Tuesday, June 30, 2020


シリーズ PRIDE(ナンバーシリーズ)
主催 DSE
会場 横浜アリーナ
入場者数 15,325人

"IF YOU WANT TO READ THIS TREATISE," Tōrei Enji (東嶺円慈 8 May 1721 - 10 April 1792) writes in the The Undying Lamp of Zen (as translated by Thomas Cleary), "do so from start to finish, thoroughly penetrating each point. Don't just pick out a saying or a chapter that conforms to your own liking and consider that right." This argument against bricolage in the Claude Lévi-Strauss sense of the term (which I am misrepresenting; also please note that Claude Lévi-Strauss made it all the way to 100! imagine it!) is one that I share with you now because if you had applied this stricture not to The Undying Lamp of Zen: The Testament of Zen Master Torei but to TK Scissors: A Blog of RINGS, you could not help but encounter the following exchange in the comments section appended to the post concerning PRIDE.13(プライド・サーティーン) , in which long-time reader and friend-of-the-blog Alistair writes:

"Did I tell you that I ended up talking to Chris Haseman about his time in Rings?"

To which I replied:

"You did not! I remember you saying that it looked like it was going to happen, but you have not told the whole tale. I am eager to hear it!"

And then it happened:

"It was a really fun chat but i can't publish much of it as to begin with Chris said he wasn't comfortable discussing the shoot work spectrum, we then spent a good hour discussing the shoot work spectrum. Yamamoto apparently had an enormous ego, TK was an excellent human being, the young boys trained extremely hard while Maeda was around and not at all when he wasn't, and after Haseman went to decision against tk, he was brought into the dojo as a "RINGS guy" and so then had his matchmaking change from fighting rings guys to fighting foreigners to test them as to whether or not matching them in fights (which i took to mean shoots) against rings guys would be a good idea."

I could only reply:

"OH MAN. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I love all of this so much; thank you! Would it be ok if I include this information in one of the regular posts here? I would like to quote it at the start of one and just pretty much be like 'oh man.'"

And then Alistair was like:

"I deliberately left out the spiciest stuff so it would be publishable, you have my blessing, also if it may interest you i published the final part of my interview with Paul Lazenby who was fighting in pancrase in 1996 https://youtu.be/ZvKC2CoU8ak"

Paul Lazenby is, in my experience, a pretty interesting guy, and so I recommend not only this (of course) but any other such interviewings you may encounter. But to return to the heart of things: Yamamoto the egotist! Tsuyoshi Kohsaka the excellent human! Young boiz who would only go hard when Akira Maeda was present! It all paints a picture, doesn't it? And one so very much in keeping with the (plain) sense of things (after the leaves have fallen, we return) that emerged from our engagement with the core texts that I am inclined to not just accept it but in fact venerate it. Thanks so much to Alistar for this! In closing (of this part) I would like to say that if you are thinking about how quoting that one bit of the Undying Lamp of Zen at the very start violates the very principle I am invoking by so quoting then yes I would have to agree and yet also wonder: paradox? or dialectic? That is perhaps the question at the heart of our vast task here, or maybe a super close number two just behind "is this martial arts fighting real, or merely real-seeming? Le vrai combat, ou le combat vraisemblable?" Both (neither) are important (no).

PRIDE.14 MIGHT BE A GOOD ONE YOU NEVER KNOW as we join 15,325人 (give or take) at 横浜アリーナ Yokohama Arīna in beholding it. Non-Lenne-Hardt-ring-announcer Kei Grant welcomes us and introduces us to "the beautiful PRIDE girls, excited and ready to party," though there is no evidence to support two of these three claims made about them. The camera darts in and out and side to side in a way that is shitty as Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten demonstrate techniques and make noises like "doi" and "goosh" as the mock-blows mock-connect. And those are the Quadros noises. Risa Stegmayer is again our able backstage reporter, though her attempts to show us how many different weekly magazines feature PRIDE on the cover these (those) days are stymied by this same camerawork that I guess is supposed to have a kind of music video vibe to it? I liked music videos (remember them?) as much as the next fellow but this not good. There is no way any parade of fighters could equal that of PRIDE.13, which featured Okura Shonosuke, Nou Drummer and Holder of Important Intangible Cultural Assets, and so they perhaps wisely does not even try (much as Slayer realized they could in truth play no faster than Reign in Blood and switched it up considerably on the underrated South of Heaven [honestly it has been a while since I have heard either]) but instead have a giant orb:

Kei Grant's image is projected atop it for a time. And here comes all of the fighters! We will attend to each in the fullness of time!

First up we have Wanderlei Silva (styled here "Silba" which calls to mind how Virtua Fighter is バーチャファイター "Ba-chya Fu-a-i-ta"), fresh off of his horrifying bout with Kazushi Sakuraba (horrifying for whom? [humanity broadly]), against 大山 峻護 Ōyama Shungo in his first appearance in PRIDE and indeed on this blog: some quick tkscissorsearching for his name only pulls up Observer excerpts, though it does point us in the direction of two crucial images, somehow: a 2012 streetwear line I can't believe I missed out on, and a superimposition of Ghostface on a classic image of Dave Meltzer's office I (hand)cræfted for a post called (in part) "The Big Dave Rehab" (an Observer "catch-up" once the archive caught up with our writingz). Here they are:

There is so much beauty in the world
I call this one "Two Kings" (not really)
But we will come to know this Oyama! My friend Russell Mac sent me a lil Shungo Oyama figure one time (along with a Yoshihiro Akiyama and a true PRIDE-era orange Sakuraba WHERE THERE'S A WILL t-shirt), which was exceedingly generous and thoughtful to do (thanks again!). Wanderlei Silva is only Oyama's third professional match, which is just a brutal situation; Oyama had a win and a loss in King of the Cage (at "Wet and Wild" and "Bombs Away" respectively [did I mention this was King of the Cage?]). As I understand it, Oyama was a strong domestic judo player (not at all an international to my knowledge) in his competition days, and attended 国際武道大学 Kokusai Budō Daigaku or International Budo University, which strongly implies training under the great 柏崎 克彦 Kashiwazaki Katsuhiko, a former world champion (1981 Maastricht) and enormous figure in judo pedagogy in the many years since, particularly as concerns two (intimately related!) branches of technique: 捨身技 sutemi-waza (sacrifice techniques) and 固技 katame-waza (grappling techniques) or 寝技 ne-waza (ground techniques). Kashiwazaki has been an enormous influence on the judo I have been taught, the judo that I teach, and the judo that our students share with the world once they leave us (it is a university club so they are only with us for so long, alas [and yet it is right]). Here is a link to Fighting Judo, the most beautifully photographed of his several books (I have . . . let's see: four in English, one in Japanese, and this one in pdf [it fetches too high a price amongst collectors for me], and they are all tremendous); here is JUDO TECHNIQUES: Newaza of Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki 柏崎 克彦 (Full Film), an endless resource; and here is what comes up when you search "Kashiwazaki" at the Let's Play Judo tumblr. He was often photographed by his friend Terrence Donavon, a major figure in 1960s English fashion photography (who directed "Addicted to Love," incidentally, and whose son [one of them] was a founder of Rockstar Games [I have not played any]), and so gets to look like this:

Kashiwazaki has come to Montréal (the true centre of North American judo and so this is no surprise) in recent years to teach but that's still a little far for me. I don't think there's anything else I absolutely need to tell you about Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki right now other than that to also mention that he does Japanese-language commentary for International Judo Federation events (he may very well do domestic events as well but I do not know this) as indicated below:

And also he has shared at least one meal with 中井祐樹 Nakai Yūki, a crucial figure we have spoken of often (and yet has it been enough?):

As you can see I have searched 柏崎 克彦 in twitter and have given myself over utterly to the results but all of this is to say that when Shungo Oyama was at IBU (ah it will always be 国際武道大学 Kokusai Budō Daigaku to me . . .) he was in very good hands. OH WAIT BREAKING NEWS KATSUHIKO KASHIWAZAKI'S 1981 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP MAASTRICHT GOLD MEDAL AND JUST HIS WHOLE VIBE WITH IT MAKES IT LOOK LIKE HE IS A PLAYABLE CHARACTER IN DEF JAM FIGHT FOR NEW YORK AND IS SPECIFICALLY FRIENDS WITH GHOST (or perhaps his greatest rival?):


TO THE BOUT ITSELF, which is to say the one between Wanderlei Silva and Shungo Oyama, and it unfolds an awful lot like the Sakuraba fight did: Oyama, like Sakuraba, is immediately and obviously overmatched by the Wanderlei's size and aggression and just, like, capacity for hitting; Oyama, like Sakuraba, with deep improbability connects and with a punch that stuns and briefly drops Silva; Oyama, like Sakuraba, is then overwhelmed by hitting and the match is stopped. Unlike Sakuraba, who took quite a pummeling before referee Yuji Shimada interceded, Oyama is arguably the "victim" (lol no) of an early stoppage in this one, as the referee jumped in as Oyama turned away (and so fair play to the referee) but in like a panicked-circley-escape-yikes way more than a please-this-has-to-end-save-me way (no diss to either approach ever). The crowd boos loudly and, we are told but not shown, pelts the ring with garbage. The official time of the bout is but thirty seconds and I of course do not doubt it but it felt like kind of a lot happened in those thirty seconds! Which, emotionally, I suppose a lot did. Silva is pleased enough with his win, as well he should be, and Oyama offers no complaint that I can see. I look forward to more Shungo Oyama in the near future! Wondering if there is anything else I should mention about him in closing (for now), I look to his wikipedia page and see that "[h]e is one of four fighters to defeat at least two members of the Gracie family, and also holds notable wins over Denis Kang and former UFC Welterweight Champion Carlos Newton." I'm trying to think of the other three! Sakuraba is obviously one (Royler, Ryan, Renzo, Royce), I thought maybe Hideo Tokoro but not quite (win over Royler but only a draw against Royce [come on though]), not Kiyoshi Tamura (only Renzo) . . . maybe Matt Hughes? YES: Royce and Renzo. So one more . . . sticking in the same vein (that being "guys I think of as UFC guys"), I have clicked on B.J. Penn and found this to be the case: Renzo (which I have probably seen but forget) and Rodrigo (which I may not have even ever seen). Well that was fun! I am absolutely going to text several of my judo pals with this very question. I will give them the helpful hint that it is two Americans and two Japanese!

Next we have Johil de Oliveira and Antonio "Nino" Schembri, who comes out dressed like Elvis and is merry about it. Schembri is a key figure in the modern dissemination of 踵絞 kakato-jime, the gogoplata. "Nino has invented a submission move called 'the gogogplata,'" Quadros tells us. "Invented" is a complicated idea when it comes to 固技 katame-waza (grappling techniques), and I go into that with regard to this specific technique (an interesting one I think!) here if you are so inclined (an article from long, long ago). De Oliveira you may recall from a recent (then-recent) decision loss to Carlos Newton; Schembri is new to us here. Indeed, it is his first mixed fight. He ends it with a classic 腕挫十字固 ude-hishigi-juji-gatame from 縦四方固 tate-shiho-gatame just like its drawn up (get it) in Mikinosuke Kawaishi's 1956 classic Ma Méthode de Judo (peruse it at your leisure here):

Lovely work!

Gary Goodridge is at it yet again (poor Gary), this time against Valentijn Overeem, who longtime readers will perhaps recall from his enormously significant Fighting Network RINGS win over 田村潔司 Tamura Kiyoshi at RINGS 4/16/98: FIGHTING INTEGRATION 2nd (before the lore-wise Osaka crowd [detailed here]. Tamura's penalty for having lost a shoot match that Akira Maeda would have very much preferred for him to have won was immediately made clear at RINGS 5/29/98: FIGHTING INTEGRATION 3rd (this time in Sapporo [detailed here]): "Aaaaaaaand now we know what happens when you lose a shoot that Akira Maeda would have liked you to have won: you get shoot-style squished by Bitsadze Tariel in 3:39 and lose your RINGS Heavyweight Championship in a merciless, battering romp. Tamura was knocked down twice inside the opening, I don't know, maybe forty seconds? And it never really got much better. One knockdown actually sends Tamura rolling out under the bottom rope and to the floor, and then the head-kick knockout, this utter drubbing the clear price exacted for shoot-failure. A dark work environment!" But don't worry everything turned out great for everybody. Because I am on Kiyoshi Tamura's wikipeida page right now it means I get another chance to look at this picture, which I again share with you:

And which I say again is captioned "Tamura at the Masa Saito Memorial event in 2019" but which is file-named "800px-Masa_Saito_mourning_performance_CIMG9603," a title to be shared by every piece of electronic music I will compose from this day forward, changing only the final digit for each new iteration. 

Actually, this brings to mind something else Alistair (you remember Alistair? from earlier?) and I got to in the PRIDE.13 comments which I will reproduce here so as to save you needless clickery:


Alistair June 27, 2020 at 5:27 PM

My whole reason for bringing up haseman was the firing of Yamamoto, and my immediate thoughts being, "eh, no big loss" despite the fact that it most definitely was, like, why was he a star? Naruse leaving is a far bigger loss in my opinion, and why didn't they push TK harder, given he actually beat lots of very good people and was a really good guy? Was it the losses to Yvel? Why Maeda why?

ケー・エス June 28, 2020 at 9:38 AM

If I'm remembering my Observerz correctly, my understanding is that Maeda wanted to put the title on TK if he would agree to sign full-time, but TK insisted on taking UFC fights and training in the U.S. with Maurice Smith etc.

Alistair June 28, 2020 at 8:02 PM

was this before or after yvel and tamura left, because if its before it makes no sense

ケー・エス June 29, 2020 at 5:00 PM
I'm glad you asked, because I had forgotten the timeline of it all myself. Googling for it brings me to the RINGS 9/21/98: FIGHTING INTEGRATION 6th entry . . .


. . . and the 9/28/98 Observer, wherein:

"9/21 Yokohama Bunka Gym (RINGS - 4,170): Yasuhito Namekawa b Ryuki Ueyama, Lee Hasdell b Kenichi Yamamoto, Wataru Sakata b Christopher Hazemann, Hiromitsu Kanehara b Willie Peeters, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka b Ilioukhine Mikhail, Kiyoshi Tamura b Yoshihisa Yamamoto. RINGS drew 4,170 on 9/21 in Yokohama with Kiyoshi Tamura beating Yoshihisa Yamamoto in the main event in 18:52 with a neck lock submission and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka over Ilioukhine Mikhail also with a neck lock in 12:00. The win means Tamura will get the next shot at the heavyweight title. I'd presume both of these were worked matches. Apparently the reason Kohsaka didn't win the title from Bitaszde Tariel on 7/20 is because he didn't sign a full-time contract with RINGS [this is amazing, I had never heard this--ed]. Kohsaka is now living in Seattle and training under Maurice Smith to improve his kickboxing because his goal is to win the UFC heavyweight title. He's working RINGS on a show-by-show basis rather then under a long-term contract, and there were even feelers in regards to him jumping to Pancrase but nothing happened as Pancrase only offered to match what he was making in RINGS so why jump? The legendary Russian wrestler Alexandre Karelin will be competing in Japan in October and RINGS is going to make a big play to bring him in, but he may be out of their price range."

I thought the only person who seriously considered TK for the RINGS title was me in literally every game of Final Fire Pro I have ever played on my phone but no; there is another.

AlistairJune 29, 2020 at 7:39 PM


ケー・エスJune 30, 2020 at 6:55 AM

lol I knooooooooooow


AND SO FROM RINGS OF YESTERYEAR TO PRIDE OF YEARS ONLY SLIGHTLY LESS YESTER AND SPECIFICALLY TO OVEREEM VS. GOODRIDGE IN A BATTLE OF GUYS WHO ARE HUGE AND WHOM WITH OUR QUARREL NEVER WAS; it is underway and Valentijn eats a pretty big knee (to the face [the very mouth of it {for eating}]) on the way in for a takedown. Goodridge sprawls back and ends up on top as Valentijn reaches over and across to apply the double-wrist-lock of 逆腕絡 gyaku-ude-garami. Bas Rutten rightly notes that this is a great position for a reversal or sweep, but Overeem is committed to the armlock, and arguably over-committed as he is kneed only once but quite thunderously in the face as Goodridge works his way to the side and that's it, Valentijn taps out; he must have been injured somehow. Goodridge doesn't seem to realize what has happened and keeps pummeling for a bit, which is too bad. This is, as Quadros notes, a big win for Goodridge over Overeem, who is "highly-regarded for his submission skills" after his RINGS 2/24/01: WORLD MEGA-BATTLE OPEN TOURNAMENT KING OF KINGS 2000 GRAND FINAL win over UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture (detailed here).

It seems as though José "Pelé" Landi-Jons is about to finish 松井 大二郎 Matsui Daijirō early in their encounter with a flying knee, but Matsui, stout and stalwart as ever, wrangles Landi-Jons to the mat, where things actually don't go that well for him: Landi-Jons comes close with 腕挫十字固 ude-hishigi-juji-gatame, and a little after that threat has passed, takes Matsui's back and then elbows him the spine. Which is a yellow card! And I can't argue with that. On the restart, Matsui tries a "shoot" dropkick in the mode we perhaps associate most closely with 美濃輪 育久 Minowa Ikuhisa (if he is unknown to you, or known but imperfectly, may I recommend his 2001 bout against 菊田 早苗 Kikuta Sanae in Pancrase [here], a match of which I am so found that when I put the words "minowa kikuta pancrase" into youtube they come up purple). Honestly the dropkick is not really a professional wrestling move I like all that much (ever read the really old Observers, like the very oldest ones, where dropkick-height was positioned as like a catch-call measure of athleticism? Dave loved dropkick-height!) and so I am not as cheered to see shoot ones when they happen as many others seem to be. Please note that I am not trying to be too cool for dropkicks; if anything I am too square for them. Despite all of this early action, much of the rest of the ten-minute first round is spent with Matsui tucked safely between Landi-Jons' legs, low-key pitter-patting away. When you take the yellow card into account, I guess that round would maybe best be thought of as a draw? Matsui was in trouble early, but was fouled, and finished strong. Round two, predominantly a grappling one, would probably go to Matsui, though Landi-Jons did some good positional work. Round three has a good deal of Landi-Jons on top but his striking from there isn't anywhere near as menacing as his striking from anywhere else. He's a lean dude who really whips those kicks in! When standing! But alas he is again on the ground. Matsui hints towards the 両膝固 ryo-hiza-gatame double arm-lock (literally "both knees lock" but, again, let us not succumb to a coarse literalism) Alexander Otsuka blessed us with but a few short PRIDES ago, but it is truly only a hint. Matsui takes the decision in what is for sure an upset.


Shinsuke Nakamura has to my knowledge yet to respond (it has been several days). Nakamura has had a lovely series of drawings called "Stay Home Ninja" that he posts under the #ステイホーム忍者 hashtag ("su-te-i hou-mu ninja") that I am quite fond of. I am so out of the loop with things that Drew Gulak, to whom Nakamura was replying, is known only as a name to me; I don't think I've ever seen him wrestle even once. My understanding is that he is good? I think I saw a clip of Gulak and Daniel Bryan pummelling deeply incorrectly (I think that was Gulak) on twitter -- the clip went around and I was like man I don't want to be a jerk but that's not how you do that and then Yuji Nagata bailed me out by being like "lol guys that isn't very good" and then Daniel Bryan was like "I am so sorry" so I could feel like less of a jerk about it all (phew!). (Daniel Bryan's official position re: TK Scissors, as stated June 6, 2017, is of course, "Awesome, love it!")  

Risa Stegmayer is backstage with Guy Mezger, with whom she has a good rapport. Mezger suggests that his opponent this night, Chuck Liddell, is the uncrowned champion of the UFC light-heavyweight division. I definitely remember that period, but am surprised that we're already into it. Maybe Mezger was just ahead of the curve on this stuff? Let me consult the Chuck Liddell entry in The MMA Encyclopedia, a work that I of course renounce utterly except for the bits I quote here sometimes (possibly also some other bits though I have not really checked thoroughly): "Liddell came out of the gate strong, with only a single loss — by triangle choke to submission expert Jeremy Horn — against wins over such solid competition as Jeff Monson, former UFC heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman, Guy Mezger, Murilo Bustamante, Vitor Belfort, and Renato Sobral. It was more than enough to merit a light heavyweight title shot against reigning champion Tito Ortiz, but Ortiz wouldn't take the fight, arguing that fighting a friend wasn't worth what little the UFC was offering for the match. Liddell's position was that they were never that close, and the money was fine." So yeah we're still about two years away from Liddell's interim-title-match-loss against Randy Couture, which was the outcome of all of that; credit to Mezger for getting in on the ground floor here. I see that John Hackleman, who I had pretty much forgotten about (no diss whatsoever, I forget lots of things), is in Liddell's corner, and there's a good story about Liddell and Hackleman starting out together, let me find that one . . . actually here's the a couple of paragraphs from the Encyclopedia:  

"It takes the edge off Liddell's tattooed skull, at least a little, to learn that 
the kanji running down the left side of his head reads, 'place of peace and 
prosperity.' That's the literal translation of the karate style he began training 
in as a child, Koei-Kan. But the mohawk — that's something he did with 
some buddies before taking in a Slayer concert. These two seemingly trivial 
details actually give you the broad outline of Chuck Liddell, a soft-spoken, 
easy-going man drawn to what can seem like extraordinary violence. 

Before embarking on his pro career, Liddell wrestled at Division I 
California Polytechnic State University while he earned a degree in business 
and accounting. Then, in a scene that sounds like something out of the 
movies, Liddell presented himself at the age of 21 at The Pit, John 
Hackleman's Hawaiian Kempo school, to see if the master would train him. 
The master and the would-be student boxed for 19 minutes, and Hackleman 
asked if Liddell would be back the next day. Liddell, who had driven out on 
a 250CC Honda motorcycle in the rain, said he would. Hackleman tossed him 
the keys to his truck. It was the beginning of a partnership that has lasted to 
this day. From Liddell's curtain-jerking bout before a scattered crowd in 
Mobile to his main event fights in Vegas, John Hackleman has been a fixture 
in his man's corner."

I wouldn't write it quite like that anymore, and I think Hackleman has turned out to be a little off on social media maybe, but I like that story. And I wouldn't really change the tone, exactly, as I remain really very fond of Chuck Liddell, for whatever reason, as I think many of us do. Remember that time he showed up on an episode of The Ultimate Fighter (ah, the Spike TV era: fightz, JCVD movies, ΛFΓO SΛMUΓΛI) just as a guest coach for a bit and was trying to show how he would throw that ridiculous overhand right? And nobody really got it? And his whole vibe was just like [Chuck Liddell voice] "I don't know man it works for me"? I remember it fondly, though probably not that accurately. I can't quite put my finger on this, but I think part of Chuck Liddell's appeal, maybe, is that he has also sort of never not been worrying? And that humanizes him? Like, long before he took a deeply depressing final fight against Tito Ortiz (I blame Oscar De La Hoya [I blame everybody]), before the three straight knockouts to end his run in the UFC (four KO/TKO losses in six fights, yikes), there he was very much in his prime, drugged and incoherent on Good Morning Texas, or looking just totally addled in UFC-show crowd shots. It's always been like "Hey! It's Chuck Liddell! I love that guy! I hope he's taking care of himself . . . ."  If I ran into him at the store today (unlikely, I grant you) that is exactly what I would be like, and that is exactly what I always would have been like had I run into him at the store at any point in the last twenty years.     

And away we go. Hey something I neglected to mention (at least so far) is that Liddell has a win over José "Pelé" Landi-Jons (whom you may recall from "the previous fight") in a bare-knuckle match in Brazil (gross!). "Chuck Liddell, a very interesting looking individual," Stephen Quadros says. "Could be straight out of a video game." You could say the same about Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki, of course, as we have noted above. Liddell wins the crowd to his side immediately by throwing a left hook / right low-kick combination which is a pretty regular thing to do, I think, except it seemed more awesome than regular, and the crowd is like "this guy, this guy is okay." Opening flurries soon yield to intensive corner-leaning, which displays Liddell's toddleresque tummeroo to advantage. Remember when Quinton Jackson (who will be joining us soon enough) would push his tummy out and say "I'm Chuck Liddell!" years before Jackson turned out to be an unrepentant sex-pest and felony-hit-and-run kind of guy? It was delightful at the time, but now we are here. HEY WAIT Mezger just dropped Liddell with a right hand! Chuck pops right back up and gets into some wild exchanges, bloodying Mezger's nose with a knee, I think. Mezger comes out of these moments looking exhausted, whereas Liddell, whose clock appeared somewhat cleaned, is . . . fine? I would describe this first round, now at it's close, as "an action round." Highlights reveal that there is no way Guy Mezger could have possibly hit Liddell harder with that right hand, and the high-kick he connected with afterwards wasn't too bad either, and Liddell is on the whole fine (temporarily!) which has to be discouraging. To Guy Mezger I mean. Oh dear: twenty-one seconds into the second round, Liddell unloads with deeply Chuck Liddell-style punches (just enormous swings from miles away that are never going to connect except they totally do and then a dudes explodes) and Mezger is knocked all the way out, falling back with his leg at an awful angle. We are shown, first, from a distance, Chuck Liddell doing his Chuck Liddell pose; and next, in artful close up, his sikk K E M P O tat:

Anyway. Chuck Liddell. I love that guy. Hope he's taking care of himself.

HERE BEGINS PRIDE.FC.14.CLASH.OF.THE.TITANS.DVDRIP.CD2.XVI-MAM.AVI and I can think of no worthier a bout with which so to do than this between 小路晃 Shoji Akira and Dan Henderson; what a great idea. You would think Shoji would get knocked out immediately, but he is tough as nails, this stout little guy. HOLY SMOKES SHOJI KNOCKED HIM DOWN RIGHT AWAY LIKE WITH A PUNCH AND EVERYTHING! Shoji is on top and continues to hit forthwith! Is this real life! Okay things have settled down considerably but that opening minute or so was stunning to me. And I've already seen it! And yet it has been so long that have I; have I. In time, Shoji stands though Henderson does not, so Shoji lights into him with kicks. A weirdly-timed referee stand-up seems to me an inexplicable crime against Shoji and yes, sure enough, Henderson slugs him over and over again. Now he's on top in the mode of 縦四方固 tate-shiho-gatame and things look grim for our little friend. Until he bridges and escapes! And they're once more slugging! In the clinch, Shoji attempts the 大内刈 ouchi-gari / major-inner-reap that usually serves him so well, but here it whiffs. This has really been quite a round! Another 大内刈 ouchi-gari whiff. Unclinched, we get a good look at Akira Shoji's face, except it is not a good look: it is all messed up. THE MINOR OUTER HOOK OF 小外掛 KOSOTO-GAKE YES DON'T GIVE UP AKIRA SHOJI TK SCISSORS A BLOG OF RINGS IS WITH YOU (no diss to Dan Henderson). Have I shared that poem with you before?


痩蛙 負けるな一茶 これにあり


Makeru na Issa
Kore ni ari

don't give up,
lean frog! Issa 
stands with you!


I mean to suggest that Akira Shoji, though stout and sturdy, is in this context something of a lean frog (痩蛙 yase-gaeru). Round two! Randy Couture is in Dan Henderson's corner, by the way, which you might very well have assumed but I will confirm it for you. Couture yells PASS PASS once Henderson has clobbered Shoji to the mat but Henderson does not pass; he settles in between Shoji's legs and elects to hit. Shoji is yellow-carded for doing little but hold on from here but I don't know. They are restarted standing but before you know it here is Dan Henderson on top in 縦四方固 tate-shiho-gatame. Some 当て身技 atemi-waza (hitting), some hints towards 関節技 kansetsu-waza (bone-locking), but really nothing doing in the rest of this five-minute round. In the third, Henderson seems pretty sure he has ended the fight with a knee from the clinch, but no, it turns out he has ended it a few moments later with knees on the ground. Either way, though. Great job both guys!

Vitor Belfort, though ludicrously jacked, is still lighter than Heath Herring but such an extent that knees to the head (on the ground) have been forbidden in their bout. Herring tends towards interesting fights whereas Belfort tends towards fairly dry ones; whose style will prove strongest? IT IS VITOR BELFORT'S IN EVERY SENSE as he takes the unanimous decision in a bout Stephen Quadros describes as "not a real barn-burner." Both guys worked super hard, it's not that, it's just that there wasn't a whole lot doing in any of the positions each guy worked super hard to get into or to stay out of (avoidingly). The commentators seems to think Herring should have won the decision, and Herring seems to agree (not that he is making a stink about it, but you can tell) and it was really was very even; I think this is a "tie goes to the runner" situation in which "the runner" is the "the dude that's small." Smaller, rather, as Vitor is objectively jackked all to hekk.

Gilbert Yvel and Risa Stegmayer carry on good-naturedly backstage as they discuss his impending doom at the hands of Igor Vovchanchyn (they do not frame it this way). Yvel says he likes Igor, and all people everywhere are like "omg me too." Yvel throws a jumping knee (his 得意技 tokui-waza, his preferred technique) very early on in their bout, which seems like a good idea because he doesn't even really need to jump that high (Igor is not tall!), but Vovchanchyn grabs a leg, takes him down, and totally works him over positionally en-route to the naked strangle of 裸絞 hadaka-jime! In case you were wondering which kind, it is the "short-choke" kind, and I was just about to explain what I mean by that, but then I was like, I bet we have talked about that recently, no need to go into it, and so I searched, and seems we have maybe not talked about it since RINGS 1/25/92: MEGA BATTLE: KAITEN (available here) -- how can that be! -- when we said of Koichirou Kimura's bout with Mitsuya Nagai:

"Mitsuya Nagai vs. Koichirou Kimura is a match that has lone voices shouting the names of each before the action has even begun, which is an achievement this low on the card. Nagai can really snap those kicks in there! "Wooooahhhaaa" is right! Kimura, though, whose purple-trimmed black singlet (his shoes are purple too) again reads SUBMISSION ARTS WRESTLING, unsurprisingly wants this match on the mat. An ankle-pick (kibusi-gaeshi) gets him there and the commentator says "kannnnnnsetsu-waza!" in anticipation of how sikk joint-locking techniques really can be and often are. But Nagai, despite what one might surmise from his early insistence on kicking, is no rank amateur on the mats, and forces a Kimura (the guy, not the hold; I would have said gyaku-ude-garami had I meant the hold [because of my taste level]) rope escape soon thereafter. I think we are trimming time here pretty significantly? In any event, Kimura really seems to want to secure the trachea-choke/air-choke/short-choke variation of hadaka-jime, the kind that Fedor Emilianenko finished poor old dumb (I say this in sympathy and solidarity) Tim Sylvia with that one time, and when Sylvia was asked about it, he was like "I don't know what it was, I just know it hurt like hell." Just last night I was teaching a ne-waza heavy class and we discussed this particular application and its several virtues but ended by being clear about how we shouldn't do it to each other so much as other, blood-choke hadaka-jimes because (i) it is inefficient, and (ii) it hurts so don't be a jerk to people. I was assisted in this class by an old friend of the club (and to me) who holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in addition to that same rank in the exquisite art of Kodokan Judo and he too was pretty much like 'yes, this version makes you a bad friend, and you should instead be a good friend, to your friends.'"

That can't be the last time we talked about that crucial issue . . . and yet it is all google will allow me.

IT IS 藤田 和之 FUJITA KAZUYUKI VS. 高山 善廣 TAKAYAMA YOSHIHIRO the latter of whom we must keep in our prayers as he has spent these last three years in a state of paralysis from the shoulders down following a horrible neck injury. It is to the credit of many, but as I understand it, Minoru Suzuki in particular, that Takayama has received as much support as he has throughout this period of enormous challenge through the "Takayamania" foundation. It was nice that Fire Pro World put together a package of downloadable Takayama content for charitable ends (I see now that they did a second pack as well; I knew only of the first). For many, the singular Yoshihiro Takayama moment is his <<slobbeur knockeur>> contre Don Frye (its 18th anniversary was noted by many on twitter recently), but for me it is his brief appearance in いかレスラー IKA RESURAA or The Calimari Wrestler in which Takayama is shown just like on a couch watching The Calamari Wrestler's big match (it is quite a match!). If you are unfamiliar with this film, it is actually remarkably astute about the intricacies of The Long UWF in addition to its many other charms and I invite you to explore it further (it's hard to get but Video Difference on Quinpool will get it in for you if you ask them to and if it is like 2007 rather than 2020 and they were to yet exist). I have a copy that I can probably share if you need it.  

A final note on Takayama, something I did not know at all: "He is credited as 'Large Man' in Martin Scorsese's 2016 film Silence.[28]"

OKAY THEN HERE WE GO and do you think this bout between two professional wrestlers will be in any way shady biz or do you think that there really isn't any point to do that and they'll just let Fujita loose (not lose)? I understand Takayama had been a big deal in NOAH and even had their heavyweight championship for a while but I haven't really seen much of that peak-NOAH stuff at all, however much I admire their emerald ring (a lot!). Quadros suggests that these two meeting in PRIDE would be like if Bill Goldberg from WCW and Triple H from the WWF were to have a match in the UFC. I suppose kind of! If one of those two big fake fakers had been a national champion Greco-Roman wrestler, though to my knowledge that is not the case. That's Fujita, of course, whereas wikipedia describes Takayama as "[a] former rugby player, kendoka and lifeguard," which is the big three. Hey, Takayama is doing great! We know he can take a punch, and he gets tonnes of opportunities to do that in this first round, but he also proves pretty tough to take down! Good for him! When Fujita does at last get this Large Man (Scorsese was right!) down, Fujita lands some knees that are awful, just awful (from the perspective of being hit by them). This is A Good Action Fight from both guys, and it is made all the more exciting by the crowd's love for them. Towards the end of the round, and really for kind of a while, Fujita has Takayama's foot tied up in the weirdest way, like I don't think I have seen this before ever:

Between rounds, Quadros and Rutten proclaim this the best PRIDE so far, exceeding, they say, both PRIDE 10 and the 2000 GRAND PRIX FINALS, but although I have enjoyed it, I don't think I would say that, and I think I would also say that PRIDE 11 is the best PRIDE show that we have seen on this our shared journey of (re)discovery. But I'm glad they're enjoying it! I had not mentioned that Mark Coleman has joined commentary for the main event, and he is likable in the sleepy sort of way you will no doubt recall from The Smashing Machine. ROUND TWO sees Fujita take Takayama's back standing, and everyone, commentators included, begins to thrill at the possibility of a big throw from here, but Takayama wisely hooks up a 逆腕絡 gyaku-ude-garami grip (as though he were [fellow UWFi alum] Kazushi Sakuraba and his foe Renzo Gracie) and sinks to the mat thataways. he holds this grip too long, though, as Fujita continues to move, and the effect is the Matt Hughes vs. GSP I (as in "the first") finish, which we have spoken of here often, the 木村 政彦 Kimura Masahiko 腕挫十字固 ude-hishigi-juji-gatame  返し技 kaseshi-waza counter to 受け uke's 逆腕絡 gyaku-ude-garami (the æsthetic of this sentence is KANJICORE) . . .

. . . except Fujita stops halfway through to knee Takayama in the head a bunch:

"Bad position for Takayama," Stephen Quadros notes. "He's gotta get out of there." "Stop the fight," is Bas Rutten's call. And then, if anything, the knees get worse, and the commentators just kind of get quiet. Takayama turns and stands, amazingly. Fujita throws with a beautiful 小内刈 kouchi-gari (minor inner reap) that at the club everybody would just call 小内掛 kouchi-gake (minor inner hook) (but the Kodokan would be like "plz; plz") and then finishes with the head-and-arm-choke of 肩固 kata-gatame which Takayama does not resist even superficially, nor does he tap: rather, he seems to welcome the technique as an opportunity lose in a way that is decorous with his sense of himself, which is to say, to be strangled into unconsciousness without tapping. I have made my views on this clear over the hundreds of thousands of words we have shared here together; no need to revisit them again, really. OH HEY HIROMITSU KANEHARA IS HERE, LIGHTING UP THE ROOM WITH HIS SMILE:

金原弘光 Kanehara Hiromitsu (Kim Wang-hong)! Born: October 5, 1970 (age 49) Owariasahi, Aichi, Japan! Other names: The Smiley Killer, RINGS Saigo no Ace ("RINGS's Last Ace"), UWF no Chisho ("UWF's Grand General")! I have really missed him! My friend Cory recently shared this Hiromitsu Kanehara Vs Koji Iwamoto HARD HIT ~MOONRIZE~ 21/12/2014 Shinjuku FACE 466 Fans – Super No Vacancy match with me, which reminds me I would really like to speak with you all about Koji Iwamoto sometime. I believe it was my friend Russ who was like, "it is very nice of All-Japan to have created a junior heavyweight for KS" (to which I can only imagine I was like "lol Russ"). But that is for another day! For now we must contest ourselves with THAT WHICH DAVE MELTZER SAID:

June 4, 2001:

Oh dang, lead story:

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN1083-9593 June 4, 2001

The realities of the Pride promotion as a business as it relates to both mixed martial arts and pro wrestling was shown as the end result of Pride 14--Clash of the Titans, on 5/27 at the Yokohama Arena.

The show, which airs on 6/16 in the United States in the limited dish market as a PPV, and aired live as a PPV in Japan, drew a sellout of 15,326 paying approximately $2 million for a show headlined by an interpromotional match of pro wrestlers, Kazuyuki Fujita, a New Japan wrestler who is in the Antonio Inoki "New Japan-rival" camp, and Yoshihiro Takayama, one of the top heels, if that's the correct term, for Pro Wrestling NOAH.

This was the match that sold the building out, and it was the match that drew the most heated and anticipation live. This was much to the chagrin of the MMA core audience, who hated the match-up because it involved pro wrestlers against each other, and Takayama has no true shoot credentials making it both suspicious going in, and not a quality main event from a sport standpoint. As it turned out, the match was very exciting and very brutal, as expected for Takayama, but what it was, whether work or shoot, seems open to a lot of interpretation, although most reports we got thought it was a shoot and people looking closely found no holes, which is exceedingly difficult (perhaps impossible if you're talking guys of the calibre of these two) in a match going as long as this one did.

The gate and crowd reaction to the match contradicted, from a business standpoint, the perspective of this match both from an MMA and pure sport standpoint. It accomplished what a main event on the marquee is supposed to do. We'll reserve judgement until seeing the videotape, although Fujita, New Japan's IWGP champion, did win the match via referee stoppage at 2:18 of the second round. What made this match even more strange is that MMA is now having betting lines placed on the matches, which meant at the MVP Sports Book, people were actually betting on the result of a match between two pro wrestlers. The odds, naturally, greatly favoring Fujita, who holds shoot wins over Mark Kerr and Ken Shamrock, while Takayama's only high level shoot experience was a very quick destruction at the hands of Kimo some five years ago, and just mentioning the name Kimo tells you what another lifetime ago that is. The dichotomy is that the pure MMA fans hated the main event, but at the show, it was clear the casual audience, which you need to draw on PPV in Japan and sellout a major arena, didn't care about most of the undercard going in, which featured some strong match-ups between top-level fighters, most of which delivered. As mentioned many times, those in the MMA world need to understand sports as business and Pride is both part of MMA and pro wrestling, and that isn't always pure, but if it is successful, it can keep going at a high level. The ability to see matches like Vitor Belfort vs. Heath Herring, that have no box office in Japan, but insiders love, is because they put two guys in a main event that can generate mainstream interest. Of course, in the U.S., marketing something like this is completely different. There are no big name pro wrestlers who are going to test themselves in a shoot, nor would the WWF ever allow it. Nor should they, as we've already seen the disaster of Brawl for All. This can be marketed strongly to wrestling fans in Japan because of the appearance of name pro wrestlers, and fans understand the style and care about winning and losing because Japanese pro wrestling has always been sold as something largely sport-like.

Virtually all reports indicated the show was a big success, with the usual surprises, upsets and even a questionable decision thrown in. There was less pro wrestling content of the show itself, although a sometimes pro wrestler, Daijiro Matsui, who started out with Kingdom (pro wrestling worked shoot style), then was with Pride, and of late has worked with Battlarts, once again scored a major upset beating the heavily favored Jose Pele Landy of Brazil, a lighter weight legend of sorts who UFC was considering as one of its two fighters to create a 185 pound championship until he took this fight instead. Matsui won a unanimous decision in a match which had a lot of pro wrestling content including attempted piledrivers, slamming Pele's head into the turnbuckles and even a flying dropkick (easily sidestepped of course). There is a certain pro wrestler pride that if hard to understand among those in MMA or among Americans for that matter, where even though the match itself is real, to "entertain" the fans is still very important. Real or not, if the show is boring, people won't like it. Since Pride draws such a high percentage of fans to see the pro wrestlers, they pop biggest when the pro wrestlers attempt to do pro wrestling moves and for the Japanese wrestlers who are trained as legitimate athletes as opposed to being trained, there is a certain importance about representing their sport and legitimizing some often illegitimate moves in reality combat. That's why, for example, Kazushi Sakuraba always likes to pull a few wrestling spots in every match if possible and why he's so popular, although his wins in the ring are far more a reason than his showboating in the course of his wins.

It was announced the next Pride show would be 7/29 back at the Saitama Super Arena headlined by the Vanderlei Silva vs. Sakuraba rematch, which is a huge money match-up but may be rushing Sakuraba back too early since he spent a few weeks in the hospital after the last fight. Sakuraba came out for an interview after intermission, as did Antonio Inoki. However, Inoki toned down and made no pro wrestling comments nor attempted to build up any future matches with pro wrestlers. The other interview segment came before the main event when Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman and UFC 170-pound champion Carlos Newton came to the ring [I would have liked to see it! --ed]. Coleman, who earlier in the week, challenged for a match where both New Japan's top pro wrestling belts and his Pride belt would be at stake, said he was issuing an open challenge for the next show. Randleman and Newton also talked about fighting in Pride, although Newton did say a date, and did his interview in Japanese, which gets him over [I wonder if he has kept up his Japanese? -- ed].

After the event, Dream Stage Entertainment President Naoto Morishita said they were going to promote a Nobuhiko Takada vs. Naoya Ogawa match in the fall at either the Tokyo Dome or Seibu Dome which would be their biggest show of the year, no doubt once again infuriating the purists by booking a match that on paper should at least generate monster television numbers. He also talked about expanding the promotion, which at this point only runs major PPV events several times per year. He talked about running house shows in small buildings, such as Korakuen Hall, called "Mini Pride" events, to use to start pushing younger stars. He also said he wants to hold joint promotions with UFC and Pride together and talked more about promoting in the United States and getting athletic commission sanctioning. This is going to be one really tricky deal. Pride does its pro wrestling matches and shoot matches on the same shows and it's fine in Japan because that world is so cross-pollinated that literally even the corner men in the fights aren't sure what is what (that's no exaggeration by the way, as I talked with a corner man from a recent Pride show involving pro wrestlers who made mention he didn't even know until halfway into the match whether it was a work or shoot [amazing if true! -- ed]). But in the U.S., it's a totally different game.

Morishita also said that their goal is to promote Rickson Gracie vs. Sakuraba in 2002.

1. Antonio "Elvis" Schembri defeated Johil de Oliveira in 7:17. Schembri came out to the song "Hound Dog" wearing an Elvis white jumpsuit. This will likely be edited off the PPV. de Oliveira came out dressed as a fire fighter with a fire extinguisher, which was a spoof that got the audience pumped because in his last Pride fight, he got burned badly by the pyro before the match and had to be hospitalized. Schembri, a submission master who had never fought under these rules, got a takedown about two minutes in. de Oliviera, a veteran of Vale Tudo, but giving up size, went for a kneebar at one point but Schembri escaped. Schembri scored a takedown, got a side mount, threw some punches from that position that weren't appearing to be effective, but managed to hook the armbar. Said to not be very good because so much of the fight saw Schembri on top keeping his position.

2. Daijiro Matsui (Shunsuke Matsui) won a unanimous decision over Pele (Jose Landy) after three rounds (ten, five and five minutes) in a huge upset as Matsui was a guy who has lost to every name opponent he's faced and his main claim to fame is he's willing to take a pounding and isn't finished off easily. Pele was the huge favorite, a great Brazilian all-around fighter, who was likely giving away a little in size. Matsui was said to have been competitive in all three rounds, plus Landy got a yellow card for an elbow to the spine, although some said the decision was very close. Match had the natural drama since Sakuraba was in Matsui's corner, and Silva was in Landy's. Good early exchanges. Pele got an armbar from the bottom and Matsui actually broke it with a power bomb like pick up and drop. Pele was on Matsui's back and Matsui ran backwards squashing Pele against the turnbuckles. People went nuts for the pro wrestling spot. He then did it a second time and slammed Pele. Pele got the yellow for the illegal elbow. It was so devastating they stopped the match giving Matsui time to recover. Matsui tried a dropkick, which of course missed. Pele nailed him with punches but Matsui slammed Pele and started striking, with punches and knees to the face. He slammed Pele's head twice on the mat and stomped him. Second round saw them exchange kicks with Matsui going down. Pele tried a flying double foot stomp but it was blocked. Pele got in some hard strikes before being taken down and Matsui was pounding on him. Crowd going nuts at this point sensing the upset. In the third round, Matsui tried another dropkick, and not only that, totally connected on it. Pele was knocked backwards from the kick but not off his feet. Pele got a good right early but ended up on top and pounding Matsui. Matsui went for an armbar but Pele got away. Matsui got a takedown and went for an armbar. Pele came back with punches and stomps and Matsui got another takedown late in the fight. People really raved about this one being great, with most reports listing it as the best match on the show.

3. Chuck Liddell knocked out Guy Mezger in 1:21 of the second round. Ken Shamrock was in Mezger's corner. Mezger started out strong landing punches and kicks. They exchanged knees while in a clinch. Mezger hit some solid punches and kicks, as well as combinations. Mezger knocked Liddell down once with a right, however Mezger, who easily won the first round, had his face all bloody when it was over. In the second round, both guys came out swinging but Liddell hit five straight punches and Mezger was knocked out and went out on a stretcher. Said to be another really good match.

4. Gary Goodridge beat Valentijn Overeem via tap out in 2:39. I considered this an upset but Goodridge was the favorite in the odds. Goodridge was able to block a take down. Overeem went for an entangled armlock and Goodridge's arm looked like he was going to be forced to tap, but he powered out, and wound up on top throwing knee after knee to the face. Goodridge threw a few extra blows after the tap. Overeem was used to fighting with RINGS rules, where on the bottom, he didn't have to defend against either punches or knees to the face, so this changed his entire game. Overeem claimed in an interview he freaked out because Goodridge had a finger in his eye and that's why he tapped so quickly [that would for sure explain it -- ed].

5. Vitor Belfort won a unanimous decision over Heath Herring. They were grooming Herring for a shot at Coleman. Most reports said this was a bad decision, but two major points are that Belfort was giving up more than 10 kilograms (22 pounds), which automatically gave him one point, and Herring got a yellow card, giving him a second point, so Herring may have dominated and still justly loss on points. Because Belfort was giving up so much weight, he had the option to ban kicking and knees on the ground, which he did. Belfort threw very few punches during this match. Belfort, who is very underrated as far as his wrestling goes, took the larger Herring down and nearly got a guillotine. Herring got Belfort's back and landed punches to the head and body. Belfort reversed and got a mount. Herring gave him his back, but then escaped. Herring got Belfort's back again before the round ended. In the second round, as Belfort was trying to throw Herring down, Herring grabbed the ropes, blocking the throw, but getting a yellow card. Herring took him down and mounted him, then let him up as Belfort seemed tired, to trade. Herring took him down again as the round ended. Third round saw Herring start throwing kicks, but Belfort again took him down and started kneeing him. Herring reversed and started punching and the fight ended. People were surprised by the decision, but not overly mad about it.

6. Dan Henderson beat Akira Shoji at 3:10 of the third round. When they started showing Shoji's highlights, instead of showing his Pride fights, they showed some pro wrestling clips of him involved in an Ogawa-Choshu pull-apart and a Misawa-Ogawa pull-apart. Fans laughed about this. Shoji got the early edge. Henderson came back with some punches. Good action. Most of the round saw Henderson on top with Shoji holding guard, but Shoji got a kick to the face at the end of the round. Henderson dominated the second round with punches and was on top in the guard. After a stand-up, Shoji went for a takedown but Henderson reversed and got a mount. Henderson attempted an entangled armlock and landed some punches, but nothing damaging. Third round saw Henderson take Shoji down again. Henderson started dominating throwing knees before the ref stopped it. Slow in some points but people were raving about it. The feeling was Shoji had taken the fight way too soon after having his appendix removed and wasn't in his best shape and got tired much faster than usual. The finishing knees were said to be brutal.

7. Vanderlei Silva destroyed Shungo Oyama in 12-15 seconds. Oyama got a huge pop coming out as the guy to avenge Sakuraba's loss for Japan. He landed a strong punch early and the place went nuts, but Silva responded and punched the hell out of him before it was stopped. A lot of reports felt the stoppage was premature, as Oyama was retreating but had not been hurt seriously at all. The quick stoppage saw fans throwing garbage when it was over, as if somehow the hype for Oyama was a clear fraud [how dare you -- ed.] and he was raw meat being thrown to a hungry lion to make Silva more of a monster for the Sakuraba rematch. Silva was over as a huge heel.

8. Igor Vovchanchyn beat Gilbert Yvel in 1:52. The expected stand-up war with the two best heavyweight stand-up fighters in MMA never materialized. Yvel went for a knee early, but Vovchanchyn took him down. As usual, Yvel's inability to block a takedown and get off his back destroyed his, and the fight's chances. As Yvel went to escape, Vovchanchyn got a choke from behind for the tap out. Yvel grabbed the mic afterwards and basically apologized for his lapse and asked for a rematch. Vovchanchyn sort of agreed to it.

9. Fujita beat Takayama in 2:18 of the second round. Said to be the most brutal and violent match on the show. The crowd was totally behind Takayama as the underdog. Match had super heat and Takayama did well considering he's been very sick of late, if in fact that's a true story (everyone says it is and it probably is, but this is pro wrestling and they needed to protect him as a NOAH headliner in the advent of a bad loss). Fujita had Yoshiki Takahashi, Kengo Watanabe and Brian Johnston in his corner. Takayama had Hiromitsu Kanehara and Shigeo Miyato so it came across almost like a Pancrase+New Japan vs. old UWFI deal. Inoki and Yuji Nagata were also at ringside, Nagata "scouting" for his IWGP title match. Fujita got a quick takedown. Fujita allowed him to get up and landed some punches, Takayama landed some knees (neither had any strong defense standing which made the exchanges exciting). Fujita got him down and threw knees to the hold while holding a front face. Takayama escaped, but Fujita took him down and threw some knees to the face again. Fujita got a mount and started punching at the end of the round. Fujita scored some more punches early and took him down, three more knees, and then used either a shoulderlock or a side headlock choke. Takayama didn't tap, but was about to pass out when the ref stopped it. Fujita and Nagata then did a stare-down to build for their IWGP title match on 6/6 at Budokan Hall."


"NEW JAPAN: Mark Coleman and Kevin Randleman came to Japan for the Pride show and Coleman challenged the winner of the 6/6 IWGP title match with Kazuyuki Fujita vs. Yuji Nagata to a four-belt title match that would likely take place either 7/20 at the Sapporo Dome or 10/8 at the Tokyo Dome. To add luster to the 6/6 match, Jun Akiyama of NOAH will be at ringside for the Fujita-Nagata match. NTV, which has a contract with Akiyama since he's under contract to NOAH (the networks in Japan have exclusive contracts with the wrestlers of the promotion) has agreed to allow TV-Asahi to show Akiyama at ringside since I guess the feeling is a program on both channels involving the two eventually benefits both sides. Tatsumi Fujinami and Mitsuharu Misawa met at Narita Airport to work out the Nagata-Akiyama program. The Coleman vs. Fujita or Nagata match is basically what Antonio Inoki had been building all along to kind of create a world champion of both pro wrestling and shooting which sounds ridiculous unless you grew up with Inoki, where it makes perfect sense. Whether the fans care is another issue, but in the strange value structure of wanting the world champion in pro wrestling to be the toughest guy on the planet, which is what old-time promoters probably would have loved, it is an issue. It sounds so 1920s though. Coleman has both the Pride world heavyweight title from winning the tournament last year in a shoot, and the WWF World Martial Arts title belt that Inoki was famous for holding and gave him that he actually won in a shoot with Allan Goes. Fujita right now has both the old IWGP belt that Inoki was famous for holding which Inoki gave him as a gift, along with the new IWGP belt that he won from Scott Norton at the Osaka Dome show

As it turned out, Inoki and Akira Maeda were on the same plane to Japan on 5/25 and the two apparently talked a lot on the plane. Maeda's company seems to be in bad shape. If that's the case, there is always a way to make money with Inoki's guys going against Maeda's guys as that's always been the key to how they've built their business."

June 11, 2001:

"Yoshihiro Takayama will go back to the hospital on 6/4 to get a clamp removed from his lower back (this was from an operation years back when he was still in high school). The surgery will be on 6/6. He's hoping to be back in the ring by 7/14 but they are saying that one is touch-and-go and kind of indicating his first match back will be 7/27 at Budokan Hall. He also is talking about going back to Pride, which on the surface makes no sense, except he probably got a hell of a payoff and he did draw more money on his name in that match than any match of his career."


"It now appears they are holding off the Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Vanderlei Silva rematch. They are talking about matching Sakuraba with either Allan Goes or Carlos Newton on the 7/29 show and there have been rumors of Silva instead facing Daijiro Matsui. These would all be rematches of previous bouts. Silva beat Matsui in a ground-and-pound decision which he dominated but didn't look like a killer in. Sakuraba beat Newton via submission a few years ago, but now Newton has the UFC title as a credential. Sakuraba and Goes went to a time limit draw in a match that wasn't that exciting because there was a lot of stalling and Sakuraba really didn't have a strategy at that time to cope with it (since then, Sakuraba has hammered people who have stalled). The Goes match is dangerous because Goes is a lot bigger and when he wasn't stalling, was able to hang with him and at times outwrestle him. Plus, Goes is coming off a very quick loss to Mark Coleman and his rep is probably of lower value than his actual fighting ability. Basically Sakuraba has nothing to gain and a lot to lose in what is by no means a safe match for him, since he's in the position where he really can't lose or it'll hurt his marketability and the Silva rematch. The idea seems to be to hold the big match off until later in the year for a big Dome show with Ogawa-Takada as a double headliner. We've seen far too many examples in UFC of holding off a big money match and trying to build for a rematch, and one of the guys ends up getting hurt or losing and the big money match loses its luster. My philosophy when it comes to MMA and all the upsets is, if you've got a big money match, either just do it now, or if you're waiting for a bigger building or PPV, don't let the guys fight in the interim and don't hold it off for too long. People will forget, and letting guys fight is asking for trouble. As it pertains to Sakuraba vs. Newton, I can't see UFC, which has Newton under contract, allowing their champion to go into a fight where he would figure to be the underdog. Newton was on "Off the Record" on TSN this past week and said that he would be fighting on the next Pride show. Politics will get involved here because UFC may allow contracted fighters to do Pride like Chuck Liddell, I seriously doubt they'll allow their champions to work outside dates."

Fujita/Nagata report:

"9. Fujita retained the IWGP heavyweight title beating Nagata in 10:57. It was funny. Jun Akiyama came out with Nagata and shook his hand and sat at ringside. Fujita came out with KENGO of Pancrase, with the idea of him having the most charismatic of the Pancrase guys as his second lended authenticity to the match. This match was hyped up huge on TV and because of Fujita just main eventing in Pride, there's a huge buzz on him. Fujita came out to Inoki's music as Inoki is trying to manipulate his own image as a pro wrestler who was really the best martial arts fighter in the world (people in Japan truly believe this, and that's why Inoki is the greatest out of the ring worker/con man as worker is a nice pro wrestling way of saying that, of our lifetime) and transfer it to Fujita as his protege and his modern version. Fujita got a tons bigger reaction coming out for his Pride match, but once the bell sounded, the crowd was buzzing and got into everything, partially because he picked one thing up in Pride, mastering the art of the stare-down. Both guys were wearing the gloves which also helps create that aura they were looking for. They did a worked shoot style, more like old style UWF and people were into everything they did. Both looked great, which is a real tribute to just how good Nagata is. It didn't have that crazy heat or out of control brawl feel of a Murakami match (when Murakami is trying to have a good match as opposed to ruin a match) but more what a world title match in this style probably should look like. They combined UFC spots, like the mount and punch, with pro wrestling moves like back suplexes and Nagata did a belly-to-belly, and a lot of low kicks, doing a few near falls but mainly building toward choke and armbar submissions. Fujita did hard knees from the side mount. Big pop when Nagata used Akiyama's front guillotine. Fujita got a choke with a body scissors in the middle but Nagata broke it by doing a Volk Han double leglock submission which was a cool spot. Nagata got a near fall after a series of kicks, then went for a choke. Nagata did a german suplex, but Fujita no sold it and took him down in the same headlock choke he beat Takayama with. Nagata made the ropes. Finish saw Fujita take Nagata down and throw punches and knees, with what appeared to be really fast brutal knees to the head (which barely missed connecting) like the Mark Coleman-Allan Goes Pride finish until Nagata went limp, like he'd been knocked out, and the ref stopped the match. ***3/4."


"NEW JAPAN: It appears the 7/20 Sapporo Dome IWGP title match will be Kazuyuki Fujita against either Gary Goodridge or Mark Coleman. Goodridge, who seems the likely candidate in that there is no political problem having Goodridge lose to Fujita, serves no purpose for New Japan. He's really charismatic and if he can learn to work, could be a good pro wrestler, but he's not a main eventer in Pride and it's not a ticket selling match. It's almost as if saying Pride is the major leagues and any of their underneath guys can challenge for New Japan's world title at the Dome. We've seen smaller companies play ball with the WWF under those auspices in the U.S., and usually it's a prelude to the smaller companies being unable to sell tickets to their events unless they bring in WWF stars. The Coleman match is at least a mythical title unification type of match and it's Pride's world champion challenging for the title which at least makes sense, plus they've spent a year teasing a Coleman vs. Fujita match ever since the two were supposed to meet in the Pride Grand Prix championship last year but Fujita had the towel thrown in immediately since he'd blown out his knee in his win over Mark Kerr."


"The real reason the Kazushi Sakuraba-Vanderlei Silva match won't be taking place on 7/29 is because Sakuraba's liver hasn't recovered as quickly as they had hoped for. Sakuraba's health problems that caused him to be hospitalized after the Silva match were more because of liver problems from too much drinking than from a beating in the match itself. He's suffering from chronic liver disease, brought on by having drinking nearly every night over a two year period. Fujita won't be on the show since he'll be concentrating on the New Japan show nine days earlier.

Two matches official for 7/29 are Renzo Gracie vs. Shungo Oyama, which after Oyama's 30 second loss to Silva at the last show, means nothing [OH REALLY??? -- ed.], and Ryan Gracie vs. Tokimitsu Ishizawa (Kendo Ka Shin). Running Saitama Super Arena, which holds 27,000, they'd better have a hell of a top few matches. Pride has dropped Ken Shamrock from his contract which had him as the highest paid MMA fighter in history.

Caught the 5/27 Pride show which airs on 6/16 on PPV for those with dishes in the U.S. or on Viewers Choice-Canada in that country. Overall a good show. It wasn't their best show. Daijiro Matsui vs. Pele was entertaining. It was very competitive, and on paper, you wouldn't think it would be with Pele's rep and Matsui's won-loss record. Pele was clearly the better fighter, but he did foul Matsui and it was a close fight that could have gone either way. Matsui getting the decision wasn't bad, but it was close. It was entertaining for the Japanese pro wrestling audience to see Matsui, a pro wrestler, attempt to make pro wrestling tactics work. However, unless you are trying to entertain, throwing dropkicks in a real fight isn't brilliant strategy. The point being that the Japanese fighters and pro wrestlers in Pride understand that while winning is important in a non pre-determined environment, that the entertainment aspect is still an important part of the equation. Here's how I saw the Heath Herring vs. Vitor Belfort match. It lacked the expected fireworks. Not a lot of good exchanges standing and it was mostly a wrestling match with ground-and-pound. Herring won the first two rounds, but also lost two points, one because he weighed 240 and Belfort weighed 209, so that's more than the 22 pound weight difference [wait what -- ed]. Second was he grabbed the ropes to stop a takedown and got yellow carded. So with his two winning rounds, that made them even going into the third. Third was very close. Belfort had the advantage doing a little damage until Herring reversed him at the 2:30 and controlled and did a little damage until the end. Really an even round. So on a point system, I had it a draw. When it's a draw, nobody has the right to be mad at the final decision but it is hard for me to see Belfort as winning the fight. Herring dominated so I can see why people said he was robbed, but he wasn't robbed until the rules. The stoppage in the Vanderlei Silva vs. Shungo Oyama match was at 30 seconds, not 15 as reported here. It was also ridiculous. Not even close to defendable. Silva was throwing and Oyama turned his head and the ref jumped in and waved it off. He wasn't even hit with a hard blow, and it wasn't as if the fight had been a slaughter from the bell. Too bad, because the first 30 seconds were very exciting. Silva was mega-over as a heel, in particular his pre-match stare-down. They have a big money match and it appears they weren't taking any chances with it and I don't know if the ref panicked, or was told to wave it off first chance he could. Hopefully they'll be able to have it. Silva is beatable by a guy who can out-think him and make him go at such a fast pace he blows up, or by a wrestler who can take him down and neutralize him like Tito Ortiz did. Fujita vs. Yoshihiro Takayama was super heated and a hell of a fight. Really. They really lucked out because it could have been ugly. There is no question it was a shoot. No holes and everything was thrown all out. The Fujita vs. Yuji Nagata match was worked to look like a shoot and it was obvious within ten seconds it was a work, and Nagata is a tons better than Takayama. Takayama took all out punches and knees to the face. There was no question the fans were there for mainly this match, and newspaper coverage indicated to the general public, it's the pro wrestlers fighting that makes Pride, and not the great martial artists that the general public doesn't know. Fujita was up to 259 for the fight, really big and sort of bloated. Takayama showed a lot of guts. I can see why people would think it may not be a shoot, because that passing out and not tapping in the headlock looked so much like a pro wrestling finish, but I've seen that happen in shootfights before. The other thing watching the fight is, Fujita is the luckiest fighter alive. Takayama had no striking skills, nor wrestling skills [plz dave don't hurt 'em --ed.]. He does have size (about 6-5 1/2 and 266 pounds), so beating him looks good in the ring. Takayama had UWFI training in that he's got the basics but not the ability. Fujita is a good wrestler, very strong and can take a punch. The referee protected him against Gilbert Yvel in a sense (trying his best not to order a stand-up no matter how boring the fight was getting although Yvel never "earned" his way out of the bottom), and he was protected with Takayama and Hans Nyman by fighting pro wrestlers. His other two Pride fights, with Shamrock and Mark Kerr, saw him get pounded on really bad until the opponent suddenly ran out of gas, and it was those wins on paper that have made him a Pride main eventer and an IWGP champion at the same time."

June 25, 2001:

Mashiro Chone replaces Riki Chosu as NJPW booker, which is well worth reading about for its own sake, but contains this on Ogawa/Inoki:

"The news of Choshu quitting was not publicized in Japan at press time, but was expected to be announced publicly after New Japan's annual stockholders meeting on 6/21. It is expected at that point that Choshu and long-time political ally, General Manager Katsuji Nagashima, will lose power officially at that point. It is expected that Tatsumi Fujinami will remain in the role as President, since he has always been close to Antonio Inoki, who is gaining in power as once again the most powerful player in the Japanese wrestling industry due to his ability to manipulate scenarios in Zero-One and Pride. Fujinami turned down an offer to run for the House of Councilors on 6/15, which indicated he felt he was on solid footing politically when all the expected shake-ups take place. Even though Inoki and Naoya Ogawa are not nearly as tight as the public perception, the fact TV-Asahi feels strongly about Ogawa to the point he's considered the key to the company's Dome shows getting important prime time exposure due to his recent history as a huge ratings draw, adds to Inoki's power. Ogawa disrespected Choshu's legendary status in the ring at the Fukuoka Dome and ruined their match, having a disaster of a main event before an audience of nearly 30 million viewers."

and of course:

"Choshu was the architect of the famed UWFI feud in 1995-96, which at the time was the biggest money drawing program in pro wrestling history. It was the feud that Eric Bischoff saw while attending a sold out Tokyo Dome show and re-created with the NWO angle, which then became the biggest money drawing angle up to that point in pro wrestling history. While his initial angle in the UWFI feud was brilliant, the feud could have been exploited longer, except New Japan chose to beat Nobuhiko Takada with Muto in their first ever meeting, which is still the second largest crowd (67,000) in Japanese wrestling and the second largest live gate ($6.1 million) in pro wrestling history. Similarly, when the All Japan feud in late 2000 was put on the stable, they had potential for a string of huge houses with Toshiaki Kawada against the various New Japan stars, but blew them off in Kawada's second Dome match when he lost to Kensuke Sasaki, and his value, as well as the value of the company feud, diminished greatly in subsequent appearances. From 1992 through 1997, New Japan was the leading pro wrestling company in the world by most business standards. Choshu himself only won the Best Booker awarded once, in 1992, and Best Promoter award three times from 1995 through 1997. New Japan won the award for having the best television show in 1997 and Best Promotion award five times in Choshu's tenure at the helm, 1992, and 1995 through 1998."

Unrelated, but sikk:

"In last week's awards, one wrestler overlooked for Best Technical (and for that matter Most Underrated) is Carl Malenko of Battlarts. He and Pride's Daijiro Matsui had a super technical wrestling match on a recent big show."




"Pride has announced that Kazushi Sakuraba will fight on the 7/29 show at the Saitama Super Arena, but have not announced his opponent. The feeling is that since he's not 100%, they'll put him in with an easier opponent, but at this point with the competition having improved so much, it's a lot harder to find what in boxing terminology is a safe opponent. That was the whole idea behind Daijiro Matsui with Pele at the last show

They are building toward their biggest show of the year on 11/3 at the Tokyo Dome with a double main event of Sakuraba vs. Vanderlei Silva and Naoya Ogawa vs. Nobuhiko Takada. With the Sakuraba rematch and a major supposed shootfight involving Ogawa, Fuji Network will air the event as a live prime time TV special rather than it being on PPV, and may draw the group's highest ratings in history

Some notes on the Pride PPV airing in the U.S. over the weekend. Usually the shows are better in American form than in the live showing in Japan, but this was the exception. It was still a very good show, because of a lot of very good fights. I didn't like the editing, as to keep the show down to 2:50, they edited most of the ring entrances off the show (which are the major league aspect of the show, although because they can't use a lot of the entrance music, for example Elvis Schembri coming out to "Hound Dog," that's a reason many of the entrances don't air as well) and had few interviews. One fact of life is that when it comes to the general public, all forms of fake and real fighting, and it doesn't matter which, means nothing unless you are into the personalities. That's why wrestling works. It's why boxing works when it comes to drawing the megagates for PPV. It's why Pride works in Japan. That's why it is so important to have TV, to build the personalities into something you want to see, or a lot of mainstream media, which boxing has as well as TV. It's great to have good fights, but as a promoter, I'd take great personalities and a strong storyline consistently over great fights any day. Not necessarily as a fan, of course. They did nothing to build personalities into these guys so besides the hardcores, if a casual fan was watching, they really wouldn't care. The show had the feel of a taped show (which it was), but that hurts from an excitement standpoint. They cut away from every match literally right at the finish and nothing that happened in the undercard was ever mentioned again, so nothing had a sustained impact. Same thing we complain about in pro wrestling. If nothing is referred to again, it doesn't sink in as being important. If it's not really important to the announcers, it won't be important to the fans either. They showed every match, but re-arranged the order. They put Vanderlei Silva vs. Shungo Oyama first, which made sense because you get the bad stoppage out of the way in a hurry. It looked even worse in hindsight, because the refs let some of the matches go so long with guys taking big punishment and waved this off way too quickly. The stoppage was so bad, it should have really been edited off the show. It would have been better to just do a video feature on Silva and show his win over Sakuraba again. They did nothing to build up a Sakuraba vs. Silva rematch, and those are the elementary things you need to do to build buy rates. Daijiro Matsui vs. Pele was a great fight, and they played the win by Matsui up as a huge upset noting Matsui had lost five fights in a row coming in and Pele had a world-class rep. The analysis of Gary Goodridge beating Valentijn Overeem, by saying Overeem should have never tried an armbar that early against such a strong guy, was good. Chuck Liddell vs. Guy Mezger was a hell of a fight, and the announcers played up the UFC vs. Pride deal as well as they could have, although to some it wasn't the best thing since the Pride guy lost. They cut away before reflecting on the strong knockout finish and never talked about it again. Dan Henderson vs. Akira Shoji was another great fight. Heath Herring vs. Vitor Belfort wasn't a good spectator fight, but it was two very good fighters having an interesting fight. A lot of wrestling and reversals. I still have no clue how Belfort could have won, but the announcers came to that conclusion as well, thinking Herring had won. As a criticism, and this was also made on the broadcast which was good in that sense, because Belfort was more than 22 pounds lighter, he was able to get knees and kicks on the ground banned. Problem is it's bad when you have rules, but they change for one fight on the show. Even worse, is Herring clearly had trained to get into positions to throw knees on the ground, got to those positions, but when he got to Japan to find out he couldn't. It's really not fair to fighters to not know the rules they are fighting under until they get to the fight, because every rule change affects the fight and should affect what you do in training. The announcers were critical of this as well as Bas Rutten said that if the guy is too heavy for you, you shouldn't agree to fight him. Not much to say about Igor Vovchanchyn vs. Gilbert Yvel. Yvel got choked out and it was made clear in commentary he needs to work on his ground game. Kazuyuki Fujita vs. Yoshihiro Takayama was also another great fight. It was funny, because the announcers played up the pro wrestling big for Takayama, but not really for Fujita. They kind of acted like Takayama was a famous pro wrestler who was risking his reputation by fighting Fujita, and losing would greatly hurt his marketability, not mentioning that really Fujita had more to lose. They explained Takayama was a major superstar in pro wrestling while Fujita wasn't a big name in pro wrestling, neither of which would be accurate today, being Fujita holds the No. 1 belt in the country. Stephen Quadros at one point said this match would be the equivalent of if Goldberg and HHH were to fight in a UFC for real and how much anticipation it would bring. Takayama took incredible punishment and Quadros, who sort of insinuated early that Takayama had guts but maybe shouldn't be there, really started putting him over. You had to be impressed with his guts and heart taking all that punishment and never quitting and hanging in there, although for a fighter, it isn't good when you're known for your ability to have guts to not quit after taking ungodly punishment. But it also showed, against a guy with no great striking ability, no defense and no ground ability, just how much trouble Fujita had and Fujita took punishment as well. But at one point, they said all Takayama needed was more conditioning and he'd be a factor against anyone, and that was a little much. Quadros talked over and over about how people on the internet may scoff at pro wrestlers, but just how much guts they keep showing in these matches and how effective many of them are. The last match was a tremendous way to end the show and it was an easy thumbs up. But this time, the American PPV didn't do the atmosphere of the event its just due. I think also, for MMA, because they don't have TV or press coverage, it's far more important than pro wrestling or boxing, to constantly during the show hype the next date on PPV and speculate on future matches to build anticipation for that show. For example, since we know the big match down the line, barring a screw up, should be Silva vs. Sakuraba, they should be talking about how the Japanese can't wait for the match, act like they can't wait for the match, so maybe some people think the match is "important" enough to care about."


"Pride is tentatively planning its first show in the U.S. sometime in September in Honolulu. Many Japanese companies have talked about running Hawaii because of its large Japanese population, but it usually doesn't work out. Although some MMA type events have drawn well there, RINGS looked to draw only about 1,000 when it ran the NBC Arena. Inoki used to get giant pops when he would work in Hawaii in the 80s, particularly since New Japan had TV at the time, and Fujinami got good reactions, but even so, they didn't seem to make a huge difference at the gate when working for Lia Maivia. I actually Baba in Hawaii during his heyday during the Ed Francis era as promoter, and while he was pushed as a main event star because of his name, he didn't get any special reaction and wasn't a ticket seller."

July 2, 2001:

"After suffering a knee injury one week before the match, Ken Shamrock canceled a Pancrase main event against Masakatsu Funaki and subbed Lions' Den stablemate Vernon White, an almost identical situation with Pride five years later which resulted in Igor Vovchanchyn's stunning loss to Tra Telligman."

and 25 years ago this week (that week):

"In many ways, the most famous match up to that point in wrestling history took place at Tokyo Budokan Hall. Muhammad Ali, easily the most famous sports figure in the world, faced Antonio Inoki, who, as it turned out, was the most enduring wrestling star of our lifetime, in a match which ended up being a shoot and would up as a 15 round draw. It was the first legitimate million dollar live gate in history and probably the first legitimate high profile pro wrestling match in decades as well. The event was closed-circuited around the United States, to generally weak box office (except in the Northeast where the return of Bruno Sammartino from a legit broken neck to beat Stan Hansen at Shea Stadium as part of the regional pro wrestling feed underneath drew more than 32,000 fans). It was the first national closed circuit pro wrestling event in history, and the last until the first Wrestlemania nine years later. The match was considered an outright disaster at the time, as bad as the worst UFC or Pride matches ever where two people were so wary of the other they wouldn't engage in combat. Still, because Inoki was in legitimate combat with the most famous boxer of all-time, he always considered it as both his scariest career moment and a career highlight. The match was never supposed to be real. A finish was worked out where Inoki would pin Ali, after an enzuigiri, but scripted for Ali to save face in the United States by showing compassion for Inoki, who he was going to devastate, before the surprise ending. When Ali got to Japan a few days before the event, he got cold feet about doing the job, and eventually, refused. The fight was nearly called off, but with so much money at stake for all sides (not having the fight itself because of all the expenses would have probably meant the end of New Japan Pro Wrestling, and greatly hurt many of the U.S. promoters who were heavily invested in the venture), the two actually got into the ring, scared to death of each other, in a shoot. Numerous rules were implemented by Ali's side, fearful of damage to Ali, which handicapped Inoki greatly including him being unable to do any submissions or many throws, nor punch since he wasn't wearing gloves. Inoki would have been able to take Ali down like a wrestler and pin him, but fearful of the punches, Inoki rarely tried and spent most of the match laying on his back throwing leg kicks. Ali went down a few times, but was quick enough to always scramble for the ropes before Inoki could tie him up, thus getting a re-start. There was actually a ton of intensity in the early rounds, even with little action, that's how big the match was in Japan, and how big Ali was in the U.S. But as the match progressed and little changed, crowds were furious at the closed-circuit locations. When it was over, fans were more than that, and in Japan, the damage was so great that both Inoki and the pro wrestling business took a major short-term hit (although both ended up rebounding in many ways bigger than ever when a series of martial artists over the next few years were brought into Japan to put Inoki over in more action-packed matches). History has been very kind to this match, both in Japan, and now is considered the biggest event in the history of that country's pro wrestling and even in the American martial arts world, where many consider this match the birth of mixed martial arts and a legendary battle. Most in pro wrestling in the U.S. simply would like to forget it ever took place. Today, because of more knowledge of the art of low kicks and the strategy of the butt scoot, while still unpopular among spectators but at least acknowledged as part of fighting, had the same match taken place, Inoki would have easily won the decision since Ali's legs took tremendous damage and those close to him have credited it with all the broken blood vessels in the leg, which saw Ali hospitalized after the fight, led to shortening Ali's effective career. In Japan, where the match aired live on network television, it drew a 54.6 rating, a number pro wrestling has never even approached since that time. Ali was supposed to earn $6 million, which at the time would have been the largest purse ever paid to a combat athlete, but only received $1.8 million due to the event not doing good box office in the U.S. due to Inoki being unknown. It was still the most money anyone earned doing a pro wrestling gig until Mike Tyson's $3.5 million payoff for being guest referee at Wrestlemania XIV."


"n what sounds like an angle, but most feel wasn't, at the 6/23 King of the Cage show in San Jacinto, CA, there was a confrontation between Frye and Tim Catalfo (former UFC judge). Catalfo, who is 42, surprised a hell of a lot of people by pounding former UFC star Dave Beneteau to death with rights, then used a guillotine to choke him out in the first round. Catalfo (who has trained people like Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman and Bill Goldberg and was at one point seriously considered as being brought into WCW as the ultimate martial arts coach, kind of a real-life Mikey for Rocky type of angle with Goldberg) then pointed to Frye (in Beneteau's corner) and made some comments. Frye got in the ring and shoved Catalfo and everyone ran in between them as they did a stare-down. Apparently the two had major heat over some underground fighting event in Atlanta many years ago. Ken Shamrock and Alexander Otsuka did a pro wrestling angle at the KOC to build up their Pride match. There is a lot of talk in the MMA world about a Frye vs. Coleman match at Pride. The two fought once in UFC at the end of a tournament five years ago and Coleman won, which was Frye's only loss of his MMA career. Frye, 35, hasn't had a shoot fight since late 1996, when he broke his hand in winning Ultimate Ultimate, and when training to return, ended up signing with New Japan, where he's worked for the past four years. At King of the Cage, Frye was telling people his New Japan contract expired on 6/30 and he was looking at going into either Pride or UFC (he also had interest in WWF, but they didn't seem to have interest in him), but his doing the Dome show seems to indicate he's sticking with New Japan at least for now."


"Denver is now being considered as well as Honolulu for Pride's U.S. debut, also scheduled for September

In a total pro wrestling style promotion, K-1 star Jerome LeBanner talked about a proposed match in Pride with Kazuyuki Fujita. He claimed that Pride is "gay boy style fighting" and that he wants to fight Fujita on concrete with anything goes including biting and low blows and he'd finish it by knocking Fujita out by pounding his head against the concrete floor. Because those in the shoot world aren't used to angles, in brought out a real negative reaction to LeBanner, who will play the heel if they can put the match together. Fujita vs. LeBanner would be huge box office in Japan. LeBanner, who is 6-4 and about 265 pounds, is, along with Mike Bernardo, the hardest puncher in kick boxing anywhere in the world. Fujita has a tremendous ability to take a punch, but he's never taken a punch with anywhere close to LeBanner's power. Of course, if LeBanner can't block a takedown, he'd better get that punch in right away. Two nights later, at the 6/24 K-1 show in Sendai, where LeBanner headlined winning a unanimous decision over Stefan Leko, promoter Kazuyoshi Ishii said that they had started negotiations with Antonio Inoki to do a program where he would send the top K-1 fighters to take on Inoki's pro wrestling team from Pride (Fujita, Naoya Ogawa, Masaaki Satake and Tadao Yasuda) but that the two sides have to come up with a compromise for the rules. There is one precedent for K-1 vs. Pride (well, actually two, if you consider Satake as a former K-1 star who later became a Pride regular) main event. On March 15, 1988 at Yokohama Arena for the second Pride event, Mark Kerr headlined against Bronko Cikatic, who was the 1993 K-1 Grand Prix champion. It was a total mess as Cikatic was disqualified in just 2:14 as he refused to let go of the ropes while Kerr was attempting to take him down which killed what was already a bad show."


"There was a UFC vs. Pride match in a strange location over the weekend, which was the U.S. national Greco-roman team trials to determine the members of the team that will go for the World championships in Madison Square Garden in late September. At 187 pounds, Matt Lindland, the Olympic silver medalist, beat two-time former Olympian Dan Henderson in two straight matches, the first a 3-2 overtime win and the second by a 3-1 score, both on 9/24. Lindland was fresh as the top seed, while Henderson had to win an eight-man tournament on 9/23 over the rest of the top contenders to qualify for a best-of-three series the next day with Lindland. Lindland is a leading contender for the 185-pound title UFC will be creating in September, but would be unavailable for the Las Vegas show now. Henderson is a regular for Pride. At 286 pounds in Greco-roman, Brian Keck, who was just dropped by the WWF, qualified for the tournament but didn't place. Defending gold medalist Rulon Gardner ended up winning two straight matches by 3-0 scores to make the team."

July 9, 2001:

"Pride's debut in the U.S. at this point is being considered for December instead of September

K-1's Saitama Super Arena show on 8/19 will have another eight-person tournament plus four other matches, including Vale Tudo matches

Some matches talked about but not announced for the 7/29 Pride include Mark Coleman vs. Rodrigo Nogueira (reportedly this has already been signed), which would be a match-up of the 2000 Pride heavyweight champion and the 2001 RINGS King of Kings champion, Heath Herring vs. Mark Kerr and Masaaki Satake vs. Gilbert Yvel. Coleman would be doing this nine days after a high profile pro wrestling match which, since it's against Yuji Nagata, would require him to take at least a decent amount of leg kicks."

July 16, 2001:

"Virtually the entire card was announced for the 7/29 Pride show at the Saitama Super Arena. The new matches are Ebenezer Fontes Braga vs. Daijiro Matsui, Igor Vovchanchyn vs. Masaaki Satake, Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Quinton Jackson, Wallid Ismail vs. Shungo Oyama, Mark Coleman vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mark Kerr vs. Heath Herring and Valentijn Overeem vs. Ausserio Silva. The only other match official is Ryan Gracie vs. Tokimitsu Ishizawa (Kendo Ka Shin). Very disappointing line-up for such a major show. During the week they also mentioned Kevin Randleman debuting and Vanderlei Silva appearing, but not sure if those matches are still to be added. Braga has been doing K-1 of late and is known in Japan because he pounded on Masakatsu Funaki when Funaki did one of his first Vale Tudo matches, but was then submitted by Sakuraba. Vovchanchyn vs. Satake is a likely a stand-up fight. May be entertaining but everyone expects Igor to win handily. Jackson may be a real bad idea for Sakuraba. He has a 9-1 record in King of the Cage and his lone loss was said to be a controversial decision. At 205 pounds, he will outweigh Sakuraba by 20 pounds. But he has no name, so Sakuraba will gain nothing by beating him. To get this unknown over in Japan, they are portraying him as a streetfighter and sort of alluding he's a gang thug type. Ismail is an old school Brazilian Jiu Jitsu star who had a big name as a bad man because of a match with Royler Gracie that went 40 minutes in Brazil before this stuff got famous. His main claim to fame was choking out Royce Gracie a few years ago but lost to Akira Shoji in Pride after that. Coleman vs. Nogueira is one of those matches that insider fans love, but doesn't have big drawing power. Coleman won the Pride heavyweight tournament last year and Nogueira won the RINGS King of Kings tournament this year, so while not billed as anything, it's almost like an interpromotional world title match. Herring vs. Kerr is an interesting match in that if there is a clean finish, somebody is elevated. It's really Kerr's last big chance. Don't know anything about Silva other than he's from the same Chute Boxing team in Brazil that produced Vanderlei Silva and Pele and is said to be a strong heavyweight and a very good Muay Thai fighter

The proposed idea seems to be to run the company's biggest show in history on 11/3 at the Tokyo Dome with a triple main event of Nobuhiko Takada vs. Naoya Ogawa, Coleman vs. Kazuyuki Fujita and Sakuraba vs. Silva [good lord --ed.]

One of the Vale Tudo matches K-1 was trying to put together for the 8/19 Saitama Super Arena show was Kazuyuki Fujita vs. Mirko Crocop. It probably won't happen because some of the MMA guys said Crocop would probably get creamed, and that's not what K-1 wants from one of its top guys

New Japan's Don Frye and Brian Johnston have both expressed interest in doing UFC. Frye was trying to get a match with Randy Couture, but UFC wanted Frye to score at least one major win before getting a title match

Former WCW promoter Zane Bresloff, who reached a financial contract settlement with AOL regarding the remainder of his contract, has now officially signed up with Pride as its U.S. promoter."

And finally, July 30, 2001:

"Kendo Ka Shin did an interview regarding his 7/29 Pride match with Ryan Gracie, basically saying that if he were to lose again, he would retire. Pride announced this week that match will be the main event, with Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Quinton Jackson as the semifinal. Tatsumi Fujinami said he hoped even if he lost that he would come back to New Japan. If he loses as badly as the first time, his pro wrestling career will be in a lot of trouble because he never regained his heat from his first loss."


"Speaking of barbaric, there is talk of doing a Gary Goodridge vs. Yoshiaki Yatsu rematch on the 9/22 Pride show. They fought last year on 10/31. Yatsu, who was a world class amateur wrestler in the late 70s and was a big star in Japanese pro wrestling during the 80s and early 90s, can take a punch. Unfortunately, that isn't to his benefit in the long run. He took a brutal beating. Fans loved the fight because it was so action packed, but Yatsu had no punch defense and at his age (44 then, 45 now), taking that kind of head trauma is so dangerous."

That's a cheering note to end on! Actually, to end more brightly, perhaps enjoy this #standupjudo video that includes both Naoya Ogawa and Hidehiko Yoshida amongst many other greats who may not be known to you unless you are in some sense Of Judo but, I mean, really, you still could be if you wanted to; I could help. Thanks once again for reading, friends! We will speak again soon I hope! July is looking a little busy for me so things might be somewhat quiet here. Please be well.