Will Ospreay is rewriting the rules of wrestling at the age of 23

Will Ospreay and Marty Scurll have taken the independent wrestling world by storm, and their success all over the world, from Ring of Honor, to New Japan Pro Wrestling, to Pro Wrestling Guerilla, is part of a greater British wrestling revolution. Oli Sandler

Most 23-year-olds who take a tumble at London's famous Electric Ballroom nightclub in Camden usually find themselves on the wooden floor because they've had one too many to drink.

Not so for Will Ospreay, one of the hottest properties on the independent wrestling circuit and the crown jewel of the British scene.

Known as the "Aerial Assassin" due to his high-flying, risk-taking style, Ospreay is an unashamed practitioner of the "flippy stuff," as he so eloquently puts it in his Twitter bio. He cites AJ Styles as his idol, and has already faced the current WWE world champion in what has been a brief but spectacular career.

He found himself on that floor at the Ballroom after a typically daredevil-esque front flip over the ropes onto his opponent, Matt Riddle, during a PROGRESS Wrestling event last weekend. That show was just the latest stop on a whirlwind stopover in the U.K. for Ospreay, who can frequently be found stunning audiences worldwide for some of the biggest wrestling companies in the world, including New Japan Pro Wrestling.

He has come a long way from wrestling under the name "Extreme Dude" on a trampoline in his back garden as a child. As he told ESPN: "Did I ever think I would go to Japan? Hell no."

Ospreay, ever on the move, called while in transit on a three-hour drive back to his hometown of Essex, England, from a What Culture Pro Wrestling event in Nottingham.

"I'm on a bit of a high at the minute, man, because we just finished the show, and it was awesome," he said, exuding his usual infectious, boyish charm. "Just been hanging out a bit with Matt Hardy."

Given the success he has already had, it is easy to forget Ospreay is just 23 years old.

"I'm just constantly excited," he said, laughing. "The word we use in wrestling, we call the fans 'marks', and I'm the biggest mark out of all of them -- but I'm the one behind the curtain. I'm just a very excitable kid, man. I love being around it. I just wanna impress and do the best I physically can."

It is fair to say 2016 has been a breakthrough year for Ospreay, who first rose to prominence while working for PROGRESS Wrestling in 2012. Over the last few years he's wrestled all over the U.K. independent scene for promotions such as Insane Pro Wrestling and Revolution Pro Wrestling, and such was the buzz surrounding him that he worked TNA's U.K. tour in January this year, including a date at Wembley Arena.

A potential move to TNA looked like it could be on the cards, but Ospreay instead signed a two-year contract with New Japan Pro Wrestling in April -- and subsequently signed on with its U.S. partner, Ring of Honor, as well.

"It's been all right, I guess!" Ospreay laughed. "A little bit fun. It's been something of a weird journey."

Given his meteoric rise in popularity, it was fair to say expectations were pretty high for Ospreay in NJPW -- but he still blew them out of the water. On June 8, Ospreay put on a stunning display in beating NJPW veteran Ryusuke Taguchi to become the first British winner of the Best of Super Juniors tournament at Tokyo's famous Korakuen Hall. The BOSJ is one of wrestling's most prestigious competitions -- one that boasts former winners such as Prince Devitt, now known as Finn Balor in WWE -- as well as Chris Benoit, Kota Ibushi and Ricochet.

"Hands down, it was one of the most surreal moments in the world, looking up at the bloody confetti falling down," he said. "I'd seen this on TV so many times. It's weird, isn't it?

"Oh mate, it was just the most insane thing. My heroes have all won the Best of Super Juniors. Ibushi, Prince Devitt, Kushida, Ricochet. All those guys I've always looked up to have won that trophy and held it up in the air. And then I'm the guy who held it up after them. I'm the youngest ever to do it, Britain's first. It's a dream come true."

But there was one match in particular in the tournament, which features a round-robin style competition to get down to the final four and then a final, that got the world of professional wrestling talking.

"Ah, the Ricochet match," Ospreay said, chuckling.

He and Ricochet had a famously reserved Japanese crowd on its feet and chanting for "one more match" after their B Block contest on May 27. No other match in 2016 generated as much buzz in the industry; if you were a wrestling fan, you simply had to find a way to sit down and watch it. Even WWE legend Stone Cold Steve Austin weighed in on it on his podcast, heavily praising the duo.

"It's weird when you get guys like Stone Cold doing it, and guys like William Regal coming up to you," said Ospreay. "Guys like Chris Jericho talking about it, Seth Rollins. Yeah, there's some things that they would change, but other than that it was one of the most insane matches they've ever seen. And I was like, 'Aw! That's cool!' Those are my heroes, the guys I watched on TV once upon a time."

But after a brief GIF from the Match of the Year candidate went viral online, there were some grizzled veterans who didn't take so kindly to the match.

Ospreay responded to former WWE star Vader in his own unique way, by imitating the ex-WCW champion's finishing maneuver in his next BOSJ match.

As is often the way in professional wrestling, Revolution Pro Wrestling saw dollar signs and booked a match between the two at York Hall in Bethnal Green, London.

"Yeah man, it is what it is," Ospreay said of the criticism he and Ricochet received in some quarters. "I didn't expect it to blow up the way it did -- absolutely not, no way. I can see people's point of view from it, that it's not what wrestling is meant to be. But this is how I express my art, this is how Ricochet expresses his art. Like there are different forms of music and religion, there are different forms of wrestling, unfortunately. There's not just one style, there's loads of styles.

"Get used to it, because I'll be doing it a long time, if my body lets me."

Indeed, the physical toll of Ospreay's style has raised concerns that his career could be cut short if he doesn't tone things done in the ring.

He called me around 11 p.m. GMT on Wednesday on that three-hour drive home, and seemingly got no sleep before catching an 8 a.m. plane to New York for Friday's ROH Final Battle pay-per-view.

"It's brutal, but it's everything I love, and more."

He made his debut for Ring of Honor only last month but has already had a big impact -- something he has a habit of doing, it seems -- by winning the ROH Television title during their U.K. tour.

"Ah man, that was cool," Ospreay said. "No one can argue with the pedigree and the prestige of Ring of Honor. To walk in there and straight away go for Bobby Fish -- man, it was a huge, huge deal."

Performances like that undoubtedly have Ospreay on the WWE's radar as well, but for now, he's is in no rush to leave his current situation in NJPW and ROH.

"I'm in a win-win situation," he said. "I'm working for the best company in the world, hands down. New Japan treat me so well.

"I just feel like right now it's not the time for me," he added regarding a potential move to WWE. "Trust me when I say this, WWE has always been the thing I've grown up watching -- guys like Paul Heyman, who I've met, and Matt Hardy, who I've met. So many names who I can mention who have inspired me. The WWE will be the dream; however, I wanna go in there with a big splash. I don't wanna go in there and be thrown in the shallow end of the pool. I wanna be thrown in the deep end, and trust me when I say it, I'll swim."

His potential route to WWE seems familiar; Styles spent 12 years in TNA before raising his profile even higher as one of the undisputed best in the industry with a two-year stint in NJPW and ROH. In January of this year, Styles debuted for WWE at the Royal Rumble and hasn't looked back, winning the WWE world championship at September's Backlash PPV and cementing his legacy.

"That's exactly what I wanna do. Man, he's my hero," Ospreay said of Styles' journey to WWE superstardom. "He's the sole reason I got into professional wrestling."

Given his commitments with ROH and NJPW, it would be easy to expect Ospreay to not be around too much longer on the U.K. independent scene, wrestling in front of 700 people at venues like the Electric Ballroom. But he also loves his roots.

"I wanna stick with the British scene as much as physically possible because England is my home," said Ospreay. "England is everything that I live to inspire. I love being home, I love seeing my Nan and Granddad, my parents, my beautiful girlfriend, all my friends.

"I'm very proud of my country," Ospreay continued, on a more serious note. "If there was a WWE in England, that would be my goal. I'd love to stay. It's never been about money for me, but at the minute it's the sole provider of what I do, to be able to provide for my missus and my family and look after my parents. If I could make that type of money in England then hell yeah I'd do it. But I know I need to go out to the United States, to Japan, to Europe. I need to go all around the world to make my name and provide."

"I mean, that's the dream all along, isn't it? To be able to do this as a job, as a living, and to say to all the people who said I couldn't do it, 'Hey, I've done it.'"

Ospreay certainly is living the dream. So compelling is his story to a worldwide audience that he's even become the subject of a feature-length documentary simply entitled "OSPREAY," which is being funded by an ongoing Kickstarter campaign that's closing in on its funding goal with only a few days to go.

"I haven't felt this passionate about something for a very, very long time," he said. "I said straightaway to them that I'm not the type of guy who wants a documentary about myself, because I've only being doing this for four years. There's so many guys you can do it about -- Zack Sabre Jr., Marty Scurll. Why do you wanna do it with a kid who's just started walking in wrestling?"

Ospreay had a change of heart almost instantaneously after seeing the vision of the filmmakers in a six-minute trailer that featured match footage against Styles, Noam Dar and many others, along with a supremely complimentary clip from Heyman.

"They showed me this trailer, the one everyone's seen," recalled Ospreay. "Some of it is just clips of me wrestling in front of 30 people, and saying, 'I'd like to participate in the Best of Super Juniors. I don't think I'll win it, but I'd love to be a part of it'. And I won it now.

"It's not even about wrestling," Ospreay continued. "People can watch it if they're a fan of wrestling, but I want people to watch it because I had that craziest dream as a 12-year-old kid that one day I was gonna be a professional wrestler. I'm 23 years old now, and I still have that same dream. Not only am I living that dream ... I don't have the right words to say it, but I want people to watch this and just go, 'He had a crazy dream about being a wrestler. I wanna be a doctor or a veterinarian, I wanna join this, do that.' I just wanna say, 'Go do this, because I did,' with the love of my family and friends."