He’s a WWE Star and a Vtuber. Those Worlds Aren’t So Different

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Brennan Williams stands 6’7″, weighs 300 pounds, and wrestles professionally as Dio Maddin, aka Mace, forcefully terrifying onstage in a skull mask. And also, lately, he is a 7’14” pink-haired merman named Jibo, with a crunchy octopus ball on his head.

“The new king of the seas! Mother effing kraken! The takoyaki shonen! The great black octopus! I have many names. I have many titles,” Williams-as-Jibo proclaimed on his debut YouTube livestream in February.

Williams is a newly minted Vtuber, becoming a member of essentially the most kawaii development in stay leisure since precise anime. It’s a portmanteau of “virtual YouTuber,” an anime avatar whose physique and face transfer at the side of a human performer’s. On Twitch and YouTube, Vubters entrance stay audiences, typically numbering 1000’s, with cutesy karaoke or the newest video video games. The high 10 Vtubers collectively generated 36 million hours watched within the first couple of months of 2021, in keeping with knowledge from analytics agency StreamHatchet.

Moving between the squared circle and streaming comes naturally, says Williams. What is Vtubing if not digital kayfabe, a wrestling time period describing the presentation of stage identities and storylines as real even past the mat. “It’s literally the same thing,” says Williams. With avatars as their masks, Vtubers sustain the efficiency throughout the digital world—YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, Instagram—with out letting anybody know their true identities.

It’s an open secret amongst followers that a highly effective anime pressure runs amongst each group members and high wrestlers. “I’ve heard the expression that wrestling is anime for rednecks,” Williams says. The web is stuffed with lists of anime-loving execs: Kenny Omega, Sasha Banks, Xavier Woods. It checks out. The method wrestling heroes are constructed, their rivalries with heels, the storylines that stretch out over years, and even followers’ straightforward oscillation between loving and hating a character all would really feel completely at residence on any shonen anime. It’s like Dragon Ball Z with figure-four leg locks.

Williams’ story line has modified a lot currently, too. As an offensive lineman with the Jacksonville Jaguars within the mid-aughts, Williams wasn’t a lot within the highlight. But he left his soccer profession along with his physique intact, and so he traveled to Houston to coach towards his lifelong purpose of turning into a well-known tv wrestler.

He has the performing expertise for it. Take the top of 1 latest match: Scottish Titan Drew McIntyre removes the masks of Mace, who’s laid out twitching on the mat. Mace stands up, physique heaving and mouth snarling, and slaps McIntyre within the face. McIntyre then slaps Mace with the masks, sending him crumpling again to the ground. The stunt disqualifies McIntyre. In the after-show, respiratory heavy along with his chin lifted, a victorious Mace grows, very shonen-esque: “As far as I’m concerned, Drew McIntyre, you did me a favor.”

It’s all artwork, he says. In WWE, Williams crafts personas by amplifying elements of his character that aren’t essentially on the floor. Vtubing presents that very same launch, with out the bodily limitations of being a 6’7″ man. “I can enhance aspects of my physical form in real life,” he says. “But on YouTube, I’m a little and cute anime boy, which is also me. It’s all in here,” he says.

Breaking into that world will not be in contrast to debuting as a wrestler, however with a completely different set of norms. At the start of a Vtuber’s “birthday” stream, they construct stress with music as followers filter in. Then, they slowly reveal elements of their persona—first their bodily kind and then their character. In his first video, Jibo’s octopus cap and large, purple eyes slowly stand up from the underside of the display. He smiles, swaying again and forth, then posts a record of his favourite “squideogames,” anime, and music—all of which appear to mirror his precise tastes. A pair thousand viewers watched, together with well-known Vtuber Ironmouse. “Ahhh kawaii,” she wrote in chat.

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