After his second NJPW Best of the Super Juniors Tournament victory in four years, Ospreay recommitted to the Lion Mark, saying he wasn’t going to leave for a paycheck or to “change the world.”
Further, he committed to pushing the junior heavyweights to battle alongside the heavies in NJPW.
It seems that the two time Super Junior winner will be in NJPW for some time to come. His victory this week over Shingo in the finals of the Best of the Super Juniors appears to be a catalyst to what Ospreay wants to do in NJPW, not a cap.
Fergal Devitt, aka Prince Devitt, aka Finn Balor, made his reputation long before he took the paycheck and went to WWE, where he remains a former NXT Champion, the inaugural WWE Universal Champion, and the current WWE Intercontinental Champion.
Before his WWE run, Devitt was already an NJPW legend, a three-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and six-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champ. Most significantly, he was a founding member of perhaps the most famous (internationally) and long-standing heel faction, the Bullet Club. For the latter alone he is in rarefied air.
Ospreay ain’t no slouch though. He too has won the BOSJ twice. He too is a former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. He too has been heavily courted by WWE.
Unlike Devitt, Ospreay continues to say he will not sign with WWE. In 2018 rumors surfaced that Ospreay was in talks with WWE, but he told Chris Jericho on Talk is Jericho that the company wasn’t the right fit for him. He wouldn’t want to wrestle the grueling schedule, something he reiterated this year in expressing interest in wrestling in an AEW ring, as long as it was part of a cross-promotion with his beloved NJPW.
This is probably smart for now. If he signed with NXT or AEW, as he hinted at, he would be another talented guy, but a small fish in a big pond. He has ten times the cache being the most awesome Indie wrestler going. This no doubt will help with his own promotion, Frontline Wrestling, and his personal branding.
His path, if he were to go to WWE, has already been trailblazed. No doubt, he’d receive the same fate as Devitt, getting some early championship success, then he would be relegated to awesome and fan favorite mid-carder status. Like Devitt, his name would no doubt be changed at the NXT level, as WWE don’t want to add to someone else’s brand, they want to own (literally with merchandise royalty and general copyright) the wrestler’s personas. It’s why they changed an Indie legend like Devitt’s name. “Finn Balor” is cool, but frankly, folks still refer to him as Prince Devitt as much. Plus, Vince has a history of changing names or gimmicks and burying wrestlers that made it big without his brand.
Ospreay seems serious about his commitment to NJPW. He is moving to Japan to live full time, and reiterated his commitment to making the Junior Heavyweights a focus in NJPW.
Ospreay may not have yet made the impact that Devitt once did on the NJPW and Indie scene, but through NJPW he keeps a presence through co-promotions in the United States with the likes of Ring of Honor, CZW, Evolve and TNA.
This, combined with his doubling down on not joining WWE or AEW (save a co-promotion with NJPW), and it is safe to say on the heels of his second BOSJ tournament win that Will Ospreay is on his way to surpassing Fergal Devitt as the greatest of all Indie wrestlers.
Has Will Ospreay passed Fergal Devitt for NJPW superiority?
In a word, no. He will though.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @GritVanWinkle. Thanks for reading!