Saturday, January 14, 2017


Rings 1994 in Sendai
May 17, 1994 in Sendai, Japan
Miyagi Sports Center drawing 4,856

FRIENDS IT IS UPON US AT LAST IT IS TIME FOR THE TRUE RINGS DEBUT OF DAVID KHAKHALEISHVILI who perhaps you know better as დავით ხახალეიშვილი and who you no doubt know best of all as the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Gold Medalist in judo's +95kg division! He appeared not long ago to make known his judo with a generous and compliant uke but now he is here to make known his judo through competition that is not real but might look real enough to really get us going. Other RINGSists of interest will appear on this card as well, names not altogether unlike Volk Han, Yoshihisa Yamamoto, Dick Vrij, Bitsadze Tariel, and indeed Akira Maeda himself, who you can see below in this amazing poster for ASTRAL STEP 1st: SPIRIT-U:

were we ever so young?
The air of joy and promise that surrounds the fighters' parade quickly turns to one of sombre reflection as Bitsadze Tariel holds a lovely portrait of the then-recently departed (April 26, 1994) Masutatsu Oyama (大山 倍達 Ōyama Masutatsu, born Choi Yeong-eui [Hangul: 최영의 Hanja: 崔永宜]) who I do not need to tell you founded Kyokushin (極真, "Ultimate Truth"), the karate least capable of mercy of all karates yet devised. Akira Maeda (a karateka himself) speaks; the bell is tolled; R.I.P. Masutatu Oyama, portrayed below by his student Sonny Chiba (千葉 真一 Chiba Shin'ichi, born 前田 禎穂, Maeda Sadaho) in 1977's Karate for Life (Japanese: 空手バカ一代, Karate Baka Ichidai "Karate Crazy Life"), the top karate movie ever (top three wrestling, top four judo):

how could there be

I hope it is not insensitive of me to suggest that Mas Oyama would not want us to dwell on his death but instead focus on life, and in particular the style of karate that exhibits the most contempt for it (Kyokushin): we are sure to see no small measure of Ultimate Truth as we proceed this evening BUT NOT YET as our first bout sees Yoshihisa Yamamoto and Sergei Sousserov set to match their waza each against the other and these are not men of the fist but of the supple yieldings of judo, in Yamamoto's instance, and those ways are known to Sousserov as well, aren't they? Yamamoto at once grounds Sousserov and attempts some form of ashi-kansetsu-waza (足関節技) and I must say here that I have resolved to start saying ashi-kansetsu-waza to describe foot and leglocks broadly rather than ashi-gatame as a catch-all and of course in any instance where I am able to be more precise than that I will continue to attempt that but as you know things happen pretty fvkkn fast in this Fighting Network and I don't want to have to keep rewinding things, let us speak frankly. Sousserov's rolling ude-hishigi-juji-gatame is met with Yamamoto's hiza-hishigi-juji-gatame but then right back to Sousserov's ude-hishigi-juji-gatame so already both fighters are doing the right thing according to me. Sousserov has a very nice ippon-seoi-nage (一本背負い投げ), the shoulder(ing) throw one most closely associates with the ways of the Kodokan, and my enjoyment grows with each passing moment. Sousserov just came awfully close with a straght kata-ashi-hishigi single-leg-crush but Yamamoto, who is as good at selling the danger of these holds as anyone in RINGS so far I think probably, grasps the bottom rope. Yamamoto seems to fancy himself something of a striker now, too, and why wouldn't he, as Sousserov has so far been downed twice by his blows, including one sort of execution-style elbow that Volk Han has been up to recently as well (it is probably better when Volk Han does it but that's not even really fair to say). Yamamoto just sold the hekk out of another kata-ashi-hishigi and it really is his gift, that and I guess his ability to go really long against Rickson Gracie which is so weird because nobody was good enough to last with Rickson even a little, I don't get it, he was so far above all other martial artists, how could it be, but such is the poverty of my understanding of things generally. There have been a tonne of escapes! And even a few downs! I think they just announced that Sousserov is on his final down now? (No commentary on this art-show by the way, and I guess they are probably two-thirds this way now, maybe three-quarters.) Yamamoto! Ippon! An ashi-dori-garami we could just as well call a toe-hold that was probably also a hiza-hishigi one might say was a calf-slicer just all tangled up wildly! That was a thoroughly enjoyable opening match (and it went over thirteen minutes so there was plenty of it). 

YOUR TIME IS UP, DAVID KHAKHALEISHVILI'S TIME IS NOW; you can't see him, his time is now. To the extent to which you can see him, here he is emerging out of the red corner's locker room (I like the sign a lot):

such a roster

Khakhaleishvili is set to face Mikhail Simov, with whom no one's problem could ever rightly be, but I, perhaps on behalf of the people broadly, demand the swift, uncompromising, and righteous triumph of Georgian judo. David Khakhaleishvili wins or we riot (by "we" I mean those on the couch, chiefly me and, until she gets startled by the riot, my cat). Simov dons boxing gloves as Khakhaleishvili looks on amused as the crowd goes like HWUUUHHH; you will perhaps recall that the crowd was totally into Khakhaleishvili when he was first announced a couple shows ago and then also when he demo'd sikk waza before them? Form of URA-NAGE (裏投) from yeah that's right David Khakhaleishvili and then ANOTHER FORM OF URA-NAGE (裏投) from yep David Khakhaleishvili again and this is the way things should be forever. Oh no he got punched in the chest and he is down! No more of that! Simov, shook at the prospect of further ura-nage, and understandably so, clasps the ropes whenever Khakhaleishvili gets close to a waist-lock. Hiza-juji-gatame! Judo knee-bar! A rope escape is forced! Man that is one shit-ass yoko-sankaku-jime, though. Oh wait he has done another one right after, and it was actually totally good, so Khakhaleishvili must have felt bad about the first one. The referee cautions him, I think maybe for endangering Simov's neck on the roll? It did look pretty ghastly for a second there. A third and yes final yoko-sankaku-jime (side-triangle-choke) at 5:49 secures yet another triumph in judo's long history of them and I don't want to overstate this but THE DAVID KHAKHALEISHVILI ERA HAS BEGUN.      

Dick Vrij against Masayuki Naruse? Won't this just be a murder? Okay yes it was totally that, although Naruse did keep standing up after he was hit and so it took 5:16 and had the Sendai crowd chanting NA RU SE NA RU SE for at least a little bit but on the whole this felt like shoot-style Fedor vs. Nagata. Poor, sweet Nagata. (Let us acknowledge of course that Nagata achieved his 0-2 record against fighters with a combined record of 71-15-2 [2] in that they were Fedor Emilianenko and Mirko Cro Cop, and that he remains a delightful part of NJPW to this very day.) 

Volk Han and Mitsuya Nagai! In a rematch of their improbably classic 4/23/93 bout in Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium (横浜文化体育館 Yokohama Bunka Taiikukan), host to Tokyo 1964's volleyball competition! I don't know if anybody else feels this way but my hopes for this one are enormously high. Yuji Shimada is ready and so am I let's see let's seeeeeee. Nagai lands some decent high kicks early but before you know it Volk Han is working an Iatskevitch-style rolling juji-gatame nearly to completion, what a truly great waza (why not drill it like this). As soon they are stood up and restarted off the rope break, it is time for the flying kani-basami (蟹挟) crab-scissors with which Han so enjoys to set up his sundry ashi-kansetsu (or maybe it gives him no true pleasure, who can say). Another Iatskevich roll! Sometimes you see it spelled Yaskevich but the legit (or shoot) spelling appears to be Aleksandrs Jackēvičs and we're all just trying to get through the day. Han puts Nagai down with a super aggressive gyaku-ude-garami/reverse-arm-entanglement/double-wrist-lock/Kimura and just steps right over into juji-gatame and it looks so rough-- like, the technique itself is smooth enough in its application, please do not mistake me, but it is at the same just savage and borderline reckless. But these are the young shoulders of Nagai and not the dry old bones of I don't know let's say me, so he will probably be okay. A fine match draws to a standing hadake-jime(naked-strangle)'d close at 9:03 and there is no question that this did not rise to the level of their first contest but that was perhaps unfair of me to even bring up. 

Bitsadze Tariel and Hanse (there is an "e" here) Nyman (R.I.P.) face each other in a series of rounds, a format that I remain pretty much against, I think, in that it is worse than thirty-minutes straight-time usually. One anticipates, of course, no end of kicking. I guess it is because of the presence of Hans Nijman and his as-yet-unsolved murder (too many Volkswagen Golfs to really get a handle on it all, I get it), it occurs to me that while what we are watching and discussing together is professional wrestling (don't tell Maeda we think that or he will kick our eyes) from more than twenty years ago, pretty much everybody here is still very much alive, right? That would not at all be the case were one to watch WWF shows from the same period, perhaps as part of say a vast Royal Rumbling endeavour (I don't know, who can say). But then again very few of these RINGSists are in any real way professional wrestlers but instead true (in some case trØø) martial artists of the highest calibre (please do not kick my eye Akira Maeda) and that is a deeply different scene. OR IS IT yes it is. This match starts slowly (despite the kicking) for the first couple rounds but the intensity (of kicking) slowly builds (through kicking) to the point where the (kick-enthusiast) crowd is pretty engaged in this contest (of kicking) between these two non-Japanese (of kicking). Seriously you can count on one hand the number of techniques in this match that have not been kicking (punching). Bitsadze Tariel continues to wear gi-pants and his black belt but no jacket and also he continues to be bigger than pretty much all other humans you see him with or near. Nyman up at nine! HWOOOOOOAAAAHHHH is the crowd's eager reply. This seems like an awful lot of rounds at this point and I am not entirely sure what is happening as lore-wise elders convene in the middle of the ring to determine how to proceed I guess? It is a six-round draw and the crowd hates it! 

Willy Williams is back! Holy shit I love this guy. He tells us about how karate keeps him in shape, and that he continues to study karate under his sensei but also teaches karate himself; his sensei helps him with karate suited specifically to the demands and strictures of RINGS but also with timeless unchanged traditional karate as well; he feels that wrestling around for submissions is getting better for him but that Akira Maeda, who he notes is also of karate, is much his better in this regard and indeed a master of it. Every time Willy Williams says karate he says it with the same love and regard and precision he displays for that same art in the expression of his waza. Do you think if we asked he would do kata for us to see? A judo student of mine who is also a jiujiteiro has told me of one of his fellow jiujiteiros who also holds dan-rank in Shotokan; sometimes, it is said, if you ask nicely he will do some kata and everybody is just like my god because formal kata is of course largely unknown to the jiujiteiro and I don't know I have always liked this story. MA E DA MA E DA we are underway and Maeda has returned to long tights, I don't get it (they are black and silver and very nice). WILLY WILLIAMS ATTEMPTS MULTIPLE LEAPING KICKS as this match begins as tremendously as any could hope. In the chaos that inevitably follows leaping kicks, Williams grabs a mae-hadaka-jime front choke to force a rope break, good for him. The next rope escape is charged as Williams wants no part of ude-hishigi-juji-gatame and surely he is blameless in that. It seems he was very right to fear that vaunted hold as Meada has just now finished with it a moment later and that was really short, 2:38. I liked it, though! There can be no doubt that in those one hundred and fifty-eight seconds Willy Williams well and truly got his shit in, and what more can we ask of anyone or anything.   


May 9, 1994: "The lawsuit by Yuko Miyato on Akira Maeda was settled this past week when Maeda made a public apology to Miyato, saying he was very sorry for his threats in an interview. Maeda also announced that Rings has booked a card in Russia on 8/27 and in Holland in early 1995."

May 16, 1994: "Now that Pancrase tapes have made their way into North America, the big question the tapes ask is whether the matches are genuine shoots or the tightest, most realistic works ever seen in the modern era of pro wrestling. Upon casual viewing, the matches look like they could be shoots and there are less holes in the style than UWFI or Rings. There are spots where there are openings look to be not taken advantage of, but that is the case in "real" boxing and martial arts matches as well. The main events, that involved Wayne Shamrock on the first two shows did have spots where it looked as though Shamrock could have put his opponent away but held back, but Shamrock also used subtle maneuvers you wouldn't think guys would do in a working situation. Anyway, after talking with one of the top pro-style wrestlers who has a combat sports background and has also seen the tapes, his opinion was most of the matches were 90% real but the main events were closer to 60%, citing there would be more serious injuries in shooting events with kicking and kneeing the face and submissions being legal."

from Onita vs. Tenryu, touching passingly on Maeda and Wilhelm and also Shota Chochishvili, about whom I will probably say lots sometime:

"It was the fifth show that Tenryu had been in the main event of that drew in excess of 50,000 fans. This ties him with only Hulk Hogan as having been in the main event of that many shows that have drawn more than 50,000 fans. Tenryu's other four were singles matches against Antonio Inoki (Tokyo Dome '94) and Riki Choshu (Tokyo Dome '93) and tag matches with Choshu against Inoki and Tatsumi Fujinami (Fukuoka Dome '93) and with Tiger Mask (Mitsuharu Misawa) against Choshu and George Takano (Tokyo Dome '90). That statistic is amazing only because most of the greatest drawing cards in the history of wrestling (Buddy Rogers, Gorgeous George, Jim Londos, Strangler Lewis, Dusty Rhodes, Bruiser Brody, Ray Stevens, Freddie Blassie, Giant Baba, Dick the Bruiser, Verne Gagne, The Crusher, Nobuhiko Takada and Bruno Sammartino) don't have even one crowd of 50,000 to their credit and a few hardly legendary names who do (Willie Wilhelm and Shota Chochyashivili, who headlined Tokyo Dome shows against Akira Maeda and Inoki respectively). Besides Tenryu and Hogan, only Choshu (four), Inoki (four), Fujinami (three), Lou Thesz (two) and Ultimate Warrior (two) have more than one to their credit. But those figures say something that isn't the truth. Tenryu is a famous wrestler and in an interpromotional "dream match" situation has a great track record, but on his own he is not the kind of a draw that a Hogan or an Inoki or a Choshu or many others were or is."

May 30, 1994: "As a concession to the success of Pancrase, Akira Maeda on his 5/17 Rings show defeated Willie Williams via submission in just 2:38. Pancrase has made the short main events viable because fans believe true shoots can end quickly and don't feel ripped off by them whereas years ago that would be a major disappointment. David Haharachivili from Gruziya, who captured the gold medal in judo in the Barcelona Olympics, made his debut on the show beating Mikhail Shimoff. Haharachivili is something of a name in Japan because he defeated a Japanese judoka [YEAH FVKKN NAOYA OGAWA--ed.] to win the gold. Maeda has singles matches against Volk Han on 6/18 at the Ariake Coliseum and 7/14 against Dirk Leon-Vrij in Osaka. The annual Battle Dimension tournament starts on 9/21 in Osaka.

5/17 Sendai (RINGS - 4,856): Yoshihisa Yamamoto b Andrei Suselov, David Haharachivili b Mikhail Shimoff, Dirk Leon-Vrij b Masayoshi Naruse, Volk Han b Mitsuya Nagai, Bitarze Tariel d Hans Nyman, Akira Maeda b Willie Williams"

It is of interest, is it not, that Meltzer sees Maeda's quick win in the main event(o) as a concession to the rise of Pancrase! There is much to consider there I think. Let us do so and also agree to reconvene shortly for further RINGS as I now thank you once again for your attention and for your time.  

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