When I was young, just like any boy, I had my heroes.  These were male role models that I looked up to, icons of strength and heroism.  Actually, I think that those two attributes and characteristics resound in any young boy’s psyche, regardless of the convoluted and gender-confused age that we live in modern days.

My first heroes were The Incredible Hulk (both the Lou Ferrigno TV version and the Marvel comics version), Godzilla and Conan The Barbarian (both the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie version and the Marvel comics version).  Very soon thereafter, however, I discovered pro wrestling’s Hulk Hogan.  Let me tell you, as a kid, nothing was more real and more potent as a tangible idol than Hulk Hogan.  I recall watching mesmerized in front of our old, snowy television set in Thunder Bay, Ontario, watching Hulk Hogan battle the likes of Nikolai Volkoff and King Kong Bundy on late night Saturday Night’s Main Event broadcasts on the NBC station.  I was sold for life, marking the beginnings of my foray into the wonderous world of professional wrestling, a journey along which I found many more icons and tangible heroes.  Whether it was a Canadian wrestling star like Dan Kroffat or Steve Strong out of Montreal’s International Wrestling scene, or American stars like Ric Flair, The Road Warriors or Bam Bam Bigelow, I had discovered real life heroes that resonated with me at my very core.

I recall  drawing detailed, color portraits of guys like Bigelow and Flair, and at specific wrestling events, I would boldly walk up to the promoter or agents prior to the event and tell them that I would like to present my artwork in person to the star.  NWA promoter Gary Juster allowed me behind the curtain in Boston, Mass. to meet Bigelow, whereas arena security in Calgary at the Saddledome allowed me the chance to meet Flair.  As a kid, those were milestone moments, where I got to even fleetingly meet my heroes for real.  I have no idea if those stars ever retained or treasured the artwork that I drew of them, but as you all can see from the Artwork link here at my website, I am a very proficient graphic artist with an extensive resume nowadays.  I was pretty damn good back then, too, even if I say so myself.

Tom Zenk (left) and Dan Kroffat (right) mug for the TV cameras with Milt Avruskin interviewing

Tom Zenk (left) and Dan Kroffat (right) mug for the TV cameras with Milt Avruskin interviewing

As I became a professional wrestler myself, actively starting my in-ring career in 1994, I purposed myself to become more than just a plagarized copy of my heroes: no, indeed, I would become an original.  Once I found my groove in terms of my wrestling style and persona, the doors opened up for me.  I became one of the most popular wrestlers in all of Italy over 2005, so much so that the promoter even noted it in front of the entire locker room.  I became one of the most loved foreign bad guys to ever frequent Norway from 2003 onwards.  Girls would bring “StarBuck is a starf*ck!” signs to the shows, which, of course, I plead innocence to!  I would become one of the most popular foreign stars in all of the country of Japan in 2011, a buzz that lives on even to this day.  In Finland, I have become an icon of the country’s pop culture fabric, due to my contribution above all in professional wrestling, and secondly as a rock vocalist, fronting my various bands over the years.

Streamers thrown into the ring are a sign of popularity in Japan

Streamers thrown into the ring are a sign of popularity in Japan

I recall strapping young lads, like a teenage Mikko Maestro, who now wrestles for FCF in Finland, run into me while jogging seaside, telling he’s a big fan.  I recall wrestling in Tallinn, Estonia in 2007 and making such an impact on one young fan, that he turned away from partying, drugs and alcohol, choosing to follow my example.  I recall signing loads of autographs for sick children at a special charity wrestling match at the American Car Show in Helsinki in 2009, with broad smiles on those children’s faces.  I recall my numerous trips to Japan, where fans have eagerly treated me to the finest restaurant meals, presented me with spectacular gifts and cheered me on in the ring unlike any other audience prior or since.  In short, I reached my goal and fulfilled my aspiration of becoming not just an original, but a hero to others myself.  For this, I am extremely proud … in a good way.

When my wife last visited her homeland of Romania and gave one of my signed photos to an 11-year-old kid there, I was told that he looks forward to the day that he can take a picture with me and mug together for the camera.  All he has is YouTube and the Internet to follow my wrestling exploits, but for him, that is suffice.  To know that I have made an indelible impact on a complete stranger like that, who doesn’t even have the opportunity to see live wrestling events, speaks volumes.

Looking back on my career and lifetime contribution, I know that I have done something right, knowing somewhere out there, I am somebody’s hero.

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