— How do you feel about having wrestled for one year in New Japan, and about going into Best of the Super Juniors as defending champion?
‘I’m very excited about it. I feel I can get back to what made Will Ospreay, on his own, what made everyone see me as the Aerial Assassin.
I’m a little bit nervous for the first time, because I am defending this championship. Last time it was a heavily stacked card, and even now I still don’t know who my opponents will be, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. What I do best is be the underdog and be against the wall.’
–How did winning the tournament last year influence who you are?
‘Quite a lot. I watched Black Tiger, Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask, Kota Ibushi, Prince Devitt. All those guys are my heroes, and they all won Best of the Super Juniors. I remember when I won, 1,2,3 and held the trophy, I looked up and saw the confetti falling just like as a kid I saw on my computer screen. Back then I said “one day” and sure enough, that day came.’
–How did you feel about the feedback online?
‘Right from the first match with Ricochet the internet exploded. It became maybe the most talked about Best of the Super Juniors of all time. I got a lot of feedback from people that just don’t like what I do as a wrestler, but also a lot of positive feedback from people that understand wrestling is an art form and admire that wrestling is my passion. And to go back as the first British Best of the Super Juniors, and not just that, but the youngest Best of the Super Juniors…
When I went to London for Revolution Pro Wrestling, I came out and everyone in the crowd stood and chanted “you deserve it”. My dad was in that crowd. Everyone had told my dad I could never be a wrestler, that Will Ospreay could never be a wrestler and there I was.’
–Let’s talk about some of the wrestlers you’ll face. First, Marty Scurll.
‘He’s in Best of the Super Juniors? Excellent! He’s so different. Like a comic book super villain. I have a lot of respect for Marty because we’ve travelled up and down the UK and around the world. To bring the Villain against the Aerial Assassin in New Japan is hugely exciting. We’ll take it to a whole new stratosphere.’
–You fought over the ROH TV Championship, is that title something you’re still aware of?
‘Of course. I only held the ROH TV title for two days. So I was the shortest reigning TV champion. To get over that, I need to get my belt back.’
–You’ll face Ricochet again this year. How will you approach that?
‘The same way I did the first time. I go there, I be me, and we show wrestling is an art form. But the result will be the same. I walk in, and walk out a winner.’
–TAKA Michinoku next. Perhaps a hero of yours?
‘I watched TAKA Michinoku in the WWF when he was Light Heavyweight champion. I’m a big fan. But he’s gotten older and I’ve gotten wiser. I think he’s on the same level, maybe a little lower than Will Ospreay. Only way to find out is to get in the ring and for me to show who the Aerial Assassin is.’
— You’ll face Jushin Liger. Last year you won over Liger. What do you think about this year?
‘It was a great honour to face him. Last year we faced each other in England and I dressed up as Liger, Liger versus Dark Liger. I have so much respect and admiration for him. If I could aspire to be anyone, it’s him. He’s a legend, but legends slowly fade out and slowly die. Best of the Super Juniors is a young man’s game and it’s my tournament. I’ll show him what happened last year wasn’t a fluke and I will hit him with the Os Cutter one more time.’
— Dragon Lee. You faced him in ROH in March and lost, but this is your first singles match with him. Your mindset?
‘I underestimated him in ROH. I made a mistake and he beat me. But now he’s going to be in the same state as me, in the BOSJ tournament. But he’ll be run down while I’m floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. I hope he’s at full capability because I’m not backing down from this. I’ll expose the dragon as a myth.’
— Next is Taichi. This will be your first time facing him, and he’s quite the dirty fighter. Are you concerned about that?
‘Well, he’s in Suzuki gun. And all of them are cheap, all of them are liars and all are the worst human beings on the planet. So my plan is to keep my eyes peeled and not allow him to cheat, not allow him to steal a win from me.
— Your final group match will be with Hiromu Takahashi. He’s the Junior Heavyweight Champion, and this will be another first ever match. How do you feel about his approach?
‘He’s creepy. He’s strange. But I like that. That’s what I’m about. I’m creepy, I’m strange.I do things no-one can do. So he should count his blessings the Junior Heavyweight Championship isn’t on the line, because if it was, if it was Ospreay v Takahashi with the title on the line, of wipe the floor with him. I’d hit the Os Cutter and walk out Champion. It won’t be the last time he’s in this tournament but he’s in the ring with the defending champion.’
–Would you like to challenge him?
‘I think it’s time that Championship came to England. It’s 2017. This is my year, and I’m going to show the world why it is Will Ospreay’s year. When I’m done with Best of the Super Juniors you can tell Hiromu I want his Junior Heavyweight title.’
–Who are you most conscious of going into this tournament?
‘Hiromu. Because he’s Champion. He represents the division. He has everything I want. But the ticking time bomb is out of time.’
— Was last year’s tournament the toughest in your career?
‘Absolutely. I’ve been all over the world, done the 16 Carat in Germany, but the BOSJ was the most gruelling and demanding tournament. I went home to England and my body was screaming. I needed time off. But that doesn’t stop me wanting more. I want back to back wins. 2016 and 2017.’
–What do you think is the key to winning the tournament?
‘The key last year for me was to take my time and pick my spots wisely with opponents. So for example with someone like Liger, you can’t hit a dive just out of nowhere. You have to pick the right time. I have to feel him out, withstand him. But a Beretta I’ve got to go at him right away because he’s young, he’s hungry. I’ve lost against Dragon Lee. I have to rectify that mistake. So I have to pick my spots wisely because it’s a long tour, three weeks of constant wrestling.
–Block B has Tiger Mask, Taguchi, KUSHIDA, Volador Junior, ACH, Kanemaru, Desperado and BUSHI. Who has your attention in that block?
‘For me, KUSHIDA has been the backbone of the junior division for a long time now. He’s a guy I’ve never beaten and I know I can beat him if I can just hit the Os Cutter. So if there’s one guy I want in the finals, it’s KUSHIDA.’
–Finally, your message for the fans.
‘You’ve been incredible this entire year in New Japan. I’m blessed and humbled. I had opportunities to go elsewhere but I chose New Japan Pro Wrestling because I love NJPW. I love the fans of NJPW. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will not let you down. I’m the Junior Rainmaker, the History Maker! And I will win Best of the Super Juniors back to back.’