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! 


  1. There is an error in this info. Mikhail Illyoukhin didn't lose to Wallid Ismail in the UVF card, but to Carlos Barreto.

  2. Ah ok, thank you for the correction!

  3. Great work as always! I'm suprised that Tsuyoshi Kosaka didn't get more of a push during this time period. Yoshihisa Yamamoto gets this crazy push for basically making Rickson take 2 rounds two beat him instead of 1, and yet TK mops the tatami with the likes of Egan Inoue, and Susumu Yamasaki, and still seems to be the Arn Anderson of Rings at this point, (solid talent that holds the midcard together).

    I suppose TK gets the last laugh though, as he had one of the more successful carrers outside of Rings, compared to his peers.

    1. I think the Arn Anderson comparison is totally apt, that's great, thank you for it!

  4. 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). cufflinks for men with best price

  5. The most passing of references to RINGS, but multi-promotion shows are inherently interesting to me and feel like Fire Pro and so. Wedding Bands for him

  6. women don't just like men's muscle ,but love the beautiful ring from the guy.