Monday, December 26, 2016


Battle Dimension: Tokyo Bay Area Circuit #3
August 21, 1993 in Yokohama, Japan
Yokohama Arena drawing 11,500

Asked in a recent interview about the relationship between professional wrestling and the martial arts, the legitimately great Bryan Danielson (aka American Dragon aka Daniel Bryan aka Buddy Peacock aka Lloyd Boner) said that the way he has come to think about that question is to position professional wrestling as the most artistic of the martial arts. Although he is incorrect, because it's judo, I thought this line of thinking might well appeal to the RINGS enthusiast such as perhaps yourself? As well might BATTLE DIMENSION: TOKYO BAY AREA CIRCUIT #3 and I say this because this looks like a pretty big card! The show opens though not with an actual active competitor on this presumably sultry August night, but instead with Akira Maeda, still apparently out of action following his knee explosion surgery. Maeda takes the centre of the ring in a (non-track)suit and stands solemnly as, lights dimmed, a black-and-white photo montage recapping his storied life is voiced over in a gesture of remembrance as though he had totally died (he has not). They even go so far as to show pictures of how he had a dog, and also of him bridging near Karl Gotch. I'll show you: 

This has been going on a really, really long time, like almost ten minutes, and we're only up to the KICK SUBMISSION SUPLEX UWF era in this non-potted history, but I want to emphasize that I am in no rush, as this is a remarkably high-level presentation even by the standards of WOWOW, the standards of RINGS. For some time after, Maeda reads a message or proclamation of some kind before the thousands assembled in Yokohama Arena. He remains loved and respected and I think probably feared by them.

Our first match this evening sees Masayuki Naruse, who we enjoy, against Tigr Levani, also known as Ebanoidze "Tiger" Levani, who we certainly hope to. Levani is stout as can be imagined (he is essentially Ram Man) and has a shirt that says SKINS on it and approaches the bout with admirable intensity. Within the first minute or so he has attacked with both the flying crab-scissors of kani-basami and the sikk suplex of ura-nage and so we ourselves are in luck although perhaps Naruse is in trouble? Yes, Levani is a man whose stoutness itself seems composed of throws, throws that lead inevitably and inexorably and perhaps indeed irrevocably into kesa-gatame. HOLY SHIT OK Masayuki Naruse took his back and controlled an arm with both legs (think ashi-gatame, won't you?) as though to establish a crucifix position or indeed roll into the hell strangle of jigoku-jime in which one truly does feel exiled from God's love and mercy however he switched plans and rolled through parallel to Levani whilst reaching back between Levani's legs to grasp the knee WHICH IS ALL TO SAY that here we are in August of 1993 and Masyuki Naruse has just attempted an ashi-sankaku-garami (leg-triangle-entanglement) turnover which is to say a Huizinga Roll (see both Mark Huizinga, for whom the technique is named, and also Kaori Matsumoto, one of this waza's modern masters, complete the technique here), sometimes called a reverse omoplata though I do not care for that terminology for reasons that I have no doubt made clear tens of thousands of words ago so why belabour it. But this is astounding to me

I cannot say that the rest of this quite good match elicits the same kind of delight and wonder as I experienced in that singular moment of recognition (or anagnorisis), but it doesn't matter to me, as this bout has given me something interesting to tell everyone at judo, and what more can I reasonably ask of it. Levani loses the crowd by hoisting up Naruse too definitively, walking around with him super casually, to the complete silence of these whose taste level deny this act (everyone at Yokohama Arena), but he wins them back through a renewed and continued seriousness which finds its articulation in a kind of modesty (of aspect, of waza). They really are going super long! I should perhaps note that this bout is being contested with a thirty-minute time limit and is not broken into rounds, a format which I am pretty sure is better. Yuji Shimada is at his absolute best of asking GIVE UP? GIVE UP? about twenty minutes in when Naruse comes close with the waki-gatame which you might well know as the Fujiwara armbar and I have totally lost track of who is ahead in terms of rope escapes and knockdowns but please trust me when I tell you there have been several of these. Yuji Shimada really had a beautiful thick head of hair in 1993, I cannot help but notice, as I become surer and surer that this is going to go the full thirty minutes. That's kind of bold, isn't it? Like to say okay we've got this new guy we want to work into the flow of things here so I don't know let's have him work thirty-minutes with Masayuki Naruse in the opener, it'll probably be okay. And it is! Akira Maeda was correct about what to do in and with RINGS yet again (my assumption here is that his control was minute and complete). The match ends in a decision win for Naruse, who raises Levani's hand in a nice gesture acknowledging that he got hucked around pretty good at times. They have this nice slanted-screen recap of each ESCAPE and DOWN at the end of the bout OH MY GOODNESS LOOK AT TIGER LEVANI IN THE LOCKER ROOM:

Mihail Simonov in next with Yoshihisa Yamamoto who I have long thought well of but who is growing on me even more throughout this period of early RINGS which before you know it will have transitioned into mid-period RINGS occasioned by the advent of Kiyoshi Tamura but presaged by the coming of Tsuyoshi Kohsaka the forerunner. Yamamoto is wearing a lovely shade of green and did judo in high school; Simonov is in red trimmed with gold and seems to prefer hitting. Certainly here his fists are confined within the gloves of hitting, whilst Yamamoto's remain free to græpple (perhaps to completion?). Round one is upon us as I notice that there is no commentary on this three-hour broadcast (I will always note when that is the case because it is still a wild thing to me). I don't think this bout is "a shoot" but Yamamoto is so extremely convincingly afraid of getting hit in the face right now that it is easy to suspend disbelief. A high kick, caught, becomes an attempted foot lock; the ropes, sought, offer comfort and respite. Polite applause closes round one; the between-round silence is broken only by lonely echoing calls of YAMAMOTOOOOO but there are not even too many of those as it occurs to me that maybe we should send letters to everyone who has ever been in a Fire Pro game to let them know they have been in a Fire Pro game in case they don't know and in that same letter we could explain to them about Fire Pro and tell them their Fire Pro names ("Dear Mr. Pogo," one such letter would have to begin, we would have no choice). Round two saw a fair bit of græppling, and Yamamoto even gave Simonov some of it; he has always had a kind aspect. The crowd is really extremely quiet throughout this and I don't know if they like it very much? It isn't as good as many or most Yamamoto matches but I am not minding it in any way so far. Neat submission finish from Yamamoto in round three! He takes Simonov down with an ashi-dori-ouchi-gari (leg-taking-inner-reap) and glides into a variation of Volk Han's Double Agony In Man/Revrse STF. Backstage, we see that Yamamoto continues to have an unusually open and sympathetic face. Recently I heard a clip of Joe Rogan going full-on with the Rickson Gracie myth/legend, and like a day later heard Bryan Alvarez go way in on it too, and what could one think throughout but that it took Rickson three rounds three rounds to strangle Yoshihisa Yamamoto (14W, 25L, 1D), high school judo player of no renown turned professional wrestler. But nobody listens, plus also I never say anything that they might hear.

WILLIE PEETERS RETURNS and so too his half-checkerboard singlet! Pieter Oele is his foe and while there is no reason to describe him here as disliked, he is certainly less-liked that Willie Peeters, who, despite being somewhat lost in the shuffle overall, is valued by the people broadly in a mid-card way, and there is dignity in that. A neat little suplex from Willie Peeters! Who could have imagined it! Peeters also tries the sweeping hip of harai goshi but both men kind of land in a gross heap in the corner and Peeters seems legitimately hurt for a bit on his own throw and they stop the match until it is clear that while his ankle isn't great he can keep on. Peeters kicks Oele in the groin but it is neither that serious nor that funny so it is kind of a waste (if it is going to happen, it might as well happen). No rounds in this one, apparently, as we have been at it for kind of a while now without interruption. Peeters is throwing awfully lightly in this one and again I don't know if it is really fair to say that he is throwing too lightly or that Oele is going up to easily on these throws now but either way the match feels slightly out of sorts because of it. Oele isn't hitting Peeters all that hard on these many knockdowns, either, and overall this match has been less than I had hoped! That has not happened much so far in our time together (you, me, RINGS) and I don't feel great about even saying it. Mild applause greets Oele at the moment of his TKO victory at 12:01 but nothing more. 
GROM ZAZA okay there is no way Grom Zaza does anything but delight us as he encounters Nikorai Zouev (they really have it as Nikorai, I am not being racialist). Perhaps you will recall that Zouev was really good against Todor Todorov? He had a deeply odd split-leg tie-up on a te-gatame armlock! It was pretty great but I would like to see him try something like that against Grom Zaza. Early on, Zaza hits Zouev with a spinning backhand that Zouev seemingly cannot even believe, like it landed so cleanly and so loudly and he looks so actually hurt that this is already tremendous. Amidst all kinds of "shoot" nifty stuff as this good little match develops, the real stand-out for me is Zouev's nidan-kosoto-gari (two-step-minor-outer-reap) he hits from a standing kata-gatame (shoulder-hold/arm-triangle) grip; I always show my students approaches to throwing from standing kata-gatame all the while assuring them that if they throw someone in the club during randori from a standing kata-gatame grip that nobody is going to want to be their friend in any meaningful or lasting way. Zaza to my taste sells an ashi-gatame leg-lock near the ropes a little too sellingly (think Mark Coleman versus Takada in a match that may not have been entirely on the up-and-up) but the discerning people of the Yokohama Arena are drawn under the moment's spell so who am I to deny Grom Zaza his artifice or his art. Wait woah what is this: 

I don't know either! But Zouev got him with it! I mean plainly it is a form of kubi-hishigi (neck-dislocation) but it is not a form known to me beyond that. That was a really neat hold to end a totally good match at 15:59! Zaza backstage is shown looking as though he had just lost at a sport but he is an athlete, which is actually totally different from the way people are shown after losing a match in pretty much all non-RINGS (and therefore inherently lesser) forms of professional wrestling (there are elements of this I could be overstating).   

Bitsadze Tariel is up next against Hans Nyman and the assumption going in here has to be kicking. Tariel is garbed, as one might expect, in gi-pants but no belt, Nyman in baby-blue trunks and I think maybe a sunburn? He is unusually pink, even for him (I mean no disrespect and again say may peace be upon him). Tariel puts Nyman on his back not through hitting but instead through throwing and less than a minute in I am shocked by the shape of things here. Certainly as things progress, there is the amount of kicking one would expect but I have learned my lesson, too. In the end it is a submission in the fifth round, a truly shitty Tariel headlock that Nyman taps to in an effort to destroy the credibility so painstakingly built over several years of RINGS! 

Willy Williams vs. Dick Vrij is up next in a battle of perhaps the two best-loved foreign fighters in the entire Fighting Network to this point (Volk Han the other player in this). If you thought the last one was going to be all kicking, but were surprised to learn that it wasn't, this one really is just a tonne of kicking, and the crowd is with them both throughout, and Williams takes the decision after five rounds of pretty much kicking. Vri seems unthrilled with the decision but he is not overplaying it: he congratulates Williams, as is proper. 

CHRIS DOLMAN VS. VOLK HAN is as 1993 RINGS as we are likely to see in this life so let us try to be as present in its moment as we are able. Dolman is cheered respectfully, Volk Han more enthusiastically, and I do not say that only because of the one man who must be very near a microphone yelling HAAAAAAANNNNNNN though he is certainly a factor. Perhaps thirty seconds of striking lead to Chris Dolman's bear-like clinch and I wonder if this will be it, a vast mauling. Dolman takes Han's back, standing, and rides him down beneath his girth but too close to the ropes and so too close too to escape. Han, from a clinched over-hook, threatens with uchi-mata but instead rolls through for a hiza-juji-gatame kneebar and although Dolman makes the ropes this first time his doom seems certain. The græppling here is super tight and real even by the highest standard of early RINGS: Dolman is squishing Han from behind and grinding him out by dropping his hips to the mat in ways that, I assure you, feel awful for anyone trapped beneath, regardless of their great sambism. After a break and a missed flying something and another break, Han threatens with a standing gyaku-ude-garami/reverse-arm-entanglement/double-wristlock/Kimura but Dolman keeps his arms clasped and his hips low and rides it out. This is really good. Dolman is all over the legs now, looking for whatever ashi-gatame he can find HOWEVER he has been fishing around back there too indiscriminately and Han has rolled through for the ude-hishigi-juji-gatame armlock we love so well! They only went 6:20 but that was really good, that was really smart. Volk Han wins a little trophy and flexes jokingly backstage. This was good. 


August 30, 1993: "RINGS ran 8/21 at the Yokohama Arena and drew 11,500 as Volk Han handed Chris Dolman his first loss in RINGS by an armlock submission in 6:20, and Willie Williams won a referees decision over Dirk Leon-Vrij in the co-feature."

September 6, 1993: "Most people watching AAA for the first time don't know what to make of it. Some of the moves look great, but the transitions look 'wrong' because you'd be used to watching American style. Admittedly some of the spots are really hokey, but then again, if you look at things logically, the only groups whose work style isn't filled with hokey unrealistic spots would be UWFI and Rings."


"8/21 Yokohama Arena (RINGS - 11,500): Masayoshi Naruse d Rebani, Yoshihisa Yamamoto b Shimov, Ulta b Willie Peeters, Zuev b Grom Zaza, Tyrrell b Hans Nyman, Dick Leon-Vrij d Willie Williams, Volk Han b Chris Dolman"

September 13, 1993: "Speaking of kick boxing, Masake Saatake, who formerly worked for RINGS, captured the World Karate Association superheavyweight kick boxing title and ISKA heavyweight title on 9/4 before a sellout at Budokan Hall. Saatake will make his first title defense on 12/5 in Australia. I'm of the assumption that this stuff is worked as well."

That is ice cold! Much like the winter of this Christmastide and so in addition for thanking you for your time I would also wish you a Merry Christmas and a Fine Wintering more broadly as well should you be not Christian neither by faith nor by loose custom but find yourself all the same beset by winter and now too by Dave Meltzer's skepticism towards the karate of Masake Saatake, who all agree is blameless, and so are in some way in need of cheer at this time so near the bitter dark of solstice. What if you found that cheer in RINGS? What if we found it together?


No comments:

Post a Comment