Although there’s been some debate as to who the outstanding wrestler of 2018 has been so far, Will Ospreay has been a step ahead of everyone else in my eyes. He’s been consistently brilliant throughout the first half of the year, and has had bonafide match of the year candidates with the likes of Matt Riddle, Marty Scurll, KUSHIDA and Hiromu Takahashi. Not only has he had incredible matches, but he has elevated every promotion he is in – the fact that the junior heavyweight division in New Japan Pro Wrestling has never been as big as it is now being evidence of that.
Another match which has to be added to that MOTYC list is his match with Jordan Devlin from PROGRESS Chapter 72: Got Got Need (NB: although this was held on 24th June, it aired last week). Devlin himself is having somewhat of a breakout year, having been the standout performer on the Irish independent scene over the past few years and becoming the inaugural world champion in Ireland’s biggest promotion, Over The Top Wrestling (a promotion which has garnered a fair bit of buzz in its own right). Having also been a signee for WWE’s UK division over the past year or so, it is only a matter of time before Devlin becomes one of the most talked about European names in all of wrestling, if he isn’t already.
That goodwill that he has built up, especially with UK and Ireland wrestling fans, was on full show here, with the Electric Ballroom crowd heavily favouring him over usual PROGRESS fan favourite Will Ospreay before this first-time match got underway. Ospreay immediately reacted to this by flipping the bird at the fans and inciting them, setting the tone for the rest of the match as he seamlessly transitioned into the heel role. As the fans continued the pro-Devlin and anti-Ospreay chants throughout the beginning of the match, Devlin dominated, further rattling an increasingly incensed Ospreay. One particular highlight was an ura-nage/standing moonsault combination that almost got the shock quick win for Devlin.
Ospreay finally managed to get into the match with an enziguri in the corner, which he followed up with a tiger feint kick. This immediately brought back his cockiness, as he rested on the ropes to the boos of the crowd. This cockiness soon turned into rage, however, as immediately following a 2 count brought on by a scoop slam/diving knees to the face combination, the crowd switched the usual “ole” Ospreay chant into a Devlin chant. He took this anger out on his opponent, landing several punches and chops in the corner. Devlin managed to duck out of one last chop and landed a few chops of his own, before being struck with a vicious flying forearm from Ospreay for a 2 count.
Ospreay tried to slow the pace down with a headlock, but Devlin managed to fight out, leading to a back and forth that culminated with him landing a double foot stomp (much akin to his trainer FKA Fergal Devitt, NKA Finn Balor) on his opponent. He followed this up with an incredible slingshot cutter and a brainbuster, getting a 2 count on both occasions. Devlin then hit a series of kicks to Ospreay’s chest, after which he attempted to hit a suplex, but Ospreay countered to bounce off the ropes and hit a leaping kick, swinging momentum back in his favour. After slingshotting Devlin onto the outside, Ospreay proceeded to hit a Sasuke Special onto his opponent, which he quickly followed up by launching Devlin into a bunch of chairs in the front few rows. He once again put on a show of arrogance, standing on a fan’s knees and strutting across the front row, moving from knee to knee in the process.
As Devlin just about managed to crawl back into the ring, he was immediately hit with a springboard leg drop by Ospreay, who was waiting on the apron on the other side of the ring. Ospreay immediately followed up with a reverse Bloody Sunday, a move made famous by the aforementioned Devitt, but Devlin once again kicked out at 2. An incredible sequence ensued, as Ospreay went for a tiger suplex, which Devlin managed to fight out of before ducking out of the way from an Ospreay kick and setting up for a tiger suplex of his own. Ospreay incredibly landed on his feet, however, and hit a series of moves before Devlin dodged an enziguri by his opponent, and finally managed to land a tiger suplex. He then rushed at a prone Ospreay, only for the latter to spin Devlin round and hit him with a facebuster, garnering a rousing applause from the crowd.
As Ospreay got to his feet, he climbed the turnbuckle, but Devlin hit an enziguri to the back of his opponent’s head, after which he went for a Spanish fly from the top rope. Incredibly, however, both men landed on their feet, with the audible collective gasp that the audience let out mirroring the exact same reaction that came out of my mouth. With the two men still locked by the arm, Ospreay quickly pulled his opponent in, and launched Devlin for a Spanish fly. He then followed up with a moonsault that Devlin ducked out of the way from twice, with Ospreay landing on his feet both times, before finally hitting the moonsault on the third time of asking, which he quickly followed up with a 630 splash for another 2 count. Ospreay felt like he had the match won, and went for the Storm Breaker. Devlin had other ideas, however, and countered with a sunset flip piledriver for a 2 count of his own.
The only two men that weren’t on their feet at this point were the two contestants in the ring, as the entire crowd gave both men a standing ovation for the incredible match that was being put on. As the two opponents got to their feet, they engaged in a slap-off, which ended with Ospreay hitting a hook kick to Devlin’s face. He then rushed the corner, only for Devlin to lift his knees to send Ospreay crashing to the floor, after which he rolled through and leapt into his opponent, spiking him on his head with yet another sunset flip piledriver, which Ospreay just about managed to kick out of. Devlin attempted a package piledriver, but Ospreay managed to counter with a Go Home Driver, sending a message to Jimmy Havoc (who Ospreay has been goading as of late) in the process. Devlin kicked out at 2 once again, but Ospreay quickly followed up with an Acid Rainmaker (another signature Jimmy Havoc move) for another 2 count.
Ospreay couldn’t believe he still hadn’t won the match, and looked to finish it off by setting up for the Storm Breaker. Devlin once again countered this, however, hitting a hurricanrana which he almost got the 3 count from. He then followed up with a knee to Ospreay’s face, after which he attempted a Stundog Millionaire, which Ospreay countered to set up for another Acid Rainmaker, only for Devlin to duck of the way and spike his opponent on his head with another hurricanrana. He then attempted to follow up with a moonsault off the ropes, but Ospreay caught him out of the air, and landed an incredible Storm Breaker to pick up the victory. Both men showed respect to each other after the match, as the fans gave them another well-deserved standing ovation. Ospreay quickly reverted back to being a heel after the match, however, attacking a number of officials, which was only thwarted when Paul Robinson (his former tag team partner as well as Jimmy Havoc’s former stablemate) rushed out to stop Ospreay from continuing the mass assault. The Ospreay-Havoc storyline is looking more and more interesting as each development occurs.
If you thought Ospreay didn’t have anymore to offer this year, you were dead wrong. This match was nothing short of amazing, and will be up there with his best matches of the year once 2018 draws to a close. This match was proof positive that Ospreay is a once-in-a-generation talent, as his ability to effectively and believably play both the valiant babyface as well as the dastardly heel was on show for all to see during and after this match. Devlin more than played his part, however, and was arguably even more outstanding than Ospreay was in this match. Both men deserve the praise that they are getting at the moment, and are up there with the best in Europe (if not the world) in my book. If you haven’t seen this match, I implore you to go out of your way to check it out.