April 28, 1995 in Osaka, Japan
Furitsu Gym drawing 5,125
LUSH PASTORAL IMAGES BROUGHT TO US BY THE PEOPLE WHO DO THE INTERSTITIAL BITS FOR WOWOW I GUESS CANNOT PREPARE US FOR THE STARKNESS OF THE RISING SERIES GRAPHIC now upon us in its second instance, that of UZUKI. No time is wasted as we are at once given the RINGS official rankings, topped by no less deserving a græppzman than Magomedkhan Amanulayevich Gamzatkhanov known to all but his own dear mother as VOLK HAN:
He is followed by Maeda, Nyman (R.I.P.), Yamamoto, Dolman, Vrij, Williams (who is really sticking around in these), Tony Halme (thoughts, no prayers [that is unkind of me to say, forgive me]), Bitsadze Tariel, and Zouev. From there we speed at once to highlights (such as they are) of Yoshihisa Yamamoto's Vale Tudo Japan bout vs. Rickson Gracie, which I invite you to consider at the following link: here you go. I watched this quite recently and do not intend to do so again so soon but if you have never seen it, or if you have never seen any of the bouts upon which Rickson Gracie's legend rests, I encourage you to attend to it and form your own views (should it please you to do so; who am I to say). I wonder how Akira Maeda, looming ringside in a very large suit that day (he is a very large man), felt about it all? To the extent to which Yamamoto gave Rickson his longest bout of the evening, did he feel RINGS had been represented adequately by this upper-mid-carder of his? Or was anything less than a win revolting to him? One wonders, for real, what might have been had young Tsuyoshi Kohsaka -- practically unsubmittable over the course of his mixed fight career (he has been on the wrong end of kansetsu [bonelocking] and shime [strangulation] waza [technique] in the world of straight græppz and Kodokan judo, certainly), a career contested against submissionists who faced a much higher calibre of competition than Rickson by any measure -- been entered in Yamamoto's place? Because, again, he is functionally unsubmittable; this is known. Even in the world of ADCC, Kohsaka may well have (literally did) lose to a then-young Fabricio Werdum, but on points; mere points. The deal with TK is pretty much that if you are anyone less able than Jean-Jacques Machado in the world of ADCC, or if you are a human at all in the world of mixed fight, you will not submit Tsuyoshi Kohsaka; and so one wonders what might have been had TK been in Yamamoto(14-25-1)'s position that night; one truly wonders, doesn't one.
Lest we be lost in reverie eternal let us turn instead to the waking dream of Tsuyoshi Kohsaka in a puffy Adidas vest with nothing under it:
As you can see plainly in the above, this is major. His foe is once more Wataru Sakata, and why not. Our referee, as is so often the case, is Yuji Shimada.
Kicking gives way to grappling nearly at once, which is the right time for that to happen in my view; Sakata grabs gyaku-ude-garami (the double wrist lock) on the way down but Kohsaka deftly cartwheels out of it (there is a reason we both cartwheel and round-off as we warm up for each judo class and that is that it is a valuable judo-specific movement so don't be stuck up just do some cartwheels like everybody else). Sakata has assumed the head-and-neck/north-south hold of kami-shiho-gatame but it does not seem urgent; does he know the stepover-juji-gatame from kuzure (broken) kami shiho gatame? Not everyone does! You'd be surprised! Some call it "Royler's armbar" but I don't know, I have definitely seen it done before his time, and also I don't think he hit it in the Sakuraba match, although maybe I am forgetting? Koshaka, like most fine ne waza players, is fearless in his application of rolling sutemi-waza (sacrifice techniques) and they are a strong pleasure to behold. It takes several minutes before either competitor opts for the leg-locking of ashi-kansetsu we have so come to expect, and when they do, it ends quickly as TK spins through a hiza-juji knee-bar attempt straight (in the sense of immediate, it is in fact quite twisty) into juji-gatame to force a rope break; this is all going wonderfully so far.
Sakata attempts the sweeping hip of harai-goshi but is taken straight back with the valley drop of tani-otoshi which TK follows with a yoko-sankaku-jime (side triangle choke) that has a little bit of juji-gatame in there too just to let Sakata know. A rope break leads to standing, standing leads to striking, but the striking leads again to græppz, true (fake) græppz, and before you know it, a fairly grotesque ude-garami (arm entanglement) finish at 9:39 (don't worry too much, Sakata is young, and the young are often super flexible in this hold):
Willie Peeters and Mitsuya Nagai, great! Willie Peeters is back to his old (and frankly I had feared lost) yoko-otoshi/side-dropping/suplexing ways, which I think we can all agree are delightful ways indeed. He is kind of pounding the piss out of Mitsuya Nagai, also, if I may descend into vulgarity but briefly (I promise). Koshi-guruma! The hip-wheel! This is the Willie Peeters we have longed to know! A genuine rebirth! Except Nagai caught him in a mae-hadaka-jime/front-choke at 5:34. But that detail seems trivial given what first we had been granted.
Todor Todorov, man of judo, makes his return after quite some absence, but sadly for him he is to face Dick Vrij, whose status remains that of a killer. Todorov has let his hair grow floppier (post-Grungerov?) and it suits him. Dick Vrij comes out in a sleeveless hoodie (hood up, not down) to the strains of "Sweet Child O' Mine" which is how we all hope to come out some day but so few of us are afforded that bliss. Would it hold less meaning were we all able to do so, or is it more like love? Dick Vrij is huge, 109kg and not a lot of it extra, like, shitweight? Todorov is listed at 98kg which is I suppose credible but he looks really very small next to Vrij, whose black pants are probably slimming and lengthening to his lines so it's complicated. Todorov styles on Vrij quite ably in the earliest going and his takedowns have a shoot liveliness to them right now that recalls (and clearly this is as close to the highest praise I can offer) no one so much as . . . Grom Zaza. Vrij just drilled him, though, so that's knockdown number one. Well, that was unexpected: Vrij finishes with a strange arm-trap hadaka-jime (naked strangle) that I am not really prepared to call kata-ha-jime but either way the day is his at 5:16 of that selfsame day.
Gogitidze Bakouri makes his début against Hans Nyman/Nijman, who is soon to make his début amongst the choir triumphant (R.I.P. Hans Nijman). Bakouri hits a huge hip throw and nearly finishes with kata-gatame (shoulder hold/arm triangle); who is this magnificent beast? A Georgian, plainly, and one who enjoys deeply odd lifts and throws:
The crowd loves him and rightly so; more is the pity when Hans Nijman knocks him out at 5:39. Did I mention he threw with a beautiful ippon-seoi-nage too? He really did. Bakouri is one to watch!
The Q&A segment returns, and Chris Dolman talks about his retirement. May it be long and healthy, I say to Chris Dolman's retirement.
Volk Han is an all-time great and Masayuki Naruse is an all-time-very good so this should be totally good oh no Volk Han please don't throw from gyaku-ude-garami quite like that you will "shoot" destroy people's shoulders even if they cooperate but does he listen? Pretty soon, they are like this:
The pace is high, the crowd hot, the juji-gatame attempts plentiful even by the unreal standards of RINGS, and this is just a pleasure to be around. At first I think Naruse's hair is more closely cropped than it had been, but no: it's that he's let all the parts that used be a fade grow back to normal (it looks good). Also good: Naruse's wrenching, bulldog-style hadaka-jime choke that drives Volk Han to the ropes. The weakness of that seemingly-strong choke is revealed upon its next application, though: with no hooks, uke (the receiver of the waza) can just scoot scoot scoot and, once the corner has been turned (or scooted), they are on top! This fine match draws to a close at 12:11 as Han rips both Naruse's head and foot off at once.
That Akira Maeda has booked his match on this night against Bitsadze Tariel in the semi-main event position rather than the main event itself is yet another sign of Akira Maeda's undying and selfless love of Chris Dolman. Has Maeda ever felt this way about another? Has he married? I do not believe he has but I could easily be mistaken. Tariel axe-kicks our hero to the mat for a second knockdown only minutes in and things are not looking too good! Until they look totally fine: Maeda wins with the naked strangle of hadaka-jime at 6:25.
Ahead of Dolman's finally-for-real-this-time-probably retirement match, a number of RINGS fighters offer their reflections on Dolman's life as a competitor and their wishes for his happiness as it draws to an end and it is all very nice and kind but Dick Vrij appears to be in league with the Necromancer:
|my best to . . . your family|
What happens next can I think be best described as . . .
It begins with a fine retrospective of his young judoism and carries on into his best RINGS moments, as one might well expect, before fitting in-ring respects are paid to this fine martial artist and lovely guy. He is presented with a trophy that looks like a samurai helm before Maeda drapes a big RINGS flag with everyone's signatures on it about his shoulders. What a nice send-off! "Someday," Dolman says, "you have to stop fighting." But he will keep training! And coaching! That's the spirit, Chris Dolman!
WHAT DID DAVE MELTZER SAY (an unreal tonne, get ready):
April 10, 1995: The massive thirteen-promotion, Fire-Pro-Comes-to Life "Bridge Of Dreams ~ Dome Spring Full Bloom" show has happened, and the review is in! Rather than excerpt the strictly RINGS-relevant, I give you the whole thing, which is kind of amazing:
"There were winners, losers and lessons to be learned from what in many ways was an even bigger and certainly was a more historic show than Wrestlemania.
The biggest thing this show established is that whatever correlation between noise made by the crowd for ring entrances and determining who is truly "over" in the sense of who gets people to buy tickets is almost incidental. The biggest pop coming out was for Mitsuharu Misawa. In fact, the seven biggest pops for entrances and ring announcements were for the six All Japan wrestlers and for the referee of the match. With no exceptions, everyone I spoke with after the show concurred that All Japan, both the promotion and its wrestlers stole the show. Yet in no way is Misawa anywhere near the drawing card Onita is. Johnny Ace even got a tons bigger reaction coming out than Onita. Unless you consider the semi-retired Antonio Inoki, there is no bigger drawing card on the planet except for possibly Hulk Hogan, than Onita, whose retirement show which is still one month away has already almost sold out the 52,000 seats in Kawasaki Baseball Stadium for a show with no matches even announced yet. Yet in Onita's either last or next to last match of his career (provided he doesn't return which he almost surely will be some point) in Tokyo, his reaction wasn't even in the top ten of guys on the show. Nor was Nobuhiko Takada's, who sold out the nearby Jingu Baseball Stadium's 46,000 seats just over one year ago and whose promotion averaged 15,812 fans per event in 1994. Yet All Japan is struggling right now at the gate. In truth, with the exception of the seven All Japan wrestlers and Akira Maeda, nobody got a louder reaction on the show than Ryuma Go, a veteran who is this season's version of cult hero joke, and whose name on a card doesn't sell ticket one.
Yet no matter how weak All Japan is doing this month at spot shows, they came out the kings on the biggest stage of all, on the night where to every fan in the building, it truly didn't matter who won or lost, but how they played the game. Other highlights of the show:
Best performer - With 52 wrestlers involved in so many different styles, it is truly impossible to pick out this show's Shawn Michaels. Suffice to say there were more than a dozen Michaels' on the show from Kenta Kobashi, Toshiaki Kawada, Mitsuharu Misawa, Manami Toyota, Kyoko Inoue, Terry Funk, Cactus Jack, Nobuhiko Takada, Great Sasuke, The Head Hunters and on and on it goes. Kenta Kobashi is the best, and on this night he was at his best, but there was no clear winner.
Worst performer - This was a lot easier. PWFG's Don Arakawa. For a so-called shoot group wrestler to do embarrassing Baba-like chops as comedy match spots was bad enough. The fact that his match went 16:30 didn't make matters any better.
Classiest performer - Akira Maeda. While Maeda's match with Chris Dolman was a stinker, the fans in the building would have given the still immensely popular Maeda probably the biggest non-All Japan pop of the show for beating someone that most fans realized was one of the legendary all-around freestyle fighting performers of this era. But being that it was the retirement match for Dolman, Maeda, after winning "a close match" to avenge his doing the favor for Dolman in his home town of Amsterdam in February, snuck out of the ring and even tried to get the fans not to chant his name so Dolman could bask in the glory of the big ovation as they gave him a retirement ceremony.
Greatest move - You'd think this would be a hard category as well, and it would have been, except for the fact that Terry Funk, just months before his 51st birthday, did a moonsault off the top rope to the floor. It's been done before, but those that have, like Rey Misterio Jr., Heavy Metal, Manami Toyota and the "inventor," Masao Orihara, were all under 25 years old and all well under 200 pounds. If that wasn't enough, when Funk got up from the move, he did the single most convincing job of selling a knee that I've ever seen in my life. I don't think there were many in the building who didn't think that was the end of his career, but in fact, he was fine and worked the next night. One of the Head Hunters, even bigger than the last time I've seen him at around 430 pounds, did a Liger flip tope in the same match.
It would have been the best match but award - You put Terry Funk in one of his lifetime best performances with two 430-pound identical twins who think they're junior heavyweights and combine that with Cactus Jack, and you could have had the match of the show. And if this match were held in any other building, people would be calling it one of the great matches of all-time. I have a hunch when the video comes out, some people will be saying that as well. But a funny thing happened on the way to the finish. A board wound up in the ring. Cactus Jack poured what appeared to be lighter fluid (lamp oil fluid) on it and tried to set it on fire. It wouldn't light. He tried again. It still wouldn't light. It was one of those moments where time stood still. Everybody in the building knew something had really screwed up. That's when the Head Hunter thought he was Liger and Funk thought he was Misterio Jr. but the crowd didn't get over that they saw the moment where nobody knew what to do. It's a good thing it happened in hindsight, though. After the match, one of the building officials went berserk on Yamamoto (promoter) saying that if there had been a fire, they'd shut the show down immediately. It also killed Atsushi Onita for later in the show since no doubt Mr. Pogo would have blown a fireball on his head which left them with an empty match.
The best and the worst of aging - Besides Dolman, also honored on the show were Thesz and Oki. Thesz, just a few weeks before his 79th birthday, was amazing looking every bit of 20 years younger than his age. Walking to the ring proudly with Frank Sinatra's "My Way" playing in the background, Thesz for possibly the first time ever in a ring seemed to have to fight to hold back tears as he talked about his matches with Rikidozan, the Babe Ruth of Japanese wrestling, saying he remembered them as if they were yesterday (in fact, they were nearly 40 years ago). Unfortunately the same couldn't be said about his fellow honoree. Oki, 61, who held major world title recognition in the 60s in not only his home country, but also in the United States (the old WWA title in California) and in Japan and a wrestler so well respected in his home country that he later became elected to his country's senate, looked much older than his years. He had to be wheeled to the ring by Thesz in a wheelchair. Oki stood up from his chair, gave a well received speech in Japanese, and as he left the ring for the final time, before getting back in the wheelchair, kissed a ringpost and broke down and cried.
Other big winners - JWP. They opened the show and tore the house down to the point where the All Japan womens match, the one everything thought going in would steal the underneath part of the show, could not follow them. Minoru Suzuki of Pancrase. The crowd, most of whom had certainly never seen Pancrase before, gave him a huge ovation after he dispatched Christopher DeWeaver.
Other losers - Onita, minus fireball, and wearing his Great Nita get-up, hardly got the reaction one would expect from such a major celebrity. Made worse was his FMW was upstaged totally by IWA in the battle of the outrageous bloody gimmick promotions. New Japan Pro Wrestling. The biggest company in Japan and perhaps the most profitable in the world right now, was totally upstaged by All Japan. Hell, they were upstaged by almost everyone. Nobody can figure out what went through Shinya Hashimoto and Masa Chono's heads when they came up with a nothing match after following some of the most spectacular performers in the history of the business. Hashimoto didn't even get his requisite bloody nose.
And overall - This wasn't as good as the All Japan women's show at the Dome on 11/20, but aside from that, was easily the best card ever at the Tokyo Dome. I've enjoyed shows more than this one for whatever reason, whether it be crowd involvement or a memorable finish or angle, but it has to rank as one of the best cards I've ever seen. Certainly a candidate but not a sure winner when it comes to a best show of the year since it didn't build to a climactic finish like the Super J Cup did last year and it wasn't as good a show as the All Japan women Dream Slam I that won the award the previous year. It was much better than When Worlds Collide as a comparison. The ticket offices at the Dome were closed at Noon, which was two hours before show time to indicate it was a real sellout. They had a large stage area, not as large as the women's show but large enough to block off about 3,000 seats and there were scattered blocks of empty seats in obstructed viewing areas because of the foul poles obstructing the site lines. However at the previous New Japan shows I'd been to, those seats were full so the New Japan real sellouts in 1990, 1991 and 1993 all had more fans.
1. JWP: Dynamite Kansai & Hikari Fukuoka & Candy Okutsu & Fusayo Nouchi defeated Devil Masami & Mayumi Ozaki & Cutie Suzuki & Hiroumi Yagi in 17:29. I don't know what they gave these women before the show but they've never worked like this before. All action from start-to-finish with stiff clotheslines and kicks to the face, psychology and creative spots. At one point Suzuki and Ozaki came off the top rope together with double foot stomps on Kansai. Ozaki did a 15-rep giant swing but Kansai followed with an 18-rep swing. Everyone did their big moves for near falls such as Fukuoka using a moonsault and a rolling cradle, Ozaki used her Tequila Sunrise (half nelson german suplex), Suzuki used her dragon suplex (full nelson german suplex), Kansai did a Northern Lights suplex, Kansai did a backdrop driver. Yagi just got destroyed by Kansai's team. Masami's team knocked their opponents out of the ring and climbed to the top where they did four different types of topes on them simultaneously. Suzuki did a double foot stomp off the top to the floor, Ozaki did a flip splash ala Akira Hokuto, etc. Okutsu gave Yagi a Northern Lights superplex and followed with five consecutive german suplexes with Yagi selling great. After all the dust cleared. Masami was on the top rope and Okutsu ran across the ring as if she was going to do a running Rey Misterio Jr. Frankensteiner off the top but as she got to the top, Masami caught her and threw her outside the ring to the floor with Okutsu taking a tremendous bump. However Fukuoka held Masami on the top and Kansai, who had been legdropped, recovered and they set her up for a Niagara Driver off the top rope (called Kansai's "Die Hard") for the pin. Easily the best opening match I've ever seen on a show. ****3/4
2. LLPW: Shinobu Kandori defeated Harley Saito in 1:12 of an Ultimate fight rules match. The two came out wearing karate gloves and Kandori, who got a big reaction, came out in a judo gi. They didn't try any pro wrestling, but worked it (if it was even worked, which it probably was but it held water) as if it were a UFC. Kandori took Saito down, tied her up with her legs around Saito's throat and just punched her exposed head straight down until she submitted. Saito seemed totally out of it leaving the ring as if she'd been knocked silly by the punches straight down. It's a comforting feeling to realize that you're not at all a sexist when you aren't anymore squeamish about seeing women beat each others brains in than seeing men do it.
3. AJW: Aja Kong & Kyoko Inoue beat Manami Toyota & Blizzard Yuki (Sakie Hasegawa under a mask) in what was billed as "The Best Four" match in 17:40. Kong came out in a smoking jacket and with her girth and the way she walked to the ring, she looked like a black Jackie Gleason (I know that reference is dated but she didn't look like any of today's celebrities). Akira Hokuto was at ringside for this match. Toyota had won the WWWA title from Kong the previous Sunday so it was Kong's turn for revenge. All the great moves back-and-forth in this one as well. Among the highlights were Yuki doing four straight double-arm suplexes on Kyoko. Toyota with two straight dropkicks off the middle rope. Kyoko climbing the ropes in the middle and twisting off the springboard into a dropkick in the ring. Kyoko used a Romero special on Yuki. Kong and Kyoko twisted Toyota into ungodly shapes with submission holds. Kyoko did her running across the ring climbing the ropes and falling back in with the elbow drop spot. Yuki did a Liger flip tope while Toyota did a springboard plancha simultaneously. Toyota then did an Asai-moonsault off the top rope. Kyoko got several near falls on Yuki, who made a comeback giving five uranage suplexes. Kyoko reversed Toyota's first attempt at a Japanese Ocean Cyclone suplex into her own german suplex. All kinds of near falls back and forth including Kong getting Toyota on her shoulders and Kyoko coming off the top rope with an elbow ala the old Southern Boys jawjacker for a near fall. Kyoko used her Niagara driver and Toyota the Japanese Ocean Cyclone suplex and Kong with the backhand punch all for near falls. Kong finally pinned Toyota gaining her revenge with a version of a Northern lights superplex. After the match Hokuto came into the ring and popped the crowd pretty big talking about future matches with both Kong and with Toyota. ****1/2
Thesz came out to the Sinatra song and gave a speech about how the athletic version of pro wrestling was the greatest sport in the world. Unfortunately, the timing of this ceremony wasn't well planned considering what followed.
4. Go Gundan: In an incredibly bizarre yet entertaining abomination, Ryuma Go pinned Uchu Majin Silver X in what was billed as an Alien death match for the Interplanetary title in 15:11. Go's reaction was absolutely scary although it was all an inside joke that everyone was part of. Silver X was accompanied by three other space Aliens, the Jewish Alien with a star of David, and two farm boy aliens wearing alien masks and bib overalls known as Demonios I & II. The only question was whether or not these guys were illegal aliens. The match was mainly Go giving all the aliens clotheslines. Silver X resembled a younger Jody Hamilton as far as the way he moved. Finally they got heat on Go when one of the Farm Boys smashed his knee up with a chair. Go came back and caught X with the STF but the Jewish Alien did a run-in for the save. The crowd reacted like an ECW crowd in that they were doing crazy chants from start to finish to make up for the fact this match was so awful nobody could stop laughing at it but they were laughing hysterically. It was great and terrible but they were out there for way too long. X wears a hockey mask but when Go made his comeback doing head-butts, he still sold them. At another point one of the Farm boys went to do a run-in, realized it wasn't his spot, and simply walked back out of the ring without touching Go. Go finally won with a flying clothesline. *
5. IWA: In a barbed wire barricade barbed wire baseball bat tornado death match, Terry Funk & Shoji Nakamaki & Leatherface (Rick Patterson) beat Cactus Jack & The Head Hunters in 18:28. This was the most amazing clusterfuck of incredible moves that you'll ever see. If someone edits this right, it'll look like one of the greatest matches of all-time. The match started with all six men at the top of the ramp about 60 yards from the ring with a barbed wire baseball bat in mid-ring. The idea of these six in a footrace is bizarre enough, but they were doing a countdown from ten-to-one and at seven, Cactus took off. Since it was tornado rules, they were brawling everywhere and throwing chair shots everywhere with blood everywhere and absolutely no focus. Nakamaki and Funk both bled like crazy, Nakamaki doing the faucet job. Leatherface, who had just turned babyface for this group on Cactus Jack only a few weeks ago, walked out leaving his bloody partners to be slaughtered. Jack power bombed Funk threw a table. Head Hunters were doing splashes and legdrops off the top rope. Jack did his elbow drop off the apron and caught his throat in between the ropes (you'd think after losing an ear doing this move that he wouldn't want to do it again). Hunters threw Funk into the barbed wire barricade and one did an elbow drop off the top for a near fall. Just as the Hunters made a Nakamaki sandwich out of two boards with barbed wire and one got up top to do a moonsault, Leatherface returned with his chainsaw. They hit the moonsault just before Leather hit the ring and chainsawed Jack in the arm (heavy juice) and both Hunters in the face. Leather, who looks to be in the 320 range, did a moonsault on one of the Hunters for a near fall. The other Head Hunter did a superplex on Leather. At this point Jack brings a door-sized board into the ring and tries to light it on fire but the fire doesn't work. The crowd suddenly died realizing that they had screwed up what appeared to be the finish so Funk started throwing chairs everywhere including straight up and hitting him in the head. Jack suplexed Nakamaki on the board and suplexed the board on Funk. One of the Hunters did a Liger flip tope. Leather then did a plancha. Jack did his clothesline over the top with Funk. One of the Hunters had Nakamaki on his shoulders and Jack came off the top rope bulldogged him onto the board. Jack was on the top again and Leather, who was outside the ring, got on the apron, and bodyslammed Jack off the top rope onto the floor. Funk then did the Orihara moonsault out of the ring onto Jack & Hunters and got up selling his knee like his career was over. Inside the ring Nakamaki whipped Hunter B face first into the barbed wire board he had set up by the turnbuckles, and as he came back off backwards, Nakamaki schoolboyed him for the pin. ****
6. Pancrase: Minoru Suzuki made Christopher DeWeaver submit to an achilles heel hold in 1:50. Suzuki got a great reaction for winning. It had a totally realistic look to it.
7. Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi: Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Yuki Ishikawa beat Carl Greco & Don Arakawa in 16:30. Arakawa did all comedy in what is supposed to be a shoot group. Match was awful when he was in and way too long. Ishikawa and Greco (a trainee of the late Larry Malenko) did a shoot style so it was solid wrestling when they were in. Ishikawa made Greco submit to a headscissors armlock combination. 1/2*
8. Michinoku Pro: Super Delfin & Taka Michinoku & Gran Naniwa beat Great Sasuke & Sato & Shiryu in 22:25. This was almost move-for-move the exact same match they did at the Tokyo Dome for the womens show but with Sasuke healthy he pulled out more stops. Very smooth and entertaining and pretty much after the show everyone was praising the guys. Naniwa did the AAA heel fake foul spot but in Japan it's taken as comedy rather than a heat spot. They did a lot of comedy in the middle and then picked it up with the hot moves and near falls at the end. They did a five dive spot at the end with Sasuke doing the Asai-moonsault and Michinoku climaxing with a great springboard flying tackle outside the ring. Sasuke then did a running dive where he just sailed over the top rope with a flip ala Liger but got way more height and distance. Delfin pinned Shiryu with the swinging DDT and Delfin clutch. They did what appeared to be the beginnings of an angle after the match as Sato got mad at Shiryu for losing and it wound up with all three faces walking out on their own in different directions. ****1/4
9. Rings: Akira Maeda beat Chris Dolman in 5:29. There was more intensity in the crowd leading up to this match than any match on the show and Maeda got the biggest reaction thus far coming out. It was a totally nothing match but the crowd was into it. Both guys grabbed an achilles heel hold simultaneously and the bell rang and nobody knew which man had given up until Maeda's arm was raised. Maeda then left the ring so Dolman could bask in the cheers as he announced his retirement saying that Rings style is the toughest and most complete fighting style in the world. DUD
10. UWFI: Nobuhiko Takada & Billy Scott & Masahito Kakihara beat Gary Albright & Jean Lydick & Kazuo Yamazaki in 15:17. Yamazaki started and wanted Takada but Takada sent Scott in first. They went at it for the first 4:40. Kakihara and Lydick, who have something of a feud and are the best workers of the group's non main eventers, were in next and were great. Kakihara is so fast with his hands and feet and Lydick takes it well. Takada tagged in and threw his kicks and Lydick who tagged Yamazaki. They worked well back-and-forth. Takada has this look about him where he's just always in control of the situation. Yamazaki then tagged to Albright which got a big pop and Takada immediately tagged Scott which brought out a lot of boos aimed at Takada, but he was so composed. It was interesting to see a face of sorts since UWFI doesn't have faces and heels work a situation to where he'd get booed at the time to build up heat for later in the match. Albright did a great german suplex on Scott and went for the dragon suplex but Scott made the ropes. Finally Takada tagged in with Albright and threw his kicks and Albright clamped on the fullnelson to go for his dragon suplex but Takada made the ropes. Takada made a comeback and got Albright in the armbreaker but he made the ropes and tagged to Lydick. Takada almost immediately unloaded on Lydick and got the armbreaker submission. Match was excellent except it was too short in that it left you wanting more. The 15:00 felt like 5:00 because it was no intense. ***3/4
11. FMW: Great Nita (Atsushi Onita) pinned King Pogo (Mr. Pogo aka Tetsuo Sekigawa) in 13:59 of an explosive barbed wire match. They used a different ring set up with the gimmicks for this match than for all the other matches. Part of the problem was this ring was deep in left field and the way the Tokyo Dome is set up is that the seating is almost all facing home plate with very few seats on that side of the stadium so this was far away from all but the fans in the corner of the left field bleachers which hurt overall crowd reactions. The fans in the bleachers by the ring reacted well so the match wasn't really as bad as the crowd reactions may have made it seem but overall to those attending it was not a highlight. Nita was blown up first after being thrown into the barbed wire. Pogo then got a hatchet handed to him by one of his teammates and he drove it in Nita's back and twirled it around so Nita juiced from the back. He then put it in his mouth and began ripping the mouth. Nita got it away from him and did a dance with it like it was nunchakus. Nita got blown up a second time for a near fall. Pogo then got a barbed wire baseball bat handed to him and used it on Nita. Nita got the bat away and started doing a baseball swing on him knocking him into the barbed wire where he was blown up. They brawled for a while and Pogo went into the barbed wire again and Nita fell on him for the pin which was a weird finish. After the match Nita poured water and revived Pogo to wake him up and stayed in the ring a long time waiting for a big pop that didn't come his way. **
12. All Japan: Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi & Stan Hansen drew Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue & Johnny Ace over 30:00. Ace replaced Steve Williams who missed the tour (more on that later). These guys are noticeably better live than they are on television and that's saying a lot. The work was so stiff that you could hear every blow 100 yards away and the heat was incredible from start-to-finish. They do all the big moves but their ability and psychology is a level above anything else in pro wrestling now or probably anytime in the past since athletes continually get better. They did all the near falls that looked like the finish back-and-forth with Ace and Taue in particular picking their game up to where at no point in the match did either look out of place with Misawa, Kobashi and Kawada. With a few minutes to go, Hansen hit the lariat on Ace but managed to tag out but sold it the rest of the way leaving it as a 3-on-2. Taue & Kawada were the ones getting the near falls on Misawa and Hansen over the past few minutes including Taue hitting Misawa's own Tiger driver on him just before the bell. The only negative about the match is that in this position on the show it should have had a longer time limit but this would easily rank as the best mens match ever held at the Tokyo Dome. ****3/4
13. New Japan: Shinya Hashimoto pinned Masa Chono in 15:57. Chono came to the ring with Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Hiro Saito while Hashimoto had Hiroshi Hase and Tadao Yasuda in his corners. The opening was hot but then the match got real slow with Hashimoto mainly working on Chono's shoulder and Chono working on Hashimoto's knee. About ten days earlier they did a series of angles on New Japan shows where Chono and his army "injured" Hashimoto's knee and elbow and Hashimoto came back and "injured" Chono's shoulder. The matwork was solid but they didn't get up and start doing the big moves until the 15:00 call and went right to the finish with Hashimoto winning with a brainbuster. After the match Tenzan and Hashimoto argued with Tenzan challenging him to a title match. It's hard to figure what they were thinking doing a match this bad after all those hot matches underneath. *1/4"
"Probably the most hype of any show in Japan was for the Vale Tudo (UFC style) show on 4/20 at Budokan Hall. First round is Craig Pittman of WCW facing Joe Charles (who will be in this weekend's UFC), Yuki Nakai (Japan Pro shooting--Sayama's sport) vs. Gerard Gordeau (UFC I finalist), Koichiro Kimura (an independent pro wrestler who used to be part of a smaller shoot sport called Submission Arts Wrestling) vs. Hollywood Hayes (kick boxer) and Rickson Gracie vs. Yoshihisa Yamamoto (Rings)."
April 24, 1995:
"Rules for the Vale-Tudo (Rickson Gracie) tournament on 4/20 at Budokan Hall are that the fighters wear 8 oz. gloves, they do eight minute rounds with a two minute break between rounds but there is no limit to the number of rounds and no draw decisions. Fights can end by a ten count knockout, submission, referee stop or corner throwing in the towel. Unlike UFC, besides biting and eye gouging, also illegal are head-butts. Also unlike UFC, fighters were cup groin protectors. Gracie is in Japan doing p.r. for the show and has said he doesn't like the rules involving gloves. Fighting with gloves is an entirely different sport as anyone who saw Kimo in K-1 would find readily apparent within 30 seconds."
May 1, 1995: VALE TUDO JAPAN ROAD REPORT (not on the road)
"After the Vale-Tudo Japan Open tournament on 4/20 at Tokyo Budokan Hall, the world is still waiting for the first person to defeat a son of Helio Gracie in a mixed shoot match.
Rickson Gracie, 36, not without some trouble, defeated two pro wrestlers and an unknown from a sport called pro shooting that was originated by former pro wrestler and event promoter Satoru Sayama, to win the $50,000 first prize before 10,000 fans.
About 60% of the crowd appeared to be wrestling fans, most of whom expected Gracie to face Holland's Gerard Gordeau (UFC I finalist losing to Gracie's younger brother Royce) in the finals. Even though it wasn't a sellout, most felt the crowd (tickets topping at $240) was a strong showing since Gracie was the only real drawing card and there was no Japanese star involved with the show.
Craig Pittman of World Championship Wrestling became the first pro wrestler with one of the major offices to enter a shoot tournament. The former armed services Greco-roman champion made something of a name for himself in Japan by advancing into the semifinals, where by all accounts he was robbed in a controversial decision that was heavily booed.
The Vale-Tudo event, a shoot event, looked totally different from either Pancrase (the pro wrestling promotion in Japan with Ken Wayne Shamrock as the top star) and the American Ultimate Fight Championships. This event was held inside a wrestling ring rather than an octagon and the competitors wore eight ounce boxing gloves, both of which were expected to be detrimental to the chances of Gracie and with the gloves and the smaller ring, favorable to Gordeau, a former world champion in karate and savate (French foot fighting). Matches were fought in eight minute rounds to a clean finish with no limit to the number of rounds. Unlike UFC, both head-butting and striking with the elbow was forbidden.
This created a style far less brutal than UFC but also described as duller. A lot of the matches wound up with long moments with them fighting by the ropes (they didn't break submissions with the ropes) and assuming a defensive posture and lengthy clinches which resulted in longer matches.
It was the second tournament featuring Rickson Gracie, believed by most familiar with the Gracie family to be much tougher than his more famous younger brother. This was said to be far more competitive than the first Vale Tudo last year where he breezed through the competition.
The consensus was that the tournament was improved from the first one, but that the octagon-shaped ring for UFC is far superior to a traditional pro wrestling ring because it allows for more actions and less getting tied up in the ropes.
Pittman, who was seconded by former pro wrestler Brad Rheingans, won his first match over a Los Angeles-based kick boxer named Wayne Emmonds in 2:12. Emmonds, described as the weakest competitor in the tournament, subbed for Joe Charles who hadn't fully recovered from his UFC match with Dan Severn and canceled. Pittman was put in this tournament by WCW officials with the idea that this would be good experience for a hoped-for UFC berth and a strong showing would cause Art Davie to invite him to an upcoming tournament. Secondarily, many in the company were predicting Pittman would defeat Gracie and make a name for himself internationally by doing so.
In the semifinals Pittman faced Yuki Nakai, a protege of Sayama and the sport he developed called Pro Shooting. Sayama was also the promoter of this event. Many praise UFC for taking the politics out of fighting and not having travesties such as the George Foreman decision on Saturday night. Nobody blamed the result, which was loudly booed, on a hometown or home fighter decision as much as simply on a referee's misunderstanding.
Nakai had upset Gerard Gordeau after a marathon 20:41 hanging on for a submission with an achilles heel hold even though Gordeau punched his face in trying to get the hold broken. Nakai's style, which involved defense similar to the Gracie-Shamrock match, which caused him to tire out Gordeau and his repeated clinches which kept Gordeau from delivering his strong blows, was heavily booed.
Pittman was clearly the stronger of the two. Nakai wound up fighting with both eyes nearly shut both from punishment dished out by Pittman and earlier by Gordeau. At 15:30, Nakai clamped an armlock on and as Pittman was trying to break it, he groaned, described as similar to what someone would do if they were attempting to lift a heavy weight. The referee took the groan as a submission and shockingly stopped the match of which all agreed Pittman would have been ahead on points had their been such a thing. However, it was also largely agreed that Nakai, who was apparently in the better condition of the two, was getting stronger as the time progressed. Even WCW officials said that Pittman's conditioning was great for pro wrestling but wasn't good enough for something of this type. Masa Saito, who watched the matches, of New Japan was so impressed by Pittman's potential that he wanted to bring him into the New Japan dojo for several months and train him for their style of wrestling.
Nakai fell victim to the Gracie choke in 6:22 in the championship match.
The pro wrestler who made the biggest impression was 24-year-old Yoshihisa Yamamoto of Rings. With Akira Maeda as his second, Yamamoto lasted 19:49 before falling victim to the Gracie choke in a first round match. Gracie, who after the show said that Yamamoto was his toughest opponent, did not physically dominate him during the match. Most in attendance felt that aside from Gracie, Yamamoto, who took a lot of punishment including having a bone broken near his eye which should keep him out of action for a few weeks, appeared to be the best fighter in the tournament. After the tournament Maeda said that he believed Yamamoto would win the tournament the next time out.
Gracie had a much easier time in the semis over Koichiro Kimura, a pro wrestler with the Nagoya-based indie group called NSBW and had also logged time in Submission Arts Wrestling (an amateur shoot group) along with W*ING and RINGS, winning with the choke in 2:07. Kimura, even though he's schooled in submission wrestling, had actually lost via submission in his first round match to kick boxer Todd "Hollywood" Hayes, who caught him in a front facelock, but Hayes was injured in the process. Instead of giving Gracie a bye to the finals, they brought Kimura and Emmonds, the two remaining first round losers (Gordeau and Yamamoto had been injured in first round losses) for a match which Kimura won in 6:05 with a front facelock and enabled him to return as an alternate.
Sayama is planning on running a similar event in September."
"Don Nakaya Neilsen, a retired kick boxer who had legendary mixed matches with New Japan in the late 80s against Akira Maeda, Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Jushin Liger, debuts for Rings on 6/17 at Ariake Coliseum in a card promoted as Japan vs. Russia."
also, from an Atushi Onita retirement (lol) story:
"The story just adds another footnote in the history of one of the most influential personalities in pro wrestling of this generation. Onita's popularity spawned a new style of wrestling. Many would not consider this new style, short on skill and long on gore and gimmicks like barbed wire, explosions and axes, as a positive, but it's something new nonetheless. And its influence on the business as a whole can't be ignored. Ignoring Onita as drawing card would be every bit as silly as ignoring Hulk Hogan when trying to capsulize the recent history of pro wrestling. The two are equally influential. When it comes to a wrestler who developed a new style, popularized it, drew big money from it and became a cult hero in the process, Onita ranks right with Akira Maeda, Hogan and Satoru Sayama as those who shaped the future of their craft.
Maeda shaped it with submission holds, Hogan with kids appeal and the steroid needle, Sayama with the wrestling moves of the future and opening a world up for those who would have been considered too small, and Onita with blood, sweat, and of course, a multitude of tears. Onita did it in a country that few would have believed would have supported wrestling so short on skill and high on gore."
May 8, 1995:
"Chris Dolman's retirement is turning into a classic. In March when he promoted a show in Amsterdam, Holland, he billed it as his retirement match but then told the Japanese he'd also have a Japanese retirement. That was to take place on 4/2 at the Tokyo Dome. After the ceremony, last week or two Dolman announced he'd have one last retirement match on 4/28 at Osaka Furitsu Gym. He was supposed to face Yoshihisa Yamamoto, probably with Yamamoto returning the favor since Dolman put Yamamoto over last November and this would let Dolman retire with a victory. Yamamoto was injured in the Vale-Tudo eight days earlier and was in no shape to work on 4/28 so newcomer Joop Kasteel put Dolman over and Dolman said this really was his last match. Akira Maeda beat Bitarze Tariel on top. Next show is 5/20 in Kagoshima with Maeda vs. Nikolai Zouev on top in a Japan vs. Russia show."
"4/28 Osaka Furitsu Gym (RINGS - 5,125): Takasaki b Wataru Sakata, Mitsuya Nagai b Willie Peeters, Dick Leon-Vrij b Todor Todorov, Hans Nyman b Bakuli, Volk Han b Masayoshi Naruse, Akira Maeda b Bitarze Tariel, Chris Dolman b Joop Kasteel"
Aaaaaaand that's finally it! Thank you for your patience, this was a long one!