How do you introduce an interview with Kidd Bandit? If you’ve seen their work, then you’ll know all about the high-flying anime protagonist of pro-wrestling and all their antics. Well, for the uninitiated, Kidd Bandit is a newer pro-wrestler breaking into the scene and breaking the internet with their wrestling ability and interesting cosplays. Despite only wrestling professionally for a few months, they’re taking the wrestling world by storm and even blew some minds on AEW Dark. We here at SteelChair got the chance to talk to them, and in part one, we discuss their wrestling journey, parallels with a certain anime protagonist, AEW Dark, Cosplay, and more. Enjoy!
We’re going to start out a little generic as it’s your first time being interviewed for SteelChair, please tell us a bit about you and your wrestling journey.
“I started training at about 2019 over at Santino Bros Wrestling in Los Angeles. There wasn’t really an a-ha moment where I wanted to be a wrestler. I’ve just kind of always wanted to be. If there was something similar to that, I’d hazard to say my favourite moment would be when I watched Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn in Shinsuke’s debut at NXT Takeover Dallas. When I saw that match, right there and then I knew that I needed to try and get into wrestling. That would be the moment.”
How has training been for you so far? You sort of went through the Nightmare Factory, tell us a bit about that.
“For lack of a better term, it was the pro-wrestling Disneyland, and I miss it every single day as I didn’t make the move to Atlanta. I went back home after my camp ended. I periodically drop in every once in a while and train over there. The Nightmare Factory itself is comprised of people who love the business more than anybody I’ve met throughout the industry, my fellow students, coaches, the strength and conditioning coaches, the nutritionist. They all care so much about all the people in there, and the journey itself is well worth it. It was all worth it because it was such a wonderful experience. The amount of growth I made from the three months I was there was astounding. I found out things about myself I never knew, things I could do, especially coming into the Nightmare Factory with a sort of injury. I was healing my knee injury I’d received a year prior and ended up learning about physics, controlling my body about how to properly do things, and it’s definitely a really good school, and I’m proud to represent it wherever I go.”
Hang on a second, you were doing the moves you do on an injured knee?
“So, my debut match against Trevor Outlaw at the Nightmare Factory Showcase, I was coming into that with an injury. I was limping everywhere, and I’d never wrestled a full match. I’d done training matches, but I’d never wrestled a match. There was a lot of pressure, especially since someone had made me a meme on Twitter when Cody posted that picture. Now I was blowing up on Twitter for the first time, and I’ve got to make sure this counts. I was injured when I did that match, but then again, you’re always wrestling injured. You’re never going to be 100%, there’ll always be some little thing or nagging pain or something you don’t even know that hurts. But yeah, there was a lot of pressure.”
I think you must have made it through considering how it’s going now…
“Yeah, I definitely got lucky with where I am right now, considering how short I’ve been wrestling. With the amount of momentum I’m enjoying right now, I know a lot of people would kill for this early in their careers. I’m grateful to be in the position I’m in right now.”
You definitely remind me of Deku (My Hero Academia) …
“He’s a big inspiration because when I first started training, My Hero Academia was just blowing up. When I started training, I was 250 pounds, I was really out of shape. I was obese, it was bad. Watching his story where he starts off as this quirk-less guy, obviously, he gets that massive power-up thanks to All Might, but I really fucked with him a lot. Watching that anime in tandem with my training really helped motivate me. As cliché as that sounds, you got to find your inspiration wherever you go, and that was one of mine.”
So how was the Protagonist character/persona born? How did you come up with it?
“Fun fact, I didn’t. I wasn’t the one that came up with it. It kinda got thrown in my lap in the Nightmare Factory. My original gimmick was supposed to be cyberpunk, the Cyberpunk Ninja. If you’ve heard of the game Watch Dogs, and you’re British, right? Watch Dogs Legion was a game I took a lot of inspiration from as far as what character and gimmick I wanted to be, a hacker, very urban, very techno, very cyberpunk because I’m a massive fan of Shadowrun and other cyberpunk stuff like Matrix, Ghost in the Shell, that was the whole kind of aesthetic I was going for. But I was having a really hard time translating it, so I decided I needed to come up with something different. Baron Black, when we were doing promos, made the comment, “you’re like an anime protagonist,” and I thought, why can’t that be my gimmick. I tweaked everything right away, I got to figure something out, change stuff about, and I realised my entire journey is a lot like Deku. It wasn’t intentional, but there were a lot of parallels. The fact that Coach Cody is very patriotic like All Might makes it perfect, so let’s see how far I can run with this. The rest is history. My gear is actually inspired by Deku.”
Maybe one day we’ll see you cosplay Wrench…
“Maybe… I feel like Sami Callihan has a really good cyberpunk/Watch Dogs aesthetic. I don’t want to intrude on that territory because he’s pulling it off so well. If I do it, I’ll probably just seem like I’m ripping him off because he’s doing it so well. That’s all I’ll say about that.”
It’s nice to see that considerate side, some people would just be like fuck yeah, doing that…
“I definitely have that mean streak when I know I can do something better than someone. I’ll be like, “I’ll do it. I don’t care.” But for the most part, it doesn’t hurt to be mindful. I think it’s a good rule to follow. I found this out pretty early as well if you’re doing something you have to be mindful of everyone else who does it because A) you’ll come off as a cheap carbon copy if you don’t do it as well or B) they might take offence that you’re trying to steal their stuff. It’s good etiquette. I guess just don’t be a dick, as funny as that sounds, it’s something I’m learning first-hand. I’m also learning I can be very one-track-minded, I guess when it comes to doing what I want to do. Nothing can stop me if I make my mind up on it. Maybe one day it’ll bite me in the ass, for now, I like to think I’m being mindful and respectful about what I’m doing.”
I’d say it’s working, we’ve seen you jump of balconies, come up with the flippiest moves possible, and contain more anime references than a Shonen Weekly. It seems like it’s working…
“I hope so. It’s very expensive and hard to maintain. It’s very telling. I never really cosplayed 100%. I do it whenever there’s a Con coming up so, for those who make their money doing cosplay photoshoots or drag, I have a lot more respect for. I already respected them, but I have newfound respect because I’m finding out how hard it is to manage it.”
I’d like to talk a bit about some of your biggest achievements so far. As you said, you’ve only been wrestling professionally for a few months and you managed to make it onto AEW Dark where you’ve already told me about struggling not to swear and took on Too Fast Too Fuego…
“Yeah Too Fast definitely Too Fuego because we can’t overcome that at all.”
It must have been nice to break the internet though? How was that, it must have been nice to be on televised product at such a young stage in your career?
“I will say, I did spend a good chunk of the trip and route thinking that I am not deserving of this opportunity. I was worried about what it was going to be like. I’ve never been on TV before. With the exception of the Nightmare Family Showcase, 90% of the stuff I’d done had been in front of about 20 people tops. I’m looking at the views for that Dark episode, and it’s passed half a million. That’s a lot, that’s a lot a lot.”
Here’s me wrestling in case people have forgotten that I do in fact wrestle.
— KIDD BANDIT: The Protagonist of Pro Wrestling! (@kiddbanditpro) November 17, 2021
You’ve had a lot of nice feedback too, there were a lot of supporters for the mad, anime-inspired flippy shit.
“Oh, absolutely. I mean, to say I had it good would be accurate, but I’m not a celebrity. I guess I’m getting to that point where I should conduct myself as such and should block out a lot of the mean shit I see. It did come as a surprise, though, when I read some of the mean things that people would say about me. None of y’all know me. Then I remembered, shit, I’m a wrestler. I was on TV; I remember going on YouTube and seeing all these mean comments that are now directed towards me from people I don’t even know. To me, that was shocking. It was also a very good learning experience for me. If I want this to be my career, I need to have thick skin. I think being put on a stage where I had exposure, but not too much exposure got me prepped for whatever comes next. Hopefully what comes next is All Elite though I’m happy to work my way up there.”
I lost my mind when you Naruto Ran into a Suicide Dive…
“I knew right away coming into DARK, I didn’t expect to do much. My role in that program is to make someone else look good. Sure, I want to win the match. Yes, I’ll do what I can, but I know the people I’m facing are the ones constantly being used on TV. Therefore, whatever I do has to make them look good. I was prepared for that, and that knowledge was solace for me. That meant all I really had to do was sell. I’ll do one punch, two punches here and there, then hopefully when this airs, people hit me up and book Kidd Bandit. But, when I got there, I found I was actually going to get offence in. I have heard Excalibur say Tope Suicida so many times to the point that if I see someone do a Suicide Dive, I hear his voice in my head. It happens so much in AEW, I remember thinking to myself, I have to make mine memorable. Somehow, someway I have to make it memorable. I’d never done the Naruto Run Dive until that day. I literally got into the ring and thought, I have to come up with something quick. I did that then; I don’t know if it got caught on the recording, but as I was diving to Fuego Dos, I screamed “How are you doing down there?” or something like that. Just something funny. I remember thinking that definitely caught people’s attention. That was the last thing I had to do in that match. After that, I was done, I was going to sell and try to break the pin up at the end, but I was done. I wasn’t prepared for going backstage and finding people I’d admired for so long, just congratulating me and telling me I’d done a good job. I know I’m a wrestler now, but it’s hard not to mark out. Cody Rhodes was like “Hey, good job, Kidd Bandit.” I know he’s my coach, but he’s also my favourite wrestler, especially growing up. I always picked him when I played Smackdown vs. Raw Career Mode. So yeah, it definitely meant the world to get that approval from everyone.”
You got your All Might thumbs up…
“That’s the best thing. It naturally found a way to parallel itself.”
The other massive achievement you’ve made so far is you were in the EBPW Young Lion’s Cup, where once again, it looks like you left your mark…
“I’m not going to lie, I think I could have done better. My first match set the tone, it showed what I could do as per what people expected from us. Sadly, my fellow alumni from the Nightmare Factory, Brooke Havok got injured at the Young Lion’s Cup. She was already coming into the tournament injured, and I saw her rehab. When I was at the Nightmare Factory, she was still on crutches and rehabbing her knee. You could hear she wanted to be back as soon as can. Seeing her back and wrestling again was wholesome. When you know personally who she is, what she’s been through, you naturally root for her. She was actually supposed to win the tournament, and no one had a problem with it because everyone knew the road to recovery she’d had to go through and the passion she had for this. So seeing her get injured in her match took the air out of a lot of us. Me and Lord Bengston had to wrestle each other in round 2, and we’re both Brooke’s friends. By the time we locked up, we weren’t there 100% emotionally. We’d just seen our friend get robbed of her moment. We actually decided to do a tribute to her during our match. I did her old finisher, a Sliced Bread Bulldog, and I remember halfway through thinking, “Shit Bengston, I’ve never done this move, why am I doing this in the Young Lion’s Cup? I’m going to botch the fuck out of it.” Thankfully, I didn’t, but I just remember thinking, “Damn, what am I doing?”
That sounds really thoughtful…
“It was definitely heartbreaking, but I’m glad the GoFundMe met its goal. I didn’t set it up, but shout-out to who did for looking out for his friends. It’s very mind-boggling how everyone came to support her. It balanced everything out because I was hurt for her. Seeing the wrestling world come together for this rookie, everyone just gravitated towards her. It was so wholesome.”
That brings me on quite nicely to something else. You helped raise money for that GoFundMe through another internet-breaking hobby of yours. I absolutely love it too. That hobby is, want for a better term, Waifu Cosplay. What made you decide to do it, there was Samus on Halloween, the Queen of Simps, Maki Itoh, and most recently (at time of writing), Death Note’s Misa. You nailed all those costumes, but what led to their creation as it’s a unique way to attract erm… attention?
“Thank you. I’m definitely doing part of it for the attention because no one really does it right now. I know the Librarian Leva Bates used to cosplay other wrestlers. I’ve been very busy wrestling, which I’m grateful, better to be tired from being booked everywhere than being booked nowhere at all to the point that I had no time or money to get me and my girlfriend costumes. I figured why not, so I used the Samus costume she’d used the year before and wore that and took a picture because we thought it would be good for the shock value. It was so well received. I had to do it again because not only did I feel good doing it, I felt really comfortable in my own skin, but also when I did that, I got so many messages and responses about how a lot of people aren’t comfortable doing stuff like that or some people still in the closet that saw me doing stuff like that and were inspired to be bolder. That was a big reason why I had to do it again. I personally love doing it, but now it’s also bigger than me. It invoked a response from people inside, they felt connected to me inside. I should lean in on it. I originally planned to do it once a month, but with how well received the Maki Itoh one was, even being noticed by the queen herself who retweeted it. That really made my week. There’s definitely something here. Something good that I’m doing out here.
“When I saw the fundraiser, I had a bright idea. Everyone has been telling me how I should have this waifu gimmick and do an OnlyFans. I’m not going to do that, sorry dudes, breaking everyone’s hearts there. Though if there’s a demand for money and stuff, I could put that to good use for my friend, and I threw together a rushed Misa cosplay, and I’ll write people’s names in the Death Note, a personalised message if they donate to Brooke. There’s definitely people who are going to give me shit for what I do. They’ll be like, “Oh, they’re just getting popular because they’re appealing to the simps.” There’s nothing wrong with that. You gotta do what you gotta do to get over right as long as you’re not compromising your humanity and values, right? If you’re not being racist, sexist or problematic, then everything is fair game. Doing it for my friend, it was like not only am I figuring out this whole thing, I’m also doing it for a good cause. I want to say able to raise a couple of hundred dollars for her, and that made me happy. Plus, I’d like to think I made a very cute Misa Amane. I was really shocked by how well it came out.”
Kidd Bandit merch
Official Maki itoh doesn't have such a
big boobs but yes. This Maki itoh cosplay is amazing.👏 https://t.co/t1W0enEjcq
— 伊藤麻希 Maki Itoh (@maki_itoh) November 8, 2021
All images courtesy of Kidd Bandit, Nightmare Factory, Maki Itoh, video courtesy of AEW YouTube