China-based wrestling promotion Oriental Wrestling Entertainment (OWE) got its most international exposure yet at AEW Double or Nothing when three wrestlers from its #STRONGHEARTS stable (Cima, El Lindaman, and T-Hawk) took on SCU. A recent article in the South China Morning Post revealed that more OWE wrestlers were supposed to be on the show, when some of the company’s Chinese wrestlers are likely to perform for All Elite Wrestling, and what else the relationship between the companies might bring in the future.
Much of OWE’s promotional material focuses on their training school, including many videos on their YouTube channel showcased the young Chinese wrestlers’ athleticism and senses of humor. OWE vice president Michael Nee reveals that along with the Japanese, former Dragon Gate wrestlers at Double Or Nothing, the company had planned to send “four of our talented Chinese wrestlers… but they couldn’t get visas because of the embassy.”
This is far from the first time visa issues have caused changes to wrestling cards this year. This was a major problem for NJPW’s New Beginning In USA tour this winter and resulted in last-minute changes to WrestleMania weekend shows. There are rumors visa issues were the real reason Pac vs. Hangman Page was canceled as well.
Nee says that OWE “gave [the embassy] everything we had – invitation letters, documents, we were all prepared but it didn’t happen. We tried twice.” He later adds, “Maybe it’s the trade war, or our wrestlers are too young – I think they are afraid our kids will run off the plane and don’t come back.”
Both companies are trying to get visas for Chinese wrestlers to perform at AEW All Out in Chicago at the end of August, and Nee thinks, “If more people know, maybe there’s a better chance to have a visa next time for the big show in Chicago. We are invited, and OWE and AEW are both trying every way we can to get there and we need people to understand this.”
AEW wrestlers have already guest starred on one of OWE’s shows in China and visited their school. Nee says AEW wants a training-based talent exchange program with OWE and has committed to lending talent to AEW’s upcoming shows in Japan.
From now until the end of the year we will have nine or ten shows in Japan, the biggest one in Korakeun Hall. AEW said they will send some people there to support us and to help us get more market exposure in Japan. They haven’t decided who to send. But they have a plan.
Kenny Omega, who does some of the highest profile work of his career so far in Japan, mainly in DDT and NJPW, and was recently voted the eleventh most popular wrestler in the country would most likely be the biggest possible AEW get for OWE on these shows. But even if Omega isn’t available, the combination of AEW wrestlers who have worked in Japan (other former Bullet Club people, Michael Nakazawa, etc.) with OWE’s previous exposure to Japanese wrestling fans in the form of #STRONGHEARTS “invaded” Wrestle-1 and DDT could both draw more eyes to the young promotion and put some butts in seats.
Despite their recent setbacks, with their talented roster, connections, and digital media savvy, a bright future for OWE seems very possible.