wrestling / Columns

Ricochet: Flipping or Getting Flipped?

March 6, 2020 | Posted by Steve Cook
Brock Lesnar Ricochet Raw 1-20-20 Image Credit: WWE

As awesomely strange as the independent wrestling scene is now, I can’t help but feel it peaked back in the 2000s. WWE was in this stage where they signed big muscular guys & tanned breast augmented women with little to no wrestling experience and ignored most of the guys & girls on the indies that were busting their humps. It was frustrating for indy workers at the time, but the majority of their fans didn’t seem bothered.

Independent wrestling fans by & large didn’t want their favorites to go to WWE. You could say it was a selfish viewpoint for fans to have, but the reasoning behind it was easy to explain: WWE was in the habit of reprogramming their developmental talent to work the “WWE style”. During the mid-2000s, the majority of WWE matches were basic & pretty bland across the board. Sure, you had some exceptions to that rule, but the bottom line was that WWE was producing a lot of guys that looked & wrestled like Randy Orton. Most of the matches looked & felt the same, and weren’t on the level of what indy fans were seeing from Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and yes, TNA Wrestling even though they didn’t get the same amount of credit for it. They would also invariably change the wrestlers’ name, which more times than not ended up being pretty bad.

Fans like to see their favorites doing the stuff they like. Duh.

Interviews conducted with many of the top indy names of the time gave credence to their fans’ perspective. Most of them didn’t think WWE was interested, and took solace in the idea that WWE would probably make them change everything about themselves. Guys like CM Punk & Samoa Joe would say they were happy doing what they were doing & working the style they were working, which was pretty funny a few weeks after the interview was conducted when Punk signed with WWE & Joe signed with TNA. To be fair, Joe didn’t change much of what he did, and only changed his look occasionally. He just had the issue of tripping over some booking.

Punk made some more substantial changes, and was the first real sign that an indy wrestling star could be allowed to get over in WWE. The main thing he changed was his finisher…which, come on, did anybody expect a freaking top rope Pedigree to get approved as a finisher in WWE? Punk definitely had his ups & downs, but the dude became a major star in WWE under the gimmick he created for himself doing the stuff that had made him popular to begin with. It seemed highly unlikely at the time.

Punk proved that “indy guys” could give it a go in WWE. Guys like Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins & countless others furthered the notion. A regime change led to even more. When Triple H, William Regal & their team took the reigns of the developmental system, they had a different vision. They had a larger vision. A Performance Center. A third WWE brand. For all of this to work, they were going to need top-notch talent. The best place to get it was on the independent circuit.

The fans have softened their stance towards indy stars signing with WWE. Why? Because WWE lets these wrestlers do what they did on the indies. The “WWE Style” has become what used to be known as the “indy style”, especially on the NXT television shows. Most of NXT’s top stars are guys doing the same things they did on the indies. You can’t tell me there’s much of a difference between Adam Cole in ROH & Adam Cole in NXT. Keith Lee sure looks a lot like he did on the indies. This isn’t a bad thing. WWE’s still programming newer trainees, but they’re letting a lot of these top indy guys do their own thing. They’re even letting some of them keep their old names!

Like Ricochet, as an example.

We’ve seen Ricochet compete all across the world. He was big in Japan for years, whether you’re a New Japan or Dragon Gate fan. He was all over PWG & EVOLVE. Heck, if you watched Lucha Underground like I did you probably thought Prince Puma was pretty good. His style is fairly simple to explain: He does a lot of flips. People enjoy it. He can go anywhere and get over with a crowd.

It’s easy to see why WWE moved him up to the Raw roster about ten months after his NXT debut. It’s not surprising that Paul Heyman would be very high on him, which everybody assumed meant big things were ahead for him. And they were! There was a three week reign as United States Champion. Ricochet made it to the semifinals of the prestigious King of the Ring Tournament. He was on Team Hogan & Team Raw. He helped Drew McIntyre eliminate Brock Lesnar from the Royal Rumble Match. Then he won the right to face Lesnar for the WWE Championship at Super Showdown.

How did it go? Well…

I don’t know why they didn’t put the full match in the clip. We’re just missing about 90 more seconds of Brock throwing Ricochet around like yesterday’s garbage. To be honest, this is what everybody should have expected. The best-case scenario for Ricochet here: about five more minutes to the match. Maybe a flip or two, but it was always going to be Brock Lesnar squashing Ricochet into dust. There was no other foreseeable outcome.

So there’s no real reason for anybody to get too worked up over a two minute match on a show that a lot of us didn’t watch anyway. However, Monday’s booking does lend itself to some speculation. Allow me to speculate as to why Ricochet would get squashed by WWE’s 24/7 Champion, Riddick Moss, and why it isn’t the end of the world for Mr. O’Shea.

Commentary was sure to point out that Ricochet had had his butt kicked on Thursday and wasn’t in the best condition. That gives Ricochet a bit of an out. As for Moss, well, the man has a University of Minnesota background. You know full well that Brock’s put a word in for his fellow Golden Gopher and that his buddy Paul listens when Brock puts a word in. The match wasn’t as much about burying Ricochet as it was about giving Riddick Moss a win over a legitimate comeptitor.

I can see why Ricochet fans would be upset about their man’s current state of affairs. For me, it goes back to those feelings that indy wrestling fans had back in the mid-2000s. It’s hard to imagine any other wrestling company in the world not doing more with Ricochet. Sure, the man’s making a good living and I’d never fault him for being happy with that. Also, it’s not like his contract is expiring anytime soon. The WWE career of Ricochet will have plenty more ups & downs.

But if you’re a Ricochet fan…you’d probably rather see him tear it up in New Japan. Or AEW, or Ring of Honor, or whichever promotion you feel would use him better. Maybe that’s a selfish take, and everybody should just be happy for whatever makes Ricochet happy.

Sometimes, selfishness & honesty go together.

Don’t yell at somebody if they complain about how they’d rather see Ricochet tearing it up with the NJPW juniors or the top talent in the indies. They’re just being honest. They’re not hiding behind the “Being a nobody in WWE is better than being a pro wrestler anywhere else” narrative that a lot of people like to use. I, for one, have no issue with people talking about what they’d like to see in pro wrestling. If what they’d like to see is Ricochet doing more flips instead of working with big dudes that can’t do as much…it’s not like I can disagree with them. Sure, I can be happy for my fellow Kentuckian making that money, but I also have to be honest.

At the end of the day, we should all be happy if Ricochet is flipping somewhere. But we’d prefer if he wasn’t getting flipped.