Sunday, June 4, 2017

RINGS 8/19/99: RISE 5th

Rise 5th
August 19, 1999 in Yokohama, Japan
Bunka Gym drawing 4,670




AS I YÆRD-WORKED TODAY MY MIND WANDERED BRIEFLY FROM THE EARTHILY PLEASANT TASKS BEFORE ME and towards the Fighting Network we called RINGS throughout the shoot-style 90s, and specifically towards this question: did the referees, be they the Ryogaku Wada of yore or the Yuji Shimada or even yorer, know the finishes? Or were they to call the shoot-style matches entirely as though they were shoots? Clearly there was a degree of calling it as though it were a straight shoot, in that every time anyone was shoot kicked in the dikk a yellow card was assessed, whether the match was itself a shoot or, as in the cases we are wondering about here together, shoot-style. They seemingly did not play around with that aspect of things (how could you). But one wonders if they needed to know the finish so they did not, say, mistakenly charge someone with a match-ending two-point deduction where the planned finish was something else entirely but a guy slipped? The point system actually makes this, to me, a pretty intriguing question. I would ask Dave Meltzer, but the last time I asked him a question about RINGS, specifically about how weird it was that Kiyoshi Tamura and Yoshihisa Yamamoto had the only shoot in the entire 1996 Mega-Battle Tournament, his answer was that yeah they did both shoots and works back then sometimes (thanks, Dave), and so I see no point in even trying. Before we can ponder this question in light of whatever evidence awaits us in RINGS: RISE 5th I think we should probably first attend to Tsuyoshi Kohsaka's further adventures abroad as he faces the yet-to-be-defeated (I mean by anyone, at that point, not just TK) Tim Lajcik at UFC 21 held at the Five Seasons Center in Cedar Rapids, 7/16/99. 

And so it is that we are dragged down into this taste-level hell-pit. I do not hold it against Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, as this is where his hunger for the fight led him; it is my own choice (perhaps misguided) to follow. To this copy of UFC 21 that I found in my basement's pretty enormous credit, though the tracking on it is just awful, so at least it is visually interesting if you pause it at the right times:





"I have to do just two things, you know: do the best, and get the win. That's all," TK cheerfully tells us in perfectly serviceable English, and I suppose that's true enough!



Lajcik's nom-de-guerre or sobriquet rouge is "The Bohemian" and one can only ponder his connection to that once-Moravian duchy. Oh wait, Lajcik, though American, is probably of Czech descent; okay I totally get it, never mind. Kohsaka fights out of Seattle, as well you know, and is cornered by Maurice Smith (and Frank Shamrock is around too sometimes) together forming the storied Alliance, as indeed you know no less well. Kohsaka is bullet-pointed as an EXPERT GROUND FIGHTER and VERSATILE STRIKER who is KNOWN FOR CONDITIONING. His discipline is listed as SUBMISSION, whereas Lajcik's is given as WRESTLE/BOX which foretells the æsthetic doom that yet abides. OH NEAT I think Masayuki Naruse is there too! Someone yells Kohsaaakaaaaaaaa just before John McCarthy bellows his dumb words and we are underway in what would appear to be a five-minute first round. Kohsaka shoots in for a low tackling morote-gari (two-hand reap) but Lajcik is the better wrestler and sprawls out to smoosh him; he spins around his back, and Kohsaka turns to it (his back; that was inelegant of me, but not of TK) and only narrowly avoids a terrible position, instead settling into the niju-garami or double-entanglement of half-guard. "TK Guard, TK, work for position!" Smith counsels and at least part of TK must be like "but I'm tk" but holy hekk he just swung through for a beautiful heel holdo (banned in both RINGS and judo and usually sambo and often BJJ; such is its inherent danger) to the cheers of this not-yet-terrible crowd (I expect them to be in time) but Lajcik turns with it in precisely the way TK instructed us all to do about thirty shows ago when there were excellent instructional segments at intermission. Kohsaka is cut, as is so often the case, and Lajcik's corner is advising their man to "work the cut" which I understand to be a valid tactic but which should obviously be beneath us as people of sport and indeed as people broadly. Kohsaka shrimps (ebi!) his hips back to the "butterfly" guard one most closely associates with the "TK Guard" although I say again, people disagree about what exactly we were all talking about then. You know what, though, from what Smith calls for by that name and what TK does, I think we can probably just forget about all the weird stuff that has accrued around the lore-eves and pretty much just agree that when we say TK Guard we're talking about the butterfly (or hooks) guard that we know to have existed for no less than a century by one name or another (we know this from old judo things!). Once Kohsaka is back to that position, Lajcik wants no part of it and stands as the round nears its end.

Between rounds, Maurice Smith stresses Kohsaka's need to work the guard, work the TK Guard; it is so strange to hear him say it like that to him. Lajcik is a full-on wrestle-box guy and it is effective but spectacularly tedious, as anyone (of an appropriate taste level) who has watched any of the last ten years of UFC will attest.  TK SCISSORS TO ESCAPE TATE-SHIHO GATAME AND ATTACK WITH ASHI-KANSETSU LEG-BONE-LOCKING YESSSSSSS the waza we love best emerges from this morass. 






Kohsaka makes a decent attempt at juji-gatame some moments after this scramble but it is not to be; Lajcik's corner is very excited about the extent to which both of TK's cuts are bleeding and they should all listen to themselves and think about the dark paths their lives have taken to get them here saying these things in front of the people they're saying them in front of and they should ask if the paltry sums that drew them to this contest are worth what they have become. SWEEEEEEEEEP and Kohsaka is on top with about a minute or so to go in the second round. 






Kohsaka is on top of someone and hitting them so John McCarthy is saying COME ON WORK IT like the enormous goon he has proven to be through rewatching these old matches. From yoko-shiho/mune-gatame (which is to say the side), TK lays in some decent shots and Lajcik looks, as Maurice Smith notes, really really tired, whereas TK only ever looks that way after he has been brutalized by say Gilbert Yvel (you will recall it possibly?). Lajcik's corner has thrown in the towel! In a literal way! That's it! Ah okay, Jeff Blatnick explains that Lajcik was barely able to stand between rounds; he staggered and nearly fell with one arm up against the cage, and his corner wisely stopped the fight. I liked that match! It is the first time we have seen Kohsaka against a big strong good wrestler (Lajcik was, we are told, an All-American), and his path to victory against such a foe--getting stuffed on takedowns, and yet scissoring, sweeping, harassing with kansetsu (bone-locking), and enduring--was intriguing! 

AND SO THEN WE TURN PROPERLY NOW TOWARD RINGS: RISE 5th WHICH IS TOTALLY A MONTH LATER SO IT'S OKAY THAT TK IS FIGHTING AGAIN DON'T WORRY IT WILL BE FINE PROBABLY as the WOWOW presentation that shames every second of the UFC's muck, shit, and ruin opens by revisiting Kiyoshi Tamura's shoot-style win over the ever-huge Bitsadze Tariel to reclaim his RINGS Openweight Title, and looks ahead to a defense of that title against the challenge of . . . Joop Kasteel? That is unexpected! Kenichi Takayanagi and his rather serene colour commentator are joined at the announce table by Yoshihisa Yamamoto, who very recently had one of the most thrilling shoot-style matches you are likely to see, especially given the absolutely perfect Korakuen Hall crowd it was performed before ("RINGSU RINGSU RINGSU" they rightly chanted). Our ranking stand thus: 10. Kanehara 9. Overeem 8. Han 7. Zaza 6. Ilioukhine 5. Kohsaka 4. Yamamoto 3. Yvel 2. Tariel 1. Kasteel and our champion is once more Kiyoshi Tamura, as we have already discussed. 

The opening match has opening match written all over it (I say this with respect and indeed reverence) in that it sees U-File Camp's Ryuki Ueyama against the still-always-excellent Yasuhito Namekawa. Ah, I see that against all odds (which is to say my own failings and ignorances, forgive me) I actually was understanding the announcers' discussion with Yamamoto at the opening: the scoring for tonight's matches will be two points lost for a knockdown, one for a rope escape, and four points ends the match by TKO now. And the matches, I think, are all going to be twenty minutes? You can also get a yellow card, we should note, for closed-fist punching a guy directly in the mouth when you're on the ground, even if it actually did look like an accident on an errant punch to the chest, which is what has just happened now between Namekawa and Ueyama (it is Ueyama who was hit, and who is bleeding plenty). AH HAAAAA the ever-ready Jeff on Twitter, that selfsame Jeff who identified Kenichi Takayanagi for us not long ago, has come through once more in discerning the name of Takayanagi's long-time commentary partner, Hideyuki Kumakubo, as seen here. When we google translate that profile, we are given this: "In January 1989 he joined Nihon Sports Publishing Co., Ltd. "Gong Martial Arts" magazine editorial department. Since 1991 he served as a deputy editor in magazine, and he served as editor for six years since 1994. In 2000 he was appointed manager of planning department. Left in 2002 and joined Yoshi Kuraja Design. Currently I am writing editor in the martial arts information magazine "GBR", "Gon Category", "Young Jump" etc. He is also on the fighting commentator "Fighting TV Samurai" "Sky Perfect TV". In editorials, "The strongest last Oyama Tadashi reading book", "Perfectly indispensable Maeda Hijiaki", "PRIDE strongest reading book" and many others." Yes. YES. I ask that you forgive me for largely neglecting this totally spirited opening match that Ryuki Ueyama has just won largely on the strength, I think, of having eaten that illegal punch to the face. It went the full twenty minutes, and the day is Ueyama's on points.

Just looking at Willie Peeters smug cheating face gets my hackles up at this point and so I guess I have been well and truly Willie Peeters'd over these hundred-or-so shows; he is here matched with Christopher Haseman who is actually really good. Thirty seconds in, Peeters burns a rope escape whilst just clinched against the ropes and then he grins as though he has gotten away with something but I have no idea what he might think that is? Haseman goes down hard to a knee to the very gutsbelly about thirty seconds later and I wonder for an instant if this is possibly shoot-style; I don't think so but am also, I remind you, a fool. Peeters wants out of a leg-lock a moment later so that's another point. Yes, okay, it's totally a work, but a good one: Peeters has yet to throw anyone like that in a shoot, and he's not about to start against Haseman, and Peeters was close enough to the ropes on the match-ending hiza-juji knee-bar that he could have done more to escape. A nice little shoot-style bout, and who knows how many more we'll get, so treasure them all, even the ones with Willie Peeters.

Ricardo Fyeet seems to be kind of a character, look:



That's a lot of look! He is in against Lee Hasdell, whom he circles and darkly appraises whilst referee Ryogaku Wada is instructing/mopping him down. The crowd is intrigued! He shakes hands and everything, so there is no indication yet that he is a jerk despite his theatrics; just a character. Fyeet hooks the uppermost rope to avoid a takedown about twenty seconds in and Wada rightly charges him with a rope escape for it. Hasdell gets him down without much trouble when next they clinch, but Fyeet throws up an at least partially menacing omote-sankaku-jime/front-triangle-choke. Oh I see: Fyeet seems to be a taunter and a smirker down there, so yes, he kind of is a jerk, I think. He is penalized for an up-kick from the mat to Hasdell's face, and to me this is less of a jerk move than taunting and smirking in ne waza. But the man has an undeniable presence and star quality so what are you going to do? He taps to an ashi-dori-garami (a figure-four ankle-lock) at 15:01; "ashi-gatame, desu" ("it's a leg-hold") is commentary I support and endorse (and probably understand?). 

Wataru Sakata vs. Hiromitsu Kanehara! All right good! Lots of compelling ne-waza early in this probable shoot (I see no reason yet to doubt it). I especially like Kanehara's attempts to go one better than the scarf hold of kesa-gatame and finish with an ude-kansetsu arm-lock from that position in the mode of kesa-garami. There is probably a decent depiction of this waza available through google image search. Let's find out together! Ah, there sure is; it's from Mikinosuke Kawaishi's classic Ma méthode de judo


There are all kinds of cræftig little variations of it from there, especially if you can tuck uke's arm up under your lead leg for a true entanglement. That comes on fast! As does Hiromitsu Kanehara's ura-nage or, as it is understandably called here, "suplex . . . GERman suplex." 



There comes a point for me in every Hiromitsu Kanehara match where I notice again as though for the first time that Hiromitsu Kanehara's boots or rather kick-pads say U.W.F. on them. Kanehara has been doing very well throughout (and we have been at this for a while now) but Sakata, to his credit, came pretty close to a gyaku-ude-garami reverse-arm-entanglement in the corner for a moment there. A lot of this match is spent, though, with Kanehara transitioning from kesa-gatame (scarf hold) to mune-gatame (chest hold [a variation of yoko-shiho-gatame, side hold]) and kami-shiho-gatame, the "upper" (head and neck) hold that you often hear called north/south position. I have a book by Renzo Gracie and John Danaher (that is I guess kind of an old book now) in which it is claimed that north/south position, to their thinking, is not really its own thing so much as a variation of side-control. That struck me as odd, but has totally stuck with me, and I have mentioned it to various people at the club over the years, and even to students well-ranked under a Renzo school, and they are like "really?" which is how I feel, too, but I remain intrigued by the suggestions these many years later, and am eager to know more. The only point scored in this match comes about seventeen minutes into it when Sakata needs a rope to escape an ashi-gatame, and that's it, a twenty minute bout with one point scored, and Kanehara takes it. This match was low-key great!

Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, only a month and a few days removed from the UFC fight we ourselves enjoyed mere moments ago, is in again with Gilbert Yvel, who beat him unto doctor stoppage when last they met. Are they rematching so soon because that match is thought to have been insufficiently decisive? Because I thought it was pretty clear, and I say that as perhaps the leading TK partisan of our time (I would have to think I would at least be in the conversation, but perhaps this is merely a particularly weird hubris or vanity on my part). OH MAN IT'S LATE, LET ME PICK THIS UP TOMORROW. And we are back as Gilbert Yvel's hairline is maybe the best we have managed as a species. Kohsaka not only folds his hands in prayer before entering the ring, but also utters words towards the heavens (or perhaps towards what Hamlet refers to faux-delicately as "the other place"? who knows how dark this could get if we push to hard?):


   
Buddhist? Shinto? Or Christian like a Japanese prime minister? (It is extremely weird that whilst less than three percent of Japanese are Christians, there have been eight yeah eight Christian Japanese Prime Ministers; also Toshiro Mifune, while not a prime minister, was a Methodist [isn't this all wild?].)  Let us set matters eternal aside and focus, misguided though we be to do so, on the temporal as this particular fight is joined. Kohsaka's kick-pads are black and purple, his nage-waza (throwing technique) is 跳腰 hane-goshi (springing hip). He largely contents himself to body-punching from the double-entanglement of niju-garami for what must be several minutes. Yvel is probably not loving it but he seems fine; he is a very tough man. Kohsaka has taken to heart the lessons of their last encounter, and spends no small amount of time scooching Yvel back towards the centre whenever they drift even slightly towards a rope which might be grasped for succor. Yvel throws a punch to the head from the bottom but is not penalized for it but instead merely cautioned, and even given Yvel's well-established willingness to cheat I think this is the correct call; it really did seem minor and inadvertent (perhaps I have been "worked," who can say). At last a rope is indeed grasped as Kohsaka attempts an ashi-gatame leg-hold and Yvel wants out. When they are restarted standing, Kohsaka throws with an 内股 uchi mata so mighty that both græpplers sail totally out of the ring, look:









Clearly you don't want to be either of them in that moment but I think I feel the most empathy for referee Ryogaku Wada who is like noooooooooo with his entire mind and body and yet he is powerless to intercede. Gilbert Yvel pops back up and in the ring and seems totally fine, whereas the usually dauntless TK is grabbing his wrist and both wincing and making a tilted-head wheeeeooowww that hurts face. It's pretty serious:




They show several replays and I begin to think that I was wrong to call TK's first throw in this match hane goshi; I think that's just how he throws his uchi mata and I should be more sensitive to what Toshiro Daigo rightly calls the koshi-waza forms of uchi-mata now (like in the last fifty years) so prevalent (and so sikk). Kohsaka is ahead on points but can't continue; he is awarded the win by TKO at 8:17, which is hard to agree with. Maybe a draw? Or a no contest? Maeda explains to Yvel that Kohsaka's wrist is too messed up to continue (I think there's a knee issue, too), and Yvel takes this all in stride and also in fellowship: 




Yvel quite reasonably wonders in quite reasoned tones in his post-fight locker-room comments why this bout would not be a no contest and I think we would likely all agree with him that it should have been, right? Yvel, who we do not always think of as the best sportsman, comes out of this awkward and unusual situation very admirably I think. 

Joop Kasteel seems perfectly nice but largely ineffectual and as though to prove this he comes out to U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" for his title challenge against the generationally-handsome Kiyoshi Tamura who actually wears what I think is maybe a new title belt to the ring? It's weird but like it! 


Because this is a title match, certain formalities must be observed, including prefatory remarks from our as-yet-unknown red-jacketed official however I have sent the following picture out to my two friends on Twitter who demonstrably read Japanese (the noble Jeff, the noble David), and we shall in time what results:


******

UPDATE: David said there are a bunch of ways to pronounce the name of this RINGS Executive Council member and representative of the Japan Combat Sambo Association (that much he read plainly); Jeff linked me to a dictionary that very much showed this to be the case (I have seen before how weird it can get with kanji, in that 小田常胤 Oda Join is almost always called Oda Tsunetane, and that doesn't really seem all that close, does it?). I decided to take a look at the lists of names and then listen again whilst totally, like, squinting my ears, and the best I came up with was Horibei Tomofumi, but look who David found just two guys over from Vladimir Putin on the International Sambo Federation page:

TOMOYUKI HORIMAI YESSSSSSSSSS THANKS DAVID THANKS JEFF (I should not that Jeff remains convinced this man is in fact Lupin III in disguise because of the red jacket and I guess my position on that would be teach the controversy, maybe?). 

*****

Let us speak freely and openly and admit that this fine card has had upon it no fewer than four athletes we would rather see challenge Tamura for his RINGS Openweight Championship ahead of Joop Kasteel, and maybe more than that, actually, but at the same time I think we can reasonably expect that this will be at least good given Tamura's ability to be unreal at this. Aaaaaand yes, this was not great but it was good, and Tamura bested his deeply enormous foe in their shoot-style encounter by the ever-cunning waza of ude-hishigi-juji-gatame. Kasteel taps before the hold is fully extended, which to the untrained eye might look like nonsense, but to the eye sufficiently trained to realize that great big muscled-up fellows have super tight arms and pretty much no flexibility and tap to things super fast, the finish is the best part! Also I liked this earlier overhead shot where it really said WOWOW:


WHAT DID DAVE MELTZER SAY:

July 26, 1999:

On TK's UFC triumph:

"There were many Japanese name fighters and pro wrestlers at the show because of the new UFC Japan group, which at this point is scheduled to run its debut show on 9/23 at Tokyo Yoyogi Gym II with Yoji Anjoh looking to be the top draw and with a business affiliation with the Pancrase group. A press conference to announce a line-up is scheduled for August. Also several name fighters were in attendance because of Kohsaka. Among those at the show besides Anjoh were Yoshihisa Yamamoto (RINGS), Masayuki Naruse (RINGS), Akira Shoji (Pride), Kaoru Uno (Shooto) and Alexander Otsuka (Battlarts).

3. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka of RINGS in Japan defeated Tim Lajcik when the towel was thrown in after the second round. Lajcik, a former All-American wrestler with good boxing skills, proved to be a very difficult opponent for the highly regarded pro wrestler. Lacjik seemed better standing, so Kohsaka went for a takedown, but with Lacjik's wrestling skills, he landed on top. Kohsaka made a quick move into an ankle lock but Lacjik was quick to roll to escape. Lajcik made life miserable for Kohsaka with a forearm choke and got some shots in, opening a cut on Kohsaka's eye and getting more strikes in. The second round saw Lajcik use his wrestling to get the top position, but Kohsaka held guard for most of the round. Toward the latter stages, it appeared Lajcik, one of those overly muscular specimens, was starting to tire. Kohsaka reversed him and started striking with good combinations mainly elbows to the ribs and head, one of which knocked Lajcik silly. When the bell rang to end the round, Lajcik was dazed on the ground and his corner threw in the towel. Another good match."

And in news designed to break your heart over what could have been:

"There is a lot of talk that the Naoya Ogawa vs. Yoshihisa Yamamoto match in August, instead of being a RINGS style match, will be a Jungle death match similar to the famous matches in the past with Antonio Inoki vs. Masa Saito and Hiroshi Hase vs. Tiger Jeet Singh."

August 2, 1999:

Noooooooooooo:

"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Naoya Ogawa pulled out of the RINGS match with Yoshihisa Yamamoto on 8/18 at Yokohama Bunka Gym citing an injured shoulder and broken finger suffered in the fairly amazing match he had with Gary Goodridge on 7/4. The match will now take place on 12/22 in Osaka. RINGS will now headline with Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Joop Kasteel, which is a match that has virtually no drawing power whereas the other match would have been almost a sure sellout. RINGS is having even more power drawing than we figured since the retirement of Akira Maeda, after doing a $2.5 million house earlier this year for the Maeda-Aleksandre Karelin match. As great as Tamura and Kohsaka are, both as workers and for that matter how much they've established themselves against real competition as great real fighters, they aren't draws whereas Maeda, who in recent years was neither, always was. It's a sad fact of reality which explains why certain people have to be kept strong in worked matches to keep shooting sports alive in Japan that purists don't seem to understand. Ogawa missing the 9/12 Pride show also dooms it since Yokohama Arena needs a super line-up to draw in a shoot and at this point the ads only list Mark Kerr and Enson Inoue on the show. If they were to meet each other, and the promotion has been trying to put that match together all year but each has gotten hurt before it could happen, it would be an interesting match but unlike Ogawa and Takada, Inoue doesn't have the name among wrestling fans so it has limited gate appeal."

The great Tadashi Tanaka writes the greatest letter anyone has ever written on the subject of martial arts or professional wrestling or martialartsprofessionalwrestling

"OGAWA/TAKADA

The participation of Naoya Ogawa in Pride was a positive factor as a drawing card as well as a negative element for pure martial arts. But his participation made the show profitable because of the pro wrestling aspects of the show. It was a ceremonial passing of the torch of the "shooter rep" from Nobuhiko Takada to Ogawa and they succeeded in making a star for the next century in the former world judo champion. The performance not only satisfied the public who saw Ogawa vs. Gary Goodridge treated as serious on the TV sports news, but also attained a business purpose.

We've seen suspicious fights from UFC to sumo. There are matches where the promoter as well as both fighters truly know who is going over at the end even if they aren't setting up high spots and finishes. Shoot and work have been unified since they've been presented to the public from the birth of mankind. There are stone murals in ancient times as the proof of the ancestry of worked pro wrestling since they feature drawing of too many moves and counterholds and suplexes that require both cooperation and coordination of both men. There is a Greek sculpture depicting the power bomb as we know it. The Coliseum in Rome is a tourist spot, famous for the legend of "fight until death" rules battles, but in reality, it's natural to assume their superfights in front of huge crowds also involved entertainment aspects. The truth is of course boring to learn, because the truth can't match up to fans' fantasy and imagination.

Martial arts competition before The King or the rich sponsor in ancient times can be found in building up superfights and main events. It's all the same story today, except today the King are the fans spending money on t-shirts, tickets, PPV orders and videotapes.

The original UWF movement to turn the fantasy of pro wrestling into reality was accomplished this year. The 10-plus year history of the UWF movement is meaningless to talk about which cards and matches were worked and which weren't. Akira Maeda's RINGS, which spawned K-1 along with Pride as derivatives have epoch-making meanings in the history of real fighting. We've seen the truth and it will be carried on to the next millennium.

Takada did three jobs at Pride and they were all real fights. Rickson Gracie is a legend from a different world. It was just a different world, nothing more and nothing less. Takada fought Gracie under Gracie's Vale Tudo rules and lost twice. Akira Maeda never had a real match in his fighting life. Masakatsu Funaki had many real matches, maybe too many. Takada was just the man in the middle between the two. The man in the middle position is always tough, but he headlined Tokyo Dome megashows against Rickson. They are like three brothers. The older brother couldn't do it himself. The youngest brother sacrificed his body for the cause. But the pain put on the middle brother was beyond the imagination. Takada became the first superstar pro wrestler to step into the real world.

It's all part of the theory of time lag. The general public's permeation and understand of what this is requires years of education. The UWFI fighters in the 90s were all real shooters from the top to the bottom including Kazushi Sakuraba and Kiyoshi Tamura. Sports entertainment pro wrestling, born in the United States, was transformed into Japan, the country of the original martial arts including the myths and the sophisticated art form. When Takada and Gracie signed for the "Fight of the Century," the truth is that both were already washed up by that point and that's the sad truth, but the truth is boring.

Takada was requested to pass the torch directly to Ogawa, but he refused, as he should have. Takada has no reason to lose to a pro wrestler in the Pride ring and Ogawa is a pro wrestler. Instead, he lost to Mark Kerr, the realistic top fighter in the world as opposed to a mythical legend such as Rickson. Kerr record an impressive 14 straight wins in Mixed Martial Arts. He is the current monster. Takada lost to the real champion so we should praise him for that.

Takada vs. Kerr was not a fixed fight. He was challenging a much larger white monster without compromise. I didn't see any holes and Kerr told his friends it was real afterwards. However, it was an example of a match that the promoter, booker and both fighters knew ahead of time who was going over. Kerr accepted this fight because it was Takada, and not Enson Inoue, who may have had more than a 50% chance of winning. That's the reality of the fighting business. Takada is still a pro wrestler who is a product of image making. The naked king understood his role in this one. He came into the ring with tape around his elbow. Kerr's lass submission finish was the armlock against Pedro Otavio. We realized the message at that point. It was like Seppuku ritual, an honorable death in the Samurai world.

But pro wrestling proved to be a real martial art and Takada proved it by committing suicide. He drove a wedge in the fixed label of wrestling by carrying the cross for wrestling fans' sins, the sin of believing that pro wrestling was real.

On November 29, 1989 at U-Cosmos at the Tokyo Dome show which featured Maeda and Takada, we saw a miracle on the undercard with Yoji Anjoh's shoot match and Minoru Suzuki vs. Maurice Smith. It was the moment pro wrestling stepped into the line of reality combat. It was awesome.

It was Satoru Sayama, the first Tiger Mask, who opened the world's very first total fight gym in 1984. It was irony that he claimed his new sport of Shooting as competition and not as pro wrestling. Shooto, which came from that, celebrated its 10th anniversary on 5/29 headlining Rumina Sato vs. Kaoru Uno. It was their first PPV match and they sold out the Yokohama Bunka Gym specifically on the main event theme of "Can rising Prince Uno beat his ex-teacher?" To me, it was really pro wrestling, although the fight itself was real.

For real sports journalism, the highlight of Pride is Sakuraba's winning streak. On 7/4, the Carlson Gracie Jiu Jitsu army were all defeated. The heavyweight Carlos Baretto couldn't beat the smaller Ukraine kickboxer Igor Vovchanchin. The top fighter from the Luta Livre camp, Ebenzer Fontes Braga, was tapped out by a UWF pro wrestler with an armbar. It was officially the end of the illusion of Brazilians as being the strongest fighters, that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was not the perfect fighting system and that a pro wrestler proved to be the strongest martial artist of all.

But the sad truth about real fighting was in the undercard. On the Pride show, there were four boring matches that went for 25:00 each. A former King of Pancrase wasn't able to win a split decision while a Battlarts pro wrestler got a decision over a well-known Jiu Jitsu expert who beat Renzo Gracie earlier this year.

Tadashi Tanaka

New York, New York"

Let us commit every word of it to memory;

And then once we have done that let us then move to . . .

August 9, 1999:

"RINGS announced the complete line-up for 8/19 at Yokohama Bunka Gym headlined by Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Joop Kasteel in what is now billed as a RINGS world heavyweight title match. Also a rematch with Gilbert Yvel vs. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka which, if it's a shoot, looks on paper to be a great match. Yvel is devastating on his feet, having beaten Kohsaka on a blood stoppage after literally destroying him standing and knocked out Semmy Schiltt in his last two fights. However, Kohsaka was able to take Yvel down many times and get him in a bad position, but Yvel was ring wise enough to keep himself near the ropes to avoid trouble and get stand-ups. Also Hiromitsu Kanehara vs. Wataru Sakata, Willie Peeters vs. Masayuki Naruse, Ryeuki Kamiyama vs. Yasuhito Namekawa and Lee Hasdell against a newcomer called Fietu."

Remember how we just met Minoru Toyonaga? Here he is again!

"Pancrase held its annual Neo Blood tournament for the younger wrestlers with afternoon and evening shows on 8/1 that both sold out Korakuen Hall. Ikuhisa Minowa defeated Nobuhiko Takada protege Minoru Toyonaga in the tournament finals in 2:58 with a choke. Toyonaga going to the finals, with wins over Daisuke Ishii and Genki Sudo (on his first pro card) both via decision, is interesting if only because he just lost on a rival RINGS show to their best newcomer, Yasuhito Namekawa on the 6/24 show. Minowa beat newcomer Daiki Takase and Daisuke Watanabe to make it to the finals. The biggest news was that Kazushi Sakuraba was at the show in Toyonaga's corner and Masakatsu Funaki talked about having a match with him, which is something UFC Japan has talked about, however Sakuraba has become the top underneath star for Pride, which would figure to be UFC Japan's main business rival in the Japanese NHB world. Watanabe took third place in the tournament beating Sudo due to an eye cut. The biggest non-tournament match of the two shows saw KOP champion Yuki Kondo win a non-title match over Jason Godsey with an ankle lock in 5:18. Godsey made a big splash in Pancrase in 1997, when Kondo held the title for the first time and Godsey was a newcomer to the company and Godsey used his superior size and wrestling ability to surprisingly dominate Kondo and beat him with a forearm choke. Pancrase has shows on 9/4 in Sendai headlined by Semmy Schiltt vs. Katsuomi Inagaki and a PPV show on 9/18 headlined by Kondo defending against Kiuma Kunioku, who beat Kondo in their last meeting via decision and who has gone the time limit with Kondo in all three of their previous matches."

Ahead of the WON Hall of Fame issue, Dave previews several possible candidates, including:

"Volk Han - Absolutely the most revolutionary submission worker of this era. Still active today but clearly two years past his prime. He was the top foreign star for the RINGS group from its inception. This is another guy I'm very close on, but didn't pick this year."

August 16, 1999: 

"Former pro wrestler Kenichi Yamamoto, who did many shoot matches with RINGS before retiring a few months back, now wants to come out of retirement for Vale Tudo matches."

and

"8/19 Yokohama Bunka Gym (RINGS - 4,670): Ryueki Kamiyama b Yasuhito Namekawa, Christopher Hazemann b Willie Peeters, Leo Hasdell b Feade, Hiromitsu Kanehara b Wataru Sakata, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka b Gilbert Yvel, RINGS hwt title: Kiyoshi Tamura b Joop Kasteel. RINGS ran 8/19 at Yokohama Bunka Gym before 4,670 with a double main event of Kiyoshi Tamura retaining the RINGS world heavyweight title beating Joop Kasteel in 12:17 with an armbar, in what I'd strongly presume to have been a worked match, and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka beat Gilbert Yvel, who was injured. I don't want to speculate on that match until seeing the tape. Their first match, with Yvel won, was a shoot. Kohsaka was ahead on points before losing so he may have wanted a shoot for revenge. RINGS in the past when a top star gets upset in a shoot (Tamura to Valentijn Overeem) has booked the rematch with the Japanese going over in a worked match. After Tamura retained the title, they set up a title vs. title match with Masayuki Naruse, who holds their title in the 209-pound and under weight class to unify the belts."

September 6, 1999:

"Mitsuya Nagai, who formerly worked with RINGS and most recently with K-1, along with Hanse Nyman, also formerly with RINGS, are joining Seikendo."

and

"Tsuyoshi Kohsaka of RINGS is out of action with a neck injury suffered on the 8/19 show in the Gilbert Yvel match. As best we can tell, and this is judging from photos, the match appeared to be a shoot (we should have the tape in a week or so) because there was major intensity in the photos that usually isn't there in worked matches. Again, it's probably unfair to judge from photos. Kohsaka scored the only point with an ankle lock. Kohsaka went for a judo throw and both tumbled through the ropes to the floor where Kohsaka hurt his neck and couldn't continue at 8:17. They awarded the match to Kohsaka since he was ahead at the time of the injury."

September 13, 1999:

Dave

gets

tape:

"JAPANESE TELEVISION RUNDOWN

8/19 RINGS: As the style of RINGS continues to evolve, this show consisted of all shoot matches except for the main event, and even that was worked to look like a shoot with a bare minimum of flashiness. Any studying of worked and shoot pro wrestling shows that for many reasons, the biggest ones being entertainment value and preservation of the species, particularly the drawing stars when it comes to both health and keeping their reputation, that it is very difficult to maintain a shoot company. It's clear the younger wrestlers in RINGS, wanting to be athletes and wanting RINGS to actually be a sport above an entertainment form, have made it more and more realistic this year. The problem is that the fans, with the exception of a tiny percentage of purists, aren't paying for reality combat, they are paying for entertainment, and while after the show they may like the idea what they saw was real sport, while watching it they want to be moved by the flashiness. RINGS' problems drawing are as much to do with the fact that Kiyoshi Tamura, for all his talents, has been unable to replace Akira Maeda as a drawing card. For a number of reasons, it's ridiculous to think he ever could. 1. Ryueki Ueyama upset Yasuhito Namekawa by decision after 20:00. Namekawa scored the first point in 2:00 knocking Ueyama down with a series of open hands in the corner. He continued his advantage on the ground, using a lot of body punches. He accidentally punched Ueyama in the mouth, splitting his lip, at 3:40, and was given a yellow card. They didn't call it a point, but it was used as the tie-breaker and wound up costing Namekawa the match. Namekawa continued to dominate on the ground, until the 8:20 mark, when he voluntarily let him up. At 11:16, Ueyama got a short advantage and got Namekawa in a choke for a rope break point to even the score. Namekawa had a strong guillotine at 14:25 but Ueyama managed to escape. Even though Namekawa dominated the match, the score was 1-1 and Namekawa had a yellow card against him which made the difference. This was a really good opener as far as competition and for a purist, but it was not a good spectator match for a casual fan; 2. Chris Hazemann beat Willie Peeters with a kneebar submission in 3:13. Hazemann was ahead 2-1 in points, as Peeters grabbed the ropes twice when he was on the ground in bad positions, although not locked in a submission either time, to get the re-start. On their feet Peeters was stronger and did knock Hazemann down with a knee. Good explosive match; 3. Lee Hasdell beat Ricardo Fyeet in 15:01. Fyeet was making his RINGS debut and he's the most colorful fighter this organization has brought over in years. He's a kickboxer from Holland, who looks, if you can imagine this, like a cross between Sweet Daddy Siki with the bleached hair, and the late Lonnie Mayne or Dick Brower because of the crazy eyes. He has great charisma and good hand speed and packs a very strong punch. However, he's still very inexperienced on the ground and you can't consistently win at this game lacking ground skill. Since he's only 23, he has potential and quite frankly, he has a natural charisma as he connected with the crowd like only the top level pro wrestlers, and look to, where if someone would get a hold of him, he probably would be more successful at traditional pro wrestling than anything, although he'd have to add some mass to his 206 pound frame, but he's got the height and frame to where he could do that pretty easily. Hasdell, from England, is an accomplished kickboxer who has learned the ground game. When they'd trade blows standing, Hasdell would want to take him down. Fyeet threw unusually strong punches from the bottom. Hasdell went up 2-0 with two rope break points in the first 5:00. Every time they'd get up, Fyeet would explode on Hasdell with wild rapid punches but would get taken down. At the 10:00 mark, Fyeet managed to escape and mount Hasdell and threw tons of body punches before quickly getting reversed. At one point during a stoppage, with Fyeet clearly getting tired as they were about 13:00 in, Fyeet went to the turnbuckle, put his head on it and acted like he was taking a nap, and the crowd loved his showmanship. When it was re-started, Fyeet threw a tremendous kick which connected with Hasdell's left eye, leaving a massive bruise that looked like a footprint. Hasdell must be one tough guy because even with that kind of power right to his face, he wasn't even stunned, and took Fyeet down again and made him submit to an ankle lock. This was a great match; 4. Hiromitsu Kanehara beat Wataru Sakata via decision after going the 20:00 time limit. This was almost the opposite of the previous match. This was all ground work between two fighters who knew the game. It was nothing but maneuvering for positioning. Kanehara did make an attempt to throw a german suplex during the match. It was a total Pancrase looking match of positioning and body punching. At 17:40, Kanehara got an ankle lock which turned out to be the only point of the match. To his credit, once he had the match won, Kanehara stayed aggressive, not sitting on his lead like would be the normal strategy; 5. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka beat Gilbert Yvel in 8:17 of a very strange decision. This was a rematch of their excellent match in April that Yvel won due to blood stoppage. Kohsaka took a few blows early as Yvel is an excellent kickboxer, but took him down and mainly controlled him and pounded his ribs, keeping him there the entire fight. Kohsaka got an ankle lock and Yvel grabbed the ropes at 6:46. The match ended with Kohsaka going for a judo take down, and they tumbled out of the ring with Kohsaka apparently landing hard on his wrist. This is a guy who never "sells" pain even taking straight on punches to the head, and he was selling pain and grabbing his wrist (although reports were he suffered a concussion). He couldn't continue. Akira Maeda ruled that since Kohsaka was ahead 1-0 at the point of the accidental injury, that he be awarded the decision. Yvel couldn't understand this at all, feeling it should have been a no contest. Basically the ending of this match showed just how superior having shoot matches in an octagon as opposed to a traditional ring is, but politically that just doesn't wash with people; 6. Tamura beat Joop Kasteel to retain the RINGS world heavyweight title in 12:49. This was a worked match to try and get Tamura over as a monster killer, since Kasteel looks to be about 6-4 and 264 pounds, giving him six inches and 71 pounds on Tamura. To their credit, it looked almost totally real. They traded rope breaks before Kasteel knocked Tamura down after some low kicks. The kicks were so strong that even in a work, it was impressive Tamura could get up. Kasteel, who wasn't pulling hardly at all if at all, even had to applaud Tamura getting up. There was none of the typical Tamura flashiness of his worked matches as they were trying to make it look totally real. They traded points, Kasteel with an ankle lock and Tamura got a knockdown from kicks, before Kasteel got another point with a rope break from a front guillotine to go up 4-2, which meant under the rules as they stand this week, Tamura was down to his final point. The crowd popped pretty good for the finish sensing title change, but Tamura got the armbar in the middle for the tap out. **1/4"

and

"RINGS on 9/15 at Korakuen Hall has Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs. Valentijn Overeem, Wataru Sakata vs. Yasuhito Namekawa, Daniel Higgins vs. Ricardo Fyeet, Lee Hasdell vs. Satoshi Honma and a prelim match. Sounds on paper like a largely shoot show."

September 20, 1999:

From the Pride 7 recap:

"The opener saw Daijiro Matsui (Kingdom Pro Wrestling from the Takada Dojo) win via DQ over Bob Schreiber (formerly with RINGS) after an illegal kick of a downed opponent [. . . ]. "

No surprise there. Also:

"Both Enson Inoue and his manager were handed down lifetime suspensions from the Shooto organization. Inoue, who was the group's heavyweight champion (the title was returned), allegedly punched a reporter with Houchi Sports, and it being not the first outburst of its type led to the suspension. Inoue will continue to appear with Pride and has sent feelers to Pancrase and RINGS as well."

And finally:

"RINGS cutting back on shows and running smaller buildings is because WOWOW, its TV network, cut back 30% on its sponsorship money. RINGS is suffering from the money cutbacks and also because its wrestlers want it to be a real sport (ie few worked matches and predetermined endings) but still draw wrestling fans because there is no strong base of fans for real martial arts sport, and that isn't working. WOWOW did extend their contract for another year so they are at least considered not in any danger of extinction any time soon."

This is terrible news to end on! But we knew this, or something like this, was coming, didn't we. There are not that many shows left in this RINGSbox, nor yet in the larger RINGSbox that is the primary world. A dark thought, but one I would ask you to set aside for at least the moment in which I thank you for your time and express my sincere hope that you will join me again soon for further discussion of like topics. 

No comments:

Post a Comment