There are a number of a wrestlers you could argue for as the Best of 2019. From Adam Cole, basically carrying NXT on his back for the better part of the year and delivering two of the best matches, not only in brand history, but WWE history. To Chris Jericho, establishing AEW as their first “Le Champion”, arguably the most captivating and entertaining performer in the whole business on a weekly basis. And it goes without saying Kazuchika Okada, the consummate and perennial at or near the top of most Best Wrestlers of The Year lists and one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, if not at least of this generation. But more than anyone else, after having one of the greatest in ring years of any professional wrestler in history, Will Ospreay is the Best Wrestler of 2019.
Ospreay began his amazing year early on January 4th at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13 in the Tokyo Dome against Kota Ibushi for the NEVER Openweight Championship. A classic dream match between two of the most athletically gifted wrestlers of all time that was just absolutely insane. Awesome counter and reversal sequences throughout with some wicked exchanges. In the end, he was able to defeat Ibushi to win the NEVER Openweight Championship, in a match that lived up to the highest of expectations. He followed up this dream match with another dream match, this time against PAC on February 15th at Revolution Pro Wrestling (RPW) High Stakes 2019, in a 30-minute time limit draw. On March 6th at NJPW 47TH Anniversary Show in a battle between IWGP Heavyweight Champion Jay White and Never Openweight Champion Will Ospreay, these two had an excellent worked match. The story was White focusing and working on the core of Ospreay, with some great selling from Ospreay. Like his match against Ibushi, this match was filled with great counter and reversal sequences, and despite a losing effort, again this was just an excellent worked match.
At the start of the year, Will Ospreay made it clear that he wanted to be the first wrestler to compete in New Japan Cup, Best of the Super Juniors, and G1 Climax, all in the same calendar year.
First up, New Japan Cup. He would beat Bad Luck Fale in the first round, in a David VS. Goliath style match, which was about as good of a match you’re going to get out of Fale. It was in the second round against Lance Archer, however, that Ospreay showed just how great a worker he really is. This was easily the best match of Archer’s career up to that point, and a lot of this had to be attributed to Ospreay being able to make Archer look like an absolute monster. Essentially, this was the same David VS. Goliath style match as the Fale match, just with a more athletic and better Goliath. In the third round he would have his first of two singles matches against Kazuchika Okada in 2019 in a losing effort. And although this was great match, the best between these two was still to come in the year.
In between the New Japan Cup and the Best of the Super Juniors, he would have awesome matches against the likes of A-Kid in Spain, Aussie Open in a crazy TLC tag match with Paul Robinson in PROGRESS, and then there was WrestleMania Weekend in New York. At the WrestleCon Mark Hitchcock Memorial SuperShow he would face Bandido in another awesome dream match. At RPW Live in New York he would team up with Hiroshi Tanahashi to take on Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr. in an excellent tag match. He would cap off his weekend at G1 Supercard in Madison Square Garden, dropping the NEVER Openweight Championship to Jeff Cobb, in a great opener on that card. I was actually there in attendance live for all three of these matches in New York, and I can personally say they were all different, but all still excellent in their own way. Just a great weekend for Ospreay.
Next up, Best of the Super Juniors. He came into the tournament looking to re-establish himself as the best junior heavyweight in the world. Pushed as the come-from-behind underdog, he had incredible matches throughout B Block, going 7-2, en route to the Finals against Shingo Takagi where he would ultimately win his second Best of the Super Juniors. And what more can I say about that match. It was arguably the greatest Best of the Super Juniors Finals of all time and one of the greatest matches of all time period. My personal best match of 2019, like I said in my Best Matches of 2019 writeup for this one, incredible, just simply incredible.
Earning the right to challenge for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship with his Best of the Super Juniors win, he would follow up that incredible match with one almost as equally incredible just four day later, defeating Dragon Lee at Dominion 6.9 for his current, third reign with the title.
To complete his proclamation, he would enter his first G1 Climax, and just like his Best of the Super Juniors run, would have incredible matches throughout. On the opening night at the American Airlines Centre in Dallas, which I was also actually there in attendance live for, Lance Archer and Will Ospreay would meet once again. In an even better match than their first, and even with this being on a card with an Okada against Tanahashi match, this was the match of the night. He would have another classic against Kota Ibushi and an awesome match against one of his inspirations to become a wrestler in KENTA. Great match with EVIL. Great match with SANADA. He would have another match against Fale. It was fine. He would have his second match against Okada in 2019, arguably the best match of the entire tournament, my personal #2 match of the year. He would cap off his first G1 Climax, and one of the greatest G1 Climax tournament performances of all time, with perhaps the biggest win of his career against Tanahashi in another incredible match.
You could have already called Will Ospreay the Best Wrestler of 2019 midway through the G1, and for sure by the end of the tournament, but his incredible year was not done yet.
In the NJPW Super-J Cup 2019, he would have an amazing match against the out of retirement Amazing Red in the first round, an incredible match against SHO in the quarterfinals, before losing to El Phantasmo in the semifinals in another fine match. Following this he would form a tag team with Robbie Eagles as The Birds of Prey, and they would have one of the best tag team matches of the year against The Bullet Club of El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori. This would lead to an IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match against El Phantasmo at King of Pro-Wrestling in October which was just an insane match. He would continue to team with Robbie Eagles in the NJPW Super Junior Tag League, having great matches throughout the tournament. He would defend his IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship for the final time of the year against BUSHI at NJPW Power Struggle in November in another great match.
Following his match against BUSHI, he would be challenged by the returning Hiromu Takahashi for an IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match on the January 4th NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 show, which he gladly accepted.
And so, with this upcoming match against Hiromu at the Tokyo Dome to begin his 2020, it seems Ospreay is set for another incredible year. But for the here and now and after, having one of the greatest in ring years of any professional wrestler in history, having one of the greatest Best of the Super Juniors tournament performances ending with him winning in one of the greatest matches of all time, after having one of the greatest G1 Climax tournament performances of all time with incredible matches throughout, and seemingly bringing the best out of anyone and everyone he stepped in the ring with, Will Ospreay is undoubtedly the Best Wrestler of 2019.