Saturday, December 31, 2016


Battle Shot at Niigata
December 25, 1993 in Niigata, Japan
City Gym drawing 3,435

It would be entirely understandable for you to wonder why we are not talking about BATTLE DIMENSION TOURNAMENT '93: FINALS right now, as that would seem the thing next upon us after the BATTLE DIMENSION TOURNAMENT '93: SEMI-FINALS we made much of when last we spoke, but before RINGS closes out its liturgical year in January with its tournament finals it closes its calendar year with BATTLE SHOT AT NIIGATA, in which everything comes at you pretty fast, like for starters this "shoot boxing" (I don't really know what that is) contest between Dirty Bob Schrijber beat Kazayuki Mori that is already underway. Are the rules that it is kickboxing but you can also throw guys with ippon seoi-nage, as Kazuyuki Mori has just done? No, maybe not, as he has been admonished by the referee for so doing. All I can say with any degree of certainty about this match is that it looks real to me, and that Schrijber wins it with a brutal kick to the liver (or at least near the liver) at 0:47 of the second round. 

And with no time to spare we are already on to a Willie Peeters vs. Yoshihisa Yamamoto match, a thing that I support fully. Just now, Peeters has Yamamoto pinned up against the corner, and fills him in with knees to the body before hucking him down with a rough-hewn koshi-waza (hip technique). Peeters is attired as though he is going to put on one of his crowd-pleasing exhibitions (he is singleted) rather than as though he were about to have a match that made me pretty sure it was real (just his shorts), but this one seems super real so far? There is some totally real-seeming kicking and palm-striking, and then the grappling consists almost exclusively of clinching up against the ropes and the corner, not unlike, say much of the action in Dong Hyun Kim's noble victory in defense of judo (against those who would malign and oppose it, like for example the judge who had him losing all three rounds which is an absurdity, that judge has revealed his contempt for the Kodokan and we will not soon forget) last night on the undercard of what we can only hope was the final Ronda Rousey fight (Rousey abandoned her judo in favour of boxing and terrible emotional problems and I hope she finds her way because she seems like an enormously unhappy and unwell person and it seems as though it has been awful for her to be her for a long time now). 

Yamamoto's acne, which I had thought was clearing, seems to be totally back, poor guy. There is no way this fight is not real and I say that because these two guys (of all guys) are incapable of doing so little that thrills and delights. Yeah okay Peeters is even double-checking the number of rope escapes with Yuji Shimada just to be sure; this is a straight shoot, brother (perhaps they, like we ourselves in our darkest hours, have worked themselves into one?). FIVE MINUTES TO GOOO we are told over the house microphone and these guys are still going hard at it but are are looking pretty spent and actually totally drenched too. Peeters takes the decision on points but very, very little happened at all here aside from the aforementioned clinched leaning (I mean no disrespect, you have no idea how much of my life I have spent in clinched leaning; I appreciate its intricacies and demands). 

Now it is Masayuki Naruse and Eric Edlenbos and WHAT A HEEL HOOK IN TWENTY-ONE SECONDS wait is this BATTLE SHOT AT NIIGATA an all-shoot aberration in 1993 RINGS? I am so deeply intrigued by this! 

No time to reflect on any of that now as Andrei Kopilov has already kani-basami/flying-crab-scissored Orlav Pavel but Orlav Pavel comes out of it an into a juji-gatame with such slickness (and indeed sikkness) that any thought that this is in fact and all-shoot show is fading and okay yeah it fades away to nothing at all when Kopilov attacks a moment later with the cleanest no-gi tomoe-nage/circle-throw that has even been hit. They really had me for a moment there with this Battle Shot at Niigata though! Kopilov and Orlav have a much more conventional 1993 RINGS match than what has preceded it tonight -- and it is excellent! Orlav tried a spinning heel kick as though he were Akira Maeda (though no others are or could be), and Kopilov answered with an enziguiri as though he were Antonio Inoki (same conditions). A neat moment comes a soon thereafter when Kopilov has Orlav tied up in a crucifix and just sort of rolls him forward as though into a professional wrestling pinning situation (of course no count is made because our project here is different) and my thoughts turn to the part in Kyuzo Mifune's enchantingly esoteric Canon of Judo in which he illustrates this variation of ura-gatame (rear-hold) as a response to uke bridging hard to avoid, say, the hell strangle of jigoku-jime. I have shown this ura-gatame entry to people and they laugh but they find it hard to escape! This match, which has been really good throughout, ends at 11:39 as Pavel falls victim to Kopilov's gyaku-ude-garami/reverse-arm-entanglement applied from beneath. That is an unpleasant way to lose, in my experience; one feels so owned.

As Mitsuya Nagai gets lose in one corner and Akira Maeda's music blares, I distinctly hear one of the soft-spoken (maybe recorded after the fact?) commentators say Shin Nihon Puroresu (新日本プロレス) which is definitely Japanese I know! Maeda is wearing black tights accented with silver and I may never become completely accustomed to anything but black trunks for him as you know (especially if people are saying shin nihon puroresu at the very moment I am looking at him, come on) but these are objectively good tights and objectively a good look. Maeda settles into a good solid kesa-gatame (a scarf-hold of such inherent power) before looking to jugi-gatame, but in the escape Nagai attacks a leg with great vigor and the Niigata crowd is like HWAAAAIIIIIHHHH which is understandable in that however loyal they may be to Maeda (I assume that amount is very), Nagai (lol I almost said Naruse if you can believe it!) is an appealing young challenger in way over his head and who can resist the lure of it. Nagai secures a mae-hadaka-jime front choke but Maeda takes him up and over with a coarse Northern Lights Suplex! This is not the Ken Shamrock/Matt Hume (it was Hume, wasn't it?) absurdity but one that falls apart just enough to maintain credibility. And in a nod to the apparent reality of this evening's earlier bouts, Maeda seems to have crippled Nagai with one of the grossest heel hooks I have ever seen, the foot is at just the worst angle and I am a mortified! But Tsuyoshi Kohsaka is in now icing Maeda down so who can stay mortified for long, this is great!

We are informed through on-screen graphic that earlier in the evening Nobuhiro Tsurumakatook a decision win over Hiroki Mori and Koichiro Kimura did likewise over Satoshi Sonma. Congratulations to both!

And that's it for RINGS 1993! This is the busiest year in all of RINGS (although 1994 comes very close) and now it is behind us! It has been great! Thank you for your attention to it! Oh hey look there is an ad for JWP after:


And then some quality WOWOW karate programming appears to be coming up (I think they say Willie Williams is in this one? yes, there is young Willie Williams in evidence) as there seem to be about twenty minutes of just general WOWOW on this tape and now it flows into programming about bears generally, including that classic footage of a guy in a gi standing next to a bear who attacks the lady sitting in the chair (you have seen this before) and they even have clips from Canada talking to people about a particularly bad bear (one man notes bears are usually good, but this one they're talking about, it's too bad, but this one bear has gone bad) WAIT IS THIS ABOUT YOSHIAKI FUJIWARA GEARING UP TO WRESTLE A BEAR? They keep showing bears but also showing Yoshiaki Fujiwara and they are saying "kansetsu-waza" and I know for a fact that means joint-locking techniques and I don't think this is a fair way to treat bears, to have Yoshiaki Fujiwara wrestle them at all, if that is indeed what is being threatened here. I don't feel good about it! NOW THEY ARE PLAYING RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE AS THEY ARE SHOWING MAS OYAMA AND I THINK IT IS "KILLING IN THE NAME" WHAT IS HAPPENING. Then Fujiwara is in a shopping centre on location for a talk show? WOWOW is so legit. 


January 3, 1993: "12/25 Niigata (RINGS - 3,435 sellout): Tsuromaki b Moriyasu, Koichiro Kimura b Honba, Fred Schreiber b Morikuzo Morichi, Willie Peetres b Yoshihisa Yamamoto, Masayoshi Naruse b Eric Endeross, Andrei Kopilov b Popiel, Akira Maeda b Mitsuya Nagai"

January 10, 1993: Tangential, but Bart Vale: "The 12/13 issue of Sports Illustrated had an article in Bart Vale (Pro Wrestling Fujiwara-Gumi), which would be the first article on a pro wrestler in that magazine since they did a feature on Koji Kitao. The article, called "Shootfightin' Man," may have only run regionally in Southeastern editions, but was loaded with inaccuracies. The most prominent one was right in the lead where they talked about Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage being involved in staged matches but that Vale's matches are anything but staged. It also billed Vale as the current world heavyweight champion in the Japanese sport of shootfighting and gave the impression he was a celebrity in Japan and considered the first non-Japanese to be one of the top three in the world in shootfighting, all of which are a major stretch. Technically, PWFG created a PWFG championship for Vale so he could promote their shows using an American on top in the United States, and he did two shows in the Miami area, but he's hardly thought of in Japan in a world heavyweight champ and as "shootfighting" groups go, PWFG is almost non-existent, only running every few months at Korakuen Hall, and stylistically, it's matches look less like shoots than any of the other three (Pancrase, UWFI and Rings) groups that supposedly fall under that heading. Not only was the article was written as if that group and his matches were 100% legit, it was the focal point of the article."

Friday, December 30, 2016


Battle Dimension Tournament '93: Semi-Finals
December 8, 1993 in Osaka, Japan
Furitsu Gym drawing 6,838

Would you agree that to the extent to which UWF was a natural and perhaps inevitable result of the spontaneous overflow of real techniques + real emotions (this is to say strong-style/Romanticism), it can be understood, in a sense, as a Newer Japan Pro-Wrestling? If you would accept this already probably terrible idea, I think it would reasonable to take this a step farther (and really only one more step is required, please at least consider it) and say that what we have before us in RINGS is not only a Newer Japan Pro-Wrestling but in fact the Newest Japan Pro-Wrestling that has ever been, never to be surpassed or equaled in the Newness of its Japan Pro-Wrestling? This line of thought may be useful only to me, and maybe it is not even that, maybe it will in time prove as poison to me in ways I have not yet felt and cannot yet know. But when I was doing chores today and preparing not one but two apple strudels (the Joy of Cooking recipe leaves you with an awful lot of apple/raisin/almond filling, probably enough for three strudels if we are going to truly shoot with one another) I became convinced of this notion and now share it with you fearlessly.  

"To be among the very best all-around fighters in the world is a very good idea, a very good feeling, and now to be the best gives you a very special meaning in your life," Chris Dolman tells us in his quiet way as he speaks at once on the tournament he has won and the one he hopes to yet win. Standing in his path here in these semi-finals, just as in the semi-finals a year ago, is Akira Maeda (前田 日明, Maeda Akira, born Go Il-myeong [Hangul: 고일명, Hanja: 高日明]), whose surgically repaired knee, we know (or have been told), is still kind of trash (it was unwrapped and iced post-fight last time with much tenderness). That this encounter will be the main event of this Osaka Furitsu Gym card is so obvious a thing that I have belittled us all by even saying it aloud or through the aloudness that is the typographic word.  

Grom Zaza vs. Hank Numan are here to get us started and have elected to do so with a number of hard open-hand slaps and also dueling leg-lock attempts because they know not only what the people want but what the people deserve. And boy, Grom Zaza's kani-basami flying scissors may lack the sheer leaping suddenness of Volk Han's, but the way he sets it up with a forward throw to cause uke to "sit in the chair" as you sometimes hear is the very essence of kuzushi (unbalancing). Although it must be said that the line between kuzushi and the debana (which I have seen as "something is just about to come out," "opportunity," or, in Kazuzo Kudo's work, I believe, "thwarting the opponent") which precedes it is blurry at at best, and when a student asked about it once I said a bunch of things then sent him this Howard Nemorov poem because obviously I am the worst but also because this is university club and we take that seriously so expect some intellectual rigour and maybe even poesy in your judo; live a balanced life like Musashi after he was done with all of the swordmurders, everybody. Grom Zaza with the sankaku-jime! A true omote-sankaku-jime (the triangle choke you probably think of when you think of a triangle choke, though there are of course . . . others), and the first we have seen in RINGS, if I am not mistaken. A nice win for Grom Zaza whom we all enjoy at 9:24. 

Todor Todorov of Bulgarian judo is in next with Masayuki Naruse of shotokan karate and RINGS JAPAN. Todorov comes to the ring in a simple dark hooded sweatshirt of the kind one sometimes wears under one's judogi whilst in the warm-up area trying to get a light sweat on through uchi-komi with one of your pals whose weight-division has yet to be called or was perhaps called long, long ago. (As you probably already know, you can customize your character in Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution as you play your way through the various arcades represented in the game's Quest mode and I gave my guy [my guy is Goh] a light blue hoodie to wear under his white judogi because it closely resembled the shade of Champion gear that I at that time held and the physics of the hood as you darted in and out doing judo to your virtua foes was deeply impressive at the time and remains so to me now.) Naruse comes out striking but is soon launched tremendously by a massive Todorov koshi-waza (hip-technique); Naruse's first throw is a sumi or hikikomi-gaeshi (corner or pulling reversal) from a gyaku-ude-garami/reverse-arm-entanglement/double-wrist-lock/Kimura, which we have seen more than once in this RINGS epoch however this is certainly the first time we have seen uke's leg trapped between tori's as they come to the ground; that was super clever. Naruse also kubi-nage(neck-throw)s ably! I am not surprised at all to be liking this match. 

My copy of this show has a (quite sikk) green and red and black and blue bar occluding the bottom, I don't know, let's say eighth of the screen which is no big deal and actually looks quite sikk as I mentioned parenthetically a moment ago but it makes it harder to keep track of how many rope escapes each guy has. Knockdowns are totally clear, though, and there's Naruse slapping Todorov around for one now. Naruse flies across the ring at the restart for a wild jumping kick, and follows it with a no less wild right that Todorov grabs under his right arm and throws with the purest Soto Makikomi (外巻込), an outer form of rolling or wrapping (reflect if you will on the maki of sushi). Naruse tries to be the second guy in RINGS to finish with omote-sankaku-jime but Todorov is too wily for that, he has totally seen the previous match. Oh man when Naruse's spinning backhand lands but Todorov turns with it and indeed into another makikomi I feel soooooo good about how I am watching all these shows because where else is that exact thing going to be seen but here and now by us and it felt vital. Todorov finishes at 13:42 with something that started as a mae-hadaka-jime front choke but seemed to end up a fairly brutal kubi-hishigi neck-crank and I agree with Masayuki Naruse about tapping. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka can be seen here attending to the ropes for the frustrated Naruse, and TK looks like he could best either of these guys should he be called upon to do so and the reason for that is that he extremely could; it is extremely correct of us to think and to know that he could. 

Georgi Keandelaki and Zourab Sarsania are going to have a straight boxing match now? Keandelaki's Georgian boxing prowess is now known to us; I am learning that Sarsania was a fine Georgian amateur himself but did not in any way approach Keandelaki's achievements. To my dumb eye this looks like light sparring, though the crowd is enjoying it plenty, especially when one particular crowdman yells out something from the darkness and everyone is like aaaaahahahaha and then a minute later he says something again that is apparently just as funny? Fun crowd here in Osaka tonight folks! Maybe he is like HEY NICE LIGHT SPARRING ASSHOLES and everybody is aaaaaahahaha he's right that's all this is. But the people are enjoying it and the referee is incredibly skinny and I am always into that so I am just here to take it all in. Keandlaki wins by knockout (so it is claimed, so it is recorded) at 1:33 of the fourth.

Dick Vrij versus Yoshihisa Yamamoto oh no Yoshihisa Yamamoto will be killed! Yuji Shimada save him please! You know what, though, Vrij is bigger, obviously, but Yamamoto is far from dwarfed by him, and in fact takes his back and threatens with a choke for a second before a rope escape but now oh dear they are standing and Yamamoto is being pummeled and it is as I feared. (You can hear and feel the crowd's horror here, too; I am not alone in this.) Yamamoto is up a couple of escapes but don't let that fool you, he is in mortal danger, even when hitting a nice-low morote-gari double-leg tackle and attacking with either hadaka-jime (the naked strangle) or the cross-marked arm-lock of juji-gatame. I like that Yamamoto tries his rolling juji-gatame with shin pressure across the back of uke's head and neck to force the turn; that's how I do it to! Oh no here come the knockdowns, though, and they come fast. Vrij shoots his own low morote-gari! What! And finishes with his own especially ghastly hadaka-jime! What a turn of events! Yamamoto did end up murdered but by another method than the one we had anticipated! That was an emotionally intense 7:47. In the locker room, Yamamato looks a long, long way from able to deal with what just happened. Give him space, young boys; give him time.

VOLK HAN IS HERE at this Battle Dimension '93 Semi-Final and yet he is no longer a part of its tournament, having fallen stunningly to the promising Nikolai Zouev. Here, Han will face Pavel Orlov, RINGS debutante. Han hounds him with those standing, wringing wrist locks immediately, the ones that upset me so, and has Orlov on the mat and tangled up hideously within thirty seconds. The Osaka crowd HHWAAAOOOHHHS to each movement and well they should because everything Volk Han is doing is so fast and so violent, like the most savage kata (and yet kata is itself a refinement; this is nuanced). Don't think for a second Pavel Orlov is incapable of rolling through for a standing hiza-juji-gatame knee-bar because if you do that is one second too many lost to utter falsehood and possibly to The Adversary. He (Orlov, not Satan, thou who can say) is also capable of fine koshi-waza hip throws! The very real suspicion to this point is that he is a sambist too, this Orlov. Han has a variation of a ([worked]shoot) figure-four on now, I think? And now he has both feet in a new double-foot-hold (not the double-heel-hook we already know) and the crowd is sold on the brilliance of this technique at once. There really wasn't anybody else like this guy, was there? And not only does he excel at his own ashi-gatame but he makes the ashi-gatame of others seem unusually threatening, too: he rolls and flops towards the ropes with real urgency and necessity. And for all his innovation, he does not needlessly shy away from the classics, as demonstrated by the kata-ashi-hishigi single-leg-Boston-crab he just wrenched and wrenched and wrenched unto rope escape. 

GIIIIIVE UP? GIIIIIIVE UP? GIIIIIIIVE UP? They don't call Yuji Shimada the best in the business for nothing, pal. OH GEE OK the finish is Volk Han with a juji-gatame right in the centre of the ring 12:03! The entry was from standing but I would hesitate to truly call it a tobi-juji-gatame or flying armbar; it was kind of a rolling reversal into juji . . . and I liked it!  

And now Volk Han's Battle Dimension conqueror Nikolai Zouev is tasked with Bitsadze Tariel and his Georgian gi-pants'd Kyokushin karate; this could really go either way. They slap hands as sportsmen at Yuji Shimada's faintest suggestion and all is now ready. Zouev scores the first takedown, as one might well expect, and indeed the second as well, but Tariel is looking very much at home with the requisite ashi-gatame leg-locking that follows. When they are back up, it is only Tariel who is back up for long, for it is Zouev who is felled with a mighty blow. Tariel is actually kind of huge, let me look into that: yeah okay he is 6'6 1/2" and 330 lbs, it's not just me. Zouev has his moments on the mat for sure, but after each stand-up he just gets drilled, and he is super dramatically down to his last knockdown, and the crowd is like HWOOOOAHHH each time he wobbles, and yeah okay that's it for real now, Zouev is out and Tariel is into the Battle Dimension final! I wonder if he will face Akira Maeda or Chris Dolman? 

LET'S SEE as that bout is upon us just now! FREE FIGHT RINGS HOLLAND it says on the green crest sewn to Chris Dolman's green warm-up jacket and what could be nearer the truth of him than those words in that order atop that garment. He gets loose in the corridor with his student Dick Vrij, who he faced in last year's tournament semi-final, you will no doubt recall. Maeda looks calm and focused, clad in the heather-grey of yore-day athleticism as he readies himself for all that awaits and might be. It's not only his Battle Dimension t-shirt that is grey but his very tights, much to my surprise, and while they are no black trunks (nothing else is or can be) the flat grey trimmed with shimmering silver makes for an undeniably strong tight. Maeda comes out kicking, if you can believe it, and Dolman kicks him in the groin for it (he is apologetic, in fact, and they shake hands). Dolman's aim is to maul his way into a mauling clinch and then further maul in ne-waza should the opportunity arise; Maeda's is to draw the people into an ecstasy with his every fighting gesture. Their pace is deliberate but true. Hadaka-jime strangle-driven rope escapes are exchanged, stray voices scream MAEDAAAAAAA, it's really all here. How have I gone this long without mentioning that this is a show without commentary? Forgive me. Time is called so that Dolman, who has become bloodied somehow, can be cleaned up a little. Perhaps feeling a sense of urgency, Dolman immediately thereafter throws with the hip-wheel of koshi-guruma and pulls back hard on a kesa-gatame-kubi-hishigi neck-crank HOWEVER Maeda sits up out of it and grabs a match-ending juji-gatame armlock WITH SUCH FIRE at the seven-minute-mark that it is a full-on MA-E-DA MA-E-DA moment for the people of Osaka and the person of my couch. Nice match.

And so it shall be Akira Maeda vs. Bitsadze Tariel to determine the BATTLE DIMENSION TOURNAMENT '93 champion! Let's find out who that is soon! Thank you again for your time!


December 27, 1993: "Rings has a 12/25 show in Niigata headlined by Akira Maeda vs. Mitsuya Nagai." DO IT MITSUYA NAGAI

January 3, 1993: "Rings annual Battle Dimension tournament saw the semifinals on 12/8 in Osaka before a sellout 6,833 fans as Bitarze Tariel beat Nikolai Zuev (a newcomer who is fairly impressive) and Akira Maeda beat last year's champion, Chris Dolman, setting up Maeda vs. Tariel on 1/21 at Budokan Hall. Don Nakaya Neilsen, a former world cruiserweight champion kick boxer who had famous mixed matches with Maeda, Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Jushin Liger in New Japan rings years back, debuts for Rings on the card against Mitsuya Nagai, no doubt building to a Maeda-Neilsen rematch. Their 1986 match is considered by many as the greatest mixed match of all-time and they've never had a rematch.

12/8 Osaka Furitsu Gym (RINGS - 6,838 sellout): Grom Zaza b Hank Newman, Tudor Todorov b Masayoshi Naruse, Georgi Gandelaki b Sarsania Zulab, Dirk Leon-Vrij b Yoshihiro Yamamoto, Volk Han b Pavel Orlov, Bitarze Tariel b Nikolai Zuev, Akira Maeda b Chris Dolman"

Thursday, December 29, 2016


Battle Dimension Tournament '93 2nd Round
November 18, 1993 in Tokyo, Japan
Sumo Hall drawing 8,995


Obviously it gives me no pleasure to inform you that late last night, or perhaps very early this morning, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (高阪 剛) was summarily smooshed by Baruto Kaito (把瑠都 凱斗, Estonian judo international Kaido Höövelson turned sumoist turned mixed fight) in a resoundingly unanimous decision loss at Rizin World Grand-Prix 2016: 2nd Round. But it delights me pretty tremendously to note that, with just under two minutes to go in the bout's second and final round, this was Kohsaka's escape from mune-gatame (chest hold) once Baruto attacked with ude-garami (arm entanglement):

my god

That's right: TK Scissors

I kind of couldn't believe it and yet I could because Tsuyoshi Kohsaka is the best he is the best like for example he spent pretty much all of round one being squished and eating (PRIDE-)knees to the head cushioned only by the little glove he would raise up in anticipation of each terrible blow from his hapless position and then in round two it wasn't going as horribly as that but still pretty horribly and yet look at the reserves of waza he possesses and also keep in mind that this waza could not find expression had he not also profound reserves of fight in him despite being a 46-year-old coach and teacher whose best fighting year was probably sixteen years ago (one can debate this, and please, let's) and whose best years as an athlete came well before that as a solid collegiate and corporate judo player (who then blew out his knee so that was that) who was facing here not just the humiliating diminishments of time (repellent age, your piercing eye will dim and darken; and death will arrive, dear warrior, to sweep you away) but also just suffocating relentless enormity, because Baruto is so big, man. He borders on sprightly given his size, but his size is just wild: he weighs more-than-me more than TK! And TK is pretty big to start with! Although I am not myself big! But Baruto is like (noble) TK (our hero) plus me plus my little cat Doris (a team that, if unleashed all at once, I am confident would make for a long night for Baruto, worthy foe though he may be). Plainly, though, if you should ever find yourself to be a 222.8 lbs person trapped beneath a 396.8 lbs person, or I guess just at your own walk-around weight you end up underneath someone who weighs 178% of you, you now have to at least consider this technique, these TK Scissors: its/their efficacy has been demonstrated at the highest level (underneath Baruto).  

AND HOW WEIRD IS THIS in that right now when all I wanted to show you was how sikk the RINGS Bulgaria tracksuits are (I would suggest very?) who should appear alongside that sikksuit but that selfsame TK? He is one of the as-yet nameless young boys who accompany fighters as they parade to the ring and hold the ropes for them as they enter the ring and so on. It is possible that he has performed this service in a previous show only for me to not notice but I think we will all agree that that is not all that likely is it. This is a valuable reminder that TK's RINGS debut is less than a year away! And if you think I am enjoying RINGS now (obviously I am very much so) just you wait!  

patience, my pet

To the matter more immediately at hand, let us turn to our opening (non-tournament) bout between Naniev Oleg and Galdava Georgii, both of whom are new to us, both of whom have chosen as their attire the workmanlike singlet, but only one of whom consists almost exclusively of body hair, and that is Naniev Oleg:

all of it is

I bring this to you not to shame Naniev Oleg but exalt him. Are there hairier men in this life? Possibly. But few; and it is doubtful we will see any of them in RINGS, so let us savour the sheer physicality and fact of him. In addition to their perfectly credible græppling both standing and par terreNaniev and Galdava each do a fine job of slapping each other in the face for real so there are no holes in this at all, really. As an opening bout without any Japanese people in it, this is being received as well at Ryōgoku Kokugikan (両国国技館) as anyone could realistically hope for. Naniev Oleg, juji-gatame, 10:46!

Georgi Keandelaki and Masayuki Naruse are up next and as they are introduced, the ring announcer seems to have, with only subtle adjustments from what he has been doing previously, settled into the absolute exact cadence he will employ for the rest of the existence of RINGS, as best I remember (how I treasured its song on the VHS DVDVR Shootcomps of old). Keandelaki, who we all know to be a Georgian boxer, wears teensy little boxing gloves, whereas Naruse isn't even taped up. Keandelaki continues to be okay at this and likable but not great at this and likable; Naruse continues to deeply know the score out there and his light blue trunks are again a revelation. Keandelaki wins by KO in 7:19 and the crowd is on board with this though I am I guess slightly less so? (I really like Naruse.)

I don't know if I can handle back-to-back Masayuki Naruse and Mitsuya Nagai losses so the hope here is that Nagai is able to do something with and perhaps about this enormous Bulgarian Dimitri Petkov whose lime-green singlet does more than you would expect to match the splendor of his earlier tracksuit. Holy smokes Petkov can throw enormously and follow with juji-gatame, though, so this might be a problem for both Nagai (physically) and me (with regard to my feelings). Petkov threatens with an ura-nage lift only for Nagai to roll through for first the hiza-juji-gatame of the knee-bar and then the ashi-dori-garami of the toe hold only for it all to end with Petkov hoisting him aloft again in a sequence that is pretty much RINGS: the sequence. Petkov is essentially perfect, and his essence is that of massive Bulgarian foil to the young Japanese whose reach exceeds their grasp. If this match is not a literal poem, I intend to carry on on as though it were one at least until the finish which fortunately for all of us probably has come just now at 10:54 as Nagai finally catches Petkov with that rolling hiza-juji-gatame for the win! Delightful!

Bitsadze Tariel vs Dirk Vrij is a major match in 1993 RINGS, I do not need to tell you. Bitsadze Tariel is wearing his karate pants but no shirt, I also do not need to tell you. The crowd is extremely interested in each of their kicks so far. Vrij just did the neatest thing I have ever seen him do as he rushes in hard for a duck-under kosoto-gake (minor-outer-hook) and then applies ude-hishigi-juji-gatame (the fullest name we can give that armbar and we owe it to it to do so at least some of the time probably) and I am noticing not for the first time but certainly anew the extent of Dirk Vrij's back muscles I mean this guy has some back muscles. I think he is quite less Double Dragonesque than in 1991 but he is still huge; never forget that he is still huge. Tariel checks none of Vrij's hard kicks to the legs and even though this is a work for sure it is uncomfortable to watch those kicks just sink into all that karate-pants'd darkmeat like a cudgel. SOLAR-PLEXUS PUNCH KO BITSADZE TARIEL IS YOUR WINNER AT 4:48.

Chris Dolman versus Willie Peeters; it has finally come to this; my god. Before that actually happens though I am briefly intrigued by the small older woman we have seen before in her rôle as translator: at first I think she is wearying of Willie Peeters' delay in entering the arena and is urging him forward with a little hand gesture, but when I back it up I am reasonably certain she is making a little hand circle in time with the techno that then blared. She is an enigma to me and I want to know more. 

attitude is always what's up

Peeters comes out with spinning kicks and flurries of chest punching against the swatting, bearlike Dolman. I of course recognize Peeters as the early-RINGS mid-card super-worker that he is or has been or can be, but interestingly (to me), when he is in the ring with Chris Dolman, I am completely in favour of Chris Dolman. Part of this is the simple fact of Chris Dolman, but I think another is the creeping sympathy for the agèd athlete that grows throughout one's thirties (help the aged, one time they were just like you). Dolman really does just swat Peeters frenzied swarm of strikes away like a bear grown impatient of it all and then at 4:30 just chokes him with real viciousness in hadaka-jime for the finish. They embrace as sportsmen, though. Dolman, backstage, reveals that he has trained very hard since his defeat to Volk Han, and he would like to win the tournament again this year. Good luck to him!

There is no reason to expect anything less than 1993 RINGS perfection (which is to say perfection perfection) from Nikolai Zouev and Volk Han. This Han, this Volk Han is now at last greeted in the Sumo Hall of Ryōgoku Kokugikan (両国国技館) with near-appropriate appreciation for the scope and breadth of his art. Things start with cagey slapping and little kicks but we know where this one is heading and it is heading for HOLDS such as the standing gyaku-ude-garami/Kimura that Han has just applied but that Zouev has rolled through for some reason and now in the ashi-gatame leg-hold tangle that follows it is Han who is forced to the ropes and what is even going on. Don't let Volk Han have the overhook standing, Nikolai Zouev, it is just what he wants! Zouev somehow survives this error and takes Han down but once down it is Han who somehow gets another ude-garami arm-entanglement but this time from the crucifix position? How though? So far this is delivering as hekk. Rolling hiza-juji knee-cross/knee-bar from Zouev means another rope escape for Han and I think Han is going to have to burn another one on this hadaka-jime choke of nakedness and yes, yes he has done so just now. It is a Kata-guruma/shoulder-wheel/fireman's carry takedown for Zouev, and then I have no idea who is doing best with leg-locks, it is just too baffling and two many limbs are being potentially sliced until it is clearly Zouev's whose are sliced the worst but Zouev manages a kind of kata-gatame/shoulder-hold/arm-triangle-choke to force Han to relieve the pressure but no big deal, Han just switches to juji-gatame. This is VERY GOOD. Oh dear Volk Han please do not wring people's arms around with such vigour whilst standing, you are going to actually hurt someone for real on one of these not-yet-totally-real-RINGS shows, my word. I feel each of these terribly in my increasingly dried-up old shoulders (I feel many arm-locks in my shoulders now before my elbows, and I am including straight arm-locks here my friends, not just entanglements; this is how dried-up and old your shoulders can get [largely from judo {I can't throw a baseball or football over the top anymore}]). Rope escapes are traded; the best of these comes off of one of Han's always-sikk kani-basami flying scissors attacks into whatever ashi-gatame (leg-hold) he pleases. I am coming to admire his standing gyaku-ude-garami/reverse-arm-entanglements no less, though. WAIT WHAT OKAY Volk Han entangled Zouev's legs to roll through for something (maybe his split-leg hold?) but Zouev just rode it out, grabbed an arm in what became a waki-gatame (Fujiwara armbar!) and pinned Han's legs so he couldn't roll away from it and Zouev wins it at 11:31! This is extremely major and a huge surprise to me! Wow(ow)! 

Our main event sees Herman Renting who is still not appealing to me against Akira Maeda who really is pretty appealing to pretty much everybody isn't he and if he isn't to you I would really be very interested to know what your thinking and perhaps more importantly feelings are on this subject (I mean this openly and honestly and sincerely), and I take comfort in the great likelihood of Maeda winning this one and ridding us of Renting for at least a while and maybe actually a good long while (he has not been around that much). Hey look it's TK again look:

I will not do this every time but for now I will do this I am sorry

MA-E-DA MA-E-DA MA-E-DA oh dear he is wearing those long tights again. As a man sitting here watching this in his New Japan Pro Wrestling ringer-tee his wife thoughtfully got him as a kind gift this Christmas, rendered warmer by the New Japan Pro Wrestling hoodie he ordered for himself a long time ago because it says "SINCE 1972 STRONG STYLE" underneath the KING OF SPORTS logo on the back, I am here for black trunks on Akira Maeda and nothing else. We are barely underway but well into the condition of dueling ashi-gatame when Maeda starts punching Renting super hard in the legs and the crowd approves heartily. When they are restarted on their feet, Renting gives a mighty shout as he takes Maeda over with a kubi-nage neck throw of a headlock takeover and rides Maeda pretty hard on the mat. If Maeda is going to heroically pull this out he could do it anytime now and it would be very good, okay here he goes, he's going for kata-gatame (shoulder-hold, arm-triangle) but no, Renting reaches the ropes before my dreams of that hold choking him can be realized. AH HA a failed Renting forward throw has led to a Maeda hadaka-jime that somehow did not finish but then a kata-gatame that mysteriously did not either BUT THEN ON THAT DOES YAHHHH 5:54 MA-E-DA MA-E-DA MA-E-DA


November 29, 1993: "11/18 Tokyo Sumo Hall (RINGS - 8,995): Naniev Olegg b Georgi, George Gundelaki b Masayoshi Naruse, Mitsuya Nagai b Vladimir Petkov, Tariel b Dirk Leon-Vrij, Chris Dolman b Willie Peeters, Nikolai Zuev b Volk Han, Akira Maeda b Herman Renting"  


"UWFI is remaining strong in Japan as the 12/5 Takada vs. Vader show has a huge advance. However, Rings is taking some lumps, as it was unable to come close to selling out Sumo Hall on 11/18, because of the popularity of Pancrase. From what I'm told, in Japan, most fans saw UWFI as a more realistic looking New Japan style promotion with angles, where as Rings was a hardcore thing that expected to be real. Unfortunately, Pancrase, by its style, has shown what a shoot really looks like and Rings fans aren't the kind who largely want to see stiff realistic working matches like UWFI fans. Maeda's matches have pro wrestling psychology (Maeda gets beat up and twisted around for several minutes, but makes a comeback to dramatically win) and Pancrase has no psychology since a shoot can't." Oh can't it? And, as TOM has asked, instructively, I believe when we were theorizing Naoya Ogawa/Gary Goodridge, that greatest of PRIDE FC works, "What is a 'shoot'?"

also I include this only because it was next and because Chigusa Nagyo was the best and also Crush Gals forever:

"Chigusa Nagayo, the biggest superstar in the history of women's wrestling, looks to be coming out of retirement full-time next year to work for JWP."

December 6, 1993: "Masakatsu Funaki of Pancrase Wrestling in what everyone is reporting as a legitimate shooting match, made World heavyweight Kick Boxing champ Maurice Smith of the United States submit with a sleeper/body scissors combination in 1:50 of the first round after taking him off his feet in a mixed match held at an All Japan Kick Boxing Association show which drew an overflow crowd of 7,450 fans to Tokyo Bay NK Hall. Several years ago the two had fought to a six round draw in a mixed match at the Tokyo Dome which probably had a worked finish before 25,000 fans. On 11/8, Smith had destroyed Pancrase wrestler Minoru Suzuki with a third round knockout in what was said to have been a shoot kick boxing match, a match where Suzuki clearly had no chance in. There are rumors going around already of a possible combined promotion of Pancrase and the Gracie Family (Royce Gracie, who won the Ultimate Fight held in Denver and on PPV on 11/12, and his brother, who promoted the PPV) for next October at the Tokyo Dome where Gracie would face Funaki on top. Both Akira Maeda and Masaake Satake (Japan's No. 1 martial arts hero and holder of another version of the World heavyweight karate championship) were at the show. Satake formerly worked for RINGS. Maeda said watching Funaki beat Smith made him for the first time regret that the UWF folded. In previous magazine interviews, Maeda had always tried to put UWF in his past and talked of RINGS as the present, but talked of how proud he was to see Funaki, who was a mid-card wrestler with the old UWF, come so far."

That's pretty nice!

December 27, 1993: As part of an extensive and super-interesting year-in-review, after talking at length about both New Japan and All Japan: "What is the most impressive about today's Japan wrestling isn't the success of All Japan and New Japan, but the number of groups in a geographically small country, many presenting a totally different product from the others, all enjoying success. FMW, with little in the way of quality wrestling, presents the Atsushi Onita show, filled with barbed wire and heavy juice on a nightly basis, and was largely successful, peaking for the May 5 show against Terry Funk that drew 41,000 fans. Onita drew in excess of 25,000 fans for another stadium show against Mr. Pogo, and at the end of the year sold out a 12,500 seat indoor building for his final major show of the year for a match with Mitsuharu Matsunaga. While Onita's personal popularity is nowhere close to what it was two years back, he still has drawing power when it comes to putting together a major show. The only period FMW faltered badly this year was when Onita was in the hospital after jumping into a polluted river in the winter with several open wounds from a just completed match. Pogo and Matsunaga had been the top two stars with the rival W*ING group, a promotion that finished the year, but largely struggled. W*ING featured even more bizarre gimmick matches, like the ring surrounded by a bed of nails, ring surrounded by fire, and barbed wire baseball bats which led to legitimate serious injuries. At the other end of the spectrum where the so-called "shoot" groups, UWFI, PWFG, Rings and Pancrase. PWFG, which still ran shows during the year, was largely dormant and not a major factor on the scene, with its leader, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, more remembered for his occasional big show appearances on New Japan shows. UWFI almost surely, on an average drew more fans to its events than any wrestling promotion in the world. If someone was to do a study of all the main event wrestlers in the world, and rate them by how well the shows they headlined drew, to determine who really is the biggest drawing card of them all, I'd be willing to bet No. 1 in 1993 would be Nobuhiko Takada. UWFI, which signed a "pro wrestler" type in Big Van Vader, later called Super Vader for copyright reasons, and slowly, methodically built to the dream match with Takada. The heavily-advertised show drew 46,168 fans, the largest pro wrestling crowd for a wrestling company in the world without television since the heydey of the legendary UWF in 1989 at the Tokyo Dome. However, on the surface, there seems nothing on the horizon for UWFI that can do anywhere near that business. UWFI also did a PPV show in the United States in October, which had shocking success in at least some parts. However, whatever momentum and interest that was gained by the PPV show which was well received, was lost because of a lack of anything done as follow-up promotion. Rings, which is largely the Akira Maeda show, didn't have a strong year largely because Maeda missed most of the year with reconstructive knee surgery. Rings was the favorite promotion of the true Japanese hardcore wrestling fan because it was the most believable of all, but may turn out to be the one hurt the most in the end because of Pancrase Wrestling. Debuting late in the year, Pancrase was the latest of many groups which touted their wrestling to be on the level, without predetermined finishes. But if it wasn't, it fooled more people than ever before. Although UWFI liked to push itself as the real deal, and it is stiff as hell, a lot of fans took him as a more realistic looking New Japan rather than like Rings, which Maeda incessantly tried to push as having nothing to do with and not being pro wrestling, to the point that virtually nobody but himself who had previous ties to pro wrestling was used. However, Pancrase, which its one minute matches, exposed Rings. What that will mean to Rings, particularly with Maeda back, is unknown. But Pancrase managed to parlay its image into a crowd of nearly 10,000 in Kobe for Minoru Suzuki vs. Maurice Smith, and has looked into booking bigger buildings including perhaps the Tokyo Dome in 1994. Several other groups started up this year or continued from last year, although they are all way back in the pack." 

(The next section begins "The best wrestling held anywhere is undoubtedly on the major cards of the All Japan women's promotion" which is not shocking but I think worth noting.)

And that's it! Thank you for your attention once again! 


Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Battle Dimension Tournament '93: 1st Round
October 23, 1993 in Fukuoka, Japan
International Center drawing 7,526

Akira Maeda's first match since exploding his knee! Are you ready for it! It will happen here at BATTLE DIMENSION TOURNAMENT '93! Do not believe the otherwise quite reliable shoot style match result webpages that would suggest to you that the Battle Dimension Tournament '93 was in fact a Mega Battle Tournament 1993 as is sometimes claimed; I have it here before me now and that assertion is false. This is I believe our first trip to Fukuoka (福岡市) on the north shore of the island of Kyshu (九州), although I could easily be mistaken on that and am not going to check. It is perhaps worthwhile, though, to reflect on what Dave Meltzer has written as recently as the article we looked at together earlier this week (which is actually twenty-three years old of course) about how the failure of UWF, though many-factored, was at least in part due to its inability to generate interest and support outside of Tokyo. I am doing it now (reflecting) and finding it quite worthwhile. The parade of fighters now upon us, it is clear that the people's enthusiasm for Akira Maeda has not faltered during his long absence; it is also clear that Bitsadze Tariel comes to the ring clad not in one of the several deeply outstanding RINGS tracksuits available, but instead in his karate-gi, and it occurs to me that were I ever called to the ring for a parade of fighters in 1993 RINGS I would have a tough choice to make myself. 

Our opening bout is between Willie Peeters and Yoshihisa Yamamoto; that is the level of competition that awaits us in the Battle Dimension. Yamamoto is welcomed as a rising star; Peeters, who looks older and leaner and more shaven than before, is also admired. Peeters is wearing trunks instead of a rad singlet, which I believe signals his shooter-shooter persona as opposed to his worked-shooter persona (please see the previous hundred thousand words or so of this blog and also please forgive me). Only seconds in, Peeters kicks Yamamoto while he is down and apologizes immediately because it is totally not allowed here, we are trying to have a civilization in this battle dimension. There is commentary for this show, and it is not unwelcome in the urgency it lends to this bout and the ashi-dori-garami of a toe-hold applied just now by Yamamoto to the point of rope escape and indeed also to the knockdown that Peeters has just struck upon Yamamoto's poor head and this match is as you can tell unfolding at quite a pace! Judging from the apparent length of this disc of this truly-shaky VHS, we are not quite going two hours here and there is a whole Battle Dimension Tournament '93 opening round to get in! This will I guess be all killer no filler, and drillers are killers, so it is all drillers then ("drillers are killers" holds its place alongside "more plates, more dates" and "the more uchi-komi, the more ladies who know me" [that one is mine but you can have it] in the divine economy). It's hard to tell for sure because of the quality of the tape (I am not complaining but instead glorying, please do not mistake me) but I think Yamamoto has been bloodied and it might be from a bunch of acne that has exploded, poor fellow. He is certainly getting wailed on! That's actually his final down! (You can tell because the ring announcer goes FINALLLL DOOOOOWN!) The hope here is that Yamamoto pulls something out here but no actually the least climatic thing just happened in that Peeters fell atop Yamamoto and Yamamoto put his foot on the ropes and it was seen to be an escape and that's it that's his last escape so this match goes to Peeters by TKO. Yamamoto is displeased but I think mostly with himself or maybe with the booking if that was not a straight shoot.

Peter Oele and Bitsadze Tariel are in next and Tariel is still wearing that gi! I believe it was judo great Isao Okano who pretty much begged judo players who wanted to mixed fight to please leave the judogi behind when they entered the ring (he did not even speak of a cage; he is no animal, this Okano, but instead a probable warrior-angel) and I think I have probably come to agree with him? (About this, about everything.) But Tariel's way is karate-do and it is not my place to say (it might still be Okano's; somebody ask him). This should be nothing but hitting, this match. Tariel gets Oele down and smooshes him for a bit as though to defy me at once though (good for him). Through no real fault of its own, this match feels lighter and less urgent than the fairly brutal encounter just witnessed between Yamamoto and Peeters, which was really very good despite the somewhat flat finish, and if anything the finish enhances its shootness in that it is inconceivable anyone would have done that ending for excitement, right? Again I am not saying that it was for sure real, only that Peeters's whole aspect, the ruinous acne-hitting, and the flat finish created such a level of vraisemblance as to render the whole thing kind of the best? Tariel just won by (karate) knockout at 8:06.

Here comes Hans Nyman, looking massive, to fight Herman Renting, who I feel we have been spared of for kind of a while now. These guys are both pretty huge here in fact and are throwing kicks much higher than I can despite my really very good hip flexibility as it relates to græppling and doing weird things with your legs from beneath your pal (kakato-jime, the shin choke also known by the nonsense term gogoplata, is available to me, for I am blessed in this regard). I am just a terrible kicker, maybe the worst one. Can I tell you a story about kakato-jime, briefly? At a tournament roughly a decade ago (I could look it up but my little book is in the basement), I managed to set up a kakato-jime with at least enough competence that my buddies at the side of the mat both recognized and were thrilled by it. Oooohhhh GOGO! one of my old judo pals yelled (he has gone on to be a successful music producer in Los Angeles, he is enormously talented, life is strange) and my wife, who wonderfully came to watch but who quite sensibly does not know all the names for things, was like, "Yeah, go! Go!" Perhaps you will agree that story is charming? I sure hope that it is because I have told it probably every time I have ever taught kakato-jime! Also, the guy totally just stood up out of my kakato-jime that time and in the end I was up by a waza-ari and a bunch of yukos but lost by ippon in the last minute of the match because I was a fool, an exhausted and thrown fool. If only I had the wherewithal of, say, a Herman Renting, I would have merely taken my opponent down with relative ease and applied a clean juji-gatame for the win as he has just now at 7:58.

Volk Han and Masayuki Naruse! Brother, I am in! Sister, you had better believe that to be the case! Holy moly they are going a thousand miles an hour! The commentators are going nuts for these takedowns and these juji-gatame attempts somebody make it stop it is maybe too much! Naruse takes Han's back, but Han just stands up and drops straight back for a slam and then goes nuts on leglocks like nuts on them and it is his weird split-legged hiza-juji-gatame knee-bar that forces the rope escape. Volk Han does things with standing wrist-locks I would reject should they emerge from the mind and I guess corporeality of virtually anyone else but I accept them here as he just whips Naruse around pitilessly. I had a hard time remembering whether it was Naruse or Nagai who had the truly tremendous moment against Han some months back but it was actually Nagai, which I now remember by telling myself that Nagai is Tha Guy who had that great match. Naruse with the knockdown! And then the kosoto-gake (minor outer hook) from the clinch into a juji-gatame into a biceps-slicer (a lot of juji-gatame grip breaks have a little biceps-slicer built in, let's not kid each other about any of this), but it`s all very near the ropes. Volk Han's rolling sutemi-waza (sacrifice technique) aided by the arm entanglement of ude-garami is no less compelling here than it has been elsewhere, and the grace with which it transitions into a rope-escaped juji-gatame is heavenly. And now dueling ashi-gatame (leg-holds) at nearly centre-ring! This is bad news for somebody! AHHH Naruse rolled all the way to the ropes, he will be okay. HOLY SHIT NO HE WILL NOT as it is a step-over standing wrist lock to sumi-gaeshi (corner reversal) to the rightly-feared juji-gatame and that's it, Volk Han is our winner at 8:08, my god. That was really something!

We are told that Willie Williams vs. Dick Vrij is a "Special Match" and I am guessing they mean that in the sense that it is a non-tournament bout, maybe? I don't know why either of these fine RINGSmen would be excluded, and as Dick Vrij flexes his pecs mid-ring (I return the gesture in kind where I sit, mid-couch), I think it a shame if it is indeed the case. It would seem that, unlike the tournament bouts we have seen so far (again, I am not at all sure this is not one too, let us not be hasty), this one is going to be contested over the course of five three-minute rounds instead of a straight thirty minutes (though scarcely any of those minutes have yet been needed). Vrij is enormous, of course, and Williams is actually slightly bigger if less physically imposing, but what I want to tell you right now is that each of these men is conservatively four times the size of Yuji Shimada, to whom the duty of keeping things in order here falls. But Williams is a true sportsman, and Vrij, though slightly devilish, is no real villain. This should be fine. Doing a little math here I establish that Willie Williams is sixty-five now, and a really big guy (that didn't take math), and I am hoping he is okay, I hope he is enjoying a long and healthy retirement. I see here that just a few years ago he was still doing karate seminars, this one in Roanoke Rapids, so that's good to hear! But anyway, he is getting his shots in on Vrij this time out, and things are fairly even through the first three rounds. Actually just as I say this, Dick Vrij is murdering him in the face with knees from the clinch in the fourth. Yeah okay this one goes the distance, Vrij takes the decision, and not that much happened in all honesty but it gave us a chance to worry how Willie Williams is doing.

Andrei Kopilov and Nikolai Zouev! A rolling knee-bar from Zouev before I can even really say things about either of these excellent guys! And then Kopilov with another of his weird escapes to standing kata-ashi-hishigi (an Achilles lock in this instance) that are kind of hard to account for but you just kind of go with! This is already some pretty immersive græppling! The arm-locks of juji-gatame and ude-garami, the neck-cranks of kubi-hishigi, the vicious kneeing of please stop kneeing: it's all here, it's all already here. And just some absolutely puzzling ashi-gatame, just the weirdest leg-locks. I am a reasonably (not thoroughly, by any means) well-versed observer (not practitioner) of the leg-locks of the current ashi-garami (leg-entanglement) frenzy in the post-Danaher world of no-gi græppz and so I mean to say to you that I have seen some shit but I have not seen these things (until now).  In the end it is Zouev who takes an ashi-dori-garami (a toe-hold, coarsely) while tangling him all up in wild ways to end a really solid match that went way longer than I expected (19:08).

FINALLY AKIRA MAEDA RETURNS and it is to face Sotir Gotchev. MA-E-DA MA-E-DA MA-E-DA but would they chant with such impetus if they knew that he would fight in long black and purple tights rather than the black trunks with which one most closely and indeed dearly associates him? His long recovery has been hard on him physically, I have no doubt, and he probably doesn't want to roll around in there with Fujiwara legs, I get it, but it is strange to see. His kubi-nage headlock takeover attempt does not go so well but in the ensuing heaptangle he grabs a leg and forces a rope escape so maybe Meada is back? (baby?) Gotchev is getting the better of things positionally on the mat and riding Maeda pretty hard. Maeda's hair is a little too short for my Meada-taste, too, I am just now noticing, but Maeda has bigger problems (does he?) as Gotchev hoists him up for an ura-nage one could rightly call a German suplex and follows it with a juji-gatame that Maeda is lucky to escape! And know the ashi-gatame leg-lock battle (dimension) is joined in earnest. This is pretty good! Maeda is doing okay for his first bout back even if he looks weird! Gotchev throws with a nice belly-to-belly into the scarf hold of kesa-gatame and is really taking a lot of this match but that is not unusual in Maeda matches against the young WAKI-GATAME WAKI-GATAME oh okay I thought Maeda was going to win on that sit-out with a Fujiwar armbar but no Gotchev made the ropes OKAY THIS TIME FOR REAL Maeda has grabbed a high-kick and twisted it to the mat for the kata-ashi-hishigi we know best as a single-leg Boston crab, that most New Japan Young Lion of submission holds. Good one!

Okay, this was a big show! Thanks for your attention to it! Again I would ask that you please spare a thought for Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, who fights in RIZIN in just a couple of hours, and faces BARUTO, the former sumo who once represented Estonia as an under-twenty judo international under his non-Baruto name of Kaido Höövelson, so either way judo will triumph, but still, this is TK, please think of him. Koshaka, who cornered Kazuyuki Fujita in the Baruto bout that ended in his (Fujita's) retirement, fights to avenge his very old pal (I mean that they are both very old), and also to establish the continued superiority of RINGS over all other mixed fight. The stakes could be no higher! 


November 1, 1993: "Akira Maeda's return to the ring after being out nine months after reconstructive knee surgery drew a sellout 7,526 to the Fukuoka International Center on 10/23 as he made Sotir Gotchev submit in 6:16 to a half crab. A newcomer named Duev (?) seems to be being groomed for an eventual main event against Maeda has he made Andrei Kopilov, who is one of the top guys in the group, submit in the semifinal."


"10/23 Fukuoka (RINGS - 7,526 sellout): Willie Peeters b Yoshihisa Yamamoto, Tariel b Peter Urya, Herman Renting b Hans Nyman, Volk Han b Masayoshi Naruse, Dirk Leon-Vrij b Willie Williams, Duev b Andrei Kopilov, Akira Maeda b Sotir Gotchev"

November 15, 1993: Searching Maeda's name brought me this: "Also on 11/12, a PPV show called the "Ultimate Fighting Challenge" takes place from Denver which is billed as almost an anything goes fight with champions of several different combat sports (shootwrestling, boxing, sumo, karate, ju-jitsu, kick boxing, etc.). Pancrase wrestler Wayne Shamrock (fresh off a 44 second win over Yusuke Fuke on the 11/8 Pancrase show in Kobe, Japan) will be the representative of shootwrestling and former UWF Maeda foe Gerard Gordeau represents kick boxing. The event will receive coverage in Japan both in wrestling and martial arts magazines. Philadelphia has an ECW indie on 11/13 and SMW has its Thanksgiving Thunder tour the weekend of Thanksgiving."

November 22, 1993: In the interest of following up on that (Maeda's name brought this to me as well): "There's an old saying that it isn't the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. The 11/12 Ultimate Fighting Championship, a legalized street fight (everything goes but attacking the eyes and groin) involving champion martial artists from different sports emphasized that to the nth degree. The show was an amazing demonstration showing how someone of small stature with incredible technique could subdue much larger champions in combative sports. The event, which was obviously a shoot despite the fact any wrestling fans who didn't see it would question it by the fact that the promoter of the event's brother was the eventual winner. The show, which was a big deal in Denver because a local Tae Kwon Do champion, Patrick Smith, was part of it, drew 7,800 fans (although obviously with significant padding since the gate was $73,000) and thousands more on PPV. It was too early to get an accurate buy rate, although a Los Angeles Times story hyping the event said it needed an 0.5 to break even. The star of the show, and unequivocable convincing winner was a man with 13 inch arms who weighed 176 pounds, Jiu-Jitsu world champion from Brazil named Royce (pronounced Hoyce) Gracie. The fight showed more than anything that boxing and kick boxing because of the many rules that put limitations on defenses they're taught are, at least in this case, no match for a fighter who knows submissions. Ken Wayne Shamrock, the pro wrestler invited from Japan's Pancrase promotion, who lost in the semifinals to Gracie was clearly the only one who had a chance against him. Shamrock beat Pat Smith, the Tae Kwon Do fighter who had some ground fighting techniques but was obviously no match for him. Shamrock quickly took Smith down and started working on the mat in UWF style. In rapid order he got him in an achilles tendon submission hold. After the match Shamrock, who along with Gracie was obviously the most confident man on the show, was asked how fighting Smith compared to his Pancrase matches and said that Smith was much easier to beat then the guys in Japan because of their knowledge of submission maneuvers. The Shamrock-Gracie match was the semifinal, but everyone knew it was really be the championship match because it was obvious from early matches that Dutch savate expert Gerard Gordeau (who himself appeared doing a job for Akira Maeda in a 1989 UWF outdoor spectacular) couldn't match either man once they got on the ground. Shamrock, who trimmed down to 216 but looked like a bodybuilder, had 40 pounds on Gracie which, combined with his own awesome intensity and technique and far superior strength, had commentators (which included football legend Jim Brown and kick boxing legend Bill "Superfoot" Wallace) thinking he had a chance except one familiar with jiu-jitsu who said that once you are on the ground with a jui-jitsu expert, size nor strength is a factor. Shamrock took Gracie down first, but the calm Gracie reversed things and while Shamrock was working to take out the ankle, he left himself open for a choke, something shootfighters don't instinctively think to defend against, and that was it. Shamrock was going crazy in the locker room after (this wasn't on the PPV but from a source who was there) mad about not knowing how to defend against the choke and that being the difference. Gracie had an easier time beating Gordeau in the finals with a chokehold. Depending upon how PPV buys went, the decision will be made on whether to do a second PPV in April. What has been discussed is having another eight-man tournament but without Gracie, and having Gracie fight the winner later in the year, or putting Gracie back in but banning choking. The downside, as Pancrase is evidence of, is that a legit shoot doesn't last long. None of the matches lasted 5:00 and the brutality made UWFI look like a pillow-fight. Despite Gracie winning with so much ease, and having never been defeated in mixed martial arts matches in Brazil that he's been frequently involved in, one still questions how he's be able to take down a 350-pound powerhouse with wrestling and street fighting skill and experience. Teila Tuli, the sumo wrestler billed at 425 pounds (who looked closer to 350), had his orbital bone broken in his eye and his teeth knocked out by Gordeau's kicks and punches. Gordeau, fighting without gloves, broke his hand on a punch to the eye of Tuli, but still beat a former World kick boxing champ Kevin Rosier, who clearly was blown up in his first match, in his semi."

and finally

"There is a lot of talk that the popularity of Pancrase because of the lack of predetermined winners is going to make UWFI, PWFG and Rings obsolete. The UWFI's baseball stadium battle of world champions (Takada vs. Vader) on 12/5 will be an interesting test to see if the other "shoot" groups are losing interest because of the sizzling hot Pancrase promotion."


Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Korakuen Experiment: Round 5
September 10, 1993 in Tokyo, Japan
Korakuen Hall drawing 1,755

My goodness do I enjoy seeing people in RINGS warm-up gear getting light work in before the doors open at Korakuen Hall, especially if one of them is our dear(est?) friend Yoshihisa Yamamoto doing kicks and also neck-work of a kind I left behind me in my twenties (I had some issues, then some physio) clad in vertically-striped black-and-white-tights that I would legitimately like to have a pair of and not because of irony but instead because of a sincerity that would terrify you. 

We begin our time together with Akira Maeda speaking over footage of Korakuen Experiment: Round 4 bouts displayed here in a black-and-white that now cannot help but call to mind Yamamoto's tights. He wears them to the weigh-in they show in the locker room (hey bro how's your weight eh I don't know it's gonna be close bud I don't know haha well I guess we'll find out soon enough ok man good luck with it) and the question of whether or not these weigh-ins were a shoot immediately presents itself, doesn't it? There is no reason it wouldn't be, I guess, as there are no weight classes in this Fighting Network (much like the street, though it resembles the street in no other aspect, as these are, with the resounding exception of Gerard Gordeau, athletes not savages [Gerard Gordeau is not here this time, please do not mistake me or be frightened]). 

Satoshi Homma has a great silver jacket that says ZENSHO and a breezy way about him that is irresistible (to me, I would not presume to speak for you on the subject of whom you may or may not resist) and here meets Fumio Akiyama, whose shirt says SAW and whose music is a pounding exemplar of the synthesizers of the then-recent past. Referee Yuji Shimada has his hands all over Satoshi Honma right now; it is hard not to notice. At ringside is Akira Maeda's ever-watchful eye (and other parts of him). You know, it would not surprise me at all if they actually had these young boys shoot on these Korakuen Hall shows. I know I mentioned the excellent Anthony Carelli/Santino Marella interview on the Steve Austin show, but did I mention the part about how before the public shows he runs for his professional wrestling class at his sprawling Battle Arts complex, he has his opening-match wrestlers and the like shoot in the gym to see who gets to go over that night in front of friends and family? When Santino mentioned this, Steve Austin was like "that remiiiiiinds me of the boooooys in the New Japaaaaaan dooojoooo" and Santino was like yesss and I was like yesssssssssssssssssss. Honma just murdered Akiyama with knees for the knockout at 1:25 of the second round, and my question is, was it shoot murder? I have no questions, though, about the shaggy backstage handsomeness with which he now speaks; it I know clearly:
this doesn't capture it
Yoshihisa Yamamoto enjoys our complete support as he readies himself for Nobuhiro Tsurumaki. The way the preamble to each bout is structured seems to be taped comments from each of the competitors, followed by taped analysis from Akira Maeda, and then the introductions and the match. There is, again, no commentary, and there hasn't been for a few shows in a row now I guess. No modern promotion of note would ever do this, because of their aesthetic timidity, but you get the experience of this somewhat when you watch the (often Korakuen) shows on New Japan World where they, for some rights reason, are unable to include the commentary, and it is pretty much magic (level one or two magic, easily memorized and cast, never taking up more space than you would like in your . . . spell slots). Yamamoto declines to shake Tsurumaki's hand! That's surprising and I don't care for it! He sprawls like the devil himself (I don't know) as Tsurumaki shoots low for the takedown, and actually from there grabs hold of a gyaku-ude-garami/reverse-arm-entanglement/Kimura/double-wrist-lock (I really should have that loaded up in ctrl-v but then where would I put the æ that you can't always get the unicode or whatever to work without changing browswer tabs where would I put the æ). The catch/Fire Pro language of "double wrist lock" summons before us our knowledge of Josh Barnett's recent failure of a USADA test for some substance or another (likely fighting spirit, or sikk metal); spare a thought for Barnett, who has never suggested he was anything but a pro wrestler, and, because of that, should realistically be allowed to take whatever so long as it is in keeping with his ethos. The essay he wrote one time explaining that (and also why) he has never trained BJJ and sings the praises of not only catch wrestling but also the judo of the Kodokan is one I enjoyed, if you can believe it. If this is it for Barnett in the debased (putrid, cretin) spectacle of American mixed martial arts, perhaps it will mark the dawn of a renewed time of New Japan for him? I would welcome him doing both holds and upsetting hitting with, say, Katsuyori Shibata, for example (I have not chosen this name at random). Or maybe RIZIN, where he could do a match with Tsuyoshi Kohsaka! TK fights Baruto (Estonian teen judo champ Kaido Höövelson turned sumo of note) later this week and I would ask that you join me in prayer for his well-being. 

Tsurumaki and Yamamoto are going at it hard here, and they are using a close camera right at the corner way more than usual, and it is really emphasizing how hard these palm strikes to Tsurumaki's very square head really are. Yamamoto is fired way up, and is yelling things after knockdowns; maybe he just can't stand Nobuhiro Tsurumaki for real? In round five, he works for his no-gi (obviously) sode-guruma-jime/sleeve-wheel-choke/Ezequiel, and by "works for" I mean drives his forearm into Tsurumaki's trachea a lot. In time (2:15) it is knees that are Tsurumaki's undoing; Yuji Shimada steps in; he has seen too much. This is the least chill Yoshihisa Yamamoto we have yet seen.

Next up is a submission græppling exhibition between Takahashi Makoto vs. Konno Hiroshi, both clad in shirts and tights and wrestling shoes and martial arts obi as they demonstrate a number of throws and takedowns and holds and strangles whilst the ring announcer explains perhaps the way these techniques are scored in the particular submission style they are exponents of? The crowd is silent throughout this able demo except for an especially choice flying knee-bar, at which point there is a distinct murmur. I like the sumi-gaeshi (corner-reversal) into juji-gatame (crossmark-hold) as much as anything on display here but it is of course only natural that that would be the case (our club is heavy on sumi/obi-tori/hikikomi-gaesshi as they are preferred techniques of our head instructor and also perfectly suited [as far as sutemi-waza/sacrifice-techniques go] to the adult-beginners who make up the majority of our students and I know you had been wondering about all of that for a while now).

Ah ha so when I spoke of no weight divisions in this Fighting Network I spoke too soon and also ridiculously because here we have two very slight kickboxers in Shigeo Imai and Minoru Shinkai, and the videotape emphasizes their slightness at the weigh-ins, so I have been revealed and humiliated as a fool yet again. This is contested under Muay Thai rules, as far as I am able to discern, and ends in a five-round draw that was certainly spirited and that I have no doubt had things to say to students and admirers of that art. 

Okay back to throws and holds LET'S HEAR IT FOR THROWS AND HOLDS EVERYBODY as we welcome Masayuki Naruse and Dieseul Berto waaait a minute, Dieseul Berto is no doubt Diesel Berto which is to say father to Andre Berto who went the distance with Floyd Mayweather last year? Yes this would very much seem to be the case. In his pre-fight pre-tape he seems like a nice enough fellow and I wish him well here! I am pretty high Masayuki Naruse though so right now I am feeling pulled in all kinds of directions (two). Holy shit Dieseul Berto looks strong as hell:

Is a spinning back-hand strike worth it if your back is taken as it lands? Masayuki Naruse has much to consider as Berto ably rides him to the mat, even as he rolls through for one of those odder heel hooks where the foot is nestled up by one's (chinny-chin-)chin. Ah, but is it not now Berto who has spun about to attack with his own ashi-gatame? And so they dance. If you thought Dieseul Berto, father (I think, I am really pretty sure) of Andre, would be a striker and a striker alone, you would find yourself mistaken to the point of embarrassment and maybe even ruin because right now he is going for juji-gatame; explain that. Truly one of the better dueling leg-lock spots soon follows, and the crowd is up and ready, and Naruse implores them to be upper and readier, and they comply immediately. This is really good! Does Diesel Berto have any more matches here, I wonder? Had he done a bunch of UWF? Because this guy is brilliant at this, and kicks hard enough to surprise even this Korakuen Hall crowd, and Korakuen Hall crowds have seen some kicking. Masayuki Naruse locks up a sankaku-jime (triangle choke) without the arm in which is both less effective and more dangerous so it is not permitted in the judo of the Kodokan, so don't even try it there, you ghastly beast. Naruse is bussssted up because Berto is unreal in there man just unreal. AH OKAY in the end Naruse sinks the kata-ashi-hishigi of the straight Achilles hold to win at 11:25 but let me tell you the more important thing to know about this match: this match was awesome, like genuinely awesome and I liked it so much.

Mitsuya Nagai and Andrei Kopilov are going to have an awful time trying to top that but maybe they will have a great time of it actually with regard to how much they enjoy trying to build something beautiful and true together. Also, remember how Mitsuya Nagai had a stunning classic of a match with Volk Han a while ago? So you never know! The low-key videotape to get us used to the idea of these two having a match together shows a nice moment wherein Kopilov offers Yamamoto (those tights; again those tights) tips on finishing the ashi-gatame (leg-lock) he was running through before the show, here look:

Just tonight I have realized that Andrei Kopilov physically resembles a truly lovely guy who I have long considered a friend of our club and also of me, a judo and BJJ black belt who is just the most positive person I have ever been around, and whenever he drops by (it is not all that often, alas) all the people who are new to the experience of him are like "this guy . . . this guy is my kind of guy" because he just radiates this love of people and of the waza they sometimes get up to. So I already liked Andrei Kopilov but maybe now I love him? And seeing him coach Yamamoto through his ashi-gatame solidified all of this for me. Everything is different now (just this one thing). THIS CROWD LOVES THIS MATCH they are going HWWWOOOOOAAAAHHH  when Nagai comes close with a juji-gatame only for Kopilov to somehow turn that into a standing leg-lock (who knows man who knows). Kopilov finishes! With a gyaku-ude-garami/reverse-arm-entanglement/Kimura/double-wrist-lock so near the ropes we were all sure Nagai would escape to them but no his legs were entangled in niju-garami (it's an entanglement). That was a thrilling sprint!

Maybe this has been the best KORAKUEN EXPERIMENT so far! Thank you for your attention to it! There is just a tonne of relevant and semi-relevant Melzter to share with you today, so here, I will unfurl it at once.


September 27, 1993: This mentions RINGS only passingly, but I thought it would be of sure interest to the shoot-style enthusiast and so it is, like I myself am, here for you: "The next PPV show in the United States will be the UWFI's "Shootwrestling--It's real" card which airs 10/5 and will be a two-hour show taped the previous night in Osaka, Japan. According to Joe Hand, a pioneer of promoting boxing on closed-circuit television, his Front Row Entertainment will come back with a second UWFI PPV show just three weeks later on 10/25, or just one day after the WCW Halloween Havoc show. Hand said that as of right now there were no plans to PPV the December UWFI show from Tokyo's Jingu Baseball Stadium (Nobuhiko Takada vs. Vader was announced officially this past week as the main event on that show billed as a battle to recognize the real world champion with Takada's UWFI title at stake and Vader being WCW champion, although he may not be by December if Dusty Rhodes has his way) because he felt early December would be a tough time to sell a PPV event based on past experience. Both cards will be priced at $14.95, as opposed to the $24.95 that WCW is pricing its now-monthly PPV events at or the $27.50 WWF is pricing most of its five-per year events at (with Wrestlemania going at $29.95). Forgetting arguments about differences in quality or style of product, the UWFI show goes in with the insurmountable disadvantage of being a product unfamiliar to the U.S. audience, having no television of any kind in this country to sell the style and wrestlers. Its style and competitors are only known to the most ardent tape traders and Observer readers in the United States, which is a very small base to draw from. From an economic standpoint, Hand's company is budgeting $895,000 as costs of putting this show together, of which $285,000 will be his advertising budget, largely consisting of buying spots on Major League Baseball games during the final week of the season and one $75,000 spot on the Monday Night Football game on 10/4. These commercials won't attempt to sell the names or abilities of any of the participants, but instead try to sell the violence and the idea that it is pro wrestling that is real, which it isn't entirely true although it certainly looks far more realistic and is based more on realistic moves than any other pro wrestling promotion in the world with the possible exception of RINGS. "This is not for children," said Hand, who was vehement about this show being a success. "I don't want to see Takada as the next Hulk Hogan." Hand claimed PPV analysts have told him to expect a 1.0 to 1.5 buy rate for the event, which sounds ridiculous on the surface since that would be equal to SummerSlam, although at an 0.5 buy rate, his company would make a $228,385 profit and there have been Tough Man tournaments that have done 0.5 buy rates as late as this year and they don't have any television show building up their product nor are the competitors names and personalities well known, which is Hand's argument in saying this will be a successful and profitable promotion. Of course WCW's recent PPV shows have hovered in that area, and that is with years of history (which admittedly is a negative in many instances), several names with significant name recognition among wrestling fans and hours of both cable and syndicated television to sell the events. Hand said his company's plan is to do two or three PPV events from Japan on a one-day taped delay over the next few months before trying to promote a live PPV event from the United States. The Osaka card is scheduled to have a double main event of Takada vs. Billy Scott and Super Vader vs. Naoki Sano, however in press information given out by Hand's company, the Vader match is not listed on the PPV. This may be due to WCW believing it has the exclusive rights to promote PPV and house show events with Vader in the United States, since Vader is definitely going to appear on the Osaka show itself. However, if this is even in Vader's contract, that should be a moot point because Vader and WCW at press time have not signed a contract although they may work out the deal before you are reading this. Matches listed in a press release by Hand's Front Row Entertainment for the first show are Takada vs. Scott, a tag match of U.S. vs. Russia with Gary Albright & Dan Severn vs. Salman Hashimikov & Vladimir Berkovich, Dennis Koslowski vs. either Kazuo Yamazaki or Yoji Anjyo, and other matches not advertised. However, in Japan advertising for the card, which I would assume to be more reliable, the tag match has the Russians against Severn & Koslowski. Probably the most important element in being able to get this show "over" to those who do buy it would be the announcers, and we've been unable to find out who they will be."

September 29, 1993: "9/10 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (RINGS - 1,755): Homma b Bunsei Akiyama, Minoru Yamato d Kotaro Shinkai, Yoshihisa Yamamoto b Nobuhiro Tsurumaki, Masayoshi Naruse b Berto Dieseul, Andrei Kopilov b Mitsuya Nagai."

October 5, 1993: Pancrase here, but we are in such a deep scene here that I am sure you are in:


Pancrase Wrestling, which is at least believed to be by those who tell me the only "pro wrestling" promotion where the winners and losers aren't predetermined, had its second show on 10/14 in Nagoya. I'm told they go until either a knockout or they lock on a submission, similar to UWFI and Rings rules, although it's obvious by how the matches go that this is a different breed because nobody "sells" and attempts are made to always defend, move like a boxing match, and to block moves, which you don't see on UWFI and Rings shows in the marquee matches. All the wrestlers have dropped a lot of weight and look more like light heavyweight boxers because all the training is done for conditioning rather than muscle bulk which would be the case if one was training for a legitimate combat sport. The entire five-match card had only 23 minutes of wrestling, most of which were in the main event (Wayne Shamrock vs. Yoshiki Takahashi going 12:23). Because of the belief that it is real, the 11/8 match in Kobe with Suzuki (who was a champion amateur wrestler before going pro) vs. World Karate Association world heavyweight champion Maurice Smith (yes, another kick boxing world champion) is getting a lot of publicity with the magazines pushing it strongly as being a legitimate contest. They don't call any other groups illegitimate, but by emphasizing this match as being a shoot, doesn't it pretty much say that all others must not be? At the November 29, 1989 UWF card at the Tokyo Dome, Suzuki was knocked out by Smith in a mixed match which was a shoot. Akira Maeda has his first match in nine months on the RINGS 10/23 show in Fukuoka."

And in the course of discussing a Savage/Hogan work/shoot/angle entanglement: "It should be noted during the 1987 Maeda-shoot kick non-angle with Riki Choshu, that several of the American wrestlers on the New Japan tour and virtually all on the simultaneous All Japan tour believed it to be nothing more than an angle, suspension, injury and all, even though it wasn't, and the belief it was an angle by some of those wrestlers continued up until the point Maeda started the new company rendering throwing those beliefs out the window."

October 18, 1993: This UWFi lead story is a thing to behold and I encourage you to do your utmost to behold it as best you are able:


Thumbs up 294 (76.6%)

Thumbs down 67 (17.4%)

In the middle 23 (06.0%)


Nobuhiko Takada vs. Billy Scott 87

Hashimikov & Berkovich vs. Albright & Severn 74

Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Yuko Miyato 52

Dennis Koslowski vs. Masahito Kakihara 31

Tatsuo Nakano vs. Yoji Anjyo 12


Badnews Allen vs. Kazuo Yamazaki 163

Hashimikov & Berkovich vs. Albright & Severn 25

Greg Bobchick vs. Gene Lydig 17

Based on phone calls, fax messages and letters to the Observer as of Tuesday, 10/12. Statistical margin of error: +-100 percent.

No television exposure, no mainstream media publicity, no interviews, no known personalities, a style completely unfamiliar and no hard-sell Events Center-like segments to hype the show sounds like a recipe for a disastrous failure in the pay-per-view arena. Complete disasters aren't unheard of, either. Both the LPWA and the Herb Abrams UWF tried PPV shows in recent years that drew less than 3,000 buys nationally. In the case of the latter, that was with main eventers who were at least known commodities to most wrestling fans, but with a product with little television exposure except on third-world Sports Channel cable stations. Even Vince McMahon's attempt to promote a bodybuilding pay-per-view event last June, using his own huge syndicated and cable wrestling network as the springboard, hyping it to the level of one of his wrestling PPVs and creating a one-hour weekly cable bodybuilding show specifically to hype the PPV and personalities involved in it, ended in disaster with approximately 4,500 buys nationally. So, logically, what chance did a Japanese promotion doing "shoot-style" wrestling with none of the above have in garnering PPV buys?

Plenty, at least according to Joe Hand, whose Front Row Entertainment promoted the PPV portion of the event to the United States and Canada. Hand claimed the Union of Professional Wrestling Force International (UWFI) PPV show garnered roughly 100,000 buys (which would be an 0.48 percent buy rate). If this number is accurate, and keep in mind tradition when it comes to PPV numbers announced by the companies producing the show, it not only would have to be considered a huge success, but by wrestling industry standards, be considered a success of mind-boggling proportions. It would be slightly more buys than WCW's Fall Brawl on 9/19 in Houston, which drew an estimated 0.46 percent buy rate and 95,000 buys which had all the aforementioned promotional advantages. The most recent WWF PPV event, SummerSlam, which was one of the best hyped PPV shows ever, did an estimated 265,000 buys (1.2 percent buy rate). Hand reported that the buy rate numbers he received were not consistent system-by-system, with the variation by systems ranging from 1.1s down to 0.2s, and said he was most impressed with the showing in Quebec (better than one percent) since his show went head-to-head with the American League Championship Series game involving the Toronto Blue Jays. Highlights of the PPV were scheduled to air nationally on the syndicated George Michael Sports Machine show and a segment is scheduled on UWFI for the TV-show "Hard Copy."

Hand said the show garnered a small profit. If the 100,000 buys is accurate, at a $14.95 price tag, the promotion's gross on the event would be $673,000. In an earlier interview, Hand said his company was budgeting $895,000 for expenses, of which $285,000 would go to advertising. In late October the show will be replayed, rather than a new PPV show broadcast since UWFI doesn't have another show between now and late October. The UWFI's next major show will take place 12/5 at the 48,000-seat outdoor baseball stadium in Tokyo, but won't air on PPV in this country because Request and Viewer Choice didn't have an available date for airing a lot more than the fact that the main event would be unable to be broadcast on that specific show. A second PPV show will air in February 1994, and Hand, who claims the next show will do an even more illogical 1.5 buy rate (if it does, Hand's company will make a $1.7 million profit on the event and it would beat out every wrestling PPV event next year except Wrestlemania), is planning on running quarterly PPV shows next year.

Others in the wrestling industry with PPV contacts strongly dispute these numbers, citing areas where the UWFI show did only one-fourth the number of buys as recent WCW shows and less than one-twentieth of WWF shows. On the other hand, several callers from various parts of the country left messages saying the phone lines were jammed attempting to order the show and they were unable to get through, reports that we haven't received of late from either WWF or WCW PPV shows. In Pittsburgh, one group that phoned in poll results noted they had to wait until the replay show to view it because of the inability to get through all the busy signals representing last-minute buys. I was stunned that the number of our poll responses ran ahead of the pace of most recent WCW and WWF PPV shows, when I was expecting responses at about 25 percent of the level of the major PPVs, even though the audience reading this publication would be far more likely to purchase an international wrestling PPV event than any other audience. As of press time, we were awaiting independent information from a variety of sources and insider PPV industry newsletters as to their read on the show's buys. There is no doubt that the advertising of the event as "real wrestling," largely on sports broadcasts the week before the event, created more mainstream curiosity in this event than any wrestling PPV show in recent years with perhaps the exception of Wrestlemanias. The question going into the event was whether that curiosity would translate into buys. The real big question now is whether the people who bought the show are interested in seeing the product again, and whether that audience can sustain itself through quarterly shows. If the 100,000 figure is accurate, it was largely based on the curiosity of seeing pro wrestling that was purporting to be "real," since only a microcosm of that audience would have ever seen UWFI on tape beforehand or have any knowledge of its wrestlers, none of whose names were used in marketing the event. Whether that curiosity can be turned into interest in the style and the competitors and whether the audience that purchased the event found it interesting enough to want to see it again will determine whatever long-term fate UWFI wrestling has in the United States. Based on our totally unscientific poll, the prospects of return business among those who saw the show look bright.

To understand what is UWFI, one first has to look at how it became what it is. This story dates back to 1982, when New Japan Pro Wrestling was the most successful pro wrestling company in the world. New Japan was coming off a banner year, selling out 90 percent of its house shows and drawing 20 ratings weekly on Saturday night from 8 to 9 p.m. on the countries' No. 2 network. The company's biggest star and countries' most famous and most popular wrestler at the time was Antonio Inoki, although with names like Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, Riki Choshu, Tatsumi Fujinami, the original Tiger Mask (Satoru Sayama), Dynamite Kid, Abdullah the Butcher and Dick Murdoch as regular main eventers and the best crop imaginable of potential superstars underneath, this was hardly a one-man band. Nevertheless, the underneath wrestlers weren't getting paid what they felt was fair, with the claim later coming out that the New Japan profits were going to finance Inoki's outside of wrestling money-losing business, in particular a cattle farm in Brazil. Inoki's popularity was viewed by the consensus as the major cog in the successful wheel. But when he was injured and had to take several months off wrestling, the group continued to sellout virtually every show. Many of the wrestlers saw this, combined with their pay level, and revolted, going public with their claims that Inoki was using his power of controlling the company to take money the wrestlers should be getting and funneling it into his outside losing businesses. When this went public, Inoki was forced to resign as company President (although he eventually reclaimed his power), but was allowed to stay in the company as its top star. Hisashi Shinma, the Chairman of the Board of New Japan and Inoki's long-time personal business manager (and at the time figurehead president of the WWF as well), took the major hit in the fallout of the scandal and was forced out of the company. Sayama, whose popularity set the stage for the role lighter weight wrestlers would eventually play in Japan, had retired from wrestling, perhaps fearing reprisals, after he had set the wheels in motion for the scandal to eventually go public. He then wrote a book, called "kay-fabe," which exposed pro wrestling as pre-planned entertainment.

At the time, Akira Maeda was a high-card wrestler who would lose to Fujinami, Choshu, Inoki, Hogan, etc., have non-finishes with the Murdoch, Kengo Kimura and Masked Superstar level wrestlers and beat most everyone else. Shinma had originally recruited Maeda to New Japan when he saw him as a teenager in a karate tournament. With his height, looks and athletic ability, Shinma had groomed Maeda to be the heir to Inoki's throne. With Shinma thrown out, he decided to form his own wrestling company in April of 1984 called the Universal Wrestling Federation, with Maeda as his top star. Maeda brought along with him his best friend, Nobuhiko Takada, a young wrestler who had shown flashes of brilliance as a prelim wrestler and it was well-known would be an eventual world junior heavyweight champion, and Kazuo Yamazaki, even smaller, but groomed to be a factor eventually as a junior heavyweight. Shinma also signed up veterans Rusher Kimura, who had a big-money feud with Inoki a few years earlier, and Ryuma Go. Later Osamu Kido and Yoshiaki Fujiwara joined. In the gym, Fujiwara, who for most of his New Japan career had been a jobber but had suddenly received a push by the company exploiting his reputation as a "shooter" within the business, was known as the master of submission moves and the No. 1 pupil of Karl Gotch, "The God of Professional Wrestling," as he was known in Japan. The group ran shows using the New Japan style of wrestling, but with only moderate box office success, for about three months. Several of the wrestlers at this time already, likely under the influence of Fujiwara, who was the group's elder statesman so to speak, wanted to switch to a more reality-based moves group, but Shinma and some of the older wrestlers like Rusher Kimura and Ryuma Go were against the move. At the time, the manager of Sayama's business affairs contacted the group and offered Sayama, who would by far be the biggest box office draw they could ever hope to get besides Inoki himself. As part of the provisions, Sayama took the stance that he'd only join the promotion if Shinma, the founder, was expelled, stemming from the heat regarding the scandal. The group, feeling it needed Sayama's drawing power more than Shinma's brain, agreed to those terms. This left the group run by head-strong younger wrestlers, all trained by Gotch, who wanted to change pro wrestling to largely a vision of Gotch's wrestling, based on incorporating unspectacular looking but legitimately painful if actually applied "real" submission holds into the product. Kimura and Go immediately quit, thinking the style would be death at the box office. Since several of the remaining wrestlers also had either karate or kick boxing backgrounds, they incorporated kicks, body punches and open-hand face blows with the palm and slaps into the new style. To say the new product took Japan by storm would be inaccurate. The "different" product, which was not as realistic looking and was far more dramatic than today's "shoot style," gained a cult following in Tokyo where it overflowed Korakuen Hall for every event with the hardcore UWF-maniacs selling the 2,000-seat arena out faster than the two major promotions could at the time. They would sell standing room tickets the day of the event, and often they would draw 900 to 1,200 SRO fans which in a building that small made the fans stuffed in as tight as a Tokyo subway during rush hour. Maeda in particular decried all other wrestling promotions as being "fake" but that UWF was real. Largely for that reason, it became the favorite group of Tokyo hardcores who believed UWF wrestling to be the real thing. Matches ended out of nowhere with submission maneuvers that fans, once they became educated to it, would put on each other and realize were unbreakable. In addition, the blistering stiff kicks to the head and body were like nothing ever seen before in pro wrestling rings and gave it even more of an aura of authenticity. Under any scrutiny it was obvious it was a much more realistic-based and some of the kicks were as brutal as anything in a boxing or kick-boxing match and far stiffer work than had ever been seen in Japanese wrestling before. But it was still a work. The group had a minimal following outside of Tokyo, largely due to the inability of the public to understand the style and no television to get it over. Eventually there were all kinds of behind-the-scenes troubles, scandals and money problems, and even a gangland-style murder that aired live on television involving Sayama's apparent mobster business associates. Sayama retired again, this time for good, and in September of 1985, the UWF ran its final card and closed shop. Sayama eventually opened a gym and trained young men in his new sport, which he called "shooting." It achieved little in the way of visibility or popularity since he himself never competed. Ironically, of all the groups that claimed to be "shooting," Sayama's unknown group of students was the only one that ever really was.

Maeda, Fujiwara, Takada, Kido and Yamazaki returned to New Japan in January 1986 for one of the most eventful 12 months of Japanese wrestling history. Remember that Maeda in particular had decried pro wrestling as being fake in the press and at the UWF matches. He had bad-mouthed Inoki in particular as not being a real wrestler as before the UWF shows he'd challenge Fujinami (New Japan's best worker and No. 2 native behind Inoki in the pecking order) to come to the UWF rings and wrestle with no ropes (for no rope escapes of submission moves) "for real" and then mockingly say something to the crowd to the effect of, "You know why I say Fujinami and not Inoki" and everyone in the crowd laughed together. Now, because he had no other job and because his previous statements and cult popularity could be used to draw incredible money for New Japan, he was back working for Inoki's company. Inoki and Maeda never did have their long-awaited singles match which would have easily set what would have been an all-time gate and attendance record in Japan, because Maeda would never agree to put Inoki over. But Maeda had several singles matches during that year that were memorable. Once at Korakuen Hall, which quickly became known as Maeda and the UWF's home court so to speak when in New Japan rings, he was booked against Kerry Von Erich. The UWF audience came specifically to see Maeda destroy an American superstar "worker." When they worked an even match ending in a double count out, fans stormed out of the building furious even though there were two matches left in the card. Another match with Andre the Giant became infamous in wrestling lore. Maeda also knocked-out Keiji Muto in a bar fight that was well publicized. He also participated in the most successful mixed match in history beating kick boxer Don Nakaya Neilsen on the undercard of an Inoki-Leon Spinks mixed match which drew the largest television audience for pro wrestling in Japan in many years (a 28.9 rating in Prime Time). The UWF wrestlers started appearing regularly on New Japan television, thus the chicken wings, Fujiwara armbars or wakigatamaes, cross-knee locks, achilles tendon holds, etc. started getting over to the general public as finishing maneuvers. The entire New Japan style of fast-paced high flying and big moves was changed with the submission moves incorporated into the style. Because of the strong UWF personalities, New Japan had a banner year at the box office and more heat than ever at the arenas. However, during that same period, its TV ratings nosedived to the point where TV-Asahi moved wrestling from prime time to Saturday afternoon, where it remains today. Many attributed the declining ratings to the casual audience not understanding or wanting to see all the unspectacular but realistic submission moves after years of the spectacular fast-paced style New Japan had become famous for.

In November, 1987, there was an event known forever as "the shoot kick." Heat had been building up behind the scenes between Riki Choshu, a former Olympic games wrestler who had become a legend in New Japan, and Maeda as the annual tag team tournament was starting out. While the general public knew nothing was up, word had spread that trouble might develop between the two amongst the Tokyo hardcores, and the place would be during a six-man tag team match on Maeda's home court, Korakuen Hall, on November 19. Troubles built up when it became apparent neither was going to sell to make the other look good. Finally when Choshu held Kido in a scorpion deathlock, Maeda came in the ring and with Choshu defenseless because his arms were holding Kido down, blasted him in the eye with a kick that broke two bones underneath his eye. The match largely fell apart at that point although Takada did jump in and do the prescribed finish for Choshu's lariat. Maeda was immediately suspended from New Japan and with Choshu injured, the tag team tournament, traditionally the highlight tour of the year, became anti-climactic. About one month later, New Japan gave Maeda the terms to allow him to return. He'd be suspended for several more months from Japan, although they would set up a tour of low-paying unrealistic-style Mexico as "punishment" that he'd have to fulfill. In addition, upon returning he'd have to put both Choshu and Inoki over in singles matches. Maeda wouldn't accept the terms, and got financing to re-start the UWF.

Few gave the UWF much hope of surviving. Interest in pro wrestling in Japan in 1987-88 was in a decline, largely due to the predictability and frequent non-finishes of main event matches and the public belief that the wrestlers were more mercenaries going to the highest bidder because of several wrestlers jumping promotions which in old-style Japan where people kept jobs for life, was against the cultural mores of the time. The first UWF didn't make it and never gained much of an audience outside Tokyo. The group debuted at Korakuen Hall on May 12, 1988 and sold all tickets out in 15 minutes. Over the next two years, the UWF was the hottest promotion in the world, selling out virtually every show, most of the time the first day tickets were put on sale. Its most successful show was on November 29, 1989 at the Tokyo Egg Dome. They sold 40,000 tickets for $2 million the first day tickets went on sale, blistering all previous records for one-day sales (the SummerSlam '92 at Wembley Stadium sold more tickets the first day they went on sale although with much lower ticket prices). The show drew 60,000 fans live, at the time the third largest crowd in pro wrestling history and a record at the time in Japan, and $2.9 million, which was an all-time world record at the time. It also was put on closed-circuit television in nine locations, drawing another 15,000 fans. Between live tickets, merchandise sales and closed-circuit revenue, the show grossed $5.6 million, which is a record never topped to this day in Japan. The promotion cooled off a little in 1990, but still sold out most of its shows. However, a promotional dispute between Shinji Jin, the company President, and Maeda, at the end of 1990, wound up with the group suddenly folding.

As important it is in examining this facet of wrestling to cite the success of the UWF's shows, it is probably more important to note the affect UWF had on the major pro wrestling groups in Japan, because if it gains a foothold or success here, a question is begging to be answered. Will the major and minor promotions, as the major promotions in Japan did successfully, change their style to incorporate successful facets of UWF to create stronger wrestling companies, or will they simply ignore it? Of course, UWFI is a long way from gaining a foothold here. In 1986, when Maeda and company came back to New Japan and appeared weekly on network television, it exposed and got over many new submission holds. This caused the style of wrestling to change. Many moves previously thought of as "dead-time" or "rest-holds" became "near-submissions" so it changed, because matches didn't need to contain as many spectacular moves and flying moves to escape "dead-time," the entire style and psychology of matches changed. In addition, stiff, fast kicking became incorporated into pro wrestling. At the beginning, it resulted in a slight-decline in television viewership because matches were slower, but it seems to have been a successful formula over the long run. In 1988, when the UWF blew by everyone in the wrestling business, it caused All Japan and New Japan, left in their dust, to re-evaluate their business. Both groups, All Japan in particular, eliminated the screw-job ending from the repertoire. All Japan, which used to end its main event competitive matches largely with double count outs to protect stars and egos, ended every, as in 100 percent every, match with a clean finish. After several months of doing so, this largely turned their arena business around and is responsible for the current atmosphere at its shows. New Japan never quite got to 100 percent, but easily 95 to 98 percent of its matches end with clean finishes as well, and the crowd reaction to the few that don't is decidedly negative. New Japan's current status in the wrestling world speaks for itself. There are many that feel the single most important factor, and admittedly there are dozens of them, for WCW's abysmal house show attendance is that so many fans were turned off and eventually turned away from the company because of unsatisfying finishes at both the house show and on major cards.

Although the UWF crew had always stuck together from the beginnings in 1983, differing offers to differing personalities saw Maeda and his "younger-brother" Takada break up "the family." Maeda formed a promotion called "Fighting Network Rings," which he proclaimed wasn't pro wrestling and was 100 percent real. To get over that point, he used nobody ever associated with traditional pro wrestling in his company, relying largely on foreign ex-sambo (amateur submission style, also known in some circles as Soviet judo) wrestlers, kick boxers and karate champions with himself as the main draw. While most insiders in Japan accept that occasional "shooting matches" occur in Rings prelim matches (as have happened in the past in All Japan women matches when they put the gloves on), the key matches aren't. Fujiwara formed Pro Wrestling Fujiwara-Gumi with the backing of Hachiro Tanaka, who also owned SWS. PWFG eventually folded with Fujiwara returning to New Japan, although they now promote in Korakuen Hall one show every few months using mainly Florida independent wrestlers. The main PWFG wrestlers, Masakatsu Funaki, Wayne Shamrock and Minoru Suzuki started their own promotion called Pancrase that debuted last month, claiming to be real shooting with winners and loser not predetermined. Takada got backing and formed UWFI, taking most of the old UWF wrestlers with him.

UWFI soon signed American scientific wrestling legends Lou Thesz, Billy Robinson and Danny Hodge and flew them in for their big shows as this sort of thing adds credibility in Japan. When the shows started selling out Budokan Hall in Japan, interest in expanding to the United States started, which eventually led to this PPV show.

Positives and Negatives of the show:

Match quality was a positive. Most of the matches were good when judged against the limitations the style would allow. Based on reactions we've heard, to the untrained eye, they appeared to be real, or at least real enough to not insult someone trying to suspend their disbelief, which is necessary for this style to make it. Obviously a trained eye would see things differently, but its audience isn't going to consist of many people with a trained eye. This is also a potential negative. If this group gains any sort of real popularity next year, too much popularity will be its albatross because if it gets too popular, eventually mainstream media will discover it isn't what it claims to be which would be a lot more damaging to something worked this style than an American style where largely everyone knows what it is going in and realism is no longer an issue.
Production wasn't good. The show had no creativity. It simply aired eight matches, with no announcers building up what was coming next or even mentioning any of the matches that were coming up until after the sixth match when they previewed the final two matches. It's ludicrous that neither Takada or Albright's name were never even mentioned until six matches had been completed. Since this was largely an audience unfamiliar with any aspect of what this was or who the people were that were doing it, it desperately cried out for an instructional video demonstrating several submission holds so the action on the mat as they struggled to break clasped arms and pull the arm into a short-arm scissors wasn't viewed as "dead time" rather than a "near finish." They also needed to highlight four or five of the wrestlers (Koslowski, Tamura, Albright, Takada and Scott) to whet the public's appetite and give them an idea who the stars are when the show began so people had things to look forward to and needed more clips showing them in action, their big moves, etc. They needed interviews with Americans talking about the style and their upcoming matches, particularly Koslowski, Albright and Scott or even Badnews if he wanted to make a comparison of it with traditional pro wrestling. Films of some of the Japanese in training, perhaps showing all-out kicks to the heavy bag or to protected sparring partners, would get over the power in their feet. If that story Gene Pelc said during the show about Takada kicking the machine and it registering more force than someone hitting it with a baseball bat is true, then that clip should have been shown. I guarantee it would make everyone respect Takada as a bad-ass and a real world champion, both of which are necessary for the company to gain any significant following. They needed to show clips of Takada's previous wins, in particular Trevor Berbick since everyone knows him, and Koji Kitao (which actually did air although nobody would have known because it was just one guy kicking a big guy who went down) since there is some general public knowledge of sumo wrestling in the United States because of Chad "Akebono" Rowan. They needed to show Tamura beating Matthew Saad Muhammad since the match only went 25 seconds and Muhammad had a pretty decent boxing name to sports fans. They needed to show Koslowski clips from the Olympics, Albright destroying people on previous shows, and films of Billy Scott taking on James Warring to give him credibility as a challenger. If this is to be successful, the eventual success depends on marketing personalities, getting them over, and then airing matches with them against each other. The public won't pay to see boxing matches on PPV with personalities that they don't know, but boxing matches on PPV with "over" personalities (Chavez-Whitaker), even among lighter weight guys, draw three times as much money on PPV as Wrestlemania nowadays, let alone any other wrestling events. Things like doing tale-of-the-tapes for both guys on the screen together before every match would have added to the interest of each match
The announcers failed to get over the Japanese as anything other than nice guys who are nameless, faceless kicking and submission machines. Does anyone who viewed the show remember the difference between Tamura, Kanehara, Anjyo or Kakihara? The only name that came out of the show with any remembrance would be Takada.
Play-by-play man Jim Dougherty was pretty bad, and was crucified among callers after the show. Besides his constant knocking of pro wrestling in America, which got old, and his mentioning about how "you've never seen slow-motion on pro wrestling before" when it's actually prevalent every week, he only seemed slightly familiar with the subject. Gene Pelc, who handled color and is part of the promotion was very good overall. His talking about strategies, particularly in Koslowski-Kakihara, made the matches more interesting. Still, even he failed to do anything that would enable to audience to differentiate between the Japanese. In addition, some of the athletes on this show have some incredible real athletic credentials. While in some cases they were superimposed on the screen, they were never emphasized. Even though his performance was awful and he's too old and came in out of shape, Badnews Allen was a legend in the world of judo before he was a pro wrestler which is largely the reason he works for this group. All four men in the tag match have tremendous credentials in amateur wrestling and Koslowski and Severn's record books are lengthy. Lou Thesz was good in doing color the final two matches in that he was enthusiastic, but unless you were a hardcore pro wrestling fan, you wouldn't have known who he was and his credentials as well needed to be given since you have to assume this audience was largely sports fans who were curious about something and with no knowledge of any aspect of it.
The majority of the thumbs downs were more because they didn't like the style because of what it wasn't, and for the most part, what it couldn't be (no babyfaces and heels, no overt angles, a "boring" style) and maintain the legit aura which is its only drawing point. Several thumbs downs came from workers and promoters of the independent nature who ranged from mildly unhappy to downright outraged at the constant knocking of American style as being staged and rehearsed during the broadcast. Even many who voted thumbs up and enjoyed the show themselves questioned whether the style would be marketable in the United States.

1. Yoji Anjyo beat Tatsuo Nakano in 9:22 with a sleeper. The match consisted of Anjyo doing short flurries of kicks and Nakano controlling him on the mat. Nakano scored a knockdown with a german suplex, but also got a bloody nose and his left eye almost shut from the kicks. Nakano was in control when Anjyo came out of nowhere with a sleeper. This was a good match.

2. Dennis Koslowski beat Masahito Kakihara in 8:55 with the boston crab. The strategy here was that Koslowski, who won the silver medal in Greco-roman as a superheavyweight in Barcelona, with bigger and stronger and dominating on the mat. But standing, Kakihara's faster hands and feet gave him the advantage. Kakihara scored a few times with kicks. Finish saw Koslowski catch the foot, then Kakihara tried to reverse and use the other foot but Koslowski caught that as well and put him in the crab. The strategy made the match interesting to watch although it wasn't one of the best matches on the show.

3. Hiromitsu Kanehara scored a knock-out on Tommy Cairo in 3:49 with a knee to the face which looked good in slow-motion. Cairo is a bodybuilder type from Philadelphia who works for ECW. He scored with a few suplexes but was obviously not in the skill class as the guys that had appeared thus far in the show.

4. Kiyoshi Tamura made Yuko Miyato submit in 8:19 with a hold where he crimped his neck. Technically this was the best match on the show with quick back-and-forth action on the mat with lots of smooth moves into submissions, escapes and reversals and strong kicks from both men. Tamura looked great here. Miyato was pounding him when Tamura scored a take down and quickly got the submission.

5. Gene Lydig beat Greg Bobchick with a short-arm scissors in 7:37. Lydig is an American, I believe from Nashville, who has been working here regularly. Bobchick is an indie wrestler from Michigan who I believe wrestled in college and has a Rick Steiner like build. Pretty basic uncomplicated match with headlock takedowns. Lydig scored a back suplex and put on a submission. Both guys looked green.

6. Kazuo Yamazaki made Badnews Allen (Allen Coage) submit to a half crab in 13:34. Allen was introduced as former American pro wrestler Badnews Brown, but "when he comes here he has to wrestle the real professional wrestling style." Allen is 51-years-old, way overweight and his knees were shot, but it appeared Yamazaki didn't want to mess with him anyway. I'll bet half the people who saw them list him as an Olympic bronze medalist in judo thought it was a lie and the other half who believed it (it's legit) that knew him as a pro wrestler were shocked. It looked bad since Allen controlled most of the match before losing but showed nothing, which made Yamazaki look ineffective as well. Nothing happened and the match was terrible.

7. Salman Hashimikov & Vladimir Berkovich beat Dan Severn & Gary Albright in 13:09. Even though all four of these men were top class amateurs, this match was the most pro-wrestling like, which is either a positive or a negative depending on your point of view. The Russians were both former amateur champions, Hashimikov held several Greco-roman world titles and Berkovich was a European champion although neither has competed in many years. Hashimikov also held the IWGP title for New Japan in 1989 and worked a WCW PPV show in St. Louis in 1990. Severn has a lengthy amateur wrestling background including a many-time national champion in sambo. Albright wrestled at Nebraska and placed three times in the NCAA tournament (highest finish was second) and competed for years as a superheavy in freestyle on the national team. Berkovich came in out of shape, which was so obvious it was even acknowledged by the announcers, and was out of place, which made it even more unrealistic since his team was going to win. The match was largely an angle to set up a Hashimikov vs. Albright match, which I suspect will take place on the 12/5 big show. The Americans dominated, as one point being ahead 10-1 in points. Berkovich got a bloody nose and fat lip from the wild slaps and kicks by Severn. Hashimikov made the tag and immediately put Severn in an airplane spin and dropped into a short arm scissors for the submission. He didn't break it very fast after the submission so Albright jumped in and they did a pull-apart between the two of them. The match had heat like a pro wrestling match and was pretty exciting, but also pretty transparent.

8. Nobuhiko Takada retained his world title making Billy Scott submit to the short arm scissors in 13:00. The announcers got this over good by having Scott as the decided underdog who would never quit which kept things interesting since it was a one-sided match. Takada looked like a machine with his kicks. Scott took a lot of legit punishment with hard kicks to the leg and both his eyes were nearly shut from the blows. Apparently he was in real bad shape the next day. On the PPV they billed this as a world title match although in Japan it was a non-title match. Match told a story and got both Takada over as a true fighting machine as champion and got Scott over as an underdog with a lot of heart that wouldn't quit, so it was very good."