Saturday, January 28, 2017


'94 Fighting Network RINGS Tournament: First Round
September 21, 1994 in Osaka, Japan
Furitsu Gym drawing 4,980

IS THE HUMBLE OATCAKE THE TEASIDE SNACK MOST DECOROUS WITH THE ETHOS AND TENNETS OF SHOOT STYLE I ask myself as for the first time I take the RINGS blog on the road to the extent to which I am at a small café on a road that is not the same as the road my house is on and yet is still really quite near it ARE YOU READY FOR ’94 FIGHTING NETWORK RINGS TOURNAMENT, its brackets now before us:

Even before the parade of fighters, the commentators draw our attention to the SPECIAL MATCH that sits atop this opening round tournament card and that is Dick Vrij versus Akira Maeda in a rematch of their 7/14 Osaka bout in which Maeda stomped Vrij pretty solidly on the back after the bell in what had to be a work because if Akira Maeda is shoot upset he goes straight for the orbital bone, jack. Hey how great are these annual tournaments, though? And, to take a step back for a moment, how absurdly fvkkn sikk is RINGS, right? I see no reason for this not to be the time to note that the overall quality of these RINGS shows continues to surprise and delight; I never doubted TOM when he said that RINGS was the best overall presentation in the long history of græppz (worked; shot; who can say, and, what’s more, what is a shoot, anyway?) but I am pleased anew each time out to find that this continues to very much be the case. 

I had hoped my oatcake would last longer but it is so good that it is nearly gone as Pieter Oele enters the rings to face Aldinov Roussimov, a heavyweight boxer whose gloves are being laced as we speak. Oele, though a striker himself, opts for no gloves, the better to grapple (græpple) one assumes, and so the possibility of the ude-hishigi-juji-gatame assisted by big boxing glove grips is very much in play here. When he gets in close, Roussimov fires off these quick little combinations to the body that impress me but I watch maybe a couple of boxing matches a year before I just feel too awful about it to watch others so I am remarkably easy to impress with boxing. The oatcakes here are thirty cents more than the cookies but seventy cents less than the scones so it’s a pretty easy call as far as that goes but the tea biscuits are thirty cents less so there’s more to it than that. This bout is a battle of knockdowns, some plausible, some im-, but the final one in which Pieter Oele hacks Roussimov down at the legs is choice. After each match it looks like they are going to show the tournament bracket again and light up the name of the winner and highlight the little line that runs to the next round and this is a wholly admirable move.

The next match is Willie Peeters against Mikhail Ilioukhine and this has the potential to be a high-level exemplar of whatever this is exactly that we’re doing and I say that despite Willie Peeters never quite living up to the unreal promise he exhibited in his earliest RINGS bouts. This is not a criticism, exactly, in that on the whole his body of work is excellent; that he did not turn out to be a Volk Han avant-la-lettre (Peeters was there for a while before Volk Han showed up or was made flesh or however that happened but I guess I am talking about what happened later so avant-la-lettre makes no sense to say here, what am I doing) is not really a knock against him and I say this in a spirit of sympathy and fellowship rather than one of condemnation. Ilioukhine is huge and jakkkked and throws with uchi mata into juji-gatame from two different angles so how could one do anything but celebrate him unreservedly. Peeters really fires those knees to the head in there from the clinch, though, doesn’t he. Good man. HOLY SMOKES okay Peeters hit a knee to the face off of a break in what was easily the most convincing and compelling knockdown of the worked RINGS matches thus far, and the knockdown that comes off a shoteeeeiiiii to the face a minute later is not that far behind. Peeters is killing Ilioukhine as though to rebut my earlier suggestion that he has been anything less than perfect in every way. Ilioukhine is dogged with his ashi-kansetsu (leg-bone-locking) attacks, and forces Peeters to the ropes a couple of times, but Peeters just keeps hitting him super hard all the time. Ilioukhine utterly dumps Peeters with what begins as a kata-guruma (shoulder wheel) but which ends much more like a Death Valley Driver and I am of course reminded of the time a lifetime ago when the then-young (yung) Gilbert Melendez hit what was in truth more of an Air Raid Crash in SHOOTO and quite a number of us at Death Valley Driver pitched in money to sponsor Malendez and have it say DEATH VALLEY DRIVER on his shorts for his next fight. That was a lot of fun! Several message board pilgrimages/exiles later, and now well into the Twitter era that has murdered the boards (Twitter has given much but let us not lose sight too of what it has taken) and here several of us are, very much concerned with the same preoccupations that led us to the old green DVDVR board to begin with. KATA-ASHI-HISHIGI IN SINGLE-LEG-BOSTON-CRAB FORM ILIOKHINE IS YOUR WINNER AT 9:56. 

Mitsuya Nagai, whose job it feels like is largely to lose heroically to foreigners for whom plans have been made, has drawn Bitsadze Ameran, no better than the second-best Georgian kyokushin exponent named Bitsadze in RINGS at any given time. Wait a minute, is Bitsadze Tariel not I this tournament? But he is my second-favourite karate guy after Willie Williams obviously! Maybe there is a bye system I do not understand, but as of right now I am concerned. Ameran is wearing a red singlet, maybe, under his gi pants (I really should be saying 下穿 shitabaki  or ズボン zubon instead of gi pants shouldn't I; I will mend my ways in 2017). Nagai takes this pretty spirited bout by hiza-hishigi (knee-crush/calf-slicer) at 7:24 and while Ameran is no Tariel he did throw some pretty excellent kicks in this one so I should probably lay off. 

Mitsuya Nagai and Masayuki Naruse are bound together (perhaps forever?) in my mind so it is only fitting that Naruse's match should be next but it is against Hans Nijman (dead in a hail of bullets and VW Golfs R.I.P. Hans Nijman) and so one wonders how this will go for him. I don't know that I can even properly conceive of a MEGA BATTLE TOURNAMENT or BATTLE DIMENSION TOURNAMENT or whatever we will settle on for this one that would see both Nagai and Naruse in its second round so I am very doubtful right now. Hans Nijman jump(kicks) the gun and has to be called back to his corner before Yuji Shimada properly calls FIGHT and we are underway! Both fighters are wearing light blue shorts so it would be very difficult to tell them apart were not one Mitsuya Nagai and the other Masayuki Naruse OH DEAR Hans Nijman came very close with a juji-gatame at which point the commentator said groundo a-technique and here I am saying ne waza and it is not unlike the part in the first Mick Foley book where he talks about how his indie days taught him that Japanese fans wanted his shirts to have English on them and American fans wanted Japanese ones because that is the nature of desire and I believe Hans Nijman just killed Masayuki Naruse with a kind of cradle suplex backdrop that will probably have to be banned. Naruse is up at nine from a barrage of kicks but then really just one kick later he is down for good at 4:37. Nijmans and Peeters talk it over as they head to the back and Willie Peeters is like look man I don't know just stay away from situations involving multiple Volkswagen Golfs I just don't see how any good can come of anything like that.

Here comes Tony Halme, who at this point in his life had already been in the UWF, NJPW, WWF (as Ludvig Borga, obviously), but not yet the UFC (where he was done away with pretty much at once by Randy Couture, no shame there) nor yet a seven-year member of the Finnish parliament (The Eduskunta) and a representative of the ethnic-nationalist True Finns party (they are not called that anymore). I have just now learned that he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2010, and that Jim Ross didn't really shed a tear about it ("I won't speak at length about those that have passed away but Tony obviously had issues and was not a great guy to be around") so this bout against Dimitri Petkov has taken a dark turn before it has even begun. Petkov launches the boxing-engloved Halm with a deep koshi-waza (hip technique) and nearly secures juji-gatame in its aftermath and really is doing all the work of this match, as Halme is just winging the widest punches ever wung for the knockout at 5:14 and I won't speak at length about those that have passed away but Tony obviously didn't do to much in that match but I guess they have plans for this guy. Do those plans involve beating some guys and then losing to Akira Maeda? Only time will tell. 

Grom Zaza, whom all admire, now faces Andrei Kopilov, with whom no one's problem could ever truly be. Zaza is so grey and handsome now, look:

That ashi-kansetsu (leg-bone-locking) should emerge as important techniques early in this bout comes as no surprise, nor does Grom Zaza's kata-guruma (shoulder wheel) attempt, but when he turns it into a kind of low, shoot torture rack, it is pretty weird and neat. Kopilov favours elaborate, Han-esque leglocks and I respect that; his kani-basami ([flying] crab scissor) into the cross knee-bar of hiza-juji-gatame is also praiseworthy. I like both of these græpplers a lot, and yet if only one can advance in this '94 Fighting Network RINGS tournament I am pleased that in the end it is Grom Zaza by rolling gyaku-kata-gatame (reverse shoulder hold/arm triangle) at 8:42 of a spirited bout. 

AKIRA MAEDA VS. DICK VRIJ is our main event and already underway with a good amount of kicking. Both the first takedown and the first juji-gatame attempt, perhaps surprisingly, go to Vrij, but so too the first yellow card for an infraction I cannot discern and do not feel compelled to go back and try to figure out right now because this RINGS blog (like all RINGS blogs) is about momentum. Vrij is lighting our hero up and hhooooolllly smooookes that was some head kick! And then like a reverse thrust kick to the ribs and a knee to the head and Maeda has fallen out betwixt the ropes and to the floor at 2:54 and your winner by TKO (it does not seem that technical to me but instead actual) is Dick Vrij! So Maeda is out, he's done? Oh man as Vrij leaves the rings and Maeda is helped by his seconds there is some kind of scrum? This feels super real but at the same I am sure I am being "trimmed"!


September 12, 1994: "Rings announced its complicated Battle Dimension '94 tournament which starts on 9/21 in Osaka. Akira Maeda and Volk Han are the top two seeds, so they don't have to wrestle in the tournament until the quarterfinals on 11/19 at the Ariake Coliseum (finals are in January at Budokan Hall). The next highest seeds, Bitarze Tariel, Willie Williams, Chris Dolman, Dirk Leon-Vrij, Nikolai Zuev and Yoshihisa Yamamoto, join the tournament in the second round on 10/22 in Fukuoka. First round matches are 9/21 in Osaka headlined by Tony Halme vs. Dimita Petkov and Andre Kopilov vs. Grom Zaza while Maeda vs. Vrij in the non-tourney match headlines. They also announced a show on February 19, 1995 in Amsterdam, Holland."

Ooooooooh okay, so it isn't at all as I had thought it was, but at the same time I am pretty blameless here because it is very complicated and I have almost no Japanese and also am an idiot.

October 3, 1994: "RINGS ran a show on 9/21 at Osaka Furitsu Gym with a major upset on top as Dirk Leon-Vrij knocked out Akira Maeda in 2:54 and they announced Vrij broke Maeda's ribs early in the match with a kick and that Maeda would be out of action for at least six weeks and would have to forfeit his spot in the Battle Dimension '94 tournament because of the injury.

9/21 Osaka Furitsu Gym (RINGS - 4,980): Peter Ura b Thomas Lusimoff, Micha b Willie Peeters, Mitsuya Nagai b Amilan, Hans Nyman b Masayoshi Naruse, Tony Halme b Dimitir Petkov, Grom Zaza b Andrei Kopilov, Dirk Leon-Vrij b Akira Maeda"

October 17, 1994: As part of a totally compelling rundown of all the major international promotions, Dave writes: "UWFI and Shoot style - Although so-called "shoot style" wrestling has evolved from the 1984 forming of the original UWF, and peaked in the late 1980s with the popularity of Akira Maeda, this group in many ways in reminiscent of the early days of U.S. wrestling and old-style territorial promotional conflicts. There's the we're real, they're fake aura; there's the grandstand challenges; there's the using legendary wrestlers with reps for being real like Lou Thesz, Billy Robinson and Danny Hodge (which no doubt they were in the gym and could have been had they wanted to, but in reality when they were pro wrestlers, they worked their matches just like everyone else) as spokespeople, etc. Yet, look at the booking. Very simple angles based on winning and losing. In this case, there's three men, Gary Albright, Nobuhiko Takada and Super Vader who the company revolves around. They trade-off beating one another. And the results have been, on a per-show average (misleading since they only run about once a month), the best drawing company in the world. Takada and Vader split their first two meetings. Takada recently beat Albright, but then Albright returned and made Vader submit in a tag match. So who's really No. 1? That's the question the 16,500 fans who come to Budokan Hall every show ask.

But as popular as UWFI is in Japan, it seemingly failed to make its mark in the United States. Its first PPV was a moderate success, particularly introducing a new style on a show where not one performer had any real name value. But the second show didn't get anywhere near the interest of the first. A third show is upcoming, but it's doubtful it'll make any waves. The UFC seems to have cornered the market on "real" and there is little interest in UWFI. There have been attempts to gain a foothold in England, which went wild for WWF a few years ago but the bloom is starting to come off the rose there, but thus far no major inroads have been made.

UWFI badly needs another wrestler who can be pushed to the Albright level. If they have that, and Takada can maintain his popularity, they'll be in good shape for another year. What would really hurt them is if Vader leaves, which is always a possibility considering New Japan has to know how big a hole he's left behind and they have the working deal with WCW which puts pressure on Vader to work New Japan. In addition, while Vader's money deal here is great, his bread is still buttered in WCW.

The other two shoot-style groups are Pancrase and RINGS. Pancrase has a fervent following among its hardcores as real wrestling, with its own triumvirate on top of Wayne Shamrock, Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki. Pancrase is unique in that the matches are short, look far more real than anything else on the pro wrestling scene and its competitors are really in shape, far beyond that of any other organization. Pancrase's new wave "Hybrid Wrestling" caught fire after its first show one year ago, but now is behind UWFI when it comes to overall popularity.

RINGS is left with the remnants of the popularity of Maeda, who at one-time was "it" in the Japanese wrestling world. Although he's the top draw and focal point of the promotion, even his most ardent fans have to see Maeda is more a famous name and a reputation than an impressive competitor. But he can still sell tickets, although the days of him selling out the Tokyo Dome in three days are long over. To its credit, RINGS survived while Maeda was recovering from knee surgery, but its monthly shows seem to draw about 5,000 now. RINGS is yesterday's news trying to hang on, to the point they are now shooting pro wrestling type shoot-angles such as the recent Maeda-Dirk Vrij angle. Pancrase, which is in preliminary discussions about attempting to market itself in the United States, is trying to be tomorrow's news. Today's news is UWFI, which is kind of an amalgamation of shoot style and New Japan style with old-time booking philosophy."

Pretty fascinating, right? I hope you agree! As always I thank you for your time and hope you will join me again. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017


August 27, 1994 in Ekaterinburg, Russia
Sports Palace drawing 7,000

Well this is a neat surprise: rather than holding within its confines the first round of a MEGA BATTLE or indeed BATTLE DIMENSION the RINGS box instead visits upon us the début RINGS RUSSIA event! I wonder if it was difficult to do business in Russia as a foreign company in 1994 in that there were all kinds of guys you had to find out about and give most of your money to or if it was maybe on the contrary super easy in that you maybe just had to find just one guy to give most of your money to? I did not have an Economist subscription in the mid-nineties so I cannot answer this question but only speculate (I do not have one currently). Look how much like Russia in 1994 it looked like in Russia in 1994 though:

This girl was selling boots at a table and I hope her life has turned out

Our first bout sees a slightly floppier-haired Todor Todorov, it seems to me, take on Masayuki Naruse, and if you number among the vast græppz-hungry hordes that have ravenously consumed all RINGS prose (and at times, I pray, poesy) that I have in all humility offered you then you will already totally know that these two men are just the ticket (the ticket to græppling). The takedowns here are sharp and well-received by the græppz-wise Russian crowd, their exchanges of juji-gatame no less so in either regard. Yuji Shimada signals a "catch" as Todorov passes to kata-gatame, the red and yellow cards very much visible as they poke out of either of us his rear refereeing pockets. That Todorov's throws are more dynamic is no surprise (given the vastness of his judo) but that his ashi-kansetsu (leg-bone-locking) should also prove so is in my view remarkable as Todorov emerges the victor at 6:53.

Next, Peter Dykman faces Iouri Bekichev in a match between newcomers that looks totally and completely real from the outset; there is just that tension to it, you know? It is in cases like this not at all about looking at a particular technique or techniques and trying to discern their veracity but instead about the feelings that we get. Of course I am a notorious fool and could be way way off. I believe "Iouri" is a form of Yuri and so I will tell you, briefly, about a guy I knew in grad school named Yuri who was really into Romantic Mediævalism; at the time, I doubted that that was really even a thing, but in the years since it has come to be pretty much the only thing I know about or even really wish to know about, kind of? Anyway he was from out west and had parents who anticipated recycling, like it didn't exist at all where they were but they just knew that it had to come eventually so they saved all of their relevant garbage for years and years (I think several dilapidated school buses figure into this story but I can't be sure, its been like fifteen years since I heard it) and then when it finally arrived they were like hell yes. The other thing I would like to say about Yuri is that we intended to meet up at a Ministry concert but, although we were both totally there, it never happened, and although I liked Yuri, I was not disappointed to be standing alone watching Ministry amongst the darkly dolled-up ladies and just sort of like cruddy guys there assembled. Also we were in the same Keats graduate seminar (yeah that's right, this is how real your life can get) and in the early going the professor (a good-sized figure in the field of Keats) was onto something about Keats and consumerism and it was just the worst to me and to several of my dumb little buddies also and so we all dropped the class at once (this caused a small stir in the department because school is dumb, you should leave it) and the only good thing to come out of the whole sorry affair was the day just before we dropped where Yuri wanted to talk a lot about what it was like the times when he had been on ecstasy in relation to the ideas that were being advanced about Keats; like, this is what he talked about at length in class that day ("Thanks, Yuri?" was the professor's wholly decent reply). It was very spirited! As has this bout been, now ended by knockout in the second round for your winner, other Yuri! I believe both of these Yuris now hold tenure.      

Bitsadze Tariel is here and so too his karate pants and karate belt but whither his karate jacket? The legends say he never had one. He is in against Mikhail Shimov, who wears boxing gloves. He is slightly taller than Tariel, but contains maybe eight-percent as much stoutness and even less proportional karate so to me and I would imagine to us it is no surprise when Tariel emerges the victor by way of vicious (karate) kick at twenty-one seconds of the fourth round 

Hans Nijman (R.I.P.) is up next, and faces Grom Zaza, whom he have not seen in what feels like ages! He is greyer, and apparently more given to launching huge dudes with ippon-seoi-nage (the one-arm-shoulder[ing] throw) and then squeezing the life out of them with the shoulder-hold of kata-gatame. You know, had Zaza forsaken his true ways of Olympic græppling and devoted himself utterly to shoot-style I think he could have been a talent somewhere near the Volk Han/Kiyoshi Tamura/Tsuyoshi Kohsaka level, to speak of his RINGS company (I leave to others more learned to assess his merits amongst the ranks of UWFi, PWFG, Battlarts, Kingdom, and other ones I am forgetting). Such dynamism to his ura nage, just now thrown! Oh no though he has been knocked out by a kick to the face. Really nice little match!

Now I don't know what's happening, but I have no problem supporting it:

Volk Han versus Sotir Gotchev in a rematch of their encounter at RINGS 12/19/92: MEGA BATTLE TOURNAMENT 92: SEMI-FINALS although that match was not itself a semi-final! Nevertheless! Wait why is Volk Han wearing loose shorts? This is completely inappropriate. Could anything be more appropriate, though, in any context you can come up with, than a step-over juji-gatame that transitions into an Iatskevich roll? Plainly no. Volk Han has emerged as I believe the only fighter to drag people to the middle of the ring so that rope escapes should prove more difficult; his mind is full of tactic. This match is somewhat low-key in the early going but not at all unpleasantly so: this is less about Han's relentless onslaught than his methodical hunt and I value both. Gotchev is unstellar but moves pretty well for his size (big) and has a tidy enough double-leg that nobody is going to mind. There is a certain listlessness that has settled in here though maybe? lol okay just as I say this, Volk Han stuffs a lazy double and rips Gotchev's arm out of the shoulder with a gyaku-ude-garami/reverse-arm-entanglement/double-wrist-lock/Kimura that nobody should ever do with the kind of speed and force Volk Han has just now done it, my god that was savagery and also a win by submission at 11:59 and I am shaken. Also, look at how he put a hold on a fan at a promotional event of some kind:

Pieter Oele and his ways are known to us whereas Vladimir Klementiev and his are not but let us discover them together. Yes he is a karate fighter yes and if you couldn't tell at once by his topless black-belted gi-pants you could tell a moment later when he flashed an axe kick yes. Who knew that worked karate would rank among the best entertainments? I guess everybody who made or enjoyed karate movies so that is actually not a very good question is it. Oele, in obvious terror of karate, drags Klementiev to the mat whenever possible, and no doubt wins the first round, but something he has not won is me and a specific place he has not won me to is his side. Yuji Shimada is so much shorter than either of these guys and yet it is he and he alone who holds the power of which colour card is to be given should they not heed his strictures. KARATE KNOCKOUT VLADIMIR KLEMENTIEV IS YOUR WINNER AT 0:28 OF THE THE THIRD ROUND and Oele raises his hand in no fewer than two very important kinds of ship (sportsman- and fellow-). 

Our main event consists of Mitsuya Nagai and Nikolai Zouev and that is a main event in my heart certainly but I find it weird that it was ever one in the primary world. Will this prove to be a classic of Mitsuya Nagai against a man of the former Republics on the scale of Mitsuya Nagai versus Volk Han? Almost certainly not but Zouev attempts both uchi-mata (inner thigh) and kata-guruma (shoulder wheel) in the opening moments and so the sky as of right this moment is the limit. And a rolling hiza-juji knee-bar! Zouev is looking very good, which is the normal way for him to look really. Nagai is quietly excellent at pretty much all relevant RINGS skills but especially, I think, selling, and he has lots of opportunities to do so. Zouev hit a sikk one-armed uchi-mata of a kind you might have written about in your notes after a training camp with four-time Olympian Keith Morgan pretty well a decade ago and which still informs your training and teaching even now! Maybe at that same training camp it was the only time an Olympian saw your work in a particular exercise and was like yeah that is what I like to SEE and you were like lol yesssss this feels like something that is never going to happen again so remember to mention it on your RINGS blog when you are in your late thirties. Zouev is coming close on some of these kansetsu-waza (bone-locking techniques) as things heat up and by "things" I mean Mitsuya Nagai's visible anguish! OMG WHAT NOW:


So there we have it! I messed up and put the Meltzer bit relevant to this show in the last entry because I didn't know that I had this show but here it is again, you shouldn't have to scroll needlessly because of my foolishness, here:


September 5, 1994: "Rings ran a very successful show in Russia on 8/28 in Ekaterinbul, drawing a packed house of 7,000 fans. This came just two weeks after FMW bombed in Russia. The difference was said to be that the FMW show had no Russians, only Japanese wrestlers plus it was promoted as blood-n'guts street fight and the Russians had no concept of it. Rings was promoted as a sport and they loaded the show up with Russians. In fact, Akira Maeda didn't even work the show (said to be recovering from a knee injury suffered on his last show) and they used Nikolai Zuev, a local who was a national champion in sambo (submission) wrestling as the top draw.

8/28 Ekaterinbul, Russia (Rings - 7,000 sellout): Todor Todorov b Masayoshi Naruse, Veckchev b Peter Daigman, Bitarze Tariel b Mikhail Shimoff, Hans Nyman b Grom Zaza, Volk Han b Sotir Gotchev, Kuremenchev b Peter Ura, Nikolai Zuev b Mitsuya Nagai"


Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Rings 94 in Yokohama
August 20, 1994 in Yokohama, Japan
Bunka Gym drawing 4,587

You may well have noticed at some point in this time we have shared together so far that I tend slightly to favour the Japanese names for waza (techniques [there I go again]) wherever applicable, and they are nearly always applicable, so pretty much always? Well a student recently brought to my attention an idea he picked up from enigmatic-græppz-sage-turned-omnipresent-græppz-pedant John Danaher (author of fine scholarship of the early Kodokan as co-author of Mastering Jujitsu alongside everybody's favourite Gracie [Renzo; my own personal choice for second place is Roger but this will vary amongst us I am sure]), and that is that Japanese is the Latin of grappling, and should be venerated as such (he did not say venerated, nor does anyone say that he said that). In cursory searching I have not been able to find an actual Danaher quote on this matter, but I have seen a bunch of places where people credit this idea to him, and it is a good one, one that even if it isn't really his I am sure he would be happy to have, so let us just agree. That Japanese terminology is æsthetically superior is I think obvious, and it has always non-negotiably been a part of my own study and training and teaching because our 道 is 柔 (you can look those up if you need to, we are all on computers right now) and that's all there is to it, so there has never been any doubt that my own pedantry would continue in that direction forever, but I am pleased to be joined by a pedant of a (slightly) different tradition on the importance of this point.

But there is very little time for any of that right now because we are called at once to attend to the RINGS début of Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (spelled Kousaka here, and for some reason in Fire Pro A when I changed all the names on it like fourteen years ago, no idea why I did it that way), the central man of our project, in Wallace Stevens' sense (How was it then with the central man? Did we find peace? We found the sum of men). "Asides on the Oboe" is actually an insanely good poem and I encourage you to consider it. Or, if we are without a central man (The prologues are over, it is a question, now, of final belief, so say that final belief must be in fiction, it is time to choose) we are certainly not without a central waza, and can there be any question that that waza is the TK Scissors under whose banner we assemble? But it is in my view worth atteast considering that this "Kakutogi Kai no Kenja" ("Sage of the Combat Sports World") might well be the impossible possible philosophers' man, the man who has had the time to think enough. 

My god, his trunks are orchid:

He is so young here, a mere 24 -- he has not yet so much as Lumax Cup: Tournament of J '95'd -- but his youthful schoolboy days of friendship with Hidehiko Yoshida (and, I have once read, Jun Akiyama) at Senshu are already long behind him, and so too his time as a company player for Toray Industries (東レ株式会社 Tōre Kabushiki-gaisha), after the explosion of his knee into an infinity of minute knee-shards, each hostile to the other. There is going to be so much TK to consider in the fullness of time that I do not want to overburden you (or my heart) immediately so let us proceed from a position of no ideas but in things and let us agree to set aside for now ideas and agree further that the thing to address ourselves to at present is this contest between Tsuyoshi Kohsaka and Nobuhiro Tsurumaki just now underway. Thirty seconds in it is clear that Kohsaka moves better in ne waza than anyone who has done this yet, and by "this" I mean not only RINGS but to my knowledge shoot-style wrestling broadly (if I am mistaken and there is someone I am missing please tell me). Whilst tangled up in a Tsurumaki's weird niju-garami double-leg entanglement, Kohsaka (his boots spell it "Kohsaka" already) attacks with gyaku-ude-garami/reverse-arm-entanglement/double-wrist-lock/figure-four-armlock/Kimura for much of the first (of a scheduled five) three-minute round(s). On commentary (which for this show, at least, exists) they are saying "judo" an awful lot, which is to say the correct amount. In round two, Kohsaka uses his ude-garami grip to attempt juji-gatame (a great control! I taught it just last week!) but to no avail. In round three he attacks with the shoulder-hold/arm-triangle of kata-gatame so thoroughly and uses it to pass through niju-garami (you can call it half-guard if you want and I will not be upset) in so judo a fashion that the heart soars. In round four he comes out with pummeling palm strikes (Kodokan atemi-waza) and the crab(non-TK)-scissor of kani basami and continues to work towards kata-gatame on the nearside and again gyaku-ude-garami on the far. Tsurumaki clinches up in the corner and I am convinced Kohsaka is about to launch him but the bell sounds to end the fourth before that can happen and I feel aggrieved. The fifth round is all palm strikes and knees to the body and 1:30 Tsuyoshi Kohsaka has won the day and there is so much promise right now.  

Good luck to either Satoshi Honma or Masayuki Naruse trying to look at all good at this right after TK but such is the burden of all who remain on this card I suppose. Naruse's tights are way way better than normal, a purple and black leopard-print seemingly produced by Champion, and as a man himself in the market for tights currently these appeal to me very much (I think I might get a pair that have ukiyo-e [浮世絵, "images of the floating world"] art atop them). It occurs to me that they are many minutes into this totally fine match at this point and I have no idea who is winning it at all. It is a perfectly generic RINGS match and as an admirer of that genre (I will not say the foremost admirer, as that title must surely belong to the person on Twitter photoshopping Akira Maeda into all that comes before him or her; the rest of their twitter is about hiking and visiting old castles and temples and shrines, it's great) I do not say that as any kind of complaint about this match but instead as praise of its workmanlike-yet-better-than-almost-all-other-wrestling-ever ways. This goes the full thirty minutes, and Honma takes the decision on points, which shows what I know, because my impression by the end was that the tide had largely turned towards Masayuki Naruse.

DAVID KHAKHALEISHVILI (დავით ხახალეიშვილი) VS. WILLY WILHELM what a blessing of judo this is, an Olympic gold medalist against a World Champion and at once we see a fine ippon-seoi-nage (one-arm shoulder[ing]throw) from Khakhaleishvili before several unsuccessful attempts at ashi-kansetsu-waza ("leg-bone-locking," as my prized copy of Illustrated Kodokan Judo from 1955 would have it). Wilhlem throws with sumi-gaeshi, the corner-reversal, and attempts juji-gatame; Khakhaleishvili throws with o-goshi, that most major hip, and tries a juji-gatame of his own, because of the inherent genius of the waza and WOAH OK that's it, Khakhaleishvili wins by juji-gatame at 3:09, that's a surprising finish! Surprising in its quickness, I mean; there is no doubt Khakhaleishvili is destined for big things (losing to Maeda). 

Yoshihisa Yamamoto and Willie Peeters? Was this card booked for or perhaps by me? Peeters is just now having boxing gloves taped on, which is not great, but they are being taped on by TK, which embiggens the moment. A few moments in, referee Yuji Shimada stops Peeters to straighten out his elbow pads, and it must be noted (perhaps even here, perhaps even now) that elbow pads and boxing gloves is a weird, weird look. It occurs to me that this is a rematch of Peeters' narrow decision win over Yamamoto at RINGS 12/25/93: BATTLE SHOT AT NIIGATA by means of clinched leaning, primarily, in a match in which so little happened that I felt pretty strongly that it was probably real maybe? It is still so hard to say. More is happening here, certainly, and it is quite good, but part of the more that is certainly happening is more and more fiddling with Peeters' elbow pads until Yuji Shimada has had enough and just peels them right off over the boxing gloves (this is no mean feat). Yamamoto, to his credit, is attired in all-black (a Maedaism [itself an Inokism]) and looks just great. I really don't want to suggest to you that there has not been, to this point, clinched leaning, because their totally has been, and in fact that is what is going on at the exact moment I began this sentence, and even though it stopped for a moment in the middle of this sentence it is back on by the time I am ending it. Peeters, always one to play right up to the edge all the while grinning jackalishly like Ville Nieminen (whom I always liked), punches Yamamoto in the face on the ground with one of his big poofy boxing gloves to which Yuji Shimada responds NO FACE NO FACE NO FACE and he's right, Peeters, stop skipping the rules meetings. Unlike their first match, which, again, I kind of think was real, this one doesn't have that feel at all, but instead one of good hard work, but now that I have said that watch the finish come on the most legit and troubling knockout ever. The pace of the striking has certainly picked up, and the crowd admires this rising action. Yamamoto attacks Peeters with the minor-outer-hook of kosoto-gake and Peeters tries to employ the kaeshi-waza or counter-technique of kubi-nage or neck throw but no Yamamoto scurries to his back and the day is his by means of hadaka-jime (the naked strangle) at 21:54 as the seconds and young boys rush into the ring and the crowd loses it as does Yamamoto himself wow that was pretty exciting at the end!

Next we have Tony Halme in against someone no doubt here to be brutalized by Tony Halme. Yes okay it is Thomas Lurosi, known here as Thomas Roelos (say it out loud and you can kind of see it), and he gets hit pretty hard to the body and slapped about the head for a little bit until he doesn't get up from a shot at 2:05 and nobody looked all that good here. 

One would expect more of Volk Han versus Georgi Keandelaki (Galdava here this time, that's different) in a battle of great Georgian sportsmen we have come to admire in the time we have had together. How can it be that Keandelaki would find the bout's first opportunity to apply ashi-kansetsu-waza (leg-bone-locking-technique)? And yet it is before us. Not long thereafter, Han not only applies juji-gatame but drags Keandelaki to the middle of the ring before applying juji-gatame which seems wise. Keandelaki's (fake) leglock game has really come along! He is going for all kinds of things! Han is committed to rolling sutemi-waza (sacrifice techniques) in the mode of sumi-gaeshi (corner reversal) and hikikomi-gaeshi (pulling reversal) from a gyaku-ude-garami (reverse-arm-entanglement) grip, and among the advantages of this suite of techniques, apart from the sheer beauty and purity of the waza themselves, is that they end with a tremendous opportunity not just for the aforementioned ude-garami but, should one be able to achieve perpendicularity, the cross-mark hold of juji-gatame (perpendicularity so crucial, so literally crucial). Keandelaki is issued a yellow card (a RINGS first?) for what we would come to know as PRIDE knees because of how proud we were when we would see them (in PRIDE). Han nearly murdered an arm with a standing gyaku-ude-garami before rolling through for a hiza-juji knee-bar and this match seems to be going longer than one might expect though I guess the last one was only like two minutes so they might be out there to eat some innings aaaaaaaaand Han wins by a kubi-hishigi neck crank/crush at 11:35, it is as though I could sense the looming finish. Good match! It has maybe been a little bit since Volk Han has had a profoundly transcendent performance but a totally middling Volk Han match is still a thing that is occurring at a very high level, let's not kid ourselves. 

AKIRA MAEDA IS HERE THE WAIT IS OVER and he is in against Tskhadadze Zaouri, sometimes known as Chabadze Zaour, just a complete and total hoss, a truly massive hoss of a Georgian and hoooooly shit he just threw Maeda so hard with a piledriving death-variation of koshi-guruma (hip wheel) into kesa-gatame (scarf hold) and were it not for ropes that is where Maeda would still be in 2017. A yellow card for kicking Maeda insanely hard whilst he was grounded is issued and my goodness this guy is as big as a house, it really is something. At present he is trying to rip Meada's head off with a nelson of some kind on the mat; next, he hoists him aloft with a slow, arching ura-nage in the mode of the German suplex. Maeda survives all of this and shoots a low flopping double that works only because this is not real and then finishes with a heel hook that I think he "shoot" held onto a little long and a little too deeply because when Tskhadadze Zaouri kicks him away slightly after the bell that part felt super real MA-E-DA MA-E-DA MA-E-DA.


August 29, 1994: "Tony Halme debuted on the 8/20 RINGS card in Yokohama.

8/20 Yokohama Bunka Gym (RINGS - 4,587): Hanma b Masayoshi Naruse, David Hahareshivili b Willie Wilhelm, Yoshihisa Yamamoto b Willie Peeters, Tony Halme (Ludvig Borga) b Thomas Lurosi, Volk Han b Georgi Gandelaki, Akira Maeda b Zaour"

Whaaaaat TK didn't even make the results.

September 5, 1994: "Rings ran a very successful show in Russia on 8/28 in Ekaterinbul, drawing a packed house of 7,000 fans. This came just two weeks after FMW bombed in Russia. The difference was said to be that the FMW show had no Russians, only Japanese wrestlers plus it was promoted as blood-n'guts street fight and the Russians had no concept of it. Rings was promoted as a sport and they loaded the show up with Russians. In fact, Akira Maeda didn't even work the show (said to be recovering from a knee injury suffered on his last show) and they used Nikolai Zuev, a local who was a national champion in sambo (submission) wrestling as the top draw.

8/28 Ekaterinbul, Russia (Rings - 7,000 sellout): Todor Todorov b Masayoshi Naruse, Veckchev b Peter Daigman, Bitarze Tariel b Mikhail Shimoff, Hans Nyman b Grom Zaza, Volk Han b Sotir Gotchev, Kuremenchev b Peter Ura, Nikolai Zuev b Mitsuya Nagai"

That sounds . . . that sounds so sikk.

September 12, 1994: "Rings announced its complicated Battle Dimension '94 tournament which starts on 9/21 in Osaka. Akira Maeda and Volk Han are the top two seeds, so they don't have to wrestle in the tournament until the quarterfinals on 11/19 at the Ariake Coliseum (finals are in January at Budokan Hall). The next highest seeds, Bitarze Tariel, Willie Williams, Chris Dolman, Dirk Leon-Vrij, Nikolai Zuev and Yoshihisa Yamamoto, join the tournament in the second round on 10/22 in Fukuoka. First round matches are 9/21 in Osaka headlined by Tony Halme vs. Dimita Petkov and Andre Kopilov vs. Grom Zaza while Maeda vs. Vrij in the non-tourney match headlines. They also announced a show on February 19, 1995 in Amsterdam, Holland."


Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Rings 94 in Osaka
July 14, 1994 on Osaka, Japan
Furitsu Gym drawing 6,539

Through the exquisiteness of its waza and the art of its ways RINGS 94 IN ARIAKE offered many comforts but also instilled in those who beheld it an anxiety bordering on dread that what if RINGS 94 IN OSAKA won't seem as good afterwards; what then. I know I speak for literally everyone when I say what I have just said. But to turn away now is cowardice whereas to watch another old RINGS tape immediately is a victory over fear so let us do that . . . and see. 

A fine parade of fighters ends with Maeda bowing in the cardinal directions and speaking briefly before Tony Halme aka Ludvig Borga takes the ring enormously and explains that years ago he went to America to pursue his dream of becoming a professional fighter but became a bodyguard for rock bands and then an american professional wrestler instead but found that that was not a true way of fighting and so he rejected it. In time he came to learn of RINGS and Mr. Maeda and now he is certain that this is the way of fighting (omg me too).    
TO OUR OPENING BOUT which sees the extremely long and lean Rene Roza, whom we have seen before and so know that all he does is kickbox, face the fine Georgian champion Georgi Keandelaki who, sadly, just boxes. This is a hell of a situation if one is me. Roza comes out to truly pounding techno with an appealingly detuned (saw-wave?) lead but that is where my enjoyment in his work ends if I may be perfectly frank with you. The referee is not Yuji Shimada but instead the handsome floppy-haired young refereeing lion who handles many of the striking-focused possible-shoots; he is cheered and welcomed. GROVU MATCH we are told and sure enough here are the grovus on each competitor, that's true. The best parts of this match are when you get to see Volk Han in Keandelaki's corner, and Vrij and Nijman in Roza's, and I guess the parts where they clinch because then you can at least think about which nage waza (throwing techniques) would be best suited to their grips and foot placement even if we know that they are not going to employ any of them (a huge mistake, they are all great to do) except shittily and in a way where they get right back up immediately after and it's not good. The decision goes to Georgi Keandelaki but my decision goes to me not liking this one all that much!

BRING ME MASAYUKI NARUSE AND YURI BEKICHEV TO SET ALL TO RIGHTS okay good here they are now. Immediate takedowns and rolling juji-gatame attempts: yes; yes. This is not to say there is not kicking because of course there is but it is of the kind that makes the people of Osaka go WHOOOAAHHHH. Also Naruse catches Bekichev's kick, evades the flip-kick that follows it, and attacks with ashi-kansetsu (leg-locking, broadly), and this match in less than a minute has fully revealed the previous contest as a pointless sham. Bekichev throws tonnes of quick little kicks but is palm-struck to the mat by the fiery young Naruse; oh okay he actually kicks Naruse nice and hard in the head for his own knockdown only moments later. They are trading knockdowns! There has been one more each in the last like twenty seconds! This is intense! A couple of rope escapes later and Bekichev is really up against it and by "it" I mean the limit for rope escapes and knockdowns and yeah the end comes at 6:18 when Naruse drives him to the mat with more palm strikes (there have already been so many). Bekichev seems super excited about how everything went though, I guess he is just happy to be here, and I guess we probably should all approach our lives with such gratitude, Yuri Bekichev, maybe you're right.

Stefanov Petrov vs. Mitsuya Nagai is next and I have high hopes because of how many times they are saying judo and sambo as Stefanov Petrov enters the arena and also because of the amount of times they are saying Mitsuya Nagai (just the once but that is all it takes). Petrov is a stout fellow and pulls his green trunks up high to accentuate this feature of his figure. He opens with a kind of sasae-tsurikomi-ashi (a drawing and lifting ankle-block) and also just totally tosses him with te-guruma (hand wheel). Will Stefanov Petrov duck right under a high kick and tackle your other leg super fast? You bet he will. Will he hit you in the dikk with a flying knee? Absolutely, just look:

When the action resumes Petrov throws with a beautiful ippon-seoi-nage that calls to mind at once Takekaze's ippon zeoi at the Hatsu Basho 2017 Day 8, January 15th (-大相撲初場所 2017年 8日目) which you can review here (it occurs in less than one percent of sumo matches, I have learned, and so it's pretty special). Something you will literally never see in sumo, noble art though it may be/definitely is, is juji-gatame, though, which Mitsuya Nagai attacks with now, although not to completion. He tries his hand at the rolling hiza-juji-gatame knee-bar and then transitions tidily into what turns out to be the match-ending juji-gatame at 10:35. Mitsuya Nagai has a lot of really good matches.

As does Yoshohisa Yamamoto, attired here in a kind of fluorescent peach, I think I would say, as he is set to face Andrei Kopilov in a match that should be no less excellent than the one that preceded it (itself excellent). They clinch immediately and Kopilov throws with the fastest and best harai-goshi hip-sweep in the first thirty-some RINGS shows, there is no doubt about it. He follows with juji-gatame, which Yamamoto escapes, and then they roll about for leg-locks for like a week before Kopilov grabs the rope and though I am not in the business of star-ratings here this is already a lot of them and it has only just begun. Yamamoto dumps Kopilov unceremoniously (there was no ritual to it at all) and attacks with a juji-gatame of his own, only for Kopilov to hoist him so fvkkn aloft that he sets him on the ring-post in the corner (that's a break). Kopilov, much like his nice friend Volk Han, can attack with the flying crab scissors of kani-basami, and with the crushing rear throw of ura-nage; he does both here. I believe Yamamoto just cleared Kopilov's arm in mune-gatame (chest hold) with a wide sweeping arm motion known by some as the howdy (a grappling pal who wrestled in high school calls it this; only recently has he determined [actually I think a friend of his figured it out] that it is so named because it is like you're waving). It's a useful little move for all kinds of things! Kazushi Sakuraba sure likes it, and I say this because it shows up all the time in his tremendous little videos, like for example in this one (it is the first movement). (Also the sode-guruma-jime he shows here is related to the kind we saw Aleksei Oleynik absurdly pull off from beneath tate-shiho-gatame when our friends texted us the move while we were at judo; please see it here.) Yamamoto and Kopilov continue to be extraordinary by the way. Kopilov rolls Yamamoto over with a kind of inverted scissors (they are not utterly unlike those of TK . . . who we will be seeing so soon, so soon) and attacks with the toe-hold of ashi-dori-garami and that's it, Andrei Kopilov is our winner at 9:38 in a very fine match.

RANKING MATCH between Hans Nijman who comes out to a spy riff, and Volk Han, who still comes out to this perfect piece. Both fighters begin with a pace that is both quick but cautious, if that makes any sense, and Hans Nijman is trying his luck with ashi-kansetsu (leg-locking) with Volk Han for a sec, if that makes any sense (it does not). Han looks tall and lean and good here and I am reflecting on Meltzer's assertion that Han had "no body" (I think those were his exact words but will not check) and so I am also thinking about how when Dave Meltzer claimed publicly last year to have better abs than Johnny Mundo (whom I have seen perform in person at the Forum, and brother, let me tell you, that guy's got abs) but then totally refused to provide any photographic evidence thereof, and I don't know if that is when I have liked Dave Meltzer the most or the least but it is definitely one or the other. Nijman has been forced to the ropes a couple times, and he has knocked Han down a bunch so far but there is no real urgency to this match; I think it is maybe the worst Volk Han one? That is a weird thing to say but I guess one of them has to be. Rene Roza is screaming for low-kicks in Nijman's corner, which is pretty good, and Volk Han takes Nijman down and creeps up his body into the form of tate-shiho-gatame some know as "s-mount" to apply juji-gatame, which is also pretty good, but then Nijman's arm kind of slips halfway out, but because this is fake and not real Nijman doesn't really drop his elbow to the mat and turn in to escape the hold but instead lets Han just grab it all back a moment later, and that's the finish, and yeah that was the worst Volk Han match.

RANKING MATCH once more, let us see what Dirk Vrij and Akira Maeda hold for us aside from stirring entrances and the chants of MA-E-DA MA-E-DA to which we are accustomed and of which we are most fond. They kick each other as hard as anyone ever kicks anyone in RINGS to begin, which I think augers well. These palm strikes are coming in pretty hot, too! Spinning back-chop, Dirk Vrij! Corner pummeling, Akira Maeda! This is really something! Maeda has him down and fleeing to the ropes. Back up, Vrij is hitting Maeda so hard until Maeda drags him down again and then works for a choke in a legitimately dirty way, digging around the eyes before going under the chin even a little. That's weird! Possibly aggrieved by this, Vrij throws a flurry of palm-strikes that are mostly worrying finger pokes to the eye and Maeda recoils from them momentarily but then grabs a leg and twists it furiously for the finish and then stomps Vrij on the back after the submission? WHAT? The ring fills with RINGS HOLLAND and RINGS JAPAN young boys and things have come undone, please people we are trying to have a civilization here! Maeda has a bloody nose, maybe from fingers that went up there in all the palm striking? I don't know what's happening but the people love it! MA-E-DA MA-E-DA  MA-E-DA MA-E-DA MA-E-DA MA-E-DA MA-E-DA MA-E-DA MA-E-DA MA-E-DA MA-E-DA MA-E-DA MA-E-DA MA-E-DA MA-E-DA MA-E-DA 


August 1, 1994: "Akira Maeda ran an angle on his 7/14 Osaka show, which drew a sellout 6,539. Opponent Dirk Leon-Vrij bloodied his nose and tried to stick his finger in his eye so Maeda came back with a leglock submission in just 2:54. After the match they had to separate the two of them and Maeda kicked him in the face reminiscent of the 1987 shoot kick with Riki Choshu that made Maeda the superstar that he once was.

7/14 Osaka Furitsu Gym (RINGS - 6,539 sellout): Georgi Kandelaki b Rene Rose, Masayoshi Naruse b Yuri Beckashev, Mitsuya Nagai b Stepepanov Petrov, Andrei Kopilov b Yoshihisa Yamamoto, Volk Han b Hans Nyman, Akira Maeda b Dirk Leon-Vrij"

August 8, 1994: "The Akira Maeda-Dirk Leon-Vrij 'post match brawl' after the recent Osaka card is to build up the return 9/21 Osaka Furitsu Gym show."

August 22, 1994: "Rings has a show on 8/20 at Yokohama Bunka Gym which includes the debut of Tony Halme (Ludvig Borga) against Herman Renting. Akira Maeda headlines against a newcomer named Zaour from Graziya.

FMW ran three shows at outdoor stadiums in Russia this past week that were total bombs. Not as i bombs going off. Bombs as in the fans didn't understand, the few that were there, that is as crowds were announced at 600 two nights and 1,100 in the middle, but those figures looked to be heavily inflated.

Speaking of FMW, the upcoming Atsushi Onita matches with Mr. Pogo and Masashi Aoyagi are double hell matches consist of explosive barbed wire around two sides of the ring, and no ropes or barbed wire on the other two sides but the floor on those sides is covered with barbed wire so any bumps out of the ring are onto barbed wire. Really sick to the extreme. Onita is talking about doing a show in China in October.

Rings is also running Russia this year."

And that's it! Thanks as always for your time!

Monday, January 16, 2017


Rings 1994 in Ariake
June 18, 1994 in Tokyo, Japan
Ariake Coliseum drawing 9,130


AKIRA MAEDA VS. VOLK HAN IV CAN YOU BELIEVE SUCH A THING IS UPON US OR EVEN POSSIBLE IN THIS FALLEN WORLD and yet it is both by grace of God. Who could forget their first meeting at ASTRAL STEP: FINAL in which Han launched Maeda with a thoroughly creditable ura nage only to find himself trapped utterly in the ashi-kansetu that followed, forced to yield (as so many before him) to ashi-dori-garami? Or their second encounter at MEGA BATTLE III: IKAZUCHI where the calf-crush of hiza-hishigi saw Han even the score betwixt these two perfectly literal titans? And what of MEGA BATTLE TOURNAMENT 92: FIRST ROUND, with Maeda's TKO win so stirring it left Mitsuya Nagai yeah Mitsuya Nagai (and who knows how many others among us) in tears? VOLK HAN WEIGHS-IN IN A KNICKS SHIRT:

I was about to say that I can't wait but I am actually proving that I can by watching the matches in order and not just skipping ahead to the last one and I am at once rewarded for this patience by a contest between Demitri Petkov who remains just absolutely humongous and the returning Willie Wilhelm, amenable wool-giant of Dutch judo, who has been gone too long. He understands that Petkov is very big, he tells us, and also very strong, but he too himself is strong (who could doubt it). Willhelm suggests that he has been training striking with Dirk Vrij and he thinks that it will serve him well here and one would worry about Willhelm forsaking judo to his ruin in the mode of Ronda Rousey but we have no reason to believe that Dirk Vrij is at all an Edmond Tarverdyan or even a slightly lesser form of evil like I don't know Ceaușescu or something (that was wrong of me to say, there is no question). In fact it turns out there was no cause for any worry along those lines at all, as Willhelm's win comes from a rolling gyaku-ude-garami, the reverse-arm-entanglement one most closely associates with the great Masahiko Kimura (no one before him, no one after, it is said, and known). Willhelm's kososto-gake (minor-outside-hook) was pretty tidy too. I am glad he's back.

Willie Peeters has a new tricolore singlet that says "Internationaux de FRANCE" on the back and it is very nice. He is engloved, as is his foe Mikhail Simov, and I admit freely that I do not know what the rules are going to be here at all; let's find out together. Oh it's a kickboxing match. OR IS IT as Peeters throws with a huge koshi-waza (hip technique) and finishes with a kubi-hishigi neck crank for the win at 0:29 of the third round and that was the first sign that anything like that was even remotely allowed. Weird! 

Yoshihisa Yamamoto's skin has now cleared up almost entirely and he looks, if I may say, super handsome right now:

He wears all black trunks and kickpads and boots and looks like a lean young Shibata out there (if you have not seen scandal-plagued shirtless Shibata karaoke pic yet I recommend it, it is an intensely erotic situation) against Bitsadze Ameran and yeah that's right RINGS is so high-level that it has two karate fighters named Bitsadze in it at the same time. Yamamoto is all fire and slaps and rolling ashi-kansetsu leg-lock attempts against this enormous Kyokushin exponent who is hitting him super hard to the body (it is the only way he knows). The Ariake crowd is totally sold on everything within the first I don't know maybe fifteen seconds, and comes unglued at the kata-ashi-hishigi finish at 5:11 because Yamamoto is putting it all together out there in every regard:

Mikhail Ilyukhin (they spell it Ilioukhine here but who among us) has arrived! If you are reading this there is already a very good chance you know who this is, and that he is in time involved in one of the truly great RINGS moments (there are so many) when he defeats Randy Couture at RINGS: RISE FIRST by gyaku-ude-garami/reverse-arm-entanglement/double-wrist-lock/Kimura after being restarted in the middle of the ring with the very hold applied at the point of restart; it was insane and you could watch it here if you wanted to (it is towards the end). His début comes against Mitsuya Nagai, of whom I am fond. Okay in the early going it seems that if this match is supposed to be a work, nobody has "smartened up" Mikhail Ilyukhin because he is driving haaarrrrrd into the scooping reap of ashi-dori-ouchi-gari and takes the I think unprecedented RINGS move of actually scooching back to the centre of the ring once he has juji-gatame secured to keep Nagai off the ropes. Ah, he has plainly let up on the juji so he IS working, it's okay, Mitsuya Nagai will be okay (or will he). Yaskevitch/Iatskevich roll! That is the best kind of juji-gatame maybe! Ilyukhin is doing great and Nagai is doing a very good job of seeming very worried about Ilyukhin (that part might be a shoot). Using gyaku-ude-garami/Kimura grips to sweep people over one of the true genuine pleasures of all of this græppling all of us are forever doing and I am so pleased for Ilkyukhin that he was able to do some of that here now. Nagai looks dangerous with high kicks for a minute but is scooped and slammed in sukui-nage (scooping throw) or perhaps we might even say te-guruma (hand-wheel) fashion. I am completely sure the end is upon us when Ilkyukhin catches Nagai's axe-kick and spins into a hiza-juji knee-bar but Nagai makes the ropes to my surprise and frankly to my disappointment also (because it was so sikk). This match is going long, which is impressive given the amount of muscle Ilkyukhin is carrying around and also impressive for Nagai because he is getting ground down in relentless fashion by all of the muscle Ilkyukhin is carrying around and yeah that is it, juji-gatame at 14:42 as Nagai cannot quite make the ropes even whilst extending his piggymost lil piggy and that match delivered in every second of ne waza and there were many many seconds of it. Welcome, Mikhail Ilyukhin!

Willy Williams, whose love of Karate (空手) sustains (him, us, the earth): "We've got karate and grappling mixed together, it's a little different to determine who is going to be victor, who is going to be the winner." This is truth. "There are things in this way of fighting I still do not know, I just hope I can stay strong and fight each opponent very well." This is wisdom. He will face Masayuki Naruse, a man half his size but also half his age, and so we will see, won't we, yes, we will, certainly, in time, yes; yes. Because Williams is a martial artist ever-seeking new realms of waza he not only responds to grappling but initiates it, which is to his credit HOLY SHIT THAT WAS UNETHICAL lol okay Williams just caught one of Naruse's kicks and dumped him over the top stunningly like the crowd is so hurt by what has just happened (somebody check on Naruse). Williams' initial response is to be like "what?" but when he is assessed the light penalty of chui (I am pretty sure I hear the ring announcer say this but please remember I do not speak this language, and chui have not been a part of judo in years and years but I think I recognize the word but additionally am an idiot) Williams bows in all humility. Here are three images I hope convey some of the madness that has just now enriched my life:

Naruse convinces the crowd and also me that he could maybe win when he puts every bit of himself into a juji-gatame attempt but no we were wrong, we were all wrong. Big crowd on-hand! Ariake Coliseum sounds great! Some of these kicks to Masyuki Naruse's head are landing awfully well for a friendly (pretend) contest! I like this match a lot, I hope that is coming through.  Aaaaaand knees to the head end the bout in Willy Williams' favour at 10:54 and I think I would describe this card so far as low-key exquisite. 

Bitsadze Tariel vs. Dick Vrij is a battle of big boys and starts out heated and real (not really) and the crowd is ready for these big boys. The pace slows slightly because no one can maintain for long the pace with which they began; it is too much to ask. After just a tonne of clubbering, huge Vrij hurls the huger-still Tariel to the mat and finishes with juji-gatame at 8:41 and I am not about to add things up but Vrij has I think a bunch of wins by submission now doesn't he? Good for him, he's good.

OKAY OKAY EVERYBODY BE QUIET (don't really I'm sorry I shouldn't have said that) IT'S AKIRA MAEDA AND VOLK HAN SO LIKE THE WHOLE POINT OF THIS ENTIRE EDIFICE and Maeda has returned again to the black trunks and kick-pads of utter purity for this contest because he knows he needs it and also that I need it. It will not surprise you I do not think to learn that Han scores with the first catch and also whips Maeda around by the wrist and just menaces every second in the early going. Maeda does take the back and attempt the naked strangle of hadaka-jime but it is only a brief moment before Han is entangling legs in the mode of niju-garami and attacking with gyaku-juji-gatame in the mode of Kimura and it's just a symphony of waza so far (why doesn't New Japan still have a show called Strong Style Symphony? did they worry it would make people think about Wagner? what if we like to think about Wagner?). This is as well as I have ever heard Yuji Shimada say GIIIIIIIIVE UP? and I don't need to tell you he is the best in the business at that. Maeda, when given the chance, attacks hard with juji-gatame; he seems to favour it (don't we all). Volk Han, for his part, makes the girlies and also the boyies shriek with terror as he applies his strange double-heel-hook ashi-kansetsu and Maeda struggles and the chants of MA E DA MA E DA echo around in this echoingmost of usual RINGS venues. Maeda pitches half-way out of the ring as Han charges hard into the corner and given the earlier chui charged to WIlly Williams, Shimada is all over this situation yelling BREAK BREAK BREAK like the clown-poet Toru Yano before things can get out of hand. Maeda with a knockdown! He is fired up! But when we are underway again Han traps him in juji-gatame nearly at once and it costs Maeda a rope escape to have his arm back and he pays the price, one assumes, gladly. Maeda is charged with a knockdown too, I think, after some pummeling in the corner, or maybe it has been stopped because he has been poked in the eye? The latter, I think. 

Ten minutes in (they announce it), Maeda is back among the sighted however he gets weirdly banana-splitted and armlocked at the same time because of Volk Han's . . . proclivities . . . and that's going to cost him another rope break. Han digs in first for his reverse STF/Double-Agony-in-Man, as some know it, and then a strange armlock from a slightly modified position of that first hold, and it's just wild what angles he grabs things from (this is not new to you I know). A juji-gatame compels Maeda to grab the ropes again. He is kind of on the run! I think Han has over-committed to a gyaku-ude-garami/double wrist-lock and Maeda could maybe turn through for juji like Matt Hughes against nervous young GSP when he had anxiety but no Maeda attacks the legs with ashi-kansetsu and I must say I disagree with Akira Maeda tactically right now. AHHHHHHHHH I HAVE BEEN A FOOL TO DOUBT HIM as Maeda traps Hans foot in a hiza-tori-garami when Han leaves his "hook" in a little too low and that is all it takes sometimes isn't it and your winner at 18:06 of a very good match is MAEDAAAA AKIRAAAAAAAA as I guess it is pronounced and his young boys carry him piggy back style in the locker room maybe because of his perpetually bad knee but maybe because that is just how he likes to go places. 


June 20, 1994: "Akira Maeda was in the U.S. this past week and came back saying he wanted to bring some American boxers or kick boxers into the RINGS Battle Dimension '94 tournament which starts in September."

June 27, 1994: "Akira Maeda's Rings drew a nearly full house of 9,130 fans to the Tokyo Bay Ariake Coliseum on 6/18 as he defeated Volk Han, generally considered the top foreigner in the promotion, with a leglock submission in 18:06. Maeda's next opponent will be Dirk Leon-Vrij on 7/14 in Osaka and Maeda announced the Battle Dimension '94 tournament will open with first round matches on 9/21 in Osaka and 10/22 in Fukuoka, quarterfinals on 11/19 at the Ariake Coliseum, semifinals on 12/16 in Nagoya and finals on January 25, 1995 at Budokan Hall.

6/18 Tokyo Ariake Coliseum (RINGS - 9,130): Willie Wilhelm b Petkov, Willie Peeters b Shimoff, Yoshihisa Yamamoto b Armilan, Misha b Mitsuya Nagai, Willie Williams b Masayoshi Naruse, Dirk Leon-Vrij b Bitarze Tariel, Akira Maeda b Volk Han"

July 11, 1994: "Rings held a press conference on 7/4 announcing the signing of Tony Halme (Ludvig Borga). Halme was billed as the first pro wrestler to join Rings besides Akira Maeda. His first match will be 8/20 in Yokohama. Halme left the WWF when he broke his ankle, and must have been other problems which led to him not returning other than simply the gimmick wasn't nearly as successful as the spot it was given."

July 18, 1994: "Rings confirmed a show on 8/27 in Russia with Akira Maeda vs. Andre Kopilov, Volk Han vs. Sotir Gotchev and Nikolai Zouev vs. Mitsuya Nagai as the headliners."

Finally, a reader writes, and touches on 6/3/94, Ric Flair, RINGS, Pancrase, UWFi, Tamura, Vader, and Marx (briefly) but lol what a tone here:


Whomever reported to you that the 6/3 Budokan Hall match between Mitsuharu Misawa and Toshiaki Kawada was only a **** match must have only watched the first half of the match. The match aired in two parts. The entrances, ring introductions and first 18:00 aired on 6/4, while the 6/11 show carried the last 18:00 along with a significant amount of post-match coverage. Taken out of context, the first 18:00 of the match was in the **** range. It was smartly worked, as they established the storyline of the match in that the two had faced each other so many times that they "knew" each other's spots. When one wrestler would try their signature spot, the other would counter to block it, and often have the counter countered as well. The spots fit into the recent history of the feud with Misawa working on Kawada's bad knee, while Kawada worked on Misawa's injured upper back. It was all solid, with the highlight being Kawada selling his knee. Misawa juiced from the left inner ear at 7:00 after a series of elbows and kicks. The down side was that All Japan fans have been trained that these important matches always go so long, so they don't start popping big until after they've heard the 15:00 call. Sure enough, the place started popping at 15:00 and shortly thereafter, Misawa hit an elbow smash out of nowhere to elicit the first screaming call of "Kawada down! Kawada turned the tables in short order, with a Fuchi-style dropkick to Misawa's upper back followed by a enzui kneedrop off the second rope. The crowd and announcer were starting to get borderline out of control when the television show ended.

The second show picked up at the Fuchi dropkick, some overlap to bring the match into context. It was one great spot after another. Kawada kept trying for the power bomb while Misawa kept trying for the Tiger driver. The match and crowd built toward what everyone expected to be the finish, with Kawada hitting a dangerous backdrop followed by a power bomb at the 25:00 mark to win the Triple Crown, except Misawa kicked out at two-and-seven-eights in one of the greatest near falls I've ever seen. The pop was unbelievable. Had Misawa been pinned, this would have been a strong match of the year candidate. Instead, they worked another 11:00 of tremendous spots back-and-forth with the crowd and announcer going bonkers the entire time since it constantly looked like it might be the finish. The finish was the same as in all Misawa-Kawada matches, Kawada being knocked out at the end. The method was a new one. Misawa hit a dangerous Tiger driver that looked to be a very risky bump for a wrestler as valuable as Kawada to take. Kawada sold the move for what seemed to be 5:00 after the match, while Misawa was in the ring selling the effects of being in an epic war.

I'll give this match the highest compliment possible. I don't ever recall a Flair-Steamboat match this good. It was so good that even though the "wrong" guy won for the maximum reaction, it was still an all-time classic. The crowd heat was unreal for the last 20:00, while it was the greatest called match I've ever heard. The finish was beyond clean and decisive. All Japan has created an organization and style where a wrestler as over as Kawada can be completely destroyed in a main event, yet gain from it because it was such a good match. The psychology allows the promotion to put on constant perfect World title matches, where there is always a clear cut winner and loser, but the challenger can lose and come out stronger than before. Kawada has been losing these Triple Crown matches since 1989, but he's still over bigger than ever. Let's face it, there isn't a wrestler in the United States anywhere near as over as Kawada. At this point he is a clear cut choice for Wrestler of the year, and he's probably pushed past Kenta Kobashi as the best male worker in the world.

My top ten matches of the year thus far: 1) Misawa & Kobashi vs. Kawada & Taue 12/3/93; 2) Misawa vs. Kawada 6/3; 3) Misawa & Kobashi vs. Kawada & Taue 5/21; 4) Kawada vs. Williams 4/16; 5) Pegasus vs. Sasuke 4/16; 6) Toyota & Yamada vs. Kansai & Ozaki 12/6; 7) Mascarita Sagrada vs. Espectrito 3/12; 8) Michaels vs. Ramon 3/20; 9) Kawada & Omori vs. Kobashi & Asako 2/19; 10) Kawada vs. Williams 3/29.

To paraphrase Karl Marx, Ric Flair is the opiate of hardcores. In the past ten years, there have been many great workers that lost it due to age, apathy or injury. When the likes of Dynamite Kid, Barry Windham, Randy Savage, Riki Choshu, Tatsumi Fujinami, Yoshiaki Yatsu or Keiji Muto started slipping, they were hammered. But for some reason, the same standard hasn't applied to Flair. While admitting that Flair is the reason I became a serious fan, I have to say it's time to shake off the stupor and face reality. None of Flair's big matches this year have been very good, let alone approaching a match of the year. The most overrated was the 4/17 match with Steamboat. The previous night in Tokyo saw some of the best wrestling produced all year. While it would be unrealistic to compare Flair and Steamboat with the Super J Cup matches, to compare it was Kawada vs. Williams Champion Carnival final is more than fair. Kawada vs. Williams had better psychology, contained more advanced moves, it was better executed, more brutal, had better selling, more credibility, had a clean and satisfying finish, drew more heat, had a better storyline and was more emotional and did a better job of making both wrestlers look strong and did a better job of advancing the promotion to the next big match. The reality is Kawada vs. Williams was vastly superior in all the items listed above with execution being the only item even remotely close. Flair-Steamboat had a noticeable lack of heat, a dreadful finish, antiquated maneuvers and a muddled storyline. It was a *** match at best. They shouldn't get bonus stars because they are supposed to have a classic match every time out.

Near the end of 1994, the hottest promotion in the world was Pancrase. It was speculated that the success of real shooting would likely spell the end for worked shooting. While the new group probably accelerated the inevitable drop of Rings, and nobody cared about PWFG to begin with, something strange happened to Pancrase and UWFI. Pancrase appeared to peak after a half-dozen shows and lost its fire. Contrast this with the phenomenal success of UWFI and growth of Takada into a major superstar. I have some thoughts, but am at a loss to identify the key reason.

I think you'll enjoy the Vader-Tamura match. Smartly worked and good heat. Tamura is one of the more underrated workers around. Vader let him look good before beating him. Takada-Albright was similar to their previous matches, or perhaps a notch or two down. Other matches had better give-and-take, but the heat in the last 5:00 of this one may have been better. Takada is over like hell and he knows it.

J0hn W1lliams

Arcadia, California"

That's a lot of opinions! Not all of them expressed pleasantly! But it is very much in the spirit of pleasantness that I thank you for your time and invite you to join me again soon for further RINGS!