Sunday, June 18, 2017


World Mega-Battle Open Tournament King of Kings 2000 Block A
October 9, 2000 in Tokyo, Japan
Yoyogi Gym II drawing 4,600

KIYOSHI TAMURA TRAINS AS WOWOW PLAYS A RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE SONG THAT IS PROBABLY "CALM LIKE A BOMB" (I AM NOT CHECKING) ATOP THE FOOTAGE IF YOU CAN EVEN BELIEVE THAT IT IS TIME ONCE AGAIN FOR WORLD MEGA-BATTLE OPEN TOURNAMENT KING OF KINGS and it is perhaps easier to believe that when you recall that despite its loosely-affiliated satellite events promoted abroad, Fighting Network RINGS ran only seven shows in Japan in 2000; this is down from their high of fifteen, though that was actually pretty long ago now (and even then: 1993). RINGS never ran a tonne, which was of course crucial to its presentation as kakutogi from the very beginning, way before it really was, but things are getting a little grim! But on the upside it brings us around to tournament-time all the sooner so maybe let's focus on that? And here we are with thousands of RINGS enthusiasts at 国立代々木競技場 Yoyogi National Gymnasium so let's leave our RINGS-cares behind and just enjoy!

Tournament broadcasts carry with them their own challenges, of course, such as for example how their are twelve matches to get through in this two-hour WOWOW window (WOWINDOW or WINDOWINDOW). And so one clips, doesn't one! Very little of the previously-dull Roberto Traven's decision win over Mikhail Borisov is shown at all; more time is given to Dave Menne's similar match against Wataru Sakata (not much, but enough to hear that Sakata enters to "Land of Hope and Glory" as though he were Randy Savage and therefore loved by all). There is no need at all to trim the bout between the physically monstrous yet seemingly kind Valentijn Overeem and Suren Balachinsky, a fine judo player (and sambist) whose judo attainments can be explored here, because both swing wildly for a mere 2:13 before Overeem kicks hard to the lead leg and Balachinsky gets all tangled up in the ropes and his knee is a mess and the referee waves it off swiftly (and correctly). 

Bitsadze Tariel! Remember him? I believe this is the first we have seen of him since his WORLD MEGA-BATTLE OPEN TOURNAMENT KING OF KINGS 1999 juji-gatame loss to Gilbert Yvel nearly a year ago. He has faded away since dropping the RINGS championship that it was so weird they had him shoot-style win from Kiyoshi Tamura in the first place although you will recall that the thought was to get the belt off of Tamura (following a shoot loss) and onto Tsuyoshi Kohsaka but then Kohsaka elected to train in Seattle with his nice friend Maurice Smith rather than sign a RINGS-exclusive contract and so things stayed strange for a while. Tariel is totally out of his depths against "Renato" Babalu "Sobral" but every time he does the merest thing, the teensiest sweep against a man he outweighs by many, many pounds, the crowd roars their approval, as they remember well his years of shoot-style Kyokushin stoutness, pitilessness, and, indeed, tyranny; everyone treasured him. This match feels much longer (in a good way!) than the mere 2:58 the clock shows after Babalu secures juji-gatame. I believe this is Bitsadze Tariel's final appearance in RINGS, and if so, it is a fitting one, as he was loved in it.  

Dan Henderson, last year's KING OF KINGS, corners Team Quest pal Randy Couture, whose previous RINGS appearance was his baffling and endlessly rewarding loss to Mikhail Ilioukhine that we explored in probably excessive depth and with too-great enthusiasm but it was just so great. Here he faces Jeremy Horn, and that's a tough draw. For both of them! I have not yet mentioned that Hiromitsu Kanehara joins Kenichi Takayanagi and Hideyuki Kumakubo but I assure you this is very much the case. Here's something I don't think I've ever seen before: Couture has Horn pressed up against the corner (if you can believe Randy Couture would employ competitive leaning), and Horn responds by stepping up on the bottom rope and punching from there, look:

They are asked to break, but Horn is not assessed a yellow card nor do I think is he warned in any way so this is a valid waza? This is potentially huge! As is Jeremy Horn's 飛び十字固め tobi-juji-gatame flying arm-bar! But he slips off and it does not work. The crowd loved the attempt though! As did I! I don't think I have played any UFC video games since the fairly awful one for Gamecube (I got it used at a Blockbuster on Spadina [in Toronto]), and there is of course no need as I am staunchly Fire Pro (and also just not really one for video games), but my understanding is that if you hit a flying armbar in at least one of the more recent UFC games (I should ask my old pal Jordan, who played a lot of them) Joe Rogan is like ooooooooomg flying armbar! those never work! and if you miss a flying armbar Joe Rogan is like yeah those never work. I could have all of that wrong but it all certainly sounds plausible. Jeremy Horn has a decent ashi-kansetsu leg-locking attempt that is shut down as Couture grabs the ropes to keep from being dragged down into the hell of it; Horn's corner would like to see a yellow card but none forthcomes. In the second five-minute round (the ten-minute opening round does not seem to be in effect for tournament bouts), it is much the same, as Horn fights more dynamically and more clearly oriented towards the ritual purity/symbolic death of ippon, but Couture is stout throughout and maintains his position well. At the end of two rounds, one judge has the fight for Horn (I believe I do, too), but two have it as a draw. I think in last year's WORLD MEGA-BATTLE OPEN TOURNAMENT KING OF KINGS that would have been a win for Horn, but this year it means a third round needs be contested. A third round in which Jeremy Horn 飛び十字固め tobi-juji-gatames again! Horn even has Couture fighting off of his back for a little while, which you don't see a lot of. Couture did tag Horn once standing, but to me this is a clear win for Jeremy Horn and so the judges rule in unanimity for Randy Couture, proving once again that I am a fool.    

For reasons I cannot fathom, and will probably not have any knowledge of for some time, as the Wrestling Observer Newsletter archive that has been our guide throughout this wondrous strange journey (thank you for joining me on it) is yet to be updated to include news of this period, original-Pancrasist (and before that a man of プロフェッショナルレスリング藤原組 Purofesshonaru-resuringu Fujiwara-GumiRyushi Yanagisawa has entered this year's tournament, and has won a fine katame-waza (græppling technique) bout over the floppy-haired Boris Jeliazkov at 3:45 by ashi-dori-garami figure-four ankle-lock. Like, here is how Pancrase Ryushi Yanagisawa is: at Pancrase: Yes, We Are Hybrid Wrestlers, he fought Bas Rutten, and at Pancrase: Yes, We Are Hybrid Wrestlers 2 he fought Masukatsu Funaki. I mean, come on.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is here again, so young and handsome, a Brazilian James Franco of a græppler:

I saw on Twitter that James Franco was at PWG this weekend and one wonders how many burning hammers (hammers burning) he saw kicked out of in the opening match? I kid PWG. I have only watched a couple of their shows and while the style of some of the matches there is not really for me, there are a lot of different style matches on their cards, and I bet it is super fun to go to those shows. I do not doubt this at all, for all my kidding. Achmed Labasanov takes Nogueira down with a form of yoko-otoshi maybe ten seconds into the match, and I would say five seconds later Nogueira throws his legs up and shrimps his hips in for a juji-gatame that it takes him about one minute and three different positions to finish and it is wonderful to watch him keep everything just where it needs to be to maintain control throughout. The waza is exquisite.

Let us note with but one match to go in the opening round that this show has been a lot of fun! The matches have been good and the crowd has been lively! I wonder if they will like Kiyoshi Tamura as much as Osaka did in August! Well maybe not quite as much, but still a lot. His foe here is, if you can even believe it, GROM ZAZA, who, though thirty-five, seems about a thousand, but not because he is frail like an athlete in decline but because he is strong like a venerable oak. That he takes Tamura down and attempts a standing kata-ashi-hishigi single-leg-crush/straight-ankle-lock at once is obvious, why dwell on it. Zaza is yellow-carded for completely punching Kiyoshi Tamura extremely in the face whilst grounded; he had no idea he had done it but, once convinced of this, apologizes like a sportsman and the fray is rejoined. The first round was pretty even in its græpplings, but with Zaza's yellow-card I suppose it was Tamura's? In round two, Tamura nearly takes Zaza down with a low kibisu-gaeshi heel-trip, which is a feat, and he does well when he's on bottom, harassing, if not quite menacing, with juji-gatame and sankaku-jime. It seems like Grom Zaza only knows kata-ashi-hishigi? I do not say this with anything but love in my heart. He commits to it with such vigour that Tamura is twice able to just sit up right into tate-shiho-gatame (that is up top), and, as the match ends, he takes the back and attacks with hadake-jime, though he does not secure it. The unanimous decision is Tamura's, and I can see it. 

Roberto Traven has so far been really, really very dull to watch in RINGS though I am sure he is a lot of fun under different rules or like at karaoke or things. He is Dave Menne's second-round opponent. I think this match has been clipped? I don't know, I have been lulled. They are definitely going a third round after the first two were (ad)judged a draw, though, I am sure of that. Traven is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Word Champion several times over and has 19 kg (so like 40+lbs) on Dave Menne but loses a græppling-heavy decision to him. That's not great! Dave Menne is very tired as he shares his thoughts backstage. Very, very tried.

Valentijn Overeem vs. Babalu! I am intrigued by this match! Overeem kickboxes him up a little bit at the beginning so Babalu wisely takes him down; Overeem looks for gyaku-ude-garami but is nearly countered by juji-gatame in the way illustrated in this animated gif of Masahiko Kimura I keep posting:

But Babalu can't quite get there: instead, Overeem shrimps his hips back into a safe place only to take a big punch to his very face (that's a yellow card). Babalu is contrite. Overeem really doesn't look like he should be fighting as he staggers around holding his gloves up awkwardly. Even likely-sociopath Akira Maeda seems concerned; that's how bad things are. And yet it continues. This time it is Overeem who takes Babalu down with a fine kosoto-gake (minor outer hook). Babalu works hard for a juji-gatame from the bottom but Overeem staves it off and wins when he transitions from kata-ashi-hishigi to ashi-dori-garami, from a straight ankle-lock to a figure-four toe-hold. The crowd loves it! As well they should, it was a great match. And yet one cannot help but mind the hitting. Overeem says he hopes the crowd continue to be supportive of him, as they have been today; he thinks he can "show them some nice stuff." He continues to seem really nice! 

Randy Couture has a bit of something going on under his right eye as he readies himself (I assume that's what he must be doing but what do I know) for Pancrase's Ryūshi Yanagisawa. Yanagisawa is way bigger than I thought, 191 cm and 103 kg so that's 6'3" and 227 lbs! He does not look small next to Randy Couture at all, which is what I had (obviously wrongly) expected. Couture takes Yanagisawa down and is doing a pretty good job of (figurative) smothering until he over-commits to an ude-garami arm-entanglement and is swept; he gets to Yanagisawa's back, where he attempts a juji-gatame for maybe the only time ever? And then, in the standard way, he follows with a sankaku-jime (triangle choke) and again those are both totally regular things to attempt (in sequence) whilst græppling but I don't feel like I have ever seen Randy Couture do them? Yanagisawa is up on top now, but still betwixt Couture's legs, and here's Couture with a gyaku-ude-garami (reverse arm entanglement) from the bottom! And as the round ends he's on top and attacking, slightly, with juji-gatame. That was a really good round! I guess it was Couture's? It was hard-græppled by both able græpplers (Yanigasawa is mainly a man of striking though, right? Again, my Pancrase knowledge is poor, forgive me). I think round two is clipped for time a little, oh okay it is clipped a lot, in fact, as the oneu minute to gooo announcement comes almost at once so I am in no position to tell you anything of substance about it other than that Couture knocks Yanagisawa down in the final moments. One judge rules the match a draw, but the other two have it for Randy Couture, which seems like a good call from what I saw. This show is excellent.

So tight are we for time, it would seem, that we are denied the glory of another Kiyoshi Tamura "Flame of Mind" entrance and instead it is straight to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira against him. There's got to be a pretty big size difference here, right? Let's see, okay, 99.5 kg to 87 kg, so nearly thirty pounds, yeah. But still I am eager! Perhaps I am even more intrigued because of this than I might otherwise be? Nogueira takes him down at once, and then passes by hugging both legs tightly together (a great way to do it! please to not call this entry into osaekomi basic, please call it fundamental) and moving his hips dramatically to the side and almost in a somersaulting way that is truly remarkable for someone his size. The noble Nogueira attempts juji-gatame and young Tamura spins out and slips the subsequent sankaku-jime triangle attempt and also a half-formed ashi-gatame (leg-hold) to come out on top. Kiyoshi Tamura is really good! It is easy to overlook that with all the handsomeness and shoot-styling sometimes, I think. Nogueira throws up a fine juji-gatame but it is not there, as Tamura squares up and maintains good posture. When Nogueira grabs your wrists, though, that must be something! Or indeed when he grabs first yours and then his own in the reverse arm-entanglement of gyaku-ude-garami but Tamura slips that, too, and they return to their feet. For only a moment! As, soon enough, Nogueira wrangles Tamura down again. I think Nogueira's extra weight does a lot for him on these takedowns; I don't mean to suggest that it is not a factor in ne-waza (ground technique), but it is a greater one so far here in tachi-waza (standing technique). In the final minute Nogueira mostly just hits the body from the double (leg) entanglement of niju-garami aaaaaahhhhh until Nogueira comes sooooo close with gyaku-ude-garami, the reverse arm-entanglement one associates perhaps with Masahiko Kimura! But anyone can do it, see:

Tamura slips out when things look utterly dire and the crowd is so in! That was a great round, a great round. In the second, Nogueira takes Tamura down, moves to tate-shiho-gatame (right up on top), and, when Tamura turns, Nogueira rides high on the back and attacks with the rolling juji-gatame he shared as his tokui-waza (preferred technique) when he visited the judo team of Tokai University in a warm and lovely spirit (he showed the way he likes to juji-roll, and it is obviously excellent but in no way unusual, and then looked up with a big earnest face at everyone watching quietly and was like is that allowed? is that okay? [yes, but it was very thoughtful to ask rather than just presume {you're the best, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and everyone loves you}]). Tamura is defending as best as he can, but this is one of those defenses where if this is what you're doing, you messed up a long time ago, friend:

As you can plainly see, that's no way to live. But Tamura turns in hard and gets to his knees! That's wild! Oh but he got juji-gatame'd right after that. What a great match! Nogueira lifts him up in a nice big hug; imagine it:

I think this is the best show since we have gone to all shoots! I would have to go back and check to know for sure but that is my feeling right now, anyway. So who do we have advancing out of A Block here, let's think about this: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira,Randy Couture, Valentijn Overeem, and little Dave Menne. Dave Menne is bigger than me, so I do not say that to be even the leastmost bit disparaging, but rather to praise his achievement thus far in a (WORLD MEGA-BATTLE) OPEN[weight] TOURNAMENT (KING OF KINGS 2000) BLOCK A). Ah okay here are all four of them standing with Akira Maeda:

Perspective is doing something here but it's not doing enough to account for Dave Menne! What a great show this was, thank you for joining me for it. I hope you will join me again soon (shall we say tomorrow?) for WORLD MEGA-BATTLE OPEN TOURNAMENT KING OF KINGS 2000 BLOCK B!



  1. Ryiushi Yanagisawa is truly a man of pancrase. He was a karateka before joining the pwfg and then broke off with funaki etc to form pancrase. It is often tated that he was the "4th ranked heavyweight" in japan at the time but what sport that was in i have no idea. He's probably better known for his losses rather than his wins, being hospitalised by a bas rutten palm strike, funaki putting him in a brutal kneebar and ken shamrock belly to belly suplexing him all over the ring before turning his leg upside down with a heel hook but around 1995 he really got into his groove.

  2. I have so much to learn, thank you.