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Posted in: Just Business
Just Business: Match of the Week ~ The Great British Gaijin (Will Ospreay vs. Kushida, Dominion 6.19 2016)
By Samuel 'Plan
Jan 11, 2017 - 9:27:11 PM

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Just Business: Match of the Week ~ The Great British Gaijin (Will Ospreay vs. Kushida, Dominion 6.19 2016)

As a WWE fan first and foremost, my exposure to alternative products is limited, but Will Ospreay is a name I have heard of; a new British sensation rising his way up the ranks of Indy circuits around the globe and forging quite a reputation for himself, in much the same way other British talents have before him; like the King of the Cruiserweights, Neville. When it came to deciding which British talents to take a look at throughout this month, then, as I celebrate the best of British in the pro wrestling industry, his name was top of the list.

I knew little of his career so far, and even now know little more. What I do know, however, is that he became the first gaijin to win the prestigious NJPW Best of the Super Juniors tournament this last year, before going on to wrestle one of my personal favourites, the remarkable Kushida, for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship at Dominion 6.19 in Osaka-jo Hall. Considering my love for all things Kushida, and considering the bout came off the back of one of Ospreay’s most prestigious wins to date, it seemed the natural and logical choice for my Match of the Week.

A part of me was somewhat disappointed to find, however, upon watching a match I was very excited for, that Ospreay represents, to a certain degree, the negative “Indy stereotype” – all flips, no fists, to paraphrase The Revival. Ospreay wrestles with an overly-athletic style, full of movement and pulsing with life. Some of that movement feels wasted; much of that life feels over-egged. In fact, such was his ability to dive and thrive between the ropes that, at times, the action felt difficult to follow. Ospreay is an insanely agile, insanely quick athlete – and deserves praise for that – and some of his stunts are mind-blowing; alas, they can also be a little too busy, transforming his often crisp work into a haze of spinning and flailing body parts that m connect with his opponent, but do anything but with me. My personal taste as a wrestling fan is simply not predisposed to such flash.

It is not my intention, however, to talk Ospreay down. This young man is only at the very start of his career, and with experience I am sure comes a natural tempering. And, even now, there’s no denying Ospreay is a whirlwind to watch, landing precision strikes off the back of breath-taking visuals. Aesthetically, you’re unlikely to see anything like it and, paired up against a man as talented as Kushida, it often leads to sublime work.

For all the antics of the appropriately nicknamed Aerial Assassin, what is remarkable about his challenge for the Junior Heavyweight Championship is its clear narrative. Focussing on Ospreay’s arm, the wily champion Kushida preps to land his finishing submission from the opening bell; and land it he does, after much painstaking effort. In an age when excess permeates the wrestling industry in every way possible, to see even as simple and basic, even inherent a concept as this so clearly defined, and delivered with such deliberate vision, is a treat to me, and not something to be under-appreciated.

So, too, is that crystal clear story executed with verve thanks to Ospreay’s brilliant defensive game. Though he might be a little too busy for my tastes when on the attack, what struck me as especially impressive was how enthusiastically Ospreay took to making Kushida look like a beast when on the back foot. His verbal reactions to Kushida’s offensives, along with his body language and facial expression, were delightfully lively, and incredibly convincing. Ospreay puts on a powerhouse performance of an explosive nearly-man, propagated by the urgency with which the champion himself wrestles – one moment that stands out is Kushida positions himself in preparation to attack the challenger as Ospreay struggles and only just manages to beat a count-out. By the time Kushida ekes out a win, the cumulative effect of this subtle urgency is the image of a wily champion who, respectful of the threat posed by his challenger, has done his homework; Kushida has the upstart gaijin scouted from the off, being able to anticipate most of Ospreay’s best efforts and executing counter-attacks with supreme confidence, cut-throat precision and, at least once, even a knowing tap of the head.

Frankly, it is a joy and a privilege to see two very talented athletes wrestle such a compellingly generous, mutually beneficial, borderline charitable match with one another, where both performers’ focus seems to be on making the other look like the real deal. It isn’t something we see enough of.

Neither is the chemistry with which they collaborate, though that is obviously not something one can necessarily expect to be consciously created. Chemistry comes naturally or it does not come at all, and between Ospreay and Kushida I found there to be bucketfuls. Their counter-wrestling is gripping (no pun intended) and the manner with which the Aerial Assassin’s aerobics blends with the Time Splitter’s relentless martial prowess is nothing short of cinematic in its best moments.

It may strike as curious that I choose here, to kick off in earnest my celebration of all things British in the pro wrestling world, a match that Ospreay loses, as opposed to a more glorifying moment in the sun such as his victory in the BOSJ Final, but I have done so consciously. I like to think we Brits have an inherent appreciation for the underdog; after all, we’ve been in that position as a nation on more than one occasion throughout our history. We fall in love with the bridesmaids - with the nearly-men - and as I wrote above, Ospreay’s performance as the nearly-man of this championship challenge is truly endearing, especially for us fellow residents of “this other Eden.” He may have come up short, but the charm with which he does should threaten to infect any British fan with patriotism all the same; especially considering what this loss came on the back of: the first gaijin ever, and youngest man ever, to win perhaps the greatest tournament for junior heavyweight wrestlers in the world.

And he was a Brit.

Talk about history to be proud of.

Days ahead of WWE’s crowning of the first ever UK Champion, and at a time when British pro wrestling is reaching fever pitch, I would thus consider this quintessentially British performance, and this quintessentially British loss, an out and out must see.

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