DOJO PRO TV REPORT (Season 1, Episode 1): Kevin Ku vs. Kerry Awful in the debut episode to earn the first Dojo Pro White Belt

By Harley R. Pageot, PWTorch contributor


DOJO PRO TV REPORT – S1E01
RELEASED JULY 9, 2018
TAPED IN NASHVILLE, TN
AVAILABLE IN THE U.S. AND U.K. THROUGH AMAZON PRIME
REPORT BY HARLEY R. PAGEOT, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR

Commentary: Marc Warzecha

DOJO PRO presents the ultimate professional wrestling opportunity. A gauntlet competition in which 13 independent wrestlers fight their way up the ladder. The winner of each match receives the Dojo Pro White Belt and continues on. At the top, the Dojo Pro Black Belt, and a shot at the Ring Of Honor World Television Championship.

An opening video explained the concept of the series with shots of the wrestlers. We then went to host Matt Lott in the studio. He explained that the wrestlers have been ranked by industry leaders based on a number of factors, the most important of which is potential:
1. Jeff Cobb
2. Shane Strickland
3. MJF
4. Aaron Solow
5. Ricky Starks
6. James Storm (in the veteran slot)
7. Brandon Cutler
8. Joey Janela
9. Corey Hollis
10. Wheeler Yuta
11. Gunner Miller
12. either Kevin Ku or Kerry Awful

The top 11 seeds were shown posing for the camera alongside illustrations of them. Lott introduced each man by name and listed their hometowns.

-Video package on Kevin Ku. Ku spoke about people expecting him to wrestle strong style due to his ethnicity and kick pads but he’s actually more of a technical wrestler and is inspired by British wrestling. He grew up in a traditional Korean household but his friends were from the punk and hardcore scene. He hid his first tattoo from his parents for nine months before feeling comfortable enough to show them. He’s known his opponent, Kerry Awful, for a while and “he’s a bit out there.”

-Video package on Kerry Awful. Awful introduced himself as “The Dog-Faced Gargoyle.” He wears a red leather mask because that’s how people see him. They don’t see him as someone who’s sad or a man who bleeds. He took off the mask and looked like he was tearing up. “This isn’t the face of some quarterback. You’re not going to see this on billboards,” but he deserves love and praise just like anyone else. The lights are going to be on him. He doesn’t care if the other wrestlers in the gauntlet are thoroughbreds or world-class athletes, they’re going to have to step up.

Awful addressed Ku and described himself as a feral animal backed into a corner. Ku cited Dojo Pro as an opportunity to show himself to a national audience. Awful asked himself if he’s going to win but said the better question is whether Ku will survive.

(Pageot’s Perspective: Simple but effective promos. Ku was understated but personable and came across like a good guy looking to overcome stereotypes and use this as a platform to show people what he can do. Awful was in full Mankind circa 1997 mode right down to his intonations. Not really my thing but I appreciate that we’re getting variety in characters rather than just a collection of good athletes with no personalities.

Awful was trained by Dutch Mantell and hails from Nashville, Tennessee. He wrestles consistently for Pro Wrestling Freedom, Southern Underground Pro, and Carolina Wrestling Federation Mid-Atlantic both as a singles wrestler and as one half of The Carnies with Nick Iggy. Ku was trained by Brian Fury. He’s from Birmingham, Alabama and also seems to spend most of his time in SPU and CWF Mid-Atlantic.)

-Ku made his entrance first, wearing a lower-face mask of enlarged teeth and a sleeveless, black leather punk jacket decorated with pins. Awful entered to red lights and ripped off his mask before collapsing into the corner. Ring announcer Dominic Malnar gave full introductions with weights and hometowns while referee Amanda Lee checked both men for foreign objects. “This is Awful” chant from the crowd.

“THE DOG-FACED GARGOYLE” KERRY AWFUL vs. KEVIN KU

A “Ku” chant from the crowd to start, which annoyed Awful. Awful patronizingly said “Let’s see what you got, kid.” Side headlock from Ku and into the ropes. Right hand by Ku, shoulder tackle from Awful. Back elbow from Ku into a leg lock but Awful scampered to the bottom rope for the break. Ku with a suicide dive to Awful on the floor. Back into the ring for a second. “One more time” from the crowd but Awful caught him on the third with a right hand. Awful blocked a sunset flip attempt and hit a senton across Ku’s right arm. Awful saw the opening and started to target Ku’s arm. Commentator Marc Warzecha said Ku is coming back from suffering a broken neck last year. He tried to regain control with some chops but Awful put him right back down. At 5:30 they traded strikes. Ku caught Awful with an uppercut and two more running uppercuts in the corner. Dragon suplex from Ku for the first two-count of the match. Awful with a gutbuster and a Gargoyle Lariat for a two-count. Awful with a side stretch on Ku. Ku came back with a knee and called for a super brainbuster. He placed Awful on the top rope but Awful used Ku’s injured arm to free himself and hit a double stomp on Ku in the tree of woe. Ku kicked out at two and a half and Awful looked flabbergasted. Awful dropped his straps and went to the apron. He bickered with the ref, which allowed Ku to hit a dropkick. Awful driven head-first into the turnbuckle. Ku pulled Awful back onto the top rope and hit a gut-wrench superplex. Awful grabbed the bottom rope to break the count. They traded slaps from a kneeling position into a standing position. Ku slammed Awful to the mat from a fireman’s carry position and locked in a half-crab, stomping away at Awful’s head until he tapped.

WINNER: Kevin Ku in 11:33 to capture the Dojo Pro White Belt.

(Pageot’s Perspective: Outside of the finish I can’t say I really saw much of the technical wrestling Ku claimed to specialize in. With him on the defense for most of the match he was more limited to kicks a lot of the time but the superplex and suicide dives were obviously crowd-pleasers. Not a bad match by any means and I like Ku advancing. With the nature of the gauntlet you know he has next to no chance to win the whole thing but will he continue a ways or fall to his first challenger?

Warzecha seems fine as commentator. I just can’t remember the last time I watched a wrestling match called by only one person. I certainly don’t want the bloated three-man booth of some promotions but I think him having a second person to dialog with might have offered something a bit more engaging. As to the rest of the presentation, video quality is solid. Something about the graphics or the dim blue lights of the arena is giving me WCW Thunder/American Gladiators vibes. There are maybe 30-40 people in the crowd, all standing, on the left and right sides of the ring.)

-Ku posed with the white belt in the ring and at the top of the ramp. He’ll defend it on the next episode against Gunner Miller. Ku was about to leave when the gauntlet’s #1 seed, Jeff Cobb, walked out unexpectedly. Cobb was carrying a microphone and shoved Ku with his shoulder as he walked past him.

Cobb entered the ring to a chorus of boos. He said these guys could be champions in the future but there’s a reason he’s ranked #1. He’s been all around the world. He didn’t come here for wrestling school; he came for the Dojo Pro Black Belt. It’s his golden ticket to the ROH television title (currently held by Punishment Martinez).

Cobb got in the face of some fans at ringside and ended up punching one of them out. He rolled the fan into the ring. The fan begged off and offered a handshake but Cobb pulled him into the Tour Of The Island (a reverse-spin scoop powerslam) instead. He feigned kicking sand onto the fan and left. The referee checked on the fan as the show signed off.

(Pageot’s Perspective: Looks like we got ourselves a villain. I like that Cobb’s being given a chance to establish himself right up front, especially since he’s only scheduled to wrestle one match in the series – that being the finals. The question now is who will be the hero who fights their way through the gauntlet to meet him in the end. There are many viable options there so it will be fun to see which one shakes down.)


Find Harley on Twitter @talkinghonor and listen to he and Emily Fear talk all things Ring Of Honor every Tuesday on the PWTorch Livecast “Talking Honor.”

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