Osaka Bodymaker Colosseum (Osaka, Japan)
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
As one of the few true junior heavyweight dream matches that exist in the year 2014, there was quite a bit of anticipation for the first ever meeting between Kota Ibushi and Ricochet. It was anticipated to the point of there being internet chatter on how this match was a significant drawing factor for the Dominion event and that it should have been the main event. Both talking points might be a bit of a stretch but they are indicative of the anticipation and dream match feeling that the match announcement created.
Both guys are amongst the most athletic and acrobatic wrestlers going today. The match featured several truly jaw dropping spots. With Ricochet standing on the top rope, Ibushi did a springboard from the apron and caught Ricochet in a top rope springboard hurricanrana which he executed perfectly on his end. Ricochet flipped over as usual but managed to land on his feet. Words don’t do justice to just how very difficult of a move that was pulled off, nonetheless to pull of flawlessly.
To compliment his impressive defensive maneuver, Ricochet hit a ridiculous top con hilo over the corner turnbuckle without using his hands as a springboard. It took about a 6 foot vertical leap and significant hang time to clear the ring which he did with more than enough room to spare. Ibushi – not to be totally outdone – pulled out his signature running springboard moonsault to the outside.
The visually stunning moves set Ricochet apart, but that has always been the case. What has moved him forward this year has been the ability to effective bridge the gap between the high spots. His kicks on Ibushi looked as good as they have all year and have become a nice transitional offensive weapon in his arsenal. His suplexes have also added a lot to his game, allowing him to space out the high flying for maximum effect. While I thought that overall the BOSJ final versus KUSHIDA was the stronger of these two matches, I thought Ricochet’s better individual performance was versus Ibushi.
It might not read this way exactly, but these two were clearly holding a bit back for a future match. The near fall section was mundane by their standards. Rather than a series of kick outs on big moves, they focused on avoiding each other’s respective finishers. At about 13 ½ minutes, the match wasn’t short but it certainly wasn’t main event length either. They wrestled the match like the appetizer to something bigger – perhaps a title switch – somewhere down the line. Epic does not always equal better but so there is no guarantee future rematches will top the initial meeting. They certainly left the audience wanting more if nothing else, which is almost always a good thing.
Ricochet is still a Dragon Gate wrestler. He has a contract with Dragon Gate USA (which essentially only bars him from Ring of Honor) but is not under contract with the DG Japan office. It is clear he is loyal to them, however. New Japan wants to use Ricochet as their top foreign junior heavyweight – a role which Prince Devitt used to fill. It would stand to reason that Ricochet will end up in New Japan on a more regular basis sooner rather than later but that will all have to be sorted out. If he does, he seems like a strong candidate to take the title from Ibushi (whose future is in the heavyweight division) and serve as the ace of the NJPW junior division for as long as he wants to.
Junior Singles | Watch It | Quality & Hype