Michael Oku vs. Will Ospreay (RevPro High Stakes: Ospreay vs. Oku 2/18/24)

Match Reviews

This review was commissioned by Quentin over on my Ko-fi account.

A very silly match.

So much here is demanding “epic” status. Commentary is probably the worst offender on this front, probably more so than even the wrestling. When it can actually lift through the crackling wall of noise that is the RevPro broadcast’s sound mixing, commentary has no qualms about literally shouting to us about how we’re witnessing the greatest thing ever. As soon as the bell rings, they proudly proclaim, “And that may be the greatest professional wrestling match I’ve ever witnessed in all my life.”

Can’t say I agree there.

But beyond that too, this match’s function as a Will Ospreay farewell to the British scene that he’s meant so much to means that he’s given all the runway to indulge. That means we’re in full Assassins’ Creed mode here, complete with little mini Ospreays lining the entranceway as the man himself makes his entrance. Silly as all that sounds, the worst part of it probably is just that “Elevated” is a much better song for Ospreay anyway, and it blows not to have that be what he comes out to.

The broadcast itself undercuts this all before the bell even rings. Regardless of how one receives Ospreay’s video game entrance, for example, there’s no denying how broken this all is when the main event’s hype video can’t be streamed to the viewing audience and instead must be filmed by the hard camera zoomed in on the screen above the entranceway. RevPro has some of the worst audio mixing on the indies (and let’s be fair and we’re spoiled for choice on that front) and having to watch the hype video through the arena’s sound system is the worst possible way to establish any sort of context for this match. That’s obviously not an issue for a longtime RevPro fan following the shows month to month, but when dropping for a malicious commission from a friend, it’s a real challenge.

Then, the wrestling.

Honest to god, Will Ospreay’s the better worker in this match. This was true for their first bout as well. While I don’t typically associate Ospreay with such intangible skills as structure or selling, he’s certainly the one bringing at least semblances of these ideas to the match here. Most notably, he controls the best segment of the match. After busting Oku’s head open on the turnbuckle, then widening the cut with a ringpost shot, Ospreay does have the wherewithal to go after the cut. There’s some punching in there, digging at the wound, and even kicking at it. It’s the closest he comes in the whole to zoning in on a particular idea—here, being the kind of bully heel veteran that a next generation upstart can overcome. To Oku’s credit as well, his selling functions the best in this segment too. He comes closest to being sympathetic, and I enjoy seeing Ospreay bounce him off the ropes with big elbow strikes.

The trouble stems from how confused this all is. That starts with the characters here, as the match never feels certain about where our loyalties should lie. The way Oku presents himself, just visually, with the white kingly gear and the regal valet by his side, screams heel, whereas Ospreay can’t help but come across as a hometown hero making a last stand. And yet, Oku’s the one with something to overcome, finally getting the monkey off his back to usurp the spot as the BritWres ace.

And yet, the structure of the match itself further muddies these ideas. A good ten to fifteen minutes of the opening moves at such a back-and-forth rhythm that there’s hardly any room for the characters to settle in except for the occasional mugging on a bad Okada clean break spot at the start. Before Oku gets busted open too, Ospreay’s the first one to show a chink in his armor—tweaking a knee after nailing a backbreaker, and then Oku commencing some early leg work that forms the foundation for the finishing stretch. Even this continues to confuse the match for me, as the leg work combined with Oku’s smug demeanor reads as a heel action, whereas Ospreay’s the one hitting the high octane, impactful offense and rousing the fans in attendance. For a heelish woman beating figure as this match presents him, he sure does love getting those people to stand on their feet and cheer him on.

It doesn’t help either that neither man is especially talented at committing to the ideas they bring to the bout. Oku’s neither mean enough nor sympathetic to function in either side of the face/heel spectrum. Mechanically, his strikes are mostly soft, he hits the ropes too slow to be dazzling as a fireworks worker, and he just brings too little to the table to feel appropriate as the star of this narrative. Ospreay, meanwhile, has just enough athletic ability to make small moments work before his lack of attention to detail blows it all up. He’ll sell a leg when landing on it with his running backflip off of Oku’s chest, but nothing can stop him from immediately following up with a lame double stomp and a Spanish Fly planting on the leg he just spent five minutes trying to put over as damaged.

The finishing stretch is about as cliché as one expects too. There’s hardly any tension in the big nearfalls, if only because Ospreay has devalued his offense for so long across the years that there’s no real need to bit on any potential finishes until the last three minutes or so of this never-ending bout. Even something as stunning as a Mad Kurt Sega MegaDriver from Oku gets lost in all the noise of a million splashes, hook kicks, and attempted Tiger Drivers and Stormbreakers. To cap it all off too with Oku almost losing his grip on the climactic half crab, I just can’t help but laugh.

Far too silly to rouse any lasting anger, but definitely some of the worst in-ring ideas and execution you’re bound to see this year.

Rating: *1/2

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