Written by Tucker Leighty-Phillips
The Evolution of Pro Wrestling? Looking at Ospreay vs. Ricochet
There isn’t a wrestling fan alive who hasn’t dealt with the inevitable “You know it’s fake, right?” when the subject of wrestling is brought up.
Yes, wrestling is predetermined and nearly every fan is aware. There are a number of reasons why fans watch it, but none of them are “because it is real.” Many fans anticipate being asked, and have a retort prepared, something like “Well, Star Wars is fake, but you watch that, don’t you?”
It’s just something wrestling fans have come to expect. The wrestling industry has come to expect it as well, and their efforts to evolve and keep fans interested despite this common knowledge have gone to spectacular reaches, and this week’s New Japan Pro Wrestling Super Juniors match between Will Ospreay and Ricochet have set the bar for a new level of wrestling – a bar shrouded in controversy.
It’s been such a busy holiday weekend that I wasn’t able to watch the most talked about match in wrestling until this afternoon, and it certainly lived up to expectations. For those who have not seen the match, it was nearly twenty minutes of athleticism, complete with flips, dives, and plenty of one-upmanship throughout. The match was a dazzling duet of flailing limbs and the two competitors were charismatic and vibrant together, but many have taken to social media to express complaints in regards to the match. Arguably the most vocal dissenter has been former WCW heavyweight champion Vader, who referred to the match as a “memorized gymnastics routine” and that he is saddened by “the direction wrestling is headed.”
This is a memorized gymnastic/dance rountine it saddenens me to see the direction wrestling is headed https://t.co/TvU9eTkBC0
— Big Van Vader (@itsvadertime) May 27, 2016
As wrestling evolves to keep up with the twenty-first century, the meta game of wrestling has evolved as well. We are beginning to see more of the occasional subtle nod or fourth wall break to wrestling’s predetermined storylines, (one of the more famous ones being John Cena’s “heel turn” joke on an August 2013 episode of Raw), and fans eat it up. Being a wrestling fan is no longer about suspending disbelief, but about being entertained by the performers in a multitude of ways, and the Ricochet/Osprey Super Juniors match was a new form of entertainment for the fans.
Many would say that the number one factor of a great wrestling match is being able to tell a story in the ring. As wrestling evolves, the story changes. What we are witnessing is an evolution of the sport as a whole.
Fans want something new, and with that comes a wide array of different match types, some more serious than others. Do comedy matches lessen the main event? Is one less “wrestling” than the other? If two wrestlers intend to go out and run through a couple of comedy spots in a quick five minute match, does that hurt the industry as a whole? These matches and main event matches are two sides of the same coin and as long as they entertain the crowd, then they’ve done their job. Should this match be treated any differently? Ricochet and Ospreay got the crowd fired up and received an ovation upon the match’s conclusion, and presumably that is the goal of a wrestling match, to entertain the fans and get them to cheer.
Every person is different, our tastes and interests are different as well. That is why variety and genres exists. Enjoying a movie like The Godfather doesn’t mean you cannot also enjoy Joe Dirt. You don’t watch one expecting the other, and the same can be said for watching Ricochet/Ospreay or a Doink the Clown match. If anything, making every match like Undertaker/Michaels cheapens Undertaker and Michaels. Giving the crowd that variety of stories will make the good stories great, and the great stories legendary. Ricochet and Will Ospreay have simply worked together to bring the fans the fast-paced kung fu flick that wrestling might just have needed. There is a place for a monster like Vader, and there’s a place for the action-packed Ricochet and Ospreay, and the best place for them is on the same card, giving fans a taste of everything great that wrestling has to offer.