April 20, 2001 in Tokyo, Japan
Yoyogi Gym drawing 3,670
BEFORE WE PROPERLY BEGIN today I would like to note that at the very end of the WORLD MEGA-BATTLE OPEN TOURNAMENT KING OF KINGS 2000 GRAND FINAL broadcast, a ten-minute piece called RINGS GRAPPLER FILE followed on WOWOW, perhaps because the main event was so brief? That is of course mere speculation. But what we have is first a nice low-key profile of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira looking fit as hekk at the beach before græppling under the ever-watchful eye of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Pope (I am sticking with that, I love it [it's not mine]) Mario Sperry and then enjoying a soccer match and cheering for a goal. Next, Randy Couture dons a pretty nice plaid shirt whilst skeet shooting (I have only done this in Duck Hunt when I was a child at other people's houses) before Team Questing and then coaching a kids' wrestling club. At home, he is hugged by a wife who should be warned. Now it is Volk Han who runs through the winter woods and wrestles a dog. He has three children and a lovely wife and he plays the piano! At the office he wears a sharp suit, then he goes and trains with his RINGS Russia friends like Mikhail Ilioukhine and Fedor Emelianenko. Valentijn Overeem has a huge pet snake and collects Tweety Bird ephemera, I think? He goes through a Sobey's bag of VHS tapes with Chris Dolman, which is always how it starts in my dreams. Then he swims at a pool. Dave Menne likes to play video games and coach children in mixed martial arts, which is an objectively bad thing for children to be coached in. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka and Maurice Smith enjoy their day together at Maurice Smith's gym in Seattle whilst "Sleep Now in the Fire" plays atop the footage and I am pretty sure I see a young Josh(u) Barnett(o) (he's huge) as TK stretches-out and limbers-up. The final image we are blessed with in this lovely vignette is of Tsuyoshi Kohsaka enjoying the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest as, in deep incongruity, "Sleep Now in the Fire" continues unabated. This was great!
AND WITH THAT WE LEAVE BEHIND THE WORLD MEGA-BATTLE OPEN TOURNAMENT KING OF KINGS 2000 and move forward into a bold new era of even more tournaments as I think there are no fewer than two eight-man ones to be contested over the course of the RINGS 10th ANNIVERSARY WORLD TITLE SERIES? A middleweight one and a heavyweight one? With the dividing line betwixt these categories falling really very sensibly at 90 kg? It is also entirely possible and indeed likely that I am misunderstanding things despite the best efforts of Kenichi Takayanagi and, joining him as always from Gong Kakutogi (the final issue of which has shipped from Japan! I await it eagerly! and yet sombrely), Hideyuki Kumakubo (I could be misunderstanding that, as well, his name, I mean) and Hiromitsu Kanehara as well this time. Ah yes well here is a graphic:
"Then all is perfectly clear" you might then say but how would you reconcile that assertion with the tournament brackets available from the venerable prowrestlinghistory.com which suggest only middleweight and heavyweight tournaments find themselves conducted throughout the course of this WORLD TITLE SERIES? It is all quite perplexing! We will do our best to follow along as best we can (what more can be asked of any of us) and catch-as-catch-can so to speak and trust in this WOWOW presentation. One thing I think we can say with a fair measure of certainty about this (or indeed these?) tournament(s?) (setting aside broader epistemological concerns that render even this tentative assertion absurd) is that the spirited and admirably waza-rich opening time-limit draw between Jiro Wakabayashi and Naoyuki Kotani (of RODEO STYLE) is probably not a part of either or any of them. But maybe I am mistaken about that as well! I would ask again for both your indulgence and your forgiveness, as has become customary in these pages and yet no less sincere a plea for all that. There can be no question even for an instant that this bout was anything but hard-fought kakutogi, but its function is identical to that of the shoot-style opening match draws that we have enjoyed (how oft, how oft, how often) throughout our long time of RINGS together.
OH I SEE OKAY the reason "light weight" appeared in blue text in the graphic I posted earlier was merely to indicate the division in which the Wakabayashi/Kotani bout was to be contested and is no way a reflection of whether or not it had anything to do with a tournament; I say this with some confidence because before our next match between Yasuhito Namekawa and Wataru Imamura, it is "middle weight" that appears in blue instead. This is good; I am learning (I think). This one, which I have no cause to think is a tournament match either, ends in but 1:48 as Namekawa hiza-juji knee-bars his way out of Imamura's niju-garami double entanglement with considerable (one might even say ample) vigour.
AH ALRIGHT HERE COMES FEDOR and if this isn't a tournament bout I will eat my hat, specifically the broad-brimmed oilskin brown one that has a low-key wizarding aspect about it without straining overly after wizarding effect (or affect); I think of it, at times, as Hatagast. The graphic indicates that this match is unsurprisingly a heavyweight one as it sees Fedor Emelianenko, who is big, against (the not-yet-jailed-Monte-Cox's) Kerry "Meat Truck" Schall, who is an awful lot bigger (Schall acknowledges as much in his pre-fight interview). I had forgotten that in his early matches, Fedor came out to "Breathe" by The Prodigy, probably the best of those Prodigy singles that were all hits but that have not aged especially well? Holy cow, Kerry Schall is 129kg to Fedor's 103kg, so that's 283 lbs to 227. Hey did you know that Kerry Schall's final (let us pray) fight came in 2013 in the (essentially perfect) Inoki Genome Federation against genuinely baffling All-Japan/2008 Olympic Judo Champion Satoshi Ishii? It's true! Ishii won by ude-garami. BUT TO RETURN TO 2001 let us note that wild punches are exchanged at once, and Schall, though super tough, immediately has about him the air of a man who cannot believe how hard he has just been hit. Fedor puts the much larger man to the mat with a 支釣込足 sasae tsurikomi ashi (propping drawing ankle block) motion, and comes awfully close with a juji-gatame (Matt Hughes, in Schall's corner, seems concerned, and rightly so). After a stand-up, Fedor tackles Schall down again, attempts kata-ashi-hishigi straight-ankle-locks a couple of ways, and just slides up for a juji-gatame to end it at 1:47. He did very well! And the people love him. Also he is so much faster than anyone else to have competed at heavyweight in this sport so far.
It sure will be dark to see him probably lose this weekend to a guy who was on The Ultimate Fighter! But sixteen years is a long time; a long time of worsening.
I HAVE CRACKED THE CODE and can now totally tell for sure when a match is a tournament one because the unbelievably high-level RINGS ring announcer (his work is unrivaled) says tournamentooooo during the introductions. It's easy! And so this Jeremy Horn/Yuri Bekichev match, we now know pretty much for sure, is a middleweight tournament one that Jeremy Horn wins by arm-triangle of 肩固 kata-gatame (literally "shoulder hold") in but fifty seconds. "Arm triangle, is it there?" Matt Hughes asks from the corner when it seems that it might be; "kata-gatame!" Kenichi Yamamoto calls at once when it proves to be. It is such a great hold.
Bobby Hoffman, who grows ever nearer his conviction for heinous crimes, defeats Ryushi Yanagisawa by decision in their heavyweight tournament match.
And so all that remains on this day is for KIYOSHI TAMURA to meet the journeyman (eventual journeyman; here he was really just staring to journey) "Gustavo Ximu," otherwise known as Gustavo Machado, in the opening round of the eight-man middleweight tournament whose parameters we have pretty much figured out (probably). This contest begins in kicking but one does not expect it to end there. Ximu in fact chops Tamura down with a well-placed one (a kick) but does not pursue him to the ground; he waits for him to rise. How strange! Is not Machado's way that of græppling, specifically of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? I do not know his work and cannot comment as to the quality of his striking and indeed I cannot really comment as the quality of anyone's striking ever (I have very little idea what I am watching) but I am surprised to see the extent to which, in the opening minutes, Ximu seems inclined towards kickboxing. When on the mat, neither fighter does much of anything, and Ximu makes no effort to pass. This match is so far not very good! Perhaps the second round will prove more rousing? Ximu counters a low kosoto-gake minor-outer-hook with a form of uchi-mata, so that's a good start! I should note that Tamura has elected to go gloveless, so that he might better græpple (I support this). Hey he just tried a scissor sweep! It didn't work but I admire his attempt at this fundamental attack from the hikikomi position. On the whole though this is pretty flat! Tamura grimaces his way through the final stages of the match on I think a bad knee maybe? I can't tell, but something hurts, I think. Ximu take the split decision win (the crowd loudly jeers Akira Maeda's score that has it a draw) and I guess I would say that between losing and losing in a way that was not especially engaging, this is maybe Kiyoshi Tamura's poorest RINGS performance, work or shoot?
He leaves the ring abruptly and then awkwardly re-enters to bow deeply in the four cardinal directions in the way we have come to expect of him but yes this was really just really poor.
BUT THE TOURNAMENT ROLLS ON REGARDLESS AT LEAST IF IT TURNS OUT THAT THERE IS ONE (A TOURNAMENT) AND WE ARE FOLLOWING IT CORRECTLY and there is only way to find out for sure and that is for us to reconvene tomorrow to see. I thank you once more, as ever, for your attention to these matters, and for your time.
LET US TURN IN THE SPACE BELOW TO THE ARCHIVED WORDS OF DAVE MELTZER FOR CLARITY ONCE THEY ARE AVAILABLE TO US BUT HIS ARCHIVE LAGS BEHIND OUR JOURNEY AND SO FOR NOW WE WAIT.