Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Mega Battle Tournament 1995: First Round
October 21, 1995 in Fukuoka, Japan
International Center drawing 5,050

OUR SYSTEMATIC ART-TAPES EXAMINATION HAS ONCE MORE REACHED THE HIGH POINT OF THE RINGS-LITURGICAL CALENDAR IN THAT THE MEGA BATTLE TOURNAMENT IS UPON US AND SPECIFICALLY MEGA BATTLE TOURNAMENT '95 and we begin with highlights of the finals of each previous annual tournament: of course I speak of Chris Dolman's triumph in MEGA BATTLE TOURNAMENT '92, Akira Maeda's in BATTLE DIMENSION TOURNAMENT '93, Volk Han's in the somewhat less whimsical RINGS 1994 TOURNAMENT I guess; let us each take a moment to reflect on the tremendousness of each man's achievement:  

WE BEGIN TRULY with Mitsuya Nagai versus Gogitidze Bakouri and who knows, maybe this will be Mitsuya Nagai's year! It sure doesn't look like it in the early going, though, as Nagai gets dumped all over the place, and, once dumped, is subjected to the gross indignity of the Karelin Lift (Fire Pro name: Alevin's Lift) which is a both a humiliation and definitely bad for your neck, long-term. Nagai is able to secure the occasional weird ashi-kansetsu (leg bone-lock) but at what cost. WAIT OK the hot new trend of forcing dudes to submit to a straightening leg-lock whilst beneath them in niju-garami (two-leg entanglement) in a form that is probably mostly hiza-juji but also calls to mind what Kawasishi describes as ashi-kannuki (leg-bolt) totally continues:

Anyway you (calf) slice it (haha), it is good news for Mitsuya Nagai at 6:38!

Mikhail Ilioukhine faces Nikolai Zouev in a relatively rare all-RINGS-Russia affair. I am as you know an impartial chronicler but I like Nikolai Zouev more so I hope he wins (Ilioukhine is totally fine, please do not mistake me). The opening minutes are spent with a lot (and I mean a lot!) of gyaku-ude-garami/reverse-arm-entanglement/double-wrist-lock/figure-four/Kimura from both able græpplers as each demonstrates the inherent power of this waza not only as a finishing hold but as a significant means of control and the cause of much movement. It is such an important grip! I don't know that there is another as important and versatile in all of katame-waza (grappling technique). This bout's next epoch sees a tonne of leg-locks, as we have come to expect of all RINGS, but gyaku-ude-garami keeps coming back because it is so great. I wonder if it will figure(-four armlock haha) in the finish! IT SORT OF DID in that Ilioukine wins by submission at  12:27 with the entangled armlock from kesa-gatame (scarf-hold) that some call . . . kesa-garami. His rolling entry into it was very awesome.

Yoshihisa Yamamoto, born anew, as we saw last time out vs. Dick Vrij, is up against Bitsadze Ameran aka Other Bitsadze (I cannot escape it) in his first-round bout and I don't like Other Bitsadze's chances here at all. I know it was only last night that I watched it so when I say that Yamamoto's showing against Dick Vrij has really stuck with me it doesn't sound like much, but it really was wild! Ameran takes his sweet time adjusting his pants and his kickpads or shoes or something and I am sympathetic I guess but let's go man. Yeah so Yamamoto has totally adopted Ricksonism in his stoic countenance and basically motionless upright posture and little stompy front kicks; again I at the same time reject this affectation, longing for the pizza-faced floppy-haired Yamamoto of old, and am yet intrigued by it, so like a lot of art it is complex. This match is plodding! This is understandable to the extent that Bitsadze Ameran is not nearly as good as Dick Vrij (this is not as harsh a condemnation as it might sound, Dick Vrij is totally good). Yamamoto's actual græppling hasn't actually changed, once he gets into it -- it's the same hadaka-jime chokes and rolling juji-gatame arm-bar entries -- but man this posture and the dumb look on his face and just his whole aspect, how long does this last? I don't remember Yamamoto as a Rickson-clone at all but it is entirely possible I am just remembering everything wrong. Ameran is given a yellow card for something I cannot immediately discern and why dwell on it because he immediately thereafter misses a front-flipping koppu kick and is summarily choked at 4:32. Mixed feelings about Yoshihisa Yamamoto right now! 

Now Hans Nijman (R.I.P. I heard Volkswagens burn oil) versus Ramazi Buzariashvili who we might think of as a less handsome Grom Zaza and that's ok it just means Ramazi Buzariashvili is a human man. Buzariashvili does well enough in takedowns and provisional joint-locking but the ropes are near, they are ever so near. He is knocked out (not for real, don't worry, very little of this is real yet) at 4:31 as Nijman ascends to the MEGA BATTLE TOURNAMENT 1995 second round as one hopes his soul ascended into heaven on a grey November morn in 2014 (R.I.P. once more). 

AH HEKK YES IT IS ACTUAL GROM ZAZA and his foe shall be none less worthy than Andrei Kopilov! Another all-RINGS-Russia affair although RINGS Russia is really more like RINGS Soviet only it is too late for that isn't it. I guess this is just after the era of the Unified Team in the Olympics, isn't it, so the post-Soviet sports organizational structure was still far too integrated to field truly independent RINGS Russia and RINGS Georgia teams, I get it. These guys are both low-key great at this, these Andrei Kopilov and Grom Zaza guys. Zaza is just a year away from representing Georgia in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics (he made the semis!) so it is truly a blessing for us that he finds the time to still mess around here. I remind you that, according to wikipedia, "He is also a fully qualified veterinarian and physical education teacher both of which he still continues to do[2]". He really has not had many RINGS matches and yet he has been excellent in each; such is the nature of shoot-style, I will now speculate and theorize, that it is not entirely a learned thing as its own style, but rather an able and true shootist with the right approach should be able to shoot-style well almost at once (and often literally at once, like the first time out; we know this because we have seen this), which is, oddly enough, inconceivable in lesser styles of disingenuous græppz (that is to say, all other styles), is it not? Famously, lucha libre, that fakest of fake fighting (I mean no disrespect), when contested between beginners is essentially an unwatchable shitshow, whereas shoot-style, falling precisely at the exact other end of that noble spectrum (of relative fake fighting fakeness), can see a début bout that is revelatory. "PARADOX? OR DIALECTIC?" I ask of you neither for the first time nor the last. Zaza's ipponzeoi is a thing of one-arm-shoulder-throwing beauty; his rolling hiza-gatame knee-bar a true enunciation of that thrilling technique. Kopilov's match ending ashi-sankaku-garami leg-triangle-entanglement/reverse omoplata/Huizinga roll, coming at 10:32 of a doughty bout, is commendable:

It is hard to believe we have reached the Volk Han portion of the evening already (it is in fact a lovely late-afternoon as I write this but I do not wish to break the spell) but that fact is undeniable as both he and Pieter Oele array themselves in their house colours (Han a baby blue; Oele a darker one) before the fray. They græpple in a fairly relaxed manner in the early going; perhaps they are "going long"? I don't know what the time limit has been for any of these first round bouts, it occurs to me, but it occurs to me too that it doesn't matter very much because Volk Han has just seamlessly transitioned from his (still gross) wrenching, standing gyaku-ude-garami/Kimura to the juji-gatame known to catch enthusiasts as the cross armbreaker for the win at 4:14. Pretty quick matches this time around, but they're all pretty good!

Bitsadze Tariel draws as his first-round opponent Dimitri Petkov in all his unreal girth; his plan should really be to avoid the girth as much as he is able, because I am not sure in truth that the girth can in any meaningful way be contained once it is set upon you. (The time limits seem to be thirty minutes, by the way; I apologize for not noting that much earlier.) Petkov launches Primary Bitsadze over his hip with such impetus that one's thoughts turn to the excellent round-timer you can have for free on your phone called "Impetus," and that is only the beginning of Petkov smothering Tariel with his advanced girthgræppz. Just as it seems there is no end to Petkov's technique he is very much knocked out at a mere 4:36 from a kick to the same gut that fuels his style. As much as we all enjoy Bitsadze Tariel's gigantic Kyokushin ultimate truth, I would have liked to see more Petkov this tournament!

ONLY ONE BOUT REMAINS and it is yet another match between those ancient rivals, Akira Maeda and Dick Vrij, who first met in the main-event of the inaugural RINGS event, ASTRAL STEP 1st: SPIRIT-U all the way back in May of 1991 in Yokohama, Japan (drawing 11,000!). Longtime readers (and RINGS enthusiasts generally) will recall that Maeda won that bout in 11:05, catching a Vrij kick and twisting it into the single-leg-crab of kata-ashi-hishigi. Who can say how the (mega) battle will unfold though on this day. Maeda comes out fast, driving Vrij to the mat with his low double-leg tackle and to the ropes with his ude-garami arm entanglement. He seems very much interested in the naked strangle of hadaka jime as well by my theory is that it is all a ruse and what he feels in his heart is ashi-kansetsu (leg bone-locking) and it is only a matter of time. Maeda dives low for a takedown and, finding nothing there, turtles up; these are exactly the kind of shenanigans that led to radical IJF rule changes following the æsthetic disaster of the 2008 Beijing Olympics (though the competition was fierce, do not doubt that for an instant) and the glorious renaissance of sikk waza that has seen judo soar to its rightful place as a tier three (of five) Olympic sport rather than a tier four (of four) sport as it had fallen too previously. Will the international council of RINGS seek remedy through regulation as well? Hard to say, but what we can say with certainty for now is that Akira Maeda has won with kata-ashi-hishigi AGAIN (although not quite in Boston crab form from like that first time, but still) at 4:58 of a(n Astral Step 1st)Spirit(u)ed bout! (I'm sorry, that was incomprehensible). 



October 16, 1995: Akira Maeda's name leads us to NJPW/UWFi results, and why shouldn't it: 

"In a shocking end to the biggest money match in the history of Japanese wrestling, Keiji Muto retained his IWGP world heavyweight title via submission with a figure four leglock in 16:16 over UWFI's Nobuhiko Takada.

The combined New Japan/UWFI show on 10/9 at the Tokyo Dome set an all-time gate record for pro wrestling of more than $6 million (one Japanese newspaper on 10/10 reported the figure as $6 million and another at $6.5 million and in pro wrestling the rule of thumb is "When in doubt, go with the lower amount"--hey, you probably can be a world renown defense attorney and get murderers off coming up with rhymes like that). The overflow crowd of 67,000, which included 2,200 standing room tickets sold the day of the show, was the largest crowd for any indoor event ever in Tokyo. It was also the largest pro wrestling crowd ever in Japan, breaking the record of 64,500 set on March 21, 1991 for a Ric Flair vs. Tatsumi Fujinami match in the same building. It was the fifth largest recorded crowd in the history of pro wrestling, trailing the two New Japan shows in North Korea on 4/28 and 4/29, the Hogan-Andre match in 1987 at the Pontiac Silverdome and the 1992 SummerSlam from Wembley Stadium in London, England. Most Tokyo Dome sellouts in recent years have ranged from 60,000 to 62,500 because it is now traditional to build elaborate entrance stages which blocks off thousands of outfield seats, but they didn't build a big stage for this show since the heat was based on hardcore wrestling lure and rather than a traditional special major spectacular event. This enabled them to pack more fans in. With program sales alone grossing $460,000 (23,000 sold at $20 a pop), the total merchandising revenue for the show was just under $2 million--another all-time record. The total one-day gross for the show topped $8 million. With the exception of Wrestlemanias III through VII, no show has ever taken in more money for a promotion and this was the largest in history of any show without PPV technology factored in.

While New Japan has been from a business standpoint, the promotion of the year for this and probably any other year by drawing five crowds in excess of 48,000 fans in one year, it appeared that the booking of this show was more from a power and ego position rather than a long-term business perspective, particularly the main event finish.

This promotion vs. promotion program was put together largely because UWFI was in financially bad shape and was rumored to be on the brink of falling apart. Several key personnel had left the promotion, in particular Kazuo Yamazaki, Gary Albright and Lou Thesz, all over money problems. Super Vader, who never officially left the promotion, hadn't returned since losing the group's world title to Takada in April. Takada himself, who had been protected from his own weaknesses (his own somewhat flighty personality) during his heyday in 1993-94, was exposed in announcing his retirement, immediately changing his mind and denying he was going into politics, then changing his mind again and running for the House of Councilors after filing on the last day possible and losing in embarrassing fashion, and finally returning back to pro wrestling with significant loss of popularity. However, after the match with Muto was announced, he was thrust into a hot position and all the negatives were seemingly forgotten as the match, because of the world title vs. world title and interpromotional intrigue, became the biggest match in pro wrestling anywhere in the world in many years. After the show had sold out, Takada held a press conference where he revealed that Thesz had taken his world title belt back and was no longer affiliated with UWFI, and thus Takada was no longer recognized as a world heavyweight champion.

New Japan was basically in the position of saving UWFI, a promotion that had attempted to embarrass them publicly a few times over the past years, from extinction with this program. This gave New Japan booker Riki Choshu power to call virtually all the shots. Not only did New Japan take the main event win, which seemingly didn't make business sense (the only justification would be that the finish would surprise people, but when a surprise doesn't make sense in terms of long-term booking, what does one accomplish with a surprise?), but also won five of the eight matches overall. The Masa Chono vs. Yuko Miyato match was cancelled at a press conference on 10/5. It was the same press conference where the final announcement was made that Muto would be defending the IWGP title against Takada. At the press conference it was announced Miyato had an injured left knee, although the fact Miyato didn't come to the press conference made some believe the injury was a cover story. Miyato had been the public voice of UWFI making the grandstand challenges to New Japan wrestlers and to Akira Maeda among others over the years, and was along with Yoji Anjyo and Ken Suzuki, the three who ran the company's business. Fans left the show with the distinct impression that the UWFI so-called shooters and style were second-rate in comparison with New Japan. If this was a one-shot deal, New Japan did the right thing for its status as the top company in Japan (and the world) and its business. But with the interest and money this drew and had the potential of doing for the future, Takada needed to win the first match to give the underdog promotion credibility for a long-term feud. If Takada would have won, there would have been tremendous interest in Muto training to get the IWGP title back for New Japan at the January Tokyo Dome. However, by Muto winning, much of the mystique Takada had of being the real deal was lost and that was his main credibility and drawing power. I'm not sure what the behind-the-scenes situation was leading to this other than at least at one point, the booking plan was for Takada to win the first match and then surprise everyone by having Takada win the second match in January as well before Muto finally got a win.

Instead, New Japan won all its matches against the submission fighters by using submissions, with three of the five finishes being the UWFI favorite armbreaker (short arm scissors) being used against them, thereby killing their gimmick as submission fighting specialists. New Japan won both the final and the semi-final (Shinya Hashimoto beating Tatsuo Nakano) with UWFI's biggest win coming third from the top as Masahito Kakihara upset Kensuke Sasaki. Takada himself lost to a figure four leglock, a moved not even considered legitimate in UWFI because in a realistic situation, while the move does work when applied, it is virtually impossible to put on. However, the figure four, which hasn't been considered a major finisher in Japan since the days of The Destroyer, will no doubt gain in heat and popularity due to it being the finish of this match.

With the exception of the Jushin Liger vs. Naoki Sano match, which was worked New Japan style with high spots and flying moves worked in with the submissions, all matches were fairly short and mostly devoid of high spots to give them the "realistic" feel. By that standard, the show didn't have the quality of matches as most previous Tokyo Dome shows and major Japanese shows have. However, there was more heat than any show ever at the Tokyo Dome. Every match was said to have super heat which made it a great show to watch to go along with the historical nature of the show because of the promotion vs. promotion rivalry. The crowd was solidly behind New Japan, going crazy for every ring entrance and most offensive moves. The UWFI wrestlers were somewhat booed, with Yoji Anjyo, its booker, being booed like crazy against Choshu, who got the biggest pop.

The show airs on 10/14 and 10/21 on New Japan's regular television show on TV-Asahi.

1. Tokimitsu Ishizawa & Yuji Nagata over New Japan beat Kazushi Sakuraba & Hiromitsu Kanehara in 10:47 when Ishizawa made Sakuraba submit to the armbreaker.

2. Shinjiro Otani of New Japan made Kenichi Yamamoto submit in 7:18 with a chicken wing cross face.

3. In an upset, UWFI prelim wrestler Yoshihiro Takayama made Takashi Iizuka submit to the Fujiwara armbar in 7:39.

4. Naoki Sano of UWFI pinned Jushin Liger after two dragon suplexes in 10:14 of a match worked pro wrestling style. Liger made the decision himself to put Sano over to create Sano as a new rival for him in 1996 and rekindle their famous feud from 1989-90. Liger used a koppo kick at the bell. The two did some flying but nothing elaborate, and teased topes without doing any. At the end the two starting trading submissions with Liger using a figure four and Sano an STF. Liger made a comeback until missing a diving head-butt off the top rope. The two traded submissions before Sano got the pin.

5. Choshu beat Anjyo in 4:45 with the scorpion deathlock. At the press conference, Anjyo said he 200% guaranteed victory (which was about the same percentage he used last year when talking about Rickson Gracie). Anjyo came out with kicks but Choshu didn't really sell them. Choshu used short head-butts and his amateur wrestling skill to take down and control Anjyo, before finally turning him over in the scorpion. Anjyo escaped and turned it into an achilles heel submission (it is well known Choshu tore his achilles heel a few years ago), but Choshu got out and used a back suplex, an ultra-stiff lariat and the scorpion to gain the submission finish.

6. In the one booking concession, UWFI's Masahito Kakihara beat Sasaki in 9:03 with an achilles tendon submission. The two traded fast slaps early before Sasaki took Kakihara down. Kakihara came back with kicks before Sasaki got his Power special submission hold on but Kakihara made the ropes. Sasaki dominated since he was doing the job, using arm and shoulder submissions while Kakihara came back with the choke sleeper. Sasaki got a bloody nose from Kakihara's fast palm blows and eventually got the heel hold for the submission.

7. Shinya Hashimoto made Tatsuo Nakano submit in 7:20. Hashimoto didn't sell Nakano's early kicks and because of the huge size difference and Hashimoto's rep, it looked like a mismatch. Nakano did use a german suplex and some submissions before Hashimoto made the comeback using a DDT, a brainbuster, a sleeper, a koppo kick and his combination DDT brainbuster maneuver before locking the armbreaker.

8. Muto retained the title over Takada. The first half of the match was slow-paced with them mainly trading holds on the mat. Takada's main weapon was his fast kicks, but Muto would eventually either catch the foot and throw Takada down, or legdrag him down. Finally Muto got the figure four on but Takada made the ropes. Muto got on top before missing a moonsault. Takada unloaded with kicks, knocking Muto down and they teased a knockout but Muto got up well before the ten count. Takada went back to the kicks before Muto again caught the leg and worked on it before going to a second figure four in the middle of the ring for the submission."

October 23, 1995: This time Maeda's name leads us to a deeply classic instance of Meltzerian prose:

"Undertaker suffered a broken orbital bone (the same injury suffered by Riki Choshu in the famous 1987 shoot-kick by Akira Maeda and also an injury suffered years back by Road Warrior Animal--in both cases it was about five weeks before the guy returned to action although Mitsuharu Misawa got the same injury earlier this year and not only didn't miss a match because All Japan was in the midst of the Carnival tour that he was scheduled to win, but had a match of the year bout a few days after the injury with Akira Taue) in a match on 10/7 in Providence, RI against Mabel (Nelson Frazier Jr.)."

October 30, 1995: 

"In a newspaper interview released on 10/20, Akira Maeda of RINGS challenged Keiji Muto to a match at the Tokyo Dome on 1/4 and also challenged Nobuhiko Takada to a match on a RINGS card apparently as a return favor. Maeda asked Takada to wrestle him one more time before he retires. Apparently Maeda's bad knee went out again and he's going to hold off surgery until February because the doctors told him after the operation, he may be forced to retire. Maeda, 36, appears to want to do his big money matches now since he may not get the chance later. Maeda had previously tried to separate his RINGS promotion from pro wrestling saying that they were two different worlds, but I guess seeing the last Dome gate, sometimes that can change minds. A Maeda vs. Muto match, if it is put together at the Dome, would probably have every bit as much interest if not more than the Takada match."

"The biggest show of the week in Japan was the first round of the RINGS Battle Dimension tournament on 10/21 in Fukuoka before 5,050 fans. Maeda beat Dick Leon-Vrij in the main event in 4:58 with the achilles tendon submission. Other first round winners, who advance to the second round on 11/16 in Nagoya, were Mitsuya Nagai, Eruhim Micha, Yoshihisa Yamamoto, Hans Nyman, Andrei Kopilov, Volk Han and Bitzsade Tariel."

"10/21 Fukuoka (RINGS - 5,050): Mitsuya Nagai b Gogiteza Berkley, Eruhin Micha b Nikolai Zouev, Yoshihisa Yamamoto b Bitzade Amilan, Hans Nyman b Buzoriashivili Ramaji, Andrei Kopilov b Grom Zaza, Volk Han b Peter Ura, Bitzade Tariel b Dimita Petkov, Akira Maeda b Dick Leon-Vrij"


  1. Not to dispute your knowledge of sick grappling waza but i saw the Mitsuya Nagai finish as a kneebar rather than a slicer in a manner similar to this one performed in the eddie bravo invitational

    1. oh I definitely agree it is a knee-bar (hiza-juji), just the position calls to mind the rarely-seen ASHI KANUKI imo

      also please never hesitate to raise issues w/ my classificationz, what are we all here for if not to learn and grow . . . in our waza

    2. Reread the paragraph. Yup tired me tuned out the japanese occasionally and just looked at the pretty picture

    3. It is ok it is all love . . . all græppzluv