In the new Small Screen section, we take a break from major motion pictures to talk about what’s happening in the world of television…
For the first time in years, I have seen wrestling material posted on my Facebook page by people who I know have no interest in the weekly goings-on in the world of WWE. That material doesn’t focus on John Cena, or The Rock, or Hulk Hogan, but on two performers almost nobody outside of wrestling fandom has ever heard anything about.
The match features American sensation Ricochet, also known as Lucha Underground‘s Prince Puma, and British star Will Ospreay, who has recently made a big splash in his first few matches over in Japan. The contest took place during New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Best of the Super Juniors tournament and has received rave reviews whilst setting the internet on fire in the process. It has been compared to action movies, circus acrobatics and one particular moment inspired a series of Deadpool “superhero landing” jokes.
There’s no doubt that the match is a tremendous example of the most acrobatic end of the professional wrestling spectrum. Ospreay and Ricochet are both exceptional athletes and they match each other step for step and blow for blow in order to tell the story of their conflict. Some of the sequences of moves in the match showcase an astonishing level of invention, far beyond the conventions of what professional wrestling has always been. For some, such as former WCW performer Vader, this is a problem. Vader tweeted that the match had “no story” and was just “blatant acrobatics”, citing the lack of traditional in-ring psychology.
Unfortunately for Vader and those who agree with him, that’s exactly why this particular wrestling match has caught the attention of the masses.
For the general public, professional wrestling is something devoid of purpose. ‘Why would you want to watch that?’, they say, citing its predetermined nature. There’s very little about the traditional style of wrestling that appeals to someone who has already written off the art form. Ospreay and Ricochet have smashed that to pieces. There are moments in that match that very few other performers are capable of replicating and the entire contest is considerably different to something like the steadfastly old-fashioned clash between Triple H and Roman Reigns that headlined this year’s WrestleMania.
New Japan Pro Wrestling posted the entirety of Will Ospreay vs. Ricochet on YouTube for free
It is this cutting edge feel that professional wrestling needs to embrace in order to become popular again. Wrestling’s heyday was the late 1990s, where the anti-establishment, rebellious personas of performers like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock chimed with the ethos of the era and felt like an antidote to the cosy, traditional good guy versus bad guy agenda that had defined wrestling throughout its history. The coolness of that time period has now long fallen away, particularly in the internet-driven world in which the notion of kayfabe has fallen away. The high-flying acrobatics of performers like Will Ospreay and Ricochet could usher wrestling into that era.
With the veneer of realism having fallen away, wrestling needs to find a new gear and a new form of spectacle. No one thinks that the action in the ring is legitimate, so it has to become impressive on a different level – that of pure visual inventiveness. Matches like Ospreay vs. Ricochet, which focus on conjuring up an athletic masterpiece, open the eyes of the world to the fact that the wrestling business is broader than the antics of John Cena and friends. There’s a whole world of wrestling out there and it is just waiting for the world to discover it.
Superhero movies are dominating the world of cinema, so wrestling’s larger than life characters should be right at home in popular culture. However, television ratings are down and it’s becoming increasingly clear that there isn’t really another wrestling company that can come close to competing with the WWE behemoth.
Something needs to change and the answer could be that wrestling needs to go viral. The sort of awe-inspiring clips that have been flying around in the wake of Ospreay vs. Ricochet are the perfect way to bring wrestling back to the top of the cultural mountain, one ‘like’ at a time.
What did you think of the Will Ospreay vs. Ricochet match? Is this high-flying style of wrestling the sort of thing that could make the business great again? Let me know in the comments section.