October 20, 2001 in Tokyo, Japan
国立代々木競技場 Yoyogi National Gymnasium
GOING OUT OF BUSINESS WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT WE'VE GOT UNREAL NEW GRAPHICS AND ALSO SHELLED OUT FOR "PURPLE HAZE" AND WE ARE BACK ON WOWOW AFTER THAT BRIEF FIGHTING TV SAMURAI INTERLUDE AND KENICHI TAKAYANAGI IS HERE AND EVERYTHING and joining him as always is Gong Kakutogi's Hideyuki Kumakubo who, intriguingly, says rope escape a few times as they're running down the rules? Are they bringing those back after their considerable absence? I am intrigued! Surely they are raising their memory only to make clear our new era, free of them? As things unfold I will let you know if there are rope escapes, obviously. That we have entered the ABSOLUTE CLASS TOURNAMENT portion of late-stage RINGS is I am sure already very clear to you but let us clarify yet further with the aid of tournament brackets whilst we await the action here at the suspension-roofed 国立代々木競技場 Yoyogi National Gymnasium:
At first, glance, certainly, that looks like Fedor Emelianenko and a field of seven whom he will hit too hard and also græpple, and the WOWOW broadcast confirms this our deepest suspicion by showing Fedor immediately after revealing the brackets and reminding us that he is currently our RINGS Heavy-kyu champion. BREAKING NEWS THIS IS HUGE LOOK WHAT THEY CALL THE FIRST MATCH ON THE CARD:
A RETURN TO ASTRAL-STEP NAMING CONVENTIONS? It is more than I could ever have hoped for. The Universal Bout in question seems to be Gen Isono's decicsion win over Eriya Matsud, of which we are shown only a portion of the second round, and then actually Hirotaka Yokoi (a post-RINGS Tsuyoshi Kohsaka ally, in time)'s 3:14 hitting victory over Ken Orihashi is called a Universal Bout too! I can't believe our good fortune just generally but also very specifically right now.
With matters universal now settled we turn instead to ABSOLUTE CLASS TOURNAMENT and in our first instance of this we are asked to enjoy the venerable Lee Hasdell's contest against Georgi Tonkov of RINGS Bulgaria, with whom such words as judo and sambo we associate (because they are said by Kenichi Takayanagi during Tonkov's entrance to soaring guitar heroism). Only now do I notice the extent to which Lee Hasdell resembles Vernon Wells (I have an autographed Vernon Wells baseball that I [and many others, do not mistake me] was presented with on-field on the final day of the 2003 baseball season for having attended all eighty-one home games that year [there was a rewards programme]; what I remember best from that day was the heat, and the sheer size of Carlos Delgado, my favourite baseball player [I wrote about him once]). True to the repeated words judo and sambo, Tonkov throws from a firm headlock in a manner we might well describe as kubi-nage (neck throw) or perhaps harai-goshi (sweeping hip) and attacks with the arm entanglement of kesa-garami from the scarf-hold of kesa-gatame. In time, Hasdell escapes and takes Tonkov's back, but is unable to do much from there, and they stand. Tonkov half-hits an uchi-mata makikomi! Like a wraparound uchi-mata! This Bulgarian whose name I do not recognize is doing great in his first mixed fight! Let me see . . . ah okay Georgi Tonkov placed fifth at the (then) recently-contested 2001 World Judo Championships at Olympiahalle München (that's in Germany), so that he would be throwing Lee Hasdell well should not stagger us like for example the punch that has just now staggered Georgi Tonkov, who is then finished by a flying knee. Lee Hasdell explains in the locker room that he practices that combination often, and also that, as a young boy, he was the high jump champion in his school, which accounts for just how flying his knee has just now been. That was all very interesting! It is a shame about the hitting, obviously.
Christopher Haseman, though never a small guy with super duper clear skin, gives up nearly twenty kilograms to Koba Tkeshelashvili or GROM KOBA as he is here known. Haseman, perhaps looking for every advantage he can get against his much larger foe, wings an arm over the top rope to avoid a takedown and also punches whilst doing that (that's a yellow card). Just this week I was tossed around as uke for the nikkyu test of a 110 kg student and I am 73 kg so I understand well the perils faced by Christopher Haseman and I am sure you will agree that these are not just analogous but in fact literally identical circumstances and conditions. Haseman kicks his partner in the groin for a second yellow card which is not a waza I even considered during the nikkyu test. Despite two yellow cards, the victory is rightly Haseman's, I guess, as he cracked GROM KOBA up pretty well from start to finish.
In a non-tournament match (OFFICIAL BOUT reads the title card) we have "Kenichi Ogata (shoot boxer) (born 1975), Japanese kickboxer," not to be confused with "Kenichi Ogata (voice actor) (born 1942), Japanese voice actor," and he is certainly well known to the 国立代々木競技場 Yoyogi National Gymnasium crowd, who have brought streamers, which must be a thing in shoot boxing!
He is defeated by 裸絞 hadaka-jime naked strangle in a mere forty-three seconds by Curtis Brigham of Winnipeg, who is unknown to me, but who I am now learning lost a RINGS USA match to Naoyuki Kotani and was stopped by little (and yet huge) Sean Sherk one time over the course of what looks to have been an interesting career.
We return to ABSOLUTE CLASS TOURNAMENT brackets for Fedor Emelianenko's match against Ryushi Yanagisawa and "Breathe" really did age much better than the other Prodigy singles, there's just no comparison, as is evidenced at least in part by how "[u]p until the 2012 PDC World Darts Championship, Dutch darts player Michael van Gerwen used the song as his walk-on theme." It was on the Big Shiny Tunes 2 compilation in Canada so its place in history could not be more assured. Fyodor, desu is Kenichi Takayanagi's call, and this is why he is the best in the business: he is unfailingly pleasant, and sometimes says names or waza I can make out and it makes me feel good when it happens. Ryushi Yanagisawa continues to be so much bigger than I expect him to be: here he's listed at 191cm/102.2kg, so that's nearly 6'3"/225lbs. Fedor is 182cm/102.9kg, so that's just a hair under 6' and 227lbs. So Yanagisawa is noticeably taller, and even though they weigh the same, he presents bigger in that he is leaner and more muscular whilst Fedor is characteristically squishy. Yanagisawa fires in a leg-kick that really catches Fedor and wobbles him, which the crowd understandably thrills to. It does not take long, though, for Fedor to heave Yanagisawa to the mat and move all over top of him with not just better speed than any other heavyweight but with much better speed than any heavyweight, like it`s not even close. He switches position with I guess the shoot heavyweight version of Kiyoshi Tamura's shoot-style middleweight speed, the speed that I would complain about in (otherwise utterly faultless) Tamura shoot-style matches but that Dave Meltzer would praise as like the whole point of Tamura shoot-style matches (I know others who feel this way as well and I do not mean to dismiss this view but merely note once more my [probably dumb] dissent from it). Fedor loses his top position when he attempts juji-gatame but every juji-gatame attempt is a worthy attempt and so nobody should ever fault anyone for it lest we discourage further juji-gatame. I am pretty sure Takayanagi and Kumakubo at one point discuss how Fedor's only loss came on a cut-stoppage against Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, and they take pains to make clear that it was an accidento. As the second round begins, these same two are definitely talking about how knockdowns cost a certain number of pointo and rope breaks another, and this is still slightly baffling to me, unless these previously open and public scoring of pointo is now to be handled privately by the three judges as part of their decision(ing)? That's the best I can figure now in my poverty but I am almost certainly wrong about this. TREMENDOUS EXCHANGE late in the second round as Fedor attacks once more with juji-gatame only for Yanagisawa to turn hard-towards, slip by Fedor's legs, and attack with his own juji-gatame with seamless immediacy as though the living dream of shoot-style had never ended. Fedor slips even this, and ends up atop his foe as the round ends. THIS HAS BEEN GREAT. In the opening exchange of the third round, Fedor connects for the first time with the kind of punch that one has worried all along he might connect with, and Yanagisawa is remarkably still there. I mean he's on the mat with Fedor on top of him, and he's not really doing much of anything to change that, but it is enormously to his credit that he is still anywhere at all. Yanagisawa has done exceedingly well in this match despite losing all three rounds, and comes, well, I guess not close with an ashi-gatame leg-lock late in the third round but his attack is vigorous enough that Fedor has to take it totally seriously. A clear decision win for Fedor, but everybody did so well!
I have probably mentioned before an old friend who doesn't live in the city and who trains (constantly, devotedly) elsewhere but who comes by the club sometimes, and is just the most positive person to be around? He is a judo shodan (he really should present himself for nidan soon [he is not alone in this]) and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and he competes in these I guess one would say semi-pro græppling matches sometimes, and we won't see him for months and months and then he'll stroll in and just have this kind, brow-raised, open-faced air of delight about him an hour and a half while he employs exquisite waza ("I've got a detail for that one if you don't mind!") and makes everybody feel great about everything ("that's a great detail, I'm gonna use that so much, thanks!"), even the times that he buries you, and then at the end of the class when he is thanking you for like the eighth time he will be like everybody is getting so good, everybody is doing so well and that's how I feel about this last match except less intensely because I was not a part of this last match in the same that I am a part of a judo class with my students and friends. But I like having the feeling!
Okay so when Egidijus Valavicius knocks Yasuhito Namekawa down very early in their ABSOLUTE CLASS TOURNAMENT match, and Namekawa tries to convince Ryogaku Wada that he should be permitted to continue the match (he really shouldn't be), we are shown on-screen that Namekawa has lost a point, so I don't know what's going on with that at all, really. He takes Valavicius down, heroically, but it doesn't last, and Namekawa is struck down again and absolutely should not have been allowed to keep fighting, but he is, and then he is so swarmed with further strikes that he is sent reeling and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka in Namekawa's corner throws a red towel into the ring in surrender as he scrambles through the ropes to help. "No face punch, no face, no face" were Ryogaku Wada's ne-waza instructions earlier; would they had been carried over into tachi-waza (standing technique) as well. Wada has been, I think, an excellent referee throughout these many years of RINGS and this is the first time I can remember thinking he let a match get out of hand but that is very much what I think about this one. Namekawa seems pretty together and light-hearted about the whole thing when he faces the cameras in the locker room afterwards but this was a bad situation.
Our non-tournament Official Bout main event sees Hiromitsu Kanehara (RINGS Japan) against Kelly Jacobs (RINGS Australia), described for you by me (RINGS In The Living Room With a Baby Sleeping On Me). Kanehara is cornered by Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (a busy night for him!), Jacobs by Christopher Haseman (busier still!). As Kanehara takes Jacobs down with little trouble to open the first round it occurs to me HEY WHERE IS KIYOSHI TAMURA? He hasn't had a match since his tournament loss to Gustavo Machado (or "Ximu") in April, and I don't think he's been seen at all since; I don't even remember him cornering a U-FILE græppler or anything. Once we have access to the relevant Wrestling Observer Newsletters all will no doubt be clear, but I have just now checked ahead and it is a series wrap for Kiyoshi Tamura: he doesn't fight again in RINGS, and the next time he fights anywhere it is in PRIDE (like nine days after the final RINGS show) against Wanderlei Silva where, if I recall correctly, he lasted kind of a while which was actually worse because he just got hit more and longer. What are we to make of this? Was he injured for a while or something? Or did he see the way things were headed and bail? You will recall, perhaps, that Kiyoshi Tamura first appeared in RINGS not after the demise of UWFi, but wisely anticipating it. This is all mere speculation and I have no idea what is going on! I am starting to maybe get a handle on the points situation, though: I think maybe in non-tournament matches that are appearing under the title card OFFICIAL BOUT (or maybe in all of them I guess?), old shoot-style-era RINGS rules regarding rope escapes and lost points apply, because when Jacobs is caught in Kanehara's juji-gatame, he loses his first point with a rope escape, and when he grabs the rope again to avoid hadaka-jime, Kenichi Takayanagi declares it losto pointo ni; in the second round, when again juji-gatame'd, Jacobs must yield rather than seek the refuge of the holt-eves again because of how he is all out of points. I think I have it! Just in time for there to be like two more shows ever! Maybe they, like this one, will be totally good though? Join me, please, and we will see! Thank you once again for your time, and for your attention.
WHEN WILL BE THAT UNION AND EACH THING (BITS OF SURFACE BROKEN BY MY FOOT STEP) WILL WITHOUT MOVING MOVE AROUND ME INTO ITS PLACE AND THE OBSERVER ARCHIVE WILL BE UPDATED AND WE WILL KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON? I GUESS IN LIKE A YEAR AND A HALF BUT I WILL POST FROM IT IN THIS VERY SPACE THEN, I PROMISE.