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."


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