After NJPW Battle Of The Super Juniors XXIII Day 6 one question resurfaced in the wrestling world: what is real wrestling? This question came after Will Ospreay and Ricochet put on what many would consider a Match Of The Year Candidate while some, including Vader, would call a “gymnastics routine.” With the match having many great sequences, but perhaps not the most “wrestling” viewers have come to expect. The reception from the live crowd itself seemed unanimous in praising the match, with “This is awesome” and “Holy Sh*t” chants, something that most said they had never heard from a NJPW crowd before. With this article, I’m going to review the match and address the whole “Real Wrestling” theory that many fans have debated about after this match aired.
Now I’m not going to pick apart every last move of the match, but I will try to look at the match from start to finish and point out the positives and negatives as well as point out some critiques of the match and give examples as to whether I agree or disagree. The match starts with a few holds from both men, being reversed and countered quite well, with Will even providing some quick rolls to get out of an early arm lock. My first complaint of the match comes during their second lock up, which leads into the only sequence that really didn’t provide anything for the match in my eyes. The sequence mostly consisted of them flipping over each other, one head scissors being countered by a handstand flip by Ospreay, then both men springboard hand standing off the ropes across from each other and landing in the middle of the ring posing face to face. Like I said, this was the only sequence, to me, that was more for show than actual wrestling and is probably the big moment in the match when people compared it to gymnastics.
After that, both men traded a couple of strikes before Ricochet takes Ospreay to two of the corners, delivering hard chops then, upon trying to hurl Ospreay from corner to the opposite, Ospreay tries to send Ricochet back into the post. He gets countered again, being sent face first into the corner with Ricochet pulling off a 619 before spring boarding off the ropes from the outside, which is met with Ospreay drop kicking him out of the air. Ospreay then tries for a quick pin met with a kick out, then one swift kick to the back by Will and another pin attempt, resulting in a one count. This is the first instance where no selling is brought in as an argument against the match, which I feel throughout isn’t true; both men sold well and in this case, I don’t think either man sold poorly. Ricochet wasn’t going to be put away by either of those moves, and Will wasn’t beat up to a point of not being able to reverse the springboard. Even after that sequence Ricochet stays on the mat selling and doesn’t spring back up, so I feel the “No selling” statement is an exaggeration when critiquing this match in my opinion.
Ospreay continues to stomp at Ricochet and applies a submission move on him, with Ricochet edging to the ropes to break the hold. Will then uppercuts him in the corner, launches him into the opposite end for another uppercut and upon running from one side back to Ricochet, Ospreay is met with a kick to the head and subsequent DDT sending him to the outside. Ricochet then somersaults to the outside onto Will, before throwing him back in and somersaulting into the ring once again onto Ospreay. He then starts stiff kicking Ospreay in the back and stomach and pressing his boot into Will’s face forcing a ref break and then putting Will into a innovative abdominal stretch. Will tries to roll out of it but Ricochet ultimately catches him and puts him in another stretch hold before slamming him into the mat. Now with the flack this match gets for it’s lack of proper wrestling, I honestly don’t see much difference between this and any other match. We still see holds and strikes common in most matches, which starts to beg the question, what’s making this match, apparently, not real wrestling?
Will has a brief moment of offense landing a couple of strikes before getting hit with a swinging back breaker, bringing the advantage back to Ricochet. Will finally mounts a bit of recovery time after two strikes to Ricochet and an off the ropes springboard kick to the head sends Ricochet down, after both men take a bit to get to their feet, Ricochet tries to get back onto Ospreay but is slung into the corner. He then sends Ospreay out of the ring, but his strike is met with a block and his head being shoved into the corner, before being kicked back to the center of the ring and being hit with a flying forearm from the outside. This in turn has Ricochet rolling to the outside, with Will following suit and doing a series of flips to the outside, landing on Ricochet, kissing the camera and tossing him back into the ring. Will then does a springboard roll up onto Ricochet which results in a two count, both men begin to regroup and Ospreay attempts to go off the ropes but is pulled by his tights. Ricochet dodges a forearm and springboards off the ropes, rolling over Ospreay’s back and kicking him in the head, suplexing him into a pin resulting in another two count. This is where my second complaint of the match comes in, which is the move calling, now the arenas in NJPW are quite quiet, but you aren’t usually able to hear the move calling by wrestlers. During this spot, you hear some talk between the two and at one a very audible “I got you” by I believe Ricochet? This is one thing that brought the match down for me, obvious move calling just takes me out of the moment of the sequence, even more so than the over the top stuff at the beginning of the match.
Ricochet then picks up Will on is shoulders but he quickly gets out of it before the two trade several shots before Ospreay is kicked into the corner. Ricochet tries to charge at him but instead gets caught up in the ropes by Ospreay who tries to go for his signature corner kick, which in turn is countered by Ricochet with a kick of his own. Both men then try to charge to each other in the corner but both back flip out of it, first Ricochet, then Ospreay. Ricochet jumps a sweeping leg kick with Will then ducking a roundhouse kick, finishing up with both men kicking each other in the head at the same time, sending both down to the mat. Both men roll to the outside, trading kicks and strikes before Ricochet drops Will on his back and tries to send him back into the ring, which Will counters into a swinging head scissor type slam onto the outside. Both men then lay on the outside until the count of 19 before rushing back into the ring, continuing to catch their breath. This was most likely another part of the match where people thought there was no selling, which again I have to disagree with. With Will getting up from his slam onto the apron, it was more of a move out of desperation rather than straight up brushing off the pain, as he still sells the move on the outside for the 19 count, as well as another 20 seconds or so when they get back into the ring. Same can be said for Ricochet after he takes his move on the outside, again selling for almost a minute before the two men started to go at it again.
Once both men eventually make it back to their feet, they trade a series of strikes, uppercuts and a headbutt by Ospreay onto Ricochet. Will is met with a forearm after coming off the ropes but reverses the attempted slam by Ricochet. Ospreay then misses the clothesline leading into a suplex by Ricochet with Will countering the second into a cutter, running off the ropes resulting in a kick to the head. Ricochet then goes off the ropes himself, leading Will to hit him with a spinning slam resulting in another two count. Will then goes for another cutter off the ropes, but is met with a blue thunder bomb, into a knee to the head, a double suplex and running moonsault to finish the sequence, but again only a two count. Ricochet then goes for and misses a 630 senton which Will takes advantage of for a flip reverse DDT, only landing a two count. Now while these kickouts near the back end of the match would be considered no selling, none of the moves these men used were true finishers, so them kicking out shouldn’t be to shocking, if anything I feel more would complain if they were put away with these moves. I feel these quick successive kickouts added more drama to the match as it would be Will pinning, then Ricochet and so on, it was never one person kicking out of everything and one person constantly pinning, it felt evenly matched, which is probably another reason why people think no one sold anything, because neither man was truly dominant during the match.
A few kicks and slaps from Will followed with Ricochet landing a strike of his own, Ospreay then double kicks him before spring boarding off the ropes again, with Ricochet catching him and setting up for the end which Will himself counters. This then results in Will going for a spinning heel kick onto Ricochet before landing a springboard cutter off the ropes for the three count and Will Ospreay winning the match. My last complaint comes from the set up the the cutter, Will missing the kick by quite the way, no impact was even attempted by the two to try and sell the move better, which in turn kind of ruined the finish, maybe have Ricochet counter the first one and then they go for it again. The match as a whole, I felt was very well constructed, performed, was mostly botch free and one thing I think they did that others don’t. They sold well. You don’t always need to scream, to roll around, or roll your eyes in the back of your head to sell, these men sold each move convincingly, with expressions of pain, being down on the mat for 10-20 seconds if not more. Will even swearing at some points after taking a bump, so to say these men didn’t sell anything, I feel is being daft. Now another big thing people put against this match is there being no story. Again I have to disagree, there was a story, it was just a very simple story, two men, trying to out perform each other with their unique style of wrestling and progress in the Best Of The Super Juniors tournament. These two told that story well with the sequences they performed and selling accordingly. Both men looked equal which isn’t bad either, no man dominated a portion of the match, so them quote “No selling” wouldn’t have been bad either way as neither man was in a truly offensive state to where no selling would have made it look bad. Both men sold equally, so they both looked great and even coming out of it. Which every great match has, both the winner and loser come out looking better and stronger no matter the outcome.
Now I will agree the match lacked psychology, there were never moments of both men staring each other down or outwitting each other; these men just kept countering or reversing to get the upper hand and tried to stay on each other before the other could reverse or counter. But that just added more to the match, a sense of “can Will get out of this?” or “how will Ricochet stay on top of Ospreay now?” It left you thinking how these men would find a way to out do each other. Which, for me, is just more great story telling, which apparently this match lacked in. Overall this match was a great showing of the more flippy style of wrestling, blended together with the traditional strikes, kicks, holds and submissions we commonly see in wrestling. A couple of nip picks, but nothing truly bad, a simple story, great sequences, solid selling and a hot crowd made for on of the matches of the year. Despite what the critiques might say, this match nearly had it all, it was two men, beating the hell out of each other with innovative offense, and to me, that’s what BOTSJ, is all about, so it accomplished that very important goal.
Now that we’ve covered the match, lets discuss the question that everyone has asked since this match. Which style of wrestling is the real wrestling? Well, in short, none are the definitive style…they all are. Rarely have I seen a match where only one style of wrestling is used, yes, some matches may have one style of wrestling used more than others but no match ever has one style. Matches like Brock vs. Angle may have a lot of amateur wrestling and mat wrestling with many submissions and counters. However you still see some hard hitting strike action, it might just not be at the forefront nor does it have to be. This contest is another example of a match that mostly had a lot of high spots, yet still included strong style and submissions. Just because a match doesn’t have all the traditional styles of wrestling doesn’t disqualify it from being a wrestling match. Some styles of wrestling that are considered traditional today, weren’t back in the 80’s, and styles from the 80’s probably weren’t excepted by people who grew up with say, 50’s wrestling. Wrestling has always been evolving to where there almost isn’t a traditional style anymore as many styles will get mixed and meshed into one match. Some styles may only appear at the beginning while other styles are seen throughout the entirety of a match. Now while some may argue the newer indie flippy style of wrestling has ruined the sport with its lack of selling, I feel that’s more down the wrestler and booking in terms of the wrestler selling the move or not, which even then…have you ever seen a squash match? Have you seen a Brock Lesnar match? There is a huge amount of no selling that goes on there yet those aren’t considered to be killing the sport. I guess because a lot of wrestlers don’t sell, or some cases like The Young Bucks, don’t allow their opponents to sell by going from one spot to the next, it gives that style a bad name. While that style definitely isn’t the strongest and is more for show than actual impact or harming the opponent, matches like Ricochet vs. Ospreay prove that it has earned it’s place in mainstream wrestling with these two men selling, making a simple but compelling story out of it, and I must stress, producing a MOTYC in the process. The match got wrestling world talking, for better or worse and it will be down to history whether it was a masterpiece or not.
So those were my thoughts on Will Ospreay Vs. Ricochet as well the whole “Real Wrestling” debate. Thought differently? Comment below and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @WWWDylanOsborn & follow WeWriteWrestling on Twitter @WeWriteWrestlin