Frontline Wrestling Debuts: Will Ospreay Brings Puroresu to the United Kingdom with His New Promotion

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Will Ospreay andFrontline Wrestling
Credit: @FrontlinePuro

On June 28th, in front of a packed house at Stratford Circus, Theatre Square, London, Frontline Wrestling, the promotion founded by international star Will Ospreay, made its grand debut with Build Me an Empire.

Frontline Wrestling, which became the newest British promotion to launch (February 2018), describes itself on Facebook as “a professional wrestling promotion, based in the United Kingdom set to showcase talent from across the globe in a unique way that you’ll never of seen them before.”

This is Frontline. This is a new wave of British Puroresu wrestling.

An Innovative Vision from an Innovative Wrestler

A two-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, two-time RevPro Undisputed British Cruiserweight Champion, PROGRESS Champion and much more, the just 25-year-old Will Ospreay is largely regarded as one of the greatest cruiserweights/junior heavyweights in the world today and already (he’s been pro for just six years) one of the best of all-time.

The aptly named Aerial Assassin–he’s always one of the best high-flyers in the world–received his first five-star match rating from Dave Meltzer in 2016 when he teamed with longtime rival Ricochet and Matt Sydal to take on the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) and Adam Cole at PWG Battle of Los Angeles. A year later, at New Japan Pro Wrestling Best of the Super Juniors, in the final of the tournament, Ospreay took on KUSHIDA in his first five-star singles match. Ospreay’s third and latest five-star match occurred in April of this year at NJPW Sakura Genesis where he defeated another longtime rival, Marty Scurll, to win his second junior heavyweight championship.

Ospreay has worked for pretty much all of the major promotions not named World Wrestling Entertainment, including Total Nonstop Action/Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, NJPW, EVOLVE, RevPro, PROGRESS, PWG and more. He’s seen it all, has worked with an incredible amount of different styles from Puroresu and strong style to lucha libre and hardcore, and everything in between. He’s been described as a great innovator so who better to open a brand new innovative promotion that combines Puro with the British style to give fans a “hybrid of full contact, hard hitting, strong style matches.”

Build Me an Empire

In an exclusive interview that SEScoops did with Will Ospreay in February, Ospreay mentioned his desire to feature a mix of talent for Frontline Wrestling, from the best UK performers to guys that he personally sees potential in, as well as top talent globally.

So one of the things I’d like to do with Frontline is offer an opportunity to talent that may have been overlooked & under appreciated.So name them. Who should we look at to be part of the Frontline?

Posted by Frontline Wrestling on Thursday, February 1, 2018

 

“I obviously wanna use the best and mix them with people I see potential in,” Ospreay said in February, when asked about what the June card for the first show could look like. “Say your Travis Banks, Chris Brookes, Mark Haskins, Aussie Open, El Ligero are all on top form but to mix them with students of the game and are learning everyday like Connor Mills, Maverick Mayhew, Kip Sabian, Malik, Kosta K, Sean Kustom so many guys. Obviously my cards will be very limited so the strong survive in my mind.”

For the most part, Ospreay seemed to check off many of the names he had on his wish list.

Build Me an Empire featured seven matches. There were two tag team matches. The pairing of El Phantasmo and Kelly Sixx took on Chief Deputy Dunne and Kip Sabian and The 198 (Flash Morgan Webster and Wild Boar) faced M&M (Connor Mills and Maverick Mayhew). There was a six man tag team match as CCK (Chris Brookes, Kid Lykos and Travis Banks) faced Adam Brooks and Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis). This was a rematch of sorts as Fletcher and Davis defeated Brookes and Lykos a few weeks prior to retain their Defiant tag team championships. This time around it was CCK that emerged victorious, thanks to a little help.

There were two semifinal matches in the Frontline heavyweight title tournament. Mark Haskins defeated Dragon Gate‘s Naoki Tanizaki and Rob Lynch defeated Stixx. Ospreay was quick to announce that the two winners will headline Frontline’s second show S.P.I.R.I.T. taking place on August 21. Also facing off in singles action was NOAH‘s Kenoh and Chris Ridgeway. There was also a women’s match good enough to headline any card in the UK or otherwise as Bea Priestly took on WWE’s Toni Storm. Another top-level women’s match has already been announced for S.P.I.R.I.T as well as Viper will be taking on Kay Lee Ray.

Clearly, with this debut card, its evident Will Ospreay knows what he’s doing.

Will Ospreay is Creating “Something Special”

It was clear as soon as i walked into the venue that this was something different; special even.

That’s what Ciarán Hayward wrote in a review of Build Me an Empire for Webbedmedia.com. “Frontline have set a high precedent for themselves to keep up following this debut that will definitely have me returning for their next show in August,” the review went on to say.

While the matches themselves were not described in detail, save for the main event which was listed as having “personified the strong-style that Ospreay wants on show; every kick KENOH delivered to Ridgeway sounded like a gunshot,” Hayward noted the importance of the storylines that unfolded in the debut show.

Using the word “refreshing” to describe that this show was not just a bunch of great wrestlers letting them go at it in the ring or a “spot fest” as indy shows can sometimes be, Hayward noted that Kelly Sixx was ambushed leading to his loss; Adam Brooks double crossed Aussie Open costing them against CCK and Mark Haskins attacked Rob Lynch post-match to build up their Frontline championship match.

“The sky is the limit with there being little reason that Frontline cannot become one of the most prolific wrestling promotions in the UK,” Hayward said.

High praise indeed for Frontline but that should come as no surprise as Ospreay no doubt knows the two scenes he’s working with (British strong style and Puro) as well as anybody. As someone who has wrestled extensively in Japan and the UK, there is perhaps no one better to marry these two styles into a wrestling experience unlike any other. Especially if Ospreay himself will be acting as showrunner and booker when his schedule allows.

“It’s clear that Will has used what he has learned from his years of travelling the world working for promotions big and small, has seen what does and doesn’t work, and used this to give his own promotion a unique presence, with inspiration coming from his time in Japan,” Hayward wrote.

One of these inspirations was the use of Young Lions, which Ospreay no doubt borrowed from working in NJPW. The Young Lions are basically rookie wrestlers who work as ring crew, train, workout and learn the art of wrestling from the more experienced wrestlers around them. Ospreay saw all of that up-close-and-personal and clearly realized the impact by bringing that concept to Frontline.

That’s not the only concept Ospreay hopes to borrow as according to SEScoops, he’s already dreaming big picture with ideas of a Strong Style 16/Commonwealth Cup involving Australia, Canada and New Zealand. But as Ospreay says, that’s looking down the line and for now, he’s focused on building his promotion with “baby steps.”

Ospreay is goal-driven and he has a vision for Frontline that has already started to come to fruition. Down the line, he may have to deal with the WWE UK show and what that might mean for talent he hopes to book, or navigate the world of video on demand as Ospreay has said on Twitter is “coming soon,” but for now, Frontline is simply dedicated to bringing the best mix of Puro and British strongstyle to its local audience.

If Build Me an Empire is any indication, Frontline and Will Ospreay are off to a great start in seeing that vision come to light.

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