The Exhibition – The Night Before
The trainees were at the NZ Dojo setting up the facility in preparation for the Exhibition show. Andrew Villalobos, the Senior Lion explained there were some major improvements amongst the trainees over the last couple of days after they overcame some setbacks. One of which was the letting go of some of their habits, particularly a mindset that would allow the trainees to view a wrestling match as a fight.
Lloyd Morgan was pleased to be back training full time after being called away on jury duty.
Dan Puru, the youngest of the trainees will have the moral support of his family on the night of the Exhibition. This is a source of strength that Puru relies on.
Toks Fale, Head Coach of the NZ Dojo led the trainees to the local sports and recreational centre to give them some downtime at the spar pool before taking part in the Exhibition show later in the day.
COMO PEDRO POR SU CASA
“One hard truth I’ve learned and have had to accept about pro-wrestling; is that nothing’s guaranteed. If you want to be successful, you have to be self-aware,” Andrew Villalobos summarised his journey thus far which began in June 2018.
Three years on, the Australian-born Colombian has weeded out the procrastinating and second-guessing. This has made him a strong leader and furthermore has strengthened his commitment to joining the New Japan Pro-Wrestling roster.
With only a few hours left before the NZ Dojo Exhibition event, the trainees began warming up.
Richard Mulu has competed on every Exhibition show, though he has treated every card like it is his last and leaves everything he has in the ring.
Michael Richards, the Senior Lion will be supporting from the sidelines due to an injury that has not yet healed. His rark-up of the trainees in episode 2 has helped with their development. Richards has his sights set on the main event which will feature his fellow Seniors, Villalobos against Jake Taylor.
Unfortunately, for Warren Walters, he was told the night before that he will not be competing.
The Exhibition showcase began with Tony Kozina welcoming the audience. Kozina introduced the rest of the Coaching staff, Toks Fale, Mark Tui, and Tangi Ropati. The trainees were introduced, and throughout the event, they surrounded the ring to offer their support as Fale observed at the back of the audience.
Competing under Sumo rules, the objective of the contest, which Coach Tony Kozina outlined was an exercise of agility, coordination, and gaining control of one’s balance to survive a professional wrestling match. To win, a trainee must take their opponent off their feet.
The trainees demonstrated a variety of exercises which is a fundamental part of their training. Villalobos, the Senior Lion shared that the exercises are normal practice for any wrestling training. However, the NJPW Dojo system incorporates an exceedingly high level that the trainees are expected to adapt to.
By Pinfall or Submission
Coach Kozina explained the rules of the next elimination match. A trainee must gain either a one-count pinfall or get their opponent to tap to progress into the next round.
It was not surprising that both elimination tournaments were won by Eli Taito, who holds an extensive background in freestyle wrestling. However, Dan Puru was the dark horse who advanced to the finals alongside Taito in both tournaments.
I found Taito vs. Puru to be an interesting pairing based on Toks Fale’s assessment of the trainees during episode 5. Puru, the youngest trainee, is also one of the more naturally athletic in the class. As well he holds a lot of energy and personality backed by a certain look that could be moulded into a career if he focused on his raw potential.
Taito, on the opposite end, is a formally trained fighter. Taito is in the process of adapting his skills to professional wrestling. By nature, Taito is quiet and reserved, which is contrary to who he needs to become in his journey as a professional wrestler.
During the intermission, Toks Fale debriefed the trainees on their performance thus far. Congratulating the class, Fale assured his pride that they epitomised New Japan Pro-Wrestling with their expressions and their hearts.
Richard Mulu in his sixth straight Exhibition appearance defeated Tim Hayden. Hayden took on board the coach’s expectations of fighting. Hayden understood the assignment, and in his NZ debut, fought Mulu to the end. Mulu, dared Hayden to match his intensity in an exchange of forearm strikes. Hayden threw his best, but Mulu, the larger of the two, absolutely floored Hayden in retaliation. Mulu proceeded to pick up his fallen prey and delivered a high angle power slam which led to the three-count.
Sebastian Matters defeated Mitch Schoemaker via submission. Schoemaker approached Matters with grappling, a plan that Schoemaker applied successfully in the first round of the takedown tournament to eliminate Matters. Matters countered with an array of forearm strikes and managed to dominate the match. Schoemaker came back with an excellent dropkick. However, Matters took back control. Schoemaker tapped out after Maters applied the Boston crab.
Young Lion vs. Young Lion
Andrew Villalobos defeated Jake Taylor in the Exhibition showcase main event. Taylor had the physical advantage, being the bigger of the two lions. Villalobos was cautious when he engaged in grappling. Taylor leaned on his power and size to outmuscle his fellow Australian. Villalobos reassessed his plan and began striking away at Taylor’s leg which gave Villalobos control of the match. Taylor fended away his opponent, but Villalobos’ persistence overwhelmed Taylor. Villalobos pinned Taylor with a schoolboy roll-up pinfall.
Villalobos and Taylor shared their after-match comments.
Taylor reiterated the expectations of the trainees to approach wrestling like it was a fight and nothing less. Although he did not win, Taylor saw this as a learning experience. The effect of the fight still lingered on Taylor as he limped away.
Villalobos measured his performance on how close it would be worthy of competing at an NJPW event. That measuring stick is what inspires Villalobos to continue in his training. Villalobos shared that wrestling has taught him a lot of lessons that apply to life. The biggest lesson he’s learned is discipline. This value will surely keep the Senior Lion focused for the rest of his training.