Earlier this month the Internet broke. Not over Kim K and some Photoshopped picture that tweens liked and shared, but over a wrestling match. One wrestling match to rule them. One wrestling match to bring them all and bind them... Maybe not bind them.
As independent wrestling fans watched, Ricochet (aka Prince Puma) and Will Ospreay stepped into the ring at New Japan Pro Wrestling's Best of Super Juniors tournament and they set a stage fans didn't see coming. They made superheroes look real. They defied gravity. They made thousands stop and watch. So many people watched in fact that gifs of their high flying aerial assaults ended up on Twitter feeds, Instagram, and Facebook profiles of non-wrestling fans across the world. Their match was so talked about that big-timers in the wrestling world were forced to stop and take notice.
However the responses were mixed. Jim Cornette, longtime manager, promoter and booker of wrestling, felt he needed to put in his two cents. Speaking as he usually does about how bad it was and how it's the reason wrestling isn't great anymore. He sounded like a hype man for Donald Trump. They weren't wrestling, they were doing gymnastics, and they suspended disbelief, and how this was the reason "marks" didn't believe in "kayfabe" anymore. Cornette sounded like a grandparent talking about how in his day, etc, etc. Then Vader -- yes Big Van Vader -- Tweeted about how the match saddened him and it looked like gymnastics, with not enough suspension of disbelief...
This made me stop in my place. A nearly 500 pound, 6'5" lb man who's known for aerial assaults didn't find this believable. Have I lost it? Have I forgotten what wrestling looked like?
No, I hadn't. They had. These wrestlers forgot the resistance wrestlers that HBK aka Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat got when they entered wrestling. These young men introduced a globe of people to a style of wrestling that was shiny and brilliant and new. Many wrestlers today criticized these talented athletes for putting their hearts and bodies into squared circle because it was different.
Then the tides changed. Wrestling legends Stone Cold Steve Austin, Jim Ross, and William Regal all praised Ricochet and Ospreay. These figures of wrestling came forward with support, but honestly I wondered how Ricochet and Ospreay felt about their match. Then Ricochet came forward with a response. He defended his match, but in doing so he defended all wrestling styles. He brought awareness to the idea that wrestling is self-expression as much as entertainment. He was respectful of hardcore, women's, old school Southern, Lucha, strong style, and gimmicky comedy. He was a well spoken peace keeper, by Twitter standards. Having said that it's the Internet. This battle will probable be no longer hashtag-worthy in a month at most.
Not to me, though. I have sat on the edge of my seat for days watching Ricochet and Ospreay defend themselves. I've read all the reviews: good, bad, changed, jaded, salty, open-minded, veteran, mark, and non-wrestling fans alike. I have watched the match probably 12 times to catch the nuances and details people mention. I have watched a lot of wrestling. Hell I've been in a squared circle. I've sat behind a curtain sneaking peaks at matches hoping to learn something. Nothing however compares to what I've learned this week and that is that wrestling isn't wrestling. It's a living breathing beast all its own and ready to thrive.
To Ricochet and Ospreay... If athletes such as yourselves keep feeding it and nurturing it as you have it can only grow and be molded by your work. The walls are only where you put them so instead break them down as you have. Thank you for that piece of yourselves.