A Pioneering Style?

There has been one match that has taken the wrestling world by storm in the last week. In what was a phenomenal display of athleticism, Ricochet and Will Ospreay put on a classic in New Japan Pro Wrestling.

I’m being really positive there. I loved it. I was mesmerised by it from start to finish. But the reaction hasn’t been entirely one way traffic. There have been some who derided it as not real wrestling. Jim Cornette and Vader have been particularly vocal against the match.

The main argument against Ospreay and Ricochet seems to be that there was no psychology to the match. And I can see that point of view. There was no targeting of limbs, there was little extended selling. Could you explain why the two guys were doing somersaults? There didn’t seem to be much logic behind what we were seeing.

Ospreay and Ricochet handshake.JPG

What we did see was some hard hitting shots, and two guys throwing themselves through the air – putting their bodies on the line – in a high flying spectacle. And it sounded so physical too. The quiet style of the Japanese fans made the kicks echo throughout the arena.

Some have called the match the future of wrestling. This is the new style that will take wrestling all over the world forward for the next however many years. And I think it’s pretty easy to see that the popular style of wrestling has changed since it first broke through into the mainstream.

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Going back to the very first Wrestlemania, wrestlers looked like bodybuilders. They were larger than life characters because of their size, but the in ring product was slow. It was all about feats of strength, matches were filled with power moves and rest holds. It was the time Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior reigned supreme.

Heading in to the mid to late nineties, the style changed. Size was still a factor, but what was really popular was the character and realistic nature of the storylines. The style became “hardcore”. Matches were filled with weapons, and power moves were replaced with all out brawls. This was the most successful period in wrestling history, and where true stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock shone.

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In the 2000s, WWE moved away from hardcore, well, everything, and focused on technical classics. Smaller wrestlers were gaining more and more prominence, as what they could do in the ring became more important than looking big and intimidating. People who may have been lucky to be employed two decades earlier were suddenly able to call themselves world champions – Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero. And of course, we got all-time greats from Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar and Shawn Michaels.

That trend continued into the 10s as CM Punk and Daniel Bryan took centre stage. And the trend is still continuing in that fashion, as the new elite-level indy stars are some of the smallest built, highest flying ever.

What is superhuman now is the acrobatic abilities of wrestlers. That someone can lift Big Show above their heads is impressive – but it’s not an “oh my god” moment anymore. For one we’ve now seen it happen quite a lot, and there’s only so many times we can be amazed at John Cena hitting the FU/AA on the giant. Secondly, we know more about the inside workings of the business and how it’s not all down to one individual’s strength. What people appear to be really struck by now, is pure athleticism.

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Some call it style over substance, but I think it’s indicative of wider society. I think it is quite generally accepted that for a multitude of reasons the current generation’s attention span is far lower than in previous eras. Hell, this article is probably already way over the ideal blog length in that regard. And what that means is that it’s the flashier antics that catch the eye.

So is Ricochet vs Ospreay the future of wrestling? I think it might just be. Wrestling has been moving towards this style for thirty years, and it’s rare we see something as breathtakingly different as that match. It might take a while before it really permeates on WWE TV, but the light contact acrobatic style could dominate the industry in five years time.

If you haven’t yet seen the match, I’ve posted it below. I described it before as being either exactly what you love about wrestling, or exactly what you hate, but either way I don’t think you can deny that these two guys are incredible athletes and stupidly good at what they do.

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