INTERVIEW: Leon Slater chats 2022 British J Cup, ‘Swanton 450’ maneuver, not originally being scheduled for GCW In Liverpool

In this interview, Andrew Thompson caught up with Leon Slater to discuss the success he's garnered at 17 years of age, recent matches & more

Photo Courtesy: SP Media Graphics

At the age of 17-years-old, Leon Slater, independent wrestler based out of the United Kingdom has been generating a buzz for himself through his matches against the likes of ‘Speedball’ Mike Bailey and Konosuke Takeshita.

Over the summer, Slater made himself more familiar with the pro wrestling audience in the U.S. and he’s continued to find success.

While speaking to Slater for an interview, he touched on that recent success and if he’s been able to reflect on what he’s accomplished.

You know, the crazy thing about it is like you said, it has been moving real fast. Since about March time, it’s just been up and up and up and leveling up constantly and the only time it’s really hit me so far was after my match with ‘Speedball’ Mike Bailey in York Hall at RevPro’s 10th Anniversary weekend and I got a standing ovation after the match. One of the best matches of my life if not the best match of my life and there’s a video out there somewhere, it’s not on the video-on-demand unfortunately but on social media, you’ll be able to find it for sure. I’m on my knees after that match and everyone’s chanting, ‘Leon Slater!’ And I put my head in my hands and I just start sobbing because that’s the only time that it’s really hit me. I’ve been training my whole life for this sh*t. I’ve been training since I was 10 years old for this and here I am, one of the biggest promotions in the U.K. against one of the best in the world, getting a standing ovation. So yeah, that’s the only time it’s really hit me of what I’m doing but I definitely realize the fortunate position that I am in for sure.

As a young Black man in wrestling, Slater feels there is an opportunity to inspire those younger and older than him to either become a pro wrestler or get more engaged in the sport.

One of his inspirations coming up on the U.K. wrestling scene is former RevPro Undisputed British Cruiserweight Champion Michael Oku a.k.a. The O.J.M.O.

100 percent man [it’s cool to know that I can inspire other Black people to get into wrestling or tune in]. When I was growing up, there wasn’t too many Black wrestlers at all. The only person that really stands out to me is Michael Oku a.k.a. The O.J.M.O., who also works for RevPro but he was the only person I really looked up to as a Black wrestler on the scene and to be in the position I am now, doing the things I am, as you said, as a young Black man, especially in England where there isn’t a lot of young Black guys coming after it. It’s a real cool position to be in and I don’t think I’m at a point where I’ve realized the influence that I’m maybe having but maybe that’s a thing for a few years down the line when we see more young Black wrestlers coming up on the scene and maybe I’ll have a part to play in that.

In the month of August in the span of several weeks, Slater wrestled Konosuke Takeshita for PROGRESS Wrestling and then wrestled IMPACT X Division Champion ‘Speedball’ Mike Bailey at RevPro’s 10th Anniversary weekend.

Those are two matches that he described as “surreal” and while he was initially nervous, he understood that they’re simply wrestlers just like he is. Specifically on the Takeshita match, Leon said that was his first big test in wrestling.

100 percent, 1,000 percent [I knew myself & Mike Bailey did something special in our match]. That month of August in itself was a crazy little one so before that, I wrestled Konosuke Takeshita for PROGRESS. That was another crazy one, especially him coming straight off wrestling [Jon] Moxley and Cesaro [Claudio Castagnoli] and all them at AEW. That was a crazy little two week run for me and like I was saying earlier, it was extremely surreal to look across from the ring and see the likes of Takeshita and ‘Speedball’ standing across from you. It is a nerve-racking feeling but once we get going, they’re just another wrestler wearing spandex just like me. So, I felt confident in both of those matches so, both of ‘em was very surreal.

1,000 percent [I look back fondly on the match with Takeshita] and that was kind of my first big ‘import match’ I guess we’ll call it. That was before ‘Speedball’, before a big six-man tag that we had with Big Damo who obviously has done a lot of stuff with New Japan, WWE, all this stuff so that was kind of my first big test as far as wrestling goes and the feedback I got from it was real good and I’m glad people have enjoyed it online and the GIFS I’ve got out there and stuff. But, I was very nervous going into that but I’m happy with how I performed, I looked confident in there. I was because like I was saying, once that bell rings, he’s just another guy in trunks so yeah, that’s another very crazy one for me. It’s another one on the bucket list, isn’t it? People say, ‘Oh, you’re a wrestler? What do you do?’ I’ve wrestled Takeshita, I’ve wrestled ‘Speedball’ in York Hall and the list is gonna go on and on eventually but, he was definitely like my first big test in wrestling.

One of Leon’s signature moves is the ‘Swanton 450’ splash. The unique maneuver is one that Leon perfected in training and since pulling it out at shows, clips and GIFS of it have been shared over social media. He broke down how to the move came to be.

So, it all started from training [Slater said about the origins of the Swanton 450] and I’ve always — give myself a little pat on the back for this [Slater chuckled]. I’ve always been athletic, even from a young age and this is the thing, I’ve been doing 450s since about 13 years old so I’m not a stranger to doing the motion of the 450 and obviously it’s my body becoming more athletic, more explosive and stuff. I’ve been getting more and more height, more and more airtime and stuff like this and eventually in training, I was just like, let me try to stick my head out a little bit. Let me give a little peak to the people at training that I can do this. It started with the head, then I was like, okay, okay, that felt nice. Let me get a little arms going, get a little arms. Got the arms and the head out at the same time and then the last thing was the feet and then the Swanton 450 was born and it’s only recently that I’ve busted it out on shows. For a while, it was a training move but then, I can’t even remember the first time I busted it out I’m sure but one time, I was like, ‘F*ck it’ and I just flipped. Stuck the head out, stuck the arms out, fingers crossed, took my knees and it blew up, 180k views on Twitter. It was crazy, it really was.

With a move like that, Slater is aware that there are certain moves in wrestling that should only be performed in big time matches and do not have to be used every show.

While he has that on his mind, he wants to get the most attention he can out of it and said those social media views and buzz can bring more eyes onto him.

So at the moment, I’m at a stage where I’m hungry and even though I’ve had all this success, there’s still a long way to go for me so at the moment, I’m just repping this thing out [Swanton 450] as much as I can. I’m trying to get as many views on Twitter, get as many GIFS as possible. Anytime I’m debuting in a place or on a big show, I’m gonna whip it out for sure. Of course there’s times to save it, and there’s not an opportunity to hit it and you don’t need to hit it sometimes. But when it’s a big stage or a big game, I’m for sure popping out. I need them Twitter views brother. I need them Twitter views [Slater smiled].

The Game Changer Wrestling crew went over to the U.K. for events and one of their partners for it was TNT Extreme.

Leon was part of GCW’s show in Liverpool and was part of a four-way for the GCW Extreme Championship. Initially, Slater was only present so he could support friends of his who were going to be featured on the event(s). He was not originally scheduled to wrestle, but it was Tony Deppen who put in a word for him and suggested to Brett Lauderdale that Slater should be on a show. Deppen saw Slater wrestle Mike Bailey at the RevPro 10th Anniversary event in August.

That was real cool man [being part of the GCW Liverpool show] … I’m a big believer in speaking things into existence and I really do believe in this and GCW is something I’ve been speaking into existence since I’ve started. I’ve spoke PROGRESS into existence, I’ve spoke RevPro into existence and I’ve done that. The next goal on my list was GCW and originally, I wasn’t even meant to be on the show. That’s a little exclusive. I wasn’t meant to be on that show but unfortunately, Robbie X, I think he had an injury or was double booked or something and he had to pull out of the GCW show and I was at the TNT show the day before to watch DeReiss and Matt Cardona to support my boys obviously and Dan Moloney, another one of my big brothers in this. He was wrestling Nick Wayne so I came down to support the boys and obviously I met Brett [Lauderdale], I met the other GCW guys and Tony Deppen was actually the one that put the good word in for me because he’d seen me and ‘Speedball’ at RevPro so he was like, ‘Brett, man, we’ve got to get this guy on tomorrow. We’ve got to get him on’ and very fortunately for me, the powers that be allowed it and I managed to get on the GCW show on a Friday and I feel like I did a good job. I feel like I did an okay job.

And those guys are so friendly so it’s not even hard to make good connections with those guys. But yeah, they’re a real good bunch of people and I appreciate, especially Deppen for getting me on that show and hopefully it leads to more stuff. Maybe flying out to the U.S. in the future and that.

On the horizon for Leon is the 2022 British J Cup tournament. Thus far, himself, Robbie X, Will Kaven and Connor Mills have been announced.

This year’s tournament is going to determine the fifth person to ever win the tourney. Slater could join the likes of Jushin Thunder Liger, El Phantasmo, Michael Oku and Mike Bailey as winners. In addition to that accolade, Slater could be the youngest winner of the tournament along with being the second Black wrestler to win it.

100 percent [excited to be part of RevPro’s British J Cup] … Even just look at the heritage of the people that have won the J Cup previously. The first one was Jushin Thunder Liger I think and it went to El Phantasmo and I think it went to Michael [Oku]… and then obviously COVID, we had to take a year off and the previous one is ‘Speedball’ so yeah man, I’ve got a real good opportunity here and I don’t plan to fumble the bag. I plan to be the youngest J Cup winner ever and like you said, the second Black winner ever. So yeah, I’m sure the tournament will be stacked. I think announced so far is obviously me, Robbie X is in that. That’s another match I’d hope to get and I look forward to and then Will Kaven I think has been announced as well… but it’s definitely gonna be a stacked card for sure and even [Minoru] Suzuki is on that show as well. Dan [Moloney] is wrestling Suzuki on that show so that’s gonna be a very special night for the boys if I manage to pull that off.

To keep up with all things Leon Slater, he can be found on Instagram @official0.01 and on Twitter @Official0_01.

Our full interview can be watched via the player at the top of this article or on the Andrew Thompson Interviews YouTube channel.

About Andrew Thompson 8251 Articles
A Washington D.C. native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.