As an international destination for professional wrestling training, Fale Dojo / NJPW NZ Dojo has attracted students from all over the globe. Such places include Germany, South Africa, India, Israel, Japan, as well as parts of New Zealand, Australia, England, and the United States. In February 2020, Chris Cruz (who is based in the U.S., though is originally from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico) travelled from San Antonio, Texas in eager pursuit of the Fale Dojo experience that he had heard so much about from other graduates.
With over a month into training, the COVID-19 global pandemic reached NZ, resulting in an unprecedented nationwide lockdown. The Dojo’s three-month professional wrestling training course continued right through. However, the uncertainty of the pandemic forced Cruz and other international students to end their training and head back home with the intention to resume their training for a future intake.
“This was definitely an extremely scary time,” said Cruz of his experience in securing his way back to the United States. “I made it out of New Zealand at the last possible second. Before I flew out, they were going to completely shut down the airport the very next week. I would not have been able to come back to the U.S. until August.”
“I, unfortunately, dove back into dealing with the current pandemic in the USA,” Cruz explained, alluding to his essential frontline role as a nurse in the emergency department. “I am still nursing along with wrestling, and of course I am being as safe as I can. Luckily, my family and I have been fortunate enough to have received the COVID-19 vaccines.”
During his stay at Fale Dojo, Cruz gained some valuable skills which helped develop his outlook. Furthermore, the young lion discovered that his insight in nursing and professional wrestling had complemented each other due to the high-level demand of both professions.
“The experiences and training that I have from the worlds of pro wrestling and nursing have helped me with one another,” shared Cruz, the young lion. “I have had many critical scenarios in the emergency room where quick thinking was life and death dependent. It helped me out a lot with the training drills we performed at Fale Dojo and vice versa.”
“Going to New Zealand and training at a New Japan Dojo is by far one of the toughest challenges I have ever endured,” he stated. “I know in my heart and in my mind that since I was able to perform at Fale Dojo, I could handle any task that came my way. Even though giving up crossed my mind, I never let it get the best of me.”
“I have never done anything as difficult and as crazy as this before,” he continued. “Training from dawn till dusk, eating breathing, and living professional wrestling is something I never thought I would get the chance to do, and I am grateful to have been able to do so.”
“The mental fortitude can be difficult to brave when you forcibly change your mindset for a desired task or goal,” shared Cruz who trained rigorously alongside seven other young lions. “Fale-San told us, ‘iron will is not built overnight’: I continuously repeat those words in training whenever I’m feeling down or discouraged.”
“Since coming home, I have stayed the course with my training. I work out at the Heavy Metal Pro Wrestling Dungeon in San Antonio,” said Cruz. “I use all of the cardio and bridging drills we were taught in the Dojo to help assist with my in-ring cardio, and I’ve also built a home-based gym.”
“I’ve wrestled all over Texas, proudly wearing my Fale Dojo jersey in San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, and Corpus Christi,” he shared. “I’ve also represented the Dojo in Everett, Washington in the Pacific Northwest area for the promotion, Without A Cause. WAC is one of my favorite places to wrestle. They gave me a chance when I was first branching out and it means a lot to me.”
Like other students from abroad that came before Cruz, the New Zealand culture has played a significant impact which often accompanies the training. Although Cruz did not stay for the full three months, he was still enamoured by his surroundings: So much so that he adopted much of the influence, such as embracing the nickname ‘Kiwi’ (which is NZ’s national bird as well as what New Zealanders refer to themselves) along with a love for the local hip-hop music scene.
“For anyone that’s serious about chasing a career in professional wrestling, whether you are living in New Zealand or on the other side of the world, I highly recommend that you take advantage of the opportunities that are available at Fale Dojo,” Cruz expressed with excitement.
“Having the ability to train at a New Japan Dojo under Fale-San is one of the greatest experiences you can create for yourself,” he assured. “There is no straightforward way in becoming a wrestler, but Fale Dojo is definitely the best pathway.”
Cruz added: “Where else are you going to have a current New Japan pro-wrestler that will guide and help you to become the best version of yourself? It is a fantastic opportunity: For me, it was a life-changing experience for the better, and even though it has been nearly two years since I was in NZ, it still feels like yesterday. It’s something I will never forget.”
“This past Christmas my wife and I were blessed with the birth of our first son, who was born on Christmas Day,” Cruz revealed in closing. “It’s been a life-altering chain of events, but we are doing as best as we can. I still speak with some of the fellow lions from my intake and I am in contact with the Senpais. I miss the team at Fale Dojo a lot and hopefully, I can return sooner rather than later, and maybe bring my family to visit the city of Auckland!”