Posts Tagged ‘StarBuck’

After a very fruitful weekend of wrestling, I am feeling better than ever right now!

It was just this past Saturday night on May 26 in Helsinki at Gloria cultural arena where I faced the feisty and ambitious challenge of a man nearly half my age in Mikko Maestro.  And not only did I face him and defend my FCF Wrestling championship title, I defeated my challenger in nearly 26 hard-fought minutes at FCF Wrestling‘s Wrestling Show Live! Omega event.  Some may question the way I won, but the bottom line is that I won.

Maestro was full of piss and vinegar.  He had prepared long and hard.  He’d gotten himself into prime ring shape.  He’d gotten his head in gear.  But still, after all was said and done, he couldn’t unseat the reigning champion, and therefore, you’re still looking at him!  And not only did I beat Mikko Maestro, I also took the liberty of firing his audacious ass after he immediately demanded a rematch following my win, considering that I am the FCF General Manager at this time.  You simply don’t cross the boss, and Mikko Maestro should have honestly known better.  And before the match ever took place, I told him this was his one and only shot… and it would be the shot that was going to miss.

Then on Sunday, May 27, I faced the challenge of my old rival Stark Adder at the Power Expo in the city of Lahti, Finland.  Adder had won a 12-man battle royal match earlier at the Power Expo that day to qualify as the challenger for my Valhalla Nordic wrestling championship and I was more than happy to face him again.  Truth be told, Adder and I always have hard, quality matches that can go either way.  It’s like a flip the coin, heads or tails.  This time, Adder ate a superkick in the ring corner that rocked his world to the core and allowed me to capitalize on the fact that he wasn’t all there anymore for the rest of the bout.  In the end, I put him away with a sleeper hold that I held onto like a pitbull, refusing to let go.  After a valiant struggle, Adder’s lights went out.  No one would have believed the match would finish on that note, but dammit all, when a veteran applies a sleeper, it’s not some useless, throw-away hold like it’s become for so many young pups these days.  Kids, you have got to master your craft and learn to apply your holds correctly, and that said, this sleeper was a finisher!

Right now, I simply can’t see anyone on the horizon who has what it takes to wrestle away my championship titles from me.  Like fine wine, I just keep getting better with age.  Next up, Germany in mid-June!

(Photos by Marko Simonen)

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Every once in awhile I do pieces for the pro wrestling community, especially the younger wrestlers coming up these days who have not been given true, old school educations on our business, to help them get a grip and understanding of what they need to know in order to have a chance at becoming a success in today’s pro wrestling marketplace.

It’s not an easy road.  Especially these days, the business is both flourishing and meandering at the same time: flourishing due to the number of shows being run every which where, but meandering due to the demise of the pay scale as well as the death of kayfabe, the lack of mentorship due to the small number of veteran talents still active in the game from whom to learn from, and the reluctance of promoters to pay out and invest in talents that will cost them more than the guys who work for next to free (or just plain free).

Thereby, I offer you all an educational interview with one of the modern guys who made it in our industry, Sam Adonis.  Sam is the biggest gringo to hit Mexico in about 20 years and has set the country on fire, drawing sellouts, causing all kinds of havoc and finding his niche in the ultra-competitive world of Lucha Libre.  Listen to what Sam has to say.  It might just help you along your path in this game that we call professional wrestling.

Lucha masks

Sam Adonis

Sam Adonis

Q: Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this educational piece for the younger talents coming up in the wrestling world. Firstly, my heartfelt congratulations for all your success in Mexico. You must be the hottest gringo to hit Mexico since my old friend Corazón de León (Chris Jericho) made it big there back in 1993?

A: I’ve been so lucky with my success in Mexico. I looked at it as an opportunity. I have worked hard worldwide to get this spot. Like the rest of us, I wanted to make my mark in this business and do what I can to be remembered, so I wanted to try my luck in Mexico. Mexico is full of many foreigners at any given time, but I was lucky to catch a stride. Due to my general positivity towards classic wrestling, I embraced the role of a foreign villain and Trump sympathizer and it clearly took off. Being American during this political climate can create heat, but that mixed with my experience and work ethic has resulted in a huge impact for my career. The experience I’ve had here has made me a better wrestler, it’s given me name value worldwide, and it’s presented me with much more opportunity.

Q: You worked a lot in England, cutting your teeth for promoters like Brian Dixon of All-Star Wrestling, before you landed the Mexico deal. Where and what would you say were the places that prepped you the most for the stage where you are at in your career right now?

A: I’ve been lucky to grow up around the wrestling business. With my brother wrestling and my dad promoting, I’ve had a unique outlook at a young age. That was able to get me a WWE contract at age 21 (with FCW, the precursor to NXT). However, nothing on Earth will ever compare to my experience working for Brian Dixon. Wrestling full time some 3-10 shows a week over a 5 year span was how I was able to become “Sam Adonis.” Working with superb talents like James Mason, Dean Allmark, Oliver Grey, Rampage Brown, Robbie Dynamite and countless others gave me the edge to become a well-rounded pro. I credit all those guys for making me as good as I am. Ultimately my experience in the UK made me ready for CMLL. I cannot say enough how grateful I am for the opportunity to wrestle for Brian Dixon, 200 times a year, to help me get to where I am today.

Q: The very ”in” thing right now in our industry is the spot-oriented style, fishing for pops upon pops, arguably popularized and put over the top by the now-famous NJPW Juniors match between Will Ospreay and Ricochet last year. Do you believe this style is going to define the business from here going forward? Or if not, what do you believe will be the next big trend in wrestling?

A: 100% NO! I don’t believe that indie wrestling as a style defines anything in our industry right now. I see it as a sub-culture of wrestling. Your general public doesn’t even recognize that as a style, they don’t even know what that means. Coming from Finland, you can probably understand when I say that indie wrestling is like the black metal of professional wrestling. It might not be necessarily acceptable to the public and the masses. Either way, it’s always going to be a part of our business, something for the hardcore wretling fans. Wrestling has always been about storytelling. Good versus evil, cartoon characters, showmen, characters. Stories are defined by the characters in them. I think it would take more than just a couple of guys to change that general ideology and perception of professional wrestling. Many guys don’t know how to appeal to a mass market, so they do this “Indy style” to earn a keep in the wrestling world. Many of these guys are great at what they do acrobatically. I can’t do that style! I would always encourage guys to do what they can to make their money and make their mark in our industry. But this is our business and we need to protect it and take care of it and sometimes you need to think about the wellbeing of the business before the wellbeing of yourself. At the end of the day, wrestling comes and goes in cycles and whose to say that five years from now, heavyweight wrestling might be in the forefront again? However, Roman Reigns, Braun Stroman, and even myself are good examples of how the people gravitate towards the characters over the “wrestlers”.

Sam Adonis in CMLL

Sam heats up the Mexican crowd.

Q: To have a legitimate chance at having a career in the pro wrestling business in today’s market, what do you believe are the top things on the checklist that a wrestler needs to have ticked off in order to make a living at this?

A: It’s extremely difficult right now to make a living at pro wrestling. It’s completely different than it was 10 years ago when I began, and it’s even miles more different from when you began 25 years ago. It’s a completely different ballgame. I think at the end of the day in order to make it as a professional, the number one thing I suggest is respect. Respect the wrestling business. You need to give back to wrestling. If you take care of the industry, the industry will take care of you. Too many wrestlers will do anything to be noticed online, even if it means they disrespect wrestling along the way. I’m 6’4 and can do a 450. I could have been doing it for years and by now I would probably be the top name on the Indies. However I am heel! I respect pro wrestling more than anything. I believe that if you appeal to the public at large and not just the wrestling public — they are two different things. If you talk about European wrestling, you can talk the names of yourself or Chris ”Bambikiller” Raaber (Austria) and you guys would appeal to an actual public much before you would appeal to solely a wrestling public. It’s arguable that Will Ospreay or Marty Scurll might be more popular amongst the wrestling fans, however yourself or Bambikiller might have sold more tickets worldwide. I think you need to do your best to find a medium, respect the business, give back to it, but at the same time keep your general public happy, because they buy way more tickets than indy wrestling fans or hardcore wrestling fans. That’s the difference between a WWE event drawing 10 000 people and purely a hardcore audience wrestling event drawing 1000 people. The proof is in the numbers.

Q: What are the keys to staying healthy on the job, especially when your schedule starts to pick up if you manage to latch on to some success and get on a roll?

A: I’ve been super lucky because I’ve been able to maintain my ring style and my busy lifestyle to go with it and I’ve been able to take care of myself inside the ring. A lot of times you’ve got to pick your battles, so to speak. Again this reverts back to what I said about appealing to the public, as a good performer does not need to kill themselves for the wrestling fans. A good performer can tell a story and be dramatic without killing themselves and that’s why I’ve been able to wrestle upwards of four times a week as well as do all the travel the job requires. The Mexican rings are a lot harder than the rest of the world but I’ve been able to adapt and overcome and be able to take care of myself. I think that’s very important. There are a lot of guys like Ospreay and Ricochet but before long gravity is going to catch up with them and then guys like that who should be hitting their prime around 30 might find themselves on a downswing instead. It’s sad to say because they’re talented guys, but I feel you have to be able to take care of your body to make this a career and a lifestyle.

Q: Your in-ring persona in Mexico is very character-driven, aided greatly in part and put over by your use of the ”Trump card”, as you’ve been able to latch on to a hot political topic and turn it into a personal career asset. What advice would you give to young talents in terms of character work and finding their own ”voice” with their in-ring characters in order to become viable with the paying audience (and with promoters in general)?

A: I would say the most important aspect of any professional wrestler is developing a character of who they really are. I think that’s the biggest thing that’s lost in wrestling. Too many wrestlers focus just on their moves to realize that a John Q. Public paying customer doesn’t necessarily care about seeing someone doing shooting star presses or German suplexes. They like to see something that’s relatable, something that they understand. My Trump flag is not something that I need to be able to work, however it’s relatable to the Mexican public, and it’s turned a negative situation into a positive situation in Mexican pro wretling. I’ve been accepted because they can relate to the stereotypical racist American. It’s not necessarily my political views or what I try to push, however I know it can add some depth to the wrestling event and that’s why I made the most of it. I think every professional wrestler needs to find something that is relatable to the public and create a character that is you with the volume turned up, cliche as it is. It needs to be worth the price of admission. I can say that I don’t look like your average guy next door. If someone is going to pay to see Sam Adonis against Atlantis (CMLL luchadore), you know you are going to see high-class professional wrestling featuring two superstars, not two guys from next door copying what they’ve seen on TV.

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Sam flies onto a hapless foe.

Q: Ring awareness is a key element to navigating through any given match. How would you frame ring awareness for a young talent in order to make them understand its context and usage/application in practice?

A: I think ring awareness is the number one most misunderstood phrase in all of professional wrestling. Ring awareness is what all the greats had and what the generation past had, that our generation does not understand. The aspect of ”performance” has been misconstrued, as performing now has become a set idea of what they want to put forward in a match and not straying from that idea whatsoever. It’s more than ring awareness: it’s room awareness and audience awareness. It’s being conscious of what you’re doing at all times while doing it. A lot of young wrestlers are so caught up in the moment that someone in the audience could shoot someone with a gun and the guys wouldn’t notice. Being aware of what you do and being able to control your situation and keep all eyes on you at all times, that makes for ring awareness. I’m lucky in that’s what I’ve been good at. I’m not the most athletic, I’m not the most technically gifted, but because my ring awareness is on a level that most guys are not on right now I believe that is why I have had the success I’ve enjoyed. It’s the ability to control a room. This is why if I were to give advice to younger wrestlers, it would be more about getting your ring awareness down and making sure you’re an asset to the show and an asset to the audience in lieu of learning more moves.

Q: The storytelling aspect of pro wrestling has always been the key to making money and having a profitable business. If the story doesn’t resonate with the audience, no one will give a shit and the whole deal is dead in the water from the get-go. What are the main aspects to storytelling in a match from your perspective?

A: I could not agree with you more about the storytelling being the most important part of a match and sadly, most people do not understand that. The general philosophy is that it’s so easy to tell a story. I am a professional wrestler, I get paid to win, I get paid less if I lose, so I am trying to win. And I’m fighting somebody else that is also trying to win. A lot of times, it’s easier to keep people involved when the story is simple. Good versus evil always works. Of course, it’s easier when you have an audience that follows what you do, however, generally most people don’t care about professional wrestling. I would say that the easiest way to go about it would be to assume that no one in the audience has seen you or heard about you ever. It’s your job to tell a new story every night of the week, every match you have and explain and show those people who you are and what you are doing throughout the story of that match. It comes with your entrance and as you leave the arena. It’s your job to explain to those people watching, without words, who you are, why you’re there and why you’re doing it. That is the essense of storytelling in wrestling. I believe this is one of the most important aspects of pro wrestling, right up there with ring awareness.

Q: Jake ”The Snake” Roberts once aptly said that pro wrestling is like the masturbation of peoples’ emotions: it’s the rollercoaster ride before the climax that makes the whole shebang a satisfying experience. In order to master the art of manipulating peoples’ emotions, you must be able to control the crowd and have them eating out of the palm of your hand. Give me an effective 1-2-3 roll of punches that best draw the picture for the reader as to how to commandeer an audience from your success and experience.

A: This is something that is not easy. A lot of people think it’s easy and they think they understand, but they don’t. If wrestling was as easy as explaining how to do it right, we would have a lot more ”superstars” than we do right now. That’s the difference between the Jake Roberts’ and the Randy Savages and The Rocks and the great storytellers as compared to the other wrestlers that are worried about having a good match. My personal experience comes down to the fact that I’ve always had the ring awareness and the storytelling ability. I’ve been able to read the room and involve the audience in an entertaining manner. You want to draw them in with your personality — with who you are. This is something that can be done during your ring entrance. The music you walk out to is important, the faces you put on as you come out, those will captivate your audience. If you go out there as a normal person, it’s going to be a lot harder for you to captivate an audience. I would say that in order to invoke this emotion with people, you have to stay conscious of how to entertain and how to control an audience and control a room while not violating what professional wrestling is. Again, this is a lot harder to explain than it is for me to actually do and I would also say that this comes down to experience. Wrestling every day of the week for All-Star Wrestling in the UK honed my wrestling aptitude to become like an innate ability that I didn’t have to worry about anymore. When you wrestle so much, that becomes second nature. At the end of the day, I would say to guys to wrestle as much as they can, get as good as they can, get as comfortable as they can in the ring. A sad analogy, but it’s true for a lot of us, and I know you are the same: Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler is pretty real in certain aspects, such as your life becomes a reflection of who you are in the ring. Sometimes, I feel more at home in the ring than I do outside of it. The line between Sam Adonis and Sam Polinsky has been blurred, but that’s what it ultimately takes to make a great professional wrestler.

Q: Perhaps the singlemost important thing that a match must have is HEAT. Without it, there is no pop for the comeback and there is no satisfaction with the end result of any given match. You have become a master at drawing heat in order to have an audience engaged in your match. Describe to the people how to best generate heat…

A: Heat is something that can be a lot more complicated than people think it is. Most wrestlers think you can scream and shout at a fan and that’s heat. Generally, heat is just creating overwhelming circumstances for the babyface to overcome. Also, this is your chance to explain to the audience how in-depth your heel character is. For example, you can show what kind of backhanded tricks it takes to win your match. This is when you can go behind the ref’s back, when you can desperately pull yourself out of the way, or just basically explain to the audience that you are just not as good as the babyface. In my opinion, it’s always 100% important to respect the referee, because when you take away the referee’s authority, you take away your potential of getting heat and making the audience angry by breaking the rules. You can also add more depth to your heel character by staying on your opponent at all times.

Q: What advice would you give first and foremost to young talents looking to make it in our business today? It seems that all too many are willing to pay to play, fronting their own visa costs, airline costs and whatnot just to get a spot on the card. Methinks this is doomed to kill the business if it persists and promoters continue to ”go cheap.”

A: Sadly but truly, you are 100% correct about people paying to play. I absolutely hate it but I feel like it’s already taken that turn where it’s very difficult to go backwards. I think that now, so many wrestlers will not get opportunities without paying to play and it definitely takes opportunities away from guys like ourselves who have earned their chance to work in these various places. I would say for a young wrestler to wrestle as much as you can. For the up-and-comers, it’s too far gone to wait for your opportunities in these international markets. I would say for the first two to three years to look at it as an investment and work as much as you can and don’t worry about the money that you’re making. Because if you are serious in the end, you will end up making your money back. You will become a star due to the experience that you will gain in every match. But as far as staying professional and waiting, I feel that in modern times wrestling’s climate has changed so much that the guys would not be able to stay busy if they were to live by the old rules. Luckily, guys like you and me have been able to continue to make our money and get these international shows, but young wrestlers do not have that luxury.

A: Your brother, Cory Graves, works as a commentator for WWE. As the industry leader to this day, it’s still rather telling that the indy scene has had such a dramatic role on the evolution of the WWE style. They are arguably more indy today than I would have ever imagined, and this can only be a testament to the power of the Internet. Where do you foresee WWE heading in the next five years, both stylistically long-term, as well as in the way and slant that the product/game is presented?

A: We touched on this earlier when talking about the indy style. It might be the flavor of the week and people might be interested in it, however the heart of professional wrestling has always been good versus evil, good guy versus bad guy. I personally don’t believe this will go anywhere. Wrestling always evolves and there’s going to be fresh talent. Right now, the indy bubble and the indy style has peaked. It’s what people have liked, and now it’s at its hottest point, however as you’ve noticed, as have I, that a lot of people miss the classic style of pro wrestling. They enjoy ’80s style, they enjoy good guy versus bad guy, and now that the next generation coming along has taken it back to it’s roots, I feel that it will always come back to the basics. Wrestling will always be around, it’s not going anywhere. I feel that WWE will always use the whatever options they have as to the best talent available. I think it’s up to us as to what will become famous in the future. For instance, if wrestling gets hot in the next five years and Roman Reigns is still the top guy, all of a sudden that Roman Reigns style will take precedence on the indies and that will be our basis once again.

Q: What do you think it would take for any given organization to have a legitimate chance at competing with Vince anymore on a global scale? Is there even a snowball’s chance in hell of that happening?

A: I for one don’t think that it’s possible for anyone to ever compete with WWE… well, I can’t say never, ‘cos it’s always possible… however, if anyone has that in their mind, they will never succeed. The only way you could have a worldwide or nationally recognized wrestling company would be if that company were to be self-sufficient, not try to compete with WWE, deliver a product to the fans and basically catch fire. For instance, if a local independent had the right crew and was able to get the local TV, which was able to branch into national TV and grow from the ground up and sustain their growth, they could potentially sell to Disney or Paramount or some national touring company that could take it to the next level. That is the only way I feel it could be done. When wrestling promoters think that they’re going to end up becoming number two (to WWE), they generally end up making mistakes and when you try to work on budget that is that large, your profit deficit is generally something that’s too large to overcome. That looks like the trouble that TNA (Impact Wrestling) is in. It can basically never make back the money it’s already lost.

Q: If any kid out there has dreams of working in Mexico and making a name out there, what would be your best advice to them?

A: For anyone who wants to wrestle in Mexico my advice would be not to wrestle like a Mexican! A lot of wrestlers go down to Mexico to learn the Lucha style and they end up doing too many highspots or getting a mask. My drawing ability and star power comes from wrestling is all because I wrestle an American style in Mexico. It’s definitely helped my cause that I’ve not deviated from what I’m good at. Plus, be open-minded in learning to work with their talent.

Sam Adonis vs. Ultimo Dragon

Sam unmasks the legendary Ultimo Dragon.

Q: Everyone on the indies is scrounging for bookings and looking to get spots and opportunities. What would your best advice be to anyone in the hunt for bookings, to get matches under their belt, wrestle in different countries, etc?

A: This one is very easy. Just think outside of the box and make yourself marketable and be different. Everyone is such a wrestling fan that they think of what they want to do versus thinking of what the wrestling fans would like to see them do. Too many people wrestle for themselves or for the internet. Everybody wants to be like Fergal Devitt (WWE’s Finn Balor) or Will Ospreay but they forget that the wrestling fans already have these guys and they (Balor and Ospreay) are probably better than them. I’m a big fan of classic wrestling and classic wrestling has become ”new” again because it hasn’t been seen in so long, but I’m so different than everybody else out there that I can get work on these bigger independent house shows like House of Hardcore and New York Wrestling Connection just because I’m so much more different than everybody else trying to get on these events. That would be the number one thing I’d tell anybody looking to get more work.

Q: Thanks for your time and all the best from here on out in your wrestling endeavors. In closing, if there was one piece of advice that you would give to any given young wrestler, and one crucial piece of advice only, like a winning lottery ticket or the Midas touch, what would it be?

A: My single biggest piece of advice would be just to respect pro wrestling. Make sure you give everything you can to pro wrestling and look after it more than you look after yourself, because if you take care of wrestling it will take care of you. I do a 450 splash and for a 6’4” wrestler, that’s pretty big. I could have done that in every match over the past five years and I could be some indy darling, however I respect pro wrestling more than myself and I always want to do what’s right and although the journey might seem a little longer, I feel that it’ll pay off in the end. So please everybody, take care of the business, follow me on Instagram at SamElias89 and follow me on Twitter at @RealSamAdonis. Thanks so much, StarBuck, hope to see you soon and hope we can tear the house down together somewhere once again!

Alas, last night in downtown Helsinki, I watched a young man that’s become a thorn in my side defy the odds.  Last night at FCF Wrestling‘s Late Night Wrestling Show Live, Mikko Maestro put up the fight of his life and came out on top of the challenger’s list for the FCF championship title.

I’ve tested this kid before, put him in the pressure cooker to see if he’d break, but he just keeps showing that he wants it and he comes back for more.  At Talvisota XI over a year ago, Mikko got ambitious and wanted a match against me — his great idol from back in the day when he decided to become a pro wrestler — and although he put up a spirited fight, things didn’t pan out so well for him when all was said and done:

Well, here we are, over a year later, after Maestro’s rise through the ranks over 2016, following a few years of inconsistent floundering.  I’ve always vouched for those who have and show heart in our business, as I believe it is the single most deciding factor in the potential long-term success of any given talent.  And that said, Mikko Maestro has shown himself to have heart.  A lot of heart.

Yet, despite all of his heart, I don’t see this kid being ready to take on the oldest dog in the yard and man that mentored and taught him, namely Yours Truly.  However, regardless of that fact, Maestro gets his long-awaited title shot opportunity at my FCF Wrestling Championship finally this spring, on May 26 at Helsinki’s Gloria Cultural Arena.

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Last night, I brought in my old buddy from Norway, the big and burly Bjørn Sem, to put Maestro though the meat grinder.  I still don’t know how Maestro managed to survive the beating that Sem gave him, catching the big man in a sudden Uranage (Rock Bottom) for the upset pin, after which I decided to go out and superkick Maestro’s head off.  It was a message, plain and simple, that you don’t cross the boss.

StarBuck and Mikko Maestro pic 1

At the end of the night, there was a top contender’s Fatal Fourway match that Maestro qualified for, upon surviving Sem, featuring Stark Adder, Salomon Strid and Vili Raato.  As if by collusion, Maestro even managed to pick up the win in that encounter, hitting another Uranage on Strid to steal the victory.

So now Mikko Maestro is the number one contender officially, waiting for his shot at my FCF Wrestling Championship title.  Well, on May 26, he gets his chance.  Just remember this Mikko: be careful what you wish for ‘cos you might just get it.  And what that “it” is remains to be seen on May 26.

(Maestro vs. Sem match photos by Marko Simonen)

This past weekend on Saturday night, February 24 in Leppävirta, Finland, a huge rock & wrestling event called Rock Fight took place.  This concept goes back a decade to 2008, when the first Rock Fight took place at the Nosturi club in Helsinki with United Underworld and Stoner Kings, whereas the second Rock Fight took place the following year in 2009, also held at Nosturi, with Silver Moth and Sparzanza offering up the metallic musical fare.

Alas, come 2018, it was time to bring back Rock Fight, this time in a new venue and in a new town.  Legendary Finnish punk rockers Klamydia and controversial rap artist Petri Nygård were the artists this time around.  In addition, we had six international-quality matches on the show, featuring FCF Wrestling talent in addition to European wrestling stars, as promoted by Nordic Wrestling Events in co-operation with Vesileppis Areena in Leppävirta.

In the main event of this huge Rock Fight event, I put up my esteemed Valhalla Nordic Wrestling Championship title against the gigantic 191cm/190kg Demolition Davies of Germany, with 7-time Finnish heavyweight bodybuilding champion Boogie Mustonen as special guest referee.  This is notable for the fact that in Boogie’s last pro wrestling match ever back in July 1997 in Joensuu, Finland, I was the referee for his match against the late Tony “Ludvig Borga” Halme (as seen in the video below).

Demolition Davies was a huge threat and an enormous hurdle for me.  Although I trained hell-a-hard for this main event, pushing some damn heavy weights to prepare in the gym, it was very challenging to try to move Davies around.  With that amount of girth and pure mass, I had to find a different approach.

Davies managed to bloody me mid-match after he ran my head into the steel ringpost and then proceeded to headbutt me over and over again with his haggard mask, splitting my epidermis wide open.  I’ll be the first to acknowledge that thankfully guest referee Boogie Mustonen was a bit slow getting into position and also in making his counts, because it managed to buy me some time and make my kickouts.

Davies’ corner avalanche absolutely crushed me and his big splash knocked the wind out of my sails.  Running into the man felt like hitting a tree.  Davies put up one hell of an intimidating fight, but finally, in the end, I got a second wind and was able to make a sustained rally before Davies cut me off at the pass with a huge Black Hole Slam, followed by a devastating cannonball in the ring corner.

The one big mistake that Davies did, however, was jawing and bitching at referee Mustonen for his slow counts, which obviously threw my challenger off kilter.  Once Davies started shoving Boogie, it was only a matter of time that the 7-time bodybuilding champ would explode.  And explode he did with a huge forearm smash that knocked Davies over my fallen torso, enabling me to make a leverage pin on the German giant as Boogie made the count.  Three seconds later, I was still the Valhalla Nordic Wrestling Champion.

Rock Fight was a hell of a great time, as in excess of 400 fans came out to see the event.  Thanks to everyone that bought a ticket to see the event!  Here’s to hoping we’ll see Rock Fight for the fourth time in the future!

ALL PHOTOS BY MARKO SIMONEN (www.markosimonen.com)

I’ve been very blessed over my wrestling career.  I’ve been able to step into the ring with some of the most talented, superb and acclaimed wrestlers on the planet.  It’s been a boon, as the fact is that the only way anyone ever gets better at anything is to compete/play/face others that are better than you.  If you manage to not only hang in there but up the proverbial ante while you are at it, you cannot help but get better at what you do, be it music, chess, engineering, cooking, MMA or pro wrestling.

You take pieces of every single match that you have and absorb the best parts of each outing to make yourself a more complete athlete and wrestler.  With this in mind, I’ve been able to learn boatloads by being in the ring with world-class names over my 24-year career such as Dave “Fit” Finlay, Keiji “Great Muta” Muto, Naomichi Marufuji, Super Crazy, “The Japanese Buzzsaw” Yoshihiro Tajiri, “Native American” Tatanka, Akira Nogami, Genechiro Tenryu, Al Snow, D-Lo Brown, Ultimo Dragon, Lance Storm, Chris “Bambikiller” Raaber, Michael Kovac, Masato Tanaka, Bernard Vandamme, Doug Williams, James Mason, even WWE’s longest reigning champion in over 20 years, Asuka, and a literal litany of others.

They say in our trade that you are only as good as your last match.  Well, if that is the case then age is indeed only a number, as I’ve consistently been able to produce some of the best match-ups of my career here in my mid-40’s.  That said, I’ve got one of the sternest challenges of my entire career ahead of me next weekend on February 24 in Leppävirta, Finland at an event called Rock Fight.

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I believe the biggest man that I’ve been in the ring with was the monsterous Alofa the Wild Samoan, son of the legendary Afa the Wild Samoan, who tipped the scales somewhere between 150-170kg back in 2005 when I faced him in Monza, Italy.  In that match, Alofa came crashing down on my head with all of his weight as I failed to move out of the way in time, crushing my head between his considerable weight and the canvas.  What immediately followed was my fifth career concussion at that time, which I valiantly fought through on auto-pilot, finishing the match, which ended finally in a DQ or count-out as we fought outside the ring.

Now, on February 24, I face a man even bigger than Alofa.  My opponent at Rock Fight, Demolition Davies, is 191cm tall and 190kg of pure malicious intent and meanness personified.  Davies isn’t just a big man, either.  He’s been a champion the world over and right now he’s one of the best big man wrestlers in all of Europe.

Demolition Davies

I’ve been training incredibly hard in preparation for Davies next weekend, pushing some big weights in the gym, performing multiple compound movements to get myself ready for this latest challenger to my Valhalla Nordic Wrestling Championship title.  I’m going to use every single bit of wrestling knowhow that I’ve amassed over a quarter-decade in this game, all of the bits and pieces of the lessons learned against the masters along the way, to navigate and survive against Demolition Davies in order to walk out of Vesileppis Arena in Leppävirta, Finland on the evening of February 24 with the Nordic title intact.

If you’d like to witness one of the sternest challenges of my professional life, I’d recommend that you come out in person get your tickets NOW!

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Having been in the pro wrestling industry all across the globe for a good quarter-century, I thought to write a handbook or guide of sorts for young wrestlers and newer talents in – or just coming into – the wrestling business, based on what I’ve seen and experienced over my career.

I do this partially out of necessity, as I’ve seen the younger stock damn near kill the ”business” side of the industry for the other workers out there, and in part as a public service to give back to the industry where it stands today.

When I say this guide was born out of necessity, I say so mainly out of the fact that the ”professional” side of our industry is suffering tremendously, even though there are more shows taking place now than at any time in recent memory. Yet, the pay scale is one of the facets being demolished and many a newer talent is to blame for this, be they promoters or workers. I’ve also seen the near-death of actual etiquette in terms of how to carry one’s self in the business, which should be addressed for the welfare of the industry at large. With this in mind, now is the time to listen up, so let us commence with this free, but invaluable, 101 in How To Handle Yourself In Pro Wrestling!

Lesson #1: Act Like a Pro

How to Look in Pro Wrestling

Now kids, boys and girls alike, working for free just to get bookings and paying to play is not the way to go if you want a future in any trade. Earning your stripes and paying your dues while working for nil to free is one or two year period, at most. Back in the day when this business was still a real trade that supported a workers’ family, if any said talent undersold themselves intentionally just to get booked, or if they sabotaged a comrade in the territory by underselling themselves just to get booked, they risked getting the living shit beat out of them by the locker room.

It’s called PRO Wresting for a reason. The Pro word is there to let you understand that you should have the intent of making as much coin at it as you can over the course of your career. You must learn to make yourself valuable. Your work must be worth something. If not, why should anyone pay to see you?

Get real wresting gear, invest in yourself.  Get a good looking pair of tights, singlet or trunks made.  Buy a quality pair of real wrestling boots.  Look the part.  Do not wrestle in sneakers and shorts, to say nothing of a t-shirt.  If you look like a punter, you deserve to be treated like a punter.  If you don’t have enough sun around your climes to get a natural tan, then either hit the solarium or get a spraytan for any and all wrestling shows that you might be booked on.  I cannot stress this enough: look the part.  Look professional.

Now, I understand the way the world is going. I understand that all across the board, in live music, in the postal service, in the construction sector, etc. the jobs are increasingly going to those who will work harder and longer for less pay. This, however, is pure sabotage and is destined to end badly for everyone. You can always negotiate down, but it’s freaking hard to negotiate up. There’s always someone who will do the job for less, as you all know. Make yourself and your personal piece of business so valuable that promoters and fans are going to be willing to pay for your talents, but also, know what the pay scale is. Know your place on the pay scale, based on your experience, number of matches worked, past accolades, current profile and overall value on any said, given card. It’s not grand on the indies these days, by any stretch. Like former WCW wrestler PN News, aka Cannonball Grizzly, so aptly stated back in 2013 in a locker room in Germany: ”I might be a whore, because I sell my body for money. At least I’m not a slut who gives it away for free.”

There have been several gaijins (foreigners) over the last few years who can be held accountable for killing the once extremely profitable wrestling promised land of Japan. These newer faces went in, paying their own three-month visa, paying their own flights, sleeping on dojo floors and making next to nothing in pay just to play superstar and say they’ve wrestled in Japan. Talk about being a mark! It makes me sick to my gut. By the same token, the promoters who took them up on their offers are just as guilty. They collectively killed Japan for the rest of us, for the veterans included, who deserve to make a reasonable living at this game after sacrificing their bodies for so many years. Japan used to be a place, along with Mexico, where a good hand could make a decent chunk of change and maybe even put some of it away in savings. Sayonara now to that notion.

Moral of the story: you must act like a pro to be considered a pro. Period.

Lesson #2: Make Yourself Valuable

AJ Styles

AJ Styles is a classic case of a guy whose work ethic and skills made him valuable, so that he was able to reach the pinnacle of his profession.

Get your look in order. Invest in a gym membership and an experienced, knowledgeable personal trainer if you don’t have the know-how to build your body up to be muscular and strong. You will need that strength in the ring, I assure you, and the look is your aesthetic sales pitch. It’s the mirage of the product before delivery to your audience, after which it’s up to you to you produce — looking like the Big Mac on the menu board, or like the sorry, flattened burger that very well might get handed to you. People do not want to see jabronies that look just like them. If the guy changing your oil at Jiffy Lube could just as easily be a member of Motley Crue, then you have a perception problem because the star aura is sorely missing. Pro wrestling is meant to be bigger than life. Always has, always will be. That said, this is the exact same epidemic that has flattened out and deflated the aura, mysticism and grandeur of rock music at large, in addition to spoiling beauty pageants where the girls actually have to be a cut above the status quo to qualify, to allowing professional politicians into public office who fail to represent the interests of the public at large in any way and just capitalize on personal gain at your expense.

My old coach, Lance Storm, once so appropriately stated that a wrestler need three things to even have a fighting chance at making it in the pro wrestling business: 1) the look, meaning body and image, 2) the actual ring skills and 3) charisma to make people either love or hate you, but no middle ”they’re okay, I guess” ground.

If you lack in any of the three attributes aforementioned, get busy filling in the blanks, because while you’re daydreaming, someone else is hustling and doing what has to be done. And as they say, the early bird gets the worm (read: bookings).

Lesson #3: Don’t be a Mark

bullshit

Pro wrestling is a bullshitters’ business. Don’t be fooled, everyone is ”working” the next guy, because no one wants to risk losing their spot or moving a peg down. Everyone is looking out for number one. Many would sell their mother down a river to get a foothold over you. Al Snow once aptly said, as we were touring Egypt back in 2009: ”There are no brothers in this business, only business associates”.

Don’t be too gullible for your own good. Take everything with a grain of salt. Believe it only when you have your plane tickets in hand or when you are actually at the said show. Everything up to that point is just talk, and talk is cheap. Truth be told, only after you’ve actually been paid your agreed on wage can you really believe it.

Also, don’t be a mark for yourself. Just because you know how to play the game doesn’t make you King Midas. Don’t think that you are God’s gift to wrestling just because you might look like a million dollars or you can do a reverse 450 Firebird Splash. Don’t think you are indispensable. Don’t think that just because you’ve bought 10 pairs of tights and four pairs of boots that you are somehow better for it than the guy that just has one pair of each.  Never take anything for granted. Stay humble. Be a good sport. Don’t be an egomaniac. Have a strong ego that drives you, but don’t let your ego control you.

Lesson #4: Pro Wrestling is still Territorial

El Ligero

El Ligero of England

You’ve probably heard a million times that the territories died back at the end of the ’80s. Still, the way the wrestling business and promoters operate today is highly territorial. For example, if you live in a place like Finland, at the ass end of the world like myself, and a promoter can get four guys crammed into a car out of Germany to go wrestle in Italy, who do you think they will choose? Hmm. A guy like me, here in the worst possible demographic area on the map, will have to have his shit together and all his sales arguments in line, be relevant and credible and bringing something of salable use to the table, if he hopes to score gigs in the face of this aforementioned, stark reality.

When I say wrestling is still territorial, I’ll break it down for you: a promoter is looking to make as much money as possible and in doing so they look to cut their costs. The promoter will try to take the cheapest route possible, acquire talent from nearby, just like the four-to-a-car model I mentioned, and they will sometimes even try to skimp on offering accommodations if they are able to do so, having you drive back home in the middle of the night. Yes, there are places where the talent gets treated like circus animals, even to this day. Therefore, if a promoter can keep their costs down by taking in talent from right next door, then for you to be considered from several countries away… well, you had better have something that the promoter and their show really needs. You visage on a poster better sell an adequate amount of tickets to cover your costs or you had better have the kinds of skills that make other people (read: local wrestlers of said promotion you wish to work for) look good. Or then you had better be politically important. Or then, you had better have a name in the wrestling business. Unless you are a younger talent with a name like Will Ospreay (read: a well-known internet darling) you can forget the last line I just wrote.

Lesson #5: Pro Wrestling is Ruled by Cliques

The Cliq

If you don’t know the impact of this group, then get busy on Google.

If you don’t belong to a clique, part of somebody’s group of inside faves, your chances of getting booked are slim and rare. I didn’t say slim to none, I said slim to rare. It’s the truth, even if it is a sorry state of affairs. There are shitloads of great guitarists out there who are just as good as Steve Vai or Alexi Laiho who never get anywhere or reach greater acclaim. They simply don’t belong to the right social circle and they aren’t the darlings of a certain clique, so they are shut out of the larger window of opportunity. It’s often not what you know, as valuable as that is, it’s who you know. Age-old wisdom that is, as Yoda would say.

I don’t say this as an exhortation of any sort, that you should start kissing ass and buttering up the nearest influencer, as most of these people can smell you coming a mile away. I would advise you to simply be diligent, hustle, be humble, listen, constantly improve your game and ask for the advice of those ahead of you in the game, carry the veteran’s bags and even get them coffee, and keep putting in the best effort you possibly can each and every time you go out there and step into a ring. It’s called the law of sowing and reaping. It’s the path that I took and I can tell you that it sure as shit ain’t the fast track. It took me a lot longer to get my due and get noticed, because I never kissed asses and never played locker room politics. I invested in making myself the best wrestler I could be. I got the whole package together and honed it down to a proverbial ”T”. I built up my resumé and got my personal piece of business down so solid that it became valuable. Remember: value comes to value, always. My work and ultimately my reputation stood as my calling card. Then, certain circles began letting me in, simply based on the quality of my work and my working ethic, plus the fact that I wasn’t a trouble-maker and I was dependable. I know, the path less taken doesn’t sound very sexy and it doesn’t offer instant gratification.

Still, you can try the asskissing route if you want to try short-cutting your way to the top. No guarantees that it’ll work, however. And I won’t even get into the bookers and promoters who might try implying that you trade sexual favors for bookings. Be forwarned, they are out there. Have the dignity to say NO, even if it comes at the cost of getting booked.

Lesson #6: Every Match is a CV Match

Never ”take the night off”. Never ”just wing it”. Invest yourself in making each and every match as good as you possibly can. Think of what elements you and your opponent bring to the table and tell the best story that you can with those elements in mind.

Remember: you never know who will see your bout. I say this again, because it is pivotally important: think of what elements you will need to apply to best tell the intended story of your altercation. Don’t think that you need to showcase every single move you know, nor ”get all your shit in”. No, you need to tell the story of the match. And not every match needs to be a five-star affair. Maybe that’s not the purpose of your match in the big picture of the overall show. Maybe your position on the card requires something else from you.

Still, you need to come out of it looking like a star, but so does your opponent. Remember, you are only as good as the person that you are in the ring with. If they look like shit, you look like shit. And if you need that last one explained, you need to go back to wrestling school under a better coach.

Lesson #7: Be Adaptable and Always Keep Learning

Adam Flex Maxted

Adam “Flex” Maxted

I’m reminded by a young man I met while on a wrestling tour of Pakistan last year. His name is Adam Maxted from the UK. Adam is very young in the business, but he already has a million dollar body. He’s invested his time in the gym. He’s hungry to learn, constantly taking part in seminars of old warhorses like Marty Jones, always looking to up his game. And voilá… in less than one year since I met him, the kid is already IPW All England champion in the UK and has an upcoming match booked against Rey Mysterio for one of the largest companies there this coming March. Believe me when I tell you: you do not get chosen to be booked against a guy the likes of Rey unless you have all of the various pieces of the puzzle together. Adam deserves all the credit in the world for being a model example of hustling his ass off, being humble, keeping his ears open and being able to learn from constructive criticism. He is on the fast track to becoming a big name in our industry, and he will have earned it by the sweat of his brow, once that inevitable day comes. And once that day does arrive, Adam will have people like Marty Jones to thank, because he has been taught the essentials of what it reads on the marquee: WRESTLING.

The same applies to you. No matter who you are booked against, know your groundwork. Know how to actually wrestle. If your match falls apart, the highspots aren’t going to save you. Garbage wrestling isn’t going to save you, either. The name of the game is still wrestling at the end of the day. Can you pull it off?

Does that headline ring a bell? Maybe a reminiscent throwback to the first half of the 2000s and a certain black athlete named Booker T in WWE?

What Booker Huffman – wrestling name Booker T – was referring to in his promos, where he would spout off on the stick about this very slogan, was his five reigns as pro wrestling world champion.

Well, after last night at Finland’s biggest annual pro wrestling mega-gala, Talvisota XII, I can claim the same thing. Five time! Five time! Five time! Yes, last night, I became FCF wrestling champion for the fifth time in my long and storied wrestling career, defeating a very game titleholder in a man I despise, yet respect after this war, Juhana “King Kong” Karhula.

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In a Finnish grappling epic for the ages, lasting 25:35, this monumental main event last night was laced in tension, drama and malicious intent. Karhula had stated prior to our showdown that he couldn’t foresee the both of us continuing with FCF Wrestling after this title-vs-title war, where I put my Valhalla Nordic wrestling championship up against his FCF wrestling championship.

Well, once the dust had settled and my hand was raised triumphantly in victory, yet again showcasing that no one can survive my jumping spike piledriver, Karhula had to back up his words. He bowed out, left his boots in the ring and called it a day.

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Well, good riddance, say I. We’ve had our differences over the past years, escalating in the grand finale that we fought last night before a sold-out house, packed with rabid, impassioned wrestling aficionados. That said, our differences are the type that can’t be resolved, and in this light, I bid Karhula adieu, sans any bells or whistles. Sayonara!

I’ll give the man credit, though, as I believe you must always give credit where credit is due: Karhula fought like his life depended on it. And his professional life, at the very least, most certainly did depend on the outcome of this match.

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I’ve been in countless wars over my near-24 year pro career, and this was one of those matches that’ll stand out in my memories when I tell my grandchildren one day about the monolithic Nordic battles of lore that their grandfather once fought as the greatest, most celebrated professional wrestler in history out of northern Europe. A man who would even make his Viking ancestors proud.

So shout it out with me: Five time! Five time! Five time!

I hate to be the one who told you so, and not that I want to toot my own horn, but TOOT, TOOT!

Bow to the new KING, because the ascension has now taken place!

SB FCF champ 2017 01

ALL PHOTOS BY MARKO SIMONEN (www.markosimonen.com)