Fale Dojo Exhibition Lion’s Roar took place on the 14th of August at the Fale Dojo training facility in Auckland, New Zealand. This showcase highlighted the young lions of the NJPW NZ Dojo July 2021 intake.
The Exhibition series has been a staple in the Dojo’s three-month professional wrestling curriculum since 2019. Past students who have honed their craft through this part of the training include Yuto Nakashima, Oskar Münchow, Aaron Solow, and Juicy Finau. Lion’s Roar is the sixth Exhibition show which featured the lions competing in sumo wrestling, freestyle wrestling, and professional wrestling matches.
The show began with Tony Kozina (Pro-Wrestling Head Coach) welcoming the audience. Kozina introduced the rest of the Coaching staff which consisted of Toks Fale aka Bad Luck Fale (New Japan Pro-Wrestling star and NJPW NZ Dojo Co-Director); Mark Tui (NJPW NZ Dojo Co-Director and Coach); and Tangi Ropati (Strength & Conditioning Coach). Kozina then brought the young lions out to ringside and introduced each one individually.
In addition, the Exhibition event was being documented by a film crew for an upcoming full-length docuseries; Lion’s Roar, about the NJPW NZ Dojo.
Sumo Wrestling Elimination Tournament
Coach Kozina explained the first demonstration; a Sumo Elimination Tournament featuring 12 of the young lions. Kozina outlined the objective for the contest as an exercise of agility, coordination, and gaining control of one’s balance to survive a professional wrestling match. To win, a lion must take their opponent off their feet. If a knee touches the mat, it will constitute a loss. Kozina added there would be no rope breaks, and should the lions grapple against the ropes, they would need to reset back into the centre of the ring.
The rest of the young lions were placed on ringside duty throughout the show: Certain responsibilities involved setting up the ring, clearing the ringside area, and maintaining distance between the wrestlers and the fans should the matches move beyond the ring. The lions also used the opportunity to share words of encouragement with their peers during their matches.
As done at previous Exhibition shows, the matches were decided with the help of the audience who drew names of the lions out of a hat.
First Round Matches
DANIEL PURU vs. ANDREW VILLALOBOS:
Daniel Puru, the youngest of the lions had the height advantage over Andrew Villalobos which he used to hook Villalobos’ left leg while trying to throw him to the mat. Villalobos countered with a headlock. Both lions were unable to gain the advantage and therefore had to release their holds and lock back up. Puru hooked Villalobos’ right leg and swept his left leg which sent Villalobos falling to the mat.
Winner: Daniel Puru
RICHARD MULU vs. ELI TAITO:
The audience gasped with anticipation as Mulu and Taito’s names were revealed; many were aware that Mulu and Taito are related. Plus, the clash of styles between the two lions was the ingredients for a good contest.
Mulu hooked Taito’s arms which forced Taito to rely on his freestyle wrestling background to combat Mulu’s size and strength. Taito used his time wisely; he moved around to the back of Mulu and applied a standing waist lock. Taito then executed a reverse grapevine, wrapping his legs around Mulu’s lower body. In applying this hold, Taito took Mulu off his feet, Mulu landed front-first on the mat.
Winner: Eli Taito
TUMANAKO TE’I vs. TIM HAYDEN:
Tumanako Te’i initiated contact with intense grappling. The lion from Oceanside, California was dominating Hayden his Australian counterpart in moving him ever so roughly around the ring and up against the ropes. Hayden, however, used Te’i’s own momentum to his advantage. As Te’i continued to push Hayden, he stumbled over his feet. Hayden saw his opening and drove Te’i down onto the mat.
Winner: Tim Hayden
LLOYD MORGAN vs. WILL AVERILL:
Will Averill controlled Lloyd Morgan as soon as they locked up. Averill applied a front face lock in the middle of the ring. Morgan managed to hook Averill’s head into a front face lock. However, Averill drove Morgan back, to which Morgan lost his balance and fall on the mat, this gave Averill the victory.
Winner: Will Averill
SEBASTIAN MATTERS vs. MITCH RYDER:
Sebastian Matters applied a front face lock onto Mitch Ryder. Ryder leaned forward to try and hook onto Matters’ right leg. Matters however pushed his upper body forward and leaned his lower body back which prevented Ryder from grabbing his leg. Ryder attempted to lift Matters and slam him to the mat but Matters released the hold.
The lions engaged in a collar and elbow tie-up; Matters again applied the front face lock as Ryder fought to grab a hold of Matters’ leg. This time, Ryder was successful in hooking Matters’ leg. He lifted Matters and slammed him to the mat. Ryder picked up the victory.
Winner: Mitch Ryder
AJ VISAGIE vs. JAKE TAYLOR:
Jake Taylor dominated AJ Visagie. Using his experience and immense size, Taylor out grappled the younger and smaller Visagie in the centre of the ring. Visagie lost coordination and as a result, found himself on the mat.
Winner: Jake Taylor
Second Round Matches
Coach Kozina called the lions who won their matches in the first round to stand by on the canvas behind the ropes.
MITCH RYDER vs. JAKE TAYLOR:
Ryder approached Taylor with the same game plan he did with Matters, Ryder whilst attempting a single leg takedown gave Taylor the opportunity to overpower him. Ryder lost his balance and stumbled to the mat.
TIM HAYDEN vs. DANIEL PURU:
Hayden reached for Puru’s leg as they locked up. Puru, who was the larger of the two, gripped Hayden, into a front face lock and then turned the hold into a double arm lock in what looked to be a setup into a butterfly suplex. Puru maintained the hold which evolved into a bear hug. Puru pushed Hayden up against the ropes.
Puru tried several attempts to lift his opponent for a suplex, however, Hayden wasn’t giving up without a fight. Hayden moved aggressively to ensure that Puru couldn’t complete his lift. The lions lost contact and locked back up much to the excitement of the audience who responded with a resounding ovation.
Hayden and Puru resumed contact but did this a few times as neither one could overtake the other. In their final lock-up, Puru repositioned himself behind Hayden. Puru lifted Hayden in a waist lock. Hayden landed back first on the mat, this gave Puru the definitive win.
ELI TAITO vs. WILL AVERILL:
Taito and Averill were the last two waiting side by side outside the ropes. Kozina instructed the lions to enter the ring. Averill who was to Taito’s left stepped through the ropes while facing Taito with intent and not taking his sights off his peer. Taito’s posture in stark contrast was relaxed. He stepped into the ring, however, while doing so with his back facing Averill.
Taito cornered Averill as they prepared to lock up. Taito extended his right arm to initiate contact, Averill fended Taito off so that he could initiate the offense. Taito locked his arms around Averill’s back while on top as Averill faced Taito.
While maintaining his grip, Taito made several attempts to lift Averill into a suplex. This eventually exhausted Averill that Taito released the hold and drove Averill to the mat.
JAKE TAYLOR vs. DANIEL PURU:
Both Taylor and Puru are the same height, standing at 6 foot 4 inches. Taylor initiated contact and drove Puru into the corner. Taylor attempted to lift up Puru, but Puru blocked the move.
Taylor applied a headlock. Puru slipped out of the hold and countered with a waist lock. Puru lost his grip as Taylor tried to throw him off, but countered by reinforcing his grip of the waist lock. The lions moved around the ring with the move still intact. Puru lifted Taylor from behind and walked them both to the centre and released the hold.
Upon locking up, Taylor, took an aggressive approach as he tried to take Puru down. Puru surprisingly drove Taylor with momentum into the corner. From there Puru lifted Taylor and executed a belly-to-belly suplex to gain the win.
DANIEL PURU vs. ELI TAITO:
Taito immediately grabbed his larger opponent, Puru into a front face lock. While in the hold, Puru tried to grab Taito’s leg to take him down. Taito however grabbed Puru’s leg while still applying the front face lock and threw him to the mat.
Sumo Wrestling Tournament Winner: ELI TAITO
Freestyle Wrestling Elimination Tournament
Coach Kozina explained the objective of the demonstration. One lion is hovering on top (in the dominant position) over the other lion who is on all fours to start the match. The lion in the dominant position must pin his opponents’ shoulders to the mat. The objective of the lion on the bottom is to escape and break away completely or pin his opponent’s shoulders down to the mat. The lions wrestled in two rounds with each having the chance to begin in both positions. The winner from each match will challenge each other in the finals. Kozina was the referee for the tournament.
ELI TAITO vs. TUMANAKO TE’I:
Eli Taito started in the dominant position. Taito grabbed Tumanako Te’i in a front face lock. Te’i turned himself over to escape the hold. However, Taito maintained his grip by holding on to the side headlock as Te’i turned over and found himself lying on the mat. Taito turned his front face lock into a headlock while he was on top of Te’i. Taito pinned Te’i’s shoulders to the mat in the middle of the ring, and Kozina counted the pinfall.
Taito and Te’i switched positions for the second round. Te’i immediately tried to put Taito over onto his back. Taito controlled his weight so that Te’i would have to use all his energy to turn him over. With Te’i still holding his grip around Taito from behind, Taito laid back on Te’i which almost gained Taito the pinfall.
While still holding onto Taito with a tight waist lock, Te’i stood both he and Taito on to their feet. Taito countered with a headlock on and fell back on top of Te’i. Taito attempted to apply a pinfall while Te’i fought to prevent his shoulders from being pinned to the mat. Neither lion could gain control, so Kozina instructed both lions to reset in the middle of the ring.
Te’i applied a waist lock, Taito turned to his side and hooked Te’i in a headlock. Taito managed to escape Te’i’s grip which awarded the second round to Taito.
Winner: Eli Taito
WILL AVERILL vs. DANIEL PURU:
Will Averill began in the dominant position and applied a waist lock on Daniel Puru. Puru made his way to his feet while Averill still had a tight grip. Averill pulled Puru back down to the mat and repositioned himself into a front face lock before returning to the waist lock. Puru got back to his feet as Averill gripped tightly to his leg. Puru walked around the ring while trying to throw Averill off, but Averill wasn’t letting go. Puru knelt down and managed to untie Averill’s grip giving Puru the first round.
Puru took the dominant position in the second round. Puru stood Averill up while applying a waist lock. Puru applied a high lift on Averill and grounded him face-first on the mat. Averill created a bridge, Puru fought to turn Averill on his back which he did so successfully before gaining the pinfall.
Winner: Daniel Puru
ELI TAITO vs. DANIEL PURU:
Eli Taito was a favourite to be in the finals of both tournaments because of his extensive background in grappling. Daniel Puru, the youngest of Fale’s pride emerged the dark horse after pulling off impressive upset wins. Puru has demonstrated incredible potential.
Taito took the dominant position. Taito applied a front face lock. Taito repositioned himself facing Puru’s side and turned him over on his back. Putu fought to sit up to avoid getting pinned down, but Taito wrestled his shoulders to the mat and gained the pinfall which ended the first round.
Puru assumed the dominant position to start the second round. Puru pursued Taito with great aggression. Puru managed to turn Taito over on his back very briefly. Taito turned and placed his forearms underneath his chest to prevent Puru from grabbing his arms. Puru reached under and pushed Taito upwards. Puru held Taito in a front face lock but Taito maneuvered around to prevent Puru from turning him on his back. Puru came close to pinning Taito’s shoulders as the match moved closeer to the edge of the ring. Kozina instructed the lions to reset in the centre.
The match resumed, Puru went to apply a front face lock, but Taito was quick to move around. As the lions got to their feet with Puru still having contact, Taito reversed Puru’s hold and applied an armlock before letting go and escaping Puru’s grip.
Freestyle Wrestling Tournament Winner: ELI TAITO
Professional Wrestling Matches
Coach Kozina introduced AJ Visagie as the referee then announced for Richard Mulu and Tim Hayden to enter the ring. Kozina explained the parameters of the contest; a one fall match with a 10-minute time limit. A match can be won via pinfall, submission, or count out if one competitor is outside of the ring for longer than 10 seconds they’ll lose the match.
RICHARD MULU vs. TIM HAYDEN
(Referee: AJ Visagie)
Richard Mulu has competed at every Exhibition show, this is his first as a graduate of the Fale Dojo three-month professional wrestling training course. This match marks Tim Hayden’s New Zealand debut.
Mulu and Hayden circled each other, though Hayden’s body language indicated that he was circling cautiously, Mulu was calmly pacing, aware that Hayden had to come to him for the match to start.
The two lions locked up in the middle of the ring, Mulu pushed Hayden into the corner. They locked up again, and Mulu drove Hayden back into the corner, referee Visagie administered the five-count warning for Mulu to disengage which he did at the third count.
The lions locked up again, Hayden moved behind and jumped on Mulu’s back to apply a sleeper hold. Mulu appeared to struggle with Hayden’s tight grip but managed to throw him over his shoulders which sent Hayden crashing to the mat.
Hayden gathered himself and got back to his feet. He initiated the third lock up. Mulu reciprocated with a huge forearm shot to the face which sent Hayden down to one knee. Hayden grabbed the ropes to get back up. Mulu delivered a clubbing forearm shot across his back. Hayden returned fire with two elbow strikes, but Mulu answered back with a hefty elbow of his own which rocked Hayden.
As Hayden collected himself in the corner, Mulu imposed his size and trapped the lion from Queensland, Australia while choking him. Visagie interjected with the five-count warning which Mulu released at the third count.
A fourth lock-up progressed with Hayden reverted back to the sleeper hold. Although the move was proving to be effective, Mulu remained on his feet. With Hayden on Mulu’s back, Mulu backed himself into the corner and crushed Hayden against the turnbuckle.
Mulu played to his strengths and kept it simple. He delivered another clubbing forearm against Hayden’s back. Hayden managed to find the strength to retaliate with a series of elbow strikes which only infuriated Mulu who returned with a massive strike of his own that sent Hayden falling to the mat. Mulu went for the first pinfall, but Hayden kicked out at the two-count.
Hayden’s fighting spirit began to intensify, he fought back with a succession of elbow strikes which sent Mulu down to one knee. Hayden again reverted back to applying the sleeper hold, aware that it would be a realistic alternative than trying to gain a pinfall against the larger and stronger Mulu.
Hayden gripped the sleeper tight like his life depended on it. Mulu appeared to be losing consciousness as he fell back down to one knee. Mulu, however, regained his composure and got back on his feet. Mulu backed into the corner turnbuckle while Hayden was still on his back. Hayden released the hold as the shots to the back were taking a toll on him.
Mulu swung Hayden to the opposite corner and charged in with an avalanche splash connecting with his opponent. Mulu screamed at Hayden to get back up, although Hayden was exhausted and battered, he answered Mulu’s call. The two engage once more in a heated exchange of strikes. Mulu challenged Hayden to match his intensity to which Hayden did his absolute best to live up to. Mulu continued to dare Hayden to strike harder, Hayden ran back against the ropes and attempted to launch one last strike only for Mulu to wipe him out with a devastating clothesline.
Mulu sensed the end was near. He picked up Hayden across his chest and crashed down with a high-angle power slam. Visagie counted three and Mulu was awarded the match.
Visagie raised Mulu’s hand as a bruised and beaten Hayden slowly inched his way to the corner. Coach Kozina and a few of the young lions assisted Hayden out of the ring.
Winner: RICHARD MULU (6:25)
SEBASTIAN MATTERS vs. MITCH RYDER
(Referee Lloyd Morgan)
Coach Kozina introduced Lloyd Morgan to officiate the next match. Sebastian Matters and Mitch Ryder entered the ring at Kozina’s instruction.
Mitch Ryder and Sebastian Matters tied up, Ryder picked Matters up and pinned him to the mat, Matters kicked out at the count of one. The lions proceeded for a second lock up, Ryder applied a front face lock which forced Matters to his knees, however, Matters countered by wrestling Ryder to the mat to attempt a pinfall, but Ryder kicked out before the one-count.
The lions engaged in their third lock up, Ryder drove Matters back to the corner. Referee Morgan broke up the grappling and ordered the lions to lock up in the centre of the ring. Matters, familiar with Ryder’s approach after losing to him earlier in the first round of the Sumo Elimination Tournament, took a different approach and struck Ryder with a kick to the gut. Matters followed up with a forearm strike which dropped Ryder to the mat.
Immediately Matters applied a Boston crab, but Ryder frantically muscled his way to the ropes using his upper body. Matters was still hanging on to Ryder and was warned by Referee Morgan to release the hold.
Matters picked Ryder up by the hair and went to strike him. Ryder dodged and maneuvered behind his opponent to apply a standing waist lock. Ryder lifted Matters into a slam but Matters grabbed and twisted Ryder’s left arm to break out of the hold. Ryder countered using a forward roll to escape, he kicked Matters away with both feet to break free from his grip.
Matters the aggressor executed successive knee strikes to Ryder’s face. Ryder, while up against the ropes, received further forearm shots to the face. Ryder retaliated by executing his first strike much to Matters surprise, Ryder for a second hesitated to follow up with more strikes which gave Matters an opening to kick him in the gut, taking away Ryder’s ability to control his breathing.
Matters swung Ryder into the corner and charged in with a clothesline. Matters followed up with a snapmare and made three unsuccessful pinfall attempts. Matters continued to weaken Ryder’s back and neck with clubbing forearm shots and set him up for a Boston crab submission. Ryder used all his might and crawled to the ropes in a plank position to break the hold. Matters pushed Ryder into the corner and executed a lethal chop. He swung Ryder to the opposite corner, and for a second Matters caught his breath before charging at Ryder with the intent of connecting with a forearm shot. Ryder dodged out of the way before Matters collided into the turnbuckle.
Ryder threw a forearm strike to which Matters retaliated. The lions exchanged several strikes before Matters kicked Ryder in his gut to disrupt the control of his breathing once again. Matters ran back against the ropes for momentum to strike Ryder down, Ryder anticipated his opponent and hit him with a graceful and high-impact dropkick.
Ryder (and the audience) estimated the dropkick was enough to build a momentum of offensive moves. However, as he lifted Matters to attempt a bodyslam, Matters skilfully jumped off behind Ryder’s back, he turned Ryder around to face him and swept both his legs off the mat, Ryder crashed on his back and Matters again applied the Boston crab. Ryder couldn’t bear any more pain and he tapped out, giving Matters the win.
Referee Morgan raised Matters’ hand after which the young lion bows to the audience and leaves the ring. The young lions on the outside of the ring checked on Ryder who was able to leave on his own. The audience gave Ryder an ovation showing their appreciation for his efforts.
Winner: SEBASTIAN MATTERS (4:43)
ANDREW VILLALOBOS vs. JAKE TAYLOR
(Referee: Lloyd Morgan)
The Exhibition Lion’s Roar main event featured Andrew Villalobos versus Jake Taylor. Both Senior Lions trained at Fale Dojo and advanced to the NJPW Dojo in Tokyo, respectively. This match had a 30-minute time limit.
Villalobos cautiously circled the larger Taylor. Villalobos reached one arm out to initiate a lock-up. Villalobos attempted a double leg takedown but Taylor countered with a front face lock into a pinfall. Villalobos kicked out before the referee could administer a count.
Villalobos got back to his feet; he re-assessed his approach as he had to combat Taylor’s size and strength. Taylor gripped Villalobos in a headlock and gained the upper hand in a bout of chain wrestling. Taylor took Villalobos to the mat and applied a Boston crab, but Villalobos quickly shifted himself to the ropes to break the hold.
Grappling intensely for dominance, Taylor overpowered Villalobos, forcing him up against the ropes. Referee Morgan instructed the two to disengage and to resume locking up in the middle of the ring.
Villalobos instead kicked Taylor in the gut to disrupt his breathing. Villalobos applied a vertical hammerlock, but Taylor reversed the hold into a side headlock takeover. Villalobos countered with a leg scissors but Taylor quickly escaped the hold.
Villalobos showed his frustration but refocused and took his time to re-engage with Taylor. Villalobos forwent the lock-up in favour of applying a waist lock. Once, Villalobos, had the move applied, he clipped Taylor’s left knee which sent Taylor falling forward.
Villalobos targeted Taylor’s leg and kicked it repeatedly. Taylor distanced himself from Villalobos, inching towards the corner, Taylor grabbed onto the ropes to stand himself up. Villalobos followed from behind; he grabbed Taylor’s left leg and tied it outside the middle rope and back through the bottom rope to incite excruciating pressure to the limb. Referee Morgan warned Villalobos to step away so that Taylor could untangle his leg.
Villalobos meticulously applied a variety of mat-based submission holds directly targeting Taylor’s leg. Taylor’s height played to his advantage as he could reach the ropes to break the hold while laying on the mat. The most notable of these holds that Villalobos applied was a single-leg crab. The time during which these holds were applied was taking a toll on Taylor’s back and lower body.
Taylor managed to stand himself up in the corner, Villalobos threw a series of forearm shots at Taylor’s face. This didn’t have much effect on Taylor who struck back and rocked Villalobos. Taylor attempted to lift Villalobos up into a bodyslam; however, the impact of the single-leg crab had caused much pain to Taylor’s back and he couldn’t pick Villalobos over his shoulders. Villalobos executed repeated clubbing strikes over Taylor’s back before tripping him off his feet to apply the Boston crab.
The lion’s surrounding the ring were roaring words of encouragement to Taylor. Taylor summoned the strength to fight through the pain. Taylor crawled from the middle of the ring where Villalobos had him in the Boston crab to touch the bottom rope.
Villalobos screamed in anguish at Taylor to get up. Villalobos went to grab Taylor by the hair, Taylor executed a double leg takedown which sent Villalobos on his back. Taylor applied a Boston crab, putting all his weight on Villalobos’ back. However, Taylor at this point was fatigued, and let go of one of Villalobos’ legs. This gave Villalobos the opportunity to turn over slightly to his side to throw a forearm strike at Taylor’s leg which made Taylor release control of the hold.
Both lions made their way to their feet, Villalobos threw a succession of forearm shots at Taylor. Villalobos ran back and bounced off the ropes for momentum to throw one more forearm, however, Taylor clotheslined Villalobos and dropped him to the mat
Taylor walked around the ring to circulate the blood flow and regain feeling back into his legs. Taylor attempted to lift Villalobos into a bodyslam. As Taylor lifted; Villalobos hopped off behind Taylor and rolled him back into a schoolboy roll for the three-count.
Winner: ANDREW VILLALOBOS (9:19)
Coach Kozina invited the young lions to join him in the ring. Kozina thanked the audience. The young lions conclude the event with the Japanese prayer and bow.
Credit Cover Graphic: Michael Richards, WWGFX