At just 23 years of age and with only four years of wrestling under his belt, the rise of Will Ospreay in the world of professional wrestling has been nothing short of meteoric. The young man from Rainham in Essex has set the world aflame with his outstanding aerial ability, accomplished technical skill, and innate showmanship and now (just under two months since his New Japan debut) Will Ospreay competes in the finals of the most prestigious Jr. Heavyweight tournament in the world: NJPW’s Best of the Super Jr. XXIII. Few men have made their NJPW debuts to such universal acclaim, while fewer still have proven themselves to be so immediately ‘at home’ performing in the famous cerulean blue and white ring of New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Yet Will Ospreay is no ordinary talent.
A versatile high-flyer who cemented himself as one of the must-see names in the British wrestling scene, Ospreay’s skills brought some of the best in the world to his doorstep to see what he could do for themselves. But, perhaps more remarkable than the list of world class names he’s already faced in his young career, is just how quickly Ospreay has learned from his mistakes. Anyone who has been following his career in Britain can attest that Will’s grown by leaps and bounds, picking up all sorts of tricks of the trade from the stars that his talent earned the right to face and bettering himself with that knowledge. With the ink still drying on a two-year NJPW contract, the future looks very bright for ‘The Aerial Assassin’ Will Ospreay and what a statement it would be if he wins the Best of the Super Jr. tournament!
Standing in his path, however, is ‘The Funky Weapon’ Ryusuke Taguchi. One of the most polarising figures in NJPW today, Taguchi is hugely popular with the native audience, but much of his appeal seems to fly above the heads of many foreign fans, who bemoan his quirky sense of humour and over-fondness of using his posterior as an offensive weapon. But, for all his wacky antics in and out of the ring, it’s easy to forget that Taguchi is a very skilled competitor in his own right. A thirteen year veteran versed in a wide range of styles, Taguchi was trained by Jr. Heavyweight legends such as Kuniaki Kobayashi, El Samurai & Milano Collection A.T and has proven his capabilities on multiple occasions, winning the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight title twice, the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles five times and winning the Best of the Super Jr. once in 2012.
Since the departure of his former tag partner Prince Devitt (now known as NXT’s Finn Balor) Taguchi has had a rather aimless couple of years, the highlight of which was his second IWGP Jr. Heavyweight title reign. The man he defeated to win the belt was none other than current champion KUSHIDA and now Taguchi once more has his sights set on KUSHIDA’s title. If he can successfully brush aside the challenge of Ospreay, Taguchi will have to feel quite confident in defeating the champion at DOMINION. He’s faced KUSHIDA in singles competition five times and only once (during Day 7 of this year’s Best of the Super Jr) has KUSHIDA managed to beat Taguchi. But, while Taguchi seems to be regaining some of his former sharpness and hunger, KUSHIDA has come a long way since he lost the belt to Taguchi in 2014.
So, in just a few short hours, ‘The Funky Weapon’ Ryusuke Taguchi will face off against ‘The Aerial Assassin’ Will Ospreay and, regardless of who emerges the ultimate victor in this year’s Best of the Super Jr. tournament, it’s safe to say that KUSHIDA is in for a tough challenge at DOMINION. Either he’ll face the young man who tested KUSHIDA’s ability to the limit at Invasion Attack this past April, or the wily veteran who so painfully cut short his first IWGP Jr. Heavyweight title reign back in 2014.
The finals of the NJPW Best of the Super Jr. XXIII take place at 10:30AM UK time, live on NJPW World! http://njpwworld.com