Saturday, May 13, 2017


Fighting Integration 5th
August 28, 1998 in Niigata, Japan
City Gym drawing 3,480

HOW HAVE YOU SPENT THE DAY SINCE WE BID FAREWELL MOSTLY FOR REAL TO AKIRA MAEDA WHO MOSTLY FOR REAL RETIRED WHEN LAST WE SPOKE (that part was real)? HAVE YOU REFLECTED ON THE NATURE OF THE MANY GIFTS MAEDA HATH VISITED UPON US, PERHAPS FOREMOST AMONG THEM HIS TASTE LEVEL? That's at least some of what I have done, though there have been other things to attend to as well, certainly, and it was really very nice out today so it was important to also just be outside and enjoy that. We open with a stylized recap of Maeda's farewell (really so close to having really been one!) bout against Yoshihisa Yamamoto, which was pretty exciting given Maeda's physical limitations (we are not talking about limitations on the level of Genichiro Tenryu in his retirement match against Kazuchika Okada, in which Okada heroically powerbombed himself when it became clear that Tenryu, god bless him in all his lumpy glory, was just not going to get him up, although Tenryu was like twenty-five years older). The stylish highlights show us the glory of what was (Maeda), but also the promise of what still remains (all of the other RINGS guys), leaning heavily on the 6/27/98 greatest-match-ever between Kiyoshi Tamura and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, and quite sensibly so. Just look at all these awesome guys who are still here, the graphic (and quite possibly the voice-over, forgive me) implores us:

A quick tour through the RINGS Official Rankings -- 10. Kopilov 9. Zouev 8. Naruse 7. Nijman (R.I.P.) 6. Vrij 5. Kasteel 4. Han 3. Kohsaka 2. Ilioukhine 1. Tamura and CHAMPION: Tariel -- is all that separates us from the surprisingly able shootist Yasuhito Namekawa (I say this given his apparent meekness, and yet who, I ask you, was meeker than Our Lord, whom actually Thor challenged to a shoot once in an insane poem by Longfellow that I am begging you to read right now instead of this) and his edited-for-WOWOW-broadcast kata-ashi-hishigi single-leg-Boston-crab win over Daniel Higgins in 14:28. Higgins is a græppz-smirker, the kind of jerk who smirks at you whilst you are græppling him, and I am glad to see him bested. (Please note I am not talking about græppz-merriment here, which I support now and forever, but græppz-smirking.

HOLY MOLY HIROMITSU KANEHARA JUST BEAT GROM ZAZA and while this was very much a shoot-style bout rather than shooting proper yet my shock is "legit." It was a really solid match in which Kanehara kane-harried (get it?) Zaza with juji-gatame throughout to such an extent that Grom was all out of rope breaks (please note the number available to him was a mere four, not the nine enjoyed by both him and others so many times previously). This is not to suggest this contest was at all one-sided, which it surely was not, but in the end it was Hiromitsu Kanehara, rightly loved by all all, who quite shockingly (to me at least) emerged the victor at 10:17 by the naked strangle of hadaka-jime.

Yoshihisa Yamamoto and Nikolai Zouev are in next and the first thing I would like to note is the purity of the harai goshi 払腰 (sweeping hip) with which Yamamoto throws in the early going. Yamamoto has sensibly forsaken his truly awful blonde hair, at least to the extent that he has allowed it to mostly grow out and has clearly not retouched it. One wonders how he will be positioned going forward? Was his appearance as Akira Maeda's supposed last opponent (so close) meant to confer upon him an aura of main evento that he might carry forward into a post-Maeda era? Or was he just kind of in there? There is much to consider along these lines but we must also consider the way in which Yamamoto has countered Zouev's juji-gatame just now by merely trapping Zouev's hip-side leg betwixt his two (legs); this is a nonsense way to defend juji-gatame and I would caution all the kids at home to never rely on this method, as all that needs happen is for tori (the player performing the waza) to roll onto his hip in the direction of uke (the player receiving the waza)'s legs and just thigh-stomp uke's face as he comes up towards. The juji comes on as if by dark, brutal magicks. For more on how this nonsense defense that Yamamoto employs is not a true defense, and how to punish it for its folly, please see Korean judo master Ki-Yeung Jeon's old VHS tape Korean Judo Master Jeon. Yamamoto wins by hadaka-jime strangle at 13:30 but only because he was not in against Korean judo master Ki-Yeung Jeon; he got lucky.  

Maybe this says more about the kind of frame of mind I am in these days--a RINGS show a day, judo three-times a week, Final Fire Pro Wrestling: Yume no Dantai Unei! (ファイナルファイヤープロレスリング~夢の団体運営) on not only my phone but the phones of no fewer than three of my friends at the time of this writing--than anything about the actual merits of the contest before me right now but I am super interested in the prospect of this Wataru Sakata vs. Kenichi Yamamoto match. Almost immediately, I am rewarded for this enthusiasm, though Wataru Sakata is not, as he is kicked very much in the groin:

In Fire Pro, a bell would be comically sounded at the moment of impact. Here, there is no laughter, only pain, and the comforts offered by the non-Yuji-Shimada referee whose name I really should know by now. I will have to listen much more closely than I have been to the extremely excellent RINGS ring announcer (my favourite ever since he first became known to me on Death Valley Driver Video Review [DVDVR] VHS Shootcomps [I have them all still; at least one has semi-armoured stick-fighting that goes to ne-waza]). Like Namekawa/Higgins before it, this bout is edited for time, but more than enough of it remains to show that this was kind of awesome! A shoot, I would argue, and a twenty-minute win on points for Wataru Sakata. A lot of the match looked like this--

--which might not seem like much but is in fact exactly how I would like matches to very often look. I LOVE WATCHING RINGS.

Bitsadze Tariel, who is still our RINGS Heavyweight Champion (again I reject the very notion; still I reject the very notion), defends against Volk Han, surely a worthy challenger to any title. Or at least I think this is a title defense; there is no graphic to indicate it and I was not listening closely enough to hear key words I might recognize, I have failed you. Han is wearing loose shorts instead of tights and it is an outrage but at the same time he's forced Tariel, safety-seeking, to the ropes three times within two minutes so he is not making a lot of bad choices overall. Oh dear, though, by the end of the third minute Han has been knocked down twice, so he has lost four points to Tariel's three, and you only have to get up to five here for the win! Tariel is so big, also! Oh man that's a leg-kick TKO at 4:06! Tariel is (shoot-style) unstoppable! His last three (shoot-style) matches are, in order, a title win over Kiyoshi Tamura, and successful defenses against Tsuyoshi Kohsaka and Volk Han. This is a rampage. Ah, I should note that there is nothing after the match that especially suggests it was a title defense, so maybe it was just a normal match, I don't know.

Whether it was a title defense or not, I guess, it is notable that the champion's match goes on before Kiyoshi Tamura's, and we know why, don't we. It's because of Kiyoshi Tamura's peerless skill and beauty, isn't it. Here he faces Masayuki Naruse, who one assumes is still RINGS Light-Heavyweight Champion, though again I will say that I find it intriguing that I could find out that the title was dissolved but I can't find out when. I don't know how long Kiyoshi Tamura has just spent in Masayuki Naruse's niju-garami or double-entanglement or half-guard but it is maybe most of their lives? This is not a criticism, really, but this match is like relentlessly low-key. Ah, but now it is Naruse who is in Tamura's niju-garami! Didn't see that coming, did you? This is very strong work, though, of exactly the kind I want to see, and the people of Niigata are with them. After all that admirable slowness, when the end comes (at 23:33) it comes very quickly by kata-ashi-hishigi, the single-leg-crush, the straight Achilles hold. Nicely done, fellows! 


September 7, 1998: 

"8/28 Niigata (RINGS - 3,480 sellout): Yasuhito Namekawa b Daniel Higgins, Hiromitsu Kanehara b Grom Zaza, Yoshihisa Yamamoto b Nikolai Zouev, Wataru Sakata b Kenichi Yamamoto, Bitzsade Tariel b Volk Han, Kiyoshi Tamura b Masayuki Naruse. RINGS announced its Battle Dimension tournament will start 10/23 in Nagoya and continue on 11/20 in Osaka, 12/23 in Fukuoka and the finals will be 1/23 at Budokan Hall which is the traditional biggest show of the year for the company. They are going to do a Country vs. Country team style tournament but no details on how that is going to be put together. It was also announced that the winner of the 9/21 Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs. Kiyoshi Tamura match in Yokohama would get the next shot at champion Bitzsade Tariel. RINGS ran 8/28 in Niigata before a sellout 3,480 with Tamura retaining his rank as the top contender for the title going over Masayuki Naruse in 24:33 with an ankle lock and Tariel getting a knockout win over Volk Han in 6:06 in the top matches."

and a solid block of "mma" news that touches on a number of names important to our study:

"Due to financial cutbacks, the make-up of the UFC PPV show continues to change. David Isaacs, who had been in charge of UFC for the past several years, officially stepped down on 9/1 and will be leaving Semaphore Entertainment Group in a few weeks. SEG CEO Bob Meyrowitz had of late been doing all the fighter negotiations and would basically run the show with John Perretti. Isaacs said that he felt in a few years that UFC would be a booming business due to changes in technology and cable systems having a greater channel capacity, but right now it's a hard fight and he decided against spending the next few years of his life fighting the same fight. He said that as it's structured right now, SEG can viably do a UFC with outside income provided from Brazil and/or Japan and if they can reach their goal of clearing a universe of 12-13 million which would mean, if they can do an 0.4 buy rate which is what the shows have been at, would be about 50,000 buys and that Meyrowitz wants to continue the fight. SEG took out a big ad in Multi Channel News advising cable companies they can pick the show up on a stand alone basis since Viewers Choice won't be distributing it and Media One has agreed to carry it and they expect others to follow suit.

The Raw team, which includes among its members, heavyweight champion Randy Couture and recent middleweight tournament winner Dan Henderson, has broken off business relations with SEG over purse money being cut back. And the latest to drop out of the show is Bas Rutten. Rutten pulled out this past week after Meyrowitz attempted to re-negotiate his pay for the next show offering a new figure that was described as slightly more than half of what Rutten was contracted to earn on his two-event contract he had signed several months back. Rutten claimed he was doing UFC even though he had more lucrative offers elsewhere because he had been promised a title shot, and because he felt the exposure of winning a UFC heavyweight title would be good for him. With no title shot, since Couture is out, a cutback in his own purse which was a big deal since he's got a family and had sat out most of this year to heal up for UFC, combined with the realization that due to the cable situation that UFC is receiving less exposure than ever before, Rutten turned down Meyrowitz latest offer and considers himself a free agent and is now expected to start fighting for KRS in Japan. The make-up of the 10/16 show in Brazil now looks to be Vitor Belfort vs. Jerry Bohlander as the main event, Mark Coleman vs. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, Frank Shamrock defending the middleweight title against John Lober (who is the only fighter to hold a victory over Shamrock in a NHB match in January 1997 in Hawaii) and most likely Mikey Burnett vs. Pat Miletich to create a lightweight (170 pound limit) title. Miletich suffered an elbow injury in his match on 8/23 against Dan Severn, but has apparently been telling people's he'll be okay in time for that match. There is also interest in using Vaderlei da Silva, who knocked out Mike Van Arsdale in Sao Paolo, the same city UFC will take place in, on the show.

K-1 announced 13 names thus far for the 16-man World Grand Prix tournament which has its first round matches on 9/27 at the Osaka Dome and has the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals on 12/13 at the Tokyo Dome. Names announced are Ernesto Hoost, Andy Hug, Francisco Filho, Peter Aerts, Mike Bernardo, Masaaki Satake, Matt Skelton, Rick Roufas, Stefan Leko, Sam Greco, Graube Feitoza, Ray Sefo and Maurice Smith. Kazuyoshi Ishii already announced that in 1999 as the promotion grows, the tournament would increase to 32 men and be run over four Dome shows in Japan. K-1 ran a show on 8/28 at the second Yoyogi Gym in Tokyo before a sellout 4,800 headlined by an eight-man tournament in which the winner would be the Japanese representative in the Grand Prix. Satake, who was the biggest name in the tournament, won it with a three round decision over Tsuyoshi Nakasako. Both pro wrestlers who entered the tournament were eliminated quickly. Yoji Anjoh was knocked out in 1:02 of the second round with a high kick to the neck in a match where if Satake lost, per pre-match comments by promoter Kazuyoshi Ishii, he'd be out of K-1. Former pro wrestler Mitsuya Nagai, who was fired earlier this year by RINGS, was knocked out at 2:55 of the second round by Nakasako. In another stipulation match, Naoya Ogawa of New Japan's UFO offshoot promotion, won a pro wrestling match on the show over 23-year-old Daniel Liddel, billed as a student of Marco Ruas from Southern California, with an armbar submission in 4:19. It was billed that if Ogawa didn't win, Inoki would drop him from the UFO promotion.

KRS officially announced two more matches for the 10/11 Tokyo Dome show, both of which were talked about here last week--Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Alan Goes and Hugo Duarte vs. Mark Kerr. Tickets for the show went on sale this past weekend but we haven't heard anything about how they're moving but that is an awfully big building for the sport of Vale Tudo.

Shooto's biggest show of the year will be its Vale Tudo Open on 10/25 from Tokyo Bay NK Hall. While neither of these matches has been signed or announced, what they are working on as a double main event is Ensen Inoue vs. Murillo Bustamante, a highly ranked and unbeaten Brazilian, Rumina Sato vs. Matt Hume along with Noburo Asahi vs. Joao Roque."

September 14, 1998:

"There was a report that Akira Maeda would be in Nobuhiko Takada's corner on 10/11 at the Tokyo Dome for his match with Rickson Gracie which would be a great pro wrestling story, since they started out as brothers, became bitter promotional rivals, and it would make a good story for them to mend fences as both men's careers are ending, particularly Maeda coaching Takada to become the first man to beat Gracie. But this isn't pro wrestling and you can't write good stories all the way through if the finish isn't predetermined. Anyway, I'm not sure if Maeda has RINGS shows in England and Gruziya both on 10/11, or he has to go to both countries on that day to set up shows for next year, but since he'll be out of Japan, he can't be in Takada's corner. If RINGS expands to those countries, it would actually become with the exception of the WWF as the most international of all wrestling promotions since it runs in Japan, Australia, Holland and Georgia (of the Soviet Republic) already and England and Gruziya would add two more countries." [Nobody tell him--ed.]

In response to a reader question about Akira Maeda vs. Andre the Giant, Dave writes:

"DM: Andre and Maeda had a singles match in April 1986 as part of the IWGP tournament. I don't know what exactly led to Andre's actions, as there were stories that certain people in New Japan wanted to show Maeda up and have Andre embarrass him and kill his shooter reputation or at least take it down a peg, and others that Andre simply showed up to the match drunk and decided to embarrass Maeda on his own. Basically Andre wouldn't sell any of Maeda's submission holds early, which was Maeda's gimmick. The match completely fell apart. It was never an all-out fight, per se, but in a sense turned into a limited shoot. Andre basically stood there and dared Maeda to attack. Maeda looked to the corner and asked one of the officials if it would be okay and the official said "No." However, based out of fear it turned into a limited fight to a degree. What happened was Maeda began throwing blistering leg kicks, particularly to Andre's knee and Andre was too slow to block anything. His knee swelled up really bad until eventually it couldn't handle his huge bodyweight and he collapsed, very similar to Paul Varelans in the UFC match with Marco Ruas. A few times as this was going on Maeda closed in and every time he was able to take Andre down with ease, but he was never allowed to follow up as you can see him almost ask "Can I finish him?" when Andre would go down. Andre got up a few times, but quickly blew up and once the knee couldn't handle the weight, he was down for good and laid on his back and dared Maeda to come to the ground with him which Maeda wouldn't basically because he was waiting for a signal that it would be okay. After several minutes of this kind of a stalemate, Antonio Inoki hit the ring and ended the fiasco. The match was built up big throughout the tour as the two had never done a singles match since Maeda returned from the first UWF with the shooter gimmick (I believe Andre and Maeda did wrestle a singles match in the 1983 IWGP heavyweight tournament and I'd assume based on the pecking order at that time that Andre won) and was taped for television but New Japan would never let the tape air (although a bootleg copy is around on the black market somewhere as I've seen the match many times). Maeda never hurt Andre, although it appeared had he wanted to he could have ended Andre's career based on that Andre blew up, had no reflexes or speed as he never came close to blocking one of Maeda's kicks, had no balance standing, and had no ground skill. By this time Andre was almost 40 and probably around 520 pounds so this is not to say what an in shape Andre at 25 would have been, but the point as it relates to A&E [the then-recently-aired special that I would expect anyone reading this has totally seen--ed.] and the comments by Hogan and McMahon are that it was one year before the Hogan match. It should also be noted that when they were on the ground before the match completely fell apart and Andre wasn't selling Maeda's holds, Andre was trying to get his finger in Maeda's eyes so in that sense between the no selling and the attempts at a gouge, he was the one who was unprofessional first."

A reader writes, in part:

"To do a best of for RINGS would be wrong in my eyes. It should just be labeled the Best of Volk Han. Han is easily RINGS all-time most entertaining performer. I can't even fathom what RINGS cards would be like without him. With the possible exception of Mitsuya Nagai vs. Yoshihisa Yamamoto and the 1996 Budokan Hall match with Ilioukhine Mikhail vs. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, I can't think of any RINGS match I'd put on the list that doesn't involve Han. When I think of Han, I always think back to his match with Andrei Kopilov. This was one of Kopilov's first matches in RINGS and Han totally carried him to an unbelievable match before putting him over at the end. Of course you can't forget his modern classics with Kiyoshi Tamura and Kohsaka, and the fact he was the one who put Kohsaka on the map. This list might be different if I were to include shoots, because then Frank Shamrock vs. Kohsaka would make the list."

To which Dave, in part, replies:

"For RINGS, my favorite without question was the recent Kohsaka vs. Tamura, with Han's matches with Tamura following. Tamura's shoot matches with Kohsaka [no such matches exist, in my view--ed.] (as opposed to the recent match which was a work) and Yamamoto and Frank Shamrock vs. Kohsaka would rank as the best shoot matches in the company along with the recent Toyonaga vs. Namekawa match."

Namekawa has been extremely good so far, it's true! Maybe we'll see him again soon? Let's find out together! Thank you once again for your time. 

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