Every Wednesday WrestleZone brings you all of the latest NJPW news from across the pacific. This is a very special WRESTLE KINGDOM 12 edition of NEW JAPAN PRO WEDNESDAY.
Correction: This post originally had the wrong start time for the main card. The article has been updated with the correct start time.
How To Watch Wrestle Kingdom 12 & New Japan Rumble
Wrestle Kingdom 12 will air LIVE FROM TOKYO at 3am EST on njpwworld.com. WrestleZone will provide live coverage throughout the event.
Before Wrestle Kingdom, there will be the annual New Japan Rumble. The staggered-entry battle royal will happen sometime between 2am EST and 3am EST on njpwworld.com.
EXCLUSIVE Interview w/ Will Ospreay
“The Aerial Assassin” Will Ospreay will be part of the four-way IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match against Kushida, Hiromu Takahashi, and the man who won the title from Ospreay at Power Struggle, the champion, “The Villain” Marty Scurll at Wrestle Kingdom 12 in the Tokyo Dome on January 4.
In less than two years with NJPW, Ospreay won the Best of the Super Juniors in his first try in 2016, returned to the finals in 2017, and won his first IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title from Kushida at King of Pro-Wrestling in October.
In this interview, Ospreay talks about the struggles he’s had against Scurll in the ring, his assessment of Scurll’s career and what Scurll said about him, his biggest worry about coming to NJPW for the first time, learning from Okada, a dream opponent in another division, learning from his famous match with Ricochet, how he impressed at a New Japan tryout, his goals for 2018, and why it’s so important to become a heavyweight in NJPW.
How much do you hate Marty Scurll?
Quite a lot. It’s not that I hate Marty. I can’t understand necessarily why he’s in wrestling ’cause he always just cares about the money side of things. If you want to associate yourself with money then get a real job. I feel like wrestling is something you should be passionate about. Something you want to try and expand.
I feel like he’s in it for the wrong reasons. I feel like he’s in it for the money and the glory. He sees this as a business, whereas I see it as a love and a passion. I see it as a chance to help people. I see a little situation where it’s a small opportunity to grow because I take every opportunity I get. Marty’s just a money guy. That’s who he is. That’s what he cares about. I just care about trying to make New Japan the biggest company in the world.
Are you aware of your record against Marty? (Ospreay is 3-11 in singles matches and 0-9 in title matches against Scurll)
Against him? Yes, but I’m aware of my record against Hiromu and Kushida as well. The thing is everyone knows Marty has beaten me for every championship I’ve ever held. The Progress Championship? Marty beat me. His first ever match in the Best of the Super Juniors? Marty beat me. The Ring of Honor Television Championship? Marty beat me. And the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship? Marty beat me.
Marty’s put himself in a tough situation because now he’s in a fatal four-way with Hiromu Takahashi and Kushida. For me, Hiromu and Kushida are two of the best wrestlers going today. I have beaten the pair. Kushida was a long time to beat him, but I have beaten him. And Hiromu is the same, but I have beaten Hiromu as well.
Marty’s not just concerning himself with a one-on-one situation, he’s got three guys he’s defending his championship against in this match. That can change in a second. In my mind, I do want to pin Marty, but if there’s a chance to pin Hiromu or Kushida to become the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion again, I will do it.
What was your biggest worry coming into NJPW for the first time?
My biggest worry was that I wasn’t read because I’d only been doing the small independents and that’s pretty much it. If you look at the caliber of athletes like Okada, Naito, Kenny Omega. There’s so many to list off.
I felt that maybe I wasn’t ready. Maybe I was a small fish in a big pond. I’ve always been willing to rise to any challenge that I’ve been given. I’ve always wanted to improve. I’ve always wanted to be with the big guys. I knew that if I wanted to succeed that I’d have to give it my all, my everything in that first match I had with Kushida and I literally gave every single bit I had and I came backstage and they were more than happy with what I was able to give to them. I was very, very worried that they’d made the wrong choice.
Who have you learned the most from during your time with the company?
Gedo, Okada, and Kushida, 100 percent. Kushida for me is one of my greatest opponents I’ve had in New Japan. I feel like everything we’ve stepped in the ring, we’ve improved and upped our game so many times.
Okada, because I’m under his tutelage as well as Gedo. Every time we talk about strategies or how we can take the branding of the “Aerial Assassin” further or movements and everything in between. I’ve learned the most from those three.
Even though you’ve been part of Chaos for a while now, are you scared of Ishii?
Oh, all the time. Ishii’s one of the most terrifying guys I’ve ever met. It’s so hard to read him.
Okada is known for stealing phones and taking selfies. What’s your favorite story involving him?
Wow. There’s a lot. Okada is that guy who does it to me all the time. He steals my cat earphones and puts them on and takes selfies.
I remember when I took the missus over to Los Angeles a little while ago. We tried to get a little photo of the stage and the ring for the L.A. show and Okada just randomly popped his head in the background to photobomb us. It was a really nice photo as well.
Even though you don’t get a lot of downtime in Japan, do you have a favorite activity outside of the ring while you’re there?
I like to go to Roppongi and have a little dance. I like to go karaoke. I like to go out and socialize. We’re doing a lot of wrestling, so I like to create a lot of memories outside wrestling.
While we saw Bushi face Bad Luck Fale at the World Tag League Finals show, there are not a lot of one-on-one matches between juniors and heavyweights, but you faced Shibata earlier in 2017. Would you like to do more of that? Who would you want to face?
Oh, 100 percent I’d love to get in the ring with the heavyweights cause I feel like that’s how you improve is by stepping outside your comfort zone. If I was going to face any heavyweight in the world, I would be stupid to not say Kota Ibushi because that would be a sellout.
With the expansion to America ramping up in 2018, how do you fit into that mix? Do you take on extra responsibility because you’ve already had so much success in America?
I don’t really know. I guess that’s up to New Japan and what they want to push forward to the American audience. I know that I was over for Ring of Honor Final Battle and opened the show getting one of the loudest reactions I’ve ever had in my career. It was a real fun and interesting moment for me. I still feel like I’m about to do backyarding on a Sunday. Do you know what I mean? It was at the Hammerstein Ballroom, where as I child, I watched ECW in there. I watched Monday Night Raw in there. It was so refreshing to go back in there. I wrestled in that building maybe three or four times now. It was a real hit home moment.
It depends what New Japan wants to do. I’m willing to follow any order and make this product as great as it can be.
You earned a lot of attention both praising and criticizing your match with Ricochet in the 2016 Best of the Super Juniors. Was that a turning point in your career? Did you feel the need to change anything about your style after hearing both the praise and critiques?
Yes. As much as I say this all the time, me and Ricochet have done that style of match in other promotions and it’s never really gotten that attention, but because it was done on such a grand stage in the Best of the Super Juniors, it obviously got the attention it wanted to get. That was my aim. I wanted to get the world talking. If you put me and Ricochet against each other, you want to see us at our bests. We are the best at counter innovation. That’s what we do. We find innovative ways to counter each other’s moves.
After hearing a lot about it, I wanted to change because I feel like a lot of people feel like I’m one particular kind of wrestler. That is why I challenge guys like Shibata. That’s why I go extremely out of my comfort zone. That’s why I go to Australia and New Zealand. I go everywhere because I want to show people that: A) My style of wrestling is legitimate, but B) I’m not just one style of wrestler. I’m a hybrid. I can adapt when needed.
Last multi-man singles match in New Japan was 2013. What’s it like to be in a match that is so commonplace around the world, but unique to New Japan? Do you think there should be more of these in NJPW?
I don’t know if there should be more of them because it’s a special attraction. It’s the attracted the attention of the wrestling world because you do have four of the greatest junior heavyweights on the planet facing off against each other. I feel like it should be a special moment. I feel like it will be a special moment.
The last was in 2013, a singles triple threat match at Wrestle Kingdom with Prince Devitt, Kota Ibushi and Low Ki. At that time, in my opinion, those were the three greatest junior heavyweights. Now, it’s happening again because the competition has picked up. I don’t think it’s just us four. I could name a bunch of Americans, a bunch of English guys, a bunch of Japanese guys that I think are incredible junior heavyweights, but right now, the names that are on everyone’s lips are us four. The moment you put the best junior heavyweights in the ring, I feel like we’re going to create a lot of magic. I don’t feel like we should be doing this all the time because it will dilute it. It will water it down. I feel like what we are going to do is really, really special. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to creating history.
I want to read you a quote from a recent interview I did with Marty. I asked him about adjustments he made while working for New Japan and if there’s a specific aspect that makes it different. He actually brought you up because he talked about it being build around competition, respect, and characters. His said, “With someone like a Will Ospreay, he’s amazing in the ring, don’t get me wrong, but once you’ve seen that, what more is there? What depth is there? Why am I going to buy a ticket to see him wrestle?” What are your thoughts on that comment and how he summed you up?
In some ways, he’s right. What I’ll say about Marty is that characters will always fade out while talent will always speak volumes over any gimmick or any character. Marty’s character will fade, will fizzle, and he’ll have to keep adding layers and layers on top of it. Where in my mind, if he had talent, then he would never need a character in the first place.
In 2015, there was a tryout for New Japan. New Japan came over to England to look at three guys and I wasn’t even in the top three. They were looking at Marty. They were actually going to look at Kris Travis, but he had to retire because of cancer, and another gentleman who I can’t remember off the top of my head. They didn’t want either of them because they saw a young kid (Ospreay) go up against the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Okada, and stand toe to toe with him. In that retrospect, I think Marty’s always been jealous.
I think Marty’s always been in my shadow, so he’s had to create this “Villain” persona to try and match what I can do in the ring. Because Marty knows he can’t do anything like I can do. I can do this forever. This is real easy for me, my movements, my move set, but for everyone else, it’s very difficult. For me, I just keep getting better and I keep adding stuff to the brand of the “Aerial Assassin,” so Marty has to find way to keep himself relevant while my matches will be good and great.
Do you have a specific goal in mind for your time with NJPW in 2018? Do you have goals in mind for the rest of your career in NJPW?
In 2018, I would like to recapture the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. I would like to go back into the Best of the Super Juniors and reclaim the Super Juniors trophy.
For future goals, I don’t know if you ever keep up with my social media every now and again, but I’ve been putting on a lot of weight recently. I’ve been hitting the gym hard. I’ve been putting weight on. It’s a slow thing for me because I know to expand in New Japan, you do have to be a heavyweight. To be considered one of the top guys, you do have to be a heavyweight. I know this. I’ve accepted this, so now is the time for me to start knuckling down, working hard, and heading towards the heavyweight division.
But right now, I will stick to my guns with the junior heavyweight division because I think they need me right now. Like I said, I’m one of the top four junior heavyweights in the world. One of them being Marty, unfortunately, and he’s not even there nearly enough of the times that I’m there. Kushida has had his time with the junior heavyweight division. He’s been called the Ace of the junior heavyweight division, but he’s been doing it for a three, four years in a row. They want to see the next guy come up. That leaves me and Hiromu. I do admire Hiromu. Once again, he’s a wildcard. He’s a ticking time bomb. That’s his name. But, compared to what I do, once again, talent speaks and I can go forever. I can keep doing this.
I know in my heart of hearts, maybe 2020, I don’t know, it depends if New Japan wants to keep me on to be honest, I would love to stay in New Japan and I would love to be maybe in the G1. I’d love to do that one day. My mission in life is I want to be walking in the center of the Tokyo Dome, not the side stages, I want to walk out that center platform.
CONTINUE TO NEXT PAGE FOR FULL WRESTLE KINGDOM CARD…