Monday, February 27, 2017


'94 Fighting Network RINGS Tournament: Finals
January 25, 1995 in Toyko, Japan
Budokan Hall drawing 13,526

VOLK HAN WITH LONGER HAIR IS HOW I IMAGINE GRENDEL'S MOTHER HELLO EVERYONE AND WELCOME TO 1995 what a year I am sure it will prove to be but before we can truly enter into its offerings we must first bring to a close those matters of 1994 that linger still and foremost amongst those matters surely is the question of the '94 FIGHTING NETWORK RINGS TOURNAMENT and who shall be named its champion. Can there be any doubt that the place where we are assembled is the Nippon Budokan (日本武道館 Nippon Budōkan), constructed for the express purpose of making as sikk as possible the judo of the 1964 Olympic games (and it totally worked)? I think we would be fools to question it.  

Our tournament finalists are the two true finalists of these first RINGS years, Akira Maeda and Volk Han, our third-place bout a contest between young Yoshihisa Yamamoto, bested twice in recent weeks by Maeda, and the always-somewhat-frightening Hans Nijman (R.I.P. I will never so much as get in a VW Golf out of respect). I would say with no slight intended towards any of the esteeemed competitors already mentioned that my interest in our opening match perhaps exceeds my anticipation for any of these tournament bouts proper and that is because it sees the workmanlike Kyokushin (極真 Ultimate Truth) karate fighter Wataru Sakata, trained to græppz by no less a man than Animal Hamaguchi, enter the Budokan ring to face Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, our favourite and the best. Before any of that can happen, though, a true parade of fighters the likes of which we have not been shown in full for seemingly quite some time must unfold before us; formalities must be observed. There is much to draw the eye here, perhaps nothing more so than the involvement of 1992 Olympic judo gold medalist/1996 Olympic judo guy who went to the wrong place for the weigh-ins David Khakhaleishvili (დავით ხახალეიშვილი) who kind of surprisingly has not yet been beaten by Akira Maeda (this seems inevitable, but at the same time we must remember that Maeda loses strategically and well, so you can never really be sure). A moment of silence is held in tribute to the thousands of victims of the Great Hanshin earthquake (阪神・淡路大震災 Hanshin Awaji daishinsai) eight days before, Akira Maeda supplicated in prayer. And so we begin on a solemn and sombre note.  

As the rules are explained to the Budokan crowd I discern the word hansoku-make, defeat by grave infringement or accumulated light penalties or guidances, and I reflect for a moment on how I don't think I was myself ever struck down by hansoku-make, though I have won by its ways on no less than two occasions (once because a perfectly nice and later completely contrite guy forgot himself for a moment and attempted a kubi-hishigi neck crank of the can-opener variety to remove himself from do-osae and I tapped immediately because my neck, in those days, was of shit; the other time was for reasons I will not revisit here, but he knows what he did). No time for that now though as Tsuyoshi Kohsaka has arrived, and he has his shoot-style face on (it's just his regular face . . . or is it):

Kohsaka's trunks and gear remain orchid, Sakata's a vibrant yellow AND HERE WE GO it is a strong clinching kosoto-gake (minor outer hook) for Kohsaka to begin the night's waza and oh my goodness a lovely uchi-mata (inner thigh) follows not long thereafter and this is already superb as Kohsaka settles heavily into the chest-hold of mune-gatame and I notice that whilst his trunks and shoes and knee-pads are orchid, the kick-pad portion of his gear is already the black we will in time come to expect of him. A rope break returns us to tachi-wazi (standing technique) . . . but for how long? Not long, it seems, as Sakata's back is taken after an exchange of strikes and so it is to ne-waza we return. Tate-shiho-gatame, the top-four-corner-hold! Kata-gatame, the shoulder hold! It is a feast of gatame in this the early going and I for one suspect it will persist. Rope breaks work their work but so too does Kohsaka and so it is with juji-gatame that he proceeds (until another rope break). When Kohsaka hit his uchi-mata a few moments ago, the first thing that occurred to me was but he is a harai-goshi guy but what TK has just demonstrated is that we should not let these categories bind our thoughts for is it all not in the waza? The only thing saving Wataru Sakata from yet more judo right now is a cut over Kohsaka's left eye to which the doctor briefly attends (R.I.P. Left Eye). Sakata has a way of coming in for things where TK just flattens him right out and works the back, pressuring the back and hips before forcing in a hook. HOOKS HOOKS everyone at judo tournament has yelled at everyone else at judo tournaments during the transition (so crucial, so fleeting) to ne waza and I yell it in my heart now. A lot of modern attacks against the turtle (kame) do not rely on hooks, but instead quicker controls of the hip performed by pinching with the knees! I may never grow accustomed to them! Neil Adams showed them at a seminar here that I did not attend but my foremost græpplepal did and he has done much to impress these techniques upon me in the years since but it is a struggle, I have to admit. Mais où sont les corkscrew-hook-entries d'antan? In truth they have gone nowhere and this is not a fair question.

TK has been struck to the mat in the corner but I don't take it very seriously, nor do I think you should, because by the time I am telling you he is already on top again, just grinding Sakata out. Kohsaka is big and heavy, 100kg for sure (the [genre leading] ring announcer probably said how many kilogramuuuuuuu earlier but I missed it, forgive me), and he just leans in (having read the book of that title). THERE's that harai-goshi (sweeping hip), I knew it was in there somewhere. Interestingly (I hope you will agree), as cleanly as Kohsaka hits harai-goshi in the worked-era of RINGS, I don't think there is a single instance of it as clean as the one he hits against Randy Couture in what I suppose we might as well call the King of Kings (shoot) era of RINGS. This seems counter-intuitive, but at the same time rings (RINGS) true, in that a truly clean throw in competition is often cleaner than the same throw in uchi-komi (practice, let's say) because you catch it with uke (your partner)'s weight coming into you with an earnestness that is difficult to match without the impetus of the true shoot behind his actions. This is a complex field of inquiry but I think we are getting somewhere and should revisit this again in the future. 

Standing, Kohsaka has begun to fire in low kicks that the Budokan crowd is fairly into. Sakata has a bad habit of turning his back after coming in firing and then I guess just kind of missing a clinch, and TK unloads a leg kick as Sakata spins through in this odd way one time, and the crowd seemed to like that one extra. We are again in the chest-hold of mune-gatame (the Kodokan does not recognize it as distinct from the side-four-corner-hold of yoko-shiho-gatame but the position became very much its own thing when Anton Geesink began pinning the hekk out of people with it in the 1960s if not before). As TK moves between positions and to the back and to his hook and to his hadaka-jime (naked strangle) attempt too-near the ropes, the people are applauding at every move, like, "my goodness this ne-waza," and if that is how they are, imagined, if you will, how I am. Did you know that Kano argued that whilst Kodokan Judo should remain for all time principally a throwing art, it should nevertheless always maintain within it room for the ne-waza specialist to make known his/her métier? What a good idea! How timely then that Kohsaka has just now finished with a mae-hadaka-jime bordering on a kubi-hishig (which is to pretty much say a guillotine, but from that gross, charging Isao Okano okuri/loop-choke position; see that here, read more in Okano's Vital Judo: Grappling Techniques here, see how jacked he is standing next to Willem Ruska here). TK TRIUMPHANT (when he wins shoots he never celebrates to the extent he celebrates when he wins a work; please consider this):

The match went 21:56 but I wished it would last a whole day so it felt short. Daisuke Ikeda, amongst others, enters the ring to console and attend to the fallen.

Next we have even more judo if you can believe it and I mean that in terms of sheer mass if nothing else because it is time for David Khakhaleishvili (დავით ხახალეიშვილი)! Longtime readers will perhaps recall that I have never really cared for the work of Herman Renting, so let us prepare to not like it together. Khakhaleishvili is looking big and strong and Georgian and Volk Han is leaning on the top rope in his corner like the coolest of customers and it's quite a scene:  

He is welcomed warmly, as is Herman Renting, who we have not seen in kind of a while, I think. My hope for this contest is sudden judo devastation befitting the oeuvre of John Wick or even, dare I utter this dream aloud, John Wick: Chapter 2. The opening minute gives us a big fat yoko-otoshi (side drop, or lateral drop, if that is helpful) and oooooh noooooo Khakhaleishvili has been convincingly kicked in the head! He is down! He's back up before the referee's count of ten but that looked tremendous, and as much as we should credit Khakhaleishvili for falling over in a true dead-tree drop (kuchiki taoshi, 朽木倒), even the hardest-hearted amongst us in this regard (me) must credit Renting with a completely ideally placed kick that looked like a murder but plainly was not; that may actually have been the best single kick thrown in RINGS so far. One must give the devil his due! 

Don't worry, though, Khakhaleishvili flattens him out, attacks with a yoko-sankaku roll (the judo-wise crowd admires this, and I number myself amongst them) and finishes with a mae-hadaka-jime in the north/south-choke fashion of anarcho-communist mental-health-professional/family counselor/græppler Jeff Monson (interesting guy). 

The gloves are being tied on for a kickboxing bout between "Dirty" Bob Schrijber and Aldinov Roussimov (relation to André yet to be determined), whom we have previously seen against Pieter Oele; I don't know that it was great. I don't know that this is, either! Dirty Bob has a skull or a squid or something in the dikk area of his trunks, so that's good. He has shoot head-butted buddy in the head and I am pretty sure that is not allowed (it is not, there's the yellow card). This Dirty Bob is irrepressible! Also he wins by knockout at 2:46 of the second round. I don't think this was for real but I have been wrong about tonnes of stuff.

Masayuki Naurse versus Sotir Gotchev is a promising match to me! Gotchev has a nice green jacket but Naruse comes out in a sleeveless hoodie like Kazuo Misaki (more on GRABAKA soon; next time, let us say) that says RINGS on the front and STRONG'S NARUSE on the back and Daisuke Ikeda is with him so the choice here is in my view not that hard.  

This is a RINGS FINALS so vast that it cannot be contained on a single disc but is instead split over two of them; I change them now, and reflect on how this recording no doubt began on a VHS set to a lower quality than it might otherwise have been (barring grievous error, I recorded literally everything on SLP because, while my mother would always get me a new tape at the Sobey's when one ran out, I wasn't going to push at that too hard). These guys, these Sotir Gotchev and Masayuki Naruse guys, are doing so great. Naruse, thrown and mune-gatame'd (chest-held), has been compelled ropeward by Gotchev's ude-garami (arm entanglement); at present, it is the arm-crushing-crossmark-hold of ude-hisigi-juji-gatame 腕挫十字固 that most threatens. Naruse's go-to choke is a kind hadaka-jime (naked strangle) that most closely resembles the "Bulldog choke" of the noble and true Carlos Newton vs. Pat Miletich (Carlos Newton, venerable Newmarket Ontarian of græppling, was, I am told, a fixture at the local and regional judo tournaments of the 90s but my time in Ontario came later so I do not know this but I believe and respect it; also I read a thing once where Newton argued that to his mind and in his experience judo is the ideal self-defense martial art [this is possible, but I am a man of peace and would not know]). How many juji-gatames have been rope-broken so far in this fine contest that now sees Sotir Gotchev throw with a rolling hikikomi-gaeshi of the kind that they give most shootists in Fire Pro A for your little Gameboy that looks like an old Nintendo? I cannot rightly say, but each one has brought me pleasure. SHOOT(style) STEPOVER-TOE-HOLD-FACELOCK Sotir Gotchev is your winner at 14:59 of another good one!

A Naruse match now behind us, it can only be time for Mitsuya Nagai. His foe this day shall be Mark Ashford aka Mark Starr, an English guy who was not a martial artist of any kind but instead a straight-ahead professional wrestler and so it will not surprise you to learn that he died of a heart attack in Brandon, Florida at the age of fifty (R.I.P. Mark Ashford). It is wild how much better the haircuts of Japanese wrestlers were compared to wrestlers working in the United States in the mid-90s; there is a slightly floppy timelessness to many of the Japanese cuts (others wear it very close, also fine) whereas American wrestlers (Ashford was functionally one) seem mired still in utterly debased versions of Jaromir Jagr's near-ideal vision. To Mark Ashford's credit he attempts a dogi-less sode-guruma-jime (the Ezequiel choke of Ezequiel Paraguassu) but Mitsuya Nagai, a man of wiles, evades that danger, and, now standing, kicks Ashford super hard. The best moment yet in this fine little match comes when Nagai attacks with the ude-garami arm-entanglement from the scarf hold of kesa-gatame whose name some (understandably) shorten to . . . kesa-garami (scarf-entanglement, like in that Ondaatje novel where a lady's scarf got caught in the wheel of her convertible and she was strangled? or did it maybe turn out to be a snake around her neck? it was something [don't tell me I will figure it out]). Nagai has kicked Mark Ashford a number of times about the chest but Ashford pro-wrestling sells them like blows to the head (it looks astonishingly fake on the replays, I wonder if this guy will be back) and Mitsuya Nagai wins the day at 8:11. 

A battle of döødz of enormity now beckons as Dick Vrij, loved still by the RINGS faithful, faces Tony Halme (R.I.P.) whose work thus far has been, let us speak openly, quite shitty. This match is in truth no exception but it there is some comfort to be found in its brevity (a mere 2:55) and in the extent to which Dick Vrij emerges the victor (this extent is total). 

TO THE '94 FIGHTING NETWORK RINGS TOURNAMENT BOUTS THEMSELVES THEN and it is notable I think that that is the title that this tournament seems to have chosen for itself and yet Meltzer calls it "Battle Dimension '94" and the esteemed and vital site "Mega Battle Tournament '94"; I don't get it. NEVERTHELESS we have in this our third-place bout Yoshihisa Yamamoto and Hans Nijman as it occurs to me that three dead guys on one card is surely a RINGS record. In the fullness of time of course, these shows will be filled with dead guys, but such is the way of things. Yamamoto has added a lovely headband to his ensemble, look:

Yamamoto is a sensible man and so he attempts takedowns at once against the far hittier Hans Nijman but oh no he has been clobbered to the mat already. And it is in fact Nijman who throws with the headlock-takeover of kubi-nage (neck throw)! I did not see that coming! Yamamoto gets the best of the slick ne waza exchange the follows, coming close to finishing, seemingly, with juji-gatame. After a rope break and a restandening, Nijman kicks Yamamoto to the head and, ultimately, the mat; it does not look too good for Yamamoto here at all despite me liking him more. And there's another one, that's three knockdowns already and we are only a couple of minutes in aaaaaand here come the leg kicks and knockdown number four. FINAL DOOOOWN we are told and Yamamoto who has a little something called heart is filled with righteous fire and puts Nijman down with strikes and then also with takedowns but with a worried crowd shrieking behind him Yamamoto falls to a hail of punches and of course slaps giving Nijman third place at 6:49 but it offers him little warmth against the cold of the grave. That was a sprint! 

AND NOW FOR FINALS and what more could we ask of them than Akira Maeda vs. Volk Han as the Budokan crowd chants MA-E-DA MA-E-DA even more lustily than we are used to hearing crowds do. As this is the august final of an august tournament it is meet and right that a red-sports-coated dignitary whose name I do not know say a few words before it, and it is no less fitting that the national anthems of both competitors be played as though this were an international hockey game of fighting (perhaps it is). (This utterly insignificant mention of hockey reminds of a recent Bryan & Vinny Show in which Bret Hart pulling a guy's shirt up over his head and then punching him on an old Nitro was described by Alvarez as "shoot-style hockey fighting" if I am remembering that right and it seemed to me enormously true when he said it [or words to its effect {and affect}].) THE BELL RINGS and the slap fighting is vicious before Maeda attempts uchi-mata (good for him) and both men fall to the mat, their legs in a hideous tangle as Han attempts first his reverse-STF/Double Agony in Man and then a rolling hiza-hishigi calf slicer and after a bunch of things like this Maeda flees to the holt-eves of the rope. Han is driven to the mat by Maeda's ancestrally-Kyokushin strikes but seizes upon a standing gyaku-ude-garami/reverse-arm- entanglement/double-wrist-lock/Kimura when next he stands; Maeda attempts ouchi-gari (major inner reap) before succeeding with the flying crab-scissors of kani-basami and much like me the commentator yells KANI-BASAMIIIIIIIII when he sees it. KATA-ASHI-HISHIGI THOUGH which is to say a single-leg Boston crab though and Maeda is in trouble! At least until he turns about and hooks a heel, so things look up for the instant before Han sinks his own double-heel-hook (everybody stop, no good can come of any of this). Only recently I heard about a foot-lock that can break bones in the foot en route to pressuring the knee (I do not remember the name of this hold, forgive me) and when my pal told me about it I was like well why doesn't everyone just grab a knife out of their bag and start stabbing and he really didn't agree with me at all about that (it's ok). Ah we soon learn that it is not only Akira Maeda but also Volk Han who is capable of kani-basami (we knew this already) and also that Volk Han's juji-gatame is a fearsome juji-gatame (also known); Maeda makes the ropes with the merest toe but his arm hangs weirdly as he stands (man Maeda is good at this, in which "this" is convincing people, often Japanese ones, of how hurt he is from pretend fighting that seems more like real fighting than other kinds of pretend fighting). Volk Han attacking the turtle (kame) position really couldn't look any different from Kohsaka earlier, an air of leggy lightness surrounds his every (sikk) movement. The kansetsu (bone-locking) attempts are coming fast and furious now! Juji-gatame from Maeda! A baffling hiza-hishigi from Han! An even weirder hiza-juji knee-bar from Maeda as the crowd shrieks! He turns it into a kata-ashi-hishigi but Han hooks the hiza-hishigi slicer again AND THAT IS IT VOLK HAN IS YOUR CHAMPION WHOM KHAKHALEISVILI HOISTS HEAVENWARD:

WHAT A GREAT SHOW! For real it may have been the best one yet! 


February 6, 1995: "Other Japan Notes: Biggest show of the past week was 1/25 at Budokan Hall where Rings completed its "Battle Dimension '94" tournament which Volk Han beating Akira Maeda in the finals in 14:19 with a kneelock before 13,526 fans. We had several reports from the show saying the card was great and the main event was excellent (within the Rings limitations of everything having to be believable).[WHAT THE FVKK -- ed.] The turnout was a great boost to Rings which had seemed to lack fire and interest over the past year with Maeda's popularity going down but this showed in the right situation he still has major drawing power. I believe it was the largest crowd for a Rings show in more than two years. In the third place match, Hans Nyman defeated Yoshihisa Yamamoto. Two American pro wrestlers were on the show, Tony Halme (WWF's Ludvig Borga) lost to Dick Leon-Vrij via knockout in 8:11 and even got a bloody nose in the process to set up what will probably be a feud between the two foreign "boxers" and WCW prelim wrestler Mark Starr worked as Mark Ashford, losing to Mitsuya Nagai.

Pancrase ran 1/26 in Nagoya drawing a sellout 3,679 for a triple feature as Wayne Shamrock beat Leon Dyke with an achilles tendon submission, Bas Rutten defeated No. 1 contender Manabu Yamada in 1:05 and Masakatsu Funaki reversed an earlier loss beating Jason DiLucia in 9:08 with the achilles heel submission. Next show is 3/10 in Yokohama with Shamrock defending their version of the world heavyweight title against Rutten. Renco Pardoel returns on that show. Pancrase prelim wrestler Vernon "Tiger" White entered the Japan Open karate tournament on 1/22 but lost all three of his matches.

UWFI announced its complete card for 2/18 at Tokyo Bay NK Hall with Nobuhiko Takada vs. Kazuo Yamazaki, Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Masahito Kakihara, Naoki Sano vs. Jean Lydick, Yuko Miyato vs. Billy Scott as the top bouts. They're leaving both Vader (because of this date's proximity to the Baltimore PPV) and Gary Albright off the show because they are running a 7,000 seat arena. The 4/9 show originally scheduled for Kobe was moved to Nagoya Rainbow Hall and they'll need a loaded line-up because Nagoya has always been the weakest of the major cities for this style."

"Results: 1/25 Tokyo Budokan Hall (RINGS - 13,526): Tsuyoshi Kosaka b Wataru Sakata, David Hahareshivili b Herman Renting, Bob Schreiber b Aruzini Lusinoff, Sotir Gotchev b Masayoshi Naruse, Mitsuya Nagai b Mark Ashford (Mark Starr), Dick Leon-Vrij b Tony Halme, Hans Nyman b Yoshihisa Yamamoto, Battle Dimension '94 tournament final: Volk Han b Akira Maeda"     


"The biggest promotional feud in Japan right now doesn't appear to be among the various different offices but among the country's two largest wrestling magazines, Weekly Pro Wrestling and Weekly Gong. Weekly Pro is working on a 4/2 Tokyo Dome show (reportedly as of the weekend they had already sold 15,000 tickets priced from $30 to $300 with no matches announced) which is slated to include approximately 11 different promotions. This past week, WAR pulled out of the Dome show and with help from Gong, is planning on going head-to-head with them that same day at Korakuen Hall, which is next door to the Dome for what they are billing as a Fan Appreciation Night. They are looking to bring in major U.S. independent wrestlers but the pickings are slim since WWF has Wrestlemania and if WCW or ECW is involved, it no doubt would be for the Dome. Expect a war of words in the mags to heat up over the next few weeks over the competing shows.

At present, it has been announced that Rings, UWFI, Pancrase, PWFG, All Japan women, JWP, LLPW, Michinoku Pro, FMW, New Japan and IWA will be part of the Dome show. It is largely believed that All Japan will be part of the show as well although that isn't official and in doing so would break All Japan's isolationist policy. It is believed All Japan is willing to do the show if it's match is the main event, but New Japan also wants that status. Both WCW and ECW have been contacted about sending wrestlers to the show but negotiations weren't finalized as of press time. I strongly suspect ECW will be part of the show in either one or two matches. There were ideas of doing a Randy Savage vs. Sabu or Terry Funk vs. Sabu interpromotional match although politics would probably make the former impossible and the latter very difficult. Since each group is supposed to come up with its own match, it's going to be interesting because each group is going to want to have the best match on the show. It's believed that the top All Japan draws like Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi and New Japan draws like Shinya Hashimoto and Keiji Muto won't be on the show, but that Atsushi Onita and Akira Maeda would be the big names as drawing cards."

February 13, 1995: "Rings, which already did a monster house last year in Russia, does its second international show on 2/19 in Amsterdam, Holland with Akira Maeda vs. Chris Dolman, Dick Leon-Vrij vs. Mitsuya Nagai and Hans Nyman vs. Andrei Kopilov."

February 20, 1995: "The latest on the Weekly Pro Wrestling show on 4/2 at the Tokyo Dome is that they've abandoned the idea of having foreign promotions as part of the show. Originally both ECW and WCW were contacted, but the promoters decided after getting 13 different Japanese promotions to agree to participate that anything else would be added unnecessary expense that won't sell any additional tickets and from a time frame would be overkill. Because all the promotions are going to want to be the one to steal the spotlight, it is believed most matches will be 15-20 minutes in length and with ceremonies, intermissions and other festivities, they don't want the thing to turn into a marathon like the All Japan women's show in November.

Approximately 18,000 tickets have been sold for the show even though none of the matches have been announced. Although not announced, both Atsushi Onita (in an electrified barbed wire match) and Akira Maeda will do singles matches that are expected to be the top drawing matches on the show. Groups involved are New Japan, All Japan (not 100% confirmed at press time but expected), Rings (Maeda singles match), UWFI, Pancrase, PWFG, All Japan women (a tag match involving its top four workers), JWP, LLPW, FMW (Onita gimmick match), Michinoku Pro (typical six-man Lucha Libre main event with Great Sasuke, Super Delfin, etc.), Go Gundan and IWA (six-man tag match featuring Terry Funk)."

OKAY THAT IS IT FROM THIS PARTICULARLY GREAT SHOW OF RINGS and I thank you once more for your attention and your time.

Friday, February 24, 2017


Battle Shot at Niigata Vol. 2
December 24, 1994 in Niigata, Japan
City Gym drawing 2,548


WELCOME ONCE AGAIN TO NIIGATA ITS FLOWER IS THE TULIP ITS TREE THE WILLOW ITS BIRD THE SWAN and we are here as before for (the) BATTLE SHOT which occurs between the semi-finals and finals of the annual RINGS tournaments that sometimes bear different names but reveal to us always the same truths. I like it! Think of it, I think, as akin to the low-key Korakuen Experiment shows that no longer seem a part of anything (some experiments fail [like Wallace Stevens says our blood will {well I guess he asks if it will (but it is a leading question)}]). 

KAZUO TACHI and KAZUNORI HASE are our new friends today and I think what I am finding out about Kazuo Tachi is that he is a Japanese full-contact Tae Kwan Do fighter? That's not exactly what I would have expected anyone to be. Hase, if I am not mistaken, is a Kyokushin guy; I judge this from his short-sleeved uwagi, his severe hairstyle, and just his energy, man. He removes the uwagi but maintains his zubon which is to say he opts for pants. Not a whole lot happening here, I can tell you in all honesty, as we enter now round three in this (shoot) tepid (worked? yes I think worked) kickboxing bout. I suppose they must be in round five by now? We'll find out soon enough, I'm sure. Yes ok after five rounds it is Kazunori Hase who takes the decision OH MY GOD HE BROUGHT NUNCHAKU FOR AFTER AND HE IS DOING THINGS WITH THEM TO CELEBRATE and you will believe me I hope when I tell you that business just picked up. Interestingly, if you go to the wikipedia entry for nunchaku it says 'nunchaku (Japanese: ヌンチャク Hepburn: nunchaku, often "nunchuks",[1] "chainsticks",[2] "chuka sticks"[3] or "karate sticks"[4] in English)'  lol karate sticks. Also: "On Americas Funniest Home Videos. Various painfully erroneous uses of the nunchaku can be seen in nearly every episode aired."

I have much higher hopes (for the match, not for karate sticks) as Takeshi Ono and Wataru Sakata, eager young stylists, make their ways to the ring. Ono is coming in super lean and a little weird looking, good for him:

He is of Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Group (Purofesshonaru-resuringu Fujiwara-Gumi, プロフェッショナルレスリング藤原組) and this is, like, radically to his credit, and so I support him as he adventures himself against the much larger and quite mean Wataru Sakata, who, if you can believe it, is wearing almost the same colour trunks and pads (this is very much to his credit, so none of this is easy). This is so much more like it, and immediately so, as they are græppling in just the right sorts of ways rather than fighting in completely the wrong kind of ways (not græppling enough) like our new friends earlier. GIIIIIIIVE UP? the great Yuji Shimada asks of a squished and half-choked Takeshi Ono just before he rolls out of trouble; this is all good. After the break, and a little visit with his corner (I think because of blood), Ono shoots in low for a morote-gari (双手刈 two-hand reap) but Sakata, who one must note once more is way bigger, just kind of pushes him over like *boop* and it's a little funny, a little sad. Heeeeeyyyyy Ono kind of slammed him down just now to a nice little cheer from the crowd which is good but the movement itself looked pretty fake so that's not great. I like his rolling hiza-juji-gatame knee bar a lot better! Sakata's juji-gatame is looking sharp and yeah in fact that is the finish to this nice little match at 11:28. There is much bowing and handshaking and everyone is very pleased with how everything has gone. 

TSUYOSHI KOHSAKA vs. DAISUKE IKEDA is precisely what I am here for and I hope it is not arrogant of me to assume perhaps also what you are here for too? If I have mistaken you please forgive me but I am pretty charged up right now. I watched a number of Hidehiko Yoshida videos last weekend, some instructional, some television documentary, some judo shiai, and also some kakutogi and let me tell you I liked seeing TK alongside (a likely high or soon to be) Kazuhiro Nakamura in Yoshida's corner, just three judo pals out there getting it done . . . together. In none of those instances, though, was Kohsaka attired quite like this:

You will recall that in his first (and until now only) RINGS appearance, a fifth round KO win over Nobuhiro Tsurumaki in Yokohama in August, Kohsaka attacked with a ne waza (寝技) verisimilitude we had not before seen, a crispness of execution and yet a solidity and just grinding heaviness that felt vastly more real than what anyone else had yet managed. It is, and I think will be proven to remain, unique amongst his græpplecontemporaries: this isn't Volk Han's admirably weird rolling kansetsu (bonelocking) ingenuity, or the yet-to-come hyper-real transitional fluidity of Kiyoshi Tamura, an elf-king clad in living flowers; Kohsaka's work is in a straightforward sense truer (meant not as a judgement of merit but a statement of fact) than either of those things. Which of these three essentially unassailable approaches and bodies of work (Kohsaka, Tamura, Han) most appeals to you is a question of individual sensibility and taste (level), and there are no bad choices to be had amongst these three finest RINGS stylists of this or any age (there is just the one age so it's easy), but if we are going to properly begin to theorize the gradations between them -- the gradual change between hues, tones, and shades -- it is at least worth considering, I think, the specificity of Tsuyoshi Kohsaka's achievement: not just an obviously credible and high-level (highest-level) shoot-style, but within that, a particular heavy shoot-style, a strong shoot-style, a Kodokan shoot-style? I don't know. When we note that the only aspect of his waza that appears in any way "light" or fanciful -- the signature TK Scissors under whose banner we here assemble -- surely ranks amongst his most proven in straight shoot contexts (although as TOM has rightly asked, what is a "shoot?"), be it pitted against the early Lumax Cup wiles of Egan Inoue, the recent sheer enormity of BARUTO, or any number of contests in between (one thinks of Randy Couture, particularly), is this paradox? Or dialectic? When RINGS moves to nothing but shoots, Han's style and Tamura's style both change, because they need to; Kohsaka's doesn't, because it doesn't; please consider this. We are in pretty deep right now and let me tell you I am relieved that we are merely at the end of 1994 with years and years to go because we need time to work all of this out. 

THAT TIME IS PERHAPS NOT EXACTLY NOW as we are underway and as we theorize into abstraction let us not loose sight of the specificity of what lies before us in this moment in that this is Tsuyoshi Kohsaka vs Daisuke Ikeda which is a great idea and let's see what happens. In the first instance, kicking. Then: a TK rampage of palm strikes to the head and hard knees to the body; when Ikeda, who is less busy, gets his own palm strikes in, though, they are savage. Ikeda's attempt at a morote-gari/two-hand-reap/double-leg sees him sumi-gaeshi/corner-reversal'd right over, and TK takes the back heeeeaaavily (this is already so good). Rather than rush to place his hooks, TK grinds Ikeda down with pressure low on the hips and a monkey-grip control inside Ikeda's right arm. He attempts an arm-lever turn-out as though to attack either with yoko-sankaku-jime (side triangle choke, the most common one in judo; it is called an inverted triangle in jiu-jitsu and mixed fight where it is rarer) or to just whip him over with gyaku-ude-garami like Masahiko Kimura seemed to like. It is entirely possible and even I guess I would say probable that a big part of why Kohsaka's style connects with me so thoroughly is that it is the one I best understand, and I say this with all humility with regard to the feebleness of my own understanding of all things, obviously, but it's not just that Kohsaka ends up in positions I have learned to end up in, it's that his approach to getting there is the precise approach I have spent thousands of hours myself approaching, right down to the merest and seemingly least significant grip (it's not though). An ashi-kansetsu (leg-bonelocking) exchange leads us to a rope break and we are back on our feet. Both Kohsaka and Ikeda have basically ideal shoot-style physiques, I will note to you as Ikeda shoots low for morote-gari only to be stuffed and have his back taken again, even to the point of a TK hadaka-jime (naked strangle) attempt, rolled out of but into tate-shiho-gatame (top-four-corners hold). Rope break, back up, another low dive at the legs from Ikeda, and this time Kohsaka hooks the arm with his legs in the mode of the ude-hishigi-ashi-gatame (arm-crushing-leg-hold) that can lead to this finish if you are Yamashita or to the hell strangle of jigoku-jime for the rest of us. Yuji Shimada is doing some of his best GIIIIIIIIIIVE UP? work here and his persistence in that question calls to mind the news of a new Fire Pro Wrestling does it not? (I am not about to re-enter the world of getting video game systems but I wish everyone all the best with this; I am sure it will be super fun for them!) Ikeda's rolling leg-lock attempt is squished as Kohsaka flattens him out and attacks first with ude-garami (arm entanglement) and then juji-gatame (why not keep the ude-garami/double wrist grip for it? There is literally no reason not too! Oh wait it's on the near-side arm, forgive me) but we end in a tangle in the ropes; another Ikeda low rolling entry leads to yet more flattening, and this time to an ude-garami straightened to ude-gatame extremes and finally, at 8:17 . . . to completion:

That was brilliant and I loved it, and now we have the débuting Vassili Chvaia against the stout and stalwart Masauki Naruse, and let me tell you, these men are here to græpple (this is to their credit). Chvaia likes throws and leg locks! Can you believe it? Masayuki Naruse continues to be low-key tremendous with how hard he works towards the arm-triangle choke of kata-gatame (shoulder hold), switching his hips (koshi-kiri, Koji Komuro calls it in the excellent book you can get him to mail you from Tokyo and he signs all of them, "hip cutting") through to kesa-gatame (scarf hold) position whilst maintaining that first grip and just heeeeeaving back (that is a bad place to be, underneath all that). HEEEEY Chvaia finishes with a totally text-book old-school flat ude-gatame of a kind that you don't see that often but which a(n excellent) student of mine who announces submission events called (by that correct name, which probably helped no one but which put a song in my heart) very recently: 

A fine début for Chvaia!

Because Masayuki Naruse has already competed, it falls upon Mitsuya Nagai to take to the ring against Volk Han. You will no doubt recall that an earlier contest between these two proved to be an early and improbable classic of the genre? Nagai comes out boldly, and Han retreats for but an instant before a step-over wrist-lock into juji-gatame and then it is just an insane tangle of ashi-kansetsu and who could even hope to know what all is in play or how any of it could have led back to juji-gatame as it did just now to both my confusion and my delight. And now dueling heel hooks! Remember when people's legs were getting so shredded by heel hooks in Pancrase that the good people of Pancrase were like ok hold on let's re-evaluate here? Just this week I was told that a judo player from one province over (whose waza I have much admired), a perennial nationals competitor, who in recent years participated with much success in the local and regional submission græppling scene, had his knee just utterly ruined by a heel hook gone awry in the finals of something or other, and pretty much all the things that can come apart in a knee did, and that's probably it for him. It's dark. Consider, by contrast, juji-gatame, such as that applied by Volk Han (again) against Mitsuya Nagai: what is the worst case scenario from that hold? Basically no problem, see you in a month or so. It's different, and better. HUIZINGA ROLL HUIZINGA ROLL HUIZINGA ROLL or as it is sometimes called the reverse omoplata but in my experience even the least judo-wise are calling what Volk Han just hit the Huizinga Roll and if you would like to learn it for yourself, why not watch the great European and Olympic champion Mark Huizinga teach it himself in Saskatchewan? Please note the position of the left arm, it is crucial! Han is all over this eager young Nagai, I don't even need to tell you, but Nagai is no one's fool, especially not as regards rolling entries into hiza-juji-gatame like the one he is doing at the very moment we come together. Nagai's waki-gatame (armpit-hold/Fujiwara armbar) is welcomed by the people of Niigata but it is otherwise fruitless; his juji-gatame is very much the same. And now striking, in the interest of rising action! Han entangles another impossibility of legs and Nagai is quickly running out of escapes; I think Han is in slightly better shape in that regard and also as regards the utterly punishing full-nelson kubi-hishigi (neck crush) that has ended this fine bout at 15:15. The post-fight highlights remind us that Volk Han hit both a hammer-lock suplex and a true leg-reaping ashi-garami like in the Kodokan's katame-no-kata (forms of græppling)! 

Somewhat weirdly, our BATTLE SHOT AT NIIGATA VOL. 2 main event is Akira Maeda vs. Yoshihisa Yamamoto for the second time in like eight days. Clearly I support this no less than I support Akira Meada saying "hiza-juji" (knee-crossmark) in his pre-fight pre-taped interview (in both cases, lots), but it is I think notable and, again, kind of weird? Expectations (mine) are extremely high for this contest as their previous encounter proved absolutely riveting (to me) in every respect (that I care about [the græppling]). WE ARE UNDERWAY and seconds in Maeda has battered Yamamoto to the canvas, what is this, where are the græpples. Ok they in fact appear very soon after I complained, and Maeda forces Yamamoto down and to the ropes for an escape in like eight seconds so Yamamoto is way behind already. After the restart we soon have Yamamoto with the advantage in ne waza over the turtling (kame) Maeda and while there is not much "happening" happening, lone voices absolutely shriek YAMAMOTOOOOOO and MAEDAAAAAAAA and there is just an intensity to it all that is working. Yamamoto's hiza-juji roll is squished (this is happening more and more to hiza-juji entries, which is a significant change in my view) but he is doing well! Wait on he isn't, he needed to burn another rope break on a Maeda gyaku-ude-garami from the bottom with a leg trapped in niju-garami (nice work, Maeda!). This is way, way more low-key than the Nagoya match but I like it. Juji-gatame! Kata-guruma! Ashi-gatame! These are but a small handful of the waza here performed and also venerated. Maeda is looking pretty non-chalant about the hiza-juji Yamamoto is working but grabs a rope as though he merely wearies of Yamamoto's folly. A knockdown! Yamamoto is catching up! I am very sure Maeda just punched Yamamoto in the face with a closed fist (that's not allowed) but Yuji Shimada knows the score and lets it go. I will freely admit that one thing I am looking forward to as we transition to straight shoots over the course of our RINGS-time together is a drop-off in the 50/50 leg-lock position. I am very much in favour of exciting leg-locks, please do not mistake me! But sometimes these guys are like "lemme just . . . lemme just take a sec here" and like three times out of five the place they want to do that is 50/50. This is a minor point, not a major one, but we have time for both kinds because of the discursive nature of this endeavour that we share. YIIIIIIKES at 11:44 Maeda catches Yamamoto's kick and twists him to the ground to apply the ashi-kansetsu (leg-bonelocking) we know best as ashi-garami (leg-entanglement) and the speed and seeming lack of care with which he did has locked my own old bones. Good match! Not as good as their tournament bout but a suitable main event to a nice little card!        

January 16, 1995: This BATTLE SHOT AT NIIGATA seems to go entirely without mention, so far as I can tell, but Maeda's name comes up again and again in Dave's pretty interesting assessment of where exactly UFC stands as it enters 1995:

"The momentum UFC takes into 1995 makes its growth one of the biggest, if not the biggest, story to watch as it involves this industry.

Within wrestling I've gathered there are different schools of thought in regard to UFC. One school of thought are those who believe the current lows in TV ratings and attendance can be traced to the lack of seriousness, intensity and believability of the product, believe as UFC gets more popular, pro wrestling will suffer because the style looks more serious and it will expose what "real" fighting looks like to the public. In addition, it is something new at a time pro wrestling seems to be in a desperate search for something new but only succeeding in poor attempts to recreate the past.

Another school of thought is that UFC is a fad that will either quickly die out due to a lack of sustained interest or through governmental regulations banning the events. Yet a third school of thought is the totally oblivious school pretending it isn't there, although considering Titan's actions in taking one of its new characters as a direct rip-off, and WCW's in at one point attempting to get one of its wrestlers entered in UFC, shows neither group is really ignorant of what is going on here. And since they also know the buy rates, they have to be concerned.

One of the advantages of following wrestling worldwide, and in particular, wrestling in Japan, is that in most, but not all cases, if you follow Japan, you see what the trends are and problems that will face wrestling in the United States five to ten years earlier than it hits the United States. This is a perfect case in point.

Although there are several differences, some of which are major, a lot of this situation is similar to 1988-89 Japan and the incredible success of the old UWF. For those who weren't following the scene at that time, in 1987, Akira Maeda, who was one of the top stars with New Japan, was suspended for taking a cheapshot in a match, and rather than take the punishment, got backers and pulled several of his proteges and friends from New Japan and reformed the second UWF, a more realistic looking but still with predetermined finishes form of pro wrestling. The original UWF (1984-85) had a cult following in Tokyo with a stronger stiffer style of work although because the public wasn't quite ready for what they were doing and a lack of television to sell the public on it, the group couldn't draw well outside Tokyo and a lot of fans really didn't understand what they were seeing because it looked so different from the pro wrestling they were used to. After the first UWF folded, Maeda and several others (including today's hot draw Nobuhiko Takada) joined New Japan and with their style being exposed on network prime time television each week, the casual audience started understanding that their kneelocks, armbars, chicken wings, achilles tendon holds, half crabs and short arm scissors were finishing submission maneuvers. By just being there and being top stars within New Japan, it also put these so-called realistic maneuverings into the style of the New Japan wrestlers and has since become part of Japanese style across all promotions since all the younger wrestlers of today grew up watching it on television in 1986-87.

When Maeda formed the second UWF in 1988, this time the public was on the same page and ready. UWF was the hottest promotion in the world for a few years, climaxing by selling out a Tokyo Dome show (60,000 tickets sold in three days) in record time for a show on November 29, 1989. Eventually the organization disintegrated due to major front office problems, and splintered into different groups that have today evolved into Maeda's Rings, which still draws well but has totally lost its fire [HOW DARE YOU--ed.], Takada's UWFI, which is the most popular right now, and Pancrase, which is actually the most realistic looking and seems to have a significant cult following since it drew more than 11,000 fans two consecutive nights at Tokyo Sumo Hall three weeks ago.

Of the three successors to the original UWF, Pancrase, which is the most extreme when it comes to a realistic looking style, is the closest to UFC and there have been a number of athletes cross-over from one to the other, most notable of which is Shamrock.

If wrestling people have reason to be concerned about UFC, and they should at least be concerned, martial arts businessmen need to be positively scared to death. UFC exposes what is done in pro wrestling as a work. Big deal. Everyone knew that to begin with. But it also exposes karate and tae kwon do in street fighting situations. This exposes exactly what their businesses are being built around to not be the case. Because of that, within the martial arts world, there are numerous people who hate the Gracies for purely business reasons and some for personal reasons as well. They would love to be able to say UFC's, which are the very public affirmation of the Gracie style being superior to better known and more lucrative martial arts businesses, have predetermined endings and that Royce Gracie's victories are frauds.

In a sense, that's a gigantic difference between UFC and a UWF derivative in Japan. But from a wrestling fan and business perspective, it isn't as big a difference since it appears most fans in Japan believe in Pancrase and the lures of a UWFI or a Pancrase at least enough to believe in the drama of the deadly submission holds and UFC is identical in regard to both its drawing mystique and its effect on what we'd call traditional pro wrestling.

When UWF got hot, and even in the 1984-85 period when it only had a cult following, there were many in the traditional pro wrestling world who thought it was the worst thing to happen to pro wrestling. UWF wrestlers openly said what they did was real and that pro wrestling was fake, and they were all ex- (and as it turned out future) pro wrestling stars. And while that in many ways made them the biggest hypocrites of all, the fact is, traditional pro wrestling in Japan is still more than alive and well. And UWF style pro wrestling is also both more than alive and well. Both styles co-exist, sometimes peacefully, sometimes not. In fact, by introducing more realism and submissions and getting the style over to the public, it allowed All Japan and New Japan to do more realistic looking matches that fans would pop for because they were more educated. In a sense, instead of exposing or hampering pro wrestling, they enhanced it and paved the way for the current boom in attendance which is directly due to a more serious and more athletic-like ring style and finishes.

Switch six years later to the United States. There are very key differences. UFC has no television, let alone weekly network prime time like Maeda was on with New Japan to get new submission moves over. There are no famous wrestlers, and certainly no Maeda's, that had name recognition going in to pro wrestling fans, as the top drawing card for UFC. With predetermined endings, Maeda could book himself as the ultimate fighter which was great since he had name recognition and great popularity going in, was a good athlete, and was Japanese. Royce Gracie had no real name recognition outside some small circles of martial arts one year ago, and most importantly in a country that is still more drawn to size, power and nationalism, Gracie, no matter who he beats and how often, will never be huge, will never look imposing and will never be accepted as an American. UWF never was a shoot, except perhaps in occasional undercard matches. American pro wrestling was much farther from realism than Japanese style to begin with so adapting more realistic moves that get over in another form to enhance the style will look even more foreign. Most importantly, pro wrestling isn't as popular right now to begin with, although in 1988, the period when UWF changed the Japanese scene, pro wrestling was considered in a lull when it came to popularity. The reason UFC caught on in the United States while UWFI didn't in the United States is not the real vs. fake issue, but somewhat better marketing and more because when Americans think of a fight, they think of the punch and martial arts, largely because of movies and the popularity of boxing. So even though UFC's have downplayed punches to not be as important as wrestling and submissions, by seeing the punches and having bare-knuckle punches and martial arts kicks legal, that is the primary violent draw. The Japanese on the other hand, don't think of a punch. They think of wrestling, martial arts and submission moves, because of pro wrestling's popularity for years on television and martial arts movies. UWFI, which doesn't include punches to the head, is tailored to the Japanese mentality. The punch to the head is still the most over move in a UFC to fans. The open hand blows to the head hurt the excitement to an American fan at home who has seen boxing his entire life, whereas to someone in Japan, that's not a factor.

So that's the difference between Japan 1988 and United States 1995. The similarities are more obvious. Pro wrestling at a lull. The important matches have unrealistic and predictable screw-job finishes. A new group, that if not real, certainly looks real enough or more real than anything seen before, gains exposure and catches fire. UFC hasn't caught fire like UWF did seven years ago, but it was starting from absolute zero whereas UWF started with built-in popularity based on the names of Maeda, Takada, Fujiwara and others. But on PPV it already rivals the two major groups and has more momentum than either. UFC could also burn out as a fad, be banned by this time next year, or lose its edge because of the expected plethora of worked imitators that will surely spring up based on its success.

There is also both AAA and ECW to consider as far as shaping the future of wrestling. Both are limited in potential for obvious reasons but that isn't saying they couldn't either or both be successful. The key is exposure and worrying about strengths and weaknesses of the products as arguments really means nothing until the groups first get the necessary exposure to allow them to compete on a major scale. Japan already has its own group with an AAA type modern-day Lucha Libre combined with Japanese style, Michinoku Pro, that has a cult following promoting in small towns in rural Northeastern Japan. It has made enough of an impact this past year that its top wrestler was named Wrestler of the year by Weekly Pro last week. Most of the signs are that the group may be artistically successful, it is not financially successful, although it is far more successful than its U.S. regional counterpart SMW. It has several ECW's, the two most prominent being FMW, which is exceedingly successful, and IWA which shows signs of some popularity. Although AAA has far more potential as has already been shown as an ethnic draw with eventual crossover, it doesn't appear to have the organization either here or in Mexico that is going to make it happen. It came off a PPV with great momentum and has largely squandered it. ECW's future depends on first getting exposure strong enough to run PPV off it, then being successful on PPV. Without those two steps, they may gain a lot of notoriety among some fans, but they really won't be a factor as major players in 1995.

End result of history. Traditional pro wrestling five years after the UWF exploded was more successful than ever before in Japan. UWF style was also successful. But it wasn't that simple as just ignoring the new fad, doing your the same thing you've always done, being patient, and prospering.

In fact, All Japan and New Japan, the big two, made their own product more realistic. All Japan, the most conservative company in the world, reacted strongly to the change in the business. They dropped blading completely and eliminated all screw-job finishes. They focused more of the work on submissions and very stiff work, while maintaining some of the high-flying spots. The elimination of the screw-jobs is probably the biggest change from the traditional DQ and double count out finishes in the top matches of years past, and the one that should be most credited to the increase in attendance, although they also gained a reputation as having the best main event matches in the world which didn't hurt as far as drawing fans to the arenas. What UWF, in giving people either knockouts or submission finishes every time out did, is make fans no longer accept anything but a clean ending. All Japan's matches weren't made realistic like a UWFI style, but were more realistic than any pro wrestling style in years. While its popularity increased greatly at live events, there is a downside to this as well. While this style seems to attract fans to buildings, what happened at the other end was similar to 1987 New Japan. Maeda in key matches was a big ticket seller, but since his matches were unspectacular to the casual fan, TV ratings dropped and eventually New Japan lost prime time, although judging from how New Japan's business went since that time, it's far better off the way it is now. All Japan also saw a ratings drop, although most feel that was due to having the same matches over-and-over, which is also a negative byproduct of what they were doing. The stronger the style, the harder it is to find wrestlers who can be put on top and execute the style. A weak athletic style, like a WWF style, can be done by nearly anyone with a little bit of experience in the ring and a nice looking costume. Anyone but a top worker in All Japan immediately stands out like a sore thumb. Ted DiBiase, when he went back, was a top worker and stood out like a sore thumb which showed just how difficult the style really had become. Eventually they were moved to an horrendous time slot, and the combination of the same talent and same matches and weak television did take an edge off All Japan this year although not in Tokyo where it has sold out every event for years.

While New Japan didn't go quite as far as All Japan when it comes to all clean finishes (although I can only recall out of more than 100 house shows, four matches that didn't have clean finishes all year) and total elimination of the blade, they largely followed suit. They even took sports realism one step farther, to eliminating the so-called traditional ladder of success in Japan. Instead of focusing on one wrestler and having rigid positioning of talent, they had a system where any of the top wrestlers could beat any other and upsets happened frequently. The top matches were intriguing because the fans knew there would be a pin at the end, and also didn't know for certain who would win or what move they'd win with.

My feeling is that WWF will be the most adaptive to change in 1995. It has to be. Unlike in WCW, the money WWF loses comes right out of Vince McMahon's pocket book, so money losses aren't just fun and games to him as they are with the people running WCW. He's obviously very serious about his bottom line and it must also be a precarious bottom line these days as exemplified by no revenge and no major raids in the other direction. It will be very difficult for a WWF so weaned on never doing finishes where top babyfaces lose clean, to break from the pattern. It'll be even more difficult to fans weaned on never seeing their heroes lose clean to accept those changes if they are made. All the rumors of WWF going to a Japanese like system in 1995 with more parity on type and clean finishes means that top faces are going to have to do jobs or the system won't work. But for a Japanese system to work means WWF would have to greatly improve its house show workrate and quality of its crew overall. The United States as it stands now doesn't have the grassroots system of Japan or Mexico when it comes to creating new stars and giving them the necessary fundamental background. Instead, as WCW showed with Alex Wright and Jean Paul Levesque on the last PPV, promotions are so desperate to create new stars that they are pushing people well before they are ready and it shows on the big cards. WCW won't change in 1995. Hogan is in charge. Hogan only knows 1980s American style. Ric Flair only knows it as well. In the Hogan 1980s American world, the top faces is superman and not athlete and he doesn't lose clean. The top heel never wins clean. Where's the heat if the heel wins without cheating? Only problem is in 1994, no company with that attitude made a profit."

OK GOOD! Thank you for your time and attention and let us reconvene soon for '94 FIGHTING NETWORK RINGS TOURNAMENT FINALS. 

Friday, February 17, 2017


'94 Fighting Network RINGS Tournament: Semi-Finals
December 16, 1994 in Nagoya, Japan
Aichi Gym drawing 7,128

WHERE DOES VOLK HAN KEEP HIS WAZA (技) WHEN HE IS NOT USING IT does he hide it beneath the pillow he dreams on I don't know but I am pretty sure that he is a '94 Fighting Network RINGS Tournament semi-finalist (if I understand the brackets?) and will face (again I hope this is right?) Hans Nyman who continues to frighten me whilst Akira Maeda will have set before him young Yoshihisa Yamamoto upon whom it is impossible not to dream. I did not mean to say the word "dream" twice already and worry that the impact of each utterance of it has been more than halved but there is time for neither visions nor revisions at the moment because Wataru Sakata has just utterly wrecked the arm of Minoru Tanaka of (Purofesshonaru-resuringu Fujiwara-Gumi, プロフェッショナルレスリング藤原組) with an ude-hishigi-juji-gatame (腕挫十字固) in a bout that I have got to conclude was either a straight shoot or a work of just extreme commitment or possibly a feat of lighting and misdirection that my mother would call "camera tricks" to explain away the horrors that would unfold before my eyes in the television and film of the 1980s: 

That one only took forty-nine seconds! Sportsmanship (and possibly even budo) abounds in the way these two approach one another in the aftermath of what they have græpplewrought and in addition to this Sakata did a back flip and somehow it did not seem gratuitous. 

A kickboxing match, which is to say a match I have a very hard time caring about even a little if I may speak perfectly frankly with you now, is to be contested between Alben Belisnki and Jan Lomulder. I wish both men well but almost as much as that I wish there could be even the the slightest possibility of the throwing techniques we shall call nage-waza (投げ技) and the græppling techniques known to us as katame-waza (固技) (commonly and quite sensibly called ne-waza 寝技 but come on man standing locks are not 寝, let's be serious) in the bout they are about to do. To the credit of both men, I guess, they are absolutely beating the shit out of each other in a grim reminder that this is a bad idea for a sport that we should reject at once and instead reflect on Mercy. Alben Belisnki is your winner, in a limited sense, by TKO at 1:11 of the sixth round; my god, though.

Holy moly look at Willie Peeters' new look, and do not be shy because there is enough of it to go around:

This is a radical departure from the neon-accented and/or stripey singlets of his past! I am not at all convinced this is good for him. Pieter Oele is his foe this night, a man whose work I cannot imagine any of us have particularly enjoyed at any point in his pretty lengthy RINGS run, but he has just been yoko otoshi (side drop) suplexed to the mat by yeah you guessed it Willie Peeters. He's done it again! Good for him; I hope Willie Peeters puts it all together, or I guess puts it all back together, as he really was ahead of the game in the earliest RINGS shows but the world seems to have passed him by (who among us). His juji-gatame attempt here is a credit to him and to his teachers. Oele, as you can no doubt imagine, would prefer to kickbox; certainly he would favour it over being launched over Peeters' hip in something on the koshi-guruma (hip wheel)/kubi-nage (neck throw) spectrum, but that's not gonna save him, man. I think this is the best Willie Peeters match in a while, and the best Pieter Oele one, too? I am happy for them both. OH SHIT HARAI GOSHI FROM PIETER OELE THAT IS A HIP SWEEP that I did not at all anticipate, this match is pretty good! Willie Peeters for some reason has moved onto what Nick Diaz has famously called "spinning shit" and it does not suit him (Peeters); he is being brutalized with leg kicks for his trouble. Leg kick TKO at 13:04! Even in a worked context that must stink, because you still need to eat a tonne of kicks to your dumb legs!

MASAYUKI NARUSE vs MITSUYA NAGAI for neither the first time nor I suspect the last is very much the sort of match-up one (me) hopes to see when one (me) ventures into one's (my) RINGS box and settles in on one's (again my) couch. These guys are awesome and they demonstrate as much at once with nice smooth double-leg takedowns (morote-gari, no longer a scoring technique in IJF judo but invaluable as transitional ne waza and I thank the IJF for their recent clarification on this point at the recent IJF Referee & Coach's Seminar in Baku, streamed on Youtube for many, many hours and then disseminated to my students who were at once interested [in the information] and thankful [that they did not have to watch any of its many hours themselves]). ASHI-GARAMI ASHI-GARAMI HIZA-JUJI HIZA-JUJI GIIIIIIIIVE UP are the sounds this match makes alongside its heavy breathings and boot-canvasings and I am under its spell, indeed its ġealdor ([Old English], song, incantation; enchantment, spell, divination; charm; magic; sorcery; sound). As is this crowd: they are main-event(o)-into this essentially perfect mid-card bout contested between two lean young trunkists whose style is so deeply shoot that it fills one not only with admiration for its beauty but also with a Romantic sense of the inherent sadness of that beauty in that all beauty is, in its position at a single point in a cycle inseparable from Nature's broader order, fleeting and especially this kind of beauty because no one works this style anymore because everyone is cowards (æsthetically). Ah ha, yes, a seemingly sure-fire hadaka-jime (裸絞 naked strangle) countered by the hiza-tori-garami (knee-taking-entanglement) of a careless leg to force the strangler to the refuge of the ropes; let us note that particular kaeshi-waza (counter technique) and anticipate its return in one of the less-famous-but-no-less-essential Kiyoshi Tamura/Tsuyoshi Koshaka encounters that we should get to in just a couple months (blog time, not the primary-world's time of history). Woah have there ever been a lot of rope escapes! I have not kept up with all of them for you here but that is not the precise nature of what I offer here. IPPON ZEOI from Masayuki Naruse, but Mitsuya Nagai rides it out and this time finishes his hadaka-jime for the win! This is the so much like the finish of a match between two of my finest students at a tournament we all went to I guess four or maybe now almost five years ago (and at which I actually competed, despite my absurdly advanced age even then, and I lost and then won and then lost after nearly winning [I really should have held on]; I felt this all to be extremely true as judgement, and have not competed since and may never again, realistically) and I note this because unlike in some other græppling sports (actually just one), in judo when people from the same club or team meet in a tournament they just have a match, because it is a sport, and that's what you do ("have matches") in those ("sports") in my view, you don't refuse to compete and instead decide between you who the victor should be and then just say. I will say no more on the matter but you know who you are and you know both what you've done and what you continue to do. Let us also note that Naruse went for the hiza-tori-garami that saved him from Nagai's previous hadaka-jime, but this time it wasn't there; that's outstanding. Naruse either feigned going all the way out or went "shoot" all the way out in service to his art on that choke and I would believe either without reservation.

A BATTLE OF BITSADZES as Tariel (our favourite one) takes on Ameran (he's fine). Not a whole lot here aside from the sheer number of Bitsadzes, a pretty low-key karate affair that Tariel takes by knockout at 5:13.

Volk Han and Hans Nyman/Nijman get what I believe are the first full ring entrances on this show; such is their stature and hard-won rank. Immediate kata-guruma (shoulder wheel) from Volk Han, like literally immediate, and Hans Nijman is down a rope escape to a double-leg-lock only seconds in. I would suggest Hans Nijman get used to it maybe! A standing gyaku-ude-garami (reverse arm entanglement) is straightened to the point of ude-hishigi-ude-gatame (arm-crushing-arm-hold) for a rope escape and then the exact same thing happens seemingly an instant later. You would think Nijman would be on the run at this point but rather than being that he has instead punched Volk Han insanely hard in the guts for a knockdown. This is good! Han fails an ura nage (rear throw, but you know what an ura nage is without me saying, please forgive my pedantry) but don't worry he goes low from the clinch for a kuchiki taoshi (朽木倒, dead tree drop), another technique that will earn you naught but shido (guidance) in tachi-waza under current IJF rules and yet holds its place in the transition to ne waza and so in modern shiai and of course certainly in judo's broader economy aaaaaand it is the straight-Achilles-hold of kata-ashi-hishigi that wins the day for VOLK HAN who is now a '94 Fighting Network RINGS Tournament finalist! 

But who will he face in those finals, will it be MAEADAAAAA AKIRAAAAAAA or YAMAMOTOOOOO YOSHIIIIHIIIIISSAAAAAAA as I believe they are pronounced; I say that we should watch and find out. Yamamoto has raised (risen?) the level of his robegame significantly for this:

As well he should: tournament semi-final main events against Akira Maeda are rare gifts to be savoured. His trunks and pads are of that same glorious hue, too, look:

It would be unreasonable not to love him. He comes out palm-swinging! The crowd hwwwoooaaaahhhhs at his audacity. Maeda returns fire and these two are just pounding each other with these open hands until Maeda drags Yamamoto to the mat and attacks with a heel hook, cruelest of ashi-kansetsu (leg-bonelocking). A rope break later and they are back on their feet absolutely creaming each other with kicks and slaps. Maeda now on top on the ground in do-osae, Yamamoto in the hikikomi (pulling) position; I love this. Maeda's ude-garami (arm entanglement) drives Yamamoto to the ropes; Yamamoto's heel hook does likewise to Maeda, but the difference is the crowd goes nuts for Yamamoto's hold. And for his knockdown! They are seriously behind this young lion formerly of high-school judo and currently of Fighting Network RINGS! They are giving us the Frye/Takayama of shoot-style slaps against the ropes and Maeda is down again and YES KATA-GURUMA-SUTEMI NOT UNLIKE CANADIAN OLYMPIC SILVER MEDALIST NICOLAS GILL WHOSE ONLY LOSS THAT DAY CAME TO THE FOREVER-CHAMPION KOSEI INOUE IN PERHAPS THE GREATEST UCHI-MATA WE HAVE KNOWN BUT ENOUGH OF THAT FOR NOW THERE IS A WAKI-GATAME THE FUJIWARA ARMBAR (another former judo player, Fujiwara) and the crowd cannot believe any of this and neither can I! Ah ok Mead is going to finish with a hiza-juji-gatame knee-bar and that I can believe. No he made the ropes! Yamamotooooooo! He has also escaped a standing mae-hadaka-jime front choke! And Maeda is backed into a corner! Ah but Maeda is wily, drops low, attacks again with ude-garami, drives his young foe to the ropes. YAMAMOTO IS KICKING MAEADA'S HEAD HIS VERY HEAD but it is Maeda who drives Yamamoto to the mat with a knee (or hiza) and he answers the count at nine but an instant later Maeda is atop him with juji-gatame and this is riveting, I have no idea how this is going to go, such is the power of its art that I believe not just in possibilities but in possibility itself. KATA-ASHI-HISHIGI AKIRA MAEDA IPPON 9:47 hooooooly shit what a match


December 26, 1994: "Akira Maeda beat Yoshihisa Yamamoto and Volk Han beat Hans Nyman in the semifinals of Rings' Battle Dimension '94 tournament on 12/16 in Nagoya before 7,128. As expected, this sets up Maeda vs. Han for the championship on 1/25 at Tokyo Budokan Hall."

"12/16 Nagoya (Rings - 7,128): Wakaru Sakata b Minoru Tanaka, Belinsky b Grom Zaza, Peter Ura b Willie Peeters, Mitsuya Nagai b Masayoshi Naruse, Bitarze Tariel b Amilan, Battle Dimension '94 tournament semifinals: Volk Han b Hans Nyman, Akira Maeda b Yoshihisa Yamamoto"

"Tickets for Atsushi Onita's retirement match on 5/5 go on sale next week. The surprise is they are priced from $100 down to $10 bottom which is a very low bottom for a major Japanese show. Rings has also dropped its bottom price from $30 to $10."

"Lots of negotiating going on regarding the Weekly Pro Wrestling magazine promotion on 4/2 at the Tokyo Dome. There are the inherent political problems of trying to get all the groups to work on one show. Nobody knows now how All Japan, which has been an isolationist promotion since the Wrestling Summit show in 1990 with WWF and New Japan, will decide since there is talk they won't cooperate or that if they do, they'll only send a prelim match rather than the headline six man tag. Rings, which already has heat with the magazine, won't be involved. Word is both UWFI and Pancrase would agree but only if there are no womens matches on the show as both groups don't believe women have any place in pro wrestling. However, both AJW and JWP were the first to accept the invitation and will be a major part of the show. FMW, which gets a lot of coverage from Tokyo Sports and Gong, the newsstand rival of Weekly Pro, is being pressured from the outside not to send its biggest grudge match and also send a prelim match. Most likely Michinoku Pro and New Japan are going to agree to send the top guys to the show." MAGAZINE HEAT.

Not directly RINGS related but Maeda's name brought it to me and, indeed, to us: 

"New Japan also announced its main event for the 1/4 Tokyo Dome show. As mentioned last week, the original plan was for a martial arts match with Antonio Inoki vs. Kimo, however Kimo and his manager Joe Son decided against doing business and apparently didn't understand what pro wrestling was all about. The K-1 martial arts promotion offered Bronko Shikatec (sp?) to New Japan, who was its champion last year, to fill the spot but Shikatec later that night announced he was retiring. New Japan has gone to a four-man tournament, with Sting vs. kick boxer Tony Palmora, who as the storyline goes, is being sent by "Monster Man" Eddie Everett, who had a famous mixed match with Inoki in the late 70s, for revenge; the other side of the bracket is Inoki vs. Gerard Gordeau, the Savate and martial arts champ from Holland who was a finalist in UFC I and also had a famous mixed match in 1989 against Akira Maeda. No doubt this leads to Inoki vs. Sting as the final main event on the show."

Alright great, tournament finals soon enough! Thanks again for your attention and for your time!