Ite Lemalu’s TAMASHII Focus: Andrew Villalobos

Villalobos wants the spotlight as TAMASHII is born in Sydney and Christchurch

NJPW TAMASHII is now under two months away, as New Zealand and Australia see the best of the local scene compete with the best of NJPW. That competition will include key figures from the New Zealand Dojo. NZ Dojo media relations manager Ite Lemalu knows the Dojo’s prospects better than anyone, and will be highlighting some of them over the coming weeks. 

NJPW TAMASHII Christchurch New Zealand November 11 tickets

Sydney Australia November 13 tickets (standing room only!)

Of all the prospects that have come through Fale Dojo, Andrew Villalobos holds the distinction of being the first from Australia to gain further training at the New Japan Dojo. In 2018, Villalobos left his native Sydney for Auckland, New Zealand to begin the three-month professional wrestling training course in New Japan’s Strong Style. Upon completing this part of his venture, Villalobos relocated to Tokyo, Japan where he underwent the next stage of his advanced training.

“Having to move countries twice in six months when I first started training at Fale Dojo was an eye-opener,” Villalobos recalled of his life-changing experience that involved adjusting to diverse cultures in a brief time span. “It was a culture shock: Starting something in a new place with new people who expected a lot out of you was nerve-racking.”

Following his training in Japan early 2019, Villalobos returned to New Zealand, equipped with an enhanced skillset that was complemented by a worldly perspective. There, at Fale Dojo, he continued to hone his craft in preparation for the NJPW Southern Showdown tour of Australia where he made his New Japan debut. This
was a great milestone for the proud Aussie with strong Colombian roots. Villalobos wrestled in Melbourne, Victoria on the first night as part of a six-man tag team match, then again, the night after in Sydney, New South Wales in tag team action, with his family watching in support. Villalobos reappeared in NSW later that year to compete in a three-way match on the Liger Down Under event in honour of the retiring Jushin Thunder Liger. “After the Liger Down Under show, I stayed back in Sydney making my plans to come back to New Zealand to resume my training at Fale Dojo,” said Villalobos. His preparations, however, were abruptly halted by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The sudden change in circumstances did not deter Villalobos from progressing. Throughout 2020, Villalobos stayed active in his workouts, in doing so, his heart and passion did not waiver. “Staying motivated while being away from the Dojo was the easy part,” Villalobos explained of the teachings he grasped in New Zealand and Japan that served him well during the yearlong period of isolation. “Anyone can get out of bed and tell themselves they can be great. But what matters is discipline. Motivation lights the fire, but it’s the discipline that keeps it alight,” he expresses. “I learned so much at this point at Fale Dojo and the New Japan Dojo,” Villalobos elaborated on the lessons that unleashed his fighting spirit. “The discipline, the work ethic, the physicality, the mental toughness, and the application of the New Japan strong style. This gave me the confidence to perform at the next level”

After sixteen months, Villalobos was finally able to gain entry back into New Zealand. In a move that demonstrated his commitment, he subsequently became a permanent resident, devoting himself to the NZ Dojo training, under the guidance of coaches Toks Fale, Tony Kozina, and Tangi Ropati. Among other duties, Villalobos became a “Senior Senpai” to the prospects. This role of leadership included training as well as living together at the NZ Dojo house. Lion’s Roar, the
12-part docu-series streaming on NJPW World, captured an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look into the NJPW New Zealand training system with a focus on these settings. At the conclusion of the season, Villalobos was among the selected that was rewarded a presitgious contract. “Getting signed to New Japan was something I’ve been envisioning for a while,” Villalobos spoke of the prized achievement. “When it finally happened, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be emotional shedding a tear, but in the moment, I was just grateful for the outcome.”

For Villalobos, attaining such a goal came with the price of leaving behind his loved ones. “Sacrifice is just a normal part of wrestling, a normal part of life. I try not to shed too much light on it because we all go through it,” he shared. “I left my home, my country, a serious relationship, family, and friends: It hurt at times, but I knew my discipline would help lead me to a career with New Japan Pro-Wrestling.”

In response to the upcoming New Japan TAMASHII events, Villalobos shared of the impact the new brand will have Down Under. “New Japan Tamashii is the NZ Dojo’s first step in revamping the Australasian wrestling scene for New Japan post-pandemic,” he said. “The more I think about it, this is a culmination of our entire team’s hard work the past four years to getting the NZ Dojo off the ground and up and running.”

“When I arrived in 2018, the Dojo was the equivalent of the best high school education to prepare us for University studies at the New Japan Dojo,” recalled Villalobos, a stalwart of Bad Luck Fale’s pride. “Now the Dojo’s been elevated to university standard. The level has always been high, but as an official part of NJPW, this comes with a lot more responsibilities.”

“I want to see prosperity,” he added. “I want pro wrestling to flourish in Australia and NZ so that there’s more opportunities to create wealth and long-term careers out of the business we all fell in love with growing up. We are more than ready for New Japan TAMASHII.” Moving forward on his goals, Villalobos shared, “TAMASHII is special and very important to me because I finally get to showcase my skills and prove my worth to NJPW, while also being tested in front of a live crowd on the world stage.”

“I will always be paying my dues until the day I die,” Villalobos roared in closing. “There is no coasting, there is no ending: To me, it’s about having the best life I can as a professional wrestler with a company I wish to dedicate the rest of my life to. I’ll be representing my countries, my family and myself. I’m ready!”