November 19, 1994 in Tokyo, Japan
Ariake Coliseum drawing 8,658
|the man in the red jacket with the headphones and tinted glasses; my god|
In a match that we can be certain has no bearing on anything (other than our enjoyment), Nobuhiko Tsurumaki meets the débuting Wataru Sakata! Remember him? He ends up kind of being around forever! And continues to be: he fought the once-great (now less so, but that's how it goes, just ask the fisher king) Hayato Sakurai on New Year's Eve at Rizin World Grand-Prix 2016: Final Round (he lost but that's ok). His wikipedia page details a long and seemingly significant run in HUSTLE (which to my shame I barely watched any of); I excerpt it only briefly here: "Although Wataru was outlcassed and he was about to be finished off, his wife Eiko intervened and weakened Esperanza with her magic powers, which allowed Sakata to hit his superkick and pin his foe. Wataru became the first time a HUSTLE Army member had defeated The Esperanza after HG and TAJIRI had failed in do so, solidifying himself as HUSTLE's top face." Sound pretty good! His wife's name is Eiko Koike and I googled and found out that she is a model and that modelling can mean a lot of things. They have one child together and I wish them all the best. He is having an excellent opening bout against Nobuhiko Tsurumaki! Just now, for example, he went for juji-gatame but got passed and found himself pinned in kesa-gatame. That's good stuff. Sakata, whose fighting ways include Kyokushin, does a fine job of hitting, but his græppling looks very good already too (none of us have any concerns about Tsurumaki so I mention him less but he too does well). I neglected to mention earlier that Sakata was trained by Heigo "Animal" Hamaguchi, who greeted him before the match with flowers:
Masayuki Naruse, who we continue to enjoy, is up against the Rene van der Zanden who looks every inch a Dutch kickboxer so look the fvkk out. Naruse, undaunted, begins by kicking, but soon realizes he is a fool and so shoots in for a tepid but effective double leg and yeah that seems like a way better plan, Masayuki Naruse. A rope break puts them back on their feet and you know what, when they are in slapping range, Naruse slaps way harder than this van der Zanden, just absolutely unloads on him. And throws! And pins! And then there is a rope break! What a sport! Tate-shiho-gatame yields a submission win (ippon) at 4:42! That wasn't the best match or anything but, seen another way, it sort of was.
Mitsuya Nagai, who you still sometimes confuse with Masayuki Naruse, must here contend with the sheer neon girth of Dimitri Petkov, who has just now staved off a juji-gatame by hooking his tippy-most toe over the bottom rope. Oh shit Dimitri Petkov with a huge koshi-waza (hip technique) directly into juji-gatame and then a kata-guruma (shoulder wheel) into another juji-gatame and it occurs to me that there is literally no way there could possibly be another promotion or sport or field of endeavour in which juji-gatame was attempted with greater frequency than in this RINGS, is there? If that was all RINGS was, even without its myriad other charms and enticements, it would still hold a place of privilege amongst and indeed above virtually all other instances or utterances or manifestations of physical culture. Nagai kicks Petkov's legs up to the point of attendants coming in and spraying that spray on him, you know, that spray? Maybe I have told you this previously but many years ago now (maybe ten?) a visiting club from China (a whole club!) came and they were all very nice to work with and we were all of us filled with a feeling of judo's true internationalism and fellowship and as a nice gesture they gave us all little cans of that spray stuff. I thought it was so neat! Mitsuya Nagai just hit the rollingest hiza-juji-gatame knee bar I have ever seen at 8:48 and I would remind you that one time I borrowed a book called The Sambo Encyclopedia from a good friend so I have seen a bunch! NAGAAAAIII!!!!!!! MITSUYAAAAAAAA!!!!!!! In his post-fight comments he says "juji" a lot while wearing a sikk coat:
|juji, hai; juji|
Yoshihisa Yamamoto versus Chris Dolman in a contest between someone it took Rickson Gracie ages to beat and someone Rickson Gracie would never fight, who is drawing up these brackets, ME? You know what, you won't even believe what I am about to suggest to you right now, but here I go: drawing up the brackets by hand is a lost art in this age of software that people just have on their laptops and I suppose now even their phones and maybe they don't even really have the software on those things but rather use web services that do it but let me tell you what all of that is not: it's not you running registration sheets after weigh-ins to your mainest græpplepal sitting in an auxiliary room off the gym with no windows and a low ceiling who then works upon the names of those who have submitted themselves to the judgement of the lists his considerable art and then you run the draw sheets out to be posted whilst competitors huddle around to learn their fate; it sure as shit isn't that. We have a club locker in the gym that we only open every several years (I couldn't tell you when we did so last) and much of its contents are draw sheets, it seems to me. Draw. Sheets. Dolman and Yamamoto are awesome so far: Dolman can't really move or anything anymore but why should he have to; Yamamoto moves beautifully and a lot, and it is enough for the whole of them. Clearly, most of the RINGS matches at this point are still works but let me tell you something no less clear than that fact and that is that when Chris Dolman takes your back and squishes you on the mat that is among the straightest shoots available to us. Dolman matches have been increasingly brief affairs as his piercing eye has dimmed and darkened but this one seems to be going on a little longer than we're used to or is it really as Yamamoto gets the best of an ashi-kansetsu (leg-bonelocking) exchange and emerges the victor by heel hook at 7:24 so yes to return to that point I was making that actually was slightly longer than the last few Chris Dolman matches. I remind you though that Chris Dolman is tremendous. BUT THE DAY BELONGS TO YUNG YAMAMOTO.
Volk Han vs. Willie Williams is no less a tournament bout of this tournament than the tournament bouts now behind us and it, unlike them, is now before us. The outcome of this encounter is already known to me (I think) to the extent that, if I am not mistaken yet again, I think this is the final match of Willie Williams' august mixed fight career (not the end of his way of karate for of course there is no end to his way of that). What more can we say of this man -- and the purity of his love for the karate whose name he utters with such tender solemnity -- that we have not said before? His art has been a treasure to us; let us treasure the gift of it once more.
In keeping with all that he holds dear in his way, Williams opens with a barrage of kicks and knees and straight punches to the chest that knock Han to the mat within the opening minute yes. I am very worried about the gyaku-ude-garam/reverse-arm-entanglement/double-wrist-lock/Kimura that Han secures first standing but then, after no small measure of whipping all over, the ground, but Williams finds the ropes. OH NO IT IS THE KATA-ASHI-HISHIGI OF THE SINGLE-LEG BOSTON CRAB and that is it for Willie Williams at 3:14 and what can we do now but be thankful for the blessing he has been to us and possibly also commend him to Christ depending on our disposition(s) towards Him.
The spotlights swirl as the chants of MA-E-DA MA-E-DA MA-E-DA meetly and rightly resound throughout Ariake Coliseum (有明コロシアム, Ariake Koroshiamu) and let me say now that if fvkkn Tony Halme beats Akira Maeda I am going home (I am already home). Heavens, though, this Tony Halme is just enormous, isn't he! Do you think he was the biggest galöøt to ever serve in the Finnish eduskunta or does the continued electability of nationalists/nativists there leave this question very much open? Anyway all of his shit looks awful, like his kicks are sub-me, which is the worst thing I can say about kicks. To continue on the subject of kicks let me note that Halme seems to genuinely mind the sharpness with which Maeda's land early on lol eat shit Tony Halme (r.i.p. please think of his family). A second straight bout ended by the kata-ashi-hishigi of the single-leg Boston crab! Maeda is your (our) winner at 6:21 MA-E-DA MA-E-DA MA-E-DA as the '94 FIGHTING NETWORK RINGS TOURNAMENTS speeds towards its dramatic conclusion! The guy in the red jacket's face tells us nothing!
November 28, 1994: "Rings ran on 11/19 at Tokyo Ariake Coliseum drawing 8,658 fans to see Akira Maeda make Tony Halme submit to a half crab in an uninspired 6:21. Rings seems to have gone way downhill over the past two years. Maeda is still a star and obviously has drawing power, but he's not hot anymore and there was nothing on the card that was all that good. Maeda didn't even get that big a reaction upon winning, as the best reaction came when Yoshihisa Yamamoto scored a major upset on Chris Dolman.
11/19 Tokyo Ariake Coliseum (RINGS - 8,658): Watoru Sakata b Nobuhiko Tsurumaki, Masayoshi Naruse b Rene Van den Zanden, Mitsuya Nagai b Dimitir Petkov, Hans Nyman b Dick Leon-Vrij, Yoshihisa Yamamoto b Chris Dolman, Volk Han b Willie Williams, Akira Maeda b Tony Halme (Ludvig Borga)"
December 12, 1994: "Rings runs 12/16 in Nagoya with the semifinals of the Battle Dimension '94 tournament with Akira Maeda vs. Yoshihisa Yamamoto and Volk Han vs. Hans Nyman with the finals 1/25 at Budokan Hall."
December 19, 1994: "Rings has a show on 2/19 in Amsterdam, Holland headlined by Akira Maeda vs. Chris Dolman. David Levicki, who was in UFC II, debuts on that show."
Aaaaand because I am going through these Observers searching for all references to either RINGS or Maeda I happened upon this account of Rickson Gracie/Yoji Anjyo doooojooooo stoooormuuuuu, enjoy:
"In a throwback to the type of thing that occurred in pro wrestling on occasion in the early part of the century and what no doubt will go down in wrestling history as one of its legendary stories that will be re-told for decades, the latest UWFI grandstand challenge backfired. Not only did this become a major news story in Japan and leave UWFI with something of a p.r. black eye, it also, along with several other things that took place, served to close the gap between interest in Japanese pro wrestling and other fighting forms.
As has been reported here several times, UWFI has thrown out grandstand challenges to Rickson (pronounced Hickson) Gracie, 36, the older brother of Royce Gracie of Ultimate Fight fame. Rickson Gracie (generally considered within the Jiu-Jitsu world to be legitimately tougher than his brother) along with his brother and the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu style have gained an enormous amount of popularity in Japan among the hybrid breed of wrestling and martial arts fans. This stemmed initially from Royce Gracie beating Ken Wayne Shamrock at the first UFC and spread when UFC and Gracie family videos become a hot item in Japan. Rickson capitalized on this a few months back by doing his own version of a UFC show (held in a boxing/wrestling ring as opposed to an octagon and with combatants wearing karate gloves instead of fighting bare-knuckle) in Tokyo and winning with what appeared to be little competition.
UWFI, which, as attendance figures show, has gained considerable popularity particularly among the hardcore Tokyo fans, to the point that based on the sometimes misleading stat of average attendance per show, it would be the No. 1 promotion anywhere and its top star, Nobuhiko Takada would be the hottest drawing card. Even though UWFI is a far more brutal style than most traditional pro wrestling, it is still pro wrestling at its base, but purports to be something different. With Lou Thesz, who has probably more experience at working different angles within the pro wrestling game than anyone living involved in the promotion, they have done several notable angles, grandstand challenges really, that are throwbacks to the 1920s U.S. promotional wars where companies would put their world titles on legitimate shooters and challenge the "workers" on top for the other promotions, which of course wouldn't accept. This would give the promotion issuing the challenge a public credibility as somehow being the tougher and more legitimate promotion and having the more worthy real champion.
The first grandstand challenge was made by UWFI to Masa Chono, then-NWA world heavyweight champion of New Japan, to take a match with Takada to determine who the real world champion was. This turned into enough of a story to the point actual negotiations, themselves something of a grandstand response by New Japan, took place. UWFI continued to challenge all the world champions, and then to make its own angle come true, signed Vader, at the time the WCW champion, for a huge money deal which eventually led to Vader submitting to Takada before more than 46,000 fans at a Tokyo baseball stadium one year ago to get over UWFI's storyline. Eventually the UWFI fans accepted Vader as a one of their regulars opposed to being a WCW wrestler and they did the right thing for business, eventually putting him over Takada this year to give them a series of matches with those two and Gary Albright that could do consistent huge business. The second grandstand challenge was earlier this year when UWFI offered a supposed $1 million purse to all the world champions from other major organizations if they could win UWFI's "Best in the world" tournament. This challenge got a lot of press in Japan, although it was ignored publicly by All Japan, WCW and WWF. New Japan failed to issue a response although Shinya Hashimoto, at the time the IWGP champ, blasted UWFI publicly, while WAR star Genichiro Tenryu gave an excuse why he couldn't appear. The grandstand play got even more heated when Rings star Akira Maeda was challenged, and he, a past-his-prime former major draw in Japan who made his reputation basically the same way, challenged back and put UWFI in hot water for a response, which ended with the public clamoring for a Maeda vs. Takada match, but since both sides were doing grandstands rather than setting up a pre-planned angle, nothing materialized.
The latest grandstand involved the Gracie brothers, first Royce, and the Rickson. At the UWFI shows in early October, the organization made announcements basically challenging either Royce or Rickson to appear on its 11/30 show for a cage match with Takada. Rumors abound that UWFI actually was in negotiations with Rickson before this, but whether that was the case or not, by the time the announcement was made, negotiations had fallen through. Apparently since Satoru Sayama, a pro wrestling legend of the early 80s as Tiger Mask, was involved in the promotion of the Gracie UFC in Japan, he explained the pro wrestling business to Gracie who it is believed wanted no part of it. UWFI was trying to work its own angle that it was the real toughest fighting group in the world as opposed to the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu which had become a hot item among hardcore wrestling and martial arts fans in Japan and people believed they were tougher than wrestlers. By November, Yoji Anjyo, 27, a UWFI mid-card wrestler who reportedly is considered the best of the Japanese crew when it comes to submission wrestling and who has a reputation for being a very tough individual, made a few challenges to Rickson Gracie, including a press conference in mid-November where he claimed he could beat Rickson Gracie in less than one minute.
To everyone's shock, Anjyo took the challenge one step farther. He flew to the United States earlier this week with no fanfare to back down Gracie and end the Gracie myth in Japan. Unannounced, on 12/7 at about 11:10 a.m., he showed up at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu academy in Santa Monica where Rickson is the main instructor, went in and issued the challenge, expecting Rickson not to respond with since he would be facing an unknown foe with an unknown style and being given no notice. Anjyo would be played up in the press as backing Gracie down if Gracie didn't accept. Those close to the scene said that Anjyo was fully confident that in a shootfight an "80 kilogram (176 pound) guy" was no match for him at 220. Indeed Anjyo, who along with Yuko Miyato are heavily involved in the office and booking end of UWFI and largely pushed these grandstand ideas to get the group over as the real deal, had talked of another follow-up angle to take down Gracie. They would send a young UWFI wrestler to train with Gracie for several months and learn the style, and then challenge the sansei, force a showdown and beat him. Anjyo believed they wouldn't even have to send Masahito Kakihara or Kiyoshi Tamura (UWFI's two most talented younger wrestlers) because even a lesser talented guy once learning the technique would be able to beat the smaller Gracie and expose the myth. Anjyo's confidence in his "shoot" ability was pretty strong based on his training and sparring work at the UWFI dojo where he was considered the best guy at submissions and a tough guy when it comes to fighting, because in what people claim was a shoot several years ago on a major card of the old UWF at the Tokyo Dome, Anjyo held a Muay Thai world champion kick boxer to a draw under Muay Thai rules, although Anjyo had an advantage in that he was several weight divisions up from the Muay Thai fighter. Additionally in the context of a worked match, he was forced into a confrontational position with an uncooperative Iron Sheik and humiliated him before they did their worked finish. Even though Sheik was old and fat at the time, he was still very much a feared man in the business.
The background takes longer to explain than what actually happened. In front of about 20 students in the academy, Gracie maneuvered himself on top of Anjyo and pummeled his face and body straight down with punches, similar to the style he employed in winning the Japanese UFC and that his brother used in most of his UFC matches. To Anjyo's credit, even though he was getting pounded into oblivion, he didn't quit for what is believed to have been five to seven minutes until Gracie maneuvered him into a choke sleeper. But, according to an eye-witness, it was completely one-sided with Anjyo getting no significant offense in. Anjyo's face when it was over was said to have looked roughly twice as bad as a heavyweight boxer who had been pounded into oblivion.
Although in many ways this came off as the greatest angle of all to set up a Takada vs. Gracie match, those there insist there was no way in the world this match was anything but a shoot angle that backfired. Indeed, those within the Japanese wrestling business over the weekend, all pretty well acknowledged it wasn't an angle, although fans, who expect angles like this, are now all primed for a match with Takada that, unless Gracie agrees to work a program, will never take place and many are saying this will be a major blow to the UWFI promotion. My guess is that since it was Anjyo, a mid-card guy, it won't really be a major blow. If it had been Takada in that situation, it would have been twenty times the story and have been a real p.r. disaster for the company."
AND WITH THAT I THANK FOR YOUR TIME AND FOR YOUR ATTENTION TO THESE MATTERS and I wish you all the best until next we meet to discuss similar themes and happenings.