Wednesday, June 7, 2017


Rise 7th: World Mega-Battle Open Tournament King of Kings 
December 22, 1999 in Osaka, Japan
Furitsu Gym drawing 5,100

A RECURRING NOTION IN RECENT (then-recent; mid-to-late-1999-recent) WRESTLING OBSERVER NEWSLETTERS HAS BEEN DAVE MELTZER'S SPECULATION THAT TSUYOSHI KOHSAKA IS WEARING HIMSELF DOWN WITH AN OVERLY AMBITIOUS SCHEDULE WHICH IS TO SAY HIS HUNGER FOR THE FIGHT MAY PROVE IN TIME HIS UNDOING and let us explore this thought as deeply as we are able as we consider as text his UFC 23: Ultimate Japan 2 number-one-contender's bout against the undefeated (then, not now) Pedro Rizzo. TK's is not the only RINGS-relevant performance on this Tokyo Bay NK Hall card (how oft, how oft, how often we have found ourselves here in this very hall throughout our journey), as Kenichi Yamamoto won first a decision victory over Daiju Takase (who always seemed nice) before applying a hiza-juji knee-bar against Shooto-ist (and later HUSTLEist) Katsuhisa Fujii to claim a small UFC Japan Middleweight Tournament; but while we will surely congratulate him on this achievement we will not dwell on it. 

LET US INSTEAD DWELL AND INDEED LUXURIATE ONCE MORE in the waza of the great Tsuyoshi Kohsaka as it unfurls before us (the waza is rolled up like on a 伝承 densho transmission scroll, I guess). Or actually if I am remembering this fight correctly at all, that doesn't really happen here, as such, and Kohsaka gets kind of busted up. The first round is totally unremarkable in that it consists of nothing but tentative striking, although I guess it is remarkable that TK stood with Pedro Rizzo for the full five minutes and has not yet been separated from his senses, so good work TK, and good work Maurice Smith. The second round is more of the same, although I would bet TK is seriously unenjoying the leg-kicks that Rizzo lands throughout it with ever-increasing frequency. The first takedown attempt comes almost nine minutes into the match and it is a dud as Rizzo sprawls atop and away TK tries another in the final seconds and ends up on his back but Rizzo wants no part of the ground, even on top, and they stand again as the round ends. The first round was Rizzo's but very close, the second round was clearly Rizzo's, and the third and final round looks to be more of the same. Oh dear, it is worse than I remembered, in that I thought it was a decision loss, but instead Rizzo puts Kohsaka down with a hard left hook: when Kohsaka starts to come back up after he drops in low for a tackling morote-gari (two-hand reap) that fails, he just kind of pauses there, and eats a totally unprotected punch right to the eye like right to the eye and that's it, TKO win for Rizzo with 3:42 left to go in the third round. Yikes that punch.

Kohsaka's eye is a mess but don't worry he's got a month plus three whole extra days to get ready to fight two times in one night (if he is spared) as RISE 7th: WORLD MEGA-BATTLE OPEN TOURNAMENT KING OF KINGS awaits! And in fact it is totally already here. It's in Osaka!

They really whipped through the "A" Block show and one wonders if that same breakneck pace will obtain here? Kenichi Takayanagi, who over the course of the many hours we have shared has come to matter to me, welcomes us to this WOWOW presentation and introduces his partner on commentary Hideyuki Kumakubo as I catch for the very first time that Kumakubo is of Gong Kakutogi. Remember just yesterday when we discovered together that if you google-translate the Japanese wikipedia page for Gong Kakutogi it seems to render "Kyokushin Karate" as "extreme vacuum hands"? This is uncanny! Anyway they have recently published their final issue, I think, and while I do not at all know the exact place of Gong Kakutogi in the martial and sporting culture of Japan, I do now how I would feel if Black Belt magazine were to cease publication, and that is sort of bad even though I never subscribed and would only ever get them some times . . . and yet. Will Gong Kakutogi ever make its way to Google Books in the near-complete way Black Belt has? I choose hope. (For a collection of Black Belt covers that have depicted judo, why not visit a judo tumblr enjoyed by many?)

WE GOT SIDETRACKED (but nobly so) and should be attending with all due rigour to our opening bout between Andrei Kopilov, a sambist long-admired in these pages, and Leonardo Castello Branco, a 1999 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion (of some kind or another; it's a very complicated scene [I'm sure there are excellent reasons for its cacophony {capitalism}]) who is new to us. AAAAAAHAHAHA Andrei Kopilov who is like a thousand years old has won in sixteen seconds with a rolling hiza-juji knee-bar straight out of the pages of Iatskevitch's Russian Judo Masterclass Book that I really should return to my friend this week LOOK I MADE A GIF OF THE WHOLE MATCH:

"[A]fter failed plans to move to Canada," Kopilov's wikipedia page notes, "he was contacted by Japanese pro wrestling promotion Fighting Network RINGS, and after he accepted, he was sent to the team RINGS Russia, where he met Volk Han, his future partner in the Russian Top Team." It would have been neat had he come here (he would not have been the first Soviet-era sambist to do so; they have tremendously [judo-]illegal ways of throwing from arm-locks that delight and horrify and turn quickly to legend), but the way things worked out are probably also good! While we are delighting in Kopilov's great triumph let us not be without sympathy for the plight of Leonardo Castello Branco, who must have felt an awful fool. If it is any consolation to him he should know that I have definitely lost one and maybe two (I would have to check the tape) judo matches in less time than that so it can totally happen to anybody! (Don't tell him I was and remain terrible, it won't help.) You can see him hold his head and begin to curl up in a little ball at the end of the gif and I would ask that we all try to imagine what is happening in his heart. The crowd, as you might expect, love this to death, as Kopilov has been performing before them with workmanlinke steadiness since I guess 1992? They chant his name while Kenichi Takayanagi rightly exclaims sambo! and jiu-jitsu! on commentary. What a start! 

Ricardo Fyeet, who is a strong character with a great look but who might be a jerk (maybe he just plays one? maybe he has worked himself into a shoot though?), faces Tyrone Roberts in our next tournament match. Roberts is not as well known as his brother André but he had way more fights! Like his brother, he wrestles, he boxes, he wrestleboxes. (If I am remembering his brother incorrectly I apologize; it's been a long while.) Fyeet is totally a "shoot" jerk, it is now totally clear, as he twists his fingers into Roberts' eye while in ne waza (I'm a ne waza purist and that's just not good ne waza). This match is going a little slowly so why not pause to note that the other night whilst TK-searching( I found an old tweet (like from 2011) wherein Daniel Bryan (né Bryan Danielson) said "Just found my Japanese copy of Tsuyoshi Kohsaka's 'Submission Techniques'... SWEET. Watch him on youtube vs. Tamura or Volk Han. #ringsruled." Naturally I extremely RT'd this, and it prompted my friend Jonathan, who has interviewed Danielson and written several excellent articles in which he figures prominently, to point him in the direction of this very blog (thanks, Jonathan!), to which Danielson (is this dead-naming?) replied, "Awesome, love it!" So that was all very nice! Thanks, Bryan! It is too bad that he is employed by literal fascists and is exploited for the gains of literal fascism because he has always seemed like a very nice fellow. Also I was reflecting just the other day during yærdwork that he could have been a first-rate RINGS player had he been born like ten years earlier. And that it is too bad that he is currently in league with fascism (through work).     

Ricardo Fyeet has kicked Tyrone Roberts in the head so terribly that he needs to be stretchered out and it is not lost on me that my fond thoughts of Daniel Bryan have been interrupted yet again by concussion; this is dark and sobering. Nobody should ever be hitting in any context; græppling only, please.

Will Maurice Smith head my call? Will Brandon Lee Hinkle, perhaps best known for his UFC fight against Sean Gannon, who rose to prominence (such as it was) for beating Kimbo Slice in not like a boatyard or anything but instead a gym but even so let's all try to make better choices? I suspect neither will. Hinkle says his sole focus here is Smith; Smith says that if he is able to get by Hinkle it would be neat to have a match with Renzo Gracie because he has not yet had a match with any Gracie let alone the one everybody seems to like best (my words at the end, not his). Mark Coleman, with whom all must sympathize (just for everything), is in Hinkle's corner, as Hinkle is of the Hammer House. This is an interesting match to me! And if I have ever seen it before I totally forget it so I am going in clean. Smith ably sprawls away from Hinkle's takedown but in the ensuing scramble, Hinkle ends up on Smith's back until Maurice rolls through to TK Guard and sweeps with it! The Alliance! They are pretty much under the ropes now so they are started back up standing. Hinkle is very quick at wrestling and Smith is on his back again in short order. Smith puts Hinkle off balance with his TK Guard but in time Hinkle just floats over to the scarf hold of kesa-gatame and yeah what one gains in dynamism from the butterly/hooks/TK guard one sacrifices in homely safety in some ways but I mean there is no perfect way to play off of one's back or else we would all just play that one way, right? AH HA Smith reverses Hinkle nearly at once! Good for him, who would have expected that! Not me! Holy moly he nearly finishes with a te-gatame arm-lock, too! This guy! On commentary TK Guard is mentioned, as are TK Scissors also, perhaps raising the possibility of a counter to tate-shiho-gatame? (This is how they are most often employed, though not exclusively.) It is wild to me how easily Smith reverses Hinkle on the ground and how close he comes with another arm-lock (this time ude-hishigi-ude-gatame, a straight one). There is no way Hinkle could stay standing with Maurice Smith, so he's got to take him down, but once they're down there Smith is doing everything with such technique and such ease that Hinkle is totally at sea. Just now, Smith was riding a little high on the back and slipped off during his juji-gatame attack but he swung his legs through to guard from there elegantly, like legitimately elegantly. I have no memory of Maurice Smith ever fighting like this; I fully recollect Maurice Smith fighting well, but not in this mode. And now a triangle! Omote-sankaku-jime! The match goes the distance, and there could totally have been a third round (both fighters seem to agree on this), but the decision goes to Smith. Maybe the judges, like me, were just like wait what is even happening right now, and sort of lost themselves to it all.

Next up is Renzo! Long my favourite Gracie (only Roger is really in the conversation), even before I had fine friends and students who hold rank under Renzo black belts (there are a number of well-regarded Renzo black belts here and at least one Rickson one [I do not know the scene intimately]). I like the Mastering Jujitsu book he and his student John Danaher wrote, especially the historical and theoretical materials at the beginning, though I wish it had been properly sourced and cited (I don't mean it needed to be academic [almost nothing should be], only that it would have been even greater had it been more transparently scholarly). What introduction does a martial artist of his calibre need? He is known to all, but especially to my friend Cory, who was "owned" spectacularly by Renzo's kindness and humility on twitter following an exchange that must have grown out of a Renzo-self-search (not an act of humility); Cory would never have disparagingly @'d him. {{{UPDATE 6/11/17 as you can see in the comments below, Cory notes that Renzo did not self-search, not at all, and I withdraw my speculation in this regard unreservedly and with apology; it turns out TOM @'d Renzo into the conversation, which surely I once knew but had totally forgotten. END UPDATE PLEASE FORGIVE ME}}} (To be fair, they both ended with very kind words for each other offered in a spirit of true fellowship; Renzo had the line of the day with "when you guys want to talk bad about me.. Call me first.. I know terrible things about myself lol" lol is right, that is classic Renzo right there.) Renzo makes a bunch of excuses before his fight, sort of: it's very different from what he's used to; it's going to be difficult because of the weight difference and the short time; but he's interested in trying himself under rules that produce what he considers more of a sport than a fight. (So this isn't real enough for him, but also the guys are too big? No weight classes in the street, brvh; the streets are openweight, brvh.) But he believes it's going to be fun to try something new! So he came around to a nice energy at the end there. "I believe in technique a lot," he concludes, and on that subject we could not possibly be in greater agreement; let us go forward together as friends. He is to face RINGS opening boutist Wataru Sakata! This is a big fight for Sakata! Renzo comes in at 80kg, by the way, and Sakata at 89.5, so that's twenty pounds, which is not insignificant, but you see the two of them and they are not worlds apart at all. Sakata has much thicker legs, it must be said. Kenichi Takayanagi says ne waza several times, which is the thing I would talk about with regard to Renzo Gracie, too. After maybe thirty seconds of feeling each other out, Renzo takes the kicking Sakata down with ease. Sakata had a moment where he could have done something, maybe, with Renzo's hand trapped on the mat, but he neither kanuki-gatame'd (bolt-locked) nor Komlocked (same thing, I just wanted to say both) and before you know it Renzo is in mune-gatame (a chest hold) and steps over for what I think is maybe going to be an Akira Kikuchi-style step-over yoko-sankaku-jime side triangle (I teach this; it dazzles, and yet it is so attainable) but instead he attacks the far arm with ude-hishigi-ude-gatame, the straightest arm-lock around, and as Sakata rolls Renzo is unconcerned, because he's still totally got it, and when Sakata turns the corner, and you might think it would be time for Renzo to switch to an ashi-sankaku-garami (or omoplata), nnnnnope, he just rides it out and straightens out lefty (that's what he calls his left leg [probably]) to finish with juji-gatame. It was beautiful:

I am way into things that start from ude-gatame (ask anyone who knows me! and goes to my judo club!) so this extremely speaks to me and I love it. 

Gilbert Yvel and Bitsadze Tariel? Won't Tariel be murdered immediately? Is that what they want to happen? It's hard to hear for sure and the entrances are severely clipped but I think Yvel might have come in to "Let Me Clear My Throat" (remember that one?). Bitsadze Tariel is wearing tight shorts instead of gi pants and I am doing a bad job of processing it. Tariel shies a little from Yvel's strikes (you wouldn't believe the extent to which I would shy from them, so that is not a criticism). Tariel is able to clinch and muscle Yvel around pretty well and even take him down but Yvel gets on top and Tariel does nothing but get hit and then juji-gatame'd. It's over at 2:18 and could have been way, way worse; Tariel got off light in this one and so did we.

AND NOW THE TIME OF TK IS ONCE MORE UPON US and let us give credit where it is due, and that is to, who saw Kohsaka spreading himself too thin(ly) and has warned us about it for months. How will TK fare here against the actually-quite-good Christopher Haseman? Almost certainly better than against Pedro Rizzo, right? Where he got punched super hard right in the eye? Kohsaka does not look unwell around the eye, I guess I should note, but I will say again he was punched hard in it quite recently. Kohsaka is well cheered here and many yell either Kohsaaakaaaaaaa or TeeeeeKaaaaaaaay as he begins. He slips a little and ends up beneath Christopher Haseman and comes super close to being arm-locked twice in about ten seconds, first with the entanglement of ude-garami and then the cross-mark hold of juji-gatame:

But he gets out and pops up! The only time Kohsaka has ever lost by submission in a shoot context that we know of was against Jean-Jacques Machado in ADCC 2001; a couple of RINGS losses by submission are listed on his Wikipedia and Sherdog pages but we know better (we have discussed those). It is unknown of course how often he lost by shime-waza (strangle) or kansetsu-waza (bone-lock) in his long days of judo but probably not never. ANYWAY even with full knowledge of the near-impossibility of finishing a submission hold on Tsuyoshi Kohsaka I am nevertheless impressed with the escapes of a moment ago (late 1999). TK is down again soon enough, though, as Haseman just kind of blasts right through him, takes the back and looks for another juji-gatame (rolling, face-down, who is to say which way his beard points tonight). He came very close with gyaku-ude-garami! Or at least it looks close to me: perhaps Kohsaka is totally fine with everything. But I wouldn't be! Kohsaka is able to sprawl atop Haseman's next takedown attempt; towards the end of the round, Haseman over commits to another gyaku-ude-garami and nearly falls prey to the juji-gatame counter that presents itself from there. Here is Masahiko Kimura doing it (I am wearing an impressively shabby bootlegged Masahiko Kimura t-shirt as we speak! Its representation of Kimura looks, in the words of one of my foremost judo pals, "like a DOS game"! It also looks vaguely black metal! It has it all!):

Kohsaka, who seemed sluggish in the first round, is all warmed up for the second, maybe, and does better, though it's fairly uneventful. The judges rule a draw, which forces a third round. Haseman spends a good part of the third round turtled up but looking fairly dangerous from there with ashi-gatame (leg-hold) rolls and gyaku-ude-garami arm-entanglements aplenty. Aplenty! But Kohsaka spends much of the time here in good positions, tapping away with strikes, and you can see in their few standing moments that Haseman is tiring badly. Kohsaka just slipped a gyaku-ude-garami grip in against the turtle very neatly, like Kimura does here: 

But instead attacks with juji-gatame from that grip. It's a great grip for that! As the round ends, Kohsaka has Haseman in a mae-hadaka-jime front choke that doesn't seem likely to finish but likely to keep Haseman stuck there for a while. Kohsaka took the third round, I think pretty much all would agree, and wins by split decision. Haseman raises TK's hand in victory, which is nice of him.

Tim Lajcik, who you will perhaps remember being stopped by his corner between rounds of a UFC fight against TK in which he was doing very well until he got way too tired (I say this in sympathy, not in condemnation), said in his pre-fight comments that RINGS rules, though different from the rules to which he was most accustomed, were easy to accept and he would fight under them without concern; he has just received a yellow card for completely punching Boris Jeliazkov in the face while both were on the ground. Not to be outdone, Jeliazkov gets a yellow card maybe a minute later for applying a heel hold(o), which we are told by the commentary team is a kansetsu-waza kinshi or forbidden bone-locking technique (I know kansetsu is usually and for all I know totally unambiguously correctly translated as "joint-locking" but I have a beautiful old hardcover edition of Illustrated Kodokan Judo in which the Kodokan Editorial Board uses "bone-locking" for kansetsu and I remain pretty much over the moon about it). I both enjoy and respect the extent to which the heel hook is treated in shoot-era RINGS with the same fear and respect as the piledriver in lucha libre (el martinete [I have no Spanish at all]). Mark Coleman, in Lajcik's corner, saw it coming a mile away and was like NOOOOOOO NO, YELLOW CARD, YELLOW CARD. I think I will watch The Smashing Machine again for the first time in more than a decade to spend some more time with Mark Coleman, maybe. Remember when he horrified his young daughters by fighting Fedor? And brought them into the ring where they saw the ruin of his face as he knelt low before them to offer hideous comfort? I have just now looked at those famous photographs for the first time in years and it all seems like an even worse decision to me now than it did then, just the whole situation, and it didn't seem all that awesome then. Jeliazkov has just suplexed Lajcik over from a front face-lock and finished with hadaka-jime! I did not expect anything like that at all! This one was only 2:23 but what a 2:23. Oh dear, Lajcik went all the way out, and when he woke up he started thrashing around pretty wildly. I totally thought I saw him tap out? Ah okay, the replay shows that he did tap, and it's not like Jeliazkov held it too long afterwards or anything, he was just going out right as he tapped. These things do sometimes happen. 

I had totally forgotten about Dave Menne, to be honest, despite his million-or-so fights, including some pretty good ones, but here he is against Kiyoshi Tamura, who is wearing red tight shorts with white stripes, the first time he has departed from the red trunks we think of him as wearing all the time always like even when he goes to the store. This is not at all a soft opening-round opponent for Tamura, I don't think; let me check where his record stood at this point . . . yeah Dave Menne was 23-5-1, with one of those losses coming from going the distance against Matt Hughes, so you can't even really count that one against him. Tamura puts Menne down with a punch in the first, and looks like he might be on his way to a juji-gatame for an instant early in the second, and then just sort of settles in on top. The rest of round two involves Tamura hitting well and attacking with a rolling juji-gatame so the decision is rightly his. 

ON TO THE RISE 7th: WORLD MEGA-BATTLE OPEN TOURNAMENT KING OF KINGS BLOCK "B" SECOND ROUND and Andrei Kopilov has defeated Ricardo Fyeet in eight seconds with a kata-ashi-hishigi (single-leg-crush); that's two leg-lock wins in a total of twenty-four seconds; it's unreal. Fyeet just flew in all wild and then an instant later it was over: 

Next, Maurice Smith gets his wish of fighting a Gracie for the first time and it does not go super well for him as Renzo gets him to the ground and comes close with an ude-garami from the side before finishing with the same step-over ude-gatame he hit on Sakata, except Smith wasn't able to to roll around with it and force a transition to juji-gatame, so it's ude-gatame to the finish as though he was working on katame no kata (I don't know if he has ever done that one but I bet he would be good at it). This was awesome! Great job, Renzo! Technique, desu! Waza, desu! Kenichi Takayanagi is my favourite commentator ever! 

We now face the grim reality of watching a battle-weary Tsuyoshi Kohsaka against Gilbert Yvel, who has battered TK unto doctor stoppage previously. You will recall that their second fight ended when Kohsaka threw them both out of the ring and TK hurt his wrist? This one does not go as ruinously as it might have, mercifully: as part of a frenzied first minute, Yvel clips Kohsaka with a right as TK comes in low for a takedown and the resulting cut is ghastly:

And yet it is for the best, as the fight is stopped before a truly ruinous battering could take shape.

So it's Tamura and Jeliazkov in the final match of this really good "B" block opener! I think Jeliazkov has just been yellow-carded for closed-fist face-punching despite not wearing gloves (you made your choice, Jelizakov, and you chose to be gloveless). Jeliazkov is really quite a slick græppler, isn't he? I didn't see that finish against Lajcik and certainly not that the big throw that preceded it coming at all. He hangs with Tamura pretty well in ne waza but Tamura has the better attacks and probably won the round, I think. Oh yeah plus there was a yellow card, so for sure. Early in the second round Tamura takes the back and finishes a hadaka-jime strangle at 1:17 and his usual aloof super-handsomeness is transformed into a weird goblin-mask of being totally charged up:

Great show!

November 22, 1999:

UFC Japan recap:

"The UFC Japan show, which airs 11/19 in the U.S. on satellite systems as a PPV, does not appear to have been a business success. The show drew about 3,600 fans (the 5,215 figure listed was a work) to the 7,000-seat NK Hall, and much of that was paper.

Randleman, a former two-time NCAA champion who is generally considered to have been robbed of the heavyweight title in losing a controversial decision to Bas Rutten earlier this year, survived a first round knockdown to win the final four rounds, beating Pete Williams of Lions Den in a match generally considered boring. Pedro Rizzo of Brazil, who had both Rutten and Marco Ruas in his corner, became the UFC's top heavyweight contender beating Japan's Tsuyoshi Kohsaka with a third round knockout. It was not a good night for Pancrase, as both its fighters, Jason DeLucia and Kei Yamamiya, ranked numbers three and four contenders for the King of Pancrase title in the latest ratings, suffered conclusive defeats, with DeLucia blowing out his knee in the process. Another former pro wrestler, Kenichi Yamamoto won a controversial four-man Japanese tournament and the $10,000 first prize.

The poor attendance figure was because neither Randleman nor Williams meant anything to the Japanese general public in the main event and Kohsaka on his own couldn't carry the card from a drawing perspective. Even though Kohsaka may be Japan's best real heavyweight fighter (it would be either Kohsaka or Enson Inoue) combined with being a great pro wrestler, he just isn't a draw.

Because it involved fighters from different weight classes, the four-man Japanese tournament was declared as being unsanctioned by the UFC's own Mixed Martial Arts Council headed by Jeff Blatnick. It makes UFC look strange in presenting a PPV show with the UFC name, although UFC had very little to do with the show other than providing the top two matches, with matches not sanctioned by its own in-house organization.

The show was more notable when it came to seconds at ringside, which would make up an MMA All-star team, as compared to the name value of the fighters who competed. Besides Ruas and Rutten, those would include Ken Shamrock, Mark Coleman, Masakatsu Funaki, Inoue, Maurice Smith and Masaaki Satake.

The show airs as an American PPV on 11/19. Blatnick and Mike Goldberg weren't brought to Japan for the show and were scheduled to do voice-over work early this week when the tape was brought back. Both were going to steadfastly avoid any contact with anyone who would have the results so as to commentate as if having no knowledge of what happened until they see it. The show was also scheduled for an edited and delayed one hour show on TV Tokyo in Japan later this month.

1. In the tournament, Katsuhisa Fujii, an amateur wrestling champion, knocked out Masatatsu Yano in 3:12 of the second round after a kick and punch combination knockdown. There was some speculation the stoppage may have been slightly quick.

2. In the other tournament first round match, Yamamoto beat Daijyu Takase, who was probably outweighed by some 30 pounds, winning a boring unanimous decision as Takase basically couldn't do anything and hung on.

3. Eugene Jackson knocked out Kei Yamamiya (formerly Keiichiro Yamamiya) of Pancrase in 3:12 of the third round in a match that was fought almost entirely standing and was said to have been the best match on the show. Jackson, going in with a bad knee, had the strategy of refusing to allow Yamamiya to take him down, and had enough wrestling ability to do so, and kept it standing, where he was the stronger of the two.

4. Joe Slick, an unknown Extreme Challenge fighter, defeated Pancrase's No. 3 ranked fighter Jason DeLucia in 1:27. Pancrase was very careful in protecting DeLucia, turning down numerous suggested opponents until agreeing to an unknown fighter trained by Pat Miletich. Slick scored a high take down of DeLucia off a bearhug, and in doing so, DeLucia tore out his right knee ligaments in what was described as almost Theismanesque. DeLucia was screaming in pain and his corner threw in the towel. It was the same leg that was injured twice in the past against Takaku Fuke and later broken in a King of Pancrase title match where he lost to Masakatsu Funaki.

5. In the tournament finals, Yamamoto beat Fujii in 4:14 of the second round with a kneelock submission. After the match, Yamamoto, who was with the RINGS organization before retiring due to head injuries and before that UWFI and Kingdom, as well as having worked for New Japan and various indie pro wrestling companies as part of The Golden Cups with Anjoh and current All Japan wrestler Yoshihiro Takayama, issued a challenge to RINGS world heavyweight champion Kiyoshi Tamura after his win.

6. Pedro Rizzo of Brazil remained unbeaten in MMA with a knockout of Kohsaka in 1:12 of the third round. Kohsaka wasn't able to take Rizzo down, and paid the price against the skilled kickboxer, who destroyed his leg with ferocious low kicks in what was said to have been a very exciting match. A flurry of punches put Kohsaka down and the match was stopped. Kohsaka appears to be paying the price for fighting such a difficult schedule this year and has been racked with injuries in the process.

7. Randleman captured the vacant UFC heavyweight title beating Williams via unanimous decision after going the 25:00 time limit. Williams dominated the first round, including knocking Randleman down and mounting him and throw in punches just before the bell to end the round. There are reports that Randleman was saved by the bell. However, Williams got tired and Randleman dominated the last four rounds, largely taking Williams down and holding him there, and keeping busy punching Williams while caught in the guard."

Observer Awards season approaches, and again Dave tries to navigate the murky waters of work/shoot as best he is able:

"Like last year, we need to clarify categories as to the term shooting. We have categories specifically for actual competitive matches, Shoot Fighter of the year and Shoot match of the year. All UFC, Pride, MMA, Pancrase and legitimate RINGS (as opposed to worked RINGS) matches are eligible for the shoot awards. Consideration for Shoot fighter of the year should be based entirely on participation and results of legitimate matches during the time frame and nothing else. Performance in shoot matches can be taken into consideration if relevant for the Wrestler of the Year award, since that award encompasses the entire pro wrestling world. That top award is for overall excellence in whatever craft your company is presenting and value to the promotion over the past year. However, Most Outstanding Wrestler is an award for the best worker, which inherently means anything that takes place during a shoot match is ineligible. There are people who do worked and shoot matches and could qualify for this award, but in that case, only their worked matches should be considered. Best Box Office draw is self explanatory adn work vs. shoot doesn't matter and anyone is eligible. Feud, Tag Team and Most Improved (since it's a working award) are all having to do with working and thus anything in a shoot shouldn't be taken into consideration. Best on Interviews has nothing to do with working or shooting although I can't imagine any non-workers being considered. Most Charismatic is open to everyone. Best technical wrestler and Bruiser Brody Award are meant within a worked environment, as are Most Overrated and Most Underrated. Best Promotion is open to everyone. Best Weekly TV is irrelevant to this discussion because at this point no shoot promotions have weekly TV. Match of the Year is open only to worked matches because shoot matches have their own category and it's unfair to compare one with the other. Rookie of the Year is open to anyone in the pro wrestling world as are TV announcers, and Best and Worst major cards, so shoot shows are eligible. The shoot awards should only be for performers who did shooting matches this year, and not for people like Ken Shamrock who have in the past but haven't this year."


"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Akira Maeda announced ten of the participants for the second part of the RINGS tournament on 12/22 at Osaka Furitsu Gym as Kiyoshi Tamura, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, Wataru Sakata, Gilbert Yvel, Volk Han, Bitsadze Tariel, Christopher Haseman, Joop Kasteel, Andrei Kopylov and Ricardo Fyeet (who should be a pro wrestler even though he hasn't done any worked matches here yet, just because he's got the look and charisma). This throws a lot of question marks into the tournament as Han, Tariel, Kasteel and Kopylov have done primarily works in this group (and with the exception of Han, who is past his prime, not good workers at that) and Tamura, who is skilled in shooting and the group's biggest star and its world heavyweight champion, still has to be protected in a shooting environment because of his size as has already been shown in the past when he wasn't protected. From the line-up, I almost sense there will be some 'protection.'" 

November 29, 1999:




of the "A" Block show from October:


10/28 RINGS: This was the "A" block of the Mega Battle tournament with the first two rounds in that block of an all-shoot event. One thing that should be noted when comparing this to typical RINGS, besides the obvious that the matches aren't worked, is that they changed he rules and allowed the fighters to wear grappling gloves and gloved fighters (and not all wore gloves) were allowed to punch to the face. I can't give a reason why some fighters didn't wear gloves, thus giving up their right to use closed fist head punches [it's so they can better græpple--ed.]. Punching was only legal to the head while standing, although you could punch the body with or without gloves on the round. 1. Lee Hasdell knocked out Arhmed Labazanov in 3:33 of the second round. First round didn't see much happen until Labazanov was getting an ankle lock right at the end of the round. Labazanov more ran out of gas in the second round, got punched in the face, and mentally quit. He did take a solid left kick to the face and didn't get up; 2. Renato Babalu beat Grom Zaza in 2:11 of the second round. Zaza is a past-his-prime great wrestler with the wrestling mentality. He was able to out wrestle Babalu in the fist round, and kept going for his one ankle submission, but Babalu was able to escape. In the second round, Babalu threw two hard punches to the shoulder and immediately seized a wristlock for the tap; 3. Iouri Kotchikin beat Allister Overeem via decision after two rounds. Unlike the previous two matches, this was mostly standing. They traded a lot of punches and both got tired about 2:00 in. One time Overeem threw him down and just let him up. Kotchikin hit a flurry late in the first round. Kotchikin took him down but Overeem got a near choke right at the bell. Overeem blocked a take down and got the top position in the second round. Most of the rest of the round saw them trade standing. Kotchikin won the decision, which he should have, but it was a competitive good match; 4. Antonio Nogueira beat Valentijn Overeem in 1:51. Nogueira went for a take down, but Overeem caught him in a near guillotine. Nogueira escaped, got the mount, and got a straight armbar for the submission. He looked very skilled out there; 5. Hiromitsu Kanehara beat Jeremy Horn via decision after the two five minute rounds. This was the best match on the show. Kanehara was really entertaining, showing better stand-up than Horn, even though he was giving up tremendous reach. He also showed more submission skill and some quick moves. Horn had more pure wrestling so it was always competitive. Kanehara dominated standing, tagging Horn until Horn took him down but was in the guard. Horn body punched, but Kanehara would dominate when they were standing up. Kanehara nearly got an ankle lock at the end of the round. In the second round, Kanehara scored again standing and Horn took him down. Horn threw hard body blows and kept his top position as Kanehara tired. Kanehara suddenly came back with a belly-to-belly suplex and went for a guillotine and Horn then nearly got a choke before time ran out. Kanehara won a majority decision (two judges voting for him, the third, who just happened to be Horn's promoter Monte Cox, calling it a draw). While it was close, he deserved the win; 6. Dan Henderson beat Gogitedze Bakouri in 2:17. Both were top-flight wrestlers with Bakouri having a 36-pound weight edge on the former U.S. Olympic team member. Bakouri had no stand up, so Henderson pretty calmly got thrown around by the bigger guy, but was never hurt. He then started dominating him with punches before throwing a knee to the belly. Bakouri didn't like taking real punches, so he tapped; 7. Ilioukhine Mikhail beat Justin McCulley in 4:48. Mikhail nearly got an ankle lock early. Mikhail is a 5-5 200 pound guy who is almost fearless against bigger guys even though his lack of reach and stand up skill makes him vulnerable. McCulley was better standing, but it wasn't a factor. Mikhail kept the match on the ground, where he was dominant, before getting the tap from an ankle lock; 8. Brad Kohler beat Yoshihisa Yamamoto in 1:57. Kohler got a huge pop, but it really wasn't for him coming out. They played "Iron Man" and everyone saw Road Warrior Animal, who was in Kohler's corner and went nuts. Kohler is a short human tank with good wrestling and a ridiculously hard punch when he connects. He took Yamamoto over in a belly-to-belly and pounded him with hard body punches that I believed broke a rib. Kohler went for his big punch to the head that looked to have nearly killed Steve Judson at the previous UFC (he wound up with a lingering headache and compound fracture of the jaw). He threw it with so much force that when Yamamoto moved and it didn't connect, he tumbled down forward and Yamamoto got his back. It could have been dangerous, but Kohler made a quick reversal, threw some hard body blows, and then, while still in Yamamoto's guard, basically gave him a neck crank for the tap out; 9. Babalu beat Hasdell via decision after two rounds. First round was fairly even. Babalu won the second round, spending a lot of time on top in the mount throwing body punches; 10. Nogueira beat Kotchikin in :40 with an armbar. Nogueira just got the move when the ref stopped it. Kotchikin seemed a little surprised since he didn't tap, but didn't argue the call either; 11. Henderson beat Kanehara via decision after two rounds. Kanehara ended up having the two best matches on the show. This ended up being very different than one would expect, being that Henderson is primarily a very good wrestler and Kanehara has a lot of kickboxing training. Kanehara appeared to be tired since he had a much tougher first round match. Henderson pounded on Kanehara with punches standing which was the last time you'd expect. Henderson got a yellow card for throwing a punch when Kanehara was on his knees. Kanehara wound up with a swollen face and bloody nose. Henderson tried a wristlock, but couldn't get it, and actually let him up and beat on him standing some more. In the second round, both were tired. Henderson was able to outwrestle Kanehara, who was still the more tired. On their feet this time, Kanehara tagged Henderson with a few shots before Henderson took him down. The judging was really weird here. Kanehara was only slightly more competitive in this fight than reading this description would indicate and clearly lost the fight. Nevertheless, two judges ruled it a draw and the third gave it to Henderson. Normally, that would be a majority draw. Because of the tournament needing someone to advance, Henderson won the decision. Kanehara complained about that ruling; 12. Mikhail beat Kohler in 2:16 with an armbar. After Kohler's strong showing and with Mikhail being a RINGS regular and better known in Japan, the fans were really into Mikhail, chanting his name. Kohler showboated standing, feeling real confident, particularly since Mikhail isn't much stand-up wise and the crowd was into him as a monster heel. Kohler didn't connect on his big punch, then went to shoot, but Mikhail sprawled. Kohler immediately reversed him. Mikhail from the bottom got an armbar, almost identical to the one Frank Shamrock got on Kevin Jackson in the UFC two years ago, and Kohler tapped."


"RINGS did announce 11 of the 16 fighters for the group B tournament of their World Mega Battle tourney, which takes place on 12/22 at Osaka Furitsu Gym. Conspicuous by his absence from the list is Kiyoshi Tamura, the group's current world heavyweight champion and biggest star. You can draw your own conclusions as to why they'd keep their biggest star out of their biggest money tournament in history. The biggest from a name value on the list is Renzo Gracie, who is still unbeaten in this style of fighting and in a non-weight class tournament would be giving up a lot. The others announced were Tim Lajcik (who fought in two recent UFC's, losing twice, once to a bigger wrestler and once to Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, but is an All-American Division II wrestler as well as a good boxer), Castillo Blanco of Brazil, Kohsaka, Wataru Sakata, Joop Kasteel, Volk Han, Bitsadze Tariel, Christopher Hazemann, Andrei Kopylov and Ricardo Fyeet. The final four from this tournament go into a tournament with Renato Babalu, Antonio Noguiera, Dan Henderson and Ilioukhine Mikhail in late February for an eight-man one-night tournament with the winner getting a $223,000 first prize."


"The Hook'n'Shoot promotion ran 11/6 in Evansville, IN at the Coliseum drawing its largest crowd ever--1,900-for a 20-match show headlined by Jeremy Horn against a local powerlifter with charisma named Jonathan Ivy, which Horn won. They also had an eight-man submission rules tournament won by Antonio Nogueira of Brazil, the same fighter who advanced to the finals of the RINGS tournament on 10/28. It was the largest crowd for any event in the building in more than three years."

December 5, 1999: 

Mitsuya Nagai report:

"Mitsuya Nagai, formerly with RINGS and shortly with K-1, has joined Battlarts."


" Apparently on 11/2, when speaking at a college, Akira Maeda said something to the effect that Pancrase was fake. This resulted in Pancrase either threatening or actually filing a libel lawsuit against him (I believe at this point it's only a threat). However, the word got out at this show, and Maeda grew up in Osaka and is something of a local hero there. There were a lot of threats made against Pancrase President Masami Ozaki by enraged fans, so Ozaki had Kengo Watanabe with him at all times at the show as his bodyguard and the Osaka police were called for extra crowd control at the card due to the threats. Apparently Yoshiki Takahashi wants to get at Maeda as well. Pancrase also announced some rule changes for next year, the main one being that fighters will be wearing gloves and that punching while standing will be legal. The sport has apparently evolved to where the slapping standing style is losing its interest in Japan, plus Pancrase without doing punches in their own style is having its fighters not fare well any longer in UFC-style competition

All the magazines had a ton of perfect photos of the Maeda-Anjoh incident since it took place right in front of photographers. Weekly Gong in the 12/2 issue had a perfect cover photo of Anjoh readying to throw the punch from behind to the side. From the photo, because of Maeda's reaction, it looks virtually impossible this was a work (the possibility of it being a work has been pretty well discounted everywhere once the police got involved so heavily) because if you know something is coming, you would automatically brace for it even if you shouldn't and it's clear as the punch comes he has no idea anything is coming. Maeda's eye swelled shut almost immediately and he had a hell of a cut and was left face down on the floor right in front of about two dozen witnesses."

In wild PRIDE news:

"There was a big pro wrestling angle this past week at the Dream Stage Entertainment press conference to announce its 1/30 Tokyo Dome show. They announced the tournament with the names already listed here. About 50 minutes into the press conference, Naoya Ogawa, "arrived late" throwing a tantrum (this is all pro wrestling from this point on). Ogawa challenged Nobuhiko Takada to a singles match (they need a match like that for a Dome show with a big angle). Ogawa said how the newspapers were already reporting the match taking place but that DSE hasn't told him. President Naohito Morishita announced that they would book Ogawa vs. Takada as a first round tournament match but then Ogawa would have to enter the tournament, which he said he didn't want to. Ogawa again said he wasn't interested in doing the tournament and attacked Takada with flowers until Igor Vovchanchin, Gary Goodridge and Kazunari Murakami all broke it up. Morishita after this again said they wanted Ogawa in the tournament. Helio Gracie, the father of Rickson, Royler and Royce and Brazilian fighting legend, was at the press conference and talked about Royler's loss to Kazushi Sakuraba, actually running down Sakuraba saying that the match shouldn't have been stopped as Royler could have held on for the last minute, and said he didn't consider it a great accomplishment to take 29 minutes to beat a man 20 kilos (44 pounds) lighter, saying he, at his age (he's 87) could still beat a man 20 kilos lighter."




of UFC Japan:

"The Pedro Rizzo vs. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka match to determine the No. 1 contender was an example of styles determining the outcome. Kohsaka is the better of the two on the ground, but Rizzo was good enough at avoiding takedowns and Kohsaka wasn't good enough at doing them, that the entire fight was on the feet, where Rizzo was stronger. Actually Kohsaka never even tried to take Rizzo down early. Rizzo started wearing on him with leg kicks, and Kohsaka's leg started looking real bad. Finally when Kohsaka went for the takedowns, Rizzo was able to sprawl away. Rizzo eventually decked Kohsaka, who then went for a take down and while going for it was met with a solid punch and was stunned and the match was stopped. The way they match up, at least initially, Rizzo probably couldn't stop Randleman from taking him down because Randleman has a stronger takedown, but Randleman probably won't be able to finish him on the ground unless he can cut him, which may mean a long fight and in long fights, conditioning often becomes the primary factor as opposed to which athlete has the dominant skill. Because of Kohsaka, of the paid attendance, it was largely a RINGS oriented fan base live."

December 12, 1999:

"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: RINGS held a press conference on 12/2 and Akira Maeda didn't attend. They said he was still suffering from headaches from the Yoji Anjoh incident. They announced the bracketing for the 12/22 Osaka Furitsu Gym second half of the tournament. Matches are Andrei Kopylov vs. Castello Branco (a Brazilian who I've never seen before), Ricardo Fyeet (a real entertaining Dutch fighter who is not going to last in the tournament but has great charisma) vs. Tyrone Roberts (younger brother of former UFC fighter Andre Roberts, and said to be the better fighter of the two, and with more ground fighting experience should be the favorite here), Volk Han vs. Joe Slick (who is coming off a UFC Japan win over Jason DeLucia and is much younger, but is giving up 30 pounds against a legit but aging submission expert), Wataru Sakata vs. Renzo Gracie (it looks like the idea here is to set up a Gracie vs. Han match, which would be interesting for Japan although Han would have 40 pounds on Gracie. Han, 38, who is super in submission and in his prime was an incredible worker but he's a few years past that now, hasn't fought a true shoot match with striking allowed in years, if in fact he ever has as his true sports background was as a sambo world champion which is a non-striking sport), Bitsadze Tariel vs. Gilbert Yvel (looks on paper to be very entertaining as Yvel is a great kickboxer and Tariel, who also never does shoot matches with this group, is going to have a 100 pound weight advantage), Tsuyoshi Kohsaka vs. Christopher Hazemann (if Kohsaka wins, it'll likely set up his third meeting this year with Yvel but I'm really concerned about Kohsaka fighting two fights in a row so close to taking the beating from Pedro Rizzo on 11/14 after all the beatings he's taken this year including a real tough fight with Yvel the first time and breaking his wrist against Yvel the second time), Boris Jeliaskov vs. Tim Lacjik (an interesting battle as both are good wrestlers of about the same size, Lacjik will be the better striker but Jeliaskov may have better conditioning, but this is a 10:00 time limit) and Kiyoshi Tamura vs. UFC lightweight champ Pat Miletich. Tamura will probably go in with about a ten pound weight edge, which is rare as he's never bigger than his opponent. Miletich is a very good all-around fighter. Either way, if it's a shoot, the Tamura-Miletich winner is going to be giving a way a ton of weight to whomever they face in the second round and it's almost a no-win for Tamura. If he wins, he beats a smaller guy. If he loses, he's lost to a smaller guy who fights as a lightweight and he's RINGS' world heavyweight champion so it makes their title, which is a worked belt, look really bad, especially if he's unable to get out of the first round of the tournament. That's the problem with booking real shoot tournaments because you can't protect your drawing cards very well (you can up to a point but eventually in a 32-man tourney you can't). In many ways, this is really intriguing because there are guys who have been predominately pro wrestlers in a tournament against guys who have never done pro wrestling. The first tournament on 10/28 certainly didn't look at all fishy but the jury is out until after this one is over. If Tamura loses to Miletich, it won't be good for business and that has to be a consideration."

December 20, 1999:

"The RINGS tournament finals was announced as being 2/26 at Budokan Hall. They also have the annual all shoot show from Amsterdam, Holland on 2/6 which will include Yasuhito Namekawa vs. Valentijn Overeem and Willie Peeters vs. Hiromitsu Kanehara."

December 27, 1999:

"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: There have been a few changes in the RINGS tournament on 12/22. Pat Miletich is officially out and will be replaced by David Menne, who is a very tough 170 pound guy, in a first round match against Kiyoshi Tamura. They also pulled out the Volk Han vs. Joe Slick match, claiming a leg injury to Han. That match has been replaced by Maurice Smith vs. Brandon Lee Hinkle (a national calibre amateur wrestler). The Smith-Hinkle winner would then face the Renzo Gracie-Wataru Sakata winner in the second round which also takes place that night. The fact Han was pulled out gives credence to the idea this tournament will be a complete shoot, just as the first tournament was. The idea they had a fighter with the name power of Smith to replace Han also says that more likely than not, the leg injury was a cover story to get Han out. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka returned to Japan on 12/18 for the show still suffering from the eye injury from the UFC match against Pedro Rizzo."

January 10, 2000:

"The mixed promotional angle, the very thing that New Japan has specialized in for nearly three decades, looks back in the forefront as representatives from WCW (J.J. Dillon and Paul Orndorff) and RINGS (Akira Maeda) along with Nobuhiko Takada all met with New Japan management in conjunction with the company's biggest show of the year 1/4 at the Tokyo Dome.

The five hour show, billed as "Tokyo Dome 2000," which drew a sellout 63,500 fans, good for the No. 15 spot on the all-time list (no gate was announced but we're told people who usually get comp tickets weren't given them so it wasn't seriously papered), was said to have been a big success and already set up several angles for Dome shows planned for both April and October. As in past years, the 1/4 date was able to sellout based on annual tradition, as there was no match with huge ticket selling impact on the show with a main event where Kensuke Sasaki was crowned IWGP heavyweight champion pinning Genichiro Tenryu.

Maeda, Takada and Atsushi Onita were all advertised to be part of the show, the former two because of the retirement of Kazuo Yamazaki, which both had long histories working with dating back to the early 80s. Onita never appeared at the show before the crowd, but did an angle outside the building where he challenged Riki Choshu (who also never appeared before the crowd during the show) to an empty arena match after the show was over and the crowd left. Finally after ten minutes, a New Japan official came out and said that it wasn't going to happen, but it is still a match they are building for one of the Dome shows later in the year.

Another match strongly hinted at was Sasaki to defend the title against Takada on the April Dome show. This was originally scheduled for 8/28 at Jingu Baseball Stadium in Tokyo but Takada bowed out and New Japan was so upset at the way he backed out that it was said the two sides would never work together. After the show, Takada was asked about the proposed match with Sasaki and he said it was 50/50 whether it would take place and he'd wrestle this year on big shows for New Japan.

In addition, Maeda, Antonio Inoki and Tatsumi Fujinami had a meeting where Maeda proposed a New Japan vs. RINGS program. Two other RINGS native stars, its world champion Kiyoshi Tamura and also Hiromitsu Kanehara (he worked with New Japan in 1995-96 in the New Japan vs. UWFI feud) were also at the show as part of the Yamazaki retirement ceremony.

The WCW influence at the show were Dillon and Orndorff as management and wrestlers Chris Benoit, Rick Steiner and Randy Savage. Benoit, wrestling as Wild Pegasus, with Dillon and Orndorff at ringside with Brad Rheingans watching; lost to Hiroyoshi Tenzan in one of the better matches on the show, but later they were building up a match with Pegasus & Jushin Liger challenging IWGP jr. tag champs Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Shinjiro Otani for later in the year. At one point Benoit had tried to propose a match on this show where he would challenge Bret Hart for the WCW title, but WCW turned down the suggestion. Steiner pinned Savage in what was reported as the worst match on the show, although they did throw in an American comedy spot involving TV announcer and former wrestler Masa Saito. A video of Bill Goldberg, showing a tape of him elbowing the car window from Salisbury, MD and doing an interview where he showed his 40 stitches and apologized for not being at the show but said that he would wrestle for New Japan later in the year."

From a state-of-the-industry-type recap of 1999:

"The era of shoot style pro wrestling seems to be dead. With the plethora of real shooting, the once super popular UWF-style, that did massive business in the late 80s and early 90s, is just about gone, particularly with RINGS seeming going more and more toward being a shoot promotion, as only the small Battlarts group still does the concept. Since fans have seen real shooting, the idea of worked shoots, which actually was an exciting and successful form of pro wrestling in its day, seems to have run its course. The problem is, it is very difficult over the long haul to keep a shooting promotion going strong. The drawing cards lose their ability in the ring due to injuries long before they peak as draws. Usually once they start drawing, they get over booked and physically burn out. Promoting of shooting successfully is more like boxing in the U.S. than pro wrestling, in that if you can build to a dream match, you can make good money. But only a few people are truly draws.

RINGS had its TV money cut back on and this all-shoot tournament may be very interesting to the small martial arts audience, but RINGS is nowhere near the level of popularity it was when it was really pro wrestling. Pancrase is left with nothing but the hardcores. Its draws are physically finished and its younger guys who are its best fighters aren't big enough to be the dreaded "toughest man" that has drawing power nor do they have general public names. The biggest success as a company by the end of the year was DSE, but that was largely through using pro wrestlers like Naoya Ogawa and Nobuhiko Takada as draws before finally getting Kazushi Sakuraba over with his win over Royler Gracie. But that company seems to be looking, after booking two Tokyo Domes early next year for shoot shows, at WWF as its future partner."

Business specifics:

"As would be expected, the category of shoot style pro wrestling went into a pretty noticeable decline in 1999. RINGS actually went up in average, but that's misleading, as in 1998 it ran 13 shows and averaged 5,665 fans per event while in 1999 it ran ten shows and averaged 6,105 (on a per event average, RINGS would have finished behind only WWF on a world wide pro wrestling basis). However, that average is skewed by the Akira Maeda vs. Alexander Karelin match and if you take that out of the picture the per show average is down to 4,890 which would put it behind New Japan and maybe put it behind WCW as well. Pancrase dropped from 15 shows averaging 3,585 per show to 14 shows averaging 2,954. Battlarts went from averaging 823 per show to 660 and as a whole the genre of shoot style wrestling dropped 25.3% for the year and that's with RINGS having a higher percentage of real matches than ever before and Pancrase being basically totally shoot all year."

January 17, 2000:

"Kazuyuki Fujita, who had the match with Kimo at the Dome show, is also off the tour. Fujita, a powerhouse former national champion freestyle wrestler, will supposedly be doing shows for RINGS and Pride as a New Japan rep to make a reputation there before bringing him back into pro wrestling with the idea if he can beat people legit, he can occupy the "shooter" spot and be a top draw as a tough guy like Hashimoto was in the 90s. He leaves this week for Seattle to train under Maurice Smith and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka and will face Hanse Nyman, a former pro wrestler from RINGS, in the first round of the 1/30 Pride tournament at the Tokyo Dome."


1. SHINJIRO OTANI (105) 799
2. Chris Benoit (118) 720
3. Kiyoshi Tamura (86) 625
4. Koji Kanemoto (57) 496
5. Minoru Tanaka (25) 409
6. Dean Malenko (30) 404
7. Yoshihiro Tajiri (11) 166
8. Volk Han (10) 145
Bret Hart (5) 145
10. Kendo Ka Shin (2) 137

6-11 TOKYO (221) 1,285
2. Edge & Christian vs. Hardy Boys 10-17 Cleveland (114) 940
3. Bret Hart vs. Chris Benoit 10-4 Kansas City (40) 488
4. Misawa & Ogawa vs. Kobashi & Akiyama 3-6 Tokyo (38) 339
5. Steve Austin vs. Rock 4-25 Hartford (24) 242
6. Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Toshiaki Kawada 1-22 Osaka (14) 230
7. Misawa & Ogawa vs. Kobashi & Akiyama 10-23 Nagoya (15) 220
8. Otani & Takaiwa vs. Tanaka & Kanemoto 10-11 Tokyo (2) 158
9. Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Yoshihisa Yamamoto 6-24 Tokyo (14) 157
10. Juventud Guerrera vs. Blitzkrieg 4-11 Tacoma (16) 152

2. New Japan 10-11 Tokyo Dome (61) 507
3. WWF No Mercy 10-17 Cleveland (75) 485
4. WWF Wrestlemania 3-28 Philadelphia (42) 467
5. WCW Spring Stampede 4-11 Tacoma (59) 446
6. WWF SummerSlam 8-22 Minneapolis (42) 381
7. All Japan 5-2 Tokyo Dome (25) 314
8. Gaea 4-4 Yokohama (35) 269
9. All Japan 6-11 Tokyo Budokan (26) 235
10. Gaea 9-15 Yokohama (14) 215

Honorable Mention: All Japan Anniversary show 10-30 Tokyo 205, ECW November to Remember 11-7 Buffalo 129, WWF St. Valentine's Day Massacre 128, WWF Backlash 4-25 Hartford 102, ECW Heat Wave 7-18 Dayton 91, RINGS 6-24 Tokyo 88, New Japan 5-3 Fukuoka 86, New Japan 8-15 G-1 Climax tournament finals 86, ECW Guilty as Charged 1-10 Kissimmee, FL 78, WWF Royal Rumble 1-24 Anaheim 72, Arsion 4-24 Yokohama 70, ECW Living Dangerously 5-16 Poughkeepsie 66, New Japan 4-10 Tokyo Dome 61

2. Kazushi Sakuraba 110
3. Tito Ortiz 19
4. Wallid Ismail 18
5. Bas Rutten 14
6. Semmy Schiltt 8
7. Gilbert Yvel 6

2. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Royler Gracie 11-21 Tokyo 40
3. Gilbert Yvel vs. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka 4-23 Osaka 19
4. Royce Gracie vs. Wallid Ismail 12-17-98 Rio 18
5. Bas Rutten vs. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka 1-8 New Orleans 14
6. Frank Shamrock vs. Kiyoshi Tamura 4-23 Osaka 13

January 24, 2000:

"MMA: In a match to determine the best under-170 pound fighter in the world in the main event of the 1/15 World Extreme Fighting show in Rome GA, Brazil's Jose Pele Landy dominated UFC lightweight champion Pat Miletich in 8:00, winning when Miletich didn't answer the bell for the second round. Miletich, who went into the match with a bad back, was dominated and hammered the entire first round. The WEF show drew a sellout 3,000 fans, but apparently promoter Jamie Levine's financial backer said he was pulling out after this show which leaves him having to look for backing. Shooto's Hayato Sakurai, who was considered with Miletich and Landy as one of the best three fighters in the world in that weight class, challenged Landy after the match. In the semifinal on a 15-match, five hour show saw Laverne Clarke dominate John Lewis enroute to a 24:00 unanimous decision in what was described as a boring fight. Two of the RINGS tournament final eight appeared, both winning. Rodrigo Nogueira of Brazil took a 24:00 unanimous decision over Jeremy Horn, by virtue of scoring several take downs. Renato Babalu of Brazil knocked out sometime pro wrestler Brad Kohler at :55 of the second round when Kohler shot in for a take down, Babalu sprawled to avoid it, and with Kohler's head low, he basically soccer kicked him in what looked really dangerous at the time. The main rule difference between this show and UFC was the allowance of kicking on the ground. That does change the fight, and in many ways makes for a more exciting fight, but the Kohler finish was just too scary visually to not cause more problems then it's worth. Kohler had UFC matchmaker John Peretti as his corner man. John McCarthy wound up refereeing in three of the matches on this show."

January 31, 2000:




"12/22 RINGS: This was the second all-shoot Super Mega Battle tournament show. This was a pretty dynamic show with all of the quick finishes. The one thing this show brought out about the tournament fighting is that much of the second round had already been decided by who had easy and who had hard matches in the first round. The guys who went the distance in the first round all clearly had little left coming out for a second fight. This will be more of a factor on 2/26 at Budokan Hall when they do an eight-man, one-night tournament which will require the finalists to have three matches, all most likely against quality opponents, to win. 1. Andrei Kopylov beat Castello Branco in :16 with a kneebar. Kopylov made a great move immediately dropping into the kneebar and Branco, the two-time Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world superheavyweight champion, was injured in the process. Kopylov looked to have trimmed down a lot from his usual pro wrestling weight, but was announced at 266 pounds to Branco's 222 and there did look to be a 40 pound difference. With Kopylov's size, speed on the ground and submission knowledge, he's going to be awfully tough unless the opponent can keep the match on their feet; 2. Ricardo Fyeet beat Tyrone Roberts in :09 of the second round. Both were the same size (Fyeet was 207, Roberts 209). Roberts, whose brother Andre has been in UFC and has wrestled independently in the Midwest, had no chance standing. Roberts took the charismatic kickboxer down twice in the first round, but later in the round Fyeet dropped Roberts with a left kick to the head. With Fyeet standing, Roberts managed to grab onto his leg and take him down again, and even mounted him before Fyeet rolled him. In the second round, right out of the box, Fyeet knocked Roberts out with a left roundhouse kick to the head as Roberts was going for a takedown. Roberts had to be carried out on a stretcher; 3. Maurice Smith won a very close decision over Brandon Lee (Brandon Lee Hinkle, who went all the way to the U.S. Olympic trials in Greco-roman wrestling in 1996). Smith held a slight weight edge, 223 to 211. This fight was not what one would expect. Smith, all things considered, was really impressive on the ground in getting some near submissions and several times reversing a top calibre wrestler. However, most of the match was on the ground and Smith only scored one serious leg kick and his best strategy in a fight like this would be to remain standing and leg kick the leg power away from the wrestler and avoid take downs later in the fight and then use his kickboxing skills to chip away standing. Hinkle got a takedown but Smith actually reversed him. Hinkle got another takedown and went for a headlock, but Smith wriggled free and got a side mount and started going for submissions. Hinkle reversed and got a mount of his own and started throwing body punches (hitting the face from the mount was illegal, which changes the strategy of a fight and makes getting a mount less important than in a UFC match). After a break, Hinkle took him down again and Smith reversed him again. In the second round, Hinkle once again took Smith down. After a stand-up, they ended up back on the ground reversing each other and Hinkle then got another takedown. Smith gave up his back to go for a kneebar but didn't get it. Hinkle went for a choke but Smith reversed him. Hinkle got two more take downs before the second round ended. Smith got the decision, and he was far more aggressive in going for submissions while on his back and got several reversals. But still, Hinkle took Smith down time after time, but wasn't able to follow that up to do any serious damage so a case could be made for it being a draw. Smith getting the decision was something of a gift; 4. Renzo Gracie beat Wataru Sakata in 1:25. Sakata is a RINGS regular and had a 197 to 176 eight edge. Gracie still managed to take down the larger pro wrestler and kept moving from one move to another before getting the armbar. Gracie looked really impressive here; 5. Gilbert Yvel beat Bitsdaze Tariel in 2:18. Tariel, a former world heavyweight champion pro wrestler with this promotion, was totally exposed here. Even though as a worker he's probably of Jim Duggan or worse caliber, the company pushed him because of his huge size and he did have some karate credentials in Russia when he was younger. It didn't help that he came in at 341 pounds, his fattest ever, and was completely out of shape to Yvel's 226. Yvel, a very good kickboxer, was way too quick for him standing but Tariel's size did allow him to absorb the blows. He bearhugged Yvel and tried to take him down, and finally did. But Yvel escaped and got right back up. Yvel missed a kick and went down, and Tariel landed on him, but Yvel quickly reversed him and got a mount. Tariel at that size on his back was like a helpless turtle, and Yvel maneuvered him into the armbar for the submission; 6. In easily the best match on the show, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka beat Christopher Haseman via decision after 15:00. Kohsaka came in at 224 to Haseman's 215. This was similar to the Kohsaka vs. Pete Williams UFC match in Japan in 1998 in that technically it was an awesome ground display by both men that a lot of fans wouldn't understand. Fortunately, this match was in Japan and the fans understood and appreciated it. Kohsaka was clearly not himself and he's taken far too many beatings this year against the likes of Bas Rutten, Pedro Rizzo and Yvel. He was actually a favorite to win the entire tournament and as it turned out, he was lucky to get out of the first round against an opponent that on paper he should have had no trouble with. In the first round, Haseman put Kohsaka down with a side kick. Both men were going from move to move on the ground and looking for submissions and coming close the entire round. Haseman tried a scissors take down in the second round but Kohsaka sprawled, landed on top and controlled him. When they were put back up, Haseman connected with a kick but was immediately taken down. Haseman also connected with a good punch. Kohsaka went for an armbar just before the bell. It was ruled a draw. It was close enough that perhaps that could be justified, but Haseman seemed to deserve a close decision. This sent it into an overtime 5:00. Kohsaka controlled Haseman on the ground and nearly got a guillotine at the bell. Kohsaka clearly won the overtime round and got the decision; 7. Borislav Jeliaskov beat Tim Lacjik in 2:23. Jeliaskov was 214, and is a very good wrestler from Bulgaria. Lacjik, 220, is from Northern California. He has boxing experience and was a good college wrestler (Division II All-American), but not in Jeliaskov's league. Lacjik made him look bad standing before they ended up on the ground. Lacjik got a yellow card for punching him on the ground. Jeliaskov got a yellow for a heel hook. They were scrambling on the ground and Jeliaskov wound up with a choke. Lacjik waited too long to tap and it looked dangerous for a few seconds but he was okay. This looked like a match that could have gone either way but Jeliaskov just got the move; 8. Kiyoshi Tamura beat Dave Menne via unanimous decision after two rounds. Tamura came in at 193 while Menne was 197. Tamura came in wearing gloves for the first time in his career and in just coming to the ring in a more wide open rules situation seemed to have a different attitude. In the first round, Tamura decked Menne with a left and went to the ground. Late in the round, Menne connected on a few punches but Tamura was throwing kicks at the end of the round. With the knockdown, it was clearly Tamura's round. Second round opened with a hot slugfest. Menne took Tamura down twice. Tamura reversed him and got a full mount but didn't do much there. At the end of the round, Tamura connected with some solid punches and when they ended up on the ground, was going for an armbar when the bell rang. He easily should have won the decision; 9. Kopylov beat Fyeet in :08. Fyeet, the experienced kickboxer, walked right into a punch, and as they both went to the ground, Kopylov got him in an ankle lock. Really, Kopylov looked scary awesome on the ground; 10. Gracie beat Smith in :50 (not 20 seconds as has been widely reported in U.S. news reports on the fight). Smith didn't' have it after his tough first round match and that was clear really even before the match started, and Gracie was fresh. Gracie took Smith down and went from move to move on the ground before getting him to tap. Another impressive showing by Gracie, but at 176 pounds, he'll be at a big disadvantage in having three fights in one night on 2/26; 11. Yvel beat Kohsaka in just 1:17 in their third match of the year. This was the same story as the previous match. Yvel had an easy first round match and Kohsaka had the hardest first round match of any winner. Yvel blocked a takedown and hit a knee. Kohsaka got a takedown but they wound up in the ropes. As Kohsaka went for another takedown, Yvel hit a punch, which actually just grazed Kohsaka, but the glove ripped the skin off his forehead and he was bleeding like crazy. The cut was not in a dangerous position (it was similar to Frank Shamrock's cut against Tito Ortiz) but it was a ton of blood and Kohsaka seemed exhausted to begin with. He seemed to want out at this point and the match was stopped; 12. Tamura beat Jeliaskov in 1:17 of the second round. Tamura didn't wear gloves this time out. Jeliaskov appeared too big for Tamura even though Tamura is more skilled standing. Probably exhaustion played a factor since Tamura had the tougher first round match. This was similar in that way to the Hiromitsu Kanehara vs. Dan Henderson fight on the last show, where Kanehara should have killed him standing, but since he had a much tougher first round match and was tired, Henderson dominated the stand-up). Tamura was getting clobbered standing. Both guys were tired as the round wore on. In the second round, they were rolling on the mat and Tamura got a choke. You could see he was thrilled because he was exhausted by this point." 


"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: The bracketing was announced for the final eight of the RINGS King of Kings tournament on 2/26 at Budokan Hall. The first round will be Andrei Kopylov vs. Rodrigo Nogueira (an even battle since both won their first two matches with quick submissions), Gilbert Yvel vs. Dan Henderson (Yvel should go in with 25-30 pound weight edge and is much stronger standing so should be a heavy favorite), Ilioukhine Mikhail vs. Renato Babalu and Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Renzo Gracie (the marquee match which is fair because they are the two smallest of the final eight). There will also be two other matches on the show, one with Volk Han vs. Bobby Hoffman (Extreme Challenge heavyweight champion) and the other may be with Brad Kohler if he's okay after his knockout loss on 1/15."


"Akira Maeda returned from attending the WEF show in Rome, GA on 1/15 and said that RINGS would be opening up an American office in Los Angeles to promote shows in the United States. They are doing an angle where Maeda is mad at Antonio Inoki because he wanted Kazuyuki Fujita of New Japan to appear on RINGS shows but instead he's going with UFO."

February 7, 2000:

"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Maeda announced that RINGS should be running its first show in the United States this summer as part of a tournament, although he's been talking on-and-off about doing a show in the U.S. going back ten years. Maeda also said he had a meeting with SEG about the RINGS people being part of future UFC shows and both groups working out a talent exchange. According to the SEG side, that is more Japanese pub than anything. Maeda, who was in the U.S. two weeks ago for the WEF show in Rome, GA, flew to New York and dropped by the SEG offices but no actual negotiations for anything really took place."

February 14, 2000:

"As mentioned here weeks back, RINGS officially announced 2/26 at Budokan Hall as a non-tournament match a bout with Bobby Hoffman, the Extreme Challenge heavyweight champion, against Volk Han."

February 28, 2000:

"They are pushing that Road Warrior Animal will return to Japan on 2/26 for the RINGS show at Budokan Hall as Brad Kohler's second in his match with Chris Haseman. Kohler was originally to face Volk Han but I guess this was going to be a shoot and Han is a little old for that nowadays. I don't think Han has ever done a shoot in RINGS, but he did appear in a sambo wrestling world championship tournament once in Japan and he was submitting everyone in like 30 seconds. Both Hiromitsu Kanehara and Yoshihisa Yamamoto, who will be accompanied by Akira Maeda, will be representing RINGS at the World Submission championships from 3/1 to 3/3 in Abu Dhabai."

AND THERE WE HAVE IT and yes that was vastly too much from the Observer, wasn't it, but we are about to be totally out of things from the Observer after I think one more show, so gather ye davequotes while ye may, probably. Thank you for your attention to these matters of import! Let's talk again soon!


  1. To be fair to Renzo, he didn't name search, TOM tagged him into the conversation

    1. Thank you Cory I will correct this (vital historical record) *immediately*.