On Ricochet, Will Ospreay, Randy Orton & Wrestling In The Fifth Dimension

Slip slide, dip then take a dive
Planets lookin’ high when we travellin’ on a vibe
- Digable Planets,
“Time & Space”

For 24 years, New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Best of Super Juniors tournament has existed as the epitome of experimental and groundbreaking artistic development in professional wrestling. From notable 90s high flyers like Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Owen Hart, and Eddie Guerrero, to generations of dynamic light-heavyweights from Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, and Koji Kanemoto to Daniel Bryan, Kenny Omega, and Finn Balor, the tournament has always re-imagined and improved upon the expectation and experience delivery of the wrestling industry. However, in two matches in the tournament in 2016 and recently in 2017, Ricochet and Will Ospreay — by occupying a wrestling space that we’ll call “the fifth dimension” — have taken what Best of Super Juniors, and well, the industry in general can deliver, to a whole other level that may be beyond professional wrestling itself.

For as much as we call boxing the “sweet science,” an even sweeter science may emerge from studying boxing’s combat sport cousin professional wrestling as a study in the physics and mathematics of both the infinite and finite interplay of humanity with four spatial dimensions. In this study, it’s the amazing number of physical feats that can be performed within a seemingly infinite number of spatial and time-created coordinates within a surface/plane that’s most intriguing. In three dimensions, the balance of linear movement (up/down, left/right, and forward/backward) seems infinite. The “fourth dimension” of time places a finite cap upon that notion, and it’s the truly great performers who understand how to manipulate the compression of time upon linear movement, and in moving in different/unexpected linear directions within time’s constraints, create wildly entertaining moments. However, it appears — when Ricochet and Will Ospreay wrestle each other in New Japan’s Best of Super Juniors Tournament — that wrestlers are now performing techniques and acting in a manner within the four known dimensions that defy gravity and create what feel like literal electricity in the air. In this being the case, it may be time that we consider that maybe pro wrestling should be considered a rare, and five-dimensional, scientific and mathematical study in brilliance.

HOW DID WE END UP IN THE “FIFTH DIMENSIONAL” AGE?

We’ve ended up in a situation where studying a “fifth dimension” of wrestling is necessary because for the past 20 years, pro wrestling has existed in a state of concussive shock caused by the triple trouble wrought upon the industry by the internet, Extreme Championship Wrestling, and the WWF’s “Attitude” Era. In all three of these things conspiring to systematically destroy any and every ideal upon which professional wrestling was built, it’s caused the once-existing industry irreparable harm, and we’re now in an era where it’s either all about wrestling in a fifth dimension, or well, starting all over again.

The internet destroyed the idea that the wrestling industry existed only as far as a person’s television package or print media access would allow. For four decades, the professional wrestling industry was a largely United States-driven industry with anywhere from three-to-thirty territories of various size existing within the country. Regular access to these three-to-thirty territories nationwide was impossible, as rather, your access was limited to whatever promotions your local regional television had access to, plus whatever your cable provider had access to, plus, if you read magazines like Pro Wrestling Illustrated, whatever names, pictures, articles, results, or Top 10 rankings were listed.

As well, awareness of wrestling in other non-American countries and continents was largely limited by the desires of American promoters to import talent from other countries, and even those were oftentimes limited to Canada and Mexico. Asians and Europeans were transported in largely as defined by America’s wartime conflicts of the eras.

Also, the internet almost immediately allowed for access to all of the “magic” secrets of pro wrestling. From promoting shows to what constituted “great” wrestling, assessing talent, to well, the art of wrestling itself, to be exposed to anyone, anytime, anywhere, and to be discussed ad nauseum.

As well, Extreme Championship Wrestling is important because, after Paul Heyman took over Philadelphia’s Eastern Championship Wrestling in 1994, he manipulated this hyper-information era and continued to systematically break all of the then “known” rules of professional wrestling.

  • By 1994, Heyman orchestrated the split of ECW from the once all-powerful National Wrestling Alliance by having Shane Douglas symbolically throw down the NWA championship.
  • By 1995, Heyman began a business partnership, talent exchange, and (secret) financial relationship with the World Wrestling Federation that allowed for ECW wrestlers to appear on WWF TV while ECW maligned the WWF’s wrestlers and business practices on their own television broadcasts.
  • By 1996, Mexican high flyers Rey Mysterio, Psicosis, and Juventud Guerrera had wrestled in matches in ECW that blended elements of lucha with Puerto Rico-territory style brawling and Japanese striking.
  • In 1997, Japanese wrestlers from the Michinoku Pro promotion Dick Togo, Terry Boy, Gran Hamada, Gran Naniwa, The Great Sasuke, and Masato Yakushiji were presented as not post-war “evil Japanese,” but rather as high-flying highlights.

The World Wrestling Federation’s “Attitude” era was an outgrowth of ECW’s presentation also being heavy on skewing towards an 18–34 year old male viewing demographic via expletive-laden language, ribald chicanery, scantily clad women, and “ultra”-violence, which put a premium on bloodshed, dangerous, death-defying stunts-as-“wrestling,” and acts that could lead to very real injuries being done with increased frequency.

Almost exactly fifteen years had elapsed since ECW’s closure and the general end of WWE’s Attitude era when Ricochet, an emergent global superstar, wrestled Will Ospreay, a British high-flyer growing in renown, on May 27, 2016 during the 23rd Best of Super Juniors Tournament. What transpired was the type of unification of gravity with electromagnetic force that made a “fifth dimension” possible.

WRESTLING IN THE “FIFTH DIMENSION” AND BEYOND…

SB Nation described portions of Ricochet vs. Ospreay 2016 as “a hell of a wake-up call [to what wrestling had evolved into],” and “like the best action sequences in movies, video games, anime or what have you.” As well, none other than “Stone Cold” Steve Austin referred to the match as “Off the charts! A 10 out of 10! How these guys pulled off some of the the stuff that they did is beyond me.” Continuing, he stated, “as an athletic endeavor, a spectacle, it was just absolutely fantastic. I give both guys a big thumbs up for their performance. And it was almost as if this match was a little bit kind of performance art more so than wrestling, so to speak.”

And therein lies the “fifth dimension.”

Ricochet vs. Ospreay I (and their matches in general) was intriguing in the sense that it paralyzes the sense that this is a “wrestling” match in the sense that the wrestlers don’t have to win or lose, feign injury, curry favor or hatred from the crowd, or engender a sense of whether or not the match is of high quality via cheers or boos. This “fifth dimension” of wrestling exists in a place wherein the match is not a “match,” but more an artistic homage to the progression of the art of what “professional wrestling” is. It’s as if we’ve distilled the internet, ECW, and the Attitude Era’s hyper-influence into a style of wrestling that, given the athletic and artistic performance quality of Ricochet and Ospreay as a tandem, supersedes all known physical, emotional, and artistic dimensions of what wrestling ever was.

Thus, Ricochet vs. Ospreay II as a rematch in this year’s Best of Super Juniors tournament was all important. Since Ricochet/Ospreay I, the professional wrestling universe has been split wide open. World Wrestling Entertainment has taken an active interest in light heavyweight wrestling, presenting a worldwide tournament featuring 2011 Best of Super Juniors winner Kota Ibushi, and wrestlers with BOSJ-style Japanese experience including Zack Sabre Jr., Tajiri, TJ Perkins, Rich Swann, Gran Metalik, Brian Kendrick, and Akira Tozawa. As well, New Japan ex-pats AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura have emerged as WWE superstars, Matt Hardy had become “broken,” and the Young Bucks tag team have thrived as superkick-adoring fully independent wrestlers to the point of signing a merchandise distribution deal with Hot Topic.

Furthermore, the type of wrestling displayed by Ospreay and Ricochet has inspired emerging wrestlers worldwide to borrow from their proficiency and whimsy. Both British independent wrestling in particular and yes, non junior New Japan wrestling have benefited greatly. Most significantly, January 2017 saw one-time BOSJ competitor Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada wrestle in a match judged as a “six star match” by wrestling pundit and Wrestling Observer Newsletter writer Dave Meltzer, who for 33 years, had led internet, ECW, and Attitude era WWF fans in using “five stars” as the industry standard for “excellent” match quality.

Regarding Ricochet and Will Ospreay’s BOSJ rematch on May 18, 2017, Bryan Rose on the aforementioned Wrestling Observer’s website, noted the following:

“I think this may have been better than their match from last year, which is kind of amazing considering the buzz that it got. This felt like a state of the art match where just all sorts of amazing spots and stunts went down…Ospreay first addressed Ricochet after the match, saying he loves him. He then addressed the crowd, saying he does this for everyone watching, and while Ricochet is his worst enemy, he is his best friend.”

Recently, legendary wrestler and pro wrestling trainer Rip Rogers, as well as his Ohio Valley trainee and WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton have been less than kind in statements regarding the emergence of wrestling’s “fifth dimension.”

Initially, Rogers posted the following photo to Twitter:

Orton’s response was lengthy, and included the following: “enjoy your flips, dives, and 20 superkicks per match. To each their own. I will go ‘dive’ back into my 13th title run, and get ready to ‘flip’ when my bank statement comes this month…headlock.”

AND NOW, FOR OUR MUSICAL FINISH

In 1969, vocal quintet The Fifth Dimension had an unlikely #1 hit with “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” a medley of two songs written for 1967 rock opera Hair. The conceptual ideal behind the song is that “When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars” that the world would enter a loving, renewed, and enlightened age. As well, regarding all things dimensions and “time and space,” on a 1993 Digable Planets single regarding proving all then-known concepts regarding “time and space” to be wrong, the song begins, “Slip slide, dip then take a dive / Planets lookin’ high when we travellin’ on a vibe…”

Yes, for as much as Randy Orton’s era of “…headlocks” may be worthwhile, it’s also necessary to consider that the “sunshine” of “…dives” and all of the other spell-binding and mind-bending in-ring entertainment of wrestling’s “fifth dimension” may be part and parcel of the space into which the industry has evolved.

Whether you enjoy wrestling in one, two, three, four, or yes, five dimensions, we thank you for reading, and urge you to check out Capitol Wrestling via one of the following links:

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