October 9, 2000 in Tokyo, Japan
Yoyogi Gym II drawing 4,600
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-Gumi) Ryushi 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 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: