Posts Tagged ‘Wrestlemania’

 

The news was just released officially this week that I would be facing my former protégé Mikko Maestro at the annual flagship supershow in Finnish professional wrestling, Talvisota XI – which translates to Winter War 11 – this coming February 18 at the Nosturi club in Helsinki, as promoted by FCF Wrestling.

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I was there at the inaugural Winter War on December 2, 2006 – an event that I coined and created back in the day to be the Finnish wrestling equivalent of Wrestlemania – and here I am over a decade later, turning another page.

This match-up against Maestro is significant on a few levels.  Firstly, it’s arguably the biggest match to date in the six-year career of young Maestro.  Secondly, I took the kid under my wing back in early 2013 to groom him for the years ahead, seeing that his charisma was catching on with the Finnish wrestling audience.  This made him my protégé, a pet project that I invested considerable time and coaching into, and Maestro finally was able to up the ante and make a breakthrough in 2016 against top competition like Ivan Markov of Russia, Mark Kodiak of Holland, Swedish champion Harley Rage and Heimo the Wildman here in Finland.  Thirdly, Maestro has shown himself to be ambitious in the fact that he has gone on to countries like Denmark, Germany and the USA to gain more experience.  This last bit is something I’d like to elaborate on.

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Maestro was able to defeat Heimo the Wildman in a Last Man Standing match at Talvisota X in March 2016, which gave him major momentum.

Every talent out there with any inkling of ambition will take the chance to spread their wings and test their mettle in the shark-infested waters of global pro wrestling.  Many young wrestlers will end up having to pay their own way just to get exposure, build a resume and get noticed, as they build up their personal value in order for a booker or promoter out there to invest in them.  If they are lucky, and to any degree own a moderate modicum of talent, they will be able to make headway in a very convoluted age in their aspirations to become stars in the world of pro wrestling.

Maestro has shown ambition.  He has gone out there and found a way to get noticed and get booked where other contemporaries, even those with greater in-ring talent, have fallen short.  Maestro has shown heart, even over-ambition at times, if you ask me.  Nonetheless, he’s been able to consistently climb the ladder rung by rung.  That brings us to Talvisota XI / Winter War 11 on February 18.

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Mikko Maestro wrestling a marquee bout in California during 2015.

As with any young talent, everyone has role models that they aspire to pattern themselves after and learn from.  At the start of my pro wrestling career in 1994, my biggest influence was Ric Flair.  I believe that for many of my generation, growing up a teen in the 1980s, Ric Flair was the consummate pro to look up to, if you had any understanding of the complete package that made a pro wrestler.  For the Millenials to a large degree, that role model became Shawn Michaels and a bit later on The Rock and Stone Cold.  In Finland, for many, including one Mikko Maestro, that role model was StarBuck, the founding father of Finnish pro wrestling.

I recall a young Mikko Maestro back around 2009, when I was cycling near Munkkiniemi Beach in Helsinki.  It was there that I ran into the kid for the first time.  As I was riding by, getting in my cardio, Maestro recognized me as he walked down the street and yelled out “StarBuck!”.  I simply smiled, recognizing his fanship, and kept on cycling. One year later, he showed up for wrestling schooling.

As a mentor, I took Mikko Maestro as high as I could.  The rest, of course, was all up to him.  At the Winter War event in 2013, I took Maestro as my tag partner for a heated, key match-up against Stark Adder and his protégé, Ricky Vendetta.  The vet and the pup against the vet and the pup, as it was, back then.  It was the starting point for my on-hands mentorship of one Mikko Maestro.

Time passed, Maestro gained experience and confidence, and alas, in September of last year, he made a bold challenge.  Mikko Maestro wanted to publicly challenge the man that taught him, the role model that he aspired to pattern his career after, and see if he was up to the task.  I figured this day would eventually come, but I don’t think Mikko Maestro is anywhere near ready to take on the old war dog yet.  He still has some miles to go before he can realistically hang at my level, and believe me when I tell you: he’s going to need all the help he can get, ‘cos the fans and their cheers won’t make a bit of difference when he finds himself overwhelmed by 23 years of ring experience on the other end of the spectrum.

Well, when he last needed my help, I was there.  But… he didn’t listen.  At the crucial, key point in Maestro’s match against Ivan Markov of Russia in December of last year, the kid chose to disrespect the deal that we had set forth going into the match.  In short, he went into business for himself, disregarding his coach, and pulled out his ridiculous, asinine “stinkface” maneuver, which he found funny enough to rip off of WWE Hall of Famer, Rikishi.  In a serious match-setting, where a killer like the Russian Markov was present, I expressly told Maestro to leave the gimmicks, bells and whistles at home.  But no.  He had to take the forbidden fruit.  He had to dally out onto thin ice.  He had to do things his own way.  And it was at that point, that I disowned Mikko Maestro as a protégé.

There comes a time in life when every person is going to have to stand on their own, no supports and no crutches to be had.  This is that time for Mikko Maestro.  At Talvisota XI, my former protégé is going to find out that legends don’t die, they just get better with age.

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Tickets 28€/22,50€ (all ages) to Talvisota XI on Feb. 18 at Nosturi in Helsinki available online now: http://www.ticketmaster.fi/event/197193

I never thought I’d come to this day. A day when I write about politics, which is something I have no belief nor trust in. But alas, Donald Trump winning the 45th Presidency of the United States of America warrants a blog of its own, even from a non-believer like me.

First and foremost, I write this because of Donald Trump’s ties to the world of professional wrestling; an industry that I have been an integral part of since 1992. Going all the way back to 1988 and 1989, Donald Trump’s very own Trump Plaza in Atlantic City (NJ) hosted WWE’s Wrestlemania IV and V events.

This was Trump’s first foray into the grappling world, which would parlay into a full-blown role for him at Wrestlemania 23 in 2007 with ”The Battle of the Billionaires”, as Trump went head-to-head with WWE boss Vince McMahon, fronted by their chosen advocates Bobby Lashley and the late Umaga, respectively. Trump has actually appeared on WWE television several times over the past few years, even owning Monday Night RAW (in storyline) for a brief moment.  In addition, Trump was voted in to the WWE Hall of Fame celebrity wing in 2013.

So with this in mind, I would like to break down a little bit about the psychology of the latest Presidential race and how over-the-top it was in all aspects, across the board, between Hilary and Trump.

First and foremost, if anyone was paying attention, everything Donald Trump said and did during his Presidential campaign was straight out of a WWE playbook. The WWE creative staff could have booked and penned this entire run, and it would have played out exactly like it did. From Trump not even having a background in politics (raise your hat to the man for that) to becoming the decisive underdog early on, having the Republican Party that he represented all but leave him for dead, Donald Trump fought the system and won. This was a Wrestlemania-worthy payoff.

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Everything about Donald Trump screams professional wrestling. From his swagger to his verbatim, Trump has learned his lessons from the showbiz world and has mastered his approach. He didn’t flinch a single time during his campaign run, regardless of the mass amount of hostile and derogatory flames thrown his way. He laughed it all off, held his head high and spearheaded straight for the goal. He was the ultimate anti-hero, akin to ”Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s infamous WWE run on top. He was cocky, confrontational, devil-may-care in his approach. He went Spinal Tap with what he did and he still won. Somebody hand this man a show of respect only for the aforementioned here!

Trump’s campaign and his Presidential election reminds me of Ridley Scott’s 2000 classic The Gladiator movie and the interaction between the aging Ceasar and his general, Maximus (Russel Crowe). Take a look at the clip below and you will see my point.

I find it truly remarkable, that a man with no background in politics took the Presidency of the United States. Perhaps there is still hope. The hope that Trump has not (yet) been poisoned by the politics of corporate America and Washington makes one wonder if there is somehow a way to still turn this ship around. And I am talking about the ship of the common man, the blue collar worker, the middle class citizen of the world.

In the last Bush-era, they finagled a way to redistribute wealth by taking away the homes of the middle class and put them in the hands of the banking system. Over the course of the Obama administration, the big businesses have benefited tremendously while the middle class has kept on disappearing into oblivion. The rich have consistently gotten richer while the poor have gotten consistently poorer. There has been no Robin Hood to tip the scales of justice and ”stick it to the man.”

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Is Donald Trump the new coming of Robin Hood?

One can only hope.

Even if you – like I – don’t believe in politics, we can still suspend our disbelief… like watching a good WWE main event match, hoping that maybe… maybe there is a chance that the shit is going to get real. In a good way.

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One week from today, it’ll be time to lace up the proverbial boots and step into the pro wrestling ring for the first match of 2016.  Just this past week, on January 7, I passed my 22-year mark since my first live wresting match as an active competitor.  Now, here in 2016, this old dog is still alive and kicking.

Hell, I’m sure there are some that would just wish an old warhorse like me would die out and fade away, but that just ain’t happening.  Not yet.  I will be the one to dictate when and where, barring serious injury or an Act of God.

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There are days that I wonder how long I will want to keep up actively wrestling.  There is a limit to all things, a bump card that keeps filling up, and every year, I just have to find a way to wrestle smarter and navigate better.  It’s a challenge, but one that I embrace.  After all, at heart, I am a fighter.

At 42-years of age, I look at many contemporaries in our business and size myself up against them.  Old friends like Chris Jericho are a mere couple years older than me, and still in good stride, able to compete at the highest level.  My old wrestling coach Lance Storm of Storm Wrestling Academy in Calgary, Canada, gets in the ring daily with his wrestling students and has actual matches against them to help them improve, and Lance is three years my senior.  Heck, when I lost the SMASH championship title to Dave “Fit” Finlay in 2011 in Tokyo, the legendary Irishman was just over 50 at that point, and he ran me ragged!

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Dave Finlay was an absolute beast inside of that ring past the age of 50!

Alas, here in 2016, I sit at my desktop computer, writing this blog, and I ponder my own situation.  I’ve been at this grappling game for a good number of years now, putting in the miles, flying here and there, up against the best competition around the globe.  I look at a guy like Keiji Muto in Japan, a man whom I look up to greatly for his legacy and longevity in our business, and see how beat up his knees are past the age of 50 now.  I think of guys like Triple H, in his mid-40s now, wrestling a very limited schedule, with only a few shots a year at most.  And then there is The Undertaker, who continues to hang on, also grappling a mere few times a year, as everyone asks when his last Wrestlemania moment will be.

As a veteran, it’s hard to hang it up, because at the heart of it all, we are all fans of this game.  Look at Terry Funk, the legendary old NWA World champion and hardcore wrestling legend.  He could never exorcise the wrestler out of his system, and the number of his announced “retirements” has been baffling.  That’s because Terry Funk loves pro wrestling.  Just like the other veterans out there, who refuse to die out and fade away.

I recall Bret “Hitman” Hart saying in his autobiography, that he never wanted anyone to see him wrestle as an old fart, past his due date.  I can relate to that, as it becomes a matter of personal pride in your own legacy and accomplishments.  You don’t want to be in a place where you are just a shell of what you used to be at your prime.  As long as you can produce top-notch matches and carry your personal piece of business with your head held high, I say go.  Don’t let anyone stop you.

And so it is in 2016, that 22 years into the pro wrestling game, I look at the date of January 16 at the Pressa Club in Helsinki.  I look at the match I will have that night and the tag team partner that I am paired with that evening: Stark Adder.

Adder is another veteran, a year older than Yours Truly, but equally a warhorse of high fortitude and morale that keeps the flame alive.  We’ve fought each other numerous times over the past decade, and we have nothing but the highest mutual respect for one another.

Now, on January 16, Adder and I will join forces to do battle with Adder’s former tag team partner and ex-protege, Ricky Vendetta, and his partner, FCF champion, Valentine.  This is a huge tag match on paper, a monumental bout that will see Adder and Vendetta lock horns for the first time since Vendetta turned on his former mentor about a half-year ago.

I warmly welcome you all out to Helsinki on January 16 to see what very well may be deemed as “The Veteran’s League”, as we clash with the kind of opposition that will surely translate into a classic match at the Pressa Club in Helsinki, with a showtime start of 18:00 and doors opening at 17:30, tickets 20e/person.

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