Saturday, April 8, 2017


Mega Battle Tournament 1996: Second Round
November 22, 1996 in Osaka, Japan
Castle Hall drawing 7,880

IN SAMUEL BECKETT'S THREE DIALOGUES PUBLISHED IN 1949 BUT WRITTEN WAY EARLIER IF I REMEMBER RIGHT BUT I AM NOT CHECKING the characters "D." and "B." converse regarding art and feasibility, art and what they call "the plane of the feasible":

D. What other plane can their be for the maker?

B. Logically, none. Yet I speak of an art turning from it in disgust, weary of its puny exploits, weary of pretending to be able of doing a little better the same old thing, of going a little further along a dreary road.

D. And preferring what?

And preferring the 8/24/96 RINGS: MEALSTROM 6th show that changed everything and for which we are struggling still to account. "More notes on the 8/24 RINGS show," Dave Meltzer wrote of it a month later; "This was definitely one of the most important wrestling cards all year on several levels." He attempted both description and theorization but it yielded fully to neither. One wonders if his struggle then, as ours remains now, is that he lacked even the language with which he might articulate the condition of unfreedom in which he had dwelt until that moment of rupture? What did RINGS 8/24/96 "do" to art? To physical culture? To the (literally crucial) intersection of one with the other? How did Akira Maeda get so fat right after? Will Yoshihisa Yamomoto have depression forever? Why does Willie Peeters continue to come out to Steve Hurley's remix of Black Box's "I Don't Know Anybody Else" to the chagrin of its current rights-holder and to the delay of our dissemination of these vital texts? The answer to the last question is clear (Black Box was awesome and Willie Peeters is blameless); the answers to the others far less so. If you are here for answers I have few and quite possibly actually none but if you are here for questions then please know I don't have any good ones of those either.

MEGA BATTLE TOURNAMENT 1996: FIRST ROUND was a weirdly dark and drear affair but I approach MEGA BATTLE TOURNAMENT 1996: SECOND ROUND in a spirit of eager and ready expectation as the quarter-final brackets are revealed and we open our hearts to them:

In addition to those contests, each one of interest and indeed intrigue if seen from a particular perspective (the one of me, from my couch) there will be two non-tournament bouts to whet our græppetitez and then after the tournament bouts there is the matter of AKIRA MAEDA vs. YOSHIAKI FUJUIWARA to which we might choose to attend. But first there is Nikolai Zouev, who has seemingly fallen far: from the upper-reaches of the RINGS Official Rankings, which they seem to be taking a bit of a break from (perhaps in the aftermath of the complexities of 8/24/96?), to an opening bout against Wataru Sakata. He has not fallen so far, though, this Zouev, that he does find victory over young Sakata by means of an oddly angled juji-gatame to end their fine match at 10:01. The second match is a wild sprint between Masayuki Naruse and Dick Vrij that sees the points allotments of both men utterly annihilated in a mere 6:16; that Dick Vrij wins the day by TKO is no great surprise but the wildness of this headlong bout sort of was to me!

TO THE TOURNAMENT ITSELF THEN and we begin with Kiyoshi Tamura and Mitsuya Nagai, the first a rising star and arguably the finest of all of these guys ever, the second an able and eminently likable fellow so let's get ready for enjoyment as "Flame of Mind" brings the people to the edge of their butts (forgive me this vulgarity). (Did you know someone uploaded three hours, eleven minutes, and fourteen seconds of "Flame of Mind" to Youtube? Well someone sure did! It wasn't me, either! Put it on your phone whilst doing a tonne of squats in the basement, maybe.) That Tamura would fight out of the red corner is I suppose self-evident; Naruse wears elbow pads and wrist bands to indicate his is of the blue. I think this is the first show they are making a point of this, or maybe I have just been terrible at (wrestling) observ(er)ing? Naruse and Vrij slipped on wrist bands of red and blue before their match, I noticed earlier (some of my best work). OK SO Nagai, who is looking ever more kickboxeresque with each appearance, fires in some snappy kicks to open the bout and actually takes Tamura down after like a minute or so. Tamura bides his time before throwing up the triangular strangle of sankaku-jime (三角絞) and, as a subsequent, the triangle arm-lock of ude-hishigi-sankaku-gatame (腕挫三角固). A slam and a rope break ends the threat but it did seem very threatening! Tamura kicks Nagai in the groin but quite gently so it's ok. The next takedown goes to Tamura, and now here he is just sort of hanging out in the double-entanglement of niju-garami commonly called half-guard. I believe the ring announcer when he tells us we are five minutes in. Tamura cuts through with his hips (koshi-kiri) and settles into a nice heavy kesa-gatame (袈裟固) scarf hold to finish with a kesa-garami (scarf entanglement) arm-lock! There are several ways to do that, all of them great!

This match was low-key very very good I think. Kiyoshi Tamura rolls on! 

Why wouldn't we enjoy TSUYOSHI KOHSAKA vs. VOLK HAN for the third time in five months; if anything, they should be fighting more often. Less than a minute in, the men of commentary lose themselves completely as Han slips behind to attack with a standing shime-waza (絞技 strangulation technique) and drag Kohsaka to the mat with same. Kohsaka manages to turn into the technique (basically never turn away, is the first thing and least-intuitive thing we need to convince the young ne waza player of; if we wish to counter the waza or even merely escape the waza we do so by facing it, not fleeing it [there are no life lessons here], except for a small number of very specific situations but why dwell on those now when there are sweeping generalizations to be made). Kohsaka has discovered that the best defence against Volk Han's hostile and wrong standing gyaku-ude-garami/reverse-arm-entanglement is to throw with the scooping throw of sukui-nage (掬投) commonly called te-guruma (手車 hand wheel) and pretty much dump him on his head. The ne-waza comes fast and furious! This surprises no one! Yuji Shimada is getting a real workout running around yelling CATCH and GIVE UP and he had occasion to do both just now as Volk Han had Kohsaka in a deep juji-gatame but near the ropes and so let's see, yes, ok, that's two rope breaks each. Kohsaka drives Volk Han to the mat with a mighty blow to the old breadbasket! And then a another knockdown with a knee again to it! Han goes back to his standing gyaku-ude-garami and although Kohsaka is unable to throw this time he does just kind of flatten Han out so he's fine, don't worry. He is so fine, in fact, that he is currently all over Volk Han with an ude-hishigi-ude-gatame ((腕挫腕固) to ude-hishigi-juji-gatame (腕挫十字固) straight-arml-lock to cross-arm-lock combination that delights me significantly. Volk Han is running out of points! He's lost seven! Kohsaka throws with a true sumi-gaeshi (隅返) and has clear designs on an arm-lock from the newly-Kodokan-recognized osaekomi-waza (押込技 pinning technique) of ushiro-kesa-gatame (後袈裟固 reverse-scarf hold) AND LET'S HEAR IT FOR USHIRO-KESA-GATAME YOU FINALLY MADE IT but Volk Han grabs that gyaku-ude-garami he has been after pretty much the entire length of this excellent match and that is ippon at 10:27:

WELL HERE'S A TREAT, highlights of the World Sambo Championships Tokyo 1996! 

Did you know the World Sambo Championships have been held in Montréal twice? 1988 and 1991! But that's neither here nor there. Sambo is super! Functionally it is pretty much a Russian and post-Soviet judo b-league which is to its credit and it's neat and the site of much waza! I actually think that if you are interested in græppling even slightly and you don't find sambo to be neat there is a pretty significant part of you missing and much of what remains is dark as the night. There is a whole feature on it here, explaining the rules right down to the referee's hand signals. This is great! RINGS finishes are interspersed to show sambo's RINGS-applicability (RINGSplicability). A number of match highlights are shown, too, including David Khakhaleishvili (დავით ხახალეიშვილი) tossing people around in the +100kg division en route to the first of his two world championships in this admirable if wildly marginal sport. JUDO AND SAMBO ARE FRIENDS FOREVER. 

To return to MEGA BATTLE, though, we have Yoshihisa Yamamoto, modestly cheered at his introduction but nothing more, against Gogitidze Bakouri, and almost immediately Yamamoto scoops Bakouri right up, hoisting him high and dumping him, and the crowd does not react even slightly because they can see (if I may be so bold as to presume) that it is an utterly bullshit idea that Yoshihisa Yamamoto could do that to Gogitidze Bakouri. When Bakouri tosses Yamamoto around--like with say an ura-nage just now--it is far more credible, and better. Yamamoto gets the win by hadaka-jime, the nakedest strangle, after Bakouri inexplicably dives out of Yamamoto's poor morote-gari double-leg takedown at 4:52 but things remain very grim for this once-rising guy. His fairly shitty win is greeted with a smattering of polite applause. 

Bitsadze Tariel and Hans Nijman are next to see action in what I bet will be a kicking-heavy contest between very large men. It totally is! And Bitsadze Tariel wins it by knockout at 10:11. He hit him with his big knee!

All that remains then is our main event of Akira Maeda vs. Yoshiaki Fujiwara, which sounds awesome but could actually be pretty upsetting in 1996, let's see! Fujiwara enters to "Ritt der Walküren" as is his custom (NJPW used to have an event called Strong Style Symphony by which I think they meant Wagner). He is forty-seven years old here but that's ok, he has been forty-seven years old for much of his life and remains so now, so he looks about right. Maeda seems to be in slightly better shape than when we saw him a month ago so at least he's working on it but he's still pretty loose. Yeah, when Maeda starts working on top you can see things just sloshing around. He can still apply a credible hiza-juji knee-bar, certainly! But that is not going to save him, or us. The disc stops playing before the finish, and will not play at all in the computer with which I upload these shows, so all I can tell you is that the records kept at the vital Pro Wrestling History site say that Maeda was the victor this day by submission at 10:55. Maybe it got awesome!


November 11, 1996: 

"From the photos, Akira Maeda really looked out of shape for his return on the 10/25 RINGS show. Also, photos tell why David Khahareshivili, who won the gold at 209 in the 1992 Olympics in judo, didn't come back to Atlanta to defend his crown [he did come, but his coach directed him to the wrong venue for weigh-ins and he missed the tournament; we have been over this, Dave, please--ed.]. He lost on the RINGS show to Yoshihisa Yamamoto, but from the photos, he'd be hard pressed to make it if there was a 309 pound weight class [his division was +95kg, Dave, I love you but you are embarrassing yourself right now--ed.]." 

December 2, 1996: 

From a report on the Martial Arts Reality Superfighting (MARS) show headlined by Renzo Gracie vs. Oleg Taktarov:

"There were a few ties to pro wrestling on the show. The host of the show, who didn't do any play-by-play, was Craig Minervini, better known to pro wrestling fans under his pseudonym as former wrestling commentator Craig DeGeorge. Christopher Hazeman of Australia, a first round tournament loser, is a prelim wrestler for RINGS. [Willie] Peeters, who beat Serge Narsisyan in the first round before losing to Erikson in the semifinals is both a former Holland cage match (UFC style fighting) champion (if any of you want to see an example of psychotic fighting you should see Peeters in this style fighting in Holland, although obviously he was against a lower level of competition) and a regular for RINGS. And Narsisyan, a French savate fighter, will debut on 12/15 for Pancrase."

Willie Williams update:

"Antonio Inoki held a press conference at New Japan headquarters in Tokyo on 11/21 and announced that Tiger Jeet Singh, Dory Funk and Willie Williams all wanted to wrestle him in 1997. It is believed that Williams, a one-time karate superstar in his late 40s, who had a famous martial arts match with Inoki in 1979 and has made a career in Japan for the past several years living off the fame of that loss, most recently with RINGS, will probably be his foe at the Dome. He'll probably finally wrestle Funk some time this coming year. Inoki wasn't supposed to wrestle again until the Dome show, but I guess the 12/1 TV special wasn't gaining enough interest and he announced that he would make his comeback on that show against Billy Gasper, which is the name of a masked man in a main event feud during one of those forgettable periods in New Japan history. The guy who played various Gasper brothers in those days included Bob Orton, Karl Moffatt and Darryl Karolet."

To RINGS proper:

"RINGS quarterfinals of the Battle Dimension tournament on 11/22 in Osaka before 7,880 fans saw Kiyoshi Tamura over Mitsuya Nagai with an armbreaker, Volk Han over Tsuyoshi Kousaka with an armbreaker, Yoshihisa Yamamoto over Gokiteza Bakouri with the choke and Bitzsade Tariel over Hanse Nyman via knockout. In a non-tournament match and their first singles match in many years, Akira Maeda beat Yoshiaki Fujiwara in the main event. This sets up the semifinals on 12/21 in Fukuoka with Tamura vs. Yamamoto and Han vs. Tariel. Finally got a tape of the October RINGS show. Tamura vs. Illoukhine Mikhail was an excellent RINGS style match, although not at the level of the Tamura-Han classic the previous month. Han vs. Masayuki Naruse was a god match but had a little too many pro wrestling elements thrown in such as Han throwing Naruse over the top rope to be believable. We noted about that show since Yamamoto beat David Khakhaleishvili, the judo gold medalist in 1992 at 209 pounds [no, at *over* 209, what are you doing--ed.], about not being able to make 309 these days. That was no exaggeration, as they did a weigh-in before that match and his shoot weight was 341. [He doesn't have to "make" anything Dave the division was +95kg as in weighs more than that amount; wtf--ed.]"

DAVE DOESN'T KNOW HOW WEIGHT DIVISIONS WORK BUT THAT WILL NOT KEEP HIM FROM SAYING TONNES OF THINGS so let us be emboldened to not let our own lack(s) of knowledge(s) prevent us from saying tonnes of things when next we meet and until then I thank you in all sincerity for you time this time.

1 comment:

  1. I have this event on dvd,and Maeda wins by rear naked choke, but no, the match never got awesome.

    Han/Kosaka was awesome, but this was a pretty weak card for the most part, with the majority just going through the motions. I'm hoping the semi-finals get better.