Wednesday, September 26, 2018

PRIDE.1(プライド・ワン) 1997年10月11日

HELLO MY FRIENDS AND WELCOME ONCE MORE AND PERHAPS YOU WILL RECALL that some time ago I took possession (in the limited and ephemeral sense to which we grow accustomed in this floating world of transience and sorrow) of an impressively complete set of Kakutougi Revolutionary Spirits/Dream Stage Entertainment Pride Fighting Championship shows through means of a mighty torrent that included not only the vast and sprawling numbered Pride FCs, Grand Prix, and Bushidos contested (or whatever) in fantastic domes, coliseums, and super arenas, but even the various Pride: The Best artisanal microshows from the humbler ディファ有明 Difa Ariake and 後楽園ホール Kōrakuen Hōru. It seems really great! The only shortcoming to be found with any of this (aside from the obvious and immense human cost) is that, in keeping with broader dark trends concerning materials of this weirdly-not-that-recent-anymore era, very few of the Pride shows in this torrent are Japanese pay-per-view (early) or network television (later) broadcasts, but instead the western English-language pay-per-view émissions. It was not always thus! There was a time when either was obtainable! I swear this to be true! I suppose the Japanese broadcasts could still be sought from the traders (seekers all, they are) but there is very little question that they would require payment whereas this torrent was given freely as a kindness and I accept it gratefully as such. (Also I have a great many of these shows in my basement, several of them Japanese, surely, but they are in an area of my basement that remains, at the time of this writing, suboptimally sorted.) It might well be argued that our Japanese-broadcast-loss is more than made whole in the person of Bas Rutten, whose idiomatic (and yet not) English-language commentaries we may wish to accept as a kind of wergeld (that's not what that word means).

But as I say, a few of the files here are very much indeed the Japanese (frail) originals, including, maybe importantly, Dynamite! 史上最大の格闘技ワールド・カップ SUMMER NIGHT FEVER in 国立 which is to say Dynamite! Biggest Mixed Martial Arts World Cup - Summer Night Fever in the National Stadium which is to say Pride/K1 Shockwave Dynamite! before an apparently actual crowd of 91,107 -- a wild scene in any tongue, for sure, but if there were any of these show you'd really extra want in the Japanese broadcast, this would be pretty high on the list, right? And it was whilst jumping around this show (I did not watch start to finish in this instance) that I happened upon Kazushi Sakuraba's entrance to face Mirko Filipović -- the Cro Cop himself, a living a rebuke to those who would unduly malign taekwondo -- and hearing the crowd's response not just to Sakuraba himself, nor yet to the smoke-blowing (well, Daijiro Matsui helped some) Vader helmet, but to the reveal of the leather or I guess probably plastic (what am I a saddler) Vader mask beneath, in conjunction with being struck by just the madness of anyone ever thinking this was a thing to do, to have Sakuraba out there against Mirko Cro Cop, that I felt Everything Coming Together in a weird way that I am not prepared to defend but only to report: thinking, or perhaps more accurately feeling, how this really all is, as I have suggested several times before (a bunch of times, really, and possibly too many) that Pride really totally is part of what we have come to call The Long UWF (I am utterly convinced of this), but also how The Long UWF probably extends in time both ways, that it goes all the way back through Inoki's World Martial Arts Championship (if you were to point out that the 1984 UWF arose directly out of conflict with Inoki I would say yes of course it did this is the point entirely) to Rikidozan and Masahiko Kimura vs Hamilton's Sharpe Brothers (1936 Nazi Olympic credentials!) in 1954 and then all the way forward to to the end of Pride but really that's really probably it: the end of Pride now feels to me like the end of one surprisingly coherent thing (DREAM was an echo, RIZIN one so faint that it can scarcely be heard) that seemed epitomized as Sakuraba strolled to his doom in the 国立競技場 Kokuritsu kyōgijō National Stadium (they tore it down in 2015). I was thinking too about how the NJPW that has come back from the brink after the popular ruin (and yet weird æsthetic triumph) of the Inokiist NJPW (re)turn to professional wrestling as martial art (The Long UWF had already overtaken; Inokiism was its shadow) is NJPW in name only, really, to the extent that the commercially (and æsthetically, for sure) viable Tanahashi/Okada showman style (maybe the best iteration of that style ever, I think) that arose in the aftermath of The Long UWF's death has nothing to do with any of this at all, nothing to do with professional wrestling as either itself the strongest style or the (Saitama, Super) arena in which styles will be (fake) set against one another to determine which is in truth the strongest style, nothing to do with Inoki bringing in champions of various disciplines for the World Martial Arts matches that were presented as, and totally felt, realer than the other, also fake matches; or with the UWF breaking off and putting on matches that felt realer than the other, also fake matches (I pause to remind you that Leo Burke got in on this); or the UWFi/Pancrase/RINGS era in which the matches felt realer still, often because they actually were (although we must never lose sight of Dave Meltzer's tale of mid-1997 RINGS, in which Dave was understandably trying to figure out which matches were shoots and which worked, which led "someone there" to say to Dave, "You're a mark," to which Dave was like "but why?" to which he was like, "Well, when you really understand the business, you'll realize it doesn't matter, because it's all the same anyway." And Dave was like "woah" as he realized how things truly were, here in The Long UWF, a term he has never used nor has Tadashi Tanaka even though pretty much all of my dumb feelings and worse ideas on this are his fault [not really, he is blameless and true]). All of this builds until Nobuhiko Takada has to become the living sacrifice for professional wrestling against Rickson Gracie in KAKUTOUGI REVOLUTIONARY SPIRITS PRIDE ONE except maybe it wasn't simple defeat so much as transcendence as although Takada lost this bout (and in time these bouts) it meant finally and truly (like for real this time) that professional wrestling became a thing not separate [分 わかれ wakare 【 分かれ 】(n) offshoot; branch; fork; see also 横分 yoko wakare side separation, a noble waza] from the martial arts but a place where actual martial arts actually happened, this time in the realest way possible (witness, if you dare, all of the face-kicking), even if this wasn't exactly the plan until it became clear that Takada was totally going to have to fight for real lest the whole deal fall apart entirely before it could come off at all. That Sakuraba, of Takada Dojo, whose Cro-Cop-gallows-walk engendered this poor reflection or perhaps these several poor reflections, turned out able to defeat if not Rickson Gracie himself (it never came up), then a thoroughly creditable array of Gracies and Gracie-proxies, and thus fulfill the rôle of Symbolic Takada, was of course enormous, but, at the same time, not everything, as it is not as though Sakuraba defeated all martial artists (here's Cro Cop just now, for instance), nor even all Brazilian martial artists (who then loomed myth-large). It was extremely nice, and super interesting, but that things were even being contested where and as they were was the weird triumph of it, that professional wrestling had become the place where all of this occurred for real now (though not always [we'll get to it]) amongst and amidst professional wrestlers even if some of the principles did not identify as such (if your strange grandstanding-challenge-match martial arts family derides professional wrestling but claims Mitsuya Maeda as the source of its waza, then mister, and indeed missus, I don't even know what to tell you about the strange place you are in [nor, were I able to articulate it, should you listen]). Is it worth noting that the next (final?) Symbolic Takada (who might be a symbolic Maeda [who might be a symbolic Inoki {who might be a symbolic Rikidozan}]), Hidehiko Yoshida, makes his début at this very same Dynamite! 史上最大の格闘技ワールド・カップ SUMMER NIGHT FEVER? And dispatches with no real trouble (though not without controversy [if you are a dweeb]) Royce Gracie before Christ and the Buddhas and 91,107 and a network television audience of millions? There is nothing new or arguably even interesting in any of this and it is entirely possible that what I am describing above does not even constitute an idea however I can tell you for sure that it did constitute a feeling that I had as I encountered a moment at the intersection of physical culture and the æsthetic, a moment that is therefore literally crucial. I felt it all more heavily than I had previously, and the thing I felt most heavily of all wasn't even its continuity (though that did feel real) but the finality of it, that this is it, that when Pride is done, it's done, whatever it is we're describing (The Long UWF [obviously]). In a sense this is all about a truly realized strong style, isn't it, in that the UWF's rejection of Inoki was a rejection not of strong style but of a strong style deemed insufficiently strong (this led to conflict); and think too of how any credible claim to strong style post-Pride hinges on the stoic style forays (you are darn right I am using ファイヤープロレスリング Fire Pro Wrestling terms to deal with this) of Nakamura or Shibata, however ruinously -- but these ever-fainter echoes are not necessarily even that interesting, in this line of thought (feeling), except for the surrounding emptiness they reveal. This is all just thoroughly and irrevocably done! But that makes it all the more intriguing! Let us wander the ruins of this fallen kingdom, a little bit of Japanese and a decent amount of judo our compass and astrolabe! From time to time we will no doubt happen upon fellow travelers! And oh hey in fact a conversation I had with Jonathan (plainly a fellow traveler in these strange realms of especially real fake fights and the real fights that emerge from them only then to sometimes also be fake) probably more than a year ago is top of mind right now as I earnestly re-descend into TK Scissorship; to call it a conversation is overstating it, probably, as Jonathan and Puddintaine (don't act like you don't know) were trying to figure out exactly how popular you could say the UWF really was (it's a weird case!), and I just butted in (in the coarse manner of a butt). Puddintaine, as part of this, noted that "cult favorites in japan tend to draw a lot better on average than the US but they burn out a lot quicker." (This all occurred on the very public forum of Twitter; I tell no tales out of school.)

To which Jonathan replied, "If you start in 1984 and factor in Maeda's NJPW return, that's more than a decade as a top act. And his satellites all became stars too."

Then here I come like a dummy with only one idea ever: "tadashi tanaka never said this but because of him I think of maeda's eyekick through idk I guess the end of pride (mb dream) as The Long UWF"

To which Jonathan, quite reasonably: "I'd say Rickson vs. Takada was the last gasp."

And me, less so: "imo no cuz sakuraba is inseperable from it all"

To which Jonathan: "But his success is apart from UWF, in a different, new genre. Takada had already killed UWF. SAKU was good at something else entirely."

Guess who this is (me): "tanaka argues otherwise and I am convinced"

Jonathan once more: "I think that's the passion of a fan speaking. But intellectually, it seems like the beginning of something else, not a continuation."

Then I pretended to be the worst Northrop Frye (also born in Nouveau Brunswick like me AAAAAND Leo Burke and there's no way this is all coincidence) not just ever but imaginable: "if ur suggesting this conception is entirely romantic I concede fully that it is"

Then to make it even worse I said: "or romanchikku (ロマンチック)"

To which Jonathan graciously answered, "I will think on it," which, as you can see, is more, indeed far more, than I deserved.

OK SO if you thought that was it for prefatory material before we get to the particulars of the Kakutougi Revolutionary Spirit itself I have some awful news for you and that is that no, there is a lot more, like for instance I would like us to please consider again the epistolary prose poem of Tadashi Tanaka published in the August 2, 1999 issue of the venerable Wrestling Observer Newsletter, and find deep concord between what is expressed herein and what I have written above, and also merely embrace the mystery of all the parts of what I have said that don't make sense in light of what follows immediately after the colon that concludes this passage that I am concluding right now:


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"

I see now reading it anew that all of this is too much to bear, let alone "consider," and so, humiliated, I retract my earlier suggestion that we do so. For now, I will say only that the way Tanaka unexpectedly centres the monstrosity of Takada's Christ-like suffering convinces me Tadashi Tanaka is in fact Žižek or, somehow stranger still to imagine, that Žižek is in fact Tanaka.

ONE MIGHT REASONABLY THINK THAT IS ALL THERE IS TO BE SAID AND THAT WE WOULD BE ON TO THE PRIDE FIGHTS OF THAT SELF-SAME FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIP AT THIS TIME but no, no we are not, forgive me, for there is still the matter of this deleted reddit post that I don't even remember how I ever got to but it seems very near essential now. It appeared under the title "Interesting stuff about Pride and Yakuza ties... some details from Fedor AND Cro Cop's former manager (he managed both)" and can, for the time being, at least, still be accessed in cache-realmz at this address (but for how long). "Haven't had time to really look at it," writes the since-deleted poster, "so I'm just copying and pasting the info here as I am paranoid about shit getting deleted... and the original site was already deleted." S/he is right to feel this way! For all the internet can be extremely permanent in ways that seem to haunt people and lead to their ruin, it can also be surprisingly fleeting! For example my friend @DenimAssemblage (the leading Inokiist bloggeur and dailymotion-uploadist on the scene today) and I had been talking about Kazuhiro Nakamura and it took me forever and required all of my cunning (I possess but little and cannot spare any) to find the five-part Nakamura retrospective I wrote (for the long-dead Total MMA blog) upon the occasion of his UFC release for having gotten very high whilst losing several fights (it is not my best work but how could it be as my best work is this sentence we are just now reaching the end of). So much of the pre-social-media internet is gone. Where is the picture of Fedor training with Tmenov I always ask about when this comes up? Or the old GRABAKA t-shirt designs that I also bring up? No one knows, and it's very sad, that's true. Remember the 2006 Economist Special Report on Web 2.0 and the special feeling that it gave you? Of course you do.

[Before proceeding I would like to acknowledge the death of 山本 徳郁 Yamamoto Norifumi aka KID Yamamoto, the news of which reached me while I was writing this; R.I.P KID Yamamoto, whose death leaves fatherless two sons and a daughter. UPDATE: Dave writes the following in this week's Observer, which totally speaks to a bunch of the stuff above in a way that is so direct that it feels weird: "[The Faithful Deceased] was the key in Japanese MMA staying at a high level of popularity for several years after it was clear that the legends of a few years earlier, Kazushi Sakuraba, who really build the sport, and Hidehiko Yoshida, were no longer able to beat the top competitors. And one can really trace the decline of Japanese MMA to the period when Yamamoto left to go back to [amateur] wrestling, and his return where he was no longer an elite fighter, as ratings greatly declined. In a business built on the need for superheroes to the mainstream to be successful, Yamamoto was in many ways the last one in the line which started in 1954 with Rikidozan, Antonio Inoki, Giant Baba and later turned to MMA fighting heroes like Sakuraba and Yamamoto, but the difference with the wrestling superheroes and fighting superheroes is the nature of fighting made it impossible for them to sustain their auras past a few years." The last of the symbolic Rikidozans? R.I.P. Kid Yamamoto.]

OK so, to return: the since-deleted-Redditist is pretty much copying and pasting stuff from Zach Arnold (remember him?), who I have actually weirdly enough been listening to on old Figure Four Dailies and such with Bryan Alvarez kind of a lot in recent months. Here are the links to web-archived versions of Fight Opinion pages that were posted atop this Reddit thread, and then there was this one too from elsewhere. And then all the text, which I present to you now, periodically commented upon parenthetically. Ah, but why are we doing this at all, a fine question, thank you, yes: as we ready ourselves for this grand adventure of Pride Watchingz, I thought it might be of interest or use to meet the cast and in some cases crew! Also, all of this comes from the very end of things, and what better place to start. OK HERE WE GO, please remember this is Zach Arnold's writing that follows in italics, my dumb little notes here and there will occur in plain-type and within brackets:

If you’re a new visitor and want some reading material to review the background on the implosion of PRIDE, here are some key words to search:

The yakuza: Organized crime syndicates in Japan. Recently, politicians & police have ramped up the war against the black suits and the suits in turn are threatening to turn Japan “into Mexico.” Major players: Yamaguchi-gumi (largest umbrella group w/ heavy roots in Osaka, Nagoya, Kobe, moving towards Kanto area), kudo-kai (sub-group known to have relations with fight industry in the past), kokusui-kai (smaller Kanto-based group), Inagawa-kai (Kanto-based top rival to Yamaguchi, they’ve been dealing with a turf war with Yamaguchi). Rikidozan, the Godfather of Japanese pro-wrestling after the Reconstruction period post-World War II in Japan, was heavily involved in the Underworld.  [Interestingly, at the time of RIZIN's launch nearly a decade later, the central man of our system (in Wallace Stevens' sense) Tadashi Tanaka suggested on Eddie Goldman's radio show that the yakuza at this point is, like, six guys located in a single Pachinko (パチンコ) parlour and of nearly no consequence in contemporary Japan; it's nothing like it was; farewell to yr romantic yakuza notions, sayeth Tanaka (I have no actual knowledge about any of this).]

Shukan Gendai: This is the weekly magazine that published a series of negative articles about PRIDE in 2006 that caused the public firestorm in regards to creating the yakuza scandal. 

Tadashi Tanaka: Scandal writer who took a lot of heat for his articles but ultimately won the battle. [Also he is the poet of our innermost heart.]

Seiya Kawamata: Kawamata was the major focus of the Gendai articles. He’s an admitted yakuza fixer on behalf of K-1 boss Kazuyoshi Ishii. ["It should also be noted," Dave Meltzer noted in the July 27, 1998 Wrestling Observer Newsletter that I quoted nearly to death when together we explored RINGS 7/20/98: CAPTURED, "that K-1 was formed in a sense from RINGS, as promoter Kazuyoshi Ishii learned a lot about the pro wrestling business working with the early RINGS office and Masaake Satake, still K-1's biggest Japanese star, worked doing a kickboxer gimmick as the semifinal to Maeda on many RINGS shows in 1992 before the two branched out and created K-1 the next year." Keep it utterly locked to for even more things exactly like this, and for no other things.] K-1 & PRIDE initially worked together with Antonio Inoki but ended up being blood rivals. Kawamata is a big talker and still is around, but under the radar. Kawamata was the man who managed Inoki’s 2003 New Year’s Eve MMA show at Kobe Wing Stadium. It flopped horribly on Nippon TV.

Kunio Kiyohara: Kiyohara was the producer at Fuji TV who was heavily involved in the matchmaking & production of PRIDE. PRIDE was his baby. Kiyohara’s father had pull with Sankei Shimbun. When the police started investigating & interrogating Fuji TV employees, Kiyohara was a focus during the PRIDE scandal.

Miro Mijatovic: Was one of the big three agents during the PRIDE days. He managed Fedor & Mirko Cro Cop in Japan. He managed Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe’s deals. A heavy hitter in the hotel business & investing world. He would soon get sabotaged after Fedor worked Inoki’s 2003 NYE event instead of the PRIDE show on Fuji TV. It was Mijatovic who went after troublemakers when violence allegedly started breaking out. After Kawamata filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Nippon TV over the NYE deal, Miro successfully got a court lien on any winnings Kawamata got in court against NTV. Miro was deemed to be of good character by Tokyo District Court. It’s rare enough to see any court battles in the fight industry rampant with corruption & yakuza… and even rarer that a foreigner took the fight to big players. After the Inoki NYE show, he would end up losing both Fedor & Mirko due to various power plays. [Can you believe how much Zach Arnold knew about this stuff? I don't think he's very active in this world anymore (this world of weird Japanese martial arts shows, I mean, not, like this world), but he has apparently been helping Lee Daly with his crowdfunded Pride book that could totally be good.] 

Toshiro Igari: Famous anti-yakuza lawyer who worked with Miro to go after the bad guys. In fact, Miro’s case was featured in one of Igari’s publications. Igari took on many big fish but may have taken on too big of a one when Sumo was imploding due to various scandals. Igari was a TV personality and vocally stood up against corruption. Before his last book would be published by Kodansha (the same publishing house that produces Shukan Gendai), he was found dead in the Philippines. Few people believe it was suicide, as the yakuza has a way of blurring the lines in regards to making murders look like suicides. Igari got the last laugh from the grave when his biggest book to date was published after his death. This article at The Economist succinctly characterizes Mr. Igari’s end. [Sometimes I think about starting to read The Economist again or at least finding anew a reliable download of the audio edition but man there is just so much in one! Also the obituaries went from unreal to badly overwrought and the Lexington column fell off awfully and I realize as I am writing this that I am describing changes that occurred between like 2004 and 2010.] 

Ken Imai: Ken Imai was Kazuyoshi Ishii’s former right-hand man who left K-1 when all hell broke loose due to a corporate tax evasion scandal. Imai ended up being Nobuyuki Sakakibara’s point man. He pulled Mirko Cro Cop away from Miro and got him into PRIDE. Mirko was supposed to fight on the Inoki NYE show but ended up pulling out due to what he claimed was a back injury. Mirko left Miro and went with Imai just days after the Inoki NYE event. Imai was heavily involved in the business side of K-1 & foreign shows.

Nobuyuki Sakakibara: The front man for PRIDE. Huge ego. Big talker. Plenty to say. Background was from the Nagoya Fuji TV affiliate, Tokai TV. [If we're honest with each other and, more importantly, with ourselves, RIZIN is not nearly as good as we would like it to be, is it.]

Sotaro Shinoda: Sakakibara’s right-hand man. He, along with Kato (the boss of DREAM) worked with Sakakibara & Kiyohara to put together the PRIDE coalition.

Mr. Ishizaka aka Kim Dok Soo: He was referred to in Shukan Gendai as the infamous “Mr. I,” the alleged shadow owner of PRIDE who is zainichi (of Korean blood). Kanagawa police put out an arrest warrant and he supposedly fled to South Korea but doesn’t know much Korean language. Think of him as a Godfather type.

Naoto Morishita: The original front man for PRIDE. He was found dead, hanging by shower curtain in a hotel room. Sakakibara took over after his death.

Hiromichi Momose: The original Godfather of PRIDE, the man in the ball cap & dark glasses w/ body guards [Let's keep an eye out for him!]. He was Nobuhiko Takada’s backer when UWF-International collapsed due to money troubles & image damage after an interpromotional series in 1995-1996 with New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Momose, though an entity called KRS, backed the first PRIDE events with Takada vs. Rickson Gracie. Eventually, the company backing PRIDE would be Dream Stage Entertainment. Momose was a classmate in his younger days with Tatsuo Kawamura, the veteran entertainment power broker who has been the power source for Antonio Inoki for many years. Momose is now dead.

Ed Fishman: Friend of Dick Clark [this a dark opening thing to say], the man from Malibu who made a name for himself in Las Vegas & Atlantic City through gaming. He was supposedly approached by Sakakibara, after PRIDE lost its Fuji TV deal, for a loan. Ed wanted to buy PRIDE. He promoted two PRIDE events at the Thomas & Mack Center in Vegas. During this time frame, UFC was negotiating with Sakakibara and got the PRIDE assets despite the two PRIDE Vegas events doing decent business.

Jamie Pollack: [Not to be confused with John Pollack, a lovely guy who used to co-host the Monday Night Raw viewingz at O'Grady's on College Street just across from the University of Toronto campus in the 2001-2006 era more or less and who has since gone on to several even loftier positions in the combat sports media world than that.] UFC point man who moved to Japan after the PRIDE asset sale deal to try to run PRIDE under Zuffa leadership. He encountered nothing but hostility and found himself back in the States in short order. His name is historically important because Zuffa eventually closed down the PRIDE offices with signs telling employees to clean out their desks immediately. This unfairly/fairly played right into the Japanese media stereotype that UFC was never serious about running PRIDE and that the evil gaijin had killed the home promotion.


Fedor’s former manager details PRIDE Yakuza ties

by Chris Palmquist

Spike TV’s MMA Uncensored recently debuted with an interview by Dan Herbertson of Miro Mijatovic. Mijatovic, the former manager for Mirko Cro Cop and Fedor Emelianenko, is credited with bringing down PRIDE, after a lawsuit he filed in Japan exposed Yakuza ties to the promotion, which resulted in a loss of the television deal that was at the center of PRIDE’s financial viability.

The story involves characters with far less prominence but far more power than the event’s star fighters:

Hiromichi Momose, The Phantom of Pride. First rate mobster and poet and above all, connected in all its meanings. [This is an incredible sentence.]

Naoto Morishita, architect behind the success of PRIDE. Died suspiciously.

Mr. Ishizaka (Kim Dok Soo), mob boss who acquired control of PRIDE, and later sold it to ZUFFA. Fled to Korea when Yakuza ties to Pride became public. Alleged by Bas Boon to currently control K-1.

Nobuyuki Sakakibara, president of Dream Stage Entertainment, Ishizaka’s front man.

Miro Mijatovic: (Transcript of Spike TV interview by Dan Herbertson for MMA Uncensored)

I originally got involved in the fight game by being introduced by the Croatian Soccer Federation to a Croatian fighter who in 2002 was pretty big and that was Mirko Cro Cop, so my original involvement was to act as Mirko Cro Cop’s manager in, at that time, he was in K-1 so that’s where I started in about 2002 I think it was.

“The first time PRIDE had ever done a massive event, massive being Tokyo Dome, was in November of 2003 which had a double headline of (Wanderlei) Silva vs. Rampage (Jackson) and also Cro Cop vs. (Antonio Rodrigo) Nogueira for the interim heavyweight title.

“At the backstage, behind the scenes of that particular event, I was personally… usually there was plenty of yakuza around as customers of the shows, the guys that were picking up the ring side seats for 100,000Y, you know, a lot of those guys were yakuza and obviously customers of the event. The first time I’d actually seen that there was catually something going on behind the scenes was at that specific event where there was probably, I’d say, between 100-to-200 armed yakuza guys from two different groups basically looking like they were setting up battle lines and ready to start open warfare.

“The warfare was basically between two groups — one group was behind (Hiromichi) Momose, which is the guy that used to sit at PRIDE events with the black cap with “Young at Heart” stitched on it. So many people who watched PRIDE events would know who that is; and also the new owner or the owner who had taken over from (Naoto) Morishita who had, uh, let’s say died earlier in January of 2003. The new owner was a guy called Ishizaka (Kim Dok Soo) and his Osaka-based crew were having a major dispute with Momose’s crew and it came pretty close to shots being fired at that specific event. So, it was a pretty um… dangerous scene behind the scenes…

“80,000 people in Tokyo Dome and all the way behind including change rooms and the rest of it… you know, things had already gotten pretty hot by November of 2003. So, there was a battle for which yakuza group was actually going to take control of PRIDE.”

How the feud came to a conclusion

“That had started with Morishita’s death and it continued for the whole year and it culminated at that November event and what happened was that Ishizaka and his group basically had the numbers to take control or take full control of PRIDE. And from that time forward, you’d find that Momose does not play as much of a… you know how can I say, a prominent position at PRIDE events. Until that event, you’d see Momse sitting at ringside very regularly. Following the November 2003 event, you’ll find that you don’t see him much at all and he was pushed out.

“Look, the official… Naoto Morishita… he was the guy who basically resurrected or was the creator of the PRIDE concept. The original PRIDE events were run by KRS which was a company which was funnily event funded by a combination of Momose & Ishizaka, you know, who years later were to have a final war at that November 2003 event. The events were a massive financial failure and KRS basically was bleeding money.

“Morishita came in and was able to change around the dynamic or the cost of the events and built the PRIDE sort of brand as people began to know it. As we started, as we got into let’s say 2000 to 2003, Morishita was clean. He was a clean guy. He didn’t come from a yakuza background and neither were the shares in the company Dream Stage Entertainment owned by yakuza at those times. However, there was a reasonable level of funding for his shows coming from those groups and obviously in Japan when you do live events the yakuza have the rights, each of the yakuza in each local region, have what they call the rights to charge you a fee for putting on events within their territory. The best way to describe it in English is protection money. You know, if you don’t pay the guys, they will look to cause problems at the events.”

The end of Morishita’s reign of power and his death

“So, Morishita… because PRIDE was a product in 2001, 2002 which was not nationally televised, it was on Japanese PPV (SkyPerfecTV)… it generally was not a group that was making a lot of money. So, a lot of the income flow came from both yakuza supporting the events through straight-out loans or buying large chunks of the expensive tickets and the reason why they did that was 1) they liked fighting 2) there was a lot of money to be made on gambling on, you know, MMA fights in Japan at that specific time. So, for them, it was an interesting below-the-radar type event which produced reasonable money, reasonable cash and good ways to also wash (launder) money.

“So, Morishita was in debt or should I say Dream Strage Entertainment was into debt with guys like Ishizaka, not so much to Momose in the later days… and Morishita’s death in the Tokyo Hilton was pronounced a suicide by the police. But you also have to remember that the police… aren’t always that interested into going too deep into investigations of… yakuza-tainted, you know, deaths, it’s not really what they’re interested in especially if you don’t have a victim, let’s say victim who’s really pushing it. In this particular case, it’s pretty much standard yakuza operational-wise if they’re going to take someone out, they don’t just, you know, walk down the street and shoot them although they do that every day as well… but the smarter guys always operate on the basis of a suicide, connecting it to a sexual issue.

“For example, supposedly Morishita was with his mistress who also disappeared at that time. Reason why they do that is the wife doesn’t tend to make a lot of noise to the police about investigations, so once there’s a sexual [angle] to the scandal involved… there’s no one pushing hard to discover the facts, the wife doesn’t want to know. She’s angry that she’s found out that her husband’s having an affair or a supposed affair, so things get hushed up.

“So, the official finding was suicide. I’ve stayed in the Hilton myself in Tokyo many, many times and there’s not a lot of ways and a lot of places you can hang yourself from in those rooms. So… how it all happened… you know, as I said, the official cause remains a suicide. How that could have practically happened is a very different story and is a story that’s never really been told.

“What did happen was in usually these sorts of cases if you follow the money trail, Morishita’s shares (in DSE) which would have normally gone to his next of kin, in other words of his wife, ended up in the hands of Ishizaka and his front man Sakakibara.”

Influencing fight outcomes vs. match fixing in PRIDE

“When we say controlling fights, I suppose there’s a whole scope of what you can say controlling a fight is. I mean, at one end of the spectrum it’s basically fixing fights. At the other end of the spectrum which is what PRIDE did on a regular basis which was controlling or trying to influence the outcome of fights, whether that was through referees like (Yuji) Shimada doing his usual bits and pieces to make fights go the way the promoter wanted them to wherever it was, matchmaking fights where you knew the favored fighter was going to win which is not really any great mystery… Doing things like giving one fighter three or four months notice of the fight he’s going to have and the opponent gets to know a week or 10 days before or he’s actually baited-and-switched which was actually a very common occurrence in PRIDE.

“For example, Mirko Cro Cop may be fighting or for example was set to fight Heath Herring at one of his first debut fights. Poor ‘ol Heath thought he was fighting a wrestler and trained for fighting a wrestler for three months. 10 days before the fight, they switched it and said you’re fighting Mirko Cro Cop. Mirko actually had four months to prepare for the fight, Heath had 10 days, which was good for us because I was managing Mirko so no problem for me but tough luck for Heath and that was a very, very common way of influencing the fights.

“In terms of actually matchmaking the events… yes, the [yakuza] were involved. There were fights (that) they wanted to see but remember even these yakuza guys … so there were fights that those guys wanted to see and they also knew that big headline fights would also carry a lot of betting, just like in the US model…

“You know, gambling here is illegal… it has to be said which is why it’s one of the yakuza’s main forms of business, whether it’s in Sumo where there’s been a lot of scandals or whether it’s been in the fight industry and, you know, the meaning of yakuza actually comes from gambler in Japanese. That’s where the original business was, so, you know, 200 years later they haven’t given up on their main business. Gambling still remains one of their main lines of business.”

Miro Mijatovic: Fedor, Mirko, and PRIDE yakuza’s loaded pistols

“As we took Mirko from K-1 into PRIDE, PRIDE for the first time made it onto normal [broadcast] TV on Fuji TV. The reason was PRIDE had been building up a good level of success in terms of having a very good live event and a very good showing of fans, a lot of hardcore fans but they hadn’t been able to make the jump from a hardcore fan base into national television. By bringing Mirko, who back in March 2003 (Saitama Super Arena) knocked out Bob Sapp and became the biggest property in the fight industry, Mirko was able to drag DSE or PRIDE onto national TV which is actually what happened. That’s why, you know, and you had the fights with Herring & Vovchanchyn and at that stage when you got to the finals in November w/ Mirko/Nogueira, PRIDE had become a very significant competitor to the natural power base of K-1.

“So, as we were approaching New Year’s Eve which is the #1 ratings on Japanese television, also traditionally the big night for fight events as well… K-1 had traditionally been doing the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye event which was a mixture of K-1 fights & Mixed Martial Arts fights on New Year’s Eve with TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System). PRIDE and Fuji TV were undecided in November as to whether they were going to do an event on New Year’s Eve and go head-to-head with K-1.

“I suppose the big cause of all the problems or one of the big causes was that Nippon TV, which is a much bigger TV station than TBS, decided that they wanted to get into the fight game in a big way and that meant challenging TBS & K-1’s dominance in the sport. Now, they didn’t have a way to get in there because PRIDE was exclusive to Fuji. K-1 was very close to Fuji and TBS although because of the relationship with PRIDE and Fuji TV, you know, growing K-1 had become much less important to Fuji TV and in the beginning of November (2003), Nippon TV approached (Seiya) Kawamata who eventually did a deal with and myself to do an event on New Year’s Eve. Now, that was all based around ensuring that Mirko Cro Cop was headlining the event. I’d spoken to Mirko leading up to the November fight and immediately afterwards and I said, ‘Look, it’s in our interests to have three strong promotions and the more strong promotions there are, the better it is for the fighters. Obviously, your fight money goes up.’ Mirko agreed to fight because it was quite traditional for him to fight a pro-wrestler on New Year’s Eve. It wasn’t that tough a fight, he was going to get good money. Nippon TV offered Kawamata a contract for three years, 600 million yen for the first event on that night and off we went.

“So, we announced the first fight in the beginning of November which was Mirko versus (Yoshihiro) Takayama and we started to put an event together. We had less than 60 days to put an event on. We had zero fighters contracted. We had nothing except a contract to go out and do the fight. So, off we went and ran around and collected fighters.

“So, in the middle of November, Fuji TV and PRIDE decided that they were going to do an event as well on New Year’s Eve. That’s when the fun and games started. Fun and games being obviously they realized that with a fledgling promotion like Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye was, if they could destroy our main event which was Takayama and Cro Cop, the show would probably start to fall apart. So, towards the end of November, Mirko started to receive visits from a guy called Ken Imai (former right-hand man of K-1 Godfather Kazuyoshi Ishii), who worked closely with (Nobuyuki) Sakakibara and finally Mirko was paid $300,000 to fake a back injury and pull out of the event, which he eventually did in the middle of December. That was a pretty aggressive move as far as I concerned, since they had interfered with my relations with Mirko. I obviously knew a lot about what all the fighters were getting paid all over PRIDE and I knew that Fedor was fighting for around $10,000 a fight and was being totally ripped off by his manager at the time Pokogin (Russian Top Team) and also PRIDE as well. So, I shot off to Saint Petersburg and sat down with Vadim Finkelchtein, Apy Echteld, Fedor and his brother and after the course of two days we did a deal and I signed Fedor on a one-year contract for four fights at almost 20 times the money he was getting paid at the time. So, it wasn’t a difficult deal for Fedor to accept. When I came back to Japan and announced that Fedor was fighting on Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye, PRIDE reacted furiously. Sakakibara hit the airwaves and said he was going to sue me, he was going to sue Fedor, he was going to do this, do that, and the other. What he actually did was not go for legal actions because he had no legal rights to sue anybody. What he did was he started sending yakuza around so I started to get visits to my office from various yakuza dudes, you know, calls late into the night to arrange meetings to talk to these guys and things escalated from there.

“As the time got closer and closer, the threats started to get ratcheted up and eventually from around about the 20th of December, death threats started to happen. Kawamata was threatened when he came back to Japan for a press conference. They grabbed him, according to him, threatened to kill him. He, of course, reacted to that by jumping on the next plane out of the country again and … the threats started to come to me. In the next 10 days leading up from the 20th of December through the actual event itself, things got very, very hot. People, guys were turning up into my house, you know, 2 AM, 3 AM, big groups, three or four guys. I don’t know who they were but they certainly weren’t friends of mine, you know, and I took other measures. I moved my family away from where we were living and started to stay myself into hotels and other places as the event got closer and closer. The pressure kept on escalating right up to the actual night of the event in Kobe on the 31st. At that stage, you know… threats are threats and the fight industry’s full of guys who think they’re alpha males. People make a lot of threats in the heat of the moment. It’s just part of the game but when those guys have guns and have a history of carrying out threats, things are a little bit more nervous. What happened was we put on the event on the 31st… despite all the interruptions from PRIDE and some local yakuza groups in Kobe, the event went off fine. Fine means we had 40,000 people attend the event so we were actually the best-attended event on that specific night. We beat PRIDE and K-1 in terms of the paid attendance. Unfortunately, due to the absolute mess of not being able to announce fights in the lead up to the actual event itself… for example, whether Fedor was fighting or not, no one knew until the 31st because the promoter Kawamata had said, ‘he’s not going to fight’ due to the pressure he got from the yakuza. I was saying ‘he’s fighting’ and so you had mixed messages out to the audience. The result was and it wasn’t only that fight, all the other fighters we tried to put on we couldn’t make announces so the ratings results was horrible. We ended up with 4% ratings, the lowest ratings on the night, and the event just crumbled afterwards.

“New Year’s Eve, on New Year’s Eve the event goes on. New Year’s day, Kawamata again disappears. No one’s there. Fighters want to get paid. We had some cash at the time that Kawamata hadn’t grabbed and we were able to pay the Russian fighters and a few others. I dealt with a lot of people who remained unpaid. I was trying to handle arrangements as fighters were leaving the two days afterwards and then on the 3rd of January (2004), much to my great surprise, Sakakibara, Ishizaka, and four yakuza guys turn up to the hotel where I was staying, the Okura hotel in Kobe, and I was… how can you put it, shepherded into a meeting room and we had some pretty difficult discussions… discussions were pretty simple. I was told I had to sign over my rights to Fedor or I wasn’t going to leave Kobe alive. So, we had… a pretty difficult afternoon of discussions and negotiations. I was fairly confident they weren’t going to shoot me in the Okura hotel, that’s a bit difficult to deal with getting a body out of, especially a body of my size, out of the walls so I felt I had a bit of room to push back on and eventually I was able to… because they knew where I lived, they knew were my family as in Tokyo, I was able to then have the discussions moved to Tokyo which was on the 4th and the 5th and we sat in, you know, the same group of guys, we sat down and continued those discussions and eventually I agreed to sign my rights to Fedor across to PRIDE for zero value.

“I’ve seen guns before and these weren’t toy guns. They were loaded pistols and they… when they talked, number one first they show you that they’re armed, they’re dressed in suits but they showed you that they’re holstered and they’re armed. Eventually when I’m pushing back on what they were asking to do, one of the guys pulled out his gun, put it on the table… and we continued to talk and when I continued to push back, he picked the gun up and aimed it to my head and said, ‘You know what’s going to happen if you don’t sign?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, look, we’re in a hotel, it’s going to be pretty messy, so I understand that if you guys want me dead I’ll be dead and I’m sure you’re not going to shoot me here in the meeting room in the hotel. So, let’s continue talking.’ As long as I recognized the fact that there was a credible threat, the guys realized that they didn’t need to go any further than that at that stage. It was a very credible threat.”


Do you think it is maybe time to watch the show? Or should we first visit the Wrestling Observer Newsletter archives to encounter What Dave Meltzer Had to Say? No you're right, we'll come back to that; we'll do that after. 


シリーズ PRIDE(ナンバーシリーズ)
主催 KRS
開催年月日 1997年10月11日
開催地 日本
会場 東京ドーム
試合数 全8試合
放送局 スカイパーフェクTV!
入場者数 47,000人

A REMINDER OF OUR METHOD IS PERHAPS IN ORDER and it is that with rare exception (such as, for example, the ten-thousand words above; please forgive me), the time of writing shallst not exceed that of the time spent a-watching, lest this already-tall task become just stupid and no fun (for me; for you; for us). The technique, as jazz great Jerry Granelli might well say, is spontaneous composition, plus screen-caps. AND HERE WE GO and bathed at once, we are, in an æsthetic that I had kind of forgotten about, a pre-MMA mixed martial æsthetics that has more to do with Black Belt magazine, at once noble and shitty, than with the flaming barbwire pitbullism that would soon emerge (solely shitty). This has nothing at all whatsoever to do with the WOWOWAVE of Fighting Network RINGS, which was in every aspect and mode its own utterly distinct and peerless thing. That Stephen Quadros, a man more Black Belt magazine to his very core than few others who yet roam the earth, greets us here is I believe significant . . . and welcome! And Bas Rutten, of course, I mean, my god. There's a good deal of deeply functional trance music in the opening video package that involves a fit hairless man in a warehouse and then some crudely animated computer dragons that are freaking me out a little:

Kazunari Murakami! Once of the 拓殖 大学 Takushoku Daigaku (拓大 Takudai) judo team! Lumax Cup participant! A great pick-up for your stoic style promotion in  ファイナルファイヤープロレスリング~夢の団体運営!~ Management of the Ring! Naoya Ogawa's little buddy! He is listed here as 6'1" and 209lbs and so no truly little buddy he, nor is his foe John Dixson, who is 6'0", 275lbs, and will very much be fighting in his t-shirt (dogi of the embarrassed swimmer). Two big lies open the broadcast, as Quadras and Rutten make awkward and unconvincing remarks implying their presence at the actual Tokyo Dome delivering live commentary while this is happening (I don't believe it!), that's the first lie, and the second is when Stephen Quadros says "They call me 'The Fight Professor!'" Murakami rushes in and clinches immediately, but ends up on his back after they separate and Murakami elects to kick (why, man). Dixson (an odd spelling!) makes no progress in Murakami's leggy guard and elects to stand right up out of it. When they engage anew, Murakami visits upon him the noble waza (技) harai goshi (払腰), "sweeping hip," and it is really a hekk of one:

"Beautiful hip throw there from Kazunari, who is a judo man," is Stephen Quadros' able call. This is as fine a mixed-fight harai goshi as you're likely to see, and calls to mind that which felled Frank Mir in his bout with Fedor Emelianenko earlier this year, and not just because Frank Mir is eating his way towards John Dixson's physique between performance-enhancing-drug test failures, but because of its thorough efficiency. Mir, candidly, later spoke about how the throw did not physically hurt him (nor should it, as it is of the supple and yielding path of gentleness), but hurt his ego, embarrassed him, and led to him rushing in as the next striking exchange began and then, you may well recall, it was just like *boop* when Fedor hit him on the chin and that was that, judo triumphs (ultimately through atemi waza in this instance). As it triumphs here: Murakami moves almost at once to ude-hishigi-juji-gatame 腕挫十字固 and is awarded flowers and a big trophy. "That's the beautiful thing about fighting in Japan," Bas tells us; "You got big trophies." Although not in Pancrase, he adds darkly. "That was classic judo!" Quadros says, and only a fool would argue. And so this is how Pride begins: with yet more evidence that we should all just train judo and have a wonderful time of it together. This is something I mentioned on twitter one time, but nobody really engaged with it because, I think, of how obnoxious it definitely was when I said it then, and it will for sure be at least as bad this time, but: when you consider that judo, despite not just indifference but actual institutional (not just philosophic) antipathy towards mixed martial arts ("The UFC has been forced to withdraw from sponsoring the European Judo Championship amidst threats from the European Judo Union to cancel the event") has nevertheless produced transcendent champions of it (Fedor, Ronda Rousey), that must be super embarrassing for other martial arts, right? Or it should be, if it's not, is my point. I am asking other martial arts to reflect on this, repent, and, ultimately, turn to the Kōdōkan (講道館).

Next in are Gary Goodridge, who history has proven should never have left his good welding job at the Honda plant in Alliston, and Oleg Taktarov, the person of whom I think I first heard "sambo" ever said. Ah, the earliest days of the UFC, when pay-per-view costs would be split amongst several of your dumbest little junior-high buddies and you would get chips. Gary Goodridge first emerged there, you will recall, in a black dogi repping Kuk Sool Won somewhat disingenuously, if I am remembering later revelations correctly (I apologize if I am mistaken in this) and yet somehow, at the same time, to the fullest. In the locker room at the gym just the other day, someone asked me if I was with the judo club (I am, that's true, thank you for asking!) and then he told me that he had done Kuk Sool Won! Oh wow, was that in Ontario, I inquired, but I think he said it was in Victoria! Anyway Gary Goodridge has just knocked Oleg Taktarov out as severely as I have ever seen happen and then continues to punch his insensate body (well, the insensate head attached to his insensate body) several times as the towel comes flying in from the corner (as does the referee). I don't feel good about this one! Gary Goodridge seems to, aside from how he is pretty sure he broke his foot, he tells his second, probably when he was kicked Taktarov's head while it was, you know, on the ground, insensate. I am doubting slightly whether or not I still have the heart or rather the lack of it for any of this! 

No pre-match video packages, no entrances, we just go, and it's the ever-scrappy Akira Shoji against Renzo Gracie, who looks so young and lean. Renzo is 5-0-1 at this point, and is coming off the one that ended in a riot (you know the one). It has been said that Akira Shoji was a pretty good high school judo player but I have never seen a source on that that I would call credible (I would welcome one; I would like this to be true), but I have just now learned the following: "According to fight commentator Stephen Quadros and John Hyams, director of the documentary 'The Smashing Machine' [which was really good], Shoji cleaned his house and prepared his will before every competition in case he is killed during the fight.[1]." Which paints a picture, doesn't it. They get right to it, and it's not long at all before Renzo is in "the mount" as our debased modern age has come to crudely know tate-shiho-gatame 縦四方固 (how dare it; how dare our age) and Bas offers for the first time a thing I feel like he offered many times which is his view that the mount is not very good for submissions so Renzo should just strike. Shoji rolls to his front, Renzo takes the back, and this is when the naked strangle of hadaka-jime 裸絞 is expected by most if not all, including referee Yuji Shimada (oh hey bro why aren't you in RINGS bro RINGS is still going on you know bro), who gets right in there. But Shoji stands up and so engenders a position Quadras understandably likens to a koala battle, to which Bas replies "Haha I've seen those man I've been in Australia they're crazy" and everything seems good; everything. They slip out and under the bottom rope and we're back to standing! 

And clinching. Both Quadros and Rutten have advice for how each should proceed from this long clinching, and there are some fine ideas for sure, but Bas catches himself a little and says, "Always the best people are watching, that's what they say in Holland, the best boat drivers are on shore. Captains." Renzo goes for the arm-in guillotine, and Bas says he doesn't believe it can work, and this is wild because just a few weeks ago I was talking with one of my mainest men of judo and I was like, hey do you remember when people used to claim that the arm-in guillotine was a myth? And he was like omg I do. Quadros remains open-minded, and says he thinks he has seen it, but thinks only in the context of a considerable size and strength mismatch, and Bas is like well ok. And that's round one.

As the second round begins, Bas is impressed with Renzo's boxing stance, if not his actual boxing, and contrasts it with the upright and actually I guess kind of lean-y stance we see in Royce of Rickson. Renzo shoots, Shoji sprawls, nearly takes the back, but ends up in Renzo's guard. Quadros asks if Bas has ever tried a move for the first time in an actual fight, as opposed to in training, and he relates an anecdote where he was walking around Tokyo the day before a fight and saw a heel hook on a big screen and he thought it looked neat so he tried it the next day and broke a guy's shin. Renzo creeeeps his hips up and attempts and armlock but these guys are super-sweaty right now and Shoji just slips out and get back to his feet. Renzo's speedos are actual Speedos, I notice only now, and fair play to him. 

This fight is awesome: after a stop-don't-move-stop-don't-move re-start in the middle, Renzo finishes a double-leg takedown, passes Shoji's guard, takes the back, and attacks with juji-gatame until Shoji stands up and shakes him down the mat. Did things get less awesome when Renzo decided immediately thereafter to just lay on his back for several minutes until the end of the round, Shoji standing in front of him doing nothing either? Sure, but I like the little moments, the little moments are what it's all about. Also, when things slow down, it gives room for Quadros and Rutten to just kind of hang out, and they take us with them on that hang, a hang on the very couch of the soul. Bas Rutten would like to see shots to the liver.

Interestingly, when Shoji sprawls atop Renzo's middling double-leg and begins to deliver what we would come to think of as "Pride knees" to the crown of his skull (it seems like a really bad idea when you type it out like that), Yuji Shimada tells him to stop! These special rules are a surprise to Quadros, and to me as well. There is a size difference in this bout but it is a very small one by the broad standards of what's going on here so I don't know. Shoji has another dramatic, crowd-pleasing escape from mount (turns over, stands up and out the back door) causing Bas to exclaim, "What a guy!" Shoji brings the heat in the final minutes of this bout that is fairly judged . . . a draw.

"Look at these guys; these guys are huge," is Quadros' introduction to thoroughly disgraced yokozuna Koji Kitao vs. enormous juiced-guy Nathan Jones, whom you may recall from roles in Fury Road or Tom Yum Goong, which, while no Ong Bak, deserved more attention than it received. Jones was also, I think, in Never Back Down: No Surrender, a first-rate Michael Jai White movie set in the gross world of mixed fight which has Josh Barnett make reference to our titular waza, the TK Scissors (I thank once more my old friend David for alerting me to these crucial details of cinema). Jones had an indifferently applied standing front choke for a moment but Kitao grabbed a leg, squished him down, squished him again once down, and finished with an ude garami 腕緘 that seemed like a gift. Both Quadros and Rutten are baffled by the ease with which that submission was finished but what neither seems willing to suggest openly is that this one could very well have been a wooooooooork

Ralph White is a well-built American I know nothing about; Branko Cikatić is a middle-aged Croatian of great kickboxing attainment and, if I am remembering this correctly, a reputation for being a jerk? This is to be a kickboxing bout, and I am totally not here for those (judo potential: minimal; hitting potential: very real), but fortunately it ends quite quickly on Cikatić's illegal kick to the head of a downed Ralph White that produces a huge goose egg, a truly mighty goose egg of great pith and moment. Get the frozen peas out of the freezer, my dudes, we've got a scalp hematoma! Quadros tells a story about Don "The Dragon" Wilson (kickboxing? sport of the future? Don "The Dragon Wilson"?) breaking both of his hands in a kickboxing match against Cikatić but still beating him. "But how?" you might well ask; the answer Quadros tells us with great relish is, of course, with kicking

Kimo vs. Dan Severn! By reputation an all-time unwatchable fight, right? I have not seen it since probably 2005 when those sets of Pride 1-5 and 6-9 plus 11 came out (they were not going to give you Pride 10 as part of that deal; they knew what they had with that one [it's ok I rented it on VHS from the wholly admirably grimy Suspect Video underneath Honest Ed's [r.i.p. to Honest Ed himself and to that whole complex and also to that time] where my wife once asked the horror movie/metal guy at the counter if they had The Karate Kid and the guy was like I am so, so embarrassed and sorry to have to tell you this but I am checking in the computer and no we do not, please pray for me) and have no distinct memory of any of it so we'll just see, I guess. I am feeling pretty chill right now and the light is a little low and Doris the cat is sleeping in such a way that her little nose is somewhat whistly and I had a nice green tea a little while ago so I am not looking for excitement right now and will probably be ok with whatever, in all honesty. Quadros is maligning this pretty hard, noting that both guys have landed punches right on the chin but neither seems to punch well enough to do any harm (this is a mercy); Bas joins him in low-key mocking Kimo's apparent interest in bodybuilding, which is probably appropriate, as bodybuilding is perhaps a largely indefensible pursuit and subculture but who am I to judge, what do I know about this or indeed anything (nothing). Bas mentions that Dan Severn looks a little like Freddie Mercury, and Quadros is like yeah Tank Abbott said that about him a few times on UFC tapes, and Bas is like "oh ok I'm sorry in Holland we don't get many of those tapes, just like UFC 1 and UFC 2 and that's pretty much it, I'm sorry, but it's good to get tapes, and watch them, it's good." Bas and Quadros are right that nothing is happening but I continue to feel chill, it's no problem. Fifteen minutes have passed; there are no rounds; they will circle until the world ends; I am at peace. 

In the interest of full disclosure I must tell you that I went to bed and now it is tomorrow; how will Kimo/Severn seem in the light of day? The gorgeous light of Nova Scotian autumn, I would add, which minimalist sculptor Richard Serra rightly notes is the best light there is (if you doubt this, take it up with him, please, not me; or better yet come visit). Here's Richard Serra, who I think you can tell right away from the way he is sitting on a chair is pretty serious about light:

As you can see I did not misrepresent Richard Serra to you. Kimo has been cut, which is weird, because there has been very little contact. The crowd is displeased! And who can blame them: they left the house for a night out, these people, which is rarely the right thing to do, and actually maybe part of their dark reaction is their collective realization that they themselves are not blameless in this and should in fact be, if not at the gym or something, then on the couch, where in truth the best evenings are spent, if we are being honest, if this is indeed . . . a shoot. After a comparatively heated final minute, in which Dan Severn finally took Kimo to the mat and Becky Levi shouted instructions that frightened me, the bout is ruled a draw that everyone hated. Except me; I feel fine; everything's ok. 

YES THEN OUR MAIN EVENT which sees Nobuhiko Takada, much loved old-fashionedly-handsome UWFi shoot-stylist, marched to his doom (in the extremely limited sense of getting juji-gatame'd, which isn't so much doom as it is a regular thing three nights a week at the gym, so I guess let's keep it in perspective, which is tough to do given the overall state of mind produced by the above-quoted prose of Tadashi Tanaka about the whole thing but we must be disciplined in this as in all things) against Rickson Gracie, about whom we have said much in these pages of TK enScissoring, haven't we: mostly about how the obvious distortions and outright lies of the unbeaten and unbeatable 400-0 mythic Rickson Gracie (such nonsense that his own father laughed at the claim; also Ron Tripp defeated him by ippon and everyone knows this) cannot be squared technically with the performances we see in his mixed fight encounters against less-than-stellar opposition, but also about how nice it was for the local organizers of the Rickson Gracie seminar earlier this year (his first in Canada in two decades) graciously invited not just me but the other instructors of my judo club (and also our student club president) to attend as guests to thank us for the loan of several tatami that we were happy to share freely without recompense in a spirit of fellowship, and how Rickson walked over to my friends as we were warming up and greeted us kindly and shook our hands, and taught a lovely class of fundamentals from which all levels of græppler could profit. It was a genuine pleasure to meet him! He teaches juji-gatame identically to Koji Komuro! It was a lovely day! So all is suitably complex, I mean to say. As the national anthems play, Bas Rutten relates an anecdote regarding Nobuhiko Takada's time at the Beverly Hills Jiu Jitsu club, and that is that he is not very good and he will probably not win this fight (I guess that's not an anecdote). Stephen Quadros, trying to communicate the extent of Takada's pro wrestling fame in Japan, likens him to Hulk Hogan (you could nitpick this if you wanted to but this is a serviceable thing to say, to have said). We all know about Yoji Anjoh dojo-storming Rickson Gracie's otherwise clear-skied dojo in sunny California and getting trounced, right? Otherwise we would not be there? A student of mine who is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and has traveled and trained extensively abroad has told me of training with the guy who like answered the door at Rickson's that day (who I believe he teaches in Hawaii now? I could easily be mistaken in these vague details, forgive me, but my friend tells it all wonderfully, please come out to judo, we will all have such a time together). Even with the weirdly muted audio of this English-commentary overdub, you can tell how remarkably lit this Tokyo Dome crowd is, though we were not saying things were lit, then. Rickson is walking around in that just super weird upright stiff posture that it is easy to forget ever existed: 

So weird! Bas Rutten argues that he looks not like any generic robot here but instead specifically Yul Brynner in Westworld (the Stephen Malkmus song about it was a mistake; the television show I have not seen). We are one minute in and it has been all circling. Takada fires in a low kick and the crowd cannot believe how awesome it was when he did that. Two minutes. Rickson jabs, stomp kicks, and clinches in the corner, but Takada grabs a rope to stay up, and they are separated and restarted in the centre (this does not seem like a great call). Three minutes. After a brief struggle in which Takada could have easily uchi mata'd were he a man of actual waza like one of any number of other shoot-stylists who were not just fakers, but instead since he was a faker he gets double-legged in such a way that makes Rickson Gracie seem the wrestling-for-mixed-fight equivalent of dear sweet pure Georges St-Pierre our loveliest boy (I hope he is well [he is so dear to us all {I remain moved by his ninjaturtlz tweet about senseis}]). That Rickson Gracie ascends immediately to 縦四方固 tate-shiho-gatame is obvious. Rickson had some great details about escaping this position when he taught at the former Technical University of Nova Scotia gymnasium! But Takada was not there that day; also this is the past. All Takada does is try to keep him tight; he attempts no escape. "This is stupid," Bas notes. "Everybody knows." And there is the match-ending 腕挫十字固 ude-hishigi-juji-gatame at 4:47. Rickson did a great job! But at the same time, and I am not exaggerating, I don't think, to say that wherever you are reading this, there are just normal people in your town who have regular lives and who go to the gym or dojo a few times a week who would have defeated Nobuhiko Takada with similar efficiency; and if you live in a big city, then there are in fact many such people. They have otherwise normal days, but they are capable of such things.  

I'M NOT SURE IF THIS WAS OBJECTIVELY A GOOD SHOW BUT IN MY HEART I ENJOYED IT VERY MUCH and I hope you did as well and now I wonder What Dave Meltzer Had to Say; let's find out together (I love this part, and missed it when our RINGSflow took us beyond that which is as-yet archived):   

August 25, 1997:

"PerfecTV, which is a Japanese satellite company, held a press conference this week to push the Nobuhiko Takada vs. Rickson Gracie Tokyo Dome match on 10/11. Ticket prices were announced as being 100,000 yen (about $850) for ringside down to 4,000 yen ($34) for the nosebleed seats. The match will also be the first-ever PPV show in Japan at a $17 price tag. There aren't enough homes that get PerfecTV in Japan to where PPV can do any kind of business like it does in the U.S., so this is more an experimental situation to try it out rather than a major money-making potential deal as the money is going to have to be made through the live gate and sponsorship. Because of the high ringside prices and promoters attempting such an undertaking that have never promoted a show before, there are people speculating that this is going to turn into a financial disaster if it even takes place. No other matches have been officially announced but they have announced Kimo, Tank Abbott and Koji Kitao as being on the show and are attempting to put Kimo vs. Hugo Duarte, considered one of the top Brazilian heavyweights."

September 1, 1997: 

"Nobuhiko Takada said this week that even if he loses to Rickson Gracie that he isn't going to retire from wrestling and wants one more major match between October and the end of the year. Nothing new on the 10/11 show although expectations now seem to be that the card will take place and that it'll be a financial bomb. It's said to be even more disorganized than the U Japan show last year and that show was a mess live."
September 15, 1997:

"On 10/11, there will be interesting shows of totally different varieties in both the United States and Japan. The Pride One Tokyo Dome show with the long talked about Rickson Gracie vs. Nobuhiko Takada match, had the rest of the card announced this past week. The semifinal on the six-match NHB show will be Tank Abbott (6-5) in his Japan debut vs. Kimo (7-2). Abbott appearing on this show is interesting because this match will be just six days before Abbott is scheduled in the UFC tournament. Also, Hiroki Kurasawa (who placed sixth last year in the Kyosushin Karate world championships) vs. Igor Mendot (a 6-8, 285 pound Russian amateur wrestler), pro wrestler and former sumo giant Koji Kitao (6-7, 370) puts his 0-2 NHB record up against Nathan James, a 6-10, 350-pound Australian who competes in worlds strongest man type contests in his first NHB match, John Dixon (who lost over this past weekend to Dan Severn on an IFC show in Baton Rouge, LA and has done NHB tournaments in Oklahoma and Russia in the past) vs. Kazunari Murakami (who lost to Maurice Smith in the main event on the final EFC PPV show) and Renzo Gracie vs. an overmatched Akira Shoji, a 23-year-old with a 1-1-1 record in Japanese NHB matches."

September 22, 1997: 

"Reports we are getting are that ticket sales for the 10/11 Tokyo Dome (Rickson Gracie vs. Nobuhiko Takada) are surprisingly strong. All the $900 ringside seats are gone and they are expecting a crowd of close to 40,000 so the show will be a financial success if that's the case."

October 6, 1997:

"Pride One held a press conference on 9/24 for the Tokyo Dome show. We've heard a lot of conflicting reports on how ticket sales are doing but most reports seem to indicate the advance for this show is poor with less than 10,000 tickets having been sold. Rickson Gracie is in Japan training for the match and is said to be weighing 198 pounds, which is about 13 pounds more than he weighed for previous fights in Japan. Nobuhiko Takada is either training in secret or taking time off from training due to an injury. It's been reported he has a stomach injury and he didn't show up at the most recent Kingdom card on 9/20 where he was supposed to do an autograph signing. The injury could also be a cover story to give him an out in the event he loses badly."

October 20 1997:

"Dan Severn's attempt at the most ambitious double in the recent history of NHB was curtailed due to injuries suffered in his match with Kimo Leopoldo on 10/11 at the Tokyo Dome. [What a weird way to begin!]

The match, a 30:00 draw in which by all accounts had their been judges, Severn would have won the decision easily, ended up with Severn suffering injuries to both his thigh and hand. He suffered calcium deposits in his quadriceps muscle from Kimo's leg kicks, with one thigh reportedly being about 25 percent larger than the other from the swelling, and suffered soft tissue damage in his hand from the number of punches he threw, even with gloves protecting the hand, to Kimo's head. The hand was even more badly swollen than the thigh. He also suffered a black eye from a kick to the face. After being examined by doctors upon his return from Japan, he was forced to withdraw from his UFC heavyweight title match against Maurice Smith on the 10/17 PPV show from Bay St. Louis, MS. SEG decided, after considering many options, to go with its original alternate plan, and Tank Abbott (6-5) will challenge Smith for the title in the main event.

Severn, who asked for a rematch with Kimo, but inside an octagon cage with no time limit, expects he'll be able to return to pro wrestling action for his next IWA tour starting on 10/25. The doctors who examined him felt he'd be able to do shoot matches within a few weeks, and he's targeting late November or early December for a show likely in Brazil. Officials from Semaphore Entertainment Group, that runs UFC, were very unhappy with how Severn handled the situation of signing for the Tokyo Dome match against a tough opponent six days before their PPV, without consulting them. Severn had been offered a contract in August which specifically stipulated he couldn't do a match between the signing of the contract and the UFC event, but put off signing his UFC contract and then signed the Japan deal and the UFC deal. The general belief is that Severn may not get another shot in UFC, and certainly not another title shot.

Smith-Abbott is an intriguing match-up. Abbott is stronger, and should be able to take Smith down. Smith is far more skilled, and in much better condition. Abbott can hit hard, but his knockout power isn't going to last for more than a few minutes if they stay on their feet since Smith is going, in time, to be able to knot up his thigh with the leg kicks which, combined with the conditioning factor, take the power away from Abbott's punches after a few minutes. Abbott is certainly someone Smith would on paper have an easier match with due to the way the styles match up than Severn, but it is no guarantee, although most would favor Smith, based on how styles match up that Smith would necessarily beat him.

Additionally, in the heavyweight tournament, Steven Graham withdrew due to blowing out his knee in training, so his place in the first round massacre at the hands of Mark Kerr will be taken by Gregory Stott.

In a match literally stemming from years of hype and in a minor way the lack of which was a small cause of the death of one of the hottest promotions in the world, Rickson Gracie and Nobuhiko Takada finally met in the Tokyo Dome. [This sentence: is so wild.]

As expected given that this was a shooting match, the match and the result were anti-climactic, with Gracie, reputed in many circles as being the world's greatest fighter, winning in 4:47 of the first round with a cross armbreaker submission in what was reported as a totally one-sided match on the first show of the KRS promotion called "Pride One."

Despite reports and rumors that this show was going to be a financial bomb, the show drew a very healthy crowd, announced as being 46,863 although reports we've received indicated the crowd at 35,000 to 37,000, with about 5,000 comps. All of the 4,000 ($35) and 7,000 ($60) tickets which would be the upper deck seats, were sold out, as were the ringside tickets, priced at 100,000 yen ($850), the highest ticket price in the history of pro wrestling if one would classify it in that category since it was something of a shoot show. The crowd make-up was described as being 99% pro wrestling fans, mainly there once again to see Takada in a big match just as they had in the past for his stadium matches against the likes of Vader, Keiji Muto, Shinya Hashimoto and Genichiro Tenryu, and the show drew a heavy walk-up being on a holiday weekend in Japan filled with major live wrestling events in Tokyo. It was probably the largest crowd in history and certainly the biggest money show in the history of NHB.

The fact that Takada lost and basically got no offense in before losing wasn't a surprise to the cognoscenti, but had to come as a major psychological blow to the audience that had seen Takada thrill them before in worked shooting style situations as the top star of the now defunct UWFI promotion, a promotion in a very small way that Rickson Gracie began the downward slide of.

On December 7, 1994, UWFI wrestler Yoji Anjoh along with several Japanese photographers showed up at the dojo of Rickson Gracie in Santa Monica, CA to issue an on-the-spot challenge. The idea was that they expected Gracie not to respond, being it was coming out of the blue, and with the name both Gracie and younger brother Royce had developed from being unbeaten in NHB competition, Anjoh would make UWFI, a worked shooting style pro wrestling group, appear to be real as well. In a worst case scenario, Anjoh had told friends that he figured, weighing about 220, that fighting an "80 kilogram (176 pound) guy," and being the one of the top submission fighter in his dojo, that his weight and experience with submission would enable him to handle the Gracie myth. Anjoh and Yuko Miyato, who were handling the booking and making the key decisions for UWFI at the time, already had their follow-up angle set up if Gracie wouldn't fight him. They would send a younger wrestler to train with Gracie for several months and learn the style, then have the younger wrestler challenge the sensei, force a showdown and beat him. Because of Gracie's lack of size, they didn't even think they'd have to send one of their two most talented younger wrestlers at the time, Kiyoshi Tamura or Masahito Kakihara, to accomplish their goal. The end result is that when Anjoh showed up at the dojo with Shinji Sasazaki, the UWFI's U.S. representative, causing trouble, Gracie, who was at home with his wife at the time, was given a phone call. Gracie, taping his fists in the car on the way, drove down to the academy, accepted the challenge from the unknown Japanese wrestler who he himself thought was Takada (before any of this happened, UWFI had been in contact with Gracie to do a cage match with Takada, but once the realities of the pro wrestling business were explained to Gracie, he wanted no part of it). In front of about 20 students in the academy, with the Japanese press kicked out of the dojo so they couldn't shoot the action, Gracie mounted Anjoh quickly and proceeded to destroy him for seven minutes, pummeling his face and body to the point Anjoh's face was swollen to unbelievable levels, before making him tap to a choke.

Getting destroyed like that and the unsportsmanlike manner in which Anjoh tried to set the whole deal up turned him into a major heel in Japan. But for Takada, the top star of UWFI, he remained silent on the subject, disappointing his legion of fans who believed the fabricated image of him as the best fighter in the world and wanted him to step up to the plate and gain revenge for the promotion and challenge Gracie. Some of Takada's manufactured image was created by grandstand challenges such as when Lou Thesz, who worked with UWFI at the time, issued challenges to all world champions to face Takada to prove who the real champion was. As it turned out, UWFI then made a deal with WCW's champion at the time, Vader, and much to the chagrin of WCW, not only did Vader make the big money deal, but while holding the WCW title, he went to Japan for an outdoor stadium match with Takada which drew a sellout of 46,000 fans, and put Takada over clean with the cross armbreaker in a legendary match. When Takada failed to address the Gracie issue and make a challenge, his stock and reputation took a serious blow, and with it, so did the promotion and it started the downward spiral which resulted in UWFI's popularity taking a nose-dive, and having to work and be subservient to New Japan in their angle set up one year later, and eventually at the end of 1996 the promotion folded.

With Takada recognizing that his career was coming to a close, he made it known earlier this year that he was willing to do the match that would have been an incredible draw two or three years ago. Of course, Gracie's asking price, which worked out to around $900,000 provided he won and the show drew well, scared a lot of prospective promoters. Takada was expected to receive $180,000 for the match. Due to problems with sponsors pulling out, the match was announced and postponed several times this year to the point where it was generally believed it would be a dream match that would never take place. Even in the weeks leading up to the match, there were rumors that the advance was so poor the show would wind up being a financial disaster and maybe fall apart at the last minute.

But it didn't, and like the match with Anjoh in the nearly empty dojo, the background of the story takes a lot longer to explain than the match itself. Takada tried to dance around Gracie to get in a punch or a kick. Takada attempted to throw a few knees but was quickly taken down and mounted. Takada held him close, trying to hold on for the end of the 5:00 round, but Gracie, 39, pummeled him from the mount with rapid punches to the face and body, an then quickly maneuvered him into an armbar and the match was immediately stopped. The finish came as a major blow to the live audience because one of Takada's big spots in UWFI was being caught in that same armbreaker by whomever his foe was, and "gutting it out," and either getting to the ropes (which wasn't allowed in this match), or breaking the hold after a lengthy struggle. In this case, since it was real, he only lasted tapped literally a second or two after the hold was put on. Since his heyday, Takada's career has taken a tumble, both from his myth being exposed doing jobs for Muto, Hashimoto and Tenryu, and his abortive attempt to earn a seat in Japanese parliament where he ended up destroyed in the election. At 35, two years after the first time he's talked of retirement, there really doesn't seem to be a lot left for him, which is probably why he agreed to do a match that realistically he had no chance of winning. Takada, who hasn't done a pro wrestling match since December, will return to pro wrestling with the Kingdom promotion on 12/14 at Tokyo Yoyogi Gym. At the show was Akira Maeda, Kiyoshi Tamura and Yoshihisa Yamamoto. After Takada lost, fans began chanted loudly Maeda's name, particularly when both were shown on the large video screen. [Emphasis added, because of how sikk this is.] In 1995, Yamamoto had a legitimate match with Gracie, and lasted more than 20:00 before losing to a choke. In both of the old UWF promotions, Maeda was the top star and Takada was his understudy. However, even though Maeda is a much larger man than Takada, he's now 38 and has been out of shape for years and living on his reputation, and also will probably retire in a few months and would be looking to cash it in on one big stadium payday. Such a match, if it were to be signed for next summer, would have an even more depressing ending for the Japanese audience. Maeda wouldn't comment to the press after the show about a match with Gracie.

From the U.S. perspective, the most important match on the show was between Severn and Kimo. By taking a match so close to his UFC title match, Severn was putting at risk his UFC title shot in the event of an injury. However, his payoff for this fight, $40,000, was much larger than UFC was offering, and he felt a win over Kimo on a big show in Japan would mean more to his career long-term, since he felt Japan was long-term where his career would take him, than becoming the first two-time single match champion in the history of UFC. This was not an entertaining match. There was a long period of stand-up and dancing, and Severn himself said much of the match was a glorified boxing match, with a lot of people surprised as how well Severn did. Other parts of the match were similar to the now legendarily bad Severn vs. Ken Shamrock second match, and even the normally polite Japanese audience booed heavily. Severn (16-3-2) was able to mount Kimo (7-2-1), but didn't do any serious damage to him and Kimo ended up escaping. Kimo was bloodied from Severn's punches, but never in serious trouble until the end, but Kimo did little on offense with Severn's most severe injury being punching his right hand silly on Kimo's head. All the matches were held inside a ring as opposed to a cage, and Severn said that Kimo, who he called one of the strongest men he'd ever faced, held onto the ropes numerous times to avoid both being taken down and being launched. Severn at the finish had Kimo down and was raining down hammer and elbow strikes.

The show was the first PPV card ever in Japan, although with the total universe being only 100,000 homes as compared with nearly 30 million in the U.S. and Canada, PPV is at this point not a potential money-maker. The card itself lasted more than four hours. Perhaps the most notable behind-the-scenes was the re-emergence of Miyato, who along with Anjoh, was in Takada's corner for his match. Miyato had disappeared more than two years ago and had never resurfaced when UWFI was revealed to be in its financial predicament.

The show was supposed to be an all-shoot show. Because of the presence of pro wrestlers like Takada, Severn and Mitsuharu Kitao (formerly Koji Kitao), there were plenty of suspicions and rumors about all the matches, or at least the matches involving those three being works. We'll reserve judgement on the entire show until viewing the videotape. Based on the reports we have from some very inside sources, there were worked matches on the show that were obvious. Severn-Kimo and Gary Goodridge vs. Oleg Taktarov were definitely shoots. Even without seeing the tape, I'd be almost certain given how the match went that Gracie-Takada was as well. I was told that Kazunari Murakami vs. John Dixon, Kitao vs. Nathan Jones and Igor Meindert vs. Hiroki Kurosawa were all worked. Akira Shoji vs. Renzo Gracie was said to have looked questionable. However the question on that is why would Gracie would allow himself to be held to a draw and to look so poorly, since all reports indicate he'd have lost if there was a decision, against a no-name fighter. KRS during the show announced a second show, called "Pride Two," will take place on 1/18 at the Yokohama Arena.

In other results:

1. Murakami beat Dixon in 1:34 of the first round with the armbar. Murakami was 1-1 in EFC, beating Bart Vail and losing in a title challenge against Maurice Smith. Dixon has done NHB around the world, most recently losing to Severn in Biloxi, MS. After the match, Murakami challenged the Gracies.

2. Goodridge (7-5) knocked out Taktarov (9-4-2) in 4:57 of the first round. Taktarov tried to box with Goodridge, who was more experienced in that game, and paid the price. He was bloodied up (big surprise) and knocked down, but got up. He was then hit with two devastating punches and knocked completely out and carried out on a stretcher. The knockout was so brutal, with Oleg collapsing and landing on his face, and he was knocked so cold that there was an immediate fear that he may have been killed, but after going to the hospital for an exam, he recovered and was fine the next morning. Goodridge suffered either a sprained ankle or a broken foot as well. It was said that Goodridge fought almost a perfect fight in avoiding going to the ground and keeping it a boxing match.

3. In a huge surprise, Renzo Gracie was held to a three-round draw by unheralded Akira Shoji. For whatever reason, one of the three rounds lasted 10:00 and the other two lasted 5:00 so it was a 20:00 match. The reports we received is that shockingly enough, had their been a decision, Shoji, who was the aggressor most of the fight, would have gotten it.

4. Kitao, the WAR pro wrestler, beat Nathan Jones, a 6-10, 350 pound world's strongest man contest type who went into the match with no fighting experience. Kitao took him down and grabbed an armlock in 2:14. Kitao was crying after the match, which some saw as a sign the match had to have been real, although there were more rumors of suspicion ahead of time regarding this match than any other on the show.

5. Branko Citakic, the famous K-1 fighter and first-ever K-1 Grand Prix champion in 1993, went to a no contest with Ralph White, a kickboxer from the U.S., in just a few seconds. Cikatic, 42, either knocked White down, or White slipped and went down (different sources conflict on that one). Cikatic kicked him when he was down, which was against the rules, and the kick basically knocked the hell out of him to the point the fight had to be stopped. Since it was an illegal move that caused the damage, it was ruled no decision.

6. Igor Meindert, at one time the top rated superheavyweight amateur in Russia, destroyed Hiroki Kurosawa, a famous karate star with a big name in Japan although at this point past his prime. This match had a rope break rule and Kurosawa kept near the ropes and getting rope breaks so he lasted until 1:14 of the third round in a totally one-sided match. Kurosawa was involved in the promotion of the match, and on the show poster, was pushed behind only Gracie and Takada as the big stars on the show. Kurosawa suffered a thigh injury during the first round delivering a kick, and taped it up but eventually his leg totally gave out after throwing more kicks, and he was unable to continue. [This one didn't wasn't even on our tape, was it!]"

October 27, 1997:

"Reports from people who have seen the tape of the 10/11 Tokyo Dome show from the PPV were not favorable at all. Dan Severn vs. Kimo was said to have been a bad match and Rickson Gracie vs. Nobuhiko Takada was like a one-sided squash with Takada acting afraid of Gracie. The story is that Takada never actually studied Gracie tapes and his manager didn't go looking for tapes of Gracie's previous fights until three days before the match, at which point it was way too late. Apparently Gracie was merciful in not pounding Takada's face any more than necessary before beating him. Because of the way the match ended, it is said that Takada now can't retire because he'd be going out on such a bad note. Right now he's left the country. What was amazing is that it was said that even though the crowd was a total pro wrestling crowd there to see "the funeral" of Takada, that it appeared 75% knew exactly what they were watching when it came to Vale Tudo spots and what they meant. Virtually all the smart fans knew ahead of time that Takada has zero chance to win but there were a lot of fans who were super upset wanting to trash the building because of how one-sided the match turned out to be. The Gary Goodridge vs. Oleg Taktarov finish was said to be sickeningly brutal. There is some talk of them trying to put together a Rickson Gracie vs. Marco Ruas match to headline the Pride Two show on 1/18 in Yokohama. There may have been a lot more than 5,000 freebies at the show because there were tons of postcards at convenience stores in Tokyo that you could redeem for one free ticket at the box office the day of the show."


"Akira Maeda went berserk about the Pride One show in a RINGS press conference after the Korakuen Hall show. He challenged Rickson Gracie before he retires in September but said he only would do the match in RINGS which I guess is his way to save face." 

November 3, 1997:

Dave . . . gets . . . TAPE:

0/11 PRIDE ONE: This was the first PPV show ever in Japan. Without being able to understand the commentary, which is an important part of the show, it was kind of an interesting show. Because most of the matches were shoots, match drama can't be booked and predicted. The overall production of the show with the elaborate ring entrances and the live rock band seemed first class. The fact that some of the fighters were nowhere near up to major league quality (although that criticism can be made for most shoot groups at one time or another) was a negative and that it at least appeared that two or three of the matches were worked on a show advertised as Vale Tudo is another negative. The two main matches were disappointments as far as what took place in the ring, and as UFC and other groups have learned in the past, you can't have Vale Tudo (or boxing or amateur wrestling for that matter) without some sort of a point system in the event there isn't a knockout or submission before time expires. The PPV lasted more than four hours and was an interesting show, but I'd hesitate to call it a good show. Aside from Renzo Gracie vs. Akira Shoji, there wasn't one match on the card I'd call good. The other problem with Vale Tudo is when matches are fought in a ring. The problem with the cage is the political deal where it looks like caged animals put in a pit to outsiders whereas a ring looks more sporting. But the ring brings with it a lot of problems in that you can fall out and halt the action or hang onto the ropes to stall the action. The rules here is if there was a danger of falling out of the ring, they stopped the action, kept the guys in the same position they were in, and dragged them to the center and re-started them from there, which just comes across goofy. [How dare you.]

1. The show opened with Renzo Gracie vs. Shoji, which was actually three rounds of 10:00 in duration (or 30:00 total, not 20:00 as listed in previous reports here) to a time limit draw. This was the third match on the show. Actually as the PPV went on the air, the Oleg Taktarov-Gary Goodridge match, the second bout on the show, had just finished and they kept showing replays of the brutal finish. The two matches that took place before the show went on the air were replayed on television when the live show held its intermission. This Gracie match was the best match on the show due to Shoji making the name for himself by hanging in there. Renzo was by far the more skilled of the two, but Shoji managed to break out of all his submissions and wind up after escaping throwing harder punches. During the second round, Gracie was on his back doing the Inoki vs. Ali crab which (same as Kazunari Murakami did in the match with Maurice Smith) makes the fighter doing it look like a pussy [Dave the misogyny implicit and indeed explicit in this diss is unbecoming.] even though it is a proven legit fighting strategy. After a few minutes of non-action, Gracie got up and threw a really quick shoot but Shoji sprawled away. Gracie nearly got a choke and an armbar in the late second round but Shoji got out of both and Gracie did the crab again, this time with Shoji kicking at his legs until the round ended. In the third round, Gracie's left hamstring was all red from the leg kicks. Renzo tried to shoot again but Shoji brawled and landed two strong knees to the head and got on top but Gracie held a good guard. Gracie reversed and threw several punches but Shoji got away. In the last 30 seconds, Shoji wound up on top of Gracie and was throwing a lot of punches. I didn't think this fight was as clear a victory for Shoji as had been reported, as I had it as an even fight until the last 2:00 and would have overall given Shoji the win but the match was very competitive. Shoji was probably the only fighter to come out of this show making any kind of a positive name for himself.

2. Mitsuharu "Koji" Kitao beat Nathan Jones in 2:15 of the first round with a wristlock. This appeared to be worked and it was a real bad match. Neither showed any fighting skill, but it wasn't an obvious bad work if you get my drift. Jones, who is a 6-10, 350 pound Australian who does World's Strongest Man contests is more suited for pro wrestling than Vale Tudo because he's shockingly agile and light on his feet, he just has never been trained in fighting. You're talking about a someone with a Mike Bernardo look (which is a great look) who is larger and far more agile and athletic than Kevin Nash. He threw some impressive looking worked kicks before Kitao took him down and went right to the finish.

3. Murakami Kazunari beat John Dixon in 1:35. Dixon got the first takedown but Kazunari got away, took his much larger foe down with a hip toss, threw punches from the top and grabbed an armbar for the submission. This was actually the opener on the live show and replayed into this spot. It looked like a worked match [I disagree but am famously a fool] and either way was pretty much a nothing match.

4. Goodridge knocked out Taktarov in 4:57 of the first round (this match had 5:00 rounds so the round was just ending). This looked like two inexperienced tentative boxers going at it. They were mostly standing and circling. After the first flurry, Taktarov was cut under the eye. Another punch opened up a second cut. Goodridge knocked Taktarov down and really beat the hell out of him on the ground including a kick to the head. Taktarov escaped, but he was really bloody by this point. Oleg tried a takedown but Goodridge sprawled away. After another flurry, which looked amateurish by boxing standards, Goodridge threw a punch that didn't look impressive but caught Taktarov unaware and knocked him flat out. Taktarov fell to the ground face first, and Goodridge delivered two more scary blows on the ground before the ref jumped in to stop it. Goodridge was limping badly once the match ended, as he injured his foot or ankle but probably in the rush of being in a fight, didn't notice it until the fight was over. Due to his impressive showing here, SEG was actually quite interested in using him instead of Tank Abbott for the Maurice Smith match but the injury prevented that. Definitely a brutal match, but no real skill was involved.

5. Branko Cikatic went to a no contest with Ralph White. This was just weird. White threw a few great leg kicks, then slipped and went down and Cikatic gave him one of the most brutal kicks you'll ever see when he was down. He immediately developed a lump on his head that was the size of a golf ball and everyone panicked and stopped the match at 1:35. About the only thing I could compare it to was when J.T. Smith missed the tope at the ECW Arena, and I think this lump was considerably larger than that. Chaos ensued as to whether White could continue and what the decision would be. The argument was the kick was legal under Vale Tudo rules, but White's management claimed this was supposed to be under kickboxing rules and not Vale Tudo rules, which is weird because it wasn't advertised that way. Anyway, it was ruled a no contest.

6. Igor Meindert, billed as a Russian Giant amateur wrestler at 6-8 and 286 pounds, beat Hiroki Kurosawa, a Japanese billed as 5-8 and 193 pounds. Don't know how legit Meindert's size was but he was tons bigger than his foe. This looked like a really bad worked RINGS match. Every time Meindert took Kurosawa down, he grabbed the ropes for a break. Meindert seemed to let him get to the ropes. Late in the first round, Kurosawa's leg collapsed. If that wasn't a work, there was no way the match should have continued. It gave out again before the round was over, most of which was him being taken down and getting to the ropes although Meindert didn't even begin to put on any submissions. Between rounds, Kurosawa ripped his long pants and had his knee taped up. Second round saw him continually grabbing the ropes as they went down over and over. By this point Meindert, who was huge but visibly looked out of shape, had taken off his gi and was blown up. Still the match continued its pattern through the second round. In the third round, Kurosawa started throwing leg kicks, but his own leg collapsed again and he went down and didn't get up, ending the fight at 1:17.

7. Dan Severn and Kimo went to a 30:00 draw. This was another very bad match. Even though Kimo was much larger than in his matches with Bam Bam Bigelow and Paul Varelans, he was smaller than in the Ken Shamrock match and Severn was a much larger person than he was. Severn, who has been fighting nearly every week, didn't look in anywhere close to his best shape physically and shows signs of weariness as the fight went on outwardly, but his movements didn't appear to tire at all. It was clear Severn's strategy was to try and blow Kimo up by dancing around on his feet, figuring if Kimo was juiced up he'd tire. Severn tried a lot of takedown and either Kimo got away or managed to avoid going down by holding onto the ropes. So it was mainly circling on their feet and occasional flurries. Severn's boxing punches looked terrible and Kimo's looked crisp, but Severn seemed to get the better of almost every exchange. Where Kimo scored was throwing a lot of leg kicks, to the point Severn's thigh was bright red and like a bullseye for Kimo's kicks. Kimo was cut over the eye at 18:30 which was the only real blood in the match. At the 20:00 call, fans started booing the lack of action and the announcers acknowledged the booing [BOOING DESU!]. Severn tried a few more takedowns but Kimo continued to get away. Kimo's corner was telling him to get more aggressive with the punches saying that Severn showed he couldn't take him down. Match continued basically the same deal. At one point Severn unloaded with a lot of punches to the point Kimo literally was running away from him momentarily to get away. Finally Severn scored a powerful takedown and in the last 30 seconds rained down with knees and elbows with Kimo crawling under the ropes to protect himself. Just at the finish, Severn put on a forearm choke on Kimo as the bell sounded, with the fans booing the finish as well. Again, this match wasn't as clearly one-sided in Severn's favor as a lot of prior reports, but had their been a decision, Severn would have won, and it was also clear Severn took more physical punishment in this match than in any of his previous NHB matches.

8. Rickson Gracie beat Nobuhiko Takada in 4:47 of the first round. It was clear from crowd reactions that everyone came to see Takada and this match alone. The aura before the match started was that of a "dream match" as opposed to just a big Dome show main event. Takada didn't look to be in as good condition as he was in during his pro wrestling heyday, and in a sense it is really sad that a Hall of Fame calibre wrestling legend will probably be best remembered more for his poor performance in this match than for all the great worked matches that drew so such money that he had during his career. In a sense, this was probably the single biggest shooting match involving a pro wrestling superstar perhaps dating back to the days of Gotch and Hackenschmidt and Takada at least deserves credit for risking his reputation as a shooter gained in worked matches in a match truly on the level against a fighter who by reputation is the single best fighter in the world. Takada had the look from when he walked out of the dressing room that he knew he had no chance. Just before he climbed into the ring, he put his head, somewhat hidden by his robe, on Yoji Anjoh's shoulder and hugged him in a manner one would hug a friend as a consoling gesture at a funeral, so you could see it was an emotional moment as he realized he was possibly attending his own career funeral. He danced away for the first 2:00 until they clinched and Takada held onto the ropes to avoid going down. Gracie then scored a strong takedown and got the mount at 3:00. Takada tried to hold Gracie close but seemed to have no experience in the guard [this is no doubt true but not relevant to what happened] and Gracie threw lots of body punches, before he snatched the arm, and Takada immediately tapped to the armbar. The crowd was largely stunned by the ease of the victory. After the match Gracie thanked the fans who came to see him. He said of the majority of fans, who were Takada fans, that if their minds were open he hoped this match would teach them to embrace Jiu Jitsu and if they did, they would have many great victories in the future to celebrate. A man then came into the ring and said he represented Marco Ruas, and challenged Gracie to a match. The awkwardness of the pro wrestling type angle was such that it actually didn't look like a planned angle but it obviously was at least to the point he was let into the ring although Gracie didn't seem to know how to react to it. Gracie said he'd fight anyone including the devil, but it was up to promoters to put a deal together and it was left at that."

AND WITH THAT I MUST BID YOU ADIEU as Dave said to someone on twitter dismissively the other day but when I say it to you I do so in all earnest sincerity and with a pure heart hoping we will reconvene soon, should we be spared, to discuss further プライド PU RA I DO. Thank you once more for your time, my friends!