With another year gone in the history books, I’d like to glance back and assess the past 12 months both personally and professionally.
The last two years have really been life-altering times of change for me. In 2013 I got married, starting a new chapter of my life. Professionally speaking, 2014 signalled the end of the WNC (Wrestling New Classic) organization that I grappled for, marking the close of an era there also. The financial crunch in Europe began to sting and affect businesses across the board, spreading to Asia, including professional wrestling. Less shows were in the offering and the money just wasn’t there. I find myself amongst the hard-nosed veterans of the grappling game who find themselves working a limited number of dates due the poorly paying scene in general, not counting a few decent promotions on the grappling map who are still putting out top dollar for top talent still. 2014 was no cake-walk for independent pro wrestling, folks.
Yet, 2014 was musically one of the better years that I recall as of late. With my southern rock act Crossfyre we blazed across Europe and all around Finland over 2014, having one helluva time! We toured Poland, Estonia and Germany at the start of the summer and hit a slew of summer festivals and biker gigs to boot domestically. I got to see Lithuania and Latvia in transition between countries on tour and overall it was great experience. Crossfyre really evolved even further over 2014 as a working man’s hard working band, and for that, I am proud.
2014 started off with a bang, as fast food giant Subway had me play the lead and do the voice-over for their American Steak House Melt sub sandwich. I got to play my redneck self, complete with my Michael Hayes-like finger mannerisms, familiar to wrestling fans far and wide, who’ve seen ”The Rebel” StarBuck in action.
2014 also marked my 20th anniversary since debuting as an active combatant in the world of pro wrestling. On January 7 this past year, my old wrestling coach Lance Storm sent me a public message on Facebook, congratulating me on my career milestone. It was Lance who was my first opponent, whom I had a very decent 7-minute match with back in Calgary, Canada in my debut bout. Since that time, I’ve gone on to see the world, kick ass and take names far and wide. Thank again, Lance, for setting me off on that fantastic journey!
Speaking of pro wrestling, FCF started off 2014 with a bang on January 11 in Helsinki, as my four-man team of Mikko Maestro, Sly Sebastian, Kristian Kurki and Yours Truly downed the team of Valentine, Conny Mejsel, Steinbolt and Robert Holmström in a hellacious Survivor Series-style elimination match. This tag bout stands out as one of my personal favorites from 2014, as everyone clicked on all cylinders and the action was hot and heavy-handed.
In another huge tag team outing, I teamed with FCF’s King Kong Karhula against the duo of Sweden’s Conny Mejsel and Harley Rage in Gothenburg on February 1, which turned out to be perhaps the hottest tag team match that I have ever wrestled. I am speaking solely about fan reaction to the bout here, but I am in no way undermining the quality of the wrestling in that match. Everyone brought their A-game to the show, and I am glad that my Spandex Sapiens movie producer Oskari Pastila was able to come and film the bout, because this crowd and atmosphere was most definitely worth capturing on film.
The Gothenburg fans went bananas when their hero Conny Mesjel got the upper hand on me.
Speaking of Spandex Sapiens, premature expectations had the 100-minute documentary movie about my persona and wrestling career coming out in 2014. Yet, director Pastila decided to wait out the possible financial commitments of various third parties before tending to the actual release, and thus, the movie debut was delayed until 2015. Now, the release has been set for autumn 2015 and all signs are go at this point. I personally can’t wait! In addition, 2015 will mark the return of Mad Max to the silver screen, as Fury Road comes out in the summer. When I was a kid, Mad Max: The Road Warrior was my favorite movie.
2014 also saw Yours Truly doing a guest DJ spot on Finland’s top rock radio station, Radio Rock. This was a personal milestone for me, much like getting featured in an exclusive article in Hustler magazine several years ago (true story!) about my wrestling career (Hustler publisher and boss Larry Flynt has always been an icon to me as an anti-establishment kind of guy who swims against the stream at large). I got the opportunity to play whatever I wanted, chosing obscure songs by lesser-known bands like Living Sacrifice, Bolt Thrower and even my own bands, Overnight Sensation and Crossfyre. Talk about a great PR opportunity!
February 27, 2014 was a huge day for me in my wrestling career. I defeated ”The Japanese Buzzsaw” Tajiri for the WNC championship in Tokyo, capturing my second title in Japan to date (I became the first champion in SMASH history back in October 2011, also defeating Tajiri then in a tournament final). Tajiri is arguably my greatest nemesis of all time, over the entire span of my wrestling career. He and I have waged numerous wars, both in Japan and Finland, and I am honored to have had such a great fighting chemistry with him.
One week after winning the WNC title, I hit an all-time career low, as I lost both the WNC championship and the BWA (British Wrestling Alliance) Catchweight belt in the same night at FCF Wrestling’s biggest annual showcase event, Talvisota VIII, on March 8. With my wife Diana as my wrestling valet, I also put her career on the line against Valentine in what I can now assess was a bad case of overconfidence on my part. Valentine pulled out a tainted win, complete with brass knuckles, as I lost the BWA title to him. Immediately thereafter, Belgian powerhouse Bernard Vandamme demanded that I wrestle him and defend the WNC title. Never one to back down from a fight, I valiantly did my best, losing in grand fashion in two minutes. It was possibly the lowest point of my career, and it haunted me for the rest of the year in all of my Finnish matches. I can see now, that it was psychologically a demon and monkey on my back, losing my wife as my valet, along with two championships, in one night. In 2015, I plan to rid myself of that jinx for good.
I was able to grapple again in Belgium in March 2014, this time laying waste to a promising young rookie named Tyson Heel out of Andorra, along with a return to Germany to wrestle for EPW. Things were going great for me outside of Finland, as the wins kept coming, but my jinx returned when FCF’s Jatkosota 2014 rolled around on April 12 in Helsinki once again. In a six-man tag team match, my team of Sly Sebastian, Kristian Kurki and myself lost to Heimo Ukonselkä, Stark Adder and Ricky Vendetta when Ukonselkä assisted Vendetta in gaining a pinfall over this disgruntled Rebel. Ricky Vendetta would go on to brag and boast about gaining the biggest pin of his career, shooting his mouth off all throughout 2014 at my expense. Vendetta became a real thorn in my hide at this point.
I became embroiled in a bitter rivalry with young Ricky Vendetta this year (photo: Marko Simonen).
2014 marked my 19th country in pro wrestling, as I went to Holland to wrestle for a fabuolus company called Dutch Pro Wrestling on June 1 against Bernard Vandamme. I was out looking to avenge myself and beat Vandamme into the ground, but as fate would have it, Vandamme found a way to thwart my end goal, eeking out another victory over Yours Truly. That WNC title loss really stung bad after that repeat defeat, I can assure you!
On June 8, I had the pleasure of playing the 2014 Harley-Davidson Super Rally in Tallinn, Estonia with Crossfyre. We had the main stage, we got to meet Mr. Bill Davidson of Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, and we got to treat throngs of bikers from all across Europe to our special southern rocking brand of rock’n’roll from the north. Top of the line hotel, top treatment, top spot on the event line-up = no complaints!
Bill Davidson mugs between me and Crossfyre’s session bassist Sami Salminen.
The summer of 2014 signalled the end of the WNC organization that I wrestled for in Japan. Tajiri, Akira Nogami, Yusuke Kodama, Rionne Fujiwara and a couple of other wrestlers moved on to Keiji Muto’s Wrestle-1 organization, while everyone else from WNC went their own, separate ways. I was saddened to say goodbye to my old Synapse teammates Syuri Kondou and Akira, with whom I enjoyed a tremendous chemistry. We travelled a lot of miles up and down the roads in Japan, kicking asses and taking names for almost two years together. It was a memorable time, and Synapse will always live on in my memories as a unit that I was truly happy to be a part of.
The summer gigs that we played with Crossfyre live strongly in my memories, as I mentioned at the start of this blog. The summer of 2014 was awesome and we really rocked all summer long, as the lyrics to a certain song go. The shows we had in Poland especially warm my heart, as we had Polish audiences dancing on tables and losing their inhibitions (in a good way!) every single night. Poland was one helluva time! I also warmly recall going for a kebab after our gig on the Reperbahn in Hamburg, Germany with a black 74-year-old jazz and blues musician, whose name now escapes me. Talk about experience and the wisdom that only comes with years!
Photographer Igor Uciński captures one of the best shots of me on stage in Poland.
The summer of 2014 also saw FCF Wrestling join forces with fast food restaurant Snacky in Finland for an event called Snacky Slam at the end of July. This show was held outdoors, and we had more media exposure through Snacky for FCF than I recall en masse in recent years. Finland’s top entertainment magazine, 7 Päivää, jumped in as the media sponsor for the event, proving to be the ideal, perfect match in terms of hype. I am proud as punch of the promo work that FCF and myself got to do through 7 Päivää, and the vast, new audiences reached thereby. It was at Snacky Slam that Ricky Vendetta was able to gain yet another tainted win at my expense in a six-man war, featuring myself along with Sly Sebastian and Mikko Maestro against Vendetta, Stark Adder and Pyöveli Petrov in a super-hot match that had the Snacky outdoor audience rocking. Adder was the pivotal man to assist Vendetta this time, leading to the pinfall win for Vendetta over good ol’ StarBuck. Ricky Vendetta was really beginning to piss me off at this point.
In August, I had the pleasure of coaching a week-long training camp for young wrestlers in Denmark. I was able to take my wife along for this trip, and we had our official summer vacation in the process. Danish Pro Wrestling organized the camp, and I had kids from four different countries attend. I saw some real potential amongst the 21 participants that busted their asses that week, and I am sure the world of pro wrestling will be hearing from some of them in the future.
The summer of 2014 also allowed me to mend the fence with Boogie Mustonen, the seven-time Finnish heavyweight bodybuilding champion. Boogie had trash-talked Finnish pro wrestling and my personal legacy many years ago on a certain Finnish bodybuilding online forum, and I had taken personal offense to his derogatory comments. You see, Boogie had once wrestled in the neighborhood of about 20 matches, after getting his training in Australia around the mid-’90s. Since speaking out less than favorably about Finnish pro wrestling, Boogie had amended his opinions and views. Back then, Boogie had never really understood the pro wrestling business, and his career was cut prematurely short after failing to convince in his match against Tony Halme (Ludvig Borga in WWF) in Joensuu, Finland back in July 1997. I had been the referee for that specific match, and it had been Boogie’s tryout bout to get into Otto Wanz’s CWA promotion (Austria) back then. To make a long story short, the match was flop. Boogie went on to concentrate on his bodybuilding career and Halme went on to become a boxer before getting into politics and then eventually killing himself in early 2010.
It’s like the past never happened, Boogie is a great guy!
I had a blast doing another TV commercial shoot during the summer, this time for Vesileppis Sport & Spa Hotel. Hotel manager Kimmo had been the promoter for FCF’s Karjalan Turpakäräjät show in Nurmes, eastern Finland back in October 2012. Kimmo thought StarBuck would be a great fit as a main actor alongside Vesileppis Hotel’s ladybug mascot, to provide a comical contrast. The end production speaks for itself, so take a look…
During the summer, I also got to do a TV commercial shoot for Finland’s biggest dairy manufacturer, Valio Ltd., with NHL ice hockey legend and Stanley Cup winner, Teemu Selänne. The double exposure of both Subway and Valio definitely lay down some serious exposure for me in preparation for my Spandex Sapiens movie next year, as my mug will be familiar to the entire nation pretty much. As the Bible says, the Lord works in mysterious ways!
2014 was a bit of a transitional year for my hard rock band Overnight Sensation, as we have been focusing on writing new material by and in large. We only had a handful of domestic gigs this past year, and granted, we could have done more. Nonetheless, we are planning on releasing a mini-LP of sorts featuring our new songs with our current drummer Jesper in 2015.
On the 13th of September, I finally had the chance to gain a measure of retribution on Ricky Vendetta here in Finland, as we met in a singles match in Helsinki. Yet, Ricky didn’t want to face me square-up. Earlier in the evening at FCF Wrestling’s Syyskuun Selkäsauna, I introduced the new debuting Class of 2014 to the fans present at Hotel Presidentti. Seven new trainees had passed their 2014 schooling to enter the world of professional wrestling, and during this presentation ceremony, Ricky Vendetta chose to attack me with a monkey wrench in his hand. In the ensuing melee, he bruised my ribs, leaving me at less than 100% for our singles match later that night. Regardless of my best efforts, Vendetta thwarted yet another bullet and managed to gain another tainted win over me. I had promised to make Vendetta tap out for his insolence, not content with just pinning him. I promised to make him scream for his life and submit. That is still going to have to wait for another day, and luckily, my opportunity lies in achieving that goal at FCF’s Talvisota IX event in Helsinki on February 9, 2015, when I will face Vendetta in a submission-only match!
I had the pleasure of returning to Japan again on October 10 for my good friend and former Synapse tag team partner Akira Nogami’s 30th anniversary show in Tokyo. Whereas I celebrated 20 years in pro wrestling this year, Akira’s landmark was a decade better. In the main event of Akira’s 30th anniversary card, I wrestled against my old friend Nogami and also against Pancrase founder Masakatsu Funaki in a triple threat match. I got to find out first-hand about Funaki’s legendary kicks, which I felt on numerous occasions during that match. In the end, even I was astounded at the fact that when all was said and done, I had pinned Akira at his own anniversary show! Japan has always been a very special place for me, and my favorite country to wrestle in, and this event once again reminded me just why that is.
Akira’s 30th anniversary show line-up
On November 1, traveled to Stockholm to fight Ken Malmsteen in a Last Man Standing match. I took it upon myself to teach Malmsteen a stern lesson about respect for the way that he disregarded and cheapshotted former Swedish Olympic hero, Frank Andersson. Frank had wrestled in WCW and New Japan way back in the day circa. 1993-1995 or thereabouts. He had made his comeback to pro wrestling this past year in Sweden, challenging Malmsteen to a match for the Swedish wrestling championship after Malmsteen first cheapshotted him when Frank was a special referee in a prior bout. Frank went on to make good and capture the title, but after the match he was diagnosed with a concussion after a loaded uppercut from Malmsteen in their match. On November 1, I beat Malmsteen from pillar to post and was well on my way to busting him open good and proper. Malmsteen got hold of the STHLM Wrestling title belt and blasted me in the face with it during our no-DQ outing, which sliced my head open, instead. After yet another shot with the title belt to my wounded head, I was unable to get to my feet by the referee’s 10-count, and the match was awarded to Malmsteen. At least I did manage to soften up Mr. Malmsteen for Frank Andersson the next time they meet…
I was thinking I had Ken Malmsteen beat (photo: Johannes Tegner).
On November 7, I travelled to France for the first time in five and a half years, which was a welcome return to fight for Wrestling Stars. I had become accustomed to wrestling mixed tag matches with Synapse in Japan over the past couple of years, and this time I teamed with the feisty Miss Agathe against French fan favorite Jimmy Gavroche and Sara Elektra from Finland. I don’t think Sara had ever been rag-tagged so badly in her life as in that match, and it was a valuable lesson for her about the relentless world of pro wrestling. I have always had the same philosophy with training and wrestling, regardless of whether it’s been a man or woman. Pro wrestling is an incredibly hard and remorseless grind physically, and if there ever was a thing called Sexual Equality, the world of pro wrestling is such a place. Hell, I recall facing multi-time Japanese women’s wrestling champion Kana on several occasions a couple of years back, and her kicks were on par with those thrown by Masakatsu Funaki!
On November 15, I celebrated my 20th year in pro wrestling with The Roast of StarBuck at Hotel Presidentti in Helsinki. Although January 7 was officially my anniversary career landmark, FCF Wrestling wanted to toast and roast my contributions to the grappling game at year’s end. Many names from my past dropped by to grill me, including media personality Wilma Schlizewski, Renne Korppila of Radio NRJ, my uncle Lasse, former amateur champion Jouni Mörsky and FCF’s Valentine and Robert Holmström. The best verbal jabs were dealt by Holmström, Valentine and Korppila, who had no mercy on my poor person. Regardless, I was a good sport and hung in there for the duration, until once again, Ricky Vendetta tried to ruin even this occasion as my wife Diana gave me a closing blindfolded lap dance. Vendetta tried to assault me with the trophy FCF handed to me as a commemorative token, which I was able to avoid and then procede to lay a beating on Vendetta, sending him scurrying out of the ring to await his final judgement at Talvisota IX this upcoming February 7, 2015 in Helsinki.
To cap off my eventful 2014, I was asked by Europe’s biggest MMA organization M-1 to ring announce their M-1 Challenge 54 / ACB 12 event in St. Petersburg, Russia on December 17. I did the ring announcing for the M-1 Semi-Finals in 2010 in Helsinki, and M-1 president Vadim Finkelchtein recalled that I did a great job for his organization then. One of the things that I have always prided myself on is having a strong voice and dynamic delivery. This has proven to be an asset for me over 2014, as I have had a slew of voice-over jobs through Finland’s oldest voice-over agency, Dictum.fi. I was once again able to parlay my talents and offer my voice to ring announcing for the M-1 Global live stream of their event from St. Petersburg. I was told the organization was more than happy with my work this time also, and hopefully we’ll be able to work together in 2015.
Yours Truly in a snazzy suit ring announcing M-1 in St. Petersburg.
Thanks to all my fans for the support over 2014. 2015 should be even bigger and better, as the Spandex Sapiens documentary movie about me hits the silver screen this autumn. Stay tuned to http://www.starbuck.fi for developments and all the latest!