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!

No comments:

Post a Comment