Ite Lemalu focuses on TAMASHII’s popular powerhouse
As a wrestling fan growing up, Richard Mulu hoped to one day become a professional wrestler. This lifelong dream began to materialise in 2018 after discovering the Fale Dojo training facility. Upon learning about Toks Fale, the Dojo’s founder and Head Coach, and the Dojo’s connection to New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Mulu immediately sought out Fale to begin his training in the squared circle.
“I owe a lot to Fale-San and Tony-San,” Mulu spoke of his coaches Fale, and Pro-Wrestling Coach, Tony Kozina, who helped lay the foundation for his formal training. “They taught me all aspects of wrestling, from ring psychology, storytelling and how to express myself, and they led by example in how to act professionally outside the ring, which is as important as any wrestling skill.”
“Fale-San and Tony-San also taught me how to stay mentally strong in this business,” Mulu elaborated on his depth of training. “I continue to pick things up, and I feel I’m well ahead in terms of being mentally strong, despite the fact things aren’t always going to turn out how you want them to. It’s just a bump in the road and you have to roll with the punches and keep pushing forward.”
The Dojo became home to Mulu, which was established on the success and hard work of Fale. Furthermore, this inspired Mulu, who like Fale, is a proud resident of South Auckland steeped in Pacific cultural values. “In high school, I played rugby. Like your typical Pacific Islander, rugby was something that I wanted to achieve,” said Mulu. “Pro Wrestling was always at the back of my mind, but there were no legitimate pathways in New Zealand. So, when I finished high school and got a job, my Mum asked me if I had any career plans.”
Mulu shared of how a little push from his mother helped put his plans in motion. “I was content with where I was working until Mum’s wisdom helped me set some serious goals. Then in 2018, I saw an advertisement for Fale Dojo online. The opportunity was timely, with the Dojo being based in South Auckland where I lived, but
what really resonated with me was Fale-San.”
Mulu revered Fale as an international figure whose success and guidance assured him to trust the process. “Fale-San is living proof that if
you just work hard, and you’re consistent, you’ll get to where you want to be.” Under Fale’s expertise Mulu was able to use his large stature to develop his skills and adopt the big man style of wrestling.
“Learning to fight like a big man was very challenging, making it my own was another battle in itself,” Mulu along the way developed an immense presence that set him apart from his peers at the Dojo. “Obviously, my foundation came from watching Fale-San wrestle and spending time with him over the years. I also studied other big men that have a commanding presence and can move around. Lately, I have been watching Pacific wrestlers that inspire me like ‘High Chief’ Peter Maivia, Yokozuna, and Umaga to help develop my style.”
Mulu was part of the Lion’s Roar 12-part docu-series that premiered on NJPW World on January 2022, as one of thirteen hopefuls at the NZ Dojo competing for a New Japan contract. Mulu was one of the more easy-going of the pride; his heart was noted during the workouts, and his potential – in the ring. The Lion’s Roar prospect expressed his desire to gain a contract, however the outcome did not go as well as he anticipated.
“I was hit with a mix of emotions while watching that last episode of Lion’s Roar,” Mulu described his reaction to learning how close he came to gaining a highly prized New Japan deal. “I was gutted and speechless, then doubt began to creep into my mind,” said Mulu of his initial reaction before seeking wise counsel. “After reflecting and talking with my coaches, I was grateful that I was taken into consideration by New Japan. The dream felt as if it was out of reach, but it was right there. Knowing this reassured me that I’m getting closer to achieving my goal, and I just have to keep working away and trusting the process.”
In a life-changing experience that helped strengthen his fighting spirit, Mulu travelled to Samoa, to his family village of Sapapali’i where he was bestowed the Matai (chief) title, Seiuli.
“Going to Samoa for this special occasion was an emotional experience,” explained Mulu of this incredible milestone. “Learning more about my culture is always a great thing to do, and receiving the blessings of your family and your village is a privilege and an honour.”
He added: “We hold prestigious titles that go back generations and are given the responsibility of looking after and serving our family and our village. There are no words to describe the importance of family in our culture.”
“Becoming a Matai in my family has given me more drive to be successful in this business,” Mulu emphasised on his newfound clarity. “We all want what is best for ourselves and our family. So, it comes full circle with the goals I want to achieve in pro wrestling.”
Back at the NZ Dojo, Mulu forged ahead in preparation for the launch of New Japan Tamashii. With the moral backing of his extended family, Mulu made his NJPW debut on 11 November 2022 in Christchurch against Michael Richards. “I was a bit nervous leading up to my match, but who wouldn’t be when you’re debuting for
New Japan?” said Mulu. “Fortunately, I had the best team around me to keep me in check and to guide me.”
The local crowd took a liking to Mulu, drawing to his raw power and charisma. Despite suffering defeat, Mulu received a standing ovation after the bout. “I’m surprised at the positive reactions when I get the chance to be on the Tamashii shows.,” Mulu explained of his popularity and cheers that have echoed throughout New Zealand and Australia. “My family makes a lot of that noise for me, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The reactions I get from the general audience – wow I love them for it! Whether the reaction is positive or not, I love feeding off their energy.”
Looking ahead to the upcoming Tamashii tour, Mulu will undergo his biggest challenge so far on April 15 at Sydney’s Liberty Hall, when he teams alongside New Japan’s Hirooki Goto in the semi-main event tag team match against the Rogue Army’s Bad Luck Fale, and Lyrebird Luchi. Then on the following day, from the Croxton Bandroom in Melbourne, Mulu will go up against fellow Dojo heavyweight, Jake Taylor in a singles match.
“What a privilege it is for me to share the ring with NJPW’s top wrestlers,” Mulu in closing spoke about his upcoming feature tag team match. “Goto-San is very highly regarded in New Japan, and so is Fale-San of course. I’ll step it up another level, I’m excited for the challenge that awaits, lessssssgo!”