like they see it.
Does Meltzer or anyone else who uses this bullshit system really expect us to believe that a wrestling match can be broken down to such minute detail that there is actually a difference of such significance between two matches that they must be separated by one-quater of a star? Are you fucking kidding me??
No, apparently they’re not kidding. Because everyone just swallows this garbage. You see it all the time. Keyboard jockeys like me posting their “reviews” on Twitter giving matches “3 and 1/4 stars” or taking the time to video record themselves for their YouTube channels so they can say with a straight face that this match “could’ve been a five-star classic, but I’m giving it four and a half.” How about giving yourself four and half? Years off from humanity, that is.
Secondly, the system is completely arbitrary. What’s the criteria of a “five-star classic”? And what can drop a five-star classic down to four and a half? Who the fuck knows? The criteria for judging under Meltzer’s system has never been clearly defined. Not even by Meltzer himself. But that hasn’t stopped people from using it. I doubt they even know why they give out the ratings that they do. All depends on whether they were having their fanboy period that day or not, I guess.
But I didn’t come here just to piss on what someone else has done without offering an alternative. And in all seriousness I would like to say that I hope my alternative catches on. Because frankly, who is Dave Meltzer? And why should we give two shits about what he has to say about anything? He’s just another guy with another opinion. His is no more valid than yours or mine. He has his preferences that sway his ratings just like we all do. So fuck him and his standard.
It’s time to establish a better grading criteria. And with that in mind I give you….
HANDSOME DAN’S FIVE-STAR SYSTEM
I know. Profound, right? But let’s face it, people use a star system to grade everything. I thought about going with something more unique but stars are easy and besides, the problem isn’t what you use, but how you use it. So let’s go.
No Star –
- A bad match. A botchfest. Something that robs the crowd of all it’s energy. Think CM Punk vs. Elijah Burke from WWECW. Not familiar with that match? Oh, you’re in for a treat. Here’s a just a taste.
One Star –
- The basic match you would see on Raw or Smackdown. Can’t honestly be called “bad” but nothing special either. If you saw Raw this week, all of those matches, with the exception of the six-man tag, were One Star matches.
Two Star –
- In Meltzer’s system, two stars is looked upon as mediocre. I disagree. Every star should above one should be an improvement upon mediocre. In my system, if a match isn’t bad (No Star), and it’s better than average (One Star), it’s what I like to call Textbook. That six-man tag team match last night, thanks in large part to Daniel Bryan’s ten-second flurry, was elevated from your basic, run-of-the-mill match, to something that truly captured the crowd’s imagination and got them emotionally invested. Lots of factors play a part in elevating a match to Two-Star status: perfect match length, plaement on the card, crowd response. It’s not just about what takes place inside the ring. A Two-Star match can contain botches as long as they aren’t so glaring that they distract from the overall experience. A Textbook match is your basic, fun wrestling match.
Three Star –
- A Textbook or Two-Star match that is elevated to a Three-Star match because of something memorable that occured: a significant title change (not just any title change; because these days they throw belts around like old women throw panties at a Tom Jones concert), a big name match-up, a major industry milestone. It should meet the criteria of a basic, fun wrestling match, but because of the significance of it, it’s more memorable. Which is why I’ve titled the Three-Star match, Memorable. The best example I can think of this is Hollywood Hogan vs. The Rock at WrestleMania X8. It wasn’t a technical classic, they didn’t push the boundaries of athleticism, but the atmosphere of that event was so electric, it has to be called more than just Textbook. It was Memorable.
Four Stars –
- A Textbook (Two-Star) match can leap-frog Memorable (Three-Star) status right up to Four-Star status simply because sometimes there are matches that take place that are so good as to almost be called great, but because of their placement on the card, the lack of reputation of the participants, the lack of notoriety of the promotion, they aren’t as memorable as say, Hogan vs. Rock. Now, there are some Four-Star matches that have gotten the recognition they deserve and have stood the test of time and almost always get mentioned in conversations of exceptional matches of the past. One example would be Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage from WrestleMania III. Those two pushed the limits of athletic performance and storytelling to the degree that the match can truly be called exceptional. Which also happens to be what I’ve title the Four-Star match, Exceptional. A match enters this lofty company almost entirely based on what takes place inside the ring. The other factors do play a part as well, but to seriously be considered for Four-Star status, the wrestlers need to have pushed the limits to some extent. I’m not talking about extreme high spots, because those can take away from a good match just as easily as they can add to it, in my opinion. But pushing the limits of the ordinary Textbook match. Giving a little more. A recent example of this that I can think of would be the CM Punk vs. John Cena match from Raw, February 25th. It probably won’t be readily recalled by most fans in a few years because WWE isn’t going to constantly remind us of it the way they do the more “storied” match-ups of the past. But those two gave a little more than your standard Textbook match. They definitely pushed the limits of athleticism and entertainment. And the result was a truly Exceptional match and deserving of being called Four-Star quality.
Five Star –
- This is the rareified air reserved for those matches that can truly be called Great. I’m afraid we throw the term “great” around far too loosely. The proof?
- Great is a word that should be reserved for essentially what amounts to the perfect match. Like with the other ratings, what makes a match perfect doesn’t always depend upon what happens inside the ring. It can be the significance of the match at the time that it occurred that elevates it, something that is hard for fans watching retroactively to fully appreciate or even comprehend. But the bottom line is, the decision to declare a match a “Five-Star Classic” is not something that should be taken lightly. In my system, there’s no shame in Four-Star status. An Exceptional match is just that. But does it deserve to be called Great? I don’t think there should be a lot of Great matches. Even the one match that comes to mind that I would be tempted to award Five Stars, I hesitate on simply because I’m not sure if it truly deserves the honor. But just for shits and gigs, that would be Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle at WrestleMania 21. The reason I consider this the perfect match is because there was the big stage (WrestleMania), the big names, the total absence of outside interfence, no gimmicks or special stipulations, it was the perfect length, and it had a clean finish (those last two almost make it sound dirty. See? You weren’t the only one who was thinking it!) To me, all of those factors are what elevate it above matches like Steamboat – Savage.
But the beauty of my system, is the final decision is up to you. We’re the only ones that really care in the long run. We do this simply for our enjoyment as fans. It’s fun to bring these things up for debate every now and then. Only now you no longer have to be frustrated at the criteria no longer being clearly defined. Instead of having to listen to Steve or Joe being able to insist upon Mankind vs. Undertaker being a Four-Star match “just because” and having no way to argue back, NOW you can say, “Listen asshole, according to Handsome Dan’s Five-Star System, that match was clearly a Three-Star Memorable so you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about!”
Okay, you don’t have to mention my name. But it would be cool if you did. And maybe you agree with those assholes, Steve and Joe. And you think that Undertaker vs. Mankind really was a Four-Star Classic. Go nuts! That’s up to you. But let’s start making sense when we talk about the things that we love, like wrestling. And let’s stop paying homage to the critics who have come before by simply taking everything they did and running with it. There’s no harm in establishing our own standards. Especially if they’re better.
Is that it? Ohhhh no! This is only the beginning. I plan on posting match reviews right here on Wrestling Rambles. Because I’m going to drive this point home like it’s Super Bowl Sunday, my team won and my wife is drunk! Or something like that.
But for now, that is the Last Word. Don’t be shy. Tell me what you think about Handsome Dan’s Five-Star System and tell your friends about it and see if they don’t think it’s cool, and that you’re cool as a result for mentioning it to them. Until next time, you adorable wrestling fans…..discuss!