Great-O-Khan made his NJPW re-debut on the last night of the 2020 G1 by helping Will Ospreay defeat Kazuchika Okada. He, Ospreay, and Bea Priestley became the founding members of the United Empire.
O-Khan is undoubtedly one of the most unique wrestlers on the New Japan roster, both in terms of appearance and move set; he dons a bright yellow jacket and hat, enters the ring with a large paper with a question mark on it over his face, and his right hand is completely covered in tape that acts as an “iron claw.” His entrance, wherein he stretches his arms forward and hops toward the ring, is probably the most eccentric thing about him.
In a company that tends to value sports-based realism, Great-O-Khan is particularly strange, to say the least. So, what exactly is the inspiration behind the Dominator? He himself cites Genghis Khan as an inspiration, but there’s a much more horrific side to his character.
Like many luchadors, Great-O-Khan’s character is largely inspired by mythology. For O-Khan, this inspiration came from the jiangshi, a figure of Chinese folklore similar to a western zombie. Jiangshi actually translates to “stiff zombie,” but is sometimes referred to as a hopping zombie, or hopping vampire. Jiangshi are a popular monster to appear in Chinese films today, but their origins are startlingly grim.
When people died far from home, it was a folk practice for families to hire Taoist priests to reanimate the deceased corpse and guide them to “hop” back home. In actuality, these corpses were being carried by two men between long stalks of bamboo. One man stood in the front, the other in the rear. The corpses were tied to the bamboo and carried vertically in a single file line between them. The bamboo bent and flexed with each step the men took, and the corpses appeared to be hopping with outstretched arms. This is why O-Khan jumps with his arms stretched forward during his entrance.
The paper masking Great-O-Khan’s face was also inspired by jiangshi. According to folklore, the necromancer placed a paper with a talisman written on it across the jiangshi’s face. The jiangshi genre of movies adapted this idea; people ward off jiangshi by writing protective talisman in chicken’s blood on yellow paper and sticking it to the zombie’s forehead.
Great-O-Khan ripping off his paper before matches, then, acts as a sign of him being unleashed. It’s a sign of him breaking out of his necromancer’s control, and destroying anyone’s efforts to hold him back.
To be perfectly honest, I was completely unfamiliar with the inspiration being Great-O-Khan’s gear. I hate horror movies and anything remotely creepy, so I stay away from supernatural folklore and things of the like. Finding out that Great-O-Khan is mimicking what’s effectively a reanimated corpse during his entrance definitely makes him more intimidating, if not just plain scary.
O-Khan also appears to suggest that NJPW is experimenting with more fantastical elements in wrestling. Personally, I think this idea is really fun, but we’ll see how NJPW decides to move forward. Maybe, now that the forbidden door is open, we’ll get to see the intergender zombie tag team of O-Khan and Abadon! It seems that 2021 is the year of possibilities in wrestling, so I wouldn’t take anything off the table.
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