That's how it worked in prior games. And if you do that in III, it will send them sprawling, but it won't do any damage.
I feel like you must be doing something else, because hitting Counter should do exactly the same thing in III that it's done in all the other games.
If I am, I'd love to know what!
Though in the old games, you had to hold down Right Trigger to even get Counter to appear as an option; that doesn't hold true in III, though. And because III got rid of the whole "high profile" thing, I haven't been holding the trigger during fights. Are you still doing so? That could be the difference...