Fale Dojo presented the thirteenth Exhibition on the 17th of March. Held at the Dojo facility in Auckland, the event showcased the young lions from the February 2023 intake.
“This is our biggest intake ever,” said Tony Kozina, Fale Dojo / NZ Dojo Pro-Wrestling Coach, and event facilitator. “This time we have students coming from the United States, Ireland, Indonesia, Brazil, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand.”
Continuing their training with the lions are Dojo graduates and New Japan Tamashii competitors Jordan Allan Wright, Nikolai Anton Bell, and Shep Alexander. They are joined by newcomers Dashawn Franklin, Cameron McCallum, brothers Tim & Robin Koslowski, Cian Devin, Trent Hooper, Will Driscoll, Pedro Henrique, Farrel Akaylla, and Taylor Jade, who is the second female to take part in the Dojo’s three-month training.
“Some come with many years of Mixed Martial Arts experience, others come with zero wrestling experience,” Kozina continued. “What we will be doing tonight is showcasing what they’ve been learning during the first month of their three-month training.” This involved the lions competing in a variety of demonstrations that displayed their fitness, conditioning, and combat abilities.
The Dojo coaching staff led by Head Coach Toks Fale was on hand to observe the students. Also in attendance were graduates and Tamashii regulars, Richard Mulu, Tome, and Stevie Filip.
Sumo Elimination Challenge
As a staple of the Exhibition in recent years, the Sumo Elimination Challenge is contested between the trainees with the objective to get their opponent off their feet while maintaining their balance and coordination. This approach changes the way they view pro wrestling, making the lions view it more as a fight.
The lions were placed into six matches. Officiated by graduate and New Japan Tamashii referee, Lloyd Morgan, the more experienced grapplers advanced to the next rounds. Not forgetting the rest of the lions who showed their tremendous fighting spirit, forcing their victors to truly fight for their spots. This is all part of the journey, which showed glimpses of what the young lions go through in their training at Fale Dojo.
Jordan Allan Wright and Nikolai Anton Bell, two of the longest-serving lions have made it all the way to the finals, with Wright, the senior picking up the victory by using his intensity to apply a front face lock onto Bell and backing him into the ropes to secure the victory.
Sumo Elimination Winner: Jordan Allan Wright
Rolls and Balancing
After a month of intense conditioning, the young lions are equipped with exercises that are essential to their training. With Wright and Bell supporting them from the outside, the lions were assigned particular exercises to demonstrate to the audience.
2/3 Fall Submission Fight
CIAN DEVIN vs. JORDAN ALLAN WRIGHT
Tony Kozina set the stage for the next bout, a 2 out of 3 fall submission fight, pitting the experienced Jordan Allan Wright, against Cian Devin, a former Mixed Martial Artist from Ireland. The rest of the lions surrounded the ring to observe; roaring support to both of their peers.
“I started training in MMA eight years ago at the age of sixteen,” said Devin, who sought to begin his formal professional wrestling training in New Zealand. “I had three amateur fights before I decided to switch my focus towards grappling where I found a lot of success.”
“With the global pandemic behind us all, I finally jumped at the chance to come train at Fale Dojo,” he explained. “I’ve been in regular contact with the Dojo team over the last few years, and now I’m finally here and enjoying the challenge.”
Wright initiated contact In the first fall, Devin kept his composure. Demonstrating his agility and quickness, Devin positioned his way around Wright with a waist lock before mounting on top with a rear naked choke hold to tap out his opponent.
In the second fall, Wright went to execute a belly-to-belly suplex, however as Devin was about to be slammed, he instinctively wrapped his legs around Wright, landing both he and Wright to the mat. The lions grappled in close proximity to each other with Devin’s back on the mat while Wright was on top. Devin managed to reach Wright’s neck and countered Wright into a rear naked choke hold forcing wright to tap out.
Winner: Cian Devin
Takedown Elimination Match
The young lions prepared themselves around the ring to take part in an elimination wrestling match. In this particular contest, the lions had to gain a one-count pinfall to move on to the next round.
The recurring theme throughout the event was legitimacy as those with more experience in grappling were ascending to the top of their class. The last three participants certainly embodied this notion. Backed by a particular set of skills that secured their spots, Dashawn Franklin, Cameron McCallum, and Nikolai Anton Bell advanced to the finals, each having a win and loss which resulted in a draw.
Dashawn Franklin is one of a few Americans training under the Fale Dojo banner, following the paths of graduates Hikuleo, Aaron Solo, Juicy Finau, and Derrick Shaw.
“I come from the Bay Area in Oakland, California where I’ve been wrestling on the independent scene for three and a half years,” said Franklin. “I mainly spent time on the west coast of the US, wrestling in California, Nevada, and Arizona.”
“I came to Fale Dojo because I wanted to learn from some of the most prestigious minds in wrestling today and become the wrestler I know I can be,” Franklin was recommended to train at Fale Dojo by Juicy Finau. “I’m extremely grateful to be here with my colleagues and I’m inspired by the heart they have shown.”
Cameron McCallum built his grappling foundation as a free-style wrestler prior to crossing over to professional wrestling.
“I started freestyle wrestling at the Rangiora Amateur Wrestling Club when I was 16,” said McCallum, a proud native of Ngai Tahu in South New Brighton, Christchurch. “My goal was always to become a professional wrestler and I knew learning freestyle wrestling would give me a good foundation.”
“I was a typical angry Maori kid who would get into fights a lot, so wrestling was a good place for me to channel my energy and it taught me discipline,” he explained. “From there, I’ve won the South Island Championship, The Canterbury Championship, and placed 4th at the Nationals after dislocating my shoulder. Though I popped it back in and won my match.”
Draw: Dashawn Franklin, Cameron McCallum, and Nikolai Anton Bell
Professional Wrestling Match
JORDAN ALLAN WRIGHT vs. NIKOLAI ANTON BELL
10 Minute Time Limit
The Exhibition 13 main event featured the two Senior Senpais, Jordan Allan Wright, and Nikolai Anton Bell competing in a professional wrestling match. In addition to helping lead the lions in training, both Wright and Bell have been competing in the New Japan Tamashii shows.
Wright, in previous Exhibitions, has been accustomed to going up against much larger opponents like Oskar Leube, Yuto Nakashima, Richard Mulu, and Mark Tui. This has helped build Wright’s fighting spirit and his ability to exchange strikes.
Bell, on this occasion, entered the ring as the underdog. Showing tremendous heart and athleticism, Bell did his best to combat Wright, in stark contrast to Wright’s hard-hitting approach.
Near the end of the hard-fought match, Bell applied the Boston crab in the middle of the ring. Wright, with nine seconds remaining on the clock, planked his arms and used his neck strength to roll up, which was enough for Referee Morgan to make the decisive three-count pinfall.
With time to reflect, Wright and Bell gave their insight into the battle.
“Towards the end of the match when Nico had me in the Boston crab and I heard Tony-San call out ’30 seconds left,’ I gritted my teeth to try and survive those crucial seconds,” Wright shared of the final moments in the match. “I felt Nico shift his weight and it was enough for me to roll myself back through and catch his leg, causing him to trip over and allowing me to take advantage of him, still holding my legs to pin his shoulders down while I grabbed his legs preventing him from kicking out for the victory.”
“It was a close finish with nine seconds left,” Wright added. “Nico has shown what he’s learned being here for a year. But the experience I’ve gained over after the previous years of intakes helped me recognise and take advantage of the weight shift to escape the hold.”
“Nico has a bright future in wrestling, he’s definitely a Kiwi that’s been slept on, and he’ll become an asset to the Tamashii shows,” Wright praised his opponent in closing. “I enjoy testing myself against fellow young lions here as we begin to welcome the next generation. I look forward to the end result of this intake, whether some of them stay or return back home. I’m sure they’ll carry everything they have learned here at the Dojo and the comradery they have built living with each other.”
“I’m gutted that I lost,” Bell reflected on his outcome. “I slipped; I shouldn’t have tried to drag Jordan back. I should have just sat my ass on the Boston crab and prayed that he would tap out.”
“Do I think that makes him a better wrestler? Maybe not,” Bell continued. “I think that we are neck and neck. I don’t want to take anything away from Jordan, but I think I beat myself more than anything.”
“Obviously, I put him in a position where he knows what to do,” Bell the young lion concluded. “That was my mistake, and he capitalised on it, fair play to him. But if I just sat on that hold, I don’t know if he’d keep going for another nine seconds.”
Winner: Jordan Allan Wright (09:51)
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