His nicknames are “StarBuck” and “The Canadian Rebel” and he is wildly popular in his homeland of Finland. Before Michael Majalahti came by, most people in Finland had no idea that pro wrestling even existed. But just like any athlete who chases a dream, Majalahti’s journey had to begin somewhere. His began in a small Ontario town. This is his story.
“I was around five or six years old, living in Timmins, Ontario where I was born,” Majalahti told SLAM! Wrestling. “We were visiting some family friends and wrestling happened to be on the boob tube that night. This was circa. 1978-1979, and I recall someone that looked like Hulk Hogan, perhaps it was Superstar Billy Graham, but it blew me away. Here was this superheroish, blond, muscular fighter with charisma right out of the Marvel comic books. I was sold from that moment on, and I never looked back.”
Majalahti’s biggest opponent in life has been adversity. But he’s living proof that whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. It took a lot of time to realize this, but the thought of giving up never crossed his mind.
“I believe I always toyed with the thought of being in the ring one day, but coming from a rather lower mid-class family where monetary well-being was a foreign notion, I didn’t think I’d ever really have the money to go to wrestling school,” Majalahti said. “When I was a kid I was skinny too; a young colt. My father told me I’d never bench 300 pounds. He also said I didn’t have the co-ordination to make it as a pro wrestler. Well, I proved him wrong on both points in the long run.”
Majalahti knew that in order to make it as a wrestler, there would be a lot of sacrifice, but he was willing to do whatever it took. Whenever the train of opportunity passed through Timmins, he was always the first passenger. He moved to Calgary in 1992 to pursue art college, as he’s a graphic artist by trade today. Coincidentally, Calgary also happens to be the city that has produced some of the biggest Canadian wrestling stars of all time. It didn’t take Majalahti long to put two and two together.
“I basically forced my way into Steve DiSalvo’s realty office one day and introduced myself, saying I would be interested in doing something in pro wrestling. Abu Wizal tipped me off to DiSalvo and Beef Wellington starting up a new promotion in Calgary in the fall of 1992, and I was onto it like bad habit from that moment on,” he said. “I started as a ring announcer and TV announcer at the Victoria Park Civic Center in Calgary for Rocky Mountain Pro Wrestling in the fall of 1992.”
As Majalahti started marking his territory in the wrestling business, he was doing such a good job, that some of the bigger stars started to take notice.
“I became fast friends with Chris Jericho and Lance Storm, and Lance and I became training partners at a place called The Gym in Calgary. We trained together for one year, and one day Lance told me, ‘I see the passion that you have for wrestling … if you want, I can train you.’ Lance needed a training partner to pair up against a kid from Australia coming to train at Hart Bros. in the off-season,” he said. “Lance made it possible for me to become a pro wrestler and live my dream when the money wasn’t there. Lance never asked for a penny and trained me out of friendship, out of the goodness of his heart. For that I am indebted to him and will always be grateful for the door that he opened for me. And I want to publicly thank Chris Jericho now that I have a chance in front of all of Canada and the rest of the world, for giving me my first pair of wrestling boots and lending me a pair of his old tights for my first match!”
Storm saw some serious potential in Starbuck. He says the only thing that stood out more than Starbuck’s in-ring ability was the positive energy that he exuded, and it showed in his performance.
“He was around all the time and seemed like a nice enough guy,” Storm said. “He was always eager to help others so I figured I could help him out a bit.”
Like most up-and-comers, Starbuck found it much easier to get fans to hate him than to like him. Storm says he played the heel role so well, but it was a complete contradiction of his real-life character.
“Mike was a very genuine guy who seemed to really care about people, which was funny because he seemed so much more comfortable as a heel in the ring,” Storm said.
The wrestling business is all about teamwork. Nobody can really accomplish anything on their own and Majalahti willingly admits that he had help along the way. Those people such as Lance Storm gladly opened door for him, but it was up to him to walk through it and he did.
Eventually, Majalahti would learn the hard way that not everybody will be pleasant. But he’s had to deal with so much adversity just to get to this point, so by the time he had to overcome adversity in the wrestling business, it was almost a walk in the park.
“The promoter back then, named Ed Langley, didn’t like me one bit. Ed actually tried to poison the well in regards to Beef Wellington and myself, back when Beef was running the show,” Majalahti said. “Anyway, I asked Lance (in relation to me getting trained) ‘What if Ed says no?’ since Ed was kind of in charge of Hart Bros. back then (as you can read in Chris Jericho’s book also). Lance offered, ‘If Ed says no, then I say no (to training the kid coming in from Australia).’ I don’t know if Lance would remember that detail today, but it stands forever etched in my mind and I will always remember that stand as a true mark of friendship that we shared back then.”
Majalahti admits that he was a little green at first and was nowhere near what is considered “a natural.” But no matter what the challenge was, he was always able to give it his best and had a “never say die” attitude, which seemed to impress one of his trainers Karl Moffatt.
“He (Majalahti) was extremely passionate,” Moffatt said. “We all have to improve as we go on, but he never whined or complained about anything.”
Moffatt says that Majalahti was very fortunate to receive this kind of training. Very rarely do wrestling students have the undivided attention of the teacher. But in this case, it was just Majalahti and one other student from Australia, training with Storm and Moffatt.
Majalahti says that Moffatt was a little hard on him at first, but eventually warmed up to him, because of the passion he had for the business and the fact that he always tried to do better.
“I remember putting my hands in the way of some shoulder blocks in the corner during training and Karl blasted me verbally, ‘Iif you ever do that again, I’ll beat the *&[email protected] out of you!’ Needless to say, I took it like a man from that point on. He connected with everything, headbutts et al,” Majalahti said. “I learned respect for the old school through Karl Moffat. And Karl never took a penny from me either. He was a good man. I would say that through Karl I learned to be real in the ring, working very solid and tight and keeping things believable. I carry on in that respect today and I teach all of my students out of that same mold. If you cannot take a hit, punch or kick, you do not belong in wrestling. This is a contact sport, period.”
Moffatt recalls seeing Majalahti in action once, as he wrestled under his ring name “Starbuck.” He says Majalahti’s performance left him in amazement.
“I was pleasantly surprised the first time I saw him in front of a live crowd. He was very good,” Moffatt said. “If he doesn’t make it as a superstar in the WWE one day, I’d be very surprised.”
Majalahti also uses the name Starbuck as his nickname, when performing with his rock band The Stoner Kings. He says it’s not just a cool name, but there is a meaning behind it.
“It’s really a combination of two words: Star, which is self-explanatory, and Buck, which means ‘stud,’ as in ‘that guy is one hell of a buck.’ It’s a bit redneck, I’ll admit,” Majalahti said. “It’s pretty self-aggrandizing as a handle, but then again, wrestling isn’t a very sheepish or coy business either. Everything is bigger than life and so is StarBuck.”
Another moniker that Majalahti uses is “The Canadian Rebel,” which seems pretty self explanatory, but it goes much deeper than most people think.
“The Canadian Rebel comes from the true fact that I have always swam against the stream. I was born into adversity, and I have had an uphill battle all my life. I’ve had to fight for my nickels and dimes,” Majalahti said. “I don’t live my life like 95 per cent of the western population, nor do I share their superficial values system or materialistic lifestyle. I feel more of a camaraderie with biker groups and those who stand out as unique and gutsy and make a difference in the world. Only dead fish float with the stream and only those with real balls take the path less traveled.”
Majalahti’s cultural background is Finnish. His parents are from Finland and he moved there in 1996, due to economic recession in Canada at the time. Most wrestlers might consider it a setback to be such a tremendous performer in one country and have to leave all that and move to another country, where they are virtually unknown. But Majalahti only saw the positive side. After all, he spoke the language, so he already had a huge advantage over other wrestlers who traveled abroad. Plus, he looked at this as his opportunity to make a name for himself internationally and also learn new styles of wrestling, so when he finally comes back to North America, he’d have double the advantage over his peers.
“The European scene is much more old school in many places as compared to North America. Les Thornton, the old NWA Junior Champ, once gave me advice saying, ‘Learn how to work … if you can work you will always have a job.’ I wanted Les to teach me how to shoot, but he understood the game,” Majalahti said. “I went on to become a student of the game, and in so saying I represent the old school to this day. I am not a spot artist like many of the North American indies. There’s no point in risking your health for a payday doing crazy spots, hoping to get noticed. How do you top yourself after a short while? Learning to work is the way to go.”
Majalahti briefly returned to Canada in 2006, touring cities such as Vancouver and Calgary. He also wrestled a match for PZW in Lethbridge, Alberta. Lance Storm was the one who actually arranged for Majalahti to wrestle on a big event that PZW had coming up and Starbuck just happened to be there. Storm contacted PZW promoter Tim Strom and told him about Starbuck. From there, Strom met with the two of them and the rest is history.
“The Canadian Dream was our top babyface and I knew that Starbuck was huge name all over Scandinavia, so I thought this would be a good opportunity for him,” Strom said. “The best way for any talent to get over is to get the company over, and I think he did that. A lot of times, I’ll deal with people who work our shows and then try to blame our product for them not getting over. But Starbuck didn’t do that.”
Strom didn’t know much about Starbuck other than what Lance Storm said about him, but he took a gamble and to this day, has no regrets. As soon as Strom saw Starbuck in action, his eyes lit up, and widened like he was staring at a mountain of gold. And in a lot of ways, he was.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever spotted a weakness in his performance,” Strom said. “The thing that impressed me most about him was his professionalism. He never alienated anyone in the locker room and he always treated everyone with respect. I loved that.”
Strom agrees with Moffatt that Starbuck could be a great WWE star one day, but doesn’t know if that’s the right decision for Starbuck to make at this point.
“He’s got a good thing going right now. He’s almost a big fish in a little pond in Finland and Norway,” Strom said. “I don’t think the WWE has ever had shows there, so I don’t see any reason for him to make the move over, because right now, he’s dominating that market.”
Since his debut against Lance Storm on January 7, 1994, Majalahti has wrestled in 13 countries, which is an amazing accomplishment that can only be matched by a handful of wrestlers his age.
At 35 years of age, he stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 225 pounds and is still in impeccable shape. He currently trains future wrestling stars at his school Fight Club Finland and also follows his other passion, being a singer/songwriter, but he has no day job per se. Despite all of this, Majalahti still sees bright lights in his future and doesn’t plan on hanging up his hat just yet.
“I’d love to go wrestle in Japan this year. It’s been a goal of mine for awhile, but that door is yet to open for me,” he said. “I have been an Italian Champion, European Champion and Finnish Champion out here, and I have been well received in every market that I have wrestled in. I thank God for His great benevolence and I thank every promoter who has flown me in from Finland to wherever to be a part of the greatest sport on God’s Green Earth.”
- June 11, 2017: Excerpt from ‘Battleground Valhalla’ — “Potato Kick to the Head”
- June 11, 2017: Guest column: The story behind ‘Battleground Valhalla’
- Aug. 5, 2015: Starbuck’s world travels continue in Japan