[INTERVIEW] Leon Slater, the 18-year-old English prodigy who conquered European wrestling
From Konosuke Takeshita to Zack Saber Jr. to Mike Bailey, 2022 was the year of revelation for Leon Slater. From his first steps in a ring in 2019 to today, the young wrestler has never stopped impressing the public and earning the respect of his peers. VL Media was able to speak to the British J Cup 2022 finalist during his visit to Belgium alongside BodyZoi Wrestling. Leon Slater talks about his journey: that of a boy from Bradford, England who, at just 18, became the new sensation in European wrestling.
VL: You just made your debut in Belgium with BodyZoi Wrestling by facing Robbie X. Despite this unfortunate defeat, can you tell us more about your feelings after this fight and the general atmosphere of the show?
Leon: Honestly, the vibe at BodyZoi is unique. I had a lot of fun wrestling today even though I lost my match. I think it’s the first time in my whole career I’ve experienced such an atmosphere. Between the people sitting near the entrance ramp, those standing at ringside, and those slapping ringside aprons, everyone was making noise. There were people from the ring apron to the back of the room and it’s not such a small room. I loved my first time in BodyZoi wrestling.
VL: At only 18 you are already considered by many to be one of the best young wrestlers in the world. Many fans on social media regularly compare you to Nick Wayne, another 17-year-old American wrestler. You who faced him last January, what do you think of this comparison?
Leon: Honestly, if someone has to compare me to someone, I’m very glad it’s them. He keeps making history. No one before him had signed a contract with one of the biggest promotions in the United States. He signed with All Elite Wrestling before he even turned 18. It’s really crazy. It was a pleasure to share the ring with him. I have a feeling this is a matchup for fans to see in the next twenty, thirty, forty years. In this environment we will grow together and become true wrestling legends.
VL: One of the highlights of your 2022 is your match against Mike Bailey at RevPro. What do you remember from that fight? Did you feel any pressure to compete against one of the best wrestlers in the world?
Leon: I approached this match with composure. I always try to take the same approach before each of my fights. No matter who I face, I do my best to keep a cool head. When I was in the ring against “Speedball” Mike Bailey, it was a match like any other in my mind. On the other hand, after the fight, I realized that we’re not all on the same level in this industry. He’s the first wrestler to make me understand the difference between good and excellent. The moment I shared with him in the ring after the match is without a doubt the best memory of my career. It was the first time I got a standing ovation from the audience. The crowd rose and chanted my name. It was the only time in my life that I cried in a ring. I was completely overwhelmed by my emotions and the fact that everything was perfect in this game. I sat there, cried, and told myself that I had a chance to succeed in the medium that has always made me dream since I was a child.
VL: Speaking of childhood, who are the wrestlers that you adored as a kid and who inspire you as a wrestler today?
Leon: My top 3 will always be: Jeff Hardy, Rob Van Dam and Shelton Benjamin. I feel like a mix of those three wrestlers, those three styles of wrestling. Speaking of wrestling style, AJ Styles was also a huge influence for me. I watched a lot of TN games when I was youngerA (note: today Impact Wrestling) on Youtube, especially those of AJ Styles and the X Division. I couldn’t watch WWE because I didn’t have Sky Sports (Note: British TV network broadcasting WWE), that’s how I discovered wrestlers like Chris Sabin, Alex Shelley or Samoa Joe. It’s the style of wrestling that I like and want to do.
VL: You mentioned your relationship to pressure before your match against Mike Bailey. In general, how do you deal with this pressure? Are you worried about being considered one of the best young wrestlers in the world even though you’re only 18?
Leon: Contrary to what one might think, I don’t think about it often. It’s not something I think about every day. In reality, stress can come at any time. For example, this weekend I had a surge in anxiety due to my busy schedule. Having the opportunity to wrestle in a country outside of the UK made me realize I had no room for error. People trust me, I can’t disappoint them. I’m not often stressed, but when I am, it affects me tremendously. When my spirits are low and my nerves are on edge, I always try to remind myself that I worked hard to get where I am today.
VL: Finally, after your match against Robbie X last Sunday at BodyZoi, the crowd chanted: ” Please come back “. After this general buzz, are you planning to return to Belgium to fight with BodyZoi?
Leon: Of course! I’ve said it and I’ll say it again: I had a fantastic time at BodyZoi. They took care of me like never before. I loved this stay in Belgium. I love this country ! The people are nice and the food is really good (laughs). I bought a pack of ten chocolate waffles, it’s killer! (laughs). I can’t wait to come back here.
BodyZoi Wrestling 7 – Fly or Crash – will be broadcast very soon on VOD for BZW+ subscribers, subscription available at €14.99/year. The promotion will be performing in Charleroi on May 27th for their show “Invasion” which is helmed by Impact Wrestling and AAA wrestler Laredo Kid. Leon Slater finds some of his fights on Progress Wrestling’s VOD platform, on RevPro or on Fite+ when he fights for GCW.