November 13, 1992 in Osaka, Japan
Furitsu Gym drawing 6,350
|both O's in WOWOW stand for "occult"|
It is largely without preamble that we come together for this the second round of MEGA BATTLE TOURNAMENT 1992 which is without a hyphen now (I miss it). It was disappointing to have learned in the previous edition of WHAT DID DAVE MELTZER SAY that Dave Meltzer said that Masaki Sataake, despite his weird and frankly bad win over Mitsuya Nagai, is out of the tournament with a broken leg, leaving no heroic karate ace amongst this otherwise worthy field of mega battlists. His departure from the tournament seems to be the topic under discussion by our three-man WOWOW commentary team, who also seem to be telling us that Willie Williams has come out of retirement to join the field! Plainly I spoke too soon on the subject of heroic-karate-ace absence! Oh wait he's not in the tournament, he's just having a match for some reason. Well it's still good! Here is how the brackets look (an "X" indicates a fighter who has died [the symbolic death of ippon]):
We open with Masayuki Naruse vs. Yoshihisa Yamamoto in a bout that is non-tournament but which contains Yoshihisa Yamamoto and so I am predisposed to take it seriously (aesthetically, morally). Yamamoto's acne remains utterly heart-rending. Had he been born only slightly later he may well have had access to that medicine people who have egregious acne take and then seem to have a way better time of it, but then he would have been born too late for RINGS, so on balance I think we have to say he was correct. These two lean(ish) young(ish) lions are really clobbering each other with kick-padded kicks and taped-hand slaps to the side of the head, as is the custom here. Yamamoto probably bleeds a lot from the face in training, I bet. My thoughts turn to a young man I saw at a judo tournament who kept on getting stopped in his matches to receive medical attention due to all the blood that was coming out of his acne, and there was just no way to avoid it, and it was a dark time. I refereed that tournament I am telling you about now, and was surprised to learn at the end of the day that referees who are properly certified (I am, but at literally the lowest level, so I am essentially a licensed idiot, and a liability to everyone and everything) are paid a nominal wage for their services, and to be honest I don't feel great about that, you should just go out there and do it out of your love of gentleness and for the opportunity to be near softness at the very moment it overcomes hardness. There is also the notion that descends from certain strains of ko-ryu jiu-jitsu that one should not accept payment in currency for budo but only payment in the goods or service that are truly needed for the continuation of the school, and so instead of paying referees in always-already-filthy money, maybe just when the kids divisions wrap up but before the adults start you give the refs a ham-sando as I heard ham sandwiches called in an episode of Yawara: A Fashionable Judo Girl I watched just this weekend (it was good; they are all good).
Like Yawara Inokuma, Yoshihisa Yamamoto is also of judo. You can tell by several of the waza he employs or at least attempts to employ in this long, even bout with Naruse, not least among them yoko-sankaku-jime, which is an approach to (side) triangle choking that I am always keen to show people from other græppling traditions who train with us because their usual response is "this is weird, but seems worth seeing" (true). Yamamoto is also a nice thrower! I just enjoy his work a great deal all around (I have no problem with Naruse). When I say what I am about to say next please understand I am not suggesting that I am not completely in favour of the match that they are having right now, because I am, but I bet Yamamoto and Naruse were told to go out there and just eat a tonne of time, like an absolute tonne of it. On that level, as well as on the level of whether or not they are having a match I like, this succeeds. They are probably close to twenty minutes into this match that demonstrates as clearly as any how unlike other (and by definition lesser) professional wrestlings RINGS really is when Yamamoto grabs on to a Naruse high-kick and forces him to the mat, seeks the leg but finds nothing workable there, takes the back, half-sinks the hadaka-jime the commentators (they are here this time, and I like them) celebrate as SLEEPER, SLEEPER, only to have Naruse cræftily seize upon Yamamoto's carelessly crossed legs and secure hiza-tori-garami (knee-taking-entanglement) for the finish at 21:39. It really hurts! Here's what it looks like when Yamamoto does it:
|Naruse (blue) applies hiza-tori-garami|
|the drawing is little but the waza is big|
I have spent the first three-minute round between Nobuaki Kakuta and Herman Renting trying to figure out why Nobuaki Kakuta, who Dirk Vrij put in an opening-round blender, is having a match against Herman Renting, who won his bout against Willie Peeters, to my chagrin, a little--maybe you recall? How can this even be? I will just watch all of the matches on all of the shows and tell you when it seems like someone has won MEGA(-)BATTLE TOURNAMENT 92, maybe, because I am not doing well with the flow charts. Yeah I have burnt two rounds on this issue and have not found any satisfaction. Herman Renting is pretty solidly beating Nobuaki Kakuta in any number of ways, but at least it is not as harsh and worrying as when it was Dirk Vrij who did it so let us be comforted. Renting whips him around on the mat pretty well, and really puts something into a kesa-gatame-kubi-hishigi neck crank, but in so doing rears back slightly, which affords Kakuta the opportunity to slide his leg around Renting's head to relieve the pressure, and the crowd goes for this to their endless credit, bless them all, these græpple-wise Osakans, but in the end Kakuta opts for a foot on the rope. Kakuta is just barely hanging-on throughout, and while that won Rainbow Hall Nagoya to his side like never before, the results here are good but comparatively muted. He looses to the hadaka-jime (naked strangle) henka (variation) known to us all since childhood as the SLEEPER, SLEEPER the commentators again here invoke at 1:50 of the fourth round. This was not as good as the first one!
But now Willie Williams! I wonder how they explained his retirement from his retirement? Did he try new hobbies but not find them sufficiently diverting? I have never had that problem, let me tell you: I love my hobbies! (One of them is RINGS blogging.) Yukihiro Takenami is his opponent here, and for some reason Takenami seems reluctant to shake hands before the bout. In my view this has never made anyone look as tough as they think it makes them look. Rightfully/righteously, Willie Williams rains terrible blows upon him throughout the first round, including a knee to the eye like right to the very eye that has Takanami shoot upset that he has been shoot kneed right in his shoot damn eye. Finish this, Willie; finish it. And he does! First a knockdown by karate chop, another to generalized wailing in the corner, and finally a straight karate punch yeah a straight karate punch to the body ends Takenami's vain striving at 1:33 of the second round.
I do not say this to be dismissive of Hans Nyman (Nijman, I know, but it's Nyman here) but my assumption is that in this next match Dirk Vrij/Dick Fly is going to pummel him; let's find out together. I notice very early in round one however that, much like Fly, Hans Nyman really is an enormous (ny)man, and so maybe his chances are better here than I had at first supposed? Large men who can throw high kicks impress me certainly but I cannot identify with them in any way so it is hard for me to fully commit to their works emotionally. I would describe round one as tentative! To the extent to which round two contains a takedown (Fly) and then some græppling (largely Fly) I prefer it by a lot. In round three, Hans Nyman tries to get away into the night and then Fly puts his arms around him and they tumble to the ground and then Fly says "I think we're alone now" (there didn't seem to be anyone around). Round four has some hard kicking from Nyman, who on the whole has done much better than I had expected, and round five is characterized by the most græppling they have done so far but if they wanted me to like this one more they should have been græppling from the start, frankly (don't call me frankly haha). After five rounds there is no winner, and yet there must be one under MEGA(-)BATTLE strictures, and so it is in the sixth round that Dick Fly semi-secures a kata-gatame (shoulder hold/arm-triangle) that drives Nyman to the ropes, which is all it takes to end the match because apparently (yet unbeknownst to Nyman, clearly) we were in super duper sudden death golden score and all it took was a rope break. Good finish!
Chris Dolman and Andrei Kopilov uninterrupted by round-breaks, but instead scheduled for thirty straight minutes of græppling? That is what I call RINGS! Dolman I think needs to abandon the loose-shorts-over-singlet look once and for all, I know I have spoken out against this before but is sing(let)ularly unflattering and he needs to know. He goes up by two rope escapes early but to me the first moment of genuine danger comes when Kopilov attacks with gyaku-ude-garami (reverse-wrist-entanglement/double-wrist-lock/Kimura) from beneath, then maintains his grip for a rolling juji-gatame, and then comes pretty close with kata-gatame (the shoulder hold we discussed a moment ago). It was a technically adept bit of "lock flow" and spoke to me. Kopilov also makes really good trying-to-get-to-the-ropes faces whenever he tries to get to the ropes, and brother, when it is Chris Dolman who is squishing you, you'd better try to get to the ropes! Kopilov makes a clear "come at me" motion with his hands at one point only to bait Dolman nearer for a sneaky kani-basami flying-crab-scissor takedown but he blows it and it falls apart utterly and he gets (you guessed it) squished. It's the beginning of the end, too: in the sequence that follows, Dolman takes Kopilov's back and locks in a shoot "crippler crossface" for the submission win and let's all stop talking at 10:30 of the first and only round seriously let it go.
Hey look, it is Dimitar Petrov, clad once more in his trØo singlet that leaves little to the imagination except for the precise nature of the græppling truths that will almost certainly become apparent whilst he is clothed in it, who has been granted the privilege of almost certainly getting rolled by Akira Maeda. Maeda is as you know thoroughly large, but Petrov has almost thirty kilograms on him, just look at this glorious slabman:
Petrov, unimpressed by Maeda's opening volley of kicks, makes the "come on" hand motion, but it is the second time we have seen that arrogant motion in two matches; they really should work this stuff out backstage. Petrov laaauuuunches Maeda with a couple of yoko-otoshi/lateral drop/side suplexes and makes things even more unpleasant for him with ude-garami (arm entanglement) attempts from the much-loved kesa-gatame scarf hold. When they return to their feet after some roping, Maeda's kicks begin to register, but Petrov's response is a massive kubi-nage headlock takeover, and this is low-key great already. That Akira Maeda should have been Antonio Inoki has never been clearer to me than at this moment, weirdly: his ability to get walloped by the legitimate champions of the world's noblest (fighting) arts (which are probably not arts but it is conventional to describe them that way) only to ultimately triumph over them against all odds and reason as a means of connecting with people is the best we have ever seen. And yet Inoki would never cede that rôle to him, in no small part because Maeda was just a tremendous jerk (I do not know the history well but I feel confident in this part). And so what recourse did he have but be awful to everyone, and ultimately end up before us here, getting launched by a man he will no doubt overcome through his wiles once the Osaka crowd cannot take it even slightly more.
Petrov hoists Maeda onto his shoulders and everyone is horrified; Petrov puts him down and attempts the kata-ashi-hishigi single-leg-Boston Crab and the pitch of everyone's horror rises; Maeda grabs a rope for the break and the chants of MA E DA MA E DA are fully on. Juji-gatame armlock attempts are exchanged, as they have been in the closing sequences of more than one main event(oooo) of late, but this time Maeda comes out of it with a lateral hiza-juji-gatame kneebar for the win, and while this was not the best Akira Maeda match you are going to see (he has had some really good ones!), I would argue that this is subtly the most Akira Maeda match you are going to see, or right up there, anyway, with ones where he just starts kicking people for real even though no one has agreed to that happening what are you doing Akira what do you even think this is.
Solid show! Thanks again!
WHAT DID DAVE MELTZER SAY:
November 23, 1992: "The quarterfinals of the RINGS Mega-Battle tournament took place on 11/13 in Osaka before a sellout 6,350 fans (see results) leading to a 12/19 date at the Ariake Coliseum for the semifinals with Akira Maeda vs. Chris Dolman and Dirk Leon-Fry vs. Herman Renting, which seems to indicate a Maeda-Fry final match on 1/23 at Tokyo Bay NK Hall. Lots of the tournament luster was taken away when Masaaki Satake broke his leg since the bracketing seemed to be built toward a Satake vs. Maeda championship match which would be a huge draw since Satake is the only major RINGS performer yet to put anyone over. In Osaka, the most interesting match was Fry vs. stablemate Hans Nyman. They went five three minute rounds to a draw, and since one had to advance, they did a sudden death period with Fry winning midway through the sixth round."
Akira Maeda's name also comes up interestingly in this discussion of the recent and sudden departures of both "The Ultimate Warrior" Jim Hellwig (Bad News Allen Coage was calling himself "The Ultimate Warrior" years before and never liked that Hellwig used it) and "The Scottish Skeptic" Davey Boy Hume by which I mean "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith, and it's right after Bret Hart won the WWF title from Ric Flair, so this is all pretty compelling I think, and the tiny-yet-huge Maeda point is a good one:
"One has to bring up another aspect, both men's shrinkage in muscle size and bodyweight over the past few months and the Titan steroid testing which has changed the entire face of the promotion. Over the past few months, even though all the reasons for the departures have mainly been different, The Legion of Doom, Hulk Hogan, Warlord, Barbarian, Chris Walker, Sid, Del Wilkes, Bulldog and Ultimate Warrior--the people on the most likely photos, have all departed the promotion (although Hogan may be back shortly) over a relatively short period of time. They have been replaced on top by the Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, etc., who have also shrunk somewhat in size during the same period, but it was never the physical presence of their physique, rather what they could do in the ring, that gave them their position. After all the talk of not changing who they push and what type of wrestler would be pushed, the legitimate near elimination of the steroid freaks has forced Titan to make major changes and the push for Hart and Michaels exemplifies this. The business being down by an even greater percentage than the physiques of the wrestlers have been over the same time frame seems to show that an awful lot of the fans who jumped into this because of the physiques jumped out when the physiques weren't there. However, there isn't much of a choice because the impressive size for size's sake is now only there in your Earthquake types, so something has to be pushed. The overly creative gimmicks like Papa Shango and Nailz have been a total failure, so it's either try ability or throw darts and choose who you push by whose name is on the dart board ie random choice. In reality, this steroid story has resulted in some of the most widespread changes in the face of the No. 1 promotion in this country that anything this side of Akira Maeda's charisma leading to the switch and emphasis on submissions in Japan and the Hogan/Road Warrior influence changing the U.S. business nine years ago has done over the past ten years. Ironically, it has had only minimal effect on any other company. But if the Michaels-Hart match is as good as it looks to be on paper next week and Survivor Series as a whole is better then the recent PPV shows, think about the real reason those two were on top and given the time and allowed to put on that kind of a match. It was a decision made by Vince McMahon ultimately, but only because circumstances having to do with the changing laws and enforcement of such, outside pressures and his own inability to tell the truth when he needed to put him in a position where he needed to make drastic changes."