5-Star Match Reviews: Will Ospreay vs. Dragon Lee – NJPW Dominion 2019

will ospreay dragon lee njpw 2017

Different wrestling shows offer different things to fans depending on what they’re looking for. WrestleMania offers “pageantry” and “big-time atmosphere”. The Royal Rumble offers “surprises”. AEW Dynamite stole TNA’s gimmick of regular “surprise debuts”.

But for anyone simply looking for excellent wrestling matches, the shows to look for are either “G1 Climax”, “Wrestle Kingdom” or “Dominion”. And today we look at another case of Dominion delivering the goods as New Japan’s second-biggest show of the year.

In this case we’re revisiting the junior heavyweight title match between Dragon Lee and Will Ospreay from NJPW’s Dominion 2019.

As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.

The story

Ospreay beat Shingo Takagi in an excellent match to win his second BOSJ tournament. That win earned him a nice trophy and a guaranteed shot at the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, which was held by Dragon Lee.

Dragon Lee, a.k.a. Ryu Lee, is something of modern wrestling royalty not unlike Rey Mysterio or Eddie Guerrero. He was born into a famous Mexican wrestling family. His two older brothers are ROH wrestler Rush and CMLL luchador Dralistico. His father is still active in Mexico and has wrestled under such names as Pierroth and La Bestia del Ring. His uncles are also pro-wrestlers and they, along with the rest of his family, helped train Lee. Lee even took over the Mistico character after the original went to WWE to wrestle under the Sin Cara gimmick.

It was anyone’s guess who would win. Would it be Dragon Lee the lucha prodigy? Or would it be Ospreay, the man synonymous with the modern ‘flippy’ style of wrestling?

The match

This match originally took place on June 9th, 2019. It was rated five stars by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer.

This is for Lee’s IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. The two wrestlers shake hands and the match begins. The first moments begin, as expected, with flips. That’s followed by a long counter and reversal sequence that includes more flips, handsprings, blocks, saved landings, and coordinated movements. Lee fires back with a dropkick just as Ospreay does his ‘yes, that synchronized nonsense just happened’ pose. Lee sends Ospreay into a corner but Ospreay blocks and lands an enzuigiri and a top-rope 619. Ospreay follows with a plancha to the floor and a nasty chop to Lee’s chest. In the ring, Lee kicks out of a pin at two to Ospreay knocks him down a second time but barely gets a one-count. Ospreay channels his fellow countryman Zack Sabre Jr. with a wacky yet punishing-looking double-arm stretch that looks like it’ll push Lee’s shoulder out of its socket.

Ospreay shuts down a comeback by Lee with a spin kick to the gut. He ends up on the apron and goes for a springboard attack but Lee counters with an STO takedown. Lee goes for a corner charge but Ospreay chases him and hits a back elbow. Lee dodges a corner kick from Ospreay and hits a Shibata-style running corner dropkick followed by a snap suplex for a two-count. Lee goes for an irish whip but Ospreay counters with a handspring enzuigiri out of nowhere. That’s followed by a springboard elbow for another two-count for Ospreay. Ospreay prepares for a big dive just like how Kenny Omega does it. Ospreay goes for a Sasuke Special flip to the floor but Lee dodges it. Ospreay lands on his feet anyway, only to eat a bicycle knee from Lee. Lee places Ospreay atop the guardrail right in front of the Japanese commentary table. Then Lee rushes back into the ring. Lee flies through the ropes like a torpedo and crashes into Lee. He cleared a ton of distance with that dive.

Back in the ring, Lee goes for a deadlift German suplex but Ospreay blocks with elbows. Lee blocks Ospreay’s elbows and tries a dragon suplex but Ospreay blocks that too. So Lee traps Ospreay’s arms and hits an armtrap bridging German for a two-count. Lee places Ospreay upside down in a corner but Ospreay powers up and the two wrestlers end up trading elbows atop the turnbuckle. Lee regains control with a head-butt and goes for a double-stomp but Ospreay kicks him down to the floor. Ospreay lands a corkscrew moonsault onto Lee as we pass the ten-minute mark.

In the ring, Ospreay hits an inverted Bloody Sunday for a two-count. He follows with a hook kick and then teases the Stormbreaker but Lee resists so he hits Kawada kicks in response. Ospreay gets Lee onto his shoulder. Lee lands behind him and goes for his own inverted Bloody Sunday. Ospreay reverses again but so does Lee. Lee connects with a satellite DDT and still holds onto Ospreay. Lee goes for a suplex but Ospreay counters into a flipping Stunner. Both men collapse.

Both wrestlers trade elbows from a kneeling position and then while standing. Lee charges but Ospreay hits first with a hook kick. Ospreay charges and misses and Lee tries a German suplex. But Ospreay lands on his feet. Lee blocks a kick and lands another bicycle knee followed by a poisoned Frankensteiner. Lee goes for a follow-up charge but Ospreay counters with a standing Spanish Fly. One, two, Lee kicks out.

Ospreay goes for a top-rope dive but Lee kicks him down. Lee goes for his running-over-the-top-rope-hurricanana-to-the-floor but Ospreay flips over and lands on his feet again. Lee thinks he’s landed the move, only to turn around and see Ospreay beckoning him over. Lee charges…and gets powerbombed onto the edge of the ring apron. Ospreay tosses Lee into the ring and lands a shooting star press for a two-count. He follows with his corkscrew kick to the head and goes for the Os-Cutter but Lee hits first with a kick to the back of Ospreay’s head.

After some recovery time, Lee attacks Ospreay on the apron but Ospreay hits back with another enzuigiri. Ospreay tries jumping onto the top rope but Lee cuts him off. Ospreay ends up dangling upside down from the top rope but not inside the ring but outside. Lee takes advantage and lands a diving double stomp. Crazy move by Lee. Both wrestlers struggle into the ring as the ref begins the ring-out count. Lee makes it in while Ospreay barely moves by fourteen. He collapses at sixteen, makes it to his feet at eighteen, and barely makes it into the ring at 19.75…at which point Lee drives his knee into Ospreay’s head. Lee goes for his finisher but Ospreay elbows out. He kicks Lee again and the two crash into each other. Lee tries another STO but this time Ospreay flips over to counter. He goes for a Ligerbomb…but Lee counters with a Canadian Destroyer out of nowhere. Lee follows with a running bicycle knee. One, two, and – Ospreay kicks out. Lee charges for another bicycle knee, but this time with his kneepads removes. He reaches Ospreay but Ospreay catches his leg. Ospreay blocks but Lee lands a thrust kick. Lee tries his suplex powerbomb finisher again. Ospreay lands on his feet and hits two more kicks and a Hidden Blade elbow strike to the head. Ospreay connects with the Os-Cutter from the top rope. But he’s not done. He maintains control over Lee’s body as he lifts him onto his shoulder. Stormbreaker connects. One, two, and three! There’s the match! Ospreay wins the title!

Winner and NEW IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion after 20:07: Will Ospreay


As expected, NJPW Dominion once again played host to twenty minutes of high-flying action with no filler. Ospreay and Lee worked remarkably well together. They had a typical modern high-speed match with tons of moves chained together and thrown at high velocity. What it lacked in realism and believability it made up for in explosiveness and intensity. Seeing two smaller guys defy gravity in and chain together creative reversal sequences can be fun in small doses.

The best part about this match was that Ospreay didn’t play a heavyweight or wrestle a heavyweight’s style. He has tried that before and it doesn’t always work, especially when his matches stretch on forever. This match, on the other hand, was the kind of match Ospreay excels in. He flew around and sprinted around the ring like gravity didn’t apply to him. He kept his convoluted setup spots and unrealistic selling to a minimum. It was definitely a spot-fest match, which comes with the territory whenever Ospreay wrestles. And yet, there was something different about it.

Lee and Ospreay must’ve decided to copy the Tanahashi/Okada WK10-onwards formula and lock each other together as much as possible. This match had a tone of long move chains that didn’t just end with one big move. From Lee landing the satellite DDT and going for something else without letting go to Ospreay landing his Os-Cutter and then switching to the Stormbreaker without letting go, these two guys did something unusual. Instead of following the standard move sequencing structure (pick up opponent, hit move, let go, cover, kick-out, hit next move), these guys treated those parts of the match as one long and fluid chain that could be broken at any time.

What’s also great here is that there’s this sense of urgency throughout the match. I’ve seen plenty of big matches that feature way too much soaking in the crowd and two people just standing there without doing anything. That wasn’t seen here aside from a few seconds early on during which both guys were cautious to lock up because they knew what sort of balls-to-the-wall insanity was bound to happen. This match went twenty minutes but you wouldn’t know it. The pacing was great, the action was smooth, and the downtime between sequences made sense considering how hard both guys were hitting each other and how many high-risk moves landed.

And yet, when it comes to having a fresh match and telling a new story, Ospreay faltered while Lee succeeded. Lee was more creative, unpredictable, and willing to take risks. He nearly destroyed himself, Ospreay, and a few commentators with a suicide spear through the ropes that made him look like he was literally flying. And the most exciting and tense sequences came from Lee simply because he caught on to Ospreay’s formula. But doing so didn’t get Lee the win because Ospreay’s formula, while predictable, is also successful. It would’ve been refreshing to see Ospreay do something a little different than his usual shtick but alas, he stuck to what he knows best here. Like his friend Okada, Ospreay is great at chaining together these crazy reversal sequences during the closing moments of his matches. But also like Okada (and also like Kenny Omega), Ospreay doesn’t do much to make the earlier parts of his matches compelling or unique. The only reason those parts of this match were any good was because Lee did some great stuff that sort of forced Ospreay to change things up somewhat.

Final Rating: ****1/4

If you like pure action that borders on the impossible, you’ll love this match. It’s fast, it’s frenetic, and it’s hard to believe that two human beings are capable of such speed, agility, and fluid motion. And yet, it’s not anything that we haven’t seen before. Lee did great here but Ospreay was, well, Ospreay. He’s a one-note wrestler and that note happens to be him defying gravity and doing absurd flippy stuff to the point that it makes you wonder how anything can hurt him.

Though I like seeing Ospreay do his nonsense once in a while, the idea that he has 20 5-Star matches per the WON (as of August 2022) is laughable. Watching Ospreay is like the pro wrestling version of Goat Simulator: his style is somehow serious and played for laughs at the same time and his main purpose is to break physics in an absurd and almost comical way, much to the delight of fans around the world that are hypnotized by his acrobatics. Ospreay matches tend to be hit or miss, with only one really living up to expectations. Sadly, this one wasn’t it.

Thanks for reading. You can email me with any questions or comments, and be sure to check out my 5-Star and Almost 5-Star Match Reviews series here.