The 2021 New Japan Cup – Ospreay, A Post: Part 2
By Rick Poehling on 22nd March 2021
I don’t really know how to begin this, so let’s go with the following – the first bit of this is a recap of the rest of the New Japan Cup, with my thoughts on the matches, etc.
The second, longer bit is about Will Ospreay, the show-closing angle of the Final, and another trip into my headspace. For some of you, it may behoove you to stop reading after the first bit.
Let’s do this thing.
First up, we had the Quarterfinals:
EVIL defeated Toru Yano by pinfall. This was really, really stupid, but it’s a Yano match and that can sometimes be okay. They did a wacky finish where the lights went out and Yano turned around into Everything is EVIL for the pin. At least at the end, they did a bit where Togo came out from the back, which at least explains who turned the lights out in the first place, which I appreciated. **.
Shingo Takagi defeated KENTA by pinfall. I liked this one quite a bit, with KENTA bringing the strikes and Takagi winning with his move at the end after absorbing a lot of damage. I saw a bunch about this match taking awhile to get going and I suppose it did, but I kind of appreciated the relatively methodical approach here, as it made the ending sequence with Shingo winning even stronger after KENTA ramped up his shots. ****1/4.
Will Ospreay defeated SANADA by pinfall.
David Finlay defeated Jay White by pinfall. This was easily the most shocking upset of the entire tournament, although now that we know who was going to win, I suppose it had to happen. Regardless, this was really good as we had Juice here to counter GEDO and force White to win it on his own, and that set up Finlay to pull off the shocker. I kind of wonder if the fact that no other Bullet Club guys came out to help Jay once GEDO was gone is foreshadowing of any sort or not. But Jay did his part to make David look good and Finlay certainly didn’t embarrass himself in the best match of his career so far. ****.
That led us to the semifinals:
Shingo Takagi defeated EVIL by pinfall. I think these two did a pretty decent job with what they could, but there was a chance (or maybe my hope?) for something more here, especially since it was the first time they’d met in a singles match since EVIL betrayed LIJ. Instead, they pretty much did an EVIL match, with Togo interfering at will, a ref bump, low blow, etc. This character of EVIL’s really doesn’t work very well on my end, but I really don’t have my finger on the pulse of Japan, so I can’t wager whether or not it works for them. That all having been said, at least Takagi overcame the odds in the end like a good babyface, so it ended well. ***1/2.
Will Ospreay defeated David Finlay by pinfall.
And that only left the Final:
Will Ospreay defeated Shingo Takagi by pinfall to win the 2021 New Japan Cup.
So that sets up Will as the challenger to Kota Ibushi at Sakura Genesis, as Ospreay gets his first IWGP title match.
With that, the New Japan Cup is in the books. Overall, I’d call the tournament pretty good on the whole, with some really great stuff from Jay White and Shingo Takagi, along with a nifty bit of a Cinderella run for David Finlay, which I hope that they follow up on. In addition, from what I’ve been told, Ospreay’s run through the tournament produced multiple ****+ matches.
Okay, that’ll do it for the wrestling part of this. You can peace out now, no harm, no foul – there’s no judgment here if discussing this beyond the tournament isn’t something you’re interested in.
For anyone else who wants to keep going – just keep it cool in the comments section, if you would. Thanks.
The Ospreay question Part 2 – What to do with the pushes of terrible men?
Back in September, I wrote a piece for this here website called “Ospreay – A post”. The point of the piece was to try to work through my own head my conflicting feelings about the return of Will Ospreay to New Japan for the G-1 Climax tournament after the events of Speaking Out, and what it meant about my fandom that I even had conflicting feelings in the first place. In the end, I came up with no conclusions about what to do so it could be said that the exercise was useless, but I can at least stand by the fact that it was honest.
You can read that piece here, if you’re so inclined: https://blogofdoom.com/index.php/2020/09/18/ospreay-a-post/
The feedback I got from that, both in the comments and privately, was very interesting to me. There were both positive and negative responses to what I wrote, but almost everyone was respectful and a lot of people admitted that they, too, weren’t sure what to do, which solidified my honest belief that the BoD has some of the most conscientious posters in any wrestling forum on the internet these days. I felt like it helped me to get that feedback and make some decisions.
And the main decision I made was that I wasn’t going to watch or review Ospreay’s matches. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring attention, no matter how small, to the man. I made a single exception, for Wrestle Kingdom, and it made me extremely uncomfortable and I haven’t since.
But we’re back here again, so let’s talk about what’s going on now.
At the end of the show in the New Japan Cup Final, Ospreay and Kota Ibushi went face to face in the ring and Ospreay cut a promo, which I watched. In it, he passionately declared that the IWGP heavyweight title, AKA being the best wrestler in the world, was more important to him than anything….or anyone. With that, he immediately dropped Bea Priestley, his girlfriend who was standing next to him, with a Cutter. He grabbed the trophy and left the ring with Jeff Cobb and the Great O-Khan, leaving Bea to be tended to by the Young Lions and Kota. He then went to the back and cut another promo, driving home what he was willing to do to Bea and saying that it proved he would do even worse to Ibushi to win the title. He toasted Cobb and Khan, saying “Welcome to the single life!” and then posted an Instagram story where he made a point to unfollow Priestley, bleeding the angle into real life just a bit more.
Okay, so that was what happened.
Tone-deaf, thy name is New Japan
So, with that in mind, our first question has to be…..well, why? Why do this with, of all people, Will Ospreay? No matter what your opinion of Will is (and even though mine is decidedly negative, I’ll try to be as objective as possible here) between the Pollyanna and Sadie Gibbs stories, I don’t think that I’m going out on a limb here to point out that Ospreay’s history with women is checkered at BEST. In fact, I think it would be reasonable to say that the last thing I would do with Will is use him in any angle that involves even a hint of violence against women.
Now, we’re going to touch on the angle itself a bit later, but I’ll ask that you step outside yourself for a moment if you’re a male like I am – imagine the women in the audience and the message that it sends to them and the respect that you have for them as fans. Really ponder that.
Your idea to get heat for a wrestler who has natural heat with a score of female fans for his previous actions is to run an angle where he attacks a woman, his intimate partner. You’ve pushed him to the near top of the mountain and now you just want to get him over even more as a heel, and when you think about how to do that given the scores of ways in wrestling history it has been done, THIS is what you come up with.
Do you think that company has any respect for you as a fan when they do this?
Maybe you think that “hey, I can divide the line between Will Ospreay the character and Will Ospreay the person, and I’m mature enough to see the difference. And besides, if it makes me uncomfortable, that’s good heat because I feel something.”
Okay. Let’s think about that.
An angle where all the roads lead to nowhere
So if we decide to do that bit of mental gymnastics, here’s what we’re left with. In storyline, Ospreay assaulted his girlfriend out of nowhere to establish that he’s a stone killer, he’ll do whatever it takes to win and that includes beating up a woman, because she’s merely a symbol in this angle. An object that is used as an example. If you can remember it, Randy Orton once used Stacey Kiebler in a similar fashion, albeit one where the relationship between the two wasn’t quite as established.
And lest you think that he was only in character, he references him being ‘single’ again in his backstage promo and allows the angle to become more in-tune with ‘real life’ with even the simple act of using his Instagram story. Because it’s REAL, everyone.
See, this is where I’m not seeing how people don’t see how damaging this is or, for lack of a better term, stupid this entire thing is.
Ah, but what if this was all a plan by Bea and Will? What if he’s lulling Ibushi in and then when Bea runs down during the title match, it’s all a swerve~! and she helps Will win the title? Well, then we’ve used faked male on female violence to further an angle!
That…..also sounds like a terrible, terrible ending to this.
The depressing reality of talent
Back in my first post, I wrote this:
“When mediocre talent is purged from an art form, the loss isn’t that great a thing – but Ospreay is not a mediocre talent. He was in the midst of what was clearly going to be an ascension to the upper tier of the New Japan card, possibly main-eventing shows in the heavyweight division much faster than we thought possible.”
I wrote that in September, a mere 6 months ago. It didn’t even take a year before Ospreay and his ascension were almost complete.
Ospreay has been pushed since he arrived, so this isn’t a shock. He is a 3 time former Junior champion with 2 Best of the Super Juniors wins before moving to Heavyweight, where he’s held the NEVER title and now has won the New Japan Cup. It is very clear that he is beloved by the New Japan bookers and higher-ups, or this simply wouldn’t happen.
And that’s why I call it the ‘depressing reality’ of his skills, because frankly, he is a wrestler who has made it very clear that talent wins out over character. Accolades are showered upon Ospreay from all directions, and the camps have taken root. On the one side, those that believe his in-ring talent is all that matters and therefore praise him effusively. On the other side, those that think that for wrestling to have a real reckoning, talent should take a backseat to character no matter how hard it is to do so, and for them, Ospreay is an example of what is truly wrong with wrestling.
As a great deal of the most powerful voices fall into the first camp (many wrestling journalists, including Dave Meltzer, definitely do), the idea that anything is going to happen to Will is miniscule.
He will, in all likelihood, someday hold the IWGP Heavyweight title. In fact, barring some catastrophic circumstance, it is a certainty.
A cultural clusterfuck
I have to admit that one of the things that gives me pause here is that this situation is not New Japan doing anything that is ideologically different than they’ve done before.
The culture in New Japan is different. Take the story of Tomoaki Honma. He was accused of domestic violence in 2015 by his girlfriend of 18 years, and he responded by accusing her of the same. In such a ‘he said, she said’ argument, it’s difficult to tell who is telling the truth, although Honma’s girlfriend claimed she had a witness to being kicked in the face, her mother.
In 2012, Honma was released for a year by NJPW following his alleged involvement with the Yakuza.
In 2015, the domestic violence allegations came to light in November. In December, Honma won the World Tag League tournament with Togi Makabe.
The point? Japan simply treats things differently than we do in the West. There is clearly a point of view that what Ospreay has done is not a big deal, frankly. As such, his push proceeds full steam ahead.
But here in the West, where New Japan wants to expand to, these things do matter. And a company with Will Ospreay at it’s head is going to have problems in that regard, to say the least. So with that in mind, we can ascertain that New Japan is booking…..for Japan. They care about their expansion into the United States, this I believe – but not to the degree that they would sideline a wrestler like Ospreay for his actions.
And so we come ’round to it
The one that got away is popular trope in storytelling, to say the least. That person who I really loved but just didn’t love me back, you know? And that’s kind of how I feel about New Japan right now.
See, a lot of this isn’t REALLY about Will Ospreay. That’s partially a smoke screen. A lot of this is about confronting something that I simply don’t wish to do, so I’ve done a lot of equivocating with myself to get where I needed to be to not really see the reality that is:
New Japan Pro Wrestling has told me exactly who they are, over and over again.
Really! It’s true. I can whine and moan all I want about Ospreay or how stupid this angle is or whatever bullshit I want, but the bottom line is that what’s hard for me is that there’s real honesty here. They aren’t hiding it, this isn’t something they’re ashamed of – they have made it clear who they are, over and over again. It’s something I told my kid after their first breakup, which was “If someone tells you who they are, believe them.”
Don’t try to change them. You’ll be disappointed.
But I love them, so very much.
Jay White, Minoru Suzuki, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hiromu Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito…..the list goes on of so many GOOD and seemingly decent wrestlers (I’m sure all of them will be charged with possession of kiddie porn by tomorrow now that I’ve written this) that don’t deserve to be tarred with the same brush of people like Scurll, Ryan, Starr. Or even Ospreay.
It’s not that I’m offended by the angle so much that I’m taking this high and mighty approach. It’s that the angle reinforces exactly what I already knew but didn’t really have the courage to admit, that not only is New Japan not going to change, but that I can’t somehow will it to do so.
So I make the Faustian bargain for the sliver of my soul that costs 999 yen each month.
It weirdly feels larger each month.
About a year or so ago, I started resolving that I was going to start moving outside the comfort of my wrestling fandom, and the first thing I did was follow a bunch of female wrestling fans and journalists on Twitter. A small, really minor thing. Some I interact with, some I just follow for their opinions and keep my mouth shut.
It’s been a very healthy thing for me, because those opinions have run contrary to mine frequently and that has forced me to do some deeper examining of things that I thought were okay in the past that clearly aren’t. But what it has also done (at least in the limited capacity that Twitter allows) is give me an outlet to at least attempt some empathetic thought in my consumption of this art form.
Let’s put the cards on the table here – there is absolutely no shortage of outlets, opinions, or places where the cis white male viewpoint is represented. If I wanted to, I wouldn’t ever need to go outside those echo chambers.
I mean, I wouldn’t learn shit, but learning isn’t always something that people want from their fake fighting. In fact, as entertainment, I suspect that wrestling is pretty far down the list of an agency for social change. And I’m just an ordinary sinner in that regard and I’m not sure I’ll ever be better than that.
Listening to real people from different demographics have definitely chastened me as a fan to behaviors that I would have otherwise excused in the past. I recommend it.
I’m left once again with a conundrum of my own making.
New Japan has told me who they are, unequivocally.
So…..who am I?
If you made it through the entirety of this overwrought nonsense, I’m thankful you did. As it was previously, I won’t be participating in the comments section, I’ve said my piece here. Have at me one way or the other. I appreciated the insights we had last time and I hope it’s the same this time.
As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
@MrSoze on Twitter