Wrestling’s Generation Gap- Ric Flair vs. Ricochet: Then vs. Now

Last night during a predictable Super Bowl with an instantly forgettable half time show headlined by Maroon 5 (Prince, Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones they aren’t), many rabid wrestling fans took a chance on WWE’s Halftime Heat.

Ric Flair and Ricochet - both artists in their respective eras.
Ric Flair and Ricochet – both artists in their respective eras.

Ginzburg’s Gab – February 4, 2019 Edition

Tuning to the WWE Network, I most certainly didn’t know what to expect and can’t say I was even looking forward to it. Not being a fan of 6-man tags where they "just throw guys together", I nonetheless do appreciate all six talents participating- Aleister Black, Ricochet and Velveteen Dream were taking on Tommaso Ciampa, Adam Cole, and Johnny Gargano. While I sincerely believe that these guys will be among the biggest and brightest stars in the business during the upcoming 2020s, it just felt to me kind of like a ratings grab- there was very little build-up to the match itself and no real reason for it existing other than to get some new eyes on the NXT brand. As they made their way to the ring live at the WWE Performance Center, it even kind of looked "minor league" with a tiny crowd in attendance. It didn’t have that WrestleMania or Royal Rumble “big time” feel to it.

Yet, once the bout itself started it was like a whirlwind that suddenly hit you. Ricochet has that Manny Pacquiao-like lightning quick moves that leave you mouth agape muttering to yourself "Wow!" And the others were right there with him. Move after move that the old school legends couldn’t have dreamed of doing, it was at a pace that was breathtaking. And it did turn out to be a memorably great match that amazed all-time legend Shawn Michaels on play-by-play and left this jaded old school fan shaking his head as well. There were times like in a Bruce Lee movie, the camera crew couldn’t even keep up with all the action that was happening at video game-like speed.

I rated it 4 ½*. It was that tremendous.

But then I thought back to many of the old school fans reactions to Ricochet vs. Will Ospreay a mere few years back.  They weren’t exactly flattering. "Spot monkeys" they vented. "Zero psychology." "No selling."

What I had thought was they were pissing on great art.

Hell, is it possible that those same fans would see THIS phenomenal six-man match the same way? Being it’s the very next day I guess we’ll find out.

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Will old school fans ever respect a Ricochet, and would today’s fans truly appreciate a ring general like Ric Flair or Jack Brisco?

Following the less than extraordinary game, my buddy Danny, a subway conductor in his mid-50’s stuck around, and I turned on Ric Flair vs. Jack Brisco for the NWA belt circa 1984 on the WWE Network. For us, this was "as good as it gets." Two all-time great champions in a 26-minute tussle. When you talk to a knowledgeable old school fan they’ll often say, Flair vs. Steamboat and Brisco vs. Dory Funk were the bar that was set back then. Hell, I’ve been going to live wrestling matches for 45 years and will attest that NOTHING was better live than Flair-Steamboat.

So as my immortal friend Killer Kowalski used to tell me, "We worked the body." Methodically, painstakingly, in what felt like a grueling battle each attacked various body parts, again and again, convincing the fans that each titan was being worn down. It was powerful, it was dramatic, and the live Atlanta crowd ate it all up.  Can’t say they were thrilled though when villainous Ric’s hand was held high in victory over the game’s ex-champ.

But throughout the memorable match, I must admit I had this gnawing thought. "Would the younger fans of today find this match "boring"?

Flair vs. Brisco. "Boring." I couldn’t fathom this.

The horror.

You see, there weren’t a hell of a lot of high spots in the bout. The pace was at a fraction of the NXT six-man I saw earlier last night. And at 26 minutes, it would be considered quite long by today’s WWE standards. Would the A.D.D. generation even have the patience to sit through this or would many be fast forwarding through what they wrongly perceive to be "rest holds?"

Frankly, I’m happy that as a wrestling fan we have all these options at our fingertips- both today’s action and old school fare. Endless content to be streamed to our heart’s delight or to be watched on YouTube forever. But questions linger for me.

In short, will the old school fans ever respect a Ricochet, and would today’s fans truly appreciate a ring general like Ric Flair or Jack Brisco?

And what- if anything- do you say to those who snub their noses at true art because they "just don’t get it?"

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Evan Ginzburg is the Senior Editor for Pro Wrestling Stories and a contributing writer since 2017. He's a published author and was an Associate Producer on the Oscar-nominated movie "The Wrestler" and acclaimed wrestling documentary "350 Days." He is a 30-plus-year film, radio, and TV veteran and a voice-over actor on the radio drama Kings of the Ring.