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Despite what WWE says, champions fare really well defending against multiple opponents

Going into Clash of Champions, there are multiple title matches that have more than one challenger. The tag champions Usos are defending in a fatal 4-way while Baron Corbin has to defend his United States title in a triple threat.

That brings out the inevitable math from WWE. “Baron Corbin has only one third chance to retain his title. The Usos only have 1/4 chance.” (To be fair, they didn’t press this as much this time around as compared to other recent multi-person matches.)

The reasoning makes sense. With multiple evenly skilled teams, the Usos would only have a 25% chance. At least less than half. But that never felt right to me. It always seemed like champions come out of triple threats and fatal 4-ways retaining the title more often than not.

I was curious enough to turn to Cageside’s numbers guy, Cain A. Knight, to crunch some data.

Using his pay-per-view (PPV) data spanning back to 2013, he looked at every triple threat match and fatal 4-way match. In that time there were 15 triple threat and 9 fatal 4-way championship matches, excluding elimination-style rules.

  • Of the 15 triple threat matches, the champion retained 10 times, giving them a 67% success rate.
  • Of the 9 fatal 4-way matches, the champion retained 6 times, give them a 67% success rate in those matches.

Here’s the full table with information on all 24 matches:

Triple Threat and Fatal 4-Way Championship matches from 2013 - 2017

Match Participants Event Name Year Event Number Championship Title Change? Type
Match Participants Event Name Year Event Number Championship Title Change? Type
Barrett vs Miz vs Axel Payback 2013 5 IC Yes Triple Threat
AJ vs Natalya vs Brie vs Naomi Night Of Champions 2013 8 Divas No Fatal 4-Way
Cody/Goldust vs Shield vs Usos Hell In A Cell 2013 10 Tag No Triple Threat
Orton vs Batista vs Bryan WrestleMania 30 2014 3 WWE WHC Yes Triple Threat
Cena vs Kane vs Orton vs Reigns Battleground 2014 7 WWE WHC No Fatal 4-Way
Paige vs AJ vs Nikki Night of Champions 2014 9 Divas Yes Triple Threat
Dust Bros vs Usos vs Miz/Mizdow vs Matadores Survivor Series 2014 11 Tag Yes Fatal 4-Way
Lesnar vs Cena vs Rollins Royal Rumble 2015 1 WWE WHC No Triple Threat
Lesnar vs Reigns vs Rollins WrestleMania 31 2015 3 WWE WHC Yes Triple Threat
Rollins vs Ambrose vs Reigns vs Orton Payback 2015 5 WWE WHC No Fatal 4-Way
Nikki vs Naomi vs Paige Elimination Chamber 2015 6 Divas No Triple Threat
PTP vs New Day vs Lucha vs Matadores SummerSlam 2015 9 Tag Yes Fatal 4-Way
Ryback vs Miz vs Big Show SummerSlam 2015 9 IC No Triple Threat
NewDay vs Lucha vs Usos TLC 2015 13 Tag No Triple Threat
Charlotte vs Sasha vs Becky WrestleMania 32 2016 3 Womens No Triple Threat
Miz vs Zayn vs Owens vs Cesaro Extreme Rules 2016 5 IC No Fatal 4-Way
NewDay vs Enzo/Cass vs Club vs Vaude Money in the Bank 2016 6 Tag No Fatal 4-Way
Ambrose vs Rollins vs Reigns Battleground 2016 7 WWE WHC No Triple Threat
Charlotte vs Sasha vs Bayley Clash of Champions 2016 10 Womens (Raw) No Triple Threat
Styles vs Ambrose vs Cena No Mercy 2016 11 WWE WHC No Triple Threat
Swann vs Perkins vs Kendrick Roadblock: End of the Line 2016 15 Cruiser No Triple Threat
Club vs Hardys vs Enzo & Cass vs Bar WrestleMania 33 2017 4 Tag (Raw) Yes Fatal 4-Way
Lesnar vs Reigns vs Joe vs Strowman SummerSlam 2017 11 Universal No Fatal 4-Way
Styles vs Dillinger vs Corbin Hell in a Cell 2017 13 US Yes Triple Threat

It should be noted that there were two triple threat matches that Cain and I debated.

One was the triple threat main event at WrestleMania 31 where Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase at the end of the Brock Lesnar/Roman reigns match to make it a triple threat. The argument could be made that WWE’s “1/3 chance” rule wouldn’t apply here because you had two guys who had been battling for 20 minutes and therefore Seth had way more than a 33% chance. For the purposes of this analysis, we counted this as a title change in a triple threat match.

The other was the Women’s triple threat match at WrestleMania 32. Charlotte was the champion going in and coming out of the match and in that sense, I felt it fit the feel of what we were doing here. However that was the match where they introduced the new Women’s title. So technically it could be said that Charlotte won a new title in a triple threat and didn’t retain hers. For the purposes of this analysis, we counted it as a successful title defense.

If you removed the Seth Rollins Mania win, that would change the tally from 10/15 to 10/14 and raise the percentage of title retention to 71%. If you removed just the Charlotte win, it would lower it to 9/14 or 65%. If you removed both, it’d be 9/13 or 69%. All still over that 50% mark.

Clearly WWE’s math on these multi-person/team matches are very wonky. It’s not as outrageous as Steiner math, but the narrative that the champion is at a disadvantage headed into triple threats or fatal 4-ways has not been supported by the last 5 years of history.

Congrats to the Usos and Baron Corbin in advance!

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