Videogames and Wrestling with Daizou Nonaka: Great-O-Khan and Gen Z

Daizou Nonaka takes a look at Great-O-Khan

Hi everyone! Capcom producer Daizou Nonaka with you again. 

It’s nearly time for Castle Attack in Osaka Jo Hall! There’s a lot to look forward to from both nights, but there’s one guy I want us to focus on here. Who is it? The Great-O-Khan! He’ll be challenging Hiroshi Tanahashi for the NEVER Openweight Championship Sunday. Since his debut in October, he’s been fascinating to me. I want to touch on why in my column today.  

The online wrestler

Great-O-Khan is good at social media. In fact I’d say that’s an understatement. From calling his fans his ‘subjects’, the people who hate him ‘peasants’ down to the royal ‘we’s and talking about conquering and subjugation. He’s created a world for himself and draws followers in. He calls NJPW World the ‘United Empire’s government sanctioned broadcast’, his merchandise ‘proof of loyalty to the empire’, tickets ‘admission to public execution’. 

Etiquette around social media is a very difficult thing to manage, but O-Khan is a professional all the way through. Whether he’s talking about wrestling or something completely different, he uses that same majestic language. He shares fan art and engages with people incredibly well. 

What strikes me most about Great-O-Khan is that although he doesn’t publicly list his birthdate, to me he’s clearly a member of Generation Z. The generation grew up after Internet use became commonplace; they’re ‘digital natives’, people who became adults with social media, mobile phone games, smart phones all in their day to day life. Generation Z doesn’t just use the Internet to find information out and take things in, but also to network and produce. To me, Great-O-Khan is the very model of a Gen Z wrestler. 

Gen Z gamers

Gen Z interact with videogames in a radically different way to anyone before them. A lot of that has to do with YouTube and Twitch. In the past, games have been about trying to get to the end of the story, or about sharpening your skills until you can be the best. Gen Z gamers want something different, I believe. To this generation, it’s more about emergent activities and experiences that they find themselves and share with the community en masse. They might restrict themselves in some way to add challenge to a game, or they might try speedruns, which are very popular with viewers online. 

And that’s the point, evolving the medium to match the new media that sprung up alongside it. To use these tools we have to share and create and combine that with their gaming. And while high level play has its own appeal on something like YouTube, it’s finding new ways to interact and have fun with a game that has taken over. We’re in an age now where so much information is at our disposal, and we’re being fed content all the time, so it’s important for people to create their own instead. 

O-Khan for the new generation

The Generation Z MO is to find a unique appeal, express it, and gain a following in the process, which is exactly what great-O-Khan continues to do. He’s incredibly adept at drawing not just from pro-wrestling but other media and forms of entertainment. Now, his unique style in the ring and his ability there isn’t to be ignored either. But outside the ring, he recognizes there are people who love him, hate him and love to hate him, and he’s staying community focused all the way through. What’s more, none of it is forced. He’s doing what he wants, saying what he feels and people like me are becoming his subjects before they know it. 

O-Khan’s unique appeal

So now O-Khan and his new set of values challenge for the NEVER Openweight Championship in Osaka. The NEVER Openweight Championship has become associated with a certain hard hitting philosophy, but I don’t think that’s something O-Khan will ascribe to. I’m pretty sure he’ll find his own worth in that championship, and he’ll be able to convince everyone of it as well. Should he win, I think we’ll see a champion different from anyone we’ve seen in the past. A champion for generation Z. 

But then of course, Hiroshi Tanahashi is standing in his way. Tanahashi has his own set of values, and a plan to bring NJPW to a new stage himself. These unique philosophies will make an amazing match in Osaka, and I can’t wait!