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With the Summer Olympics currently taking place, fans have been discussing what it would be like if professional wrestling was in the Olympics. If you took all of the countries and allowed them to form their best teams using their best native wrestlers, which country would be able to produce the best matches?
As a fun exercise, I decided to put together teams from seven different countries, with eight wrestlers per team. I also created an eighth team, titled “Rest of World” to include wrestlers that are not from the seven listed countries. Additional rules for how this competition would be organized can be found below:
- The nature of the competition will be to have 3 to 4 matches per nation, using the wrestlers they have on their roster. The matches will then be rated by a panel of judges on the five-star scale, with the medals being awarded based on the highest average match rating.
- Who will be the judges? Let’s make sure they are well-known and have experience watching and evaluating a lot of international styles of wrestling, and they are from different countries. Let’s go with Dave Meltzer (USA) of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Fumi Saito (Japan) of the Pacific Rim Podcast, lucha announcer Hugo Savinovich (Ecuador/Mexico) and John Pollock (Canada) of POST Wrestling.
- The teams will not be putting together feuds and exchanging weeks worth of promos to set up the match, so their individual star power or speaking ability is not as much of a factor. There are simply too many variables when it comes to booking that it would be hard to predict anything like that. Instead, this is looking at who can have the most entertaining matching, coming in somewhat cold without a huge build-up. So these are not necessarily the very best overall performers in wrestling, more like the best workers; the people who you can trust to always have an entertaining match.
- I am not separating male and female teams like they do in the regular Olympics. For some countries, the best talent they have happens to be female, so they will have a women’s match on their show. I have avoided doing intergender matches for obvious reasons.
- You can do multi-man matches, but no gimmick matches. So you can have tags and triple threats, but no ladder matches or Hell in a Cell matches.
Here are the teams and their perspective matches (in alphabetical order.
Buddy Murphy vs Robbie Eagles
Aussie Open (Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher) vs TMDK (Bronson Reed and Shane Thorne)
Rhea Ripley vs Tenille Dashwood
Australia has had a renaissance thanks to a precocious indie scene, and there was no shortage of talent coming from the continent to fill out an Olympic team. Aussie Open are one of the best tag teams in the world, and would have a great match with a reformed TMDK featuring Bronson Reed and Shane Thorne, who are both currently in WWE. Rhea Ripley is probably the biggest star coming out of Australia and with Tenille Dashwood, she has a suitable opponent (I’d like to slot Madison Eagles into that spot, but she hasn’t wrestled in over a year).
Buddy Murphy and Robbie Eagles are both veterans who went down different paths, with Murphy spending a long time in WWE and Eagles going to NJPW, but they would certainly put on a very good match. I don’t think Australia would threaten to medal, but they would have a very respectable showing, especially considering the limitations of the country.
Kenny Omega vs Kyle O’Reilly
Edge and Christian vs Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
Chris Jericho vs El Phantasmo
Team Canada is freakin’ loaded. Kenny Omega vs Kyle O’Reilly would be an incredible match; both guys are top-tier workers compared to anybody and have experience working a variety of styles. Omega and O’Reilly both had classics working in NJPW, but also could have a more American-style match if they wanted, and would definitely be one of the highlights of the entire Olympics.
Edge and Christian are older but have proven this year that they can still work at a high level if they need to. They are also an iconic tag team, and they will be working with another top tag team in Owens and Zayn in what would be a dream match.
Chris Jericho is not the best worker at age 50, but he is still good enough to have strong matches in AEW and deserves a spot with his charisma and knowledge carrying the day. El Phantasmo is a weird matchup for him in some ways, but Phantasmo is a great high-flyer and has kind of a rock-star charisma that would play well into Jericho’s attitude in the ring, so they could put together a fun match. This is a top team.
Finn Balor vs Jordan Devlin vs David Finlay
Sheamus vs Killian Dain
Becky Lynch vs Session Moth Martina vs Aoife Valkyrie
With 7 million residents, Ireland is by far the smallest nation to field a team at the Olympics. Because of that, they are a little short on depth to round out a full squad, but the fact that they do have enough talent to compete at all is a testament to the vitality of wrestling in that country.
Finn Balor vs Jordan Devlin is a natural match, and for fun we are throwing in fourth-generation wrestler David Finlay from NJPW, which will be a really strong match. Sheamus vs Killian Dain could have a very solid big-guy battle, something that will be missing from other countries and might appeal to some fans. Becky Lynch vs Session Moth Martina and Aoife Valkyrie will be a second triple-threat match. Martina and Valkyrie are probably not of the same quality in the ring as most of the other competitors at the games, but I can’t have Team Ireland without Becky Lynch. This isn’t a top team, but merely qualifying for the games is an accomplishment.
In a geopolitical note, David Finlay is from Northern Ireland, which would make him eligible for Team UK, as opposed to being from the Republic of Ireland. This might make things messy in real life, but I figured if we can get South Korea and North Korea to compete as one unified Korea, which they did at the 2018 Winter Olympics, we can have a unified Ireland for this event.
Kazuchika Okada vs Shingo Takagi
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kento Miyahara
Kota Ibushi vs Hiromu Takahashi
Io Shirai vs Meiko Satomura
To the surprise of nobody, Japan has an incredible lineup and also tremendous depth. Realistically you could make a 2nd, 3rd or 4th team using different names and they would still threaten to medal.
This is what I think the best lineup would be. Okada and Takagi are incredible and we know they can have Match-of-the-Year caliber performances. Tanahashi working with AJPW ace Kento Miyahara is a dream match since Miyahara has always been compared to Tanahashi thanks to his charisma and similar match-style. Ibushi vs Takahashi is a crazy match featuring two performers willing to do literally anything. Can you imagine Ibushi trying to win a gold medal?
The card is rounded out by two female wrestlers who work outside of Japan, Io Shirai vs Meiko Satomura. Shirai and Satomura have only had four singles matches with each other, a lower number then one would think given they are regarded as being the two best female wrestlers in the world over the past ten years by many fans.
Rush and Dragon Lee vs The Lucha Brothers (Rey Fenix and Penta El Cero)
Rey Mysterio vs El Hijo del Vikingo
Black Taurus vs Volador Jr.
As one of the three biggest countries for pro wrestling, Mexico is expected to have a strong team and that is the case here, supplying the best Lucha Libre that the country is known for.
The Lucha Brothers are proven top stars in Mexico and the United States, and across the ring from them will be another pair of brothers, Rush and Dragon Lee. Rush is one of the most charismatic men in pro wrestling and probably the biggest star in Mexico during the 2010s. Dragon Lee is maybe the best worker in all of Mexico, as well as a top performer in Japan and the US.
Rey Mysterio vs El Hijo del Vikingo is a dream match between the legend that can still go and the best high-flyer today. Black Taurus is a larger, different type of wrestler than the rest of the names in the match and one of the best bases in the world, while Volador Jr. is perhaps the most consistent performer in Mexico.
Team Rest of World
WALTER vs Cesaro
Jay White vs Kofi Kingston
Miro vs Malakai Black
A-Kid vs Ilja Dragunov
This is obviously a weird collection of talent, but its so good! WALTER (Austria) vs Cesaro (Switzerland) is a must-see match between one of the most brutal workers in the world with one of the most experienced, all-round talents in wrestling. Jay White (New Zealand) vs Kofi Kingston (Ghana) is a weird match and kind of representative of the team, but Kingston can rise to the occasion in big matches and White is one of the most cerebral, intelligent performers in wrestling.
Miro (Bulgaria) vs Malakai Black (Netherlands) is an interesting matchup; Miro’s size and aggression would work well with Black, whose striking and aura would give him credibility wrestling a brute like Miro. A-Kid (Spain) vs Ilja Dragunov (Russia/Germany) is an interesting match between two junior-heavyweights from countries that don’t produce a ton of major league wrestling talent.
Team United Kingdom
Will Ospreay vs PAC
Drew McIntyre vs Nick Aldis
Zack Sabre Jr. and Tyler Bate vs Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Pete Dunne
Over the past ten years the United Kingdom has had a great indie environment and the result is they have a ton of talent. An interesting note is that with McIntyre, Aldis and Smith, the UK has top workers who also have great size, which not every country can say.
Will Ospreay vs PAC is a dream match between two of the most athletic wrestlers in the history of the business and is on-par with any other match a country can put together. Drew McIntyre and Nick Aldis could have an excellent, traditional-style match as both guys have great size and technical ability. Zack Sabre Jr. and Tyler Bate vs Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Pete Dunne is just a collection of names, but all four men are tremendous technical workers and should be able to do something special in the ring.
AJ Styles vs Seth Rollins
Daniel Bryan vs Jonathan Gresham
Adam Cole and Nick Jackson vs Johnny Gargano and Ricochet
Team USA is interesting; part of it is that the biggest stars in American television are often more known for their personality and charisma (John Cena, Roman Reigns, Jon Moxley, etc.) than pure in-ring work, as well as some of the top stars (Drew McIntyre, Kenny Omega, etc.) happen to not be American.
Still, this is a really strong team. AJ Styles and Seth Rollins are complete bell-to-bell performers with tons of experience. Daniel Bryan and Jonathan Gresham is a really fascinating match, since they are similar in size and wrestle a very similar style. What Gresham has been able to do in Ring of Honor’s PURE division is very similar to what Bryan did 15 years ago.
Adam Cole and Nick Jackson have experience teaming with one another when they were on the indies together and Cole was a member of Bullet Club. Ricochet and Johnny Gargano do not, but they both have worked extensively with Cole and Jackson throughout their careers, and it could be the best tag team match of the entire Olympiad.
- Rest of World
One of the cool things about this event is that I really don’t know who would win. It’s hard to make an assumption on what the results could be when there is so much talent on all of the teams.
I think Team Japan would be the favorite for the gold, they have the best collection of talent and experience, with all of their names except maybe Tanahashi and Satomura still in their primes. I think about five other teams would have the capacity to upset them on a given night, but Japan would be the betting favorite.
The US, UK, Canada, Mexico and Rest of World are all very close as they all have elite talent so its hard to put them together. I kind of wanted to put Team Canada on the podium, but I think some of their names being so old probably holds them back a tad. Team USA probably has the most athletic team and I think they have a really spectacular group of workers that would put on a great show. Team UK isn’t too far behind, the talent they have is different from Team USA, so the style of their matches might appeal to different audiences.
Mexico has some great high-flyers, but also doesn’t have much stylistic diversity, at least on paper. Rest of World just has some awkward fits and I don’t know if all of their matches would work, although their ceiling is really high. Australia and Ireland just don’t have the same depth as the other countries and that probably comes into play.
In the most recent edition of the Gentlemen’s Wrestling Podcast, Jesse Collings (@Jesse Collings) and Jason Ounpraseuth (@JasonOun95) go over the Wrestling Observers Newsletter Awards for 2021, give out their mid-year awards for Wrestler of the Year, Match of the Year, Promotion of the Year, Best on Interviews and more. They also go over the reason AEW has dominated these awards lately, what STARDOM has done right, where NJPW has gone wrong and more.