Once again, Seth Rollins has made headlines with his quotes. The former WWE and Universal Champion spoke with BT Sport’s Ariel Helwani and divulged his thoughts on a number of topics. While his thoughts on his place in the company and how Roman Reigns’ rise has affected it, his thoughts on the importance of wins and losses in wrestling generated just as much conversation.

“Wins & losses don’t matter, to a point they do, but not nearly as much. It’s pro-wrestling, the stories, that’s what matters, making people feel something.”

To be fair, Rollins’ point about “making people feel something” is obviously correct, and he’s not entirely wrong about match results. However…

Seth Rollins saying that wins and losses don’t matter that much undercuts why they’re such a vital part of wrestling storytelling.

At the most basic level, we get it. Professional wrestling is a scripted sport in which the person who’s in charge of a promotion’s creative direction chooses who wins and who loses. In that respect, of course match results in pro wrestling don’t hold the same weight that, say, a victory or a defeat does in the NFL or in the NBA.

What makes professional wrestling great, however, is the wrestlers’ ability to make the fans care about whether they win or lose despite the general knowledge that the participants already know how the proceedings will end.

At the most basic level, wins and losses establish credibility for the wrestlers and, depending on how often certain wrestlers win or lose, put each result in its proper context. Some of the best wrestling stories (Goldberg’s streak, the build to [racist] Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant at WrestleMania IIIThe Undertaker’s WrestleMania winning streak, 1-2-3 Kid pinning Razor Ramon) depend heavily on the fans’ investment in one wrestler winning and one losing.

There are plenty of modern examples, too. Would Maxwell Jacob Friedman’s current “I’m gonna leave AEW and take the world title with me” story work as well if he lost more matches than he’s won? If Jon Moxley spent 2022 losing to everyone with a pulse, would him putting MJF over mean nearly as much? And if wins and losses aren’t that meaningful, why hasn’t Roman Reigns, WWE’s top star, lost a match in nearly two years?

Yes, some wrestlers eventually get so over that they become immune to the effects of wins and losses; you could argue that Rollins — who has remained popular with the fans despite losing numerous big pay-per-view matches — fits into that category (Sami Zayn is another good example, as is Eddie Kingston), which probably explains why he has the perspective he does.

That said, we’ve also seen plenty of wrestlers who watched as the fans’ belief in their character dwindled with every loss (see: Bray Wyatt and Dolph Ziggler). After a while, it didn’t matter how many great performances and wacky segments they took part in, fans simply dismissed them because they knew it would only lead to those wrestlers losing.

For years, WWE has trained its audience into believing that wins and losses are meaningless. There is a method to this madness: de-centering W-L records from WWE canon allows the company to ignore past results and, theoretically, make it easier to push wrestlers up the card. Of course, WWE’s lack of top stars outside of Reigns and Bianca Belair — another wrestler who seldom loses — shows how well that strategy has worked out for the promotion.

While wacky stories will always exist in pro wrestling, the main draw for wrestling fans will always be the intrigue of finding out which wrestler is better via in-ring competition and tracking a wrestler’s journey to a big championship win. Neither of those things is nearly as compelling without emphasizing the importance of wins and losses.

Otherwise, we’re just watching people do moves for two or three hours.

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