It seems that every so often in wrestling, something comes about that divides the community, this time last year it was Ospreay and Ricochet, and they feature in the latest argument too, no doubt, but the latest ‘controversy’ (I despise that word) encompasses not just one match, but the whole activity of wrestling. And here I’ll aim to give an impartial view of both sides from my perspective, before we begin I’d like to point out, I DO NOT see myself as some sort of ‘expert’ on wrestling, I simply write from my point of view as a fan of wrestling, so feel free to completely ignore anything I say, or read on and simply regard it as opinion.
A few weeks back revered wrestling trainer Rip Rogers posted a status online, seemingly a satire aimed at the current ‘indy style’ of wrestling, basically running it down as a spectacle of spots where all sense of realism is lost “Go home and type on social media, thanking your opponent and the company and telling others they should book these guys”.
It goes without saying in today’s climate of every wrestler being on social media, safe to say it caused quite a stir, drawing in the frequent recipient of old-timers wrath, Will Ospreay, who immediately released a shirt with “…Dive” on it (this being the way that Rogers ended his statement). It’s caused numerous petty quibbles online, and you really have to stand back and ask yourself: why?
I remember writing about this time last year, when the Ospreay/Ricochet thing was doing the rounds, that wrestling is objective it is whatever you want it to be. Different people seek different things in their wrestling, and it seems every year around this time the same argument crops up, this time however a big current name has waded into the picture: Randy Orton.
It should come as no surprise that Randy is in the old school camp. His father is a man so old school that the school he went to was attended by Moses. He is a product of the old school, without being in the old school, so he backed Rogers, coining the hashtag …Headlock. I’m not going to bore anyone with a rundown of how Ospreay and Orton are different (I don’t think I’d ever have the time) but suffice to say they are opposites.
I’ve levied criticism at Orton in the past for never seeming to leave his comfort zone, it goes without saying of course that he is extremely talented and good at what he does, and his comfort zone must be working as he still pulls in top dollar and top titles. Randy has also been known to have a bit of an attitude problem, which explains why he’s being as outspoken as he is (particularly in his ‘beef’ with Bully Ray, which apparently goes back some time) but he can afford to be, he sits in a position in wrestling many would kill to sit in, and I would wager he’ll be there for quite some time longer, still doing the same things, but generally being as healthy as he is now.
Ospreay however is very different, every match he has seems designed to put peoples jaws on the floor with things that seem near impossible, he’s damn entertaining to watch simply for the fact you don’t know what he’ll do next, but what no-one seems to stop to realise is, just how long can he put his body on the line?
There is a reason that Orton still tops cards now, even though he’s pushing forty and can still do everything he could do ten years ago, it’s because his style is carefully planned, it may not be dreadfully exciting most times but the fact remains that Randy Orton can still put on the same match at the same pace he did in 2007. Furthermore, he is more than capable of telling a great story when motivated, granted that isn’t saying much, but he can deliver when pushed.
On the opposite side of the coin, Ospreay is only 24 years old, but his body is already breaking down, what with numerous concussions, shoulder problems and back problems, can we realistically expect him to be wrestling the same way when he’s at Orton’s age. I would say no.
Rip Rogers trains the next generation of wrestlers down in OVW, it’s safe to assume that he wants them to succeed, be safe and have a long career, so it’s easy to see why he opposes the current ‘Indy’ style. I can see why he isn’t a fan, there is only so many times you can see a 450 splash before it becomes unspectacular and becomes just another move.
Yes there’s a reason that high flying dives are liked by the crowds, we like to be amazed with superhuman feats, but is it really worth a few years of exciting and new dives, only for the person doing them to end up in a wheelchair or worse?
Let’s look for a moment at Dynamite Kid. He was the 90’s version of what we see now, high risk, high impact moves done to an awed crowd, where is Dynamite now? Nearly penniless, wheelchair bound and widely shunned by fellow wrestlers for his bitterness in the years since his retirement. Or maybe Hayabusa, a Japanese wrestler known for innovating incredible high flying moves who one day performed a Lionsault incorrectly, landed on his head and became a quadriplegic and a few years ago sadly passed away. The list of wrestlers who have given their life for the fans and for the business is so staggering that I couldn’t even start to scratch the surface.
I really like watching Will Ospreay wrestle, I like watching Ricochet and The Young Bucks, and their contemporaries, because I admire their abilities, I’ve gained some sort of reverence for them as people. Would I be willing to see matches with less big dives for the sake of their continuing health? In a heartbeat. I’ve met Will Ospreay and thought he was a nice guy, I want to see him have a good life. Wrestling fans are so ravenous these days to see fresh, death defying stunts that they forget the people performing them are human beings, and it only takes one big mistake for them to end up paralysed, hurting someone else, or worse, dead.
It affects me when wrestlers get hurt, because they give their lives to entertain us, and sometimes it’s the demands of fans that push themselves to get hurt in the first place, it’s so hard these days to get noticed in an independent scene filled with exciting talent pushing the boundaries of human ability, I watched Ospreay and Ricochet last year and was amazed by their feats of agility, I watched their most recent match just last week and they still found ways to surprise me. I’m a big fan of Katsoyuri Shibata, and the fact that he may never wrestle again is devastating it makes watching his matches back all that more awkward when I see him take a stiff forearm or head-butt, I don’t want to one day re-watch a Will Ospreay match knowing that he is now in a wheelchair, I want him to be safe and have a long career.
Take a step back and put things into perspective, Randy Orton is a guy who is too prone to injury, it being known that he has a shoulder condition that makes them prone to separating, but I can’t remember a time where he ever hurt anyone in the ring. I remember Bret Hart writing in his autobiography that he is most proud of the fact that he never hurt anyone while an active competitor, and he is someone who was also considered an innovator.
The reason I write these words is to give a perspective that is in the middle of both parties, I don’t pick sides in arguments such as this because I find it more prudent to keep an open mind in the whacky world of wrestling, I was someone who came to the defence of a particular match when it is criticised or otherwise, I’ll also be the guy trying to understand exactly WHY it is being criticised after all, wrestling has changed so much in just the past 10 years that it is almost incomparable to the wrestling in the 80’s that is championed by men such as Jim Cornette and Rip Rogers.
It seems I’m being overly harsh on Ospreay, but I have no doubt that he is among the best the world has to offer, not just as a high flier either, for proof, seek out his match with Shibata earlier this year and show yourself just how versatile he can be, he truly is incredibly talented and I will always defend him as a wrestler, because wrestling, in any form is worth defending.
In closing, support the wrestlers, go to the shows and show them your appreciation. Don’t be the fans that push them to put their lives on the line with callous chants (I once heard a report from a frequenter of RevPro talking about a man who cheered when Will Ospreay landed awkwardly, and could have consequently really hurt himself. Seriously, what is wrong with some people?) and remember that you don’t always have to pick a side in every debate, it doesn’t always have to be us vs them, remain open to all sides and enjoy wrestling for what it is. Two or more guys in Spandex trying to entertain us.
Note: Some of the quotes and references I have used may be paraphrased slightly, but are as close to what was said as possible.