Indie Watch is our regular series that looks at all of the amazing talents working the independent circuits around the world. Some are veterans revitalizing their careers, some are indie prospects hitting their peaks, while others are names to be on the watch for! In this edition, we take a look at one of the West Coast’s rising new stars in “Big Toko” himself, Juicy Finau.
Photo: Robert Starkz-Bellamy
Work ethic, doing “the work”, and living a life on “the grind” – these are all mantras you hear from professional wrestling veterans about the kind of tenure you need to work on to be a success story in professional wrestling and in 2020, no one is living that code more than “Big Toko” Juicy Finau, a 24-year old rising star from the West Coast who has exploded in a very short time thanks heavily in part to his remarkable work ethic. The Tongan-American grappler flew to Indiana this past fall to work ring crew for The Collective and his hard work paid off, earning a spot on Game Changer Wrestling (GCW)‘s Joey Janela’s Spring Break 4 in the Clusterf**k Battle Royale. Since then, he’s become a regular part of the GCW roster, competing against the likes of Kyle The Beast (KTB), Blake Christian, and Jordan Oliver, and becoming a viral sensation with his athleticism and ability as a “big man”, a seemingly endangered wrestling character trope in the US independents. But it hasn’t been an overnight success story for “Big Juicy”, who has worked hard for the past two years to finally earn his moment in the spotlight.
“I loved pro wrestling the day I laid eyes on it,” Juicy Finau told Last Word on Pro Wrestling. “From as far as I can remember I’ve always loved wrestling. There has never been a time in my life that I didn’t associate myself with wrestling. I was actually playing college ball and I was in my second going into my third year of college and I was slipping fast. Grades, attendance everything was slipping fast. Long story short I went on campus and found out I couldn’t play football. That very day I dropped out of college and that same night I attended my very first Pro Wrestling Training.” At the time, Finau was attending Mesa Community College in Arizona, and following his departure, he turned to Arizona Wrestling Federation (AWF) where he began his initial training in May of 2018. He lasted at AWF for just over a month before he returned to his home in Ontario, California, but it was in NorCal he began training in the East Bay area with veteran Cali wrestler Rik Luxury, where he debuted with East Bay Pro Wrestling (EBPW). In the summer of 2019, alongside another Tongan, Sione Finau (no relation) in TOKONATION, he won his first championship, capturing the EBPW Tag Team titles.
Eager to continue his training, Juicy looked across the ocean to a fellow Tongan in New Japan star Bad Luck Fale and his Fale Dojo, located in Fale’s home country of New Zealand. It was a trip that Finau had to undertake. “I’d been following Fale San and his dojo for a while, I think as far back as in High school, and I was following him and his journey,” Juicy told us. “I decided to message the Fale Dojo and get in contact with them. It wasn’t till I got to New Zealand in September 2019 that I sat under Fale Sans learning tree. Man not only was I being trained under one of the most well-respected big men in pro wrestling, I was being trained and mentored by a Tongan. Someone who shares the same culture and the same roots from a small island. Being able to just pick his brain and learn from his experiences when he was at the NJPW dojo. One of the highlights for me was finishing a grueling week of training with a Kumete of Kava. A drink from our homeland and just talking wrestling. Also having Tony San (Kozina) there at the dojo helped me develop a lot too!”
Juicy returned to the NorCal indie scene with a deeper understanding of who he could be as a professional wrestler, executing his new teachings and continuing to grow inside and outside of the ring. And then Covid hit. The US indies took a huge hit in the early stages of 2020, but Juicy didn’t just lay down and wait it out. He sought more knowledge for his own journey and in doing so, hooked up with WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi and further dove into what it meant to be a stand out big man in the industry. “Yeah, so I worked a little with Rikishi this year during the whole pandemic,” Juicy said. “Working with him was a dream really come true. Growing up, I seen him on TV, that’s what drew me in. So being able to learn from a Hall of Famer like him was honestly a dream come true. Him too being a very big man that was extremely agile and athletic for his size, learning from him and just listening and soaking up all his knowledge he was sharing was a true experience.”
— Zane Pasley 5150 (@zanepasley) October 9, 2020
While Juicy Finau was making a name for himself in the NorCal indie scene, it wasn’t until October of 2020 that he made his mark on the national indie scene, and it was through his own hard work and belief in himself that created the opportunity. In a story that went viral, Juicy Finau flew from California to Indianapolis – after working 15 hours at his day job – to work ring crew for GCW and other promotions during this past October’s Collective events, just to work ring crew and prove his dedication to the industry. It was a huge gamble, but one that Juicy had to take. “Well, I was already going to do that when The Collective was going to be held in Tampa,” Juicy recalled. “I had bought my flights and I was gonna do exactly what I did in Indianapolis in Tampa. When everything got canceled I was bummed so I had gotten credit for my flights and that was that. When I heard that The Collective was going to be coming back at a later time but held in Indianapolis I already knew what I needed to do. I reached out to everyone I know trynna get in contact with people but nobody answered my messages except Jimmy Lloyd. If it wasn’t for Jimmy telling me that ring crew was on Thursday at 11, I would’ve missed the whole set up and everything. My flight was originally supposed to leave on Thursday at 10 am, when he messaged me Wednesday I had just got off work in the morning and I had to make the split decision switching my flight from Thursday to the last flight out Wednesday. Got there to the venue Thursday at 11am and started putting in work everywhere my hands were needed. I was constantly asking anyone and everyone what can I do, can I help here, so you need help there I was just trynna be everywhere I can to help. And it paid off big for me. So I’m extremely blessed that I took that chance on myself.”
— NorCal Wrasslin (@NorCalWrasslin) October 11, 2020
Juicy’s hard work paid off and not only was his commitment appreciated, but it also lead to an unexpected moment that would change his career. He was given a spot in the Clusterf**k Battle Royal, a tradition of GCW’s flagship Collective event, Joey Janela’s Spring Break 4. “The Toko Joey Janela put me on,” Finau stated. “He said he woke up to a barrage of notifications and DMs from people asking to put me in the Clusterf**k (but) it was when Big Toko Ricky Morton posted the picture of us two, that’s what sealed the deal for me to enter the clusterfuck. So shout out to the good Toko Joey and GCW taking that chance on me.” GCW wasn’t the only promotion who extended an opportunity to Juicy that weekend, as he also appeared for Indiana’s own Paradigm Pro Wrestling for their Collective event, Trapsoul, in the Naptown Elimination Scramble Match.
While his inclusion in two matches at The Collective may have initially been a simple “thank you” for his hard work behind the scenes during the weekend, GCW made it apparent that Juicy Finau’s association with the national promotion was anything but shortlived. With GCW returning to the West Coast for the next show, The Last Resort, on October 17, it wasn’t long before Juicy was part of the GCW match announcements, where he was announced as having his debut GCW singles match, against none other than former GCW World Champion KTB (Kyle The Beast), one of GCW’s longest-serving veterans and one of the company’s true gatekeepers. “I was just around the boys (at The Collective) and they were talking to me about GCW going to Cali and I was like ‘Hell, I’ll pull up to do ring crew with my boys (which we did) and then Brett (Lauderdale, GCW owner/promoter) took a chance on me, put me on the card for The Last Resort and since then I’ve just been running with the opportunities since.” Following his match against KTB, Juicy went on to appear in a Scramble match at GCW’s Nick Gage Invitational 5 (that was ultimately won by Blake Christian) and then faced Jordan Oliver the following night at GCW So Much Fun.
— Rob (@HeyyImRob) November 8, 2020
It’s safe to say that Juicy’s Indy gamble has paid off not only in new opportunities but has lead to Juicy Finau becoming an instant fan favorite and fixture with GCW itself. “That means the world to me. Them taking the chance on someone like me, someone who they’ve never heard of to now getting opportunities after opportunities and being welcomed into the GCW Family and Locker rooms with open arms. It honestly feels like I belong here, that these are my people. So I do feel like I have a loyalty to them because of the opportunity and love and chances that they have blessed me with.” But as he continues to emerge as one of GCW’s bright new stars in 2020, he still continues to “do the work” elsewhere as well. “At this very moment, I’m active and consistently working with Versus Pro in Las Vegas. I recently made my debut at Future Stars of Wrestling (FSW) in Las Vegas as well. I’m trying to work as many NorCal promotions as I can, but at the moment there really isn’t anything running out here (due to Covid restrictions). I actually have my first NorCal booking since the pandemic this weekend at UGWA. But other than that, I’ve solely focused all my energy and strength towards GCW.”
Juicy Finau takes on Calvin Tankman (Photo: Earl Gardner)
As the indie wrestling circuit in the US continues to work around potholes created by the current Covid pandemic, Juicy Finau has continued to find destinations to ply his trade and hone his craft. And ultimately, his desire to be the best – and true to himself – fall back on words he was told by one of his trainers, Bad Luck Fale, back in New Zealand. “One thing that he told me that will forever stick with me is ‘Never give them a reason’, never give anyone a reason to doubt you or overlook you or cut you. Me being a big man doesn’t and shouldn’t excuse me from why I can’t do certain things from what the smaller guys are doing. So I’ve lived with that saying since that day.”
Check out our full list of previous Indie Watches, showcasing emerging talent from around the world!
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. Looking to talk wrestling, pro football, or any number of sports? Head on over to the LWOS Boards to engage in conversation with fellow fans!