Tony Kozina has returned to New Zealand following three months travelling across the United States and Canada. During his time away, Kozina conducted wrestling seminars and competed on several wrestling cards (not forgetting his New Japan Pro Wrestling debut at the Southern Showdown tour in Sydney, Australia). Upon his return, Kozina resumed his role as the Head Trainer at Fale Dojo where he has joined Toks ‘Bad Luck’ Fale and the coaching staff in leading the September intake in the three-month professional wrestling course.
“Ohhhh, it feels amazing to be back,” said an ecstatic Kozina. “I was looking forward to returning to New Zealand since I left in late April.”
“In the first week of training, I always have my eyes wide open because it’s a shocker to everyone who has come to train with us.”
Since joining the Fale Dojo staff in June 2018, Kozina has been responsible for introducing the young lions to the Dojo lifestyle as well as providing their initial training. Certain teachings are established early on that will help sustain the lions in the long road ahead. Kozina has already noted some growth among the current intake.
“You can prep for the workout and get yourself into a positive state of mind, but experiencing it, and living it, is the real deal,” explained Kozina the 20 plus year veteran.
“I stay vigilant to make sure everyone is taking care of their bodies the way it is required, with plenty of nourishment, rest and positivity!”
“I can see both bodies and attitudes changing with every passing day as we all grow to know one another, and trust in each other: Reinforcing the ‘Never Quit’ attitude is empowering to everyone.”
“This isn’t a race, this isn’t a competition,” Kozina emphasised. “It’s ‘you vs. you’, and when you learn that, you can will your way through adversity.”
“You learn that no goal is too high and no dream too big! My job is to bring that out in every person that steps through the doors at Fale Dojo.”
The key role of a Fale Dojo coaching staff is to provide a strong foundation for the young lions and prepare them on the path to pursue further training at the New Japan Pro Wrestling Dojo in Tokyo. This also involves dispelling any notions of self-entitlement as well as preconceptions about the wrestling business. By doing so, the coaches present the reality that the road to Tokyo entails humility, respect, hard work, determination and a fighting spirit.
“The statement I will reiterate time and again is ‘your mindset will determine how far you go in this industry,’” Kozina advised. “There’s a reason people are called up, a reason for more opportunity, a reason doors open and doors close.”
“To sit back with arms folded because you think you’re deserving but not getting, is proving the others correct who have shut those doors.”
“If you approach this like, ‘Hey, it’s only wrestling, it’s supposed to be fun’, you’re better off signing up at Sweet Daddy Ding-a-Ling’s Open Mic night rasslin’ because you won’t get through one week at Fale Dojo,” warned Kozina.
During his trip, while moving across North America, Kozina, a native of Portland, Oregon saw notable changes in the wrestling landscape. This was in stark contrast to what he remembered during his previous visit back in December 2018, and the experience prompted him to work with the lions in reinforcing how pro wrestling is defined according to the Fale Dojo curriculum and NJPW’s strong style.
“Pro wrestling has become a parody of what it was in North America,” Kozina described. “A lot of the indy wrestling has been hijacked by ‘theatre’ people that think that this is supposed to be a spoof, a theatre play. I don’t think they really understand that you have to make this believable.”
“Even the performers, I don’t call them wrestlers anymore,” he added. “They don’t look like wrestlers, they don’t look like athletes, they don’t move like athletes – let alone wrestle.”
“I was interested to know how people perceived pro wrestling. So when I taught a couple of seminars in the States, I asked the question, ‘what is pro wrestling?’, and I heard all these answers like, ‘It’s theatre’, ‘it’s a storytelling’, ‘it’s art’, ‘it’s everything’. But the one word I never heard was ‘it’s a fight!’”.
“There’s a gigantic shift and meanwhile, nobody’s watching pro wrestling anymore,” he stated. “There are fewer and fewer people. Now there’s this generation that has grown up with these low ratings for 20 years now.”
“They think there’s a wrestling boom going on because there’s a show in every town that’s drawing 100 and 200 people. They think it’s going crazy, but it’s like yyyyeeeeeaaaaah no.”
“I have been asking different questions of the young lions upon my return to Fale Dojo, and we are working to change the conversations everyone has about wrestling,” Kozina revealed.
Tony Kozina is hopeful that New Japan’s growing presence in the United States will offer audiences an alternative that authentically resembles professional wrestling. The exposure may also give aspiring wrestlers the awareness to seek formal training and Kozina would gladly welcome them all at Fale Dojo.
“With New Japan expanding to the United States, they will be staying true to their ‘strong style’ fight,” said Kozina. “The product in North America is shockingly different more so than ever than the sports-based presentation of NJPW, and that ultimately makes New Japan the alternative to the ‘sports entertainment’ promotions in North America and elsewhere around the world.”
“The Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kazuchika Okada match from the New Japan Cup was so good,” Kozina recalled. “It was so simple. It wasn’t art, it wasn’t storytelling, it was professional wrestling, and it was a fight! These guys wanted to win.”
“From all I’ve seen in the bit of travelling I did over the summer, nothing remotely resembles how we approach things at Fale Dojo,” Kozina noted. “From all I saw, pro wrestling has turned into an interactive community theatre. Fans boo and cheer because that’s the part they play in this community.”
“Pretty much all logic and believability have vanished in matches, and the crowds that show up think it’s just fine.”
“I’ve never seen so many wrestlers so angry with their thighs in my life to slap them to exaggerate their superkicks and strikes, and most of the time they’re slapping their thighs twice as fast as they’re striking,” said Kozina. “They are beating the hell out of their legs at an alarming rate, and it has me concerned for their well-being.”
“Clearly they just aren’t doing enough squats,” Kozina observed in closing. “Come to Fale Dojo and we can change that for you.”