Posts Tagged ‘puroresu’

Looking back on my extensive wrestling career, I can say I’ve had a lot of great opponents.  Some of those opponents have offered me feuds to remember for a lifetime, matches that I will one day tell my grandchildren about.

Many notable foes come to mind over the years, whom I have had the pleasure of doing battle with: former ECW world champion Steve Corino, ex-GSW champ Michael Kovac, EWA world champion Chris Raaber,  my former FCF teammate Hajime Ohara, multi-time Eurostars European champion Bernard Vandamme, former FCF champion Stark Adder, just to name a few.  Yet, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the most notorious feud of my wrestling career has been with one “Japanese Buzzsaw” Yoshihiro Tajiri.

Tajiri is, without question, the most persistent adversary I have ever fought.  We have duked it out over the FCF championship – putting that title on the map globally as one of the top trophies in our industry today – on a couple of memorable occasions; we have fought over the SMASH championship, which I won in a tournament final in Tokyo, defeating Tajiri in 2011; and now, on February 27  in Tokyo once again, I will face Tajiri for the WNC championship, should he retain his title after a defense against Hiro Tonai on February 23, just days before our showdown.

WNC poster Feb 2014

There’s something to be said for Tajiri as a trailblazer and main mover in the wrestling industry.  The man is undoubtedly the most prominent Japanese star in WWE history, being well-featured for nearly six-years and Smackdown and Raw broadcasts, having held the WWE US, WWE Cruiserweight and WWE tag team championships.  Tajiri’s trademark kicks have become the stuff of legend, and his famous Buzzsaw Kick has given me more headaches than I care to remember.  The man has a brilliant mind, and is one of the smartest people that I have come across in our industry.  I have a lot of respect for Yoshihiro Tajiri, and I believe the feeling is mutual.

Now, on February 27 at Shinjuku Face arena in Tokyo, once again, it will be another chapter in the ongoing war between Tajiri and myself.  I still clearly remember a couple of concussions that this man gave to me in the heat of battle, in 2010 and 2013.  Tajiri kicked one of my front teeth out of my mouth in 2012, which is something that is hard to forget.  We have beat each other from pillar to post, from Europe to Asia, and we are still at it, four years after it all began at FCF Wresting’s Talvisota IV event back on February 20, 2010 in Helsinki.

StarBuck vs Tajiri HELSINKI

The night that it all began in Helsinki, Talvisota VI (photo by Kari Helenius)

I personally highly look forward to this next encounter with “The Japanese Buzzaw”.  I sincerely hope he retains his WNC title against Hiro Tonai on February 23, because I need to pay Tajiri back for some of the damage that he did to me previously, as aforementioned.

This feud is one for the ages.

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The cultural significance of PURORESU.

Having wrestled on 20 trips already in the ”Promised Land” of pro wrestling, Japan, I thought to scribe a piece regarding the cultural impact and significance of Puroresu (pro wrestling in Japanese) on the social and pop culture landscape of not just Japan, but the world in general. After all, were it not for New Japan wrestlers Akira Maeda and Satoru Sayama breaking off in the mid-’80s and forming their UWF promotion in Japan, there certainly would have been no RINGS or Pancrase to jumpstart the MMA craze that has been blazing worldwide for many years now. Truth be told, the entire MMA scene, UFC included, can thank Japanese pro wrestling for their scimilating impact on the fighting business in general.

Going back to ancient Rome, the gladiators of old would reenact famous battles of lore, by dressing up in gimmicks and thereby producing very visual storytelling through their art of battle for the screaming fans of the coliseum. The most famous and loved gladiators were protected to a great degree by the emperors and promoters of their day. The action-hungry audiences at the coliseums had their distinct favorites, and some of the gladiators could even retire alive from active competition, if they lived to see the end of their fighting careers. If a gladiator managed to retire, he would live the rest of his life in luxury, reaping the rewards of his earned fame.

gladiator

In this way, professional wrestling is the natural extension and lineage of the gladiators of ancient Rome. After all, there is no other game or sport in which the competitor must ”woo” their audience, and specifically engineer and draw a desired reaction from their viewers. Just like in the old days of Rome, the success of the fighter is still, to this day, completely dependent on the relationship and interaction that the wrestler has with their audience. A boxer does not trap his opponent in the ring corner, and then turn to the crowd to ask if they would like to see him hit his opponent, but a wrestler can, and will, do exactly that. In doing so, the professional wrestler draws his audience emotionally much deeper into his matches, as compared to a boxer or mixed martial artist, who simply focuses solely on his opponent during the match.

hulk-hogan

In this way, pro wrestling becomes the ”Sport of Kings”, because it mixes the perfect balance of theatrical flamboyance in regards to the characters themselves and hard-hitting, fighting aptitude. Pro wrestling is simply more entertaining to watch than any single other fighting art: There is more variety in the movements, techniques and flow of the match, than compared to any other combat style. The chess-like element of utilizing ring psychology to build a compelling match that builds towards a passionate and dramatic crescendo is a very demanding artform and very few are masters at it. In this way, professional wrestling is the finest and most intricate, psychological fighting art of them all.

lou_thesz

In mixed martial arts, the combatants are solely interested and focused on ending the match as quickly and effectively as possible. This does not always make for a very interesting or emotionally compelling fight. Even nowadays in the UFC, there are many more pro wrestling-like elements to the matches and fighters themselves, as compared to the past. UFC fighters like Chael Sonnen sound like reincarnations of wrestlers like ”Superstar” Billy Graham when doing promos. Some UFC fighters even play to the crowd, just like pro wrestlers do, during the course of their matches. 10 – 15 years ago this phenomenon would have been unheard of, or perhaps even balked at.

In our modern day and age, mythology is rapidly disappearing from our western culture. In the past, mythology was handed down from generation to generation, as a kind of parable of lessons to be learned in life, plus it always featured the ever-present battle between good and evil in mankind. Nowadays, Hollywood and the movie industry offers little in the way of actual substance, instead opting to try and fill the viewer’s emotional register through special effects, multiple camera angles, quick editing cuts and flimsy but funny dialog. In the process, our culture is losing its grip on true heroism and real life icons. In the movies, everyone is a fictional character, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger is not the same character in The Terminator as he is in Conan the Barbarian. Therefore, the movies do not offer actual heroes or icons, but instead they offer virtual, imaginary heroes and icons. This is where professional wrestling comes in to save the day in our modern age.

mythological-gods

In no other game or sport are there such strong characters, as in the world of professional wrestling. When people witness the charisma and passion of Rikidozan, Antonio Inoki, Hulk Hogan, The Rock, ”Stone Cold” Steve Austin or perhaps even good ol’ StarBuck, what they are seeing is the real thing. The character is real, the passion is real and the charisma is real. Even though the professional wrestler might have an extravagant artist name (such as Hulk Hogan, The Great Muta or StarBuck), it stands to argue that the person behind the character name is as real as real gets.

muta

The Great Muta clamps on a headlock

Sometimes people ask me how much of my wrestling persona behind StarBuck is a made-up, fictional image. I tell them: ”None of it!”. I am not acting or pretending to be something that I am not inside of that ring. I only take my personal strengths and turn up the volume to the maximum level in terms of those traits, to make my wrestling persona even more effective. Yet, the man you see in the ring fighting is the real me.

I know that there are many gimmick wrestlers in our business who do not portray their actual selves. Doink the Clown and Eugene in WWE are good examples of this: one is not a true circus clown and the other is not a mentally handicapped person. The Undertaker is not a living dead man. In the same way, I know of big time rock musicians who drink non-alcoholic beer on stage in front of their fans, only to project the image of them being hard drinkers and party animals, while the truth is very different and they might be family men with children at home. Yet, I am not talking about the gimmick wrestlers in my underlying argument here.

Rikidozan - the pioneer and founding father of Puroresu

Rikidozan – the pioneer and founding father of Puroresu

In Japan, we have seen very many ”real life heroes” throughout the years in the professional wrestling business. Men like Rikidozan, Inoki, Baba, Tenryu, Fujinami, Misawa, Mutoh, Hiroshi Hase and countless others have undoubtedly portrayed their real personas inside of the ring. In the same way, famous gaijin talents like Stan Hansen, Dick Murdoch, Dynamite Kid, Terry Funk and many others have also portrayed their ”real me” personas inside of that ring. In this way, professional wrestlers are the modern day equivalents of iconic heroes of lore. We are modern day gladiators. In this role, as modern day fighting icons with strong, cultural, real life characters, we safeguard and uphold the tradition of the ever-burning battle between good and evil, and this in turn makes us the heirs of traditional mythology in modern times.

There are many lessons to be learned from professional wrestling, and it is no light matter that our game is aptly said to be the ”Sport of Kings”, for we, as professional wrestlers, are the Kings of Sport!

Long live our tradition and mythology – SOU DESU NE!

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!

linestar

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

I will be leaving tomorrow for a WNC (Wrestling New Classic) tour of Japan.  I will be wrestling once again alongside AKIRA and Syuri in our SYNAPSE team, and at least one of the matches on the tour features our trio against that of “The Japanese Buzzsaw” TAJIRI, WNC women’s champion Lin Bairon and WNC champion Osamu Nishimura at Shinjuku Face arena in Tokyo.

The schedule reads May 24 in Tokyo, May 25 in Osaka and May 26 in Nagoya.  For all the fine folks and great wrestling fans in Japan, you can see the locations and venues on the poster below.

WNC summer tour poster 2013

Having just returned back home an hour ago from my last tour of Japan with Wrestling New Classic, I can now sit back and reminisce on a very memorable jaunt … and I say memorable for a few reasons.

In a major surprise, my old MMA buddy Joachim “Hellboy” Hansen from Norway showed up with his girlfriend at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo to watch me fight and to say hello.  It had been the summer of 2009 that I saw Hellboy last in Oslo, and he happened to be training in Japan when I was there, so he made plans to come see my match.  Hansen is a great guy and one hell of a fighter, so check him out on YouTube if you are not familiar with him.  He is known as “The Japanese Killer” in the Land of the Rising Sun, because he has beaten so many of the Nippon best out there over the years.

Firstly, I wrestled the first barbed wire matches of my career in Japan this time around, and I must say that the danger aspect of these kinds of bouts is off the charts.  The main objective of any rational wrestler in one of these matches is to stay away from the barbed wire as much as possible, yet at the same time trying to run your opponents into the same structure.  It can be a very tricky and vulnerable scenario, and over the course of the tour, every single of the combatants in these intense matches got scarred and wounded, the girls included.

My team with AKIRA and Syuri defeated the team of TAJIRI, Mikey Whipwreck and Kana in both Tokyo on August 30th and Osaka on August 31st in said barbed wire warfare, but on September 1st in Toyohashi, our team fell to our adversaries when I was thrown by my opponents into the barbed wire board positioned in the corner of the ring, and my hair got entangled in the wire.

The story of Absalom, son of King Salomon in the Bible came to mind, when he rose up in defiance against his father and God struck him down in the battle of Ephraim Wood when he rode his mule into battle: Absalom, decked in long tresses of hair, rode his steed underneath an oak tree in the melee, and his locks got entwined in the branches, wherewith he was hung to death.

In the Toyohashi match, as I attempted to finish off Whipwreck with my trademark piledriver, TAJIRI hit me with a blindside high kick, after which he nailed me with a side thrust kick to the temple that jarred my neck.  I was a sitting duck after that incident, as our opposing team laced into me with kicks when I was down, and then proceeded to flail me into the barbed wire board in the opposite ring corner.  Not only did the board splinter and break upon my body crashing through it, my hair got wickedly entangled in the steel wire barbs, causing even more strain on my injured neck when my frame slumped down after the impact.  Whipwreck then added the final coup de grâce, hitting me with a stunner for the academic pinfall and consequent first loss for our trio in Japan to date.

I will not have to take a few weeks off to properly heal my neck, but you can rest assured that there will be retribution and a day or reckoning in store for TAJIRI when I return to action in Japan the next time!

In Osaka, AKIRA, Syuri and I held a special afterparty for the WNC fans at Wrestling Bar 2.99, where I performed an acoustic number for those on hand, which was received warmly.

It was also in Osaka that I went out after the event to eat at the famous Cowboy Steak House with AKIRA, where we were treated to some of the finest beef that I have ever sunk my teeth into.  Kudos to the friendly staff at Cowboy for sponsoring our meal!

My good friend Dr. Hiroaki Terasaki also took me out to eat at a fine restaurant, run by one of his long-time friends, seen in the photo below.  Terasaki-san also introduced me to the editor of Tokyo Sports newspaper at lunch yesterday, and I will soon have some big news coming out of that meeting, so stay tuned to my website for more infos shortly!

Last night I arrived back home in Finland after two weeks out in Japan, during which I was on tour with Wrestling New Classic in five different cities across the country.

AKIRA, StarBuck and Syuri (photo by Kazuhiko Kato)

My new team with AKIRA and Syuri rocked the houses every night, and we were a dominant trio, pulling out wins in every single one of our six-person tag matches.

TAJIRI one-upped me in Hakata, Japan (Photo: WNC)

The only loss my team suffered was my personal singles match loss to TAJIRI at Hakata Starlanes in Fukuoka on August 6th.

training with my team at American Gym in Fukuoka

In our first team encounter on August 2nd in Tokyo against TAJIRI, Hajime Ohara and Kana, Tajiri knocked my front tooth out as we brawled on the outside of the ring.

TAJIRI caught me with a knee right in the chops as I charged for him on the floor, and in the process the blow busted the bridge that I have for a prosthetic tooth up front, which I lost in a stunt-riding BMX accident when I was 9-years old.  In the picture below you can see the damage.

We traveled across Japan, from Tokyo southbound toward the southernmost tip of the country in Kagoshima, where WNC kindly offered to get my tooth fixed, saving me the expense in the process.  The friendly ladies at Calla Orthodontic Clinic in Kagoshima made my mug look like brand new, sparkling smile et al…

I was able to meet some very cool, new people in Japan on this trip, from avid wrestling fans of mine to ring legends like The Great Kabuki at his restaurant Kabuki with Family in Tokyo.  As I usually do with old timers who knew Bruiser Brody – one of my all-time favorites in the game and a legend in Japan too – I grilled Kabuki on his take as to the death of Brody in Puerto Rico in 1988 at the hands of Invader #1, where Brody got stabbed to death in the locker room.  Out of respect, the details of our conversation will remain anonymous, but I got a good understanding of the possible reasons behind the incident.

The Great Kabuki

My next tour with WNC takes place at the end of this month, starting on August 30th at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, where I again team with AKIRA and Syuri in the main event against TAJIRI, Kana and Mikey Whipwreck of ECW fame in a huge barbed-wire board match, which will not be for the faint of heart!

Our team victorious across Japan (Photo by Nobuya Iwatsubo)

For more infos go to the WNC website!

Photos by Wrestling New Classic