Exclusive Interview With Living Legend And Dragon Gate Superstar, Ho Ho Lun

In this exclusive interview, Ho Ho Lun covers the start of his illustrious career and his time with current promotion, Dragon Gate, as well as discuss his upcoming UK tour this December.

Nath: Growing up in Hong Kong, where did your passion for the wrestling business come from?

Lun: Well, that’s a really long story (chuckling). Back when I was 6 years old, or something, there was a cable TV channel in Hong Kong, it was Japanese cable TV but it aired in Hong Kong, and they showed New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). At the same time, on the other channel, they had World Championship Wrestling (WCW) being broadcasted.”

“So it was about 1996/97, if you can remember, it was an interesting period because New Japan and WCW actually worked together which saw Japanese talent come over to Monday night Nitro. At first it confused because I was like “Why is the same person wrestling in the US and in Japan and they’re on two different TV channels?” and that was when I found it really interesting and started watching wrestling on TV.”

Nath: How did you get into the business?

Lun:There was actually non wrestling in the whole of China, at the point in time when I started. So, I remember it in about 2006 there was a guy who became the first ‘wrestler’ in China and his name is ‘Slam’, as in body slam, that was his ring name.”

“He was an exchange student in Korea, finished his term and then returned to China. He also had the same passion of, you know, liking wrestling for a long time but there’s nothing like this in China. So, he set up a wrestling ring on the rooftop of his house and he called it CWE – China Wrestling Entertainment (chuckling).”

“This was the first wrestling ring in China, on his rooftop, and by that time the Internet is not really a big thing (in 2006) so most of the people who came in were his neighbours. I was lucky enough, I was in an Internet forum, in China, and I found out there’s this ring going on that is not far away from Hong Kong, it’s only a 2 hour drive from Hong Kong.”

“I was just a high school graduate, like eighteen years old by that time, and I thought why not go and try to get slammed by the Slam (chuckling) and that’s how I started. He (Slam) received a couple years of training in Korea but in China this was the most of what we could get. So, we had a little bit of the fundamentals, from his training in Korea, and then we basically trained ourselves.”

(Image courtesy of Ho Ho Lun and Dragon Gate)

“I was going to this CWE rooftop wrestling for, on and off, 2 years for almost every week so I would travel there on a weekend, do a bit of training and then come back to Hong Kong. This made me think “Hmm, if the Slam can do one (a ring) on his rooftop, why not me!?” (chuckling), however, there’s no rooftop thing in Hong Kong because it’s busy city, it’s like London.”

“Instead, we rented a warehouse and a ring but there’s no wrestling ring supplier. We got in touch with a boxing ring supplier and that guy said he could make the wrestling ring (chuckling). So, the guy made the wrestling ring and we put it in the warehouse but then I wondered why it was like being slammed on concrete. I found out in the end that it was a boxing ring but the guy had just put a little spring in it, but we still managed to train ourselves in that concrete ‘wrestling’ ring for a little bit.”

“In 2009, after 2 years of training myself in that concrete ring and then another two years with the Slam, I decided to travel overseas to see if our self-taught training is right, so the first stop; England. In 2010, I came to England and wrestled at Swindon’s 4FW, where I found that almost 85% – 90% of our self-taught training made me able to hold my own with the wrestlers in Swindon.”

“After a few sessions of training in 4FW, I started to get other bookings in places like Coventry, Birmingham and all these other places but most of the shows were like kids shows and this is how independent wrestlers get started. So, this made me think that maybe I should turn this hobby into a full-time career as, at that time, I was a masters degree graduate in communications and was working in research at the university, so I thought if I don;t start wrestling now then I won’t be able to in my 40s/50s.”

Nath: So, was Slam the first person you looked up to, or was there someone growing up in New Japan or WCW that inspired you and your style?

Lun: “As a kid, I didn’t know about Japanese style or American style, no clue, I just knew there were a few guys that did some cool stuff and there were all us kids’ childhood hero; Jushin Thunder Liger. He was the one who I watched most in NJPW and WCW, 1996, his top peak in his career. There was also the Great Muta, Chono (Masahiro Chono) and on the WCW side there was Sting, Scott Norton, Ric Flair, Bam Bam Bigelow, Vader, these are the guys.

(Image credited to and courtesy of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE))

“I don’t have a specific person that I looked up to, wrestling in general caught my eye because it was something I like and I was not sure if I wanted to do it but I liked it.”

Nath: You’ve travelled the globe during your career and wrestled for many promotions, including WWE. How did you get approached to be part of the 2016 Cruiserweight Classic Tournament? How did that come about and how did it feel to become the first wrestler from Hong Kong to compete in the WWE?

Lun: “In 2015, I received an email to say that WWE is looking for a Chinese person, who is going to take part in a World Cup style tournament for Cruiserweights, taking place in 2016. So, I sent in my videos and my CV and about 3 – 4 months later I have not had anybody get back to me, so I think “ok, this is WWE, the top wrestling company in the world so I get it”. Around January 2016, I think, I got an email back from William Regal to say that I was in the tournament and that they had started doing the paperwork.”

By this point, I thought this was going to be a one-off thing but later that year, in June, they actually did a WWE tryout in Shanghai. So, they (WWE) invited me to be there, although I had already confirmed to do the Cruiserweight Classic, but I thought that was a one- off thing, right. I did the tryout, got to know a few of the coaches from the Performance Centre, they came to Shanghai as well, and I think they liked me.”

“After I did my first match, I got asked did I want to stay over in NXT to train a little bit, to work in NXT and to tour with them so I said “Of course! Absolutely!” (chuckling). So, after the first match I had my return flight to Hong Kong but flew back to the US two weeks later to begin my year and a half life in NXT after that.”

Nath: Your time with WWE came to an end in 2017, to return to Hong Kong. Was it always planned to be a brief stint due to commitments you also had to promotions in Japan and Singapore at the same time?

Lun: “Being in NXT, of course, is the dream of a lot of professional wrestlers and I was having some reviews with the coaches as I wanted to have this job forever! However, in 2017, I took a one week holiday to go back to Hong Kong to see my parents and there was a health issue with my mom. So, I was like “hmm, should I keep doing my job in the US or should I move back nearer to where she is to take care of her?”

At the time I was working on staying with NXT but at the same time I had a growing commitment to want to come back to China and take care of my family, my mom. It was a hard decision, NXT is a dream job for anybody but at the same time there was a casino complex in Macau, which is an hour drive away from Hong Kong, and they offered me a producer opportunity to do a wrestling show, every day, inside the casino complex.”

“This opportunity gave me a job and a reason to leave NXT and come back to take care of my mom. I wanted to do this, I wanted to be near my family, so I quit NXT in July, or August maybe, 2017 and decided to come back to Macau and take this casino complex work and look after my mom at the same time.”

“I was able to stay with my mom, for the last 6 months of her life, was back and forth between Hong Kong and Macau almost 2- 3 times every week, but the biggest regret for me is that I actually quit the NXT job right before the WWE Live event in Shenzhen, China. Shenzhen is also like 30 minutes away from Hong Kong, so I missed the biggest opportunity to perform in front of my hometown audience but then this is life so, yeah.”

Nath: With AEW’s recent All In making history at Wembley, how did you find your time with the company back in 2021?

Lun: “I only spent 2 days with AEW, as it was a part of my tour in 2021. I did a tour in the US where I spent 3 months, I reckon, working for a few wrestling companies there like GCW (Game Changer Wrestling), MLW (Major League Wrestling) and, of course, AEW (All Elite Wrestling) where I did one match for AEW Dark.”

I think Dark doesn’t exist anymore but AEW, backstage, is like Raw and Smackdown backstage, you know, they’ve got all the things you need. I remember the TV taping, that I was in, was in Jacksonville, Florida, where the headquarters is and where they did a lot of their shows during COVID. They’ve got producers for each of the matches, even though, AEW Dark usually consisted of 3 – 4 minute matches, but it was good and all the instructions were given, so a good experience.”

Nath: 3 years prior to joining AEW, you signed with Japanese promotion, Dragon Gate. How did that come about?

Lun: So, in 2018, Dragon Gate decided to do a live event in Hong Kong and, at the time, I was the Hong Kong Pro Wrestling promoter so I supplied them with the ring and a little bit of local talent. I wrestled with the Japanese dudes for a little bit as well, then I got invited and asked did I want to come to Dragon Gate for a little bit and do a 3 month, 6 month tour or something, so I was like “Absolutely!”.”

In 2019, around November/ December time, I came to Dragon Gate and did 3 months but was then asked; “Do you want stay over for another 3 months?” “Absolutely!” (chuckling). So, 2 months later, after the second 3 months, all the COVID restrictions applied here so all the events were stopped for, initially, a couple of weeks so they said I could stay and they got me covered housing and food wise. I said “No worries, ok, 2 weeks is fine”.

“The next minute, it’s four months later (chuckling) and we’re having the next TV taping in front of an empty arena, no fans allowed, so we did one TV taping and then they started to allow fans to come in but there was a lot of restrictions with wearing a mask, washing hands, social distancing and things like that. For the entirety of 2020, we wrestled in front of, really like, limited audiences but this was fortunate for me because I started to get involved, other than wrestling, more in other aspects here at Dragon Gate.”

(Image courtesy of Ho Ho Lun and Dragon Gate)

I do the English commentary for Dragon Gate network and their TV taping every month in Tokyo, I just came back from Tokyo last night, and then after my 2021 trip to the US I got more involved in talent co-ordination work. In this, I co-ordinate Japanese talents to wrestle in the US and then next year, in the UK. The office here, in Dragon Gate, trust me enough to give me a lot of freedom to do stuff regarding overseas business, so early this year we did a Dragon Gate show in Singapore and we plan to do another one next year.”

Singapore is another country where I have wrestled a lot, since 2011 roughly, and it’s like my second home now as I speak Cantonese too! (chuckling). A lot of people say that all the COVID restrictions ruined their lives, and I am sure it did, but it gave me a new life because I was only supposed to be wrestling here (at Dragon Gate) for 3 months.”

A lot of people always ask me; “Do you have any personal goals, as a wrestler?”. I always say, as a wrestler, I have already done what a lot of people dream to; WWE, NXT, wrestled in Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall. However, I am also more interested to be in a wrestling producer position and being here in Dragon Gate fulfills my own personal goal of a producer as I want to bring good wrestling to people, and this is what I’m doing now.”

Nath: Dragon Gate has a roster that is full of talent, such as Dragon Kid, Takashi Yoshida (CyberKong), Shun Skywalker, Yamata and the legendary Último Dragón, as well as yourself of course. How does it feel getting to work with great talent and sets Dragon Gate apart from other promotions?

Lun: “You know, Dragon Gate wrestling is very different from other kinds of wrestling. The pace is very fast, there’s a lot of young talent coming in every year and I have been reading some internet articles where they are saying the new guys in Dragon Gate are so good and that the Dragon Gate dojo is one of the best in the world.”

At first, in the first 6 months, coming down here was very challenging for me because the pacing is very different because if you watch the 6 – man tag matches, they are all running and executing moves at a fast pace. This style was much different to what I had done for the past 10 years, but then I finally was able to catch up a little bit and they formed me a unit called ‘Kung-Fu Masters’, early last year, where I’ve put a lot of kung-fu moves into my move set and the fans like it!”

(Image courtesy of Ho Ho Lun and Dragon Gate)

We are currently here in Kobe, Kobe actually has one of the biggest Chinatowns in Japan, and that’s why they’ve put us in these kung-fu master characters. So, yeah, like I said the first 6 months were challenging with the pacing and then sometimes you’re working with, as you said, the Último Dragón, Yamato, Dragon Kid, all these legends. This makes you very nervous when you get in the same ring with them but then time has passed, 4 years now, of going to the ring is like an everyday thing for me now.”

Nath: What is it like to work for and alongside a legend such as the Último Dragón, someone you grew up watching as a kid?

Lun: “At first, it’s very nerving talking to him because he’s a very traditional Japanese wrestler, very much like a wise man sitting there with a lot of authority so you’ve got to be polite and respectful, but then he’s a really nice person.”

(Image courtesy of Ho Ho Lun and Dragon Gate)

He doesn’t spend the whole year in Japan, 6 months of his life he’s going to spend in Mexico and the US, then the other 6 months here. We talk about wrestling in the US a lot, his experiences in Mexico and the US a lot and he gives me a lot of advice about how to get into a better character, all this kind of stuff.”

At first (meeting him), nervous, but then when you get closer and you’ve known each other longer he’s a nice person who gives a lot of advice to the younger talent and it’s always great to surround him and talk about various stuff.”

Nath: After Dragons Gate TV taping on the 5th December 2023, you will be embarking on a UK tour. Tell us more about this tour. What are your plans and how can people come to see you?

Lun: “Yess! Can’t wait! The main event of this UK tour is, of course, in January where there are 4 shows with Brit King Pro (British Kingdom Pro Wrestling), they were 4FW before, and this is where I started wrestling in the UK. They have rebranded and start promoting again, this October I think, and the main event will be in January because we have Shun Skywalker, Dragon Kid and Dragon Gate’s Dream Gate Champion Kikuta Madoka here for 4 shows.”

“I think the 4 shows are in Swindon, Oxford, Bristol annnnd the fourth one eludes me, but all 4 of us will be there. So, if you are a Japanese wrestling fan or wrestling fan in general, then I think you will want to come and see as will be awesome.”

(Image courtesy of Ho Ho Lun)

Before this show, I am going to plan out for another month for us to come over because the UK is actually where I decided to turn professional as wrestler. I did a 6 month tour, back in 2011, and in 2013 I similar, before 2019 where I only came over for 2 months. So, this time, I’m back again and already got announced that I’ll be in Colchester around December 17th and then there will be a few more announced later, as we’re still negotiating but I’m sure they’ll work out (chuckling).

I’m going to spend Christmas in England too, don’t know what to expect…-25 degrees, something like that (laughing). One of my aunties is actually living in London, I haven’t seen her in a long time so I look forward to reuniting with one of my relatives as well as all the old friends that I met 10 years ago in the wrestling circle and the newcomers into the wrestling business in the UK. Really happy to meet them and, of course, yourself if you come down to catch a show or two!.”

“People can follow me on Instagram (hoholun719) and all the info will be on there regarding the tour because there’s a lot of things that haven’t been announced yet and, I think, ticketing websites haven’t released the tickets yet. As I’m over in December, the tickets will likely get released November or late October maybe.”

Nath: Dragon Gate will be coming over to the UK in January 2024. Will it be those mentioned before, including yourself, coming over or will there be more to come? What does the promotion have in store? Also, how can they attend?

Lun: “There will be more individual wrestlers coming in in March, I can’t tell you who yet but there will be more in March, April and May. If you can remember, we had Dragon Gate UK back 2013 or something like that, where you had Naruki Doi, PAC and Tozawa there at the time.”

We also hope to relaunch the brand (in the UK) but we don’t know how (chuckling) so that’s why I want to come in a month ahead of the real thing happening, to perform for other companies, see how the market works and how wrestling promotions work in the UK nowadays. I’m sure it’s different now from 10 years ago. There’s a website called ‘UKFF’, it’s still going but looks really, really old now (laughing), so that’s why I’m coming over earlier, to see if it’s possible, and if it is then I’ll be pacing the office to see how it works (laughing).”