Adam Krustofski is a Fale Dojo graduate, he is also the Dojo’s Australian liaison. Krustofki’s role is to help set up Dojo try-outs in Australia and put forward talent to go through training via the Dojo system. Such names that have come through this pathway include Andrew Villalobos from Sydney and Jake Taylor from Melbourne. Krustofski is passionate about rejuvenating professional wrestling in Australia and New Zealand: He strongly believes that wrestlers from Down Under have the talent and skills to be recognised on a world-class level. Krustofski is better known to the wrestling world as “Mr Juicy” Gino Gambino, a quick-witted and dangerous veteran of the squared circle and a member of the notorious Bullet Club stable. Gambino’s wit and charm is also put to great use as a member of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s English speaking commentary team.
Wrestling was a big part of Gambino’s life. As a fan, his favourite wrestlers were extraordinary characters from different landscapes that captured the fans attention with their aura.
“My favourite wrestlers were guys like Abdullah the Butcher, Antonio Inoki, Hulk Hogan, and Stone Cold Steve Austin,” said Gambino.
“These were some amazing guys that seemed to be larger than life.”
In particular, the young Gambino was amazed at their ability to embody mythical figures in spite of their typical builds.
“They weren’t exactly the biggest men, but they really portrayed these huge characters, and it was just awesome to watch.”
During his childhood, Gambino played sports that were ingrained in the Australian culture like soccer and rugby. However, rugby did not fully resonate with Gambino, other than tackling players which is what he looked forward too. The youngster was more serious with soccer, but his love for wrestling was far greater and better suited for his size.
“I grew up playing mainly soccer and rugby,” Gambino revealed.
“I just enjoyed tackling in rugby, but soccer was my main sport”.
“I could’ve pursued soccer, but I was always a larger kid, and I think the love for wrestling was more important to me.”
Gambino’s first interaction with wrestling in a live atmosphere was at a sumo event which he attended in the 1990s. He distinctly remembered the principles that epitomised this art which also applied to pro wrestling. This impacted Gambino so much that he decided to pursue a career as a pro wrestler.
“My first contact with wrestling was when I went and saw some sumo wrestling when it came to Australia in the ’90s,” he recalled
“The respect and the discipline that these wrestlers showed was really inspiring. It made me see it as a sport that takes a lot of dedication, time and respect.”
“I really enjoyed the idea of wrestling and performing,” he added.
“Seeing these elements working together in sumo which also made me see in professional wrestling was a huge thing.”
In 2005, Gambino made his wrestling debut at a time when the Australian wrestling industry was in a diminished state. Despite years of low crowd attendance and a lack of coverage, Gambino stayed true to his passion and was loyal to his country because he believed that the local wrestling talent as well as in New Zealand had the potential to compete with the best wrestlers in the world.
“The Australian scene when I joined was at its lowest point,” Gambino remembered.
“Sometimes we were wrestling in front of 10 to 30 people, unlike today where we’re wrestling in front of thousands.”
“But the reason why I did stick around and why I was passionate is that I knew we could make something big. I knew we were good enough and had the talent and the skills to make ourselves as good as anyone else – as good as Japan and the United Kingdom. I really saw that more so when I travelled to New Zealand, so I stuck around because I knew we would make it one day.”
Gambino’s faith in the local wrestling landscape was strengthened when he met Toks ‘Bad Luck’ Fale while in New Zealand. Gambino also trained at Fale Dojo where he received his formal wrestling education.
“Training at Fale Dojo really changed the way I looked at wrestling,” he explained.
“I was taught a real sense that this (pro wrestling) was a real sport that it deserves respect, and you had to have a great attitude and passion to do this.”
The Aussie veteran praised the Dojo’s training regime for the physical and mental challenges as well the rewards that came with completing the workouts. He also noted the Dojo’s emphasis in equipping their students with the knowledge and responsibility of wrestling holds matched with the teachings that develop character and integrity.
“The physical training was hard and at times almost back-breaking, but you come out the other end a better person and a better wrestler,” said Gambino endorsing Fale Dojo’s respected curriculum.
“I think a lot of training schools around the world might just teach you a move and walk away and the students can say, ‘I know how to do a suplex’. But Fale Dojo really teaches you how to become a better all-around wrestler and person, and that’s very crucial when nurturing talent”.
Fale and Gambino formed a friendship that was founded on a common goal to better the wrestling scene down under. They even discussed early on the possibility of bringing a New Japan Pro Wrestling tour to Australia which seemed far-fetched at the time. Although their vision was too bold for some naysayers to fathom in spite of efforts to include them in the plans, Fale and Gambino put the wheels in motion to put together the first NJPW tour of Australia. This event spread across four states and was held in such venues that had not hosted wrestling in decades.
“The first tour that I helped Fale-San co-promote in 2018 was crazy,” recalled Gambino.
“It changed the Australian scene in the sense that we could do this. We really stamped our comeback on wrestling by being at Festival Hall again, somewhere we haven’t wrestled for over 20 years.”
“Festival Hall was our Korakuen Hall, or our Madison Square Garden, or our York Hall. It was the venue where Australian wrestling was born,” said Gambino as he detailed the resurgence of wrestling in his home country.
“To be able to go back there and hold a huge New Japan show was massive for us, and to have crowds of three to four thousand people was really important. I think that stamped our comeback on wrestling that we are here and we’re ready.”
Gambino made his debut as part of New Japan’s English language commentary at the ‘Road to Wrestling Dontaku’ event. The addition of Gambino not only gives the Bullet Club a spokesperson, but this also creates awareness of the Australian and New Zealand influence on the New Japan product, which includes mentions of Fale Dojo’s activities that Gambino brought up while the Fale Dojo’s young lion counterparts from the New Japan Dojo were competing.
He expressed his gratitude in being involved with his new project which he finds exciting.
“I was lucky to be asked by New Japan to come and do some colour commentary for them,” stated Gambino.
“I’ve always been a fan of the product for a long time. Being a wrestler and having that experience to bring on board to that already awesome broadcast team was really cool.”
Gambino is also stoked to be working with New Japan’s play by play announcer, Kevin Kelly. This has allowed Gambino the opportunity to get familiar with Kelly and gain his valuable insight as an accomplished broadcaster.
“Kevin Kelly is a fantastic guy and a real professional,” said Gambino of his broadcast partner.
“Spending some time with Kevin over this tour and at the commentary desk has been a wonderful and a fantastic experience and I’ve really learned a lot.”
Gambino is hopeful that his strong accent will resonate with Australian and New Zealand viewers of the NJPW World video streaming service and that they feel comfortable hearing a familiar voice.
“I really hope that Aussie and Kiwi fans of NJPW World are able to hear my accent and feel a little bit more at home, knowing that they have one of their own on the commentary desk. It’s been a really great experience.”
As the anticipation builds toward the ‘NJPW Southern Showdown’ tour, Gambino would like to encourage every wrestler from both sides of the Tasman to support this upcoming event. Gambino, a veteran of 14 years has always emphasised the importance of supporting and promoting local talent, helping the wrestlers themselves to grow into better performers and the promotions to expand to give fans more choice. Gambino wrestled in front of very small crowds at the start of his career and is now involved with New Japan not only as a member of the roster but also assisting Toks Fale to get the product more well-known in the Southern Hemisphere. His closing comments still show how enthusiastic he is for the cause of local wrestling and how eager he still is to see it flourish and develop both locally and internationally under the NJPW banner.
“I’m looking forward to good wrestling and great crowds again,” said Gambino.
“I think it’s really important that all wrestlers get behind this tour, that we prove to the world that both in Australia and NZ we are on top of our wrestling game, and we’re as good as anyone else.”
“Like the first tour, this next one will show that there is a wrestling fan base here, that we are ready and willing to take on the world,” Gambino concluded.
“So go out there, buy a ticket, support your local industry and support wrestling, because this tour is going to be amazing!”