Back in 1993, the WWF thought that an appropriate gimmick for a foreign heel would be to raise environmental concerns about America. Yup, you read that right. In today’s ‘Well That Didn’t Work’ we look back at that WWF run of Ludvig Borga.
By 1993, the WWF had changed quite dramatically from its eighties peak pomp. Very few of the stars who took the WWF global in the middle of that decade were still with the company – although Hulk Hogan had been with the promotion in the early part of 1993 the least said about that the better, really.
But while the landscape had changed – in many ways the mindset of Vince McMahon had not. He still longed for an all-American hero and tried valiantly with Lex Luger, and the Lex Express, to create that. Furthermore, he still loved a foreign heel and from King of the Ring through to WrestleMania X, the WWF title was around the considerable waist of Yokozuna, a 500+ pound sumo wrestler – although, in reality, not Japanese but a member of the legendary Anoaʻi family.
Perhaps with a knowledge of countries with apathy towards Americans that few others have, Vince McMahon turned to Finland to find his next anti-American heel. The man he found was Tony Christian Halme. Billed as Ludvig Borga, he began appearing on WWF screens in the middle of the year castigating America for its environmental and education policies.
He received a fairly traditional initial run by WWF standards as he set about destroying every enhancement talent placed in his way. He made his PPV debut at that year’s SummerSlam, defeating former Intercontinental champion Marty Jannetty. Post-event, he had a confrontation with Lex Luger following his win over Yokozuna. The seeds were set.
His biggest win came on an episode of WWF Superstars later in the year when he ended the two-year undefeated streak of Tatanka after dominating him throughout the match but needing a steel chair to defeat him with Mr. Fuji distracting the referee.
At the 1993 Survivor Series, he was part of the “Foreign Fanatics” team – alongside Yokozuna, Crush and Quebecer Jacques – against the “All-Americans” of Lex Luger, The Steiner Brothers and The Undertaker. It was he and Luger who were the final two competitors before Luger won with a running forearm.
Whatever plans the WWF had for Borga in 1994 were curtailed when he injured his ankle in a bout with Rick Steiner – putting the kibosh on his appearance in January’s Royal Rumble as well as a scheduled match with Earthquake at WrestleMania X. Soon after, he left the company.
After that, he had spells in Catch Wrestling Association and the Ultimate Fighting Championship before a spell as a member of parliament in his native Finland. In January 2010, shortly after his 47th birthday, Halme died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot.
Looking back at his WWF run, despite a main event appearance at Survivor Series, it was certainly unremarkable and almost forgettable. Watching his matches, as I am through my Raw Rewind series, its difficult to find them anything other than slow and plodding. The fans cared barely a jot about him and any heat he did have was surely go-away heat rather than anything else.
Furthermore, the early 90s audience was moving away from the old school America vs foreigner gimmicks that had shot the WWF into the front rooms of millions of fans. That was clear in the relative lack of interest in Lex Luger – certainly when compared to Hulk Hogan – and is again evident when it came to fan reaction to Ludvig Borga. A skilled athlete and power-lifter he may well have been, but he was unable to connect to any great extent with the WWF faithful. Perhaps, however, they just weren’t so wound up about attacks on the country’s environmental policies as Vince McMahon hoped.
You can read all previous ‘Well That Didn’t Work’ pieces here.