In the spring of this year, the world was introduced to Will Ospreay. After a match with Ricochet during New Japan’s Best of the Super Juniors tournament, his name went viral as a slew of veterans weighed in on the acrobatic affair. Some, like Vader, famously decried the match, calling it a “gymnastics routine” with “no story.” Other legends of the industry showered it with praise – most notably, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who raved about the timing and precision of the match. “Off the charts! A 10 out of 10!” Austin exalted. “I give both guys a big thumbs up for their performance,” the Texas Rattlesnake continued, “Badass, unbelievable – I recommend it. Everybody out there watch it.” Before garnering worldwide attention for this aerial contest, though, Ospreay had already been plying his trade around the globe for years. So just who is Will Ospreay?
For starters, he’s the master of the Shooting Star Press. Having grown up a Billy Kidman fan, it’s hard for me to admit it, but nobody owns the Shooting Star Press the way Will Ospreay does. Even in an age where fans aren’t blown away by the move performed from a standing position the way they once were, Ospreay delivers it with such ease that it boggles the mind. With plancha and corkscrew variations of the Press in his arsenal as well, along with a 630° Splash that’s every bit as impressive as it sounds, Ospreay’s nickname of “The Aerial Assassin” is well-earned. Ospreay may also be the most glaring exclusion from the WWE’s ongoing Cruiserweight Classic. At 163 lbs. and just 23 years old, the English high-flyer would seemingly fit the field perfectly, having already wrestled tremendous matches with competitors like Zack Sabre Jr, TJ Perkins, Johnny Gargano, Kota Ibushi, Rich Swann, and Noam Dar during his career.
Inspired to become a pro wrestler by a match that we talked about just a week ago, Ospreay did his training at London-based Mexican wrestling promotion Lucha Britannia’s wrestling school. Upon graduating in 2012, he began wrestling for them, along with other British promotions like Progress Wrestling and Revolution Pro Wrestling. He’s really carved out a niche for himself in RPW, where he’s held Cruiserweight and Tag Team gold. In January 2016, Ospreay debuted for TNA Wrestling, and according to Dave Meltzer, was in line for a significant push. However, when news broke that Ospreay had struck a deal with New Japan, TNA abandoned their plans for him. The move would prove to be a good one for the British sensation, as he’s achieved a level of exposure in NJPW that he previously hadn’t flirted with.
It was in New Japan that Ospreay had his aforementioned match with Ricochet that vigorously commanded the attention of the internet wrestling community. Defending the match against those who criticized the lack of believable selling present, Ospreay noted that he and his opponent were limited to 15 minutes, and they made the most of their time by taking the match to 14:55 – there was simply no time to sell. In June 2016, Ospreay became the youngest wrestler to ever win the company’s prestigious Best of the Super Juniors tournament, becoming just the fifth non-Japanese wrestler to carry that honor, behind the likes of Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Finn Balor, and his running buddy Ricochet.
Perhaps the biggest honor extended to Ospreay in his young career also came this spring, at one of Paul Heyman’s “Inside the Ropes” one-man shows at London’s York Hall. During the event, Paul E. called an unsuspecting Ospreay onto the stage with him, and after expressing his utmost admiration to the youthful aerialist, personally offered him a contract that would make EVOLVE his home promotion in the Americas. Just a few weeks ago, Ospreay confirmed during an interview that while the contract remains unsigned, he’s holding onto it and weighing his options. Due to his involvement with NJPW and their working relationship with Ring of Honor, an ROH stint could still be in cards as well. As for his potential to end up in the WWE, Ospreay has started that he is interested, but he’s “not interested right now,” because of his reluctance to depart the UK to compete full-time in the states. With EVOLVE’s talent exchange program with the WWE in place and Ospreay holding onto that contract bestowed to him from Paul Heyman, though, the possibility certainly remains open. So to answer the question posed in the opening paragraph of this article – Who is Will Ospreay? – he’s the hottest free agent in professional wrestling, that’s who.