Here at the AWMA Blog, we love to cover the wide-ranging impact that martial arts can have outside of training and competition. In past blogs, we’ve looked at how martial arts have positively influenced movies, music, comedy, fine arts, literature, and other professional sports. But there’s one area that we haven’t really touched on before: professional wrestling.
That changes with this post thanks to a new martial arts-infused promotion called Oriental Wrestling Entertainment.
Pro wrestling has always had martial arts and combat sports influences, most obviously getting its grappling base from amateur wrestling and its striking from disciplines like boxing and kickboxing. More recently, it’s started to embrace elements from MMA and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. (This blogger is a big fan of the way that former New Japan Pro Wrestling and recent WWE NXT recruit KUSHIDA blends his impressive BJJ skills with his high-flying style.) What OWE is bringing to the mix with Kung Fu, though, is fresh and very exciting.
“We are thinking we will do something extraordinary, and bring something new to the wrestling world,” OWE vice-president Michael Nee said in a 2018 interview with the South China Morning Post. “We are the translators, we try to tell the world about Chinese kung fu through the platform of wrestling.”
Let’s take a closer look at the Kung Fu-infused wrestling of OWE.
What is OWE?
Oriental Wrestling Entertainment is a Chinese-based professional wrestling promotion that was founded in 2017. The majority of their roster is new to wrestling, but they have extensive martial arts backgrounds. Most OWE stars are Kung Fu students —including Shaolin monks — who have been training for over a decade.
Since being selected from over 200,000 applicants, OWE’s roster have been training with Japanese wrestling legend CIMA. And they’ve proven to be quick studies thanks to their strong martial arts pedigrees. “CIMA was telling everybody how amazed he was our kids can learn all these wrestling techniques in such a short time,” Nee told the South China Morning Post. “For other wrestlers without a kung fu or martial arts foundation, maybe it would take them two years to learn. Our kids learn within three months.”
Kung fu hasn’t just been useful in terms of helping the OWE wrestlers adapt to the fundamentals of pro wrestling, though. It’s also allowing them to innovate new moves. Mere months into their work together, CIMA took a couple of his trainees with him to appear on a show with the popular and storied Japanese promotion Dragon Gate. “The audience was shocked by the moves we were showing them,” Nee recalls. “They were like, ‘Wow, what the heck is that? I haven’t seen that before.’”
OWE’s North American Debut
In addition to building a solid fanbase at home in China, OWE has begun courting an international audience. They’ve done shows in Japan and are hosting a series of events in the UK next month. They also recently made their North American debut with two shows in Toronto, Canada on August 7 and 10. Both shows were headlined by one of OWE’s most promising new talents, “Sky Prince” Gao Jingjia. Here’s the Sky Prince in action:
The moment was historic for the Sky Prince as well as OWE. With these two matches, Jingjia earned the distinction of becoming the first Chinese wrestler to perform in North America. And he made quite the impression. His first match, against Canadian wrestler Mike Bailey, was particularly exciting. Bailey has a strong background in Tae Kwon Do, arguably the crispest strikes in wrestling, and some of the best executed high-flying moves. Jingjia is well matched in those areas thanks to his own training background. Seeing Tae Kwon and Kung Fu mix it up in a professional wrestling ring was a treat for any martial arts enthusiast.
What’s next for OWE?
In addition to bringing their Kung Fu wrestling to the UK this fall, OWE is eyeing an American debut. While no specifics or dates have been announced yet, the promotion is in the early stages of a working relationship with the big new player on the American wrestling scene, AEW, which will be airing on TNT starting this October.
You can also catch OWE shows on their official YouTube channel.