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!
WHAT DID DAVE MELTZER SAY:
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"