Matt Riddle and Will Ospreay are two of the most talented, popular, and controversial stars on the independent wrestling scene at the moment. Supporters of both men will state that their strong points will allow them to do things which other wrestlers simply cannot do in an incomparably entertaining way, whereas one of the most common criticisms that their detractors will convey is the fact that they are often one dimensional, and do not branch out from the body of work which brought them to the dance in the first place.
This week’s match of the week between the two men firmly lays those criticisms to rest. Ospreay, coming into the match with a bum neck from his classic encounter against Marty Scurll at NJPW Sakura Genesis which was compounded by his matches earlier on during WrestleMania weekend, had a clear target on him. This would obviously play into the hands of his opponent, a noted former pedigree UFC fighter with a background in amateur wrestling. In fact, it is arguable that he would still be in the UFC if it wasn’t for his propensity for dabbling in certain recreational activities.
It would only be natural that the neck injury would play heavily into the proceedings of this match. This became obvious from Ospreay’s entrance itself, in which he kept holding his neck to make it obvious that mere movement was troubling him. Sensing blood, Riddle immediately went for the big knee, which Ospreay dodged and hit a flurry of moves, climaxed by a suplex. Riddle no sold this suplex, and hit the knee at the second time of asking. Although Ospreay managed to counter a suplex into a dropkick to the outside, he (quite stupidly) hit a tope to the outside, which significantly weekend his neck even more.
Nonetheless, he realised that the longer the match went, the harder it would be for him to pick up the win, and the worse shape his neck would be in. He therefore decided that he needed to hit a big move in order to pick up the quick win. This big move came in the form of a Spanish Fly on the apron – which caused the neck injury in the first place in the aforementioned Scurll match. This would be his undoing, as Riddle countered it into a huge German suplex on the apron.
Riddle continued work on his opponent’s neck, hitting a series of strikes and suplexes focused on that area. Control was firmly in his hands, and he was loving it. Ospreay, however, managed to grab himself some respite with a handspring Pele kick. This was followed up by a flying dropkick to the corner, a flying forearm and an inverted DDT, all the while selling the neck after each move. This brief moment of hesitation allowed Riddle to hit a powerbomb on his opponent, followed by a brutal knee strike to the neck.
After hitting an overhead belly-to-back suplex on Ospreay, he locked in the Bromission (Riddle’s finishing move, which targets the neck). Ospreay, showing incredible fighting spirit, managed to fight out of it, dragging himself to the top rope with Riddle still perched on top of him, and hitting an insane back body drop which caused damage to both men. This led to a spot where several referees clambered into the ring to check on Ospreay and implore him to stop the match. When watching this match live or unspoiled, you could easily have passed this off for a shoot when taking the injury into consideration.
Ospreay promptly shoved the refs off, only to be the recipient of yet another huge knee to the back of the neck. At this point, the match had found that perfect balance between “uncomfortable” and “this is too awesome to take my eyes off”. This was only made worse by a Tombstone, which Ospreay incredibly kicked out of. Riddle was incensed at this point, ripping off the Kinesio tape that was essentially holding Ospreay’s neck and shoulders together, and hitting a Senton on the back and neck of his opponent.
After hitting yet another knee strike, Riddle once again went for the pin, only for Ospreay to kick out at the count of one. This sent the fans into fever pitch, with them firmly being in the challenger’s corner. This left Riddle baying for even more blood, and he went for the Piledriver. A moment’s hesitation where he seemed to attempt a transition into a Styles Clash allowed Ospreay to amazingly counter this into a triangle hold. It looked like Riddle’s one-day reign as Evolve Champion was going to come to an end, but he managed to fight out of it – only for Ospreay to channel his big brother Kazuchika Okada by hitting a huge Rainmaker on his opponent.
The spirit of Kazu remained in Master William’s body, as he held onto Riddle’s wrist, and hit another weakened Rainmaker. This failed to take Riddle off his feet, however, which allowed him to hit a number of kicks to Ospreay’s face. After Riddle attempted a Rainmaker of his own, Ospreay transitioned seamlessly into a powerbomb, which Riddle just about managed to kick out of at 2. Ospreay followed this up by setting up for his finishing move, the Oscutter. Riddle had this scouted, however, and picked his opponent out of the air to lock in the Bromission. Second time was the charm, as Ospreay could not hold on any longer and tapped out, allowing Riddle to retain his title by the skin of his teeth.
It is noteworthy that before the match, Riddle was his usual chill, all smiles bro self, but once the match kicked off, he transformed into a practically new person – a serious ass-kicking asshole who takes advantage of his opponent’s injuries to get a foothold in the match. This gave possible insight into a new (and, quite frankly, more interesting) side to the Matt Riddle character, one that could help him grow into a more rounded performer in the future. This would give him more of an edge, which could be what he needs to put him over the top as WWN’s posterchild.
This, along with the showcasing of Ospreay’s incredible move set, selling ability and undeniable heart, provided for an incredible contrast of styles, which meant for the best independent match of WrestleMania weekend. Reading this review simply won’t do it justice; you owe it to yourself to check this match out.