Tama Tonga

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Tama Tonga
Tama Tonga 2016.jpg
Tonga in March 2016
Birth name Alipate A. Leone
Born (1982-10-15) October 15, 1982 (age 34)[1]
Nukuʻalofa, Tonga[2]
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Kava
King Tonga, Jr.
Pate Fifita
Tama Tonga
Tonga Strong Machine[3]
Billed height 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)[2]
Billed weight 95 kg (209 lb)[2]
Trained by Mark LoMonaco[2]
Devon Hughes[2]
Ricky Santana[4]
Tonga Fifita[4]
Debut 2008

Alipate A. "Pate" Leone[5] (born October 15, 1982) is a Tongan American professional wrestler better known by the ring name Tama Tonga. He is currently working for Japanese professional wrestling promotion New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), where he is a former three-time IWGP Tag Team Champion and a one-time NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champion. He is the adopted son of professional wrestler Tonga Fifita and forms the tag team Guerrillas of Destiny with his adoptive brother Tevita Fifita. He has also worked with NJPW's partner promotion in Mexico, Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL) where he has held the CMLL World Tag Team Championship twice.

Early life[edit]

Leone was adopted by his maternal aunt and her husband - professional wrestler Tonga Fifita, better known as Haku or Meng - from his native island of Tonga while they visiting in 1991. They took him back to Poinciana, Florida where he grew up with his biological cousins, who he later came to see as siblings, fellow professional wrestler Tevita and his older sister Vika.[6]

After graduating from Poinciana High School high-school, he joined the United States Air Force and was stationed for six years at Whiteman Air Force Base, serving as a B-2 Spirit mechanic. At the same time, his brother Tevita was playing college football with the UTEP Miners. During a phone call in 2004 they decided they would become professional wrestlers once they had finished their respective obligations three years later.F[7][4]

Professional wrestling career[edit]

Training and early career (2008–2010)[edit]

In January 2008, the brothers approached the Dudley Boyz to use the ring they had at the Team 3D Academy of Professional Wrestling and Sports Entertainment training school they operated in Kissimmee, Florida. They did not join the school at the time as they were being trained directly by their father and Ricky Santana, a family friend. To practice more frequently they eventually joined the Academy proper and were partly trained by Bubba Ray Dudley and D-Von Dudley.[4][8]

The brothers made their professional debut in November 2008, wrestling as a tag team under the name The Sons of Tonga (referencing their father) in Southern Championship Wrestling (Florida). They continued wrestling under the same name in World Xtreme Wrestling (WXW) and Puerto Rico's World Wrestling Council (WWC) until early 2009.[9] Also in November 2008, they took part in a WWE tryout camp, two months later they were told that Tevita would be offered a contract by the company (he would later appear on television as Camacho) while Alipate would not. [10]

Alipate continued wrestling as Kava in WXW during the year , winning the WXW Television Championship on 20 June 2009 though he lost it the same day. In the first part of 2010 he returned to WWC, first as a singles wrestler with the moniker King Tonga Jr. (his father had also wrestled in Puerto Rico as King Tonga). He later teamed with Idol Stevens, billed as The New American Family they briefly held the WWC World Tag Team Championship.[9]

New Japan Pro Wrestling (2010–present)[edit]

Debut (2010–2012)[edit]

Leone went to Japan in 2010, initially going to New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) to train, he impressed enough to be hired by the company. [11] He made his NJPW in May 2010 under the name "Tama Tonga". His debut match came as part of the 2010 Super Junior Tag Tournament, where he teamed up with Davey Richards, losing in the first round to El Samurai and Koji Kanemoto.[12] Tonga was one of sixteen wrestlers who competed in the 2010 Best of the Super Juniors tournament. He defeated Nobuo Yoshihashi,[13] and AKIRA,[14] but lost to Ryusuke Taguchi,[15] Fujita Hayato,[16] Kenny Omega,[17] Koji Kanemoto,[18] and Taiji Ishimori, ending with four points, second to last his group.[19]

He teamed up with Hirooki Goto to compete in the 2010 G1 Tag League tournament. They defeated the teams of Togi Makabe/Tomoaki Honma,[20] and King Fale/Super Strong Machine,[21] but lost to the teams of Manabu Nakanishi/Strong Man,[22] Masato Tanaka/Tomohiro Ishii,[23] and Yuji Nagata/Wataru Inoue,[24] which meant they finished fourth in their group with four points. He also entered the 2011 G1 Tag League tournament, this time teaming up with Strong Man. He had less success than the previous year with a solitary victory over the team of King Fale/Yuji Nagata,[25] and losses against the other teams. On 4 January 2012, Tonga appeared in a dark match during Wrestle Kingdom VI (considered as NJPW's most important show), teaming with Captain New Japan to defeat Kyosuke Mikami and Tomoaki Honma.[26]

Excursion to CMLL (2012)[edit]

In September 2012 it was announced that Tonga would go to Mexico from 10 October 2012 and work for NJPW's partner promotion, Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL).[27] His debut match for CMLL saw him participate in the 2012 version of CMLL's Leyenda de Azul tournament. The match was a 16-man torneo cibernetico elimination match, from which Tonga was eliminated when Atlantis and Shocker double teamed him.[28] Following the tournament Tonga worked with a number of CMLL's top stars, including the Leyenda de Azul tournament winner Diamante Azul. On November 13, Tonga and El Terrible won the CMLL World Tag Team Championship from Atlantis and Diamante Azul.[29] Tonga next made it to the finals of the 2012 La Copa Junior Tournament, where, on December 14, he was defeated by La Sombra in the main event of CMLL's 2012 Sin Piedad ("No Mercy") show.[30]

Bullet Club (2013–present)[edit]

Tonga (far right) with Bullet Club in September 2013

Tonga returned to NJPW in early 2013, just in time to compete in Wrestle Kingdom 7 on January 4 where he teamed up with Captain New Japan and Wataru Inoue to defeat Jado, Tomohiro Ishii and Yoshi-Hashi by pinning Jado.[31] On April 7, Tonga and El Terrible successfully defended the CMLL World Tag Team Championship against La Máscara and Valiente at New Japan's Invasion Attack event.[32] On May 3 at Wrestling Dontaku 2013, Tonga followed Prince Devitt and Bad Luck Fale ringside after Karl Anderson's loss to Hiroshi Tanahashi where they all attacked Tanahashi. The four of them founded a new villainous [Glossary of professional wrestling terms#stable|stable]] named Bullet Club under Devitt's leadership.[33]

On July 5, Tonga and El Terrible lost the CMLL World Tag Team Championship to Tanahashi and Jushin Thunder Liger.[34] Tonga regained the title from Tanahashi and Liger on September 14 with new partner Rey Bucanero.[35] Tonga returned to CMLL with Bucanero in early October.[36] On October 18, Tonga and Bucanero were stripped of the CMLL World Tag Team Championship when they were unable to defend the title against La Máscara and Rush due to Bucanero being sidelined with an injury.[37][38] Tonga remained in CMLL until the end of the year.

Returning to Japan in 2014, Tonga participated almost exclusively in tag matches the next two years, [9] he was seen as a minor member of the Bullet Club.[33] He took part in the 2014 World Tag League with Bad Luck Fale in November of that year. They finished at the bottom of their block with a record of three wins and four losses.[39] Tonga and Fale would team up again in the 2015 World Tag League for a worse result, picking up two wins for four losses to finish penultimate with four points.[40]

On 4 January 2016, at Wrestle Kingdom 10, Tonga teamed with Fale and Yujiro Takahashi to take part in a match to determine the inaugural NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champions, they were defeated by Jay Briscoe, Mark Briscoe and Toru Yano when Jay pinned Tonga.[41] On February 11 at The New Beginning in Osaka, Tonga, Fale and Takahashi defeated the Briscoes and Yano in a rematch to win the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship.[42] After a three-day reign, the three lost the title back to the Briscoes and Yano at The New Beginning in Niigata.[43] On March 3, Tonga scored the biggest singles win of his career by defeating former IWGP Heavyweight Champion and reigning IWGP Tag Team Champion Togi Makabe in the first round of the 2016 New Japan Cup.[44] The following day, he was eliminated from the tournament in the second round by Hirooki Goto.[45]

Guerrillas of Destiny and G1 Climax (2016–present)[edit]

In March 2016, Tonga announced he would reform his tag team with Tevita in NJPW, recruiting him into the Bullet Club as Tanga Loa. The team was named "Guerrillas of Destiny" (G.O.D.). On April 10 at Invasion Attack 2016, G.O.D. defeated Makabe and Honma to become the new IWGP Tag Team Champions.[46] They lost the title to Jay and Mark Briscoe on June 19 at Dominion 6.19 in Osaka-jo Hall.[47] In late June 2016, Tonga returned to CMLL with his brother for a month-long excursion and the two competed in the 2016 International Gran Prix, where Tonga was the last eliminated, losing to winner Volador Jr.[48]

Tonga was announced as one of the participants of the 2016 G1 Climax from 18 July 2016. NJPW's most prestigious tournament, it entitles its winner to a IWGP Heavyweight Championship title match at the next Wrestle Kingdom., Tonga's participation in the G1 was seen as a major step-up.[49] In his third tournament match on 25 July, he scored the biggest win of his career by defeating Hiroshi Tanahashi (who had won the previous year's G1).[50] Tonga finished the tournament on August 12 with a record of four wins and five losses.[51]

Returning to tag-team competition with G.O.D., he and his brother regained the IWGP Tag Team Championship from the Briscoe Brothers on October 10 at King of Pro-Wrestling.[52] They reached the final of the 2016 World Tag League but lost to Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma on December 10.[53] On January 4, 2017, Tonga and Loa lost the IWGP Tag Team Championship to Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano in a three-way match, also involving Makabe and Honma.[54] On June 11 at Dominion 6.11 in Osaka-jo Hall, Tonga and Loa defeated War Machine to win the IWGP Tag Team Championship for the third time.[55] They lost the title back to War Machine in a no disqualification match on July 1 at G1 Special in USA.[56]

Tonga participated in his second G1 climax by entering the 2017 edition in July. He finished with a record of four wins and five losses.[57]

Personal life[edit]

Leone is the cousin of fellow professional wrestler Bad Luck Fale, they both spent their early childhoods in Muʻa, Tonga without meeting. They were in the NJPW dojo at the same time and realised they were related when a relative commented on a photo Fale had posted on social media.[58]

In addition to his adoptive brother Tevita with whom he wrestles in NJPW as the Guerrillas of Destiny, Leone's younger (biological) brother Taula is also part of NJPW (as a young boy in the dojo) under the name HikuLe’o. Alipate and Tevita live together in Orlando, commuting to Japan for tours of between a couple of weeks to three months.[7]

In wrestling[edit]

Tonga performing the Veleno on Captain New Japan
Guerrillas of Destiny performing the Guerrilla Warfare on Mark Briscoe

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

Tonga as one half of the IWGP Tag Team Champions in November 2016

References[edit]

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