Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium (Nagoya, Aichi, Japan)
Open the Dream Gate Championship
Even in losing the Open the Dream Gate championship in just his second title defense, Ricochet still comes off in this match like a wrestler who is not that far off from blossoming into a truly valuable worker.
The match is built around YAMATO grounding Ricochet by targeting his leg. Two years ago having an average-ish wrestler like YAMATO control the match while Ricochet’s high-flying offense (really, his only offense) lays dormant would have been a recipe for disaster. At best it would have totally downplayed Ricochet’s real value (crazy flying) and at worst the leg work would have just been blown off and rendered meaningless.
In this match at this point in his career, however, Ricochet does a really great selling job the leg. He doesn’t overdo it and at points gets into that nice sweet spot of body part selling where you start to feel you are watching a guy who is hurt rather then watching a guy who is selling being hurt. After a fine, slow burn to start (which again I am not sure would have happened between these two a couple of years ago), they transition into the legwork portion of the match when YAMATO uses a wrench to tweak Ricochet’s knee. I thought that was a well done transition and the illegal object was used to good effect.
YAMATO’s limb work is nothing great but it did the job. The cutoff spots were strong and Ricochet did an admirable job mixing in some of his flying and acrobatic spots well still selling the leg. He also has added enough other offense to get by in these types of matches. On Colt Cabana’s podcast recently, Ricochet described himself – somewhat tongue-in-cheek – as a suplex guy now and he does have some decent suplexes that have made his offense much more well-rounded.
Rather than Ricochet slow-climbing the ropes to payoff the leg work not on a 450 splash attempt, he instead got up to the top just fine but then paused in a very natural way as if second guessing if his leg can handle the stress of the move. That split second delay allowed YAMATO to avoid the splash.
The ending goes a little further than I generally care for in-terms of kick outs in the sense that they didn’t really didn’t get near fall reactions nor did they ultimately feel necessary. It wasn’t a deal-breaker though.
Perhaps this title switch was in the cards the entire time, but the timing does call that into question. Ricochet was announced for the Best of the Super Juniors right before the event. One can assume that if the original plan was to leave the title on Ricochet, that would have changed when he agreed to the BOSJ. The promotion likely would not want their main champion dropping matches to Matt Jackson, KUSHIDA, or whoever and he will almost assuredly lose couple of falls during the tournament. It is certainly possible that influenced the decision to a title switch.
If that is the case, I would also venture a guess that Ricochet is going to go far in the tournament or possibly even win it. Unless NJPW’s monetary offer for the tournament was too much to pass up, it is hard to see a guy giving up the top spot in his main promotion just for a chance to compete in a tournament that he has competed in before. I’d bet that Ricochet is winning the tournament, facing Ibushi for the title (in what could be a very fun or a mess of a match), and possibly winning. The NJPW junior division needs a major overhaul. Ricochet would not be a bad place to start.
Juniors | Worthwhile | Quality & Title Switch