Will Ospreay | The Ascension of An Aerial Assassin

Will Ospreay has taken the wrestling world by storm in recent years as a human highlight reel and one of the first names mentioned in everyone’s modern-day dream matches.

The life and career of the man known for defying gravity and expectations alike was an extraordinary journey. We explore his journey from humble beginnings in the UK to becoming a global wrestling icon.

With a mesmerizing blend of high-flying acrobatics, technical prowess, and undeniable charisma, Ospreay has captured the attention and hearts of spectators worldwide and earned his place as one of the best wrestlers inside the squared circle today.

Will Ospreay – Essex Boy, London Town

Ospreay started out in Essex, England, under the name Jason Artem, a name which he would compete under for all of 2011 until the following year when he became the masked Dark Britannico after his pro-wrestling debut at BritWres-Fest in April, aged eighteen.

This character was invented to act as a foil to Paul Robinson’s Leon Britannica as Leon’s evil twin. During this time, Ospreay trained at Lucha Britannia’s London School of Lucha Libre in Bethnal Green, London, and was crowned their World Champion at the promotion’s Summer Extravaganza event.

Their short time as the Britannicos certainly wouldn’t be the last in-ring interaction between Ospreay and Robinson; the two would go on to compete against each other in IPW:UK and later form a tag team, the Swords of Essex, in RevPro.

The team found success in mid-2013 when they defeated Project Ego, a team formed of Kris Travis and Martin Kirby, for the RevPro British Tag Team titles in York Hall.

Ospreay would also team with former WWE & ECW high flyer Super Crazy in IPW:UK before claiming RevPro’s British Cruiserweight title in 2014.

Throughout the first few years of Ospreay’s career, he wrestled in companies all over the UK; PROGRESS, Preston City Wrestling, Southside Wrestling, and Future Pro just to name a few.

Ospreay found himself in Europe on a number of occasions, appearing at WxW in Germany to face future WWE stars Axel Tischer (Alexander Wolfe) and Tommy End (Aleister Black), and eventually, the US, where he would compete in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s Battle of Los Angeles Tournament.

Will Ospreay expects to stay with NJPW: 'I just don't want to live in  America' - WON/F4W - WWE news, Pro Wrestling News, WWE Results, AEW News,  AEW results
[Photo: WON/F4W]

The Aerial Assassin

By 2015, Ospreay had made a name for himself on the British independent circuit. He was headlining all over the country, coming out on top in a feud with his long-time partner Paul Robinson and later taking the PROGRESS title from Jimmy Havoc.

Being at the top was an opportunity for Ospreay to share the ring with internationally known stars, and over the course of the year, Ospreay did just that. To name a few, Ospreay competed in singles matches against John Morrison, Chris Sabin, Drew Galloway (McIntyre), and fellow daredevil Ricochet.

It was only natural for Ospreay to want to spread his wings to show bigger audiences what he had to offer, and that’s exactly what he did in January 2016 when he debuted in Impact as part of their Jokers Wild events.

Ospreay would make his first major appearance with IMPACT teaming with veteran Matt Hardy to defeat James Storm and Eli Drake (now LA Knight) at the OVO Arena, Wembley in London.

Other matches for Impact over the weekend would prove less successful for Ospreay, though it was all worth it for the Aerial Assassin, who had spent some time with many respected veterans of the business, all while showcasing himself to those overseas.

Around this time, Ospreay had lost his PROGRESS title, and he continued to lose in singles matches to both veterans and up-and-comers alike for various promotions. Perhaps this was a period where Ospreay thought it good to put over some younger UK talent.

In the process, established that he could hang with the best in preparation for his imminent departure from being full-time in the British indie scene.

Possible WWE Plan For Will Ospreay Revealed - WrestleTalk
[Photo: WrestleTalk]

Chaos in Japan

On a card that saw Tetsuya Naito defeat Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Title, Will Ospreay made a splash in Japan for the very first time in a match against KUSHIDA for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title.

Their match at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Invasion Attack in Tokyo was no doubt as memorable for Ospreay as it was for all those watching back home if only for Ospreay’s bright pink and gold tights and the British flag he carried with him to the ring.

Ospreay and KUSHIDA went at it for fifteen minutes; Ospreay’s dive over the top rope and the champion’s flying armbar from the top turnbuckle were just two of the exceptional spots in what was a debut Ospreay could be proud of.

This was only the beginning of Will Ospreay’s story in New Japan as he would return at Wrestling Dontaku a month later to team with and become a member of one of the promotion’s biggest stables – CHAOS.

Will Ospreay’s road to stardom in New Japan felt more like a sprint than a marathon? Merely two months after his debut match against KUSHIDA, Will Ospreay competed in and became the youngest-ever winner of the annual Best of the Super Juniors Tournament.

This would cement Ospreay as the best that the promotion had to offer in his weight category. This would be a feat that he would go on to repeat in 2019.

In perhaps the most bizarre thing to come from the tournament, Ospreay’s match with Ricochet was met with criticism from legendary wrestler and former Japan fan favorite Vader. Vader took to Twitter to voice his displeasure over the pair’s match:

Naturally, Ospreay responded to Vader with a post of his own:

Now, most Twitter spats don’t usually end in a match at York Hall in London but that’s exactly what happened when at RevPro Uprising in 2016, Vader shockingly pinned Ospreay after interference from Pete Dunne.

Blip aside, just because he found immediate success in Japan didn’t mean that Ospreay would abandon the fans back home. The British sensation continued to compete around the UK when not called upon by New Japan and still does to this day.

He regained the RevPro British Cruiserweight title, this time from Pete Dunne, and once again competed in PWG’s Battle Of Los Angeles Tournament in California.

Though his Super Junior Tag Tournament with Gedo didn’t go to plan, the latter half of 2016 and early 2017 saw Ospreay pitted against champions from across the UK, Japan, and the US.

The Ring of Honor World Television title became Ospreay’s after a victory over Bobby Fish in Liverpool.

The NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team titles evaded him and his CHAOS cohort on multiple occasions, along with the RevPro British Heavyweight title. Ospreay even represented his home country of England in WCPW’s Pro Wrestling World Cup, where he once again lost to KUSHIDA.

It would be after Ospreay’s second Best of the Super Juniors Tournament that he would finally defeat KUSHIDA for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title.

Albeit the reign was short-lived, lasting only a month, but it brought an end to a saga that the two had been part of since Ospreay’s beginnings in New Japan and Ospreay picked the title back up at Wrestle Kingdom 12 in January 2018.

Hiromu Takahashi claimed Ospreay’s title for himself at Dominion, and from there, Ospreay set his sights on the NEVER Openweight title and even went on a run as Progress Tag champs with his old Swords of Essex partner Paul Robinson.

Two more titles under his belt, a third reign with the Junior Heavyweight title and a second Best of the Super Juniors win. All was going right for Will Ospreay. He was a key part of every New Japan tour and always relevant in the rings of British promotions.

So, how high was the ceiling for Will Ospreay and his career? As 2020 dawned, it became clear that the ceiling was far beyond the already impressive height Ospreay was at.

Will Ospreay Has Proven it. He's the Kingpin. - Monthly Puroresu
[Photo: Monthly Puroresu]

Will Ospreay – Leading United Empire

G1 Climax 30. An event like no other. The best of New Japan and some of the best gaijin (foreign stars) from around the world would compete in a legendary series of matches to crown the best of the best.

Ospreay had competed in the previous year’s event but struggled to make ground on the stars in his block. This year, Ospreay was determined to make an impact.

Ospreay’s block had a whole host of stars: Kota Ibushi, CHAOS stablemate Okada, and former CHAOS member turned Bullet Club leader Jay White. In that block, Ospreay picked up 12 points, placing him second to Ibushi ahead of Okada and White due to his victories over them—an impressive tally, though not what Ospreay wanted from the tournament.

In Ospreay’s final match of the tournament, he faced Okada. It was CHAOS vs CHAOS. This match changed the trajectory of both Ospreay and the CHAOS faction when Great-O-Khan interfered and slammed Okada to the mat with his Eliminator.

Will Ospreay had defeated Okada due to O-Khan’s unexpected actions, but the story was far from over. Ospreay smashed Okada in the back of the head with his Hidden Blade elbow, declaring himself free of CHAOS to start his own faction with Great-O-Khan and his then-girlfriend Bea Priestley – The Empire.

Ospreay’s faction would later change its name to the United Empire and go on to feature a whole host of talent from both Japan and overseas. The fact that New Japan had given Ospreay a license to start his own brand-new faction shows the faith that the higher-ups of the promotion had, and still appear to have, in Ospreay as a performer, character, and a draw.

Will Ospreay and Seth Rollins Drop Big Tease Following WWE Crown Jewel -  Wrestling Attitude
[Photo: Wrestling Attitude]

Wembley Stadium

For any young sportsperson from England, the dream is to step out in front of the crowd at Wembley Stadium. Whether it be football, boxing, or in this case, pro-wrestling, Wembley Stadium is the grandest stage in English sport.

Once AEW owner Tony Khan made his intentions of having a packed Wembley Stadium as the location for All In 2023 clear, fans started to wonder which stars would make their Wembley debut.

The star-studded event simply wouldn’t have been complete without Britain’s superstar, and it was only a matter of time until Ospreay showed up in AEW to let everyone know that he was not about to miss his chance to wrestle at Wembley.

Ospreay was so proud of his achievement that he decided to get a tattoo to commemorate the occasion, though some discrepancies over the correct paid attendance of the event seemingly caused Ospreay to regret his decision.

In a video uploaded and soon deleted by the 30-year-old, he said:

“Bruv, you cannot make this f**king s**t up. I am currently in Japan, and I’ve had no f**king sleep. I am tired, and I wake up. This is the worst f**king day of my life.

Do you know how hard it was for me to get a tattoo? My Mum f**king hates them, bruv. They announced it to everyone! They announced it was 81,000 people. I’ve got this f**king thing on my arm now.”  

Ink aside, the event was no doubt one to remember for Ospreay and everyone watching as the Aerial Assassin showed his star quality with a victory over Chris Jericho.

This victory was the start of a working relationship with AEW, where Ospreay has since lent his hand to the Don Callis Family as part of a feud with Callis’ former affiliates Jericho and Kenny Omega.

Will Ospreay Talks CM Punk Match, Not Needing A WrestleMania Moment & more  - SE Scoops | Wrestling News, Results & Interviews
[Photo: SES Scoops]

The Ins and Outs

Ospreay has become known for his combination of technical wrestling and downright insane stunts that would in nearly enough, every Ospreay match. His ‘Essex Destroyer,’ which blends the movement of a Canadian Destroyer with the impact of a DDT, was just one of the moves Ospreay performed week in and week out.

From there, Ospreay went on to utilize a springboard cutter, dubbed the Oscutter, the Stormbreaker, and a vicious elbow strike to the back of his opponent’s head that he calls the Hidden Blade as a finishing move.

The pace of Ospreay’s matches and the seemingly never-ending flow of impressive moves in Ospreay’s arsenal, along with Ospreay’s willingness to take those moves in return for the sake of a good match, was and still is astounding.

That being said, Ospreay is more than just a man with a remarkable move-set. Ospreay can talk on the mic, whether his opponents and the crowds overseas want him to or not.

He portrays an arrogant individual in the US, a confident heel who knows how good he is and isn’t afraid to prove in the ring that he’s better than someone.

Promos in feuds with Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho remain highlights in Ospreay’s career, and working in the US with AEW and the like allows Ospreay to add to the list of his powerful, emotion-fuelled segments.

Even so, most fans still love him, and one wonders if Ospreay can be utilized as a face globally.

WWE legend criticizes Kenny Omega and Will Ospreay's life-threatening spot  at Forbidden Door
[Photo: Sportskeeda]

What the Pros Say

Kenny Omega, one of the world’s best, faced off against Will Ospreay at Wrestle Kingdom 17 and again later in 2023 at Forbidden Door. Omega had plenty of praise for Ospreay when he spoke with Uproxx after their second bout:

“I feel that magic when I’m in there with Will. I feel that pressure to perform, to deliver, to give the type of performance that I guess I’m known for. So I’m thankful for people on the planet like Will who can awaken that part in me, that as time goes by, it is harder to summon.”

Kenny Omega himself has already had a Hall of Fame-worthy career. He has wowed fans in the US, Japan, and Mexico with praiseworthy matches against the prestigious stars in every promotion he’s stepped into.

To be held in such high regard by Omega puts Ospreay in good stead to have similar worldwide success and keeps fans hopeful that these two will step into the ring for many more fantastic singles matches together.

Will Ospreay and Naomichi Marufuji put on a spectacle for NOAH at the Naomichi Marufuji Debut 25th Anniversary Show, where they faced each other in the main event. Speaking after the match through a translator, Marufuji said that:

“Ospreay was the only one for this match… I think he is the perfection of modern wrestling.”

Marufuji also referred to Will Ospreay as a “genius,” highlighting Ospreay’s terrific in-ring psychology. Marufuji is an incredible talent in his own right, spending almost all of his career as one of the top junior heavyweights on the NOAH roster and going on to become the company’s Vice President.

Will Ospreay
[Photo: SI.com]

Long in the Memory

Will Ospreay’s journey in the world of pro wrestling has been nothing short of remarkable? It is a testament to the dedication, talent, and passion that drives professional wrestlers to reach the top.

From humble beginnings in Essex to becoming a global wrestling icon, Ospreay’s rise tells the story of a young man who changed people’s perceptions of what they believe someone can do inside the squared circle.

Will Ospreay has captured the attention and hearts of spectators worldwide with a whirlwind of high-stakes matches, meaningful rivalries, and championship victories that have solidified his status as one of the industry’s elite performers.

Years after his career comes to pass, his greatest moments will surely endure for a whole new generation of fans to gaze upon, and they too will discover the phenomenon of Will Ospreay.