Posts Tagged ‘Keiji Mutoh’

When you look back on the best times and highlights of your life, one tends to wax emotional.

Yesterday, the Japanese sporting press announced the end of WNC (Wrestling New Classic) and its merger with Keiji Mutoh’s Wrestle-1 organization.  From WNC’s roster, Tajiri, Akira Nogami, Rionne Fujiwara, Yusuke Kodama, Koji Doi and Jiro Kuroshio join the Wrestle-1 roster.  Everyone else becomes a free agent.  I was the second last champion for WNC (Bernard Vandamme of Belgium is the current and final titleholder), and was with the company since its inception in April 2012.

Yours Truly as WNC champion (photo by Marko Simonen)

Yours Truly as WNC champion (photo by Marko Simonen)

Time for a reality check.  We are living in hard times, and it honestly doesn’t look like it’s going to get any easier, globally speaking.  The rich keep getting richer, those with less are losing even that which they have, and the the big are eating up the small.  Mergers are the business word of the day, be it Time-Warner or Microsoft swallowing up Nokia.  At the end of it all, it all boils down to money; those who have it and those who don’t.  The financial crunch that has burdened much of the world over the past several years certainly isn’t helping.

When I look back on my time with WNC, I reminisce with fondness.  I made a friend, a great friend, in Akira Nogami.  Along with Akira and Japanese kickboxing and multiple-time women’s pro wrestling champion Syuri Kondou, I was part of the coolest rebel unit to hit Japan in ages in Synapse.  We wrecked havoc, took names and kicked volumes of ass.  I still fondly recall my first teaming with Akira and Syuri against Tajiri, Hajime Ohara and Kana back in on August 2, 2012 in Tokyo.  It was a hard-hitting, feisty brawl from start to finish, and during the melee, Tajiri kicked one of my front teeth out.  Battle scars, medals of honor.  No hard feelings, of course, just business as usual in the modern day arena of the gladiators.  It was Tajiri’s sister’s dental office in southern Kagoshima, that even fixed my missing lego at the end of that tour.  I remember the barbed wire matches that Synapse had with Tajiri, Kana and Mikey Whipwreck … matches that definitely had you on the edge of your seat, as everyone tried their damndest to keep from being mangled by the barbed wire sticking out of the boards in the corners of the ring.  I recall the outings against various three-opponent trifectas around Japan, all of whom we put down and convincingly so.  Then, as my last, great memory from my time with WNC, I remember February 27 of this year, when I beat Tajiri himself for the WNC championship title in Tokyo in one of the hardest slobberknocking matches of my career.

The first ever teaming of Synapse (all photos by WNC)

The first ever teaming of Synapse (all photos by WNC)

SB vs Markov SB vs Tajiri StarBuck vs Nishimura

I want to publicly thank WNC and especially main man Tajiri himself for giving me the golden opportunity to wrestle for their company over the past couple of years that they were in existence.  It has been a hell of a ride.  Thank you Akira, my brother, for your friendship.  Thank you Syuri, for your warm smiles.  Thank you Yusuke Kodama, Rionne Fujiwara, Nozomu Matsuzawa and all of the young boys and girls of the WNC roster.

Once again, the words of King Solomon from Ecclesiastes chapter 3 come to pass:

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”

So desu ne!!!

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I have really been blessed in my wrestling career over the past few years, after making it big in Japan, becoming a name and draw there in 2010.  I have had a load of fantastic matches during my time in the “Land of the Rising Sun”, bringing back the old school approach in my wrestling style to the Japanese fans, perhaps bringing to mind the golden days of acclaimed names in our business such as Harley Race, Ted DiBiase and Dick Murdoch between the 1970s – 1980s.

StarBuck vs Nishimura

In January 2011, I was voted by the readership of Weekly Pro Wrestling magazine as having the Match of the Year for 2010 in the SMASH organization against “The Japanese Buzzsaw” TAJIRI (from Nov. 22, 2010), and the runner-up ballot went to my match vs. AKIRA (from Sept. 24, 2010).  In 2012, the readership of Weekly Pro Wrestling magazine voted me as MVP of the Year in SMASH, plus I won the accolade for Match of the Year for 2011 in SMASH once again, this time against Dave “Fit” Finlay (from Nov. 24, 2011).

Here I offer up promos and videos of my personal favorite matches from Japan, which I have contested over the past three years.  Enjoy!

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StarBuck vs. AKIRA:

StarBuck vs. TAJIRI:

StarBuck vs. Genechiro Tenryu

StarBuck, TAJIRI, AKIRA vs. Keiji Mutoh, Shuji Kondo, BUSHI

StarBuck, AKIRA, Syuri (Team Synapse) vs. TAJIRI, Hajime Ohara, Kana

Often I am asked who my favorite pro wrestlers are, which ones have had the biggest impact on my career and style, and who were my idols when I was growing up.  Hereforth, in this special theme blog for Christmas 2011, I offer my top picks to close off the year:

MY TOP 5 WESTERN  PRO WRESTLERS OF ALL TIME

Ric Flair – without doubt, the man who made an indelible impact on me when I was a kid and a youth.  When I first started my wrestling career back in 1994, as a rookie I tried to copy much of the pyschology of Flair in my own matches and mannerisms.  As time wore on, of course I developed my own, trademark image and style, but Slick Ric was the ultimate combo of mic skills, charisma, ring work and larger than life character to aspire to.  Very simply, for many of my generation, The Nature Boy was THE measuring stick which the business was graded by.

Dan Kroffat – I believe his real name is Phil Lafon, but Dan Kroffat was just an amazing talent in both Canada for Gino Brito’s International Wrestling out of Montreal in the 1980’s, as well as Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling, where I believe he was called Phil LaFleur.  A lot of people think I “stole” my superkick from Shawn Michaels, which is not true.  I “borrowed” it from Kroffat, who used to superkick opponents while they were trapped in the ring corner.  Ouch!  Kroffat was one of the greatest, lesser-known talents in the history of the game.

Dick Murdoch – the best puncher that the wrestling industry has seen this side of Killer Karl Kox.  What an amazing talent Murdoch was, from being an ass-clown when he felt like it to wrestling amazing, technical classics like I saw him do against Barry Windham back in 1987 on Bill Watts’ UWF Wrestling show over 45-minutes on TV.  Dick Murdoch was definitely one of the greatest wrestlers never to hold the World Championship, and I borrowed his “cattle brander” knee-to-the-skull top rope bulldog for my own repertoire many years ago.

Tully Blanchard – never have I seen someone do so little and make it mean as much as Tully did in the ring.  Blanchard was the ultimate bad guy, like a mangy mongrel all over his opponents from bell to bell.  His natural cockiness made him easy for the masses to dislike, and he just had a way of carrying himself that I have seen few pro wrestlers master.  His “I Quit” cage match vs. Magnum TA from Starrcade ´85 will forever be remembered as one of the most legitimate outings there is to be seen in pro wrestling.  It’s a shame his career fell off the map in 1989 after being let go/leaving the WWF, after which, by all intents and purposes, he really should have carried on in the NWA as part of The Four Horsemen.

Bret Hart – I was brought up in the wrestling business in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, which happens to be the home of the infamous Hart Family.  I never went out of my way to copy Bret Hart, but I did feel a certain affinity to the way that he orchestrated himself and worked in the ring.  You could call it a case of kindred spirits style-wise.  Bret Hart’s style was not a high-risk deal, and that said, he could be as believable as anyone without taking ridiculous chances with his health.  Bret Hart was smart about his piece of business, and it’s a damn shame that his career ended the way it did in the freak accident he had wrestling against Goldberg at WCW’s Starrcade ’99.

MY TOP 5  JAPANESE  PRO WRESTLERS OF ALL TIME

Keiji Mutoh – I have always liked Mutoh’s style a lot, and this past November in Tokyo, I was finally able to wrestle against him in All-Japan Pro Wrestling, which was a dream come true for me.  Mutoh has incredible ring presence, amazing psychology and impeccable timing.  Basically, the man has all the tools of the trade, and he has kept with the times in changing his gimmick and look to stay fresh, without compromising where he came from.  Just an amazing mind for the pro wrestling trade.

Hiroshi Hase – an amazing talent, and as complete of an all-around worker as there is to be had in the pro wrestling game.  As a booker, Hase was incredibly giving, which is more than can be said for most match bookers who double as wrestlers.  Hase had credibility, in everything that he did, and had so many show-stealing matches that anyone could easily lose count.  Hase could make anyone look good, and that in itself is a feat in our business.

Mitsuhara Misawa – the late, great Misawa certainly took too many risks and ended up paying for them with his health before his untimely death a couple of years back, but it was hard to beat Misawa at his prime.  The man mastered his craft and stayed on top as a main player for over 15 years, which is an amazing accomplishment any way you look at it.  Misawa also spearheaded All-Japan Wrestling in the 1990’s, post-Tsuruta, driving the company to great success before moving on with his own NOAH promotion, which seemingly was the #1 company in Japan for a spell before eternity called Misawa to the other side.

Riki Choshu – The last two picks in this short list are a bit of a toss-up.  I was going to pick NOAH’s KENTA, but he has not yet proven himself on the longevity level.  Anyone with under 10 years of experience really cannot be considered yet.  I was going to pick Antonio Inoki amongst the last two, but considering he was the promoter of New Japan, I felt perhaps he had a bit too much leverage in terms of a tilted playing field.  When I was a kid, I first saw Riki Choshu in a match on a VHS tape against legendary shooter Fujiwara.  The thing that struck me straight away about Choshu was the fact that he came off as a rebel, kind of a Japanese rock and roller, with his long hair and aggressive energy.  The more I saw of Choshu’s matches, the more I liked his work.  At his best, Choshu was hard to beat, and could really make the people believe in what he did.

Tatsumi Fujinami – I really struggled between Fujinami and Jumbo Tsuruta for the last pick.  Before moving up to the heavyweights, Fujinami was a damn fine junior heavyweight, and I still recall one of his stellar matches against the Dynamite Kid in Japan, which was one hell of a hard-hitting altercation.  Fujinami had that special something, an explosive dynamic about him, which made watching his matches truly enjoyable.  The fact that he still moves at a surprisingly good pace at his age today is a testament in and of itself, and I am amazed that his knees are still holding up sans kneepads after all these years!

BEST OF THE REST

There have been numerous other personas and key factors that have played a part in StarBuck becoming what I am today in the pro wrestling world and beyond.  Irish wrestler Dave “Fit” Finlay, whom I lost the SMASH Championship to back on November 24, 2011 is one of mat technicians that I highly respect.  British ring generals Mark Rocco, Dynamite Kid and Johnny Saint all rate highly in my book also.  North American top wrestling stars of the past like Arn Anderson, Barry Windham, Ricky Steamboat and The Road Warriors all offered valuable learning material.  Comic book heroes from my youth like Conan The Barbarian and The Incredible Hulk, in addition to Godzilla, all left an indelible imprint on the formation of my psyche.  The action movies of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone did their part in impacting me in my youth, in addition to perhaps my favorite flick of all time, Mel Gibson’s Mad Max II: The Road Warrior.  Several top wrestlers of the past decade from Chris Benoit to Shawn Michaels to Triple H have all made a notable imprint, especially in terms of being able to draw from their ring psychology, pacing and idiosyncracies.

So all in all, there have been a whole slew of personas and greats that have really “lent” a hand in the formation of StarBuck as a professional wrestler.  Perhaps I’ll post a blog about which musical influences played the biggest impact on my rock frontman career over the past 12 years, but maybe you’ll have to wait for that one to start off 2012.

European professional wrestling legend and 37-year ring veteran Dave “Fit” Finlay defeated me this past Thursday night, November 24th, at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo at SMASH.23 to become the new SMASH Champion.

photo by SMASH (from SportsNavi Japan online)

Finlay fought like a ravenous beast, putting me on the defensive for the whole match, which lasted 15:58 before the Irishman was able to put me away and pin me following his jumping tombstone piledriver.  The Japanese crowd responded in shock as Dave Finlay was announced as the new champion.

There are very few men in the wrestling business who are as brutal and remorseless in that ring as Finlay.  The man is a legend in this sport, and I brought my A-game, but it just wasn’t enough on the night of November 24, 2011 in Tokyo.

photo by SMASH (from SportsNavi Japan online)

Many are already calling my match with Finlay as the match of the year in SMASH, which is saying a lot, as there have been numerous great matches throughout the year.  For a fantastic look at the action from the SMASH.23 title match, check out the ringside photos here.

photo by SMASH (from SportsNavi Japan online)

I was also given the opportunity to face one of my all-time favorite wrestlers in Keiji Mutoh (aka The Great Muta) in Tokyo the night before SMASH.23 at All-Japan Pro Wrestling‘s event, as I teamed with SMASH compatriots Akira Nogami and Yoshihiro Tajiri to face the trio of Mutoh, Kondo and Bushi from AJPW.  I pinned Bushi in 13:48 of a hot match following my trademark spike piledriver.  Check out the photos from that match here.

photo by AJPW (from SportsNavi Japan online)

On a separate note, I heard the sad news about the passing of American superstar Bison Smith (found dead on Nov. 22 in Puerto Rico) while I was in the dressing room at the AJPW event.  Bison was a big star in Japan, and his death at 38 – the same age as I am – is indeed an early passing.  The cause was deemed to be heart failure.

Dave "Fit" Finlay

This coming week on Thursday, November 24th in Tokyo, I will face European ring general and legend Dave “Fit” Finlay at SMASH.23.  Finlay will surely be one of the toughest, sternest challenges I have met to date in my entire active ring career, as I’m set to defend the SMASH Championship against the Irishman at Korakuen Hall in the main event of the aforementioned card.

Finlay is perhaps best known from his latest tenure in WWE, where he was the United States Champion in 2006, defeating Bobby Lashley for the honors.  Finlay was a road agent and trainer for WWE, particularly coaching the WWE Divas over the years, improving their game considerably.  Prior to his stint in WWE, Finlay was the TV Champion in WCW, defeating Booker T in 1998 for the strap, in addition to a multi-time champion around Europe.

Finlay is largely considered one of the toughest SOB’s out of Europe to ever lace up a pair of boots, and he has hurt of a lot of people in the wrestling business inside of that ring.  Believe me when I say that I have the highest respect for Finlay as a professional wrestler, and I am taking my SMASH Championship defense against him at SMASH.23 very seriously.  Anything less would be foolhardy, and StarBuck is nobody’s fool.

In addition, I will be facing one of my favorite wrestlers of all-time in Keiji Mutoh at the All-Japan Pro Wrestling event at Korakuen Hall on Wednesday, November 23, as I team with SMASH superstars “The Japanese Buzzsaw” Tajiri and Akira Nogami to face the All-Japan trio of Mutoh, Shuji Kondo and Bushi.  Many fans will recall Mutoh as The Great Muta from the NWA in 1989-1990 and WCW periodically throughout the 1990’s.