Time for a random review as we look at an open air charity show from Finland. That’s a new one for us, right…

Okay, this is a new one for us. Wrestle Aid 2019 was a charity show, held in what looks like a car park in Rauma, Finland. In fact, Google tells us that the “arena”, Ravintola Tifosi, is a bar… so with this being an open air show, you can probably fill in the blanks yourself. From our side of things, there’s a few familiar faces on this line-up, with Scotty Davis, Jurn Simmons, Matt Cross and Taijiri on the undercard… while the main event featured… Meiko Satomura? There’s a random booking to top it off!

We open with the Black Eyed Peas playing as I glaze over the show opening banter in Finnish.

Matt Cross vs. Jami Aalto
A quick gander at Cagematch shows that Aalto hasn’t wrestled outside of Finland, and this match is the biggest of his career so far. At least in terms of name value of the opponent. Aalto kinda reminds me of MLW’s Gringo Loco in terms of the gimmick and look.

It starts out fairly well with a pacey exchange that led to a respectful handshake between the pair. Cross backflips away as Aalto hung onto the ropes, then came back in with a dropkick before he proceeded to make Aalto very familiar with the turnbuckles. There’s clearly one kid in the crowd who’s not happy with the pace, as he wants them to finish this already, but Cross ignores them as he proceeds to keep going for pinning attempts on his Finnish foe. Aalto fights back with a handspring enziguiri that just about landed, following up with a Goomba stomp and a standing moonsault that did the job, even if they didn’t look sharp. A running knee into the corner’s next, but Cross is back with a handspring elbow before a punch took Aalto down for a near-fall.

Aalto lifts Cross onto the apron, but it’s not for the best as Cross knocked him down and hit a Goomba stomp of his own off the top for a two-count, but a knee from Aalto gets him back in as a cross-legged Ki Krusher spiked Cross for another near-fall. A missed handspring enziguiri looked to get Cross back in… and he fully capitalised with a rebound cutter before a sweet shooting star press landed for the win. This was OK, despite that kid in the crowd not liking the pace… Aalto was perfectly serviceable, but looked to lack polish against a more travelled star. **¾

After the match, Aalto put his sunglasses on and got a handshake… only for Cross to steal them for himself.

Carlos Zamora & Mikk Vainula vs. Patrik Mieto & Polar Pekko
The first of several matches that I’m going in blind for. Quite literally, in the case of the “nomad” Vainula, who doesn’t have a Cagematch. It also doesn’t help when the pre-match graphics show Polar Pekko as having a purple long mohawk… that’s no longer purple. It’s a braided ponytail instead, at least that’s if the crowd chanted for the right guy.

Zamora tries to work over Pekko’s arm in the early going, but he got taken down by an armdrag. Carlos tries the old Rocky Romero “hold yourself in the ropes” trick as the pair head outside, where he unfortunately slipped on the apron amid some acrobatics. Back in the ring, tags bring in Vainula and Mieto, leading to Vainula landing a nice fallaway slam as his team slowly found the upper hand. A backbreaker left Mieto down as Zamora’s in to score a near-fall, as he’s left isolated and in the wrong corner. He quickly gets free as Pekko got in and cleared house with clotheslines and kicks, but he’s quickly thwarted when Vainula crotched him on the top rope as they set up for a double-team superplex… that became a Tower of Doom.

Pekko’s taken into the corner as Zamora tried to keep the pressure up, but his roll through is caught and turned into a Blue Thunder bomb. His dropkick helps Mieto take down Zamora with a German suplex, but the wasn’t watching, and so the visual pin is for nought… especially as Zamora’s quickly back with a pumphandle driver, then a senton bomb… allowing Vainula to come in and finish off Mieto with a jackhammer for the win. This was a little rough in places, with some degree of “running before walking”. Quite literally, in some parts, as there were swathes of the match I had to rewind to figure out what the hell had happened… **

No Disqualification: Jurn Simmons vs. Heimo Ukonselkä
Jurn gets a Viking entourage for his entrance, which is a hell of a cool touch. To be fair, Ukonselkä gets some too, as we’re having some Nordic warfare here. Even if the war-painted Heimo seems to be more of a jolly Viking compared to Jurn’s grumpy Viking…

We start with a good ol’ fashioned test of strength as Jurn was looking to frustrate, but he’s quickly taken outside among sone wandering fans as… Heimo followed with a Bionic elbow off the apron. Jurn gets an up close view of the benches that some of the crowd were sitting on… and the Viking shields as the pair brawled around ringside. Those benches got put to use again as Jurn was thrown onto one – with the fans sitting right by it not moving – as we had a weird camera cut just as Heimo fell into it. Luckily, the bench didn’t give way, especially when Jurn slammed him onto it. Must have been a Japanese table in a former life…

The brawling around ringside continued as they then headed into the bleachers, where Jurn screamed at a fan before punting someone’s bottle away. Sadly, he didn’t threaten to Maude Flanders Heimo, as they headed back to the ring instead, where Jurn stretched Heimo while the crowd tried to get behind him. A bearhug keeps it going, but Heimo tries to bite his way free… and it worked too!

Jurn misses a charge into the corner as Ukonselkä looked to head up top… but he leaps into a spinebuster as Simmons picked up a two-count from it. Heimo keeps up with a chop and some forearms before he went all Batista/Warrior on us with some rope shaking on the way to a diving knee for the win. If you’re into walk ‘n’ brawls, this is for you – as the jolly Viking picked up the win on “home turf”. Extra points for the “whoo hoo” by the ring announcer at the end too. **¾

Viktor Tykki vs. Scotty Davis
According to Cagematch, Tykki’s another one on this show who’s not wrestled outside of Scandinavia… and he’s got quite a size and weight advantage on Scotty Davis.

Tykki flips off the crowd as he proceeded to shove down Davis… whose response was to ragdoll him to the mat with waistlock takedowns. Scotty was having to stick and move as Tykki was proving to be stubborn, particularly as he needed two goes to have his legs swept away, with the takedown looking nasty as he took it head-first.

Davis flips into the ring, somehow sending Tykki outside… but fortunately he caught the Irishman’s tope before slamming him onto the edge of the ring. That ring does NOT look to have any give in it… and the referee’s going all New Japan on us, refusing to count the pin after the apron bump. Scotty tries to fight back from the bottom, but he’s snapped in half with a DDT before we got a curious camera cut to a wacky angle of a back senton.

Davis puts together a flurry of strikes, but can’t avoid a Black Hole Slam from Tykki, who followed up with a nice transition into a torture rack. Scotty slips onto the apron before coming back in with a massive German suplex as the crowd got on his side. A strike battle has Scotty edging ahead, with a roundhouse kick taking Tykki down before an attempt at Supremacy was blocked… and turned into another rack.

Scotty slips out again, but gets charged into the corner, where he narrowly avoided a cannonball. Another roundhouse kick drops Tykki, before a Dragon suplex led to an awkward landing and another two-count for Scotty… he tries again, but ends up landing a brainbuster for another near-fall, before they headed outside as a somersault plancha kept Tykki down. Back inside, Tykki goes back for a running Samoan drop… and that’s the win. Huh. Scotty took most of the match it felt, but that one big move was enough to put the local lad over. He tried, but this had way too many rough edges compared to what we usually see out of Scotty – and I don’t think it was on him. Some of it’s even shown in replays… **½

Stark Adder vs. Toni Tamminen
Adder’s been wrestling for almost 15 years according to Cagematch, and looks like it, while Tamminen hasn’t even had 20 matches. Ader seems to be rocking a MMA-ish gimmick with goth eyeliner, as he has… a taekwondo team doing drills as a guard of honour. Weird…

Oh my God, Tamminen gets cheerleaders and The Final Countdown for his guard of honour… but loses big points for getting to the ring while the entrance was still playing. Did Bryan Danielson teach nobody anything?!

The crowd actually makes some noise here, chanting for Tamminen as he was taken into the corner by Adder, who looked like he was trying to rip his arm off in the hunt for a headlock takedown. Things get a little smoother when Adder looked for a front facelock, rolling across Tamminen, only to get caught with a STO as Toni turned defence into offence with a quick Koji clutch. It’s escaped as Adder uses a double underhook suplex to put Tamminen on the mat again, but he’s quickly in the corner… and misses a missile dropkick as Tamminen tried to fight back. A bridging Northern Lights suplex gets a two-count, and then we pause as this is starting to feel like “move – pause – move” rather than an ongoing contest of sorts.

Adder swings with kicks, taking Tamminen into the ropes, only to get caught with a forearm as things looked to be getting tasty. At least with strikes. Shots to the midsection set up for a Robinson special-like kick that got Toni a near-fall, before a Michinoku driver drew another two-count as I guess Toni was building up momentum? Adder’s back with a release Northern Lights and a side headlock, but even basic rope running gets horribly dangerous as Tamminen leapt far too early for a leapfrog, forcing Adder to dive under to try and prevent a nasty collision. Toni grabs a hold as they reset, resulting in him low bridging Adder to the apron as… oh God, don’t try anything on the apron. They did, and this time it’s some headscissors from Adder that Toni (wisely) doesn’t flip for as the pair leap to the tarmaced car park below.

Some brawling on the outside sees Adder get whipped into the ring post before they trade chops, then forearms, before Tamminen rolled Adder back inside for a near-fall. Another weird camera angle masks an enziguiri from Adder, but manages to catch Tamminen as he countered a whip into the corner with a Whisper in the Wind. We get a Miz-like clothesline into the corner next as Adder was pulling himself back to his feet, but Toni heads up top and goes low with a missile dropkick… and it’s not enough to end the match. Instead, Adder made another comeback scoring a wheelbarrow bulldog, before he headed up top for a swandive headbutt… which lands, before he folded Tamminen awkwardly for a two-count.

A simple slam off the ropes follows, before a double knee drop didn’t finish things… and Toni’s got more fight left in him as he shoves away another wheelbarrow bulldog, then snatched the win with a crucifix. Your heart shouldn’t be in your mouth as much as it was here for a simple match… but I guess this is what happens when a wrestling scene doesn’t get the chance to grow or develop. They tried, but this was flat out dangerous at times, as those darkening skies above were proving to be ominous. ¼*

They’re fixing the ring ropes before our next match. Yeah, that was the problem. It gives them time to run a tickertape of sponsors as I’m sad that Graphause isn’t a German beer-and-wrestling pub…

Tajiri vs. Starbuck
Of course, Taijiri got his old WWE theme here, and sadly… no reaction. This was the start of a brief European tour for Tajiri, who took in Austria, Italy and Malta as he toured not-exactly some European hotbeds of wrestling.

Starbuck’s fashionably late, as we get uncomfortable pauses and quizzical looks around from everyone, until Starbuck finally arrived… standing on the back of a car that was burning rubber. To be fair, that’s probably the main reason the “rebel” Starbuck wore ear plugs… Cagematch tells me Starbuck’s originally from Canada and has been going for 25 years. I’m a little dubious to those early days, so let’s go with his run from 2003 mostly around Europe, having had matches with the likes of the current PCO, the current Asuka, and several against Tajiri.

The bell sounds as we open with a tie-up into the ropes, with Starbuck refusing to let Tajiri by. Instead, they go to ground, prompting Tajiri to roll outside so he could high-five the crowd, and sit by a fan whose medical condition spurred this whole show into existence. Tajiri returns as they stay on the mat, with Tajiri looking for a STF, but instead turned it into a double arm stretch while pulling on Starbuck’s hair, this time forcing him into the corner. They keep it on the mat as Tajiri trapped Starbuck with a hammerlock, then a cross armbar as the ropes again saved the Canadian, who rolled to the outside to collect himself.

There’s more of the same when Starbuck returned, as he looked to be lacking caffeine as Tajiri went back to the armbar, before another exchange led to Tajiri rolling outside. All this stalling angered Starbuck, who gave chase throughout the car park, as all we were missing here was some Yakety Sax as Tajiri looked to be going for a count-out. There’s finally a pay-off as Tajiri kicked away at Starbuck as he got back in the ring, before he upped the ante with some chops until Starbuck stopped the tide with a spinning heel kick. An elbow drop off the middle rope followed for a two-count, as we continue to keep it relatively old school, with a knee drop off the ropes.

Starbuck misses an elbow drop as the door opened for Tajiri to go back to some kicks, targeting the left arm as he proceeded to wrap Starbuck’s arm in the ropes. They head back inside as more kicks knock Starbuck down to the mat again, where the arm work continued with legscissors adding to the pain. The pair go back and forth with shots, before Starbuck threw a clothesline off the middle rope out of desperation. A gut punch and a side Russian legsweep sees Starbuck go all Bret Hart on us for a near-fall… hey, there’s the backbreaker. Is the elbow off the middle rope next? Yes it is! He doesn’t complete the set with a Sharpshooter yet, as he then climbed the ropes… but got caught with a headkick by Tajiri.

Starbuck shoves him back down though and goes for an axehandle smash… but a kick to the gut stops that as Tajiri got right back on top. A Buzzsaw kick’s blocked as Starbuck tries for a piledriver… but Tajiri goes back to the arm, rolling him to the mat in a Key lock until they got to the ropes. More kicks and more arm work followed, but Starbuck manages to surprise Tajiri with a superkick in the corner as Starbuck tried to get the crowd going…

A piledriver’s blocked, so Starbuck goes in with an atomic drop before Tajiri’s back body drop countered a second piledriver. He’s still going for the Buzzsaw kick, but Starbuck ducks it and shoves Tajiri into the ref. It means nobody sees the mist, as the Buzzsaw kick finally lands for the win. This may have been a little on the slow side, but compared to what came before it, this was like Flair/Steamboat – and I was especially tickled by Starbuck slowly turning into a Bret Hart tribute act at the end. The tights should have given it away… **½

Sadie Gibbs vs. Ivelisse vs. Meiko Satomura
I will say, it’s bloody odd for a show that had this many casual fans… that they not only had a women’s match, it was also the main event.

Ivelisse tried to be the aggressor, but she’s knocked down by Meiko and Sadie, before she sidestepped a shoulder charge as Gibbs took the turnbuckle. That left us one-on-one with Ivelisse and Satomura, with Meiko grabbing a side headlock before she caught Ivelisse with an uppercut… she rolls out, and Sadie rolls in. The pair have a test of strength, with Gibbs taking Satomura to the mat, but she’s quickly tripped in the ropes as Ivelisse came in and tried her luck with a German suplex on Gibbs. It didn’t go well, but she had better luck with a lucha armdrag before she ran into a press slam as Gibbs bounced her off the mat.

Meiko gets a near-fall with a handstand knee drop, as we went back to Gibbs/Satomura throwing bombs at each other. A cartwheel headscissors out of the corner gets the crowd going – and it’s not hard to see why; this is totally different from what they’ve seen so far today. The camera misses something as Ivelisse comes in with a springboard STO for a near-fall on Gibbs, before she stuffed some armdrag attempts. Gibbs kipped up and hit an armdrag finally, sending Ivelisse into the ropes before pancaking her out of a back suplex. More armdrags ensue, as Ivelisse found the magic formula for this crowd: arm drags.

Meiko’s had enough of move spamming so she comes in with all the kicks. Sadie and Ivelisse stay on each other, but it’s Gibbs who edges ahead, squashing the other two in the corner before she built up into a Tower of Doom, with Meiko pulling the proverbial trigger. Another missed move from the cameraman led to Meiko landing the cartwheel knees to a kneeling Gibbs for a near-fall, as Ivelisse did something… quit switching camera angles!

A shotgun dropkick from Gibbs takes Ivelisse outside… but for some reason Sadie was going to dive on Meiko. Ivelisse saves her from crashing into the tarmac, by coming in and climbing onto Gibbs with a modified Octopus hold before Satomura returned to the ring. Ivelisse lands a Scorpion kick to Meiko, only for Meiko to return with a head kick and a death valley driver for the win. This felt short, but was easily the best thing on the card by a country mile. ***

It’s awkward picking holes in a charity event, but this felt like such a weird show to watch. An open air event is always tough for generating reactions, least of all when you’ve got what looked to be a sparse crowd on an early summer’s afternoon. And a crowd that looked to be really hard to sell to on top of that!

This being my first experience of watching wrestling from Finland, it wasn’t at all positive, as the imports more than overshadowed the local talent in terms of quality. What didn’t help was that for the bulk of the show, I had no idea who you were meant to be cheering and who you were meant to be booing – and for a show like this, that’d have been nice to know from the second the bell rang.

Add in weird production choices, with the director getting increasingly erratic as the show wore on, and you had a show that was just plain odd. Would I watch another show from Finland? Absolutely, but I’d be very keen to see what things are like when it’s familiar faces against each other, as I’ve a feeling some of the dip in quality came from just the lack of familiarity here.