From Netflix shows to Nintendo: the resurgence of Japanese cool


Tech is bringing anime, manga and even wrestling into the global mainstream


Four years ago, Will Ospreay was toiling in the relative backwaters of the U.K. wrestling scene, performing in a red-and-black lucha mask as Dark Britannico — the evil twin of Leon Britannico, “the lion of British wrestling.” His stablemates at the London School of Lucha Libre (tagline: “10,000 volts of sexy mayhem”) were Santeria, the voodoo witch doctor, and Metallico, half man and half machine. “I think people were baffled by these four Essex boys in masks,” Ospreay, 27, said.

Ospreay, who trained as a dancer, specializes in aerial displays, throwing himself from corner poles and ropes, twisting and flipping before thudding onto the canvas. Once, at an industry showcase called Thunderbastard, he backflipped into the ring from the balcony of London’s Electric Ballroom in front of 700 people. That could have been the peak of his career.

Instead, he got his break in Japan. He ditched the mask and the Dark Britannico character and, in 2017, walked out in front of a crowd of 10,000 at the Tokyo Dome. That, he said, was “weird.”

Today, Ospreay is a rising star of New Japan Pro-Wrestling, the largest professional wrestling promotion in Asia. From relative obscurity in Essex, he has had to adapt to a celebrity life in Tokyo.

“British wrestling is like a novelty. If you know about it, you know about it,” he said. “But now, if I’m just out walking with my missis I get stopped on a regular basis. … There’s wrestling stores, there’s museums of wrestlers. It’s so huge.”

Read more in Nikkei Asian Review