Monday, May 1, 2017


Fighting Integration 1st
March 28, 1998 in Tokyo, Japan
NK Hall drawing 6,200

A BAD-TRACKING VHS IMAGE OF LATE-STAGE WAYNE GRETZKY (is that not the right idiom?) WELCOMES US TO RINGS: FIGHTING INTEGRATION 1st and the astutemost amongst you are already asking "but what of RINGS 3/3/98: BATTLE GENESIS 3rd at Korakuen Hall drawing 1450?" and look, I get it, but I don't have that show! And not in the sense that it was purported to exist in the RINGS box but, due to totally understandable human error (they all should be so, if we are of sufficient sympathy), for some reason or another it is not; rather, that's one that isn't even on the list of ones that were available to us in our bulk buying and duplication. I have here, though, the results, as gleaned from the venerable

Battle Genesis III
March 3, 1998 in Tokyo, Japan
Korakuen Hall drawing 1,450

1. Akihiro Gono beat Tatsuya Kurahashi (7:07) via submission.
2. Christopher Haseman beat Minoru Tanaka (12:01) via submisison.
3. Alexander Otsuka beat Wataru Sakata (30:00) via decision.
4. Masayuki Naruse beat Troy Ittensohn (8:22) via submission.
5. Kiyoshi Tamura beat Sergei Sousserov (9:27) via submission. 

I think all of those matches sound awesome! Akihiro Gono? GRABAKA's own DJ GOZMA? Who knew he had ever fought in RINGS! It adds up, though, in that he fought everywhere. Minoru Tanaka matches are uniformly worthwhile. A half an hour of Alexander Otsuka I will take every time it is offered, and against the spirited Wataru Sakata, so much the better. I enjoy the increasingly odd Masayuki Naruse very much in this era of his strange kung-fu-era-Billy-Graham pre-match kata, and I would be stunned to learn that the main event of Tamura and Sousserov was anything less than excellent. If only we knew . . .


March 2, 1998:

"RINGS has a minor show on 3/3 at Korakuen Hall headlined by Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Sergei Susserov of Russia."

A good start, certainly, but let's see what else, too.

March 9, 1998:

"Several major names from shoot sports, among them arguably the single greatest wrestler who has ever lived, are among the list circulated as being rumored or confirmed in regards to retirement matches of two of the biggest name pro wrestlers in the history of Japan.

Former decorated Soviet wrestler Igor Meindert, former UFC champion Don Frye and former UFC competitors Dave Beneteau and Brian Johnston are all part of the eight-man tournament to determine the final opponent for Antonio Inoki on the 4/4 Tokyo Dome show.

But those names pale in comparison to that of Alexander Karelin, without question the single most dominant athlete in the history of Greco-Roman wrestling, who is apparently in negotiations to make his pro wrestling debut in September as the final opponent for Akira Maeda.

Karelin, 30, the 6-3, 286-pound Russian known as "The Experiment," and obviously that nickname didn't come from his use of creatine or HMB, captured gold medals in the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics as a superheavyweight in Greco-roman wrestling. Not only is Karelin believed to have been undefeated since the age of 17, but for years his dominance of the sport was such that it wasn't even believed until the past year or two that there was anyone in the entire sport who could give his winning streak a serious test. In recent years his margins of victory have closed down to the point where it is conceivable one of the top world class wrestlers could at least threaten the streak, as Matt Ghaffari of the United States lost a close decision to him in the Atlanta Olympic finals. Karelin's name hasn't been publicly announced in Japan in regard to being Maeda's final opponent. During this past week RINGS held a press conference announcing that Maeda would face a major superstar in his retirement match in September, but the actual date, site and opponent weren't mentioned, however it has leaked out that Karelin is the opponent they are trying to sign. In past years, both the WWF and UFC in its early days had set their sites on Karelin, although how serious each company truly approached the idea is unknown but UFC talked in its early days about Karelin extensively.

Besides announcing that the semifinals and finals of the tournament for Inoki's final opponent, along with the winner vs. Inoki as the main feature on the card, New Japan also this week announced three title matches and one more bout for the 4/4 Tokyo Dome show. Due to Inoki's retirement and ticket prices being raised and a sellout crowd expected, it could be the largest live gate in the history of pro wrestling. The lackluster matches have Kensuke Sasaki defending the IWGP heavyweight title against Tatsumi Fujinami (two weeks before the match the two are scheduled as partners in a tag match main event on the 3/22 Nagoya show); Keiji Muto & Masahiro Chono defending the IWGP tag team titles against Shinya Hashimoto & Osamu Nishimura and Jushin Liger defending the IWGP junior heavyweight title against Kendo Ka Shin and a tag match with Shinjiro Otani & Koji Kanemoto vs. Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Yuji Yasuraoka, formerly with the now defunct WAR promotion, which has minor interest since Takaiwa has been working for months as part of a tag team with Kanemoto & Otani.

The tournament will have its first round matches on 3/22 at Nagoya Aiichi Gym. The first of the four tourney bouts that night will have Kazuyuki Fujita, a New Japan prelim wrestler who was last year's Japanese pro wrestling Rookie of the year, a former national champion in amateur wrestling, facing Meindert, a 6-8, flabby 286 pound former Russian freestyle wrestling superheavyweight champion. Meindert did what looked to be somewhat of a suspicious but poor match on the 10/11 Vale Tudo show but on by KRS at the Tokyo Dome in his Japanese debut beating much smaller Hiroki Kurosawa. Frye, whose New Japan contract has been extended through September (which means he won't be back in UFC until that time, if ever), faces Kazuo Yamazaki in a rematch of a bout Frye won on 11/2 at the Fukuoka Dome. Johnston, a former UFC fighter with a good look, faces veteran shooter Yoshiaki Fujiwara. Johnston, who is training with Brad Rheingans in Minnesota for pro wrestling both in Japan and possibly WCW and has done one major pro wrestling match putting over Naoya Ogawa on 9/23 at Budokan Hall. The final first round match has Ogawa, who it is generally believed will win the tournament (although Inoki did shoot an angle with Frye on 2/15 at Budokan which ended up making the front cover of both major weeklies), against Beneteau, a UFC veteran who did one pro wrestling match for UWFI in 1996 putting over Yoji Anjoh at a major baseball stadium show in Tokyo.

As mentioned, New Japan and Inoki were having trouble putting together the tournament, as few big-name pro wrestlers wanted to be involved in a deal where they would have to put over either Ogawa or other shooters with far lesser mainstream names that was mainly an ego-stroke for Inoki. Ogawa's athletic fame in Japan from being a three-time world champion in Judo is probably greater then all but a handful of pro wrestling legends. Genichiro Tenryu turned down a spot in the tournament, even though at this point his career is going nowhere. Most of the top New Japan wrestlers, including Hashimoto, who has been doing a lot of so-called mixed matches on recent major shows, wanted nothing to do with this."

Much of that was off-topic but still notable! So's this, on the subject of UFC 16:

"The only current pro wrestler on the show, Kohsaka, will have his first NHB match against Kimo Leopoldo (7-2-1), conqueror of several pro wrestlers in Japan previously. Kohsaka is considered the more skilled of the two, but has never fought is expected to give up at least 40 pounds and a lot of strength as Kimo is coming in big, and Dan Severn, who has faced the best wrestlers in the world over a world-class career claimed Kimo was perhaps the strongest man he'd ever locked up with. Kimo's only career blemishes are losses to NHB legends Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie, and a draw with Severn last year at the Tokyo Dome in a poor match."

Hey that match is right here on Daily Motion so we can watch it without either paying for UFC Fight Pass and thereby materially supporting fascism or going to my basement to find my bootleg copy from my large box of (almost exclusively) bootleg shoots that has long been known as the Chute Boxe for I think quite obvious reasons. Why not watch it together in fellowship! I definitely watched this the night it happened; if I have rewatched it since (I am pretty sure I have), it would have been more than ten years ago for sure. Maurice Smith is right that TK is great and that "TK will win, long term," that 's so true. Masayuki Naruse is with him! As is Smith of course. Fourth-degree black belt in traditional judo, that's true, Mike Goldberg. What else, 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Jeff Blatnick?

That's right also, every word of it.

"Size is not a factor in our tale of the tape," Mike Goldberg tells us as the tale of the tape actually tells a tale of how Kimo is like twenty pounds heavier (great job as always, Mike). And here's Bruce Buffer, who has forever seemed terrible to me, and that his nonsense is an ongoing part of the UFC reveals the continued æsthetic baseness of it all, a lesser crime than the obvious human cost of the entire enterprise but still I think a failure worth noting. David "Tank" Abbott joins the commentary team. The utterly putrid cretins of whatever shitty town this dumb event was held in discredit themselves beyond all measure with the chorus of boos they visit upon the peerlessly noble Tsuyoshi Kohsaka at his mere introduction. Let me check, ok it's New Orleans, a city that got dealt with; it would be unkind of me to add to their misery and so I will hold my tongue. I can see as Maurice Smith leans over the cage that he, like me, enjoys the affordable durability of the Timex wristwatch. Kimo swings, Kohsaka shoots low, Kimo sprawls, and TK goes to (TK?) guard (who can say). Kimo drops back for an ashi-gatame but is that wise? Is it? I should not question it as Kimo is doing fine at muscling Kohsaka around pretty well thus far. Blatnick explains that Kohsaka is well-versed in leg-locks because he is of RINGS (yes; yes). Kimo's muscle-butt pokes out of his shorts (good for him) as he attempts a kata-gatame shoulder-hold/arm-triangle but TK is ok. "They're very patient," Tank Abbott explains about the Japanese. "They're really good at submissions." They are up, they are down, and back in the "half-guard" of niju-garami. "I don't have time to play on the computer," Tank Abbott explains about the lack of an official Tank Abbott webpage. Kimo has passed to tate-shiho-gatame, that topmost pin, but TK is very near his corner off the cross-legged Maurice Smith and the leany Masayuki Naruse. (To think that when I first saw this match, I had literally no idea who Masayuki Naruse even was; I would not have so much as noticed him.) TK SCISSORS EAT SHIT EVERYBODY wait that is the wrong attitude to have about so pure a waza, I'm sorry. After the scramble they stand and Kohsaka connects; Kimo looks awfully tired, perhaps from hauling around all those very impressive muscles that impress everybody very much (TK is a huge guy; being twenty pounds of lean muscle heavier than TK is a vanity and an indulgence). I guess the format here is a twelve-minute round with a three-minute overtime after one-minute's rest. The replay between these rounds shows in glorious slow motion the TK Scissors that brought about an inappropriate response from me a moment ago, again, please, forgive me. Kimo comes out looking for takedowns but finds in their stead knees to his very face. Ah, the third one worked, but now Kohsaka is beating him up from beneath tate-shiho-gatame, which you don't see very often. Kimo's juji-gatame is loose, so very loose, that Kohsaka turns in and up and hangs out on top doing some low-key hitting for the remaining minute or so. As they part each other's company, Kohsaka looks pretty fresh, whereas Kimo is cut and breathing super heavily. The unanimous decision win is announced in the favour of "MR. TSUYOSHI KOHSAKA." That was pretty good!   

Where were we, though, we were still working our way through the Meltz of March 9, 1998, weren't we:

"It appears once again that the Kingdom promotion is just about finishes. This past week, Yoji Anjoh, Kenichi Yamamoto and Hiromitsu Kanehara announced they were leaving the promotion, leaving them with almost no wrestlers. No card has been announced for their next scheduled show on 3/20 in Yokohama. It isn't known where Anjoh and Kanehara will wind up, but Yamamoto signed a contract with RINGS and debuts on 3/28 at Tokyo Bay NK Hall. RINGS on 3/28 has Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Dick Vrij, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka vs. Nikolai Zouev, Grom Zaza vs. ? (they are going to try and bring in a UFC fighter for this match), Masayuki Naruse vs. Gilbert Yvel, Wataru Sakata vs. Willie Peeters (rematch of a controversial match in Amsterdam) and Kenichi Yamamoto debuts against Valentijn Overeem. Mitsuya Nagai, 29, has quit this company after being with Maeda since his pro debut 1991." 

I am sad to see Mitsuya Nagai go! His Wikipedia page says "he left RINGS after a match with Akira Maeda in which Maeda shot on him after the bell," and this does accord with our own account of his final RINGS bout: "Oh it is over at 17:00 exactly, Maeda, hadaka-jime, the naked strangle. This was quite good! After the match Maeda and Nagai stare at each other until Maeda slaps him, which I do not understand at all, but it seems rude." 

Maeda is such a dikkkkkkkk.

March 16, 1998, gives us details of 3/3/98:

"3/3 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (RINGS - 1,450): Akihiro Gono b Tatsuya Kurahashi, Christopher Hazemann b Minoru Tanaka, Alexander Otsuka b Wataru Sakata, Masayuki Naruse b Troy Ittensen, Kiyoshi Tamura b Sergei Susserov. RINGS ran on 3/3 at Korakuen Hall, failing to sellout with a crowd of 1,450 with Kiyoshi Tamura going over on Sergei Susserov of Russia in the main event in 9:27. The non-sellout was a bad sign for Tamura's first match since becoming the group's world heavyweight champion. He'll have another test on 3/28 at NK Hall headlining against better known Dick Vrij, since Maeda won't be wrestling on that show The contract between WOWOW (a Japanese premium station equivalent to HBO) and JWP runs out this month and won't be renewed. Many feel that JWP's popularity will go way down without the TV exposure. RINGS is running 4/16 at Osaka Furitsu Gym being advertised locally as Maeda's last match ever in Osaka."

I will miss the commercials for JWP that sometimes make it onto the end of the tapes; those women appear to wrestle hard and well. 


"There was considerable magazine speculation about an Akira Maeda vs. Alexander Karelin match for September at the Tokyo Dome. Karelin, who has never done pro wrestling, did appear in 1989 at a New Japan show doing an exhibition with Vladimir Berkovich to build up the first-ever pro wrestling card at the Tokyo Dome later that year, however he didn't appear on that card."

And, in brief notes on potential WON Hall of Fame candidates, Dave writes:

"Volk Han (36 [years old], 7 [years of shoot-style græppling]) - My gut says no right now, but ten years from now looking back depending on the future changes in the industry, he may be an important figure stylistically [oops!--ed.] He also may be a great submission worker who historically won't mean a thing. Even so, as Akira Maeda's main rival for seven years and probably the best pure submission worker of his era, even though he has no name internationally, he's still worth consideration." 

March 23, 1998, sees UFC 16 thoughts and also Alliance thoughts:

"It was also a big night for the intermixed and sometimes intermingled organizations known as The Alliance and The Lions Den. The Maurice Smith/Frank Shamrock created Alliance, which was spawned and in a sense broke away from The Lions Den, saw Shamrock solidify his position as the current superstar of the sport with his second consecutive win in less time than a shot clock of an NBA basketball game. Shamrock, with his Oscar de la Hoya like potential as the face to upgrade the image of the sport, delivered the reality for the second show in a row of the Mike Tyson fantasy of ferocity knocking out previously unbeaten Igor Zinoviev of St. Petersburg, Russia in 23 seconds of the main event to basically unify the middleweight championships of UFC and the now-defunct Extreme Fighting Championship. The other member of The Alliance, RINGS pro wrestler Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, scored a unanimous decision victory over a bloodied Kimo Leopoldo in 15:00 in a classic match reminiscent of the Smith-Mark Coleman 1997 Match of the year encounter. Kohsaka's win was not a surprise to most insiders, who proved himself by battling Shamrock in an incredible test of stamina for a fast-paced 30:00 in a Rings match which Shamrock won via decision on 9/26. But it was a shock to virtually every fan, who knew the Kimo name, and saw him ripped and ready with his unique look and charisma at 248 pounds. When Kimo came out, he got the biggest pop of the show with chants of his name. As the fight went on, Kohsaka won the fans over. There were no "USA" chants at any point, and Kohsaka's comeback was very well received. When it was over, the fans gave both a standing ovation."

To expand on that forever, Dave writes:

"6. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (1-0), the only full-time pro wrestler on the show, beat Kimo Leopoldo (7-3-1) via unanimous decision after 12:00 regulation and a 3:00 overtime. Even though Kohsaka was an unknown to the fans, most insiders favored him believing his only question would be if he'd panic or be unable to handle punches since RINGS doesn't include closed fist punching to the face, or if he'd knock him out in the first few minutes because of the belief when it came to stamina, Kohsaka would win out as time went by. Maurice Smith was in Kohsaka's corner. Kohsaka is much larger in person than he appears on television. Kimo took Kohsaka down and tried to furiously pound him. Kohsaka calmly blocked the blows so the first question was answered. Kohsaka went for a foot but Kimo escaped. Kohsaka went for it again, and the ensuing scramble wound up with both on their feet. Kohsaka went for a takedown but Kimo blocked it and got the top, with Kohsaka again holding guard. It was the same guard that Smith used to blow up both Mark Coleman and Tank Abbott, and in fact the guard, called the "T.K." guard, was taught to Smith by Kohsaka. Kimo got the mount and began throwing blows trying to finish Kohsaka off, but Kohsaka blocked virtually every punch so the end result was Kimo being tired out more. Kimo nearly got a heel hook but Kohsaka continually rolled away from the hold until he was out of trouble. As the two got to their feet, it was obvious Kimo was totally blown up. It became a standing fight and Kohsaka was very effective with his punches, particularly since he's never done closed fist punches, opening up a cut on the side of Kimo's left eye and continually pounding on the spot making the cut worse until the bell sounded to end regulation. The beginning of the overtime was more of the same, with them trading knees until Kimo got a takedown and mount 40 seconds in. Kimo went for an armbar but Kohsaka escaped and reversed, and got on top throwing punch after punch until the time ran out, winning an easy decision. The fans gave both men a standing ovation. Kohsaka said that he considered UFC as a game he was enjoying himself playing, and would welcome fighting anyone in the future. Kimo, who had destroyed pro wrestlers Kazushi Sakuraba, Yoshihiro Takayama and Bam Bam Bigelow in matches in Japan and whose only previous losses came in his now legendary match against Royce Gracie that in losing made him a martial arts superstar, and a UFC heavyweight title match with Ken Shamrock, said that he was considering an offer from WCW to go into pro wrestling."

Also, as Nova Scotian rapper Buck 65 once rapped when perhaps he was still operating under his Stinkin' Rich persona, I don't know, I think it was on Language Arts, though, "the kingdom has fallen to the tragedy of wackness" (a failure of taste level):

"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Kingdom will officially be folding as they are billing the 3/20 show in Yokohama as the promotion's final show. Yoji Anjoh vs. Chad Casey, billed as a training partner of Dan Severn, will be the main event. Hiromitsu Kanehara is the latest Kingdom wrestler to sign with RINGS, and he'll debut on 3/28 at the Tokyo Bay NK Hall show against Ilioukhine Mikhail. Ken Suzuki, who was the President of Kingdom, is trying to hook up with the Neo Ladies promotion to work in the front office."


"Bob Gilstrap, a Maurice Smith protege, will face Grom Zaza, the former Olympic wrestler who recently beat Ricardo Morais, in a NHB shoot match on the 3/28 RINGS show at Tokyo Bay NK Hall. Gilstrap recently fought in a Vale Tudo event in Brazil and is being considered as a participant in an upcoming UFC middleweight tournament"

ADCC news that is pleasingly incomplete and enigmatic:

"There was a major submissions only tournament in Abu Dahbai from 3/20 to 3/22 which featured several names from NHB and shoot and semi-shoot pro wrestling. In the absolute division, Mario Sperry (EFC where he lost a great match to Igor Zinoviev, MARS) was declared the winner when his opponent scheduled for the finals, Ricardo Morais (who has done three shoot matches for RINGS with a 1-1-1 record and beat Ilioukhine Mikhail to win the second Russian Absolute tournament a few years ago) was injured in his semifinal win over Joe Charles and couldn't come out for the championship match. Charles, an NHB veteran around the world best known for losing suspicious matches to Vitor Belfort and Oleg Taktarov in Japan, placed fourth in the eight-man tournament. Sperry won his first round match over former UFC star Taktarov on points

In the heavyweight division (over 217 pounds), Rico Rodrigues of the United States beat Sean Alvares on points. Alvares has won two shoot matches in Japan for RINGS (over Mikhail and Willie Peeters) and lost a Vale Tudo match in Brazil to Taktarov via a lightning fast knockout. Jason Fairn, who lost a UFC match in 1994 to Guy Mezger, lost via points in his first round match while Charles and Morais both won their first round matches via submission, but were eliminated via a decision and by points (Morais losing to Rodrigues) in the second round of the 16-man tournament

In the 216 pound weight class, Sperry beat Ricardo Alves via points to win. Former UFC and Pancrase competitor Joel Sutton lost to former Kingdom competitor Larry Parker in 1:12 with an armbar in the first round. Parker was eliminated by a Sperry armbar in the second round. Taktarov got a first round bye, before losing via points to Bo Hershberger of the United States, who wound up taking third

In the 191 pound weight class, Rodrigo Gracie won a decision over Russian wrestler Karim Barklaev to win the 16-man tournament championship. Carlos Newton (EFC, Shooto, IWF) won his first round match with a choke before losing on points to Gracie in the second round

In the 167 weight class, Renzo Gracie (WCC, KRS) won the tournament beating Luis Brito in 15:43 with a choke. Brito actually lost a second round match via points to Matt Hume (EFC, Pancrase, IWF), but advanced when Hume dropped out of the tournament due to an injury. Hume and John Lewis each won first round matches. Lewis won his first round match with a choke in 1:03 and his second round match with an armbar in 38 seconds before losing to Brito in the semifinals via points, and losing the third place match to Fabbiano Eja via points

In what actually was the biggest news out of the tournament, Robin Gracie of Spain lost in the finals at 143 pounds to a Brazilian fighter known only as Soca in 21:45 with a choke. Michael Buell, the lightweight champion of the Amarillo-based USWF (who has a title defense on the 3/28 Steve Nelson show) lost via points in his first round match against a fighter known only as Marc."

AND WITH THAT WE ARE UP TO DATE and ready at last for FIGHTING INTEGRATION 1st as I thank you for your patience; that took several thousand more words than I expected. We spend a few moments with our commentary team, and it strikes me at once as odd that it is a four-man booth until I realize it is merely the usual number of guys plus the injured and saddened Yoshihisa Yamamoto. Stills of Tsuyoshi Kohsaka's glorious UFC triumph over Kimo only fifteen days before are shown, as is a nice picture of TK with Masayuki Naruse:

RINGS OFFICIAL RANKING TIME we have: 10. Kopilov 9. Zouev 8. Tariel 7. Naruse 6. Nijman (R.I.P.) 5. Nijman 4. Kohsaka 3. Kasteel (an outrage) 2. Han 1. Ilioukhine (what?) CHAMPION: Tamura (oooooh ok).  Our first match sees the really-ever-larger Valentijn Overeem against Kenichi Yamamoto in his first RINGS contest. Yamamoto was, I am learning, a UWFi guy before a Kingdom guy but now that those are not viable kinds of guy to be he is a RINGS guy, a move that ought to buy him another two and a half years or so. "A fan of Akira Maeda, Yamamoto started to train in karate since his chilhood" is a great way for your wikipedia write-up to begin, despite the typo no wait *because* of the typo. Overeem seems to be hitting him for real so I am going to call this one a shoot. Yes, his face is really very bloodied and one of his eyes is I think swelling shut. I don't know if Valentijn has been "smartened up" to "the business." A hard knee seems to have ruined young Yamamoto's face, but he is undaunted:

Yamamoto has wanted takedowns throughout this contest but to say that he pursues them with new vigour once it is clear that all of his blood is going to leave out of his face would be an understatement regarding how badly he would like one now. He gets it, but alas, there is a rope break. He attempts another, but the still-unblemished Overeem dances away. Another hard knee and Yamamoto's day is mercifully done. A convincing win from the skillful Valentijn Overeem at 6:39! 

Bob Gilstrap, who I know only from being sankaku jime'd or triangle choked by the great Carlos Newton at UFC 17 (I have seen a recent Carlos picture and he looked happy but I worry about his weight), is so in on Rage Against the Machine that he not only comes out to "Bulls on Parade" (the Steve Austin podcast revelation that his theme was based on "Bulls On Parade" is exceeded in its excellence only by the clear evidence that Austin had never heard of "millennials" as a thing [imagine the purity of that]) but also wears a Rage Against the Machine shirt to the ring, the one that's black with white text that is just like rage against the machine all like that. Grom Zaza, as though to strike a decisive blow against my many complaints about how lightly people go up for his pick-ups in shoot-style bouts, absolutely launches the fair-sized Gilstrap up about three seconds after meeting him in this straight shoot. I will probably not stop noting it when it doesn't look right, but I will also probably always think of this pretty choice slam every time I choose to be intolerable in that very particular way. The WOWOW broadcast of this thirty-minute Gilstrap win is heavily edited for time as it is nowhere near as thrilling as Zaza's thirty-minute decision win over Ricardo Morais in which he did nothing but lay atop the larger man but the people were thrilled, I was thrilled, Volk Han was thrilled, it was legitimately thrilling. 

Masayuki Naruse next faces Sander Thonhauser, a lean, hairless Dutch striker of the kind I find most frightening. He has a weird head like the sad giant Hal Forster drew in a particularly poignant early Prince Valiant. Naruse has him on the run constantly and is up like a million points to one, I think. Official word has just come in and he is in fact up nine points to one when we are ten minutes in and ah yes ok there is a final grab at the ropes at 10:37, that's a TKO.


Is your position that this guy is not a character? If so I reject it without pause. I love Hiromitsu Kanehara. He has lost, I don't know, a thousand fights? His best win is probably Jeremy Horn (who has had a professional fight I believe every week since he was a boy), but he has lost to an absolute who's-who (what an odd expression), everyone from Matt Hughes to Wanderlei Silva to Mirko Cro Cop. Fire Pro name: "The Mechanic" Hisashi Kinjoh yes that is so great, I had forgotten until I looked it up just now. His match with Mikhail Ilioukhine is excellent. Five minutes in, Kanehara has lost two points due to rope breaks, Ilioukhine one to a knockdown, and while I am pretty sure this is shoot-style (if so, it is simply tremendous, the græppling so heavy and so true), in all honesty the weird energy of Hiromitsu Kanehara has me badly off-balanced here, there is an inherent kuzushi to his presence; it is transfixing. While I have it up on the screen, why not share with you the Fire Pro names of the RINGS (ECLIPSE) roster in the first one for Game Boy:

Akira Maeda [Stoic Style] (The Fight King Akira Saeba)
Kiyoshi Tamura (Iron Arm Takashi Minemura)
Yoshihisa Yamamoto (The Aurora Nobuhiro Kawamoto)
Tsuyoshi Kousaka (The Soldier Taishi Housaka)
Hiromitsu Kanehara (The Mechanic Hisashi Kinjoh)
Bitsadze Tariel (Arch Angel Ricardo Gabriel)
Volk Han (The Hotdog Wolf Byrne)
Dan Severn (Mr. Tough Guy Gan Garn)
Andrei Kopilov (Mad Russian Randall Robikov)

This match, which in my wisdom I have finally discerned to be shoot-style for sure, is a minor masterpiece. Ilioukhine wins by kata-ashi-hishigi, a single-leg-crush of an Achilles hold, that Kanehara taps to in just the weirdest little way, slightly more than halfway towards the false theatricality of Coleman tapping to Takada in PRIDE, would I guess be one way to think about it, but when Kanehara does it, I can't explain why, but it works; perhaps because he is a poet of this? Look at this guy, he's unbelievable:

Tsuyoshi Kohsaka is in with Nikolai Zouev, and there is no way they would book TK in a shoot right after fighting for real on the other side of the world fifteen days ago, would they? One's first thought is "of course they wouldn't" but then you remember that "they" in this context means "Akira Maeda" and you begin to doubt yourself. I am relieved when the early energies of the piece suggest shoot-style; ok good. Zouev attacks with juji-gatame, and Kohsaka's back-door escapes are lovely to behold. He counters with cross-mark holds of first the knee and then the arm until Zouev grabs a rope to break the latter. Ah, the next time Kohsaka applies juji-gatame, Zouev entangles TK's hip-side leg (as opposed to his head-side leg, if you follow) and applies a kind of ankle lock--that's crafty! And so it is Kohsaka who must grab the rope to escape his plight. The next time they are on the mat (it is like a second later), Kohsaka seems at first to be thinking thoughts of juji-gatame yet again, but he slips a leg under to do the yoko-sankaku-jime (side triangle choke) we see the great Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki demonstrate here:

It is a waza I approve of so hard. I am also fond of 飛び十字固め tobi-juji-gatame, the flying armbar, because I am a human, and so I enjoy first Kohsaka's application of it and then Zouev's, too, although his was slightly less flying (he is, in fairness, really big). Zouev throws with 払巻込 harai-makikomi, the winding hip-sweep! This is really good! I like that when the naked strangle of hadaka-jime is applied, the commentator is like SLEEPER, SLEEPER DESU (rope break, Zouev). The finish comes just after the announcement that ten minutes has passed: TK shot in low for a morote-gari (two-hand reap) takedown and hit a hiza-juji knee-bar for the win at 10:20. Kohsaka takes the microphone to address the crowd! This is unusual for him! The things he says seem to please the crowd and delight Akira Maeda:

All that remains, then, is our main event of Dick Vrij and Kiyoshi Tamura, our champion. Will the title be at stake here? My assumption is no, that the title will only be defended sporadically like in PRIDE, so that everything will always be a mess with it (this is the correct path). That our referee is Yuji Shimada is I think self-evident. I would describe the opening minutes of this bout as cautious! Shoot-style cautious, rather than shoot cautious, but still. Vrij connects with a really great-looking knee for the first knockdown about three-minutes in; such solidity. After the restart, Vrij has Tamura down and on his back until Tamura hits just a lovely butterfly sweep. Just a lovely one! They are back up soon enough, though, and Vrij strikes his way to another knockdown and nearly another before Tamura gets him down and secures first the chest-hold of mune-gatame before the even top-more hold of tate-shiho-gatame but Vrij pops up and out when Tamura attempts juji-gatame. A knockdown for Tamura! Who would have thought it! Tamura looks about to win with a hadaka-jime that Vrij breaks up with hands to the face (that's a yellow card), so then a minute later Tamura gets it again and Vrij, having been chastised so very recently for his malfeasance, keeps his hands to himself except for tapping that that's it at 7:20!  


April 6, 1998: 

"3/28 Tokyo Bay NK Hall (RINGS - 6,200): Valentijn Overeem b Kenichi Yamamoto, Bob Gilstrap b Grom Zaza, Masayuki Naruse b Sander Thohausen, Ilioukhine Mikhail b Hiromitsu Kanehara, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka b Nikolai Zouev, Kiyoshi Tamura b Dick Vrij. OTHER JAPAN NOTES: The 3/28 RINGS show at Tokyo Bay NK Hall proved to be a success as without Akira Maeda on the show and using Kiyoshi Tamura as the main draw, they drew a near sellout 6,200 fans in a building that is by tradition difficult to sellout for anything less than a blowaway show. Tamura, the group's world heavyweight champion, beat Dick Vrij of Holland in 7:46 with a sleeper in what was almost surely a worked match since it was the main event. There was also interest in the RINGS debut of two wrestlers was the recently folded Kingdom promotion. Both lost their debuts, Hiromitsu Kanehara losing to Ilioukhine Mikhail in 14:03 with a heel hook and Kenichi Yamamoto losing to Valentijn Overeem in 6:36 when his second threw in the towel. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, coming off his win against Kimo, beat Nikolai Zouev in 8:20 with a kneelock in what was also likely a worked match. Although it didn't make the cover (news of Vader working the Tokyo Dome was the cover photo), the 3/31 Weekly Pro Wrestling devoted its first seven pages to the Kimo vs. Kohsaka UFC match. There have only been three or four times in the past five years where an event in the United States made page one of Weekly Pro. The only ones I recall off hand are the Ken Shamrock vs. Royce Gracie second UFC match (even more notable because no Japanese was involved although at the time Shamrock was considered honorary Japanese) and the first Mike Tyson-Steve Austin angle from Fresno earlier this year. The only other match from the UFC that was even covered in the pro wrestling mag was a full page on Frank Shamrock's win over Igor Zinoviev. There was a NHB rules match on the show with Maurice Smith protege Bob Gilstrap, who is probable for the middleweight tournament in the 5/15 UFC, beating former Olympic games wrestler Grom Zaza by a 1-0 score for a yellow card violation after they had gone the 30:00 time limit. Next RINGS is 4/16 in Osaka Furitsu Gym with Maeda vs. Volk Han and Yamamoto vs. Masayuki Naruse announced. As expected, WOWOW channel didn't renew its contract with JWP so they've lost their major television and have to be content with TV on the fringe cable stations."

In Inoki news, but Maeda notes:

"The single most influential pro wrestler of the modern era is expected to have his final match this week.

Antonio Inoki (Kanji Inoki), at age 55, has his retirement match scheduled for 4/4 at the Tokyo Dome against the winner of a four-man tournament that will be held earlier in the show. The show, which sold out at least two weeks in advance, is expected to draw the largest crowd in the history of Japanese wrestling and an all-time record live gate with some reports that they will somehow get 70,000 fans in the building which would be the biggest crowd for any event in the history of the Tokyo Dome. Having been in that building many times, I don't believe putting that many in the building is actually possible.

TV-Asahi, the network that has been televises New Japan Pro Wrestling since its inception, announced that the top matches on the card would air in prime time as part of a two-hour special on 4/6 starting at 7 p.m. Akira Maeda and Nobuhiko Takada, both of whom started out with New Japan Pro Wrestling before becoming national idols as worked shootfighters, will be appearing as special guests on television along with Muhammad Ali, Willem Ruska, a winner of two Olympic judo gold medals who later became a pro wrestler after a famous mixed match with Inoki, and Bob Backlund, who Inoki won the WWF title from in 1979 who will be at the live show. Tapes of the June 25, 1976 Inoki vs. Ali match, at the time the single biggest event ever held in pro wrestling which drew a Super Bowl like rating when it first aired in Japan and was broadcast to arenas around the world on closed-circuit, will be on the show. It is expected to draw the largest audience on the first run for any wrestling match this year.

Inoki, who began his career as a protege of Rikidozan, the Babe Ruth of Japanese pro wrestling, in 1960 after being discovered as a track star in Brazil (he was born in Japan but his finally migrated to Brazil when he was a teenager), shaped the pro wrestling landscape in a manner that no other modern era wrestler can ever come close to. Realistically, the World Wrestling Federation would have succeeded nationally and later internationally with or without Hulk Hogan as its standard bearer. And the steroid era that he ushered in was going to be ushered in as long as Vince McMahon was the promoter, even if his success without question sped up the process. Inoki, on the other hand, changed the entire wrestling and the martial arts world, for both better and for worse.

Without Inoki, there would be no New Japan Pro Wrestling. Without Inoki, the course of history of Japanese pro wrestling would be so different that it wouldn't even be imaginable. Without Inoki, shootfighting would probably not even exist as a sport. And without Inoki, if it did, it probably would be a lot less worked. Without Inoki popularizing the promotion vs. promotion angle in Japan which dates back to a March 19, 1974 match against rival promotion champion Shozo Kobayashi, that Eric Bischoff would see and bring stateside, and later the groups (predecessor to today's gangs), there would be no NWO, nor a DX. Modern mixed martial arts actually dates back to a worked match between Inoki and Ruska on February 6, 1976, and was popularized and destroyed for decades in a shoot match against Ali which was an uneventful 15 round draw with very little action. He was the first promoter to make Hogan a superstar and the first promoter to bring legitimate Russian athletic stars to the professional stage. He was the first promoter to book a wrestling show at the Tokyo Dome. He was the first wrestling promoter to run a show in the now-defunct Soviet Union and Red China. And he both promoted and headlined before the largest wrestling crowd of all-time--190,000 fans on April 29, 1995 for his match with Ric Flair in Pyongyang, North Korea at May Day Stadium. Some would go so far as to say as without Inoki, there would be no UFC, although my belief is that isn't the case, although the direction of the UFC would be completely different because without Inoki and numerous sports from shooto to Pancrase would have never existed, nor would Japan became a hotbed for Vale Tudo. All the players responsible from every level of taking worked pro wrestling to a more and more realistic look, all the way to actually being real, whether they be Karl Gotch, Maeda, Takada, Satoru Sayama, Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki were all either brought to prominence by Inoki, trained directly under him, and many grew up idolizing him personally. The evolution of pro wrestling would have never brought it to Pancrase which was responsible for Lions Den, Ken Shamrock, and ultimately many of the stars of UFC. The world of wrestling has changed in many ways in 38 years, but no pro wrestler was even close to as influential in its many changes.

This is not to say Inoki was a great man, only that he was a charismatic man who through being well promoted had some great accomplishments, most of them worked." (There is more to that story, but I choose to end it there with that very odd sentence.)


"NHB: There's nothing definitive about the 5/15 show as a lot of different ideas are being batted around, largely involving every combination of Mark Coleman, Vitor Belfort, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka and Gary Goodridge. There was a report from Japan that Akira Maeda had pulled Kohsaka from the show because the RINGS date in May was too close in proximity, but from what we understand, that isn't a definite as Kohsaka is still being considered for the show. It now appears Randy Couture will only be out of action for about two months, but the plan is to use Frank Shamrock as the main event in July, which means Couture's title defense, which theoretically would be against Coleman provided he doesn't get knocked off before then, wouldn't be until September. They've added a match with Andre Roberts, a 385-pounder who has been competing in Extreme Challenge, against 290-pound Harry Moskowitz (who looked unimpressive losing via decision to a guy he outweighed by 80 pounds in a UFC alternates match in 1997) to the PPV."

From the big Inoki show:

"Although there were celebrities, from famous actors and athletes, mainly Japanese but several foreigners as well, most notably K-1 superstar Andy Hug along with Americans like Jeff Blatnick, Eric Bischoff and Bob Backlund, it was Ali who was the featured guest. The television show acknowledged the presence of them sitting in the crowd, but even Akira Maeda, who live apparently got a pop in the building that rivalled Inoki and Ali's, was never actually featured on the television show."

Speaking of Maeda and retirement shows:

"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: The first K-1 event of 1998, on 4/9 at the Yokohama Arena drew a sellout 16,000 fans. It was different from the usual K-1 event because it lacked the spectacular knockouts. Only one televised match (it aired from 9 to 11 p.m. on tape delay later that night on Fuji Network, at press time we don't know the rating) ended with a knockout, that being Mike Bernardo winning the WAKO Pro World Muay Thai super heavyweight title from Gordon Mynards of England in 2:05 of the second round with a right-left combination. Maurice Smith returned to K-1 going to a five round draw with Masaake Satake. Nobuhiko Takada was the only pro wrestler at the show who was featured on television, presenting flowers in the ring to Satake after the match. Satake is getting a big push since promoter Kazuyoshi Ishii is looking at putting him in some mixed matches later this year, perhaps against either Naoya Ogawa or as Akira Maeda's retirement opponent since Maeda's pick for his last foe, Alexander Karelin, is going to be next to impossible to pull off. Satake in 1992, before K-1 debuted in 1993, worked for RINGS as the No. 2 star for the group behind Maeda, but the two never did a singles match. The show also featured the debut of Jen "The Giant" Norkiya, a 22-year-old from South Africa billed as the largest kickboxer in history at 6-11, 285 pounds, but he was knocked out early. They flew in an English language broadcast team for this show so it'll air somewhere in some form in the United States. The proposed K-1 debut show in Las Vegas was moved from 8/8 to 8/7, I'm assuming because they want it to be a PPV show and because WCW already has 8/8 reserved for its annual disaster of a show called Road Wild"

April 27, 1998:

"The next UFC, scheduled for 5/15 in Mobile, AL, is also in disarray. The last scheduled main event of Mark Coleman vs. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka is also up in the air at press time as RINGS officially sent word that Kohsaka was suffering from dizzy spells and was questionable for the match. It was interesting because initially Akira Maeda stated to the Japanese press more than one week ago that Kohsaka wouldn't be able to do the UFC because RINGS had a major show on 5/29 in Sapporo. Kirk Jensen, the manager of Maurice Smith (who was instrumental in getting Kohsaka into UFC) was going to Japan this week to either get a final word on whether Kohsaka would do the show. At the 4/16 RINGS show in Osaka, they made an announcement at the show that Kohsaka would be competing on the 5/15 UFC against Vitor Belfort, since word at that point hadn't reached RINGS about the planned change in the card. Since that time RINGS has received word about Kohsaka being slated to fight Coleman, and then came the injury report." What are you implying, Dave.


"As mentioned here before, where K-1 is most important in connection to pro wrestling isn't the product itself, which more closely resembles kickboxing, but in its marketing and presentation, which is pro wrestling like since promoter Kazuyoshi Ishii learned his marketing from working for a pro wrestling office, RINGS, in Japan, in 1992, prior to starting K-1."

AND WITH THAT we are ready to properly move on to FIGHTING INTEGRATION 2nd in Osaka! Please join me there, won't you? Thank you once again for time and for your attention to these sometimes improbably lengthy matters. 


  1. Awesome. I had actually never watched the TK / Kimo match until this very moment, and now I can say it fits to a T my description of an epic match. I don't agree entirely with the apparently shared notion that comebacks make alone great fights in MMA, but it was incredibly exciting to see TK skillfully endure Kimo's ground bullying and elegantly outpoint him afterwards. Even Kimo, always a thug, gained my approvation through that kneebar on the opening, which I have no doubt any lesser man would have tapped out to.

    By the way, the typo in the YamaKen article was my fault. How embarrassing. English is not my mother language, and even whenever I believe myself to be free of such indignities I am just walking the edge which keeps fluency apart from gibberish. I would seppuku myself out of the internet if I did not know it is my shameful duty to find all other possible typos in my contributions every time I learn about them and correct them for the glory of information.

  2. I liked the typo! To me it invoked "chill-hood," some new state of complete ease that we should all aspire to!