We’re taking a look at a new wrestling series: Dojo Pro. Think of it as wrestling meets Mortal Kombat!
Launching on Amazon’s Prime Video service, Dojo Pro is another take on the wrestling world… one that sort-of mimicked the video game “Mortal Kombat” as we start with a qualifying match before embarking on an 11-match gauntlet with the winner claiming a ROH Television title shot.
Fortunately, the folks at Amazon don’t spoil the results, as the future episodes just list the challenger as “White Belt” – the title that the reigning champion has to defend en route to their ROH TV title shot. In a pretty good casting choice, the final boss is a certain Jeff Cobb, with the likes of Joey Janela, Shane Strickland and James Storm below him on the way to the top. We’re taken to a studio where Matt Lott introduces the show to us. Apparently the entrants have been ranked by “industry leaders”, whom I’d like to know more about given some of these choices: Gunner Miller, Wheeler YUTA, Corey Hollis, Joey Janela, Brandon Cutler, James Storm, Ricky Starks, Aaron Solow, MJF, Shane Strickland and Jeff Cobb. It’s quite the selection of names… but first we need to decide who’s in at number 12:
They introduce both guys by way of video package, with Ku claiming he’s going to be taken at face value… and he’s looking forward to being underestimated. Ku tells us he’s known Kerry Awful for a while… which bleeds into his promo as the “Dog Faced Gargoyle” Awful introduces himself. His promo reminds me a LOT of that infamous Mick Foley/Mankind interview with JR back in the day, which isn’t a bad thing.
Marc Warzecha is your commentator here, perhaps best known as a writer and producer, but he has done work for New Japan in the past. Running solo, there’s a big risk he’ll be scared of dead air, but lets see…
Kevin Ku vs. Kerry Awful
We’ve a bare bones ring with no apron, which makes this seem rather more “dojo” like than a fully-fledged TV show, although Kerry Awful has a lot more bells and whistles for his entrance than Ku had…
By the time the bell goes, we’ve about quarter of an hour left on the show, and we start with both men playing to the rather small studio audience. We start with shoulder tackles between the two men, before Ku just opted to deck Awful with a forearm… Ku keeps up with a roll through into a single leg crab, or “Slash Mountain” as Warzecha calls it, but Awful heads outside and gets met with a low-pe from Ku instead!
There’s another low-pe as Ku keeps Awful in the aisle, before a third one’s swatted away with a forearm. Back in the ring, Awful’s met with a knee before he blocked a sunset flip, returning fire with a back senton onto Ku’s arm, then an arm whip and a trapped-arm uranage as the Carnie worked over the arm in the ropes. Awful continues to ground Ku by the arm, then the ear, but Ku begins to fight back with forearms and uppercuts in the corner. A Dragon suplex takes Awful out of the corner for a near-fall, but Kerry’s back with a fireman’s carry gutbuster and a ripcord lariat that spun Ku down for a near-fall. Kerry keeps up with a modified abdominal stretch, but Ku rolls out and batters Awful with clotheslines and a hiptoss knee, before calling for a brainbuster…
Ku takes Awful up top for the avalanche brainbuster as the referee tried in vain to get them down… but Awful goes back to the arm and knocked Ku into a Tree of Woe ahead of a flying double stomp. That gets Kerry a near-fall, but Awful takes a while to follow-up as he goes onto the apron… and gets into an argument with the referee as playing to the crowd became a priority. It backfires as Ku takes him into the corner again, this time landing a superplex for a near-fall as Kerry got both hands to the rope.
The pair start to exchange slaps from their knees as they fought back up, then exchanged slaps for lariats before an inverted Angle slam from Ku left Awful in place for the Splash Mountain – a single leg crab with stomps to the head – and that forced the Carnie to tap! Kevin Ku enters the tournament at number 12, and will carry the white belt with him after a decent match that I felt perhaps was a little long given how “unestablished” both guys were, to the point that they weren’t even entered into the tournament proper. **¾
Ku tries to head backstage… but he’s interrupted by Jeff Cobb with a mic. Cobb barges past Ku as the number one seed headed to the ring, and tells the crowd that there’s a reason he’s ranked number one. The crowd didn’t know whether to take that as a thing to cheer or boo. Cobb’s here to take the black belt as it’s his golden ticket for the ROH TV title. After the promo, someone in the crowd gets into it with Cobb… who he them punches out. Yeah, we’re here to boo him, I guess. Cobb throws the plant into the ring, and kills him with the Tour of the Islands. Or “his move” as commentary tells us, helpfully.
Dojo Pro’s set their table well – telling us who the big bad guy is for the season… and perhaps tipping off that there’ll be a good guy going into the final to knock him off his perch. As a starter though, the show did very little to grab me to watch the whole series (I will, eventually…) – while some of the names in the line-up are enticing, the “run the gauntlet” format does mean that you’re at risk of seeing some matches that may not grab your attention. The presentation on the whole is different, but it feels like it’s missing something. To an untrained eye, you’d be forgiven that they’re perhaps spoofing ESPN 8 “The Ocho”’s coverage from the movie Dodgeball, mixed in with a throwback to the classic studio wrestling shows from the 70s and 80s, just with fewer bodies on hand.
It’s not bad… but I’ve seen a few people call out the fact that the winner of this all gets a shot at another company’s secondary title… and that’s it. Not a contract. Not a job. Just one match and potentially… that’s it for them in ROH.
For completely new fans, it’s a very risky prospect: you’re introduced to a character, and if you get invested in them – but they lose – there’s a risk that you’ve wasted your time as they’re out. Sure, you can hunt them down, but that’s a lot of work to expect a new fan to put in, with no guaranteed end product. It’s certainly an interesting take, and one I’m interested to see how it plays out over the coming episodes. It’s available to watch (at time of writing) on Amazon Prime Video in the US and UK, all in one go right now. We’ll not be bingeing on it, and our reviews will drop regularly over the coming weeks…