Friday, March 31, 2017


Maelstrom 3rd: Russian Battle Mission
May 25, 1996 in Ekaterinburg, Russia
Sports Palace drawing 6,570

WHEN RUSSIAN TANKS ROLL WESTWARD WHAT DEFENCE FOR YOU AND ME? AKIRA MAEDA'S FOOT-LOCKS? THE HIGH-KICKS OF DIRK LEON-VRIJ? Now that I have improved upon the verse of Philip Larkin immeasurably it is time to embark upon this RUSSIAN BATTLE MISSION as we open on RINGS competitors græppling in a shabby training hall occupied only moments before by children following along with the kung-fu of a shirtlessly-vested Russian practitioner of that art. It was moderately uncomfortable to watch him. After some light wrestling about, the men of RINGS are shown becoming members, I think, of an extremely fancy club of some kind, and someone seems pretty proud of his little card, and quite happy!

Volk Han does sleight-of-hand magic once again because he knows that everybody loves sleight-of-hand magic and it seems as though a pleasant time was enjoyed by all at this very fancy Russian club. I am glad that RINGS Official Rankings are now a regular pre-fight feature of each show because we learn things through them like for example in this instance we learn that it goes 10 KOHSAKA 9 VRIJ 8 ILIOUKHINE 7 NAGAI 6 KOPILOV 5 TARIEL 4 HAN 3 ZOUEV 2 NIJMAN 1 YAMAMOTO. Akira Maeda has made the trip, and a man holds a WOWOW-identified microphone in front of him for a time. 

I do not say this with anything but love in my heart but there is a mistake at the excellent-- and, if you are me writing this whole thing, nearly (it uses frames!) that indicates Mikhail Ilioukhine faces Wataru Sakata in the opening bout when in truth it is Kooooohsakaaaa Tsuuuuyooooshiiiiiiiiiiiii who is the RINGS Japan representative in this contest, just listen to the high-level ring announcer if you choose not to believe your eyes or my words. Seconds in, our feelings tell us this is to be shoot-style rather than shooting proper, and that suits me well as I am of the uncontroversial view that both of these guys are super good at that. Ilioukhine does get a little too theatrical with his pickups, it's true, but I freely and openly acknowledge that I am harder on that than most (though, I would argue, no harder than is warranted). The Ekaterinberg crowd is a lively one! Five minutes in, we have both fighters tied at two points lost to rope-breaks each until Kohsaka gets knocked down just as I say that, so that's two more points, but then TK immediately throws Ilioukhine with a lovely arching ura-nage (rear throw; in this instance essentially a German Suplex if that is the nomenclature to which you are best accustomed) so everybody's doing great! In a nifty bit of græppling, Ilioukhine over-commits to gyaku-ude-garami and Koshaka spins around into juji-gatame, just like we see Kimura doing here (I probably post this every time this happens don't I):

Rope-break, though. A knockown later (TK has lost eight points! eight!) they are on the ground and Ilioukhine attacks the same way again, but this time is able to sweep Kohsaka over whilst maintaining the grip and that is now nine points lost HOWEVER at 11:24 TK takes the back in a little scramble and finishes with hadaka-jime (the announcer says the words with great enthusiasm, which is also how I type them), the naked strangle. Nifty little match!    

I am sorry my mind wandered and the results are coming in fast(ly) and furious(ly) as first Yuri Korchikin defeats the enboxinggloved Emil Krastev by juji-gatame in a mere 0:46, rightly stopped by the referee as the arm was getting all gross in a probable shoot; next, Mitsuya Nagai did Yuri Bekichev the good turn of lying down for a count of ten after a leaping spinning karate kick of some sort hit him in the shoulder (5:25); and just now Dick Vrij has been felled by no less staged a knee (3:53). The locals need their wins, and if they are not very good at making those wins look very good I suppose that is their burden to carry and not mine so I turn from it without second thought. 

Volk Han vs. Hans Nijman are next in a match that surely will have implications for the RINGS Official Rankings list that we have come to enjoy so at the start of these! Han is attired shamefully and by that I mean he is wearing loose-fitting boxer(ing) shorts as opposed to the baby-blue tights we have come to expect/need him to wear for this to mean to us what we want it to mean to us. Nijman drives Han to the corner in the opening moments of this (definitely shoot-style) bout; Han, through his wiles, catches a leg and sends Nijman to the ropes fleeing the leg-lock. The same thing happens less than a minute later and that is a second escape. But then a head-kick knockdown ties things up! This so far feels like they are totally going through the motions, but maybe it will get way better, I don't know! There's Han's always-upsetting (to me) standing gyaku-ude-garami/double-wrist lock; this time he steps over and drives Nijman to the mat to attempt juji-gatame but, alas, too near the ropes. Is Volk Han's dropping to the mat from slaps getting worse? I feel like it is getting worse maybe? If his is getting worse, though, Nijman's just is way worse, as he shows next. Volk is going to give him a run for his money though, because leaning back after that knee grazed him was terrible! Then he grabs his face after Nijman clobbers him on the back! This is not a good match at all! As though to somehow seek atonement for this bout's failings, Han holds onto the match-ending hiza-hishigi knee-bar too long and Dick Vrij flies in and kicks him as the ring fills with dudes, thrown garbage (like the strikes in this match! that's right!), and the whistling jeers of a crowd of Russians who right now do not like this. So that's Volk Han your winner at 4:39 in probably his worst match ever? There was one a while ago I remember thinking "I don't know what the worst Volk Han match is but this is probably it" and while I do not remember the specifics of that particular match to be perfectly honest with you (I owe you this much), I would be quite surprised if it was worse than this. This was pretty awful! The replays aren't making any of the work look any better, either. YIKES!

Andrei Kopilov attacks with juji-gatame as often as any man who has ever lived, probably, so I greet his (shoot-style) match against Bart Vale with enthusiasm. He is just crazy about juji-gatame! Me too man me too. He is attacking with it right now! I don't know how Bart Vale gets out of this one, either, as they are far from the ropes and it looks pretty good! Ah ok he kicks Kopilov in the face, which is a penalty. He receives guidance (shido) on this point from the referee and everyone continues on as friends. Kopilov attacks with the crab scissors of kani-basami (蟹挟) as I am forced to reflect that to my shame I don't think I have ever played Fire Pro as him despite his clear presence in Fire Pro A which is the one I have played most by a factor of like a zillion. He finishes Vale with some unconventional but seemingly good upper-body holding and squeezing at 4:41.

Again, not in a spirit of even the faintest complaint I will note that the extremely excellent Pro Wrestling History site has the next match as Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs. Bitsadze Tariel and the Wrestling Observer Newsletter has it as Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs Bitsadze Ramaji whereas it would seem that the match itself is Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs. Buzoriashivili Ramaji but in fairness who among us has not made that exact mistake? One assumes that the mere presence of Yoshihisa Yamamoto in this bout (all accounts agree on that much) assures a shoot-style rather than shoot encounter. Yamamoto is dumped quite heinously mere seconds in and contents himself to play off his back until Ramaji grabs a hold of an ankle, which Yamamoto does not enjoy. It is an ashi-kansetsu (leg-bone-lock) of Yamamoto's own, however, that sees the match's first rope break, and then another; such is the mystery of the græppz. Ramaji throws with pretty much a vertical suplex and it will not surprise you, perhaps, to hear that I don't know, man. A certain amount of sheer hucking, like say how Ramaji just slammed his way out gyaku-ude-garami/Kimura, can be exactly right, but there are limits. Four rope-escapes for Ramaji as he is harassed by Yamamoto's katame-waza (græppling techniques) at every moment when he is not throwing wildly. A slight kerfuffle in the corner as the referee's instructions are not heeded on a break; there also seems to be something odd afoot in the crowd? Who can say. Soon after the restart, Yamamoto hops on Ramaji's back and rides out a big slam to finish with hadaka-jime at 8:19 even though Ramaji's legs are pretty much under the ropes and man that was a sloppy finish, that needed to happen closer to the middle of the ring or else it should have been a rope break I think. 

WILLIE WILLIAMS is still at it! He is like a thousand! And here he sees action against the able græppler Nikolai Zouev in a contest between two large men. Zouev clinches and pursues Williams along the ropes in hopes of the major-inner-reap of ouchi gari 大内刈 but a rope break robs him and indeed us all of a slick takedown. They kind of slump to the mat together soon thereafter and then just kind of stay there for a while; this is not a great start. And once they're back up, Zouev falls very lamely from a shabby Williams knee. This RUSSIAN BATTLE MISSION has been pretty ragged! I am enormously fond of Willie Williams and I think Nikolai Zouev is excellent but this is not coming together and I would request that it end . . . and just as I do so it does in Zouev's favour by way of juji-gatame at 7:55 and there are shots of several Russians leaping for joy in the crowd so hey the people demand it I guess. 

WELL THAT DIDN'T REALLY WORK OUT VERY WELL DID IT. Kohsaka/Ilioukhine was really good at least! And Kopilov/Vale hit the spot. But man. The whole show just felt slightly off by pretty much the same exact amount that Akira Maeda's hair was when it was all over:

WHAT DID DAVE MELTZER SAY: Well in fact this time I would first like to draw your attention not to what Dave Meltzer said so much as what others chose to say in letters to him.

April 29, 1996 [the very date Naoya Ogawa won his seventh and final openweight All-Japan Judo Championship!]


Here are a few things about Pancrase to think about.

1. Why are the fighters allowed to kick each other with shoes? You can't do that in the UFC. The shin pads didn't cover the hardest part of the shoe, the bottom. Front and side kicks, which use the bottom of the shoe, were thrown.

2. Why are punches not allowed and brutal leg kicks rarely used? Could it be because punches are impossible to fake convincingly and leg kicks, while not as difficult to fake as punches, are hard to make look full power and the fighters tend to overact when hit by them (like in UWFI)? I don't think you'll see too many people outside of shootfighting get knocked out cold by a palm heel slap.

3. Why do none of the fighters seem terribly worried when they are obviously in a position to be choked out and the fighter in the position to do the choking rarely tries very hard to do so? You rarely see anybody who knows chokes in the UFC not take advantage of the opportunity.

4. With points scored so infrequently, doesn't it seem silly that Ken Shamrock would have said that one fighter, in a dominant position, would just let his opponent up when the opponent would lose a point if he locked on a submission hold because of a rope break, would decide against working for the submission because he didn't want to give away any of his submissions. Doesn't he know at least a few?

5. I've never heard of a boxing, kick boxing or judo organization that only consists of about 20 fighters, most of whom are trained by the same people, who just rotate fighting one another. The UFC is actually fairly easy to get into and anyone can compete. From what I understand, Pancrase is a very exclusive organization and difficult to get into. I wonder why? Also, why are the fighters paid salary like pro wrestlers instead of given purses for each match based on the result?

6. Finally, doesn't it seem strange that even SEG won't come out and state officially that Pancrase is 100% real?

Pro wrestling is great, but in no way should it be confused with something real like UFC. I loved the Rocky movies, but Sylvester Stallone was never the legitimate heavyweight boxing championship of the world. Let's not blur fantasy and reality. Pancrase may occasionally have some legitimate shoots but so did the UWFI. It is not terribly hard to tell the difference between real matches and not-so-real matches. Pancrase is simply a better worked, though less entertaining, version of UWFI. As much as I like and respect Ken Shamrock, I have to say that if he wants to claim any glory from his victories in Pancrase, he is also going to have to acknowledge his losses in pro wrestling matches, such as his loss to Bart Vale, which was an obvious work. You can't have it both ways.

Joe Silva

Richmond, Virginia"

You mean guy-who-would-be-UFC-matchmaker-for-like-twenty-years Joe Silva? Indeed, yes.

May 6, 1996: A reader responds:


In response to Joe Silva's letter in the 4/29 Observer, the difference in how Pancrase looks as compared to UFC is because Pancrase is a sport with extensive rules while UFC is bare knuckled combat fighting. Many fans still mix them up. The small rule differences in what makes the match look so diverse. Because they look different, people then begin to suspect faking.

Rules are made to make things a trade off between wrestling and kick boxing. Since Pancrase is a wrestling based total fight, they choose to wear shoes but because of that there are many restrictions applied. The Pancrase rule book is several pages long and very meticulously detailed. The PPV show failed to explain the rules in depth, one of which is kicking with the toe being illegal.

An interesting note about knockdowns with slaps. Tokyo University conducted a scientific study about the effectiveness of blows such as punches, kicks, slaps, etc. for national television. The results were surprising. Open hand blows have equal power as punches and can knock out an opponent about as frequently. Many martial artists don't realize that.

The Japanese martial arts community and journalists generally believe the following:

Pancrase should be classified as a shoot group since only a few matches are suspicious of being worked. While Pancrase doesn't fix the finishes as to who wins or loses, every match has a theme as a professional bout and the matchmakers have given instructions to the fighters in regard to that theme. If you say that means it's a work, then I would say Pancrase is a pro wrestling organization. An example of a theme match. On the 1/28/96 show, Ken Shamrock vs. Yoshiki Takahashi did a standing only match with no ground work. It may have been a wide decision not to air that match on the first U.S. PPV since a UFC fan would expect to see Shamrock dominate using ground techniques. The match was a shoot, but not a complete match under Pancrase rules.

UWFI is strong style pro wrestling and proud of being such. Only a few of the 300 plus matches were true shoots. Even the famous Nobuhiko Takada vs. Koji Kitao match on 10/23/92 was a work, however Takada's intentional high kick knockout finish was a shoot.

RINGS is somewhere in the middle. At least one undercard match every card is a total shoot. Akira Maeda and the top foreign fighters matches are all works. From 3/25/96, when Yoshihisa Yamamoto took over for Maeda as the top star with Maeda out of action with a knee operation, the style was changed to be closer to Pancrase. More than half the matches on that show including Yamamoto's main event match were shoots. A new chapter in Rings has begun.

Unlike UFC undercard fighters, all Pancrase fighters are master of defensive techniques. Besides the rule differences, such as no punching to the head from the mount position and from behind, makes Pancrase as a sport very different from UFC. It requires different strategy and in Pancrase, it is far easier to avoid being choked out.

Like Pancrase, K-1 kick boxing also consists of about 20 kick boxers and karate champions who rotate fighting one another. Every new sport starts with a small exclusive group of competitors. Pancrase has a very open policy, however the skill level of even the preliminary wrestlers are much higher than even UFC. There are very few fighters who can even pass the entrance exam and the training is grueling to make it. Remember that one fighter died in the UWF dojo as well as in the New Japan dojo because they train so hard.

The Pancrase salary system is one of the reasons they call themselves professional wrestlers.

The definition of what exactly constitutes 100% real may vary by the person, and Pancrase itself acknowledges it is not a squash shoot. But for those who followed the UWF movement in Japan since the mid-80s, Pancrase is the final chapter in the book from working to legitimate pro wrestling. A clear line can be drawn between UWFI, Rings and Pancrase. Winning and losing have never been predetermined in Pancrase, although some entertaining and showboating maneuvers certainly exist within the body of the match.

I believe Pancrase is a more sophisticated and more civilized format of combat sport than UFC and is the future of this type of sport. The Japanese government and police would never allow a UFC event in Japan. Even Japanese Vale Tudo fights have more than ten types of attacks banned and the fighters wear gloves.

UFC will become closer and closer to Pancrase every time out in terms of unadvertised and unwritten rules and format, such as eventually creating a decision system and in time management.

The Bart Vale vs. Ken Shamrock match was in Ken's Fujiwara-Gumi days before Pancrase. I'm personally a big fan of Nobuhiko Takada and UWFI and also of Rings. Both are definitely more entertaining then Pancrase.

One of the reasons why New Japan banned Weekly Pro Wrestling is because of its extensive coverage of Pancrase, which has broken kayfabe by not fixing the results of its matches. Booker Riki Choshu hates the concept of Pancrase.

Tadashi Tanaka

New York, New York"

A fine letter in its own right, no doubt, but I include it at least in part because Tadashi Tanaka, in like three or four years, writes maybe the all-time greatest letter to the Observer ever, and we will get there soon!

May 13, 1996: "The 6/30 Rikidozan tribute show will have New Japan, WAR, UWFI, Michinoku Pro, FMW, IWA, Big Japan, LLPW and JWP represented and they're negotiating with Rings, Pancrase, Kitao Dojo, Sayama's Shooting and even All Japan to appear as well."

May 27, 1996: "Some notes on recent videos I've seen. Saw the 4/26 Rings show and none of the matches were shoots, but the main event with Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs. Tsuyoshi Kousaka was a great shoot style match [that's true--ed.] and probably the best Rings match so far this year [also true!--ed.]. With Akira Maeda on the shelf after knee surgery, crowds are down with Yamamoto in the main event slot as Maeda is still a draw even though he's washed up [wtf Dave--ed.]."

June 3, 1996: "The next RINGS show is 6/29 at Tokyo Bay NK Hall with Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs. Maurice Smith and Mitsuya Nagai vs. Volk Han as the double headliner. RINGS ran a show on 5/25 in Russia but we don't have any details about it. Interesting that a second RINGS fighter captured a UFC style tournament when prelim wrestler Willie Peeters from Holland captured a Holland version of UFC called "Cage fight" on 4/21 beating Allen Harris of the U.S., Hubert Numrich (a large German kick Boxer) and Eduardo Rocha (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu). Illokhine Mikhail of Russian won a Russian UFC tournament a few months ago as well." IN FACT RINGS IS STRONG.

June 10, 1996: "RINGS ran a show on 5/25 in Ekaterinburg, Russia before 6,570 fans with Russia's Nikolai Zouev beating Willie Williams from the U.S. in the main event and Yoshihisa Yamamoto over Bitsade Ramaji. Bart Vale worked the show putting over Andrei Kopilov of Russia."

"5/25 Ekaterinburg, Russia (RINGS - 6,570): Wataru Sakata b Illokhine Mikhail, Kochiken b Krastev, Gregori Beckchev b Mitsuya Nagai, Vladimir Kuramenchev b Dick Vrij, Volk Han b Hans Nyman, Andrei Kopilov b Bart Vale, Yoshihisa Yamamoto b Bitzade Ramaji, Nikolai Zouev b Willie Williams"

OK then, back to Tokyo for MALESTROM 4th soon! Thanks for your attention and your time!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

RINGS 4/26/96: MAELSTROM 2nd

Maelstrom 2nd
April 26, 1996 in Osaka, Japan
Furitsu Gym drawing 3,358

AS A GENERAL RULE I DECIDED MONTHS AGO that I would not make gifs of any of the waza visited upon us throughout this our quest of watching all of the RINGS lest we become bogged down in that giffing process and fall behind the briskness of pace required to ever get through this ever; it is not as though this were a waza-specific blog or tumblr where things of this nature (this giffing nature) are the raison d'être of the entire undertaking; rather, here we delight in the written word, or, when read aloud as though incantation, the living air sculpted by the human form. But so moved was I to show several of my non-internet græpplepals a particular RINGS-waza that I went ahead and gif'd it so that I might share it with them outside of what we have created here together (I sent them texts!) and it would be perverse (in the sense of putting last that which should be first; not in the sense of sex-things) not to share it with you here as well, and so I give you 高阪剛 Tsuyoshi Kohsaka 小内巻込 kouchi makikomi 膝挫 hiza hishigi the gif:
But Maelstrom 1st is the past of the past and we must turn to the present of the past if we are to properly approach the future of the past and time is always time and place is always and only place and what is actual is actual only for one time and only for one place I rejoice that things are as they are as a poet once wrote in his own RINGS blog of sorts and we begin Maelstrom 2nd with a look inside the RINGS Japan gym and then move to the RINGS Official Rankings which read as follows: 10 Kohsaka 9 Zouev 8 Vrij 7 Ilioukhine 6 Nagai 5 Kopilov 4 Tariel 3 Han 2 Nijman 1 Yamamoto. This is less of a shake-up than I had anticipated! I would have guessed Nijman would have dropped several positions after his loss to (the then-unranked) Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (who is now ranked) but no, there he is, as near the top as ever! It is pleasing though that Kohsaka now appears, isn't it:

Our opening bout sees the fairly enormous Michael Stam best Jacob Hamilton (their couple-name shall be Shtamilton) by means of brutal squishing in kesa-gatame (scarf hold) at 6:00 of a competent shoot-style encounter that was ok. Next, Wataru Sakata, coming off of what I am pretty sure was a shoot win at Malstrom 1st, shoot-styles against Todor Todorov, who has grown his hair long enough to be all slicked and tied back and though his look is much changed the excellence of his waza is undiminished as he throws with the sori-nage form of ura-nage (a sikk suplex) and pursues Sakata in ne-waza with fine attempts at the cross-arm-breaker, as the catch enthusiast (and aren't we all) might say, of ude-hishigi-juji-gatame. Todorov throws with the kouchi-makikomi we see above in the TK gif, but he does not roll all the way through and finish with the knee-crush/calf-slicer of hiza-hishigi; alas that I speak true. Guys guys guys please do not go up so light for each other's pick-ups; I am very surprised that I have to talk to you about this again; it totally breaks the spell. And it's not just me! There is only one kind of takedown that consistently elicits absolutely no response from the crowd, and it is a pick-up where one guy goes super light. Listen to actual people in 1996 if you won't listen to me! Everybody watching knew it was not good to do! Great finish from Todorov at 6:50 though as he rolls Sakata up in a kind of shoot(style) small package for what I would suppose is a form of kubi-hishigi or neck crush? Unless he's got the arm somehow? I guess he must have although the angle revealed little. Let's check the replay:

Yeah that's an arm alright. It was a really good hold!

Mitsuya Nagai vs. Glenn Brown marks the second fight in a row where one fighter has had his hair all greased up in a ponytail and look I get it I have long hair too these days so I tie it up like Usagi Yojimbo's ears when I græpple but what is with all the slicking of it? If one wishes to go full-sumo of course I support that kind of oiling but what I am seeing here lacks a chonmage (丁髷) and is not a strong look. I THINK MITSUYA NAGAI JUST WON A SHOOT AGAINST A GUY WITH TAPE ON HIS NIPPLE and I say that because as soon as Nagai came at him with any pressure at all Brown backed off like this is no good and then he was choked only 0:40 into it! As a dogi-wearer I am sympathetic to the issue of nipple chafage so I am not going to mock someone for so extreme a case of it that taping was required but I am sure as hekk going to note it and also show you a picture: 

WILLIE WILLIAMS RETURNS, out of retirement for the third or fourth time, I guess, and I have been thoroughly proven a fool (once more) for having written in tribute to him at the time of one of those several retirements but is it ever truly foolish to say how we feel? (Of course, yes.) He and Bitsadze Tariel join in a battle of Kyokushin stylists who clearly take a different view of the rôle of the belt: Williams, of the mind that the obi's function is to close the jacket, does not wear a belt when he is jacketless; Tariel, on the other hand, is like hey man a belt is for pants and I am wearing pants so here we go. They do the absolute least possible in this plodding contest between two enormous dudes so loved by the people that they don't really have to do anything to continue to be loved by the people; Tariel wins by knockout at 9:54.

HISTORY OF RINGS 1992 follows and I like these segments because I am historically-minded.

Maurice Smith vs. Dick Vrij is an inherently interesting proposition to me for the very reason noted yesterday on twitter by TOM and that is that Maurice Smith has a tonne of shoots on this very sort of show (although, as TOM notes, against young boys, not established Dicks Vrij) and so will this be another one? Does Maeda risk Vrij against him? Vrij made short shoot-work of his shoot-foe in Amsterdam that dark day we (I) wish we (I) could all (just me) forget but Maurice Smith is a way more serious proposition than Hubert Numrich (I mean no disrespect). I am certainly expecting work but a shoot seems possible until several seconds have elapsed and it is immediately clear from the feeling of those seconds that this will be not shoot but shoot-style but to what end. Smith and his great big boxing gloves earn the KO win at 4:10 and this is seriously notable in that Dick Vrij losses are few and far between; who is Maurice Smith being readied for? Surely Yamamoto, right?

Or maybe I guess Volk Han, who again faces Nikolai Zouev (these are always good). Zouev takes a knee due to a hail of teensy blows only seconds into the bout; the bigger worry of course is the still-gross standing gyaku-ude-garamii/reverse-arm-entanglement Volk Han does pretty much every time out but Zouev limits its grossness here by rolling (thank you Nikolai Zouev). The only answer to a fully-extended juji-gatame is the break of the rope and so Zouev gladly takes it; after the stand up he hits something akin to a snap-suplex and it's a poor idea to do that in a shoot-style match I think (I have real problems with lightness that I may have mentioned to you earlier). The excellence of the ne-waza (ground technique) on display here helps us set aside such concerns very quickly though. WAKI-GATAMEEEE is the call as Zouev applies kind of, like, an arm-stretch-muffler? 

Waki-gatame (armpit-hold/Fujiwara armbar) is definitely not the first thing to come to my mind to describe the above but at the same I have no idea what to say about it other than that it is i) stretchy, certainly, and ii) a novel finish! This one went pretty long, 13:06, and was a pleasure.

And now TSUYOSHI KOHSAKA, whose 1996 has so far consisted of shoot victories (I am pretty sure!) over both Maurice Smith and Willie Peeters and a finely worked one over Hans Nyman, sees his first RINGS main event (I think) against Yoshihisa Yamamoto, upon whose reasonably broad shoulders rests the weight of an entire Fighting Network for at least as long as it takes a thirty-seven-year-old's wrecked knee to heal. There is absolutely no way this one will be real! AH HAAAA Yamamoto does not go up all airily on Kohsaka's pick-up but instead drops his hips and half-sprawls and already this is good news both for me and for my enjoyment. Yamamoto's mae-hadaka-jime front choke is followed by first juji-gatame and then the triangle choke of sankaku-jime; TK escapes to a kesa-gatame scarf hold and this is already really really good by the time of the first rope escape. Yamamoto has worked his way through the æsthetically and, for all I know, emotionally difficult period for him that followed his drawn-out (so weird, so weird) loss to Rickson Gracie at Vale Tudo Japan '95 in which he lowly aped Rickson's aspect, waza, and whole deal. All of that is over now, and he has returned to us, our Yoshihisa. Kohsaka throws with the sweeping-hip of harai-goshi 払腰 and follows through with ude-hishigi-juji-gatame and even though Yuji Shimada's hind quarters are largely in the way you can still tell how great it was:

That dueling and indeed compelling ashi-kansetsu leg-(bone-)locking follows will come as no surprise to you, I am sure; the counters and escapes and transitions are shoot-style high-level. Kohsaka grabs a rope to escape a heel-hook and that is his second lost point, although I would have told you the first rope break had been Yamamoto's, but I guess I am remembering it wrong already (I will not go back and check). 

Yamamoto's sankaku-jime to juji-gatame to Kohsaka's ashi-hishigi (leg-crush/Achilles hold) is a sequence that they could just do over and over again for like eight minutes and I would be like FIVE STARS+ but I guess they want to mix it up a little more than that. TK loses another point escaping a really tight-looking juji-gatame, and then his fourth is charged when he needs out of a leg-lock and hooooollllyyyy shit Yamamoto just slapped him insanely hard lol that did not feel right to see and that's another two points right there. Kohsaka rolls through for his kouchi-makikomi to hiza-hishigi that I was so worked up about I gif'd for my judo pals, for you, for us, for physical culture, for art; but Yamamoto weathers it and grabs a toe-hold so that is yet another lost point for Kohsaka.  A lopsided affair on the scoreboard but not in my heart as TK starts to get somewhere with a sankaku-jime so that's a lost point for Yamamoto on that rope break, at least. The crowd applauds quickly and often! As well they should for while the scoring is super one-sided (seven lost points to two) the work is super intense and of the highest calibre. YAMAMOTO THROWS with a huge koshi-guruma (hip wheel) and follows with an inverted juji-gatame for yet another rope break and lost point. TK has lost eight! Yamamoto throws with the shouldering drop of seoi-otoshi! At last too far from the ropes, Kohsaka submits to a heel-hook at 13:04.

WHAT AN EXCELLENT MAIN EVENT! I think you'll like it a lot! 


April 15, 1996: From Other Japan Notes:

"Former sumo grand champion turned bad pro wrestler turned shooter Koji Kitao wound up on his back in his first shoot match that was supposed to be an easy tune-up win on the way to Royce Gracie in the fall. Kitao lost via knockout in 5:49 to Pedro Otarvio, who he probably outweighed by 150 pounds, before 3,200 fans at Tokyo Komazawa Gym on the debut card of Kitao's own Universal Vale Tudo promotion. Kitao is still expected to appear against Mark Hall on the next UFC. Three others with pro wrestling experience were on the show. Todd Medina (Pancrase, UFC) was said to have looked awesome showing tons of improvement since his last appearances beating Antonio Bigu in 6:06; Ilioukhine Mikhail (who we have been spelling Eruhim Micha) of Rings, who won the three-day UFC-style tournament in Russia in November outlasting something like 250 entrants, wound up losing to a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner named Valiji Izmael; and Deuseul Berto (who wrestled for Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi, and years back for Championship Wrestling from Florida as Haiti Kid Berto as the tag team partner of Tyree Pride) lost in 1:28 to Hugo Duarte."

From a long Pancrase article: 

"Which brings us to the burning question. Is Pancrase a shoot? The probable answer is sometimes, maybe most of the time, but not always. Then again, nor is boxing (where set-ups and guys taking dives are not nearly as infrequent as the media has caught on), tennis (where the accepted term "tanking" is nothing more than a euphemism for losing on purpose) and probably most any big money business/sport where it's one person vs. one person [As some of you know, when I was like eight my mother told me hockey was a work--ed]. Only the top competitors would know exactly what it is, and from interviews I've read, their response publicly is the same "get in the ring and find out" or total denials that the wrestlers from the Ole Anderson school would say in the 70s. At UFC events, the pro wrestling types and the Pancrase types behind-the-scenes appear to have what would be called an unspoken rivalry. The pro wrestling types seem put off by the feeling that they are willing to admit to their sport being worked but the Pancrase types won't, believing that like other so-called shoot pro wrestling, that they know who is going to win before they get in the ring. Before the first Shamrock vs. Dan Severn match, a lot of behind-the-scenes talk in Casper, WY was that Severn would win because he has 20 years experience in "hardcore" real shoots while what Shamrock does in Japan is semi-shoots, although the result proved that theory as less than prophetic. One former Pancrase headliner told me that there are occasional worked matches but the vast majority aren't (he described it as about 10%) but that all the performers are sportsman and nobody goes out to try and injure the other person and the first thing you learn in there as a professional is when you're locked, you tap immediately because trying to be heroic and holding out on tapping out may be gutsy but it's stupid. Even if you come back to win, you can't make any money if your joint is taken out and you need surgery. Still, in the October 15, 1994 Sumo Hall match where Funaki beat Suzuki, the way the two traded going in and out of submission holds in the first minute looked like a shoot style version of a pro wrestling high spot, which as New and All Japan pro wrestling has evolved from the popularity of things like UFC and Pancrase, would hardly look unfamiliar in a Jushin Liger vs. Shinjiro Otani or Toshiaki Kawada vs. Gary Albright finish. However, there is little question that the May 13, 1995 match where Frank Shamrock faced Allan Goes was 100% legit, right down to Goes having his achilles tendon torn from a heel hook that he was actually able to escape from. But that in itself is one of the most famous Pancrase matches ever because it looked so different than the normal fare. Another insider described it as mainly shoots, but because there are so few top stars that when the top guys face each other, sometimes one will tap out for the betterment of business because with so few top names it wouldn't be good if one always blitzed everyone else. Looking through the results since the inception of the group appears to bear this out, as Funaki, Suzuki and Shamrock all hold wins over one another. Even though the rules appear to make it safer, the injury rate is far higher than in UFCs or in any other version of pro wrestling. From videotapes, it appears the percentage of what looks to be true athletic competition has increased rather than decreased since the group began. Certainly the skill level has increased, which is a plus for the hardcore aficionado, but may not be for the general public. The more skillful the fighters get at defense, the more matches will go the time limit and the less you'll see of the exciting knockout and submission finishes as recent shows have borne out, but apparently the longer length of matches also increase the risk of injuries."

April 22, 1996: Maeda shows up in an account of Misawa/Kobashi:

"3/31 ALL JAPAN: 1. Misawa pinned Kobashi in about 24:00. Definitely a super match, although I'd rate it just slightly below the Misawa-Taue Carnival tournament final match from last year. Since styles are different which makes comparisons difficult, I'd also rate it below the Rey Misterio Jr. vs. Juventud Guerrera match from Philadelphia as the best match of 1996 and on par with the recent Jushin Liger-Shinjiro Otani match. A lot of new spots and a very stiff match which had some devastating moves in the right place and excellent heat. A lot of great suplexes back-and-forth for near falls including Kobashi debuting a "captured" suplex that has been pretty much an extinct maneuver in wrestling since Akira Maeda went to a more realistic shoot style in Rings. Kobashi also used Misawa's own Tiger suplex '85 (basically the Mayumi Ozaki Tequila sunrise or a half nelson german suplex) and his Tiger driver on him for near falls. Misawa would come back with his usual hard forearm blows to the side of the head. Misawa used two "throw out" Tiger suplexes for near falls and Kobashi even kicked out of the Tiger driver before finally getting pinned by a flying clothesline (called in Japan a flying neckbreaker drop) off the top rope. ****3/4"

"Rings changed its 4/26 Osaka main event from Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs. Willie Williams to Yamamoto vs. Tsuyoshi Kousaka." Well it turned out great!

Maeda's name shows up here in a lengthy consideration of the first Pancrase PPV (only $9.95!):

"Is it marketable in the United States? Doubtful on two levels. First, it needs to be in a position where an audience can check it out, and PPV isn't that venue without having first built a base audience through television or other outside hype, which basically didn't exist for this show. Second, it needs to capture enough people's interest and create stars in this country. My feeling based on response here is that virtually everyone who saw the show both liked and had more interest in Pancrase when the show was over than when the show started. It appeared about half those calling had seen Pancrase videos beforehand and knew basically what they were going to see and thus there were no surprises as to what the product is. The other half, having seen it for the first time, appeared to also go in with a good idea of what it was and enjoyed the techniques displayed and the detailed explanation of them and the strategy employed by Ken Shamrock, who did an exceptional job of educating the audience with his commentary. They also appeared to like that the matches appeared to be real, as not one person that called complained believing the wrestlers were working the matches (although one pro wrestler did call and said he thought the matches were all shoots but that he believed the main event finish was a work), which is unlike the response for any UFC event. Even though there is no working involved in UFC, there are always people, usually who either are pro wrestlers or watched the event with pro wrestlers, who fervently believe it is. But aside from people who already had a good idea what it was they were going to see, the sport appears to be too technical for the masses, which means it would be great at a monthly 90 minute special on ESPN 2 like a high-ranking karate or judo tournament, but I'm not sure if it could advance much past that level. Perhaps it would be different if this came from the same evolutionary process that hit Japan, starting with a more realistic version of pro wrestling in a group that has numerous big-name pro wrestling performers with a large following. If enough fans still watch Hogan with the crap he does in the ring just because of his name, they'd probably follow a Maeda-level performer, if there was someone of that calibre, and their friends as they took pro wrestling in a new direction. After five years of that, going legit wasn't as much of a stretch, especially since the early matches, like in early UFC when the skill level wasn't as high, were quick and dynamic. The following built and would at least be the base to carry over at the point Pancrase has reached now, when you have a group of guys who all are familiar with one another and know what to avoid from them, the result being matches even more technical that are harder to finish."

May 6, 1996: 

"Maurice Smith made his debut for RINGS on the 4/26 show [well not really--ed.] in Osaka which drew only 3,358 to Furitsu Gym beating Dick Vrij, so he's getting a strong push. Volk Han also did a job for Nikolai Zouev in an upset in the semi, with the main event being Yoshihisa Yamamoto over Tsuyoshi Kousaka."

"4/26 Osaka Furitsu Gym (RINGS - 3,358): Michael Stan b Hamilton, Todor Todorov b Wataru Sakata, Mitsuya Nagai b Brown, Bitsaze Tariel b Willie Williams, Maurice Smith b Dick Vrij, Nikolai Zouev b Volk Han, Yoshihisa Yamamoto b Tsuyoshi Kousaka"

OK! A good show, a great main event, and much Meltz to ponder! Thank you for your time!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

RINGS 3/25/96: MAELSTROM 1st

Maelstrom 1st
March 25, 1996 in Niigata, Japan

City Gym drawing 3,128

ENTER THE MAELSTROM OF FIGHTING NETWORK RINGS WON'T YOU as we are shown first in particularly elegant black-and-white not only Akira Maeda's enlaureled triumph over Yoshihisa Yamamoto at MEGA BATTLE TOURNAMENT '95: GRAND FINAL but also Maeda literally placing the literal laurel he had won atop the saddened head of that same Yamamoto as though to tell us all with that one brief gesture that his knee was once-more wrecked and he must go and that our champion must be Yamamoto, at least for a time. So real is Maeda's absence that he has been excluded utterly from RINGS OFFICIAL RANKINGS 10 ZAZA 9 ZOUEV 8 VRIJ 7 NAGAI 6 ILIOUKHINE 5 KOPILOV 4 TARIEL 3 HAN 2 NYMAN 1 YAMAMOTO. The absence of Tsuyoshi Kohsaka here is an oversight soon to be corrected I'm sure. WE HAVE WELL AND TRULY ENTERED the era of RINGS that is I think the RINGSmost era of RINGS and that is the era in which shoots begin to occur with significantly greater frequency than they had previously and yet key bouts remain almost exclusively works or do they (yes) but for how long (I think kind of a while but let's find out together).  

Emil Krastev comes out to the same part of the the Psycho score that is sampled in Busta Rhymes' "Gimme Some More" (have you all fellows had enough?) and so I am inclined to favour him over Yuri Bekichev because of the sympathy I feel with the art that accompanies him. I don't know if this is expressly a kickboxing match, which is certainly something we have seen before, or if this has turned out to be a match with only kickboxing in it due to the inclination(s) of the athletes themselves. If this is the conscious choice of both Krastev and Bekichev, to just stand and hit, rather than a stricture enacted upon them by authority, then I take a dim view of both men and choose not to concern myself with the plight of either (that's not wholly true but it's close). Bekichev takes this I am quite sure worked bout at 7:38 by means of kicking as those same eerie strings sound as before and it seems likely that I mistook who came out to what; we are but one bout into the months-long RINGS: Maelstrom series and I have already failed you.   

Wataru Sakata and Christopher Haseman begin their encounter with græppling so real I think this one is maybe legit and I say that because Sakata, down and on his side, is actually scooting around gracelessly in his struggle to stay there rather than accepting Haseman's kesa-gatame scarf hold, and one of the true tells of græppling whose legitimacy you are unsure of is how willing its enactors are to accept poor positions, and in particular how inelegantly they are willing to move to maintain a marginally better position rather than just accept the poorer position and then do something slick to escape it and make the people go HWWWAAAIIII. Please note that any time I speculate on the veracity of any of the græppz that await us throughout the several years of perpetual ambiguity that now lie before us, my feelings will not be the least hurt should you point out to me how far off I am on any or indeed all of these. For I may well be! I find myself quite convinced this time out though by Wataru Sakata's fairly gnar heel-hook and by Haseman's weird panic-tap (if he isn't shoot-tapping from a heel-hook that came on super fast, he has done his homework):

Another moment that I choose to receive as the straightmost of shoots is Wataru Sakata literally crying on Tsuyoshi Kohsaka's shoulder on the warm-up mats, such is Sakata's joy or relief or wonder or gratitude or something else entirely as he deals with the emotion of his . . . shoot win? I like that when they embrace in this moment of real vulnerability and tenderness they do so in a collar-and-elbow tie-up kumi-kata 組み方 (grip-fighting/form of græppz):
Mitsuya Nagai and Mikhail Ilioukhine are next and I am absolutely stunned by how much taller Mitsuya Nagai is than Mikhail Ilioukhine, what on earth is going on here, I know the stances are a factor here but this is like Hong-Man Choi vs. Fedor:

This match is both very good and very much for sure not real, and I say that first part despite and that second part because Nagai just went up super light for an Ilioukhine pick-up and it looked awful and the crowd went totally silent despite having already proven their enthusiasm for this contest by chanting NA-GA-I NA-GA-I along with me while he was trapped in a hiza-hishigi knee-crush/calf-slicer. If I could travel back in time I would go to like 1994 to tell everyone in RINGS how fake it looks when they go light like that on pick-ups and then I would return to the present secure in the knowledge that all wrongs had been righted and I had done all I could. You know what has struck me as much as anything in terms of pure waza in all of this RINGS watching we have undertaken together, my friends? It is how early and how frequently rolling ashi-sankaku-garami, the leg-triangular-entanglement of the Huizinga roll (or I believe "reverse omoplata" in the parlance of a style with which I am far from fully conversant but I have students who are skilled in its ways and so keep me abreast of certain developments). That there has been ashi-sankaku-garami is not in itself shocking because I mean look here is ashi-sankaku-garami to okuri-eri-jime (essentially Daniel Bryan's "Lebell Lock" later debased as the "Yes lock" but I get it and am not upset [ps love you Bryan Danielson]) as depicted in Isao Inokuma and Nobuyuki Sato's Best Judo (the title is arguably a little on-the-nose as it probably is the best judo book) from 1979 (when I teach this I refer specifically to page 200 of Best Judo; that is how you can tell it is a university judo club: I cite my sources with precision): 

But that we are seeing the rolling entries like those, again, of the Huizinga roll, this continues to strike me as like hekklaciously notable and so I continue to so note it, forgive me if it has grown tedious. This is all to say that Ilioukhine attempted one but it didn't work (or did it, as it has inspired reflection) and he loses by knockout at 11:24 of a bout that, if I am right about the previous one being a shoot, argues strongly against the notion that shoot-style matches look weird and bad when placed alongside straight shoots on a card of græppz. It is weird that that is a notion that even exists a little, given the lived-reality of the Japanese shoot-style 90s, but I assure you it is out there and I have not simply made it up (I wish that I had!). Match highlights are set to the tune of White Zombie's "Super Charger Heaven" and if you claim to have been too æsthetically enlightened to have enjoyed White Zombie in the early to mid-90s I call you a liar and fraud.  

Next is a HISTORY OF RINGS segment and I would like to share with the bold graphic that announces its arrival:

They run through the finishes of several key bouts from the first several months of RINGS, culminating in Akira Maeda's win over Volk Han by absurd leg-tangle and it's pretty exciting! I certainly remember being excited at the time so I think it is fair to say that their historiography is probably sound. I guess this is a way of keeping Akira Maeda before us despite his knee-ruined absence? Much like 1996 Akira Maeda, I am a thirty-seven-year-old græppler with doubts about at least one knee, but unlike Akira Maeda I have yet to require any surgery (I pause to shoot knock on wood) and also I have never shot on a giant although I have a student who is like 6'3" 240 and we go pretty hard (he has never been drunk at the time or if so carried it better than André did on that day of dark sublimity).

TSUYOSHI KOHSAKA comes to the ring to the Stone Roses' "Driving South" which is a totally unremarkable blues in Em except that it is Kohsaka's entrance music and so is thrilling by association. He is in against Hans Nijman (R.I.P. never forget big Hans) and I wonder if Kohsaka's recent streak of shooting will continue, or if that is to be settled down here in the interests of plans of some sort or another? With Maeda out, presumably he will have to be careful about Yamamoto and Han, certainly, but also maybe Kohsaka, who, though absurdly left out of the RINGS Official Rankings, is enjoying a newfound prominence in RINGS since his TK-scissors-fueled Lumax Cup: The Tournament of J '95 championship. Both Kohsaka and Nijman were definitely (to my eye at least) involved in shoots at Amsterdam's lamentable FREE FIGHT GALA 1996: THE KING OF MARTIAL ARTS, whereas Yamamoto worked (as in worked worked) the opening match. I have no idea what this is going to be!    

OK from the relatively ease of the opening seconds I think work, and I will let you know if anything happens to change that feeling, but otherwise let us proceed in the mode of shoot-style rather than shoot-proper. Nijman puts TK down with a kick about a minute in and this seems as fine a time as any to note that what I think of as the standard RINGS points graphic is now upon us: it shows nine boxes, filled one at a time in yellow by rope escapes, two at a time in red by knockdowns:

If you exceed your allotment of nine, that's it for you! This is so much better than the separate ESCAPE and DOWN circles but the ESCAPE ones would fill up and drop into the DOWN circles and it was needlessly complex (I am a simple man). Maybe they change it again in time but to me this is very much RINGS graphique classique. I like how prominently it says WOWOW. 

Kohsaka has driven Nijman to the ropes no fewer than four times with his juji-gatame among other holds/textures/moments but he has been felled twice so far by strikes and so they are all tied up now as is clearly discernible (have I mentioned the graphics, I should mention the graphics). Kohsaka covers up and probably prays to any who might hear as Nijman rains axe-kicking down upon him; undaunted, he puts Nijman on his back and drives him again to the ropes with the let's say double-wrist-lock of gyaku-ude-garami; knocked down right after, we are all tied at six points I love these excellent new graphics though. OH NO DOWN AGAIN from a kick to the guts. YESSSSSS THIS IS MY FAVOURITE THING HE DOES THESE DAYS IT IS THE MINOR-INNER WINDING OF KOUCHI-MAKIKOMI TO THE KNEE-CRUSH/CALF-SLICER OF HIZA-HISHIGI IIIIIIIIIPOOOONNNNN THE PEOPLE DEMAND IT

A WAZA-RICH FINISH TO A STRONG MATCH and let us not overlook the potential significance of this outcome in the RINGS Official Rankings, which currently hold Nijman in its upper reaches yet see Kohsaka outside their bounds. As a final note on this contest it saddens me to note that TK did not come out wearing his puffy Adidas vest. 

If TK's shooting has been placed on hold for the time being I would be stunned were this not also true in the cases of Volk Han (who has not yet shot) and Dick Vrij (who shot no more than a month ago). Yeah ok this one is definitely shoot-style, too, no question (source: the feeling I get). Han hits a slick little de ashi barai foot-sweep and follows Vrij to the mat for ude-hishigi-juji-gatame but neither this particular arm-lock nor any other is manifest. Vrij is down two points early on rope breaks (juji-gatame, sankaku-jime/triangle choke) but his clubbing knockdown evens the score soon thereafter. Han is looking a little soft as he flops down from a medium-hard slap but pretending to be knocked down has never really been his strength, truth be told. When his ude-garami arm entanglement leads to another juji-gatame attempt though I forgive him all of his very few failings oh dear he has been knocked down yet again and those points add up pretty fast! It happens again and he is really up against it now!  Oh gee that was a really nice finish, though: Han takes the gyaku-ude-garami or let's say Kimura grip this time, rolls underneath in the variation of yoko-wakare (横分 side separation) some know as ude-gaeshi (arm counter; I saw a kid from Prince Edward Island score with this waza at the Canada Games in 2011 and I turned to my pal as he turned to me and I asked "Was it?" and he answered "Yep, ude-gaeshi" and we just shook heads smiling) and came up top for the match-ending juji-gatame at 6:36. In a wise piece of Wrestling Observing that I quoted in these pages long ago, Meltzer made the intriguing point that although Maeda was staging the most shoot-style of all wrestlings, the early-RINGS-standard narrative of guy-gets-clobbered-a-thousand-times-but-then-grabs-a-submission-for-the-win is actually perhaps the least shoot of them all. I was thinking about that earlier today and I am thinking about it anew after this match but please understand I do not mean to cast aspersions on this fine match or upon its especially sikk finish but rather I wish to ponder the questions that it lays open before us. 

MAIN EVENT Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs. Bitsadze Tariel and let me begin by noting that Bitsadze Tariel is not getting any smaller. Yamamoto's hair has grown out slightly so it is at a midpoint between the floppiness I feel best suits him and the quasi-Ricksonism he adopted for a time; gone too is the wisp of a moustache that plagued his upper-lip in that dark era. He begins by going like absolute hell at Tariel, who is really way way way bigger, maybe something on the order of Carlos Newton-against-that-guy-he-lost-to-just-from-sheer-exhaustion bigger (I have not watched that in years and could be way off):

As we had anticipated this is every inch a work so don't worry, Yoshihisa Yamamoto will be fine; I was just struck by it. The palm strikes have been really very good in this one! The pace has been really high, let's see, where are we at this point, ok Yamamoto has lost four point to knockdowns, Tariel six to rope escapes. This hasn't been great of anything but they are getting after it and the crowd is deeply into Yamamoto and perceive Tariel as a real threat so when the submission comes at 7:54 by means of hadaka-jime strangle there is much relief and applause. 

Good show! 


March 25, 1995: The most passing of references to RINGS, but multi-promotion shows are inherently interesting to me and feel like Fire Pro and so:

"A press conference was held on 3/15 for the proposed multi-promotions show in Los Angeles on 6/1. At the press conference were Antonio Pena, Eric Bischoff, Antonio Inoki, Seiji Sakaguchi and Dan Severn although nothing was officially announced other than they were still planning on going through with the show. It was announced that besides WCW, New Japan and AAA, that WWF (which had no representation there) and EMLL (ditto) had agreed to participate and talked of shoot groups like UWFI, Rings and Pancrase but gave no details about it. About the only thing made clear is this event won't air on PPV, as Bischoff said they had missed the window (although that makes little sense if they wanted to tape the show for a later air date) and said there was a slim chance it could air on either TBS or TNT on a taped delay but stressed the odds were against it happening. All sides talked about not letting the traditional wrestling politics get in the way of this show, yet they did, as the only ones who attended were the triumvirate (AAA, New Japan, WCW) that already work together and their rivals (WWF, EMLL) didn't attend, and despite Bischoff saying it wouldn't get in the way, I just can't imagine WWF sending its wrestlers to a show that would then appear on either TNT or TBS. If that does happen, then Antonio Inoki is the most powerful man in the wrestling world. Also in attendance were Sonny Onoo from WCW, Carlos Arakelian (AAA promoter in Los Angeles), two New Japan front office types and Alan Alperstein (AWF), with Onoo and Arakelian doing translation. It was made clear that All Japan wasn't going to be part of this show. Bischoff mainly talked about how he was skeptical about the North Korea shows but he was amazed to see how pro wrestling could put on such a major event and get hundreds of thousands of people to enjoy it. Bischoff felt the show was coming too soon and felt they needed nine or ten months to plan it out to do it right. Inoki, who is apparently the one who stands to lose financially if this doesn't cut it, wanted the show to take place during an Olympic year before the Olympics and it was kind of talked like they would put this show on as a learning experience and then take the time to do it right next year. Nakada mentioned Sabu, Lion Heart and Terry Funk as possible independent wrestlers on the show. Bischoff and Pena came off as the most interesting, with Pena talking ironically about how pro wrestling in Mexico is seen as the ugly duckling of sports and doesn't have the respect it has in the U.S. or Japan, which I guess shows Pena doesn't know that much about the U.S. He said AAA has taken wrestling so it's not just a lower class entertainment but something anyone can attend and feel comfortable about going to. Pena admitted that even though they have many problems in their country with their competition and will probably continue to have problems with their competition, maybe this show will smooth the edges and allow both sides to come together for a common good. Japanese photographer Jimmy Suzuki then brought up the Mexican standoff at the La Aficion awards dinner a few weeks back where guns were pulled out and wrestlers from the rival groups began fighting and said how Pena was the peacemaker in that situation. Severn was there for a training session with Inoki which was actually the most interesting aspect of the deal. Inoki showed Severn a lot of submission techniques and maneuvers that don't require as much power to get a foe to tap as Severn is used to exerting. Basically Inoki never misses a trick as he's created a storyline that if Severn wins, he'll have the story out that he helped train Severn to beat Shamrock and it gives Severn a great opening to come into New Japan. New Japan has expressed strong interest in Severn. No matches were announced but we do know that WCW and New Japan have agreed on Jushin Liger vs. Chris Benoit and Lex Luger vs. Masa Chono interpromotional matches. Severn is planning on going into the most intense training of his career for the Shamrock match, but hasn't decided if he'll go back to Arizona (where he trained for Ultimate Ultimate) or train at home, or even try and do some training in submissions with the likes of a Gene LeBelle, Lou Thesz or Karl Gotch. Severn believed that if UFC were to actually test for all performance enhancing drugs that certain comeptitors would totally disappear from the playing field and felt both steroids and uppers were being used by a significant percentage of competitors. He was very convincing in his belief he has a good chance of beating Shamrock, saying he had so many things going on in his personal life when he fought Shamrock the first time that caused him to not be himself, and also expects the fight to be more on the feet with punching and palm blows as each will try and hurt the other before going for the wrestling takedowns. Providing he isn't injured in the Shamrock match, Severn is planning on going into the Sambo nationals on 5/25, a competition he entered and won in 1994."

April 2, 1996: 

"Without Akira Maeda on the show, RINGS ran 3/25 in Niigata before 3,128 (a few hundred shy of capacity) using Yoshihisa Yamamoto on top beating Bitsaze Tariel with the choke sleeper. It was the night to put the Japanese over, since second-year wrestler Tsuyoshi Kousaka beat Hans Nyman, who placed third in the recent Battle Dimension tournanent, while Mitsuya Nagai beat Eruhim Micha, the Russian who won the Russian version of the UFC in a far more grueling (because you had to win something like eight matches rather than three over two or three days) tourney than even UFC last year. Willie Williams faces Yamamoto in the main event on the April house show, and then the May show will take place in Russia."

"3/25 Niigata (RINGS - 3,128): Gregori Bekichev b Krastev, Wataru Sakata b Heizman, Mitsuya Nagai b Eruhim Micha, Tsuyoshi Kousaka b Hans Nyman, Volk Han b Dick Vrij, Yoshihisa Yamamoto b Bitsaze Tariel"

April 8, 1996:


Former sumo grand champion turned bad pro wrestler turned shooter Koji Kitao wound up on his back in his first shoot match that was supposed to be an easy tune-up win on the way to Royce Gracie in the fall. Kitao lost via knockout in 5:49 to Pedro Otarvio, who he probably outweighed by 150 pounds, before 3,200 fans at Tokyo Komazawa Gym on the debut card of Kitao's own Universal Vale Tudo promotion. Kitao is still expected to appear against Mark Hall on the next UFC. Three others with pro wrestling experience were on the show. Todd Medina (Pancrase, UFC) was said to have looked awesome showing tons of improvement since his last appearances beating Antonio Bigu in 6:06; Ilioukhine Mikhail (who we have been spelling Eruhim Micha) of Rings, who won the three-day UFC-style tournament in Russia in November outlasting something like 250 entrants, wound up losing to a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner named Valiji Izmael; and Deuseul Berto (who wrestled for Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi, and years back for Championship Wrestling from Florida as Haiti Kid Berto as the tag team partner of Tyree Pride) lost in 1:28 to Hugo Duarte." 

OMG Wallid Ismail, legendary jiujiteiro/hothead/toughest man to have ever lost to Akira Shoji! There is much to consider here. Let us consider it further when next we reconvene! Thanks again for your time!