The news was just released officially this week that I would be facing my former protégé Mikko Maestro at the annual flagship supershow in Finnish professional wrestling, Talvisota XI – which translates to Winter War 11 – this coming February 18 at the Nosturi club in Helsinki, as promoted by FCF Wrestling.
I was there at the inaugural Winter War on December 2, 2006 – an event that I coined and created back in the day to be the Finnish wrestling equivalent of Wrestlemania – and here I am over a decade later, turning another page.
This match-up against Maestro is significant on a few levels. Firstly, it’s arguably the biggest match to date in the six-year career of young Maestro. Secondly, I took the kid under my wing back in early 2013 to groom him for the years ahead, seeing that his charisma was catching on with the Finnish wrestling audience. This made him my protégé, a pet project that I invested considerable time and coaching into, and Maestro finally was able to up the ante and make a breakthrough in 2016 against top competition like Ivan Markov of Russia, Mark Kodiak of Holland, Swedish champion Harley Rage and Heimo the Wildman here in Finland. Thirdly, Maestro has shown himself to be ambitious in the fact that he has gone on to countries like Denmark, Germany and the USA to gain more experience. This last bit is something I’d like to elaborate on.
Every talent out there with any inkling of ambition will take the chance to spread their wings and test their mettle in the shark-infested waters of global pro wrestling. Many young wrestlers will end up having to pay their own way just to get exposure, build a resume and get noticed, as they build up their personal value in order for a booker or promoter out there to invest in them. If they are lucky, and to any degree own a moderate modicum of talent, they will be able to make headway in a very convoluted age in their aspirations to become stars in the world of pro wrestling.
Maestro has shown ambition. He has gone out there and found a way to get noticed and get booked where other contemporaries, even those with greater in-ring talent, have fallen short. Maestro has shown heart, even over-ambition at times, if you ask me. Nonetheless, he’s been able to consistently climb the ladder rung by rung. That brings us to Talvisota XI / Winter War 11 on February 18.
As with any young talent, everyone has role models that they aspire to pattern themselves after and learn from. At the start of my pro wrestling career in 1994, my biggest influence was Ric Flair. I believe that for many of my generation, growing up a teen in the 1980s, Ric Flair was the consummate pro to look up to, if you had any understanding of the complete package that made a pro wrestler. For the Millenials to a large degree, that role model became Shawn Michaels and a bit later on The Rock and Stone Cold. In Finland, for many, including one Mikko Maestro, that role model was StarBuck, the founding father of Finnish pro wrestling.
I recall a young Mikko Maestro back around 2009, when I was cycling near Munkkiniemi Beach in Helsinki. It was there that I ran into the kid for the first time. As I was riding by, getting in my cardio, Maestro recognized me as he walked down the street and yelled out “StarBuck!”. I simply smiled, recognizing his fanship, and kept on cycling. One year later, he showed up for wrestling schooling.
As a mentor, I took Mikko Maestro as high as I could. The rest, of course, was all up to him. At the Winter War event in 2013, I took Maestro as my tag partner for a heated, key match-up against Stark Adder and his protégé, Ricky Vendetta. The vet and the pup against the vet and the pup, as it was, back then. It was the starting point for my on-hands mentorship of one Mikko Maestro.
Time passed, Maestro gained experience and confidence, and alas, in September of last year, he made a bold challenge. Mikko Maestro wanted to publicly challenge the man that taught him, the role model that he aspired to pattern his career after, and see if he was up to the task. I figured this day would eventually come, but I don’t think Mikko Maestro is anywhere near ready to take on the old war dog yet. He still has some miles to go before he can realistically hang at my level, and believe me when I tell you: he’s going to need all the help he can get, ‘cos the fans and their cheers won’t make a bit of difference when he finds himself overwhelmed by 23 years of ring experience on the other end of the spectrum.
Well, when he last needed my help, I was there. But… he didn’t listen. At the crucial, key point in Maestro’s match against Ivan Markov of Russia in December of last year, the kid chose to disrespect the deal that we had set forth going into the match. In short, he went into business for himself, disregarding his coach, and pulled out his ridiculous, asinine “stinkface” maneuver, which he found funny enough to rip off of WWE Hall of Famer, Rikishi. In a serious match-setting, where a killer like the Russian Markov was present, I expressly told Maestro to leave the gimmicks, bells and whistles at home. But no. He had to take the forbidden fruit. He had to dally out onto thin ice. He had to do things his own way. And it was at that point, that I disowned Mikko Maestro as a protégé.
There comes a time in life when every person is going to have to stand on their own, no supports and no crutches to be had. This is that time for Mikko Maestro. At Talvisota XI, my former protégé is going to find out that legends don’t die, they just get better with age.