Posts Tagged ‘WWE’

Recently, I’ve thought about doing select interviews from an industry perspective with certain standout contemporaries in the pro wrestling business.  I figured these would work as useful education and insight to aspiring young wrestlers and those looking to break into pro wrestling alike.

So it is, that I come to my first installment of what I call Talking Shop,with Tom La Ruffa, who wrestled extensively in both WWE’s NXT as well as TNA Impact Wrestling.  Tom is one of those people, who has “been there,” and thus, is able to shed some light on what it takes to “get there” for those amongst you who have that elusive dream of making it to the big time in pro wrestling.

So, let’s get busy Talking Shop: with Tom La Ruffa!

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1. Thanks for giving your time to do this piece, Tom.  You’ve done a lot in pro wrestling since I last saw you on some of the same shows in France back in early 2009.  Even back then, you were wrestling some damn good, solid matches against Robin Lekime, against whom you worked a program for quite awhile.  What are your memories of that said program?
Thanks, Michael. Always a pleasure to talk with a veteran like you. Indeed it’s been quite a while and a lot has happened to me since these big shows in France with the Wrestling Stars promotion. Actually I remember we started pretty much at the same time with them. At that time, WS in France was one of Europe’s best promotions. Three to five shows every week, sold out most of the time. It was never anything big on the internet, because of its old-school, keep-it-kayfabe-and-underground mentality, but I LOVED it.
It is indeed in Wrestling Stars that I learned that being a good wrestler isn’t enough to truly connect with a mainstream audience. You will connect with the wrestling FAN, but to truly reach an entire crowd and different part of a demographic, you need a STRONG character that the crowd can relate to or understand easily.
That program with Sir Robin truly allowed me to connect deeply with my Greco-Roman character, which I was only playing with at the time.
Robin, alongside his valet, Janine, was such a STRONG heel in his aristocrat character that my Spartan character immediately stood out as a strong babyface, and for the dozens of matches we had together, we killed it every night, because not only did we have good wrestling chemistry, but the story of our matches were perfect for our characters.

2. You were trained by the same guy that trained me also, Lance Storm, in Calgary, Canada.  What year were you trained in?  Were there any other notables in your class that went on to become someone in the wrestling world?  What made you choose Lance’s Storm Wrestling Academy and how did you experience Lance as a coach?

I trained with Lance during the last quarter of 2006.

I enrolled in his school after years of amateur wrestling, kick boxing and gym. My goal was to go there in the best shape possible, because an endorsement for his school by Tommy Dreamer on the Storm Wrestling Academy website said something like Dreamer (head of WWE talent relations at the time) would not ask for a tape or a picture to give a try-out to a guy that Lance would put his name on. I’ve always thought that if you want to be the best, you’ve got to learn from the best. And that’s what I did. I never regretted it.

Nobody from my class really made it to the big time, but Tyler Breeze was in the session right after mine, I believe.

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In over 12 years of running his school, I believe Lance is the trainer that had the most students that made it to the big leagues, worldwide.

Why? Because he’s been there. He’s been head of developmental in OVW (Ohio Valley Wretling, a prior WWE farm league). He knows what it takes to make it. He’s the one teaching you, and most of all, he’s not full of BS, unlike A LOT of people in this industry. He gives you all the tools, then it’s your hard work that’s gonna make the difference. I loved it, and after my 12 weeks camp in Calgary with him, I knew I already knew more than any of the French talents I went on to face back in France.

3. What year did you get signed to NXT and what route did you go getting your try-out and hook-up with WWE?

I got offered a WWE deal early 2012, after a 2 days try out in Liverpool in November 2011.

I want to believe my signing was a slow process, but you can never know for sure.

I first got backstage as an extra for WWE in 2008 in California. But I was MILES away from being anywhere near ready at that stage. But it made me realize what I HAD to work more to get truly noticed. I actually had a one-on-one talk with John Laurinaitis (former head of WWE talent relations) at these shows in 2008, and I told him that I wouldn’t want to be in WWE to be a low or mid-card guy. I wanted to be THE top guy, so I needed more time to get ready…

So, I went back to the drawing boards in Europe. Worked on my body. Started working with WS, which allowed me to get enough ring time and connections throughout Europe to build my brand/name.

But it truly was the World Of Hurt TV reality show from 2010-11, that we filmed with Lance, that got WWE to notice me again. 

 

The show made such a big impact on the dirt sheets back in those days, especially with Brian Alvarez, that the WWE European scouts contacted me and offered me to try out that year.

The rest, as we say, is history…

4. How many years did you spend with NXT and what are the most important things that you learned in your wrestling education under the WWE banner?

I worked for NXT/WWE for three years and a half.

To list all the things I learned about the business there would be nearly impossible. Training everyday there made me so much better in the ring, working on the small things with some of the best coaches in the world, like Terry Taylor, Norman Smiley, Joey Mercury, Billy Gunn and Robbie Brookside to name a few…

I think the biggest lesson I learned was that “wrestling is an opinion” like Steve Keirn would always say back in FCW (Florida Championship Wrestling). And the only opinion that truly matters about you and for your career is the boss’. No one else. To put it simply, in Europe, I was a Spartan slaying giants in the ring, with the crowd loving me for it. In the USA, in the WWE, the officials just saw me as a loud-mouthed, arrogant Frenchman. I didn’t mind it, because I played the part well, and I love being a heel. But in the end, you can only go so far as a semi-comedy act.

5. Why did you leave NXT and how do you feel today about that departure?

So now I believe you see why my tenure with NXT ended. I didn’t ask for my release. I would never have done this as: 1) I had worked WAY TOO HARD to give up on a WWE contract, and 2) I respected this opportunity given to me (the first for a Frenchman since Andre the Giant) way too much to spit in the face of all my fellow Europeans that would die for a job there, by quitting.

But as the months and years rolled by, my body not getting any younger or healthier (I had two major knee injuries while in NXT). I started feeling miserable about not being used, while at the same time, they were bringing in so many indy guys, not even under contracts, and giving them TV exposure while I knew I was for the most part, as good, if not better than them, especially on the microphone.

It really started getting to us (me and my tag partner, Marcus Louis aka Baron Dax) and we expressed our feelings several times to officials.

The thing is, I knew the office loved me as a manager when I was nursing my first knee injury. And two, we knew our French tag team, The Legionnaires, was also a big hit with the crowd, and could have been huge on the main roster. Just put us on TV with a French flag, and you have heat…

So in the end, instead of keeping us under contract to do nothing, WWE released us with no hard feelings. Just the “we don’t know how to use you” deal.

It was totally fine by us, as we went on to sign with TNA and had a nice one-year run there working TV’s every week!

Tom LaRuffa vs Jeff Hardy TNA

Tom battles Jeff Hardy in TNA

6. What are the biggest changes or tweaks that you had to make to adjust the WWE way of doing thing, in terms of your in-ring work and character presentation?

To me, I’ve always protected my work and my brand. Remember in WS when we would keep kayfabe to the max? To me it’s the only way to go. If a fan boos me during a match, don’t expect me to go shake his hand after the show, because deep inside, at one part of that match, I hated that mf’er for booing me, so I wanna keep it that way. Plus, the guy paid to see me, so I’m not gonna be his buddy after the show. You gotta keep  your “star power.”

So, this protection also goes with how you work in the ring and how you present yourself outside of the ring. If you want to be a star, you have to look like one.

WWE allowed me to push that mentality to the extreme!

I was on 24/7. I bought, while living in Florida, about a dozen different suits, all in different colors. I had to look the part, especially at TV tapings, because that’s where all the big players were present (Triple H, William Regal, Dusty Rhodes, Michael Hayes, Michael Cole…). I wasn’t gonna make head turn with my size but I sure would make them turn with the way I looked.

And I did. All the coaches kept praising me for it. Everybody else was showing up in plain black or dark suits, I would be there in bright red, yellow or baby blue suits, just to look special. And it worked. I made it to TV before a lot of these guys.

As for in-ring work, I mainly had to adapt working TV’s, which means working for the camera 90% of the time. The other 10% are for the crowd who you keep your back turned to most of the time but don’t want to kill at the same time…

7. How important do you hold one’s gimmick to be in today’s pro wrestling marketplace?  What would you say is the overall, most important attribute that a pro wrestler must have in order to be successful in today’s wrestling world?

Lol, I think I already started answering that question…

But I will quote Paul Heyman on that one. I once had the huge opportunity to talk to him. That’s something every aspiring wrestler should do: go ask questions from the people that have been THERE, people that we all watched on TV…

I went up to Paul and asked him one single question, because we were at RAW, and I didn’t want to bother him. So I had to think of a good one, one where I could learn from the answer… so I asked him “With all the stars you’ve managed over the years, people like Steve Austin, Rick Rude, Lesnar… what was the common thing in them that made them connect so much with the crowds?”

He thought for several seconds, and told me it was the best question he had ever been asked.

True or not, I don’t know if he was telling the truth, but this is something everybody in this business should be aware of: we don’t perform for us or for internet people, we perform for the crowd paying to see us in the arena or on TV. So you HAVE to make them react. Whether it’s with your body, your looks, your personality, your wrestling skills… you have to bring something to the table that’s gonna make people go “WOW! That guy has something, I gotta keep watching!”… in other words, you have a to create a CONNECTION with the crowd.

Paul Heyman summed it up the best with his answer to my question: “All of these guys I managed throughout the years, when they walked through the curtain, they KNEW they were a star”.

Paul-Heyman-and-Brock-Lesnar

8. What advice would you have for any aspiring, young talents looking to get a try-out with WWE?  What should they look out for?  What should they definitely not do?  What specifically should they do?

Most of all, go to the gym. Get in shape. I’m not saying “be like Batista” (even though that wouldn’t hurt someone’s career!!), but look special. Look like a star. Look like you can beat someone up (and actually, be able to beat someone up is always useful, so do combat sports, too).

Keep in mind, WWE is run by Vince McMahon, HHH and Stephanie McMahon, all three being gym freaks. If you want to impress them, impress them at their own game.

Everything else, including wrestling and psychology, comes second, because if they hire you to send you to developmental, they will start from scratch and teach you THEIR basics.

So keeping this in mind.  Of course, it can not hurt to go to the wrestling school of a true pro, someone who made it in the business, especially internationally. They will teach you the right stuff, like Lance did with both of us.

Also I wanna point again to the combat sport thing. It will teach you the right instincts and positioning of a fight. William Regal would always quote Fit Finlay: “Most people don’t know how to sell because they never took a beating in their life.” This is the sad truth. Young guys now watch WWE or indy stuff and they reproduce the selling they see on their screen, instead of living, feeling, and selling from their heart. 

And to truly live and feel a WRESTLING match, it won’t hurt at all to be used to fighting competition like amateur wrestling, boxing or MMA.

WWE nowadays is BIG on realism. Phony, over the top, comedy wrestling is a big no-no there now.

Also, with the WWE Network now, WWE started hiring and pushing independent talents. If you can’t get signed right away, keep pushing and try to make it outside of WWE. If you’re really good, they will always end up contacting you…

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9. For a time, you also worked for TNA Impact Wrestling after your NXT departure.  What are the biggest differences in the in-ring styles between the two offices?  What are the differences in their approach to treating contracted talent?

Dude, I loved my time in TNA. It almost felt like all the training myself and Mikael (Marcus Louis/Baron Dax) went through at the Performance Center was made for us to deliver on Impact TV. This was an awesome time. To sum up best my time in TNA, I will quote Simon Diamond, our agent for our try-out match there, who got us signed right away afterwards. This advice was such an eye opener to what wrestling truly feels like to me.

In NXT, remember you’re given a script, a character, and you’re not allowed to stray from it.

So we show up in TNA, we get a TV MATCH for a try-out, and so I ask Pat (Simon) before our match whether he wanted us as a French badass duo, or moreso a French stereotype comedy/anti-USA heel act. We had a promo and a match, total segment on TV 18 minutes. This was a HUGE opportunity.

His answer was the best thing I’ve ever been told in my career: “Consider these 18-minutes like your job interview. Show us why we should sign you.”

The rest is here:

We got offered a deal 10-minutes after walking back through the curtain.

10. What all do you think it would take for TNA to become viable competition for WWE?

Wow, that’s a tough question. I don’t think I’m quite experienced enough in the business to give the right answer to that one.

I think it would simply come down to finding the right investors. With money, you can do anything. 

WCW got in the way of WWF at the time by having enough money to secure/steal HUGE stars like Hogan, Hall and Nash, and put their product on national TV at prime time. 

Without Ted Turner’s money, none of it would have been possible…

With enough money, TNA could definitely breed their own stars, while at the same time, bring in HUGE, current names like maybe CM Punk or people outside of wrestling, to get more media attention.

11. You have now returned to Europe, and you are back living in France.  How do you see the European wrestling market these days?  What is your view of the general, overall health of the professional wrestling game on a continental scale here in 2017?

It really depends on how and where you look at the industry here.

I consider wrestling a JOB. A PROFESSION. Which means you should be able to make a living out of it, or at least be treated like a true pro, especially after the career I’ve had so far, working with the two biggest companies in the world, each time making it to TV’s, quite regularly.

I don’t think there are that many workers in Europe who’ve done what I’ve done, and I say this in all modesty. It’s just a fact.

So keeping this in mind, I feel like I should be paid according to the knowledge, talent and brand that I bring to the table.

In France, nobody can hire me, because the business has become such shit that fan promotions now steal shows from true pros/veteran promotions.

I think that is a big problem. To truly bring something to the business, you have to understand it, and most of all have a goal to MAKE MONEY with it.

Nowadays, everybody buys wrestling rings, because they want to fulfill their WWE fantasies in their own backyard/town. Some people say it’s awesome, because you have 10 wrestling shows every weekend.

I say IT SUCKS, because it takes away the uniqueness you need to be able, or even just be allowed, to step through the ropes.

Wrestling is A LOT about presentation. The gift needs to be good, but the wrapping does A LOT of the work of selling you on it. These indy fan promotions usually don’t have enough money to present a truly unique product. They just set up a ring in a room or worse, a field or a street, and they have their wrestlers come out of a fucking BARN. How the hell do you wanna be considered a star walking out of a muddy barn, or a dusty shitty looking locker room?

Anyway… I’m a bit pessimistic here, but the problem is you can love wrestling all you want, once you’ve known and worked for some of the best companies in the world, it only goes downhill from there.

I still love wrestling, performing and entertaining people with my abilities. But Im also 33 years old, had two knee surgeries, so I need to be smart and pick my battles/bookings accordingly.

Luckily there are a few promotions out there in Europe that have a GREAT product. To me right now, Germany is awesome and treats me super well. I love the German fans and promotions that bring me in. 

12. What is it that you wish to still achieve in the wrestling world?  Have you achieved your main goals, or is the big one still waiting to be realized?

Like everyone else, I’d love to make a tour or two of Japan. But unlike a lot of “workers” nowadays, I don’t want to pay for my plane ticket to go there, as this is the kind of stuff that kills the biz for us.

To be honest, my original goal wasn’t WWE or the US. It was Japan. I always thought that considering my size (5’10 and about 205 lbs) I would need to travel the world to get noticed by WWE. So I worked so hard to get there, that I eventually started getting pretty good, and this allowed me to go try out for WWE with enough confidence.

So this is why no matter what you set your mind on achieving, always go for it, because you never know where you’ll end up.

As of now, my career is riding along nicely. I’d love to wrestle in countries I’ve never been to. Wrestling is good in that aspect, that it allows you to travel the world and get paid for it.

Also, someone really needs to do something about how bad the biz has gotten in France. I’m thinking about opening a school there down the line.

Tom LaRuffa vs Enzo Amore NXT Takeover

13.  What advice would you give to anyone looking to break into the wrestling business, regardless of where they live?

First of, learn how to speak English.

Secondly, be aware it is a job, not a passion. Be ready to spend money to make some: spend money on a good wrestling school, your body, your gear, travel to get more experience. So be ready to make a lot of sacrifices, too. All of my relationships ended because of wrestling during my twenties.

I also have a saying: if you want to be the best, you have to learn from the best.

Read books, biographies, interviews of people who have been where you wanna go. Learn from them…

14. Thanks for your time.  It’s been cool to reconnect with you after all these years.  Perhaps down the road, we’ll butt heads in the ring somewhere.  In closing, the floor is yours.  Any last words or comments you wish to state?

Thanks for asking the right questions! This is why I do very few interviews online, especially with fans, because the conversation quickly goes to “who was your best friend in WWE?” Things like that won’t bring anything to the table…

Maybe in closing, I will say why I have been so long-winded with my answers: out of respect for you, StarBuck. Even though our paths haven’t crossed in many years, and I have done A LOT since 2009, I still consider you to be my elder in this business and have respect for you. So for your website starbuck.fi, I wanted to really give an in-depth testimony about my path over there in the States, so that potentially, aspiring young wrestlers could be inspired by this, if they have the courage to read it all…

Thanks again for giving me the stage, and yes, hopefully we will wrestle one-on-one soon!

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Big news: I will be wrestling in Pakistan this month on May 17 in Karachi, May 19 in Lahore and May 21 in Islamabad.  These events will be televised and a tournament will be held during the tour to crown the very first Pakistan pro wrestling champion in history.

25 wrestlers have been hand-picked from all over the world to participate in this monumental moment in pro wrestling lore.  Ex-WWE star Chris Masters from the USA, former WWE Intercontinental champion Wade Barrett, Chris Raaber from Austria, Bernard Vandamme from Belgium, Fabio Ferrari from Italy, Tiny Iron from England, Baadshah Pehalwan Khan from Pakistan and many others will be taking place in this grand event.  I will be representing my home country of Canada on this tour of Pakistan.

BP Khan

Pakistan will mark my 21st country in pro wrestling since 1994 worldwide across four continents.  This should be very, very interesting…

StarBuck Pakistan

There comes a time in every man’s life, when he looks at what he has accomplished and accumulated to this point and what lies beyond, yet to pursue.  I found that when I hit the pivotal age of forty back in 2013, I took stock of my life at large and contemplated the brevity and breadth of it all.

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When you step back and take a look at your life from the outside, you can assess things at face value for what they are and what they have meant. (Photo: Hannu Eskelinen)

Forty is like a half-way marker.  It’s a brutal, unforgiving assessment of what is, for real.  It’s half-way to eighty, and eighty is an age that spells pretty much the end of one’s life here on Planet Earth.

I look back at the greatest, single influence on my pro wrestling career early on, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, the 16-time world heavyweight champion in our grand game of professional wrestling.  I recall the year 1990, when Flair was wrestling against Lex Luger at a WCW (World Championship Wrestling) pay-per-view event called WrestleWar ’90, that it also happened to be on his birthday.  The announcers tried to sell it as if it was Flair’s 40th birthday, when in reality, it was his 41st.  Nonetheless, I remember this detail speaking to me in volume even back then.

Ric Flair

When I started my pro wrestling career, I always asked myself “What would the ‘Naitch do?”

My old friend Chris Jericho currently wrestles for WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) as their US Champion, a belt that he will be defending against fellow Canadian grappler Kevin Owens next weekend on April 2nd at Wrestlemania 33.  Jericho is about three years my senior, now age 46.  He’s still doing well, hanging in there at the top of his game, arguably on one of his last runs with the company.  I applaud him.  He’s done very well, staying in shape and being able to connect with a changing audience and parlay his character across various generations of wrestling fans.  Yet, the end is drawing nigh, even for my old pal Y2J, simply based on age.

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When I started my pro wrestling career in Calgary, Canada in 1994, they used to call me Jericho Jr.  Really, I didn’t mind.  Chris has done incredibly well in the business, and I’m happy for him.

Now, back to my original point: the things left to pursue in one’s chosen career or life path.  Tallinn, Estonia was such a waypoint for me personally this past weekend, the reason being that the event I took part in was a professional boxing card.

For the longest time, since the onset of my personal pro wrestling career, I’ve been fighting to defend the credibility of my fighting art, called professional wrestling.  There have always been detractors and shit-talkers and there always will be.  Still, I have always felt compelled to defend the honor of my business, which many see as a faux sport.  Like one of my early role models, Bret “Hitman” Hart, said in his autobiography some years back, “It seems as though I’ve been defending professional wrestling my entire life.”

Bret Hart vs Ric Flair

Bret Hart and Ric Flair slugging it out back in 1992 in the World Wrestling Federation.

For me, I’ve always prided myself on being legitimate when I step into the ring.  I take my sport seriously.  Regardless of how many people – some contemporaries included – have prostituted and bastardized our trade, for me, I’ve always strived to take the higher road of credibility.  I’ve gone the extra mile and fought tooth and nail to retain integrity in the believability of professional wrestling.  For me, it’s a matter of professional pride.

Being able to parlay my skills and take part in the Warrior Fight Series 1 event this past Saturday night in Tallinn, Estonia on March 25 was a true milestone for me.  It was history in the making.

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Photographer Karli Saul captures my ring entrance in Estonia in dazzling colors.

I was able to step into the ring in front of a virgin audience, engage them and win them over, making believers in the process, as I fought against a true athletic stud in Vladimir Kulakov of Russia.  This was an international match of epic proportions: the time-tested, world-traveled ring veteran against the younger Russian pro wrestling champion and a literal wolverine amongst his peers.  It was action and reaction, just as professional wrestling should be, in front of an audience that was there with an open mind, ready to make their initial assessment of the grappling game that is professional wrestling.  It was an ambitious endeavor to win over a new fan base and build where no one else had built or wandered before.

Photo by Martin Ahven (2)

Photographer Martin Ahven gets a good shot of the intensity of my match with Kulakov.

It is in this – venturing out into new, uncharted territories – that I take personal gratification in at this stage of my pro wrestling career.  I pioneered the business in Finland back in 2003 along with promoter Patrik Pesola, which launched an entire scene in the country.  My hallmark is set in stone as the most successful professional wrestler ever out of the Nordics and the northern sector of Europe.  My track record globally attests to that claim, and my championship reigns worldwide, along with my lengthy list of name opposition all around the world support that argument.  Now, I need a new mountain to climb.  A new challenge to contest.

Tallinn was the beginning of another chapter in my personal pro wrestling career.  I want to thank the promoter of EST Boxing, Mr. Grinkin, for having the faith to present pro wrestling on his card.  I want to also thank the Estonian media at large for covering the match to the degree that it has received media attention, which you can see e.g. from the link below:

http://sport.delfi.ee/news/voitlussport/poks/delfi-video-esmakordselt-eestis-ameerika-wrestlingu-sou-naerutas-tondiraba-publikut?id=77670846

Every one of us has the chance to build our own legacy in whatever our chosen endeavor is.  The true question is, how much heart do you really have to pursue your ambitions and goals, turning your dreams into a reality?

Life is short.  Make yours spectacular.

 

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

Man, this one has been a long time in the coming… on Friday, Nov. 18, I will travel to Randers, Denmark to take on my old, storied Danish rival, Chaos, inside of a 16-foot high steel cage!

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Chaos and I have an extensive past as adversaries, stemming back to 2009.  We have spilled each others blood, beaten each other black and blue and done a lot of damage to one another.  Both of us represent the veteran guard of our respective pro wrestling cultures in Denmark and Finland, making this a feud of Baltic and Nordic proportions.  We are literally the standard-bearers of our trade in our respective countries.  Two warring leader wolves, looking to out-do the other.

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In 2009, the Street Fight match Chaos and I had left both of us busted up.

Last summer in Denmark, the DPW (Danish Pro Wrestling) organization dropped my booked match against Chaos and instead, opted to put Ken Andersson of TNA fame (Mr. Kennedy in WWE) in my stead.  Then, they simply positioned me as a guest referee in that match, to add insult to injury.  Well, as you might expect, I took exception and laced into Chaos with a timely superkick at an opportune moment late in has match, leaving him a prone duck to be pinned by Anderson, as I counted to three.

Referee StarBuck

Annulling my match and putting me in there as a guest referee was not smart of DPW…

At Talvisota X (Winter War 10) in Helsinki, Finland this past March, I faced Chaos in a No-DQ grudge match, following the events in Randers last summer.  In Helsinki, Chaos beat me within in inch of my life, ambushing me from behind with a steel chair as I made my ring entrance.  I literally fought for my life inside of the ring that night, and managed to even walk away with a victory after delivering a devastating spike piledriver to my opponent.

TSX Chaos moonsault

Our last match was off the charts intense! (photo: Marko Simonen)

Now, on November 18, things come full-circle.  Chaos and I lock horns inside of an unforgiving steel cage on his turf in Denmark.  Both of us will fight like dogs, I am assured of that.  I know things will get violent and I am prepared to sweat, bleed and pay the price, to quote the legendary “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, so that I will be able to walk out of that cage with my hand raised in victory.

Chaos, you asked for the beating you are about to receive this coming Friday!

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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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A heated rivalry has been brewing for over a half a year now between myself and former Danish wrestling champion Chaos.  This issue stems back to last summer, back on August 22 in Randers, Denmark, where I was scheduled and booked to face Chaos in the first-ever cage match of my 20+ year pro wrestling career.  This was a landmark for me personally, something that I was highly looking forward to, until the rug got pulled out from underneath me.

In a baffling turn of events, Chaos lobbied with his DPW (Danish Pro Wrestling) organization to get his scheduled match on August 22 with me changed to him vs. Ken Anderson of TNA Wrestling.  It seemed that Chaos opted to let his ego do the talking when the situation presented itself, and thus, as a “consolation prize”, DPW sent me into the Anderson-Chaos match as a special guest referee.  This was a true slap in the face to me both personally and professionally.

So in a case like this, what do you think I opted to do?  You guessed it: I took matters into my own hands and righted a small iota of personal wrongs with some vigilante justice.  I refused to count the pinfall when Chaos had Anderson down and out after a moonsault and then I proceeded to superkick Chaos’ teeth down his throat, enabling an easy win for the former Mr. Kennedy of WWE.

Ken Anderson wins

This didn’t sit well with Chaos, and I certainly can understand that.  But then again, he drew first blood in all of this by pulling out of our scheduled match.  He should have been well-prepared for what happened, after his organization put me in there as a referee for his match.  He could have lobbied to have me out of the picture completely, and just hope that I didn’t take offence and attempt to do something about it.  But no.  Chaos walked willingly right into the lion’s den and got what was coming to him.

So now, it’s become personal.  Chaos has a stick up his ass about the way that I handled my business, and I am less than happy about how he handled his business initially with me.  So what does he do?  Chaos sets up a couple of crowbars to take me out and make a hit, performing his dirty work for him.  Norwegian tag team champions Bjorn Sem and Hannibal dished out a very painful beatdown on my person back in January following a wrestling show at Helsinki’s Pressa Nightclub, as you can see in the footage below.

So once Chaos had sent me his receipt for what happened last summer in Denmark via the Norwegians, I thought to organize a little receipt of my own to the SOB a few weeks back when he worked a card in Sweden.  Take a look…

So here we are, and eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  I issued a challenge for Chaos to meet me, man to man, at FCF Wrestling’s Talvisota X (Winter War 10) event in Helsinki, Finland on March 19 at the Töölö Sports Hall to settle this thing between us.  No more messengers, no more “telescope” receipts.  This time, it’ll be just he and I, inside of the squared circle, and the fists will do the talking that night.  I’ll even be a good sport and let Chaos present any stipulation he wants for our match, should he have the brains for it.  All I know is that on March 19, it’s going to be two time-tested, ornery veterans against one another, with a collective amount of over 40 years of experience between us, tearing apart the ring that night.

May the best man walk out of Winter War with his hand held high.

StarBuck vs Chaos Talvisota X Winter War 10 FCF Wrestling

All ages
19:00 doors
20:00 showtime

TICKETS IN ADVANCE / AT THE DOOR
Regular ticket
16,50 € / 20 €

Students, retired folks, army personnel, unemployed persons
11,50 € / 15 €

Kid’s ticket (7-15v.)
11,50 € / 15 €

Ringside tickets
27 € / only sold online prior to event!

Kids under 7-years of age come in free!

Online ticket sales come to an end on 18.3.2016 at 12:00 noon.

Online ticket sales through: TIKETTI

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