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:
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!
WHAT DID DAVE MELTZER SAY:
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!