The Fale Dojo September intake has welcomed two new students who have travelled from California, USA and London, England, to receive their formal training in New Zealand strong style from Toks ‘Bad Luck’ Fale and his world-class coaching staff. This final intake for 2019 consists of seven young lions (the others have returned from the two previous classes), however, this article will introduce the two newest students.
Veni ‘Big Juicy’ Finau
Veni ‘Big Juicy’ Finau has been a wrestling fan since early childhood. As an American born Tongan, Finau was drawn primarily to the Pacific Island/Polynesian wrestlers that resembled his likeness. After playing American football at university, Finau trained to become a wrestler in May 2016. He patterned his style after the Pacific wrestlers he watched growing up and started to take note of Toks Fale; his successful transition from rugby union to professional wrestling and in particular Fale’s willingness to give back to his community whilst being one of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s major stars. The example set by the ‘Rogue General’ inspired Finau to leave his home in Ontario, California in pursuit of training at Fale Dojo in South Auckland, New Zealand.
“While I was growing up, a lot of the (Pacific) Islanders were playing American football or rugby,” said Finau. “When I became a wrestler, I saw Fale in Japan. It was something different, but you could tell from Fale’s background that we Islanders were built to wrestle.”
“I’ve been following Fale Dojo on social media since it opened in 2016,” Finau explained. “At the time, I was playing college football, and Fale Dojo showed pro wrestling was a way to use my skills to better myself and to give my Mom a better life.”
Finau spoke openly about the hardships he faced, as well as the significance of his culture and family obligations. Out of a tragic event, Finau discovered professional wrestling as a passion and a career path that would potentially help him to fulfil his responsibilities.
“I grew up in the ghetto, and we didn’t have a lot of money,” Finau shared. “We had enough to get by, but when my Dad passed away in 2017, things became more expensive.”
He added: “I didn’t get scholarships to play football, but I had to find a different way so my Mom wouldn’t have to struggle. Then the opportunity to become a pro wrestler came up, and I’ve run with the opportunity ever since, and I love it.”
Finau’s memories as a young wrestling fan were spent with his father. Although he passed away before Finau realised his wrestling aspirations, Finau is at peace knowing the significant role that his father played on his journey.
“My Dad passed away before I trained to become a wrestler, but he knew that I loved wrestling,” said the young lion. “My Dad was the reason why I started watching (wrestling). After he’d come home from work, we’d watch it together.”
Since training commenced, Veni ‘Big Juicy’ Finau has enjoyed his time at Fale Dojo citing his excitement in learning from the coaching staff as well as the returning graduates from the NJPW Dojo that are assisting with the young lions training.
“My journey here at Fale Dojo has been the dopest experience ever,” he stated. “I’ve had hard times here but who doesn’t. Being around people who are chasing the same dream just like you and who are literally going through the exact same thing makes you want to get after it even more.”
“Being able to learn from two great minds such as Tony-San and Fale-San and also being able to pick the brains of former students who returned from Japan helps a lot. Not only did they go through what we’re going through at Fale Dojo, but they also went through the strict training at the New Japan Dojo.”
Of the challenges that come with intense training, Finau remembers the immense obstacles he was exposed to and how far he’s progressed in the last five weeks. “The biggest challenge had to be me not being conditioned,” he recalled. “Doing the long run in the first week was the hardest for me.”
“I was always last, I was always really far behind the guys, but I never gave up. Even though I had to walk some of the runs, I would make sure I was trying to push myself even when nobody is watching. That’s when it really counts!”
“I would say now that I’ve come a long way from where I started stamina-wise and I know that it’s only going to get better.”
As the biggest student in the class, Finau used it as extra motivation to excel after being made aware of Toks Fale’s journey at the New Japan Dojo. Finau draws on the parallel to adapt and achieve similar results as his peers.
“Something that I take away and apply to my craft is my work ethic,” Finau noted. “Fale-San told us something that’s stayed with me since: ‘Don’t give them a reason.’ He would tell us how he was the biggest in the New Japan Dojo, but he never limited himself.”
“Fale-San would do everything that the smaller guys were doing and through that, he never gave them a reason to cut him.”
“Being able to apply those words to what I’m going through helps a lot.” Finau continued. “Being the biggest one here, I try and do what I can but when the words kick in, and I dig down even deeper and I try to make sure that I ‘don’t give them a reason’”.
Finau has found that one of several advantages of training at Fale Dojo has been the ongoing transformation of his build to which he credits the Dojo’s demanding curriculum.
“The benefits to training at Fale Dojo are so many,” he said. “I think the biggest one for me is weight loss.”
“I came to Fale Dojo pretty heavy; I think the heaviest I’ve ever been (411 pounds). Since being here and training hard some twice a day, I’ve lost close to 35 pounds.”
“I’m happy with the weight loss but I know I have a long way to go,” Finau stated. “I need not get complacent and keep my head down and keep it going.”
“Another big one for me is pushing through the workouts and making sure I don’t cheat myself,” Finau added. “Getting through the workout is one thing but giving your all and pushing through and getting every rep in is a whole different monster.”
“Being at Fale Dojo has helped me dig down and reach inside and grab what I thought was gone. You have to have heart and ambition to do great things and this is just the first step for me.”
Veni ‘Big Juicy’ Finau has quickly adapted to the South Auckland culture that is mostly populated by Pacific Islanders. Finau has also formed a bond with his fellow lions which is a crucial element to the training. Furthermore, the American born Tongan continues to remember his family and community in Ontario, California that he hopes to inspire with his journey.
“I’m enjoying New Zealand very much, I think a little too much, hahaha,” he said in a mischievous tone.
“I’ve gotten a lot closer to the other young lions. Seeing that I’m not the only one going through it and that all of us have sacrificed so much to be here.”
“We all left our family, friends, girlfriends, etc. to come and get better at our craft,” he explained. “I love the food here as you can tell, I love every food, haha, but I love being able to walk down the street and get Tongan food whenever I want.”
“Being here has really opened my eyes,” he elaborated. “I would say I’m the first from where I’m from In Ontario, California to do what I’m doing. Not a lot of people follow their dreams. I wish that other Polynesian kids could see the opportunities that Fale Dojo is creating.”
“I call my Mom and sisters every day and seeing their face helps me remember why I’m here and who I’m doing it for,” said the young lion. “My family has been a big supporter of my journey from the beginning.”
“My only wish I would have my father around to see what I’ve been doing but I know he’s looking over me on the other side proud,” Finau said in closing. “I love you, Mom and Dad.”
Sam Davis, from London, England has been a wrestling fan for much of his life; a love he got from his sister and would later share with his nephew. As all relatives do, Davis and his nephew broke a lot of furniture when playing wrestling which led to the ‘authority’ of the ‘promotion’ having to ban further matches from happening again.
Davis soon came upon New Japan Pro Wrestling while online. The experience was unlike anything that he had ever seen before in all his years of watching wrestling.
“I discovered New Japan through a Youtube podcast,” Davis explained. “The hosts were talking about the Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito match from 2016 G1 Climax. I watched the match and thought this is so much better than anything out there!”
“From there, I got hooked, and got New Japan World and just watched it as much as humanly possible.”
Davis learned of his passion to become a professional wrestler while working in his previous career as a successful filmmaker.
“I was a filmmaker for six years,” said Davis. “I was invited to come and film a few local promotions in the U.K. before finally one of the promoters said that there’s a beginners course in Brixton (South London) that was eight weeks, I thought I would give it a go.”
Davis started the eight-week training course in February 2018 before having his first two bouts. Unfortunately, an injury forced him out of the ring for 18 months.
“In the second match, I broke my arm,” Davis revealed. “I snapped in three places, I had to have it plated back together.”
Davis’ goal to become a professional wrestler did not wither. In fact, his passion for professional wrestling intensified to where he would take the necessary action to pursue Fale Dojo in NZ following a recommendation from his trainer at the wrestling school he was attending at the time: “I thought if I was going to do this as a career, then this was the way to go.”
Davis took difficult measures to make his venture to the Dojo possible: “I had to take as much awful work,” he explained. “I worked nonstop until two days before I flew out here.”
The journey at Fale Dojo has been very challenging for Davis, however, the continuous support from the coaching staff has helped the determined young lion from London persevere.
“I’ve just finished week five of my journey at Fale Dojo, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the most difficult experience of my life,” stated Davis. “There were times when I was ready to quit, buy a ticket home and be content with the fact I’d tried, but my mind always came back to Fale-San and Tony-San, constantly pushing us to become better, try harder and achieve more than I thought was imaginable when I first got here.”
“I’m still a long way off of my goal but I understand what I need to do and how I need to do it to accomplish them,” said the young lion. “Fale Dojo has opened a new chapter in my life and I couldn’t be more grateful to this place for that.”
Davis’ greatest challenge thus far has been adapting his body to the Dojo’s fitness standards, citing that he was unaware of what to expect. However, upon reflection, Davis has noticed some progress in the five weeks that he’s been training, due to his fighting spirit and the Dojo’s approach in pushing its students.
“The biggest challenge for me in my own mind has been the conditioning,” explained Davis. “I came into it unprepared and it showed big time. Having said that I’ve seen vast improvements in myself not only physically but also mentally. I’m strong in both regards!”
Davis also credits his growth to the hands-on approach of the staff to thoroughly equip the lions in navigating themselves in a pro wrestling match as well as the principles and values that will give them longevity and good standing throughout their career.
“There are far too many lessons to choose from,” Davis noted. “The wrestling knowledge we’ve been given from Tony-San, the discipline we’ve received from our daily routine or the philosophies we’ve learnt from Fale-San have all played a massive role in why I’m still grinding out the day to day here, and why I intend to come back again and enrol in another intake.”
One of the advantages that Sam Davis saw in training at Fale Dojo is the opportunity to give his full and undivided attention to his goal in becoming a professional wrestler, in terms of NZ being in a geographically secluded part of the world and away from all distractions. However, the downside of the distance is being away from the loving support of family though Davis has found tremendous support from his fellow lions who have also made the same sacrifices to train at the Dojo.
“The biggest benefit by far has been the ability to focus my entire life on the one thing I love,” Davis expressed. “We live and breathe wrestling here for three full months. It’s truly the best environment to grow.”
“I’ve enjoyed my time in New Zealand immensely,” he added. “It’s not been without its ups and downs but those are just part of the difficulties of this business, it’s preparing us well for what’s to come in the future.”
“I’ve missed my family a lot while I’ve been here, talking to them often has helped with that. Talking about home with all the guys in the Dojo has definitely helped. I miss my family at home but I’ve found a new one while being here, we all lean on each other when things get hard and I’m incredibly privileged to be around them.”
“I’ve taken too long walks on my own when I start to lose focus of my goals, I reevaluate why I’m here and what I’ve got to do. It’s helped me get over some big hurdles when I was ready to throw in the towel, to remember why I’m here and what I’m fighting for,” Sam Davis concluded. “Fale Dojo truly is a once in a lifetime experience.”