On May 20, NJPW announced that Will Ospreay was vacating the IWGP World Heavyweight Title due to a neck injury.
Ospreay was coming off a successful defense of the belt against Shingo Takagi at Wrestling Dontaku and was scheduled to defend the belt against Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Grand Slam before the event was postponed due to the Japan state of emergency and the company finding multiple positive COVID-19 cases, which included Okada.
Since news of Ospreay vacating the belt broke, Voices of Wrestling reported that Ospreay's neck injury is legitimate, but there was a disagreement between Ospreay and NJPW over treatment as Ospreay wanted to return to the UK while the company wanted him to remain in Japan.
VOW reported the plan was for Ospreay to drop the title to Okada and then take time to heal.
The site also noted that there was "unrest" among the NJPW roster over how the promotion has handled the COVID situation. With Ospreay returning to the UK, NJPW reportedly felt they had "no choice" but to vacate the IWGP World Heavyweight Title and use Ospreay's neck injury as the story.
It was also speculated that Ospreay could be headed to NXT UK after comments made by Fumi Saito on the Pacific Rim Podcast, though VOW noted that was a "misunderstanding" though it was said “at least one person in the office” is telling people that he is “convinced” that Ospreay wants to work for NXT UK.
Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer reported that Ospreay's partner Bea Priestley is expected to join NXT UK, though no deal has been confirmed.
Ospreay has yet to vacate the RevPro British Heavyweight Championship. RevPro issued a statement on the situation saying, “Too early to say. Our situation is very different to NJ. No immediate changes need to be made as we hadn’t factored any title defences for first shows back. Time will tell. But we’ve spoken to Will & he will likely address the situation in person at one of our first shows back.”
Taking to social media, Ospreay tweeted an x-ray of his neck injury.
Prior to vacating the IWGP World Heavyweight Title, Ospreay conducted an interview with Two Man Power Trip where he confirmed he has a long-term deal with NJPW.
"I've committed myself to New Japan and I've said time and time again, I'm happy to end my career here. When I first started wrestling, I was like, 'When I'm 30, I think I'll stop wrestling.' I'm starting to hit my prime. I'm two years away from 30, I've signed a long-term deal with New Japan and will be here past 30. I've already screwed myself over there, I guess [laughs]. I'm happy here. I have so much free reign and I enjoy working for this company and doing everything I can. They've given me so much. In respects, me being a disrespectful little shit, I will always respect the company and the company to do well, it's just got to be in my image," he said.
In August 2019, Ospreay announced he had a five-year deal with NJPW.
Elsewhere during the interview, Ospreay spoke highly of NJPW and how others have stepped up as the company loses wrestlers.
"It's a case of how much pride you have in your workplace and I have a lot of pride in working for New Japan Pro Wrestling. When the ball is in my court, I want to run with it as much as I can," he said. "I've always been ready to step up to the plate and I'm not afraid to step up to the plate at all. I know the responsibility of being a champion, not just in New Japan, but anywhere. There are appearances, radio, and there will always be challenges down the line, but I'm always ready, no matter what. We're in a damn global pandemic and I'm still ready."
When discussing how other companies have treated wrestlers who found success in NJPW, but haven't been as successful elsewhere, Ospreay stated, "You can't hate New Japan. It doesn't insult your intelligence. I'm very happy for all of my friends, but I like the way New Japan is done and I like the fact that the mission is not only to entertain the people at home and who are able to be at the shows -- I want to say as well, New Japan was the first company during the pandemic to have fans back at shows and I think that should be applauded by New Japan and we've not had one single person lose their job during the pandemic. New Japan has done a phenomenal job. There is something about New Japan and how we conduct ourselves and the main mission everyone has is to be the best and to hold the championship. That's why the championship, to me, is so special and important."
It is unknown when Ospreay will return to competition.
Fightful will continue to update fans on his situation and the status of the IWGP World Heavyweight Title as more is known.
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