Will Ospreay vs Marty Scurll
Number One Contender’s Match and Rights to an Action Figure Contract or some shit I dunno
Bethnal Green, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
(reviewed 01/03/2017) This match has gotten tons and tons of praise, and there’s not really any way for me to approach it other than with high expectations while steeling myself for disappointment, so I’m just going to throw it on and let it run before I ruin the match for myself before it even starts. After some goofin’ based around Scurll’s wing-flapping taunt, they get right down to business with reversals all around, and Scurll takes control with some eye pokes and his usual sort of offense. Ospreay, to his credit, sells the eye pokes pretty well, riding the line between theatrical and obnoxious. The younger man turns things around with his usual sort of offense himself, but Scurll stuffs him with a pair of boots to the face on the way down from an SSP, a pretty vicious spot. When Ospreay again makes a comeback with a hell of a flip dive off the entrance ramp, Scurll once again is right on top of him, yanking him down to the floor when the young man stands on top of the guard rail in celebration. There’s a ten count tease here, with either man pulling the other out of the ring when they try to slide in, nearly causing themselves to both be counted out, and while it’s goofy and pandering, I like it well enough. Back in the ring, Scurll snaps Ospreay’s shoulder down to the ring with a trio of arm wringers, focusing his game plan now. Having his opponent locked in a surfboard, Scurll shoves his hand down his tights and gets a good feel going before wiping his junk gunk all over Ospreay’s face, and then his own, in a spot that feels oddly out-of-character. Like, Scurll is a Villain, a maniacal, unhinged, goofball, low-level comic book baddie, not Buxx Belmar. It’s just a weird spot and doesn’t really mean anything in the end, but it stands out to me because it’s off-script enough that it feels like even more pandering, doing something weird just to get a big pop. Ospreay eventually makes a comeback with more flips n’ shit, which includes a nifty corkscrew crossbody off the middle rope for a two count. Things get more and more back-and-forth, and Scurll uncharacteristically hits a big Frankensteiner off the top at one point. Ospreay, who was clearly meant to land on his feet, does no such thing and simply springs right back up. He goes for a kick and Scurll takes him down, slapping on a Cattle Mutilation, and Ospreay immediately bridges up onto the top of his head, likes he’s going for a headstand. Theoretically, you’d do that to lessen the pressure of the hold (which is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before and is a pretty cool spot in theory), but the commentary doesn’t pick it up at all, and neither Ospreay nor Scurll does anything with it either, so it sort of just looks like a bad Cattle Mutilation. Ospreay frees himself and goes for an SSP, but Scrull gets his knees up, flipping the kid over for a two count. Scurll takes his time delivering some slaps, allowing Ospreay to fire up and fire back, but Scurll catches him with a knee to the face for another two count. Back on their feet, they trade slaps back and forth and get a big pop from the crowd before another Scurll knee strike ends with a double down. Scurll goes for his finger-breaker spot, and Ospreay stops him with an uncharacteristic headbutt, receiving one in kind from the Villain. A ten count punch in the corner goes south for Scurll as Ospreay frees himself and goes for the Cheeky Nando’s, but Scurll baits him in and gives him a good mule kick to the face. They then transition into a pretty well-loved sequence here, with Ospreay flipping over a superkick to the shins from Scurll before kicking the man in the face himself, only to be turned head over heels with a clothesline off the ropes. Scurll’s right on him, going for a brainbuster afterward, but Ospreay turns it into a stundog millionaire on the way down. The young man leaps off the middle ropes for a springboard cutter, but Scurll sees it coming and catches him in the crossface chickenwing. Ospreay neckrolls his way free, lifting the smaller man for the Gallaria, but Scurll leans back into a Tombstone position before being headscissored right out of it. Scurll uses the momentum to bounce off the corner and hit a running European uppercut, but Ospreay leaps right up from his neck bump and hits an indie kick for a dobule down and a huge reaction from the crowd. Woof. Ospreay, with a disgusting grimace across his face, charges at Scurll once both men are back on their feet, finding himself caught in his own Cheeky Nando’s before eating an American Destroyer for a nearfall. Ospreay recovers and hits a Scurll-esque tornado DDT, making sure to give the crowd a cheeky look as if to say “hey, look at this, isn’t it almost like I’m doing MY OPPONENT’S MOVES, isn’t that cool?”, before locking on a crossface chickenwing, which hilariously gets a TON of boos. Bending the young man’s fingers, Scurll frees himself with his finger-breaker spot, but Ospreay catches him off the ropes with a Spanish fly reversal, hitting a Red Arrow off the top for a two count. Ospreay goes for Generico’s tornado DDT through the corner but Scurll catches him, hitting a crash suplex onto the apron before catching the young man with a tope suicida into a tornado DDT on the floor. Scurll goes for the pinfall back in the ring, and when Ospreay kicks out, Scurll quickly hoists him up for the sort-of-Falcon Arrow into crossface chickenwing spot, which always feels very convoluted, as it’s poorly executing a move just to add some pizazz to another move. The referee lifts Ospreay’s arm to check to see if he’s still conscious, and Ospreay gets it up before the third drop and drapes his foot over the bottom rope to escape the hold. Ospreay, petulant to the end, asks for a superkick, and Scurll obliges him with a few really mean ones. Ospreay makes a comeback with his weak striking, topping it off with the springboard cutter and indie kick, though he misses an SSP off the top. Scurll connects with another tornado DDT, slapping on another crossface chickenwing, smashing a few mean forearms into the kid’s face when he tries to free himself, cranking back on the hold until Ospreay reluctantly taps.
There’s a lot going on in this match, and similarly, there’s a lot of reasons why I don’t like it. Firstly, as I’ve mentioned several times, it reeks of pandering, of doing cool and/or different spots to elicit a reaction from the crowd and make a bunch of GIFs as opposed to constructing a well-made match. You can argue that because these sorts of spots elicited such a big reaction from people (not just in this venue, but everywhere) that this is in fact a well-made match, but I suppose that sends us down a rabbit hole of what constitutes as well-made and whether or not lowest common denominator, reactionary wrestling has any place in that definition, but I don’t have the time to discuss that. Maybe someday. In any case, much of this match feels extremely heavy-handed, with these two fairly unlikeable people throwing shit at the wall and knowing that it’s going to stick and get them big reactions despite being shit (or knowing full well that it is shit, which is a whole other thing entirely). What’s more, there’s little meaning in this match. It’s harped on a lot these days (too much, and has been for decades and decades now), but with no selling or no real overarching theme or story to this match past “these guys want to win”, very little of what these two do here really matters. Early on, Scurll goes after Ospreay’s face a bunch with some eye pokes and boots to the face, and Ospreay sells it fairly well for about thirty seconds. But a minute later, two minutes later, ten minutes later, none of that matters, as they’ve moved onto other spots and other mini-narratives. Even Scurll’s shoulder and armwork, which theoretically plays into the finish, is only implied towards the end, with nothing to signify that it’s actually preventing Ospreay from winning the match or working as a significant weak spot. All these endless sequences of spots mean nothing and build to nothing, just waves and waves of empty calories.
At one point during the first big over-the-top sequence about two thirds into the match, commentator Oliver Bennett notes: “The number one contendership at stake. The action figure at stake. Everything at stake.” I don’t mean to drag Bennett here, as he’s usually quite good at working with what he’s given, but that call just goes to further exemplify my problem here. This match, along with being a number one contender’s match, is supposedly for a contract to be made into an action figure, which they identify as the first action figure made for a non-WWE European wrestler ever. That’s… cool and all, but what does it matter? The number one contendership is a much bigger prize, and it stands to reason that these two would go at it tooth and nail to earn a shot at the top prize in the company, but even then, the sort of effort we get out of this feels much too much. Let me put it this way: these two aren’t embroiled in a sort of blood feud of any kind. Past a general sense of competition, there’s no real ill will between them, at least not here in RevPro. Yet despite this lack of heat, they’re going at it 100 miles per hour with the ferocity of age-old nemeses, and for what? This action figure? While a neat perk (and I understand that being the first non-WWE European wrestler to get an action figure is a deeper desire than I fully understand), that’s hardly reason enough. Is it for the number one contendership? That likewise rings hollow, as these are two of the top three guys in a promotion that runs multiple times a month, and they’re not exactly hurting for title shots. So instead of having this big epic match for the sake of a blood feud, or an action figure, or even a title shot, it feels like having a big epic match for the sake of having a big epic match. That sort of self-awareness is a problem, as it changes wrestling from an exhibition of competition to feeble, misguided attempts at transcendence. In trying to be the best wrestlers in the world or to have the best matches in the world, people fail miserably, forgetting that to have epic matches, you have to learn how to have good matches along the way. That’s what this match is, in the end. It’s an attempt to create something great without any sort of a foundation underneath. Mechanically, strictly on a moves-based level, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better match this year, as it’s some primo, top-notch spotfest fun. But there’s nothing to it past that, and at least for me, there needs to be something more.