Wednesday, June 5 BOSJ 26 Final night sees the Best of the Super Juniors Crowned! Juice Robinson vs Jon Moxley! Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Jay White!
It’s a busy time for Will Ospreay. Going into Best of the Super Juniors as a hot favourite in the B block, he is still in the conversation heading into the last week of action, part of a four way tie at the head of the group with Ryusuke Taguchi, El Phantasmo and Robbie Eagles.
Ospreay will look to emerge from that tie as the top points scorer, and stand in the main event at Ryogoku Sumo Hall. The biggest crowd for a junior heavyweight main event in over two decades could well see Ospreay hold the BOSJ trophy high, and should that be the case, the Briton would move on with confidence to Dominion in Osaka, and then a homecoming of sorts in Melbourne and Sydney.
NJPW1972.com sat down with Ospreay to get his thoughts on the BOSJ so far, and everything still to come.
–We’re having this interview while you’re waiting to go to the dentist and have your tooth fixed…
Ospreay: Yeah, bloody Robbie (Eagles) (laughs).
–How did that happen?
Ospreay: I don’t know, I still need to watch the match back. It was one of his kicks, I think. Something hit me in the face and I instantly knew something was up with my mouth. I had a cap on one of my teeth, and it was knocked loose, but it stayed in there for the rest of my match. I got backstage, did my interview, and then as soon as I got to the locker room I reached in my mouth and it just fell out right away.
–A lot of wrestlers in the tour are using mouth guards, have you thought about that?
Ospreay: I’ve tried using mouth guards before, but I can’t breathe in them. With my style, the way I wrestle, I need to get as much oxygen into my body as possible. Otherwise I tend to get sloppy late in my matches. I need to be able to suddenly move fast late on, to plant my foot in a guy’s chest. Maybe I should start training with a mouth guard in to get used to it, but in the end, these things happen. The way he hit me, even with a mouth guard, I would still have gotten the cap knocked out, I reckon.
–That Eagles match came at the end of a difficult run of four singles matches in a row.
Ospreay: The whole tour’s been tough, to be honest. It’s been tag match, big singles match, tag match, bigger singles match, tag match, even bigger singles and then these singles matches all in a row. I’m battered, but this is what I want. It’s what we want to do to get attention on the junior heavyweights. Having the finals in Sumo Hall; that’s a step we need to take to get focus on us, to prove that junior heavyweights can be in a main event spot.
–It’ll be the biggest crowd to see a Best of the Super Juniors final since 1997 (in the Nippon Budokan).
Ospreay: It’s huge, but we need to make those steps. We were put in this situation with people leaving, pursuing other jobs- and more power to them- but right now my job is to be the best junior heavyweight in the world, and I want to show that, while also putting a spotlight on this division. In terms of youth and ability, I think we have the best junior heavyweight division that we’ve ever had.
–Is the comparison with the heavyweight division one that plays on your mind? Is the junior division looking to compete with the heavyweights, or create something new?
Ospreay: There’s a big, big gap between the number of heavyweight main events and junior heavyweight main events on major cards. The last junior main event was in Dontaku, but before that? It’s maybe one a year. You can say the junior division doesn’t have the star power of an Okada, Tanahashi, Naito, but we can do it. We just need the ball. Now we have it.
We’re in Ryogoku Sumo Hall, and now we’ve found out that Jon Moxley has been sending all those ‘Time’s Up’ videos. That’s huge for us, because his following will be watching. The Jay White and Tanahashi match; their following will be buying tickets and NJPW World subscriptions to watch. But the main event is still going to be the Best of the Super Juniors final. So it’s our time to show that we can beat out those other attractions.
You know, my mission, and I’m deadly serious right now, is to have a junior heavyweight main event in the Tokyo Dome. It’s easily possible. We have two events in the Tokyo Dome this year. There’s no reason why one of those shouldn’t be the junior heavyweights.
–You’ve been the center of conversation during Best of the Super Juniors every year since you had your 2016 match with Ricochet. Every year there are fans who look at the block that Will Ospreay is in and circle some interesting names for those breakout matches, but one classic that some fans weren’t expecting was with Rocky Romero.
Ospreay: I wanted to have the best match I possibly could with Rocky, because I think he has been overlooked, but deliberately so. He’s been taking a back seat to help SHO and YOH out, and you have to respect that. I think it is a bit of a crime that, maybe I’m wrong, he’s never held the (IWGP) junior heavyweight title?
–Not as Rocky Romero, he held the title when he was wrestling as Black Tiger.
Ospreay: OK, but Rocky Romero has never held it, but he is one of the best ones. Maybe that is an indicator of just how good our junior heavyweight division is, because Rocky has stepped up. He’s thrust himself into the limelight and shown he could be in title contendership if he had the chance.
It was two guys who wanted to prove themselves, especially Rocky. He wanted to prove that he could do a really long singles match, I think; if you look at his record, maybe you’ll see he did a 15 minute, 16 minute match here or there, but he hadn’t really gone past 20 minutes before. I was amazed that he found his second wind; I just got lucky that I could hit my finish and beat him.
He’s a special, talented person, and even when you get behind the curtain, he’s the sweetest human being who just cares so much about NJPW more than anything. He took me under his wing, made sure I knew what to do whenever I needed anything. For him to be able to show that he can still do it like that, I’m happy for him.
–Everybody was happy for Rocky when he beat El Phantasmo in Korakuen.
Ospreay: It was ridiculous! Two minutes to spare and he did it. Now it’s made the block a four way tie, and it’s made these last matches so important.
–To get into Phantasmo, he and Robbie Eagles were probably the two Will Ospreay matches that people had circled on their calendars before the tournament started.
Ospreay: 100%, yeah. I wrestled both of them on the independents in England and Australia. All those matches were crackers. They’re similar too because I had one win over them and they had one over me. Then in the super juniors, they both got the win over me. I can always admit when I lose, when I’ve been bettered, it’s just how I come back from it that counts. I know the talent that they bring, and how unpredictable they are, and it’s wonderful that they’ve been able to showcase what they can do.
–The story has been though that they’ve showcased who they are as well as what they can do. The happiness for Rocky beating Phantasmo was in large part because people hate ELP so much. He and Eagles being in Bullet Club despite close ties to you, is that surprising?
Ospreay: It’s a little heartbreaking with Robbie in particular. With Phantasmo, I never mentored him, we just beat lumps out of one another. I knew one of these days he would be in Japan, I’d just always assumed it would be by my side rather than opposite me. Robbie was the shocker.
–You had shone a light on him when you went to Australia in 2017 and 2018.
Ospreay: It’s… I talked about it a little bit backstage after the match with him, but you have to understand, my mental health goes.. (pause). Every now and again I have moments when I lose it. Maybe it’s the stress, and everything on top of me, wanting to meet this certain mark in mind when I’m wrestling.
In 2017, I wrestled KUSHIDA in the BOSJ final, and even though I lost, the ovation I got was amazing. I’d never felt anything like it. Sometimes after a reaction like that, you go back to your hotel and it’s.. you feel lonely, you start talking to yourself. There’s almost a demon in your mind telling you things that you don’t want to do, even when you know it’s all in your head.
I remember going to England, and being in so much pain. Emotionally, I wasn’t there anymore. I honestly said ‘I think I’m done’. I just didn’t want to be around wrestling anymore. I felt I had no worth. Then me and my girlfriend Bea (decorated women’s wrestler Bea Priestley) was planning a trip to New Zealand to visit family. I thought while I was over there I wanted to wrestle, because I’d never wrestled in that part of the world. I wrestled in a promotion over there called SPW, and it was a really good place. Real good guys over there, good heart. From there I flew to Sydney. That’s where I met Robbie.
He asked me to train with his students over there, and I said, sure, why not. I usually have this same regimen I do with guys when I teach them. A to B to C, learn this, this and this. That normally takes three hours, and they did it in one. I thought, wow, these guys are really good! I started teaching them more, stuff off the top rope, just a great class with so much energy and enthusiasm.
The next day I faced Robbie in PWA. It was instant chemistry. Like we’d wrestled thousands of times already. And when I won, the count of three went down, and I was so angry. Not because of the match, but the crowd came up and my anger was at ‘why isn’t anybody paying attention to this place? Why are there only 3 or 400 people here’?
I’m proud of England. I’m proud of coming from there. But it’s spoiled. It’s spoiled for talent and it’s so hard for people to get spots with promoters using their usual guys or being scooped up to restrictive contracts. Nobody is taking chances on new guys there. I was determined to shine a light on Australia, and Robbie helped cement what I wanted.
The next time me and Robbie, we went and had this epic match, one on one, no gimmicks needed. I admit I tapped out, but after I did, I looked out at this crowd- bigger this time, maybe 500- and I saw hope. I took the Japanese flag that was on my tights, ripped it off and gave it to Robbie. An open invite, ‘come to CHAOS’.
I guess Jay White came in there at some point, and I’m not mad. Robbie has a wife, he wants to provide, Bullet Club money is good, and the name boosts you. I’m disappointed, but he made it to Japan, and I can’t break that bond with him. He’s still my friend.
–Maybe there’s still a chance for you to do it again?
Ospreay: Maybe. I hope so. I didn’t like the way it ended in Chiba. ELP tarnished it. I really think that the 30 minute time limit wouldn’t have contained it.
–Let’s look past that to the finals though. You’re still in contention in B block, that’s very competitive but A block is much easier to understand.
Ospreay: It’s just down to Ishimori and Takagi now. Ishimori, I know him. He’s beaten me and I’d like to redeem that.
–And for Takagi? If he is undefeated going into Sumo Hall, would that be intimidating, or just a case of ‘let’s do it’?
Ospreay: Absolutely, let’s do it. You hear about undefeated streaks all the time, and sooner or later they come to an end. Exhaustion is a thing, and anything can happen in wrestling, I just need three seconds. I grew up with Shingo actually, bought a ticket to watch him in Dragon Gate UK when I was 14, and it’s mad to think that we could have this generational battle in Sumo Hall.
–Before the tournament, you and Shingo were favourites to many..
Ospreay: Yeah, I’d like to think so.
–To a lot of people, you and Shingo were both discussed in terms of your size. You’ve gotten bigger of late, been NEVER Openweight Champion, and Shingo has always been on that border between the two. He said he would like to be called ‘openweight’ rather than junior or heavy. Is the standard of junior heavyweights changing as a whole, do you think, in terms of look and style?
Ospreay: I still go by the guideline that a junior heavyweight is somebody under 100kg. I’m 92. That said, I have beaten heavyweights, and so has Shingo. That’s what we have to do; for the junior heavyweights to be taken seriously, we do have to be put into heavyweight championship matches. The moment I beat Ibushi, people said ‘oh, he’s a heavyweight’. No, I’m not! I’m 92kgs! I’m a junior heavyweight who beat a heavyweight. When I picked up Jeff Cobb over my shoulders, people said ‘oh, he’s a heavyweight’. No, I’m not! I’m a junior heavyweight who can lift heavy things over my shoulders. I used to dance, and was a base for a lot of dance routines. I can lift a lot of things.
I saw a picture from my match with Ricochet recently, and it was such a difference, size wise and stylistically. So many people said to me ‘oh, he won’t make it past 30 years old with that style’. Well then, I’ll just have to shorten everybody else’s career to I can stay ahead.
–You took to changing your style so quickly; was there a specific incident that prompted that?
Ospreay: A while ago I did break my ribs in October, and I do think that injury was because I was gaining weight. I’d landed in that position before; all that happened is I went for a Pele kick, I was exhausted and I couldn’t make the rotation. I landed on my head and felt a pop in my rib. I completely freaked out because I’d never broken a bone before, it was like being stabbed. I’d put on this weight and I was exhausted and that led to the injury, so after that I did decide to change things up. You hear a lot about people changing their styles after they get hurt. Now I still can do the high flying stuff but now I can also strike people and lift people over my head. I’m blessed with being a freak of nature! (laughs)
–So we’re going onto a big summer. After Best of the Super Juniors then Osaka Jo Hall, then Australia in June, London in August..
Ospreay: I don’t want to make grand predictions in case they don’t come true, but people do want to see me mix things up with the heavyweights. I want to stay a junior heavyweight, so I can still do my stuff, still move, but there is this itch. Especially after people left earlier in the year. I think I can fill that gap. I think I’m the only one that can. I want to do it on my terms. But I do think I can be in the G1, as a junior heavyweight, and win it.