Saturday, March 7, 2020

PRIDE GRANDPRIX 2000 決勝戦(プライドグランプリにせん けっしょうせん)2000年5月1日

PRIDE GRANDPRIX 2000 決勝戦
イベント詳細
シリーズ PRIDE(PRIDE GRANDPRIX)
主催 DSE
開催年月日2000年5月1日
開催地日本 東京都文京区
会場 東京ドーム
試合数全9試合
放送局フジテレビ
入場者数38,429人









WELL BEFORE ANYONE COULD BE REASONABLY EXPECTED TO HAVE READ THE LAST ONE (if you have, thank you; if you have not, I totally get it) WE ARE BACK FOR PRIDE GRANDPRIX 2000 決勝戦 YES THAT'S RIGHT THE FINAL ROUND(S) OF IT and the first thing to be noticed here I guess is that it's like 10,000 fewer 人 (hito) this time around in the same 東京ドーム (Tōkyō Dōmu) than just a few months before. Maybe they too, these hito, dreaded the prospect of a Kazushi Sakuraba/Royce Gracie bout that went on for like an hour and a half? Because that's for sure what has kept me from the 東京ドーム of the mind (by which I mean from doing this writing) for like almost a year. I have not been utterly removed from the 東京ドーム though I guess in that I watched (on my telephone) Wrestle Kingdom (both nights! they probably don't need to do that every year, do they!) and oh yeah hey my pal Cory was actually literally there this year and he brought back some pretty incredible souvenirs for which I wish to thank him once again. Foremost among these excellent things that Cory totally didn't have to bring me but he did and let me thank him once again was a Fighting Network RINGS Battle Dimension 8.21.93 programme in exquisite condition from the 闘道館 Toudoukan (oh, there's an online shop, alright), exquisite pix of which below, but real quick, if you would like to talk about the kanji (who DOESN'T), you will perhaps recognize 闘 tou (fight) from 格闘技 kakutougi (combat sport; one-on-one fighting sport), and for sure you are familiar with 道 dou (I am sticking with adding the letter u rather than inserting macrons here to remain consistent with how the Toudoukan people have chosen to transliterate it) if, from nowhere else, the noble art of 柔道 juudou (one might well say judo) wherein dou is, as you know, the way/The Way (road-way; street; district; journey; course; moral; teachings). And 館 kan is like the kan in 講道館 Koudoukan (house, hall, building). It's the FIGHTWAYHOUSE (that may not be idiomatic). Here then are those pictures you I promised you several hours ago; I have included for scale a largely disinterested cat (in this instance my little pal Doris):





As if that (and a bunch of other neat things!) were not enough, Cory also sent along a wasabi Kit-Kat, which I must admit to being pretty sketch on since the green tea ones are an absolute abomination (and I drink green tea like all-day-everyday out of a little thermos and pour it into the little thermos-top mug, like this is for real the kind of life I lead; I don't buy tea when I'm out I bring home-tea with me and not because it is in any way a fancy kind of green tea it's just from the grocery store this is just how I live this green tea thermos life) but the wasabi Kit-Kat was so great, like if anybody wants to go splits on a case of these, let me know (am I crazy, or is that a lot of gum? it's a lot of gum! haha).

THIS THING IS LIKE FIVE-AND-A-HALF HOURS LONG THOUGH SO PITTER PATTER LET'S GET AT 'ER and I have not mentioned this previously, maybe, but one of my students does some work occasionally as a local mixed martial arts ring announcer and though I have not seen him do this, my understanding, if I remember this correctly, is that his signature thing like in place of LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE or IT'S TIME is to say "do you wanna see a FIGHT?" and honestly that's pretty good I think given the overall context of the failed genre; I mention this because I think PITTER PATTER, LET'S GET AT 'ER could work as well. I am sure I have mentioned that the way Mauro Ranallo, who will be along in a few years, used to (still?) go(es?) "yo yo yo and away we go" seemed so goofy to me when he could just as easily have said "what it do and how are you"; it's right there; it's right there. We are welcomed to this broadcast, the first North American PRIDE FC pay per view, as we learned from Dave Meltzer in our previous post, by a bunch of fighters who have I guess been told to use the word "extreme" when they welcome us to the show in little pre-taped snippets. We have Mark Kerr in his shaved-head semi-pirate mode, Guy Mezger, Gary Goodridge, the weirdly lovely Mark Coleman, and Ken Shamrock, who says "I'm Ken Shamrock, and if you like extreme, stay tuned to watch these fights, cuz we're gonna RAWK" except I don't actually have any idea what he said because it was not possible to pay attention for the duration of the sentence he presumably just now spoke but, again, who can say; there's no earthly way of knowing. 

Pleeeeease dooooooon't do a parade of fiiiiiiiigthers this show is sooooo loooooooong is my plea that seems to be heeded as the big honking PRIDE GP 2000 championship belt and trophy and 20,000,000¥ novelty check are all that are seemingly paraded on this night, and we cut to some deeply æsthetic Kazushi Sakuraba footage that I am definitely going to put up at the very top of the post, if you will excuse me briefly . . . there we are, thank you. "I fight because I like it. I enjoy fighting. It's a though job, though," Sakuraba tells us. Royce Gracie, who I have previously indicated I do not much enjoy, despite all he has done to raise the martial stock of skinny guys in keikogi, also has things to say, but I do not enjoy them. Rather than dwell on what I do not enjoy about him and his whole deal, I will simply refer you to my previous postings, and continue on. Oh man, this is the time Sakuraba comes out as SAKUMACHINE with his buddies! I had forgotten that part! How! The English-language broadcast that I have is an edit (which, at five and a half hours, is chilling) and does not include the ring entrances, so instead we cut to the crowd going absolutely bananas for this, and then Antonio Inoki is introduced, and they find a new gear. Inoki makes a little gesture of mock-confusion, slyly unsure of who should be handed the bouquet, and this is all just very high-level.





Everybody gather ye rosebuds while ye may on this stuff, though, because what follows will be ninety largely unnecessary minutes that exist only as tribute to Royce Gracie's monumental ego and refusal to contest a match under the same rules as literally everybody else. Please consult my previous posts on this topic. We're not long into things at all, really, before Sakuraba has Gracie's arm neatly trapped in a standing 逆腕緘/gyaku-ude-garami/reverse arm entanglement/Kimura which Gracie defends by reaching out over one rope and back through another to grip his own zubon (or trousers). This is all happening right in front of Gracie's corner, so there's Rorion, complaining to referee Yuji Shimada about some aspect of this, but of course by the Gracies' own insistence the referee is not supposed to intervene in any way at any time. They spend several minutes more or less like that, pretty much, in that same corner, with Royce trying to punch his way out of the situation with his free hand while Rorion Gracie complains at regular intervals. A close-up reveals a low-key bemused Sakuraba just like "lol ok" and the crowd roars to see him project that aspect and there is real joy here but at the same time we are also all feeling pretty sick of Helio Gracie's whiny kids yet again, I think it is fair to say.

In time they separate, and Royce Gracie kicks Kazushi Sakuraba very much in the dikk, though Sakubara is unfazed. Gracie attempts to take Sakuraba down but that seems unlikely, doesn't it. Sakuraba is comfortable giving Gracie his back standing so that he might further hunt (indeed, Gracie Hunt) for the 逆腕緘/gyaku-ude-garami/reverse arm entanglement/Kimura. He also half-throws with 内股 uchi-mata, as you can half-see here:








If you are wondering whether or not Rorion Gracie continues to complain about the ropes I am here to tell you that you needn't ever worry about whether or not Rorion Gracie continues to complain about the ropes. Like, wherever he is right now in this very moment of this the year of our lord 2020, at least part of him is doing that. Meanwhile, Sakuraba comes awfully close with a 膝挫十字固 hiza-hishigi-juji-gatame/knee-bar as the first (of way too many) round(s) comes to a close. 

Early in the second round, as the fighters clinch in what should be a neutral corner, Goodridge and Rutten and Quadros note that Royce Gracie's cornermen have drifted over to that corner, which, they note, is totally against the rules (they even read through the rules real quick to check). Referee Yuji Shimada asks for a break after several minutes of aimless leaning, but Royce just shakes his head as though refusing pie under mysterious circumstances and throwing shitty little knees and stomping at Sakuraba's feet (but largely missing, which is kind of weird, honestly). I bet I can find a gif from that Seinfeld with the pie, though!



Yep! Also, Eric Clapton is here, if you can even believe it! Like, seriously!



Still nothing in round two, really. Gracie attempts to pull guard, but is unable to break Sakuraba's posture sufficiently, so it's just silly. Sakuraba delights the crowd by slowly and methodically disrobing Gracie, achieving a low-key hockey fight vibe with the uwagi up over the top a little. This happens in training sometimes and it's always funny! When it does occur, people at-or-near the age of forty will sometimes allude to Cornholio to, I assure you, the utter mystification of those half our age (or less [the kids are great but as yet uncultured {not their fault, that's what we're here for as educators}]).


Are you threatening he
Gracie "attacks" with a 前裸絞/mae-hadaka-jime/front-choke/guillotine but there's nothing doing, aside from Sakuraba playing around with Gracie's belt . . . and even pants! He also does this thing a couple of time where he taps twice and then messes with Gracie's pants, taps twice, messes with the pants, I think making light of the special rules? They drop to the mat (our fighters, not Royce's pants -- although, haha!) but there's really nothing going on with this technique. Quadros suggests that even if there were, Sakuraba could probably just hold his breath for thirty seconds, and Bas is like dude, blood choke; blood choke; you should know this stuff, dude. And that's round two. 

The Pride organization, we are told, has just launched a website at www.jside.com/pride, and I am kind of sad to report that it doesn't seem to be up anymore (understandable), nor is it available, it would seem, through the internet archive. A drag! But I am reminded of how the Space Jam website is still up, which we all found out about a while ago, didn't we. "Royce is kickboxing pretty well, in a technical sense," Quadros offers, and though I certainly possess no expertise in that subject at all, I can't even begin to entertain even the remotemost possibility that that's true. Gracie takes a knee to the groin, and Sakuraba is yellow-carded, which will not influence judging (for there is none, of course), but three such cards will equal a disqualification, we learn. Gracie lies right down once Sakuraba starts punching, but elects to stand back up once Sakuraba starts ripping into him with kicks to the leg. This round has to be almost over. Sakuraba is chopping the hekk (forgive this vulgarity) out of Gracie's lead leg, and Royce has no real response to this other than to look super mad about it. MONGOLIAN CHOP MONGOLIAN CHOP MONGOLIAN CHOP in fact there was only one of them but I got pretty excited about it. MONGOLIAN CHOP FEINT, that's a high-level technique. The crowd hasn't been thrilled with Royce Gracie from the outset, understandably, but this is the round where they loose all patience with his semi-tactical flopping. With thirty seconds to go in the third, Bas calls for someone, anyone, to explode right here. An interesting topic of conversation that arose earlier in the round is the extent to which all of the other fighters must just hate these special rules and unlimited rounds as they aimlessly drift through back rooms not knowing when they should get warm, when they should eat. They must be like, what is this, a rural junior high school on the day of a judo tournament not running as smoothly as one might have hoped? Because that is what it's like! The bathrooms are already wrecked! Anyway I am sure all the guys like Royce Gracie anyway in spite of all this. 

A few minutes into the next round, which I would assume to be the fourth, but who could even say, Royce Gracie needs to tuck his uwagi back into his obi a whole bunch of times and neither Rutten nor Goodridge can believe Sakuraba does not kick him super hard when he does this, like this is absolutely killing Bas Rutten to see. Sakuraba is for sure getting the best of the kickboxing, which leads to a fair amount of the Royce Gracie war-scooch, which the crowd is so done with at this point. 

Come.

On.

Man.

That's the end of round four! "One hour of fighting!" Quadros says but that's being awfully, awfully generous. Though this match took place well before what I think of as the "KS get on AIM" era of PRIDE FC, so named after the way in which my friend Cory (see above) would so implore me as a late-night live-stream of a PRIDE event (quite possibly a New Year's one) would draw near, nevertheless my thoughts turn to how this match would have felt had it been available to me in real time, had I not known of it's ninety-minute inevitability long before I saw the thing itself. Would it have been more interesting, or less? It might have had something of the thrill of an unusually long playoff hockey game where, no matter how good or bad the actual play is, it's sheer length becomes the central entertainment? And you're actively hoping against a goal, at a certain point? And then eventually Andy Delmore scores and Chris Cuthbert is like ANDY DELMORE in a tone of voice that perfectly captures how wild it is that it was Andy Delmore who ended it? Would that same feeling have taken hold here? I guess maybe. This round so far is much more engaging than the previous several, especially when Sakuraba grabs hold of Gracie's trousers in the mode of a stack-up/double-under but just just kind of pops him with pretty sharp punches right down the middle. The crowd is still totally engaged, it should be noted, and whenever anything gets through they come to life in an instant. Sakuraba does not give a hoot about being in Gracie's guard: he makes no attempt to pass at all, and seems indifferent to the stompy little heel kicks that must be intended to just be bothersome rather than actually dangerous, which they probably would be. I am certain, for instance, that I would find them bothersome, and I would be sure to try to find a new partner next round before everybody else was paired up.  

At the start of round five, Sakuraba, now totally convinced Gracie's guard is not going to be a problem for him, shoots in for a low takedown right away. I remember that, in one of the several volumes of Sakuraba's autobiography (all titled Me [understandably {yet unhelpfully]) translated from the Japanese by the once towering internet martial arts enigma known only as Evil Yoshida, Sakuraba has written about how, after training with BJJ black belts a few times, he was pretty much like "oh okay so that's what they do," and then he was never really especially worried about it after. I have tried and failed more than once to find my copy (copies?) but this is all several computers ago now. My Japanese is not good enough (yet!) to really take a run at a book like that myself but perhaps in time; perhaps in time. Ah they're back up! Sakuraba looks reasonably fresh, and Royce Gracie looks stiff-legged and plodding. Sakuraba picks him apart in a way that isn't a lot of fun to watch, honestly, though the 東京ドーム crowd does not agree with my assessment. Helio and Rorion are shown in discussion, and the crowd goes fairly nuts when the camera spots a white towel in Rorion's hand. It is just a little towel, like the kind they give you two of if you have towel service at the gym, and it is like, if two little towels is the basic unit of towels, why not accept that the current towels are too little to be of any real use and get bigger towels? But I am sure they know their business. Sakuraba makes several leaps through an enfloppèd Gracie's guard, and hacks at his legs with really sharp kicks. Pretty much all of the exciting parts that come to mind, probably, when you think of this match, or at least most of them, happen in about a three minute stretch here. And there's the towel! Between rounds, that is. The crowd is so deeply into the result that it might fool you into thinking that the ninety minutes of foolishness that preceded it were all worthwhile but that is a snare and a delusion. I hereby resolve to never, ever watch this again. 

IGOR VOVCHANCHYN tells us softly (through the tool of subtitles) that his desire is to be the most famous fighter in the world and also the richest, and that you know what, he will do it, he says, and there is a real anime villain vibe to the the whole thing (on the whole I know next to nothing of the genre, but I have seen some anime, and thought some of it very fine). His foe is the no-longer-commentating GARY GOODRIDGE. I think maybe Maurice Smith has joined us on commentary, in fact? I am sure they said but I am no less sure that I missed it; I will say that if this is not in fact Maurice Smith then he has done his homework because the level of detail regarding kickboxing that he is able to communicate to the layman (that's me!) is really very impressive. Goodridge and Vovchanchyn are a couple of sluggers out there slugging, too. OH NO Goodridge has been slugged in the junk by an errant (in both the sense of "in error" and "travelling in search of adventure") knee and it has broken his cup. Broken it! A good-sized (for once) white towel is held aloft as he swaps out his cup at ringside and we're back. It occurs to me that I haven't worn a cup since the last time I played organized baseball, so about a quarter century? I can't say I miss it, as, if memory serves, they do not feel all that nice against the 股 / また / mata ([n] 1. crotch; crutch; groin; thigh 2. fork [in a tree, road, river, etc.]; tines [of a fork]). After a while you feel it right in the tines. OH NO Vovchanchyn is connecting a whole bunch, and Goodridge is just covering up, yeeeeesh that all looks like it would hurt a tonne. Goodridge manages to put Igor on his back, and actually ties up an arm underneath his body for a little bit, but Vovchanchyn seems untroubled by all of this, and Goodridge, who for some reason lets Igor back up, looks pretty tired already. Igor hits with a big right hand that lands, I think, right behind the ear, and Goodrige wobbles all away across the ring, falls, is pounced upon, and that's it at 10:14 of the first round. The replay shows that yeah that's exactly where that punch landed, though it landed, as Quadros notes, "almost like a ridge-hand!" and I admire the love of karate implicit in the excitement he brings to this analysis. Both Bas Rutten and Maurice Smith (I am increasingly sure) think the stoppage was maybe a little premature, but premature for whom haha is what I would like add at this point. 

MARK COLEMAN would like to thank all the loyal fans who have sent him emails of support during the past few difficult years of his fighting career. You will recall he spent several fights getting tired and, subsequently (perhaps, indeed, consequently) kicked in the head. His opponent is the much-and-rightly loved 小路晃 SHOJI AKIRA who, though I remember nothing at all of this match, you've got to think gets just pounded. We are all very much aware that this is an open-weight tournament and so things like this are bound to happen and barely warrant comment, but holy cow Mark Coleman is an awful lot bigger than the stout Shoji, whose weight is largely carried in his weirdly massive thighs. Coleman clinches, lands a solid knee to the groin, takes Shoji down, then loses his mind yelling WHAT WHAT BULLSHIT WHAT when the referee separates them and yellow-cards Coleman. The crowd was silent throughout, so you could really hear Coleman, and it was uncomfortable and frankly a little embarrassing. What a strange emotional outburst from a cartoonishly muscled heavyweight wrestler in his mid-thirties! Stuff like that is weird when it happens out of the blue, right? It doesn't take him long afterwards to have Shoji right back where he was, and although Coleman makes no real effort to pass, there's really no reason he would: he's able to stand and lean in with (what sure looks like) tremendous pressure whenever he wants, and he's landing so many punches to the body that the fair-skinned Shoji is all bruised up on the left side. Actually his face is getting a little mashed, too, I have now noticed. In a minor miracle, Shoji gets back to his feet but then he is removed from them again in short order. This is a drubbing! But Shoji is tough and Coleman is quite limited in some ways so it just drubs along. Coleman has of late been training with Pat Miletich, we are told, and I think I am right in saying he is an authoritarian-populist/white-supremacist these days? WHAT THE DEUCE AKIRA SHOJI HAS THROWN MARK COLEMAN WITH THE INNER THIGH THROW OF 内股 UCHI-MATA and we were just talking about 股 mata, how wild is that!


     
It is probably too little too late, though, in that for the other fourteen minutes and forty-five seconds of the round Akira Shoji got pasted. Coleman is gracious in victory and doesn't WHAT WHAT BULLSHIT WHAT at anyone, least of all Akira Shoji, whom he praises for his toughness.

Truly intense D'n'B/Breaks is an odd choice for a video package of 藤田 和之 Fujita Kazuyuki but the year is 2000; the release of the Korg MicroKORG (itself modeled off the MS-2000; that's right 2000), with its dedicated bank of largely unusable D'n'B/Breaks patches (you can rewrite them all; it isn't an issue; the MicroKORG is essentially flawless), draws ever nearer. Fujita's actually entrance music is Antonio Inoki's stirring yet slightly melancholic theme, which seems a better fit. Mark Kerr, his opponent this round, is well and truly lost to addiction now, as you can see here:



Like, even if we hadn't all seen The Smashing Machine, we would take one look and be like "what is going on with Mark Kerr." And here we go: Fujita lands a pretty solid right hand a few seconds in, but Kerr hoists him aloft as though he were a trophy of his conquest and then slams him down as though he were not a trophy of his conquest. After a little bit of guard-work, Fujita turns to the mat as Kerr begins to pass, and Quadros is like KERR WILL CHOKE HIM OUT HE HAS SUBMISSIONS but turning to the mat and into turtle can just be part of standing up, my dude, and sure enough, Fujita stands. Neither of these guys really knows much about hitting, as such, I don't think, but they're sure going for it! Kerr's single-leg attempts looks a little sluggish, but also they are being sprawled atop-of by Kazuyuki Fujita, so it's hard to say. Fujita delivers some true "PRIDE-style knees" to the head of his downed opponent (a downed Mark Kerr, in this instance), and there is some discussion as to whether or not they're legal for this event -- they have gone back and forth on these, as we have already seen in our time together (I thank you again for it). Fujita catches hold of one of Kerr's kicks and tips him over like *boop* and Kerr is in real trouble, seemingly gassed. When he turns to the mat, as though en route to standing up out of turtle as Fujita did earlier, Kerr gets stalled out there, and Fujita starts driving these hideous knees into his side; like these knees are ghastly. I am reminded once more that I really should seek out Fujita's recent matches in Pro Wrestling NOAH, which are said by reputable sources on such matters to be good. Kerr is covering up and making literally no effort to fight back or to improve his position (a kind of fighting back) for really quite a log time. The crowd, already pretty into this, as you might imagine, just erupts when Fujita looks for a second like he might want to apply a choke, but he does not pursue this, content to lean in with ridiculous pressure and just chip away against the enturtled Mark Kerr. Ah, he did try the choke, and it gave Kerr enough space to get back to his feet -- but for how long? Kind of a while, actually, as they end up leaning in the corner for a spell. A restart, another takedown, more of those fairly disturbing knees to the body, and there's the bell. Fujita's corner, including a jakkkkkked Brian Johnston, is joyous; Kerr's (mostly Bas Rutten) is sombre. Fujita takes the decision and moves on to face Mark Coleman. "It's yours to win, Cole," Mark Kerr says to Mark Coleman now in The Smashing Machine, as you will no doubt recall, and Coleman quietly answers, "I know." 

KAZUSHI SAKURABA VS. IGOR VOVCHANCHYN THIS MAKES NO SENSE AND YET HERE WE ARE with probably a 175 lbs guy against the most feared heavyweight striker in no holds barred fighting but they're about the same height so it'll all be fine. It occurs to me that Sakuraba's stance is so perfectly the MMA stance from Fire Pro Wrestling Returns (Fi-Pro Returns [ファイプロ・リターンズ {FaiPuro Ritānzu}]) that maybe that is what they modeled it on? This is not outside the realm of possibility, I think we would all agree, and the Fire Pro stance has always struck me as not quite right for non-Sakurabas and yet so perfect for Sakuraba that I think I am maybe on to something here. As is the man himself! A lovely low 踵返 kibisu-gaeshi ankle pick! Saku throws Igor's legs to the side and for a moment enters  押さえ込み osaekomi (1. [n] holding down [esp. in judo]; holding technique; pinning down; immobilizing; bringing under control); as Igor turns in Saku attacks with 腕挫十字固 ude-hishigi-juji-gatame and nearly gets it, reminding us of why Kazushi Sakuraba was, and also largely remains, everybody's favourite. This is absurd. In the ensuing scramble, Sakuraba ends up turtled underneath a clubbering Igor Vovchanchyn, which is horrifying, but all the while he's looking to trap the left arm in 逆腕緘/gyaku-ude-garami/reverse arm entanglement/Kimura, and he so thoroughly harasses Igor with it that he's able to get back to his feet. I am impressed with how impressive this is! The next time Sakuraba comes in for that ankle pick, Igor sprawls a good portion of his bulk atop our hero and yeah Sakuraba is turtled-up and all squished down until Igor decides to let him up. And then the ankle pick works! Igor is reasonably canny defensively off his back but Sakuraba lands some shots to the body that I would also describe as reasonable. As I remembered this fight, I would have told you that Sakuraba did a lot better fighting IGOR VOVCHANCHYN than you would ever expect, especially given the hour and a half that he fought (or whatever) Royce Gracie a little earlier, but even so I am surprised to revisit this and see that to this point (and we've got to be pretty deep?) I think this is Sakuraba's round, especially when you take into account the PRIDE judging criteria which expressly favours the smaller fighter if there is more than a 10kg disparity (this match: has more than a 10kg disparity). Did Igor just wrap around the waist, throw Sakuraba backwards, and then punch him up a little? Absolutely he did, and Sakuraba is now turtled up, head to the corner, eating blow after blows. All of this is factual stuff, and also he is cut now. He is looking to roll through for the knee-bar, but we can look for any number of things, can't we. The round ends really quite poorly for him, but he legitimately did not lose this fifteen minute round, certainly not by enough to warrant anything other than a second fifteen minute round. Against Igor Vovchanchyn. And an hour and a half of earlier martial artsing (such as it was). And so when the judge's decision is read, and it is a draw, and a further round is called for, Nobuhiko Takada and Daijiro Matsui extremely correctly toss in the towel, but wow! That was great! Igor to the finals!

Hey Masaaki Satake, what was that you were telling me earlier about what your first love still is even though you fight in NHB?



Oh that's right, it's karate, forgive me. In a SUPER FIGHT, which is to say non-tournament match, he is to face Guy Mezger, who I guess got everything squared away after the unpleasantness of his opening-round draw on the last show and Ken Shamrock getting all bent out of shape and everything. Mezger, in his pre-fight comments, seems like maybe a bit of a jerk, which I think is true of all the old Lion's Den guys maybe? I am trying to think of an exception but I am coming up short. If you are of the view that it is okay that they were jerks, for whatever reason, I disagree, and don't think they should have been. Or maybe I am just letting my impression of Ken Shamrock overwhelm everything and all?  Looking at a list now I am reminded that I've got no problem with Vernon "Tiger" White. Also in fairness I was poking around Guy Mezger's wikipedia page and saw this: "In December 2011, Mezger was involved in an altercation in Dallas in front of a sporting goods store where a man was physically abusing a woman. He stepped in to assist the woman by fighting the man, who attacked Mezger with a knife. The attacker was on parole and afterwards needed medical attention for multiple facial bone and arm bone fractures. Mezger's hand was cut in the fight. It was surgically repaired and he was expected to fully recover.[12][13]" So maybe pre-fight comments are not the full measure of a man? It's hard to say. Masaaki Satake, who has been training with Maurice Smith (and therefore possibly also Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, though I would have to kind of consult the TK Timeline to be totally sure about this), is really doing pretty well against Guy Mezger, and better than I'd expected (I definitely don't remember this one) as his striking is obviously excellent (from all of the karate), but also his takedown defence looks to be very much on point, which is itself striking (ha ha!) to me. Good round! Feels like another! Oh ok, the rules for this one are two ten-minute rounds, and then a five-minute overtime round if required. Second round is much more like you'd think, with Mezger eventually dragging Satake to the mat and very much getting the best of him there, though the tough Satake (whom Maurice Smith confirms has indeed been working with TK a little, thank you, Maurice Smith) never stops fighting and is never really in any danger of being finished. A well-earned decision win for Guy Mezger all the same.

And then that weird one where Kazuyuki Fujita comes out to fight Mark Coleman, but his corner throws in the towel just as the bell rings and Fujita shoots in for an instant takedown. They are doing it to spare his injured knee, but rather than just forfeit the fight between rounds and have an alternate come in, they pretty much "shoot an angle" as Fujita and his fellows here are all of them, let us recall, New Japan Pro Wrestlingerz. This is meant to make Fujita look super courageous, I guess, as rather than quit, he had to be stopped by his own seconds even though his foe be the fearsome Mark Coleman, but the effectiveness of any tale along those lines has been blunted pretty hard by Kazushi Sakuraba actually coming out and actually fighting the actually enormously fearsome Igor Vovchanchyn and actually really pushing him, and not in the sense that Kazuyuki Fujita was sort of pushing into Mark Coleman a little bit when the towel came flying in. I am not really knocking any of this, particularly; it is more than I am sympathizing with how Fujita and his guys probably thought they had a pretty solid scheme worked up only for Sakuraba to scoop them by doing a "shoot" version of it all mere minutes before. Nevertheless, Kazuyuki Fujita went out there firm in his resolve that, whatever else may or may not have happened a little while earlier, jerk-store was the line; he was going with jerk-store; jerk-store.

Next in is Ken Shamrock for his first fight in four years and let me say again for what is I'm sure the too-many-eth time that I really don't have interest in Ken Shamrock at all, I just do not find him even remotely interesting, legitimately distressing tale of his genuinely horrific childhood as told to Steve Austin notwithstanding. As a human being, he has my sympathy forever; I could literally never have imagined what he went through in his upbringing. But as a guy I have watched do things on a screen (in truth various screens [oh man I wonder how many screens though]) I find him to be a gassed up clown with once-passable knowledge of leg-locks, the least interesting major subdivision of holds to me, and that's about it. As a WWF wrestler he was pretty good right when he came in all shoot-stylesque for a bit (who among us did not thrill to the leg kicks vs. Vader, God rest his soul), but then he ended up just doing frankensteinerz and what have you and working like less of a shooter than his rough contemporary Steve Blackman (who remains a weirdly compelling figure imo). All the while, Shamrock's interviews were on the whole "of shit." After the PRIDE run (not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but here we go), all that Spike TV-era UFC stuff with Tito Ortiz was just awful (though it genuinely and undeniably held mainstream appeal, by which I mean my brother-in-law wanted to watch it), and everything since then, without checking my notes here to be absolutely sure about it, has all just been super sad. When Royce Gracie kneed him in the groin, took him down with 谷落 tani-otoshi and stopped him with strikes on that Bellator, and then Ken Shamrock failed the test about his pee, I felt nothing other than bad about how I had spent that portion of my evening/soul. This guy? This guy is just not my kind of guy. But let's enjoy his match against Alexander Otsuka, who we all think is great! Uh oh it looks like that shot just an awful angle at a yellow-canvased, tiny-caged show in San Jacinto, California some weeks before this match in which Shamrock just sounded like a great big doof, to which Otsuka responded with something something something "I'm gonna kick your ass" but he said it like "ess" and they looped it three times like "I'm kick your ess kick your ess kick your ess" much like the Razor Ramon promo that played on the PPV preview channel they got at my friends house that previewed the Royal Rumble at which he (Razon Ramon, not my friend) challenged Bret Hart for the WWF title and it went something like "you see what I do to your father; you see what I do to your brother; now you gonna see what I do to you, Hitmeng, when I get you in the ring the ring the ring" (quoted roughly from 1993 memory) and it is more or less with me to this day so actually you know what I am going to call this awful angle a qualified success because of it's low-key Proustian associations. Anyway, there would have been every reason to think they would just go ahead and work this Shamrock/Otsuka fight, given how much money they were putting into Shamrock, and how willing Otsuka is to do that (the Takada match for instance!) and maybe they did it in a way that I am unable to perceive, but I am reasonably sure everything here is on the up-and-up, as both guys land pretty heartily, at times, and Otsuka's face is kind of a mess by the time Shamrock puts him down with a left hook at (9:35, Rd1). He is presented a bouquet of flowers by Eric Clapton, obviously.





CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE AT LAST REACHED THE TOURNAMENT FINAL OF MARK COLEMAN AND IGOR VOVCHANCHYN as Mark Coleman and Igor Vovchanchyn themselves reach the tournament final of Mark Coleman and Igor Vovchanchyn; we are all in this together; without each other, what are we (nothing). Rather than complete ring entrances, we are shown excitingly edited clips of those entrances set to the still-glorious PRIDE FC theme, which I believe you can probably hear looped for hours and hours in that one person's upload to youtube, let me check for you (for us): yeah it's like ten hours. Hey something I was thinking about last night on the way home from the grocery store is how I am glad that PRIDE is a thing that was around for a while, got really really great, and then just ended, and now for those of us who remember it fondly we all just have it as a thing that happened; it remains free of the complications and disappointments of things that are still happening. Also I got so many Air Miles last night, like you wouldn't believe it (I do not travel). Coleman has Vovchanchyn down, just like you might think, and gets some decent shots in, as you might well also think, whilst Igor does a pretty good job tying up the arms and keeping things from getting out of hand. I think they just said this final match would be contested as an unlimited number of twenty-minute rounds? Is that really how they set this up? That's an utterly wild thing to arrive at at the rules meeting. Coleman comes pretty close with an 腕緘 ude-garami/entangled armlock/"Americana" from 横四方固 yoko-shiho-gatame (横, yoko, side) but this Igor Vovchanchyn, I don't need to tell you, is one cool customer (though the custom he visits upon you is not itself cool: it is awful, awful hitting). Stephen Quadros relates something Mark Coleman said to him recently, which is that earlier in his career, Coleman treated professional fighting as just sort of a fun and neat thing to do, but that he has become much more serious about it as his work in recent years, and the biggest factor in that change in approach is that he has two daughters now, and that's true, it is incredibly rad to have two little daughters, excellent points all around, everybody.      

Between rounds, we are shown our old RINGSfriend Gilbert Yvel, who erotically flashes us his studded tongue. For those of us of a certain age and inclination regarding culture broadly, our thoughts turn inevitably to that part of Pulp Fiction, do they not? Rosanna Arquette is amazing in Desperately Seeking Susan by the way if you haven't seen that recently. They've got it on The Criterion Channel, a service to which you no doubt already subscribe owing to your considerable taste-level as regards the cinematic arts (among them: cinéma), as part of a collection of the works of the director Susan Seidelman, which also includes her late-punk Smithereens (1982), a pretty compelling film I intend to watch the rest of sometime, but the actual information I wish to convey to you right now is that it recently came to my attention (through wikipedia, obviously) that Toto's "Rosanna" and Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" are BOTH about Rosanna Arquette! Isn't that something? I mean she was certainly bewitching, that's not at issue here at all, but even so that's pretty remarkable, right? She was just out there getting fallen in love with, I guess! It was probably kind of a chore for her sometimes. Also shown at ringside is Antonio Inoki. 

Only a few minutes into the second (of potentially infinite twenty-minute) round(s), the singular image we maybe all have of Mark Coleman's PRIDE GRAND PRIX 2000 appears before us: Igor Vovchanchyn, in the corner, on his back, inverted (bottom-towards-the-post, I mean), Mark Coleman dropping a multitude of the truest "PRIDE knees" we have thus far seen ("Drop them straight down, Mark; straight down," his corner patiently instructs), until Igor has had altogether enough of this and taps. Let this be a lesson to the would-be hardmen who claim it is somehow untoward to tap out to strikes: do they truly believe themselves harder than Igor Vovchanchyn? Or for that matter the peerless Georges St-Pierre? Because I would argue they are not! Coleman goes joyously berserk, hurling himself into the ring ropes (rather than over them, as intended), and dashes out into the crowd, and it's just great. He is awarded an enormous trophy of the kind one would receive at the end of a Japanese NES wrestling game that had been localized for the North American audience but would nevertheless give you an enormous trophy rather than a championship belt, but in this instance Mark Coleman receives also a championship belt, in fact a very handsome one in my view, especially if we keep in mind it is of the year 2000, not a peak period in #beltæsthetics generally speaking. His prize is said to be $200,000, Igor's $50,000, and those who finished third-place or lower probably got a t-shirt or a Raptors bag or something (why not a PRIDE FC bag? I know, that's what's so weird).    



Well you know what, I feel pretty good about all this! I have been writing this off-and-on for more a week so I have had time to feel a variety of ways about it, as is perhaps evidenced i the above prose, but as we are wrapping up I am feeling like everybody did a good job, for the most part, and that gives me a feeling of calm satiety, a nice way to end for sure. I am eager to continue with further PRIDEs! If I remember correctly the next one is totally fine, and then we get the sort of genre-defining PRIDE 10, so the kind of beaver I am to get to these shows is an eager one; that's right, an eager beaver. Ah but first we must turn, as did the ancients, towards WHAT DAVE MELTZER HAD TO SAY:

May 8, 2000:

"Mark Coleman was the big winner but Kazushi Sakuraba came out as the big hero in the highest profile MMA show in history on 5/1 at the Tokyo Dome. [hey that's it exactly! -- ed.]

Coleman defeated Akira Shoji, got what amounted to a forfeit win over New Japan's Kazuyuki Fujita and became the first man in nearly five years to tap out Igor Vovchanchin, who went into the tournament as the top rated heavyweight in the world, before 38,000 fans (ticket prices ranged from $950 for ringside down to $57 for the upper deck so the gate was several million dollars). In doing so, Coleman became the only man who can truly have a legitimate claim to being the toughest all-around fighter on the planet and the first Pride world heavyweight champion, scoring a rare double since he was also a former UFC champion.

Sakuraba, a Japanese pro wrestler who started with the old UWFI promotion, went into the martial arts history books, gaining an untainted victory over Royce Gracie, who had never lost in MMA fighting and captured three of the first four UFC tournaments in 1993 and 1994 establishing himself as the pioneer and first legend of the sport. The battle of stamina and will ended when Gracie's brother and manager Rorion threw in the towel after a 90:00 match that will become legendary when Royce could no longer stop the smaller Sakuraba who finally wore him down with leg kicks in the sixth and final round.

As impressive, after battling 90 minutes, Sakuraba, who trained down from his usual 190-195 pound fighting weight (he weighed in at 190 for his first round match against Guy Mezger) to 174, probably because of the realization of how big a part stamina would play in the Gracie match (Gracie, on the other hand, came in at 186 for added strength, but couldn't out muscle Sakuraba, up from 178 for his match with Takada on the 1/30 Tokyo Dome show) came out for his second round match against Vovchanchin, giving up more than 50 pounds against the top rated heavyweight, and from all accounts was winning the first for the first ten minutes. At that point, he hit the final wall of exhaustion, and couldn't get his body to do anything. He had done enough in the first ten minutes that even while taking a beating in the final five minutes, the judges ruled the match a draw and sent them out to the overtime round. Sakuraba was willing, but at that point, his mentor, Nobuhiko Takada, also threw in the towel.

Coleman earned $190,000 in prize money for the win. Vovchanchin got $47,500 for second place while Sakuraba and Fujita each got $23,750 for losing in the semifinals, although many also received appearance money to be in the show (Ken Shamrock received $350,000 for his match and Gracie reportedly received even more). As with the RINGS tournament where a pro wrestler made the final four in a tournament of 32 martial artists from around the world, in this tournament that started in January with 16 men, saw two pro wrestlers make the final four.

The show also marked the return after more than three years to the UFC's other early pioneer, Shamrock, who left the MMA world after beating Brian Johnston in the first round of the Ultimate Ultimate on December 7, 1996 before bowing out of the tournament due to a hand injury. Shamrock, 36, who as UFC's headliner drew the three largest non-boxing "legitimate" sports PPV buy numbers for matches at UFC's 1995 peak before going into the WWF in 1997 when UFC encountered political problems, put on an impressive performance. He became the first fighter to stop fellow pro wrestler Alexander Otsuka (Takashi Otsuka) in an MMA fight, knocking the Japanese star out with four hard punches to the face at 9:43. Otsuka had lost matches previously to both Renzo Gracie and Vovchanchin, but both were via decision after going the distance, after making his name in MMA with a shocking upset of Marco Ruas. Otsuka did lose a Pride main event with a tap to Takada, but that was a worked match. Shamrock is under contract for one more fight for DSE, tentatively scheduled for February of 2001, also at the Tokyo Dome.

The show, largely because of the Gracie-Sakuraba match, lasted six hours and ten minutes, airing live on PPV in Japan. It will air in a heavily edited form on American PPV on 5/13 mainly to dish owners as most of the major cable companies are not carrying the show and airs on 5/6 on the Fuji TV Network, with the entire show edited down to 90 minutes, in Japan. We should have a complete report on the show in next week's issue after viewing the tape.

The sad part of the show is that this appears to be the peak of the sport for Japan, because the last conquest, the final absolute victory by a Japanese fighter over one of the two "unbeatable" members of the Gracie family (Royce and Rickson) under the Gracies' own hand-picked rules has been achieved, thereby ending the myth. Even though this had the toughest one-night tournament ever, it didn't draw as well as the 1/30 first round show because even after everything that has happened, Takada is still more of a drawing card against Gracie than Sakuraba due to his past success in pro wrestling, and in Japan, the audience for these shows is mainly pro wrestling fans, and there wasn't as much drawing appeal for a tournament in Japan that everyone expected would come down to either Coleman or Mark Kerr against Vovchanchin, even with the return of Shamrock as part of the show. Some also felt that the quality of the 1/30 show, in particular because of the disastrous Gracie-Takada main event, led to a lot of fans who bought tickets to that show not caring about seeing Gracie fight again.

Because of the no time limit stipulations for all of Gracie's matches, DSE promoters had the Tokyo Dome rented until 9 a.m. the next morning (which was the absolute latest time possible to end the show and still have the building ready for the baseball game scheduled the evening of 5/2), as opposed to the 11 p.m. that the building is traditionally rented for all sporting events in Japan. The next day, Gracie announced he wanted to come back to Pride for a rematch with Sakuraba. In an interview at his hotel, where he was limping from the leg kicks and his face was swollen, Gracie admitted Sakuraba was a great fighter.

1. Igor Vovchanchin defeated Gary Goodridge via TKO in 10:14. The two exchanged punches standing before Goodridge took Vovchanchin down. They traded punches on the ground, Goodridge from the top and Vovchanchin from the bottom until Vovchanchin escaped. They traded again standing and Vovchanchin connected with a solid right which led to the ref stopping the fight. There were some in attendance who felt it was a quick stoppage but all accounts reported this as a good match.

2. Sakuraba beat Gracie in 90:00 when Gracie's corner threw in the towel before the start of the seventh round. Sakuraba came out with two others, all wearing old Strong Machine masks. Finally Sakuraba removed his mask and revealed his dyed orange hair. The match had the settings of a pro wrestling match since Gracie was a total heel, even missing the rules meeting, and Antonio Inoki came to ringside for a presentation before the match started, and apparently Inoki appearing so prominently at the show drew some heat since New Japan is on TV-Asahi and this show was taped for rival Fuji TV, which is also the reason Shinya Hashimoto didn't appear at the show. Sakuraba was better striking and Gracie was unable to take Sakuraba down. For a long period of time, Gracie held a clinch on the ropes and refused to break even though ordered to by the referee, which made him more of a heel since he was ignoring the rules as if they didn't apply to him. Sakuraba did a lot of clowning around, since he was never in trouble, trying to pull down Gracie's pants, trying to pull his gi over his eyes like in an ice hockey fight, and throwing in pro wrestling spots like Mongolian chops to keep the audience entertained. At one point Sakuraba even attempted a piledriver, which as you can imagine, didn't work. Gracie kept flopping to his back to avoid trading on their feet, and Sakuraba would avoid going to the ground and getting caught in the guard. There were also rounds where Sakuraba would be on top in the guard. Sakuraba was working on an armbar and a kneebar in the first round and had the kneebar pretty close when the round ended. The second and third rounds were boring, largely consisting of Gracie holding the clinch on the ropes and Sakuraba's occasional clowning like pulling his pants down to show his underwear. Gracie was working for a choke when another round ended but for the most part was unable to do anything on offense to him, since he couldn't stand with him and couldn't take him down. It was considered a boring fight, but once it past the 45 minute mark, the crowd sensed it was seeing history and started getting into it. Gracie had a cut opened above his eye. Both were tired and both gained second winds. Finally, in the fifth round, Sakuraba's leg kicks he was doing throughout the fight, not a lot of them, but after fighting for more than an hour, they started taking effect. At the 67:00 mark, Sakuraba landed a lot of punches and Gracie seemed in trouble at the 74:00 mark but hung on. In the sixth round, Sakuraba landed a punch which bloodied up Gracie's mouth. He finally knocked him down the first time when Gracie went down after a low kick. Sakuraba got a second knockdown about 85:00 in with a flurry of punches and kicks. At about the 87:00 mark which Gracie taking a beating, Rorion Gracie, grabbed the towel and was about to throw it in. In a scene almost out of a pro wrestling match, Helio Gracie, the elderly father of Royce and Brazilian fighting legend in the 50s, refused to allow his son to throw in the towel and Gracie hung on until the end of the round. Seeing the condition his son was in between rounds, Helio at that point told Rorion to throw in the towel. The crowd gave both men huge ovations when it was over. In defeat, Gracie got a lot of compliments for the guts and stamina he showed. Helio Gracie shook hands with Sakuraba after the match which was considered a big deal.

3. Coleman beat Akira Shoji via unanimous decision after 15:00. Coleman was able to take Shoji down and while on top connected on a lot of body punches. Shoji's ribs took so much damage they became discolored. Shoji got away at about 7:00, but Coleman took him down again. Toward the end of the round, Shoji was on his feet and got a punch and kick in just at the end of the round. Coleman clearly won the decision.

4. In the upset of the night, Fujita beat Mark Kerr via unanimous decision in 15:00. From all accounts, Kerr simply gassed out, something he had never done in an MMA career which up to this point he had never lost a match either in MMA or submission fighting with several world titles in submission fighting under his belt. Kerr had shaved his head for the fight. Fujita came out to Inoki's theme music. Kerr took Fujita down and punched and kneed him, busting up his nose. Suddenly, about five minutes into the fight, Kerr just died. Fujita, who had Brian Johnston of New Japan in his corner, was able to take him down and pound on him, and even nearly got a choke. Fujita continued to physically overpower and dominate Kerr with several more takedowns and delivered knee after knee to him. It was a huge deal in Japan that a pro wrestler beat an unbeaten Vale Tudo fighter and co-favorite to win this tournament under their rules. Said to be a very exciting match.

5. Guy Mezger won a decision over Masaake Satake after 20:00. Satake, much larger than Mezger, was able to avoid being taken down, something he couldn't do with the stronger Coleman in his 1/30 Tokyo Dome match. It was mainly standing and it was so-so. Mezger was able to take Satake down in the second round and physically dominated him to win the decision. Most reports indicated this was a boring match.

6. Vovchanchin beat Sakuraba in 15:00 when Takada threw in the towel before the start of the second round. To the shock of almost everyone, Sakuraba came back out, wearing his Strong Machine mask, and threw it to the crowd. Sakuraba did well early, before gassing out. He scored several takedowns despite giving up more than 50 pounds, and nearly got an armbar once. He gassed and the last few minutes just seemed to be hanging on waiting for the round to end. Vovchanchin was able to give him two german suplexes and many punches, with Sakuraba bleeding from the forehead in the last five minutes.

7. Coleman beat Fujita in what basically was a forfeit. Fujita came in limping with his leg heavily taped. The match actually started and Fujita went for a tackle, but two seconds into the match, Johnston threw in the towel. Fujita in a post match interview, crying, said that he had injured a knee ligament (as well as suffering a possible broken nose) in delivering so many knees to Kerr's head. The belief is Fujita came out because there was an added bonus for appearing and losing as opposed to not being able to come out.

8. Shamrock beat Otsuka in 9:43. Otsuka had Kazunari Murakami as his second while Shamrock had Pete Williams and Mezger. They exchanged some punches early. Otsuka, trying to entertain the crowd, started running the ropes for a big laugh, since Shamrock is a pro wrestler. Shamrock wouldn't do any pro wrestling. Shamrock took him down in the corner and pounded on him for five minutes and went for an armbar, but didn't get it. Shamrock then pounded on him from the mount for three more minutes and went for another armbar but Otsuka escaped and got away. Otsuka tried to take Shamrock down, but Shamrock blocked him. Shamrock cut Otsuka's eye with a punch, then nailed him with four hard punches to the head and Otsuka went down and the ref stopped the match. After the match, Rock and roll legend Eric Clapton hit the ring (Clapton came to Japan for the 1/30 Dome show as well) to celebrate with Shamrock. Shamrock gave a long speech after the match in English. It was so long, and because it was so late at this point, the Japanese started booing him. [Or maybe they just think he stinks? -- ed.]

9. Coleman beat Vovchanchin in 23:09. The championship match was also no judging so there had to be a positive winner, with 20:00 rounds. Coleman took Vovchanchin down. Coleman was punching from the top and Vovchanchin was punching from the bottom. Coleman started body punching. For several minutes, Coleman held Vovchanchin in that position. Finally Coleman tried a shoulderlock and an armbar. Vovchanchin's arm was discolored from the pressure but he didn't tap. We're told Coleman's technique on the move wasn't good, but since he has unreal power, he was still able to do a lot of damage. Coleman continued to dominate from the top until the end of the round. In the second round, Coleman took Vovchanchin down again and threw more punches. Coleman gave up his mount for a side mount, and started throwing knee after knee to Vovchanchin's head until Vovchanchin finally tapped out. It was only the second time in more than three dozen MMA fights that Vovchanchin had lost (the first being early in his career via submission to Ilioukhine Mikhail). Coleman was then presented with Pride's first world heavyweight title belt by DSE President Naohito Morishita.

Most people had Coleman as one of three favorites going in, with Vovchanchin and Kerr. Coleman started in UFC and dominated through his wrestling skill and power, before his career hit the skids after Maurice Smith beat him via decision to win the UFC belt when he gassed out in one of the most famous UFC matches of all-time. Coleman was then knocked out by Pete Williams after again gassing out, and lost a very controversial decision in a close match to Pedro Rizzo when he again tired late in the fight and also lost a worked match via tap out to Takada. He was able to change his training, something many were skeptical of his ability to do, and physically dominated Vovchanchin in a long fight. Coleman is living proof of the axiom that because so many tactics are legal in MMA, that it is impossible to fully predict what will happen."

and:

"The "Full Contact Fighter" TV show debuts at 11 p.m. Eastern time on the Sunshine Network on 5/5, hosted by Joel Gold and Michael Landsberg (TSN "Off the Record"). The first show is expected to have news on the 5/1 Tokyo Dome show. The show is signed for a 13-week run and will also air on America One and on Viewers Choice Canada's barker channel. The pilot episode did huge ratings on TSN in Canada, but the network didn't pick up the show because they were in the midst of an attempted sale and didn't want any new controversial material that the network would get criticized for carrying during that period."

Michael Landsberg! I saw him on Bloor Street one time in Toronto maybe two or three years after this and he had about him an air of smugness, as I recall it, but this was years ago and perhaps I was then unkind in my perception of him.

May 15, 2000:

"In a major blow, RINGS world heavyweight champion Gilbert Yvel, who captured the title on 4/20 in Tokyo with a victory over Kiyoshi Tamura in a shoot match, announced on 5/3 that he had jumped to Dream Stage Entertainment. This now makes sense since at the Pride show two days earlier at the Tokyo Dome, Yvel posed for photos shaking hands with Mark Coleman, which would have been the world champion of RINGS posing with the world champion of PRIDE, which are warring organizations. It would seen to make sense by pro wrestling standards to book an Yvel vs. Coleman match, although booking in shoot organizations usually makes even less sense than in pro wrestling."

and:

"The 5/1 Dream Stage Entertainment Tokyo Dome show which aired from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on 5/6 as an edited version on Fuji TV drew a 10.1 rating in the Kanto (which includes Tokyo) area which means it was the highest rated show in all of Japan during that period. It also drew an 8.4 rating for a prime time replay and an 8.1 rating on a local TV station (Tokai-TV) in Nagoya. The PPV will be airing in Canada on VC-Canada on 5/20, not 5/13 as listed here previously, and will be edited down to three-and-a-half hours. I'm presuming the American version, which still airs on the dish network on and on Cablevision on 5/13, will also be the same three-and-a-half hour tape. I've seen Gracie vs. Sakuraba, and much to my surprise, the 90:00 was actually pretty gripping and not the slightest bit torturous to watch like previous long matches on Pride shows have been. There were slow spots and Sakuraba was never in danger, but there were a lot of exciting spots and as it drew out, you know you've seen a classic match people will be talking about for decades."

I can't really even say why but I find this assessment of the TSN Full Contact Fighter show, which I kind of remember (not this particular episode, but the show itself broadly) really quite gripping lol:

"The "Full Contact Fighter" TV show, produced in Toronto, hosted by Michael Landsberg and Joel Gold, debuted on the Sunshine Network on 5/5. The first 24 or so minutes of the 30 minute show mainly hyped the Pride Tokyo Dome show. The show was almost like a pro wrestling TV show as a borderline infommercial opposed to a news show, as they hyped the upcoming matches on the PPV, which airs 5/13, without mentioning the show itself had actually already taken place, with predictions about matches that had already taken place (I'm presuming the taping of this show occurred before the matches had taken place because the comments don't look as smart as they would have knowing the results when doing so). The footage from the January show and explanation of the tournament was solid. It showed highlights of all the 1/30 first round matches in the tournament and hyped the bracketing of the finals. No real issues were discussed, as they completely glossed over the controversy from the Guy Mezger vs. Kazushi Sakuraba match and didn't show the finish or the aftermath, nor even mention Ken Shamrock pulled Mezger out of the ring because of a pre-show agreement that Pride didn't honor. While it was mentioned that Gracie's fights on the PPV would have no time limit, that was said once in passing, without any comment on whether or not in a tournament it was fair for someone to pick his rules that are different from everyone elses. The best part of the show was the feature on Ken Shamrock, who looked in freaky physical condition. They showed clips of both Frank Shamrock and Tito Ortiz saying then Ken is making a bad decision coming back. Ortiz in particular basically insinuated Ken was washed up, although not using those words, and Frank came out more strongly than you'd think in saying Ken was making a mistake. Ken didn't disagree with their comments either, saying they may be right, but he felt it was still something he had to do for himself. He said he was hoping to help the NHB as a sport in the United States by fighting hoping that WWF fans would check out his fight as a curiosity and may then enjoy the product and become new fans. That could happen if WWF were to hype the show on its television because of the power of that TV. But without that television hype for the 5/13 PPV, which I'm presuming isn't going to happen (although they could safely at this point with the knowledge Shamrock wins the fight impressively), the crossover in regard to WWF fans who have never purchased an NHB PPV or aren't fans to begin with ordering it isn't going to be very many. They also pushed in the closing moments Marcus Silveira, talking about his WEF superheavyweight title defense against Dan Severn (which airs live on 5/13 in Evansville, IN but airs on PPV in Canada only a few weeks later and they pushed on the show the PPV date and not the fact the show itself is only a few days away) as well as Jose Pele Landy and Matt Hughes who are on that show, as well as the Kevin Randleman vs. Pedro Rizzo UFC heavyweight title match and a brief interview with Pat Miletich to push the 6/9 PPV from Cedar Rapids, IA. In previewing the 5/12 TV show, it is clear they aren't going to give the Pride results on that show either since they hyped an interview with Gary Goodridge to hype his match with Igor Vovchanchin on the show. Overall the show blew away its 1980s pro wrestling counterpart magazine show, "Pro Wrestling this Week.""

May 22, 2000:

DAVE

GETS

TAPE:

"The debut of Pride on American PPV was generally well received by the few who actually had access to the show and purchased it.

The tape of the 5/1 Tokyo Dome show, which with the toughest tournament in the history of mixed martial arts and in many ways the best overall show in history, what will in the very near future be referred to as the legendary Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Royce Gracie 90:00 match and the return of Ken Shamrock, made it the most important historical NHB show since the early days of the genre. It aired only on the dish network on 5/13 and airs 5/20 on Viewer Choice-Canada. The six hour plus show was edited down to three hours, which was probably best all concerned for the American audience, but it also left you feeling like you were watching a tape instead of the excitement of a live event with all the edit points. Before the Gracie-Sakuraba match started, there was a voice over stating that because this historic match lasted 90 minutes, it is edited but that none of the footage important to the outcome were taken out, which gave away not the result, but that it was a long fight, ahead of time. I'm very skeptical of the chances of success of any PPV promotion as far as actually being a financial success, without strong television to hype the product, or strong media as pro boxing gets.

The show featured the sternest warning about violence I've ever seen on a sports event, basically a warning that due to the violent nature of the show, that it was inappropriate for children under 17, even though the show was far tamer when it comes to violent portrayals than any modern pro wrestling event. [Yes but those are fakers, faking, and so it is fake -- ed.]

Despite the huge crowd at the Tokyo Dome (38,400), at no point did the announcers get over how huge an event it was or talk about the crowd, the ticket prices, far larger than any crowd for a pro wrestling PPV in a few years. Announcers Stephen Quadros, Bas Rutten and Maurice Smith were very good when it came to strategy, but poor when it came to conveying excitement or storyline interest or the basics of hype that are needed for the general public to get into it. They put over the quality of the matches, but never got excited as the matches went on. The camera work was very strong, so the impact of the blows, which often gets lost in shows like this, were evident for everyone to see.

With four pro wrestlers in the show, Sakuraba (referred to throughout the show as Mr. Sakuraba as a throwback to 1970s American pro wrestling when most Japanese wrestlers' first name was Mr.), Kazuyuki Fujita, Alexander Otsuka and Shamrock (not to mention the well received appearances on camera by Antonio Inoki), there was talk about how the pro wrestling in Japan was very different from the U.S. although Smith did say the pro wrestling in Japan also wasn't real fighting but that Sakuraba, a pro wrestler, had all the skills and the heart. At one point, in a discussion about eventual champion Mark Coleman, it was stated that he had never tapped out before in a fight. The Nobuhiko Takada fight (a worked match where Takada won via tap out to a heel hook) naturally came up, and while someone who knew what they were talking about could read between the lines and realize they were saying, without using those words, that it was a worked fight or fixed fight or pro wrestling match (I believe the term used was an "audience fight"), they didn't say it and no casual viewer would have a clue what that meant. It's unfair in portrayal of this as a sport to use what was really a pro wrestling match as a credential for someone's fight history. They were in a difficult position, announcing for Pride, which has had many worked matches in its past. They also talked much about previous matches on Pride shows, in particular on the 1/30 tournament, which most of the viewing audience wouldn't know about. It would have been good to show clips from that show, but considering they already had to edit so much out to begin with, not airing them was a necessary evil.

Gracie-Sakuraba was edited down to 36 minutes. It was better off for an American audience. It removed much of the drama of actually seeing a fight go 90 minutes, but in its edited form removed many of the slow spots and there was plenty of drama seeing a real action packed match go that long. The majority pegged it as the best match on the show and it will probably be remembered as the best of the year, and possibly even the decade just because it was an historical result and that it went so long because I doubt we'll be seeing too many no time limit fights, so it'll be a long time before another 90 minute match. The crowd pop for the finish and the drama for older fans of seeing Gracie decisively beaten and his 87-year-old father Helio shaking Sakuraba's hand, the match held up even being edited. A correction on the weights. The internet reports were incorrect. Gracie actually weighed in at 177.5 pounds and Sakuraba at 181.1. I guess people were anxious to have Gracie lose to someone who was lighter than him, as a way to avoid what would be expected to be an excuse for the loss, which actually was never made.

Igor Vovchanchin (224.8, Russia) vs. Gary Goodridge (237.2, Canada) was a really good opening match. This match was heavily edited, unfortunately, because it was a great fight, with the 10:44 being edited down to 5:00. Goodridge got tired first after both men traded hard punches. Goodridge actually rocked Vovchanchin just before Vovchanchin came back and put Goodridge away with a flurry. Both men also came in lighter than usual, as Vovchanchin usually fights at 235-240 and Goodridge has fought as heavy as 260 in the past.

Gracie vs. Sakuraba came off as entertaining. The announcers did a good job strategically, since in the first round, with Gracie throwing lots of punches, they noted he won the round, but also noted it appeared Sakuraba's strategy was to get Gracie to tire first, which turned out to be prophetic. Gracie threw a lot of punches, but they weren't strong punches that did serious damage. By fight's end, Gracie was tired and his face was battered.

Coleman (228.8, United States) vs. Akira Shoji (203.1, Japan) saw Coleman look impressive with his newfound boxing skill to go along with being a world class wrestler. Shoji didn't drop weight for the tournament but Coleman has fought as heavy at 255 in his original UFC days so you can see he trimmed way down for stamina. Coleman has always had a heavy punch, but seemed to posses good skill. Coleman was able to take Shoji down and threw good combination of rib and head punches. Coleman cut Shoji's right eye with a punch and his ribs were terribly discolored and his mouth was bloodied up. He also wound up with an egg under his right eye. Toward the end of the 15:00 round, Shoji shocked Coleman with a takedown and pounded on him momentarily until Coleman escaped. But it was a one-sided fight and the decision was obvious, but a good fight nonetheless.

Fujita (241.1, Japan) vs. Mark Kerr (236.7, United States) was an exciting fight, as the two wrestlers did a lot of striking. Kerr took Fujita down and pounded on him with punches and knees. Fujita got some punches in and Kerr got a good knee in that bloodied up Fujita's nose. Fujita came back with Kerr tiring, scoring a takedown and pounded on Kerr for a long time, including hard knees to the body which apparently did damage to his own knee and resulted in him being unable to fight a second time, and scored another takedown later to win an easy decision. Fujita is announced at 275 as a pro wrestler with New Japan although his legit weight probably is closer to 255. Kerr trimmed down from 255 in his UFC days.

The non-tournament match with Guy Mezger (203.9, United States) vs. Masaake Satake (227.7, Japan) was heavily edited. Satake actually did well, as he was slightly better on stand-up and threw a lot of good kicks. Mezger was competitive and threw good kicks. First round was even overall, none of which aired on the PPV. They picked it up in the second round with Mezger on top after taking Satake down and controlling him throwing punches, getting a mount, and giving him body shots until Satake's ribs were discolored. They edited the 20:00 match down to about 5:00.

Sakuraba was definitely winning the decision over Vovchanchin until the 11:30 mark when Vovchanchin escaped, got behind Sakuraba and threw what would be considered in pro wrestling as a poor german suplex. Vovchanchin's face, even though he fought 10:00 as opposed to 90:00, was really marked up going in. But it was still amazing after going 90, that Sakuraba even came out, let alone was winning against a man 45 pounds heavier for most of the fight. Sakuraba nearly armbarred him early. Sakuraba scored a few takedowns before he got tired. Sakuraba appeared to hit the wall because at about the 12:00 mark, he couldn't do anything and took a terrible pounding including getting a cut over his right eye. The decision at the end of the round was a draw, but Sakuraba's corner then threw in the towel for him.

Coleman vs. Fujita basically never happened. Fujita came out with his knee all taped up. The bell rang and he shot for a takedown, and immediately Brian Johnston threw in the towel and Fujita sold like his knee was killing him. With Vovchanchin being in a stand-up war with Goodridge and a very competitive struggle with Sakuraba, he had fought 25 hard minutes. Coleman went into the finals with one match, with Shoji, which he was totally dominant in, so he had a big advantage getting what amounted to a bye in the finals. Bottom line is that no matter what, a tournament format favors the man who is the luckiest on that given night. If these eight were put in another tournament in four months and all came in the same condition they were on this night, Coleman would probably win again because he was the strongest and had good enough stand-up, but Vovchanchin had a disadvantage in the finals.

The battle of pro wrestlers with Shamrock (213.8) vs. Otsuka (193.2), so Otsuka didn't go up to 225 as he claimed he would be training in the United States, up from 188 in January, Shamrock was 227 the last time he fought in late 1996 in the Ultimate Ultimate against Johnston) started with three minutes of stand-up. Shamrock was good with leg kicks but his punches didn't zing like a boxers [lol no I guess they did not! -- ed]. Shamrock seemed content to fight standing up, even though his greatest strength in the past was taking guys down and overpowering them. He was certainly doing better, getting in some punches and more low kicks, before Otsuka caught him with a solid punch to the face. Shamrock immediately took him down and tried a few submissions, but didn't get them. Shamrock had Otsuka under control on the ground for several minutes, but Otsuka was able to counter attempts at an armbar and entangled armlock. Otsuka escaped and they had another stand-up exchange, and Shamrock was getting the better of it, with Otsuka getting a bloody nose, and was pounded on even more until hitting a flurry of punches that put Otsuka out. At no point in the fight was Shamrock ever in trouble, but the real question as to his comeback is how he reacts in a fight against someone who can give him legitimate trouble.

Coleman vs. Vovchanchin saw Coleman fight his fight. He took Vovchanchin down and bruised up his ribs, and threw punches to the face. Vovchanchin threw some stuff from the bottom. Coleman went for an entangled armlock, and while he has the strength, didn't have the technique to make it work. He continued throwing body shots in the first round. Coleman ended up with a cut on his eye. The first 20:00 were all Coleman holding him down and throwing punches. Coleman took Vovchanchin down to start the second round. He went for a neck crank. He finally got a side mount and started throwing knee after knee to his head. The last few shots with the left knee to Vovchanchin's forehead were brutal and Vovchanchin, for only the second time in his long career, actually tapped out.

PRIDE GRAND PRIX: Thumbs up 101 (100.0%), Thumbs down 0 (0.0%), In the middle 0 (0.0%). BEST MATCH: Royce Gracie vs. Kazushi Sakuraba 90, Mark Kerr vs. Kazuyuki Fujita 8. WORST MATCH: Mark Coleman vs. Kazuyuki Fujita 46, Guy Mezger vs. Masaake Satake 11"

and:

"Kazuyuki Fujita is wanting to tour Europe to learn more from European submission experts for his return to fighting in Pride over the summer."

and:

"Akira Maeda returned from the United States furious about Gilbert Yvel, his current world heavyweight champion, signing with Pride, and announced upon his return that Yvel was stripped of his version of the world heavyweight title." [That'll show him! But I mean what else can you do, I get it --ed.]

and:

"Sakuraba actually suffered a foot or ankle injury before the Gracie match but didn't let it out publicly until afterwards, and won't be fighting on the 6/4 Pride show due to the injury."

May 29, 2000:

"For the debut of the Coliseum 2000 promotion on 5/26 at the Tokyo Dome in the Rickson Gracie vs. Masakatsu Funaki match, it has already been announced that Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Akira Maeda would be at ringside to cheer Funaki on. They are trying to get Nobuhiko Takada as well although the belief is that he isn't going to be there since he works for Pride, which is a rival promotion. From a symbolic nature for older fans, this is a big deal because Fujiwara, Maeda and Takada were the pioneers of the UWF movement in the 80s and Funaki would be the first big name from pro wrestling to have a good chance at beating Rickson Gracie. Takada was a bigger pro wrestling name and his matches with Gracie drew well, but he realistically had no chance to win. Sakuraba beat Royce, but Sakuraba was never a big name in pro wrestling, and gained all his fame in recent years in real fights

The Dream Stage Entertainment PPV in the United States was considered a success on DirecTV. I have no idea what constitutes "a success" but I assume that means they'll run future shows. For whatever this is worth, and it's probably not all that fair a comparison, we were running almost neck-and-neck that weekend on the web site when it came to comments on the DSE and the ECW PPV, and ECW was available in 37 million potential homes and DSE in probably closer to five million

DSE has begun talks of doing a Mark Coleman vs. Ken Shamrock title match in August [lololololol wow --ed.]. The key to this one is the rules. The longer the time limit, the more it on paper figures to favor Shamrock, but it may be the ultimate test at this point in their careers for both men and conditioning may be the key. Realistically, Coleman is getting the first takedown and top position early. At that point it becomes how well Shamrock defends and who gets tired first, or if Shamrock can escape and do damage standing before the time limit expires. Coleman's boxing actually looked better than Shamrock's at the last show, but Shamrock is more diverse standing with the leg kicks, although leg kicks can be an invitation to be taken down."

and:

"The line-up for the Dream Stage Entertainment show on 6/4 at Nagoya Rainbow Hall is Gilbert Yvel vs. Vitor Belfort (Carlson Gracie recently sent out a press release stating that Belfort has been expelled as a member of the team and permanently banned from training at his Academy and threatened legal action against anyone who uses the Gracie name in conjunction with promoting Belfort, who he charged with ingratitude and disloyalty) which on paper looks to be an explosive match, as the main event. Also signed are Allan Goes vs. Vernon White, Carlos Barreto vs. Tra Telligman, Ricco Rodriguez vs. Gary Goodridge, Akira Shoji vs. John Renken, Daijiro Matsui vs. Johil de Oliveira, Marcello Tiger vs. Heath Herring and two or three more matches to be added. At the Takada dojo, they are under the impression of a match with Carlos Newton vs. Minoru Toyonaga (a Takada dojo wrestler) and that Matsui's opponent would be Igor Vovchanchyn. de Oliveira, who is 150 pounds, would be a stark contrast to Vovchanchin, at 225-240. None of these matches have any box office appeal in Japan. Matsui is a former pro wrestler who has done several matches with Pride in the past. White and Telligman are both Ken Shamrock's proteges from Lions Den. It wasn't that many years ago when Belfort was thought by promoters to be the next big thing in the martial arts world

Mark Kerr claimed in an interview that the reason he blew up in the match against Kazuyuki Fujita was because he had a hypoglycemic episode and his body shut down from loss of sugar in his blood. Kerr is a type 2 diabetic with a hyperactive pancreas."

June 5, 2000:

"Pride's 6/4 line-up for Nagoya Rainbow Hall is now scheduled as Gilbert Yvel vs. Vitor Belfort, Igor Vovchanchyn vs. Daijiro Matsui, Carlos Barreto vs. Tra Telligman, Marcelo Tiger vs. Heath Herring, Ricco Rodriguez vs. Gary Goodridge, Carlos Newton vs. pro wrestler Naoki Sano and Johil de Olivera vs. Matt Serra. Sano was a late replacement for stablemate Minoru Toyonaga, who was diagnosed as having a brain tumor

The next Pride show after this will be on 8/27 at the 52,000-seat Seibu Dome in Tokorazawa. At this point Ken Shamrock is scheduled to headline the show against either Mark Coleman or Kazuyuki Fujita. Pride has announced that every major fighter with the promotion would appear and they would have fan internet balloting to give them ideas on potential match-ups

Add Alex Andrade, a student of Guy Mezger's in the Dallas area, who has fought before in Pancrase, against Amaury Bitetti from Brazil. Bitetti was in one of UFC's most legendary matches in history in 1996 against Don Frye in Detroit, coming up on the losing end of a brutal beating which at the time was considered something of a huge upset in the martial arts world because this was during the period where it was thought the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu masters were very difficult to beat." [We will have much, much more to say about Don Frye as we move along here but for now let it be said that the true glory of Don Frye is that he represents more or less the pinnacle of what can be achieved by training the martial arts you can learn at the YMCA for basically no money: boxing, wrestling, judo -- ed.]

AND WITH THAT WE ARE FINALLY ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE プライドグランプリ/PU-RA-I-DO-GU-RA-N-PU-RI/PRIDE GRAND PRIX and I feel genuine relief! Join me soon, please won't you, as we encounter Pride 9 from the Nagoya Civic General Gymnasium (名古屋市総合体育館, Nagoya-shi Sōgō Taiikukan), formerly Nagoya Rainbow Hall, a lovely name that I have thought of not infrequently over the many years since I first heard tell? I would be delighted were you able to. Thank you very much once again for reading. I am having a lot of fun!

1 comment:

  1. So glad you're getting back to these. Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete