In 2017 a match which appeared to be a simple case of perfect timing spawned one of the most incredible rivalries in Australian wrestling. Not only did the first encounter between Ospreay and Eagles deliver on the promise of epic in-ring action but it also placed a gigantic spotlight on the Australian scene as a whole.
The First Encounter
Ospreay and Eagles first crossed paths in 2017 at Pro Wrestling Australia’s (PWA) anniversary show, Call To Arms. Initially, this seemed like a simple case of fortuitous timing as New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) was in the midst of the G1 Climax tour, giving Ospreay some free time in his schedule.
However, as fans would come to learn via a pre-show meet and greet Ospreay had actually been a fan of Eagles for quite some time. Before Ospreay officially started his pro wrestling training he performed in backyards around England and often studied other backyard wrestling videos online. It was through these videos that he would discover a young Robbie Eagles, who was also ‘backyard wrestling’ down in Australia. From then Ospreay knew that someday he wanted to lock up with Eagles, so when the opportunity arose in 2017 he jumped at the chance.
With so many years of anticipation and build to this match, the two men could easily have disappointed themselves. That was not the case though. The match between Ospreay and Eagles was incredible, with both men employing hard-hitting, fast-paced, high-flying offence throughout.
Ultimately Ospreay would come out on top in their first encounter. Ripping the PWA Heavyweight Championship from the grasp of Eagles, and thus sowing the seeds of revenge in Eagles’ mind.
Following his victory, Ospreay declared that he wanted to help grow the Australian wrestling scene because he now knew there was ample talent to do so. This is a comment which Eagles seems to have taken great offense to in recent times.
The Second Coming
It would be 12 whole months before Eagles would get a chance at redemption. Once again at PWA Call To Arms Ospreay and Eagles would clash, this time with nothing other than redemption and pride on the line.
Being one year after their first clash both Ospreay and Eagles were at very different points in their careers. This time neither man was walking into the match with championship gold adorning their waists, and Eagles was walking in following a significant losing streak.
In 2018 Ospreay had also begun to alter his style, eliminating some of the riskier maneuvers from his arsenal and replacing them with devastating strikes.
This clash would go down as one of the best in Australian history. Both men now knew what to expect from the other, and thus delivered thrilling counter exchanges constantly.
During the match, Ospreay would tweak his knee, which saw the dark side of Eagles first reveal itself. Upon witnessing the injury Eagles would set his sights on the injured joint, focusing his attack there from that moment forward.
Despite Eagles attacking his injured body part Ospreay was unable to deliver the killing blow with his Hidden Blade because of the respect he had for Eagles following their first encounter. This would prove to be a mistake with Eagles locking in the Ron Miller Special forcing Ospreay to submit and thus earning his revenge.
Once again following the match Ospreay would do something which as it turns out proved to be a mistake. Ospreay would rip the Japanese flag from his tights and had it to Eagles as a sign of respect and as an invitation to join Chaos in NJPW. Ospreay and the world wouldn’t learn of this mistake until later in the year when Eagles would officially join Bullet Club as Taiji Ishimori’s partner in the 2018 Super Junior Tag League.
In 2019 Ospreay and Eagles would finally have another chance to cross paths in singles competition. This time as part of the NJPW Best Of Super Juniors. This match would be an opportunity for Ospreay to show why Eagles had made the wrong decision by joining Bullet Club over Chaos. For Eagles, this encounter would be a chance to prove he belongs in NJPW, and that he didn’t need Ospreay to ‘put Australian wrestling on the map’.
During the lead up to this match Eagles was showing signs of becoming disenfranchised with the underhanded tactics of Bullet Club, and clearly wanted to win this one on his own merits. Unfortunately, the newest member of Bullet Club El Phantasmo would interject himself into this one and help Eagles gain the victory.
Whilst the victory didn’t occur as he had envisioned Eagles none the less had a tournament victory over the man who would go on to win both the BOSJ tournament and the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title at Dominion. By order of this victory, it came as no surprise when Ospreay declared that his first title defence would be against Eagles. Which gets us to the match this weekend.
This weekend in Melbourne, Australia at Southern Showdown the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship will be defended on Australian soil for the very first time. Not only does that fact alone make this a significant match but this is also going to be Eagles’ first shot at gold in NJPW, and thus the biggest match of his career.
With the score currently sitting at 2-1, in Eagles’ favor, he has to be heading into Melbourne with confidence. Especially since he will have huge home field support from the crowd.
Will the ‘Sniper Of The Skys’ be able to shoot down the ‘Aerial Assassin’ or will Ospreay even up the score?