The day of the week known as Thursday has worn many hats from major party night in college to last real day of the work week in the real world and “TBT” or “Throwback Thursday” in the social media world. Each Thursday for this column, however, shall henceforth be known as Time Machine Thursday, or TMT for short, and will bring you one of professional wrestling’s awesomely forgotten or infamously awful wrestlers or gimmicks which were ahead of their time.
LOS ANGELES, September 18, 2014 — Over the course of professional wrestling history, xenophobic characters have always been a generator of “cheap heat”. Cheap heat is bad mouthing the home crowd’s horrible sports teams, informing the crowd they lack intelligence, they are ugly, and overweight, or pretending to be from a foreign country that will most likely illicit a visceral reaction. Wrestling capitalized on people’s innate hatred and distrust of “foreigners” and made them boo simply because they were Anti-America. Baron von Raschke and Fritz Von Erich, both Americans playing Germans characters in the ring, were hated by crowds.
In the 1980s, the WWF had the dastardly Iranian, Iron Sheik (100% Iranian) and the evil Russian (really Croatian) Nikolai Volkoff. Russia and Iran were “enemies” of the United States at the time, so it made perfect sense to have bad guys from those countries spouting the virtues of their homelands. Fans booed both men out of buildings across the country, especially when Volkoff sang the Russian National Anthem before matches.
In 1993, a new foreign-born wrestler debuted in the World Wrestling Federation to wage a one man war against the American Way. Ludvig Borga, real name Tony Halme, was a 6’3” 300 pounder with a boxing background who hailed from Finland. Although Finnish citizens are not known to be antagonistic towards the United States, Borga made his Anti-American intentions clear the moment he arrived in the WWF. In fact, he was so Pro-Finland that his entrance theme was the Finnish National Anthem. Apparently Borga had issues with the United States and their lackluster environmental laws and its crumbling educational system. Come to think of it, this was really more of a political platform or a mission statement than a reason to be booed. In 1993 these talking points made you a bad guy. In 2003 they made you a Democrat.
Anyway, Ludvig Borga and his Reign of Social Reform blazed a path of destruction through the WWF from 1993 to 1994. Known as “The Hellraiser from Helsinki”, Borga quickly amassed an impressive winning record with high impact power offensive moves and winning matches with his Torture Rack back breaker. He soundly defeated former Intercontinental Champion, Marty Jannetty at SummerSlam 1993, obliterated the Native American Tatanka and his two year undefeated streak, before setting his eyes upon “All American” Lex Luger. At the 1993 Survivor Series, Borga was in the main event 4 on 4 elimination style match featuring Lex Luger, The Undertaker, and the Steiner Brothers taking on Yokozuna, Crush, Jacques Rogeau, and Borga. He and Lex Luger were the final members of their respective teams, and while both men fought back and forth, the match ended when Luger hit his running forearm to pin Borga for the win.
About a month later, at an untelevised house show, Borga defeated then Intercontinental Champion Razor Ramon. However, the decision was reversed because of interference and Ramon was given the victory. Generally when that happens when the title is on the line, it is to gauge how the audience will react when the other wrestler wins the title, only to have it put back on the champion’s waist. Think of that as professional wrestling’s own version of a focus group. Depending on the crowd reaction or lack thereof, management will decide if they should put a title around that wrestler’s waist in the future.
Unfortunately, that title run would never materialize for Ludvig Borga. On January 17, 1994, during a match with Rick Steiner, Borga injured his ankle. The WWF was forced to drop their plans with Borga, which including a possible extended run in the 1994 Royal Rumble match and an early proposed match against Earthquake at WrestleMania X. Considering that Earthquake went on to defeat Adam Bomb in 35 seconds at WrestleMania X, maybe it was a good thing that Borga got injured.
After sustaining his ankle injury, Tony Halme soon left the WWF and after hitting a few independent wrestling promotions, he retired from professional wrestling in 1997. Halme transitioned to professional boxing and even bounced around a few mixed martial arts companies, and in his first UFC match fighting MMA legend Randy Couture. He also branched out to acting in a few Finnish films, as well as the blockbuster, Die Hard with a Vengeance. If you blink, you will possibly miss him as one of Simon Gruber’s henchmen. Halme also tried his hand in politics and was a Finnish Parliament member for a number of years.
On January 8, 2010, after suffering a number of debilitating illnesses, Tony Halme died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 47 years old. Following his death, Jim Ross was quoted as saying, “I won’t speak at length about those that have passed away but Tony obviously had issues and was not a great guy to be around. Perhaps others have a different view of this man but I personally found him to be somewhat obnoxious and he could be a bully if allowed to be such. Guys like Halme don’t mix well in any locker room and need to be removed from the ‘team’ sooner than later.” Ross then added: “I still feel badly about the last years of Tony’s life as things really unraveled for him seemingly due to alcohol and drug issues.”
While Ludvig Borga may never have been a World Champion material, he could have very well been an Intercontinental Champion and a solid upper mid-card challenger for a World Champ who needed a foil. Borga’s career derailed because of injury and attitude problems and as a fan, it is a shame that he only lasted one year in the WWF.