August 13, 1997 in Kagoshima, Japan
Kagoshima Arena drawing 3,380
MY FRIENDS BEFORE WE PROPERLY BEGIN let me first ask if you have noticed that some of the best parts of the Meltzer bits of our time together are the letters of Tadashi Tanaka? I have, certainly! Well it occurred to me that perhaps he had done some other writing on these subjects and so I employed the research skills I gained as part of a first-rate humanities education (you should get one if you are able, they're weird but worth having) and found out that oh ok Tadashi Tanaka broke the PRIDE Yakuza story in Shukan Gendai, the one that brought down the company and effectively ended the entire kakutogi era, so yeah, he has done some other writing. He is also a longtime friend and colleague of the insanely venerable Eddie Goldman who has been hosting No Holds Barred radio since very soon after the invention of holds and the idea of barring some of them and then of barring none of them; a bunch of the old podcast links are dead (this is in all honesty a real loss if you are interested in this strange thing to be interested in [and you are here, and so I know this of you]), but here's one from the time of the PRIDE story that still works, and here's one from the time of the announcement that RIZIN would be a thing. There may well be others that work (I sure hope so!) but that's all I have found so far. His home is Miruhon.net, which he told Eddie Goldman covers "MMA, pro wrestling, and budo: so karate, judo." Oh hey let's go back to RIZIN for a moment as I suggest to you that you might enjoy, if you have not yet seen it, the bout between KING Reina (KINGレイナ) and Jazzy Gabert. "KING" Reina Miura placed third, Shu Hirata tell us, in the Japanese national high school judo championships (Inter-High) at -70kg, won the -68kg division in the President Putin Cup 41st Annual Japan Sambo Championships (all victories by juji-gatame or gyaku-ude-garami), and, at 5'2" and 162lbs, unquestionably offers the thikkest judo/sambo in the field of mixed fight since Fedor. Also she is an unreal star, just look:
I would also like to draw your attention, if I may, to the recent bout between (RINGS-alumnus!) Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Shinya Aoki contested at Korakuen Hall as part of the Inoki Genome Federation's NEW Opening Series (it is hard to know what any of these words mean in that [genomic] sequence). Fujiwara is 67! And yet this match is, to me at least, tremendous. Is there a better time than now to make a public plea for anyone with video of Aoki/Ogawa IGF 2/26/16 to please reach out? This remains all we have of it, plus I guess the written accounts of Aoki being stretchered:
The other matches from this most recent show that have made their way to YouTube--a streaming service now denied us as full-show RINGS enthusiasts--are less transcendent, certainly, but one has Minoru Tanaka (who we just saw in our last RINGS! he had a great headband!) vs. MINOWAMAN, another has Josh Barnett (loved by all) against Shinichi Suzukawa (who was kicked out of sumo over weed, and who shot on a gassed Mark Coleman as his "shoot" ghastly squad of goons reveled in it all), and yet another sees the weirdly-non-present-for-years-now (as TOM noted) Masakatsu Funaki vs. Mitsuyoshi Nakai. Those three bouts range from moderately poor to pretty alright, but they are all contested in a spirit that I trust will speak to you, the RINGSblog reader, in ways that exceed their technical achievement. But the Aoki/Fujiwara one is just really good, and because of my firmly held belief that spoilers are a completely fake idea, I will say before you even watch it that I love shoot-style time-limit draws, and think that there is a special art to them, and that they deserve their own comp, and that this one ending with Fujiwara held near in Aoki's kata-gatame is a literally perfect finish in that all sufficiently enlightened shootists will recognize at once that the rolling escape from it leads directly and irrevocably into the ude-hishigi-waki-gatame known best as . . . that's right, the Fujiwara Armbar. That's subtle.
Nagai's really feeling this one, too. The referee is doing that thing where he pushes on the victim's lower back but I have never understood how that is supposed to help nor have I ever been helped by that but it is nice that people try to help. Simov is assessed a yellow card, Nagai soldiers on. Oh god it happened again:
The referee resumes lower-back-pressing in earnest as the doctor consults; they are going to keep fighting, I guess, but here's pretty much how Nagai is feeling right now:
An idiosyncratic but excellent opening bout!
Completely unbeknownst to me there has been a RINGS Light-Heavyweight (paradox? or dialectic?) Tournament contested in recent months--certainly I have seen the matches, but the stakes eluded me--and on this day we shall crown its champion. But first, its third-place guy, as Wataru Sakata and Minoru Tanaka (hey!) reveal to us their waza. I think this is a shoot! Sakata grabbed a mae-hadaka-jime front choke like four seconds in and Tanaka was like roperoperope and that's all I need to see. Sakata has him flattened out pretty well in tate-shiho-gatame and so it is only a matter of time, should he hold this pin, that ippon will be declared oh wait that is judo forgive me. The positional ne-waza work here is lovely to behold, bless these fellows. When Tanaka is in big trouble he turtles and then rolls back to the hikikomi (pulling) position or "guard" and he is so good at rolling from there maybe he will try a rolling hiza-juji knee-bar if he can get his shin over across Sakata's leg like *boop* but I don't know. Sakata, back very much on top in tate-shiho-gatame, tries a no-gi (obviously) sode-guruma-jime sleeve-choke or Ezequiel (Paraguassu, Olympian of judo), but in the end it is a mae-hadaka-jime front choke on a tackling Tanaka that finishes things at 5:03 as Sakata takes third place in a tournament I did not know I had been watching but I find pretty intriguing in retrospect. Congratulations!
Is it weird that they are declaring a Light-Heavyweight Champion before they have a Heavyweight or Openweight Champion? Or is the thinking that they have been doing that with the annual (Mega-Battle, etc) tournaments? These mysteries only deepen as Masayuki Naruse and Christopher Haseman enter the ring. Haseman is a pretty hefty fellow though, isn't he? 94kg, I learn almost at once, ok, so not appreciably more than Naruse's 91kg. To me, a humble little fellow of 73kg, anyone over 90kg who is in shape has always seemed to me a pretty good size in terms of having to move them around out there and I callously feel if you are up around two hundred pounds you should just fight the biggest humans out there, you're big enough (this is uncharitable and also incorrect). Oh ok so this is going to be a work, it occurs to me, as Naruse flips out of a wrist predicament. They (I guess I mean Maeda when I say they, unless I misunderstand) let the third place competitors shoot for it, but the Light-Heavyweight Championship itself is predetermined . . . fascinating. Haseman is testy on Naruse's slightly late break on a heel holdo but I am still quite sure that this is a work, he is work-testy. Five minutes in, this is pretty good, but I really didn't like the wrist work --> flip out of it --> stand back up --> throw with the sweeping hip of harai goshi 払腰 sequence, even if it did end with the sweeping hip of harai goshi 払腰, a throw to which I am partial. Let me find a good harai goshi 払腰 gif from letsplayjudo.tumblr.com for you real quick. Ok yeah here's Daiki Kamikawa at the Grand Slam Tokyo 2015:
And here's “Bad News” Allen Coage hitting a low-key one into kesa-gatame but because it was at the 1976 Montreal Olympics (in which he competed in the same weight division as my tremendous first instructor and sensei Jorge Comrie who won his first-round match but alas did not advance far enough to do battle with Bad News that day) can it truly be said to have been low key (that should be a shido [minor penalty, literally "guidance"] to his partner for putting his hand over Bad News' mouth probably):
WHERE WERE WE well we were in the corner getting filled in pretty well by Christopher Haseman. Naruse takes him down with a side-sacrifice technique or yoko-sutemi-waza and puts him to the ropes with yet more ashi-kansetsu leg-lockery and both men are now very much "up against it" in terms of point-loss AND HASEMAN HAS BEEN FELLED BY SHOOT-STYLE PALM-STRIKES MASAYUKI NARUSE IS YOUR RINGS LIGHT-HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION BY TKO AT 14:26 THEY HAVE EVEN BROUGHT OUT A PODIUM:
That's really quite a belt!
It is not the last of Masayuki Naruse for us this day, either, as he is here to show us the ins-and-outs of hiza-hishigi-juji-gatame 膝挫十字固 . . . the knee-bar! Fundamentals, escapes, entries from the crab scissors of kani-basami 蟹挟 and the standing rolling entry from say a failed uchi-mata 内股 inner-thigh throw: this segment was great!
Hans Nijman (R.I.P. may he rise with Christ in glory) of ranking hachi is set to face Kiyoshi Tamura of ranking ni as soon as Tamura takes of his awesome U-FILE CAMP shits that we would all like to also have:
We know now how RINGS feels about the distribution of their old shows over streaming platforms but we do not yet know how RINGS feels about bootleg shirts being made and then sold out of the back of one's car, do we . . . do we. Although, as Dave Meltzer noted, U-FILE is independent of RINGS, which is a canny move on Tamura's part, certainly. Nijman puts Tamura down with a hard low kick, and also with a nice big lift, but the lift did not have the weightless character that plagued the pick-ups in the recent Grom Zaza matches with both Tamura and Kohsaka, and you know what, I am not the only one to note the difference, as the crowd here applauds this takedown rather than, in the Zaza instances, let taking-down pass completely unnoticed. Tamura is, however, doing that thing where he flies into and out of positions too quickly to be credible so it's not like all problems have been solved but look this is still a good one. Nijman with a standing sleeper holdo! That had everyone pretty worried for a moment there! We are about six minutes in and Tamura has lost four points! And he has just been ura-nage'd (裏投'd)! A pretty huge throw and one with real weight to it and so the crowd shuddered! In time I will stop belabouring this point but not yet! Tamura escapes and secures an ude-garami (if you call it "Americana" on our mats I will shake my head; if you call it a "key-lock" or "figure-four" or "double wrist lock" I will ask which Fire Pro you like best) but too near the ropes and so Nijman cedes the point and then kips up, a fine feat for a man of his size (if you are a man of my much smaller size and cannot kip up ask yourself why). Knocked down again, Tamra has lost six points to Nijman's mere two and there is another pummeling corner-knockdown just now as we enter the ninth minute. Tamura has one more juji-gatame attack left in him before, after the rope break, he is battered yet again and the winner is NIJMAN at 9:03. A surprising result to me! Is this because Tamura is about to have a shoot match that Maeda has judged risky for him? Otherwise I do not know how to account for this, nor for the fairly recent loss to Zouev, either. Weird!
AKIRA MAEDA vs. TSUYOSHI KOHSAKA is next and I go into this pre-convinced that if Tamura had to lose to Maeda (and he did), then Kohsaka is going to have to lose to him too. You will recall perhaps that Tamura/Maeda, though, was the best Maeda match in ages, and, as Meltzer noted, they actually made the finish somewhat plausible due to the pretty astonishing size difference. But Kohsaka is kind of a lot bigger than Tamura, so when Maeda beats Kohsaka we will not even have that, will we. Just sort of messing around from the bottom, Kohsaka puts Maeda's arm at an awful angle with an ude-garami, then TK Scissors his way out of the chest hold of yoko-shiho-gatame, takes the back, and attacks with juji-gatame; that was sikk. Meanwhile, Maeda's tokui-waza or "preferred technique" has become "fat lying," it's pretty grim. OH NO Kohsaka just missed a tobi-juji-gatame flying armbar so truly that he slammed haaaaard to the mat at a pretty bad angle on his neck or I guess very high on his back (what is the neck but the uppermost back) and it was loud: mind your grips, everybody, or this could be you. Maeda really and truly does nothing on the ground anymore, like turning his hips from mune-gatame through to the scarf hold of kesa-gatame is about all he has in him (Kohsaka counters with a "back-door" juji-gatame). TERRIBLE FINISH as Maeda wins with a mae-hadaka-jime front choke very near the ropes; Maeda hooks his leg over Kohsaka's to keep him from reaching out for the escape--kind of like how Aoki hooks the leg for the form of gyaku-kata-gatame/Ungvari roll/D'Arce that has come to be known as "The Japanese Necktie":
--but what Maeda did was nowhere near as interesting and was to speak plainly just bad. Maeda with big wins over both Kiyoshi Tamura and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka! I for one choose to admire the sheer audacity of this.
YOSHIHISA YAMAMOTO vs VOLK HAN is a main event with potential, I think we will all agree. Yamamoto has been on kind of a (worked) roll ever since his (shoot? I don't remember!) loss to Kohsaka months ago, but Volk Han remains top-ranked, so who knows! Volk Han attacks at once with his revolting (and standing) gyaku-ude-garami and Yamamoto gets away from the worst of it by kind of jumping and flipping over and it is a bullshit move to do and the crowd is SILENT because of it. This is 1997 RINGS, fellows, you need to abandon things like this; the people know; they know. Excellent ne-waza exchanges between these two slippery guys! Han has this weird arm-lock/neck-crank that is new but plausible, Yamamoto slips to the side and takes the back to attack with juji-gatame, clapclapclapclapclap. A lot of ashi-kansetsu (leg-bone-locking), a lot of ude-kansetsu (arm-bone-locking) but very little by way of shime-waza (strangulation technique) as of yet. But there's still lots of time, possibly! At eight minutes in, there have been three rope-breaks aside. Make it five for Volk Han soon thereafter, though, from juji-gatame and mae-hadaka-jime (the humble front choke). And then he gets knocked down! Hard times for Volk Han. Han does almost exactly the ashi-garami leg-entanglement as performed in the Kodokan's katame-no-kata 固の形 (forms of grappling), like it is seriously this, look at him prepare to kick the knee out and everything:
Yamamoto makes the ropes but woah, what a time to be me. Another knockdown puts Han right at nine points lost and ok yeah a well-placed kick (it is placed at the back of Volk Han's head) puts him down for the TKO at 11:30. I liked this one a lot! The rehabilitation of Yoshihisa Yamamoto continues! BUT TO WHAT END?
WHAT DID DAVE MELTZER SAY:
August 11, 1997:
"Upcoming RINGS shows after the 8/13 show in Kagoshima will be 9/26 in Sapporo headlined by Volk Han vs. Kiyoshi Tamura, which is the group's best match-up, and Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs. Yuri Corchikin. The Mega Battle '97 tournament first round will be on 10/25 from Tokyo Bay NK Hall and the second round will be 11/20 from Osaka Chuo Gymnasium."
August 18, 1997:
"Caught tapes of the 6/20 Pancrase and 7/22 RINGS shows. Pancrase was typical Pancrase with mostly submission wrestling. The most interesting thing to me was an interview with Guy Mezger. Mezger in an interview on the TV show specifically talked about newspapers reporting that he contacted RINGS and he claimed that they had contacted him to jump, that he hadn't contacted them, and that since he doesn't speak Japanese or live in Japan, it was hard for him to find out what is being said about him in the newspapers. It was interesting to hear someone specifically talk about the subject of being approached to jump to a rival office on a TV interview. The RINGS show had an interesting interview where Masayuki Naruse, after winning his match, which was a shoot match over Wataru Sakata, said in the interview that the match was a shoot. Three of the six matches on the 7/22 RINGS from Osaka (Naruse vs. Sakata, Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs. Mitsuya Nagai and Christopher Hazemann vs. Minoru Tanaka) were shoots [this is news to me!--ed.]. Yamamoto-Nagai was a totally one-sided squash where Yamamoto took him down beat him in less than 2:30 while the other two were more competitive although the winners easily dominated. The other three matches were worked and overall it was another really good card. Tsuyoshi Kousaka vs. Grom Zaza was a good worked shoot since Kousaka has really come into his own as a worker over the past six months to where he can carry a green amateur wrestler [a slur against the good name of Grom Zaza--ed.] to a good match. Akira Maeda vs. Hanse Nyman was really bad. Maeda can still have a good match if they limit it to matwork and he has a good opponent like Volk Han or Kiyoshi Tamura because he knows the moves, transitions and psychology. But his kicks are so slow and he looks so out of shape that when he faces primarily a striker like Nyman, the match is awful. The highlight of the show was Tamura vs. Bitzsade Tariel which was a world-class performance by Tamura [whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat--ed]. Tariel weighed 319 and is 6-6 or 6-7 and Tamura weighed 191 and is 5-9 or so. Tariel is about the same calibre worker as Jim Duggan, minus the experience. And they had a match that fell just shy of incredible [this is baffling!--ed]. It was by far the best Tariel has ever looked [NOPE--ed] since he was beating the hell out of the smaller guy. Even with the huge size difference, they somehow worked a totally realistic looking [what is happening--ed.] competitive match. It ended up with both tied when it came to points which meant the next knockdown or rope break would decide it. The place was going nuts as Tariel beat the hell out of Tamura who wouldn't go down, and finally Tamura got on Tariel's back and choked him, and when Tariel grabbed the ropes for the break, he was out of points. At first I thought it was a disappointing finish after all the heat and build in a fairly long match, but in hindsight it was a more realistic finish that if a guy gets a half-dozen or so submissions during a match and always gets to the rope, when he's out of rope breaks, that somehow that would be the one he taps on."
August 25, 1997:
"RINGS held a show on 8/13 at the Kagoshima Arena before 3,380 fans with results that shook up the ratings before the start of the Battle Dimension tournament in October. The top three rated fighters, Volk Han, Kiyoshi Tamura and Tsuyoshi Kousaka all did jobs. Han lost via ref stop after a kick to the head from Yoshihisa Yamamoto in 11:30, Kousaka lost via submission in 9:14 to Akira Maeda, and Tamura lost via ref stop after a kick to Hanse Nyman in 9:03. One would suspect all three would have been works. RINGS also crowned its first ever world champion as it ended a tournament that has gone on the past few cards to crown a champion in the 209-pound and under weight division, with Masayuki Naruse beating Christopher Hazemann in the finals. The tournament is weird in itself because both Tamura and Yamamoto are under 209 and neither was in the tournament so why have a weight division in a supposed shoot (since RINGS is supposed to be a shoot even though most of the time it isn't) when people under that weight compete as heavyweights [an excellent point and one I had not considered--ed.]. The winner of this year's Battle Dimension tournament which ends in January will become RINGS' first ever world heavyweight champion [oooooooh ok--ed.]. With the shake-ups, the new top six in order are Yamamoto, Han, Nyman, Tamura, Maeda and Kousaka. 8/13 Kagoshima (RINGS - 3,380): Mitsuya Nagai b Mikhail Shimoff, Wataru Sakata b Minoru Tanaka, RINGS 209 pound weight class first champion decide match:Masayuki Naruse b Christopher Hazemann, Hanse Nyman b Kiyoshi Tamura, Akira Maeda b Tsuyoshi Kousaka, Yoshihisa Yamamoto b Volk Han"
"Shooto will have a match on 10/12 to crown its first heavyweight world champion. Shooto is the only 100% shooting group in Japan. K-1 and Pancrase are predominately but not exclusively shooting (the Nagoya Dome main event with Francisco Filho vs. Andy Hug looked suspicious as hell to me. Hug, who at times has been considered the top star in K-1 despite losing numerous matches in the past including to some people like Patrick Smith, went down and out on the first punch that hit him against a guy who has never had a fight with gloves in his life) and RINGS usually hovers around half-and-half which is actually the weirdest of all."
"Virtually nothing new on the next UFC show. Maurice Smith was the guest on the NBC show "Later" (which airs after Conan O'Brien) for 30 minutes on 8/13 with host Joe Rogan. Since Rogan has done backstage interviews at the past two UFCs, he was very knowledgeable about the subject. Smith came off as good, but not great, but being a cool likeable guy with a good sense of humor. Really I couldn't think of a top pro wrestler today who if put in the same position for 30 minutes would have come off so well as a person rather than just a weirdo doing a gimmick. It was very positive in that sense and all of the talk about UFC was positive including Rogan saying that the people who want it banned are commissions controlled by boxing and wrestling officials who are afraid of the general public realizing there is more to a fight than guys standing up and punching each other and that in a real fight Mike Tyson wouldn't be nearly what the public thinks him to be. The clips they showed were very tame, including not airing any clips of Smith's knockouts in EFC or kickboxing. They talked about the Mark Coleman match and Smith said that after being hit with him, he really doesn't punch like a girl but that he said that to get the guy to come out fast and get tired fast as part of his strategy. Rogan said that Coleman is this huge pumped up guy and Smith started laughing at the term pumped up almost as if he was thinking steroids but knew not to say it. Vitor Belfort nor the date of the next UFC was brought up during the show. One of the reasons Smith will be on the next UFC is that now that he's UFC champion, SEG didn't want him going to Japan and losing worked matches with RINGS and Smith agreed to not do that provided SEG paid him what he would have made in Japan."
September 1, 1997:
"Mitsuya Nagai of RINGS makes his pro kickboxing debut on 9/28 at Korakuen Hall against a cruiserweight from Washington."
September 8, 1997:
"Shinya Hashimoto's run as the longest reigning heavyweight champion in a major league promotion came to an end on the same day that Akira Maeda stepped foot in a New Japan ring for the first time in more than ten years. Kensuke Sasaki captured the IWGP title from Hashimoto before an overflow crowd of 18,000 fans on 8/31 at the Yokohama Arena. Maeda, who started his career in New Japan before being fired from the promotion in 1987 for his infamous shoot-kick on Riki Choshu that in some ways contributed to making him one of the more enduring lasting legends in Japanese pro wrestling history, showed up unannounced in the ring to congratulate Choshu in his retirement ceremony and got a huge reaction from the crowd. Obviously that was another lifetime ago in the careers of both wrestlers, as Maeda, in a shoot, kicked Choshu hard in the eye, breaking his orbital bone, during a six-man tag match while Choshu was basically defenseless as he was holding a wrestler in a scorpion deathlock. Maeda was fired from New Japan, not exactly from that incident which caused both wrestlers to have to miss the important tag team tournament that year, but for refusal to accept the punishment (a fine, a tour of Mexico and having to return and put Choshu over clean) handed down by New Japan. Instead, Maeda got the financial backing to start his own promotion, the UWF, which became the hottest wrestling promotion in the world for a short time and in many ways was revolutionary in paving the way for groups such as K-1, UFC, RINGS and Pancrase which all catered and garnered interest in Japan from a fan base originally created by Maeda's UWF, which split into several promotions a few years later. On 7/6, Maeda, who himself will be retiring next year, surprisingly showed up at a major WAR show, his first time at a traditional pro wrestling event since 1987, to congratulate Genichiro Tenryu, who was celebrating his 20th year as an active pro wrestler."
"K-1 will neither confirm nor deny anything regarding a Royce Gracie vs. Maurice Smith match. As the rumor mill has it, K-1 and the Gracies aren't interested in the match if Smith loses to Severn. However, due to contractual clauses in Smith's contracts with both SEG and RINGS, he'd be unable to do the match unless both companies agree to it. SEG probably wouldn't agree to it if Smith beats Severn as they don't want their world champion fighting elsewhere and risk losing to an outsider. So from that perspective, the match looks doomed either way."
September 15, 1997:
This is extensive:
"The situation with NHB and shoot wrestling matches, which seemed in decline just a few months ago, has sprung up with several important shows and matches on the horizon.
On 10/11, there will be interesting shows of totally different varieties in both the United States and Japan. The Pride One Tokyo Dome show with the long talked about Rickson Gracie vs. Nobuhiko Takada match, had the rest of the card announced this past week. The semifinal on the six-match NHB show will be Tank Abbott (6-5) in his Japan debut vs. Kimo (7-2). Abbott appearing on this show is interesting because this match will be just six days before Abbott is scheduled in the UFC tournament. Also, Hiroki Kurasawa (who placed sixth last year in the Kyosushin Karate world championships) vs. Igor Mendot (a 6-8, 285 pound Russian amateur wrestler), pro wrestler and former sumo giant Koji Kitao (6-7, 370) puts his 0-2 NHB record up against Nathan James, a 6-10, 350-pound Australian who competes in worlds strongest man type contests in his first NHB match, John Dixon (who lost over this past weekend to Dan Severn on an IFC show in Baton Rouge, LA and has done NHB tournaments in Oklahoma and Russia in the past) vs. Kazunari Murakami (who lost to Maurice Smith in the main event on the final EFC PPV show) and Renzo Gracie vs. an overmatched Akira Shoji, a 23-year-old with a 1-1-1 record in Japanese NHB matches.
That same night on American PPV will be the debut of John Peretti's IWF promotion, basically promoting a new sport which will be submission wrestling with no striking allowed. As mentioned here many times, it is questionable how marketable such a project would be, but to Peretti's credit, he has put together easily the best athletic line-up of any PPV of the type to date. The theme of the show will be amateur wrestling stars vs. submission fighters, with matches consisting of five three minute long rounds. There will be a scoring system that awards points for the winner of each round similar to boxing's ten point must scoring system, with high throws, sweeps, takedowns and reversals being emphasized in the scoring as far as two point differential rounds. It appears based on the rules and the combatants than these will be matches against the clock for the submission guys as much as against world class opponents. The amateur wrestlers should dominate and be able to outpoint the submission fighters under the rules and point system, provided that they don't get caught before the time expires and have to tap out. Although intriguing to the hardcore UFC or wrestling fan because of the calibre of fighters, this concept of the wrestlers trying to avoid the submission before time expires as the key to most of the matches may get redundant without the aura and excitement of potential brutal striking.
The matches announced were: 139 pound limit--Dennis Hall (1996 Olympic silver medalist in Greco-roman) vs. Joao Roque (pronounced actually as John Hawk, 1997 weight class world champion in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu); 159 pound limit--Townsend Saunders (1996 Olympic silver medalist in freestyle) vs. Andre Pederneiras (world renowned Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor and practitioner); 179--Kenny Monday (1988 Olympic freestyle gold medalist and considered one of the best wrestlers of the past 15 years, who debuted impressively at the last EFC PPV) vs. Matt Hume (AMC-Pankration fighter, 2-0 in EFC); 199--Carlos Newton (Canadian Jiu Jitsu champion) vs. Chris Barnes (two-time All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State); Frank Shamrock (former King of Pancrase champion) vs. Dan Henderson (1996 Olympian in Greco-roman, 2-0 in NHB in Brazil); and Igor Zinoviev (4-0-1 in EFC including its champion in this weight class with a sambo and jiu jitsu background) vs. Mike Van Arsdale (1988 NCAA champion from the University of Iowa and currently still among the elite of active amateurs in his weight) and in the heavyweight division, the main event pits Tom Erikson (fourth at the recent world freestyle championships and 5-0-1 in NHB) vs. Tsuyoshi Kousaka from RINGS, who is an excellent pro style shoot worker who has done several shoot matches in RINGS and has acquitted himself well in them. This also has political implications in Japan since Erikson is scheduled to debut for Pancrase in December, and is likely to wind up as one of its top stars. Pancrase vs. RINGS is turning into its own non-angle feud.
Perhaps the biggest coup of all is that Dan Gable, considered in many circles as the greatest wrestler ever produced in the United States, has agreed to work as color commentator on the show along with Peretti and Dave Bontempo.
Six days later on PPV will be the UFC, with the double headliner of Maurice Smith defending his title against Dan Severn and Vitor Belfort vs. Randy Couture. There will also be a four-man heavyweight tournament. While not finalized, the working plan as of press time was for a first round to consist of Abbott vs. Carlao Baretto (7-0 NHB record from Brazil and considered along with Marco Ruas to be the top heavyweight NHB fighter in that country) and Mark Kerr (5-0) against either Gary Goodridge (6-5) or David Beneteau (2-4). Also not announced, but rumor now has it that this show will emanate from Biloxi, MS.
In somewhat related news, RINGS held a press conference this past week to announce a Frank Shamrock vs. Kousaka match on 9/26 in Sapporo in what is believed will be a shoot match. It's part of perhaps RINGS' most intriguing show of the year headlined by what should be a worked match with its two best workers, Volk Han vs. Kiyoshi Tamura. At the press conference, President Akira Maeda said that RINGS would be opening up new branches and teams in both the United States and Australia and that the Shamrock's Lions Den would be the dojo for RINGS U.S.A. According to Shamrock, he has signed to do only one match for RINGS on 9/26, and as part of his agreeing to do the show, got RINGS to book another Lions Den fighter, Pete Williams (who fought in the Pancrase Neo Blood tournament in 1996 along with winning two tournaments in Hawaii) on the show. Williams faces massive Holland fighter Joop Kasteel. Shamrock said he's not interested after all the monthly traveling he did for Pancrase, in fighting in Japan as a full-time regular but did want to open RINGS up as another group to send Lions Den fighters.
The press in Japan took the signing of Shamrock, who was a star in Pancrase before leaving the company in the wake of the contract dispute the company had with Ken Shamrock, as another blow in a feud between the two organizations which has gotten hotter over the last few weeks.
At the 8/13 show in Kagoshima, Maeda in an interview brought up Pancrase and claimed his company was going to destroy Pancrase. It is believed this comment came as a result of Maeda learning that a major television executive from the Fuji Network had said that RINGS was largely worked (which is true) and he blamed Pancrase officials, which have negotiated with that network on-and-off for several months, for telling that to the network official. The next step was the press conference announcing Shamrock, a former Pancrase champion, to face Kousaka, one of his company's biggest stars in that fans will view as something of an interpromotional match which means it'll create a lot of interest in the card. That means both Shamrock and Kousaka will have two major matches against serious competitors under entirely different rules in about a two week period. It was no coincidence that Maeda held the press conference one day before Pancrase had one of its biggest shows of the year scheduled at Tokyo Bay NK Hall on 9/6.
Pancrase's retaliation at the show ended up falling flat. With a crowd estimated at 5,000 to 5,500 in the 7,000 seat building (although it was announced publicly as a sellout crowd), Yuki Kondo retained his KOP championship in 27:22 of a 30:00 match with an ankle lock on Jason DeLucia. The non-sellout can be attributed to the lack of name value to casual fans of the main event participants. Supposedly Pancrase officials had made plans either way, not really caring who won the match and knowing it could go either way. The idea was that after Yoshiki Takahashi beat Jason Godsey, that Takahashi would challenge Maeda to a match that wouldn't take place of course. The problem is that real shooting can be unpredictable, and that Godsey ended up beating Takahashi with a choke in overtime, so when Takahashi issued his post-match challenge, it didn't come off as well. The Pancrase organization did survive something of a scare from a political standpoint in the semifinal, where top draw Masakatsu Funaki beat recent UFC lightweight tournament winner Guy Mezger with an armbar in 3:58. After the Maeda press conference, Pancrase was under the impression with the announcement about Lions Den being a RINGS dojo, that Mezger would be jumping shortly to RINGS as he his contract with Pancrase is expiring, even though Mezger went on the Pancrase television show in July saying the rumors of him leaving were false. The feeling is that it would have been a loss of face for the company for Mezger to beat the top star and then join its rival promotion, and that Mezger is a good enough fighter than he conceivably could have won the match. The two other key matches on the Pancrase show saw Bas Rutten capture the No. 7 ranking from Osami Shibuya with a headlock choke submission in 3:15 and Kiuma Kunioku won a decision by a 1-0 score over John Lober in what was reported to us as an even match. Lober, rated in the top ten in the world at under-200s in NHB making his debut with this group, lost his point from a series of yellow card cautions likely for not understanding the Pancrase rules.
Right now, RINGS is a far stronger promotion financially than Pancrase due to its backing from the WOWOW Channel (equivalent to HBO in the United States) even though Pancrase has a much higher percentage of shooting matches. In the past Maeda has never knocked Pancrase, and simply said that they were great fighters but that they were all 90 kilogram (198 pound) guys and that his RINGS was a heavyweight promotion. However, Pancrase just recently signed up a major sponsorship deal with Nissan Motors, and Maeda recognized if Nissan helps Pancrase get major television exposure, the entire landscape changes based on visibility.
In yet another related NHB issue, it appears the proposed match between Maurice Smith and Royce Gracie for 11/9 at the K-1 show at the Tokyo Dome isn't going to happen as we speculated about last week. SEG officially came out and said that they wouldn't allow Smith to participate in the match if he retains his title against Severn. SEG's contract with Smith allows Smith to fight kickboxing matches and matches in Japan with RINGS, but no NHB matches anywhere in the world without their authorization. For political reasons of not wanting their world champion to be at risk against a fighter with the skills of Gracie, particularly since Gracie's asking price (supposedly $350,000 for one match) of UFC is way out of their ballpark. In the fight game, an asking price out of the ballpark of reality is the polite way of turning down a match. The Gracies weren't interested in the match if Smith were to lose to Severn, since at that point Royce would be in a situation where he has something to lose but nothing major to gain, so those mutually exclusive situations has doomed the match.
In addition, the Shooto promotion in Japan has booked Tokyo Bay NK Hall for a Vale Tudo show on 11/29 which would have a theme of featuring the regular fighters from shooto against fighters brought in from foreign countries."
and omg look at this:
"Observer correspondent and frequent contributor Tadashi Tanaka signed his second major book deal with the Yomiuri Newspaper book division. The Yomiuri newspaper is the largest circulated daily newspaper in the world (10 million daily circulation) but the newspaper itself never covers pro wrestling. This would be the first time the company has produced something in print form on pro wrestling. The book, tentatively scheduled for a publishing date in late November or December, is written as a comparative cultural study of the United States and Japan and will have chapters covering UFC, K-1, Rings, Pancrase, Monday Night American TV war, ECW and Pro wrestling trade journals. He is looking for photographers to help with the book and can be reached at 212-741-1058"
THAT'S SO WEIRD! I only properly found out about him the other night! That is the way things go though, isn't it.
A FINE VOLUME OF FIGHTING-EXTENSION 1997, this sixth volume. Join me for the next, won't you? Thank you as always for your time.