They say that a lot can happen in a year, but what about six years? Since he last spoke with SLAM! Wrestling in 2009, Michael “Starbuck” Majalahti has made yet another stop on his impressive world tour. He’s been winning favour with crowds all over Japan, and it’s been an incredible journey thus far.
“To be honest, you spend so little time in each place that you travel to, that you really don’t have the chance to go out there and take it all in,” Majalahti said. “In many ways, the world-traveler aspect of our business is over-glorified. A lot of it depends on your itinerary and on the company you are working for. It’s never just about going to this country or that; it’s moreso about how you are treated and what your overall experience is of any said place, once you are there or once you’ve been there.”
Majalahti didn’t exactly have to wish upon any stars to make his dream a reality. He just knew what he wanted, and went after it. The rest is history.
“Going to Japan makes you feel like you are in a dream world, treated like royalty,” Majalahti said. “When people there like you, they really, really love you. They will take you places, take you out to eat, be your tour guide and all that stuff; all just to show their appreciation for you and what you do or what you mean to them. There’s really no other place in the world like Japan.”
In his world travels, Majalahti has been fortunate enough to not only reconnect with old friends, but perhaps more importantly, he’s been able to make some new ones, all of whom have helped him along the way. And of course, there are those who he’s helped as well. But no matter where he was in the world, networking was always something that Majalahti took very seriously.
“I have been blessed to make some good Japanese friends, and their hospitality is off the charts,” Majalahti said. “I want to publicly thank some of the great people out in Japan, who have made my trips memorable with their great kindness and tremendous hospitality: Mayumi Miyazawa, Fumi Saito, Dr. Hiroaki Terasaki, Akira Nogami, Masa Anchan and Mr. Sponsor just to name a few.”
The Canadian-born, Finland-made Majalahti toured 15 different countries before even getting to Japan. But it’s always been on his to-do list to get there, and make a name for himself. And in 2010, Majalahti did just that, as his promotion, Fight Club Finland, worked in collaboration with Japan’s SMASH promotion, and Majalahti became an instant main-eventer, as he was at the forefront of a major invasion angle. It was a huge moment for him, but at the time, he never dreamed that it would lead to bigger and better things, such as meeting one of Japan’s big stars, Yoshihiro Tajiri.
“In late 2009, I was in negotiations to organize our biggest show of the year in Finland, dubbed Winter War, in February 2010 at a venue called Kaivohuone in Helsinki, which is a vintage dance club and terrace, a very old building. The club owner, at the time, was a company called SK Ravintolat, who owned the largest chain of nightclubs in Finland. They came to the negotiation table with me and told me that they would put some money on the table for the show, but they wanted a name that would draw; someone familiar from WWE, someone recently released,” Majalahti said. “I got on it like a kid at a candy store and thought, ‘Who would mean something draw-wise?’ and, ‘Who would be current enough?’ I settled in with Tajiri, contacting him through his website, but I did not know that he was in the process of putting together his own company, SMASH. Tajiri came to Finland to fight me on February 20, 2010, at Winter War IV and I gave him the best match I had in me. Tajiri was impressed, and above all, he liked my charisma. He told me that he was starting up SMASH and asked if I would be interested in working with him. I initially thought it would be a one-off, a trade of bookings, as it were. Little did I know that Tajiri believed in me so much, and also believed in the FCF product that I headed up, that he had much bigger plans for me.”
As deeply in love as Majalahti was/is with Japan, the great nation was starting to love him back. In the last five years, he’s been presented with tremendous opportunities, and has stepped in the ring with such legends as Genichiro Tenryu, Masato Tanaka, Shinjiro Otani and The Great Muta. But it wasn’t just wrestlers and fans who were taking a liking to Starbuck.
“Many educated Japanese fans were assuming European wrestlers would wrestle like Billy Robinson, Johnny Saint, Tony St. Clair, or people like Dave Finlay and William Regal. But Starbuck and his guys were working more American style. That was unexpected. In Starbuck’s case, he works ’80s American style, or Calgary Stampede style to be exact,” said pro wrestling journalist Fumi Saito. “It was kind of an eyeopener for Japanese fans. Yes, they knew old European style wrestling as we know, the wrestlers and the style Otto Wanz’s company used to send in was dying. It was an ey opener, because we were witnessing the new breed of European wrestlers in this world. And Starbuck is the pioneer of the new generation of European wrestling. It was really exciting to know there is a whole new generation of wrestlers, not just from Germany, Austria and England, but from Scandinavian countries as well.”
Majalahti was having the time of his life, competing for SMASH. But unfortunately, all good things must eventually come to an end. That end came on March 14, 2012, as SMASH officially closed its doors, with Majalahti being fortunate enough to compete in the promotion’s final match, teaming with Hajime Ohara in a losing effort against Tajiri and Akira Nogami.
“It was emotional for sure. From any standpoint, Akira, Tajiri, Hajime Ohara and Starbuck were the core of the SMASH company at that point. On the babyface side, Akira and Tajiri. On the heel side, myself and Ohara. Our work rate and chemistry carried over; it was the only logical match to finish things up with. The people loved all four of us. With team FCF, my pairing with Ohara (and select Finnish talent like Heimo Ukonselkä, Stark Adder, Jessica Love, Valentine and others from time to time), was super over in Japan. People chanted ‘FCF! FCF!’ all the time at the shows. We were like demigods, made of Teflon. In that final match, it didn’t matter who took the fall, we were all winners,” Majalahti said. “But that said, SMASH was the end of an era. It was the single best company that I have ever worked for. I know that Tajiri had a falling out with company President Mr. Masakazu Sakai, but I have to say that Sakai treated me with such hospitality and kindness, that I certainly have nothing but good things to say about him. He took us out to eat at the most amazing restaurants all the time, and he spared no expense. No other promoter has ever gone to the extent that Sakai did, in making me feel like a first-class, main event star. I am not saying that I expect that level of treatment from all the promoters out there, because few have the coin that Sakai did, but he stands to be mentioned. Long live the memory and heritage of SMASH.”
Akira Nogami, who was on the opposing team in that final match, and remains one of Majalahti’s closest friends, also shares his memories of working with Starbuck.
“He study old school pro wrestling. He is rock musician and painter. He is artist. Then he try to make art of pro wrestling. I think his attitude is biggest strong point,” Nogami said. “When I wrestle, my important point is emotional what I fight. I think same with Starbuck. I feel we can make much more emotional and artful pro wrestling.”
The stories that happened in the ring are undoubtedly very special to Majalahti, and the audience could see that as well. But what the audience could not see are the stories that happened outside the ring. And these are memories that Starbuck will carry with him for the rest of his life.
“I think the single most memorable thing from the road in Japan, that I recall, is on a SMASH tour stop between Osaka and Tokyo in the early hours of the morning. Tajiri took me aside and said to me, ‘Everybody here likes you, because you are straight, honest and holding integrity.’ That was something that made me realize that owning that characteristic and trait allowed me to get over with the office, the boys, the fans and press. People pick up on things like that, like animals knowing if you are friendly or not, even before you come near them,” Majalahti said. “There are a few other things from the road that I warmly recall, like playing troubadour, just me and the guitar, at some small rock club in southern Japan, and having the whole house rocking and clapping to the beat, as I went out after the matches with Akira Nogami. I remember Sabu taking me out to eat Korean barbecue and cow’s tongue for the first time in my life. I remember Tajiri kicking out my front tooth in a match in 2012, and then, later on the tour, I was on the southernmost tip of Japan, sitting in Tajiri’s sister’s dental clinic, getting my pearly whites fixed, as the company fronted the bill. That was a nice perk. I recall climbing Mount Takao with my good friend and cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Terasaki, and stopping to eat at this very traditional garden-like restaurant at the base of the mountain.”
After SMASH went under, a new follow-up promotion was created, called Wrestling New Classic (WNC), which Majalahti had the privilege of competing for as well. However, that promotion was short-lived, and then Starbuck returned to Japan in 2014, to compete at a Wrestle-1 event, where he defeated Akira Nogami and Masakatsu Funaki in a three-way match.
“I believe everybody in this world has a mission; the mission to accomplish, while you are here. Starbuck has a very unique mission. His mission is to let the world know there is a whole new generation of wrestlers and wrestling organizations in Europe. His goal is not necessarily to sign with WWE, although many of today’s young European wrestlers’ goals are exactly that. But the WWE is not the only major league sports entertainment on this Earth. There should be room for other companies, I strongly believe,” Saito explained. “Starbuck should be involved more with organizations and production end of the business, as well as working as a top-rate worker in the ring. He has yet to accomplish more in wrestling in Japan and in Europe, maybe even in North America.”
So the question remains: What’s next for Starbuck? And there’s only one man that can answer that.
“You know, I really don’t know how much longer I will keep going, or how long I will want to keep going. The business has changed a lot, and the money is getting to be less and less. I’m 42 now; a veteran’s age. I can still go; I can put out a damn fine match if the elements and counterpart is there. I would still like to see more of the world, see some exotic countries in my wrestling travels. But after all these years, I want to make some dough too. I do not expect to be treated and made offers like I was made 10 years ago, per se. There’s more water under the bridge. I have my credentials. I know what I bring to the table. If you want a pro, you will pay for a pro,” Majalahti said. “All that said though I have had one hell of a run. If the good Lord ordained that my career would be done tomorrow, I would be able to look back at my accomplishments and track record and say I did well, and had a great time doing what I loved to do. I saw the world, I met a lot of interesting people; I fought a lot of main events. For that, I have to be happy. I have a movie, slated to come out at the end of this year. It’s called Spandex Sapiens (www.spandexsapiens.com). I also have a book coming out later this year [from Crowbar Press]. The working name for it is Battleground Valhalla, and you should be keeping your peepers peeled for that. It will be out via the U.S.A and I have a publisher, but I have not cleared up with them how much of all this I can divulge at this point. So I have a lot of stuff planned and a lot of stuff to look forward to. Let’s see where my great manager in the sky takes me.”
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- Mar. 12, 2009: Finland’s wrestling star a Canadian Rebel