Monday, June 5, 2017


Rise 6th: World Mega-Battle Open Tournament King of Kings
October 28, 1999 in Tokyo, Japan
Yoyogi Gym II drawing 4,520

WE HAVE LONG KNOWN IT WOULD COME TO THIS AND YET NOW THAT IT IS UPON US IT FEELS AS THOUGH IT HAS HAPPENED OVERNIGHT that the shoot-style era is behind us and we are thrust at once fully and completely into the realm of kakutogi as this RISE 6th: WORLD MEGA-BATTLE OPEN TOURNAMENT KING OF KINGS begins but let us approach it not with trepidation but with the blithe spirit of Hiromitsu Kanehara who looks, perhaps unsurprisingly, like this about it: 

Before we get into the "A" Block of this legitimately (or "shoot") totally intriguing thirty-two-man tournament we should take a moment to see about the results of a Korakuen Hall show that I don't think there is tape of but for which we certainly have results, and it is not the first time that has been the case with a small Korakuen show, is it:

Battle Genesis V
September 15, 1999 in Tokyo, Japan
Korakuen Hall drawing 2,000

Ryuki Ueyama drew Lloyd Berg (20:00).
Lee Hasdell drew Satoshi Honma (20:00).
Ricardo Fyeet KO Mick Cutagar (3:30).
Wataru Sakata beat Yasuhito Namekawa (5:33) via submission.
Yoshihisa Yamamoto TKO Valentijn Overeem (3:55).

Looks good! I wonder . . .

WHAT DAVE MELTZER MIGHT HAVE SAID (he never gets tape of it, which makes me more certain that it is okay that I don't have tape of it either):

September 30, 1999:

"9/15 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (RINGS - 2,000 sellout): Ryeuki Kamiyama d Lloyd Berg, Lee Hasdell d Satoshi Honma, Ricardo Fyeet b Cataja, Wataru Sakata b Yasuhito Namekawa, Yoshihisa Yamamoto b Valentijn Overeem. OTHER JAPAN NOTES: RINGS ran 9/15 at Korakuen Hall before a sellout 2,000 with what on paper looks like a mostly if not all shoot show. In the main event, Yoshihisa Yamamoto beat Valentijn Overeem in 3:35, and then after the match Yamamoto challenged Naoya Ogawa to a match [this is torture--ed.]. Akira Maeda announced the company would be running its annual Battle Dimension tournament after all, this year being a 32-man tournament and claiming lots of big names would be brought in due to the $376,000 in total prize money being offered. None were named and even though it starts in one month, most of the recruiting is now gong on. There will be 16 fighters brought in for the 10/28 Tokyo show which will have eight first round matches plus four second round matches. On 12/22 in Osaka will be a similar tournament with two rounds. The final eight will then have a UFC style one-night tournament in February in Tokyo. The purse money will be $3,000 to all first round losers, $5,000 to all second round losers, $8,000 for third round losers, $13,000 for the two fourth round losers, $33,000 for the loser of the championship match and $223,000 to the tournament winner. It will be interesting to see what the lure of a first prize like that will bring to the table, because even second place at $33,000 and having to win four fights and loss a final over just two nights to get that purse seems like an awfully hard way to make money. This announcement is said to be the biggest news in the martial arts world in Japan because the plan right now is for it to be a total shoot tournament. It will be an open weight class with all matches fought in two five minute rounds plus an overtime round if no decision is rendered, and then the judges decide who advances. Yellow cards for fouls during the tournament will result in a 10% of purse fine and a red card is an additional 20% fine."

We might as well keep going with this, and get all up to day, right? Before we get into the next show? Okay good:

"The incident where Enson Inoue punched the reporter, which resulted in him being suspended for life from Shooto and vacating their heavyweight title actually took place at the 8/19 RINGS show."


"There is talk that Akira Maeda will be coming to the UFC this week to recruit fighters for the RINGS tournament."

October 4, 1999:

As Frank Shamrock/Tito Ortiz is recapped and assessed:

"It was a performance that left nearly everyone in awe. Despite it being somewhat known that this was going to be Shamrock's final UFC appearance and if he won, he'd vacate the title, announcer Jeff Blatnick and promoter Bob Meyrowitz after the match praised Shamrock as the greatest competitor in the history of the UFC, and with five title wins, he's undisputedly the most decorated. In Shamrock's last ten matches, fighting under numerous different rules and against numerous different style fighters, most of which came with great reps and credentials, Shamrock has nine wins. His lone blemish was a draw in RINGS against Kiyoshi Tamura in April which, before this match, looked to be a strong candidate for match of the year."


"Also at the show included both Akira Maeda and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka of the RINGS organization, with Kohsaka serving as one of Shamrock's corner men."

And this doesn't have anything to do with RINGS, really, except that we have been talking about KING OF KINGS pay just a moment ago, weren't we:

"With the exception of the main event, most of the fighters on the card were getting $1,000 purses, which sounds low for being in a fight, and it is, but it's the reality of a decline in revenue due to the events not being shown on most PPV systems and why from a name value standpoint this was really a one match show."

October 11, 1999:

"Tokyo Sports wrote on 10/6 that Satake would wind up with either RINGS or Pride, and they'd built up to a match against Naoya Ogawa which would pit Japan's most famous kickboxer against its most famous judo star." 

My god.

Also, from a New Japan report:

"1. Kensuke Sasaki & Kazuyuki Fujita beat Brian Johnston & Takashi Iizuka in 13:37. No heat. Johnston looked green on his high spots but his fighting (knees and kicks) looked great. He'd be perfect for RINGS style."


"Although nothing has been announced, there's talk that Jeremy Horn and Brad Kohler, who Akira Maeda would have seen at the UFC show, will be in the RINGS tournament."


"Satoru Sayama's Seikendo promotion apparently drew 6,500 fans (at least that was the announced figure) to the Ariake Coliseum on 10/2 for mainly boxing matches. His next tour, which consists of four shows from 11/2 to 11/16 with the major show 11/5 in Yokohama Bunka Gym, will have more of a pro wrestling emphasis using the guys from Battlarts like Ikuto Hidaka and Minoru Tanaka, plus Sayama, Mitsuya Nagai (formerly RINGS and K-1), Tatsuo Nakano (former UWFI) and Tiger Mask. He has negotiated with Victor Quinones about using WWF talent and Sayama claims he'll have several huge names on the tour."

October 18, 1999:

A reader writes, and Dave responds:


The world between reality fighting and pro wrestling is becoming more and more blurred. What pro wrestlers do you think would stand a chance in the octagon? I came up with a short list of American wrestlers both past and present, Lou Thesz, Karl Gotch, Danny Hodge, Rick & Scott Steiner, Taz, Harley Race, and possibly Bruno Sammartino and Scott Norton based purely on power.

Also, in the modern era, what pro wrestling matches were shoot or semi-shoots? Two matches that come to mind are Dick the Bruiser vs. Alex Karras and Dory Funk Jr. vs. Lord Al Hayes. Hayes pinned Funk Jr. In your listing on the big stars of the different decades, in the 60s wouldn't Dick the Bruiser, The Sheik, Johnny Valentine and Fritz Von Erich have been bigger stars than Ray Stevens?

"Tributes" was great reading. Some suggestions for future books, Promoters and Territories, Japan, Great Angles, Champions that never got the belts and why and Wrestlers who weren't given enough credit like Luis Martinez, Angelo Poffo and Lars Anderson.

Larry Floyd

St. Louis, Missouri

DM: Being in the octagon is like training for any sport. What pro wrestlers would do well in the NFL? The ones that have experience playing football. What pro wrestlers would do well in the NBA? The ones who were good college players (which is none of them, but you get the idea). The guys who have trained for it like Ken Shamrock, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka and Dan Severn would do well and have done well. Kurt Angle, being that he's an Olympic gold medal winning wrestler, if he trained for it, certainly has the basics in wrestling in that if he was open minded about learning new things and went for it, he'd probably do fairly well, although Olympic gold medalists have lost to submission fighters before. As for the names you mentioned, Lou Thesz and even more Karl Gotch certainly had reputations among the wrestlers as if they could do it but we've also learned untested reputations often get exposed in the octagon. Thesz did boxing training and knew his submissions and had amazing reflexes. Wrestling legend usually lists those two along with Billy Robinson as being some of the toughest, and Gotch supposedly did prove it in Europe before coming to the U.S. but again it was a different world. People who should know rate them very highly. Tim Woods used to take on all comers and was an NCAA champion and you'd have to be very tough to take on all comers (one guy bit his finger off in the process of one of those kind of fights). If Danny Hodge had trained for it, within his weight division because his competition wrestling weight was 175 pounds, my feeling is he'd have been just about unbeatable, although unbeatable also doesn't exist in the true shoot world because of the differences of styles but it's hard for me to imagine anyone of his size being able to compete with his absolutely freakish strength which would enable him to be able to use just normal moves and make them unorthodox submission moves, wrestling skill and boxing ability. The Steiners are really tough guys among pro wrestlers. There are also amateur wrestlers that would blow the Steiners out of the water that haven't done a thing in MMA. I don't know how much formal stand-up training or formal submission training they have. Their wrestling would probably be enough to beat some lower ranked people that have been in UFC, but against the top calibre people they'd have to be considered a question mark at this point. The Steiners might also be injury prone in that environment. Taz' ability as a top level shooter is a Paul Heyman creation. Again, I'm sure he's a tough guy compared to a guy on the street, but it isn't like he was ever an NCAA champion wrestler and he has very limited if any actual training in kickboxing. Harley Race was considered a tough street fighter, but he'd be out of his league in the octagon against a real fighter as he never trained in it. Anything I write about Bruno Sammartino is going to get his fans upset, but again, he was a very strong man, but strength along can't beat an elite fighter without the fighting skill. Sammartino did a little boxing and even more wrestling before getting into pro wrestling, but was never world class at either. Norton is exceedingly strong, actually scary strong. He had a street fighter reputation growing up in Minneapolis. While street fights aren't always fair, he was also knocked out in three punches by Tony Halme in Japan in a bar which depending on the situation that it happened in may or may not even be relevant to this discussion, and granted, Robinson has been beaten up in bars before as well and Peter Maivia pulled his eye out in a street fight and that isn't relevant to this either. But Halme only lasted one minute with Randy Couture in UFC, and Couture only lasted 90 seconds with Enson Inoue. As far as modern era matches that were shoots or semi-shoots, the ones I can come up with were Mildred Burke vs. Joyce Grable (shoot), Andre the Giant vs. Akira Maeda (almost a shoot), Maeda vs. Satoru Sayama (ended up as one), Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki (actual shoot), Rikidozan vs. Masahiko Kimura (Rikidozan in the middle of the match suddenly went at it for real and got the jump on Kimura and hurt him), Inoki vs. a guy from India or Pakistan, Shinya Hashimoto vs. Naoya Ogawa (semi-shoot) and there have been several womens shoots including one with Aja Kong vs. Madusa in a brutal kickboxing shoot and many womens Vale Tudo and kickboxing rule shoots. There have probably been others but not as high profile, and actually have been many shoots in RINGS and Kingdom, a few in UWF and later UWFI and the vast majority of matches in Pancrase including just about all of them the past year or two. I can't recall any true in-ring shoots in WWF or WCW in the modern era. I think Bearcat Wright in Los Angeles pulled a double-cross in a world title match against Fred Blassie on December 13, 1963. I don't know if it was a shoot per se, but Wright won a match he was supposed to lose, and I'd bet that sort of thing has happened numerous times over the years but it's not like it was a shoot match. Karras vs. Bruiser's famous pro wrestling match in Detroit was not a shoot. The incident a few nights earlier at the bar Karras owned was Bruiser trying to garner publicity for their match as an angle, but Bruiser apparently got out of control and Karras wasn't in on Bruiser's angle although he figured it out right away, but then Bruiser wouldn't publicly calm down. That turned into a real brawl with several arrests when it was over. Funk Jr. vs. Hayes was not a shoot. Stevens was probably about the same level of a national star as Bruiser, Sheik, Valentine and Von Erich. When he died, I was told as a money earner, he was probably ahead of everyone but the NWA and WWWF champion during his prime years. I had him mentioned not that he was a bigger star than others mentioned, but because he was considered by nearly everyone as the best worker in the business in that era."


"If ever there was a sign New Japan was in trouble, it’s when after all the hype beforehand, that the Shinya Hashimoto vs. Naoya Ogawa match failed to sellout the Tokyo Dome.

While on paper the crowd of 58,500 for the 10/11 show, which from live sources indicated looked like a real figure, sounds good, the show was heavily papered. When the show began at 3 p.m., with well over 15,000 empty seats in the building, people thought the show was going to be the lowest drawing New Japan Dome show in history. By about 40 minutes into the show, when the junior heavyweight title matches began, the building had come close to filling up. It was part of a three-day National Sports Day holiday weekend so being on a Monday afternoon shouldn’t have affected attendance, although there were a lot of competing sporting events and a lot of people did take vacations. Part of the problem besides coming on the heels of a terrible main event on the previous big show is the same problem with RINGS. The more this looks like sport to today’s audience, whether it be Japan or the U.S. as the audiences are still different, but not as different as they’ve been in the past, the less marketable it becomes as compared with outrageous entertainment."

Willie Williams on the FMW's 10th Anniversary Show!

"Dory & Terry Funk, who haven’t teamed together in Japan since 1987, the original foreign babyface tag team in Japan, face FMW prelim wrestlers Naohiko Yamazaki & Yoshinori Sasaki in a surprise, Willie Williams, a former American karate star of the 70s who made a second career as a gimmick karate fighter in pro wrestling stemming from a famous February 27, 1980 match with Antonio Inoki, which led to being a headliner years later with RINGS (I’m guessing he’s now in his early 50s) faces Hido. The remainder of the show has Kaori Nakayama & Emi Motokawa in a womens tag match, and an opener with Koji Nakagawa & Gedo & Jado vs. Ricky Fuji & Flying Kid Ichihara & Chocoball Mukai with female managers in each corner."

Royce Gracie on RINGS on Queen Latifah:

"OTHER JAPAN NOTES Brad Kohler and Jeremy Horn both have confirmed being part of the RINGS tournament appearing on 10/28. In something of a huge surprise, Royce Gracie was the guest on 10/8 on the Queen Latifah talk show and said that he would be involved in that tournament. It would not be in Gracie’s best interest to be involved in this, because of the short time limits and because there are no weight classes although the lack of closed fist striking to the face is to his advantage. Gracie was the original king of the UFC in 1993-94, and never lost, including winning three of the first four eight-man tournaments (he was injured in winning a first round match in the other one), although the fighting skill level overall was extremely primitive in those days compared with today. His final UFC match was in 1995 against Ken Shamrock which was a 36 minute draw, and something of a legendary match in martial arts annals, where he took a beating in the last five minutes and ended with a very nasty looking eye shiner. He’s only had one competitive match since that time, a submissions only match against Wallid Ismail in Rio de Janiero last year which he lost in about five minutes with a choke. None of this has been announced in Japan, where Gracie gained a lot of fame years ago for his initial UFC success and where he’s yet to fight in. The tournament consists of a first and second round in one bracket on 10/28 in Tokyo, a similar tournament on 12/22 in Osaka, and the final eight in a tournament similar to the K-1 Grand Prix finals on 2/25 at Tokyo Budokan Hall or Yokohama Arena. Matches are all two five minute rounds with judges to determine who advances in the case there is no finish or no points (scored by knockdowns and rope breaks on submissions) are scored, and the big money goes only to the tournament winner--some $223,000."

Tsuyoshi Kohsaka is overextending himself:

"The UFC Japan debut show on 11/14 at Tokyo Bay NK Hall will air on a five-day delay on PPV in the U.S. on 11/19. The top two matches on the show at this point look to be Kevin Randleman vs. Pete Williams for the vacant UFC heavyweight championship (Bas Rutten has vacated the title to challenge for the middleweight title instead) and Pedro Rizzo, an unbeaten MMA fighter, against Tsuyoshi Kohsaka. Kohsaka’s schedule looks to be difficult because he’s scheduled for the RINGS tournament on 10/28, in which, provided he won his first match, would have to fight two matches on the same night, then come back and face a tough Rizzo less than three weeks later. Kohsaka felt the two matches in one night wouldn’t be as difficult as things he’s done before because he once fought Frank Shamrock for 30 minutes straight, and these matches have ten minute time limits so it’s 20 minute maximum of fighting. Two matches that have been talked about as possibilities, but are not yet signed, are Keiichiro Yamamiya of Pancrase against Vitor Belfort, and Jason DeLucia of Pancrase vs. Dan Henderson, a former Olympic wrestler who won the toughest middleweight tournament the UFC ever put on."

Grom footnotes: 

"Pride, which “owes” Mark Coleman another fight since he did the job for Nobuhiko Takada, has offered him a match on the 11/21 show against Ricardo Morais, a 6-8, 275 pound Brazilian, who, if Coleman is able to overcome his stamina problems that have plagued him in losses to Maurice Smith, Pete Williams and Pedro Rizzo, Coleman should be able to ground. Morais’ only Vale Tudo loss was against Grom Zaza of RINGS, a Dan Severn-level amateur wrestler who took him down and kept him there."

I know Severn's plight is complex but Grom actually wrestled at the actual Olympics; let us speak these truths plainly.

Weird things:

"Dream Stage Entertainment, the group that does the shoot Pride shows in Japan, is scheduled to meet with WWF officials toward the end of the month about a proposed show next year at the Tokyo Dome. If a deal goes through, Pride will become a pro wrestling promotion as opposed to a Vale Tudo promotion with some main event worked shoots to protect the top Japanese stars for business reasons as it is today. Nobuhiko Takada will be coming in for the meeting. DSE is offering the WWF $1 million base plus various percentages when it comes to merchandise and give the WWF the rights to sell a certain percentage of the tickets to the show themselves which could amount to at least a $1.5 million deal. DSE sees an opening in the pro wrestling market by using the WWF wrestlers, who are gaining a cult following in Japan from added television exposure on satellite, with All Japan and New Japan both struggling at the box office. WWF is also negotiating with Seikendo, which is Satoru Sayama’s group, which uses name wrestlers from the Battlarts promotion and will be sending Kurt Angle to the 11/5 show at Yokohama Bunka Gym. Angle probably has more potential wrestling for RINGS (if they continue doing a lot of worked matches) than for American style."

October 25, 1999:


"RINGS officially announced the bracketing for the 16 fighters that will be in the first of the two tournaments leading up to the final eight tournament in February. The first tournament, which presumably is going to be an all-shoot tournament, which would make it one of the few (like you can count them on two fingers) true shoot tournament in pro wrestling in modern times, takes place 10/28 at Tokyo Yoyogi Gym II with first and second round matches and bracketing in this order: Jeremy Horn (UFC fighter) vs. Hiromitsu Kanehara, Gogitdze Bakouri vs. Dan Henderson (former U.S. Olympic Greco-roman wrestler), Labaznov Arhmed (Russia) vs. Lee Hasdell (RINGS regular from England), Renato Babalu (Brazil) vs. Grom Zaza (RINGS regular who is a former Olympic wrestler), Yuri Cortchikan (Russia) vs. Gilbert Yvel (Holland), Antonio Noguiera (Brazil) vs. Valentijn Overeem (Holland), Justin McCully (UFO/Los Angeles) vs. Ilioukhine Mikhail and Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs. Brad Kohler (from the last UFC and a pro wrestler from Minnesota). Of those I'm familiar with, which is most but not all of them, they're all in the 200-220 pound weight category except Horn, who has fought at 199 this year but was 229 at his UFC fight last month Kohler, who was 234 on the same show, and Zaza, who is a 242 pound former Olympic games wrestler. From a business perspective and from a name value and drawing card standpoint, there's nothing there. Two RINGS regulars, Wataru Sakata and Hasdell, were winners on a caged fighting show in Milton, Kings, England on 10/3 which was probably promoted by Hasdell as a RINGS show."


"Sayama has been wanting to bring in Karelin, who drew RINGS' biggest house in history (a nearly $2.5 million live gate) and by far its most mainstream press coverage in history for his pro wrestling debut against Akira Maeda in February (and a brief mention in Sports Illustrated for some time. Karelin said after his RINGS match that he wasn't interested in doing anything but training in Greco-roman wrestling until after the 2000 Olympics when he goes for his record setting (for wrestling) fourth gold medal and 13th world championship. Seikendo ran a show in Monbetsu on 10/16 featuring five boxing matches and three pro wrestling matches headlined by Sayama over Ikuto Hidaka. Sayama had his own Vader work the show forming a tag team with former RINGS and K-1 competitor Mitsuya Nagai."

OKAY THEN WE ARE READY TO BEGIN IN EARNEST and let us perhaps reflect quietly to ourselves for a moment first about how the shoot-style 90s were too good and pure to last; we have spoken before of the extent to which shoot-style is, by its very nature, transitory: whenever and wherever strong style, though worthy, is deemed insufficiently strong, and yet no one wants to actually quite fight for real, shoot-style emerges, to be supplanted in time, perhaps inevitably so, by shooting proper. Shoot-style—a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, but an ephemeron—cannot and perhaps must not last (Death is the mother of beauty, mystical, within whose burning bosom we devise our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly). Goodnight to the shoot-style era. 

Joined by the not-yet-competing Kiyoshi Tamura (he is in "B" Block, I guess) and faithful colour commentator Hideyuki Kumakubo at the announce table is our dear friend Kenichi Takayanagi, who shows us about the gloves that are to be used throughout in all tournament matches and indeed, if I am not mistaken, in all RINGS matches going forward:     

The position of gloves in the context of kakutogi is a strange one in that they are worn in the name of sportsmanlike civility, or at least its appearance, but in truth they render things even more revolting than they would otherwise be in that they encourage hitting (a savagery) by allowing people to do much more of it than they otherwise might and also to hit much harder without fear of breaking any of the teensy, wee, and frail bones in even the biggest, dumbest hands; also they plainly limit the efficacy of græppling, our greatest mitigator against the ruin of hitting. And yet at the same time they create the appearance of sport when set against the lawless brutality of bare-knuckle no-holds-barredism, and also these ones in particular make us think about Bruce Lee and Sammo Hung at the sikk start of Enter the Dragon so this is as serious a "paradox? or dialectic?" question as any of us are likely to face in our intellectual or moral lives, probably:

On a related note (no it isn't), my Game-of-Death/Kil-Billesque yellow and black tracksuit could arrive from China (where else?) literally any day now and I am extremely ready for that to happen.  

Labazanov Arhmed sometimes called Achmed Labasanov (like for instance, I think, when he later fought Gary Goodridge, who looking back probably never should have left his good job as a welder at the Honda plant in Alliston [if I am remembering that story right; if I am not, please forgive me], in PRIDE) opens the tournament and indeed the KING OF KINGS era against the fairly venerable Lee Hasdell. Our referee is not known to me by name but I have seen him a thousand times before, as have you. I will try to catch his name, let's see, it is the super-stylized RINGS ring announcer so it's tough . . . no, no I didn't catch it. But you know him! 

Right? He's been around. With a tonne of fights to get through (a sixteen-fighter "A" Block first round, and then also the second round, too, so twelve matches) in this two-hour WOWOW window (or WOWINDOW [or WINDOWINDOW]) they are absolutely not wasting any time, trimming introductions and entrances and I think even clipping the referee's instructions just now. I am pretty sure we have left the world of rope escapes (and lost points owing to them) behind. Hey wait, Labasonov isn't wearing gloves, and is instead striking with open hands, so I guess that's an option should one wish to græpple unimpeded. A fine compromise! A pretty even five-minute first round, I guess one would say, with Labasonov coming closest to finishing, probably, with his standing kata-ashi-hishigi leg-lock as though he were Grom Zaza or indeed that page we looked at from Kyuzo Mifune's Canon of Judo. The time between rounds is trimmed, even! They are just bombing through this. In the second round, Labasonov does a lot of standing around with his hands on his knees, and then when Hasdell kicks at his head, he comes in for a fairly unsuccessful takedown; Hasdell stands back up and makes a big show of things. This happens several times before the matched is stopped at 3:33 of the second round in Hasdell's favour. A knockout, it is ruled, but it wasn't bad like that. 

BABALUUUUUUUUUU Renato Sobral vs. Grom Zaza! This is a major development! Babalu is introduced as "Renato Babalu" which I mean if Zaza Tkeshelashvili is going to just be "Grom Zaza" then I can see it. This bout's referee, whose name I also miss, gets a really big reaction from the crowd and I feel a little left out to be honest but let's not dwell on it as we are underway! Grom has no problem at all taking Babalu down, obviously, and my goodness is he ever wrenching on the kata-ashi-hishigi single-leg-crush we spoke of only moments ago. Vale Tudo champion, desu is Takayanagi's correct description of Babalu, who you might recall as the guy on the wrong end of a pretty ghastly Chuck Liddell head-kick that was part of his highlight reel forever? I have just now checked and that kick happened fifteen years ago. (Did you know that the kanji running down the left side of Liddell's skull reads "place of peace and prosperity" or at least that's the [a] literal translation of the karate style he trained in as a child? Koei-Kan? This is guaranteed to be true because I read it in a book.).Grom has Babalu tied up in a weird kesa-gatame scarf hold that also hooks and crunches up the leg but they are too entangled in the ropes to continue and so they are instructed to not (continue). When next they græpple (immediately), Babalu takes the back in a very smooth way and attacks well with juji-gatame though not to completion. Babalu also does well with a yoko-sankaku-jime (side triangle choke) as time expires in round one. Hey remember when Babalu got kicked out of the UFC because he held a gyaku-kata-gatame/reverse-shoulder-hold/anaconda choke after a guy tapped, and he put him right out, and explained afterwards it was because the guy had called him a motherfucker? Even that was ten years ago, somehow. Early in round two, Grom falls so carelessly into a gyaku-ude-garami/reverse arm entanglement/figure-four-armlock/double-wristlock/Kimura/etc that were this a shoot-style match you may well have been like "well this was not a very good finish at all; he just kind of carelessly fell into it and it didn't seem all that real":

And yet what could be more so.

Next we have not Valentijn Overeem but lean young pre-horse-meat Alistair Overeem who barely even looks related to present-day Alistair Overeem, look:

His techno-themed foe this day shall be Kotchkine Icuri, perhaps more widely known as Yuri Korchikin; our referee is Ryogaku Wada (him I know). I like Overeem's hair a lot in this the earliest fight of his I have ever seen for sure (I have checked to be sure and this is his second fight ever, and his first out of Holland, so that is definitely the case). Korchikin, whom Overeem had been connecting with pretty solidly in the opening moments, just threw with a great big 払腰 harai goshi that we might even call 払巻込 harai makikomi (a winding sutemi-waza or sacrifice technique variation) and I do believe "judo" had been said on commentary previously so it all checks out. Korchikin does increasingly well standing as the round wears on, and gets gross and arrogant about it, standing with his arms tauntingly spread wide. Young Overeem is a little overwhelmed by Korchikin's pressure, and it's a sort of sad to see. As the round ends, Overeem comes reasonably close with the naked strangle of hadaka-jime but he does not have time to finish. For the first half of the second round, Overeem does well for himself in ne-waza but he gets stalled out, in time, in niju-garami (double entanglement/half guard) and they're stood back up. It happens again, too. Overeem loses his mouthpiece whilst getting swarmed in the corner and seems shaken by it. I don't like watching this fight at all, as Overeem seems like a tall boy getting hit by a grown man and it's gross. Korchikin wins the decision after two rounds (the judges can rule a draw and ask for a third round but here they sensibly do not). 


This is only Antonio Rodrigo Nogueria's third fight! First came World Extreme Fighting 6 in DeLand, Florida, then WEF 7: Stomp in the Swamp in Kenner Louisiana, and both of those sound too dark to contemplate. Here he is in against Valentijn Overeem, long known to us, and as soon as Nogueira scoops him up for a fine double-leg takedown, Overeem grabs that same mae-hadaka-jime front choke that so plagued Kiyoshi Tamura. Nogueira does the right thing and tries to stay to the side, but it's really very tight, and Overeem shrimps his hips in to half-guard, which is not all the way to where he wants to be but it's enough to give Nogueira real trouble for a bit, at least until he passes back to the side and sits his hips through to the kuzure-kesa-gatame (broken scarf hold) from which few if any have ever been front-choked. He looks so calm that I wonder if he had been as worried about the choke as I had been, and the crowd had been, and the commentators had been? He moves effortlessly to the uki-gatame or floating hold of "knee-on-belly" and then tate-shiho-gatame (right up on top). He throws a few punches (none to the head: though much has changed, this Fighting Network is still RINGS) and looks for juji-gatame. In the end (which is not far off) he finds an ude-garami arm entanglement from tate-shiho-gatame for the win at a mere 1:51. Good for Nogueira! All rightly love him! Have you ever thought about how if Fedor Emiliankenko, who will join us here in RINGS in time, had been just a little better at judo, as in good enough not to just to make the Russian national team (no small feat, please do not mistake me) for minor events but good enough to be strong internationally and stick around for maybe like three more years, that Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira probably would have been the best heavyweight mixed martial arts fighter ever, as well as the best-loved? Anyway, what a lovely man. It is great to see him again.

JEREMY HORN VS. HIROMITSU KANEHARA is next and this pairing is early evidence that while there has been a major change in this Fighting Network's approach from shoot-style to pure kakutogi, there has been no change at all in taste level. I was about to say that Jeremy Horn is probably best known to the casual viewer of things like this from his UFC title fight against Chuck Liddell (they brought Horn back so Liddell could avenge his much-earlier defeat) but their rematch, I now see, occurred twelve years ago, at UFC 54; how has this happened. Although I guess it must have, in that I went to a really dumb bar in Toronto to watch it, one of only a handful of time I ever went north on Yonge Street; it may have been at Yonge and Eglinton or thereabouts, maybe higher. I think that same show saw Georges St. Pierre make short work of Frank Trigg and then get down on his knees to ask for a welterweight title match? So it had to be a while ago, I could have figured, but even so this is shocking. Jeremy Horn, who has fought as much as nearly anyone, probably had like thirty fights by the time he faced Kanehara here . . . okay no, he had had forty, and was unbeaten in his previous twenty-or-so. He enters to death metal (uniformly inferior to black metal), a RINGS first. Also I need to tell you that I was looking at the Japanese Wikipedia page for Gong Kakutogi magazine google-translated to English and I am pretty sure it rendered Kyokushin Karate as "extreme vacuum hands." WE ARE UNDERWAY and it's already great: Kanehara attempts a forward throw, but, failing, rolls through for a hiza-juji in just the way Alexander Iatskevich would have us do in his excellent Russian Judo Masterclass book, but Horn is canny as hekk and just rides it out. The ne waza continues to be exquisite as Horn hits what is sometimes called "the idiot sweep" double kibisu-gaeshi (heel trip), not at all dissimilar to what Koji Komuro calls Kusa-Kari Grass Reaping with Kama Sickle Version 1 in the book he mails to you if you would like it. Kanehara attacks with gyaku-ude-garami! But does not finish it. Horn has a good deal of size on Kanehara. Everybody's taller than Kanehara, so it's not just that; he's just way bigger all over bigger. This match is great! Kanehara keeps rolling through for things, Horn is great on the ground as all know well, and in those stray moments in which they resort to the coarseness of hitting they do so very excitingly. Great first round! I think I would give it to Kanehara? But mostly I give it to waza. I could easily be mistaken about the first part but not the second.

ROUND 2 opens with really hard kicks to the leg before Horn drops low for an able kuchiki-taoshi or dead-tree drop. If I think I am hearing Pat Miletich's voice in Jeremy Horn's corner, I probably am hearing Pat Miletich's voice in Jeremy Horn's corner, right? Another takedown for Horn, but Kanehara is wily down there. Horn would like to finish with the arm-triangle choke of kata-gatame/shoulder hold; who among us would not? But before you know it Kanehara is out of trouble positionally and the fight is back to standing. I believe Kanehara just attempted a double-arm suplex? Like a lateral drop or yoko-otoshi but really more like a double-arm suplex! He slips out of Horn's omote-sankaku-jime triangle choke attempt but gets caught in an arm triangle/kata-gatame from the bottom (the last place people expect it but it can totally work) after he tried his own rolling mae-hadaka-jime front choke. Kanehara is on top and looking for either a gyaku-ude-garami or a juji-gatame from a gyaku-ude-garami grip as the round ends and if I am correct that these matches can have a third round if the judges so decree, I would very much like there to be one now! But no, they rule in Kanehara's favour. "Good job," are Jeremy Horn's words to Hiromitsu Kanehara and they are mine to both græpplers as this match was just great! What do you think, Hiromitsu Kanehara?


And now a fresh-faced Dan Henderson in his Team Quest shirt makes his way to the ring to meet Gogitidze Bakouri and it would certainly seem to be Randy Couture who is saying "there you go, there you go" to him. Henderson is tossed around a little by Bakouri, and isn't that the weirdest thing about Dan Henderson? A two-time Greco-Roman wrestling Olympian who gets taken down by like Kazuo Misaki and Murilo Bustamante and I guess Gogitidze Bakouri? But Henderson hits hard, I have noticed, and after some of that to the face and a knee to the body, Bakouri taps the mat at 2:17 of the first round, and Henderson moves on.

Justin McCulley, in his pre-fight comments, mentions "the time limit on the ground" but does not specify what that is; I think it must just be a progress rule but the way he said caught my attention (probably needlessly). He walks the aisle to Wu-Tang Clan's "Triumph" which as you know opens with pretty much the best verse (Inspectah Deck bombs atomically [I don't know if that is appropriate to have a song say in Japan]). Justin McCulley does that absolute nonsense where he screams in pain to a submission hold (a kata-ashi-hishigi straight ankle lock in this instance) and is then like what? what? when the referee stops the match. He didn't tap! is his corner's accurate but dumb position. McCulley shakes off this nonsense soon enough and hoists Ilioukhine aloft soon thereafter so he is at least partially redeemed. 

Brad Kohler claims that he is going to come out and kick everyone's ass as soon as they get in the ring and if they go to the second period they're just going to get a longer ass beating, okay good, great work Brad Kohler. He is led to the ring by ROAD WARRIOR ANIMAL who totally dwarfs him:

That they enter to "Iron Man" is I think self-evident. And his opponent this day shall be YOSHIHISA YAMAMOTO who you see now and you just feel sad. The camera draws near the face of Akira Maeda and then back to show Yamamoto enter the ring and kick the bottom rope really hard in his corner and the crowd goes hwoooooaaahhh and I feel like Akira Maeda is always just super close to being totally fed up with Yoshihisa Yamamoto's inability to be great. Kohler takes Yamamoto down immediately, and kind of head butts a little, and that's not appropriate, so they stand up. Kohler throws a huge right hand that connects just as Yamamoto threw a kick to the legs and the net result is that Kohler face-planted but before you know it he is on top and squishing Yamamoto from niju-garami or half-guard with one of Yamamoto's arms trapped between them and he is being squished so badly he has hurt his ribs or a muscle in there or something and he is really hurt and has tapped, essentially, to a half-guard pass at 1:57, the poor guy.

SECOND ROUND ACTION BEGINS with Babalu and Lee Hasdell. Babalu has Hasdell down and well-pinned very shortly into things but he does not do enough with the position to be allowed to hold it for more than a little bit. Hasdell wisely does not want much to do with Babalu (I know his name is Sobral but it is very fun to say Babalu, even pleasant to type it) on the ground, to such an extent that he has hooked an arm over the top rope to prevent it (it does not prevent it). I don't think I had ever seen a referee break out little scissors to trim someone's unraveling trunks before but Ryogaku Wada has done so just now. You've got to be ready for whatever! Round one ends, and was largely uneventful, but both of these guys have already had one match tonight so let's not be too hard on them. Babalu wins a one-sided (to me) decision to advance to what must be the round of eight (tournament draw sheets have never been my strength, though I like to think I have been improving recently).

I cannot get over how young and as-yet-unhit Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira looks here in 1999. I wonder if I have watched this show before and have merely forgotten? I am pretty sure I have it in the basement as a full show, and I definitely have a bunch of the individual matches on comps of various kinds, but a lot of this stuff blurs together over time, doesn't it. I did not like the cut of this Yuri Korchikin's jib (despite the judo; perhaps less so because of the judo) as he styled on the lean and boyish Alistair Overeem so the hope here is a swift victory by Nogueira (this would be the hope regardless). Korchikin takes Nogueira down but Nogueira takes Korchikin's back and finishes an Iatskevitch roll juji-gatame at 1:40. When Nogueira was visiting Tokai University as part of the very nice show where he traveled around and learned about different martial arts, he showed the way he likes to do that roll and wondered if that was legal to do in judo and everybody was like hai, juji-gatame desu only they would have said it in idiomatic Japanese. That show was great! You can find a torrent of it if you would like to see it but would rather not materially support fascism (it streamed on UFC Fight Pass).

Can Dan Henderson vs. Hiromitsu Kanehara match the æsthetic heights reached by Hiromitsu Kanehara vs. Jeremy Horn? This seems unlikely in the extreme but what are we without hope. Henderson earns the hekk out of a yellow card early by fully clocking Kanehara with a right hand to the face while Kanehara is down (that is a "RINGS don't"). Now they're just standing and slugging as though they were Don Frye and Yoshihiro Takayama which we know they are not. Kanehara gets cleaned up a little, for he is blooded, and the fight is rejoined. There is no way Hiromitsu Kanehara is anywhere near as good as Dan Henderson but he is really making a fight of it. Even when he gets completely and disastrously squished whilst rolling for a hiza-juji knee-bar there is an undeniable charm to it. A first round that saw really quite a lot of punching, much of it to Kanehara's face, draws to a close very much in Dan Henderson's favour. In round two, Henderson doesn't want a whole lot to do with Kanehara on the ground, and Kanehara has little luck with his low kibisu-gaeshi heel-trip takedowns, so it leads to a good deal of hitting. Ah, Henderson has twisted Kanehara to the ground with a tidy little kosoto-gari outside trip and is content to lie on him until he is asked to stop. Kanehara tagged him standing! Henderson retreats! Only for a second, though, and he plants Kanehara on the mat with the same fine trip. This looks like a decision win for Dan Henderson, if you can believe it! The little joke here is that he wins a lot of matches like that! I think two judges scored it a draw, and one scored it for Henderson, so Henderson moves on (it is not a "majority draw" like you might think [that's fine, I don't like those]). Dan Henderson says backstage that he respects all the other fighters but that he has confidence in himself that he will be the better guy. Seems like a good approach!

Our final bout of this our second round of "A" block WORLD MEGA-BATTLE OPEN TOURNAMENT KING OF KINGS action sees Mikhail Ilioukhine, who is a pretty excellent fighter, backing away super cautiously from Brad Kohler. Someone from Brad Kohler's corner (I think it's Road Warrior Animal) yells he's scared! and from the look in Ilioukhine's eyes I would say sure, at least a little, but I would also say that that's not unwise, and I would say further that he has finished a barely-extended juji-gatame against Brad Kohler's detrimentally-muscled arm at 2:16 as the crowd erupts. and Ilioukhine celebrates with a deeply mediocre cartwheel into a really nice back-flip. Waza triumphs once more.   



November 8, 1999:

"10/28 Tokyo Yoyogi Gym II (RINGS World Mega Battle Open tournament A block - 4,520 sellout): Lee Hasdell b Lavazanov Ashmed, Renato Babalu b Grom Zaza, Iouri Korchikin b Gilbert Yvel, Antonio Nogueira b Valentijn Overeem, Hiromitsu Kanehara b Jeremy Horn, Dan Henderson b Gogiteze Bakouri, Ilioukhine Mikhail b Justin McCulley, Brad Kohler b Yoshihisa Yamamoto, Babalu b Hasdell, Nogueira b Korchikin, Henderson b Kanehara, Mikhail b Kohler.

The first preliminary round of the 32-man RINGS World Mega Battle Open tournament King of Kings on 10/28 at Tokyo Yoyogi Gym II ended with four men advancing to the finals, Brazilians Renato Babalu and Antonio Noguiera, along with former U.S. Olympic Greco-roman wrestler Dan Henderson and RINGS regular Ilioukhine Mikhail.

The first of three tournament shows, before an announced sellout crowd of 4,520 (some reports have the real number pegged at closer to 3,600), where the ultimate winner gets $223,000, was the first of two preliminary nights of 16-man tournaments with two rounds. The first two nights each end with four men advancing to a one-night eight-man tournament final in Tokyo in February.

The second tournament takes place 12/22 in Osaka. While there were many fighters with some good credentials, the tournament thus far has been plagued by a lack of fighters with superstar name value.

Babalu reached the finals with an armbar submission on RINGS regular and former Olympic wrestler Grom Zaza of Georgia (that's Soviet Georgia, not Atlanta) in 1:11 of the second five minute round (matches are fought with two five minute rounds with them going to the judges if no submission or knockout is rendered) and a decision win over another RINGS regular, Lee Hasdell of England.

Nogueira was most impressive scoring two quick submissions, beating frequent RINGS headliner Valentijn Overeem in 1:51 with an armbar and following with a win over Russian Iouri Korchikin. Korchikin's opponent, Allister Overeem, was a last second replacement for one of the tournament favorites, Gilbert Yvel who apparently was there and injured just before fight time (which may very well be true in this instance but 90% of the time something like that is announced it is usually a last minute money problem). Yvel holds wins this year over both Semmy Schiltt and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka. Nogueira, said to be the best ground technician in the tournament, beat Korchikin with an armbar in 40 seconds.

Henderson, who represented the United States in both the 1992 and 1996 Olympics at 181 pounds in Greco-roman wrestling and remains active as a world class wrestler today, has never lost an MMA rules match including winning tournaments in both the UFC and in Brazil (his lone loss in this genre was in a pure submission rules match to Frank Shamrock in 40 seconds), knocked out Gogiteze Bakouri in 2:17 with a knee and followed winning a decision over RINGS regular and former UWFI pro wrestler Hiromitsu Kanehara. Kanehara in his preliminary round had ended the long winning streak of UFC regular Jeremy Horn (I believe it was something like a 25 match winning streak although that streak was under different rules than this match), who would have had a pretty substantial size edge on the 5-6, 208-pound Kanehara (Horn is 6-2 and 230 pounds), with a victory via decision in what was called a very close fight.

Mikhail defeated Justin McCulley, who has done some pro wrestling for the UFO organization as well as worked indies in California (Justin Sane) with a footlock in 4:48, and followed beating another pro wrestler, Minneapolis indie Brad Kohler (who had Road Warrior Animal, a pro wrestling legend in Japan, as his second), with an armbar in 2:16. Kohler, coming off one of the most devastating knockout wins in UFC history on 9/24, scored the biggest "name" win of his shoot career in the first round beating Yoshihisa Yamamoto with a cross face submission across the nose [I don't think this is exactly the case but I can see why one might say this--ed.] in just 1:57 after doing heavy damage, including possibly breaking Yamamoto's ribs, with body punches.

Horn and Kohler were both booked through Monte Cox, the Extreme Challenge promoter who also acted as a judge, which was controversial in itself as he judged matches involving his own fighters including ruling Horn vs. Kanehara as a draw. Both worked the previous UFC show, and there was apparently an informal talent trade type of allowance made in that they worked this tournament and in exchange, RINGS President Akira Maeda allowed Kohsaka to work the Japanese UFC PPV show on 11/14 (Maeda had allowed Kohsaka to work previous UFC shows, but none were in the Japanese market)."


"Masaaki Satake, in what may be part of his angle with K-1, was at the RINGS tournament on 10/28 and talked about returning to that promotion. Satake was the No. 2 star in the original RINGS promotion in the 1992 era doing many worked matches. Kazuyoshi Ishii, who heads K-1, was also working for RINGS at the time and many of the booking philosophies of K-1 come from pro wrestling because of Ishii's involvement in RINGS."

November 15, 1999:

"MMA: There is some controversy regarding the Japanese tournament on the 11/14 UFCJ show because UFC has implemented weight classes as this tournament looks at this point to involve men of different weight classes. Daijyu Takase was less than 170 pounds in his last UFC fight and the size difference spelled the differences as he took a savage pounding from Jeremy Horn in what in hindsight was a very bad match to have on a show with the Nevada State Athletic Commission members there to research UFC. One of the men in the same tournament with him, Katsuhisa Fujii, is listed at 215 pounds. Ken Shamrock will be attending the show as Pete Williams' second in his match with Kevin Randleman for the vacant UFC heavyweight title. The fight is going to be a tough challenge for Williams because Randleman is an excellent wrestler, like Mark Coleman, but doesn't figure to have the stamina problem which led to Williams knocking Coleman out in the match that put Williams on the UFC map. Randleman has been training for this fight at Bill Goldberg's Obake Gym in Atlanta. The booking plan now is for the Williams-Randleman winner to face the Tsuyoshi Kohsaka vs. Pedro Rizzo winner early next year. Frank Shamrock (who was named by Black Belt magazine as its Full Contact Fighter of the year) is also expected to attend the show, although his interview may not air on television, to announce that he would be on the second UFCJ show in February. Just five days before the show came the official announcement that Yoji Anjoh, the biggest Japanese draw on the card, would not be competing due to not fully recovering from an injury and also because of a lack of an opponent. Reports are the show had an advance sale of about 3,500 tickets, which with the high ticket prices ($200 tops) was considered a good showing

It was officially announced that Naoya Ogawa won't be in the Pride Eight show on 11/21 at Yokohama Arena. The cover story they are giving is that Ogawa said since he couldn't get a match with either Nobuhiko Takada or Rickson Gracie, he wasn't interested in fighting there."

ALL RIGHT LET US END HERE FOR NOW as we look ahead eagerly to RISE 7th: WORLD MEGA-BATTLE OPEN TOURNAMENT KING OF KINGS BLOCK B and as I thank you for your time and for your attention to RISE 6th: WORLD MEGA-BATTLE OPEN TOURNAMENT KING OF KINGS BLOCK A. More soon!

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