Middle Kingdom Wrestling (MKW) might have the coolest name of any promotion in the world. Founded in 2015, MKW has been working to create a distinctly Chinese style of professional wrestling. Often referring to the promotion as “professional wrestling with Chinese characteristics”, it is safe to say that founder Adrian Gomez has done just that.
Gomez found himself in Harbin, China after seeing an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations about the city. In a northern city known more for its ice festival than perhaps anything else, the American ex-pat found himself putting both Harbin and China on the map, in terms of professional wrestling.
“The seeds were already planted for starting a wrestling promotion while I was going to college in San Antonio, Texas and getting involved with the independent scene there. Arriving early to setup the ring, helping out with the camera, sweeping glass tubes and setting up objects for hardcore matches. My intention was always to be around the promoters and managers of wrestling promotions to learn more about the business.”
In 2010, Gomez signed a one year contract to be a teacher in an English training center. During his first year in China, he found most of his previous interests and hobbies had been replaced with learning about Chinese culture, learning Mandarin, and other distinctly Chinese interests. In fact, pro wrestling was almost exclusively Gomez’s only western hobby he had left.
“That realization really left a deep impression on me. I realized that no matter where I was in my life, physically or mentally, and no matter the situation, whether it was good or bad, that my interest in wrestling would always be consistent, and that it would always be there for me, no matter what.”
A desire to share that passion with the world would become Middle Kingdom Wrestling. “I took small steps each year for the next five years – getting partners, resources, and capital – to finally create Middle Kingdom Wrestling in 2015.”
One of those partners was The Slam. The Slam, mainland China’s first professional wrestler, founded China Wrestling Entertainment in 2004. He has fairly consistently tried to promote shows, even to this day. He co-promoted MKW’s first show. In fact, if there is a promotion in China, you can bet The Slam had a foot in it getting off the ground. With people like The Slam and Adrian Gomez around, what is the wrestling scene like in China today? “Definitely more active than when MKW opened several years ago! I would like to say that MKW has been an instrumental part in the current spike in interest in the Chinese pro wrestling scene. I really hope that MKW can help to continue adding momentum to the Chinese pro wrestling scene.”
MKW is quickly becoming one of the most popular promotions in Asia. December 15th’s Bash at the Bay recently passed 7,000,000 unique views. This made it the most viewed live event in sports on December 15th in China. The highest rated episode of Raw in December attracted just 2.54 million viewers. The card featured global talent including former NXT and Mae Young Classic competitor Zeda Zhang, Impact Wrestling talent Kongo Kong, and Japanese standout Hibiscus Mii, alongside the many talents MKW brings to each and every show.
So clearly people are checking out the product. How exactly does MKW go about portraying
those “Chinese characteristics” though? Many of the wrestlers on the roster pay homage to either current or historic Chinese culture, gimmicks that appeal to a Chinese fanbase. There’s “the Selfie King” Hong Wan, the faction simply known as The Stable, Master Class Michael Su, and the popular anti-hero Zombie Dragon. Black Mamba even holds a championship that is named after one of the most important policies in China today. The Belt & Road Championship. The Belt and Road Initiative is an attempt to increase economic and regional connectivity between more than 60 countries and well over half of the global population, a third of the globes GDP, and three-quarters of known global energy resources. Embracing this very concept, MKW hosted a 12-wrestler tournament involving talent from the countries listed as official partners in the BRI.
“The honor and privilege of MKW being able to be associated with something as iconic as China’s BRI is a treasure that I and my team will be able to keep with us for a lifetime. The Belt & Road Championship Tournament fit MKW’s tagline of professional wrestling with Chinese characteristics perfectly and it was truly the biggest highlight of my career professionally so far in this business. We have plans to possibly host another Belt and Road tournament in other BRI member countries. For example, I will be visiting Nepal soon to discuss exactly that. Nepal is one of China’s strongest allies and trading partners in Asia and we look forward to being able to share more news on that soon” Gomez stated.
After the success the promotion saw with December 15th’s card, one certainly has to wonder what 2019 has in store. “We plan to focus much more on our event and video production values and also we want to build deeper partnerships with wrestling companies in China and in the region to create a synergy between all companies. Personally, I want MKW wrestlers to wrestle as much as they can in front of completely different crowds – Whether it be for MKW, OWE or other companies. What wrestlers need more in China is more ring experience and our aim this year is to provide that for our wonderful talent in our roster. Expect to see more MKW talent in unexpected places this year. This ultimately will help the whole pro wrestling industry in Asia.”
For Gomez, seeing OWE begin working with AEW, Xia Li‘s success in NXT, and even his own success, are all signs he’s getting closer to his goals for the future. “Ultimately, I just want all of us in this scene to grow together towards creating a healthy pro wrestling industry in China. We have made a lot of good friends in the Chinese wrestling industry and no matter if they are with MKW, OWE or other promotions in China at large, I hope that we can all maintain this growth and attention that we are experiencing. That’s really what I want. We all love wrestling and we want to share our love with a larger and larger audience in China. There is nothing better than that.”