Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Mega-Battle 6th: Hayate
July 16, 1992 in Osaka, Japan
Furitsu Gym drawing 6,380

"But what of MEGA BATTLE 5th: SHI SHI KU?" the probing reader no doubt already asks, and rightly so. ("Shi shi ku? as in 'Seppo shi shi ku, I will open the Dharma-storehouse'?" that same reader might also inquire.) We have come up against another limitation of the RINGS box, but one for which truly there is no blame to be assigned or apportioned. What more could tape-trading-Akira-Maeda (it is the highest praise that comes to mind right now which suggests I may have already gone too deep) Jeff Lynch have reasonably done to obtain more RINGS tapes than he did? I would argue very little. And what more could my friend Jonathan, when generously coordinating this "RINGS Bulk Buy" (the term I use still when searching my gmail for the date-bearing spreadsheet that guides me), have done than ask Jeff Lynch to send him all of the RINGS he had? And what more can I now do? Perhaps check other places I guess but let's be serious.

So what did we miss? It gives me no pleasure, obviously, to tell you another Volk Han match, but such is the way of it. 

Mega Battle V: Shi Shi Ku
June 25, 1992 in Sendai, Japan
Miyagi Sports Center drawing 4,300
Masayuki Naruse drew Yoshihisa Yomamoto (15:00).

Yoshinori Nishi beat Peter Dijkman (1st - 1:57) via submission.
Mitsuya Nagai beat Nobuaki Kakuta (5th) via decision.
Naoyuki Taira beat Eric van der Hoeven (4th - 2:45) via DQ.
Willie Williams KO Tom Von Maurik (5:08).
Masaaki Satake drew Willie Peeters (6th).
Volk Han beat Herman Renting (9:18) via submission.
Akira Maeda beat Hans Nyman (6:35) via submission.     

That looks pretty good! But I wonder what Dave Meltzer had to say about it?


JUNE 15, 1992: "Akira Maeda had his knee scoped on 5/28. Next Rings show is 6/25 with Maeda vs. Bitarza Tariel of Greece on top." 

JUNE 22, 1992: "Tim Sorkin of P.O. Box 5166, Evanston, IL 60204 is looking for tapes of FMW, UWFI, Rings and tapes of Southeastern Championship Wrestling from 1980-83. He has more than 1,200 tapes to trade in exchange." [RINGS Bloggist's note: Tim sounds sikk.]

JULY 6, 1991: "Akira Maeda announced a 7/16 card in Osaka headlined by himself against Willie Williams (a big-time star in karate in the 1970s) in which the loser agrees to retire. Since Williams is 41 and had retired years ago and just came back for this run, I guess the result sounds guaranteed. Maeda's retirement means the end of Rings of course.
Rings on 6/25 in Sendai drew a sellout 4,300 as Maeda made Hans Nyman submit in 6:35 while Williams KO'd Tom Von Maurick to set up Maeda vs. Williams. The 8/21 Hamamatsu Arena Rings show will probably be headlined by Maeda vs. Masaake Satake."

Oh man yeah and it was probably all super great too but let us not dwell on the SHI SHI KU of the past but instead look to the future of HAYATE (疾風), "a Japanese word which can mean 'fresh breeze,' although in that sense, it is usually pronounced as shippū (しっぷう)." The opening video montage makes it abundantly clear that yes Willie Williams, noble karateman, and Akira Maeda, the living embodiment of the RINGS ethos (in that he invented it and still lives), will face one another with their careers on the line in this the first stipulation or title or anything like that at all that we have seen. Isn't that something? The usual and in some ways de rigeur trappings of professional wrestling are absent not just in the in-ring (in-RINGS) performance, nor in the exceedingly high-level WOWOW production, but in the very structure of RINGS itself: RINGS has no champion (Akira Maeda is its champion), no title belt (other than whatever belt Akira Maeda wears to hold up his pants that aren't track pants, you might say, but all his pants are track pants so even on that level there is no title belt), no arbitrary figure of authority (Akira Maeda again). It is utterly and uniquely its own (Akira Maeda's).

The parade of fighters sees fighters enter (indeed, parade) from either a blue-or-red-lit corner of Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium (大阪府立体育会館 Ōsaka furitsu taiikukaikan) and many of them are cheered lavishly, but only the names of Satake and Maeda are chanted in the way that fills the heart with real joy, rather than, for example, in the mode of the contemporary wrestling chant that corrupts the liver with a hateful excess of bile and gall because I do not really like it.

I fear that we may have reached the end of different bouts being announced in terms of elements or notions of the astral plane or winds. I would have liked this to continue but right now I will try to focus more on the blessing it has been rather than the loss I now feel. Yoshihisa Yamamoto and Masuyuki Naruse are going to have another match! You will perhaps recall they had one at MEGA BATTLE 4th: KOHRIN, and it was a draw! I bet it won't be this time, though. At that time, because of Yoshihisa Yamamoto's status as a-guy-it-took-Rickson-Gracie-forever-to-beat, I spoke, briefly, on the subject of Rickson broadly, and to those earlier statements I would like only to add at this time, and by way of contrast to the dismissive way with which Rickson spoke of Fedor Emilianenko (also Lesnar, and the point is the same) and his "so-so" technical ability, the great Yasuhiro Yamashita's comments regarding Teddy Riner before the London games (so a while ago now, but still): 

Asked if Riner was well respected in Japan, the home and birthplace of judo, Yamashita said he would have to become Olympic champion first, but he said that is only a matter of time.

“He’s brilliant. Technically, physically and mentally he’s the best,” Yamashita said. “He behaves like a true champion. Teddy Riner will be Olympic champion in London, I'm sure of that.”

Here in Paris, Riner blitzed through the competition to win his fifth title, throwing five out of six opponents for the maximum ippon score and strangling the other one.

Yamashita, who remained unbeaten in 203 fights, believes Riner’s superiority is even more marked than his own was.

“I’ve never seen an athlete demonstrate such a noticeable difference between himself and the others,” he said.

“He’s better than he was before. The only way his opponents can beat him is if he’s injured or ill. He has so much confidence in himself that as long as he’s in form and doesn’t lose his motivation, no-one can beat him.”

That in itself is a remarkable statement for a Japanese former coach as well as athlete to make.
“I'm sure that many fighters will improve for the Olympics but there is such a gap between Riner and the rest that it won't suffice,” he said.

“Teddy Riner is a wall. Before these worlds the Japanese didn't realise that.

“They still thought they could beat him but now they know it's impossible. After London he will be a superstar.”

Maybe they're not, but I have been thinking about these as roughly parallel situations: Rickson was to Fedor as Yamashita was to Teddy, at least at the time that these statements were made, both long-undefeated (some verifiably, others uhhhhh less so) retired champions of their sports (mixed fight, judo) speaking on present champions with I guess you would say fairly different tones? And one guy seeming a whole lot chiller than the other, and one more weirdly aggressive in a way that seems, I don't know, diminishing? I feel that there is much to consider here, maybe, and possibly lessons to be learned re: being? It's hard to say, and it is likely that all of this is beyond me, but one way seems nicer. 

Two Judoists of Note and Esteem who are Friends

But look, Naruse and Yamamoto are going super hard and really very well in this match of theirs to which I really should attend, but there is no clear advantage to be had between them, and it is a lot like their first one: Yamamoto, unsurprisingly, is superior in taking-down and also keeping-down, Naruse, for his part, the better whilst hitting. And so it goes until they draw again! That's two fifteen minute draws from these eager young fellows! How long can this go on!   

Yukihiro Takenami is I believe debuting in this second bout, and doing so against the stout Nobuaki Kakuta, who is known to us already. Perhaps most notably, he was beaten quite badly and possibly for real by Rob Kaman. Takanami is a feisty one, but I do not like him all that much even so, as he seems needlessly confrontational before the match begins. His kubi-nage headlock takeovers are good though, and so far he has done two of them! Perhaps he seeks redemption for his bellicose ways and odd bearing through the waza itself; I cannot say. As the second round begins, he is hacked to the mat by a succession of leg-kicks, and Kakuta is fired up, and slaps him to the mat two times after that in very short order and we have a TKO at 2:59 of round two. That whole match had a weird energy, but Kakuta and Takenami are shown being kind to each other near the showers, and as far as fights that are good go, so far we are solidly two for two. 

I have high hopes for our third bout as well, in that it positions Mitsuya Nagai in competition against, or perhaps it is better to say in partnership with, Willie Peeters, who, before entering the arena proper, sains himself securely with certain words as the old romances would say of him when recounting his awk (strange) deeds. (SAIN: [intransitive, obsolete except in Scots] To make the sign of the cross. From Middle English, from Old English seġnian, from Latin signō, from signum. Cognate to German segnen, Irish séan ‎[“sign, omen”] and Scottish Gaelic seun ‎[“a charm”]). We look to be set up for three-minute rounds here, and the last time Peeters competed in such a format he scarcely seemed himself to such an extent that I became quite sure it was a shoot but I am in no position to know these things perfectly or even well. Nagai rolls through for a standing hiza-hishigi-juji-gatame or knee-bar which is one of of the better things to roll through for surely. Peeters craftily/cræftigliche (an antiquarian form of my own invention, please disseminate it widely) feints a legkick, swoops in to clinch, and throws with a lovely side suplex that Nagai goes up for with such ease as to remove any thought this is a straight shoot but this is not a disappointment to me. "Ughaahahhhfffhahahfhfhfhafffggghh SHIT" Peeters cries as he rope-escapes a leg-lock near round one's end. 

In the second, Nagai hits a mirror image of the throw that so pleased me not long ago. Peeters is not himself done throwing though! A fine koshi-waza (hip technique) into a dominant oseakomi-waza (pinning technique) leads to Nagai's first rope escape; then he kicks Willie Peeters a bunch for a knockdown. This is good! Peeters turns a standing mae-hadaka-jime front choke into a kind of lumpen-takedown uninterested in revolutionary advancement. As round two ends, Peeters makes his way to the wrong corner, smiles broadly and with ever-lively eyes at his own folly, and the crowd holds him dear.

Round three begins with a quick Peeters takedown into a kubi-hishigi neck crank that people shouldn't even be pretending to do, Willie, please, this isn't right. Peeters is all over him with throws and strangulations and an overall presence that necessitates rope breaks, insists on rope breaks. These kubi-nage headlock-takeovers shame all headlock takeovers that (dis)grace the contemporary, non-shoot style wrestling that afflicts us all, and in particular anyone who this past weekend desired to see teams of five strive to survive (in the manner of a judo team championship, for an example of how it might be good) but then the whole thing was nonsense that made you doubt yourself for even giving it a try. Willie Peeters and, for that matter, Mitsuya Nagai, are beyond all of that as they wail on each other in this fourth round. Nagai loves spinning heel-kicks every bit as much as Willie Peeters loves headlock-takeovers; each competitor here has a clearly defined tokui-waza (preferred technique) and the contrast between them delights me and also the canny Osaka crowd, rightly venerated still in our own age when New Japan has shows there.

This fifth round is no less right and true than the four that have preceded it, though Nagai is clearly on the losing end of it. That Peeters is granted the victory by decision (a RINGS first, I think) is right and meet, as is his sportsmanlike embrace of the worthy Nagai. In the locker room, Peeters tells the off-screen interviewer, neither seen nor heard, that Nagai's kicks were both very hard on the head, and surprising. Perhaps I have not noted yet that, once more, this is a show artfully free of commentary? It is not unlike when the CBC technicians' strike led to the Habs playoff games airing with audio and video from the arena but no commentary, and José Théodore made all of those saves, except with shoot style. 

Hans Nijman, whose match against Akira Maeda is lost to us, is ready now to face Dick Vrij (no Roman alphabet spellings on the fighter graphics tonight, so I am utterly at liberty), who is probably the best-loved non-Japanese fighter in this entire Fighting Network at present. Hans Nyman wheres unflatteringly loose baby-blue trunks that spell THE BULLDOG in a diagonal running bottom-left to top-right and I do not know about them at all, to be honest. I am just learning now that Nijman, who sticks around RINGS pretty much forever, and shows up in the PRIDE Grand Prix 2000, even, died in 2014 amidst dark circumstances.  "Nijman is believed to have had connections with Willem Holleeder and other big names in the Dutch criminal underworld," I am learning at the place we go to learn things in a preliminary way. And, further:


On November 5, 2014, around 20:45, Nijman was shot dead whilst sitting in his 2013 Volkswagen Golf around the back of his Dutch Top Team gym "De Meer" in Beverwijk. Witnesses reportedly saw a Volkswagen Golf R32 parked on the parking lot next to his gym open fire on Nijman with automatic rifles whilst he was reversing his car out of the alley where he had parked his car. After the shooting, the Golf R32 took off with high speed southbound on the A22. A half-hour after the shooting two cars, the Golf R32 and a taxi bus, were found burning to the ground in Velserbroek. Both cars were stolen. The suspects have not yet been identified and the motive is unknown.[2]

"Death[edit]"; if only it were that easy. R.I.P. Hans Nijman.

This knowledge of Nijman's death, new to me, cannot help but colour my experience of this bout, and to draw the eye again to his shorts of precisely the hue one associates not just with Québec nationalism broadly but with the trunks of Dino Bravo specifically; I do not need to detail for you, I know, the stolen-cigarettes-based end with which he met. We're ten minutes deep in this pretty heavy contest when Vrij clubbers Nijman to the mat for his third knockdown but the first from which he will not rise to end the bout at 10:21. 

Chris Dolman explains that he has not been able to fight in seven months, which is a pity (his words, but also my sentiment), but he has been training in the gym nearly every day and feels that he will be able to defeat this Ramazi Buzariashvili about whom I know nothing but suspect much, specifically that he is Georgian and a beast of græppling. Searching reveals nothing solid but that is not unusual with these names that can be spelled many ways, and I am going only off of the spelling available at Pro Wrestling History--again, a vital resource for any shoot style enthusiast, but sometimes the spellings are weird. My initial searching though does turn up a page with the outstanding address "http://kakutei.cside.com/kakutei.site/kakutou/fighter/list-georgia.htm" and which looks, in part, like this:

Which is very strong.

As is the ouchi-gari (major-inner-reap) of of this Buzariashvili, who follows it directly with an ude-hishigi-juji-gatame armlock attempt that Dolman evades, then forces a Buzariashvili rope-escape once he has secured the back, and I am way in. After avoiding a takedown by grabbing the ropes, which is of no concern under RINGS rules at this point, Dolman throws with an ouchi-gari of his own, henka (変化, variation) ashi-dori (leg-taking), and then they get all tangled up in leg-locks and also ropes. Buzariashvili enters the clinch by pretty much headbutting Dolman's chest, which is something I like to do, too, use the head almost as a third hand in grip-fighting. A downside I have found, though, is that if you get a little cut on your forehead from this approach, like, say, one that never properly heals and just keeps bleeding profusely each time it opens and you spend I guess about a year taping your head like a mummy or Travis Stevens before you finally get the whole thing liquid-nitrogened into coherence and then you have a weird little lumpy scar on your forehead and you are beyond the point in your life where you can grow hair that will cover it, that can be a hassle, but in the end you can get back to using it the same way you always did in grips a few weeks after it gets frosted so really what's the harm, do it, Buzariashvili, who has just now fallen to a short, trachea-heavy hadaka-jime (naked strangle) at 5:14 of a promising RINGS debut. It's very nice to have Chris Dolman back!

Masaake Sataki, karate hero, then faces Pieter Oele, about whom I can find nothing promising other than a query on a Dutch board of some kind which, when translated coarsely, reads thus:

Pieter Oele is one of the pioneers in the Dutch MMA. He fought in the early 90s of the Rings organization in Japan. As a former Dutch champion heavyweight kickboxing he kept it up well. He won by Dick Vrij and twice Willie Peeters, but did not come into action after 1995. Does anyone know why he stopped fighting and what has it got him? Here are a few fights of him. Peter vs. Oele Willie Peeters IPieter Oele vs. Willie Peeters IIP

As a former Dutch champion heavyweight kickboxing, let us together see how well he keeps it up against Masaake Satake, hero. The two are boxing-gloved and kick-padded and indeed elbow-padded and maybe they are going to fight for real? As a child I thought Roddy Piper vs. Mr. T at Wrestlemania 2 was real because they had boxing gloves on. It can be so hard to tell. Round one looks real to me, but I am a notorious idiot, and round two brings me no closer to any semblance of certainty. I don't know man they are just punching and kicking a little and it looks like light sparring to me I think? When there is principally hitting I am at sea. The knockout that comes at Satake's hands at 1:02 of the fourth round is unconvincing; that much I can say without doubt. 

I am in a place of great expectation (emotionally) as Volk Han readies himself for Andrei Kopylov, fellow sambist and future Russian Top Team co-founder (nom-de-Fire-Pro: "Mad Russian" Randall Robikov). Kopylov is all over RINGS for years, and even fought in PRIDE, losing on a cut to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Pope Mario Sperry, to whose VHS instructionals I often refer, and with fondness, when teaching low guard passes ("you get looooow and you poosh, poooooosh" I have said more than once not to the delight exactly but let's say tolerance of the maybe three people I train with who are old enough to have any idea what I am even doing and to the polite indifference of everyone else, which in truth is more than I deserve). Kopylov had hoped to move in Canada in 1991 but it didn't work out; one's thoughts turn to Viktor, a Soviet-era judoist/sambist who totally did move to Canada, and to my part of it in particular, right around that time, and though this was before my time of judo, the accounts that survive indicate that he was awesome and also a great guy.    

The græpple-wise Osaka crowd knows what they have in this Han, this Volk Han, and rejoice at once in the high-crotch single-leg pickup with which he hoists Kopylov before turning to the very hiza-hishigi (knee-crush/calf-slicer) that bested Akira Maeda at MEGA BATTLE 3rd: IKAZUCHI; they kind of can't believe Kopylov is still around after that. Seconds later, when he sits up and attacks with a hiza-hishigi of his own in counter, we are in full "HHHWOOOAAHHAAAAYYYYYEEEE" already. It is Volk Han who must first seek the safety of the ropes, which I would not have anticipated! 

Tomoe-nage, the whirling sacrifice that one can debase by likening to a monkey flip, should one so choose, is rarely seen in the context of shoot style but it has been seen just now from Kopylov, who follows with some truly gnar ashi-gatame leg-lock variations before Han can secure the double-heel-hook that makes everyone go utterly nuts for what they are seeing (me too). Kopylov rolls into the ropes such that the fighters are separated but not at the expense of a charged rope-escape; very clever! As is his rolling knee-bar, a waza literally everyone always loves, there are no exceptions. Five minutes have passed, the ring announcer tells us all on the house microphone (again: no commentary), and we are well and truly into leg locks here, so deeply into them, in fact, that the referee is like OK break enough of this, but it takes probably twenty or thirty seconds for Han and Kopylov to extricate themselves fully. 

There is little striking here, but, perhaps because of that, both men seemingly feel at liberty to hit each other super hard those rare moments they so indulge. The finest standing techniques among these men are not based in hitting, though, but instead come in græpplings such as this, for example, when Volk Han secures a te-gatame (hand-hold) armlock and a mae-hadaka-jime front choke at once:

This recalls Han's simultaneous hiza-hishigi and hadaka-jime we first saw against Grom Zaza and that some choose to call a reverse or inverted S.T.F., does it not? I have come to think of this approach of simultaneous shime-waza (strangulation) and kansetsu-waza (joint-locking) as The Double Agony in Man (you are free to join me in this) after John Henry Newman's "Praise to the Holiest in the Height":

O generous love! that he who smote
in Man, for man, the foe,
the double agony in Man
for man should undergo;

And in the garden secretly,
and on the Cross on high,
should teach his brethren, and inspire
to suffer and to die.

It's both the garden and the Cross for Kopylov, but only for a spell, as he was so very near the ropes when all began. I vividly recall the first time I was both choked and joint-locked at the same time (also pinned, but that was a less immediate concern for reasons that are self-evident) even though it was definitely more than a decade ago: there I was, thoroughly smooshed beneath my dear friend Simon, a key figure in my judo life, who was always at least a little smokey, because of how he smoked (and yet his cardio was high-level; it was Sakurabaesque), and so that is part of what it was like to be caught that way, too, smokey. He told me once of the time he randori'd with the great Canadian champion and Olympic silver medalist Nicolas Gill (he lost only to Kosei Inoue that day). I asked him what Gill got him with (to ask whether or not he did would have been an absurdity), and Simon answered, "I don't know. It was too fast." 

There is so much excellence here: Han uses a shoot style henka (変化, variation) of the classic pro wrestling arm-wringer to drive his opponent convincingly (and screamingly, but not too screamingly) to the mat, and secures a side hadaka-jime of the (lovely, we love him) Carlos Newton (of Newmarket, Ontario) vs. Miletich "bulldog choke" kind to force a second rope break as the crowd cannot believe all of this they have and begin to wonder at what they might do with the surfeit of gratitude they hold before it. Han is relentless, and pummels Kopylov to the mat for a knockdown, and he is so far ahead now. Back on his feet, Kopylov's first attack is a front-headlock hikikomi-gaeshi (pulling reversal) sacrifice throw into juji-gatame and this match could go on not forever but at least until I have to go outside later and I would be very content. A tangle of legs, and indeed guys, makes its way to the corner for a rope break (but not an escape). 

Kani-basami flying leg scissors (literally, there is a crab involved, 蟹挟, if we want to be literal) into that tried-and-tested hiza-hishigi slicer from Volk Han, just another one of those, no big deal, those are regular now. Yet another rope break that is not a charged-escape follows, and then another, and the pacing here, the pacing is so right.

Oh dear Kopylov has been kicked very hard in the head for a knockdown; and now Han has been kicked very hard in the body for one as well, and, what's potentially even worse, he is pinned, ude-garami'd (arm-entangled), and nearly juji-gatame'd before we get another break. Kopylov takes Han down with a nifty go-behind and kosoto-gake outside hook but Han takes top-position though caught in niju-garami (commonly called half-guard) and WAIT WHAT Kopylov got him! It looked like a twisting knee-lock at first but upon closer inspection I think it was an ashi-dori-garami, a toe hold (which is in truth an ankle lock, you just kind of grip over the toes; you probably know that but if not it is worth knowing). The time we are given is 17:05. The people are as surprised as I am! But no less pleased! AN-DREI AN-DREI they chant as Kopylov is awarded a nice little trophy! I don't know if that was as good as the Grom Zaza match but I also don't know that it was far off! Surely this one exists in streaming form, yes ok, it does, please enjoy it yourselfIt is hard for me to imagine that Akira Maeda vs. Willie Williams, even with careers at stake, will have as much to offer as did what we have just now seen, and I like to think I have a pretty good imagination but I bet everybody thinks that about themselves right across the board and it's almost certainly just vanity. 

Willie Williams, no less true a man of karate than any other who has ever been, says this: 

"Today I'm looking forward to fight Mr. Maeda, and I'm looking for a win, and if, whatever way the future holds for Mr. Maeda and I's encounter, I hope that the Japanese people will appreciate the fact that we all have worked hard to come together, to demonstrate our skill, but I hope we can also demonstrate manner, and respect, and treat each other as a sportsman, and a fighter, and a gentleman, and I thank you very much. Amen."

Willie Williams, karateka.
Can anyone be even the least surprised that Williams chooses to potentially end his fighting career as it no doubt began, in gi pants? This bout is to be contested in three-minute rounds, by the way. Early in the first, things go just as one would expect: Williams has the advantage in both karate kicking and karate punching, Maeda in græppling, as for example when he drags Williams to the mat and works between gatame (holds) both kesa (scarf) and kata (shoulder). Back up, Williams drops Meada with a karate punch to the chest: yes; yes. Round one has been good. ROUND TWO IS CRAZY it is all jumping flying kicks! The crowd is in full MA-E-DA MA-E-DA as this madness unfurls around them and it is nearly too much until Maeda grabs a front choke and we have returned to the earthly realm from wherever it was we were a moment ago. Maeda is grinding Williams out and it doesn't look good for our gi-(pants)-clad friend but let us not loose faith. 

Williams and Maeda shake hands, I think because of some minor mispunching that has taken place, but all is sportsmanlike as one would hope and expect, do not worry. Maeda is coming hard with leg kicks, and shoots low for a double leg takedown, which he collects along with a solid knee to his pretty big head (I mean no disrespect but his head is clearly big) and that's it for round two! This is the best Willie Williams match of the ones I have seen so far. 

SPINNING KICK FROM WILLIAMS who is looking so fiercely karate now in his stance and aspect. Maeda soon has him down, though, and it does not look great and yes there it is, an ude-garami entangled armlock on one side turns into a kesa-garami (scarf-entanglement) on the other and then follows the tap to signal submission and with it the end of Willie Williams fighting career, but not his way of karate, for it will never end





I have a few questions regarding the history of the UWF in Japan and its relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling. I'm confused because in the early or mid 1980s, there were two distinct groups (New Japan and UWF) that seemed to interact. They both fought their own style but there was a definite feud in the ring. Why?
I was also wondering if you knew the story behind the Akira Maeda vs. Andre the Giant match in the 1980s. Andre refused to cooperate or even put out any effort. Was Andre drunk or what?
Lastly, I would like to say that Charlie Skaggs (Black Scorpio aka Flying Scorpio) should be rookie of the year. From the clips I've seen of him, he looks fantastic. He's front flip splash is the most incredible top rope move yet.

Mitch Nakagawa
San Jose, California

DM: The UWF was originally formed in 1984 when Hisashi Shinma, who was originally the brains behind New Japan but was expelled from the organization in an embezzling scandal, formed a new promotion. He wanted to build the promotion around Akira Maeda, who he discovered years earlier at a karate tournament and who he was grooming to be the next Antonio Inoki. Maeda brought with him his best friend at the time, Nobuhiko Takada, then a promising junior heavyweight, and Kazuo Yamazaki. Karl Gotch got involved with the group and eventually Yoshiaki Fujiwara, a veteran with a shooter rep, joined the group as well. They worked a New Japan style promotion early on, but that soon changed. The turning point came a few months later when Satoru Sayama, who had retired one year earlier because of a rift with New Japan, came out of retirement and eventually had a showdown with Shinma which caused Shinma to be booted from the promotion that he formed because everyone felt Sayama was so important for survival. Maeda, Takada, Sayama and Fujiwara were all pupils of Gotch and changed the style to a style based on legitimate submission holds and removed basically all the showmanship and gimmicks and worked what is now known as UWF style. Initially, it wasn't that popular because fans weren't educated to the submission holds, although it did develop a very strong following in Tokyo because fans believed it was the only "real" wrestling. It drew a little elsewhere mainly on Sayama's name and magazine publicity, since it didn't have television. Eventually the promotion went out of business in late 1985 and Sayama retired for good. Maeda, Fujiwara, Takada and Yamazaki all went back to New Japan in 1986 and worked a gimmick where they were shooters and used UWF style within the New Japan rings and feuded with New Japan wrestlers which created some intriguing and classic matches during that time period. The feud was a huge box office success at the time. There was a down side to it, as well. Although the fans, particularly the hardcore fans in Tokyo, were into the UWF wrestlers, the style was boring to the uninitiated and New Japan felt that Maeda and company's matches with little showmanship were responsible for badly declining television ratings during that period. There was always underlying heat between the rebellious Maeda and Inoki, who was still clinging onto his status as the top dog in the company. Even though Inoki vs. Maeda would have done incredible business, the match was never made because Maeda would never do the job for Inoki. During that year was the infamous Maeda vs. Andre match. The story is that someone wanted to take Maeda's attitude down a peg and Andre was chosen. Andre didn't sell Maeda's submission moves and basically laughed at him. You have to realize that at that time, everyone in the business was scared to death to really tangle with Andre and it was the common belief that he was so naturally powerful because of his size that no human being could handle him. How tough Andre really was we don't know because nobody ever had the guts to test him as far as I know. Maeda went into a fighting stance and started kicking Andre's knee over and over and would kick the knee and scoot back quickly so Andre couldn't get his hands on him because obviously if Andre could get a hold of him, he was a goner. So it turned into a shoot. Maeda managed to easily take Andre down because Andre by this time didn't have any balance at all, and he was by this time in poor condition since he carried so much weight and never worked out. It was clear Andre was blowing up quickly and after the third or so takedown, Andre just laid down and didn't try to get up and dared Maeda to jump on him. Maeda started kicking him in the head time after time. He did a lot of damage to Andre's knee but couldn't knock Andre out and Andre laid there and dared Maeda to jump on him and Maeda just kept kicking him. Sometime during all this Maeda looked at Kantaro Hoshino, an older New Japan wrestler who was at ringside, and asked something to the effect of "Can I take him out?" which I guess meant could he go to an all-out shoot and start kicking him full force since Andre was totally blown up at this point and Hoshino basically looked away which meant No. Finally this bizarre scene ended when Inoki jumped into the ring and the match was stopped for no reason. The two were never in the ring again. In 1987, Maeda was kicked out of New Japan was doing a sucker kick, or a "shoot-kick" to Riki Choshu and got backing to reform the UWF with Fujiwara, Takada and Yamazaki joining him once again. Between the exposure Maeda had gotten on New Japan television, the legend of the shoot-kick (which in reality was the cheapest b.s. thing to deliberately attempt to hurt someone who was working and left himself wide open) and the wrestling fans having been educated to the submission moves on New Japan television led him to a three-year-run as the biggest box office attraction in the wrestling business. Due to many internal problems within the UWF, the group ended up splitting into three different promotions in early 1991, the UWFI (led by Takada), PWF (led by Fujiwara) and Rings (led by Maeda).

In that same issue Dave also writes, "Some rumors of UWFI and Rings promoted a major card together."

JULY 27, 1992: "Rings ran 7/16 in Osaka. Don't have details on the show other than Akira Maeda beat Willie Williams in the loser must retire match (big surprise, huh?) plus Andrei Kopielov, 27, a Soviet commando sambo master, beat Volk Han (the foreigner who made Maeda submit a few shows back). The next Rings show in 8/21 at the Yokohama Arena with Maeda against Kopielov and Masaake Satake (Japanese karate ace) against World Karate Association world heavyweight champion Rob Karmen. It appears, from watching the tapes, that most of the matches on the Rings shows are legit shoots as they look like PKA kick boxing matches look with some submission wrestling thrown in. Obviously the top matches, because they work programs to build up future shows, with Dirk Vrij, Willie Williams, Maeda and Maeda's next foes don't fall into that category." 

and also

"If you think Tokyo isn't the wrestling capital of the world, between 8/9 and 8/24 there are 17 shows within one hour of Tokyo over the 16 day period, 14 in Tokyo itself, ten of which are at Korakuen Hall with nine different promotions running shows (NOW, WAR, JWP, All Japan men, All Japan women, Rings, New Japan, WING and Universal)."

AUGUST 3, 1992: "Rings on 7/16 in Osaka drew a sellout 3,850 fans with the main bouts having Willie Peeters DDQ Mitsuya Nagai in a weird finish when Nagai made five rope escapes, which automatically ends the match but Peeters had received at the same point two yellow cards which equals disqualification (similar to soccer rules), Dirk Leon-Vrij knocked out Hans Nyman, Chris Dolman beat Ramaji Buzariashibili submit in 5:14, Masaake Satake knocked out Peter Oele, Andrei Kopielov made Volk Han submit and Akira Maeda beat Willie Williams in the loser must retire match by a third round submission."

That's a lot of Meltzer, but some good stuff! Thank you again for your time and attention. 

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