The Essential Will Ospreay

Getting to know New Japan Pro Wrestling’s latest coup

On the opening day of the 2016 New Japan Cup, the IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada had something big to announce. A new addition to NJPW’s CHAOS stable was on the cards, and there had been quite a lot of speculation as to who it would be. Yuji Nagata and Katsuyori Shibata seemed to be two of the big names being thrown around as potential additions. But after a tag win for Okada and Kazushi Sakuraba over Shibata and Kushida, Okada announced that the new CHAOS member would be arriving at Invasion Attack next month and what’s more, they’d be challenging for Kushida’s Jr. Heavyweight title.

A video then aired, with none other than the “Aerial Assassin” Will Ospreay announcing his arrival in NJPW as well as his intention to become the first Brit to hold the belt currently in Kushida’s possession. For many people — those who don’t closely follow the British scene, wXw or most recently Pro Wrestling Guerrilla in the United States — this might well be their first exposure to the 22-year-old high-flyer. If this is the case, then consider this your gateway to discovering what’s made Will Ospreay an international commodity in the last year, and recently scored him a third place spot in the “Best High Flyer” ranking in this year’s WON awards.

Progress

If you asked fans of London-based Progress Wrestling to give three names that were the most ingrained in Progress history, you’d be hard-pressed to find any not including Ospreay. Since his debut against the London Riots at the promotion’s second ever show, few have captured the love of the Progress fans quite like the Aerial Assassin. The year-long period in which Will Ospreay feuded on and off with the Regression stable of then-Champion Jimmy Havoc is pinpointed by many as the period when the promotion really exploded both in terms of show quality and international recognition. Ospreay’s evolution in Progress culminated with a title reign of his own after ending Jimmy Havoc’s 609-day run with the belt. The punishment endured by the Aerial Assassin en route to this victory saw him transform from an underdog into the company’s golden star, and it would take a whole heap of punishment from Marty Scurll before he could be dethroned himself back in January.

Credit: Portrait of a Wrestler

Key Matches:

w/ Paul Robinson vs. Mark Andrews & Eddie Dennis (Chapter 11: To Fight War, You Must Become War)
w/ Noam Dar, Mark Andrews & Eddie Dennis vs. Regression (Chapter 15: Just Because You’re Paranoid, Doesn’t Mean They’re Not Out to Get You)
vs. Roderick Strong (Chapter 19: Super Strong Style 16, Day Two)
vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (Chapter 19: Super Strong Style 16, Day Two)
vs. Jimmy Havoc (Chapter 20: Thunderbastard: Beyond Thunderbastard)
vs. Marty Scurll (Chapter 25: Chat Shit, Get Banged)

Revolution Pro

There is little doubt that it’s Progress that best encapsulated the evolution of Will Ospreay, but it’s Revolution Pro who has best showcased the 22-year-old in the past year. By lining up a veritable who’s who of international independent talent for Ospreay to face off with, Andy Quildan’s RPW can certainly be credited with raising the Aerial Assassin’s stock on a global scale. In hindsight it will be his performances against AJ Styles and Kazuchika Okada that stand out most, with his performances clearly striking a chord with New Japan themselves. But for anyone witnessing Ospreay’s consistently standout performances for Revolution Pro Wrestling in 2015, every match will have been a journey in itself.

Key Matches:

w/ Paul Robinson vs. Ricochet & Rich Swann (High Stakes 2014)
vs. AJ Styles (High Stakes 2015)
vs. Matt Sydal (Summer Sizzler 2015)
vs. AJ Styles vs. Marty Scurll (Uprising 2015)
vs. Kazuchika Okada (Global Wars UK 2015)
vs. Marty Scurll (High Stakes 2016)

Pro Wrestling Guerrilla

A key moment in Will Ospreay’s 2015 was undoubtedly his confirmation as the first entrant in the annual PWG Battle of Los Angeles. Perhaps the most prestigious independent wrestling tournament in the world, the 2015 BOLA weekender may have been the greatest instalment to date, and Ospreay is one of many whose stocks would rise considerably at a tournament showcasing the very best of American, Mexican and European wrestling talent. Making it to the semi-final stages before being eliminated by ‘Speedball’ Mike Bailey, Ospreay made enough of an impression to be invited back for All Star Weekend 11. It was even rumoured that Ospreay’s BOLA performances had landed him an offer from Mexican promotion AAA. This was reportedly turned down however, but it’s not difficult to see how he grabbed their attention so fast.

Key Matches:

vs. Mark Andrews (Battle of Los Angeles 2015, Day One)
vs. Trevor Lee (All Star Weekend 11, Day One)
vs. Kenny Omega (All Star Weekend 11, Day Two)

Elsewhere

Having wrestled in Germany and Ireland, appeared for Dragon Gate UK and on TNA’s most recent British tour, as well as almost any British independent company you could think of, there’s enough of Will Ospreay to keep you busy right up to his NJPW debut next month. He’s not done in Europe yet either, with a return to wXw later this month as part of the German promotion’s 16 Carat tournament. His showings in the fantastic Southside Wrestling Entertainment are arguably the best of the rest when it comes to his matches so far, but the Aerial Assassin has reached a point now where he’s proving his worth as one of the best young talents in the world every time he gets in the ring.

Key Matches

vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (SWE The Hunt is On)
vs. Austin Aries (SWE 5th Anniversary Show)

vs. Chris Sabin (IPW:UK Battle Royale 2015)
vs. Akira Tozawa (DG:UK X)
vs. Pete Dunne vs. Ryan Smile (OTT Ah Ted)

Will Ospreay is a fantastic acquisition for New Japan at a time when strengthening their roster at every level has to be of the utmost importance. With recent movements from WWE and NJPW amongst others, 2016 may well be the year of the Junior Heavyweight, and by securing the talent of Will Ospreay, Japan’s leading promotion have scored a major coup.