There’s been a pattern of events transpiring that could potentially be indicating that UK indie sensation Will Ospreay could be a free agent heading into 2018. While Ospreay signed a 2-year exclusive contract with Ring of Honor/NJPW on December 1, 2016 and thus would be contracted until December 1, 2017, there are definitely ways to get around that. A release could have been granted, an option exercised, a buyout. It’s still too early to say with conclusivity, but here’s some of the indicators that Ospreay could be leaving Ring of Honor and NJPW and becoming a Cody-esque free agent in 2018
#1. IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE
Okay, I’m sure people are thinking “How could winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title be considered a sign he’s LEAVING?” Well, here’s the thing. Yes, he won it. First UK born man to do so. But you know what other record he set? Shortest reign ever. At only 27 days. (Okay, that’s not entirely true. Juventud Guerrera held it for 7 days when WCW and NJPW had a partnership in the late 90s, but this was done by WCW and NJPW ignored this for decades). New Japan is known for lengthy reigns by champions and to cut off some like Ospreay, who was a standout in the past two NJPW Best of the Super Juniors (winning the 2016 edition), seems like an odd decision. Now if it was WWE, we’d expect that, but New Japan traditionally likes the reigns to be more prestigiously protected.
#2. THE LIST III
Last year it was Cody Rhodes, and a few days ago James Ellsworth made one, but this week Ospreay also released a list of wrestlers he wanted to have in 2018. While several are definitely achievable under his current NJPW and ROH deals, most of them are not. PAC is WWE’s Neville, and if he is indeed staying with the WWE as recent reports indicate, there’s very limited options of where that could be – NXT, Raw or Smackdown (or the WWE UK show if it happens). Now, Ospreay could be holding out for a possible release (hence the PAC name mentioned) but WWE could also land him his match with Tyler Bate. Granted, Bate could easily get that match on the UK BritWres circuit. After all, there’s plenty of UK talent on there, like Otami (who wrestles for Ospreay’s own Lucha Forever, plus Trent Seven’s Fight Club: PRO amongst others), Manchester’s Bubblegum (Preston City Wrestling, Southside Wrestling Entertainment, etc.) and IPW:UK/PROGRESS youth sensation, 17-year old Maverick Mayhew. He’s got some Australasian talent, like Mr. Juicy, Jonah Rock and Dowie James as well. Ibushi wrestles for NJPW, but that could be taken care of soon. Low Ki has been hitting Europe lately and could easily meet up in one of the UK promotions – he wrestled for Fight Club: PRO at the beginning of December. That leaves Moose, Davey Richards, Dezmond Xavier and Naomichi Marufuji. And what’s the common denominator for all four? Impact Wrestling. Richards is technically retired, but it’s quite possible he could be lured out for one more match or run with a Career Match with the last major promotion Richards performed with. And Marufuji, while wrestling for Pro Wrestling NOAH, has been a featured star with Impact the past year as part of their alliance. Moose and Xavier both work indies as well, but both are featured stars with Impact currently. Adding Ospreay to be the new face of the X-Division, against such stars as Xavier or Marufuji, would be a huge step in rebuilding that division. Ospreay would instantly become their new AJ Styles.
2018. These matches have never happened. Please let’s make them happen. pic.twitter.com/SSMJVHCfqw
— ウィル・オスプレイ (@WillOspreay) December 13, 2017
#3. THE ANNOUNCEMENT
— EVOLVE Wrestling (@WWNEVOLVE) December 14, 2017
Ok this being Ospreay would make sense pic.twitter.com/2OdgmNMLcl
— rovert (@SoDuTw) December 15, 2017
That SURE looks a lot like Will Ospreay. Remember last year, just before Ospreay announced that he’d signed with ROH/NJPW, when it was announced that WWE’s Paul Heyman had personally delivered a contract offer from WWN (and EVOLVE specifically)?
Ospreay turned it down, obviously, but the interest was there. And guaranteed it never left. While some would say that Ospreay was never an EVOLVE or WWN wrestler, so he couldn’t come back, they’d be wrong. Ospreay performed twice with EVOLVE in 2016, at EVOLVE 58 (against Zack Sabre Jr.) and EVOLVE 59 (against Ricochet). Plus, if you zoom in on the tights, you’ll notice they didn’t exactly shadow the performer out completely. You can clearly see his WO on his tights. Which makes it pretty much the photo from this NJPW match below as well.
So if it’s true that Will Ospreay is coming to a WWN Supershow over WrestleMania weekend, then he must not be under contract with ROH anymore, as it would block appearing for EVOLVE.
#4. THY KINGDOM COME
Will is Gabe's now. https://t.co/2FjRyzE2G8
— rovert (@SoDuTw) December 16, 2017
If you watched tonight’s ROH Final Battle you saw that Will Ospreay was surprisingly beaten by The Kingdom’s Matt Taven in the opening match. If you were losing a top star like Ospreay and wanted to elevate The Kingdom to the next level, having him do the job to Taven on his way out would be a huge start.
#5. WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
Let’s face it. What else has Will Ospreay got left to do, realistically, before he moves on from his current situation. He’s won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, a PROGRESS World Championship, the RevPro British Cruiserweight Championship twice, Melbourne Championship Wrestling (MCW) InterCommonwealth Championship, ROH World Television Championship. There’s not much more he can do as a singles wrestler – he’s not going to get inside the ROH World Title scene with Cody, Dalton Castle, Jay Lethal and others are still there for 2018, and Okada, Omega, Naito are going to block any rise to the heavyweight division to challenge for that. There’s other obstacles he can shoot for, like an Impact X-Division title, a Pro Wrestling NOAH title, an NXT or WWE UK Championship.
At the end of the day, this is simply a little bit of detective work on a string of seemingly random events that compose a bigger picture – but whether it’s closer to Columbo or Dirk Gently is yet to be determined.
What do you think? Does all of this seem to indicate a bigger picture? Or is it just a lot of wishful thinking?