I get the feeling that this one may get me in trouble, but I had to say something. If I’m going to recap the G-1, I gotta get this out beforehand, although I’m not recapping the A Block so I won’t be subject to Will’s matches. But I felt like this was something that affected NJPW as a whole, so I wrote it.
I realize that a lot of folks will have opinions on this, and I accept that. But on the eve of the biggest thing I’ve ever done for this blog, I gotta put some stuff out on front street. I hope you all stick with me after this.
The Ospreay question – What do we do with the matches of terrible men?
I don’t really know what I want to say on a certain level with this piece, so I’m going to pretty much just let fly with what’s been eating at me since it was announced that Will Ospreay was going to be back for the G-1.
For those not in the know, Will was named as part of the Speaking Out movement, although the allegations weren’t new ones (they were to me, as I didn’t know how extensive it ran) and you can google them if you want more details. For brevity’s sake, one of Will’s mates was accused of sexual assault and Ospreay was complicit in getting the accuser blackballed from wrestling in the UK to protect his friend. Ospreay issued an apology that denied he had blackballed anyone, but this was almost immediately contradicted by one of the promotions in question, who confirmed the accuser’s account and said that Ospreay had indeed done exactly that, forcing the promoter to either drop the accuser from the show or lose their venue.
That’s the basic synopsis of what happened. But there’s more underneath all of the fallout.
Will Ospreay: what to do when it’s not Joey Ryan?
To a certain extent, the wrestlers named in the Speaking Out movement leaving wrestling was not going to cause a stir because, in large part, the top names were left out of it. So it became very easy to look at the likes of people like David Starr and say, ‘hey, too bad, but to the wrestling world at large, it’s not that big a deal’, or ‘Oh no, we lost the dick wrestler, somehow wrestling will survive’.
Will Ospreay is not David Starr, or Joey Ryan, or Ligero. Ospreay is a completely different type of problem, because Will, for whatever your opinion may be of him, was widely considered one of the top pro wrestlers in the world over the last few years. That’s just different from everyone else. It can’t be argued. When mediocre talent is purged from an art form, the loss isn’t that great a thing – but Opsreay is not a mediocre talent. He was in the midst of what was clearly going to be an ascension to the upper tier of the New Japan card, possibly main-eventing shows in the heavyweight division much faster than we thought possible.
As a result, we have several problems regarding Ospreay. Number one, he was always going to work because his talent demands it. Someone was going to hire him. Number two, that means that there will be a reverberation effect from it, in that you can watch a show for any reason other than Will Ospreay, but he may still be on the same show and will still be a part of what you’re paying for, no matter your feelings on the subject. This is an issue with any pro wrestling show to a certain extent and probably is unavoidable. Number three (and this relates directly to number one) Ospreay being a talented main eventer means that he will, in fact, be near the top of the card and will accumulate power naturally as a result, which means that the chance of a relapse into old behaviors becomes higher (The ‘I’m untouchable!’ theorem regarding pro athletes). Number four, because Ospreay will be in the main event, he will be in there with the best wrestlers in the company being given the most time to put on the best matches with people we like watching, and if we wish to continue watching them Ospreay will be a part of it, whether we like it or not.
In short, the biggest problem with Will Ospreay as opposed to almost everyone else named in the Speaking Out movement is simple – he’s Will Ospreay. He’s not everyone else.
What we owe to each other and Speaking Out – A wrestling fan’s conundrum
I don’t know how many of you watched “The Good Place”, but for myself, someone who minored in Philosophy, that show was just catnip. They’d bust out a Heidegger reference and I’d giggle like an idiot. But either way, the show itself was based on a book called ‘What We Owe to Each Other’ by Thomas Scanlon. He describes his book’s central philosophy like this:
“The idea is that actions are wrong if a principle that permitted that action couldn’t be justified to the affected people in the right way.”
And here we are. In a nutshell, what happened with the Speaking Out movement can be summed up in so many ways, but the key will always be – what do we, as fans, owe to the women and men that participated in Speaking Out?
This movement wasn’t totally about the people who spoke out getting justice in a court of law, because that simply wasn’t going to happen. Various reasons for that can be bandied about, whether it’s about the laws of the countries that the victims were in, their reluctance to go against the grain of the business, the fact that some of them didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late to do something about it…..but regardless of all of those reasons, people said something anyway. They took all the risks in some cases of possibly never working again.
The victims did the brave thing and they took their case directly to us. They came out and said that ‘we can’t do anything to a certain extent about what has happened, but you need to know about it!’ and they held up a light to this world that we all love and showed us what was underneath it.
They. Came. To. Us.
That’s the part of the Speaking Out movement that I wonder if we all fully understand, hell, I wonder if I even do to a certain extent – the victims stood up and knew that all the risks were on them, but they had faith in all of us that they were willing to do it.
What trust. What power that they’ve given us. That is what truly awes me. Some of them will probably never work again. But they decided that a greater good was served by coming to all of us and putting that power in our hands.
I’m cognizant of this and it has informed my decisions since those days of September, and that’s what I believe we owe the victims.
And yet, I’ve fallen short over and over again, and I’m not sure how to fix that. And that brings me back to Will Ospreay.
The Art from the Artist – is that even the point?
Separating the art from the artist is a rather infamous phrase at this point, isn’t it? Because, see, that’s the easiest thing to do here – I like to watch Will Ospreay wrestle. Any other point that I try to make to myself does circle around to the fact that yes, I do enjoy watching Will. I like watching his progression from the infamous Ricochet match to where he is now. I like seeing him grow and put together better matches.
I WANT to separate the art from the artist, because I’m selfish. Period. Any other type of linguistic gymnastics utterly misses the point – I don’t want to think about this stuff when I watch wrestling, I want to watch good matches.
But then we must realize that our participation in the machine is what gives offenders the ability to escape true consequences of their actions. If we separate the art from the artist and still watch the art, the commercial aspect means that the fallout will be miniscule, if at all, if enough money can be made off the backs of those artists’ work.
I’m not sure, in a world driven by money, that ethical consumption of the arts is something that we can even pretend is possible. I am absolutely sure that, no matter what my intentions were, I’ve probably given money to some horrible human beings.
Hell, I have pictures from meet and greets that prove that.
Or am I just copping out again because I want to watch good wrestling, and five-snowflake matches are more important to me than the right thing?
I don’t know.
Will Ospreay – human being
One more thing to address, because I’ve seen it in a bunch of places.
Yes, Will is a human being, too.
Yes, I think that many folks, when confronted with an ugly truth about their friend, would probably take their friends’ side over someone who accuses them of something horrible. It’s natural.
Yes, I believe that Will does probably suffer from both a learning disability, which he’s copped to, and from depression.
All of these things make him a person. A complex entity, one that on a certain level, is not defined by one singular thing.
So was his accuser. And her life was utterly destroyed by all of this. And that has to hold sway.
I don’t mean to dismiss the idea that Will, like every other human on earth, has made terrible decisions. Nor should I not acknowledge that he, at least, was not accused of assaulting someone. I would hate to have my entire life defined by the worst actions of my early 20s. I’m not beyond hope for redemption at some point.
His life is going to go on. He is going to continue in the business he loves and is probably going to be very successful at it. His accuser is not going to and probably never will.
And we can’t just forget that. We can’t ignore it.
Because that’s what was asked of us.
That’s what we owe to each other.
I still have Marty Scurll shirts in my closet. Hanging there. I don’t wear them anymore.
Yet I can’t seem to get rid of them.
I don’t have one.
I started writing this to talk it through in my own head and putting it down on virtual paper helped me. And I wish that I could follow it through to a pat conclusion, but I’d be a hypocrite of the highest order were I to do that, because I don’t even know what I’m going to do.
I will be watching and recapping the G-1 here, and it felt like I needed to say this.
I won’t be participating in the comments section, because I’ve said my piece. Go ahead and have at it.
Thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
@MrSoze on Twitter
Thanks to Emily Pratt’s superior article “Welcomed with Open Arms: The Importance of NJPW ignoring allegation against international talent” here: https://www.fanbyte.com/wrestling/njpw-ignores-speaking-out-g1-climax-30/
Everyone who is a fan of the arts in general should have already read this one, but I lifted part of the title from it – “What do we do with the art of monstrous men?” from the Paris Review: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2017/11/20/art-monstrous-men/