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Hamilton’s Ospreay: The Rise of an International Pro Wrestler Review

November 25, 2020 | Posted by Ian Hamilton
Ospreay: The Rise of an International Pro Wrestler
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Hamilton’s Ospreay: The Rise of an International Pro Wrestler Review  

It’s usually odd whenever wrestling crosses over into other forms of media, be it wrestlers writing their own books, movies about the fictional (or otherwise) lives of wrestlers, or documentaries about them.

In October 2016, a Kickstarter popped up online for a movie project that aimed to raise £15,000 to complete a documentary about the rise of Will Ospreay – with the missing part of the puzzle being footage of Will in Japan – in addition to footage of Ospreay wrestling for promotions in England and Ireland.

To be fair, they did itemise a lot of their budget, and offered things like posters, signed photos, t-shirts and “a Cheeky Nandos for two” with Ospreay as perks. For a while, it didn’t look like this project was going to hit its goal, but the campaign managed to get over the line thanks to it getting more than half of its funding in its final week.

I didn’t back this (over 300 people did, mind you) but saw plenty of comments from fans as the estimated delivery of the project sailed past its September 2017 timeline. A quick look at the comments section on the Kickstarter isn’t good reading – people commenting about not ever getting a copy of the film, smeared photos, and the general lack of communication that some associate with crowdfunding.

And then, out of the blue, it popped up online. Anyone with an Amazon Prime or a Prime Video subscription in the UK and US can watch this… so, what’s it all about? Of course, a lot has happened since that Kickstarter sprung online… and this is the first thing you see:

Yeah. Add in that, after a collation of podcast clips and soundbytes (including Jim Cornette, for shits and giggles), the first talking heads you see are Marty Scurll and Travis Banks. Speaking Out already made this thing age like a dead fish.

So, the documentary opens with clips of Ospreay heading to the ring for 5* Wrestling, WhatCulture Pro Wrestling and Southside Wrestling, before we get clips of Ospreay against Marty Scurll for WCPW, set to the crowd chanting his name… then those talking heads pop up to put over Ospreay, juxtaposed with old photos from World of Sport. You just know some will explode if Ospreay gets into the Observer Hall of Fame before Big Daddy…

Seven minutes in, they start to show more about the background of Britwres, throwing in a lot of names and faces from the current generation before we got sight of Ospreay’s roots backyarding on trampolines, and how his family and friends took it all… but it takes an absolute age to actually spend any time on what its centrepiece was meant to be, instead focusing on the cast of characters “really pushing to make (British wrestling) number one.”.

Fifteen minutes in, we’re shown footage of Ospreay landing on his head doing a 630 splash – the first real focus on his career. That segues into a tour of his bedroom/office that offered more of an insight into his backyarding past – be it as Extreme Dude, Billy Orton, Billy Guerrero, Jason Artem, Ace Pain, Jason Skye, Billy Hardy, Dragon Slayer, Dragon Shocker, Dragon Fire, Dark Britannico, and finally Will Ospreay. You’re welcome, Cagematch…

A throwback to Ospreay at his old school came with his old teachers bringing up how he’d be told off for playfighting… and that dovetails in to his (then) current career, with his mum noting how Ospreay didn’t go to a performing art’s school because he’d not have met the academic criteria… but has been the only one to “carve a career out” in that area. The documentary paints a quickly accelerating career trajectory as Ospreay’s off to Japan, accompanied by a shower of celebratory Tweets.

Then we start getting talking heads that are more recognisable to non-British fans. The Young Bucks. Kenny Omega. AJ Styles. Some of which are fascinating in hindsight (such as Kenny bemoaning how “restrictive” New Japan is… several years before AEW was a thing), as we then go to clips of the “Englishman abroad” with Ospreay having issues with the culture. Of course, he won the Best of the Super Juniors in 2016, and got a heroes welcome as he returned to Rev Pro afterwards… which they include courtesy of cropped footage from Rev Pro’s VOD service.

Then they veer sharply into the WWE’s creation of the United Kingdom Championship, and what would eventually become NXT UK. They luckily had sit-down pieces with a lot of names that would sign with WWE – and other names that had been through WWE in the past (and ironically, are back there now) such as John Morrison and Rey Mysterio… oh, and Cody Rhodes too, who said that he left “because (Vince) had no plan to change.” A cautionary tale.

The non-Ospreay stuff continues with footage of Ricochet walking through a hotel lobby to get to the ring for an OTT show (at a hotel in Northern Ireland, which made for a wacky visual), before they show clips of Will Ospreay being asked to sign a waiver for WWE because they were filming at the same show. Eventually they go to the Ospreay/Ricochet match that was touring the world for a while (based on that Best of the Super Juniors outing), complete with them eyeballing some dives that they did during the match.

Conveniently, that segues into a section headed by Jim Cornette – with the “old guard” warning the current generation to tone it down, with talking heads from the current era poo-pooing it, right as the documentary began to waver from its main topic. It’s steered back on track for another clip show… featuring yet more Ospreay vs. Ricochet… this time it’s the “match that’s so good, they broke the damn ring”.

Then it’s “Ospreay heads to Tokyo for WrestleKingdom 11” – with some fans on a bus from the airport recognising him. Handily, the cameras captured his chat with the Bostonians, who seemed more interested in the WWE’s UK deal… and we’re back on that tangent again, this time stopping as Nixon Newell/Tegan Nox leaving for the E. There’s a line from Ospreay wistfully wishing that Nixon had stayed a few years longer that a lot of fans are still using to this day for signees… and then we’re hopping to the show in London where Paul Heyman offered Ospreay an EVOLVE contract in the summer of 2016. They don’t show that bit, but given Will only had three EVOLVE matches, all over WrestleMania weekends, should tell you where that went… especially as the talking heads returned to remind us that WWE “isn’t the only option.”

Still, as names got signed away, “Ospreay stayed behind” seemed to be the message as we see him at PROGRESS’ old training school with up and coming names like Maverick Mayhew, Candy Floss and Michael Oku – which sort of painted him as something of a mentor figure to the “next generation”… right as they intersperse in some fears for his general health and longevity, blending in audio of him talking about losing feeling in his fingers.

Not to worry though, he’s back in Japan for his big WrestleKingdom debut. Remember when David Finlay, Ricochet and Satoshi Kojima were the NEVER trios champions? Or that random CHAOS tandem of Ospreay, Jado and YOSHI-HASHI? They use the Tokyo Dome show as the pinnacle of Ospreay’s career – even though they focus a little more on Omega/Okada from that same show – blissfully unaware that just 12 months later he’d be in a much bigger spot on the same show.

Therein lies the inherent problem with any such documentary or biography of an active wrestler. Unless you’re covering a a time period in the distant past, you’re always running the risk of having your work age poorly – whether it’s by having other events or achievements overshadow it, or by portraying a certain time period differently to how history ends up recalling it. Even if Speaking Out hadn’t had happened, watching this in 2020 would still have been seen as a quaint reminder of how things were and how things went – rather than a somewhat depressing journal of how many big names the British scene had that played out in rather different ways.

The final score: review Good
The 411
With the piece 80 minutes long, the choice to make this a documentary that zig-zagged between Ospreay *and* the rising popularity of British wrestling at the time really took away the focus on this piece. There’s so much from Ospreay’s career in Britain that barely gets acknowledged - his career-defining storyline in PROGRESS and the feud against Jimmy Havoc… or the feud with Vader that led to a match in Rev Pro… or any storyline, really. It's fairly well put together, in spite of the issues with a single-threaded narrative. If prominent appearances of several names from Speaking Out won’t put you off, this is a fascinating time capsule on the British scene among its happier times in the late ‘10s, but misses the mark as far as being a hyper-focused documentary about the life and times of its singular topic.

article topics :

Will Ospreay, Ian Hamilton