Will Ospreay’s Dream Finally Comes True in Tokyo
Credit to Pro Wrestling NOAH. Images & Original Text Exclusively by Tokio Tsukada. Text & Article Edited by Kyle Dunning
Essex, England. As a 16-year-old boy hailing from anywhere in the world, an unwavering passion for professional wrestling consumed his every moment. He was no ordinary fan; he was a true aficionado who devoured wrestling matches from every corner of the globe. However, on one fateful day, his attention was transfixed on a single monitor. That moment marked the beginning of a profound connection with Marufuji’s ever-evolving wrestling style, igniting a burning desire to emulate his hero someday. He persevered through grueling training, one painstaking step at a time, all in pursuit of his dream to become the next Marufuji.
Fourteen years later, he has developed into a highly successful professional wrestler, gracing rings worldwide and carving out a prominent spot in the wrestling world. His name? Will Ospreay.
Ospreay embarked on his wrestling journey in the United Kingdom back in 2012. In 2016, he ventured into the realm of New Japan Pro Wrestling, joining the junior heavyweight division and ultimately clinching the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship three times.
By 2019, Ospreay was participating in the G1 Climax, NJPW’s grandest tournament featuring heavyweight titans. In 2020, he made the pivotal transition to the heavyweight division, where he seized the illustrious IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. In 2022, Ospreay added the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship to his growing list of accolades.
Ospreay also periodically graced the wrestling scene in the United States, making appearances in NJPW partner promotions AEW and ROH, where he held the ROH World Television Championship. He further left his indelible mark on independent promotions like PWG.
Nevertheless, the dream that had kindled in the heart of a 16-year-old boy remained unwavering. The man he had idolized was now sharing the same ring. On September 17, 2023, in Tokyo, that dream finally morphed into reality.
Marufuji, an admired hero, made his debut in 1998 with All Japan Pro Wrestling. Swiftly rising through the ranks as a disciple of Mitsuharu Misawa, Marufuji stood tall when Misawa launched Pro-Wrestling NOAH in 2000, becoming the GHC junior heavyweight champion.
His ever-evolving moves captured the hearts of countless fans, including Will Ospreay. In due course, Marufuji transitioned to the heavyweight division, reigning as GHC heavyweight champion. He even ventured into other promotions like New Japan Pro-Wrestling while maintaining his pivotal role as one of Pro-Wrestling NOAH’s stalwarts, affectionately known as the “Genius of the Ark.”
On this momentous day, marking the 25th anniversary of Marufuji’s debut, destiny had aligned these two wrestling geniuses for a showdown.
Will Ospreay had yearned for this day for what seemed like an eternity! The anticipation for this event, commemorating Marufuji’s 25th anniversary, was palpable. Will Ospreay, facing his “hero” for the first time since watching a video of Marufuji’s match as a wide-eyed 16-year-old, was brimming with special emotions.
For Will Ospreay, Marufuji remained an enduring hero. This sentiment transcended the confines of the ring, becoming manifest as Ospreay bowed deeply just before their monumental clash.
Ospreay, emblematic of contemporary wrestling’s cutting edge, squared off against Marufuji, the pioneer of advanced and acrobatic modern wrestling in the mid-2000s. Their first encounter, a battle between these two “geniuses,” unfolded as a masterpiece brimming with originality and inspiration unique to these exceptional athletes.
The opening rounds began methodically: a measured arm wrestling contest, a flurry of leapfrogs, an exchange of hook kicks, and an exhilarating sequence of synchronized dropkicks. Marufuji then sent Ospreay reeling off the apron with a gravity-defying top-rope dropkick, followed by a breathtaking tornillo (kirimomi plancha). Ospreay retaliated with a counter somersault kick and a graceful circling moonsault, toppling Marufuji from the mat.
He positioned Marufuji precariously on the top rope, setting the stage for a spectacular Burning Star Press from the corner’s summit. Ospreay, however, had more in store; he hoisted Marufuji over the top rope and executed a sitdown powerbomb. In response, Marufuji delivered a sitdown powerbomb of his own.
In the opening half, Ospreay seemed to maintain a slight edge, but Marufuji was far from defeated. An audacious double-arm maneuver on the apron, transitioning into a double-arm position, allowed Marufuji to explode into a cliff-style shiranui outside the ring. Returning to the squared circle, Marufuji triumphed in a reversal-filled horizontal chop battle, countered Ospreay’s sit-down powerbomb with an Ospreay-inspired stunner, and unleashed the Tiger King.
In the final stretch of the match, Marufuji refused to let Ospreay secure a three-count, even as Ospreay came agonizingly close with his signature moves—the Hidden Blade, Robinson Special, and Oscutter. Marufuji sought redemption and found it with a devastating “Shiranui” on Ospreay in the corner. Ospreay, undaunted, launched another Hidden Blade, but Marufuji countered with the Tiger King (a knee kick to the opponent’s face or chin from below). The match appeared to be reaching its conclusion, yet the count only reached two.
From there, the two warriors engaged in a riveting exchange of moves: Marufuji’s pole shift met Ospreay’s Stormbreaker head-on. Ospreay unleashed a thunderous knee lift to Marufuji’s face, and Marufuji retaliated with a tiger king and a resounding hook kick.
But Ospreay reversed the tide with a diving Hidden Blade, followed by a Hidden Blade to the back of Marufuji’s head, executed with a “live elbow” off the elbow pad. Finally, Ospreay connected with a Stormbreaker, and the count of three ensued, amidst the roaring applause of Marufuji’s adoring fans.
It was a relentless slugfest, a clash that traversed the ring from corner to corner. In the end, Ospreay stood triumphant, thanks to a Hidden Blade (a running back elbow to the back of the head) followed by a decisive Stormbreaker.
After the grueling battle, both warriors were battered and worn but managed to sit upright in the ring, bowing to each other and congratulating each other on the good fight. Then, Ospreay seized the microphone in the ring and, with profound respect, declared:
“I became a big fan of Marufuji-san when I was 16 years old after watching Pro Wrestling NOAH. I usually say ‘I am ‘the best in the world,’ but today, the best in the world is Marufuji-san,” showing his utmost respect and concluding with a seated bow.
At the press conference in the dressing room, Ospreay began speaking in Japanese amidst a sea of reporters, stating,
“I’m Will Ospreay from New Japan Pro-Wrestling, IWGP UK Heavyweight Champion. Did you have a good time?”
He then continued in English:
“I really love Japanese wrestling. And I am very grateful to the people who gave me this opportunity, the NOAH office, and the NOAH fans who welcomed me. I am so thankful to everyone who has helped me make this dream come true.
I’ve had a very busy schedule since I participated in G1 Climax (New Japan Pro-Wrestling) in Japan, I went to the US, the UK, the US again, back to the UK, and finally I came back to Japan to participate in this important match to make my dream come true. I can only thank you all for helping me achieve my dream.”
Ospreay’s dream comes true. Marufuji takes another leap forward on his 25th anniversary. There may be no limits to these two geniuses from Japan and England.