The wait was over for the Fale Dojo contingent after months of anticipation. The graduates led by Head Trainer Toks ‘Bad Luck’ Fale converged at the historic Festival Hall in Melbourne, Australia to perform on the first night of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s ‘Southern Showdown’ event.
Mark Tui, the General Manager and Coach at Fale Dojo spoke about the environment backstage before the show.
“The atmosphere in the back was very respectful and professional,” said Tui. “When you’re walking around people like Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada and also having the Chairman of New Japan Pro Wrestling present, you know you have to step up your game and leave no room for error.”
Mark Tui, Michael Richards and Andrew Villalobos vs. Toa Henare, Shota Umino and Nick Bury:
The event featured a strong Dojo contingent from the opening bell as the first match featured Fale Dojo graduates Mark Tui, Michael Richards and Andrew Villalobos locking up in a six-man tag team match against their young lion counterparts from the New Japan Dojo.
“I was very honoured to open the show,” stated Tui. “I also knew that Michael, Andrew, Henare and I had to start the show off with a bang and get people invested straight away.”
“The pressure was huge but one we definitely excel in.”
The opposition was made up of Toa Henare (also a Fale Dojo alumni), Shota Umino and Australia’s Nick Bury, who was a last minute replacement for Ren Narita. Fale Dojo referee Lloyd Morgan also made his New Japan debut as the official for this match.
Narita’s absence gave Fale’s trio an advantage in this encounter. Working as a cohesive unit, the Fale graduates trapped Bury in their corner using a basic and effective display of holds. Tui took down Bury with a combination of effective body punches and a sweep kick.
The energetic Umino was tagged into the match and put together a succession of exciting high impact moves against Richards. However, as Umino charged off the ropes, Richards countered with a devastating elbow.
The momentum changed again when the experienced Henare was tagged into the ring. Being familiar with all three Fale grads, Henare was able to disassemble their train of thought as he charged across the ring at Villalobos.
Henare and Villalobos engaged in an intense exchange of strong style forearm shots before Henare bounced off the ropes intending to strike Villalobos. However, Villalobos countered with a back elbow, followed up with a double-armed butterfly suplex and an attempted pinfall. Villalobos, confident that he would drop the Maori warrior by running at him with a strike was dropped with a massive clothesline as Henare stood waiting to make contact.
Henare then knocked Tui and Richards off the apron as the dazed Villalobos struggled to get back on his feet. Henare, sensing that the end was near proceeded to execute his signature rampage tackle while Villalobos was still feeling the effects of the clothesline. Henare picked up the groggy Villalobos and delivered his finisher, the ‘Toa Bottom’ uranage suplex. Lloyd Morgan made the three count as Henare picked up the victory for his team.
“I was filled with all different types of emotions after the match,” explained Tui. “I was more eager to hear back from my Senpai Fale-San.”
“Fale-San’s feedback and analysis are crucial for me to improve and increase my level,” he added.
Although it was Tui’s second appearance with New Japan, this was the first time that he used his real name.
“I was so happy that I got to wrestle using my name,” expressedTui. “Seeing my family name was so surreal especially on NJPW World.”
Aaron Solow vs. Slex:
Aaron Solow was the first to appear at the entrance way in his NJPW debut. He showed a subtle look of displeasure which was mentioned play by play announcer Don Marnell, though colour commentator Chris Charlton interpreted Solow’s look as being focused. This dampened the mood of the crowd, but the atmosphere lightened when Solow’s opponent and Melbourne local, Slex made his entrance.
Solow’s attitude was made apparent early in the match showing arrogance in his behaviour. In spite of his attitude, Solow’s athleticism was well noted with his crisp dropkick and stunning strong style forearm strikes. Slex, the bigger of the two used his size to combat Solow’s speed and aggressiveness applying his own dropkick, followed up by a slingshot back breaker. Solow tried to break the succession of moves by sliding outside the ring, but Slex hoping to slow down Solow landed a suicide dive to the outside and this excited the crowd.
Although Solow felt the momentum of the suicide dive, he moved quickly as possible to the opposite end of the ring to avoid further punishment. Slex pursued Solow realising that he couldn’t afford to give Solow the opportunity to rejuvenate since Solow’s smaller size and stamina would likely favour him in the long run.
Slex’s eager pursuit allowed Solow to trap him. An ambitious attempt by Slex to superplex Solow off the top rope gave the Fale Dojo graduate an opening to escape through the legs. Solow then pulled down the hometown hero by the back of the head and delivered a neck breaker.
Solow proceeded to inflict his offence on Slex with a series of strikes. Slex eventually combated Solow’s intensity with a comeback that started with a tornado DDT and followed up with a blue thunder powerbomb. But when he tried a springboard move off the middle rope, Solow countered his opponent’s boldness with a superkick. He then followed up with an aggressive double foot stomp from the top rope, however, the severity of the move only gained him a two count.
Solow, irritated by the crowd chanting “you can’t beat Slex”, gave the Melbourne based Slex the opening to strike his finishing move to pick up the win.
Toru Yano and Yoh vs. Gino Gambino and Taiji Ishimori:
Fale Dojo graduate and Australian liaison Gino Gambino teamed with his fellow Bullet Club member Taiji Ishimori in a tag team match against CHAOS members Toru Yano and Yoh from the tag team Roppongi 3K.
Ishimori and Yoh, the two Junior Heavyweights added the high paced element to the contest while the thuggish Gambino and the strategic and playful Yano engaged in a cat and mouse battle that eventuated with Gambino trying to stop Yano from gaining possession of the turnbuckle pads. The crowd was firmly in support of Yano and Yoh in spite of Gambino being a native of Melbourne. Gambino and Yano each gained a turnbuckle pad which Yano used first to hit Gambino. Needless to say, however, Gambino, the heavier of the two whacked Yano so hard with his turnbuckle pad that the crowd reacted with complete disdain.
The Bullet Club duo utilised their power and speed combination as Ishimori dropped Yano with a springboard cannonball which allowed Gambino to follow up with a big splash pinfall attempt that was interrupted.
The two members of CHAOS schemed to pick up the win which involved Yano distracting the referee while Yoh hit Gambino with an illegal low blow. The deceit allowed Yano to seize the opportunity to execute a schoolboy roll up on his bully to gain the pinfall victory.
“Ace” Hiroshi Tanahashi and “Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada vs. “Rogue General” Bad Luck Fale and “Switchblade” Jay White:
The Southern Showdown main event featured Bullet Club’s ‘Rogue General’ Bad Luck Fale joined by fellow New Zealander and former IWGP Heavyweight Champion ‘Switchblade’ Jay White against New Japan’s dream team of ‘Rainmaker’ Kazuchika Okada, the current IWGP Heavyweight Champion and ‘Ace’ Hiroshi Tanahashi.
Fale and White gained the first major advantage in his epic battle when White threw Tanahashi over the top rope while Fale charged across the ring and knocked Okada off the apron.
New Japan’s beloved heroes were laid out in excruciating pain as the notorious ‘Rogue General‘ and ‘Switchblade’ continued to maul them.
The Bullet Club duo kept control of the match with their use of well thought out tactics which entailed a lot of tagging in and out and keeping the opponent isolated from his tag partner. This tactic was also noted in the opening match when Fale Dojo graduates Tui, Richards and Villalobos applied the same method to prevent the opponent in the ring from tagging out.
Aaron Solow’s demeanour and strong style strikes that he displayed in his battle were masterfully applied by his teacher, Fale from a big man’s perspective.
Although Fale and White had dominated the match, Okada and Tanahashi began to make a comeback. Unlike the Bullet Club’s dominance over the dream team in late 2018 to early 2019, Okada and Tanahashi had finally learned from their previous losses when the ‘Rainmaker’ pinned the ‘Rogue General’ at the conclusion of the main event to the excitement of the Melbourne crowd.
It can be said that a year is a long time in the world of professional wrestling and this year’s Southern Showdown proved this in relation to the excellent work and expansion of Fale Dojo. In 2018, Fale Dojo’s presence at the ‘Fallout Down Under’ tour was just three performers Tui, Henare and Gambino. However due to the excellent work by Toks Fale and his Dojo staff over the last year, 2019 saw the Dojo’s presence increase to a card that was full of both graduates and trainers as Fale Dojo wrestlers provided the backbone of the Southern Showdown card from start to finish. This demonstrated that the Southern Hemisphere can provide wrestling talent that can be appreciated and enjoyed by fans around the world. It can provide a strong platform for future generations thinking of professional wrestling as a career. At Fale Dojo hard work, values and determination are paramount to these dreams and career ambitions can become a reality, and this is all made possible by the vision of Toks Fale and his staff.