Wednesday, April 26, 2017


World Mega Battle Tournament 1997: Semi-Finals
December 23, 1997 in Fukuoka, Japan
International Center drawing 6,800

WHEN FIRST THEY TOOK TO FIGHT IN UWF NEWBORN Akira Maeda's victory over young Kiyoshi Tamura was swift; when next they met in RINGS it took like five minutes longer; what awaits them--and, indeed, us all--as they ready themselves once more? Probably a really good match of shoot-styling, I would suggest to you, given how great their last one was as Tamura's aloofness (the price, perhaps, of his waza's ease?) gave way to purest young-lionesque fire. The people of Tokyo were with him then; will those of Fukuoka be like to them on this night? Also I think Grom Zaza and Ricardo Morais is probably going to be a shoot so let us not tarry.  

Tsuyoshi Kohsaka and Christopher Haseman is a can't-miss opening bout in my view and could easily fall at either end of the work-shoot spectrum. Naturally I object to Kohsaka's treatment thus far in World Mega-Battle Tournament 1997 in that in the first round, he was the lone guy who had to win a shoot in order to move on (and it was a tough one!), only to be booked for a(n excellent) shoot-style loss to Mikhail Ilioukhine in the second round. While I suppose the idea was to go senpai (先輩, "earlier colleague") and kōhai (後輩, "later colleague") in both semi-finals (Maeda vs. Tamura, Han vs. Ilioukhine), and while that is a good idea, my view here is that Kohsaka should have been permitted to shoot throughout and smother (not literally [although maybe]) all opposition en route to a surprising but deeply satisfying tournament championship. But the world doesn't always play out quite like an "Audience Mode" game of Fire Pro A; sometimes all we are left with is a very high-level Tsuyoshi Kohsaka non-tournament shoot-style win over the neon-green-booted Christopher Haseman by means of a hiza-hishigi (knee crush) applied in a mode analogous to ashi-kannuki (leg-bolt [think of everything just slid down a little]) at 11:12 in one of the better RINGS opening bouts ever probably. 

Masayuki Naruse and Wataru Sakata are next in what sounds like a much likelier opening match than Kohsaka and Haseman but perhaps my thinking on this is antiquated to the extent that it does not take into account the ill-advised RINGS Light-Heavyweight Championship (I reject it still) that Naruse seemingly still holds but of which much does not seem to be made. This match is very good, and has a lot of Masayuki Naruse kind of half-sitting on Sakata--

--in the variation of  浮固 uki-gatame or "floating hold" (a position only recently recognized by the Kodokan [like earlier this month!] as sufficiently distinct to warrant its own classification) that is commonly called "Ecky-gatame" after Neil Eckersley, 7th dan, 1984 Olympic bronze medalist at -60kg, now a painter who lives in Stavanger, Norway but who exhibits more broadly:

Naruse wins by hadaka-jime, the naked strangle, at 12:10, and ok yeah, there's his Light-Heavyweight Championship belt (still not a good idea).

Next we have Willie Peetes in a vale tudo match against Sean Alvarez, a large man whose build is deeply reminiscent of a sort of build enjoyed by steroid users but I cannot impugn him as I don't know anything about this man other than that, a Renzo Gracie guy, he did not have a particularly distinguished mixed fight career, but as he took three silver medals at the ADCC, can safely be said to græpple very well indeed. He has Peeters very much on his heels throughout the 9:10 it takes him to secure a gyaku-ude-garami/reverse-arm-entanglement/double-wrist-lock/figure-four-arm-lock/Kimura/I think that's all/yeah that's probably it/ok yeah. This was not bad but was deeply unremarkable in my view.


I always think of this as the Fire Pro angle, forgive me
The rules are vale tudo and so as soon as Grom gets Morais down (this happens absolutely immediately) he can also throw wild Zaza blows; it is thrilling, and the people thrill to it. Soon enough, Morais establishes the "guard" favoured by his people (it will forever be hikikomi to me) and Zaza is not really in much of a (dis)position to pass it as such but instead seems ready to merely lay atop his foe. For how long, Grom Zaza? For as long as it takes, Grom Zaza answers from the mouth of his cannon. The people are with him, though: all he does is scooch slightly, and they are like hwwwaaaaaaiiiiii clapclapclapclap. He takes a notion to pass, I think, which gives Morais just enough space to scramble out, but guess who is going to win a scramble between Ricardo Morais and Georgian Freestyle Wrestling 100+kg Olympian Zaza Tkeshelashvili aka GROM ZAZA yeah that's right Grom Zaza is going to and in fact did. I would understand if others--people, say, who were neither present this night in Fukuoaka, nor me--watching this would think it dull or uneventful but to me, right now, and I believe also to the crowd on hand, there is such purity to this laying. Every little tap of a punch that Zaza lands is met with such heartwarming approval. Maybe RINGS fans really don't care for the enormous foreign fellow who brutalized and embarrassed Yoshihisa Yamamoto? And like Grom Zaza better here for that reason alongside the usual reasons for liking Grom Zaza? Morais really has nothing at all for Zaza on the mat, like nothing, as Zaza hangs out in niju-garami or "half-guard" for much of what remains of our time here on earth. And lest you think Morais is, whilst enormous, a sheer chump of some kind, he is only a few months away, here in late 1997, from taking second-place in the open-weight division at the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship (I am listed as a source in the very wikipedia article I am checking right now so it is circles within circles, stay woke). 

Morais is finally able to get to his side, a little, but so near the ropes is he and indeed are they that Yuji Shimada wants them to schooch in and restart from the same position, which leads to a scramble, a takedown, yet more laying, and rousing chants of ZAZA ZAZA ZAZA . . . and of course I agree. The bell rings! It is has been thirty minutes of this! Zaza takes the obvious decision! And does a front handspring and a kip-up in celebration before he is hoisted aloft by Volk Han! In fact, Georgian Olympic Wrestling is strong!

And Volk Han is back at once for the RINGS Russia portion of the World Mega-Battle Tournament 1997 Semi-Finals against Mikhail Ilioukhine who, no, why, please don't, noooooo he immediately picks Han right up on his shoulder, and Han goes as limp as can be, and the crowd--and I do not say this lightly--is totally like this:


And I am too! This needs to stop. Once the ne-waza begins in earnest of course things are way better and in fact really very good. The people demand juji-gatame, and both Han and Ilioukhine intend to deliver. In so saying, I do not mean to imply that leg-locking or ashi-kansetsu is by any reasonable standard in short supply, because it extremely is not, and if you feel misled, however briefly, please accept my apology for that. Ilioukhine just hit a shoot-style back-body-drop, like as in the pro-wrestling move where the dude comes off the ropes and you duck down, and while nobody came off the ropes here, they might as well have for how well this move went over (utter -_- silence). There is no question that this match is not a shoot, as I have totally mentioned implicitly already by deriding a couple of throws as nonsense, but the finish at 9:36 I think probably was, in that Volk Han's knee seems to have fallen apart at a thoroughly anti-climatic point in the match, like he was just trying his step-over juji-gatame into a sumi-gaeshi (an admittedly sikk waza, there is no question) when he just grimaced and was done:

ONLY MAEDA VS. TAMURA REMAINS as we get a lot of Akira Maeda backstage readying himself as his ever-compelling theme plays and the people chant his name in the driving fashion to which we have long been accustomed. He comes out first, though! For it is only now that Kiyoshi Tamura's probably-even-compellinger song echoes through the hall. A true changing of the guard, perhaps? Is it time to go all the way with young Tamura? They have done everything but, treating him as an enormous star since his first appearance, and main-eventing more often than not of late. I was about to say that Maeda has pulled himself together a little physically but I think it was just a flattering angle for a second there. Maeda sprawls out of Tamura's low morote-gari tackling double-leg takedown and rolls him about with a front face-lock before Tamura pops up and out and spins all over and we are very much underway! The first catch goes to Maeda with an ashi-kansetsu leg-lock but it is not very serious, don't worry. Tamura takes Maeda's back and rides high as though in pursuit of a rolling juji-gatame but his hips point the wrong way on it and so it cannot be taken all that seriously (Maeda traps Tamura's inside leg to effect this; it is not that Tamura does not know what to do [he totally does]). Maeda now on top, which is a bad place for him to be (æsthetically) with his build, and now he is swept, his back taken, but Tamura still can't get that rolling juji-gatame to come together.  A second catch for Meada, a cranking kubi-hishigi neck lock, but Tamura pops out. Tamura "sells" total, all-consuming anguish when afflicted by Maeda's hizh-hishigi knee-crush/calf-slicer, but makes the ropes. He eats a high kick and a bunch of knees, Tamura does, but is not knocked down so much as græppled there and in the ensuing things ends up grasping for the ropes to escape a choke. OH THERE'S THE JUJI-GATAME oh ok I thought Tamura was going to win right there, they got me. They stand, and now Tamura fires in some nifty kicks! But that doesn't do it. Maybe this kata-gatame arm-triangle! No, Tamura didn't even really get it locked in. I am too eager for the finish! THERE IT IS JUJI-GATAME KIND OF ACTUALLY OUT OF NOWHERE AT 14:44 THAT WAS WEIRDLY SUDDEN BUT TAMURA IS AT LAST YOUR KING PLEASE BEHOLD HIM


December 29, 1997:

"The only news we have on the 12/23 RINGS semifinals of the Battle Dimension tournament from Fukuoka are that Illoukhine Mikhail upset Volk Han in 9:36 when the doctor stopped the match and that Kiyoshi Tamura beat Akira Maeda with the armbreaker in 14:44, setting up Tamura vs. Mikhail as the main event at Budokan Hall on 1/21 to determine this company's first world heavyweight champion. Tamura beating Maeda is big news and good booking as it elevates Tamura into the position he needs to be when Maeda steps down as Maeda needed to put him over clean. The other result makes no sense, and since doctor stoppages aren't part of their normal worked finishes, perhaps Han was supposed to go over but accidentally got cut in a bad spot, but at the same time, if that really was the situation, they'd immediately just go to the finish. The booking is strange because Tamura vs. Mikhail is a poor main event to draw at Budokan and makes the tourney finals very much anti-climactic as nobody sees Mikhail as a top guy while Tamura vs. Han have had classics in the past. For the mainstream there would be more interest in Maeda vs. Han in the third place match. In what may have been shoot matches on the show, Grom Zaza, a former Olympic games wrestler from Russia, scored an upset over previously unbeaten Ricardo Morais of Brazil winning a unanimous decision after going 20:00, and Sean Alvares from Brazil beat Willie Peeters of Holland."

January 5, 1998:

"12/23 Fukuoka (RINGS - 6,800): Tsuyoshi Kousaka b Christopher Hazemann, Under-209 championship:Masayuki Naruse b Wataru Sakata, Sean Alvares b Willie Peeters, Grom Zaza b Ricardo Morais, Illoukhine Mikhail b Volk Han, Kiyoshi Tamura b Akira Maeda.  After doing the job for Kiyoshi Tamura at the 12/23 RINGS show in Fukuoka which drew 6,800, Akira Maeda said that Tamura would be the next big star in the promotion and again issued his own challenge to Rickson Gracie before he retires in September. It's quite a risk for any promotion, let alone a supposed shoot promotion, go with a 187-pound guy as it's top babyface, although Tamura is the class worker in the company and has been used as the headliner on the last several shows to ease his way into the No. 1 position."

January 19, 1998:

OBSERVER AWARDS! The relevant ones to our endeavour are as follows:

2. All Japan Pro Wrestling (115)1,529
3. World Championship Wrestling (131)1,337
4. Extreme Championship Wrestling (39)677
5. World Wrestling Federation (77)646
6. RINGS97
7. EMLL84
8. Michinoku Pro72
9. Pancrase70
10. Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling64

1. DEAN MALENKO (214)1,519
2. Chris Benoit (82)939
3. Shinjiro Otani (63)785
4. Ultimo Dragon (50)485
5. Mitsuharu Misawa (56)420
6. Volk Han (38)345
7. Kiyoshi Tamura (54)308
8. Eddie Guerrero (24)291
9. Koji Kanemoto (18)272
10. Bret Hart (14)143
Honorable Mention: Kenta Kobashi 140, Daisuke Ikeda 97, Rey Misterio Jr. 94, Steve Regal 79, Ken Shamrock 73

READERS PERSONAL FAVORITE WRESTLER [a great category that Dave should bring back--ed.]
2. Ric Flair67
3. Steve Austin60
4. Shawn Michaels39
5. Manami Toyota36
6. Shinjiro Otani31
7. Jushin Liger26
8. Super Delfin25
Rey Misterio Jr.25
10. Bret Hart20
Honorable Mention: Eddie Guerrero 13, Mankind 13, Kenta Kobashi 13, Undertaker 12, Takako Inoue 12, Mitsuharu Misawa 11, Koji Kanemoto 11, Toshiaki Kawada 10, Brian Pillman 10, Volk Han 10

1. MITSUHARU MISAWA (338)2,288
2. Bret Hart (72)758
3. Kenta Kobashi (79)722
4. Steve Austin (79)705
5. Shawn Michaels (51)510
6. Shinya Hashimoto (10)345
7. Shinjiro Otani (19)208
8. Koji Kanemoto (18)197
9. Toshiaki Kawada (3)194
10. Rey Misterio Jr. (12)191

Honorable Mention: Jushin Liger 154, Eddie Guerrero 87, Dean Malenko 74, Maurice Smith 74

2. Vitor Belfort48
3. Dan Severn47
4. Mark Kerr41
5. Don Frye33
6. Yuki Kondo32
7. Mark Coleman19
8. Randy Couture17
9. Frank Shamrock15
10. Tom Erikson12
Honorable Mention: Masakatsu Funaki 11, Bas Rutten 11, Kevin Jackson 9

2. Vitor Belfort vs. Randy Couture 10/17 Bay St. Louis43
3. Lisa Hunt vs. Donna Cauthen 4/12 Amarillo35
4. Carlos Baretto vs. David Beneteau 10/17 Bay St. Louis26
5. Wallid Ismail vs. Yoshiki Takahashi 2/7 Dothan13
6. Rickson Gracie vs. Nobuhiko Takada 10/11 Tokyo12
7. Kimo vs. Paul Varelans 12/7/96 Birmingham11
8. Frank Shamrock vs. Tsuyoshi Kousaka 9/26 Sapporo9
9. Don Frye vs. Tank Abbott 12/7/96 Birmingham7
Frank Shamrock vs. John Lober 1/20 Honolulu7

January 26, 1998:

"Weekly Pro Wrestling magazine in its 1/20 issue did its annual attendance rundown for 1997. According to magazine figures, which in a sense shouldn't be taken seriously since virtually all the smaller groups exaggerate their attendances something fierce, there were 42 major promotions that operated in Japan last year, totally 1,437 house shows and drawing a total of 2,796,321 fans. The total audience as far as announced attendance went had topped 3 million the past several years, so this would be the lowest when it comes to announced attendance in recent memory. Of companies where we can take the attendance figures as something approximating accurate, New Japan drew 710,272 fans in 135 house shows (5,261 fans per show), All Japan drew 426,650 in 135 house shows (3,160 per show), RINGS drew 64,470 on 13 shows (4,959 per show), Michinoku Pro drew 70,449 on 126 shows (559 per show) and Pancrase drew 44,900 on 14 shows (3,207 per). The financially beleaguered All Japan womens promotion still ran almost double the amount of shows of any company in Japan in 1997, running 268 house shows. Other companies running more than 100 shows last year were FMW (118) and JWP (115)."

February 2, 1998: 


"12/23 RINGS: 1. Tsuyoshi Kousaka beat Chris Hazemann in 11:12 with a kneelock. It was a back-and-forth worked match. The finish looked good. Hazemann, who is an underrated undercard worker, came equipped with a new physique. Match was good for RINGS style; 2. Masayuki Naruse beat Wataru Sakata in 12:10 when Naruse got Sakata's back and got the choke. The match looked as though it could have been legit, but it was also kind of boring. Naruse controlled the first several minutes until he missed a try for an armbar and Sakata got the mount. More of a strategic chess match than a wide open match, similar to a Pancrase match; 3. Sean Alvares beat Willie Peeters in 9:40 in a Vale Tudo rules match. There was no question this match was legit. Alvares, who had a 21-pound weight advantage and appeared to have a new physique, totally dominated. Alvares took Peeters down right away and Peeters spent the rest of the match trying to get out of the ring. Alvares got a few flurries of punches in and rode him like a wrestler the entire way until getting a shoulderlock for the submission. Peeters, who won the first Holland cage fight (UFC style) tournament in impressive fashion a few years back, didn't even get one offensive move in; 4. Grom Zaza beat Ricardo Morais via decision after 20:00 in another Vale Tudo match in a huge upset. This was also a shoot, and a boring match, although the crowd was into it seeing the giant Brazilian dominated for the first time ever. Zaza, a former Olympic wrestler, took Morais, a 6-8, muscular 265 pounder down at the bell and mainly controlled him in boring fashion, throwing a few punches here and there. The crowd was chanting for Zaza since Morais could never get control. Morais got one brief reversal, but Zaza reversed back almost immediately. Morais had the guard on most of the way and really this match could have been a draw, although the crowd was so into seeing Zaza on top and chanting for him that it was a unanimous decision; 5. Ilioukhine Mikhail beat Volk Han in 9:36 in the finals of the Battle Dimension tournament. Han was by far the best guy on the show putting on almost a clinic of how to do a worked shoot style match with a broom. He single-handedly made the match great until blowing out his knee doing a move. Don't know if this was the worked finish, since it came out of nowhere and looked legit. Han losing made absolutely no sense because for the finals at Budokan, Han vs. Kiyoshi Tamura had at least some drawing power while Tamura vs. Mikhail had almost none. The only tip-off that it might have been the finish is that Han controlled the entire match, and usually when it comes to the top guys in worked matches, the person who controls the match usually loses at the end, although perhaps they were working a long match and he hadn't given Mikhail his comeback yet before beating him. Since it was a pro wrestling match, it was a very good match with a flat finish; 6. Kiyoshi Tamura beat Akira Maeda for the first time in his career in 14:44 with an armbar. They worked the match to look legit, but it was only good in brief minute-long spurts a few times during the match. It started fast, then slowed down. It picked up halfway through and looked like it was going to build into being a great match, but then it again slowed down. Tamura got a lot of good strikes in just before they went to the ground for the finish. This wasn't as good as their previous match."

I MUST AGREE that this was not as good as their previous match but it is still worth seeing! As is the rest of this show! As is all of 1997 RINGS, now at its end! Perhaps there will be a way for us all to enjoy these shows together again. But until that time, should it come, I thank you for your attention to these matters as communicated through my meagre prose. Thanks!  

No comments:

Post a Comment