November 16, 1995 in Nagoya, Japan
Aichi Gym drawing 4,128
WITH BOTH THE MEGA BATTLE TOURNAMENT 1995: FIRST ROUND AND THE LUMAX CUP: THE TOURNAMENT OF J '95 BEHIND US it is time to turn our attention towards the second round of this battle, this mega battle. There are also a couple of promising non-tournament bouts scheduled in the early going, too, and I say they are promising because they involve in the first instance the wildly-vacillating Willie Peeters and in the second the newly-crowned Lumax Cup champion Tsuyoshi Kohsaka!
Wataru Sakata comes out to "Paradise City" which is a song that hasn't seemed anything but awesome for a single second since its release when I bought the tape with my own money (to the extent that one's money can be one's own as a child) but the lady at the record store told my dad that it had language that might not be ideal for young me and my dad struck with me a deal wherein I was allowed to buy the tape, and he would preview it (I remember him sitting with my Fisher Price tape player on his knees listening quietly [I was asked to go elsewhere for a while]), and the deal was that if it was judged none too offending I could keep it, and if it was too racy for me, he would buy the tape from me for exactly what I had paid for it. This struck me even then as a high-level parenting move. In the end, he thought I was too young for it, gave me the money, and hid the tape on a shelf that I found pretty much immediately, so I ended up listening to it latchkey-style pretty much everyday after school (I was kind of a little shit), the album's rock and roll medium-danger (I was like eight) rendered darkly sublime by the thrill of the illicit, I guess. Willie Peeters comes out to a song of less significance but looking Cobra Kai as hekk in his sleeveless all-black-everything and he puts Sakata down and out at 6:16 with a barrage of knees and slaps:
This episode's Q&A segment comes earlier than most and its focus is TSUYOSHI KOHSAKA WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT and if you are wondering about that shirt yeah it's a Sharon Stone one:
It is the first truly high-flying waza (technique) in the nearly five years of RINGS thus far and as the crowd applauds this feat of jauntiness we are left to wonder if there is anything Tsuyoshi Kohsaka can't do? Literally the next thing he does is kick Raven directly in the groin but don't worry they are both men of judo, they are both familiar with . . . the methods:
Kappo (活法): resuscitation techniques
Sasoi-katsu: Inductive method
Eri-katsu: Lapel method
So-katsu: Composite method
So it will be ok. Raven puts Kohsaka down with another SHOTEEEIIIIII and that's three knockdowns, be careful TK! OH GOOD HE HAS BEEN VERY CAREFUL in catching a mid-height Raven kick, dragging him to the ground by that selfsame leg (of kicking), and finishing with a hishi-hishigi (knee-crush/calf-slicer) that has something of the ashi-dori-garami entanglement to it (just in that it got twisty) and here we are at 5:40. Had Raven done any other professional wrestling that we know of prior to this, or is he another example in support of our earlier theorizing that shoot-style is uniquely amenable (amongst prowres styles) to the débuting shoot-stylist provided that shoot-stylist is a true and proper shootist? Outside of his judo records, the only Dennis Raven mention I can find anywhere is an old Full Contact Fighter interview from 9/10/2000 in which Valentijn Overeem says, "One of the guys who teaches at Chris Dolman's gym is Dennis Raven. He was one of the biggest judoka in Holland." But those are both great things to have someone say about you.
TO THE SECOND ROUND ITSELF now as Hans Nijman and Mikhail Ilioukhine step into the ring with an air of seriousness that suggests knowledge, on some level, that one of them would one day be car-murdered . . . but who? (R.I.P. Hans Nijman). Ilioukhine hurls the much larger Nijman down with a fine act of hucking and then pursues him with the straight arm-lock of ude-hishigi-ude-gatame which you don't see all that much outside of the context of the dogi because it is pretty easy to slip the arm out without all of the friction the dogi provies HOWEVER I saw a mixed-fight finish in maybe I guess DREAM where someone finished with ude-gatame and the entrapped guy just couldn't pull his arm out because his glove was wedged between his opponent's head and shoulder. I sent it to all my judo friends when it happened! Hans Nijman has knocked Ilioukhine down three times with great, thunderous blows but he has himself accumulated sufficient rope breaks and knockdowns to be charged with three knockdowns and one escape, so a lot has been happening here while I was still lost in thought about that old ude-gatame finish in DREAM and who it might have been. DREAM really just petered out there, didn't it? It was a dark time in Japanese fighting, and also in Japanese pretending to be fighting. Hans Nijman is hitting Ilioukhine really very hard for what this is supposed to be and that is it at 8:10, a TKO victory for him. Ilioukhine has an ice pack. And the song they are playing is "Cold as Ice," that's wild.
Yoshihisa Yamamoto and Mitsuya Nagai are cruelly forced to fight in a bout to determine who was most inspired by Tsuyoshi Kohsaka's recent win in the Lumax Cup: The Tournament of J '95. I have long cherished the work of Yoshihisa Yamamoto but his recent and frankly quite busted turn towards stoic Ricksonism since their Vale Tudo Japan encounter has been weird as hekk and yet his matches have such an energy to them; Mitsuya Nagai, who we know to have recently taken a bride, remains a pleasant, merry fellow, a friend to all. This might suggest to you that I am hoping for Mitsuya Nagai to win but it's not that simple; I don't know what to do or how to be. REFEREE SHIMADA YUJI the ring announcer notes seconds before the bell rings and the slapping commences in grim earnest. WHAT THE SHIT Yamamoto pulls guard now? He sweeps from it immediately but come on, man. Nagai grabs a rope to break an ashi-hishigi straight ankle-lock as I feel such confusion and dis-ease. Before long he is back to his usual ne waza but man this new stuff of his seems so (my god I hate to say this, this is so dark) . . . affected. Nagai comes close with both a gyaku-ude-garami/reverse-arm-entanglement/double-wrist-lock/figure-four/Kimura/what-a-lot-of-names from niju-garami (as though he were Daniel Puder to Yamamoto's Kurt Angle that time) and then the waki-gatame you perhaps know best as the FUJIWARA ARMBAR (what's up Dan), but no finish. Nagai hits some great knees in the corner, Yamamoto looks good with a juji, Nagai looks good with a juji, and then at 7:43 of a fast-paced, excellent (if baffling in some ways?) match, Yamamoto shoots in, grabs the ashi-kansetsu leg-lock that best pleases him, and wins the day.
Volk Han vs. Andrei Kopilov, there is nothing wrong with that, and in fact I will go so far as to say that I will take all of that you've got. The only thing anyone might reasonably say against Andrei Kopilov is that his win over Grom Zaza in the opening round of this tournament has denied us further Zaza, but he is besides that flawless. Volk Han spins a standing gyaku-ude-garami into juji-gatame about as quickly as you could ever even conceive of that happening; Kopilov stands up and out and shows once more his love of standing ashi-kansetsu leg locking. It is all sikk græppz until Volk Han punches Kopilov in the face with an illegal closed fist but he is contrite and civility is restored. As they roll pretty much the full width of the ring in search of leg locks, these two, the crowd is of the opinion that HWAAAAIIIIIIII. Han wins with a hiza-juji knee-bar that unfolded as the counter to Andrei Kopilov's sumi-gaeshi from a gyaku-ude-garami grip; here is Masahiko Kimura doing one of those:
Unlike Kimura's uke (little buddy) above, Han traps Kopilov's raised leg betwixt his own and finishes with extreme knee-barredness:
That was a remarkably nice finish to me, and really very subtle. One perhaps associates Volk Han most closely with ludicrously ornate yet somehow vraisemblable submissions, and he is definitely the best at those, but I think he is actually at his truemost best when the holds themselves are far more conventional but his entries into them make really you think!
NO TIME TO THINK NOW THOUGH as it is time for Akira Maeda being pummeled to the mat by Bitsadze Tariel in our final second round match. Tariel always looks big, because he is totally big, but against Maeda he seems his biggest, I think, maybe because we (as a people) have a pretty solid understanding of how big Akira Maeda is (not small) and Tariel occludes him. When being neither pummeled nor on the run from axe-kicks, Maeda is doing a fine job of shooting in low and tackling Bitsadze to the ground. But perhaps he has found a better way: a total karate-movie, Street Fighter II-leg-sweep puts Tariel on his back and right into juji-gatame in a combination that is probably Akira Maeda's favourite thing he has ever done (this is speculation but I think it fits); Tariel makes the ropes but only because he is about as long as the ring is wide. Maeda throws with the form of ura-nage (rear throw) the 10th dan Toshiro Daigo asks us to consider akin to sori-nage (rearward-leaning-throw) and that the excited man on commentary describes as SUPLEXXXXUUUUUUU and I understand his excitement because Tariel is a big fellow to get up like that! Although I guess it is like anything else, you've got to get your hips in low and dig, don't you. I am absolutely certain the finish is about to come from a knee-bar off of a Maeda kani-basami flying crab scissor that Maeda half-missed but I am yet again proven a fool as Tariel makes the ropes. Oh ok there it is: the rear-naked strangle of hadaka-jime from a humble morote-gari two-hand rep at 5:12 of a solid bout and Maeda will join Volk Han, Hans Nijman, and Yoshihisa Yamamoto in the tournament semi-finals!
WHAT DID DAVE MELTZER SAY:
November 13, 1995: Dave explains which shows count for the Observer Awards, an issue that has been raised in our own era, as you no doubt well know:
"18. BEST TELEVISION SHOW - Weekly television shows only are eligible which eliminates All Japan women, JWP and Rings. This is for the best consistent week-to-week show, not for a specific episode of a specific program. Last year's top three were ECW, AAA on Galavision and All Japan 30."
This is a bad rule. Where did RINGS air but as a television show? On WOWOW? Please, Dave. In other news, Muto goes IN on Maeda:
Keiji Muto gave a speech on 11/5 at a college festival and talked about wrestlers from different companies and possible matches. He said the only UWFI wrestler he'd defend the title against was Nobuhiko Takada. He said he thought Mitsuharu Misawa was a great wrestler and would like to wrestle him once but he thought politically it would be difficult to put the match together. When asked about Masakatsu Funaki, he said he hasn't seen Funaki wrestle in a long time but has followed his career in the wrestling magazines. He complained about independent wrestlers getting so much attention among fans and in the magazines saying that in New Japan, the guys have to train very hard to get a chance and the indie wrestlers don't train as hard to learn wrestling. He said he left pity for the New Japan younger wrestlers because they are so good yet people think the independent guys on top are bigger stars. When asked about a match with Akira Maeda, Muto knocked Maeda saying that Maeda's legendary status wasn't achieved by anything he has done in the ring and that it was created by talking to the press and he said he doesn't respect Maeda as a top star. He said that would also be politically a difficult match to put together. When the subject of American wrestling came up, Muto said that pro wrestling in Japan is much more popular than in the U.S. and the top names in Japan are far better known than the top names in the U.S., but said that in the U.S., Hogan, Flair and Sting are well known (since Flair and Sting are coming to New Japan this week) and he considers them the biggest stars and would like to wrestle them."
November 20, 1995: Classic Meltzerprose:
"My feeling as it regards shootfighting, whether real or worked, is that any form of fighting that doesn't include punching to the head, and the punches can be worked and it can still be marketable because most people aren't going to know the difference if the work is of Pancrase or even RINGS calibre believability, is not going to be marketable to any degree in the United States. The American mentality of what a fight is, consists of guys punching each other out. If UFC didn't allow punches to the head, it would be a better technical sport, and it wouldn't be marketable at all. The UFC fans over the past two years have eventually learned the chokes and the armlocks, but it was the punches to the face that they understood first and when those weren't winning and the chokes were, they were educated to that style. To the first-time UFC viewers that aren't educated to the style, they don't understand why the guys work for the chokes rather than simply wail away on each other, but eventually if they are to remain fans, they'll learn. Whether UWFI was or wasn't real, as in non-pre arranged finishes (and it wasn't) or Pancrase is or isn't (sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't) is a lot less of an issue when it comes to being marketable in this country than the fact that the fighters don't punch each other in the face. To me, very simply, that is why UFC made it and UWFI didn't when both began at about the same time. I enjoyed UWFI and I've grown to really enjoy Pancrase the more I see it, however, I don't believe either style is marketable in the United States for the reasons mentioned, for the same reason the NCAA wrestling tournament championship finals wouldn't draw many buys on PPV either even though it is 100% real and the guys are all the real deals."
December 4, 1995:
"Antonio Inoki held a press conference on 11/24 to officially announce the 12/30 Osaka Castle Hall show that was mentioned here last week. At the press conference, all that was announced is that Inoki & Takada would form a tag team in the main event, and Inoki said he was inviting Kazuo Yamazaki, Big Van Vader, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Akira Maeda and Genichiro Tenryu to the event, which would have six to eight matches, but only five wrestlers from New Japan would appear. They also announced ringside tickets at a whopping $500 for the show. Maeda quickly came back and said that he wouldn't be part of the show but said he wanted to have one match in New Japan. I don't think Vader will be ready by that time, either. It was rumored by early in the next week that Yamazaki & Fujiwara would be Inoki & Takada's opponents in the main event."
I don't see the results of this MEGA BATTLE TOURNAMENT 1995: SECOND ROUND anywhere in the archive, and yet that is totally ok, because we have them here already don't we.
Ok then, see you next time for the SEMI-FINALS! Thanks as always for your time!