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    Wednesday, June 8, 2016

    Cafe Puro (6/8/16): The Perks of Ospreay vs. Ricochet

    No match in modern day pro wrestling has both united wrestling fans and the general public, and divided fans with varying opinions at the same time quite like Will Ospreay vs. Ricochet in a B Block match during the recently concluded Best of the Super Juniors Tournament.

    The match itself got so much attention due to the plethora of GIFs and highlight videos that featured moves and skills no ordinary human could ever do. Even major news outlets like ESPN and Yahoo covered the insane match. And while the match managed to gain many fans and supporters such as Chris Jericho, Fit Finlay (David Finlay's father), and even Stone Cold Steve Austin himself for the quality of the bout, it also had a few detractors for being too choreographed for a pro wrestling match, with Vader being the most notable critic.

    The match became so debated, to the point where NJPW themselves decided to release the match for free for a week so fans can decide for themselves on the overall quality of the match instead of relying on a few highlights. Needless to say, this was a smart move on the company's part.

    We can all nitpick about the match quality all we want, but by the end of the day, the hype surrounding this match was the best thing that could ever happen to NJPW in this day and age. Why so?

    Exposure to the Overall Junior Heavyweight Style

    Don't get anyone wrong: when you have two of the most talented high flyers on the planet, obviously you are getting a spectacle like no other, the likes many fans have already seen in GIF's and highlight videos. But when it comes right down to it, especially for those who saw the entire match, it is more reminiscent of a NJPW junior heavyweight bout than what Vader would think.

    Sure, you'll see a plethora of planchas, but there are also stiff striking encounters (like in Tomohiro Ishii's matches), technical moments, and even some submissions here and there. But more importantly, there is drama and a well-built story between two talentedjuniors desperate to secure an all important two points in the tournament while proving to themselves that they are better. When it comes right down to it, first-time and long time fans witnessed that kind of story play out, and suddenly, there's so much more to the match than just "flippy shit."

    And while we're at it, just a bit of a reminder in case anyone needs to be reminded: this is the BOSJ. Obviously, you are going to see a lot of high flying, but that's not the only thing you'll get to see. Vader, the 3-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion and AJPW Triple Crown Champion who can do a freaking moonsault, should know more about the junior heavyweight mindset, having worked for these companies previously.

    These two are not the only ones who told such an amazing story with the given structure. For example, who could ever forget Ricochet vs. Kota Ibushi in their stellar match at Dominion two years ago? Or even Prince Devitt vs. PAC (or Finn Balor vs. Neville) in their block match years ago? Or even the technical masterpiece that was KUSHIDA vs. Kyle O'Reilly? These matches employed the same junior heavyweight bout structure that feels different as compared to, say, a CMLL match. And thankfully, fans who saw it for free or through NJPW World can attest to that.

    The End of the Jr. Heavyweight Stigma?

    Here's an alarming fact for you guys: no junior heavyweight has ever won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Not even the iconic Jushin "Thunder" Liger. It is usually a practice that if a Junior wants to become the heavyweight champion, he has to bulk up and move to heavyweight, with some mixed results here and there (see Goto and Wataru Inoue).

    When you compare that to how WWE has treated their counterparts, you'll see quite a difference. Finn Balor is the face of NXT and has taken on the likes of Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe, certainly no pushover heavyweights in their own right. And let's not forget what Rey Mysterio and Daniel Bryan have done, winning the top championship at WrestleMania. And while we're at it, Bobby Fish did beat Ishii for the ROH TV Championship weeks ago, something that is a shock if it happened in a NJPW ring.

    With their match attracting so many new fans to their product, NJPW should have realized by now that these Juniors are more than just the high flying sizzle to the steak. Heck, they are the steak. And while there is still the tradition that is the definition of a heavyweight vs. a junior, maybe it is time for NJPW to explore some new avenues when it comes to new match ups. Could we see a deserving Junior become the first heavyweight champion soon?

    A Mature Alternative

    Sometimes, it's the little things that make a big difference. But it should be highlighted that Ospreay was swearing like a sailor during the match, most especially when he said "chip chip cheerio motherfucker!" as he paid tribute to his hero, AJ Styles, by pulling off the Phenomenal Forearm.

    It may really not be much, but still, it does give out a message: this is an alternative for fans who may need a balance to WWE's PG programming. And let's face it, people do swear at times when they get stiff kicked in the stomach like there's no tomorrow.

    The Rise of a New Star

    The greatest beneficiary in all of this is the man who recently won this year's BOSJ, "The Aerial Assassin" Will Ospreay. Not only is he the youngest BOSJ winner ever at only 23 years of age, but he is also the first Englishman to secure the honor (and the fifth gaijin to win it all). He's also the man that took the world by storm with that match with the equally impressive Ricochet, and will now face KUSHIDA one more time at Dominion 2016 in a few days time for the title he almost won.

    In a time when the company needed to make new stars after the mini-raid earlier this year, their investment in the young Ospreay is now paying dividends. Fans love him, the industry loves him, and management loves him, with all the makings of becoming the next big international star. Just give him a few more years, and rest assured, he will be the talk of the wrestling world. But right now, he is the boost the company needed to fill the void left by the lack of top stars.

    The industry is experiencing a paradigm shift right now, and with all the talk about WWE's New Era, so too is NJPW experiencing a new era in their midst. With Tanahashi's body being hurt, Okada and the other heavyweights are helping in carrying the company on their shoulders. Don't be surprised if both Ricochet and Ospreay would help lead the charge in the rise of a new era in NJPW moving forward as well.

    What did you think about THAT match? Loved it? Hated it? Vader time? Sound off in the comments!

    Images from NJPW as well as from the official Facebook page of Will Ospreay


    Lance Tan Ong has been a banking guy for the past few years but a wrestling guy for most of his life. And after checking out matches of Mitsuharu Misawa and Shinya Hashimoto at an early age, he's also pretty much a puro guy as well. Currently checking out WWE (mostly NXT), NJPW, DDT, and other promotions that catch and demand attention. He currently handles NJPW news and coverage for Smark Henry.
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    Item Reviewed: Cafe Puro (6/8/16): The Perks of Ospreay vs. Ricochet Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lance Tan Ong
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