In the world of professional wrestling, there is a huge battle in the internet forums – and in some cases, real life – where there is a sports entertainment side versus a pro wrestling side. If you like WWE and/or Impact Wrestling, you’re not a very smart fan; if you watch ROH or NJPW or PWG, you watch crappy bingo wrestling. It’s a tale as old as time (or at least since about 2003), and both sides are wrong. Wrestling is so brutally overthought, overanalyzed and over-expected by the majority of it’s most die-hard of fans, that they’re beginning to find more joy in the negativity that the wrestling world could offer than relishing in its beauty. It’s become cliquey, where you’ll find factions that are Just WWE, you’ve got your Basic Indie Starter Pack, w/ ROH, EVOLVE and PWG, your Puroresu Elitist (Japan or nothing!), your staunch Impact Defender, your CZW Lunatic who still thinks. Like any religion – yes, being a wrestling fan is like being part of a religion – you have your extremists.
In the past year, these stand-offs and battles between the fans has been escalated by two very significant instances. The first was last summer, when WWE, WCW and Japan Legend Vader bashed the BOSJ ’16 match between Will Ospreay and Ricochet on Twitter. It resulted in a summer long feud, as one of the innovators of modern wrestling (Ospreay) butted heads with one of the greatest big men in wrestling (Vader), over what constituted professional wrestling.
The second was the Rip Rogers–Randy Orton Incident, also lovingly remembered as #dive – where Orton shared a post Rip Rogers posted, again mocking the blueprint of many indie matches. This launched into a huge Twitter war where indie fans and wrestlers began to attack Orton, while Randy just trolled people without a care in the world. But in both instances, there was one man who was the voice of reason in both debates.
WRESTLING IS AN ART: THE TAO OF KING RICOCHET
You may know him as Prince Puma. But to most, he’s King Ricochet.
During the Vader/Ospreay Twitter war, Ricochet released a statement on his own Twitter, called “Wrestling Is An Art”:
People don’t understand that “professional wrestling” is an art. And much like ANY art, there are endless ways to express it. It can LITERALLY be anything the performers in the ring want it to be. If two guys wants to go out there and use light tubes and light each other on fire, then that is their way of expressing their style of wrestling. If they want to go out there and go hold for hold and keep it mat based, then that is their way of expressing their style of wrestling. If two guys want to go out there and clothesline each other real hard and chop each other for 5 minutes straight, then that is their way of expressing their style of wrestling. If two guys want to go out there and use comedy and make the people happy and laugh, then that is their way of expressing their style of wrestling. If two guys want to go out there and use aerial maneuvers and acrobatics to “wow” the crowd…then guess what??? That is THEIR way of expressing their style of wrestling. Although you may not agree or like a certain style, does not mean that it isn’t wrestling. Did it used to be a certain way?? Yeah. But just like anything it changed, it evolved.
The statement was so powerfully received, it is now a T-shirt on his Pro Wrestling Tees store.
During the second incident – the Orton/Rogers one – Ricochet was tagged to join in and instead once again played the role of the peacemaker.
While the division lines were going up again, Ricochet took the higher road, declaring it all pretty awesome. Because, let’s face it. It really is.
WRESTLING IS AN ART
Let’s break down it down to one key sentence Ricochet said. “…not everyone is going to like every style of wrestling. Same in any sport or music, (or) movies…” With this sentence, Ricochet encapsulated his entire initial soliloquy into one sentence. And it couldn’t have been a more poignant statement. And it’s the key to being a more content wrestling fan.
WRESTLING AS MUSIC
Remember when you were in high school and thought “I only listen to metal. Everything else sucks!” Then suddenly, you’re 40 years old, with Johnny Cash, Bjork and Simon & Garfunkel CDs in your collection. Your tastes change. The more music you let into your emotional wheelhouse, they more you grew as a person. You may still love metal the most, but you’ve grown to appreciate some country (even if it’s old school), some indie music, and some stuff that’s a little softer than you normally prefer. You don’t have to like every artist in the genre. But you can appreciate there’s good stuff in them all.
Well, that’s what pro wrestling actually offers you. The exact same thing. You don’t have to just like one or the other exclusively any more than you have to listen to one genre of music exclusively. Just because you like punk rock, doesn’t mean you can’t like Classical. Just because you like Zack Sabre Jr., doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate John Cena.
Because indie wrestling is booming right now and each promotion is trying to forge their own identities again. When WCW and WWE were battling it out (and even shortly after the war ended), many promotions tried to compete with the WWE style – which was a massive amalgamation of the entire territory system up until that point (for good or for bad). But with WCW long gone, the WWE just simply had too far of a gap in the public zeitgeist to truly have any competition with the Disney On Ice production that the WWE juggernaut has become. But they can create pockets of alternatives for fans who may want a little bit more of this, or a little less of that.
Want more comedic stuff, watch CHIKARA. Want more technical with a dash of Japanese, go with Ring of Honor. Want high flyers, check out AAA. Want the wrestling promotion from Dusk Till Dawn, there’s Lucha Underground. That is the strength – they may not be any competition for the WWE, but on the flipside, WWE is no competition for them. They have their own unique niche that people can still find…or add to their own pallets.
Musically speaking, it would be like every band trying to sound like U2 or the Rolling Stones, simply because they’re playing massive stadiums. But some bands would rather stay in niches and continue with more creative control over their sound and image. If you want more comedic stuff, try Bloodhound Gang. Something a little more indie, there’s Sonic Youth. Want something a little harder hitting, go with Clutch. Want something super crazy, there’s Die Antwoord.
The point is, you can like lots of different bands without committing to being an ambassador for the genre. Why can’t we all approach professional wrestling like that? It’s okay to like Hulk Hogan, Will Ospreay and Ethan Carter III at the same time. The time space continuum won’t shatter. You can like The Miz, Ricochet and CM Punk. You can like Jane’s Addiction and the Spice Girls…. But I digress.
We seem more obsessed as fans to point out how wrong people are for liking a particular wrestler, when in fact, as fans, we should be pointing them towards a wrestler they may not have heard of. As fans we owe to the very performers we put on an entertainment pedestal of trying to grow their fan bases as well. Although, like music, wrestling has it’s own hipsters (or as I call them, “hiptossers”). You know the ones – “I liked Ambrose back when he was still Jon Moxley“. Or who still refer to guys by their first indie names “WWE should just push Brodie Lee, HE DESERVES IT!”
WRESTLING AS MOVIES
Wrestling is also very similar to types of movies. The basic art is film making, just like it’s either music, or wrestling. That’s just the foundation, or blueprint, that the art is based in. Once the medium is put into the world of creative people, the art is going to morph. Sometimes new ideas will emerge that cause shifts in the creative process or the production or the match making. Movies have gone from black & white to technicolour to HD and so has wrestling, literally and figuratively.
But when you watch a movie, you always pick genres based on what your mood is. If you just want a big spectacle blockbuster, you watch Marvel’s The Avengers. If you want some cerebral with action, you watch a Quentin Tarantino movie. Smart and technically sound, a Coens Brothers. Maybe you want to watch a Japanese monster battle? Different styles and shows quench different thirsts or scratch different itches. WWE has become the Walt Disney of wrestling – it’s a conglomerate that slowly buys up all your childhood franchises (whether it’s Star Wars and The Muppets or WCW or ECW) and puts on over the top spectacles with blockbuster production. Everything else are niche genres that are equally entertaining, just with different budgets. One can watch astonishment at the technical grace of Ospreay vs. Ricochet, relish in the brutality of Rosemary vs. Jade, clench my jaw watching Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect, or watch the mastery of Omega vs. Okada. But you can also enjoy the moment of Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant, laugh at the wondrousness of Los Ice Creams in CHIKARA, and find brilliance in Dalton Castle.
And whether it’s movies, music or wrestling, anyone who says that one style or one promotion is better than another based purely on personal preference, is full of hot air. Because ultimately, every single wrestling fan’s tastes are different. Lots are close, but none are exact. You may say you hate the WWE, but perhaps you may actually like a few storylines on the shows. No one said you had to like it all. And you may say you hate indie wrestling, but chances are, if you had a little patience and an open mind, someone could show you a handful of top notch indie matches that you’d probably come to appreciate and love.
— El Cráneo®︎ (@elcraneo_japon) April 29, 2017
And with so much accessibility to wrestling promotions around the world, there’s simply no reason to watch any wrestling you do not like. It’s that simple. You can catch enough through on-demand services, networks and official websites, that you could watch any promotion you wanted. You don’t need to listen to every genre of music to still be considered a musical fan. If you don’t like the WWE, don’t watch it. You can still watch great wrestling elsewhere. If you didn’t like jazz, you wouldn’t keep listening to it and complaining that it’s not as good as the Japanese prog metal you listen to. We get it. Everyone’s tastes are different.
Just remember. What the critics said about Ospreay and Ricochet, they said when they first saw Antonino Rocca in the 1950’s or Jimmy Snuka in the 1970’s. Innovation scares prior generations because there are those with them who are simply afraid of change. But the best ambassadors for any industry are those who have the ability to embrace it all. It’s good, it’s bad, it’s ugly, and just cheer for the parts that they love the most. And that’s what Ricochet does. Every single part of it.
Hell, he still fantasy casts childhood heroes in Marvel movies.
Main Photo: ProWrestlingTees.com