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The Critical Angle: Testing WWE’s “law of opposite momentum”

If everyone thinks so, then it must be true, right? Think again.

The idea that a WWE wrestler will win their pay-per-view match if they lose on the go-home television show is a pervasive one. But what does the data say?


The winners of WWE PPV matches are very likely to lose their match on the go-home show before the PPV.


All PPV results were recorded during the approximately one-year period beginning with SummerSlam 2016 and extending through Battleground 2017. The results for the Raw and Smackdown shows before those PPVs were also recorded. PPV kick-off matches, dark matches, 205 Live matches and Main Event matches were not counted. The larger, multi-person matches from Survivor Series were also omitted due to the sheer number of competitors involved. All match results were taken from Please note that percentages in the results section may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

The results were divided into four categories:

1) PPV match winner won on the go-home show
2) PPV match winner lost on the go-home show
3) PPV match winner did not wrestle on the go-home show
4) No one in the PPV match wrestled on the go-home show

No data presented on the “Cena Wins LOL” hypothesis


Table 1: Go-home show results for the winner of WWE PPV matches

PPV Match categories

Number of matches

Winner won on the go-home show (%)

Winner lost on the go-home show (%)

Winner did not wrestle on the go-home show (%)

No one wrestled on the go-home show (%)

All 124 26 29 15 30
Title 70 29 29 14 29
Non-Title 54 22 30 15 33
Women’s 27 26 22 15 37
Women’s Title 15 33 20 7 40
Universal Title 8 0 25 13 62
WWE Title 10 20 10 20 50
Intercontinental Title 7 43 29 0 29
US Title 6 33 33 17 17
Tag Team Title 16 38 44 13 6
Cruiserweight Title 8 25 25 37 0

Table 2: Go-home show results for the Champion in WWE PPV Title matches

Title matches (%)

Champion won title match (%)

Champion lost the title (%)

Champion retained by disqualification or count out (%)

All Title matches

100 54 37 9

Champion won on go-home show

31 52 38 10

Champion lost on go-home show

22 60 13 27

Champion didn’t wrestle on go-home show

46 52 48 0


Between SummerSlam 2016 and Battleground 2017, there were 124 matches on WWE PPV.

The winner lost their go-home show match in 29% of these matches, whereas the winner won their go-home match 26% of the time (and 30% of the time, neither competitor in a PPV match wrestled on the go-home show).

So yes, wrestlers are more likely to win a PPV match if they lose on the go-home show, but not to any significant degree. With a difference of just three percentage points, it’s basically a coin flip.

If you only count the 70 PPV title matches, there is no difference at all between winning or losing on the go-home show.

Other types of matches buck the general trend. If you only count the 70 PPV title matches, there is no difference at all between winning or losing on the go-home show, as both likelihoods have a frequency of 29%. In non-title matches, the winner is more likely to lose on the go-home show, losing 30% of the time and winning only 22%.

Contrary to popular wisdom, women’s matches (including those for either the Raw or Smackdown Live Women’s title), Intercontinental title and WWE title matches are more likely to be won by wrestlers who win on the go-home show. The Intercontinental Champion is most likely to retain if they win their go-home show match, at a rate of 43% to 29%. In contrast, and lining up with the adage, no wrestler who won the Universal title match has won a match on the go-home show, while the winner lost 25% of the time.

Table 2 shows the breakdown for the title matches from the perspective of the champion. Champions are much more likely to win on the go-home show, and also much more likely to retain the title, winning 54% of title matches and retaining by disqualification or count-out in 9% of title matches.

The frequency of the champion retaining is at its highest (87%) when they lose on the go-home show. This fits the hypothesis, and adds to the drama and expectations of a title change. The frequency of a title change is highest when the champion does not have a title match, occurring 48% of the time. Interestingly, during the time period covered by this analysis, the champion has never retained the title by count-out or disqualification when they have not wrestled on the go-home show.

In summary, the hypothesis that wrestlers are more likely to win a PPV match if they lose on the go-home show does appear to be supported by the data, although it’s anything but overwhelmingly, contrary to what many of us think. The results are very close and this may be by accident rather than by design. Losers on the go-home show are most likely to win non-title PPV matches. This trend does not apply to all types of matches, including Women’s matches and Intercontinental title matches. The most interesting and statistically significant result is that the champion retains their title 87% of the time when they lose on the go-home show, which supports the hypothesis for title matches.

Will Rusev reign on Sunday?

Predict the Future

So now we have at least one apparent trend emerging from the data. Problem is, when you look for enough different trends in a large data set, illusory patterns can appear just due to randomness. The next step to take in a scientific analysis of this question is to use these trends to make predictions, and see if the hypothesis is further validated. If not, the pattern may have been a coincidence. If so, the hypothesis survives to face another test later.

Presented below are our data-driven predictions for SummerSlam 2017.

WWE Title – Jinder Mahal(c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura. Mahal won, Nakamura did not wrestle. Prediction – Mahal wins (high confidence)

Smackdown Tag Titles – New Day (c) vs. The Usos. Usos won, New Day lost. Prediction – New Day win (high confidence)

Cruiserweight Title – Tozawa (c) vs. Neville (c). Tozawa won, Neville lost. Prediction – Tozawa wins (high confidence)

Randy Orton vs. Rusev. Rusev lost, Orton did not wrestle. Prediction – Rusev wins (high confidence)

Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt. Wyatt won, Balor lost. Prediction – Balor wins (high confidence)

WWE Universal Title – Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe. No one wrestled. Prediction – Brock Lesnar wins (low confidence)

Raw Women’s Title Match – Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Sasha Banks. Banks won, Bliss did not wrestle. Prediction – Sasha Banks wins (low confidence)

Raw Tag Team Titles – Seamus & Cesaro (c) vs. Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins. No one wrestled. Prediction – Ambrose & Rollins win (low confidence)

Smackdown Women’s Title – Naomi (c) vs. Natalya. Natalya won, Naomi did not wrestle. Prediction – Naomi wins (low confidence)

US Title – AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens. No one wrestled. Prediction – Owens wins (low confidence)

Baron Corbin vs. John Cena. Cena lost, Corbin lost. Prediction – Cena wins (low confidence)

Big Cass vs. Big Show. No one wrestled. Prediction – Big Show wins (low confidence)

Tune in to WWE SummerSlam this Sunday to find out if our data-driven predictions can beat out the standard ones!

The Critical Angle is a recurring feature that uses critical thinking and skepticism to analyze pop culture phenomena. Skepticism is an approach to evaluating claims that emphasizes evidence and applies the tools of science. Rather than repeating the same old assertions, we put them to the test.


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