Editorials

An Explanation of TKD’s Match Rating System

If you’ve read any of my reviews, you’ve realized that I use a system of descriptive terms rather than star ratings. While the terms can be interpreted loosely, they actually do have well defined meanings in my mind, and it occurred to me that I’ve never formally laid out those meanings, or why I find these terms more useful than the more ubiquitous star ratings. This article will attempt to clarify my system and why I use it.

To be clear, although I explain why I myself don’t use stars, this is more about explaining the rationale behind my system rather than criticizing stars, or any other rating system. I have no problem with reviews that choose to use stars, or those that eschew a rating completely. My system works for me; other reviewers should use what works for them.

First, a little bit of history: When I got into lucha, I quickly grew acclimated to Luchablog‘s excellent/great/good/ok scale, so I have a sense of calibration along those lines. My cutoffs have since deviated from his a bit as I’ve found it more useful to tweak my scale terms along how I tend to think about matches.

I could easily translate my descriptive ratings to the more conventional stars (or any other numerical-based system), but I’ve noticed that everyone’s calibration points are slightly different. Some people don’t use negative star ratings; to me, that wouldn’t do proper justice to the amount of crap that exists in lucha. I’ve also noticed that the cutoff for recommended matches is anywhere from *** to ****. Part of this is a matter of how conservative the recommendation is, but for me it’s an important mental calibration point that tends to go under-explained.

Another aspect that tends to guide my ratings is that I set my cutoffs where they feel natural to me, but those points are not necessarily evenly spaced. There is probably not that much of a difference between “eh” and “ok”, but there are a large number of matches in that range, so I find it useful to differentiate them explicitly.

For me, all of this means that numerical systems, even the venerable star system, need a calibration context. So I’ve decided to stick with descriptive terms that form my natural rubric that I have to explain anyway rather than to adapt my ratings to a scale for which too many subtle variations exist.

The actual rating terms that I use are:

  • classic: Highest possible rating. Rarely given, and equivalent to *****.
  • excellent: MOTYC.
  • great: Very memorable and highly recommended match.
  • very good: Watch if you keep up with lucha (or the relevant area of the match) regularly. This is a step below “great” but worth making the time to see. A “very good” match wouldn’t make a short list of the best matches of the year, but if you’ve gone through the higher-rated stuff, this is the next tier. The important thing here is that very good is, by my own definition, the minimum level for me to recommend a match.
  • good: Solid match but unremarkable in the long run.
  • ok: Some redeeming qualities and/or a handful of good moments but flawed for one or more reasons.
  • eh: Totally forgettable match, fewer good qualities than “ok” but not something that I would call actively bad. (This is actually probably a euphemism for the start of “below average”, but we’ll be generous. It’s the moral equivalent of a D in school.)
  • below average: A match with significant detracting problems that noticeably outweigh any redeeming qualities.
  • bad: Difficult to watch and very poorly executed. Among the worst matches of the year in a remotely respectable promotion. (Leyendas Inmortales is not a remotely respectable promotion.)
  • no: Very few, if any, watchable moments. This is not a “no” as in “no rating”, but rather “no, do not watch”.
  • NR: No rating. This is given usually when an angle or exceptional circumstances (such as a riot) completely derail a match and make it unfair or impossible to rate it. Normally, I do give a proper rating for unimpeded short matches (e.g., squashes) that reach a conclusion.

Within “ok”, “good”, “very good”, “great”, and “excellent”, I may assign a “+” modifier to denote matches close to the next-higher grade.

Again, this is a system that works for me, and hopefully I’ve at least explained it sufficiently to give my ratings proper context.

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