Monday, April 15, 2019

QUINTET (クインテット) 2019年4月7日: FIGHT NIGHT3 in TOKYO

Female Open Team Championship 2019
アリーナ立川立飛/Arena Tachikawa Tachihi

AS THE CHERRY BLOOMS SO BEGINS THE CUSTOM OF HANAMI 花見 (flower viewing) and as you can see in the lovely image above this is very much the case in and around Tokyo au présent but I can tell you that it for sure is not these 10,774km away, where we received no fewer than fifteen centimetres of snow (雪, yuki) last Monday night, and a little more since, too. But that too is super beautiful! I am not complaining about it! But I cannot help but be struck by the contrast! The 桜前線 sakura-zensen (cherry blossom front) still feels kind of a long way off (UPDATE: it has since felt like spring for one afternoon since I initially wrote this but it has since largely reverted). Have I mentioned that when we lived in Toronto there was a truly grand old cherry tree out back, but we were renting from the son of a notorious slumlord who died under mysterious circumstances in Malta, and the deathtrap we were living in (and somehow survived [praise be to thee, oh Christ]) featured a seemingly endless supply of old broken toilets in and about the property, and they ringed the cherry tree for what must have been years? If this sounds like a 侘寂 wabi-sabi/æsthetics-of-impermanence-and-suffering situation to you it is because I am explaining it wrong. Or maybe not?  

QUINTET FIGHT NIGHT3 IN TOKYO, SURELY THE HIGHLIGHT SURELY OF WRESTLEMANIA WEEKEND SURELY (don't call me "Shirley" haha) although I will say I enjoyed the Naito/Ibushi and Okada/White matches from Madison Square Garden very much, along with everything I saw Orange Cassidy do on the various little indie shows I saw bits of (that guy cracks me up! I love that he carries his title in a Jansport!). I really like the GCW idea of named shows: Josh Barnett's (né Matt Riddle's) Bloodsport, Joey Janela's Spring Break, Orange Cassidy is Doing Something or Whatever Who Knows, all of that is just super neat to me (I don't watch all of the shows or anything, I just like the idea very much, and my friends share with me and point out the things they think I might like -- thanks guys!). The only show that I watched all of (I didn't even watch all of the Madison Square Garden Show [I don't really follow ROH]) was Josh Barnett's Bloodsport, which I reviewed extensively on my locked twitter account (who needs the reply guys? who? and what's the upside: RTs? And for what? The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon's, and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe. "All is vanity." ALL.) and which I will present to you here nearly unedited (I have edited out two bits that I now feel are unkind and regret), why not; what is this place if not a place of such things:

* I enjoyed JOSH BARNETT'S BLOODSPORT and found it a v. pleasant two hours (good length!) but I was surprised it was not more shoot style, like the top two matches were not at all in that style. but they were both good matches so what can u say! THOUGHTZ:

phil baroni vs. the big bjj purple belt dominic garrini (who I am p. sure was on last year's bloodsport, also as a purple belt; mb by next year's he will have made brown! good luck to him!) was a realllly good opener and I liked it about as much as anything else on the show

* simon grimm's real name, I have learned, is seth lesser, which is an amaaaazing name he should wrestle under imo and his match with jr kratos (shoot name unknown to me) was p. good, the hendo/bisping punch was a neat idea for the finish

* D[avey]B[oy]S[smith] J[unio]R has been complaining that comedy matches in njpw w/ toru yano do not display his shooter rootz or whatever to best advantage which is funny cuz he is just some dikk who won a NAGA one time whereas toru yano was national-lvl greco & freestyle so who is truly the clown

* (in the pejorative sense)

ps killer kross has a physiiiiiiiique does he not

* gresham vs. takeda was really good though I did not like looking at takeda's death-matched-up body v. much tbh; gresham is a v. good little guy and takeda's U-FILEism was, at times, quite sikk

* I drifted a little during andy williams/chris dickinson tbh but snapped to attn for dan severn/frank mir, the shootstylemost match of the night *by a lot* and also my favourite one even though both competitors chose to leave their shirts on in the pool (u gotta own it imo)

* frank mir did *great* imo which is not surprising in that truuuueeee shoot style is often best from ppl who can extremely græpple for real & who (this is crucial) are unencumbered by knowing how to work regular trad professional wrestling style, we saw this over & over in RINGS

* (it's because trad professional wrestling style is, let's be honest here, super *duper* fake looking even when it is sikk, and though it is not itself inherently dumb, it is supremely dumb-looking when seen alongside shoot style, and even a hint of it can ruin everything)

* h. suzuki/thatcher (I have seen thatcher before and really like him) and m. suzuki/barnett were both really good matches and I guess I was just mistaken that they would be shoot style ones? test-of-strength/pro-wres-counterz/indie respect spot/applaaaause is not shoot style

* barnett/suzuki fell to shit a little like an INSTANT after the crowd started chanting FIGHT FOREVER (that's not a good chant) which was too bad but good match, good crowd, good show! my expectations where off I think. mir/severn was my fav, followed by baroni/big purple belt

* strong style isn't shoot style 

and we all know this

* AS A FINAL NOTE on the bloodsport show: vinny (of bryan and vinny) went and had a great time (though he did not like mir/severn! why didn't anybody like the one real-deal shootstyle match! what gives!)

The seemingly widespread aversion (as wide as any of this gets; we are well into splintered-legions territory) to Mir/Severn, the only match the excellent live crowd booed, was I think very revealing of the extent to which the style we most cherish here at TK Scissors (named after a technique which is, crucially, the fakest-looking real technique, and not the realest-looking fake technique [the significances of this are, in my view, endless] is gone, and gone (not to be overly final about it) forever forever forever. My old friend Bill tagged me into a thread of tweets where a guy who did not like Mir/Severn said simply that it was too much like martial arts for a wrestling event. And based on seemingly everybody's response at the show itself, at least, and everything I have seen/heard about it since, he's totally right, and yet the notion to me is a very strange one, perhaps because for good or for ill I am the person who has written a RINGSblog. But let me close by saying it was a good show and everything, just not what I expected in parts.

AS PERHAPS THIS TOO SHALL BE, THIS QUINTET FIGHT NIGHT3 IN TOKYO which features the Female Open Team Championship 2019 and also a few other matches as well I think. As is customary, Stewart Fulton is our English-language play-by-play commentator, joined by Mei Yamaguchi (not for the first time!); Japanese commentary is again the great Yuki Nakai (chair of the QUINTET referee committee, among his many attainments) and Takeshi Yano, though we do not have access to it. Our brackets pair Team 10th Planet against Team DEEP JEWELS as one first-round match, and Team BJJ KUNOICHI and Team Sun Chlorella in the other. I was particularly pleased to see that KING Reina (KINGレイナ) was going to be a part of this event! As we have written in these pages previously, at the time of her RIZIN bout against Jazzy Gabert, "'KING' Reina Miura placed third, Shu Hirata tell us [though now he doesn't, as the link to which this once linked . . . is dead --ed.], in the Japanese national high school judo championships (Inter-High) at -70kg, won the -68kg division in the President Putin Cup 41st Annual Japan Sambo Championships (all victories by juji-gatame or gyaku-ude-garami), and, at 5'2" and 162lbs, unquestionably offers the thikkest judo/sambo in the field of mixed fight since Fedor. Also she is an unreal star, just look:"

That is what we wrote then, but what now! Mei Yamaguchi says she has trained with a number of the DEEP JEWELS squad, and says they are all wrestlers and judo players, strong on the ground. As probably a pretty high percentage of those of you reading this will already know (to your obvious discredit [mine as well, of course]), Deep Jewels rose from the ashes of the sadly defunct Fighting Entertainment Smackgirl promotion (it's not really that sad), and has been running for a long time now. 

Kazushi Sakuraba, suffering horribly from allergies, greets the crowd with warmth and good humour.

The 10th Planet team is introduced (in video package form) by Eddie Bravo, who, unless things have changed radically since I stopped listening a long time ago (and maybe they have, what do I know [and yet I know this]), routinely spreads contemptible views on the alt-right gateway Joe Rogan Experience and is for sure an anti-black racist in a deep and abiding way, and not just because of his blackface video, although that is certainly a vivid part of the picture. Of his competitors, Liz Carmouche is the only name known to me, as she had a championship match against Ronda Rousey . . . wow, six years ago. Rousey broke the fight down for the LA Times in an excellent video that ends with her being quite awful; you can see that here.  And now King Reina describes a recent training trip to the U.S.:   

Eddie Bravo feels that his team is savages, which is good because without the Joe Rogan podcast in my life I have lost all touch with who is savages. And with that I am not going to say any other things about Eddie Bravo even if he is on here a lot! My feelings are clear so why belabour the point! No good can come of it!
Team DEEP JEWELS all enter bearing stuffiez, which I of course endorse wholeheartedly:

One's thoughts turn to the Snoopy once borne to the ring by 三島☆ド根性ノ助 Mishima Dokonjōnosuke, do they not? Who very much also competed in DEEP, did he not? I answer in the affirmative the questions I have just now asked of myself as rhetorical flourish. Man, King Reina is really very stout; you get a better sense of that here where she is amidst a collection of ladies of varying sizes rather than just with other people close to her weight (often much taller, and so you would think the stoutness would most fully realize itself in that context, and yet no, it is here that it does so; embrace the mystery). The total weight limit for each five-græpplor team is 280kg (in a "day-before" kind of way [and indeed weigh]) and the matches shallst be of eight-minutes, excepting those betwixt competitors of a 7kg or greater disparity in weight! Or mass or whatever! I don't know if there have been any rule changes this time around, as in the last few shows they haven't really said that up front, but just mentioned it in the natural course of things (like [such as] how you can't smother people's mouths with your gross hands, because we're trying to have a sport here, you gross jerks [I mean no disrespect]). 

1. advance guard; vanguard​
2. athlete who competes in the first match of a team competition (kendo, judo, etc.)​

IS WHAT WE MEAN WHEN WE SAY SENPО̄ AND WHO SHALL SERVE AS SUCH IN THIS CONTEXT well look at this it is Liz Carmouche and King Reina, the two most-heard-of members of their teams, I would think we can pretty safely say. Let's see how it goes! Carmouche seemed to me a very good grappler in her bout with Ronda Rousey and it's no big deal that she got 袈裟固 kesa-gatame'd and then briefly 浮 uki-gatame'd and then very much 腕挫十字固 ude-hishigi-juji-gatame'd in that one; that could have happened to anybody. Carmouche did some very correct things in that bout! And also made some mistakes but how many among us would not have. So I think this could be really good with King Reina, who is also . . . really good. Reina and Carmouche are close enough in weight that this will be an eight-minute bout. Shidos all around about  a minute-and-a-half in. Reina, we learn, started judo in the first grade, and defeated Shayna Baszler in only her second mixed fight (Reina's, not Baszler's), but the years in between remain a mystery I guess! (Not true because we have talked about them a little bit above.) Reina half-succeeds with a 腰技 koshi-waza (hip technique) but Carmouche sort of half gets her back out if it, and out of that gets on top in the double-entanglement of niju-garami or half-guard. Carmouche has really solid shoulder pressure (so crucial) and passes to tate-shiho-gatame but cannot hold Reina, who bridges and rolls, there for long at all. Reina left her arm dangling like she wasn't especially worried about the juji-gatame, either. And now it is Reina on the top-most side (or top) of niju-garami. A scramble sees both of these pretty nifty grapplers return to their feet with about three-minutes to go as we are told that King Reina weighed in at 68kg/151lbs so it would be a pretty fair match-up between the two of us (that is not true and she would crush me). Reina made a misstep and lost her balance! Carmouche has her back! This is a very bad spot to be in! Reina is hand-fighting well I think, though, so she might last the minute that remains. Yeah, even with one arm briefly trapped, Reina is cool as a 河童 kappa (cucumber!) throughout, and she turns in hard to finish the match on top and squishing Carmouche (more like carsquoosh [or simply carmoosh]). A draw! I like that match.

Next we have Hikaru Aono against sixteen-year-old Grace Gundrum and Gundrum, I am sorry to say, is a sitter. It's not even guard-pulls that I find æsthetically objectionable: it's the straight-up sitting. But what can you do, they have seemingly abandoned the idea from the first QUINTET that sitting (without sufficient contact) would be a shido (and they never called it even once when it was a rule they talked about, so the battle is lost). Shidos about a minute in despite pretty good pressure but no real advancement so I get it. It occurs to me that these matches, these QUINTET matches, would be a very easy kind to referee, because there is no scoring, and so no qualitative calls to make at all; you're only watching for the finish, for the edge of the mat, and for shidos, of which there have just been two more issued. Grace Gundrum is super-rolly and active on bottom but is getting pretty squished by Hikaru Aono's top pressure. I kind of like Gundrum's chances at a yoko-sankaku-jime (side triangle choke) from the weird angle she's at underneath, or maybe a juji-gatame if she can roll her over, hmmmmmmmm . . . ah, she rolled her, but Aono slipped out! Oh man Gundrum pretty much has a twister or GROUND OCTUPUS HOLDOOOOOO locked in with twenty seconds to go but can't finish -- another good match! 

I cannot help but notice how sparse the アリーナ立川立飛 / Arena Tachikawa Tachihi crowd is for this show, which is very much how things were for the last show, and though I know nothing of the ways of business, I don't think that's good, probably. Elvira Karppinen finishes an ashi-dori-garami/figure-hour-toe-hold/ankle-lock on Yukari Nabe in I think twenty-three seconds! The hold is announced simply as 足首固 ashikubi-gatame or "ankle-lock," and Stewart Fulton asks Mei Yamaguchi what that means (I think he has a lot of Japanese so I wonder if that is an honest question or if he is just, you know, broadcasting) and she is like "just, like, a regular ankle-lock" and this is all of course very good but what I would like to point out to you is that ashikubi (ankle) is made up of the kanji for 足 "foot" or "leg" and 首 "neck" and so your ankle is your FOOT NECK which is delighting me in much the same way as when one of my foremost pals of judo, a now-fluent Spanish speaker, told me about how one time he could not remember the Spanish for feet and so referred to them as bottom-hands (and everyone laughed at him, but totally understood, so who is laughing now [still them, probably {also me}]).

I am low-key having disorganized thoughts relating to The Long UWF broadly right now as, a little while ago, during the Hikaru Aono/Grace Gundrum draw (which was a good match), Stewart Fulton talked about how crucial it is for all of the athletes to understand that in QUINTET, if you have a position of control, you absolutely must work towards a submission hold (lest ye be offered the guidance of shido), and if the particular hold you are working towards is not progressing rapidly towards completion you absolutely must switch to another hold (lest you be offered that same guidance again), even if that is totally not in any way what you would "really" do. Sakuraba, Fulton tells us, feels, like, unbelievably strongly on this point (presumably Yuki Nakai shares this view or at the very least accepts that his rôle is to implement it). The aggressiveness of the shido system in QUINTET, and the centrality of it Sakuraba's vision for it, is pure artifice atop the real, and calls to mind Dan's recent poesy when he wrote (all bolding my own)

"Seeing Fighting Square Hakata in approximately 2001 wouldn't change my life and seeing it now doesn't have some kind of Proustian effect, but it did offer a taste of something I've subtly hoped for in wrestling ever since: not shoot-style as such but a glimpse of the real, unmediated as possible, slicing through the artifice.   

It's a reason that underpins many of my top ten favourite matches of all time, a list I hastily constructed one afternoon while chatting online, despite their stylistic disparities. Mick Foley's bump off the cell cuts through that world WWE bullshit more than any number of CZW self-atrocities. The relationship between Bret and Owen Hart cannot be faked, nor can the meeting-of-worlds between Kiyoshi Tamura and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka in RINGS or even Hiroshi Tanahashi and Minoru Suzuki in New Japan.

But the artifice needs to be there, to give something to slice through, as well as offering an illusion of framework and order and control over direction: this is why despite the excellent scholarship performed by KS on TK Scissors (he is now delving into PRIDE and Quintet with signature flair), I retain favour with UWF over RINGS and its parallel shoot-stylists in UWF-i, PWFG, Kingdom, and BattlARTS (though I love and respect all)."

I thank Dan, as ever, for his kindness towards This, Our Project, but especially for these valuable notes towards a consideration of artifice and the real in the context of The Long UWF (it has turned out to be such a rich topic!). I am thinking all over the place, too, and probably not usefully (but here we are on my blog) about how QUINTET's aggressive, artificial shido system seems somewhat foreign to some of the competitors and even to the commentators who are here to explain it to us (this is not a criticism of either group just now mentioned) but with which I feel pretty much at home with from all the judo, in that the hyper-aggressive shido system in judo insists we do a number of things we wouldn't really do (prohibitions against: biding our time rather than attacking even if the time is not super propitious to do so; holding a defensive posture; refusing our opponent's grip excessively; controlling the grip but not truly attacking the instant that control is achieved [a deep mode of cowardice and indeed perhaps the deepest]; there are a whole lot of them, mostly about punishing cowardice [in myriad forms, broadly conceived] and rewarding an essentially relentless pursuit of the ritual purity/symbolic death of ippon) if left to our own devices/baser selves in order to direct us towards not just a particular martialsportsæsthetic (though it certainly does that) but also towards a particular ethics and indeed a morality which, Kano argued, are probably all (æsthetics, ethics, morality, physical culture) the same thing (judo is principally a pedagogy) and which Kyuzo Mifune argued are for sure the same thing (judo is reason in harmony with nature), and that so much of this is achieved through particular artifices, carefully chosen. I am going to have to insist that these are not esoteric views, but well within the bounds of the several dozen texts on the subject that are immediately to my left as I write this to you (thank you once again for reading). I am aware though that there is a shift in register that is common in the discourse of judo that can appear strange, like "here is an important detail regarding ude-hishigi-juji-gatame which, if we reflect on sufficiently, offers us a path through life and peace in death," which I am only half-exaggerating (and upon further reflection it turns out I am not exaggerating at all) or when Yasuhiro Yamashita, who very much seems about to be named the head of the Japanese Olympic committee, was asked years ago about the purpose of judo, and he said without hesitation that the purpose of judo is to contribute to world peace by the fellowship of international exchange. (Yamashita is a practical man, but also a romantic.) To which a reasonable follow-up Q might be: Isn't the purpose of judo tossing people all over by their clothes? To which one could only answer: Throwing people by their clothes is but a transitional demand. 

Annnnnnd so Elvira Karppinen, about as fresh as you please, will face the much smaller Tomo Maesawa in a mere four-minute bout. Oh wow: Karppinen is 64.8 kg, and Maesawa a mere 49.65; this is major:

Quite repellently, the much much larger Karppinen just sits right down and scoots towards Maesawa, and while she is stood up for this almost immediately, she is not shido'd for it, and goes pretty much right back to it. Karppinen plays a very high guard (it gets rubberish) and attacks with sankaku-jime with a deftness that suggests this will not last much longer. Karppinen nearly finishes the juji-gatame armlock as she rolls to the top but Maesawa is hanging on admirably against her much larger and clearly extremely skilled partner. Less than a minute to go! Ah, ok: there's the 腕挫三角固 ude-hishigi-sankaku-gatame triangle armlock with about forty seconds left. Another nice match! 

Only Emi Tomimatsu remains for Deep Jewels, and while she is not quite so tiny as Maesawa, she is still plllllenty tiny, so again this will be a four-minute match. Tomimatsu, we learn, wanted to join SHOOTO after high-school but there were no SHOOTOpportunities for women at that time and so she ended up in professional wrestling and making her way into mixed fighting from there (that's interesting!). Tomimatsu taps to a hadaka-jime/naked strangle that is really just a jaw-crushing in this instance I think with no more than five seconds to go. Karppinen went on quite a tear, and 10th Planet wins.   

Next is TEAM BJJ KUNOICHI (and if you are reading this blog there is already a reasonable chance that you are familiar with kunoichi as a term for a lady ninja, not because we have necessarily discussed it previously but because of the kind of person you are likely to be [also please allow me to note that one of than many brilliances of the 2012-2017 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tv show is that it is in no small part the story of a teen April O'Neil's journey from novice to a ninjutsu third-dan and full-fledged member of the Hamato clan; this is where the children of today first learn of the kunoichi [there are excellent other kunoichi on that show including Karai and the ninja-witch Shinigami {死神, "god of death" or "death spirit"}]) vs. TEAM SUN CHLORELLA and I have no idea what that means (it's ok don't tell me) but it seems like just a sponsor of some kind. I really like the QUINTET officials' uniform, which is identical for women and men: black slacks, crisp white collared shirt, and a Sakuraba-orange tie with the really very sharp QUINTET logo in white. That they wear dark socks and no shoes is obvious, I won't insult you by even mentioning it. One wonders if the corner judges' chairs have old tennis balls stuck on the ends of the legs to prevent damage to the tatami; doesn't one; does; n't; one. 

In addition to the QUINTET officials' uniform (perhaps our new æsthetic? or perhaps one to be explored in conjunction with our current æsthetic?) we see in the above picture young Miyuu Ikemoto of 熊本都市圏 Greater Kumamoto on the island of 九州 Kyushu (literally "nine provinces") in southwest Japan. We learn that she is fourteen and on her first trip to Tokyo! My friend Anth is on his first trip to Tokyo too! What's up, Anth! (I don't think Anth reads these [this is not a problem, please do not mistake me]). We learn that Ms. Ikemoto began to train judo in the fourth grade, and jiu-jitsu in the sixth grade, which she continues to train with her brother; she enjoys it because the teacher is very kind and she loves learning new things every training session, which is exactly what I like about training too! I'm going to root for her! Her opponent Yuki Sugiuchi (old enough to be her mother, I think) might be very nice too but my mind is made up. Let's see what happens! I think she defeated an entire team on her own at an amateur QUINTET event, if I'm hearing that right? Well she's being pretty thoroughly sankaku-jime'd (triangle-choked) pretty much right away and had better watch the juji-gatame as well and while she did take my advice to watch it she was also trapped by it (also my advice [I am so sorry for this bad advice]). Megumi Sugimoto, newly back on the mats after the birth of her first child, is next in for her team and is defeated by juji-gatame just as quickly, I think, and maybe even quicklier. This was a lovely backdoor juji-gatame that I associate very closely with a particular teacher who is very kind and from whom I love to learn new things every training session so we are right back in the very fine place we started. 

Mika Nagano is apparently a juji-gatame specialist. We might well describe it as her . . . 得意技 tokui-waza. After a mere eight seconds of dropping and scooting, the action (such as it is) is halted and Sugiuchi is told to stand back up. They are calling this part of things much more to my taste, and are a mere shido away from calling it perfectly (to me). To be clear, I have no problem with people choosing to fight from the bottom, and I myself choose to begin on the bottom in ne-waza randori as often as not; nor do I have any real problem with pulling guard, so long as it is an active and real attempt to break the opponent's posture and haul them on down; what I mind is just sitting without any contact. It drives me nuts! And makes me say things like "what are we doing here, everybody!" And the referees are largely agreeing, for which I thank them. I would like to remind you that Sugiuchi is her team's senpo, their vanguard, as she finishes her third opponent, this time with the arm-crushing-triangle-hold of 腕挫三角固 ude-hishigi-sankaku-gatame. That Sugiuchi is obviously vastly, vastly more skilled at juji-gatame than I am, I have absolutely no issue with (that would be weird), but that it seems she might like juji-gatame even more than I do, that I find lightly upsetting (is that weird?). But I am just kidding around! I am reminded though of when my senior student returned from his travels abroad over the holidays, and we spent a class working on this particular entry into juji-gatame:

小室 宏二 Komuro Kōji, 引き込みからの十字固 hikikomi kara no juji gatame (juji gatame from hikikomi)
If you are like "yeah yeah I have seen it that way before" I would invite you to take a very close look at Koji Komuro's specific grips and decide whether or not that is the case (if so then I am happy for you but if not I am happier still in that now you'll have a chance to try this great technique for the first time!). But what I was about to say is just that as a class we were talking about juji-gatame and I said that I find juji-gatame uniquely satisfying, that it is just my favourite thing to do in judo, and my senior student (who has finished judo and jiu-jitsu black belts by juji-gatame on multiple continents) was like, "I think it might be just my favourite thing, not just in judo; it's like my favourite thing" and I was like "lol woah."

Sara McMann is the next to appear, and while she was the 2004 -63kg freestyle wrestling silver medalist (losing the final to ten-time-world and four-time-Olympic champion 伊調 馨 Kaori Icho), we no doubt know her best for sharing about a minute of awful Muay Thai with Ronda Rousey before being felled by a knee to the body in as fine an illustration as any of how truly stupid mixed martial arts can be, and perhaps just is. Checking her record now, as I am not familiar with her work beyond that, I see that three of her five mixed losses have come by submission, including her two most recent bouts, so one would have to conclude that although her freestyle wrestling is probably still pretty good I bet she can be caught by things that are not in freestyle wrestling. McMann is 16kg bigger than Sugiuchi (that's a lot) so this is only a four-minute bout ah but it is in truth only about a ten-second bout as McMann grabs a front choke about as quickly as anyone ever could and that is very much that. Great showing by Sugiuchi though! She went on quite a tear! Akiko Sawada is only the second of the kunoichi, also much smaller than McMann, and so four minutes. McMann's single-leg takedown was awesome, and her shoulder pressure from the side looks great, too. It looks like she would enjoy the head-and-arm choke/arm-triangle of 肩固 kata gatame; yes; yes she did enjoy that (1m10s). I believe she is chewing gum?

Rikako Yuasa is but 49.15 kg to McMann's 67.75 kg so that's 108 lbs to 149 lbs, an absurdity, but let's see, maybe it won't be at all given the disparity in subskillz. This should be like a two-minute time-limit match, but the rules do not afford that possibility. As Yuasa puts her feet to McMann's hips I recall for the first time this show that the closed guard is forbidden (I have cast it out of my own repertoire as a Lenten discipline and it has been revealing). McMann gets a shido for stalling, and so Yuasa is given an opportunity to start from McMann's back, and she goes sankaku-jime to juji-gatame like it was no big deal at all, and the crowd is quite rightly into that finish (me too). She gets Myuu Yamamoto, too! This is has been just a great night for juji-gatame. And so ends this team match. 

We have reached the portion of the evening in which Kazushi Sakuraba comes out and challenges an unsuspecting referee and it is "shoot" delightful! Or actually they flip the script this time and it is referee Wataru Miki who challenges Sakuraba to an exhibition. They have a lovely little four-minute roll.

And now in a single match we have Shutaro Debana, who long ago placed third in junior nationals, senior nationals, and the Kodokan Cup (I speak here of judo), and who, more recently, QUINTET'd Kazushi Sakuraba and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka to draws, and finished MINOWAMAN in twelve seconds with 飛び十字固 tobi-juji-gatame (the flying armbar) and little Hideo Tokoro with 袖車絞め sode-guruma-jime (the sleeve-wheel choke [though he was sleeveless {it remains very much a thing}]). He has become a QUINTET favourite of mine and, I would expect, of us all. 

This is all quite charming! His opponent is Robson Tanno, who is unknown to me, but that says nothing, as my knowledge of Who's Who in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is pretty much limited to guys my students who also train jiu-jitsu mention to me and then can't believe I do not know, but I mean there are only so many hours in the day, and as you can tell I am a very busy person, occupied by many occupations. I have just looked him up, this Robson Tanno, and see that he is currently ranked 80th in Brazil by some metric, which seems pretty good. 

Woah, before they begin, please take a moment to take in just how empty this building is:

Like, this is sub-friends&family, right? This is brutal. (Or "sub" friends & family, as in submission græppling enthusiasts haha [this is so brutal though.]) It has occurred to me previously (as I am sure it has you) that QUINTET might not be super duper long for this world given that nobody goes to the shows that they have, but maybe they have an exceedingly lucrative streaming-rights deal and they're all set until like 2037 or something, what do I know about the promotional realities of this our post-ファイナルファイヤープロレスリング~夢の団体運営 (Final Fire Pro Wrestling: Yume no Dantai Unei! [Final Fire Pro Wrestling: Organization of Dreams {Final Fire Pro Wrestling: Dream Organization Management}]) world. HOLY COW OK Debana just shot through Robson Tanno's fancy guard (it looked v. fancy) and nearly finished a juji-gatame right off that wild pass! Here's another guy who likes juji-gatame an aaaaawful lot. He's all over Tanno, riding high and pressuring, and even when Tanno traps a leg in the double-entanglement of niju-garami/half-guard, it doesn't relieve a whole lot of pressure. A shido is assessed to Tanno, and Debana is given the opportunity to start from behind. He's got him in a crucifix/jigoku (hell) position a moment later, but Tanno escapes and oh my they're all flipped around and Tanno might finish a triangle here! This match is great. Debana doesn't look like he's got a lot of space in there but I guess it's enough, and he's kept his arm out of danger, somehow, too. I think he's stalling out well enough to force maybe a double shido . . . no, he popped right out, after a really strange limb configuration I don't think I have ever seen before (it was a mess). Less than two minutes to go in one of the best QUINTET matches yet! FAR-SIDE STEP-OVER JUJI-GATAME IS MAYBE MY FAVOURITE KIND AND HE HAS JUST DONE ONE SHUTARO DEBANAAAAAAAAAAAA:

Maybe that was the best QUINTET match? Not the best QUINTET performance (that would be one of the several people who have gone on mighty romps through most of the other team's guyz and/or ladeez [as recently as earlier this very show!]), but as a single match I can't think of a better one. Tanno came sooooo close with his sankaku-jime, too, and, as I failed to mention to you from the very nice pre-match video about him, that is totally his go-to waza (please forgive me for failing you in this regard). Oh man. It will be pretty tough for Shooto Watanabe and Tomoshige Sera to follow this one: and yeah there match wasn't anywhere near as good but was all the same totally totally fine and ended with Tomoshige Sera's 三角絞 sankaku-jime with a little under two minutes to go.  

At this point in a QUINTET, I am generally pretty ready for the QUINTET to be over, and this isn't really because the shows are all that long (a little over three hours is long, but not unreasonably so), or even because I watch them all in one go (this has yet to ever happen). I can't explain this really. I guess I don't need to see any teams compete twice? I know that's kind of the deal, the four-team single-night tournament, and the only way to be sure (or surer) that everyone on the team will actually get to compete, but I don't especially need it, maybe? Two team matches, a couple of interesting singles matches, Sakuraba goading a referee into an exhibition match, and I'm all set, I think. I am not trying to tell them how to run their business, though. Iori Echigo (BJJ Kunoichi) and Lila Smadja-Cruz (10th Planet) open the finals with an eight-minute draw that, were it to have been adjudged, would probably have been adjudged in the favour of Smadja-Cruz, but that's not the game. Next Nanami Ichikawa works and works for a kata-sankaku/D'Arce choke on Fabiana Jorge and Mei Yamaguchi notes that people from a judo background like Nanami Ichikawa are very strong and physical (why thank you, Mei Yamaguchi) and love submissions like this (well sure, who doesn't). Alas, she does not complete the technique. Another eight-minute draw. Elvira Karppinen and Yuki Sugiuchi meet now in a match of the people who are probably their respective teams' best people. Karppinen is waaaay bigger so it's a four-minute match, probably two minutes of which was spent with Sugiuchi just hanging on as Karppinen tried to muscle her way to a 肩固 kata-gatame/should-hold/head-and-arm-choke finish; Sugiuchi goes the distance, and is delighted to the point of tears at having done so (good for her!). So that's three draws that lead us to young Grace Gundram and Rikako Yuasa, which is way more dynamic and crowd-pleasing (le foule, c'est moi) than you'd expect from a match in which each competitor was assessed two shidos, like the three previous draws were find but this draw was an awesome draw. Finally then we have Liz Carmouche for 10th Planet and Akiko Sawada for BJJ Kunoichi. I remind you that in the event of just endless draws, the team match is decided by the shido totals (lower is better), and if that's even, it goes to referee 判定 hantei (judgement). Liz Carmouche is really very big and strong, and opens this four-minute match by immediately squishing her comparatively wee foe. I don't know what she's looking to do other than just straight smooshing so far but maybe the hope is that something will just emerge in the course of smooshing (that's a totally viable tactic). Sawada is doing well to keep her chin tucked and her arms in tight but she is just getting mauled with about a minute to go. Carmouche has Sawada's arm in such a way that she could go for the sode-guruma-jime variation that Sakuraba teaches as SNAKE CHOKE SUCH AS SODE GURUMA JIME but she might not know that one. Stand-ups and shidos come with twenty seconds to go but if they're going on judges' decision, Carmouche's aggressiveness should count for a lot. Carmouche cranks on a toe-hold/ankle-lock right on the old 足首 foot-neck at and indeed after the bell and injures Sawada, so I don't like her. Ah, so the referee's decision only considers the taisho or final competitors, so it's an easy call, and the 10th Planet Team takes it. Mei Yamaguchi mentions in closing that the Japanese team should feel very proud of themselves because while the 10th Planet team is totally about no-gi submission grappling, the Japanese team (and training in Japan broadly, Yamaguchi says) is still very much centred on the 道着 dougi.   

Sakuraba sings a trumpet fanfare into the microphone as medals are awarded to bring to a close THIS FINE QUINTET. I thank you for joining me for it! Let's reconvene soon and talk about an old PRIDE FC show, maybe? Until then, please be well, my friends.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Lingering Death of Fighting Network RINGS, or, THE BIG DAVE REHAB: Consisting of All Remaining Observer Bitz, Annotated Lightly, regarding Fighting Network RINGS from 5/22/00 through its Untimely Demise/Glorious Ascension 2/15/02

HELLO MY FRIENDS YES SO AS YOU WILL NO DOUBT RECALL: the pace of our journey through the RINGSbox far outstripped that of the Wrestling Observer site's weekly uploadingz of old Observers, and so at the end of the last I-don't-even-know-how-many RINGSposts (though I suppose I could check), rather than attending to What Dave Meltzer Said at that time we instead left a little spot there and wrote something like "in time there will be Observer things here" but going back to each post and updating it has come to seem like something of a chore and so rather than do that I have compiled all remaining Observer RINGSnotes here in one long post of very little use to anyone but that I have enjoyed ctrl+F, ctrl+C, and, indeed, ctrl+shift+Ving into place There's some dark stuff in here! Things get pretty shitty! 

So haul


the jib:

May 22, 2000: 

"In what really shouldn't be considered an upset, but shocked the promotion that thought he had no chance to win nonetheless, Dan Severn captured the World Extreme Fighting world heavyweight title beating Marcus Conan Silveira via submission with a triangle choke in 4:46. Severn, who turns 42 in a few weeks [interestingly he was born 42 and remains of that precise age as he approaches his BLOODSPORT match against (a hopefully very fat, still) Frank Mir this weekend--ed], shot an angle after the show with Extreme Challenge heavyweight champion Bobby Hoffman. They had actually choreographed a pro wrestling angle for Hoffman and Silveira for after Silveira's expected win, but Severn spoiled the plans. Mark Kerr was also there doing a pro wrestling contract signing angle for an upcoming show when Hoffman issued a challenge to him. Due to the connection of MMA to pro wrestling, especially at the top level where so many of the top fighters are either pro wrestlers, or want to be pro wrestlers, the idea of doing angles, albeit primitive in nature, becomes natural instinct, and with promoters who think they know for sure who is going to win because they are experts (and one thing we've learned is you can never accurately predict close-booked MMA over the long haul because there are so many intangibles) often plan ahead and those plans get spoiled faster than ECW long-term plans. Apparently the acting was so bad that nobody in the crowd bought it, unlike when Ken Shamrock and Alexander Otsuka did their angle in San Jacinto, CA you could tell it was total pro wrestling but the crowd liked it. It would have probably not been so bad had Hoffman not looked sluggish in winning a decision earlier in the show. The show drew 3,000 fans to Roberts Stadium in Evansville, IN, but only 970 was paid for a gate of about $27,000 (and that's with a $15,000 local ad budget). There were a lot of complaints about the way promoter Jamie Levine marketed the event, such as banned in 11 states and emphasizing it as bare knuckle fighting (despite the fact all competitors were mandated to wear gloves) emphasizing the blood in local radio interviews since tickets weren't moving. Levine even made the statement that all the fighters had to pick out coffins for themselves during the weigh-ins and Levine, when asked if the sport was violent, emphasized saying it was very violent. As you can tell, all of this publicity resulted in no tickets being sold. There were also complaints that the TV ads showed a brutal kick to the head that has since been banned under WEF rules. The local Hook'n'Shoot promotion, using no-name local fighters, outdraws that 70% of the time playing and old Coliseum for regular shows. Dave Menne upset Jose Pele Landy, the top rated under-170 pound fighter in the world, via decision, and what many thought was a robbery of a decision (others felt it was a very close fight that should have been a draw), after an overtime. Yoshihisa Yamamoto of RINGS tapped out from repeated strikes from the top, giving up his back and getting choked out against Brandon Lee Hinkle in something of an upset in only 2:21. Wataru Sakata of RINGS also appeared on the show, beating Mansour Heidari via decision after 12:00. Akira Maeda was one of the judges on the show. The show airs as a PPV in Canada on 5/27."

May 29, 2000:


4/30 RINGS: This was a tape of an all-shoot show on 4/20 from Tokyo Yoyogi Gym II. The show itself was tremendous, but long-term I still question if this is the way to go for this company. Maybe the whole worked shoot thing is dead because real shoots are so readily available, but seeing the beatings that both Yoshihisa Yamamoto and Kiyoshi Tamura, who are such good workers, take in a shoot is sad because their careers are going to be shot really seen, while as workers, they both probably had ten years plus left as stars. 1. Allister Overeem beat Yasuhito Namekawa in :45 with an armbar from the bottom. It was a really smooth finisher; 2. Wataru Sakata beat Brandon Lee Hinkle with an ankle lock in 7:23. This was a super match. Hinkle kept taking Sakata down, and Sakata kept working for submissions and coming close. Hinkle nearly got an armbar once as well. Sakata made a really cool move into the ankle lock; 3. Bobby Hoffman beat Boris Jeliaskov in 8:00 when he dropped him with a right. Hoffman had a 58-pound (275 to 217) weight advantage and the size was simply too much for Jeliaskov to handle. Hoffman dropped some weight since the last time he was in RINGS, but still looks a little soft. Jeliaskov is a great wrestler, but couldn't take down a guy of Hoffman's size and power; 4. Renato Babalu beat Travis Fulton with an armbar in 4:49. Babalu controlled most of the match from a positioning standpoint; 5. Ricardo Arona beat Andrei Kopylov via decision after 15:00. Kopylov came in much larger (264 to 202), but he was older and out of shape. Arona looked really impressive physically [he certainly tended to do so, didn't he, and not at all suspiciously in this untested drugsport --ed], showed charisma and ability in all facets of the game whereas Kopylov is straight submission and nothing else. Kopylov couldn't even take his much smaller opponent down. It's hard to determine since he was dominating a guy who clearly blew up, but Arona looked like someone to watch out for as far as the under-200 category of NHB. Arona dominated Kopylov standing, but for some reason, kept taking him down. Arona went for a lot of submissions. Kopylov, who looked so great in the early rounds of the King of Kings, couldn't do anything here. What was funny is RINGS fans are so used to seeing pro wrestling as purported to be shoot, that they kept chanting for Kopylov to make the big comeback from being dominated, as he would in old-style RINGS when it was worked. Kopylov got a big mouse under his left eye and Arona kept connecting with punches until the first 10:00 round was over. Kopylov tried a takedown to start the second round but Arona got his back. Kopylov would get momentary advantages when Arona would fail on a submission and the fans got into them feeling it was comeback time, but Arona was always able to quickly reverse; 6. Jeremy Horn beat Yamamoto in 12:50. This was a tremendous war, mainly fought on their feet with both men taking a pounding. Horn connected with a lot of knees and punches early, especially some good knees standing. Horn took him down with a nice slam. Yamamoto came back to rock him with punches. In the second round, Yamamoto threw a ton of leg kicks, most of which Horn checked. Horn then dropped Yamamoto with a left and hit him with another flurry of punches when he got back up, before taking him down and getting a mount and the submission with an over-and-under choke [I have never heard a choke described this way in my life! I don't even know what he means! also I do not remember this match but I bet it was good--ed]; 7. Gilbert Yvel beat Kiyoshi Tamura in 13:13 to win the RINGS world heavyweight title. This was the reality of shooting. Yvel was 225 and Tamura was 195. Yvel is a tremendous striker and a heavyweight. Tamura can strike okay, but was giving away far too much reach in particular, not to mention weight, to be competitive while on their feet, which is where all the damage was going to take place. Quite frankly, Tamura did great in that he could continually take Yvel down, but Yvel knows enough on the ground to avoid submission and Tamura took a beating. He couldn't stop Yvel at all standing. He got rocked to the point it was ugly in the opening seconds until he got a takedown. That was the story of the fight. Usually a stand-up would be ordered when Tamura couldn't do anything with him, and Yvel would really hurt Tamura time-after-time before Tamura would take him down. Unlike Dan Henderson, who was able to tire Yvel out with his takedowns, Tamura was just able to get him off his feet and was expending more energy to do so, which only made Yvel that much more dangerous on the stand-ups. It was just a bad match-up for Tamura, which it looked to be on paper, and got ugly before the ref called it off after Tamura had taken a bad beating from punches and knees."


"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Akira Maeda announced on 5/17 that Kiyoshi Tamura was going to face Jeremy Horn in the semifinal to the Rickson Gracie vs. Masakatsu Funaki match on 5/26 at the Tokyo Dome. That is basically nuts, since Tamura took a terrible beating on 4/30 in his match with Gilbert Yvel in Tokyo. That's the reason the great young Japanese fighters are often washed up at a young age because they don't give them time to recover from legitimate beatings. RINGS also announced its schedule for the remainder of the year with shows literally around the world including three shows in the United States. Cards are 6/4 in The Netherlands, 6/15 at Tokyo Yoyogi Gym II, 7/15 is the U.S. debut at the E Center in Salt Lake City, 7/21 at the Blaisdell Center in Honolulu, 8/23 in Osaka Furitsu Gym, 9/5 at Tokyo Korakuen Hall, a September date in Moline, IL, 10/9 at Tokyo Yoyogi Gym, 11/12 in Australia and 12/22 back in Osaka."

June 5, 2000:

"There was another pro wrestling retirement of a Hall of Fame calibre candidate after someone lost on a major show this past week. At this point in time, that's not even news.

But the unique career of Masakatsu Funaki, who from all accounts is at least at this moment serious about his retirement, from a career which climaxed and ended within 13:00 on 5/26 in the main event of the debut of the Coliseum 2000 promotion at the Tokyo Dome, is exemplified by the questions of What if?

What if Funaki had stayed in traditional pro wrestling? He may have been, with his athletic ability, looks, youth and natural charisma, have been the biggest star in the Japanese wrestling world today.

Funaki, 31, started out as a pro wrestler and became one of the biggest names in the martial arts world. Many fighters who opposed him in real matches during his prime several years back stated he was the greatest submission fighter in the world. But his record, certainly in recent years, didn't show that. Funaki was one of those mysterious people in the early days of the UFC where people would say if he entered a tournament, he'd clean up on everyone. But when the time came for him to actually enter the Vale Tudo world, a world at first he dismissed because he felt it was brutal fighting as opposed to sport fighting, he was admittedly past his physical prime because of so many hard fights in the grueling Pancrase circuit and the results were not impressive. He ended with a 2-1-1 under Vale Tudo rules with a draw with Ebenezer Fontes Braga that he would have lost had their been judges and wins over unknowns like John Renken and Tony Petarra that weren't close to his league.

In a match that itself was a major disappointment for what was billed as a Match of the Century in Japan and to the crowd that came to see Funaki finally win the big one, it was Rickson Gracie, 40, of Brazil, the mythical greatest fighter in the world before there were actual competitions where people could prove such a thing and who had never beaten up to this point someone who would be considered today as a top level fighter (his biggest real win may have been against Yoshihisa Yamamoto, who at the time had never had a high level shoot match in his career), who brought the supporters of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu back after their recent defeats at the hands of Japanese. Funaki, the greatest submission fighter in legend who did at least at certain times prove himself against top fighters, went into a match that most fighters considered him the favorite to dominate, if not win, with the question in the latter due to the unique no time limit and no stoppage rules which figured to make it a very long grueling fight which overall conditioning could decide.

As it turned out, Gracie won far too easily in the eyes of most people, in 12:49, with a choke sleeper, and many couldn't come up with a reasonable explanation of why Funaki was so ineffective in the closing moments of the fight [this sentence is baffling to me, as at this point Funaki had lost *six* previous shoot matches by submission, all of them in less time than it took Rickson to finish him, almost all of them in waaaay less time, like a couple minutes -- ed]. It was almost a similar situation to Nobuhiko Takada, where all his reputation as a shooter from worked pro wrestling matches, and even worse in the case of Funaki, because he had fought so many real matches, was shot because his most memorable match saw him lose too easily. Because he offered no defense when Gracie got the advantage, and because he has done so many jobs in the past in what were supposed to have been shoot matches, the obvious question is being asked, except there is no logical explanation why he'd do a job in this match. It was the big win the Gracie family needed after Royce's loss on 5/1 to Kazushi Sakuraba in their 90:00 classic in the same building.

After the loss, Funaki in the dressing room, said to be terribly despondent with his performance, announced his retirement.

The show itself drew a crowd announced at 40,240 fans to the Dome, although the real figure was closer to 25,000. It was actually the smallest crowd for a pro wrestling type event ever at the Dome (and even though every match on the show appeared to be a shoot, this was a complete pro wrestling crowd weaned on the old UWF and it appeared more fans of RINGS than Pancrase) but with a top ticket price at nearly $1,800 and virtually no freebies available, the gate was huge. Most impressive was the TV rating for the show, a 12.6 on TV Tokyo (Ch. 12), one of the weaker stations in the Japanese market, peaking at 17.5 for the climax of the main event, which aired from 10-11 p.m. on a tape delay that evening. The only other pro wrestling show at the Tokyo Dome to draw a crowd in the 25,000 range was also headlined by Funaki, back in 1992, when doing pro wrestling for Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi, in a mixed match draw against kickboxer Maurice Smith.

Because of the success of the match on television, TV Tokyo was talking about wanting to use Gracie next year for another Tokyo Dome event billed as Coliseum 2001, possibly with Naoya Ogawa.

The Gracie vs. Funaki match saw the first five minutes standing near the ropes. Gracie was unsuccessfully trying to bring Funaki to the ground and Funaki landed some good punches and knees, which ended up swelling one of Gracie's eyes. They ended on the ground with Funaki on top, but he got up quickly and tried to keep the fight standing where he appeared to have a more decisive advantage. Gracie wouldn't stand, so Funaki started leg kicking him, but wasn't effective at the strategy and Gracie was able to take him down. There was one report, which may explain why Funaki looked so ineffective afterwards, that stated Gracie managed from the bottom to kick Funaki's knee. However, there was no post-match explanation that Funaki suffered a knee injury. Gracie dominated Funaki on the ground surprisingly easily, got the mount and pounded on him several times, bloodying him up. Funaki turned his back and Gracie got a choke before the match was stopped when Yoshiki Takahashi, Funaki's second, threw in the towel at 12:49 of their no time limit match. This was the fight where the only way Gracie could lose was to tap as the referee, ringside doctors and even his own corner couldn't stop the fight. Luckily a bad situation didn't occur based on Gracie being allowed to demand his own rules. The end rules also banned both usage of elbows (which may not have been finalized until one hour before the event started) and head-butts, also rules demanded by Gracie and opposed by Funaki. If Gracie was seriously injured in a match with those rules, it could be brutal to the future of events of this type.

In the dressing room, Funaki announced his retirement from Pancrase and MMA fighting. This may leave the door open to go back to pro wrestling, where some say Funaki made the worst career decision of his life to abandon, even though he, probably more than any other, was responsible for the popularity of real fighting in Japan. With the right angle, Funaki could be a huge draw with New Japan, but traditional pro wrestling is a world he left 11 years earlier and a world that has changed greatly in that period. The belief was Funaki had already decided that win or lose, he was retiring after this match. From the start of Pancrase, the first organization that presented pro wrestling matches predominantly (but not exclusively) that were shoots in 1993, Funaki had fought 52 matches, all but a few in the physically taxing Pancrase style which virtually all fighters who have done both say is harder on the body than UFC style, ending with a 39-12-1 record. He held the King of Pancrase title on two occasions, with wins over Jason DeLucia, a title loss to Yuki Kondo where it certainly appeared he was giving the title to his protege in the attempts of making him a star, taking it back with an easy win over Kondo in a rematch, and a loss of the title to Guy Mezger in a match where he had clearly passed his prime and never really looked like the old Funaki after that point. His September 7, 1995 loss to Bas Rutten in a championship match is considered in Japan as the only match that was a crossover on the charts in that it is considered one of the greatest pro wrestling matches ever and one of the greatest martial arts matches ever. It should be noted that several of his losses in Pancrase, and nobody knows just how many, were matches that he "did jobs" in to get talent over for the perceived good of the Pancrase business. If there was no Funaki, there is zero question that Pancrase would have never made it. He was the top draw from the first day of the company to the present, and the company's popularity is without question going to take a step downward without him.

The funny thing is that many think he never should have done real matches because he was destined to be one of the biggest pro wrestling superstars of this past and this next decade.

Masaharu Funaki was born on March 13, 1969 in Hirosaki, Japan and took Bruce Lee as his childhood hero and started weight training young. When he was in junior high school, it was the Satoru Sayama era of Japanese pro wrestling and Sayama's success led to him wanting to try pro wrestling. In March of 1984, just after his 15th birthday, he went to the New Japan dojo to try-out. He took to things so quickly that he was the star of the class and made his New Japan debut at the age of 15 on March 3, 1985 against Tatsutoshi Goto, and is still the youngest major league pro wrestler ever in Japanese history. He trained alongside the likes of Keiichi Yamada (who was somewhat of a teacher of him in the dojo because Yamada started about one year earlier) and Chris Benoit as well as numerous others, and was more talented in the dojo than either of the two men who later would be considered two of the greatest workers that ever lived. He trained in koppo, and later became roommates with Minoru Suzuki, who along with Funaki and Ken Shamrock, were responsible for the first real high level pro wrestling organization of modern times when Pancrase was formed years later.

Funaki quickly became a cult hero in Japan of the hardcore fans and somewhat to teenage girls. Before he ever had a television appearance, his prelim matches in the hardcore buildings like Sumo Hall in Tokyo would see him get huge pops for his entrance and his quick athletic moves. New Japan sent him to Europe in April 1988 where he became a star in Germany, England and Austria before returning one year later. On his return, he made the decision that changed his career and in many ways the face of pro wrestling in Japan in the long run, jumping from New Japan to the UWF, a new group doing what was purported to be shooting matches (they were actually very realistic looking works) but at the time due to the uniqueness of the style had become the hottest wrestling promotion in the world at the time. Funaki became the hottest new star in the promotion in his matches against the likes of Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Nobuhiko Takada and a strange match where he destroyed and pummeled Bob Backlund enroute to getting disqualified. By 1990, Funaki was being pushed to the point he scored wins over Takada and Fujiwara in succession to build to a match in Osaka against the company's biggest star, Akira Maeda, which Maeda went over in. The UWF, due to financial mismanagement and the various wrestlers all getting offers to form their own companies, fell apart shortly after that with Funaki beating Shamrock on the final UWF show.

Funaki, Suzuki and Shamrock went with Fujiwara's PWFG in the three-sided break-up in 1991 which led to the formation of RINGS by Maeda and UWFI with Takada as the top star. Within PWFG there was divisiveness as Funaki, Suzuki and Shamrock wanted to be the top stars, but Fujiwara, who was in his early 40s, kept himself on top and wouldn't put the younger wrestlers over. They also talked about the idea of actually doing real matches, as opposed to worked matches billed as real, which was a concept so revolutionary to pro wrestling that nobody thought it could be feasible over the long haul. The UWF style promotions did occasional shoots, usually with their well trained wrestlers going against less skilled outsiders who would get thrashed. Finally at the end of 1992, the three quit PWFG and started the formation of Pancrase which debuted on September 21, 1993 at Tokyo Bay NK Hall with an all shoot show which saw most of the matches last less than two minutes except the main event where Shamrock beat Funaki with a choke in five minutes. In shoot matches, Funaki did submit people like Minoru Suzuki in his prime, Maurice Smith, Bas Rutten, Guy Mezger and even got a win over Ken Shamrock.

Also on the Dome show:

1. Yuki Kondo of Pancrase knocked out Saulo Ribeiro of Brazil in 22 seconds. Ribeiro, the top student of Royler Gracie [and author of the very fine Jiu Jitsu University -- ed.] who recently won the Abu Dhabi tournament, went for a take down an got caught with a knee to the forehead and was bleeding profusely. Kondo delivered several more punches before the match was stopped. This match ended up being the second most publicized match on the show afterwards because the main event was such a disappointment and letdown.

2. In a Kyokushin Karate match, Kunihiro Suzuki beat Luciano Basile by unanimous decision after 15:00. Match was said to have been boring.

3. In a kickboxing match, Masato beat Melchor Manor via knockout in 2:50 of the fourth round. The audience, primarily pro wrestling fans, weren't interested in this match.

4. Genki Sudo, a Pancrase fighter with a lot of charisma since he grew up as a pro wrestling fan, went to a 15:00 draw with Andre Pederneiras, a well known BJJ practitioner. There were no judges in this match but Sudo, a protege of Rutten, would have won had their been a decision because he landed good punches and knees and Pederneiras did little on offense.

5. Mario Sperry [a Georges Mehdi judo guy, amongst other sikknesses -- ed.] beat Hiromitsu Kanehara of RINGS via a majority decision after going 15:00. Sperry threw Kanehara around and outgrappled him, getting his back and mounting him several times. Sperry continually went for submissions but Kanehara was able to escape. Sperry reportedly never threw a punch, deciding to go for the win purely with grappling skill.

6. Kiyoshi Tamura of RINGS won a unanimous decision over Jeremy Horn after going 15:00. Tamura got the second biggest pop coming out on the show behind Funaki. This was reportedly a great fight with both men looking good. Tamura was more aggressive earlier although most reports indicated it was a very close fight. On their feet, Tamura had stronger kicks but Horn had stronger punches. In some ways, it has to be considered a major feather in Tamura's cap to come back just five weeks after taking such a beating from Gilbert Yvel, and beat a top level fighter who has him by 25 pounds.

7. Rickson Gracie beat Masakatsu Funaki in 12:49 with a choke sleeper in a Battle of mid-90s fighting legends."


"5/26 Somewhere in Russia (RINGS): Iouri Bekichev b Christopher Haseman, Borislav Jeliazkov b Igor Perminov, Grom Zaza b Travis Fulton, Labazanov Arhmed b Valentijn Overeem, Renato Babalu b Jacob Zobnin, Ilioukhine Mikhail b Lee Hasdell, Tom Sauer b Alexander Bezroutchkin, Volk Han b Yasuhito Namekawa, Iouri Kotchikin b Allister Overeem, Andrei Kopylov b Carlos Clayton

"RINGS ran on 5/26 in Russia for a show that included numerous regulars from the Japan circuit including Andrei Kopylov, Valentijn Overeem, Volk Han (who has disappeared from Japanese matches now that RINGS in Japan has gone to the all-shoot format [how dare you imply what you are implying --ed.]), Ilioukhine Mikhail, Renato Babalu, Grom Zaza, Chris Haseman and Borislav Jeliazkov. Haseman was upset by Iouri Bekichev by a knockout in only 2:30. Zaza beat America's most durable fighter Travis Fulton with a heel hook in 1:20. The only of the regular Japanese wrestlers on the show, Yasuhito Namekawa, lost via decision to Han. Kopylov won the main event over Brazilian Carlos Clayton in :55 with an armbar."

June 12, 2000:

"The Dream Stage Entertainment Pride 9 PPV (Japan only) on 6/4 from Nagoya Rainbow Hall once again proved the axiom that when you ask the question as to who is the best fighter, the answer depends upon what the rules of the fight are.

Witness Gilbert Yvel. Yvel, who in his last fight defeated Kiyoshi Tamura, giving Tamura his worst beating of his career enroute to winning the RINGS world heavyweight championship (a title which started out as a pro wrestling version of the world title and now is actually defended in shoot matches) looked to be one of the most exciting fighters to watch due to his great kickboxing skill. In RINGS, if a fighter is taken down, if the action slows on the ground, the referee orders a stand-up. Yvel was taken down repeatedly in everyone of his major wins in RINGS, but his repeated stand-ups allowed him to eventually connect on strikes and put the hurting on his foes. Even before his main event against Vitor Belfort, the psychologically challenged Brazilian who at one point was thought to be the man who would put the sport on the map, Akira Maeda, the head of the RINGS promotion that he was the champion of before jumping one month earlier, said he had no chance to win because of the different rules which don't have as frequent stand-ups.

The analysis was right on. Belfort was able to use his superior grappling background to take Yvel down, negate his kickboxing skills, and use ground-and-pound to win a 20:00 decision before a crowd of approximately 6,000 paid (announced as 9,156). Either way, this was considered attendance figure considering the high ticket prices and that there was no Japanese name fighter on the show.

The biggest news on the show wasn't the fights themselves, but DSE President Naohito Morishita announcing a business tie-in with Antonio Inoki, which means more pro wrestlers on the future shows. This is both good for business and bad for purists and credibility. Unlike in the United States, the entire pro wrestling industry has changed greatly due to the many high profile shoot shows. Not only have predominately worked pro wrestling organizations (RINGS) gone from mostly works, to 50/50, to pure shoots, but for big shows for New Japan, they need a shoot aura which the January 4, 1999 Shinya Hashimoto vs. Naoya Ogawa match gave them to draw big crowds and large TV ratings. The success on TV of not only Hashimoto vs. Ogawa in April, but later the 5/1 Pride show and the 5/26 Rickson Gracie vs. Masakatsu Funaki when it comes to ratings, tells the story of what interests the general public today as it pertains to the pro wrestling industry, and make no mistake about it, in Japan, these ratings and these crowds come largely from fans of pro wrestling. What many feared in 1995, when UFC was gaining popularity while pro wrestling was in a major slump, that fake wrestling couldn't compete with real fighting, which turned out not to be the case as Americans for the most part never cared about the real vs. fake issue as it pertained to pro wrestling in the first place, something promoters finally realized and led to the current boom, in Japan, it is a different story. The two phases are drawn together. The real fights need pro wrestling personalities to draw the large crowds and TV ratings because they are supported largely by wrestling fans. But the pro wrestling also needs to adapt more toward making its big matches have a shoot aura, because fans who can see the real thing, have become more interested in it than the routine well worked pro wrestling match.

Most of this show was designed more to build up 8/27, when Pride runs at the 52,000-seat Seibu Dome in Tokorozawa, a city a few hours outside of Tokyo. Through the help of Inoki, they are attempting to put together a match with Tokimitsu Ishizawa (New Japan's Kendo Ka Shin who came out without his mask) against Renzo Gracie. Ishizawa, a former national champion in wrestling who those who have trained with him say is great with submissions and his pro wrestling gimmick is being the submission master. There is also going to be an attempt as a ticket seller to get Shinya Hashimoto on the show, which if they can get him in a worked match against a name opponent it would be a huge draw. They set up a spot where Gracie went to shake Ishizawa's hand, but Ishizawa at first refused to build heat, but finally did. It appears the main event will be Ken Shamrock facing either Kazuyuki Fujita or Mark Coleman, and that the rest of the top Pride stars such as Mark Kerr, Kazushi Sakuraba, Igor Vovchanchyn and Gary Goodridge would all appear.

There was a tragedy before the first match, and the card consisted more hyping the next show above matches, that were said to be overall disappointing in the ring, with the domination of the better wrestlers in matches that went the time limit.

Before the first match began, Brazilian Johil de Oliviera was badly burned by the pyrotechnics. According to a post by Brazilian promoter Sergio Batarelli, as the two of them along with Joao Ricardo were in the entrance tunnel, a flame was lit and de Oliviera was badly burned. He ended up with second degree burns over 40 percent of his body and will be hospitalized for two or three weeks. The burns were not life threatening and it is believed he'll be able to fight again. Obviously, his match with Matt Serra, a protege of Renzo Gracie in New York, was canceled.

1. Heath Herring defeated Willie Peeters in 48 seconds with a choke. Herring, who started his career with Steve Nelson's USWF, took Peeters, a RINGS veteran, down, got his back and the choke in quick fashion. Peeters had only three days notice, taking this match as a replacement for Marcelo Tiger, who pulled out.

2. Carlos Baretto of Brazil won a 20:00 decision over Tra Telligman of Lions Den. Baretto was able to take Telligman down and dominate the positioning enroute to the decision. After the match, Baretto issued a challenge to Ken Shamrock.

3. Allan Goes won a 20:00 decision over Vernon White, the former Lions Den fighter and Pancrase veteran. Goes dominated positioning on the ground enroute to winning the decision, and then challenged Kazushi Sakuraba (the two went to a 30:00 draw previously).

4. Carlos Newton of Canada submitted much larger pro wrestler Naoki Sano in just 40 seconds with an armbar. Sano replaced stablemate Minoru Toyonaga, 21, who in a pre-fight physical two days earlier was found to have a brain tumor which is apparently going to end his career as well as a pro wrestler. Sano has the rare dual distinction of competing in both the Pride event and the Super J Cup within a two month period. Sano has never looked good in shoots and this was no exception.

5. Akira Shoji submitted John Renken in 6:42 with an armbar. Renken was brought in largely because he was the opponent that lost in Masakatsu Funaki's first Vale Tudo rules match. Shoji dominated the match.

6. Ricco Rodriguez, the training partner of Mark Kerr (who seconded both Rodriguez as well as Telligman), dominated the ground game in winning a 20:00 decision over Canadian Gary Goodridge. Rodriguez was said to have major star crowd charisma and a good look [the last I remember he had eaten his way to near-ruin; I hope his life is much improved since then -- ed.]. Rodriguez was able to take Goodridge down and win the decision based on positioning. Most reports labeled the fight as boring.

7. Igor Vovchanchyn defeated former pro wrestler Daijiro Matsui of the Takada dojo in 5:03 when the match was stopped by the doctor due to blood. Vovchanchyn got his back and started punching. Matsui bled a lot. The doctor checked the cut once and allowed the match to continue, but the second time, he stopped it.

8. Belfort beat Yvel via decision after 20:00. Belfort was able to deck Yvel and then got the top position, mainly doing ground-and-pound while caught in the guard during the first 10:00 round. Belfort took Yvel down twice more in the second round. Yvel got very little offense in and bled heavily from a cut over his right eye.

Sakuraba, Fujita and Alexander Otsuka all did color commentary. Renzo Gracie during intermission also challenged Sakuraba for family revenge. Fujita did an interview where he asked the crowd if they'd like to see him against Shamrock which the crowd popped for."



There was another interpromotional match of sorts as Pancrase champion Semmy Schiltt defeated Yoshihisa Yamamoto of RINGS on 6/4 in Holland. The 6-11 Schiltt caught Yamamoto coming in with a knee to the head, which split him open. Schiltt was pounding Yamamoto from the top before the corner threw in the towel. Yamamoto is another in the long list of Japanese fighters who are fighting too often and destroying themselves in the process

RINGS announced its cards for its American debuts on 7/15 in Orem, UT and 7/22 in Honolulu. Both shows will consist of two different eight-man tournaments, a heavyweight division and an under-200 division. On both nights there will be the first round match-ups, plus a second round. So on both nights, the show will end up with two men advancing in each division. The final four in each division (two from Utah and two from Honolulu) will go to the final tournament on 9/30 in Moline, IL. Monte Cox, who promotes Extreme Challenge in the Midwest, will be running the events. Each tournament eventual winner will get $10,000, which is hardly easy money for winning four fights (although it's a lot worse for the guy who goes 3-1 and still has four fights and doesn't even wind up with a good payoff at the end). The matches will be fought under the same rules as the RINGS King of Kings tournament were held under over the past year. For the 7/15 show, in the under-200 division, the fighters will be Griffen Reynaud, Jeremy Horn, Tyrone Roberts, Jacen Flynn, Jermaine Andre, Adrian Serrano, Wataru Sakata and Chris Haseman. Based on experience, Haseman and Horn should be favored. The heavyweights will have Bobby Hoffman, Craig Montgomery, Joe Leyva, Steve Judson and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka. Kohsaka and Hoffman should be the class of that field, but we don't know how much Kohsaka has physically left after all the beatings he took in 1999. In Hawaii, the under-200 division has Kawika Pahalui, Falaniko Vitale, Hiromitsu Kanehara, Chris Munsen, Dave Menne and Dennis Reed. Kanehara, unless he's physically worn down from all the tough fights he's had, should be the class of that field. In the heavyweights, it is Yoshihisa Yamamoto, Renato Babalu, Tali Kulihaapai, Cabbage, Juha Takasaari, Chris Franco and Tom Sauer, with Babalu at least having the strongest rep in the field. They have their next show in Japan on 6/15 at the Yoyogi Gym II in Tokyo. It's a weak marquee line-up headlined by Kanehara vs. Renato Babalu which is hardly a strong main event for general public interest. Also on the show is Hoffman vs. Joop Kasteel as well as the return of Volk Han vs. Brandon Lee Hinkle, Gueorguiev Tzvetkov of Bulgaria vs. Roberto Traven of Brazil (a BJJ world champion at one point), Sakata vs. Brad Kohler and Menne vs. Ryeuki Ueyama. Han has been booked in several matches that were to be shoots over the past six months but canceled very time. It'll be sad to see him, at the age of 39 (and he may be older than that), have to do shoots against younger guys, because it'll ruin the legend he created in worked matches as being the submission master and one of the great workers of the style (and in his youth, he was the real deal as a submission master but age isn't kind to people in real fights) [just you wait for the Nogueira match! just you wait, Dave! --ed]."


"Akira Maeda and Nobuhiko Takada were not at ringside for the Coliseum 2000 show. The major pro wrestlers at ringside, who all got a huge pop when shown on camera, were Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Tatsumi Fujinami and Shinya Hashimoto. The Rickson vs. Masakatsu Funaki match was a major letdown after all the hype. I'm not sure what happened to Funaki but whatever he was before the end of 1997 (when he was still good enough to beat Guy Mezger, Yuki Kondo and Semmy Schiltt among others via submission) he hasn't been in years. It was as if he offered actually less competition to Gracie than Takada did in their second match and he never even really tried to fight. They were tied up in the corner early with Rickson expending far more energy attempting to take Funaki down while Funaki used the corner as his ally. They largely traded knees to the thigh. Rickson did get a swelling under his left eye so he must have been tagged at least once. Gracie was sweating, so in practice, Funaki not doing anything early since it was a no time limit fight, seemed to be smart since Gracie was sweating bullets and Funaki didn't even have a hair out of place. At the 8:15 mark, when they were both still on their feet in the same corner, Funaki grabbed a front facelock and they went down with Funaki on top. Funaki got right back up, while Gracie laid on his back. Funaki started throwing a lot of kicks to Gracie's leg as he laid on his back. He got some good shots in, although nothing of the calibre of the shots Sakuraba gave to his two brothers in their fights. Gracie got tired of the punishment and went to get up, which is exactly, theoretically, where Funaki should have wanted him. As soon as Gracie got up, he immediately and easily took Funaki down, got a side mount and then a full mount with Funaki offering no apparent resistance. Gracie than outmuscled Funaki, despite Funaki being the larger and more powerfully built man, and pulled his arm out of a block position with one arm and began punching him over and over in the face with the other, cutting Funaki above the eye. Funaki turned and Gracie sunk in a great choke for the win, which was actually in 11:49 (we listed the time in last week's issue as 12:49 which was incorrect). The belief is that Funaki, because he has a very bad knee, will not go into pro wrestling. A correction from last week. The legendary Funaki vs. Bas Rutten match was September 7, 1996, not 1995 as listed here. Funaki will now work as Executive Producer for Pancrase as well as train fighters and help with the matchmaking. Funaki has talked about his main goal to train Kondo to beat Gracie."

June 19, 2000:

"6/4 Utrecht, The Netherlands (RINGS - 3,500): Brian La An Joe b Kaderi, Fred Van Doesburg b Rick Rootliep, Sander Mackilljan b Renaldo Rikhoff, Stephen Tapilatu b Jeffrey Heimz, Aziz b Ricardo Flame, Valentijn Overeem b Faith Kocamis, Glen Brasdorp b Big Mo T-DQ, Jerrel Venetiaan b Dave van de Veen, Joop Kasteel b Lee Hasdell, Rob van Esdonck b Peter Verschuuren, Semmy Schiltt b Yoshihisa Yamamoto"


"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Add the RINGS organization to the list of those in Japan that appear to be in trouble based on a few incidents that became public over the weekend. One incident, which was noted in the 6/12 Tokyo Sports, is that RINGS President Akira Maeda attacked Pancrase President Masami Ozaki on 5/25 at the Keio Plaza Hotel in what definitely is not an angle. Ozaki filed criminal charges against Maeda to the police in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo. This was the day before the Coliseum 2000 show in which both organizations, which don't like each other, were participating in. Although the news of this was kept out of the mainstream press for two weeks, it was known among the officials of TV Tokyo and very few insiders, which is why they had agreed that they wouldn't show Maeda on the TV show the next day because they knew the controversy was brewing. Ozaki claimed to have suffered neck, back and mouth injuries from being manhandled by the much larger former wrestling superstar. Maeda was actually in the building for the show, but when they had face shots of various celebrities such as Shinya Hashimoto and Yoshiaki Fujiwara, there was no mention of Maeda. The situation was described that Ozaki was talking with Jeremy Horn, who is a fighter with RINGS, who actually first came to Japan with Pancrase, that faced Kiyoshi Tamura on the Coliseum 2000 show the next day, over coffee at the hotel lobby. Maeda, as the report we received went, was told by his girlfriend, Motoko Uchida, that Ozaki was trying to recruit Horn to jump. Maeda was told the story, lost his temper, and either punched Ozaki or threw him down hard on a table. This gives Ozaki a legitimate reason to file a lawsuit against Maeda, who is both the President and CEO of Rings. Over this past weekend, a Japanese scandal magazine called Wata Shinso, which ran a damaging article detailing Yakuza involvement in the Dream Stage Entertainment promotion, had a quote where Maeda talked about having a friend in the Yakuza in Osaka, which was the city Maeda grew up in. In the past, there have been baseball players in Japan kicked out of the league for similar comments about potential mob involvement."


"Satoru Sayama's Seikendo promotion ran a PPV show from the Yokohama Arena on 6/11 calling it Ultimate Boxing, which apparently was similar to MMA, using mainly unknown Russian fighters. The big pre-match deal was the debut of Afmed Zunas, billed as 7-7 and 660 pounds. However, in typical pro wrestling hype, when Zunas showed up, he was closer to 6-7 and 280 pounds. He still destroyed Japanese indie wrestler and former sumo Osamu Tachihikari (he was destroyed by Gary Goodridge at the 1/30 Pride Tokyo Dome show) in 54 seconds after punches and knees. Ebenezer Fontes Braga, who has fought Masakatsu Funaki, Akira Shoji and Kazushi Sakuraba previously in Japan, won a decision over Russian Milzamagomedov Magomed. Borishov Igori, billed as the sambo world champion, fought a Japanese judo fighter billed as Giant Ochibi. Igori was said to have star potential winning with punches from the mount in 7:05. It was noted that despite being billed as sambo world champion, when Igori got the mount, he never even attempted any submissions. Vanderlei Silva was billed as fighting on this show, and he was there, but didn't fight and was replaced at the last minute by a Japanese boxer. The boxer ended up getting KO'd with a punch at 1:44. Dick Vrij, a veteran of both the second UWF and later with RINGS, returned to Japan after a two year absence and was taken down and pounced in 1:44 by a Russian named Srutanmagomedaou Kaftas. In the main event, former K-1 star Masaaki Satake beat Dennis Podoriyatin via unanimous decision over three rounds. Reports are that this was overall considered a successful show."


"The 5/20 RINGS show in Russia without a city being listed was in Ekateringburg." [home to recent International Judo Federation Grand Slam event! I made a number of gifs from it that you can see here -- ed.]

June 26, 2000:

"6/15 Tokyo Yoyogi Gym II (RINGS): Ryueki Ueyama d Dave Menne, Valentijn Overeem b Brad Kohler, Roberto Traven b Gueorguiev Tzvektov, Volk Han b Brandon Lee Hinkle, Bobby Hoffman b Allister Overeem, Renato Babalu b Hiromitsu Kanehara"


"8. Vitor Belfort (198.4, Brazil) defeated Gilbert Yvel (227.7, Holland) via decision in 20:00. It was a great open with Belfort decking Yvel with a left. Belfort was on top in the guard the rest of the round, doing the ground-and-pound. He got some distance and fired in a punch that split Yvel's right eye open at 2:40 and worked the body and head in combinations from the top until the end of the round. He got a good flurry in late where he got distance. Belfort's punches have more zing than virtually any MMA fighter because of his boxing background [also he was juiced out of his head and everybody knows it -- ed.]. Second round saw Belfort take no chances and take him down. He worked the ribs. The ref ordered a stand-up in a desperate attempt to save the show with a good main event. Belfort took Yvel right down again and worked the ribs. Quickly, the ref ordered another stand-up, which was absurd since Belfort was hardly stalling and continually working from the top. He was mad. It was a bad call from a fairness standpoint, but I can understand the bad call as the ref felt he needed to save the show. Belfort took Yvel down immediately and kept busy until the end of the fight. A big disappointment considering what was figured to come out of this fight. Belfort, if he can get his head together, is going to be very tough to beat because his boxing skill is better than almost everyone, and he's good at takedowns and blocking takedowns. His strategy here was to avoid Yvel's strength, so he didn't play his own strength because he knew Yvel had nothing on the ground. It really exposed Yvel in that he had a 30-pound weight edge and could do nothing on offense and probably puts Belfort back in contention in the under-200 division. However, in his biggest wins in RINGS over Kohsaka and Tamura, under these rules, the same thing would have happened as they were able to take him down at will, but after enough stand-ups, he was able to rock their world and eventually hammer both of them."


"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: At the 6/15 RINGS show, Akira Maeda claimed that he never attacked Pancrase President Masami Ozaki in a speech to the fans [one wonders how many were disappointed to hear this --ed]. It is expected that Ozaki will formally file charges against Maeda this week. Maeda started screaming about Ozaki being cheap in paying fighters but he seems to have plenty of money for his personal affairs. In what was actually the biggest news in the ring on the card at Tokyo Yoyogi Gym II, Volk Han, the master of submission illusion in pro wrestling, did what his believed to be his first real shoot in Japan for RINGS and beat veteran MMA competitor Brandon Lee Hinkle in 8:11 with an armbar submission. Han was a legit submission master before, and during his early RINGS career as he competed in the world sambo championships one year in Japan and was tapping everyone out in seconds. Now, with a listed age of 39, and he may be older, he had canceled out of a few previous RINGS matches that would have been shoots in recent months since RINGS went to what appears to be a total shoot format. In the main event on the show, Renato Babalu won via decision over Hiromitsu Kanehara. American indie pro wrestler Brad Kohler did the show and lost in 31 seconds to a kneebar from Valentijn Overeem."

July 3, 2000:

"At the U.S. Olympic team trials at Reunion Arena in Dallas over the weekend, a slew of MMA fighters competed (Randy Couture, Dan Henderson, Mike Van Arsdale, Frank Trigg, Dennis Hall, Matt Lindland and Tom Erikson) but none made the Olympic team. Hall, the 1996 silver medalist, and Lindland came the closest. Hell went to the finals in Greco-roman at 128 pounds before losing to Jim Gruenwald in two out of three matches by scores of 2-3, 3-0 and 8-3. The two have been rivals since high school with Hall always the dominant one. Lindland, who was the top seed at 167.5 in Greco-roman, lost two of three matches to Keith Sieracki for the team birth by scores of 7-3, 0-4, 2-1 via refs decision in overtime. Erikson only placed sixth in the mini-tournament to get to the championship match at freestyle heavyweight, which was won by Kerry McCoy, who beat 1999 world champion Stephen Neal in two straight matches to earn the Olympic team berth. Henderson, who is unbeaten in NHB rules matches and captured the RINGS tournament and its $220,000 first prize on 2/26, placed fourth in the mini-tournament in Greco-roman at 187. Couture placed in a tie for fifth in the mini-tournament in Greco-roman at 214, both bowing out after early losses due to injuries. Henderson is in pretty strong demand in NHB because of his record in winning two very tough tournaments (and was very lucky in both cases to do so having close decisions go in his favor, in particular one match in the RINGS tournament), but after the RINGS win, told all promoters he wouldn't be taking any matches because his goal was to make the Olympic team. At Greco-roman heavyweight, Matt Ghaffari, who turned down offers from both the WWF and WCW coming out of his silver medal winning performance in 1996 and has placed in every world championships since the last Olympics, lost a best-of-three to Rulon Gardner by scores of 3-2 (refs decision after overtime), 1-2 (refs decision after overtime) and 1-0 (point scored in the overtime). At the tournament, they also named retired U.S. heavyweight Bruce Baumgartner as the country's Olympic wrestler of the century. Baumgartner is the only American in history to win medals in four Olympic games (1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996), including two golds."


"Pancrase President Masami Ozaki officially filed both criminal and civil charges for assault and battery against RINGS President Akira Maeda on 6/22 for an alleged incident that took place on 5/25 at the Keio Plaza Hotel where it is alleged that Maeda attacked Ozaki and roughed him up."


"Mark Kerr's huge money deal with World Extreme Fighting apparently doesn't take effect until after WEF gets on American PPV. World Extreme Fighting is billing for 8/5 in Cedar Rapids, IA, a main event involving Mark Kerr (although that may be based on getting the show on American PPV), Conan Silviera vs. Bobby Hoffman and Matt Hughes vs. Jose Pele Landi as well as Tom Sauer vs. Ricco Rodriguez, Laverne Clark vs. Alexandre Barros, Dave Menne vs. Carlos Newton, Carl Malenko (Battlarts pro wrestler real name Carl Ognibene) vs. Jeremy Horn, David Dodd vs. Amoury Bitetti, Kevin Cook vs. Hiromitsu Kanehara (RINGS) and more. Hughes vs. Landi matches up two of the most impressive 170-pounders and Newton vs. Menne is also a very interesting match on paper."

July 17, 2000:


RINGS on 8/23 at Osaka Furitsu Gym features the RINGS debut of Dan Severn, facing Andrei Kopylov. Also on the show is an interesting main event with Tsuyoshi Kohsaka returning against Rodrigo Noguiera, Jeremy Horn vs. Ricardo Arona and Joe Slick (who fought twice with UFC Japan) vs. Hiromitsu Kanehara. RINGS is debuting in the United States with shows on 7/15 in Orem, UT and 7/22 in Honolulu. The matches are all first round and second round tournament matches with two finalists going into a second tournament which features the finalists in the two similar tournaments in each weight division on 7/22 facing off. That show takes place on 9/30 in Moline, IL. The Orem, UT show has eight matches. The under-200 pound matches are Jeremy Horn vs. Keith Mielke, Griffen Reynaud vs. Trent Jenkins, Jermaine Andre vs. Clint Wiggins and Tyrone Roberts vs. Chris Haseman. The heavyweight tournament has Bobby Hoffman vs. Victor Burtsev, Aaron Brink vs. Harry Moskowitz, Craig Montgomery vs. Greg Sikan and Travis Fulton vs. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka. A lot of the fighters have UFC experience on the show, but only Horn and Kohsaka have had major success on UFC shows. Roberts won a decision on the last UFC show while Mielke and Jenkins lost alternate matches and Moskowitz lost a couple of times a few years back. Haseman, a RINGS regular looks on paper with Horn to be the tops in that weight division while Hoffman (undefeated in RINGS and the current Extreme Challenge heavyweight champ) and Kohsaka have to be the favorites in the heavyweights."

July 24, 2000:

"7/15 Orem, UT (RINGS): Jeremy Horn b Keith Mielke, Griffen Reynaud b Jacen Flynn, Jermaine Andre b Trent Jenkins, Chris Haseman b Matt Frost, Bobby Hoffman b Victor Burtsev, Aaron Brink b Harry Moskowitz, Greg Wikan b Craig Montgomery, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka b Travis Fulton, Haseman b Andre, Hoffman b Brink, Kohsaka b Wikan

RINGS debuted in the United States on 7/15 in Orem, UT. We didn't get a report regarding crowd or crowd reactions, but the results largely went as expected. They did first and second rounds of eight-man tournaments both in the heavyweight and under-200 weight classes. Each bracket had two guys, who on paper, were a class above the rest, and, those two advanced easily. In the heavyweights it was Bobby Hoffman scoring first round knockouts of Victor Burtsev and a necklock submission on Aaron Brink; and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, with a decision over Travis Fulton and an ankle lock in the first round on Greg Wikan. In the under-200s, it was Jeremy Horn with a knockout over Keith Mielke and a default win over Griffen Reynaud (injured in his first round win) and Chris Haseman with two fast submissions over Matt Frost and Jermaine Andre. Hoffman, Kohsaka, Haseman and Horn will join four other winners of the show 7/22 in Honolulu, for a four-man under 200 and four man heavyweight tournament that takes place 9/26 in Moline, IL to determine the first U.S. champions in each weight division."


"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: RINGS announced UFC lightweight champion Pat Miletich against Kiyoshi Tamura as the added main event for its 8/23 show in Osaka. The match was originally to be held as part of the King of Kings tournament late last year, but due to Miletich's UFC contract, he wasn't able to fight for RINGS until this point."


"Sakuraba did a hilarious interview with Full Contact Fighter in the July issue, largely ripping on the Gracies. When asked about the fight with Royce, he said, "I expected it was going to be a long, long fight so I kind of worried that I might have to go to the bathroom. I'm very serious about that." [Yasuhiro Yamashita wrote in a book that on the day of competition you will have to go to the bathroom a whole lot of extra times; do not be freaked out by this; it is ok --ed.] When it was brought up about Royce claiming he tapped in the second round, his explanation of it was, "Royce gave me an illegal knee to the groin and then apologized to me. I patted him to let him know that it was okay and I was fine. That's the only reason I patted on him. It didn't mean I was giving up. It's very simple. If Royce was serious and said I tapped out, what was he thinking? He's lying. That's for sure, because he knows the truth. People sometimes lie." He also said he was interested in going back into pro wrestling because there is so much interesting he could do there, that he doesn't believe he'd ever get to fight Rickson Gracie, that he doesn't want to fight Mezger in a rematch because the first fight was boring and would love to fight Frank Shamrock

Coliseum 2001 next May is looking at putting together Rickson Gracie against either Naoya Ogawa or Yuki Kondo, although the latter wouldn't have stadium drawing power. Pride promoter Naoto Morishita also talked about wanting to sign Gracie vs. Ogawa, which on paper looks to be the biggest money and TV ratings match possible in Japan next year in either pro wrestling or MMA."

July 31, 2000:

"7/22 Honolulu (RINGS): Josh Hall b Kawika Pahalui, Hiromitsu Kanehara b Adrian Serrano, Yasuhito Namekawa b Falaniko Vitale, Chris Munsen b Dave Menne, Valentijn Overeem b Tali Kulihaapai, Tom Sauer b Mike Dresch, Eric Pele b Wesley Cabrerra, Roger Neff b Rocky Batastini, Kanehara b Hall, Namekawa b Munsen, Sauer b Overeem, Pele b Neff

RINGS ran its second U.S. show on 7/22 at the NBC Arena in Honolulu. In the heavyweight tournament, Tom Sauer scored two wins, including a 35 second knockout over Valentijn Overeem, to advance into the 9/26 RINGS American finals in Moline, IL, being joined by Eric Pele, who advanced from this show, and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka and Bobby Hoffman from the show last week in Orem, UT. In the under-200 division, two RINGS regulars, Yasuhito Namekawa and Hiromitsu Kanehara advanced, joining Jeremy Horn and Chris Haseman in the finals on Moline."


"Dream Stage Entertainment officially announced three more matches for its 8/27 Seibu Dome show, Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Renzo Gracie, Tokimitsu Ishizawa (Kendo Ka Shin) vs. Ryan Gracie and Vitor Belfort vs. Daijiro Matsui at a press conference on 7/24. They also announced singles matches with no opponents for Mark Coleman and Masaaki Satake. The Sakuraba match at least has a storyline since he's beaten Royler and Royce Gracie and now faces Renzo, who has never lost in Pride although lost via decision to Kiyoshi Tamura earlier this year in RINGS. A few hours before the DSE press conference, New Japan's Tatsumi Fujinami announced that Ka Shin would fight at the Seibu Dome but said it would be a one time appearance. Ryan Gracie is something of a black sheep in the family due to his recent legal entanglements and has never fought professionally. Ishizawa, who will be 32 when the fight comes up, was a former national champion wrestler and a 1992 Olympic hopeful before joining New Japan in 1993. He is well known among wrestlers for being great with submissions, and has trained in Brazil and does a submission gimmick in pro wrestling. New Japan is risking a lot here because his striking experience is likely lacking and submissions are less prevalent these days as the fighters are better schooled but one would think Ishizawa should be able to handle him as far as basic wrestling goes. Matsui is clearly a guy to give Belfort another impressive win to hopefully set him up for a money fight. The show has some interesting matches, but it seems terribly weak for a show that is in a domed stadium."

August 14, 2000:

"With one of the most controversial topics in the Observer every year, the Hall of Fame issue, coming in two weeks, and it already being past the balloting deadline (so these thoughts aren't going to influence any outcomes), it is that time where I run down the candidates and give my thoughts on them.

Volk Han - The problem why Han will never make it, even though he probably deserves strong consideration for being so proficient at a revolutionary in-ring style and being the top foreign star in RINGS for nearly a decade, is because his matches were in RINGS. Then styles changed, and RINGS went to shoots, and Han's great submission skill fell out of favor because he's not a strong striker for a pure shoot and it's very hard to be a world class all-around fighter when you're pushing 40 and have only trained in one select aspect of fighting. The more I think about it and of his quality of matches, the more I think he probably belongs. Again, another guy to consider for next year.

Bas Rutten - Should a Pancrase fighter be considered a pro wrestler? His record in shoots is very strong. Only a few losses early, all to big names, two to Ken Shamrock, once to Frank Shamrock and once to Masakatsu Funaki. He never lost after March 10, 1995, even if he did pick up some close decisions that he was lucky to have had go his way. He won the King of Pancrase title twice and the UFC heavyweight title once, and never lost their of them inside the battle field as they were vacated. He probably never, at least as far as his own knowledge, participated in a worked match. His match with Masakatsu Funaki is legendary. As Pancrase strays even farther from its pro wrestling roots, pure Pancrase fighters seem to stray from consideration as maybe they would have gotten previously. Not this year, and unless the influence of Pancrase on pro wrestling increases greatly in Japan, he probably won't get strong consideration any year.

Seiji Sakaguchi - A big star in New Japan who was later President of the company during a big business run. He was a main eventer, largely as the No. 2 guy in New Japan behind Antonio Inoki, for many years while wrestling was on network prime time, so his name in the culture is very big. Unlike his counterpart at the time, Jumbo Tsuruta, he was not a great worker. His best qualifications were behind-the-scenes in getting and keeping TV deals. Doesn't make my list. [I have heard Fumi Saito say that without Seiji Sakaguchi, there is no New Japan Pro Wrestling, and so it is absurd that he is not in the Hall of Fame, and he is RIGHT --ed.]"


"Takehiro Murahama of Osaka Pro Wrestling, who has experience in kickboxing, will fight on the 9/9 RINGS show at Korakuen Hall against Gabriel Lemley, a student of Pat Miletich from Iowa."

August 21, 2000:

"Wrestling International Newsmagazine reported in its 8/1 issue that Alexander Karelin would retire after the Sydney Olympics. In the interview, Karelin, 33, said that he had done one Vale Tudo like event (which was actually a pro wrestling match with RINGS against Akira Maeda last year), but would never do another. There had been a lot of interest not only among pro wrestling promoters in the U.S. including the WWF at various times, but even more so in Japan about using him after the Olympics."


"The RINGS debut show in Orem, UT last month drew less than 1,000 fans." [And even fewer who seemed chill, or even ok -- ed.]

August 28, 2000:

"All responses, due to the political nature of the business, have been promised to be kept confidential, except my own, which were detailed in the Observer two weeks ago.

The balloting was interesting and probably the toughest year to date, particularly when noting the list of those who didn't even get 10% of the vote and are thus ineligible for a minimum of two years. Lou Albano, Chavo Guerrero, Konnan and Ken Shamrock all ranged between 25% and 30% of the vote last year, so while not threatened to make it, all got significant response. Since Albano has long since retired as a full-time manager, and Guerrero rarely wrestles with his glory days being long past, it seems new voters as well as many voters who voted for them in the past didn't this year. Chono debuted on the ballot last year, barely got the 10% necessary to be back on, and had a bad year, so his dropping was hardly a surprise. Funaki, Rutten and Sabu were all first-timers, and between Funaki and Rutten's lack of drawing votes combined with the drop of Ken Shamrock all the way from 29% to below 10% indicates the same thing I had figured, that people find the pioneers of shooting pro wrestling (since they were the three biggest stars from the Pancrase organization when it was promoted and publicized as pro wrestling but the vast majority of the matches were real) are not considered to be important figures in pro wrestling. The next test would be in 2004 when Kiyoshi Tamura becomes eligible, being that he did very well in shoot matches, but inside the ring was one of the three or four best performers of this period. Kazushi Sakuraba, whose credentials in shoot are impeccable but wouldn't be under consideration for his non-shoot work whatsoever, will also become eligible that year. Volk Han of RINGS, who has similar credentials as far as works as Tamura, but not the credentials in shoots at least within the pro wrestling world, remained at about the same 20% level he's maintained the past three elections. Konnan was considered a strong future candidate when he left Mexico, but his stay in the United States has made people take him totally out of consideration. Sabu, who was a pioneer of many style changes and considered the top star in ECW for several years, still, garnered little voting interest."


"PRO WRESTLING NOAH: Masahito Kakihara surprisingly quit the promotion after doing an angle with Yoshinari Ogawa on the debut show. There are reports that Kakihara will go into shooting, either with RINGS, Pancrase or Pride, which doesn't make much sense because he can do a lot better in pro wrestling doing a shooter gimmick than as a small guy actually having to shoot. Kakihara was originally from UWFI which included both Kiyoshi Tamura and Kazushi Sakuraba who have done very well in shoots, and he does have fast hands for a pro wrestler and submission background, but the size will work against him."


"I think some of your comments regarding shoot style fighting in the Untied States are way off the mark. You said Ken Shamrock didn't get your vote for the Hall of Fame because "as shooting style gets less popular in the United States, his significance historically also diminishes."

I'm not sure how you've come to the conclusion that MMA is less popular in the United States than last year. The ever-growing MMA scene has exploded this past year with Jamie Levine's World Extreme Fighting and King of the Cage becoming major events. Pride has done very well on PPV and RINGS has begun promoting in this country as well. On a weekly basis, more people are watching MMA than they were last year.

I also can't consider Dick Murdoch a serious Hall of Fame candidate. He was never a big star, and for much of his career was absolutely worthless inside the ring. Arn Anderson was a better worker, a better interview, and will be remembered by fans nationwide when Murdoch is completely forgotten.

Jonathan Snowden

Athens, Georgia

DM: While there are more live events, as it pertains to television visibility, MMA is not there as anything serious. When UFC was doing 250,000 buys, it was a major force. Pride coming in doing 10,000 buys or UFC doing 20,000 buys and nobody having prime time television is hardly the level of popularity of something that's a major factor in this country right now. Having seen both in their primes, while Anderson is a better interviewer than Murdoch, and Anderson was a really good worker, in their primes, Murdoch was a better worker than Anderson and a bigger star in more places. Anderson will be remembered better by current fans because he came later and because he was a star, but never close to the major star in the company, during the mid-80s NWA days as part of the Four Horseman. Murdoch was also a far bigger star internationally than Anderson ever was domestically."

September 4, 2000:

THIS IS SO GOOD and the kind of thing Dave doesn't seem to have the time to do anymore (and that is not a diss, I totally get it):

"With the Summer Olympics only a few weeks away, it is notable to list the long history of former Olympic athletes that have gone into pro wrestling, including several legends, topped off by Japanese wrestlers Riki Choshu and Jumbo Tsuruta as well as current top draw Naoya Ogawa; Americans Kurt Angle and Danny Hodge; Canadians Earl McCready and Mad Dog Vachon as well as fringe appearances in pro wrestling by legendary athletes such as Muhammad Ali, Karl Malone, Joe Frazier and Alexandre Karelin of Russia.

Summer Olympic notables who have gone into pro wrestling or MMA have largely come from four sports--Greco-roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, weightlifting and judo. A few also have come from boxing and basketball, but none from the latter two sports were ever more than novelty wrestlers. A complete list of all athletes is unavailable, and many pro wrestlers who reputedly went to the Olympics either had exaggerated their credentials or made them up outright. As mentioned last week in the Hall of Fame story, Sandor Szabo was billed throughout his career as having represented Hungary in the 1928 Olympics in Greco-roman wrestling (and at other times as part of the water polo team as well), but nobody has been able to find a record of that and it could simply be he competed under a different name or that complete records simply aren't available. Ditto for Karl Gotch (Karl Istaz), who has claimed to have represented Belgium in the 1948 Olympics in both freestyle and Greco-roman wrestling, but there are no records to substantiate that claim, although it also has to be noted complete Olympic records aren't easy to come by going that far back in time. Iron Sheik (Hossein Kosrow Vaziri) was billed as an Olympic gold medalist from Iran, which definitely isn't the case, during his career, but was reputedly on the Olympic wrestling team from that country (as he got older, the Olympic year changed, starting at 1968 and ending around 1980 when he did promotional appearances and indie matches in recent years claiming to have been a gold medalist). While there are records proving Vaziri was an excellent amateur wrestler, as after coming to the United States in 1969, he won national championships and later helped coach the U.S. Olympic Greco-roman wrestling team in both 1972 and 1976, we haven't found any records substantiating Vaziri in either the 1964 or 1968 Olympics. Klaus Wallas, who wrestled in the 1980s in Europe and for New Japan, was billed as representing Austria in judo at both the 1976 and 1980 Olympics. In New Japan, he was billed as a medalist. He definitely was not a medalist, but he may have been on the teams and he definitely was a world class judo player, but we can't confirm he was in the Olympics.

As complete a list as we can verify, here are pro wrestlers who participated in the Summer Olympics. The only pro wrestler we are aware of who competed in the Winter Olympics was Chip Minton, a member of the U.S. Bobsled racing team in the 1994 and 1998 Games, and who trained at the Power Plant and had some pro matches on WCW TV tapings and independent shows but never made the grade.

1906 - Dimitrios Tofalos of Greece captured the gold medal in two-handed weightlifting in the unlimited weight class. Tofalos, who had the handicap of having one arm two-and-a-half inches shorter than the other stemming from a childhood accident, moved to the United States and became a pro wrestler. He had a match with world heavyweight champion Frank Gotch which resulted in him being caught in a toe hold submission, but his refusal to submit resulted in him spending six months in the hospital with a dislocated hip. He was well known in pro wrestling for most of the rest of his life.

1920 - Paul Berlenbach went to Belgium for the Olympics as an alternate in freestyle wrestling but never actually competed in the games. He went on to pro wrestling during a hot period in the 20s to a degree of success but never at the superstar level.

1924 - Robin Reed of the United States won a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at 135 pounds. Reed was one of the most phenomenal wrestlers the country ever produced. At the Olympic trials in the Pacific Northwest, Reed, to prove a point, entered in four different weight classes, the heaviest being 192 pounds, some 57 pounds more than his bodyweight, and won all four weights. Legend has it that on the boat going to Paris, where the Olympics were held, that Reed challenged everyone on the team. Depending upon which story one chooses to believe, he was able to pin everyone on the team, including the 191 pound gold medalist, John Spellman, and the heavyweight gold medalist, Harry Steel. Reed never lost a match in competition during his amateur career. Reed wrestled professionally after the Olympics for many years, but due to his size, was never a major attraction. A famous story, the accuracy of which one can believe or not, is that Reed, who had never lost, had a workout with John Pesek, a pro heavyweight world champion, who was considered one of the all-time great shooters. Pesek, in his barn, was the only wrestler ever to whip Reed. Russell Vis of the United States captured a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at 146 pounds. Like Reed, Vis wrestled professionally for many years, but due to size, was never a major star. Henri DeGlane of France became up to this point, the only Olympic wrestling gold medalist, capturing the unlimited weight class in Greco-roman wrestling, to win a major pro world heavyweight title. In one of the most controversial matches in Greco-roman history, in the second round, DeGlane, a hometown favorite with the Olympics in Paris, faced two time gold medalist Claes Johanson, and after 20 minutes, Johanson was declared the winner on points. The French team protested, and the decision was overturned and called a draw and the two were ordered to go into a six minute overtime, after which, DeGlane was ruled the winner. Johanson was so enraged he walked out on the entire competition, while DeGlane won four more matches and the gold. DeGlane went into pro wrestling in France, and later came to North America where he quickly became a big star around Montreal. He was involved in one of the most famous world title changes in history on May 4, 1931 in Montreal. For background, just three weeks earlier, Strangler Lewis had won the world title from Ed Don George in Los Angeles in a decision made by Lewis himself in the ring. Paul Bowser, at the time one of the leading promoters, wasn't clued in on the change and went for his revenge, putting DeGlane, a world class wrestler in there. After the second fall, while in the dressing room (in those days, in order to sell concessions, the wrestlers would go into the dressing room between falls for a rest period), DeGlane bit himself in the shoulder hard, drawing blood and managed to cover it up. In a match that would go down in history as "The Battle of the Bite," long before Tyson and Holyfield, at the start of the third fall, DeGlane screamed like he'd been bitten, showed the deep teeth marks and the blood, and the ref, who may or may not have been in on the scam, disqualified Lewis and gave DeGlane the title. This was actually one of the reasons why years later the ruling about titles not being able to change hands on a disqualification, which is generally not the case in Japan and has never been the case in Mexico or Europe, has been an Americanized gimmick fixture of pro wrestling. DeGlane lost the title two years later to Ed Don George in Boston, although Lewis was able to protest the decision and several major states continued to recognize him as champ. DeGlane eventually returned to France where he was the country's biggest pro wrestling star as late as the early 1950s.

1928 - Edward Don George of the United States placed fourth in freestyle wrestling in the unlimited weight class. As Ed Don George, he came right out of the Olympics and captured the world heavyweight title in pro wrestling on December 10, 1930 in Los Angeles from Gus Sonnenburg. Sonnenburg was a super drawing card, a college football star with huge name value, but who had little true wrestling ability. A rival promoter had a middleweight wrestler attack and beat up Sonnenburg on a crowded street corner in Los Angeles, which became huge national news about the world heavyweight wrestling champion being beaten up by a small man in front of witnesses. That embarrassment led to the powers believing the title had to be in the hands of a real wrestler who could take care of himself, either in the advent of a double-cross in the ring, or on the street, so George was rushed to the title. George's title loss on April 14, 1931 in Los Angeles to Strangler Lewis was noteworthy as well. George didn't know he was going to lose the title when he got in the ring. Lewis told him in the ring that they could do it the hard way or the easy way, which has become a famous line in wrestling repeated on television shows to this day. Apparently, as good a real wrestler as George was, the reputation of Lewis spoke for itself, and he agreed to do it the easy way. Since it wasn't planned, many promoters were furious, and Lewis was given a lesson in the Henri DeGlane story. George later won a second world title on March 9, 1933 in Boston from DeGlane and held it until July 30, 1935 when he dropped it to Danno O'Mahoney, a huge Irish drawing card in Boston. George later became a prominent promoter in Michigan and is in the Observer Hall of Fame.

1932 - Robert Pearce of the United States won the gold medal in freestyle wrestling in the 123 pound weight class, the first ever Olympic wrestling gold medalist from the state of Oklahoma. As Bobby Pearce, he was very small for a pro wrestler with a natural bodyweight of around 135 pounds in a sport that was so heavyweight oriented, but wrestled for five years and was never a major attraction. Earl McCready represented Canada in the unlimited weight class in freestyle wrestling, but failed to place. After the Olympics, McCready wrestled around the world for nearly 30 years and was a star everywhere, but in particular was the long-time wrestling legend in Western Canada as well as in England and is in the Observer Hall of Fame. Jack Van Bebber of the United States won a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at 159 pounds. Van Bebber lasted less than one year as a pro wrestler. His story of winning was quite unique. Van Bebber learned his starting time for his final match had been changed and was due in the building, some six miles away, in less than one hour, with no transportation. After running two miles, a passing motorist gave him a ride the other four miles and he arrived just as his match was scheduled to start, which he won. Pete Mehringer of the United States captured the gold medal in freestyle wrestling at 192 pounds. Mehringer actually won the Olympic trials at both 192 and heavyweight, but decided to go to the Olympics at 192 and was never seriously challenged. Mehringer not only wrestled professionally on and off for many years, although he was never a superstar, but actually gained more fame playing five years in the NFL and as an actor in Hollywood with more than 50 film credits. Mehringer was part of the pro wrestling scene as late as the 1960s as a referee for the LeBelle promotion in Southern California.

1948 - Maurice Vachon of Canada placed seventh at 174 pounds in freestyle wrestling. Vachon went into pro wrestling a few years later and nicknamed Mad Dog Vachon, he was a major star world wide for more than 35 years. Regarded as one of the toughest, most dangerous and most colorful men ever in the business, Vachon held the AWA world heavyweight title five times in the 1960s, the IWA title twice, the Grand Prix title twice and the AWA tag title twice with partners brother Paul "Butcher" Vachon and Verne Gagne. Vachon is in the Observer Hall of Fame. To modern fans, Vachon may be best remembered, after being hit by a car while jogging which injured him to the point that he needed an artificial leg, which ended his active career, that Kevin Nash pulled his leg off during a match with Shawn Michaels on a WWF PPV event in 1996. Verne Gagne was the alternate at 191 pounds but actually went to the Olympics. Henry Wittenburg, who got the competition slot, ended up winning the gold medal, and as legend has it, his match in the trials with Gagne was tougher than any of his matches in the Olympics. Of course Gagne became one of the biggest stars in the history of pro wrestling in a career from 1949 through his first retirement in 1981, and comebacks as late as 1987. He was one of the biggest names and highest paid performers in the early 50s as a young All-American boy in the days of pro wrestling on network television and remained one of the biggest names three decades later. He was not only probably one of the 25 biggest stars in the history of the industry, but was one of the most influential and powerful promoters, controlling the AWA for nearly 30 years, oftentimes hand-picking himself as world champion, which he was often criticized because he kept the title on himself as the focal point through the age of 49, and put it back on himself for a last run of one year before retiring as champion at the age of 55 on May 10, 1981. The amateur story as it pertained to the Olympics, but certainly not the pro story, was almost identical for Joe Scarpello. Scarpello also made the trip as an alternate at 175 pounds, and was tougher competition for gold medalist Glen Brand than anyone Brand met in the tournament. Scarpello was a prelim wrestler due to his size as a pro, but wrestled in the Midwest for more than 20 years. Richard Hutton of the United States placed seventh in freestyle wrestling in the unlimited weight class. As Cowboy Dick Hutton, he was Lou Thesz' hand-picked replacement as NWA world heavyweight champion when Thesz gave up the title to wrestle more internationally, particularly in the lucrative Japanese market since the NWA promoters wanted a champion who would work almost exclusively stateside. Hutton won the belt from Thesz on November 14, 1957 in Toronto and held it until January 9, 1959, when he lost it to Pat O'Connor in St. Louis. As mentioned in many circles, Hutton wasn't a particularly charismatic pro wrestler and was a weak draw as champion. Harold Sakata of the United States captured a silver medal in weightlifting in the 182 pound weight class. Sakata, a native of Hawaii, went into pro wrestling in 1949 and became something of a star in the 50s and 60s, particularly in Hawaii and on the West Coast, under the name Tosh Togo. He actually gained more fame in the 60s as an actor, playing the role Oddjob in the James Bond movie "Goldfinger," and after the movie came out, would wrestle as Oddjob Tosh Togo. He also did numerous other acting parts and prominent television commercials, most notable in the late 60s for a cough syrup, which resulted in his spending less time in wrestling, although he continued to wrestle in his native Hawaii underneath through the mid-70s.

1952 - Although he was never a pro wrestler himself, the gold medalist in freestyle wrestling at 148 pounds was Sweden's Ole Anderberg, which tells you where one of pro wrestling's biggest stars' ring name for Alan Rogowski came from. Danny Hodge, at this point still a teenager right out of high school, represented the United States in freestyle wrestling at 174 pounds, but was eliminated in the third round. Hodge was a legend in pro wrestling, as probably the biggest name junior heavyweight star ever in the United States, dominating the title for 16 years from his pro debut in 1960 after ending his pro boxing career which saw him challenge for the world lightheavyweight title; through his career ending broken neck in an auto accident in 1976 while holding the NWA world junior heavyweight title. Hodge, as an Oklahoma sports legend, was really the only world junior heavyweight champion in NWA history who was a consistent main eventer and was, along with Bill Watts, the biggest draw in his territory for much of his active career. Hodge, with his freakish strength, was considered one of the greatest amateur wrestlers the country ever produced, as after these Olympics, he only lost one match over his last five years of competition before going into boxing. Because he was the only man to win national championships in both amateur wrestling and amateur boxing, he was long considered, even though undersized, as one of the toughest, if not the toughest man in the entire business, and there were stories of what Hodge did in private workouts even into the early 70s against much younger and bigger world class wrestlers.

1956 - Danny Hodge of the United States won a silver medal in freestyle wrestling at 174 pounds. Hodge was ahead 8-1 in the gold medal match against Nikola Stanchev of Bulgaria in the waning moments of the match. Both men went down, although they were not touching, and Hodge, in rolling through, had his shoulders momentarily touch the mat. His opponent was not even touching him at the time. A Soviet judge watching the match ruled it a pin, which was called by the Australian judge of the same match, the single worst call he had ever seen in 30 years of international officiating. Wilfred Dietrich of Germany started his amazing Olympic career winning a silver medal in the unlimited weight class in Greco-roman wrestling. Dietrich was an Olympic mainstay for the next 16 years, medaling in four straight Olympics and at the age of 38, nearly doing so a fifth time in 1972. Dietrich then went into pro wrestling in Europe, but since he started so old, he only wrestled a few years, but was a headliner the entire time and had a famous match with Antonio Inoki. Dale Lewis of the United States was eliminated in the second round of the unlimited class in Greco-roman. Lewis wrestled professionally for 16 years, and was a main eventer coming right out of finishing fourth in the 1961 world freestyle championships. He was considered a good worker and ring technician, but not terribly charismatic, but was a solid mid-level performer in most territories and headlined in territories where the promoter liked pushing wrestlers who could really wrestle. Paul Anderson of the United States won the gold medal in weightlifting in the unlimited weight class with a 369 pound press, a 319 pound snatch and a 413 pound clean and jerk. Anderson was expected to easily win the competition, but developed a strep throat and ended up tied with Humberto Selvetti of Argentina with a total of 1,101 pounds in the three lifts. It turned into a dramatic final. Anderson needed a 413 in the clean and jerk to tie, and figured to go for the tie, and move up to go for the win with a successful attempt. After failing twice, and a third failure would cause him to finish in last place because of no successful mark in the clean and jerk, he got the lift on the third attempt. Anderson, whose specialty was more what would today be called the power lifts (bench press and squat, which his figures, more than 600 in the bench and more than 1,100 in the squat, would be considered tremendous even today) and it's rare for a powerlifter to make the transition to Olympic lifting. Anderson dropped from 360 to 303 for the conditioning needed. Since Selvetti weighed in at 317, Anderson was awarded the gold. Anderson did strength exhibitions the rest of his life and tried boxing, which he was unsuccessful at, and pro wrestling in the late 50s and early 60s, which he also wasn't very good at.

1960 - Wilfred Dietrich of Germany captured his only gold medal of his legendary career in freestyle wrestling in the unlimited weight class as well as taking the silver medal in Greco-roman. What was doubly amazing about this performance was Dietrich weighed in at only 198 pounds, giving as much as 100 pounds to some of his opponents. Dale Lewis of the United States was again eliminated early in the same division. In the trials for the spot on the team, Lewis defeated the much larger Robert Marella, who became a much bigger star in pro wrestling as Gorilla Monsoon. Cassius Clay captured the gold medal in boxing at 179 pounds as an 18-year-old, and went on to become probably the most famous athlete of our lifetimes as Muhammad Ali. Ali had a famous mixed match on June 25, 1976 in Tokyo at Budokan Hall, going to a draw with Antonio Inoki in a match where the rules at the last minute were changed to protect Ali since it was a shoot, to the degree that Inoki couldn't even leg dive Ali to take him down. If the match were to be held today with greater understanding of mixed martial arts tactics, Inoki, who damaged Ali's legs greatly with leg kicks, would have easily gotten the decision. Up until that time, it was the biggest money match in pro wrestling history. The match, originally designed to be a work which Ali would lose, ended up being a shoot when neither side could agree to a finish after Ali balked at doing the job three days ahead of time and his camp nearly walked out. While Ali vs. Inoki was a disaster at the time, history has been very kind to it in Japan, and it's a match that looks far better 24 years later when understanding the handicaps Inoki was placed in and that Inoki did severe leg damage to Ali with low kicks while crawling on his back in the butt scoot position for much of the fight. Ali also refereed at the first Wrestlemania, managed Snowman at a Mid South show at the Superdome, and made several guest appearances at pro wrestling events for New Japan and one for WCW over the years. It is long forgotten that in 1976, building up to that match, Ali did a WWF angle taking an airplane spin from Gorilla Monsoon, which garnered national publicity for Monsoon. He also did three pro wrestling matches, or worked mixed matches if you'd prefer, on ABC's "Wide World of Sports" on an AWA show from Chicago against Kenny Jay and Buddy Wolfe (don't remember the third guy), which resulted in the Wolfe match of Bobby Heenan taking one of his patented over the top bumps from an Ali bolo like punch. Throughout the three matches, Howard Cosell, who did the announcing for the matches, kept stating, "in all this nonsense, there is a chance that Ali could get hurt." Ali-Inoki was a disaster to the level in Japan it took years to rebuild Inoki's image, although like a cat, he came back stronger than ever, as he did throughout his career pitfalls and comebacks. The match itself drew a 54.6 rating on Japanese TV, but was not a success in the very first attempt at doing a national closed-circuit telecast of a pro wrestling extravaganza in the U.S., as many of the American promoters didn't strongly get behind the concept because they didn't want to promote Inoki on their own television and Ali against a pro wrestler the fans didn't know wasn't a strong enough draw. The show did well in the Northeast on closed-circuit, including a crowd of more than 30,000 in Shea Stadium, but it was probably more because WWWF had a strong regional headliner in a Bruno Sammartino vs. Stan Hansen match. The live gate at Budokan Hall was a record that would hold up until the first Tokyo Dome show in 1989. Ali was to receive $6.1 million by contract, but actually only received $1.8 million and ended up suing New Japan. It was still a record payoff in pro wrestling that lasted until recent huge money celebrity PPV payoffs for Mike Tyson and Dennis Rodman. Another thing about Ali. Had he grown up wanting to be a pro wrestler and the avenues for open for him to learn (in those days it was a closed business and racism was far more prevalent) to be a pro wrestler instead of a boxer, with his athletic ability and quickness in the ring both hand and foot speed at his size, interview skills and facials in the ring, if he had applied himself to being a wrestler as he did a boxer, he'd have been an incredible draw.

1964 - Masanori Saito of Japan tied with Wilfred Dietrich of Germany for seventh place in freestyle wrestling in the unlimited weight class and Dietrich also took the bronze medal in Greco-roman. Wrestling under the names Mr. Saito and Masa Saito, he was one of the most successful Japanese wrestlers ever in the United States as a major pro star for more than 30 years. Throughout his career, Saito was billed as having won the silver medal in the Olympics, and since his career lasted so long, by the end of his career, they even changed it to the 1976 Olympics that he won it in. A strong Hall of Fame candidate in early balloting, Saito held the AWA world heavyweight title late in his career as well as holding numerous world tag team titles around with world with partners like Riki Choshu, Kinji Shibuya, Shinya Hashimoto and Mr. Fuji. His career was on hold for two years in the early 80s when he and another eventual Olympian, Ken Patera, allegedly combined to beat up nearly a dozen police officers in Waukesha, WI who came to their hotel room looking to arrest them after a huge man who fit the description of Patera allegedly shot put a boulder threw the window of a closed McDonalds that refused to open the door to two hungry large men after a match. It should be noted that Patera was a world class shot putter as well as being a weightlifting champion. After a two year absence, and by this time in his mid-40s, Saito returned and actually did probably the best wrestling in his career in his most famous career feud against Antonio Inoki. Yoshiharu Sugiyama represented Japan in Greco-roman wrestling in the unlimited weight division and failed to place. After the Olympics, both he and Saito joined the old JWP promotion and later formed a tag team in Florida with the Great Kusatsu. As Thunder Sugiyama, he was briefly pushed as the International world champion with the IWE promotion, a smaller No. 2 promotion at the time in Japan, after winning the title from Billy Robinson in 1970. He had a year at the top, before dropping the title to Big Bill Miller, who was a transition champion to lead to Strong Kobayashi being the group's top star. Sugiyama only wrestled a few more years before retiring. He now owns several businesses and is a multi-millionaire, but due to various injuries, is also confined to a wheelchair. Antonius Geesink of The Netherlands won the gold medal in the open weight division in judo beating Akio Kaminaga of Japan in 9:22. This was a legendary television moment because the Olympics were in Tokyo doing incredible television ratings daily, and judo was a Japanese sport, brought into the Olympics by the Japanese, who fully expected Kaminaga to capture the gold even though the reality was Geesink, at 6-6 and 261 pounds, was a many-time world champion and a sport legend having won his first world championship at the age of 15 in 1949. Looking for a box office attraction, Shohei Baba in the early days of the All Japan promotion, reached back into Japanese sports history and signed Geesink, then 39, in September of 1973. To much fanfare, he made his pro debut on November 24, 1973 in Tokyo teaming with Baba to beat Bruno Sammartino & Cyclone Negro. Geesink signed a three-year big money (by the standards of that era) contract with All Japan, and lasted the three years, but was probably their equivalent to Mark Henry, and when it came to in the ring and charisma he was actually far worse. When his contract expired, he wasn't renewed and he never wrestled again. Geesink was kept in main events most of the time because of his name and his size (he was 310 pounds by this point, a monster compared to the wrestlers of that era), frequently teaming with Baba, Jumbo Tsuruta and The Destroyer and almost never did jobs. Baba put Geesink in pro wrestling matches under judo rules against some of the pro wrestling tough guys of the era like Gorilla Monsoon and Don Leo Jonathan, and because it was his game and not theirs, threw them around like novices, which they were. But when the jackets were off and Jonathan, who although billed as being larger was actually slightly smaller, got him in a pro wrestling match, even though Geesink went over, Jonathan, considered the greatest athlete for his size of the era, did extract some revenge. Geesink's name was back in the news last year during the Olympic scandal, as by this time Geesink was part of the national Olympic committee as a retired sports hero, and he was one of the men implicated in the scandal where bribes were paid in exchange for votes for awarding a site location. Joseph Frazier of the United States won the gold medal in boxing as a heavyweight. Frazier was a sub for Buster Mathis, who qualified for the team and then broke his knuckle in training. Frazier destroyed all his opponents until breaking his thumb, but went out for the finals and captured a split decision over Hans Huber of Germany. Frazier later became "Smokin Joe Frazier," the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1970-1973 and legend as Muhammad Ali's most famous rival. In something that is almost a virtual unknown, Frazier did one boxer vs. wrestler pro wrestling match in Trinidad-Tobago in 1985 losing to Victor Jovica. Frazier refereed the main event of the 1984 Starrcade with Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes and an angle where Frazier stopped the match on blood seemed to build to a potential match with Rhodes, but it never materialized. Jim Crockett Jr., who got Frazier for Starrcade, also was involved in setting up the match in Trinidad-Tobago.

1968 - Wilfred Dietrich of Germany took a bronze medal in freestyle wrestling in the unlimited weight class. Robert Roop represented the United States in Greco-roman wrestling in the unlimited weight class, being eliminated in the third round. He turned pro the next year as Bob Roop, billed in many territories as having won the gold medal, and wrestled through 1987 as well as booked. Roop was pushed hard early in his career in every territory he went and was groomed for an eventual run as world champion in the early 1970s because of his background, but his career never really took off after the first few years. Roop, like Hiro Matsuda, was a well known policeman type early in his career for the Florida territory, putting the major hurting on people who came to the office wanting to become pro wrestlers. He was pushed as a star everywhere he went, and turned into a good cerebral type interview and was a good worker but was missing an element of fire and charisma. As he got older, conditioning became a factor and he wasn't much in the ring after the early 80s, but was still pretty much a star everywhere he appeared until the end of his career. Roop made a reputation as a strong booker when he popped the San Francisco territory huge in 1977 using more elaborate booking than the area had ever seen for a feud with Kevin Sullivan. Roop also discovered and recruited Larry Pfohl (Lex Luger) into pro wrestling as his career was winding down.

1972 - Mitsuo Yoshida (who may have used the name Mitsuo Kwak) of South Korea competed at 220 pounds in freestyle wrestling, but failed to place. After changing his pro wrestling name to Riki Choshu in the late 70s, he became one of the five biggest stars in the history of Japanese wrestling, and the most successful booker as far as a company drawing fans for a several year period the Japanese wrestling world ever had, and realistically pro wrestling itself ever had until the recent WWF run, being the man in charge for most of the period New Japan was the dominant promotion in the world. He wrestled professionally from 1973 through 1998, when he retired before 65,000 fans at the Tokyo Dome. Choshu came out of retirement to headline New Japan's first-ever PPV show on 7/30, which was the second biggest PPV event of any kind ever in Japan. Chris Taylor of the United States won a bronze medal in freestyle wrestling in the unlimited weight class. Perhaps the largest man ever to compete in the Olympics, Taylor, 6-5 and 412 pounds, was a national celebrity due to his size and the fact he was the first American heavyweight to win a medal in 40 years. Taylor went into the competition expected to win a silver medal, as the 6-8, 231-pound Aleksander Medvid of the Ukraine already had two gold medals and more world championships than any wrestler in history under his belt and was favored to win his third gold. The luck of the draw saw the two favorites meeting in the first round, with Medvid winning a controversial decision after they stalemated to a draw when the Turkish referee penalized Taylor for stalling. The call was considered so undeserved that the ref was banned from ever officiating again in the Olympics, but the match decision wasn't overturned. Taylor won the rest of his matches, but the tournament only allowed a first round loser to get a bronze medal. After going back and winning the NCAA tournament in 1973, Taylor signed a four-year $100,000 per year contract, astronomical money for that time period, with Verne Gagne to be a pro wrestler. Gagne expected Taylor to follow in the footsteps of Ken Patera, who was becoming a major pro wrestling star by this point with his feud with Superstar Billy Graham. But Taylor, a quiet gentle giant who wasn't particularly charismatic, even though he was nearly as tall, and heavier than Andre the Giant, never got over with wrestling fans. Taylor once, when asked, who was the toughest real wrestler he ever faced, said that with training, Andre, at that time still in his physical prime, would have dominated any style of combat he set his mind at dominating. An attempt to put he and Patera together as Olympic hero babyfaces didn't work either, and his career was short-lived with his only program that ever meant anything being in Japan against fellow Olympian Jumbo Tsuruta. He drifted away from pro wrestling, his weight exceeded 500 pounds, and died in 1979 at the age of 29. Wilfred Dietrich of Germany placed fifth in freestyle wrestling in the same weight class as well as fourth in Greco-roman. In one of the most famous moments in amateur wrestling history, which to this day is on a poster in wrestling rooms around the world, Dietrich gave Taylor a belly-to-belly overhead suplex and pinned him in Greco-roman competition, knocking Taylor, who up to that point nobody had been able to move, out of Greco-roman competition as Taylor was eliminated in the second round. The idea that one could suplex a man that large without the cooperation needed for such a move in pro wrestling by a man half his size was amazing. Dietrich's hopes to medal in his fifth straight Olympics, something nobody in history had ever done, ended strangely. After winning his first two matches, he was controversially disqualified against Victor Dolipschi of Romania. Even with the loss, he appeared in good shape to capture a medal, but he protested the decision by withdrawing from the tournament rather than going on. Tomomi Tsuruta of Japan placed seventh in Greco-roman wrestling in the unlimited weight class. One of the all-time great pro wrestlers, Tsuruta's amateur career was just as spectacular, placing in the Olympics just 18 months after his first amateur match after competing in sumo and basketball while in high school and early in college. Tsuruta was heavily recruited by all four wrestling promotions, but signed with Giant Baba's All Japan Pro Wrestling just ten days after Baba formed the company. Perhaps even more than Kurt Angle, Tsuruta was a natural quick learner who was already challenging Dory Funk Jr. for the NWA world title in the United States after only eight weeks in pro wrestling. On October 27, 1973 after a nationwide contest was held by NTV to give the instant superstar, who made his Japanese debut three weeks earlier after working his way up to main event status in Texas in eight weeks, a nickname, he became Jumbo Tsuruta. As with Yoshida, Tsuruta became one of the five biggest names in the history of Japanese wrestling, winning every honor possible for a pro wrestler including being one of the greatest heavyweight workers of all-time. He may have been the best wrestler in the world when health problems struck him over the summer of 1992. While he continued to wrestle sporadically as late as 1998, his real career was over by the end of 1992. Tsuruta passed away on 5/13 at the age of 49 from complications from kidney transplant surgery. Shota Chochoshvili of the Soviet Union won a gold medal in judo at 205 pounds in a huge upset, beating David Starbrook of Great Britain in 10:00. Chochoshvili. Chochoshvili, at the age of 39, wrestled briefly with New Japan Pro Wrestling, with his most famous match being his first, where he won Antonio Inoki's World Martial Arts championship with a fifth round knockout in the main event of the first pro wrestling show ever at the Tokyo Dome on April 24, 1989 before 53,800 fans. Inoki had been defending the title since 1978 in both Japan and other countries including the United States, India and Germany, against big name pro wrestlers as well as martial artists from various sports. Inoki won it back on May 25, 1989 in their rematch and Chochoshvili was never heard from again. Willem Ruska of the Netherlands captured two gold medals in judo in both the unlimited weight class and the open weight class, destroying everyone in competition including a gold medal win over Klaus Glahn of Germany in just 1:43. In the open weight division, Ruska defeated Vitaly Kusnetzov, who held an earlier win over him, in 3:58 to capture his second gold. Ruska remains to this day the only competitor to win two judo gold medals in the same Olympics, something that will be impossible to repeat in since the Olympics dropped the open division after 1984. Ruska made his pro wrestling debut on February 6, 1976 losing via knockout to Inoki in 20:35 in one of the most famous pro wrestling matches ever in Japan as the first of the famous mixed matches Inoki made famous. After doing the job, Ruska wrestled for several years, mainly in Japan, but also a little in Europe and the United States, including stints with the Los Angeles promotion and one or two matches in the WWWF and actually came back at the age of 54, physically looking in tremendous condition, for a final match with Inoki just a few years ago. However, Ruska was not a good pro wrestler, even though he headlined many shows in Japan. Ken Patera of the United States was a medal favorite in weightlifting in the unlimited class when in 1971 he became the first American ever to clean and jerk more than 500 pounds in competition. As an easy gold medalist in the 1971 Pan American games, Patera was something of a celebrity built up for a Russia vs. United States showdown with Vassily Alekseyev, a legendary athlete of his day who was stronger than Patera. Patera and Gerd Bonk were expected to battle for the silver, but the U.S. press in building up the event, built it up as the Russia vs. U.S. for the gold. As it turned out, Patera bombed out, failing to clean and jerk, and didn't place while Alekseyev easily won the competition. Alekseyev's 506 pound clean and jerk was a mark within Patera's reach at his best, and nobody else in the competition did better than 478. Patera was bitter at his Olympic experience due to the conditions the athletes from the U.S. were subject to as compared with the Russian competition who had all their needs taken care of by the government. Patera trained for pro wrestling after the Olympics under Verne Gagne, and was actually the roommate of Ric Flair during this period, and was pushed for his celebrity status as a major star from day one billed as the "World's Strongest Man." He worked around the world and was a major star everywhere he went, and developed into a good worker and a flamboyant main event star, through the late 80s when age caught up with him, since Patera was already 30 when these Olympics rolled around. Patera, now 58, still and after a hip replacement operation, still wrestles on rare occasions and promotes indie shows today in the Minnesota area.

1976 - Frank Andersson of Sweden placed seventh at 198 pounds in freestyle wrestling and fifth in Greco-roman. A national hero in his native country, Andersson got into pro wrestling in the early 1990s first with New Japan Pro Wrestling, and later with WCW where he appeared on numerous television tapings with a big push aimed at the Swedish market in matches that rarely ever aired in the United States. Andersson ended up being fired by WCW shortly after being charged with anabolic steroid possession. Yoshiaki Yatsu, at the time only 19 years old, represented Japan in the unlimited weight class in freestyle wrestling but failed to place. Yatsu turned pro after the boycotted 1980 Olympics, debuting in Madison Square Garden on December 29, 1980 against Jose Estrada. After a few years in the United States, he returned to Japan in 1984 a top worker. At his peak in 1985, he was probably one of the top five workers in the entire business. Because Yatsu was considered by Japanese amateur wrestling officials as the greatest superheavyweight the country ever produced, but his timing was bad, as he was too young in 1976, was expected to medal in 1980 but Japan boycotted the Olympics, and he went into pro wrestling without achieving his goals in amateur, he made a somewhat risky move going back into amateur wrestling in 1986, and easily captured the Japanese freestyle tournament breezing through the competition. However, in preparing for the Asian games and the 1988 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee struck him down, ruling that pro wrestling was a sport and by the bylaws at the time, he was ineligible for amateur competition. While Yatsu remained a star in All Japan, first as Riki Choshu's regular tag team partner and later as Jumbo Tsuruta's regular tag team partner called "The Olympics," the latter team holding the All Japan Double World tag team titles on five occasions over a two-year period as well as beating Bruiser Brody & Jimmy Snuka for the 1987 Real World Tag League tournament, he was never the performer in the ring he was before being struck down by the IOC. Yatsu quit All Japan in 1990 to join Super World Sports, and when that group folded, largely worked indies and a few New Japan matches, largely as part of Masa Saito's final run, after that point. In 1992, the IOC reversed its ruling and allowed pro wrestlers to compete in the Olympics (which is why Russia allowed Svetlana Gundrenko and later Aleksander Karelin to do pro wrestling in Japan and why Dan Severn, who still had Olympic goals at the time, went into pro wrestling), but by that point, Yatsu had suffered health problems and was 35 years old. Yatsu still wrestles and is the owner of the indie group, the Social Pro Wrestling Federation. Evan Johnson of the U.S. was eliminated in the third round in Greco-roman at 198 pounds. Johnson briefly wrestled in the AWA in 1981, but lacked charisma and only the most ardent fan would ever remember the name. Brad Rheingans of the United States placed fourth at 220 pounds in Greco-roman wrestling. After the 1980 boycott, Rheingans was recruited into pro wrestling in 1981 by Gagne who attempted to immediately push him as a headliner with a television win over top heel Jerry Blackwell and some matches against champion Nick Bockwinkel. While Rheingans had amazing power for his size, he had no charisma and even though winning the Observer's Rookie of the Year award because he was pushed into world title matches very early on, never sustained his push. Rheingans wrestled much of his career in the AWA, worked briefly for the WWF, and late in his career became a regular mid-carder in New Japan, where he trained many wrestlers including Don Frye. Rheingans also helped coach the 1984 Olympic team in Greco-roman wrestling. Allen Coage of the United States captured the bronze medal in judo in the unlimited weight class. Like Ruska, he was recruited into pro wrestling by New Japan to put Inoki and Seiji Sakaguchi over, and in return he was trained and became good enough that he became a regular headliner with the company for a decade as Badnews Allen, and later became one of the all-time great heels for Stampede Wrestling where he was a main foe of Bret Hart, Dynamite Kid, Owen Hart and Chris Benoit in the early days of all of their respective careers. He wrestled for the WWF in the late 80s as Badnews Brown. Although starting late, his first pro match was at the age of 35, he wrestled professionally for 22 years, most of that period as a headliner in every circuit he appeared, and had the reputation as being one of the toughest men ever in the business, was an excellent interview and, until his knees went bad in the late 80s, was one of the best brawling wrestlers in the game. He is currently, after having both knees replaced last year ending his career, the color commentator for Stampede Wrestling. Shota Chochoshvili captured his second medal, this time a bronze representing the Soviet Union, in the open class in judo. Leon Spinks of the United States won the gold medal in boxing at 179 pounds. Spinks went on to defeat Ali to win the world heavyweight boxing title 18 months later, but was more famous as the butt of jokes after losing the title in a rematch. Spinks had a boxer vs. wrestler match with Inoki on October 9, 1986 at Tokyo Sumo Hall drawing a sellout 11,520 fans paying $837,158 which Inoki was put over in the eighth round of a terrible match with a horrible finish. But the show drew a 28.9 rating, and was notable more for the huge TV audience seeing Akira Maeda beat kickboxing world champ Don Nakaya Neilsen in the semifinal, which was the beginning of the creation of the Maeda legend. Spinks wrestled on occasion after the Inoki match, doing some boxer vs. wrestler gimmick matches with Great Wojo in Indiana, a few tours with FMW feuding with Atsushi Onita, and a brief program in Memphis with Jerry Lawler.

1980 - Frank Andersson of Sweden placed fourth at 198 pounds in Greco-roman wrestling. Neal Adams of Great Britain, who never wrestled professionally, but whose brother Chris, has wrestled for more than 20 years and is still an active pro and Chris himself competed at a high level in judo, having been known in England as Judo Chris Adams before coming to the United States, captured a silver medal in judo at 157 pounds losing the final in 7:00 to Ezio Gamba of Italy. Adams breezed to the finals beating every opponent in less than four minutes. Gamba and Adams had an interesting history as in 1977 in the European championship finals, Adams caught Gamba in a submission, and Gamba escaped by biting him hard in the butt. Hank Numan of The Netherlands took the bronze medal in judo at 209 pounds. Numan worked briefly for RINGS without making much of an impact. Due to the Olympic boycott, numerous athletes lifetime dreams were left with bitter memories. Yoshiaki Yatsu, who was Japan's representative as a superheavyweight, was in his amateur wrestling prime. Greg Wojciechowski was another wrestlers whose career was ruined by timing. An eight-time freestyle national champion, he missed the 1972 team because of the presence of Taylor, the 1976 team because of an injury and the 1980 games because of the boycott. He went into pro wrestling as the Great Wojo after the 1980 games, wrestling mainly for Dick the Bruiser in Ohio and Indiana but never made it past the regional level except for a few FMW tours. Brad Rheingans had just come off winning the 1979 World Cup and was considered a medal favorite at 220 pounds in Greco-roman. Jeff Blatnick also made his first Olympic team as a superheavyweight Greco-roman wrestler.

1984 - Mark Schultz of the United States captured a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at 181 pounds, beating Japan's Hideyuki Nagashima in 1:59 in the finals. Schultz, whose older brother Dave also won a gold medal, and later was murdered in the famous John Du Pont case, competed once, literally with only a few hours notice as a substitute on a UFC PPV and easily defeated Gary Goodridge. He was interested in continuing to compete, but his primary job at the time was wrestling coach at Brigham Young University, and the school threatened to fire him if he did it again because of the controversy as to the brutality of UFC. Once, in a dojo match with no striking allowed, Schultz challenged Rickson Gracie, but with no knowledge of submissions, while Schultz had Gracie pinned to the mat for more than 20 minutes, eventually Gracie made him tap. Tamon Honda, representing Japan in the 220 pound weight class in freestyle wrestling, was injured in competition which led to him finishing fifth. Honda competed in two more Olympics before joining All Japan Pro Wrestling in 1993. Honda, who is still active with Pro Wrestling Noah, never reached the level as a pro he was expected to reach, only on occasion showing signs of being a good worker or having strong charisma. Hiroshi Hase represented Japan at 198 pounds in Greco-roman wrestling, placing ninth. Hase spent a year as a teacher before signing with New Japan, and being sent to Calgary. At his peak, he was one of the top five workers in the world, and he picked up pro wrestling fast, as just a few weeks into his pro career, Hase & Fumihiro Niikura, wrestling under masks as the Viet Cong Express, were having some of the best matches anywhere in the world in Stampede Wrestling with another rookie, Owen Hart, and then brother-in-law Ben Bassarab in late 1986. He wrestled for more than one year in Calgary, before debuting with New Japan to great fanfare on December 27, 1987, when he became the first native wrestler up to that point in Japanese history to win a world title in his domestic debut, capturing the IWGP junior heavyweight title from Kuniaki Kobayashi. Hase & Kensuke Sasaki were one of the top tag teams in the world, and he was much admired for his unselfishness as a booker, keeping himself lower on the cards than he deserved and always jobbing to set up new main eventers and is a strong Hall of Fame candidate as much for that than any title wins. He cut his career short in 1997 for a career in politics, and currently is affiliated with Pro Wrestling Noah but is unlikely to wrestle more than a few times per year. Frank Andersson of Sweden, in his third Olympics, took the bronze medal in Greco-roman wrestling at 198 pounds. Jeff Blatnick, who has never done pro wrestling (although at one point did negotiate with New Japan Pro Wrestling and appeared as a guest at several of their shows including Antonio Inoki's retirement match last year), won a surprise gold medalist in the superheavyweight division in Greco-roman wrestling. Blatnick, the TV color commentator for the UFC, had a connection with pro wrestling as the announcer for a UWFI PPV in the United States. He became a national hero battling back from Hodgkin's disease to win a gold medal in one of the most emotional Olympic moments of all-time. Blatnick, a huge underdog going into the Olympics, which were weakened by the Soviet boycott, beat Tomas Johansson of Sweden in the finals, although the irony was that if he had lost, he still would have captured the gold since Johansson was stripped of his silver medal after testing positive for steroids. Blatnick's cancer came back for a second time in 1985, but he beat it again through 28 sessions of chemotherapy. Neal Adams, the defending world champion, took his second silver medal in judo, this time at 172 pounds, losing in 4:04 to Frank Wieneke of Germany in what was considered a huge upset. Adams was easily ahead on points, relaxed, and Wieneke threw him to the mat with an ippon, the first time in his career Adams had ever lost a match in that manner.

1988 - Kenny Monday of Tulsa captured the gold medal at 163 pounds in freestyle wrestling with a 5-2 win over Adlan Varayev of Russia. Monday would go on to compete in two more Olympics. Monday was dominant, as going into the finals, he had one pin and beat his other six opponents by a cumulative score of 29-0. Monday fought on two MMA PPV shows in 1997, first beating John Lewis to win the Extreme Fighting Championship welterweight title, but then losing in a submissions only match to Matt Hume on The Contenders show. Ben Spijkers of Holland, who won the judo bronze medal at 190 pounds, fought in the first and only World Combat Championships on October 7, 1995 and was submitted by Renzo Gracie in 2:48. David Gobezhishvili of Soviet Georgia won the gold medal in the superheavyweight weight class beating American Bruce Baumgartner 3-1 in a key match of one of the great heavyweight rivalries in amateur wrestling history. Gobedzhishvili only had one pro match, on October 4, 1992 at the Tokyo Dome for the old Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi, where he lost in the semifinal before 25,000 fans to Minoru Suzuki on the show headlined by Masakatsu Funaki vs. Maurice Smith. Tamon Honda represented Japan in his second Olympics, this time in the superheavyweight weight class, but failed to place. The Olympic career of arguably the greatest wrestler of all-time, Alexandre Karelin of the then Soviet Union, began at these games. Karelin pinned everyone except his final opponent to win his first superheavyweight gold medal. Karelin, who will be going for an all-time record fourth gold medal in 2000, has never lost a match since 1987 and holds the all-time record with 12 world championships. Karelin did one pro wrestling match, on February 21, 1999 for RINGS at the Yokohama Arena drawing 17,048 fans paying $2,479,000 for a decision win over retiring Japanese legend Akira Maeda. In December, Karelin was elected top the Russian House of Representatives. Although many promotions, including the WWF, have sent big money offers his way, he has stated after the upcoming Olympics that he'll retire from competition, and won't do either pro wrestling or shootfighting. Dennis Koslowski of the United States won the bronze medal in Greco-roman wrestling at 220 pounds. Koslowski wrestled several matches for UWFI in 1993, including several on American PPV and he appeared to have the same superstar qualities at least inside the ring that Kurt Angle shows today. However, after a money dispute with UWFI, he quit the promotion and left pro wrestling. His highest profile match was a loss to Kiyoshi Tamura at the December 5, 1993 Tokyo Jingu Stadium show before 46,168 fans, which was headlined by the first and most famous Nobuhiko Takada vs. Vader match. Duane Koslowski, the twin brother of Dennis, placed eighth as a superheavyweight in Greco-roman wrestling. Koslowski wrestled a few matches in Japan for the old UWF in 1989 and 1990. His first and most famous match came at the first ever sellout for pro wrestling at the Tokyo Dome on November 29, 1989 before 60,000 fans where he lost to Nobuhiko Takada in the semifinal to the Akira Maeda vs. Willie Wilhelm main event. Like his twin brother, Duane appeared to have great potential (either that or back at that period of time Takada was just that damn good) but left after only a few matches. Paulo Silva was on the Brazilian basketball team that placed fifth and lost to an American team that included Mitch Richmond, David Robinson and Danny Manning. At 7-foot-3 legit, Silva, known as Giant Silva in the U.S. and Gigante Silva in Mexico, signed with the WWF after being discovered by Larry Weil (Sharpe) while already in his mid-30s some ten years later, was rushed onto television too quickly and never caught on. While lacking charisma and working ability, he had amazing agility and actually almost freakish strength, gifts he was unable to use to put together wrestling matches in which he didn't have a clue. But he caught on as a headliner as a poor man's Andre the Giant for EMLL in Mexico. Jorge Gonzalez played on the Argentinean national team that didn't place. At 7-foot-6 1/2 inches legit, he was probably the tallest man ever to compete in pro wrestling and perhaps in the Olympics as well. Gonzalez was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, but didn't have the foot speed to play in the NBA. Jim Herd and Jim Ross, based on the success of Andre the Giant, who was really closer to 6-foot-9 or 6-10, although always billed at 7-4, figured someone that much larger was money in the bank, and WCW signed him to a big money contract in 1990. But he mentally never took to wrestling, even though he was pushed as a headliner in 1991 and early 1992 and Ric Flair could carry him to a good match. Eventually he went back home and quit the business. Vince McMahon tried where WCW failed in 1993, as the "nearly 8 foot" Giant Gonzalez, but he didn't cut it there either, and after a Wrestlemania IX match with Undertaker in Las Vegas, was never heard from again except when brought into New Japan as a freak visual to form a tag team with 5-foot-4 1/2 inch Jushin Liger, and was never heard from again.

1992 - Kenny Monday captured the silver medal at 163 pounds losing 1-0 to Park Jang Soon of Korea. Monday had outscored his opponents 14-0 going into the gold medal match. Park scored a takedown with just 15 seconds left to capture the gold. Kevin Jackson of the United States captured the gold medal in freestyle wrestling at 181 pounds beating Elmadi Jabrailov of Russia 1-0 in a disputed match. The two battled 0-0 to a draw in regulation. Jabrailov came close to, if not completely, controlled Jackson 46 seconds into a sudden death overtime, which would have won the match and the gold medal. But the ref didn't see it as a point and the match continued, and one minute later, Jackson scored on a double-leg takedown to win the gold. Jackson competed in several MMA matches, including a knockout win over John Lober, a loss on 14 seconds via armbar to Frank Shamrock on December 21, 1997 at the Yokohama Arena to crown the first UFC middleweight champion, and a later loss to Jerry Bohlander. While still wanting to challenge for the title, Jackson got a job as a wrestling coach for the U.S. Olympic team and the job forbid him from continuing in MMA. Mark Coleman of the United States placed seventh in freestyle wrestling at 220 pounds. Coleman, who will likely become a pro wrestler at some point, is currently the top rated heavyweight MMA fighter in the world after winning the Pride tournament finals on 5/1. He also held the UFC heavyweight title beating Dan Severn on February 7, 1997 and losing in a major upset to Maurice Smith on July 27, 1997. At first seemingly unbeatable in MMA, Coleman's career went downward with an ACL tear and two more consecutive losses in shoots, as well as a worked loss to Nobuhiko Takada before rebounding and winning what was likely the toughest MMA tournament in history before 30,000 fans at the Tokyo Dome. It is largely expected that Coleman will wind up as a full-time pro wrestler. Manabu Nakanishi represented Japan at 220 pounds but failed to place. Nakanishi went into pro wrestling right after the Olympics, debuting in October 1992. He was something of a disappointment as he showed tons of promise early, but his progress slowed to almost retrogressing after a few years. After wrestling as Kurosawa in WCW, he was brought back to Japan with a major push, and was an early failure. After years of being pushed, is accepted as something of a big star, holding the IWGP tag team titles with Yuji Nagata and winning the 1999 G-1 Climax tournament, but, since he's already 33, will likely never be a great worker. In an interesting trivia note, Nakanishi beat current pro wrestling superstar Jun Akiyama in the Olympic trials. David Gobezhishvili, now representing Georgia, took the bronze medal in superheavyweight wrestling. Gobezhishvili, who had lost to Baumgartner nine times in their 15 match series dating back seven years at this point, leading to their last and their most intense struggle, tied 0-0 before Baumgartner took him down with four seconds left to win. Baumgartner easily won the gold medal match 8-0 while David easily won the bronze. Tamon Honda once again represented Japan in freestyle wrestling in the superheavyweight division, but didn't place. Dennis Hall placed eighth in Greco-roman wrestling representing the United States at 126 pounds. Hall has done a few MMA matches including some Shooto main events in Japan. Dan Henderson of the United States placed ninth at 181 pounds in Greco-roman. Henderson has had much success in tight matches in MMA, as with the exception of a submission loss in an all-submission match to Frank Shamrock in 40 seconds, he's undefeated, winning one of the UFC's toughest middleweight tournaments ever, a tournament in Brazil easily, and with a very generous decision, captured the $223,000 first prize in the 32-man RINGS tournament on February 26, 2000 with the final round at Budokan Hall. Dennis Koslowski won the silver medal at 220 pounds in Greco-roman. In the gold medal match, Hector Milan of Cuba and Koslowski tied 1-1, forcing a sudden death overtime, but Milan got a takedown 25 seconds into the sudden death to take gold. Alexandre Karelin destroyed everything in his path to win his second Greco-roman superheavyweight gold medal, as with the exception of one match which he won easily on points, he pinned his other four foes in a total time of 5:32. Kiril Barbuto of Bulgaria also competed in Greco-roman and briefly worked for RINGS. The gold medal match for the unlimited weight class in judo ended up being a battle of two future pro wrestlers. David Khakhaleishvili of the Republic of Georgia, threw Naoya Ogawa twice in 1:04. Ogawa, who captured the silver medal, won four world championships during his judo career, had destroyed everyone in the tournament up to that point, with all his tournament matches before the finals lasting a combined time of less than 8:00. Ogawa turned pro on April 12, 1997 at the Tokyo Dome before more than 50,000 fans beating IWGP heavyweight champion Shinya Hashimoto in a non-title match, and his career, and feud with Hashimoto, was off to becoming the stuff of legendary status. Although he wrestles sparingly, doing a shooter gimmick with Inoki as his manager, he's one of the hottest wrestlers in the country. Khakhaleishvili wound up in RINGS, where he was largely overweight, with his weight getting as high as 340 pounds in his final appearances, and unimpressive. There had been attempts by New Japan to rematch the two, obviously for Ogawa to win, but they never materialized. Svetlana Gundarenko of Russia, a 6-foot-3 and nearly 300 pound woman, placed seventh in judo in the unlimited weight class. Gundarenko was the largest and most powerful woman in the competition, but lacked speed. After the Olympics, she started wrestling in Japan with FMW, using both her real name, as well as a ring name of Terechikowa, named after the first woman ever in space who was also Russian. On July 18, 1995, in what was believed to be the first Ultimate Fight tournament ever for women in Tokyo, Gundarenko, under her real name, used her size and power, by this time she was 315 pounds, to destroy everyone in the shoot competition including famous pro wrestlers Yumiko Hotta and Shinobu Kandori (herself a former world judo champion but half her size). After going back to the Olympics, she returned to Japan on October 10, 1998 for a shoot show at Sumo Hall headlined by her rematch with Kandori, which turned out to be a worked match, and Kandori got her revenge. Mark Henry of the United States placed tenth in the unlimited weight class in weightlifting. Henry, who gained national attention from his lifting prowess in both sports of weightlifting and powerlifting dating back to his high school days, was promoted as a future Olympic hero. But the only record he set in these games was as the heaviest competition lifter ever in the Olympics when he weighed in at 367 pounds. Henry's mentor was Terry Todd, a former powerlifter who was a major wrestling fan, and he inked a ten-year contract with the World Wrestling Federation for $2.5 million, an almost unheard of contract by the standards of the time, with the feeling they would pay him for training for the 1996 games which the company would get publicity from when he did well, and he'd be able to come into pro wrestling with great fanfare billed as the "World's Strongest Man." Pieter Smit of The Netherlands competed in judo, but we don't know what weight division but he didn't place. He later worked in RINGS briefly. Svilen Russinov of Bulgaria captured a bronze medal in heavyweight boxing. Russinov worked in RINGS, although never made much of an impact. Karl Malone played on the gold medal winning U.S. "Dream Team" in basketball and went on to become a future NBA Hall of Famer. His one pro match was on July 12, 1998 at the WCW Bash at the Beach PPV teaming with Diamond Dallas Page to lose to Hulk Hogan & Dennis Rodman. The match was terrible, largely due to Rodman, which probably hurt how Malone looked because he had the in-ring charisma and look and obviously the athletic ability and was a quick study.

1996 - Townsend Saunders of the United States captured a silver medal at 150 pounds in freestyle wrestling. Saunders, whose wife Tricia is also a multi-time world champion freestyle wrestler, battled to a 1-1 draw with Vadim Bogiyev of Russia in the gold medal match, given to Bogiyev because he had two passivity points during the match as opposed to three for Saunders. Saunders competed in a couple of UFC events, losing a close decision to Pat Miletich in the match to determine the first UFC lightweight champion, and eventually being knocked out of contention by losing to Mikey Burnett via decision. Kenny Monday, in his third Olympics, placed sixth at 163 pounds. Kurt Angle won the gold medal for the United States in freestyle wrestling at 220 pounds. Angle, the defending world champion, suffered two major setbacks in training, the death of his coach, David Schultz in the famous murder case, and a broken neck. He barely recovered from the latter in time for the Olympic trials, which was a loaded field that included Mark Coleman and Mark Kerr. Angle at the Olympics went to the finals with Abbas Jadidy of Iran. Jadidy was controversial for winning the 1993 world championship, but then having to forfeit it and serve a two year suspension for failing the steroid test. The two went to a 1-1 draw after overtime, and each had two passivity cautions, which was the tiebreaker, so the decision went to a vote, which Angle won, not without much controversy. Angle, who never saw pro wrestling growing up, then turned down a $250,000 per year offer from the WWF saying he had no interest whatsoever in pro wrestling. Two years later, after failing to make it in Pittsburgh as a sportscaster, he came back to the WWF asking for a job. They tested him out for one week under Dory Funk Jr., and he was a natural. After some seasoning in Memphis, he was brought into the WWF in late 1999 and became one of the biggest stars in wrestling in almost record time, and is a very strong bet to someday become only the second Olympic wrestling gold medalist to win a major world heavyweight pro title. In "The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics," regarding Angle, it wrote, "Angle briefly became a national hero. In 1998, he horrified wrestling aficionados by signing a contract with the entertainment-oriented World Wrestling Federation." Zaza Tkeschelaschvili of the Republic of Georgia placed 13th in freestyle wrestling in the same weight division. Tkeschelaschvili is now a regular with RINGS as Grom Zaza. Zaza Turminadze of Bulgaria wrestled freestyle although we don't know what weight division and later wrestled in RINGS as Andrei Turminadze. Dennis Hall at 126 pounds in Greco-roman wrestling took the silver medal, losing 4-1 in the finals to Yury Meinichenko of Kazakhstan. Dan Henderson once again represented the United States in Greco-roman wrestling at 181 pounds, but failed to place. Alexandre Karelin took his third Greco-roman superheavyweight gold medal. Karelin wasn't as dominant as in 1992, when he was untouchable, but he still outscored his opponents 25-0 during the tournament. In the gold medal match, he beat Matt Ghaffari of the United States by a 1-0 score. Ghaffari himself had negotiated with both WWF and WCW before decided to stay in amateur wrestling for the 2000 Olympics, but failed to make the team. Gogitidze Bakouri of Bulgaria competed in Greco-roman but didn't place, and has done both work and shoot matches in RINGS over the past few years. David Khakhaleishvili came to Atlanta to defend his judo gold medal in the unlimited weight class for the Republic of Georgia and was eliminated in one of the strangest ways in history. He went from the Olympic village to the judo venue to weigh in, only to get there and be told the weigh-ins were back at the Olympic village. He rushed back, only to get there after the weigh-ins were over and he was disqualified from the competition. The silliness of this is compounded by being in the unlimited weight class. Naoya Ogawa went to the semifinals of the unlimited weight class in judo, losing a close match to eventual gold medalist David Douillet of France, who after winning, termed the match the real gold medal match since it was his toughest match in the tournament. Douillet then easily won in the finals, but Ogawa only managed fifth. Svetlana Gundarenko of Russia, who was actually going in a strong medal favorite and had come off both pro wrestling and legitimate shootfighting in Japan, placed fifth in judo in the womens unlimited weight class. Before Karelin this year, Gundarenko would be the first known performer who went back to the Olympics after doing pro wrestling, since prior to 1992, it wouldn't have been possible due to the ridiculous amateur athlete rules the Olympics operated under. Mark Henry once again represented the United States in weightlifting in the unlimited weight class, and broke his old record when he weighed in at 407 pounds. As the story goes, Henry was freaked out before ever going out when he saw his competition warming up with more weight than he'd ever maxed. He then suffered a back injury. Henry placed 13th. He got a big push early, but didn't develop well and suffered an early leg injury. He came back, got an initial push, but eventually it became clear it was very unlikely he would ever be the star or attraction they had counted on him being. Because of his contract some would say, he was put into some of the most humiliating angles of all-time, from allegedly sleeping with his baby sister to sleeping with nearly 80-year-old Mae Young to having oral sex performed on him by a male transvestite. The WWF dropped him from the main roster a few months back and sent him to Ohio Valley Wrestling. Karl Malone was back as part of his second U.S. basketball team that captured the gold medal. Georgi Kandelaki represented Bulgaria in heavyweight boxing and after the Olympics also went to RINGS and has had many matches there. After winning the 1997 amateur boxing World Cup, he's considered a contender at the Sydney Olympics."


"Andy Hug, the most popular active sports entertainment personality in Japan, suddenly passed away from a acute myeloid leukemia in front of several K-1 fighters and shocked nations of Japan and Switzerland, where he was a national hero, on 8/24. Hug, who had last fought on 7/7 and looked impressive with a first round knock out Nobu Hayashi, was 35.

Hug was the charismatic symbol of the K-1 organization, with the scene in every promotional film of Hug doing his kakato otoshi (ax kick), which is more of a flashy move than an effective one usually in combat, symbolic of a crowd pleasing performance to entertain spectators as opposed to just straight sport. It was that promotional philosophy that made K-1 the biggest ratings getting form of sports entertainment in Japan, surpassing both the kickboxing and pro wrestling world's that spawned it, and turned Hug into perhaps the most popular sports personality in his native Switzerland, where his fights have drawn several of the biggest television ratings in the history of television in that country.

His funeral on 8/27 in Tokyo drew an estimated 12,000 onlookers, making it possibly one of the biggest funerals in history of a professional athlete. With the exception of Shohei Baba's funeral in 1999, it was believed to be the most people ever to attend the funeral of an athlete in Japan.

In Japan, Hug's name value was far larger than any active pro wrestler or any other MMA fighter, which is amazing since he wasn't Japanese. His name and face were known not just for being the biggest of the major stars of K-1, but for appearing in many cup of noodles and hair care commercials. On the outside, Hug had all the superstar trappings, the plush house with a pool in Switzerland, the movie star looking wife, Illona, who herself was a recognizable figure in Japan as she was always shown with him on Japanese TV pieces (the two recently had divorced), and movie action hero looks and charisma. He seemed destined by wind up in the movies some day as a real life Bruce Lee. While he wasn't necessary the toughest of the K-1 fighters, as he was really a built up lightheavyweight competing against heavyweights, he was the flashiest and most entertaining to watch, and thus the biggest drawing card. Hug was the show stealer when K-1 came to the United States, where it didn't catch on, in 1998 for a PPV show in Las Vegas.

Hug's death came suddenly, as he was admitted to the hospital just six days earlier, and there was no public hint as to the seriousness of his condition until 8/22 when, after two days earlier his match on K-1's 10/9 was canceled, he sent a message that he was in a tougher fight than he had ever had in the ring but he would beat it and come back to the ring very soon. During the last 24 hours before his death, while hooked up to life support systems and in a coma, his heart stopped three times, with numerous K-1 fighters, including many of his opponents at his bedside urging him to fight his toughest battle. All three times his heart started beating again. After the fourth time his heart stopped in 24 hours, he didn't respond to the shouting and slipped away. Peter Aerts, his most famous rival, the two traded back wins several times as the company's two biggest stars, arrived from Holland to the hospital minutes later and cried for two hours slumped by Hug's bedside. Another rival, Francisco Filho, whose career as a superstar was made with a one punch knockout on Hug a few years back, was still unable to talk 40 minutes later on a live television interview. The Fuji TV Network, which drew tremendous ratings, usually between 15-20 for the K-1 shows, and often well into the 20s for Hug's quarter hours, interrupted its prime time programming at 8 p.m. to announce his death and immediately as a tribute aired highlights of Hug's biggest matches. Nippon TV also aired a special two days later. Even though Hug was an unknown in the United States, his death was covered with a short story in Time Magazine where he was called the Michael Jordan of kickboxing.

Hug, who lived in Japan, returned to Switzerland at the beginning of August to visit his son. He complained to doctors at home about attacks of high fever and a rash on the side of his body and of fatigue. He returned to Japan on 8/15, still with the high fever, and went to the gym to start training, but complained of being too tired after the trip to train. He was taken to the hospital on 8/19 with a very high fever and a swelling tumor was found on the left side of his neck, which was immediately found to be malignant from a rare form of leukemia. He started chemotherapy, but suffered severe side effects including a brain hemorrhage, pneumonia and eventually organ failure. In the hospital, Hug had developed purple spots in his body as well as bleeding from the eyeballs, urinary tract and genitals.

Hug was born on September 7, 1964 in Zurich, Switzerland and started taking karate classes in 1974 after being picked on in school. He first came to Japan in 1984 competing in the Kyokushin Karate world championships. In 1987, he placed second in the same competition and won the European championship in the heavyweight division in 1989.

Hug's pro fighting record in seven years of competition after being recruited from karate by Kazuyoshi Ishii was 37-10 with 22 knockouts. Ishii learned his promotional skills working with RINGS and branched K-1 off as a combination of kickboxing rules and pro wrestling promotion and big show pageantry in 1993 and it became a huge national phenomenon, particularly on television and Hug headlined shows that sold out the Tokyo Dome twice. His career highlight was winning the K-1 Grand Prix championship in 1996 beating Mike Bernardo. He placed second in 1997 and 1998 on shows that each sold out the Tokyo Dome well in advance. On November 5, 1997, which sold out 54,500 tickets in one hour, the fastest sellout for any event in that building in its history, saw him lose a close decision to Ernesto Hoost in the finals of what was at that point in time the most watched kickboxing match both live and on television in history. In 1998, where he was knocked out by Aerts in the finals, the live record was broken with 63,800 fans in attendance due to a different configuration and more standing room seats sold. But age and fighting so frequently had begun to take its toll in recent years as he suffered from up-and-down performances. On the 12/5 Grand Prix finals before 58,000 fans, he had a spectacular first round match, losing via unanimous decision to eventual tournament winner Hoost.

He ended up being an even bigger star in Switzerland, as like in Japan, his face frequently adorned magazine covers as a matinee idol. Hug-mania in Switzerland actually started after winning the K-1 Grand Prix in 1996. Hug was almost a complete unknown when he would return home from Japan, until the Swiss media started reporting on this strange phenomenon of a Swiss native being the greatest kickboxer in the world as he was promoted off his tournament win, and a rock star like celebrity in Japan. The curiosity of having a native world heavyweight champion led to K-1 promoting a show in Switzerland where he headlined, and the promotion was so strong to see Hug live on television that he received a reaction that rivalled Hulk Hogan in his prime from 12,000 fans, but more importantly, the show drew a 64.0 rating, making it one of the biggest events in the history of Swiss television. Hug's annual summer match in Switzerland remained one of the biggest sporting and television events of the year each year since, continuing to draw Super Bowl like numbers, as the biggest name opponents were brought into Switzerland for Hug to always beat, finishing with what was promoted as his Swiss retirement match on 6/3.

Per his wishes, Hug was cremated in Japan. K-1 announced that this year's K-1 Grand Prix final on 12/10 at the Tokyo Dome would be the Andy Hug Memorial show.."


"8/23 Osaka Furitsu Gym (RINGS - 4,270): Matt Hughes b Christopher Haseman, Dan Severn b Andrei Kopylov, Ricardo Arona b Jeremy Horn, Valentijn Overeem b Joe Slick, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka d Rodrigo Nogueria, Kiyoshi Tamura b Pat Miletich

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Kiyoshi Tamura won a majority decision over UFC lightweight champion Pat Miletich in the main event of the 8/23 RINGS show before 4,270 fans at Osaka Furitsu Gym. After the match, Tamura invited Masahito Kakihara, who he was a stablemate with in the old UWFI and who just quit All Japan, to join the promotion. The card was notable because five of the six matches went the time limit to decision with the only finish being a 36 second achilles tendon submission win by Valentijn Overeem over Joe Slick. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka went to a draw with Rodrigo Nogueira in a battle of ground wrestling experts. Ricardo Arona of Brazil, who is a very impressive fighter, scored a split decision over Jeremy Horn. Dan Severn, at the age of 42, scored a unanimous decision over submission expert Andrei Kopylov, who is listed as being younger than Severn but looks older. Matt Hughes, who has been appearing on MMA shows around the world, scored his biggest career win with a unanimous decision over Chris Haseman of Australia."

September 11, 2000:

"A couple of updates regarding the Olympic article from last week. Adnon Kaisy, when he started wrestling professionally, was billed as representing Turkey in wrestling in the 1952 and 1956 Olympics. He later migrated to the United States and was a standout wrestler at the University of Oklahoma in the late 50s before turning pro and wrestling under such names as General Adnan (he's still active in the AWA as a manager even though he's in his late 60s), Sheik Adnan El-Kaissie in the old AWA, and before that as both Adnan Kaissey and Billy White Wolf, where he wrestled all over the world for the past four decades.

There is a Japanese publication which lists Hossein Khosrow Vaziri (Iron Sheik) as having gone to the 1956 and 1960 Olympics, which is why nobody can find any records for him in 1968, and also lists Klaus Wallas as going to the 1976 Olympics and placing sixth. His placement of sixth definitely isn't the case as there is nobody from Austria under any name placing sixth in any of the higher weight categories in judo in that Olympics. Vaziri would have been 18 in 1956. Since Vaziri has claimed at various times to have been in Olympics from 1968 through 1980, which was untrue, and at times claimed to have won a gold medal, also untrue, it's hard without confirmation to believe he was ever in the Olympics. He does have credentials after coming to the United States in his early 30s such as in 1971 winning the U.S. Greco-roman national championships at 181 pounds while wrestling out of Minnesota and as a U.S. Olympic team assistant coach. He was a nationally known wrestler in Iran in the early 60s and the stories that he worked as a bodyguard for the infamous Shah of Iran during that time period are also true because there are photos of him in that role we've seen when John F. Kennedy visited Iran. There are no records of a Hossein Khosrow Vaziri ever being on the Iranian Olympic team at any point or any wrestler with his birth date ever being in the Olympics.

Earl McCready actually represented Canada in the 1928 Olympics in freestyle wrestling, not in 1932. Yoshiaki Yatsu actually represented Japan at the 1976 Olympics at 198 pounds, not at superheavyweight, in freestyle. Zaza Turmanidse of the Republic of Georgia, who wrestled for RINGS as Andrei Turmanidse, competed at the 1996 Olympics placing 10th in freestyle as a superheavyweight. His background includes 1987 European superheavyweight freestyle champion, silver medals in the 1989 and 1991 World Cup and fourth place finishes at the 1993 and 1995 World Championships. Alexej Medvedev of Bulgaria, wrestled one match for Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi (September 4, 1992 in Sapporo, Japan losing in 2:07 to Masakatsu Funaki), went back to amateur wrestling and took a silver medal in the 1996 Olympics in freestyle as a superheavyweight and is still active and will be in Sydney this month. Medvedev has expressed interest after the Olympics in working for Pride. His record includes a third place in the World Championships in 1994, eighth in 1995, first in the 1996 World University Games, fifth in 1997 World Championships and sixth in the 1998 World Championships. Kiril Barbutov of Bulgaria, who later worked for RINGS but made no impact there, placed ninth as a superheavyweight in the 1992 Olympics in freestyle.

A few more historical notes. Paul Berlenbach, who was an alternate on the 1920 team while only 19 years of age, and did a little pro wrestling, was actually a legendary pro boxer. In 1923, Berlenbach did the unheard of feat of winning the AAU national championship in both boxing and wrestling on the same weekend. Danny Hodge, who did it in different years (Golden Gloves national title in boxing in 1959, freestyle AAU champion three-times, last being 1956) is the only other American in history believed to have ever won a national championship in both sports. Berlenbach, who due to suffering from scarlet fever as a child, had no hearing and didn't learn to speak until the age of 15, passed up the 1924 Olympics to turn pro as a boxer. On May 30, 1925 in Madison Square Garden, he captured the world light heavyweight title from Mike McTigue in a 15-round decision. He continued to box until 1933, finishing with a 37-8-2 record with 30 knockouts. Boxing aficionados labeled him as being one of the greatest body punchers in the history of the sport. In 1971, he was elected to the pro boxing Hall of Fame. He later did some wrestling but was not a major name. Actually for pro wrestling fans, the most notable thing about Berlenbach may have been that the on December 11, 1925, he was in the main event for the first boxing card ever held in the third Madison Square Garden, beating Jack Delaney on a decision after 15 rounds before 17,675 fans. It was also the first MSG promotion for one Jess McMahon, the grandfather of Vince McMahon.

Berlenbach's long-time friend and training partner, Nathaniel Pendleton, who won the silver medal as an undersized heavyweight (he weighed only 181 pounds) in the 1920 Olympics in freestyle and also competed at 181 pounds in Greco-roman, but didn't place, it has been uncovered also did some pro wrestling. Legend has it that Pendleton was robbed of what should have been an easy decision win in the gold medal match. That has to be taken with a grain of salt considering how legends grow generations later. There are records of him as a pro wrestler in the New York area in the late 1920s, but he was never a major star and only dabbled in it. He was a major star, however, appearing in 109 movies between 1924 and 1947, usually playing the role of a muscled up buffoon (he actually could speak five languages and had an economics degree from Columbia) including an Abbott & Costello movie called "Buck Privates," and the Marx Brothers classic, "Horse Feathers." Pendleton met Berlenbach, who was illiterate because of his childhood, while the latter was working as a cab driver."

September 18, 2001:

"RINGS announced its second King of Kings tournament with the same format as last year, taking place from October through February.

Last year's 32-man tournament was considered a huge success, with an all shoot format and numerous exciting matches. Dan Henderson, at 198 pounds, was a surprise and controversial winner in an open weight division tournament, since the judging in several of the matches, including his semifinal win, was very much questionable. It also included the RINGS highlight match of Kiyoshi Tamura winning a decision over Renzo Gracie in the quarterfinals.

The 32-man tournament will consist of two separate 16-man tournaments held on 10/9 at Tokyo Yoyogi Gym and 12/22 at Osaka Furitsu Gym. Like last year, they will consist of eight first round matches and four second round matches at each site. The final four survivors from each show will meet in an old-style UFC or K-1 Grand Prix eight-man one night tournament in which the winner has to go through three fights in one night, which will take place on 2/24 at Tokyo Sumo Hall.

The only man announced for the tournament is that 10/9 will feature the RINGS debut of Ryushi Yanagisawa, 28, who fought for Pancrase from the company's inception in 1993 after starting as a pro wrestler with Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi, before quitting the company earlier this year and most recently fighting in K-1."


"The RINGS USA tournament concludes on 9/30 in Moline, IL. The main bouts will be four-man tournaments involving the survivors of the 7/15 and 7/22 tournaments in Orem, UT and Honolulu. At under-200, it'll be first round pairings of Jeremy Horn vs. Hiromitsu Kanehara and Yasuhito Namekawa vs. Chris Haseman, all of whom are RINGS Japanese veterans. The heavyweight division will have Bobby Hoffman vs. Eric Pele and Tom Sauer vs. Aaron Brink. Brink, who already lost to Hoffman in the tournament, is replacing Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, who pulled out of the Hoffman match due to an injury suffered on the 8/23 show in Osaka."

September 25, 2000:

"Caught the 8/23 RINGS show. As it pertained to pro wrestling, Dan Severn's decision win over Andrei Kopylov was a dull match. The main event was Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Pat Miletich, which was interesting and very even. Miletich, the UFC lightweight champion (170 pound weight limit), fought at 193 and was rock hard at that weight so he wasn't the slightest bit out of shape which shows just how much he cuts weight for UFC, and he actually outweighed Tamura (190). Tamura won a split decision in a match that probably should have been a draw. I had the first round even, perhaps a very tiny edge to Tamura. Miletich was the better wrestler and able to take him down and get better positioning, even though Tamura scored better with some strong kicks to the body. Second round saw Miletich on top in the guard, which means it was basically even, although Miletich threw blows from the top so he probably won the round by a hair. It's interesting to note that Miletich, the lightweight champ, when he didn't have to cut to make the division, fought at about the same weight as Frank Shamrock (who actually has to eat like crazy to get his weight up to the 195 range and sometimes his walk around weight is 185) would fight in UFC at."

October 1, 2000:

"Rulon Gardner of the United States scored what would have to go down in history as the greatest win in the history of American wrestling when he ended the 15-year winning streak of Alexander Karelin to win the gold medal in Greco-roman wrestling in the superheavyweight division by a 1-0 score in overtime on 9/27 in Sydney, Australia.

Gardner ended arguably the greatest winning streak in modern sports, an estimated 300 consecutive wins, only two of which had even ever gone into overtime and no draws, include a record breaking 12 world championships. Karelin hadn't lost a match in any form of competition since he was 18 years old and was competing against a world champion in an open tournament in Russia.

Karelin, who looked far older than his age of 33 in the competition which before hand he had said would be his last before retiring, won his first match over Sergei Mareku of Bulgaria by a 3-0 score and his second round match via pin in 1:48 over Mihaly Deak-Bardos, which aired late Monday night on NBC. On 9/27, Karelin beat Saldadze 4-0 to go into the gold medal match. Mareku took the bronze at the 1996 Olympics behind Karelin and American Matt Ghaffari.

It was believed that Karelin, who did one pro wrestling match last year for RINGS against Akira Maeda, after the Olympics would be able to command more money for a single match in Japan than anyone in history, including Rickson Gracie, had he won another gold medal. Karelin had said he was not interested in doing any matches in Japan after the Olympics, after first having said after his debut match that he would consider it but not until after Sydney. Gardner, through the notoriety of beating Karelin, will no doubt get numerous opportunities thrown his way in both the pro wrestling and shootfighting world.

With the exception of Jeff Blatnick in 1984, and that has an asterisk next to it because so many of the top wrestling nations boycotted those games and Blatnick went against a weaker field, no American had ever won a gold medal in the superheavyweight division in Greco-roman wrestling since the inception of the Olympics in 1896. With the exception of Blatnick's gold in 1984 and Matt Ghaffari's silver in 1996, no other American superheavyweight wrestler had ever even medaled.

If Karelin had captured the gold, he would have become only the fourth athlete in sports history to win four gold medals in the same event, joining Paul Elvstrom (a sailor from Denmark), Al Oerter (American discus star in the 60s) and Carl Lewis (long jump)."


"RINGS announced the bracketing for the "A Block" in its annual King of Kings tournament, which starts on 10/9 at Tokyo Yoyogi Gym, which has the unenviable task of going head-to-head literally two train station stops away from the Kawada vs. Sasaki Tokyo Dome show the same day.

The matches announced are Mikhail Borrisov (Russian Sambo fighter) vs. Roberto Traven (a well known 6-6 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu specialist), Dave Menne (a solid 190-pounder from the Pat Miletich camp) vs. Wataru Sakata, Suren Balachinskiy (a Russian Sambo fighter coming in with a great reputation) vs. Valentijn Overeem (RINGS regular from Holland), Bitzsadze Tariel (a 6-7, 330-pound cross between Anton Geesink and Jim Duggan [what -- ed.] who was a former world champion in RINGS when it was a worked promotion who looked terrible when he had to shoot last year) vs. Renato Babalu (who went to the finals this year losing to Dan Henderson in a very close and controversial decision), Randy Couture (former UFC champion and former U.S. Greco-roman national champion) vs. Jeremy Horn (coming off a very impressive win at UFC), Ryushi Yanagisawa (formerly with Pancrase and K-1) vs. Borislav Jeliazkov (former Bulgarian national team wrestler), Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter who was quite frankly robbed in the semifinals this year against Henderson) vs. Labazanov Arhmed (Russia) and Brad Kohler (pro wrestler from Minnesota who has done some UFC and several RINGS events over the past year) vs. Kiyoshi Tamura (RINGS' biggest draw).

In handicapping the field, and it's awfully hard to predict shoots, we don't know about Borrisov other than he's 38 years old, weighs 198, and was a Russian national champion in sambo in 1991, which means Traven's world titles in Jiu Jitsu, which translates better historically, were more recent, and he's a much bigger man, with more experience at a wider variety of rules, not to mention a lot younger, which on paper makes him a favorite. Menne vs. Sakata should be a good match with Menne a favorite. Again, we don't know Balachinskiy under these rules. Overeem can be beat, but he's more experienced within these rules and pure sambo, with nothing else, hasn't proved to be a winning formula in some time under mixed rules. Mikhail Tikhomirov, the chairman of FIAS (Federation International Amateur Sambo) said Balachinskiy, 27, is the best sambo wrestler in the world today. Balachinskiy's credentials include winning the Russian championship the past three years, 1998 world champion at 198 pounds and World Cup champion, and 1999 world champion at 220 pounds.

Babalu should destroy Tariel. Couture is a better wrestler than Horn and probably as good a striker as well, but Couture has fallen for submission moves against Enson Inoue and a very weird loss to Ilioukhine Mikhail in RINGS and Horn has far more experience at this game, particularly against top-flight competition and it is his game whereas it's Couture's second sport. Jeliazkov knows nothing but wrestling, but he's very good at it, so his match could go either way. Nogueira is a good fighter and will be favored in his match. Tamura is a far better fighter than Kohler, but he's going to be giving away 50 pounds, tons of strength and better wrestling ability. Kohler's freaky strength could put a hurting on Tamura, like he did to Yamamoto last year as Tamura has never in a shoot ever had to deal with anyone with that level of power. But if he doesn't get Tamura early, he could lose on conditioning. Even on stand-up, while Tamura is better schooled and far more versatile, Kohler does have a great punch, which may be hard to land on someone as skilled standing as Tamura, but Tamura's kicks at 190 aren't going to do the damage to a 240-pounder that they do to someone in his same weight class. I'm very surprised by this booking because it's a very dangerous match for the biggest drawing card right off the bat and it's a no win for him. Kohler has lost a few times in Japan so he's not considered a threat or a star. Tamura has nothing to gain by the win as based on their records, Kohler should be an easy tune-up. But Kohler has got so much size and power on Tamura, that he's still dangerous to risk Tamura with in the first round of a tournament.

Since they are doing first and second round matches, Tamura would likely have to face Nogueira, who is also 50 pounds heavier, and skilled enough that he'd have to also be a favorite over Tamura if they had a second round match.

It is believed that Dan Henderson, who won the $223,000 first prize in the tournament that ended in February, will not be back to defend his title because he has signed with Pride and they are setting him up for a match next year with Kazushi Sakuraba."


"In other Olympic news, Japan captured a gold medal in judo at 220 with Kosei Inoue [defeating the GREAT Nicolas Gill of Canada with an unreal uchi mata I probably have made a gif of at some point . . . yes I did, here it is:

 . . . some people call it the greatest throw in Olympic history and I don't have one in mind that I think is for sure better -- ed]. and a silver in the unlimited weight division with Shinichi Shinohara, who lost to David Douillet of France for the gold. Douillet had also won gold in 1996 and bronze (behind only future pro wrestlers David Khakhaleishvili and Naoya Ogawa) in 1992.

The major names to look out for in pro wrestling besides potentially Gardner, Karelin and Nagata include Kerry McCoy and Hector Milian in freestyle and Greco-roman wrestling. Milian won his first two matches over Helger Hallick of Estonia and Haily Zhao of China, lost his third to Dmity Debelka of Belarus but came back to win his fourth over Georgiy Saldadze of Ukraine. Since this was going down at press time and a lot of the info is unclear, I believe he ended up with a bronze medal, but he may have ended up in fifth place. Matt Lindland, who has a 3-0 record in MMA and was the subject of all the controversy over him making the team at 167 in Greco-roman, ended up winning a silver medal, losing the gold medal match 3-0 to Murat Kardanov of Russia."


"The Evansville, IN based Hook'n'Shoot promotion is now affiliated with Shooto in Japan. Shooto had been working with SuperBrawl in Hawaii, but Shooto promoter T.Jay Thompson recently promoted a show and has judged shows for RINGS. Shooto doesn't want anyone affiliated with their promotion to have an affiliation with RINGS because RINGS is still considered pro wrestling in Japan, even though RINGS of late has gone to an all-shoot format, and they don't want to be painted as part of the pro wrestling industry. Some of the top shooto fighters will probably be in Evansville this year and next year including a proposed date with Rumina Sato for next year."


"Hiromitsu Kanehara withdrew from the RINGS USA finals due to a rib injury and will be replaced by Josh Hall, who placed fourth in his weight class at the recent Olympic trials and lost a very controversial split decision to Kanehara in an awesome match in Hawaii."

October 9, 2000:

"9/30 Moline, IL (RINGS): Jermaine Andre b Adrian Serrano, Jeremy Horn b Josh Hall, Chris Haseman b Yasuhito Namekawa, Bobby Hoffman b Eric Pele, Aaron Brink b Tom Sauer, Travis Fulton b Greg Wilkan, Nate Schroeder b Jack Nilson, Matt Hughes b Robbie Newman, Horn b Haseman to win under-200 tournament finals, Hoffman b Brink to win over-200 finals.

Jeremy Horn and Bobby Hoffman (coming off a loss just last week to Maurice Smith at UFC) ended up as the winners of the RINGS USA tournament finals on 9/30 in Moline, IL. Horn beat Josh Hall with a kneebar and Australia’s top fighter, Chris Haseman, with an armbar in 2:36, while Hoffman took a decision win over 338-pound Eric Pele in overtime, and in the finals beat Aaron Brink, who tapped out after being knocked down with a hard punch. Brink scored a controversial win over Tom Sauer, since Brink wasn’t disqualified for three fouls including two punches and a knee on the ground which are illegal under RINGS rules. Horn and Hoffman both earned $10,000 for winning a tournament that necessitated winning four matches in total on two different shows. Similar to how K-1 does its tournaments in different countries, this should put Hoffman into the King of Kings tournament. Horn is already in that same tournament and faces Randy Couture in the first round."

October 16, 2000:

"The RINGS second annual shoot King of Kings tournament, after the first of three shows on 10/9 at Tokyo Yoyogi Gym II before a legitimate sellout of 4,600 fans, is already anti-climactic with its top draw, Kiyoshi Tamura, having been eliminated on the first night.

Tamura scored an impressive first round win via decision over Grom Zaza (Zaza Tkeschelaschvili), a 1996 Olympic freestyle wrestler, who was a late replacement for American indie pro wrestler Brad Kohler. While booking Kohler, a powerhouse who had suffered some recent defeats, against a much smaller Tamura was a no-win situation on paper for RINGS, in a sense, booking Zaza, a superior wrestler to Kohler with a 50-pound weight edge, who has also suffered recent losses, was even worse. Still, Tamura scored a unanimous decision, before losing to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who he was giving away 30 pounds to, via an armbar submission in just 2:29 in his second round match. [That was 2:29 of the second round -- Tamura lasted a good long time with Nogueira -- ed.]

Nogueira of Brazil looked very impressive throughout last year's tournament, before being eliminated in a bad decision against eventual tournament winner Dan Henderson in the semifinals. He was joined by Americans Dave Menne and Randy Couture and RINGS regular Valentijn Overeem of The Netherlands in advancing to the final eight of the tournament which takes place on 2/24 at Tokyo Sumo Hall. The crowd was considered a strong sign that RINGS now has a strong core of fans, since it was drawn head-to-head with the historic Kawada-Sasaki match taking place just a few miles away and it was a show that nobody expected to sellout and thus many fans were turned away and even the scalpers were looking for tickets. However, unless a Japanese wrestler can advance out of the Osaka tournament, it is believed the lack of a Japanese draw in the final eight would make the 11,000-seat Sumo Hall a much more difficult sell.

A second tournament with a new group of 16 participants will take place on 12/22 at Osaka Furitsu Gym. The four survivors from that tournament join the aforementioned quartet in a one-night eight-man tournament to determine the championship.

Menne, who had made a reputation in the past year as one of the better lighter weight fighters in the world, won a unanimous decision over RINGS regular Wataru Sakata in the first round and then upset former Brazilian World Jiu Jitsu champion Roberto Traven in an overtime decision after all three judges ruled it a draw after two rounds (15:00). Traven, with a 42 pound weight advantage, still couldn't take Menne down, and Menne was a stronger striker

Overeem won his first round match over the most heralded RINGS newcomer, Suren Balachinskiy, who was brought in billed as the best sambo wrestler in the world, and as far as being in his prime, the best pure sambo wrestler ever to compete in mixed martial arts after winning world championships in both 1998 (198 pounds) and 1999 (220 pounds). However, pure sambo alone is no longer enough, since Balachinskiy was unable to take Overeem down, and in a striking match, his incomplete skills did him in. Overeem stopped him with leg kicks in just 2:13. Overeem then scored a major upset over Renato Babalu, who went to the finals of the 32-man tournament last year before losing to Dan Henderson, with the kickboxing specialist catching the submission specialist in an ankle lock in 2:19.

Couture, a world class wrestler, former UFC heavyweight champion, and upcoming challenger on 11/17 to Kevin Randleman for that same title, defeated another UFC regular, Jeremy Horn, in his first match, said to technically be the best match on the show. Couture, who showed tremendous cardio all night, won both rounds on one judges ballot, but the other two had the fight as a draw after 15:00, and because two judges ruled it a draw, they went into an overtime. All three judges gave Couture the decision and it was said to be pretty clear cut in the overtime. Couture got a decision over Ryushi Yanagisawa, the former Pancrase fighter making his RINGS debut, in his second round match. Yanagisawa had debuted beating Borislav Jealiazkov with an ankle lock in 3:45. When Yanagisawa won, Frank Shamrock, who was at the show, hit the ring to congratulate him as both were friends from the original Pancrase days. Couture was praised for his strategy in adapting to the RINGS rules and changing his battle plan for two entirely different foes. He had Henderson, last year's champion, in his corner.

Nogueira, who realistically was the most impressive fighter in last year's tournament, remained with his strong reputation intact, being the only fighter to score two submissions, first beating Russian Labazanov Arhmed with an armbar in 1:38, before catching Tamura also with an armbar.

Overall it was reported as one of the best shows in RINGS history, but that 12 matches and four hours may be too long.

10/9 Tokyo Yoyogi Gym II (RINGS King of Kings tournament - 4,600 sellout): Roberto Traven b Mikhail Borissov, Dave Menne b Wataru Sakata, Valentijn Overeem b Suren Balachinsky, Renato Babalu b Bistadze Tariel, Randy Couture b Jeremy Horn, Ryushi Yanagisawa b Borislav Jeliazkov, Antonio Nogueira b Labazanov Arhmed, Kiyoshi Tamura b Grom Zaza, Menne b Traven, Overeem b Babalu, Couture b Yanagisawa, Nogueira b Tamura"

October 23, 2000:

"Akira Maeda, 41, on 10/7, said that he would like to come out of retirement for one more match with Karelin, but said it would be very difficult to put it together because Karelin is in the Russian Diet. Maeda actually tried to publicly take some credit for the Gardner win by saying he gave Karelin leg damage from low kicks in their pro wrestling match in 1999. Might as well take credit for causing the finish for what historically is considered the biggest Greco-roman match in history. Maeda also said that he didn't think Dan Henderson would join Pride. He also spoke of wanting to put on a ten-year anniversary of the RINGS promotion show for 2001 where he would come out of retirement for a match with Rickson Gracie, but also said if Naoya Ogawa would have a shot at Gracie, he'd rather Ogawa, who was younger, would get the shot.

A correction from last week's report on the RINGS show. The match with Antonio Noguiera vs. Kiyoshi Tamura ended with Noguiera getting an armbar 2:29 into the second round (7:29 overall). We had incorrectly reported it was a first round finish."

October 30, 2000:

"Pride added Akira Shoji vs. Herman Renting of The Netherlands and Alexander Otsuka vs. American Mike Borku (?) to its 10/31 show. Renting is a guy who has a little name value in Japan as in the early days of the RINGS promotion, he was pushed as a mid-level star, but those were strictly works and he's long past his prime and fighting has evolved greatly from the early 90s. He did place second this year in the Netherlands Brazilian Jiu Jitsu championship tournament at 215 pounds."

November 6, 2000:

"Also at the show they announced the eight teams for the 14th annual year end Real World Tag League tournament, which takes place from 11/19 until the finals on 12/9 at Budokan Hall. The tournament will also determine the vacant Double tag team titles. The line-up is a hodge podge of talent, but overall, by far the weakest tournament in history as it's the first time it almost looks like an independent promotion tag team tournament. Teams are Kawada & Masa Fuchi as the All Japan survivors team, Tenryu & Nobutaka Araya as the former WAR team, Masahito Kakihara & Mitsuya Nagai (formerly of RINGS, now with Battlarts, making his All Japan debut) as the shooter team, Yoshiaki Fujiwara (an 80s star with New Japan and later UWF with a shooter rep who is now 51) & Dan Kroffat (Kroffat, who has wrestled sparingly over the past two plus years after being plagued with knee and shoulder injuries but was an All Japan regular and a great worker in his prime in the late 80s and early-to-mid 90s before knee problems slowed him greatly in an unsuccessful WWF run), Steve Williams & Mike Rotunda (American college wrestling/football standout team, although both were in college in the early 80s; and also former WCW tag champs doing the Varsity Club gimmick in 1988-89), Taiyo Kea & Johnny Smith, Mike Barton & Jim Steele (Wolf Hawkfield going under his previous name which means he's dropping the video game face paint look) and Barry & Kendall Windham. With few exceptions, most of the wrestlers in the tournament were stars from another era and long past their primes."


"UFC apparently has pulled the 11/17 Atlantic City show out with a main event of Kevin Randleman vs. Randy Couture for the UFC heavyweight title. That was the original plan, until Randleman pulled out. They tried to get Pedro Rizzo, but he wouldn't take the fight on such short notice. Finally with three weeks to spare, they convinced Randleman to take the match. The other matches on the show are John Lewis vs. Jens Pulver (which should be a very competitive match-up of 160-pounders), Chuck Liddell vs. Jeff Monsen (Liddell is an underrated fighter as he's a strong kickboxer who can keep a match standing with his wrestling ability [that's true -- ed.], while Monsen is considered very strong at controlling on the ground), Gan McGee vs. Josh Barnett (who tapped out Dan Severn a few months back), Maurice Smith vs. Renato Babalu (a very successful fighter in RINGS who should be the favorite against Smith) plus three more matches."

November 20, 2000:

"11/12 Brisbane, Australia (RINGS): Glen Barnett b Hayden Pollard, Daryl Naumann b Warwick Dawes, Masashi Sugano b Joe Perry, Sam Nest b Sean Kelly, Shaun Price b Chad Jappe, Tsuyoshi Morikage b Steven Gillinder, Kelly Jacobs b Nick Tolewski, Ryuki Ueyama b Tim Thomas, Matt Hughes b Maynard Marcum, Chris Haseman b Joe Slick"


"After the 11/17 show, the following UFC show will be held on 12/16 in Tokyo at the 1,500-seat Differ Ariake. The match will air on taped delay in the U.S. but we're not sure of the date, probably a one week delay except right before Christmas is considered a bad time so it could be delayed even longer. The top three matches will be Tito Ortiz defending the middleweight title against Yuki Kondo, which on paper could be a tremendous fight, since Kondo has similar attributes to Frank Shamrock and Shamrock-Ortiz is considered a classic. Pat Miletich defends the lightweight title against former pro wrestler Kenichi Yamamoto, who will trim down to 170 pounds. Yamamoto, who was pretty well forced out of RINGS because of injuries suffered from some bad beatings, won a UFC middleweight division tournament in Japan in November 1999. Also announced is Yoji Anjyo, a jack-of-all trades and master of none (pro wrestler, worked shootfighter, K-1 kickboxer and UFC and MMA competitor) facing Matt Lindland, who just won the silver medal at 167 pounds in Greco-roman wrestling at the Sydney Olympics after all the controversy regarding making the team. This is a good match for Japan, because Anjyo is naturally a much bigger man than Lindland. I expect Lindland will come in as close to 199 as possible, but maybe underneath that, while Anjyo's walkaround weight is probably around 220, so he'll train down to 199. Anjyo isn't a great fighter, but he's got a more diverse fighting background, so it's a good chance to get a win over someone with tremendous credentials. Lindland, 30, has done several shootfights in the past, but none against top level fighters, and is undefeated. His background besides the Olympic silver includes the gold medal in freestyle at 162 in the Pan American championships, the gold medal in Greco-roman in 1996 at 162 in the World Cup, the gold medal in Greco-roman in 1999 at 167 in the Pan American games and the gold medal in Greco-roman in 2000 at the Pan American championships. Although not announced, Evan Tanner vs. Lance Gibson is also expected."

November 27, 2000:

"We need to clarify the term shooting. We have categories specifically for actual competitive match, Shoot Fighter of the year and Shoot match of the year. All UFC, Pride, MMA, Pancrase and RINGS matches are eligible for the shoot awards. Consideration for Shoot fighter of the year should be based entirely on participation and results of legitimate matches during the time frame and nothing else. Performance in shoot matches can be taken into consideration for Wrestler of the Year, since that award encompasses the entire pro wrestling world and there was a pro wrestler this year who brought himself into legendary status through his participation in shoot matches."


"The 37-year-old Couture is back in the MMA world full-time as his prime sport, as he's also competing in the current RINGS King of Kings tournament, where he made the final eight that will compete for that title in February. He had tried to compete in both MMA and amateur wrestling for the past three plus years, but retired as a wrestler after failing to make the Olympic team in Greco-roman wrestling this year."


"5. Renato Babalu won a unanimous decision over Maurice Smith in a fight similar to the previous one. Babalu, unknown in the U.S., but he went all the way to the finals of the RINGS tournament last year, the same tournament Smith lost in the first round of, was considered a strong favorite among insiders. In the first round, Babalu took Smith down when he went for a leg kick and kept him there, scoring a little from the top. Same thing happened in the second round. There was less action, as Smith threw some blows from the bottom so it was a closer round. Smith escaped from the bottom late in the round, but was taken down again. In the third round, Babalu again got the takedown and kept Smith under control. He never hurt Smith, but Smith's inability to avoid the takedown or escape from the bottom when the better wrestler didn't tire spelled the difference as Smith couldn't get any serious striking in while on his feet."

December 4, 2000:

"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Bracketing was announced for the 12/22 second round of the RINGS King of Kings tournament at Osaka Furitsu Gym. Matches are Bobby Hoffman vs. Joop Kasteel, which is two big guys who are strikers, Lee Hasdell vs. Volk Han which matches a good kickboxer against an aging submission legend, Tom Sauer vs. Andrei Kopylov which puts a young striker against an aging submission guy, Alexander Ferreria vs. Hiromitsu Kanehara, Ricardo Arona (a very impressive 200 pounder) vs. Emelianenko Fedor of Russia, Ilioukhine Mikhail vs. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (both have remained with the group from its working days as two of the best pro wrestlers in the group all the way to its current shooting days), Carlos Barreto vs. Christopher Hasemann (Barreto is probably one of the favorites in the tournament) and Bitsadze Amiran vs. Yoshihisa Yamamoto

Akira Maeda announced that he wanted to put together a RINGS show in Russia next year, and would be meeting with Alexander Karelin (who he wrestled in 1999) to try and be an entree to signing Russian Olympic stars to appear on that show."

December 25, 2000:

"Current plans for UFC are to run a U.S. show in February and return to Japan in March. It's going to be tough to find a main event for February, since heavyweight champ Randy Couture will be competing in the RINGS tournament so he likely won't want to risk doing UFC. If Miletich was injured, he's out of the picture, plus he's really not a main eventer. Frank Shamrock was at the show, having stayed in Japan since his fight last week, saying that he wanted to return to UFC although it isn't believed he's agreed to return."

and things get very uncomfortable re: Akira Maeda for the rest of our time together:

"Tokyo Sports reported on 12/20 that Akira Maeda, 41, was arrested while in the United States for hitting a woman on 9/30 in Moline, IL when he was there for the finals of the RINGS tournament in the United States. Maeda was arrested by police for punching a female office employee while at a restaurant and breaking her ribs. The restaurant called the police and he was held for a few days before he was released with a large fine. Maeda's career has been checkered with numerous similar incidents, such as the time he punched out Keiji Muto in the 80s, or sucker kicked Riki Choshu in the ring in 1987, or punched out Masami Ozaki of Pancrase when he thought Ozaki was stealing Jeremy Horn, so I guess it was poetic justice when Yoji Anjyo sucked punched him at the UFC show last year."

January 1, 2001:

"The one thing about shoot shows is that they are totally unpredictable. Coming off the heels of a UFC show where the Japanese fared badly, came a RINGS show on 12/22 where they looked very good.

When the dust cleared, the eight finalists in the second annual Shoot version of the RINGS King of Kings tournament which takes place on 2/24 at Sumo Hall, which was spawned from a worked version of the same tournament, are UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture, Dave Menne, Valentijn Overeem and Antonio Noguiera, who all qualified back on 10/9 in Tokyo. They will be joined by the four men who came out of this tournament before a disappointing crowd of 3,000 fans at Osaka Furitsu Gym, Volk Han, Hiromitsu Kanehara, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka and Yoshihisa Yamamoto.

Reports seem to indicate that this show was considerably better than the more well attended and more publicized Pride show that took place the next day.

The performance of Han, billed at 39 but generally believed to be several years older, may have been the big story in the tournament. Han, a former world champion in sambo, debuted with RINGS in the early days of the company and was Akira Maeda's top rival in the days of it being a pure worked group. With his mastery of submissions, Han turned his legit ability into becoming something of an incredible technical worker, some would argue right at the top of any list of pro wrestlers in history, but penalized in balloting because of the limited RINGS' exposure. Han routinely had near Match of the Year calibre bouts when facing the Japanese wrestlers who could really go . The switch to shoot seemed sad for fans of Han, who has gotten some support every year in the Observer pro wrestling Hall of Fame balloting, because RINGS shoot rules favor strikers, which Han had little background in. The evolution of the game has worked away from submissions because the awareness of them is so much greater and they are harder to use effectively than in the early 90s when submission fighters dominated in shoot. Most importantly, Han's mat artistry in worked matches would be lost in a shoot environment. Forgetting the match quality and artistry issues, Han, going against younger strikers, looked to be put in a position where he could get hurt, and thus ruining the fantasy of what he actually had accomplished over the past decade in pro wrestling. But he's now faced three very credible opponents in shoot and has gone 3-0, a national calibre amateur wrestler (Brandon Lee Hinkle), a good kickboxer with ground experience (Lee Hasdell) and a huge tough guy with lots of MMA experience (Bobby Hoffman).

He shockingly knocked out an ISKA world ranked kickboxer, Hasdell of England, eight seconds into the second round with an uppercut punch, making good on his promise to learn to be an effective boxer. In the second match, he had a tough battle with Hoffman. After regulation, two judges ruled it a draw and the third for Hoffman, so they went into an overtime round where Han's better conditioning spelled the difference, winning a unanimous decision.

The small crowd was blamed on being in the same city just nine days before Antonio Inoki's far more highly publicized show at the Osaka Dome. Although RINGS has now gone to an all-shoot format, starting as a worked promotion and slowly adding a higher percentage of shoot matches as the years went on before going 100% for last year's King of Kings tournament and maintaining throughout the year, they still draw primarily a pro wrestling fan base.

Kanehara first defeated Brazilian Alexander "Cacareco" Ferreira in 2:45 of the second round with an old pro wrestler hooker move, the double wrist lock, and then shocked the bigger Tom Sauer of the United States with a combination high kick and punch for a knockout at 4:14.

Kohsaka knocked out RINGS veteran Mikhail Ilioukhine at 1:53 of the second round with a punch in a battle of ground experts. In his second round, he was scheduled against Russian judo star Fedor Emelianenko. Emelianenko was cut badly and the fight was stopped only ten seconds in.

Yamamoto, who has had a tough year, getting hammered on by people like Brandon Lee Hinkle and Semmy Schiltt, beat Ameran Bitsadze of Georgia in 4:39 with an armbar which was no surprise, but then knockout out Chris Haseman of Australia with some great low kicks in 3:51, which had to be a huge surprise, particularly since Haseman earlier had beaten highly touted Brazilian Carlos Barreto via decision in the first round.

12/22 Osaka Furitsu Gym (RINGS King of Kings tournament B Block - 3,000): Bobby Hoffman b Joop Kasteel, Volk Han b Lee Hasdell, Tom Sauer b Andrei Kopylov, Hiromitsu Kanehara b Alexander Ferreira, Fedor Emelianenko b Ricardo Arona, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka b Mikhail Ilioukhine, Chris Haseman b Carlos Barreto, Yoshihisa Yamamoto b Amiran Bitsadze, Han b Hoffman, Kanehara b Sauer, Kohsaka b Emelianenko, Yamamoto b Haseman"


"[UFC] Heavyweight champ Randy Couture is already booked for RINGS on 2/24, so he can't defend."

and more on how Akira Maeda is awful:

"In regard to the story about Akira Maeda punching a woman who works in the office while on tour in the United States for the RINGS American tournament finals in Moline, IL, the woman, Motoko Uchida, quit RINGS and now worked for UFC Japan."

January 8, 2001:

"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: RINGS is looking at putting together a tenth anniversary show for this summer at the Yokohama Arena and using a huge name as the draw, similar to the show they did using Alexander Karelin in 1999. Mike Tyson's name popped up in rumors for this spot, as well as rumors of a match with Naoya Ogawa. Being that this is the time these kind of rumors about big plans for next year would spread, all these stories have to be taken with a gigantic grain of salt. One could see Inoki, whose booking has largely been based around re-creating what he thought got him over in the personage of Ogawa, would want to re-create his most famous match (with Muhammad Ali) by putting Ogawa in with Tyson. Of course, since Tyson is far more unstable than Ali and there were tons of headaches in the Ali deal besides winding up as a legendarily bad match (which in recent years Japanese history has been a lot kinder to since the popularity has grown of MMA and it's now considered the historical precedent of what is now popular as opposed to this horrible fiasco that did great damage to pro wrestling in Japan), one can only imagine how many ways this one would fall apart even if people came to the table to start with."

January 15, 2001:

"RINGS announced the bracketing for the King of Kings tournament finals on 2/24 at Tokyo Sumo Hall, as Volk Han vs. Antonio Noguiera, Hiromitsu Kanehara vs. Dave Menne, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka vs. Randy Couture and Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs. Valentijn Overeem. This is very tough to call. but I'd have Noguiera over Han because he's much younger, Kanehara over Menne but I'll bet it'll be a great match, Couture over Kohsaka but that's a tough one to pick and there is the UFC curse in effect and it'll probably go the time limit, and I'll pick Overeem over Yamamoto, although Yamamoto has beaten him in the past. Noguiera vs. Couture could be the final and I'll go with Noguiera on that one because he probably deserved to win it last year but got a bad decision in his semifinal against Dan Henderson."


"Naoto Morishita of DSE announced plans for the company's fourth anniversary show on 10/11, to be held outdoors at the 100,000-seat Hakkei Island Sea Palace in Kanagawa (not too far from Tokyo). Morishita will attempt to put together Rickson Gracie vs. Sakuraba as the main event, although to do so he'll have to outbid New Japan, RINGS and Coliseum promotions among others for what Gracie said will be his one match this year."

January 22, 2001:

"I was reading Wrestling International Newsmagazine and there was an article talking about Alexander Karelin failing to impress people when he tried Vale Tudo, using his RINGS match with Akira Maeda as evidence because he was unable to control his smaller opponent on the ground. Whether Karelin would have done well in Vale Tudo is unknown unless he trained for it and competed in it, but using the fact he did a pro wrestling match which looked real as evidence of anything having to do with real fighting doesn't tell any story."

March 5, 2001:

"Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira of Brazil, who many thought was robbed last year in the RINGS King of Kings tournament, came through with no questions this year with wins over Volk Han, Hiromitsu Kanehara and Valentijn Overeem enroute to winning the tournament on 2/24 at Tokyo Sumo Hall.

Overeem made it to the finals with a stunning win over the only man to repeat as UFC heavyweight champion, current champ Randy Couture, with a front guillotine submission in just 56 seconds. However Overeem then fell victim to a shoulderlock by Nogueira in just 1:20.

The tournament, before 10,260 fans, just shy of capacity, was reported to be an outstanding show. We should have a complete report in a week or two after seeing the videotape. RINGS, which was the final major promotion in the world to not institute weight classes, announced after the show that next year's King of Kings, the descendent of the pro wrestling oriented Battle Dimension tournament, next year being the 10th annual, would be broken down into three weight classes instead of the traditional open weight tournament. The reality is the company's biggest draw, Kiyoshi Tamura, has had a lot of damage done to his lustre by constantly facing, and losing, against much bigger men. The skill level in shooting has improved to the point where you simply can't be expected to beat men 30 to 50 pounds heavier as Tamura has been faced with.

Nogueira may have been the most impressive fighter in last year's tournament, but was eliminated in a bad decision in the semifinals against eventual winner Dan Henderson. Henderson, who left RINGS for Pride, didn't return to defend his title. Nogueira in the tournament itself ended up scoring four submissions in his five wins, including a second round win over Tamura on 10/9 in Tokyo, only failing to submit Han, the crowd favorite for his years as the submission master in worked matches with the groups and as the only man to win the tournament twice (1995 and 1997) when it was a pro wrestling tournament. Now listed as being 40, although most believe he's a few years older than that, Han really somewhat lucked into the final eight in get what many considered a gift decision over Bobby Hoffman in Osaka in December.

RINGS has evolved its annual tournament, which dates back to the first Battle Dimension tournament in 1992-93, from the world of pro wrestling to a pure shoot tournament for the first time last year. What has been interesting is how well many of the guys who did worked matches have evolved in shoots, including former UWFI pro wrestler Kanehara who made it to the final four, and Overeem who started with this group doing worked matches and went to the finals of a tournament which started with 32 men and eliminations down to eight in October and December.

1. Kanehara knocked out Dave Menne in 13:24. Menne was coming into the tournament all banged up having won a brutal eight man tournament the previous weekend in Kuwait beating the Russian that the tournament was stacked to win for. According to reports, Kanehara suffered two broken ribs in the first round of the fight from a tackle. He continued to fight an came out for the second round before the match was ruled a draw. Fighting in major pain, Kanehara had cuts above his eye in two places as well as possible broken fingers, but also came close to an armbar and a choke in getting the draw. Since this was a tournament, they went into an overtime before Kanehara landed a right hook to the chin.

2. Nogueira won a unanimous decision over Han after 10:00.

3. Couture won a unanimous decision over Tsuyoshi Kohsaka after 10:00.

4. Overeem armbarred Yoshihisa Yamamoto in just 1:45.

5. In a non-tournament match Alistair Overeem, Valentijn's brother, choked out Vladimer Tchanturia of Georgia of the former Soviet Republic in 1:06

6. Nogueira got the choke on Kanehara in 27 seconds into the second five minute round. Kanehara came out with his ribs all taped and had a major painkilling injection in order to come out for the fight.

7. Overeem shocked Couture in just 56 seconds

8. In a match that had RINGS vs. Pancrase overtones, former Pancrase fighter Ryushi Yanagisawa won a split decision over Wataru Sakata. Yanagisawa has been competing in both RINGS and K-1 of late after leaving Pancrase.

9. Renato Babalu, with a more than 30 pound weight advantage, scored a majority decision (one judge ruling it a draw) over Tamura. This was a rematch from last year's semifinal where Tamura, after beating Renzo Gracie, came back and lost a close decision that many felt he should have won which set up this rematch. Babalu appeared this year in UFC beating Maurice Smith.

10. Nogueira beat Overeem in just 1:20."


"RINGS announced a big tenth anniversary show for August and are talking about inviting Alexander Karelin to appear (not fight) as Karelin drew the biggest gate and most publicity in the history of the company for his 1999 match against Akira Maeda.

Osaka Pro Wrestling's Takehiro Murahama, who last month went to a draw with Royler Gracie, is doing another shoot match on the 3/20 RINGS show at Korakuen Hall against Australian Brian Roanu."

March 12, 2001:


1992-93: Chris Dolman beat Dick Vrij

1993-94: Akira Maeda beat Tariel Bitazde

1994-95: Volk Han beat Akira Maeda

1995-96: Akira Maeda beat Yoshihisa Yamamoto

1996-97: Volk Han beat Kiyoshi Tamura

1997-98: Kiyoshi Tamura beat Mikhail Ilioukhine

1999-99: Team tournament held instead won by The Netherlands (Hanse Nyman, Dick Vrij, Joop Kasteel)

1999-00: Dan Henderson beat Renato Babalu*

2000-01: Antonio Nogueira beat Valentijn Overeem*

*Denotes actual sports competition as opposed to predetermined pro wrestling"

April 2, 2001:

"RINGS, the first pro wrestling company to make the complete transition from working to shooting, finished this year's King of Kings tournament with spectacular results on its 2/24 show at Tokyo Sumo Hall before 10,260 fans.

The show, which aired live on WOWOW (equivalent to HBO in the U.S.), opened with a shoot match of the year candidate, finished with a conclusive overall champion, and was the kind of show, due to the style variations in different fights and skill level of everyone who had survived the two earlier tournaments to make the final eight, that MMA aspires to be but rarely comes close.

The big winner of the $200,000 first prize was Brazil's Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Nogueira may have been the best fighter last year as well, but was robbed of a decision in the semifinals against eventual winner Dan Henderson. The 226-pound new generation protege of early MMA star Mario Sperry, won a very competitive mat wrestling masterpiece over Volk Han, who at the age of 40, if not older, sealed any doubts as to whether he was the real deal with his performance, before getting submission wins over Hiromitsu Kanehara and Valentijn Overeem.

As with any tournament, luck played a major part. Without question, the most spectacular match of the night pitted 195-pound Dave Menne of Minnesota against veteran pro wrestler, 203-pound Kanehara. Kanehara, because of his complete style of punching, kicking, wrestling and submissions, has had a knack for having many tremendous shoot matches over the past two years after a career where he was one of the most underrated workers in pro wrestling. He could do it all, but lacked some in the size and charisma department. Menne, coming off a win one week earlier in a very tough man-eight tournament overseas, has improved tremendously since last year's tournament. He was sharper than Kanehara in the first round, in both boxing and wrestling. Menne blocked a belly-to-belly suplex attempt tog et position on Kanehara's back and later suplexed him in the first round. They had several tremendous standing exchanges with Menne winning the round. Menne was cut ont he bridge of his nose from a punch at the end of the round, but unknown to anyone but Kanehara, he suffered a painful broken rib during the round.

The second round, if anything, was even more exciting. Kanehara, broken rib and all, took control, taking Menne down and pounding him for a while and came close with an armbar. He got a facelock late in the round. While Kanehara clearly won his round stronger than Menne won his, by the round scoring system, it was a draw, sending them into overtime. Both men were physically spent. Neither seemed that excited about having to go out again. With both exhausted, there were more great standing exchanges before Kanehara rocked Menne with a punch, sending him to the canvas, and the ref waved off the fight. Menne thought it was a quick stoppage, and it was debatable, but on replay, he looked to have gone out momentarily from the punch. Kanehara had abrasions all over his face when it was over. Both looked like they'd been through a war.

Nogueira vs.Han was altogether different. Perhaps the best of the current Brazilian jiu-jitsu submission specialists against the maestro of Russian commando sambo. The 235-pound Han, reputed to be one of the great submission fighters in the world when he became a pro wrestler in the early 90s, turned into one of the two or three greatest technical wrestlers in the modern history of pro wrestling. Han showed the reputation from his youth was deserved. He was the crowd favorite among the final eight because of his longevity and his status as a pioneer of the company, and his age gave him the symbolic babyface positioning. One has to give him enormous credit. He may have been a submission master, but until the last year, he had never fought in competition where punches were part of the game. At his age, to learn stand-up, and defense of stand-up, to get this far, is unbelievable. He was more competitive with the eventual tournament winner than anyone, and clearly came away with a huge moral victory. It was some of the best matwork you'll ever see in a shoot, with the younger Nogueira winning a unanimous decision. First round saw both constantly move for submissions, but neither was ever in great danger. Nogueira's advantage was he was on top more. Other than that, it was an even round. The second round was highlighted by Nogueira getting a kneebar. Han looked in tremendous pain from the move. He somehow escaped from what appeared to be certain defeat, but that probably made the difference in the decision.

Next up was yet another near classic, with UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture facing another man who has been a long-time top level performer in both pro wrestling and a solid star in shoot, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka. Both appeared evenly matched, each at 224 pounds, with different strengths. Couture, a world-class Greco-roman wrestler and Kohsaka, a specialist in judo. Both have focused training extensively in the last year or two in stand-up. Couture fought his fight, continually tying Kohsaka up as one would do in Greco-roman, tiring him out by using his greater skill. He'd tie him up, break his right arm free, and deliver flurries of uppercuts with it while using the rest of his body to keep Kohsaka in place long enough to score. He was winning the first round until Kohsaka finally was able to use his strength, taking Couture down with a judo throw and pounding on him with body punches on the ground for just about the rest of the round. Just before the end of the round, the two accidentally bonked heads and it opened yet another cut on Kohsaka. The first round was even.

Second round was Couture's. He continually tied Kohsaka up and would throw punches. Kohsaka went for the same judo throw, but Couture was ready, blocked it, and got on top. Couture punished him from the top and Kohsaka's previous cuts were bleeding badly. At one point the match was stopped to check Kohsaka's cuts and there was consideration to stopping it. But the doctors allowed it to continue and it was more of the same. Couture would tie him up in his strength, throw right hand punches and knees, as Kohsaka started to tire. Couture blocked his attempts at judo throws twice and toward the end, threw him down hard on the mat, and win a unanimous decision. Still, based on style and viewing this performance, Couture, who always remains focused and under control in a fight, likely from his experience at the international level of wrestling, will probably be the underdog in his upcoming title defense against Pedro Rizzo on 5/4.

The classics were over. Valentijn Overeem of Holland destroyed veteran pro wrestler and journeyman Norihisa (formerly Yoshihisa) Yamamoto in 46 seconds with an armbar. Overeem looked scary sharp with his punches and his nearly locking on a guillotine before powering into the armbar in the final first round match of the tournament.

His brother, Alister Overeem, in a non-tourney match, made short work of Vlademir Tschanturia of Georgia of the former USSR, with a choke in 1:07.

Kanehara may have been the story of the night. He came out, ribs all taped up, and his face all marked up, to face Nogueira. Between the 23-pound size advantage and Kanehara's condition, it should have been a slaughter. But it was anything but. Nogueira had the advantage the majority of the fight, but the first round contained one reversal after another on the ground to the point it almost looked like one of those old-style UWFI or RINGS worked shoot pro wrestling matches. By the end of the first round, Kanehara was bleeding from several spots on his face. When the second round started, Nogueira was able to quickly sink in the choke at 27 seconds to go to the finals. Overeem shocked Couture in the other semifinal, winning with a guillotine choke in 58 seconds. Against a superior striker who had a much easier first round match, Couture totally changed his strategy, most likely with the same game plan he'll use against Rizzo. Hopefully for his sake, minus the same end result. He exploded into Overeem to take him down. Overeem was scary slick on the ground going for that guillotine. Couture slammed him down a second time, but in doing so, Overeem was able to sink the hold in and put him away.

The next two non-tournament matches were largely wastes of time. Unfortunately, the skilled David against the unskilled Goliath in the early days of shoot made for great dramatic matches. But the guys now are mainly so skilled, including the bigger guys, that these match-ups now are unfair, and often boring. First we had 222-pound Ryushi Yanagisawa against 188-pound Wataru Sakata. The idea was original Pancrase (Yanagisawa) against original RINGS. But the crowd didn't care about where they came from originally and Yanagisawa was able to be on top for most of the 15:00 match, winning a split decision. Not sure how anyone could have voted for Sakata except that he was far more competitive than he should have been given the size difference. A similar match saw 226-pound Renato Babalu face 190-pound Kiyoshi Tamura in a rematch from last year's tournament semifinals. Tamura was clearly going in hurt as his upper body was noticeably down. While a great fighter against men his own size and good enough that one year ago he lost a close decision to Babalu that some felt he should have won, now things had changed. Tamura throws great body kicks, but they can't move a man so large. His lack of reach kills him in stand-ups against true heavyweights, especially those with power. He had to keep the fight on the ground, or get rocked with punches from a much bigger man. Babalu was too strong for him to get much advantage time on the ground either. Tamura got one advantage after Babalu missed an armbar, but it was shortlived. Babalu knew he couldn't finish him on the ground, so in the second round, he kept letting him back up to try for a knockout standing. Tamura kept bringing it back down. Some decent spots but overall kind of boring with Babalu winning a majority decision.

RINGS has learned from these two matches and from the beatings Tamura has taken as their biggest drawing card having to fight much larger men and losing much of his aura as a great fighter because of it, by instituting weight classes, which they should have done some time back. As strong as this show was and it was a financial success, I'm still thinking the tournament idea may be one whose time has passed. Granted, it makes for a great entertaining show at times, like this show. Fans love it because there is a natural build. The stories behind it make guys, like Han and Kanehara, come out as winners when the show is over even though they lost. This can also happen in singles fighters (Josh Barnett in the last UFC). but win or lose, if you've been in a real war, it's dangerous to come back out for a second fight on the same night. Even with the shorter time limits and the fat that on this show, the longest anyone (Kanehara) actually fought was 18 minutes and in other shows, the time limits for singles matches are often longer than that, but it's different to fight a long grueling fight and it be over, than fight a hard fight, even if it isn't as long, cool down, the adrenaline rush is over and you start feeling the pain, and then have to go out and fight again.

The final saw two guys who had both looked great up to this point. Nogueira quickly took Overeem down and powered him into a simple headlock choke in 1:20 for the submission."


"3/20 Tokyo Differ Ariake (RINGS - 1,360): Kazuki Okubo b Motomichi Mori, Naoyuki Taira b Taro Minato, Sokon Kou b Ryuki Ueyama, Yasuhito Namekawa b Takashi Sonoda, Takehiro Murahama b Brian Ranew, Masayuki Naruse b Ricardo Fyeet"


"RINGS announced for now it would be dividing things up into two separate weight divisions, with the break-off point being 198 pounds. The next RINGS shows will be 4/20 at the Tokyo Yoyogi Gym and 6/15 at Yokohama Bunka Gym."

April 9, 2001:

"The rule debate is an important one on many levels for a sports entertainment form that is starting to get established in both North America and Japan, where one of the orders of the day in getting it established as a so-called legitimate sport are consistent rules. In its original almost anything goes form, the almost simulated street fight, I was originally against any modification of the rules. Didn't like the gloves being added, stand-ups being ordered when a fight slowed to a crawl on the ground, rounds and elimination of any potential offensive weapons aside from attacking the eyes or fish hooking because of the belief it ruined the purity of the event. At that point, the only place I differed from the purists was on the time limits and judging, because of the reality of holding a sporting event, it simply had to have some form of time limit. Every combat sport had a time limit and judges to rule when it goes the time limit. While the no time limit Royce Gracie vs. Kazushi Sakuraba match from last year was voted Match of the Year and will go down historically as an all-time classic, its premise, a rule change because one of the fighters wouldn't fight by existing rules, compromised greatly the integrity of the tournament and the event even if the end result made for a great series of stories that night. The reality is that some purists, and that's a funny word in hindsight, have to realize for survival, this has to fit into parameters that the general public isn't repulsed by and can accept. And the more rules are in effect, the game can change to where skill becomes more or less important. In hindsight, for survival, the elimination of the head-butts, for example, had to happen, but it did change the game. After seeing Brazilian fights which allowed the so-called field goal kicks of a downed opponents' head, there is no way, both from the potential danger factor and the visual of it, that a move like that being legal will result in this thing lasting in the United States. With UFC going for commission approval and New Jersey in the process of writing a rule book that perhaps will be used nationally as consistent guidelines, there is little chance of this taking place in the United States.

The rule was changed back in Japan, allowing those moves, because of the feeling there were too many time limit decisions and boring fights at the December show, even though in the U.S. on PPV it was largely well received. As this card showed, this does shorten fights, and lead to conclusive finishes. It also increases the danger in a sport where, for long-term marketability, protecting the drawing cards' health as much as possible should be a goal. It's funny, but after watching this for years, my views have changed drastically. I actually enjoy the RINGS rules, which ban punching the head from the mount, more than UFC rules, because the change in fight by eliminating punches from the mount creates more exciting ground work and puts more of an emphasis on skill, and those rules created the King of Kings show that we reviewed last week, which was perhaps the best of the modern MMA style shows because of the skill level displayed and the variety of styles. At the same time, I recognize that for marketability in the United States, because the punch is so basic to the mindset of what a fight is, that eliminating punching from the mount as a legal weapon would kill the sport from a spectator standpoint. In fact, that basic rule may be the stumbling block, because virtually everything in MMA is legal in some sanctioned sport or another but there is no sport that allows punching someone while on top of him. But without it, it won't work in the United States."


"5. Mark Coleman (222.6) beat Allan Goes (213.4). Goes went up in weight and looked bigger than ever. Coleman came down and was ripped to shreds at his lightest fighting weight ever, probably coming down to avoid having to give up the point. Goes came out and started throwing what are called "movie kicks" (you know, the kind you see in kung fu movies that nobody would ever do in a real fight against a good opponent) and missed badly with them. Coleman took him down, threw some hard body punches, then started throwing knees to the head. Goes may have been out by the first one, but was definitely out on the second one. He threw a few more before the ref stopped it a little late. Goes was knocked cold, because when he came to, he got up and started fighting, not realizing it was over. Coleman looked furious at that but then recognized it was Goes not realizing it and they hugged. Inoki gave him the old World Martial Arts title, making the second pro wrestling word title (first being the RINGS world heavyweight title which is pretty well now forgotten since Gilbert Yvel won it from Kiyoshi Tamura and then jumped to this group) to switch from the worked world to the shoot world."


"RINGS on 4/20 at Tokyo Yoyogi Gym has announced Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Jim Gustavo of Brazil, Jeremy Horn vs. Yuri Bekchev of Russia and Ryushi Yanagisawa vs. Bobby Hoffman"

April 16, 2001:

"Several pro wrestlers and MMA big names are among those scheduled at the biggest submission event of the year, the annual Abu Dhabi Combat Classic 2001 held from 4/11 to 4/13.

This will be the first year that major name pro wrestlers are involved, in particular Kiyoshi Tamura and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka of RINGS and Yoshiaki Yatsu of the Social Pro Wrestling Federation.

There are five 16-man tournaments in different weight classes, as well as an Absolute tournament which will allow the highest placing fighters, regardless of weight, to compete. The main event of 4/13 pits two fighters undefeated under these rules, Mario Sperry against two-time heavyweight tournament champion Mark Kerr.

Among the names involved include at 143 pounds, Royler Gracie, Joey Gilbert (a former NCAA champion who is on the next UFC show) and Baret Yoshida.

At 167 pounds, among those involved are Genki Sudo of Pancrase, Rodrigo Gracie, Kaoru Uno (from the last UFC, who worked Antonio Inoki's New Years Eve wrestling show), Tetsuji Kato of Shooto, Jean Jacques Machado, Takanori Gomi of Shooto and Matt Serra (on the next UFC show).

At 191 pounds include Alexander Savko Sasha (a big name wrestler), Akihiro Gono (Shooto), Saulo Ribeiro (last year's winner, who then lost almost immediately on the Coliseum show to Yuki Kondo at the Tokyo Dome), Renzo Gracie (why he's going in at this weight instead of 167 underlies his recent NHB problems), Sanae Kikuta (Pancrase), Evan Tanner (USWF/UFC/Pancrase), Tamura, Egan Inoue (Pride) and Ricardo Liborio (a big name in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world.

At 215 pounds include Ricardo Almeida (a big name in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), Ricardo Arona (another name from Brazil), Rigan Machado and Kohsaka.

In the heavyweight division will include Former ADCC champ Jeff Monson (who lost to Chuck Liddell in a UFC), Tom Erikson (former U.S. freestyle champion), Roberto Traven (a BJJ world champion who was in the RINGS tournament), Mike Van Arsdale (freestyle wrestler whose only MMA loss was to Vanderlei Silva), Sean Alvarez, Vitor Belfort (who he isn't competing at 215 is a question), Mark Robinson (the 290-pounder from South Africa who was knocked out in the last UFC), Ricco Rodrigues and Yatsu (who placed in the 1976 Olympics before being a major pro wrestling star in the 80s and is far too old for this sort of thing)."

April 23, 2001:

"Pro wrestlers fared poorly in the annual Abu Dhabi Combat Classic held on 4/12 and 4/13.

What is conceded to be the biggest by a large degree submission wrestling tournament in the world, is the strange presentation put on by wealthy Sheik Hazz'aa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. The Sheik, who went to college in the United States without letting anyone know of his standing or his wealth, learned jiu jitsu from the ground up while in college, and fell in love with submission grappling. For the past several years he has personally picked up the tab for the greatest submission fighting tournament in the world, treating all the fighters like royalty in the process. The ADCC, as its known, invites the top fighters in the world to compete under unique submission rules in five different 16-man tournaments. All three one-time pro wrestling stars were eliminated in the first round (one of them twice), and saw a major star created in Brazil's Ricardo Arona, who won both the 98 kilogram (215 pound) and Absolute championship, as well as an incredible performance in the Absolute division by Jean Jacques Machado.

Arona, a well-rounded all-around fighter, who ironically was eliminated in his first match by Russian judo star Fedor Emelianenko in the preliminary round of the RINGS tournament on 12/22, won eight consecutive matches to capture two different championships. It is believed with the two tourney wins, he'll be brought back next year for the superfight, where Mark Kerr, a former two-time heavyweight champion in this same tournament, defeated reigning champion Mario Sperry of Brazil on the second day.

It wasn't a good tournament for three Japanese pro wrestlers who were all eliminated immediately. Kiyoshi Tamura of RINGS was armbarred in just 1:02 in his first round match against Ricardo Liborio of Brazil at 87 kilograms (191). His RINGS teammate and former rival in a couple of classic pro wrestling matches in years past, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, lost his first round match via points to Rolles Gracie at 98 kilograms. He came back in the absolute division, looking for redemption, but lost to an armbar by 167-pound Jean Jacques Machado in his first round match. In the heavyweight division, 44-year-old Yoshiaki Yatsu, a major pro wrestling star in New Japan and All Japan during the 1980s who also worked extensively in the United States after twice making the Japanese Olympic team in wrestling, was eliminated in 2:11 of his first match by Ricco Rodrigues with a flying armbar.

Well-known MMA name Royler Gracie, who was considered pound-for-pound the best competitor in the competition, captured the title at 65 kilograms (143) to win that weight class for the third straight year. Gracie, who wasn't scored on, choked out Martin Brown in 1:49, defeated Mike Cardoso in :55 with an ankle lock and Robson Moura Fonsec before dominating Baret Yoshida to win via points in the championship match. Gracie wasn't even scored upon in the entire tournament.

Marcio Feitosa Souza won at 76 kilograms (167) over Renzo Gracie student Matt Serra. Serra debuts in UFC on the 5/4 PPV against Shonie Carter. Genki Sudo of Pancrase was defeated in his first round match 9-0 against Rodrigo Gracie, who ended up losing in the semifinals to Souza. Kaoru Uno, who lost a close decision for the lightweight title to Jens Pulver at the last UFC show, lost his first round match to Fernando Vasconcelos via points. Uno was the recipient of the sickest suplex that anyone has ever seen in pro wrestling or wrestling in general, right on the top of his head. People there live thought he was possibly dead due to the angle, or would wind up paralyzed, but in actuality, he got right back up. In reaching the finals, Serra first defeated Takanori Gomi of Shooto with a choke in 5:43, then won over Jean Jacques Machado and Leonardo Silva Dos Santos to reach the finals.

The closest thing to a pro wrestling champion [BUT WHO IS INSTEAD A JUDO CHAMPION YES THAT IS CORRECT A JUDO PLAYER WON THE NO-GI ADCC CHAMPIONSHIP IT IS A THING THAT HAS HAPPENED PLEASE NOTE THIS IF YOU WERE NOT ALREADY AWARE OF ITS OCCURRENCE THOUGH I CANNOT IMAGINE YOU ARE NOT GIVEN WHAT WE HAVE DISCUSSED ON THIS TOPIC IN PREVIOUS ENTRIES ALSO I APOLOGIZE FOR RAISING MY VOICE --ed.] was Pancrase's Sanae Kikuta, who defeated defending champion Saulo Ribeiro at 87 kilograms to win the tournament. It was something of a revenge type of match for Ribeiro, who came off winning at Abu Dhabi, but then went into Vale Tudo combat and lost to a high knee in less than one minute to Kikuta's Pancrase teammate Yuki Kondo. However, Ribeiro, fighting another Pancrase star, this time under his rule specialty, had his guard passed by Kikuta to win via points in a tough weight division. Kikuta defeated Evan Tanner, who has also been very successful in Pancrase and is coming off a loss to Tito Ortiz on the last UFC show in challenging for the middleweight title, by a 6-0 score in his first round match. He defeated Australian Olympic wrestler Chris Brown in the second round. Brown pulled a major upset in the first round with a decision win over former champion Renzo Gracie, spoiling a potential Gracie-Kikuta rematch of their somewhat legendary no time limit 1998 Vale Tudo rules match in Pride which Gracie won in 50:43. Kikuta's third round win was over Egan Inoue, a veteran of Japanese shoot wars with many different companies (coming off a loss at the last Pride show to Guy Mezger), who defeated Volodymyr of Russia and Liborio of Brazil to reach the semis, and ended up losing in the consolation match to Antonio Schembri via points. Gracie, who weighs about 172 in competition, faced off with a wrestler with a nearly 20-pound weight edge and lost, as opposed to dropping five pounds and going into a tournament with men largely his own size.

Arona defeated Ricardo Almeida, a Renzo Gracie student from New York, in the finals at 98 kilograms in what was reported as the most exciting of all the championship matches, as the two battled for 20:00 with Almeida losing via one point when Almeida lifted Arona completely over his head in executing a takedown, only to have Arona reverse positions in the air and land on top for the deciding point. Almeida is scheduled on the 5/4 UFC PPV to face Olympic Greco-roman wrestling gold medalist Matt Lindland. Almeida came back for revenge in the Absolute division but lost via points to Jean Jacques Machado in the semifinals. Arona, in his semifinal match, defeated John Olav Einemo, who had defeated Rigan Machado in his first match and Rolles Gracie in his second match, to score a sweep over the two most famous families of the Jiu Jitsu world.

The heavyweight division went to South African powerhouse Mark Robinson, who can add a world submission championship to an impressive resume that includes being a world class competitor in Freestyle wrestling, Greco-roman wrestling, powerlifting, judo and sumo at various points in his long athletic career. Robinson was knocked out at the last UFC in his debut by Bobby Hoffman's forearm, although that result is officially a no contest since Hoffman failed the drug test. Robinson won a weight division filled with huge names, taking the finals in overtime over Jeff Monson of Seattle. Monson, who lost in a recent UFC to Chuck Liddell at 200 pounds, scored a huge upset in his second round match over former U.S. freestyle wrestling champion Tom Erikson, at 286 pounds, actually reversing Erikson on the ground and then passing his guard. He also defeated well known Sean Alvarez in the semifinals. Robinson scored wins over Veleriy Yureskul with a choke in his first match, then defeated Vitor Belfort in the second round and Rodrigues in the third round. Rodrigues was armbarred by Marcio Riberio da Cruz in the consolation match. da Cruz earlier leglocked former U.S. national champion wrestler Mike Van Arsdale in just 1:07.

The absolute tournament saw Jean Jacques Machado on an incredible tear which may have been the biggest story of the show. Machado submitted Kohsaka, who outweighed him by 48 pounds, then submitted third place heavyweight, the even larger da Cruz with a footlock. He then outpointed Almeida in the semifinals, who was battling for a rematch with Arona. The Arona-Machado championship match saw Arona on top in the guard most of the way, but Machado nearly got a submission with a kneelock and another with a shoulderlock, however Arona won via points for better positioning and a guard passing. Arona's elbow was badly swollen the next morning from the last submission attempt by Machado, which most thought would be a finish until Arona escaped. Arona submitted heavyweight Roger Neff with a foot lock, and defeated Riberio and Belfort via points to reach the finals.

The superfight saw Kerr win via points over Sperry in a battle of American wrestling vs. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Sperry went for a leglock submission, but Kerr barely escaped. Kerr scored by passing the guard, but Sperry came back with a near guillotine choke, forcing an overtime. Kerr scored with a guillotine and actually had Sperry out and drooling, and also turned Sperry to all fours to win via points. After the match, Sperry admitted that he was out for a few seconds from the choke."

April 30, 2001:

"4/20 Tokyo Yoyogi Gym (RINGS - 3,670): Jiro Wakabayashi d Naoyuki Kotani, Yasuhito Namekawa b Wataru Imamura, Fedor Emelianenko b Kerry Schall, Jeremy Horn b Iouri Bekichev, Bobby Hoffman b Ryushi Yanagisawa, Gustavo Machado b Kiyoshi Tamura

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: On the RINGS 4/20 show at Tokyo Yoyogi Gym before 3,670 fans, Kiyoshi Tamura lost again in the first round of a middleweight championship tournament that was largely created for him. Tamura, who strangely fought without gloves on, which meant he was going into a fight without the ability to punch to the head, lost a majority decision to Gustavo Machado, a protege of Marco Ruas. After the fourth loss in a row by Tamura, including a one minute loss in Abu Dhabi last week, Tamura announced he was quitting RINGS (technically, his contract expires this week and he won't sign a new one), where he was the biggest drawing card. He said he wouldn't fight again until an injury to his left middle finger heals completely. In the other middleweight title tournament match, Jeremy Horn beat Iouri Bekichev of Russia with a triangle armbar in 50 seconds. They also had two heavyweight tournament matches, where Bobby Hoffman won a unanimous decision over Ryushi Yanagisawa and Fedor Emelianenko of Russia, who beat Ricardo Arona in the King of Kings tournament, armbarred Kerry Schall in 1:47. Next show is 6/15 with Ricardo Arona returning after his triumphs in Abu Dhabi."

May 7, 2001:

"4. Chris Benoit beat Kurt Angle in an Iron Man submission match in 31:31. Of course the matwork was very good. Even in Japan in worked shoots where a lot of matwork is done and they don't do pinfalls or near falls such as RINGS worked style (which doesn't really exist anymore anyway), they always balanced it out by allowing knockouts, which stiff blows were used to counter the matwork and set up working for the submission in building. Even the best submission guys in Japan need the hard striking to set it up to make it work and only the best go 30:00 to an educated crowd."

May 28, 2001:

"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: RINGS is undergoing financial problems since WOWOW, its broadcasting network which largely supports the company, cut back on rights fees. The first result of this was the firing of long-time company veterans Norihisa (Yoshihisa) Yamamoto and Masayoshi Naruse, both of whom have been with the company from its beginnings doing the worked shoot UWF style before going into the straight shoot style. The cutbacks caused Tokyo Sports to run an article wondering if the company can survive. They are planning a major anniversary show for August. Yamamoto has a pretty big name and is expected to get offers from Zero-One, Pride and Deep."

June 4, 2001:

More on how Akira Maeda is awful:

"Akira Maeda, who is known for having a hot temper and has hit people in the past, was fined $675 in an alleged attack of Motoko Uchida, his secret wife after a wedding in the United States. Uchida is known in the MMA world as booker for the company, Maeda's personal manager and also RINGS and Maeda's public relations director. The alleged attack occurred on 9/28 in Marina del Rey, CA, after which Uchida sued Maeda for divorce. Maeda also has a lawsuit pending for $100,000 filed by Pancrase President Masami Ozaki from another alleged attack."


"RINGS really appears to be in bad shape. As reported here several weeks ago, and was the word at the Pride show and officially announced by RINGS on 5/29 is that Kiyoshi Tamura has made up his mind not to sign a new contract with the promotion. Tamura was the group's top draw, and clearly has worked too heavy a schedule and the injuries have beaten him down causing him to lose fight after fight. RINGS announced that Tamura was leaving to concentrate on running his "U-File Gym." Before doing shoot matches, Tamura was one of the best workers from a technical wrestling standpoint not only in the business today, but in many ways, ever in the business, however he has no experience nor has wanted to get involved in the traditional style of pro wrestling. Even during the New Japan vs. UWFI feud and being UWFI's second biggest star behind Takada at the time, Tamura had nothing to do with any of the New Japan wrestlers and never worked for New Japan. His weight is down a little, it's been clear for his last several fights that his muscle mass is way down which appears to be an ability to push weights, which is usually an indication of injuries. The lack of usual power is going to kill you in fights, in execution, desire and confidence. The next show is 6/15 at Yokohama Bunka Gym headlined by Hiromitsu Kanehara vs. Ricardo Arona, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka vs. Renato Babalu and Mikhail Ilioukhine vs. Boris Jeliazkov. While the top three matches are all quality as Arona and Babalu are strong Brazilians, there is no box office in that line-up."

June 18, 2001:

"We're roughly halfway through certainly one of the most unique years in the history of pro wrestling. We've had arguably the biggest news story of the past 15 years, the combination of the cancellation of pro wrestling on the Turner networks and the purchase of the name WCW by WWFE. In reality, we've had the folding of WCW and ECW and other companies, most notably RINGS, seemingly teetering on the edge."


"On the 6/14 Osaka show, which I believe is still a PPV and is going is going to be a bomb, they switched things again. Now Yuki Ishikawa & Katsumi Usuda (who were to face Steve Corino & Mike Rapada) are going against Samoa Joe & Keiji Sakoda of UPW (who were last week scheduled against Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Shinjiro Otani after Jon Heidenreich & Nathan Jones were pulled by WWF). Takaiwa & Otani now face Igor Meindert & Gerard Gordeau from the famous Kamakura Gym in The Netherlands. Meindert has done various pro wrestling gigs over the years, usually when Inoki is bringing foreign shooters (he's a 6-8, 280 pound former top level amateur wrestler) to groups such as UFO or early Pride shows. Gordeau has been around forever, and made his name in 1988 when he was Akira Maeda's opponent for a big show at the time the UWF was the hottest promotion in the world and has bounced around various shoot and worked shoot events in Japan (for trivia notes, he was the guy in 1993 that Royce Gracie beat in the first ever UFC tournament final) ever since. Naoya Ogawa's opponent on the show, strongly expected to be former RINGS star Yoshihisa Yamamoto, ended up being veteran Yoshiaki Fujiwara, which guarantees a terrible match. There has been some media pub of late for an Ogawa vs. Kiyoshi Tamura match."

June 25, 2001:

"6/15 Yokohama Bunka Gym (RINGS - 3,500): Volk Ataev b Maynard Marcum, Yasuhito Namekawa b Masutatsu Yano, Christopher Haseman b Alexandre Cacareco, Mikhail Ilioukhine b Borislav Jeliaskov, Renato Babalu b Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, Ricardo Arona b Hiromitsu Kanehara

RINGS ran Yokohama Bunka Gym on 6/15 before about 3,500 with the matches in its world title tournament. In the light heavyweight tournament, Chris Haseman of Australia beat Alexandre Cacareco of Brazil in 1:54 with a necklock, and Ricardo Arona of Brazil beat Hiromitsu Kanehara in :53 of the second round with a kneelock. In the heavyweight tournament, Mikhail Ilioukhine of Russia advanced with an armbar submission over Boris Jeliaskov of Bulgaria in 2:06 of the second round, and Renato Babalu of Brazil advanced with a majority decision over Tsuyoshi Kohsaka. With no Japanese left in either title tournament, crowd didn't care about it at all. Next show is the 10th anniversary show on 8/11 at the Tokyo Ariake Coliseum with Volk Han vs. Yoshiaki Fujiwara, which is really weird because RINGS has gone to an all shoot format and Fujiwara hasn't done one since that match with the bear in the cage in Canada. This will likely be the first match of the old RINGS style (worked shoot) since the latter part of 1999. They are also going to decide the heavyweight title with Ilioukhine vs. Babalu and the light heavyweight title with Haseman vs. Arona."


"NEW JAPAN: Three matches were announced on 6/19 for the 7/20 Sapporo Dome show. Mark Coleman vs. Yuji Nagata, Minoru Tanaka defending the IWGP jr. title against Masayoshi Naruse (formerly of RINGS, signing here after RINGS due to financial problems was unable to renew his contract) and Keiji Muto vs. Masahiro Chono."

and from the Zero-One report

"Naoya Ogawa vs. Yoshiaki Fujiwara wasn't a good match, but it was exactly what it should have been. Fujiwara had the rep in the early 80s as being the best shooter in pro wrestling (nobody knows if it was true, but reps were everything in those days and Fujiwara was Karl Gotch's best-ever student). Ogawa was a total pro, selling Fujiwara's submissions early even though at nearly 52, Fujiwara looked really old and not in shape. Ogawa came back with his STO's and killed Fujiwara dead. Fujiwara did a great sell, staggering from the move and rising like Kane every time until after the fifth one, he stayed down and the match was stopped. Ogawa was doing mic work when Norihisa Yamamoto, who was recently let go of by RINGS due to financial cutbacks, sucker punched Ogawa and knocked him for a loop. Well done angle. Main event saw Shinya Hashimoto beat Tom Howard in 11:50 with a heel submission. A ***1/4 match. Howard did better than anyone could have expected under the circumstances and actually got over for his attitude and work so by the time Hashimoto beat him, it was like he was beating someone. Howard took a world-class bump doing a poetry in motion, and missing and flying over the top rope to the floor, to set up the finish. Next show is 8/30 with Ogawa vs. Yamamoto, and Hashimoto likely against either Kiyoshi Tamura or Yoshihiro Takayama."


"Many Japanese companies have talked about running Hawaii because of its large Japanese population, but it usually doesn't work out. Although some MMA type events have drawn well there, RINGS looked to draw only about 1,000 when it ran the NBC Arena. Inoki used to get giant pops when he would work in Hawaii in the 80s, particularly since New Japan had TV at the time, and Fujinami got good reactions, but even so, they didn't seem to make a huge difference at the gate when working for Lia Maivia. I actually Baba in Hawaii during his heyday during the Ed Francis era as promoter, and while he was pushed as a main event star because of his name, he didn't get any special reaction and wasn't a ticket seller."

July 9, 2001:

"RINGS announced the line-up for its tenth anniversary show on 8/11 at the Tokyo Ariake Coliseum. I don't know how they are going to draw in a 12,000-seat building with the line-up they have. They are doing semifinals of their world title tournament with the final four middleweights being Chris Haseman vs. Gustavo Ximu and Jeremy Horn vs. Ricardo Arona (which is one of those matches that is real good on paper but has no drawing power), and heavyweights with Bobby Hoffman vs. Mikhail Ilioukhine and Fedor Emelianenko vs. Renato Babalu. The Volk Han vs. Yoshiaki Fujiwara match is being billed as a legends exhibition match, so I guess that's to pretty much say it will be worked since RINGS has gone to an all-shoot format."


"Coleman vs. Nogueira is one of those matches that insider fans love, but doesn't have big drawing power. Coleman won the Pride heavyweight tournament last year and Nogueira won the RINGS King of Kings tournament this year, so while not billed as anything, it's almost like an interpromotional world title match."

July 23, 2001:

"With RINGS seemingly at deaths door after its main backer, the WOWOW Channel, cut back on its funding, Akira Maeda came to Tatsumi Fujinami last week. It was the first time Maeda had been in the New Japan corporate office since he was fired in 1988. Fujinami agreed to send a New Japan wrestler to the 8/11 RINGS ten year anniversary show at the Ariake Coliseum (presumably that would mean the wrestler would have to do a shoot against a Russian, 22-year-old Volk Ataef, who has never been in Japan before, which isn't always a smart strategy). Maeda was interested in Michiyoshi Ohara, Tadao Yasuda, Kazuyuki Fujita or Kendo Ka Shin. Ohara seems to be the best bet. Maeda was expected to appear at the Sapporo Dome show on 7/20, which airs live on TV-Asahi as a two hour afternoon special, and that Maeda would send some of his guys to New Japan's 10/8 Tokyo Dome event. Also, there would be a New Japan vs. RINGS match on the 10/20 RINGS show at Tokyo Yoyogi Gym. Maeda then came out of the office after the meeting where the press was waiting. He tried to pull the film out of the cameras of the Tokyo Sports reporters that were shooting him and broke some cameras. It is expected there will be some legal problems stemming from this and Riki Choshu set up a second meeting with the New Japan front office where they decided against working with Maeda because of that incident. It's expected that many mainstream publications that don't cover pro wrestling will cover this as a news story because of Maeda's old celebrity name. Maeda will also likely not be allowed to attend the Sapporo Dome show because of the incident. Always nice for a guy to do things like that running a company about to go under, just weeks after the domestic dispute charge in the U.S. There is a pattern of very violent and irrational behavior of people whose wrestling companies are on the way down."

July 30, 2001:

"Masayuki Naruse won the IWGP jr. title from Minoru Tanaka in 11:27. This was Naruse's first match in New Japan so it does make sense to put the exclamation point behind him. Lots of hard kicks back and forth. Naruse scored the pin after a spinning backfist. This was mainly matwork and hard kicks, with no acrobatics, which is what fans would want for New Japan vs. RINGS (since Naruse is associated with RINGS since he worked his whole career there)."


"Complete RINGS 10th anniversary show on 8/11 at the Tokyo Ariake Coliseum will feature semifinals and finals to create a middleweight (under 198 pounds) champion with Christopher Haseman vs. Gustavo Ximu and Jeremy Horn vs. Ricardo Arona and a heavyweight champion with Mikhail Ilioukhine vs. Bobby Hoffman and Fedor Emelianenko vs. Renato Babalu, plus the Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs. Volk Han exhibition match, Volk Ataef vs. New Japan's Michiyoshi Ohara (so they are going through with it after all), as well as Tsuyoshi Kohsaka vs Grom Koba and Hiromistu Kanehara vs. Matt Hughes."

August 13, 2001:

Hall of Fame candidate thoughts once more:

"Volk Han - Han will never make it, and it's close to a travesty. To me, an easy pick. He simply worked for a promotion that a lot of people didn't follow, but for most of the time he was a headliner, their top foreigner, was generally among the most over foreign wrestlers in Japan for almost a decade, and it was a promotion that drew very well and he had great matches consistently. He was the top foreign star in RINGS almost from its inception and was Akira Maeda and later Kiyoshi Tamura's top rival and had legendary matches with both. An incredible worker, particularly for one with very limited formal training since he was a sambo champion brought into pro wrestling as a gimmick because of his credentials and became one of the best workers of his time. One of the two best mat wrestlers I've ever seen. RINGS was very successful when Han was at his peak. By every standard, being over, headlining and drawing, longevity, and match quality, he makes the grade. And then, at 40, when RINGS switched to shooting, he was able to still beat some big names and hang with everyone including Antonio Nogueira, who may be the top submission heavyweight in the world."

"Seiji Sakaguchi - The No. 2 native star during the early days of the company behind Antonio Inoki, who was later President of the company during the big business boom. Not a great worker. His best qualification is being President of the second most successful pro wrestling company in history, which is a strong credential, and his college connections got New Japan the TV-Asahi deal and kept them with network television for nearly 30 years. I guess you could argue that without it, New Japan would have never gotten off the ground so it's significant. [Also: 1965 All-Japan Openweight Judo Champion, who *probably* took a dive against Matsunaga as part of an unsuccessful scheme to defeat Anton Geesink at the 1965 World Championships, as we have for sure discussed previously --ed.]"

August 20, 2001:

"8/11 Tokyo Ariake Coliseum (RINGS - 4,000): Middleweight semifinals: Gustavo Ximu b Chris Haseman, Ricardo Arona b Jeremy Horn, Heavyweight semifinals: Bobby Hoffman b Mikhail Ilioukhine, Fedor Emelianenko b Renato Babalu, Hirotaka Yokoi b Ricardo Fyeet, Volk Ataev b Aaron Brink, RINGS middleweight title: Arona b Ximu to become first champ, RINGS hwt title: Emelianenko b Hoffman-forfeit to win vacant title, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka b Grom Koba, Matt Hughes b Hiromitsu Kanehara

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: The sad plight of RINGS became even more apparent with its 10th year anniversary show on 8/11 at the Tokyo Ariake Coliseum, which drew an estimated 4,000 fans in the 10,000 seat arena with tournaments to crown both a heavyweight (over 198) and middleweight (under 198) world champion. Ricardo Arona of Brazil won the middleweight title winning via decision over Jeremy Horn and then scoring a decisive win in the finals over Gustavo Ximu (who had beaten long-time regular Chris Haseman) via an overtime decision. Fedor Emilianenko won the heavyweight tournament, which didn't even have a final. He defeated favorite Renato Babalu in the first match by unanimous decision. Bobby Hoffman won the other semi over long-time RINGS veteran Mikhail Ilioukhine but was injured and couldn't come out for the championship. Hoffman-Ilioukhine was also weird, as they went to a draw and an overtime round was ordered, but Ilioukhine refused to go into overtime and thus forfeited. Reports we got was the highlight of the show to the fans was the only worked match, although it was billed as such (an "exhibition) beforehand with Volk Han over Yoshiaki Fujiwara. Han is an interview basically said his job now is to entertain fans. Things were really sad and the pressure got to Hiromitsu Kanehara, who lost the main event to much smaller Matt Hughes, who is freakishly strong and slammed Kanehara around. Kanehara is one of the few remaining stars still left under contract after all the budget cuts, as he was so worried about the company and his own future that he didn't show up in good condition, and was slammed by the freakishly strong Hughes three times. The proposed match with New Japan's Michiyoshi Ohara against Volk Ataev never happened as the New Japan/RINGS deal fell apart due to Maeda's temper tantrum attacking a reporter and breaking a camera outside the New Japan office after Maeda's meeting with Tatsumi Fujinami. Because of the bad pub, New Japan ditched the idea and instead, Aaron Brink was brought over as Ohara's replacement. Although RINGS' popularity had been declining for several years, since nobody was ever able to replace Akira Maeda as a drawing card (while Kiyoshi Tamura was an awesome worker and in his prime, a good shooter as well, he didn't have the years of media exposure Maeda had and didn't have the general public name), the interest weakened for the shows when they went to an all-shoot format because names fans didn't know were beating the stars. The past two King of Kings tournaments were huge successes, but in both cases (Dan Henderson and Antonio Nogueira), the tournament winners after getting their big payoff, ended up signing with Pride, which also signed away RINGS last world heavyweight champion, Gilbert Yvel. The regular shows in between had a hard time drawing and financial backer WOWOW had been cutting back its support."

August 27, 2001:

Wrapping up some talk about the Von Erichs and transitioning thus:

"There really was a hell of a story to be examined. Now, because so much time has passed, it likely never will be.

Unlike the world of MMA. That subject has something pro wrestling to this day has never had. The definitive history book.

Clyde Gentry III's "No Holds Barred: Evolution," published by Archon Publishing of Richardson, TX (for info write, is the real inside story of the birth, growth and near collapse of MMA, covering the years 1993 to 1997, based largely on the exploits of the UFC but covering other groups from that time period in the U.S. as well.

Gentry spent the last few years interviewing fighters and virtually every bigwig in every organization, and covered the sport from its very primitive beginnings in the United States, the original UFC on November 12, 1993 in Denver, through its evolution and political persecution that threatened and came very close to killing the entire genre four years later. Unlike "The Fall Guys," which was the lone historical book about the beginnings of American pro wrestling which only had a few sources and history was written largely based on the politics of the source and is full of inaccuracies, Gentry was an insider, and had help from insiders, most notably current UFC VP of talent (matchmaker) Joe Silva. Gentry developed a good rapport with most of the fighters, getting a well-rounded viewpoint of what was going on, and few embellishments as fighters tend to do, made it into the book unscathed. With the exception of Mick Foley's books, which are more about his own experiences in wrestling as opposed to either an overview of or a history of wrestling over a several year period, there is nothing even close to it on wrestling.

Gentry opens with an historical look at sports from the past, such as Pankration in the early Olympics in the years B.C., the Roman Gladiator contests with weapons, and shows evidence of wrestling matches that allowed punching in Europe in the first half of the century. He noted that martial arts legend Ron Van Clief (who in his 50s participated in an early UFC, losing to Royce Gracie) participated in a similar event in 1969 in Taiwan and in 1982 in Hong Kong, as well as underground barroom style fights that took place in Texas during the 80s.

The link between MMA and pro wrestling has always been there. In many ways, the RINGS promotion of a few years ago, which did mainly worked matches and occasional shoots, was the closest thing since probably 1915 to early century American pro wrestling. The three most famous of what would now be called MMA matches in the pre-UFC history all involved pro wrestlers, Masahiko Kimura vs. Helio Gracie in Brazil in 1951, Gene LeBelle vs. Milo Savage in Salt Lake City in 1963, and Antonio Inoki vs. Muhammad Ali in Tokyo in 1976.

The background history, of Helio and Carlson Gracie's fights in Brazil, Rorion Gracie coming to the United States and the Gracie challenge fights was more straight forward than a lot of the fantasy version you'll read in martial arts magazines, leading to the meetings with Rorion Gracie and Art Davie with Semaphore Entertainment Group which created the first UFC PPV event, the creation of the octagon cage, which absolutely was not at first meant to be a safety feature, as well as the original marketing, which was originally successful and bit them back years later. You'll learn, among other things, that the one thing Rorion Gracie didn't want in the show was a powerful heavyweight wrestler, because it took brother Rickson (who had experience and was reputed as the toughest man in Brazil from Vale Tudo matches there before moving to the U.S., and wanted to be in the UFC but a family conflict saw Rorion choose untested brother Royce instead) more than 20 minutes to finally submit Olympic champion Mark Schultz in a grappling only match, and that Dan Severn was likely picked more because they felt at his age, he was likely well past his prime.

The best part of the book is the background material. How things went down and what decisions were being made. Like reading Foley talk about the big angles in WWF, you realize there was no long-term master plan. Things just happen. Sometimes for the best. Sometimes not. Huge mistakes were made. The best things that happened were often simply lucked into. When it came to the original UFC, literally, nobody had a clue what it would be. At the same time that UFC was debuting, the big move was made in Japan with Pancrase, where pro wrestling stars Masakatsu Funaki, Minoru Suzuki and Ken Shamrock, decided to revolutionize the sport by doing real matches under what were considered pro wrestling rules and as pro wrestling. Probably since the early part of the century in the United States, that was unheard of, and for decades, even having the idea of doing so was unheard of. But Funaki came from a different generation, spawned by the success of the second UWF, which was a stiffer and more realistic version of pro wrestling that was all the rage in the late 80s. UWF still had predetermined winners, but was so popular it forced New Japan and All Japan to have more realistic matches and end the bevy of screw-job finishes. As it turned out, a decision forced on the big companies led to a huge increase in the attendance at pro wrestling events in Japan (although some would say the more technical and less outrageous of style led to lower television ratings and made pro wrestling a less mainstream sport in Japan) when fans realized there would be winners and losers clean in every big match.

But, after being disgruntled that aging Yoshiaki Fujiwara, the boss of the PWFG promotion that Funaki, Suzuki and Shamrock wound up with after UWF folded, wouldn't step aside from the top position, they decided to change the industry.

They did what couldn't be done. Pro wrestling, without planned outcomes and set up spots. Well, not entirely. Because they were pro wrestlers, there may have been spots planned (in rare cases, there were) and there were a few worked matches early on in Pancrase, most notably when Shamrock was about to face Dan Severn in UFC and Pancrase didn't want its world champion in a position to lose to someone from an outside organization, so Shamrock was asked to drop the title in pro wrestling fashion to Suzuki. Ironically, since that time, numerous Pancrase champions, like UFC champions, have fought outside the organization and lost, although UFC will no longer allow its champions to do so in the future. Like with RINGS, that was the peak of the group's popularity, when its stars were those names well known to wrestling fans and they were dominant. In both companies, the more real they got, and the more the former pro wrestlers stopped being the dominant fighters because time moved on and the second generation of fighters eventually would surpass the originals, and real fighters unknown to wrestling fans became the winners, both companies' popularity went down with RINGS battling for survival and Pancrase no longer the major fighting organization in Japan, with the dominant group being the more pro wrestling oriented Pride group.

For years, everyone in wrestling had heard why it would be impossible to do real matches. The injury rate would be too high. Somebody would get hurt in every match. The matches would be too long (shoot matches, which didn't involve striking at the turn of the century often went for hours and nobody knew any better than anything different would happen, which was fascinating for insiders but ultimately spectators got tired of them). Somebody would die. Nobody would pay to see them, as amateur wrestling, a shoot sport, was always around and only on rare occasions, such as some big dual meets in Oklahoma and Iowa and the NCAA tournament, did amateur wrestling ever draw big crowds. All these sayings, some of which were based in fact, but nobody really knew much more than Karl Gotch was the master trainer and toughest man who ever lived, because it had been said so often it became true. Pancrase was formed, originally with pro wrestling rules, such as rope breaks, no closed fist punching, but kicking being legal, the same as RINGS and UWFI which were around but doing worked matches at the time, based on what the popular UWF was selling as real, but actually wasn't, in the 80s. Pancrase, like UFC and RINGS, constantly evolved over the years, to where the rules of all the organizations being more similar (RINGS still doesn't allow closed fist punching on the ground). Like with the early UFC shows, matches were actually too short, not too long. That wasn't bad, as both UFC and Pancrase hit it big quickly in their respective countries, with Ken Shamrock as the dual major star and fans educated to the idea that a real fight can end at any moment and a two minute match wasn't a ripoff and there was a curiosity over who could beat who. What was going on in Japan during this time isn't ignored, but the book clearly is focused on the scene in the United States.

But then people learned how to fight. And like in the early 1900s, the matches got longer and there was no mythical super fighter, who could beat everyone in an individual sport where, like with boxing, the existence of that type of person carries the sport. Curiosity over who is really the toughest in the world ceased to exist when people recognized it depended on who was lucky that day, and the rules of the fight, and longer fights meant more judges decisions. And like in the early 1900s, once spectators learned what reality in fighting was and there was no novelty, by and large, worked matches with planned high spots and superstars who rarely lost because they are protected in outcomes, became more entertaining. Both groups had their ups and downs, and neither company over the past five years has come anywhere close to the level of popularity of their first two years.

The strength of the book in examining the early years is, as mentioned earlier, this is the real story. Warts and all. There is no sugar coating the disorganization, you get the real thought process at the different times backstage, promotional mistakes, savagery at times, outright stupidity and all the political games behind the scenes. The political ironies, such as the addition of gloves, rounds and a boxing ring instead of a cage, which all made the fights more dangerous, ended up (with the exception of the boxing ring in UFC) being adopted as a way to keep the sport alive and because it made it look more like boxing, a far more dangerous sport, but one accepted by the public and politicians as a sport instead of a freak show. Gentry also understood that much of the opposition to UFC within the traditional martial arts community, was because the realities of UFC combat exposed the myths of the martial arts teachings as just that.

If there is a fault, it is that the matches in the early UFCs were detailed almost too much. While some of the matches are an important part of the history, it is more the background of decisions made and stories behind the scenes that are more fascinating to read than blow-by-blow of fights held years ago that are, for the most part, long since forgotten. But there is no important story that I can recall, that isn't brought up, including the background of what allegedly were the two fixed fights held in UFC, the decision after the success of UFC III (which paved the way for the boom period because UFC had created three colorful pro wrestling like characters in Shamrock, Royce Gracie and Kimo) to try and legitimize the sport and move away from the pro wrestling model which sold the previous show, and the controversy after it which led to the biggest buy rates the company ever did on the next few shows.

The book also detailed some of the other rival promotions that sprung up, such as Extreme Fighting, MARS, World Combat Championships and the IFC in Russia, most of which disappeared rather quickly, although IFC is still around.

Gentry talked about these matches, as well as the brief 70s and 80s heyday of kickboxing in the United States, a sport whose lessons of failing at some points seem doomed to be repeated by the current genre of people wanting to promote MMA. The unfortunate part about the book is that it for the most part leaves off in December 1997, the first UFC show in Japan, where Frank Shamrock debuted beating Kevin Jackson in 14 seconds with an armbar to become the first UFC middleweight champion, as the sport debuted weight classes. It noted the near demise of UFC came at the same time that pro wrestling exploded with the WWF vs. WCW war. The irony was that the UFC explosion two-and-a-half years earlier came at a time when nearly every pro wrestling company was losing money and there appeared to be little hope of a turnaround. I can remember, in late 1995, after both WWF and WCW each put on PPV events that bombed royally, one major executive from each company, literally within days of each other, bemoaned to me that, ultimately, pro wrestling was in trouble, because people now know what a real fight is and looks like and wrestling can never be it. Ultimately, as things turned out, that was pro wrestling's best weapon for survival, that it wasn't a real fight and therefore didn't have the limits of such and could promote directly for audience entertainment.

The book closed with a chapter about what has happened since 1997, unfortunately, the only thing about the book that wasn't given much detail, such as the rise of Pride and the recent sale of the UFC, which were covered, but more as an epilogue of what happened since.

The book also listed the results of every major show between 1993 and 1997, and it really is, well not amazing, but understandable, just how many people from those shows wound up in pro wrestling, at least 47 in all. Some, like Ken Shamrock and Don Frye, became major superstars (both had dabbled in pro wrestling before entering UFC, Shamrock far more than Frye) and Kazunari Murakami has the potential to be a big star as well. On the flip side, Tank Abbott and Kimo, who looked in UFC to have super potential as pro wrestlers probably more than even in UFC because their colorful nature and mediocre win-loss records made them seemingly more suitable for a venue where wins and losses are controlled, ended up as flops of the highest order. Others, like Kazushi Sakuraba, came from pro wrestling and wasn't even a major star, but became a superstar in pro wrestling through winning real matches. Others, like Mitsuhiro Matsunaga, Yoji Anjoh, Koji Kitao, Bam Bam Bigelow and Tony Halme, were name pro wrestlers, who competed in shootfights, and didn't fare well. Brian Johnston was a .500 shootfighter who ended up as a regular with New Japan Pro Wrestling for the past several years. Mark Coleman, through his shootfighting success, looks to have a big future in Japanese pro wrestling and Mark Kerr is just starting a career as a pro wrestler stemming from his success in shootfighting, while Maurice Smith participated in every form of pro wrestling and MMA competition before UFC, and again, after.

A quick list, and this is worked pro wrestling matches, so I didn't include Pancrase, goes like this:

Gerard Gordeau (Zero-One, UFO, pro wrestling first made his name in Holland as a fighter), Zane Frasier (Kingdom, New Japan), Patrick Smith (Kingdom), Orlando Weit (Kingdom), Remco Pardoel (Kingdom), Emmanuel Yarbrough (CWA in Austria), Kimo (UWFI and New Japan), Felix Lee Mitchell (Kingdom), Dan Severn (UWFI, WWF, New Japan, IWA, lots of indies, pro wrestling first), Dave Beneteau (UWFI, New Japan, UFO), Oleg Taktarov (New Japan), Joel Sutton (Kingdom), Tank Abbott (WCW), Paul Varelans (Kingdom, ECW), Geza Kalman Jr. (Michigan/Ontario indies, but he'd done pro before UFC), Francesco Maturi (Canadian indies), Mark Hall (Kingdom), Jerry Flynn (WCW, PWFG, UWF, Florida indies, Puerto Rico, pro wrestling first), Sean McCulley (Zero-One, UFO), Bart Vale (UWF, PWFG, pro wrestling first), Makoto Muraoka (Southern California indies, pro wrestling first), Tom Glanville (UFO), Joe Charles (Kingdom), Don Frye (New Japan, UFO), Ken Shamrock (UWF, PWFG, WWF, pro wrestling first), Gary Goodridge (New Japan), Steve Nelson (UWFI, pro wrestling first), Koji Kitao (New Japan, WAR, Kitao Dojo, WWF, pro wrestling first), Diesuel Berto (Florida and Bahamas indies, PWFG, pro wrestling first), Moti Horenstein (Kingdom), Brian Johnston (New Japan, UFO), Mark Coleman (New Japan), Kazunari Murakami (New Japan, Battlarts, UFO, Zero-One), Maurice Smith (RINGS, PWFG, did pro wrestling first but made his original name in kickboxing), Chris Haseman (RINGS, pro wrestling first), Willie Peeters (RINGS, pro wrestling first), Katsumi Usuda (Battlarts, Michinoku Pro, pro wrestling first), Mitsuhiro Matsunaga (IWA, W*ING, every garbage group, pro wrestling first and his lone shoot match was actually worked), Yoji Anjoh (UWF, UWFI, Kingdom, New Japan, All Japan, everywhere in between, pro wrestling first), Bam Bam Bigelow (everywhere, long-time pro wrestling star), Rainy Martinez (New Japan), Vernon White (WWF, one TV appearance), Yoshiki Takahashi (PWFG, pro wrestling first), Adrian Serrano (Midwest indies), Tony Halme (WWF, New Japan, did pro wrestling first), Mark Kerr (Zero-One), Brad Kohler (Midwest indies) and Kazushi Sakuraba (UWFI, Kingdom, New Japan, pro wrestling first).

I'd highly recommend the book to anyone wanting to learn what really went on behind the scenes in the creation of UFC, the history of MMA, and its tie-ins with pro wrestling aren't ignored either. Unlike books on pro wrestling that attempt to do the same thing, but don't come anywhere close, this one delivers the goods."


"Deep announced its next show would be 12/16 at Tokyo Sumo Hall and would feature the return of Kiyoshi Tamura, who recently also quit RINGS as it was having its financial problems, and they are already trying to put together, if possible, a KENGO vs. Caras Jr. rematch."

September 3, 2001:

Look who wrote in about the Hall of Fame!"How do you handle the shoot revolution within pro wrestling? Masakatsu Funaki must be in. I know some reporters simply don't vote for UWF promotions including Pancrase, RINGS and K-1, and that's very wrong. Funaki, Minoru Suzuki and Ken Shamrock should all be in. the birth of Pancrase was historically too important to ignore. Without Bull Nakano and Shawn Michaels, something is very wrong. Without Seiji Sakaguchi, there is no New Japan. He was on top for years. Volk Han and Aja Kong should also be in, as should Kazuyoshi Ishii.

Tadashi Tanaka"

And now I'm wondering if I really did hear Fumi Saito talk about Seiji Sakaguchi like that or if I dreamt it out of this Tadashi Tanaka letter that I CTRL+V'd here a while ago! Who can say! 


"How is Art Barr not in the Hall of Fame? Is he not eligible yet, or was he simply not voted in? If he wasn't voted in, I think it's a shame. He helped put AAA on the map, wrestled in some of Mexico's most famous matches of the 90s and in my opinion, was the greatest heel who ever lived, and that includes Dump Matsumoto. I think it's a shame Volk Han didn't get in. Only nine votes? He's every bit as important as Akira Maeda and Nobuhiko Takada are in terms of worked shoot fighting.

Elliott Jenrette

DM: Barr was a great performer but didn't have the longevity. Is their a dispute whether Dump Matsumoto ever lived? I think Han should be in, but if people didn't watch RINGS, they wouldn't understand. But he's no way as important as Maeda and Takada. Maeda put it on the map. Takada drew all those huge houses and Pride wouldn't be there if it wasn't for him. Han was just a great worker who was the top foreigner for many years in a promotion."

September 10, 2001:

"Pride, proving to be the MMA version of the mid-80s WWF, not only raided Shooto of its new middleweight champion literally days after he had won the title, but once again left RINGS looking like the same period AWA, taking the latest of its champions in Ricardo Arona, who won the 198-pound world title in an 8/11 tournament, and is expected to face Pride regular Guy Mezger on 9/24. Mezger is looking to rebound after losing in what amounted to a promotion vs. promotion match with UFC's Chuck Liddell."

September 17, 2001:

"9/1 TV was a sad show for many different reasons. Started by pushing the Akiyama & Nagata vs. Muto & Hase match. Then they showed Masayuki Naruse over Shinya Makabe in 7:33 with a high kick and spinning chop. Naruse, the current IWGP jr. champ, comes from RINGS, where they did a form of pro wrestling (shoot style, no pins) which is very different. He was so bad at pro wrestling selling, which they don't do there. So bad it was almost embarrassing realizing what New Japan once was and with all the shooters how bad it has become since they aren't trained to work. After the match, Ka Shin came out and challenged Naruse. Naruse went to shake his hand and Ka Shin blew him off. Ka Shin better get that belt. 1/2*."


"RINGS is going to do its annual year-end tournament even though it financially is in bad shape. It appears they will run two eight-man tournaments instead of 16 mans like the previous two years, the first on 10/20 at Tokyo Yoyogi Gym and the second in December in Osaka to build to the championship match in February. Unlike the previous two years, they aren't able to afford bringing in big name fighters as they are largely using long-time promotional regulars combined with unknowns from Europe."


"Guy Mezger faces Ricardo Arona, who won both the Abu Dhabai submission championship and is the current 198-pound championship for RINGS, which he becomes the latest RINGS world champion to be raided by Pride in the manner of Vince McMahon raiding Verne Gagne in the 80s. Not announced yet, but talked about is Akira Shoji vs. Brad Kohler (who was originally talked about as being Frye's opponent). Show debuts on 10/13 on DirecTV and TVN."

October 8, 2001:

"The Deep promotion, which was looking at using Kiyoshi Tamura in his first match since leaving RINGS, announced it was moving its 12/16 date at Sumo Hall (11,000 seats) to 12/23 at Differ Ariake (1,800) which seems to be an indication of money troubles. They were wanting to do a KENGO vs. Dos Caras Jr. rematch on this show."

October 15, 2001:

"Assuerio Silva destroyed former RINGS wrestler Norihisa Yamamoto in a legit 11 seconds. The highlight for the Japanese audience was Yamamoto coming out to Akira Maeda's old music, which got a huge reaction. Yamamoto got decked and cut with a right to the eye, and then on the ground took 10 unanswered punches before it was over."


"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Zero-One on 10/25 at Tokyo Budokan Hall announced Shinya Hashimoto vs. Gerard Gordeau (Good lord) as the main event, so they're holding off Hashimoto vs. Mark Kerr, since Kerr will instead face Dick Vrij, who was a big star for RINGS in the early 90s as a charismatic gassed up heel kickboxer type for a feud with Akira Maeda. Actually Gordeau, with his experience and dirty fighter charisma, probably makes a better opponent than Kerr. Also announced were singles matches with Naoya Ogawa, Tatsuhito Takaiwa and Shinjiro Otani, plus Mike Henderson vs. Naohiro Hoshikawa and Masato Tanaka vs. Hubert Numrich (a former K-1 and MMA fighter who wasn't particularly good, but was something like 6-7 and 275 pounds so he had size and a mean look to him). Kiyoshi Tamura is debuting a protege here. Still nothing definite where Tamura will end up after leaving RINGS. He could be a coup within pro wrestling, but it depends on where his mentality is these days."

October 29, 2001:

"The RINGS promotion, clinging to life, is still doing their annual King of Kings tournament which started on 10/20 in Tokyo. The tournament was its highest profile event of the year going back to its inception as a pro wrestling tournament which often came down to Akira Maeda and Volk Han in their peak period. Over the past two years, it was replaced by a shoot tournament, which ended up being won by Dan Henderson in 2000 and Antonio Nogueira (who probably should have on in 2000 but was robbed of a decision in a match with Henderson) in 2001, both of whom ended up jumping to Pride after winning the tournament and having some pretty good success. This year, with the company in financial straights and probably one of many companies right now clinging to existence, there were no huge names involved in the show, which saw a lot of long-time RINGS regulars like Lee Hasdell of England, Chris Haseman of Australia and Hiromitsu Kanehara advance along with Fedor Emelianenko (the company's current world heavyweight champion from Russia), Egidijus Valavicius of Lithuania. Han, who put up a much better showing against Nogueira in a shoot than either Mark Coleman or Gary Goodridge, is not entering the tournament this year and has basically said his shooting days are over [I get it -- ed]. Maeda did manage a promotional tie-up with Caesar Takeshi's Shoot Boxing Alliance which sent a fighter to his show."

November 26, 2001:

"As usual, we need to clarify the term shooting as it pertains to the awards. We have categories specifically for actual competitive matches, the Shoot fighter of the year and Shoot match of the year. All UFC, Pride, MMA, Pancrase and RINGS matches are eligible for the shoot awards. Considering for Shoot fighter of the year should be based entirely on participation and results of legitimate matches during the time frame and nothing else. Performance in shoot matches can be taken into consideration for Wrestler of the Year, since that award encompasses the entire pro wrestling world and there are pro wrestlers who have achieved huge popularity through their participation in legitimate matches this year."


"After first being turned down for a return due to head injuries from the past, after passing a physical, RINGS has brought back former pro wrestler Kenichi Yamamoto (who once lost to Pat Miletich in a UFC lightweight title match) for the 12/21 Yokohama show to face Genki Sudo."


"Only the two title matches are official for the 1/11 UFC show. They were attempting a Ricco Rodriguez vs. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka match, but Kohsaka had already committed to a match for RINGS on 12/21 in Yokohama and UFC didn't want to promote a match with the guy fighting a few weeks before their show due to the potential of injury, given the famed UFC curse."

and in a "This Week in History" kind of thing, which was confusing to come across:

"Akira Maeda went to Russia to finalize the deal that brought Alexander Karelin in for his one and only pro wrestling match and that turned out to be the high point in the history of the RINGS promotion, which seems in gave danger today of closing up."

December 24, 2001:

"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Saw a tape of the 11/13 debut of the T2P promotion, which is Ultimo Dragon's newest promotion, from Korakuen Hall. As mentioned before, they use the six-sided ring that AAA uses. The show was tremendous. If there was a question who the best pro wrestling trainer in the world is a few months ago, there is no question today. It's one thing to have one or two guys that you've trained wind up being good workers, but when you've got a dozen rookies who are all tremendous, it speaks volumes for your methods. This crew is much better than the original Toryumon guys (Cima, Suwa, Dragon Kid, Magnum Tokyo, etc.) were at the same stage. They do a style of wrestling that mixes all forms, from Pride submissions, to RINGS matwork, to Lucha, to Japanese style and even a little American punch kick (which, since these guys grew up not watching as much American as the other styles, is what they are weakest at). But from a creativity and innovative perspective, these guys are great. They not only do moves I've never seen, but are amazing in logically getting into and out of them as they work a style very realistic in base. This is the group to watch for next year."

December 31, 2001:

"2001 will never be looked back upon as being a great year for wrestling. Wrestling always has its ups and downs, but usually there is someone doing well when someone else isn't. This past year, with the exception of the Pride promotion, nearly every company did worse than would have been expected one year ago.

Sometimes, like in 1993, when wrestling was at something of a creative lull with some of the major companies, new promotions with new ideas (UFC, K-1, Pancrase, ECW, Michinoku Pro) form and spark the business to a stronger rebound. This year was the year of the creative lull, but instead of new promotions, we saw WCW and ECW fold once, and then the fantasy versions of them fold a second time in an angle so botched that in many people's eyes it forever removed the tag genius booker and replaced it with one very lucky SOB on the Vince McMahon resume. We saw RINGS on the brink of going under."


"The other pro wrestlers had a mixed bag, with Daijiro Matsui getting a weird DQ win in a fight that never really happened, Norihisa Yamamoto easily destroyed K-1's giant, while Alexander Otsuka took an expected beating from Pride's light heavyweight world champion, Vanderlei Silva. Valentijn Overeem, who did some pro wrestling and some shoot matches with the worked shoot RINGS group, wound up on the losing end to Igor Vovchanchyn."


"4. Norihisa Yamamoto (Yoshihisa Yamamoto, long-time veteran formerly with RINGS) defeated Jan Nortje, the 6-10, 320 pound K-1 Giant in 1:43. Yamamoto took him down quickly and maneuvered him into an armbar. Nortje, as you can imagine, was lost as soon as it went to the ground. This match totally exposed the whole giant gimmick when it comes to a real fight. A giant with no wrestling experience can be taken down by someone who isn't even a top flight wrestler (Maeda vs. Andre) and once on their back, unless they've trained for it, they are going to be lost. Nortje had the stand-up training and reach where he should have had a chance, but once taken down, none of that mattered."


"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: RINGS will have its annual tournament finals on 2/15 at Yokohama Bunka Gym. Because the company has financial problems, there is virtually no interest in what in years past was considered one of the major events of the year, and would be held usually at much larger Budokan Hall."

January 7, 2002:

"RINGS, the first pro wrestling company to start out as a worked promotion and end up as a 100% shoot promotion, officially folded with the announcement of the company liquidation at a press conference by CEO Akira Maeda on 12/27.

The folding, effective after the company's final show, the traditional annual tournament finals on 2/15 at Yokohama Bunka Gym, may also spell the end of Maeda, one of the most influential pro wrestlers in history when it comes to influence on the evolution of the business. Due to that, the legacy of Maeda, 42, perhaps the single most important person when it comes to the popularity of both shoot style pro wrestling and actual shooting in Japan, will continue to shape the future industry. It is expected this will spell the end of Maeda's career in the pro wrestling and MMA world due to his unpopularity within both worlds in recent years, but stranger things have happened.

In its nearly 11 years, RINGS created the popularity of many of the biggest stars in today's Pride such as Antonio Nogueira and Gilbert Yvel. Before going to an all-shoot format in late 1999, the company had promoted some of the greatest technical pro wrestling matches in history, largely involving Kiyoshi Tamura in his various battles with the likes of Volk Han, Ilioukhine Mikhail, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka and Yoshihisa (now Pride fighter Norihisa) Yamamoto. It also created its own stable of pro wrestling stars, and while switching formats, forced all of them to go into shoot matches to defend their reputations, with both good and bad results.

The closing of the promotion was hardly unexpected. In fact, just last week in the year in review, it was noted that the company was on the verge of closing down. After WOWOW, its television network, a Japanese version of HBO that used its house shows for prime time specials, cut back its sponsorship money to the company last year, it was forced to scale back what it could pay to fighters and had to cut several of its fighters from contract. The company had already suffered a major blow when its biggest star, Tamura, quit in May, largely after being overworked, and the resulting injuries destroyed his career as he was losing match after match. It was a double edged sword as the company needed him on the shows to draw, even though the reality was he wasn't, due to a number of reasons, timing, a bad loss at the wrong time, size, the draw hoped for. But by overworking him and him losing so frequently, he lost whatever was left of his drawing power. Due to its financial problems and better offers, RINGS continually lost the stars it created to the Pride promotion.

There were numerous factors that caused the once hot promotion to fall in popularity over the past three plus years, far beyond the problems with Tamura. Its ultimate demise was, like most major chapters in the history of this industry, decided upon in a television board room, not that unlike the demise of WCW and a very different but equally revolutionary ECW. The death of RINGS, just weeks after the death of Battlarts (a descendent of Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi) leaves just Pancrase as the last active descendant of the UWF movement of the late 1980s, although the worked shoot style it revolutionized really died with the death of Battlarts, since RINGS had abandoned it for good more than two years ago.

One of the major network executives responsible for supporting RINGS had left the company and was replaced by a new director who didn't see RINGS as important to the station, and earmarked the company's sports budget more in the direction of other sports, soccer in particular. WOWOW used to promote RINGS in its infancy as one of its prime sporting events, very much similar to how HBO does its big boxing events. But once Maeda retired, the mainstream appeal was gone, and with the audience dropping, it had become an afterthought on the station. Maeda was informed earlier this month that the new director of sports programming had decided against renewing the contract when it expired on 3/30, and privately told the six fighters left under contract [a roster so tiny it would seem so even in ファイナルファイヤープロレスリング~夢の団体運営 (Final Fire Pro Wrestling: Yume no Dantai Unei! {Final Fire Pro Wrestling: Organization of Dreams {{Final Fire Pro Wrestling: Dream Organization Management}}) of this and that it spelled the death knell for the company on 12/21 at their show in Yokohama. It was the WOWOW sponsorship money that not only kept the company afloat for nearly 11 years, but allowed it to expand, running shows in places such as Holland, Georgia (Soviet Georgia), Russia, the United States (largely unsuccessful all shoot events in Iowa and Hawaii) and Australia largely as television specials for the station. Much like WCW, there were a lot of problems, not all related to loss of popularity, and perhaps even more due to the feeling it was a corporate embarrassment, that played a hand in the decision.

The hot-tempered Maeda was known for violent outbursts in public from the early days of his pro wrestling career in New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he was booker Hisashi Shinma's hand-picked successor when found as an 18-year-old karate star in 1977 as the biggest star in the Japanese wrestling world when Antonio Inoki would step down. He had his fights outside the ring. He all too often would lose his temper at reporters, which played a part in killing him at the end. His violent outbursts alienated many of his former supporters and eventually led to him being considered something of an embarrassment as the head of a sports organization, none of which helped him when it came time for his contract to be renewed. He was arrested this past year in the United States on a domestic violence charge against his secret wife [this is all still so wild to me; I had never heard anyone speak of any of this stuff *ever* -- ed]. He also allegedly attacked Pancrase President Masami Ozaki when he thought Ozaki was trying to steal Jeremy Horn in a civil case which is still pending. He was also sucker punched backstage at a UFC event by Yoji Anjo in front of tons of media, to the point many were initially suspicious it was just a pro wrestling angle, although clearly it wasn't and Anjo was arrested. Anjo worked with him in the second UWF but later split apart as Maeda would constantly knock everyone publicly and many times challenged Yuko Miyato to fight (UWFI booker, another former UWF wrestler who had knocked RINGS) and always knocked rival promotions. Tokyo Sports, like many in the martial arts world, who didn't like Maeda by this time, considered, due to his history, this sucker punch being a case of poetic justice and not the cowardly act it also was. In its coverage, the newspaper blamed Maeda for getting what he deserved, noting some of his past indiscretions. Maeda was furious at the coverage and punched a reporter from the newspaper in full view of numerous members of the media in August after a meeting with New Japan to set up interpromotional ideas that he was hoping would save his company. Due to the incident receiving so much negative coverage, New Japan refused to work with Maeda. The newspaper, the largest sports daily in Japan, then refused to cover RINGS events, which greatly hurt the group's popularity.

In October, there was another embarrassing story in Weekly Friday, a popular businessman's magazine with huge circulation, which was somehow given possession of a videotape shot three years earlier backstage at a show in Kagoshima. Maeda, upset at Wataru Sakata for his performance in a match, beat the hell out of him and practically tortured him in the dressing room after the match. The combination of these type of stories and the promotion's fading popularity combined with a non-wrestling fan put in charge of the sports budget at WOWOW were the death blows to the organization.

Maeda being the biggest star in Japanese wrestling never materialized, as Inoki, like so many before and after him, had no intention of stepping down before those who were hungry for his spot became frustrated and fans at the time tired of him. But in other ways, he became far more important because of the industry changes he brought. When Shinma was ousted from New Japan in 1983 for numerous financial improprieties, he formed a new promotion in early 1984, called the UWF. After Inoki backed out on a promise to join him, Shinma used Maeda, then 24 and already a major player in New Japan, as his big star. Maeda, through the influence of Karl Gotch, the original coach of all the top stars with the new promotion (Maeda, veterans Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Osamu Kido and future stars Nobuhiko Takada and Kazuo Yamazaki), changed the face of wrestling by popularizing the term shooting, building a wrestling style around suplexes, submissions and kicks. While the first UWF was not a shoot, it looked more realistic, and most of the audience believed it to be the real deal. UWF gained a large cult following in Tokyo becoming the hottest show at Korakuen Hall in 1984-85, particularly when it lured Satoru Sayama out of retirement (which ended up forcing Shinma out of the promotion he formed when Sayama did a he goes or I go power play), but couldn't draw on the road. Maeda would frequently do interviews during this period insulting Inoki, an idea very similar to Paul Heyman's for Shane Douglas on Ric Flair, only with 100 times the impact since everyone knew about it. Amid a major news scandal involving Sayama and financial problems, and a final event which saw a Maeda-Sayama match turn into a real shoot after the two were at odds for control of the group, for a few minutes (the much-smaller Sayama, recognizing he was in trouble, kept trying to kick Maeda in the groin to get disqualified), the promotion folded. To great fanfare, Maeda went back to New Japan as a hotter star than ever. During his UWF days, Maeda frequently knocked American pro wrestlers (which haunted him later as most of the Americans didn't cooperate with him when he had to return to New Japan, giving him the rep that while he was great wrestling Japanese, he couldn't work with Americans, which was partially his fault as he came across to the Americans as having an attitude that he was above them), would get enraged at fans at house shows what would make a comment that the new style was boring.

The 1986-87 period with New Japan changed pro wrestling in that country forever. The feud with Maeda, Takada, Fujiwara and Yamazaki against the New Japan wrestlers was huge box office, and created a hardcore awareness of submissions like armbars, kneebars, Fujiwara armbars and half crabs as finishers. But the less spectacular submissions, while building up great heat and selling tickets for a hot feud, also was apparently so technical that it hurt casual fan interest and TV ratings in prime time started falling, which eventually resulted in New Japan's TV show being taken out of prime time and moved to Saturday afternoons. Years later, it was moved to Saturday nights past midnight, a death time slot, although it still did very strong business with the bad time slot. But it was a style years ahead of its time, and while older fans didn't understand it, when the kids who thought it was cool got older, it spawned the education and understanding of a new form of realistic pro wrestling, and later actually real pro wrestling, which led to the MMA boom that changed Japanese wrestling forever.

There were several incidents both in and out of the ring that defined the period. Maeda was a hothead with a shooter rep, and had steadfastly refused to put anyone over except Fujiwara, who his audience considered "real" and his equal, leading to booking problems since the big money Inoki vs. Maeda match couldn't be booked. In fact, it never took place (they did end up resolving some of their differences and worked in tag matches, but neither would ever put the other over). He once punched out Keiji Muto, another of the company's rising stars, in a bar. He had the infamous 1986 shoot with Andre the Giant, which was someone in the company's attempt rile up the Giant to humiliate Maeda and kill his shooter rep by not cooperating with him. The result backfired. Once Maeda figured out what was going on and it turned into a shoot, Maeda's quickness and leg kicking ability largely humiliated the aging and possibly drunk Giant [a glorious turn of phrase --ed.], who most in wrestling thought to be unbeatable in a street fight. Maeda took him down at will and Andre could never touch him, and by the end, couldn't even stand up because his legs had taken so much punishment and he was blown up.

Maeda's rep grew on October 9, 1986 when he defeated a world champion kickboxer, Don Nakaya Neilsen, in a worked mixed match which was a classic at the time, as the semi-main event on a show headlined by a disastrous match with Inoki against Leon Spinks. With the largest audience to watch pro wrestling in ten years (drawing a 28.9 TV rating), since the Ali-Inoki match, the general public saw Inoki struggle in a disastrous match, while Maeda shined in what was called at the time the greatest mixed martial arts match in history. Although the term hardcore was later changed by Heyman and used to describe a very different style, Maeda was actually during that period the first ever king of hardcore, with cult fans thinking he was really the toughest of all the pro wrestlers. One night at Korakuen Hall, he was booked in a singles match with Kerry Von Erich, an American superstar. The place was packed with Maeda supporters longing to see their hero humiliate a fake U.S. star, but instead, when booked as an evenly-fought double count out, fans were furious, and not in a heat building way, leaving Maeda was even more frustrated with how he was being used. This led to a later date in the same building and rumors were out before the show that something was going to happen. And it did. In a six-man pitting a UWF team against New Japan, Riki Choshu, New Japan's most popular wrestler at the time, held Kido in a scorpion deathlock, which tied up his hands and left him defenseless. Maeda came in for the save, and kicked Choshu, full force, in the eye, breaking Choshu's orbital bone and his eye began swelling up and bleeding. The blow actually didn't knock Choshu out, or even down and you can imagine how furious he was, but Masa Saito managed to calm everything down before it got out of hand in the ring, although Choshu did do a number on Maeda's belongings when he got to the dressing room.

Maeda was suspended immediately for the unprofessional act. New Japan was willing to bring him back if he agreed to several stipulations, including six months of having to wrestle in Mexico (doing Lucha Libre or American style would be the ultimate insult because of everything he had said) as well as put Choshu over clean in a singles match because in its own bizarre way the incident had hurt Choshu's reputation with the fans. Instead, Maeda got backers, and in 1988, the second UWF was formed. While the first UWF was only a success in Tokyo, Maeda's name had grown from the two years of New Japan TV, and mainstream fans understood the style better from its television exposure. Not unlike Vince McMahon, and Rikidozan before him, the man who perpetrated the unprofessional and cowardly act benefitted by their business growing to greater heights than anyone could imagine. Maeda, in the eyes of many fans, was the guy so hardcore he wanted to fight for real and New Japan fired him for it, and now he was going to have his own company where the pro wrestlers fought for real.

It immediately become the hottest wrestling promotion in the world, selling out every show in minutes behind Maeda, who was voted 1988 Wrestler of the Year, still the only wrestler in history not in one of the big four historical promotions of this generation (NWA/WCW, WWF, All Japan or New Japan) to win the award. The peak was on November 29, 1989, when Maeda became the first wrestler ever to sellout the Tokyo Dome, drawing the largest gate in wrestling history up to that point ($2.9 million) for his match with European judo champion Willie Wilhelm. But due to mismanagement with finances, that company folded barely one year later, leading to the three top stars, Maeda, Takada and Fujiwara, going their separate ways. And all having a hand in changing pro wrestling forever.

Fujiwara formed Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi, which had the least success of the three, but ended up leading to the most revolutionary move of all, when the group's three top younger stars, Wayne Shamrock (who later became famous as Ken Shamrock), Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki quit, largely frustrated at the aging Fujiwara's refusal to pass the torch to them. In 1993, they formed Pancrase, the first attempt at doing legitimate pro wrestling matches. Takada formed UWFI, which was hot as hell for several years, but collapsed rather quickly for a number of reasons, part of which was Takada's never facing Rickson Gracie after the incident where Gracie destroyed Anjo in a dojo fight. But Takada's fame from that period led not only to the hottest feud up to that point in pro wrestling history with the New Japan vs. UWFI feud and Takada's string of record breaking houses against the New Japan stars in 1995-96. Years later, when the Takada-Rickson Gracie matches finally took place, it put Pride on the map.

Maeda went his own way, figuratively turning his back on pro wrestling, by teaming with WOWOW to do an offshoot of the UWF, only claiming it to not be pro wrestling, even though it was, and claiming it to be a new sport they were going to invent called RINGS. His first goal was to avoid all ties with pro wrestling, by not using any North Americans or Mexicans, even if they had experience with only so-called (worked) shoot promotions. His talent instead came from contacts that gave him access to Eastern European Olympic athletes, Russian sambo champions and big real fighters, street fighters and bouncers from Holland. The idea was not to use anyone with a taint of pro wrestling in them, a doctrine they didn't always follow. Many of his hardcore followers were mad, when years later, Maeda brought in Fujiwara to be his opponent on a big show, but it ended up being a major financial success. A modern day James Naismith was his new goal.

Because Maeda was such a big mainstream name and draw, RINGS, which opened in May 1991 was drawing huge crowds for monthly shows to see Maeda face largely unknown fighters. The shows were built around Maeda as the big draw, and a famous karate fighter named Masaaki Satake, an aging Holland Sambo legend named Chris Dolman [HE IS A JON BLUMING JUDO GUY ALSO THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A HOLLAND SAMBO LEGEND -- ed.] and his stable of fierce Amsterdam street fighters and bouncers, most notably Dick Vrij, Maeda's first major opponent, and Hanse Nyman. One of his leading promoters was a Seido Kaikan karate studio owner named Kazuyoshi Ishii, who learned about the promotion of pro wrestling, brought it to the martial arts world, and two years later, created K-1 with Satake as his first major drawing card. The original Battle Dimension tournament in 1992, a worked format which led to the popularity of similar tournaments in the shoot world, featured future K-1 stars Satake and Nobuaki Kikuta doing worked pro wrestling matches. In a first round match on October 29, 1992, Maeda beat a reputed sambo champion from Russia named Volk Han. Han would go on to become his greatest in-ring rival, one of the most popular foreigners athletes of the decade in Japan and the 90's great innovator in submission and worked shoot wrestling.

RINGS would often do shoot matches on the undercard, although that wasn't revolutionary because UWF had done some shoots as well, although never with any of the big names. The ultimate Maeda irony was that his dream was to create a sport, not pro wrestling organization, where they would fight for real under pro wrestling rules. RINGS started with points for knockdowns and rope breaks, and with no closed fist punching. As UFC style fighting gained popularity, rope breaks and points were eliminated and finally, fighters started wearing gloves and punching was legalized. The only difference RINGS maintained to the end as compared to a Pride, Pancrase or UFC, was no closed fist punching or knees on the ground, leading to more of an emphasis on submission technique as opposed to brawling and ground-and-pound. With more frequent stand-ups, it created a cleaner and faster-paced and less brutal looking sport. But it was also one less marketable, particularly in countries that had seen UFC or Vale Tudo first like the United States. In the end, Maeda temporarily did achieve his goal. But he himself had to retire to do so, because he himself was never willing to risk his reputation in a shoot.

Maeda and Han largely carried the promotion through its most successful box office period through 1996. After Yamamoto, who had been a jobber up to that point, went 21:00 in his first shoot match ever, against none other than Rickson Gracie, he started getting pushed as the guy who would replace Maeda on top. But it was a struggle, as Maeda's bad knees forced several operations, and business was always weak during his time off using Yamamoto on top. Finally, when Tamura, already something of a big star as Takada's No. 2 star in UWFI, who started with the original UWF as a teenager and was injured in his first match by Maeda, refused to participate in the New Japan vs. UWFI feud, he chose RINGS above Pancrase and was an immediate big hit. Tamura largely carried the main events in 1996, and even though he was just 185-pounds, his ability to make worked matches look real and combine pro wrestling psychology with shoot tactics made him an in ring phenomenon. Some would say he was the best performer in the entire business, and he became an immediate drawing card as every wrestler who jumps promotions with a name should be when handled correctly. With Maeda out, Tamura and Han saved the 1996-97 tournament and had a classic final match on January 22, 1997 before 11,800 fans at Budokan Hall with Han winning. Maeda, whose knees and conditioning had gotten so bad by this point he was a shell of his former self, knew retirement was near. He put Tamura over by submission in the semifinals of the 1997-98 tournament and Tamura, in spectacular fashion, won the tournament to become officially the group's No. 1 star.

But despite Tamura's skill and charisma, the promotion was never the same after Maeda retired on July 20, 1998 on what up to that point was the group's biggest show in its history, selling out the Yokohama Arena with 17,000 fans. When Maeda retired, the promotion started doing more and more shooting matches, to where it became 50% of most cards. This led to a few exciting pro wrestling matches mixed in with slower and duller shoots involving a lot of heavyweight Olympic style wrestlers with little experience in either striking or submissions, a recipe that led to falling gates, although the loss of Maeda was probably more important to the popularity going down. Another match of huge impact was when unheralded kickboxer Valentijn Overeem from Holland, who had waxed undercard fighter Wataru Sakata in a shoot match on a RINGS show in Holland, was brought over for a shoot match to get eaten up by the more skilled Tamura. While Overeem had Tamura by 30 pounds, Tamura had beaten people like that in the past, usually in the blink of an eye, because he was an expert for real at submissions. Even though it was only three years ago, it was a generation ago from a fighting standpoint, as the overall skill level of fighters hadn't evened out enough to where a weight disadvantage like that couldn't be overcome by greater skill. However, Overeem showed up with submission knowledge that nobody expected, and the unknown totally embarrassed Tamura, injuring him in the process, and badly hurting his rep. Ironically in Tamura, they had the real deal, as he proved with shoot wins over the likes of Renzo Gracie (Renzo's first ever professional loss), UFC champs like Maurice Smith, Pat Miletich and Dave Menne, as well as UFC stars like Elvis Sinosic and Jeremy Horn. He even had a 30:00 draw with Frank Shamrock which remains the only blemish on Shamrock's record in the last six years and to this day Shamrock says Tamura was the best kicker he was ever in the ring with. But Tamura's drawing power was never the same after the first Overeem match, even when he managed to get revenge via submission in a worked match a year later. The frequent shoot matches after the change in format led to him being overworked and broke his body down. After Tamura won the RINGS world heavyweight title, at 185 pounds, in a worked match against 320-pound Bitszadze Tariel (the one RINGS major star who was totally exposed when they went to shoots), he took a horrible beating when he lost the title as a shoot to Yvel, who had him by probably 35 pounds. Tamura could have won the match as he could take Yvel down at will, but due to the frequent stand-ups ordered by the ref, took terrible punishment as he couldn't hang with him standing. He was never the same in the ring, and after a series of losses, quit the promotion in May, which signalled publicly that the end was likely near.

From a notoriety standpoint, the company's biggest event ever was on February 21, 1999, when Maeda came out of retirement for the first and only pro wrestling match of Alexander Karelin. Karelin, who, with more than 250 consecutive wins in Greco-roman wrestling dating back 12 years and three Olympic gold medals, was considered by many to be the single greatest wrestler who ever lived. A ripped to shreds 296-pound Karelin beat Maeda is a very believable looking (so believable that to this day within the amateur wrestling world, Maeda's getting a submission rope break point on Karelin in the match was used as evidence that even the mighty Karelin could have been beaten in UFC) pro wrestling match. Karelin won via points, and gave Maeda quite a beating even though it was worked, before 17,048 paying $2,479,000 at Yokohama Arena--the largest gate ever for a pro wrestling match in an arena setting. While Karelin was the most famous, he was hardly the only Olympic level competitor brought to RINGS to do what amounted to pro wrestling matches. In fact, more Olympic athletes worked for RINGS likely than any pro wrestling promotion in history. The list includes Hank Numan (1980 bronze medal in judo for Holland), Dan Henderson (1992 and 1996 U.S. Olympic wrestler), Kiril Barbuto (Bulgarian 1992 Olympic wrestler), David Khakhalesshvili (Georgian judo player who beat Naoya Ogawa to win the 1992 superheavyweight gold medal), Pieter Smit (1992 Holland judo), Svilen Russinov (Bulgarian boxer who was 1992 bronze medalist), Zaza Tkeschelaschvili (1996 Georgia freestyle wrestler who became something of a cult favorite as Grom Zaza), Zaza Turminadze (1996 Bulgarian freestyle wrestler), Gogitidze Bakrouri (1996 Bulgarian Greco-roman wrestler) and Georgi Kandalaki (Bulgarian boxer).

In 1999, Maeda changed the annual tournament, and thus the promotion itself, to an all-shoot format, with an outstanding tournament won by Henderson. But by this time the company was being picked apart by Pride, which immediately raided Henderson. It also raided Yvel right after he won the world heavyweight title from Tamura.

Things had come full circle for the group, which in 1998 promoted some of the best pro wrestling matches in the world, when on February 24, 2001 at Sumo Hall in its final hurrah, before a near sellout of 10,260, it promoted perhaps the best shoot tournament ever in terms of excitement and easily the most underrated show of the year. Future UFC champ Menne had an incredible match with pro wrestler Hiromitsu Kanehara. Past the age of 40, the groups' most famous foreign star ever, Han, in a shoot format, lost via decision to Nogueira, and he turned out to be the most competitive of any opponent Nogueira faced all year, which showed that Han's reputation as a shooter that he brought to RINGS in the early 90s was legitimate. Nogueira later beat Kanehara and Overeem (who had tapped out UFC heavyweight champ Randy Couture in the semifinals in 56 seconds) to win the tournament. But Nogueira and Overeem were then snatched up by Pride.

Finally recognizing the mistakes they made by putting Tamura in with much bigger guys, who he was almost always competitive with but his body was breaking down, they created a 198-pound division for Tamura to win, but by this time his injuries were such that he wasn't even competitive with top guys of his own size. Instead, Ricardo Arona won the tournament, and immediately thereafter, was the next to jump to Pride."


"On the 12/21 RINGS show, Kenichi Yamamoto re-appeared. Yamamoto had to retire more than a year ago due to brain damage from too many beatings. He brought out his UFC belt that he won on November 14, 1999 winning an under-200 pound tournament and "defended" it against former Pancrase fighter Genki Sudo. Yamamoto has dropped down from just under 200 as a pro wrestler and UFC fighter to 162, but was choked out by Sudo, and then handed him his belt."


"Pride is planning on doing a third Inoki festival in August. Promoter Naoto Morishita confirmed they were working on a deal with Pancrase to get Sanae Kikuta, Yuki Kondo, Yoshiki Takahashi and Ikuhisa Minowa as new Japanese stars. They are also likely to bring in pro wrestler Hiromitsu Kanehara, since RINGS went under. Kanehara, 31, was one of those really underrated pro wrestler/fighters (his worked match with Sakuraba is probably the greatest match in history when it comes to a worked match looking real) in RINGS matches is one of those guys who has had the knack for having really exciting fights, and has beaten some good fighters legit, but by this stage has probably done too many fights and taken too much punishment so we'll probably wind up in a Matsui, Shoji, Otsuka like role. DSE recognizes with Sakuraba and Fujita both hurt that they need to create new native draws. Problem is that Kikuta, who probably has the best shot at being competitive with Silva, is not very charismatic. Minowa, who is the most charismatic, doesn't have a good shot. Kondo is probably the best mix of the two."

January 14, 2002:

"Pride announced that their first show outside Japan would be in Honolulu outdoors at Aloha Stadium in late July. That's one hell of a risk in a new country where the company doesn't have the media penetration and acceptance of the sport that Japan provides, plus none of the names are mainstream in Hawaii and the place holds 50,000. If this show goes off, it would likely be as a live PPV in the U.S. RINGS died when running indoors at the Blaisdell Center in Honolulu, although there have been successful SuperBrawl shows for many years. They talked about having Sakuraba and Fujita headline that show."

January 21, 2002:

"Last year there were really four candidates for Wrestler of the Year who in a typical year had the credentials to win, Kazushi Sakuraba, Rock, Toshiaki Kawada and eventual winner, HHH. If you look at the year everyone had this year, I don't think anyone based on this year would have cracked that top four. I think everyone knew this year was coming down to Keiji Muto and Steve Austin, since the vast majority of ballots had them 1-2, usually with Muto as 1. HHH and Chris Benoit missed too much of the year due to injuries, and Rock was absent for too long making the movie and had less impact than expected upon his return. Sakuraba had the drawing power and impact, but he lost his two big matches. Kurt Angle and Yuji Nagata were awesome in the ring, but both were in the role of putting others over in the big matches most of the year and only having a taste (two short WWF title reigns for Angle where he was portrayed except for the very short second one as not being one of the top stars even with the belt, and a ridiculously short WCW title reign; G-1 tournament for Nagata) of the brass ring. From a shoot standpoint, Sakuraba was the biggest star, and in a pro wrestling sense, when it comes to drawing power and value to a company whose popularity increased throughout the year, he has the credentials to win. But he only did five matches during the calendar year, and lost his two biggest matches. I considered Angle, Vanderlei Silva and Antonio Nogueira for third. From a shoot standpoint, Nogueira had an incredible year with wins over Volk Han, Hiromitsu Kanehara, Valentijn Overeem, Gary Goodridge, Mark Coleman and Heath Herring, plus won both Pride's world heavyweight title and the RINGS tournament. Realistically, nobody has ever accomplished as much in a one year period since shooting was popularized in 1993. Silva, in a Wrestler Observer sense when you throw in charisma and value to the promotion, plus winning the title and going unbeaten (two wins over Sakuraba plus wins over Dan Henderson and Shungo Oyama), doesn't have as many wins, but the quality of his wins are probably better overall. Angle inside the pro wrestling ring was awesome, but his face turn flopped and he wasn't a draw, and his character limits him to being a foil rather than a true threat."


"RINGS final show ever on 2/15 in Yokohama was announced as having a double main event, with Fedor Emilianenko vs. Chris Haseman in their last ever annual tournament final to determine their last world heavyweight champ, plus their last remaining long-time stars, Hiromitsu Kanehara faces Mikhail Ilioukhine."


"MMA: It's being reported that the Ken Shamrock-Don Frye match on 2/24 at the Saitama Super Arena will be the biggest combined payday for fighters in the history of MMA. There is talk that the winner of this match would face Antonio Nogueira for the heavyweight title in July at the Honolulu show. Realistically, Ken, who has been fighting at about 211, should trim down to 205 and face Silva rather than Nogueira. Also announced for the show at a press conference this week were Vanderlei Silva defending the middleweight title against Kiyoshi Tamura and Antonio Nogueira facing Enson Inoue in a non-title match. Tamura is a good opponent for Silva, who has the chance to become a Superstar Graham type of heel draw as champion where the new super face comes in to try and challenge him and there is already a lot of buzz in Japan on this match since it's Tamura's first match in a long time and debut with Pride. While a zillion guys have played that role since Graham as a long-term heel champion with them rolling out new top babyfaces to challenge him constantly (WCW based its promotion for years around that concept), I bring Graham up because none could match his record as a draw, partially due to them not compromising the value of the belt in those days. I can see them throwing charismatic Japanese at Silva and him knocking them down and packing buildings until someone comes along and beats him, who will instantly make themselves a superstar. Tamura is the perfect opponent in that he's well known by wrestling fans and has quality wins, but stylistically should be someone Silva should beat. The question with Tamura is how much have his injuries healed as he was really banged up the last year of his career, largely since losing his RINGS world title to Gilbert Yvel in late 1999. At his best, Tamura's strengths are submissions and kicks. Silva has never been submitted, and in a stand-up war, his kicks won't hold up to Silva's punches, and Tamura isn't great at blocking punches since RINGS rules were such that he didn't have to worry about closed fists until late in his career. His takedowns are good, but not as good as people like Dan Henderson and Mike Van Arsdale who weren't able to ground Silva. He can't match Silva standing. With Yvel, who stylistically is similar to Silva standing (but not as good overall because he can't block takedowns as well nor get off his back once taken down as well), Tamura took tremendous punishment, probably way too much, in his title loss. Inoue has been retired since losing to Heath Herring on December 23, 2000. He largely comes across as a somewhat of a name fighter than Nogueira should handle. He's talked about enlisting in the army after the fight. Herring, Carlos Newton and Igor Vovchanchyn were also announced for the show. Some talk of Newton vs. Pele, a tremendous match on paper, but that's not announced at press time. The Gracies have announced Rodrigo Gracie debuting on the show. The announcement of Vovchanchyn at this point circumvents the UFC's planned Pedro Rizzo vs. Vovchanchyn match scheduled for the 3/22 show. They are looking for a new opponent to face Rizzo."

February 4, 2002:

"RINGS has added a five minute exhibition match with Tsuyoshi Kosaka vs. Caol Uno on 2/15 in Yokohama for the company's final show. The last time they did what was billed as an exhibition match with Volk Han and Yoshiaki Fujiwara, it was an old style (as in worked) match. Uno is a 155-pounder and Kosaka is a 225-pounder. Uno grew up as a huge pro wrestling fan and has amazing aptitude for it and he and Kosaka are very good friends. Kosaka used to have incredible pro wrestling style matches in the old RINGS with Kiyoshi Tamura, Han and Yoshihisa Yamamoto. In another apparent worked match for its final show, they are billing a match with Han vs. Andrei Kopylov, who were two of Akira Maeda's early rivals in the promotion, as a match under original RINGS rules."


"A big question in the Silva-Tamura match besides how fully Tamura has recovered from being overworked in RINGS, is Tamura's adapting. Tamura is a "sport fighter" if you get my drift, used to fighting within certain rules. His punch defense isn't strong because he learned fighting open-hand style where you didn't get as much damage from the blow. He's great at submissions from a work pro wrestling standpoint, but has never shown it against top level fighters. His kicking, particularly to the body, is excellent. He's never been in a match that allows punches to the face or kicks to the face on the ground, and that's Silva's style."


"Mirko Cro Cop continued his winning ways against pro wrestlers on the 1/27 K-1 show in Shizuoka before 5,800 fans with a kick to the eye of Ryushi Yanagisawa, who formerly was with PWFG, Pancrase and RINGS, which busted up Yanagisawa and the doctor stopped the fight at 2:49."

February 11, 2002:

"No doubt shootfighter of the year was gong to be a three-person race, Vanderlei Silva, Tito Ortiz and Antonio Nogueira. they all faced top competition in high profile matches and were unbeaten for the year. Kazushi Sakuraba may have been the biggest star, but he lost twice. Randy Couture lost once. Pedro Rizzo lost twice. B.J. Penn hadn't won a title. My pick was Nogueira because of the variety of his wins. He won both the 32-man RINGS tournament and the Pride world heavyweight title in the same year. Silva had his two wins over Sakuraba that were more high profile and a win over Dan Henderson in a hell of a fight, so you can't argue it as a bad pick. Silva was the bigger star and more charismatic, but I think what Nogueira accomplished was more impressive inside the ring."

February 18, 2002:

"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Akira Maeda was on a national radio show saying he would be opening up a new company in the fall, but didn't know much else about it. RINGS officially closes with its final show on 2/15."

February 25, 2002:

"When wrestling magazine writers Wally Yamaguchi and Mickey Ibaragi and retired All Japan wrestler Atsushi Onita promoted an independent show in Nagoya on October 6, 1989, they changed wrestling forever.

While small-time independent shows did exist at college gyms and the like, their coverage on a national scale was just like independent wrestling in the 70s in the United States--virtually non-existent. The show was headlined by a bloodbath match with Onita, a mid-card one-time junior heavyweight champion in All Japan who had retired four years earlier due to bad knees, and karate expert Masashi Aoyagi. The wrestler vs. karate theme, before such ideas had been done to death, and in Aoyagi's home town of Nagoya, was a huge success for such a modest budget show with more than 1,000 fans attending. That night after the show in a restaurant in Nagoya, Onita and Ibaragi were talking about their success and said their goal was short-term. They just hoped they could keep their indie up for a year.

The company changed its face after Onita sold his stock to Shoichi Arai, and was later forced out of the company. The company had been struggling for the past few years, and the career ending injury to its top star, Hayabusa, may have been the nail in the coffin. Nearly $1 million in debt to the bank, with checks bouncing the previous few days and the word getting out, and with wrestlers being owed money, the company announced it was closing shop on 2/17. Some of the wrestlers, including Kodo Fuyuki, Kintaro Kanemura, Yoshito Sasaki and Tetsuhiro Kuroda showed up that same day on the IWA show at Korakuen Hall to start a fake interpromotional angle. Actually they had already booked that angle where FMW owner Shoichi Arai was going to attack IWA owner Kiyoshi Asano, but Arai didn't come and Fuyuki and Kanemura came in his place, claiming that nobody knew where Arai was. While not officially announcing bankruptcy yet, the feeling is that is inevitable. The group also had huge high-interest debts they had taken out to stay afloat. This makes the third Japanese promotion to close up in recent months, with Battlarts promoting its final show at the end of last year and RINGS promoting its final show on 2/15."


"OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Akira Maeda was arrested on 2/14 on aggravated assault charges stemming from a May 25, 2000 alleged attack on Pancrase President Masami Ozaki at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Tokyo. The timing of the arrest as being the day before the final RINGS show was not a coincidence. The incident stemmed from Maeda seeing Ozaki talking in the hotel restaurant with Jeremy Horn, and, believing Ozaki was trying to steal Horn from his promotion, he attacked him. Maeda had a reputation in Japan of having a terrible temper and punching people, almost always smaller than him, when he got mad, and because of his celebrity status, it came without reprisals because nobody would ever press charges. He had punched other wrestlers, although them pressing charges would come off badly, as well as innocent reporters. The show ended up drawing a packed house of 4,280 at Yokohama Bunka Gym and Fedor Emelianenko became the final annual tournament champion and last world heavyweight champion beating Chris Haseman in 2:50. They had two worked matches with RINGS' all-time biggest foreign star Volk Han going over Andrei Kopylov (his rival as the biggest foreign star in the early days, and both were legit Russian submission masters) and Tsuyoshi Kosaka and his good-friend Caol Uno [I am so happy to hear that they are good friends --ed.] did a 5:00 exhibition draw. The Han match was billed as original RINGS style with rope breaks, points, no closed fists and more old UWF-style pro wrestling. Uno's match was billed as an exhibition for five minutes. Maeda got in the ring and thanked the fans for supporting the company for ten years plus. He said that he was hoping to re-organize and start the promotion back up later this year. The RINGS dojo will be closing this week while the company office will remain open until 3/30, at which point the office staff will all be let go and the few fighters contracts will be done. There was no word about the future of the eight foreign RINGS gyms that the company had. To show the sign of finality, even the dojo ring is being sold [that's dark -- ed.]. The other top match was Hiromitsu Kanehara go to a draw with long-time regular Mikhail Ilioukhine (some said the draw was a gift). Of the top guys, Kosaka will likely fight in UFC soon. Kanehara will most likely wind up in Pride. UFC is looking for Japanese stars because they've got ideas of doing something there. Kanehara, who has been around so long he's almost be considered a pioneer, would probably have to drop to 185 to be competitive and with his thick build and short arms, his body structure may have betrayed him now that others have the same level of experience and athletic ability. Kanehara is one of those fighters who had a lot of talent and was in many exciting fights, often with people much bigger than him, but that has now worked against him because of all his injuries. He said after the show that he needs a few months off to rest, but he'd fight if he got an offer, and talked about Pride or Deep.

2/15 Yokohama Bunka Gym (RINGS - 4,280): Takumi Yano b Hidehiko Matsumoto, Naoyuki Kotani b Yoshinobu, Tatsuzo Yano b Hiroyuki Ito, Hirotaka Yokoe b Katsuhisa Fujii, Sam Nest b Yasuhito Namekawa, Tsuyoshi Kosaka d Caol Uno, Volk Han b Andrei Kopylov, Hiromitsu Kanehara d Mikhail Ilioukhine, Fedor Emelianenko b Chris Haseman."

AND THAT IS A SERIES-WRAP ON FIGHTING NETWORK RINGS as I have waited a few weeks to see if Dave ever got or watched tape but he seems to not have, which is itself super dark when you think about it. Things on the whole got way worse than I thought they would, and Akira Maeda turns out to be an even worse person than we'd figured, and kind of by a lot. 

Or does he: I have just now been to Akira Maeda's Japanese Wikipedia page, and under the section marked トラブル (to-ra-bu-ru, trouble) it states (amongst many other トラブルs):

2001年5月30日付の東京スポーツに「有罪判決 リングス前田 暴行女性は元妻」という記事が1面に掲載されたことに対し、500万円の損害賠償を求めた訴訟を起こす。東京地裁(菅野博之裁判長)は、『米国で有罪判決を受けた』事実、および前田が『暴行,結婚していた』ことは「真実と認められない」と判断し、東スポに200万円の支払いと謝罪広告掲載を命じた(2002年9月13日判決)。

Which seems to say that Maeda sued Tokyo Sports over their claims that he was convicted in America of assaulting his secret wife (to employ once more Dave's phrase) and that the Tokyo District Court sided with Maeda, ordering Tokyo Sports to issue an apology and a payment of 2 million yen? I do not claim to be sure about this at all so please forgive me if I have misled you. My assumption regarding all accusations of assault relating to Akira Maeda is that they are for sure true but on this particular one I guess we are going to have to wait for the relevant Observers to be posted in about six months for clarity as I can't seem to find anything else about it at all.  

UNTIL THAT TIME, my friends, I thank you once again for your attention to the matter of Fighting Network RINGS, a matter which we have now seen through to its dark end. Please take care.