Behind The Model: Cornelius LOW Is Bringing Pro Wrestling Flair To VTubing

Cornelius Low is pro wrestler by day, VTuber by night—with the two mediums telling different stories of the same character.

A Japanese translation of this piece by Kentaro Kuwahara is available here.

The worlds of pro wrestling and VTubing might seem so distant. The easiest distinction is wrestling’s existence in the physical realm versus VTubing’s virtual limitations.

But as Cornelius LOW shows, there’s a bit more in common between the two. Beyond the kayfabe of both industries, the entertainment wrestling and VTubing provides requires a specific skill set akin to musical theater, as he put it.

LOW is a Malaysian pro wrestler on the Southeast Asian circuit, having wrestled across the region in Singapore, the Philippines, and even Australia. However, when COVID put a standstill to all bouts, VTubing became an outlet for him to channel his energy—and picking up streaming was easier than you’d think for the natural entertainer.

“I think what made that transition really easy for me was, because… this is Cornelius LOW the wrestler becoming the VTuber,” he said. “I’m still Cornelius, but I’m just adapting myself to a more VTuber context. It’s not like I became a different person.”

Coming from a theater background before starting pro wrestling and VTubing, Cornelius LOW had no problems picking up either artform. While the physicality of wrestling didn’t come naturally, many of the other elements of showmanship did.

“In some ways, VTubing is all about characters. Wrestling is also all about the characters. Some of your favorite wrestlers you can think of off the top of your head, they are people you will notice walking across the street being larger than life. I just described VTubing in a way as well.

“That sense of being able to improvise, go off the cuff, and knowing what your character is and how to present yourself—there’s so many parallels between live performance and digital performance.

“When I came into VTubing, I was always comfortable yapping my mouth off because that’s what I do in the ring. I insult people… but in streaming I’m usually a bit nicer. Maybe. Usually. Bad habits do linger. The nonsense I’ve said in the ring to my opponents and to the audience… I love it. You’ll never get rid of the wrestling side of me when I’m streaming.”

VTubing has served multiple purposes for the so-called “uptown lowlife”. Being able to do something while the pandemic stopped him from pursuing the art he had honed from years and fell in love with during his childhood was one thing.

The medium offered him a bit more creative flexibility in terms of the content he could do. He wasn’t bound to the squared circle. He could let his hair down, and show a different, kinder side to the “baddie” in the ring (at most times).

It also saved him from aggravating debilitating injuries he has suffered as a result of pro wrestling. He was hospitalized twice early on in his career, and the lingering pain still haunts him in the ring. VTubing is at least lower impact, even if sometimes the scars flare up.

“It’s dangerous what we do—it’s deadly. The worst-case scenario is death. Safety is always a concern, but sometimes things go wrong, and unfortunately things went wrong very badly very early into my training.

“Mentally there was a time I thought of calling it quits. I thought maybe I should do something else, and that’s sort of half of the truth now—a virtual version of myself. I’m never going to deny my pro wrestling past, but I’m not really slowing down.”

And even though pro wrestling is a niche hobby, there’s a surprising amount of interest from sections of VTubing. Wrestlesanji, the mega NIJISANJI EN tournament ran by Selen Tatsuki earlier in 2023, drew tens of thousands of viewers. While you could argue most were there for the mega-collab element, it gave exposure to wrestling in the virtual space.

It doesn’t stop there though. Brennen Williams, a former NFL player turned WWE star, is a VTuber. WWE’s Asuka and Zelina Vega have interacted with a variety of virtual stars, including Sakura Miko and Ironmouse. Then there’s an iconic moment at this year’s Hololive Super EXPO LOW regaled.

“There’s a Japanese pro wrestler in NJPW who goes by the name Great-O-Khan,” he said. “His oshi is Oozora Subaru.

“There was a bunch of baddie minions from an anime who came out to bother not Subaru but her duck mascot. They were bullying the poor duck and causing a ruckus. This was caught on stream. Who came to save the duck, but O-Khan himself in a suit. He had a bag of merch with him, put that away, and fought the baddies out. He even did Subaru’s signature wrestling move.”

As his body fatigues and VTubing becomes a bigger part of his life though, Cornelius LOW is having a bit of a crisis. While he will forever remain a professional wrestler due to his virtual form assuming the same identity, the cost of pro wrestling is racking up.

“Every pro wrestler has a shelf-life… mine's a bit shorter than most, so I’m trying to watch out for that,” he explained. “The silver lining [of injury] is that it's allowed me to try out VTubing. This allows Cornelius LOW to still [exist].

“The fact of the matter is, at least here in Malaysia, I don’t get much opportunity to wrestle. I can train on a weekly basis, but actually getting to events? Holding these events and making it look nice and snappy—it costs money. It’s expensive. It’s complicated.

“In that sense, I can be Cornelius LOW more often as a VTuber. It sounds like a sob story, but it’s not really. I still get to be me, and really mess around being me, but not as a wrestler. I still carry that badge of a wrestler with me.”

And no matter what creative pursuit he ends up toiling with in the long run, Cornelius LOW will live on as an entertainer for all: “Cornelius LOW is a part of me and I intend to use this branding to go forward with whatever creative endeavor I intend to do. Not just wrestling or VTubing but whatever else I pursue.”

You can watch the full interview with Cornelius LOW on Behind The Model.