NZ Strong Style – An Ally, Not A Colony: The Birth of New Japan Tamashii

This past weekend was a historic time in New Zealand sports and its Pacific neighbours. New Japan Tamashii debuted in the resilient city of Christchurch, much to the excitement of the fans that attended the inaugural event at the Pioneer Recreation and Sports Centre.

Tamashii featured top stars from New Japan Pro-Wrestling competing alongside Fale Dojo / NZ Dojo students past and present, some of whom made their NJPW debut. What better way for the Fale Dojo wrestlers to prove that they could compete on a world level than to do so in a New Japan ring, against New Japan talent? This was best illustrated when Andrew Villalobos, Fale Dojo Senior Senpai, and NJPW signee, battled Bullet Club’s KENTA in an intense and hard-fought main event.

Andrew Villalobos vs. KENTA

Also on the card, Aaron Solo, Dojo graduate, and All-Elite Wrestling (AEW) star returned to NZ to face Bullet Club member, ‘Bone Soldier’ Taiji Ishimori in singles competition. Michael Richards, the Dojo’s longest-serving Senior Senpai who was signed to New Japan, went one on one with powerhouse and fellow Dojo competitor, Richard Mulu.

2019 graduates, Tome & Stevie Filip, collectively known as the Natural Classics tag team, also returned to wrestle current students, Nikolai Anton Bell & Rowan Davis. The first two matches featured Dojo coach and graduate Mark Tui who helped set the pace for the evening, teaming with late replacement and local wrestler, Chris Miles in the opening tag team match against current students Jordan Allan-Wright and Shep Alexander.

Aaron Solo vs. Taiji Ishimori

They were followed by Bullet Club founder, the Rogue General Bad Luck Fale and Jack Bonza, the newest Bullet Club recruit in tag team action against coach and veteran, Tony Kozina, teaming with Jake Taylor, Dojo Senior Senpai, and NJPW signee.

Interestingly, on the same weekend, the Black Ferns, the New Zealand women’s rugby union team, and hosts of the Women’s Rugby World Cup tournament, became the World Cup Champions after defeating England in front of 42,000 ecstatic fans at Eden Park, the home of NZ rugby.

Hours after the Black Ferns’ victory, Toa Samoa advanced to the finals of the Rugby League World Cup tournament with a redeeming win over England on England’s home turf. Toa Samoa supporters worldwide filled the streets of New Zealand, Samoa, parts of Australia and the United States in celebration of the significant occasion.

Michael Richards vs. Richard Mulu

Dojo Co-Directors, Toks Fale, and Mark Tui’s goal to launch New Japan Tamashii did not come without its challenges; similar to the publicly documented barriers that the Black Ferns and Toa Samoa endured.

While Fale’s initial vision was to offer a pathway for aspiring wrestlers to pursue a full-time career through NJPW, he looked to accomplish this feat by revitalising the NZ wrestling scene. What was once an international destination and thriving territory of the National Wrestling Alliance throughout much of the 20th century, the local scene became neglected without leadership and a vision to move forward due to the World Wrestling Federation’s popularity at the expense of the NWA. This finally dissolved the NZ territory in the early 1990s.

Jake Taylor

Years passed and attempts made by several independent promoters to give NZ wrestling a rebirth were unsuccessful. Unable to provide wrestlers with the bare minimum salaries to support one’s livelihood, the few who took their goals seriously, relocated overseas. Since 2016, Fale remained steadfast to his goal and continued working tirelessly in between his NJPW international tours, to rebuild local wrestling and its economy so that aspiring wrestlers would not need to travel far across the world to seek sustainable careers.

Rowan Davis vs. Tome Filip

Along the way, Fale, and Tui’s efforts to collaborate and thrive through initiating relationships were met with closed doors from people who had a flawed view of NJPW, seeing it as a niche product.

There was also resistance from those on the local independent wrestling scene who were living in the past, though were too inexperienced to recapture the prosperity of the country’s rich wrestling history. Due to these groups having conflicting agendas, they were not equipped with the foresight and values to instil a positive environment that would put all parties on the same page.

Remarkably, Christchurch-based promotion, Unified Championship Wrestling came on board as a sponsor. The addition of UCW wrestler, Chris Miles, and referee Chris Ferguson (who joined Dojo referee, Lloyd Morgan in officiating some matches on the Tamashii card), supported Fale and Tui’s vision to build relationships with groups like UCW. Furthermore, the partnership created opportunities for Miles and Ferguson to work at a high level on an international platform.

Mark Tui vs. Shep Alexander

This arduous task would not have come to fruition without the support of other local businesses such as City Fitness Christchurch, who provided their facility for the wrestlers to work out in preparation for the show. The team at the Pioneer Recreation and Sports Centre endeavoured to ensure that the Dojo and NJPW were well supported.

MonstaVision NZ, which sponsored the show with their monster-sized LED screens along with the Alofa Lou Tino Mobile Massage service that took care of the wrestlers at the event.

Not forgetting the production and lighting crew that was headed by Hemi-Quaver Lesatele, along with the many images captured by photographer, Manuel Clavel, and Nytro security for overseeing the crowd control at the event.

New Japan Tamashii would not have a New Zealand sound without the distinct voices of David Dunn, journalist, and veteran wrestling announcer who provided play-by-play analysis of the matches. Joining Dunn on colour commentary was Iosefa Faletanoa’i, broadcaster and co-owner of SamSefa Radio, which produces podcasts and radio shows. Likewise, fellow broadcaster, Sam Latu who co-owns SamSefa Radio with Faletanoa’i, lent his voice to the ring announcing.

The success of New Japan Tamashii highlights characteristics that will drive future and long-term success. Also, the cooperation of local businesses and local wrestling companies collaborating with Fale Dojo / NJPW Tamashii captures the very essence of New Japan Pro-Wrestling in working together.

These values are also found among the passionate and loyal NZ sports fans that identified and supported the Black Ferns and Toa Samoa, and as such the NZ public will naturally resonate with New Japan Tamashii.

More importantly, the concept of New Japan being an ally of NZ wrestling rather than a wrestling colony that dictates its own identity from afar and consumes its competition, is ever evident in the wrestlers and the many named and unnamed people that contributed to the launch of New Japan Tamashii. Their collective efforts will be front and centre when Tamashii streams on NJPW World.

Fale Dojo

New Japan Tamashii Photos: Manuel Clavel