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Peoria Prancer

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  1. *Achtung!* Vol.15 is now up and ready for our incredible patrons....then after the fullness of time has expired, I'll post it here, for all. https://www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad
  2. *Archives of this series can be found at https://www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad * Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol.14 "Forward the Foundation" We are back again, this time at everyone’s favorite bowling alley, the Fukuoka Hakata Starlanes, only this time with the PWFG crew in tow, ready to continue the road that can only lead to innumerable Kakutogi glories. It’s 9-28-91, and we are welcomed to a montage of the PWFG clan training and warming up, when one quickly realizes that all pro wrestlers are really bodybuilders at heart, for between the various sleeveless neon muscle shirts, and Minoru Suzuki’s hot pink Zubaz, we aren’t sure if we are about to witness a wrestling event, or a Flex Magazine photo-shoot. Suzuki....looking forward to his next Mega Mass 4000 shake. Hope is quickly recovered when we find an ever-aging Fujiwara, who seems to be immune to the pastel charms of this wayward generation, wandering around before the show’s start, overlooking the merchandise table, before giving us an interview. We then jump right into the evening’s proceedings, as Lato Kiraware is set to face Kazuo Takahashi. When we last saw these two, Takahashi had a very respectable showing against Greco-Roman specialist Duane Koslowski, while Kiraware was forced to completely embarrass himself, as Fujiwara’s personal punching bag. Kiraware comes out swinging against Takahashi, putting forth some reasonably stiff palm strikes, which Takahashi is only able to cover up and deflect a portion of them. After taking some stiff shots, Takahashi wisely shoots in with a deep single and takes Kiraware to the mat. Surprisingly, the strikes don’t stop once the fight hits the canvas, as Takahashi throws some punches to both the face, and midsection of Kiraware, looking to try and create an opening, but Kiraware was too close to being underneath the rope, so the ref orders a restart. This was a gift for Lato as he wastes no time in firing off some more palm strikes, landing an especially epic one, flush into Takahashi’s face around 3 ½ mins into the match. A dazed Takahashi starts to counterattack from the clinch, even delivering a headbutt to Lato (which apparently are legal in PWFG) but is taken down to the mat and forced to start defending from his guard. They both continue to deliver stiff slaps to each other while on the ground, before Takahashi starts to wiggle out from underneath, and attempts to stand up, which causes Lato to deliver a vicious suplex, which leads to Lato scoring a knockdown. The rest of the fight is basically Kiraware slapping the daylights out of Takahashi and is ended when Takahashi is caught in a guillotine, after attempting another single leg takedown. I cannot believe I’m saying this, but this was a good match. No, it didn’t have any impressive positional changes ,or grappling wizardry on display, but out of all the worked PWFG matches so far, this probably felt the closest to an actual MMA fight, minus the flashy suplex, and Kiraware not completely following up his attacks when Takahashi was dazed. In fact, outside of those with a trained eye (and especially to the audience that witnessed it) this would totally pass for real, and that is really the magic behind this style. To be able to feature pro wrestling in a stripped down, no nonsense fashion, and still be entertaining, is a tough balancing act, and we have to give Takahashi a lot of credit, as his willingness to take some stiff shots, really pushed what would could have been a mediocre entry, into the realm of greatness. Next up is Takaku Fuke vs Wellington Wilkins Jr, and right away we are forced to notice Fuke’s attempt at an 80s Tarzan motif. Gene Lebel was famous for sporting a pink gi, and would claim that it helped distract his opponents, but he did not have anything on Fuke’s trunks, which are a result of what would happen if you crossed leopard print with an Oreo cookie. Right away this is off to a blistering pace, as Wilkins fires off a high kick, only to be taken down with a lighting fast single leg, which Fuke transitioned out of into a modified straight armbar attempt, prompting a rope escape from Wilkins. After a leg-lock duel, Wilkins switches gears and knees Fuke several times in the chest, but one knee went low, and wound up being an unintentional groin strike. The rest of the match saw a plethora of takedowns, positions changes, submission attempts, etc, before Fuke ends the bout by securing an armbar just shy of the 11min mark. This was reasonably entertaining but moved too fast to really build any tension or feel like more than the perfunctory outing that is was. However, it was interesting to see it right after the first match, as we can see the contrast of ways to work a match within this style. This was not over the top by any means but needed more space to really breathe. Now we have the most excellent Naoki Sano vs Master Soronaka’s number 1 pupil, Bart Vale. It’s a shame that we only get a few more matches from Sano after this, as he was a real asset here, and it would have been interesting to see him as one of the early Pancrase guys, as opposed to staying on the pro wrestling trajectory that he was on. As it was, he was basically being loaned out by the SWS promotion, who had a working relationship with Fujiwara and the PWFG at this time, so it was probably never intended for him to be more of a helping hand, but it was great to see him here while it lasted. Vale wastes no time in throwing the high kicks but is stopped cold with an excellent Ippon-seoi-nage (One Arm Shoulder Throw) from Sano. Grappling exchanges ensued, with Vale attempting a couple of kimura attempts, to no avail, and Sano getting a short-lived mount position. Vale would continue his foot attacks, but as always, he is quite slow, but Sano makes him pay for his sluggish execution and catches the leg off a slow kick, and immediately turns it into a takedown. Vale acquits himself better on the ground, as the speed disparity between the two isn’t as noticeable, and he is better able to utilize his height advantage. We are soon led to our first groan worthy exchange as Vale spins around and plops down to the mat off of a thigh kick from Sano, only for Sano to grunt and summon all the power of his forebearers to execute a single-leg Boston Crab, in a most dramatic fashion. This leads to a rope escape of course, and from here, Vale starts loosening up a bit and begins to throw some palm strikes, along with some kicks, which leads to another sequence where, after missing a roundhouse, Sano gets a takedown and pulls out the double-leg variation of Boston’s favorite submission. Vale had this scouted though, as he was able to reverse it by doing a push up and forcing Sano to fall on his head. The rest of the fight more or less alternates between Vale seeking a TKO via kicks to the midsection, and Sano fishing for toe holds, but the end came when once again Sano pulled deep into the well, and slapped on another crab from Boston, to which the crowd went nuts over, and submitted Vale a little after the 15min mark. This was…ok. It was entertaining, as Sano always is, but after watching the first two matches, which while different from one another, were both in the more modern take on this style, while this wound up feeling kind of hokey. This would have played a lot better if it had been on a NEWBORN UWF, or NJPW card a couple of years prior, but things are already starting to quickly evolve, and the holes in the old ways are becoming too obvious. This probably was partly due to Sano not being as experienced in this style as others on the roster, and Vale’s slow delivery didn’t help in creating the illusion that this needed either, but still, an enjoyable match. Next is Masakatsu Funaki vs Mark Rush, and hopefully this will be a great showcase for Funaki, as the only opportunity he’s really been giving to shine here so far, was against Ken Shamrock at the prior months outing. Rush did a respectable job last time, against Takahashi, but is still an unknown, as he had no prior experience before or after the PWFG, so this should be interesting. Right away Funaki is floating around Rush, and peppering him with leg kicks, and even though Rush managed to catch a kick and get Funaki on the mat, it didn’t matter as Funaki is able to easily get out, and reverse his bad position. We can quickly see that Funaki is on a whole another level than Rush, or really anyone for that matter, and Rush is only going to get away with what Funaki lets him. One great sequence is when Funaki follows up a thigh kick with an uppercut from the clinch, and from there executes a nice standing kimura throw (a variation of the Sumi Gaeshi) Funaki toys with Rush throughout, and Rush’s only notable offense was attempting a standing reverse Kimura a la Sakuraba, that he took to the ground and attempted to follow through on for several mins, otherwise this was all Funaki. Funaki wins via an armbar transitioned off a head leg-scissor hold. It’s always nice to see Fuanki, and certainly interesting to see what a skill disparity between him, and someone that probably had a background in amateur wrestling, but it’s still a mystery why they keep sticking Fuanki in these pointless matches. Had they switched him and Vale, then everyone probably would have been the better for it. Vale tended to look decent against lower-tier performers, and would have probably mixed well with rush, and Sano/Funaki was a proven formula as they already had two good matches over in the SWS promotion, but perhaps that’s why they avoided this approach, in an effort to not go to the well too many times. Now we have, what we are all looking forward to, Minrou Suzuki vs Ken Shamrock. When we last saw Suzuki, he gallantly defended the honor of pro wrestlers everywhere by defeating the human oil slick, Lawi Napataya, in a shoot. Shamrock on the other hand had his reputation cemented as the top foreign talent in his prior bout with Fuanki. This is the 2nd time these two have met, as they both had an excellent 30min draw against each other at the inaugural PWFG event. Things start off with an intense stare down and we are off. Right away I’m impressed with Suzuki’s footwork, very springy, and always feinting in a way that leads you to think he could shoot in at any moment. Shamrock fires off a high kick followed by a palm strike right away, and he is completely jacked here, just dwarfing Suzuki. Suzuki gambles on shooting in with a deep single leg from a mile away but is stuffed by Shamrock. However, Ken gives up his superior positioning by diving for some kind of toe-hold attack, giving his back to Suzuki. Suzuki uses this reversal of fortune to work for a crab, but Shamrock shows us the secret that we have all been looking for, that one simply needs to slap the next person in the face that tries to get you in this Boston contraption. From here, Suzuki falls back for a straight ankle lock, much like Shamrock tried against his first confrontation against Royce Gracie, and just like Gracie, Ken went with his opponent’s momentum to wind up in top position. After both fighters tried various unsuccessful leg attacks, they went back to their feet, and kept jockeying from the clinch. One nice sequence showed Ken give Suzuki a stiff knee to the midsection, which gave Suzuki an opportunity to hook Ken’s free leg and attempt a kneebar from the takedown. Suzuki couldn’t quite extend the leg far enough, so he used a kimura grip to put the added threat of a toe-hold into the equation, and was able to put enough torque on that maneuver to force Ken to take a rope escape. Next we see a beautiful takedown set-up from Suzuki, as he does a very subtle short stomp to Ken’s thigh, and immediately dives in to go for a clinch, followed up by a standing switch, while Ken is momentarily distracted. It didn’t wind up working, as Ken did a switch of his own, which caused Suzuki to turtle up, and Shamrock showed us a technique to deal with a turtled opponent that I had never thought of, which was to grab his opponents foot and dive over the opposite shoulder, as to wind up repositioned in a place where you have enough leverage to finish a toe-hold. While some would look back into this hazy shroud that is early 90s catch-inspiried grappling, and only see rudimentary ideas, if we dig a little deeper, we can see some interesting truths made manifest. Namely that wristlocks, toe holds, and other leg attacks, put the entire BJJ orthodoxy on shaky ground as they are techniques that are able to be hit from all sorts of angles, including what would otherwise be terrible positions. Shamrock succeeded in getting a rope escape from his unusual foot attack, and they both returned to clinch warfare soon afterwards. The rest of the match saw various armbar, and leg attacks from both mem, punctuated by Ken’s need to slap the stuffing out of Suzuki in between the ground exchanges, but the match ends, when Suzuki hits a standing Kimura on Ken, only to be reversed into a dragon suplex, which gave Ken a knockout victory. This was excellent, and a great way to end the show. While it wasn’t able to build as much drama as their first fight, due to being about 14 mins shorter, it didn’t have any of the dead spots of that bout either, and was non-stop from the opening bell. If I had to pick between the two, I would still give their first match the edge, in terms of quality, but make no mistake, this was very good, and an excellent showcase of the new possibilities that are emerging. It’s strange that real fighting is being advanced by a group of people that are pretending to fight for real, as if they were in a real fight. Final conclusion: Even with some of the weaker matches, this is still hands down the best wrestling org on the planet at this stage of the game. The UWFI arguably has the potential to claim that throne, but mediocre booking, and Takada’s antics will surely prevent that from happening. As it stands, there is nothing better going on right now, and I’m really impressed at how far ahead of the time this outfit really was. The look that only victory brings... Here is the event in full: https://youtu.be/IwYHeG9IIyU Let's see what Mike Lorefice has to say about this: Kazuo Takahashi vs Lato Kiraware: Takahashi is clearly positioned as the better wrestler while Kiraware has the better hands as well as a massive size advantage. Takahashi, as always during these days, mainly tries for the takedown, but beyond the difficulty of taking down the killer whale anywhere, usually when he does, Lato conveniently manages to fall right into the ropes to force the restart in standup. Kiraware does a lot of that action figure, turn at the waste kind of striking, using some solid open hand slaps but never mixing it up in any way. He has one big suplex, but is basically just trying to hold Takahashi off until he figures out a way to win, which comes in the form of countering a takedown with a guillotine. This match was believable enough to be a solid restrained undercard bout in this style, but also kind of bland & repetitive without much skill on display. Takaku Fuke vs Wellington Wilkins Jr: An active, lively contest, more in the UWF-I style complete with PWFG's new variation on their hokey scoring system. Fuke is improving considerably with each fight, and seems on the verge of a breakout match when pitted with a stronger opponent than Wilkins, who if a fine follower here, but doesn't offer a lot beyond low blows that kill the momentum. While not as believable as the opener, Fuke has enough skill to make me take notice. Naoki Sano vs Bart Vale: Vale would wade in with a movie kick until Sano took him down into a submission. Vale always seemed to have the upper hand in this match because he could get a reversal & attack with his own submissions, while, for the longest time, Sano oddly wasn't really trying to do anything on his feet but counter into a takedown or throw. Sano did well with the inside leg kick when he finally became willing to throw, and the match turned from there, with Sano doing damage & even scoring two knockdowns on his feet, the later leading to his 1/2 crab victory. This was okay, but it was more a 1988 UWF match, and it lacked the believability and intensity to really make you buy into all the near finishes. Sano has been excellent so far, but he isn't experienced enough in this style to be asked to carry Vale, who Funaki could do nothing with. This was a good win for Sano, but I'm not sure what purpose it really served given his limited availability, probably just payback for PWFG running over everyone in SWS. Masakatsu Funaki vs Mark Rush: A better performance from Funaki, who was more willing to make this a one-man show. Funaki opened up more here, both in standup where he showed his speed & footwork evading the wrestler so he could land his strikes, and on the mat where he transitioned more quickly & explosively. It was a more entertaining performance because he was less in lockdown mode on the mat, and was making things happen rather than waiting around to make his move. Rush was again decent, while he didn't do anything amazing, he was at least a willing and capable foil. The problem with many of these shoot style matches is the weak link brings the match down to his level, usually through inexperience and lack of training, but Funaki was able to maneuver around Rush in a manner that made Funaki look several steps ahead of anyone else on this card. The main reason not to recommend this is it was a squash, but I still think it was the best match on the card so far. Minoru Suzuki vs Ken Shamrock: A major step up for Shamrock, who really puts it all together here after the somewhat disappointing match with Funaki & gives his best performance to date by a wide margin. Shamrock is just fighting a lot more aggressively & assertively, getting solid strikes in even though it's not really a striking match, and then making decisive moves on the mat even though he's experimenting with different positions & leg locks that are more the game of his crafty opponent. In addition to being two of the best shoot style workers, Suzuki & Shamrock also stand out for being able to tell little pro wrestling stories without having to stop the match or be corny & unrealistic to do so. This wasn't the best match we've seen so far, but it was probably the richest in terms of having a lot of little things going on, and somthing of a running storyline that didn't feel forced. Shamrock quickly established his standup advantage, putting Suzuki in the familiar grappler against striker role, and when Suzuki kept manipulating Shamrock's ankle until the lock was tight, only to have the ref immediately make him break because Shamrock was in the ropes, he pounded the canvas in disgust and then grinned at Shamrock, kinda taunting him that he should be better than to have to dive for the ropes at the same time he's content to point out that he's already got one up on Shamrock. Shamrock soon answered with his own ankle lock, and while Suzuki is less anxious, he does take a rope escape and then begin doing the good sort of pro wrestling selling where he shows he's hampered - has difficulty putting weight on that ankle - without having to stop the match & make the ref look like an idiot for allowing a match where someone doesn't respond for a minute to continue simply because pro wrestling never actually modernizes. Sticking in the pro wrestling mode, these two are able to show they don't like each other, but again in the good sort of way where Shamrock immediately kicks Suzuki in the ankle because his rival has made the mistake of revealing it as a weak point. They soon proceed to a spot where the ref breaks them as both are in the ropes working for the same ankle submission. The ground continues to more or less be a stalemate as Suzuki answers Shamrock's Achilles' tendon hold with one of his own, but later Suzuki gains an advantage instead answering with a heel hold, which forces Ken into a rope escape. Though the argument could be made that Shamrock has the advantage because he's handily winning the brief standup exchanges, Suzuki is doing a better job of getting the quick lock up, and is coming closer to getting the submission once it hits the ground. He forces another rope break with an Achilles' tendon hold, and is able to get armbar position twice, though Ken fights it off before he can extend the arm. Shamrock also defends a wakigatame attempt & is able to take Suzuki's back while they are standing back up. Suzuki avoided a suplex earlier, and now uses a Kimura grip to spin out into a standing wrist lock, but this leaves him exposed, and Shamrock just takes his back & hoists him for a huge Dragon suplex. Shamrock bridges to go for the corny pinfall, but after the ref counts 1, he releases & instead has the ref count Suzuki out when he can't answer the 10 count, which again is a ridiculous carry over from pro wrestling that needs to go in order for the ref to have a shred of credibility. Anyway, I think they were on the right track with this finish, but Shamrock should have done a released Dragon right into an immediate ref stop KO. Though the match never felt great, it was a rich, well themed & focused match where both were on the top of their game. We haven't really seen this sort of match so far, and they were also doing some different things with the ankle & joint manipulation. I think they really found a nice balance of being a pro wrestling match with some of the storytelling & acting at the same time they were a proto shoot match with the sort of footsies we'd see in early Pancrase where the best defense was often to just attack whatever limb they left exposed with your own submission. If you like quantity then their 3/4/91 match is certainly better given it's almost twice as long, but this match is a lot tighter & shows they've grown and improved considerably during the past 6 months. **** Final Conclusion: The prelims may not have been great, but without the hamfisted headbutting antics of Fujiwara, every match at least felt like a serious & legitimate attempt at a martial arts match. Beyond the promotion running smoother without the diversion, the show was important for seeming to properly settle the top gaijin spot, with Shamrock surprisingly successfully following up his upset win over Funaki, while Bad Bart was gunned down on the undercard. *In other news* The Sediokaikan organization out of Japan, is continuing to make strides to become the premier choice in the Karate/Stand-Up fighting sphere. They recently had their Karate World Cup event on 10-10-91, showcasing a lot of great talent within the Sediokaikan Karate style along with competitors representing their respective disciplines in Kickboxing, Savate, Muay Thai, and Tae Kwon Do. Some highlights include a stunning upset as Dutch Savate fighter Gerard Gordeau defeated Masaaki Satake in a thrilling bout. This Sediokaikan event has a format in which the first round is contested with both men wearing a gi, under Knockdown Karate rules (punches only from the torso down, and kicks legal to all parts of the body, minus the groin or knee). If there isn’t a winner after the first round, then both competitors take off their gi top and fight another round, and if there still isn’t a winner then both fighters put on gloves and have up to two rounds of kickboxing. After all that, if there still isn’t a knockdown or judges’ decision, then the fight is decided by a brick breaking competition. In this case, the fight was every fluid and even throughout, with the judges being unable to decide a winner, even after 4 rounds, so they went to the tie-breaking brick round, and Gerard Gordeau was able to break about 2-3 more bricks than Satake. This is especially shocking, as Satakae has been a three-time Sedikaikan champion, and also had a winning kickboxing record going into this fight, so he was the odds on favorite to win this competition. Gordeau completely dominated his next opponent, but was taken out in the quarterfinals by an Australian kickboxer, Adam Watt, who went on to face Toshiyuki Atokawa in the finals. Atokawa is a small, but ferocious competitor, who wound up winning the tournament, when his continued leg assaults on Watt were eventually too much to handle, and Watt was unable to stand up on two feet. Here is the event in full: https://youtu.be/uLqLKE-Z0FI Interesting things are developing between Sediokaikan and the fledging RINGS promotion headed up by superstar Akira Maeda. The head of Sediokaikan, Kazuyoshi Ishii, recently made an appearance at the 9-14-91 RINGS event, along with his top student, Masaaki Satake, and Maeda returned the favor by joining Ishii for commentary duties at the Karate World Cup event on 10-10-91. Furthermore, it looks like Ishii will be loaning out Satake, and Nobuaki Kakuda (another top Seidokaikan star) for Maeda’s next event. This is great news for Maeda, as the lack of a deep roster has been very apparent in the three events that he has had so far and is in dire need of a talent boost. It is being reported that the UWFI has rebooked Bob Backlund for a rematch with its main star Nobuhiko Takada. Hopefully this next meeting will be better than the last, as Takada quickly dispensed with Backlund in a little over a minute, in what was a very disappointing finish for a main event with a foreign star with the name value of Backlund.
  3. *Archives of this series can be found at https://www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad * Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Wol.13 "The Road Less Traveled" Welcome back to the road ever unfolding. We at Kakutogi HQ apologize for the delay, as due to some unforeseen circumstances, this scribe was forced to throw this noble undertaking into a temporary state of abeyance, but has since picked himself up, shook the dust off, and is continuing to gaze upon the shrouded past, in a hope to collectively succor our future. We now find ourselves back at the Nakijima Sports Arena, the date is 9-26-91, and we are about to witness the UWFI attempt to bottle lighting twice, as Bob Backlund makes his return into the Shoot-Style arena. Backlund first faced off against Takada at the 12-22-88 Newborn UWF Heartbeat event, and while the action may seem antiquated in the lens of modern jaded eyes, there is no denying the absolutely electric atmosphere of that evening, as Japan was witnessing their hero face off against a flagbearer for American Wrestling (regardless if that perception was valid or not) and the tension permeating Osaka that night was palpable. Before we draw upon the well of past glories, we are to first drink from the refreshing streams of known sources, as our favorite footfighting phenom, Makato Ohe, as he is set to face off against New Mexico newcomer, Rafael Aguilar. Little is known about Aguilar other than he is NOT the same Rafael Aguilar that was a well-known drug cartel leader, who met his demise in 1993, after being shot to death in Cancun, Mexico. It’s always a treat to see Ohe in action, but hopefully Aguilar brings some more game to these proceedings than the last couple of competitors did, who were woefully out of their league against our favorite Shootboxing Alum. The fight starts and Aguilar’s footwork seems in place, but Ohe wastes no time in pressing the action. Aguilar weakly checks a thunderous leg kick, and responds with a sidekick, to which, Ohe simply grabs his leg and blasts him with a left right down the pipe. Aguilar continues to press forward, but is tied up in a long clinch with Ohe, who methodically takes his time and throws some powerful knees here and there, compared to a voluminous amount of weak shots to the midsection that Aguilar put forth. After a break Aguilar manages to hit Ohe with a nice uppercut, but is caught right back into a tight clinch, and this does not seem to be a comfortable place for him to work. Unlike what we would later see in K1 (in which the clinch was usually broken up after a few seconds) the UWFI ref seems content to allow plenty of time for the fighters to work here, before calling for a restart. Round 2 was fairly uneventful as Aguilar was able to fire off some decent punches when he was able to create some distance but was completely neutered whenever the fight got into a Muay Thai range. Ohe was able to land hard knees throughout the round but hasn’t seemed to put Aguilar in any real danger. Both fighters turned up the volume for round 3, and while Aguilar took a beating with plenty of nasty knees, and some hard punches, he was able to land several stiff uppercuts, which seems to be his number one weapon, and one that Ohe isn’t too keen on dealing with. As lopsided as the scoring of this bout is right now in favor of Ohe, there is a chance for Aguilar if he can keep sneaking those uppercuts in. Round 4 saw Aguilar take it up a notch, and while he still had no good answers for the clinch, he was able to work his boxing a lot more in this round, and is starting to look competitive here, although he is so far behind in points there is no way he is going to win a decision. You could tell that Aguilar really wanted to go for broke in round 5, but Ohe was having none of it, and grabbed a clinch whenever he could, and wasn’t about to take any chances. Aguilar did his best to fire off a shot whenever he could get a ref break, but it wasn’t enough, and it went to decision. I enjoyed this fight, and I think that whatever shortcomings Aguilar had, were more to do with where American kickboxing was at the time, than a lack of raw potential on the part of Aguilar. Aguilar seemed to be a fine practitioner in whatever style he was familiar with but having to take a crash course in Muay Thai against such a seasoned veteran in Ohe, would be a tough job for anyone. If the UWFI continues to feed Americans to Ohe, then we might get to see an upset yet, as straight boxing seems to be the biggest weakness in Ohe’s game and could potentially be his downfall. Ohe about to punish Aguilar’s sidekick… Tatsuyo Nakano vs Kiyoshi Tamura: When we last saw Tamura in a singles bout against Yoji Anjo he put an absolute clinic on display for us all, and showed us both the hidden beauty of the shoot-aesthetic and also how far ahead of his contemporaries he was at displaying it. Anjo is a pliable force and can be molded to serve whatever purpose the moment needs, but I do not have as high hopes for Nakano. One thing is for certain however, and that is Nakano has had about 13 trips to his local Viking Buffet since he last stepped foot into a ring. Nakano after a delightful trip to the local Sukiyaki Buffet After refusing to shake Nakano’s hand the match is underway, and Tamura wastes no time in trying to get a single leg from a clinch, which Nakano successfully stuffs, and tries to counter with a guillotine of his own. Tamura quickly turns the corner and is able to both edge out of the choke, and take Tatsuyo down at the same time, but Tatsuyo is able to quickly get back to his feet. It’s already incredible to see the fluidity and velocity of Tamura’s movements, and we aren’t even a min into this fight yet. Both men are able to utilize excellent circular movement, with Tamura having a clear speed advantage, but Nakano is simply too strong to be pinned or threated with Tamura’s submission or positional offense for too long. Nakano is able to shrug off a sloppy armbar attempt, and secure a rear chinlock, which forces Tamura to take his first rope escape. The match then continues in a stalemate fashion until Tamura shot in for a lighting quick single leg, only to get countered by a stiff knee to the chest/midsection of Tamura, in what was a cool sequence that cost Tamura more points via a knockdown. With nothing left to lose, Tamura finally unleashes the palm strikes, but Tatsuyo counters with some sluggish knees, and long before this became all the rage within the BJJ instructional scene, Tamura counters a single leg effort from Nakano with a kimura/wristlock entry. This would have been absolutely breathtaking, but unfortunately it wound up being a gaping hole in the credibility of the match as Tamura was a little slow in applying it, thus giving Tamura plenty of time to fiddle with the arm as he just let it hang out. Still. It’s amazing to see how much of what we would think as new grappling tech can be found in the layers of early shoot-style wrestling. The match continues it’s back and forth flow with Nakano having the upper hand in most of it, until Tamura catches a thigh kick and turns it into some kind of STF/Ankle Lock submission victory. Conclusion: A bit of a disappointment considering the blockbuster that he had with Miyato when we last witnessed him, and possibly Tamura’s weakest singles match so far, due to the rushed nature, and throwing all the striking towards the end, but this shouldn’t be taken as too strong of a criticism, as it’s still a Tamura match, and is thus worthy of our attention. The perfect counter to the single-leg Next up is newcome Gary Albright and veteran Yuko Miyato. During our prior encounter with Albright we saw him terrorizing everyones favorite zebra-clad warrior in Yoji Anjo, but if Anjo was the zebra, then surely Miyato is but a lovely gazelle, frolicking in the pasture, unaware of the impending doom to come. Albright comes out to quite possibly the worst entrance music that a man of his size could hope to, entering the ring to an instrumental that would be well served as the theme music to a NES RPG, if that RPG happened to have a sequence where the hero was expected to buy margaritas at a beach resort after a hard day of adventuring. The match begins, and taking one look at these two, it would be easy to just expect Albright to toss Miyato into the rafters, and be done with it, but surprisingly they start things off with a bit of kickboxing, feeling each other out. The footfighting doesn’t last too long before Albright ragdolls Miyato with a huge suplex, causing a knockdown. Miyato, then wisely continues to fight from the outside, landing some kicks to Albright’s thighs and midsection, but it doesn’t take long for the Yeti to close the distance and slam his prey with reckless abandon. This ends the fight, and puts the gazelle out of his misery, and this could have just as easily been featured on National Geographic. Next up, Satoru Sayama’s favorite padawan, Kazuo Yamazaki, must face fashion ace Yoji Anjo, in a bout that I must admit excites me with anticipation. Things start with Anjo offering his hand in the spirit of camaraderie, but is met with empty disgust on the part of Yamazaki, but has his revenge moments later, as they immediately begin trading kicks, and Anjo gets the better of Yamazaki, by grabbing his leg and kicking out the other leg, causing his opponent to fall. So far, a few mins into this match, and it is incredible in terms of the energy and atmosphere that these two are able to generate. Yamazaki plays it off, like a thuggish veteran that refuses to give any respect to the upstart in Anjo, but Anjo keeps delivering in fire and intensity, which is really resonating with the Japanese crowd. There is a great sequence in which Yamazaki is working over a leg, trying to take a basic ankle lock, and turn it into a more sinister heel-hook, which causes Anjo to panic and fly towards the ropes like his life depended on it. Yamazaki wasn’t able to relish this for too long, as not long afterwards, Anjo nailed him with a beautiful high kick to the ribs of Yamazaki, immediately prompting a knockdown. It continues to go back and forth, but Yamazaki can’t seem to catch a break as whenever he is able to land a submission on Anjo, he is forced to pay a hefty price by being lit up like a Christmas tree in the standup portions. Yamazaki is able to somewhat abruptly win the match with what I can only describe as an emergency single-leg Boston Crab, that he had to pull out of nowhere, after taking a volley of palm strikes from Anjo. Excellent. Despite having to end the match with the worst thing to come from Boston since tariffs, this was totally awesome, and easily the best match that Yamazaki has had so far in the UWFI. Next up is Bob Backland vs Nobuhiko Takada, and while I don’t have high hopes for this being good, in any nominal sense of the word, I am quite intrigued, and wondering if this is in fact, some shrewd booking. When I last saw Backland in the Shoot-Sphere, he had two matches in the Newborn UWF, with Takada and Funaki respectfully, and while he gave me the impression that he would have been good in this style, had he came up in it, and was more familiar with it, he still had too many goofy mannerisms that needed to be shed from his American style. Still, he absolutely electrified the atmosphere when he fought Takada the last time, so that may be all that is needed here tonight. We are now greeted to an interview with Backland, in which he tells us that he can’t guarantee a win, but that he does promise to give it his absolute best, and that he loves the Japanese fans. This came across as surprisingly heartfelt and grounded, and after Takadas interview segment, we are underway. Unfortunately, when the time came to start this match, Backland seriousness is nowhere to be found, and he is back to his old WWF tricks, of constantly making overexaggerated facial expressions for anything that happens, which somewhat robs him of the credibility that he does bring to the table. The Face of America…. The match starts with both men feeling each other out, and trading strikes. Backland takes a stiff leg to the thigh, and responds by backing Takada up in the corner, and firing off some stiff forearm strikes, which leads to Takada backing off to the center of the ring, and getting suplexed. The match restarts and Backland tries to land some very weak knees to Takada, and Takada responds with his own knee to the midsection, which starts a ten-count, that Backland doesn’t recover from, and the match is over at 1:15. Ok, I’m flummoxed by this. This was terrible, and I’m not sure what purpose this served. Takada is already over, so there isn’t any need to try and have a squash match, and Backland didn’t come off credibly at all. I have no doubt that had he put some effort to really study and train in this style, that he could pull off a good match, but his cornball antics (which compared to his contemporaries like the Ultimate Warrior and Paul Bearer look totally straight) only serve for him to look like completely out of place. What’s worse is that this entire show only clocks in at a little under 1 ½ hours, so there isn’t any purpose for rushing through some of these matches. Final Thoughts. If we can overlook the terrible ending, this was entertaining and enjoyable. Yamazaki shined, Ohe delivered once again, and Tamura could wrestle the Taiku Center’s janitor and still get a good match, so that outweighs the botched opportunity that was the main event. Here is the event in full: https://youtu.be/aIJOaFxKDBE And here is a video of the original confrontation between Takada and Backland: https://youtu.be/Fkyr_xOQ1OM Let's check in with "Mighty" Mike Lorefice, and see what he has to say about all of this. Makato Ohe vs Rafael Aguilar: Aguilar was an 80's style American kickboxer going against a Muay Thai fighter who was out to exploit the rules differences at every turn. Aguilar could land one shot from the outside, but then Ohe would take the Thai clinch & work him over on the inside where Aguilar wasn't used to having to fight. Aguilar adjusted in the 2nd half, working body punches on the inside. Ohe hurt Aguilar in the 3rd, dodging a right & countering with a clean left, but otherwise this was mostly a grind. Kiyoshi Tamura vs Tatsuyo Nakano: Nakano is probably the second worst of the UWF-I natives on the mat, leading only Takada, and his lack of speed & flexibility is part of it, but mostly it's that he works really slowly on the mat & relies upon a lot of fake pro wrestling positions & holds that should be getting removed from his arsenal by now. I love that when Nakano went into that should be side mount, but instead I just lie across you sideways not bothering to actually control the trunk or lower body, Tamura immediately just squirms free to avoid humiliation. I wish there was more of this, as Tamura lets Nakano get away with a lot of lazy positioning, and Nakano really doesn't seem to want to do anything. This never really feels like a Tamura match, it seems like Tamura is waiting for Nakano to make a move when he has the advantage, but Nakano just lays there, so Tamura never has the opportunity to use his fast reaction oriented style to make something cool happen. Even though Tamura slows & tones things down considerably for Nakano, when something does happen, Nakano's cooperation is definitely more obvious than the others. As the bout progresses, Tamura seems to get frustrated with the lack of activity, and decides to force Nakano to counter by giving him gaping holes that he simply can't ignore. Nakano is, not surprisingly, more into the standup, and there's a great spot Tamura tries for a single, but Nakano drops him countering with a knee. There's not really a lot of striking though, apart from a flurry at the end where Nakano no sells a suisha otoshi & winds up dropping Tamura with a high kick while Tamura is still getting back up. It's clear that Tamura was actually supposed to catch the kick & counter into the ankle lock for the win, and after some indecision, Nakano throws kicks until Tamura catches one & forces him to tap. This was by far the worst Tamura singles match so far, I'd go so far as to suggest that Nakano is pissed that he has to put over the young stud, and just sabotaged the match in protest. In any case, it at least clarifies that Miyato can go when he wants to, especially if there's someone to carry him, and Nakano is the one who is holding their matches back & keeping them in a holding pattern. Gary Albright vs Yuko Miyato: Welcome to UWF-I Superstars of Wrestling. This wasn't even a match, just a bodyslam in between two suplexes. Todd Pettengill might claim it was the greatest match of all time though, until the next match... Kazuo Yamazaki vs Yoji Anjo: Both an attempt at a more realistic bout in between two cartoon jobber matches & a story match. Though Yamazaki is normally one of the better strikers, here Anjo shows his superiority early, and Yamazaki shifts to being strategic, gambling that the risks Anjo is taking with his big strikes will eventually outweigh the rewards. Despite Anjo throwing some bombs, this isn't a particularly flashy match, as it's more about Yamazaki's patience & craftiness trying to see his strategy through. It's not nearly as reductive as I may be making it sound, with Anjo still being able to do things on the ground & Yamazaki still scoring in standup, but the general thrust is Anjo wants to make something happen & is thus willing to take chances, while Yamazaki wants to grab him, and ultimately that usually means taking a few shots. Even then, it doesn't always work, for instance Anjo pulls ahead when Yamazaki catches a middle kick, but goes down on delay before he can capitalize. They work with this idea of whether Yamazaki can seize the opportunity to take the offensive once he sacrifices himself to get the catch, but the match ends rather abruptly just when it's finally beginning to take off. Considering it's sandwiched in between two matches whose combined time is less than 4 minutes, you'd think they could have given these guys 15 minutes to work with. Had the kickboxing shoot not gone the distance, this show wouldn't even have lasted an hour. *** Nobuhiko Takada vs Bob Backlund: I don't get this at all. I mean, granted this isn't the sort of match you want to go long, but Backlund certainly doesn't look any better by losing immediately to some random fake injury, he looks like an old broken guy who couldn't hold up at all & should have just stayed retired. Now, I can't see there isn't a part of me who doesn't enjoy seeing one of the longest reigning kings of comedy wrestling simply made a fool of, but from a business perspective, this booking not only makes the rematch less viable in my opinion, but takes away most of the desired sting from Takada's shocking quick win. Albright winning quickly, sure, he just ran through the poor bantamweight, but this loss is more Backlund not being up to snuff than Takada being too amazing, as the one thing Takada did, whatever it exactly even was, certainly wasn't impressive looking if we see beyond the official story. As far as the match itself went, Backlund overexaggerated everything, still acting like it was WWF theater. He sort of landed a lame elbow & some super fake knees on the inside, one missing by a country mile, before taking this kick that took him out. The injury was really unclear as well because Backlund's selling was terrible to the point I was hoping for a fake explanation of what supposedly happened to him (the camera angle wasn't good to begin with). At first, I thought he was trying to convince Tirantes to come out & DQ Takada for a low blow, then I thought he might have a broken hand. It would have worked better if his body shut down from a liver kick, but the kick was too central for that. The whole thing was just a disgrace. This show was okay, but we're starting to see the many flaws in Miyato's bad booking, mainly that Takada & Albright just destroy everybody, leaving the rest of the promotion to via for the scraps, which basically consist of having good undercard matches to work their way up to putting these guys over in the main event. *Kakutogi Supplemental* We at Kakutogi headquarters were recently able to dig deep inside the catacombs underneath our offices, and unearth a buried treasure, a long-forgotten relic, languishing away under shadows and dust. It is a glorious artifact that brings me great honor to talk about today, in what is probably the very earliest piece of taped Shooto history (and an incredible document in the scope of MMA history). It was a tape that Satoru Sayama put forth in 1988, and it’s simply called “Satoru Sayama: The Shooting” and was presumably released in an effort to share with the world what his new sport would be, and to attract attention to his Super Tiger Gym. Super Tiger Gym, had already been involved in what would be considered MMA training by at least 1985 when they had famous Japanese kickboxer Toshio Fujiwara (who had instructed at the Mejiro Kickboxing Academy in the Netherlands) as the resident Muay Thai coach, in addition to all the Catch-Wrestling, and submission training that Sayama was providing his students, and as we will later see in later early 90s Shooto events, this cross training paid off, as your average Shooto guy was probably 10-15 years ahead of the curve, skill wise, then his American counterpart, in the early-mid 90s. Like encountering hieroglyphics for the first time, that is what we must imagine the UWF landscape of the late 84 season to have been like. As people like Sayama, Akira Maeda, and Yoshiaki Fujiwara, were learning that there was more to this strange language of combat sports, than what they could have possibly perceived when they first started breaking into Professional Wrestling. One has to wonder what it had to be like, to have so many concepts, and ideas ready to burst forth, but no canvas or medium in which to express them. Surely that is where Sayama must have been at in late 85, after his falling out with Maeda, and departure from the original UWF promotion. His desire, and quest, to capture the true essence of real fighting (or “Shooting” in Pro Wrestling parlance), with a sport that fully utilized all aspects of the fight realm. This concept is perhaps best summed up with an early promotional tagline that Shooto used, “Punch, Kick, Throw, Submission.” Simple, but like chess, underneath the simplicity of the premise, is a vast and unsearchable galaxy of possibilities and variations, therein. Sayama was determined to see his vision through, even if his vision hadn’t completely coalesced by this point, and like any trailblazer he simply took a leap into the unknown and started promoting what he had. And here we are… Things start off with Sayama demonstrating some neat moves, like flying armbars, and rolling kneebars (all the more crazy considering this is 1988) before we are taken to the lush Japanese countryside where Sayama is refreshing his mind, and nurturing his spirit underneath a serene waterfall. He then takes his students for a brisk jog, before conducting sprint drills, and we could only wish that American Pro Wrestling schools were half has cool as this. After this pleasant warm up, we are taken to a monastery that wouldn’t have been out of place in a 70s era Shaw Brothers Film, where they begin to do what any reasonable group of aspiring warriors would… they proceed to frog jump up a giant stone staircase, but only Sayama is hardcore enough to forgo shoes. Your MMA class isn’t half as cool After mastering the stairs, the students are then taken to a different part of the monastery and given various kickboxing pad drills, with personal correction and instruction from Sayama. An interesting observation Is that all the way back in 1988, MMA style gloves are being used here, although the padding covers more of the fingers than a modern pair would. After this, we go inside one of the buildings to cover takedowns, throws, and submission entries. This is absolutely fascinating as this entire approach is very comprehensive, and light years ahead of its time. The only missing ingredient from a more modern approach is the positional sensibilities that BJJ brought to the fore. There is no real concern about finding and keeping positional dominance, but rather the mentality seems to always seek the submission, and what to do if your caught in a compromising situation. From the Monastery to the Big City After going over several submission entries we are brought to the infamous Korakuen Hall, where Sayama brings out his students, and this scribe is able to see future Shooto star and grappling wizard Noburu Asahi within the group. Sayama then talks to the crowd about his new sport and goes over the rules and judging. My understanding of Japanese is woefully meager, but from what I can glean, it would seem that all Shooto fights will be judges with standard amateur wrestling takedowns being given a much lower score than successful judo throws, and near submissions being given a high score as well. Just like modern MMA a fight is won either by submission or ko, though there is a standing 10 count in place for knockdowns. It’s scare how in the 80s Sayama came up with a better idea than this our current 10 point must system. Sayama then talks about the rules, and it would seem that most strikes are legal while standing, sans elbows, and that you are allowed to punch, kick, knee, etc, a grounded opponent below the face, if they are on the ground, but soccer kicks to the face are not legal. Punches to the face of a grounded opponent do not appear to be legal either. Later on we will see a fighter kick another fighter in the face while they were both on the ground, so I’m not sure if that’s a loophole, or if it just wasn’t noticed. Sport of the future…. Even in our current ultra-polarized world, there are a few things that we can all come into agreement on, and that is that the 80s gave us perhaps the finest subgenre of film in the Post-Apocalyptic genre (of which I am partial to 2020 Texas Gladiators, and Sayama realized this, so to honor this, he forced his amateur fighters to wear headgear that celebrated this, which is only meet and right. Yes, one glace at these amazing contraptions, and we see that we are indeed headed to new, and unforeseen vistas in the world of Martial Arts. The tournament goes off without a hitch, and I am amazed at the pure essence of it all. No point fighting, no gaming the rules, lay and pray, wall and stall, etc. Every fighter is constantly pushing forward with kickboxing, throws, takedowns, and diving for submissions. Not that it would be against the rules to try and work a closed guard, or stall with a takedown, but that doesn’t even seem to be a concept with these fighters, and this is also encouraged with rules that reward submissions, and action. There was guard work on display here, but anytime someone was using their guard it was in an aggressive fashion, going for submission attempts. All the fights here are fast paced, and entertaining, even though it’s hard to distinguish who’s who, with the elite headgear, and we are all able to witness that Sayama has something very special on his hands here. Sadly, like most innovators throughout history, Sayama didn’t get much credit for his trailblazing, and like people such as Tesla, Antonio Meucci, and Alfred Russel Wallace, the little credit that they do get is only after their inventions become part of the common lexicon of the populace. To add insult to injury, just aproximentaly 8 years after this demonstration Sayama would have a falling out with the Shooto board of directors, and he wound up leaving his creation. Perhaps, much like Icuras, he flew too high to the Sun, playing with forces he did not understand. Using pro-wrestling jargon like “Shooting” when trying to promote a new sport, probably didn’t help matters either, as it served to both confuse anyone not familiar with the term, and the few people in America that knew who he was from his Tiger Mask days, probably didn’t know what to make of actual MMA, or a video catolog that had “Sayama’s Shooting Vol 12.” Still, no one probably came first to having the pure essence of Modern MMA, more than Sayama. While a case can certainly be made for the Brazilian Vale Tudo Challenge matches throughout the years that preceded this, that was never really the same, both in intent, nor in execution. Usually such things were just an excuse for a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner to show the superiority of his style against an inferior opponent that had little chance of succeeding. Even the early UFC events were set up to be infomercials for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, and were never intended to be a test that they knew they wouldn’t be able to pass. Also, what constituted for pre-UFC MMA was usually people in two distinct styles, with very little overlap, or cross training. Here we see the first fighting system/sport that is truly geared on being as complete as possible, covering in depth all the aspects of fighting (within what Sayama understood at the time). You had an emphasis on conditioning, good striking, submissions, throws, takedowns, etc, with the only real missing component being the BJJ positional hierarchy that came to Japan later on. You also had the first MMA teams in Shooto as different dojos would train up their best prospects and send them to prove themselves and announce their name/affiliation right before the start of the fight. Similar things were not really seen in American MMA until Ken Shamrock’s Lions Den. Semantical arguments aside, there is no question that Sayama is a pioneer that we here at Kakutogi HQ, wish to thank, and shed some light on, for introducing such a great sport to us all. Here it is: Very rarely seen until now: https://youtu.be/YJOgTHbHni4 To follow up on this: Here is some of the1987 Baseball showa magazine special issue, "Introduction to shooting" by Satoru "Tigermask/SuperTiger" Sayama, which details some of this new wonderful sport of "shooting." Here, Satoru "tigermask" sayama demonstrates one of the few correct ways to hit the gotch toe hold, this hold was named after frank gotch, widely considered to be one of, if not the greatest wrestler of the last few centuries and from whom karl took his name. From the "this is sambo" book by sayama and victor koga(1986). Sayama was responsible for introducing most of the leglocks in "shoot" style.
  4. *Archives of this series can be found at https://www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad * Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol.12 "The Way of Kamui" When we last saw Akira Maeda, he was belaying his (shoot) knee injury into a piece of (worked) fiction, as he glorified Aryan poster boy, and Double Dragon avatar, Dick Vrij, with what can only be ostensibly referred to as a “squash match.” Now with only a little over a month of recovery time, he must return to perhaps face his greatest challenge yet, a man with a long and storied Judo pedigree, in Dutch fighter Willie Wilhelm. The date is 9-14-91 and we are returning to the Sapporo Nakajima Center, which upon our last visit we were able to be part of the ascension of Ken “Wayne” Shamrock, as he bested Masakatsu Funaki in an electric evening. We can only hope for another glimpse of magic that this location may provide, as when we last witnessed Maeda, and his band of hired mercenaries, we were left with a very lackluster experience, that we hope is to never be repeated. We start off with an interview with Maeda inside the arena, well before the show’s opening time, as he pensively talks about his match with Wilhelm, while footage of competitors warming up is interspersed throughout, and we are then taken backstage as a surprisingly threadbare group of performers/hands prepare for the nights proceedings in a cramped area. Suddenly, we are exposed to the strange juxtaposition of it all, as Maeda has managed to leverage his name and star power to create a façade of having an extensive organization, and a grandiose sport-in-the-making, only to reveal that underneath the surface is a mere skeleton crew. Still, despite what appears to be Maeda completely winging this whole thing as he goes along, is the potential for greatness, and this scribe is hopeful that we will see some shoot glory before this is all over with. The Eyes of Maeda are upon you... The show opens with the usual pageantry, and I was wholly expecting nothing eventful to come forth, when I was pleasantly surprised to see something of great historical import take place. The head of Sediokaikan karate, Kazuyoshi Ishii, and his top pupil Masaaki Satake, have come to the ring in order to honor Maeda, both with flowers, and flowery speeches, in an effort to show the solidarity between the essences of Rings and karate. This is actually an oft under-examined connection, that we at Kakutogi HQ hope to explore further in the days to come, as Rings was very influential upon Ishii, and in turn K1, and without Maeda’s tutelage, Sediokaikan, may have never morphed into the kickboxing juggernaut that it became (even surpassing the popularity of Baseball in Japan at one point) which would have left a giant hole in the MMA continuum as we know it today. We are now tasked with examining the first contest of the evening, a rematch that absolutely no one was asking for, a WATER BOUT between Mitsuya Nagai and Herman Renting. Truly things have already started at a low ebb, as this is the exact same pairing seen a month ago at the Aqua Heat event, and while I found it to be a moderately entertaining excursion, it wasn’t exactly something that demanded a revisiting. This match started off in the vein of an open-handed-kickboxing-sparring-session kind of vibe, but thankfully it didn’t stay there long, as we got to see plenty of fine judo from Renting throughout, including a nice ashi-dori-ouchi-gari (leg-pick-inside-trip), and there was a nice sequence from Nagai that saw him charging toward Renting with a flying knee, only to miss, and then rebound with a kneebar attempt., that forced a rope escape. When the ref stood them back up afterwards, Nagai executed the very first somersault kick in the kakutogi spectrum, which resulted in a knockdown, and was pleasant for all to behold. The fight did not last much longer though, as the wrath of Renting was complete, and he turned a headlock takedown, into a neck-crank for the submission win. I was pleasantly surprised by all of this. While it wouldn’t be confused for match of the year by anyone, it did feel like they were starting to find a groove for this style, and by adding some more variety in the grappling and striking exchanges, it led to the match having more drama and a better flow, when compared to their first bout from a month prior. The Reverse Enziguri Somersault Kick! Now we have our FIRE BOUT with perennial cheatyface Willie Peeters, and Dutch wrestling legend Bert Kops Jr. Kops is perhaps best known to modern MMA fans as one of the mentors to former Bellator middleweight champion, Gegard Mousasi, but he has been wrestling since the age of 6, and is active to this day in the MMA and wrestling scene within the Netherlands. The last time we saw Peeters, was when he was acting like a big fat jerk, at the very first Rings event, in which he “worked” a match in only the loosest of definitions, as he wouldn’t pull his punches while engaging his opponent, but saw it in his heart to allow a bit of cooperation in the grappling sequences (kindly offering Marcel Haarmans an opportunity to work for a Boston Crab, or two.) This could prove to be remarkably interesting given Kops’s wrestling pedigree, and the unpredictability of Peeters, so I am anticipating this contest. The fight starts and right away it seems that Peeters is being a bit more behaved than his last outing, working with his opponent, although he is still a bit spazzy, and his body shots are probably too stiff, for a work. Both fighters trade throws, strikes, and submissions, all the while, Peeters manages to come off like a cartoon character. Kops starts throwing some surprisingly decent worked kicks at Peeters, at an appropriate genteel speed, and then shoots in on Peeters to execute a backdrop slam. Peeters responds by charging forward and clocking Kops in the jaw, in a seemingly (shoot) jerk move, as it appears to be way too stiff. The rest of the fight saw Kops use several throws, including some beautiful examples of Koshi Guruma (Hip Wheel, or Headlock Throw in BJJ parlance) and some rather contrived gut wrench suplexes. Watching Kops try and execute solid fakery, with an opponent that only seems to want to cooperate when he feels like it, led to an entertaining match, for all the wrong reasons. Next up is the UNIVERSE bout with Dick Vrij and Tom Van Maurik. Maurik was one of the more interesting components of the last Rings event, with his unusually stiff body shots that he dished out to Chris Dolman, so I’m intrigued to see how this plays out with aspiring Bond-Villain Vrij. What is not interesting, is that this contest has been formatted to be seven 3min rounds, presumably to keep Vrij from gassing. Things are not looking better once the fight begins, as apparently someone had a talking to Maurik, and his stiffness is nowhere to be found here. Instead we have some exceptionally soft, and fake looking, quasi kickboxing. This is an odd move, as much of this audience would surely be kickboxing savvy, and by presenting a very striking orientated match that lacks any semblance of stiffness, seems questionable all the way around. The action picked up a little bit by the middle of round 2, and we saw a little bit of grappling, as Vrij attempted a pitiful rear naked choke, which prompted a rope escape from Maurik. Round 2 probably gave us the only (shoot) action that we are likely to see tonight, when Vrij ruffled the curly locks of Van Maurik’s hair, as they were both clenched up in the corner. The intensity continued to escalate by round 3, and both competitors became more lively, but at no point was this ever credible, or even much more than marginally entertaining for that matter. The Japanese crowd was rightly indifferent to most of this, and its inclusion is puzzling. At least the UWFI has the good sense to stick real kickboxing bouts at the beginning of their cards, and this whole affair makes me wish that Maeda had done the same, or at least asked his buddy Ishii to loan him a couple of up and coming Sediokaikan karatekas, to provide us with a knockdown bout. Simply put, this was crap, and is amazing to watch knowing that this will eventually become the most important MMA promotion in the late 90s. The match ends with Van Maurik submitting to an ankle lock, and we are thankfully moving on to the EARTH BOUT. As much as I hopeful for the acidic notes of earthen soil, to cleanse my palette with a crisp and refreshing cascade of citrus flavor, it most likely that this next fight will be chalky, and will coat our tongues with a most unpleasant aftertaste. Wilhelm gave us the worst match of the last Rings undertaking, and I can’t reasonably expect Maeda to pull something great out of him, but I can hope, can’t I? If nothing else, Maeda continues to be incredibly over, as the crowd simply cannot wait to start chanting his name amidst a sea of strobe light effects. Wilhelm is donning his judo gi with all the pride that Holland can muster, while Maeda is sporting a heavily taped knee. Sadly, any hopes that this clash would save the evening are quickly dashed, as Wilhelm once again shows that he has no business trying to throw fake kicks, as they look really fake, and Maeda isn’t helping matters with his slow-motion German suplex into an armbar, which forces a rope escape. Wilhelm gets back up and hits some knees from the clinch, and a tasty Hari-Goshi throw, and tries to work in an armbar of his own, which scares the crowd, as their hero is now in danger. If nothing else, the crowd is into this, so at least that lends a welcome energy to this affair. After his throw, Wilhelm tries to engage Maeda in some ne waza, but apparently is not versed in proper leg lock etiquette, and Maeda catches him in a heel-hook that prompts another rope escape. A short time after they get up, Wilhelm taunts Maeda to kick him in his portly belly, to which Maeda dutifully obliges, and Maeda is taken down by a Fujiwara/Straight armbar, for his trouble. Maeda then picks up the aggression and fires off several kicks to Wilhelm, but his leg is captured, and he is put in the most fearsome submission from the Northeastern seaboard, the Boston crab. All of Sopporo must have breathed a sigh of relief, as Maeda fought hard to get to the ropes and escape his impending doom, but no such mercies will be extended to us, the viewers of this tripe. The rest of the match shows Maeda repeatedly kicking Wilhelm for his insolence, and dragging him into the center of the ring to execute a heel hook, that took about as much time as it would to read through the Wall Street Journal. Ok, it greatly saddens this scribe to say this, but this was mostly atrocious The first match showed us a glimpse of moving in the right direction, as at least Nagai and Renting were able to work out more of a drama, and flow to their fakery, even if it felt more manufactured than something coming out of the PWFG, but there really isn’t anything else here that would suggest surviving another year, let alone becoming the prestigious promotion that it did. Also, outside of a couple of nice throws, Wilhelm looks atrocious, and it’s amazing that some are just not cut out for working matches. Dolman, despite moving like dried paint, was a strong judoka, but he always carried himself credibly and gave off the impression that he was the real deal. Still, if nothing else, Maeda has the right idea, by giving it a grandiose format, and an international flavor, hopefully it’s just a matter of time, before the talent meets the vision. Here is the event in full: https://youtu.be/Jch8_Kh5OdQ What are Mike Lorefice's thoughts? Let's see: Mitsuta Nagai vs Herman Renting: "While our second helping of Nagai vs. Renting isn't exactly producing the ecstasy of dining on honey dew and drinking the milk of paradise, it's a much more sufficient banquet than their initial brew. In fact, outside of Kiyoshi Tamura, these two are battling each other for the biggest improvement from one match to another we've seen so far, with the edge going to Renting. They really figured out how to blend their styles, and now had a clear course of action with Renting either being proactive & initiating the clinch or urging Nagai to kick so he could get the take down by grabbing him. Renting did a lot once he got the fight to the ground, showing a variety of submission attempts, but Nagai's ground game was solid as well, and he was able to both apply submission pressure from the bottom and get back to his feet. The urgency was high here, and they did a nice job of keeping the match moving by continuing to find different transitions & counters to the same basic sequence where Renting would get a takedown off a Greco body lock. Renting's striking was solid as well, but he wasn't going to duke it out with a stronger striker when he could put him on his back & get the first crack at finishing him. They kicked it into high gear after Renting got a down with a soccer kick, with Nagai charging the length of the ring at Renting, which was such a theatrical departure from the otherwise fairly UWF credible action even though he missed the flying knee that had preceeded that it kind of worked in showing he was fired up & didn't care about the risk. Nagai then managed to do an even more spectacular version of the leg catch enzuigiri spot where he instead flipped forward for a knockdown. Renting's takedown game eventually ruled the day though when he changed things up, rolling Nagai down in an arm in guillotine then releasing & reapplying the guillotine from side mount for the win, which the billed as a "reverse full nelson hold". ***" Willie Peeters vs Bert Kops Jr: In the spirit of Keith Jardine's great nickname "The Dean of Mean", I propose Willie as "The Peet of Cheat". There was a classic Peeters moment when he didn't go with Kops head & arm throw, and soccer ball kicked Kops rather than letting him back up. That being said, he's one of my favorite fighters on these early RINGS because he's such an unpredictable wildman. Willie landed several of his signature hard closed fist punches to the body today, but Kops seemed to be on the same wavelength, or at least know what to expect from Peeters, and was actually responsible for escalating, if not starting, the violence right at the outset. Kops was very active & aggressive, enjoying displaying his power with a variety of rotational deadlift throws. There was a nice spot where he hit a rather low impact suisha otoshi only to have Peeters pop up & drop him with a running uppercut. This wasn't the most realistic match, but Kops showed a ton of potential as suplex machines who were credible strikes were in short supply in these days. He was probably more suited to UWF-I, but he seemed too good an athlete not to have made an impact somewhere. One of the great things about this match is Kops doesn't take Peeters crap. He comes right back dropping Peeters with a knee, and then when he's supposed to be disengaging, he gives the downed Peeters a little kick. Kops isn't trying to hurt Peeters, but keeping him in check by letting him know that he could, and would consider it. These two seem to be vying for who can be the bigger subtle heel at this point, as Peeters responds by threatening to cheap shot Kops on the rope break. Unfortunately, Kops seemingly tore his left knee midway through the match, and though he tried to proceed as normal, eventually the kneecap seemed to be moving around on him, and it appeared that they'd have to stop the match. Kops wasn't trying to quit though, he just had them spray it numb so he could finish as planned. The injury probably knocked 1/2* off the match, as it continued beyond the point where Kops was particularly productive, with Peeters eventually KO'ing him with a knee. Still, this is the best RINGS match we've seen thusfar. ***1/4 Dick Vrij vs Tom Van Maurik: One would expect the universe to have more to offer than this. I'd say these two were hitting like Miss Universe, but that would surely be sexist. These two could definitely have beaten Frank Trigg to the monicker "Twinkle Toes" if they wanted to own up to these shenanigans. There was a particularly funny sequence where Van Maurik scored the first knockdown overwhelming Vrij with a series of close range shots that barely connected, so Vrij threw his mouthpiece out, which I suppose made sense given his teeth were in no danger if that was as hard as Van Maurik was willing to hit. The match was nonetheless fairly even, but then Vrij got 3 knockdowns in the 4th. Vrij tried to finish with a clinch knee, but they did this really silly, contrived spot where Van Maurik urgently drove forward for the takedown to avoid, and they spilled to the floor with Vrij getting the better of it, so he was able to do something of a diving knee off the apron. Vrij finally caught Van Maurik with a nice right head kick, probably accidentally because Van Maurik's head was lower than he expected going down fast from a weak left high kick. Surprisingly in this kickboxing match, the finish was Vrij catching a middle kick & dropping into an Achilles' tendon hold. Van Maurik was going to grab the ropes despite having no downs left, but couldn't make it that last inch & was forced to tap. Definitely one of the worst matches we've seen so far. Akira Maeda vs Willie Wilhelm We're seeing the same thing in all 3 promotions, the guys running them are old school pro wrestlers, and the more real martial artists they bring in, the sillier & more dated their tricks that never worked when the opponent wasn't helping out look. In the current setting, it's doubtful that a healthy Maeda is going to carry anyone to a good match, and this was far from a healthy Maeda. However, the match quality here isn't the relevant factor to Maeda. Maeda's 11/29/89 match against Wilhelm drew 60,000 at the Tokyo Dome, so it's obvious why he wanted to have a rematch with the '84 Judo Olympian. While that was a less out of shape version of Wilhelm, who also wisely wore his gi, this again is Maeda doing Inoki's fork over the cash to get all the real martial artists who would destroy him to instead take the knee, so in his mind it's guaranteed to achieve his only two goals of raising his credibility and fortunes. Apart from the 30 seconds where Wilhelm was releasing obnoxious screams & urging Maeda to hit him in the belly welly this wasn't bad, but it was never compelling either. Maeda couldn't do much, and while Wilhelm actually did pretty well, especially for a guy who doesn't really know how to have a match, it kind of felt like an exhibition where he was just demonstrating some things he can do. As a performance, it was barely passable, but the fact that it totally felt like a performance, and it wasn't an entertaining one at that, made it a failure. Maeda's big slow comeback with the low kicks leading to the high kick knockdown was surely the most contrived aspect of the show. Really nothing he did had enough zest to be even somewhat believable, but a lot of the problem was that even with the show being pushed back to give him more time to recover, his body was just barely able to cooperate I'm going to disagree with Mbetz1981 here. I think this was a major positive step forward for the promotion. Yes, there are some really bad signs, savior Maeda is broken, and Vrij isn't capable of being the top foreigner because he badly needs someone to lay out the match & carry him, and Willy Wilhelm simply needs to go, but the undercard is rounding into shape. Nagai is already a reasonable worker two matches in, Peeters keeps having good matches with his odd blend of dickishness & flash, Renting is getting it, Kops has a ton of potential (if he's not broken), and Ishii has arrived to loan his stable of karate guys, which will give RINGS access to Japanese fighters who actually have a legitimate pedigree & some notoriety that comes with that. *In Other News* The UWFI recently ran out of money, as the expenses of running monthly shows exceeding what they have been able to take in, so in a desperate effort, Nobuhiko Takada contacted former UWF owner Shinji Jin, and was able to use him as a middleman to work out some financing from the current owner of the SWS and PWFG promotions, Hachiro Tanaka. Tanaka is one of the main executives of Megane Super, an eyeglass company in Japan. This is remarkable as Takada had previously avowed to never deal with Jin again, as his antics led to a scandal that took down the UWF to begin with. This will also put Takada in a somewhat precarious position as Tanaka will now have ownership in three different major wrestling promotions in Japan. Recently disgraced sumo wrestler and pro wrestler Koji Kitao is also looking to get financial backing from Hachiro Tanaka and is trying to start up a wrestling promotion in the vein of the UWF, with himself as the star. Action film superstar Chuck Norris recently invited controversial martial arts personality George Dillman to his home in an effort to learn more about Dillman’s reported system of being able to knock out people via lightly tapping various pressure points. Norris holds black belts in Tang Soo Do, Judo, and Shito-Ryu Karate, and is always looking to further his marital education. Norris was reportedly still skeptical of the veracity of Dillman’s claims after the demonstration but is willing to have him make a return visit, in order to learn more. Masakatsu Funaki wrestled the 3rd of his 4 matches in SWS this year on 4/23/91 against Fumihiro Niikura. While the match was again technically good, it was nowhere near the level of his previous two SWS matches against Naoki Sano, as it was never even remotely competitive to the point I've already forgotten if Niikura was allowed a singular piece of offense. Nonetheless, Funaki is the best of the Japanese fighters at constantly adjusting his position on the ground to maintain control. Though he doesn't have a strong background in either wrestling or BJJ, his movements are seemingly naturally a lot better than the other fighters, even if they still fail sometimes due to the faulty pro wrestling notion that there's a place in real fighting for no body control appendage locks. This movement is crucial to the success of his style because more than the other shoot fighters, his concept of realism is based around an economy of high spots. Funaki is one of the better strikers, but he really tries not to utilize much of it, instead preferring to set up submissions on the mat, and use a few powerful shots for knockdowns either to maintain interest or to lead to the finish. Funaki was much more respectful of Niikura than Fujiwara was on 4/1/91, but it seems that Canada is the only place where it's good to be part of the Viet Cong, as Niikura was again nothing more than a jobber.
  5. *Archives of this series can be found at https://www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad * Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol.11 "Seperation Anxiety" Welcome back! As we continue to reflect in our state of house arrest upon all things, trivial and otherwise, we shall take a moment to ponder the road less traveled, and further our quest for the esoteric knowledge of our predecessors. The date is 8-24-91 and we find ourselves at the Shizuoka Sangyoukan Concert Hall, which is located within the Shizuoka Prefecture of Japan (an area best known for being the home of Mt. Fuji). This hall was a popular spot in the 80s as a layover for many of the top concert acts of the day, hosting Hall and Oates, Toto, Bryan Adams, and others until branching out in the 90s and opening its doors to various pro wrestling events in addition to their usual fare. We can only hope that it’s a step up from the bowling alley where we last found Takada and Co. performing, but that remains to be seen. Right away, this scribe is excited to see Makoto Ohe opening things up again, this time testing his foot fighting prowess against yet another unknown kickboxer, named Marb Winon (which as of press time, I’ve been unable to procure any further information on). The last fighter we saw thrown to Ohe was an explosive, but completely inexperienced, Taekwondo(?) practitioner, and this time his opponent at least seems to have his footwork in place, and seems to belay some boxing experience, even if he comes across as a bit nervous. Winon starts off by circling around Ohe, keeping his distance and trying to occasionally sneak in a low kick or combination, but while he’s doing this, Ohe keeps measuring his distance and times his counterstrike as Winon would press his attack. Winon is getting a few shots in, but is leaving his face unprotected during his attacks, and his taking the worse of the exchanges. Round 1 ends with Ohe being up on points, and his experience really showing compared to his opponent. Round 2 starts with Winon becoming more aggressive, and engaging right away, even going for a flying knee, and at one point landing a nasty side kick against Ohe, but he lost his mojo about a min into the round when Ohe got him up against the ropes and really shook his equilibrium with some solid punches. Winon spent the rest of round 2 getting picked apart with precise leg strikes form Ohe, and they seemed to sap whatever confidence he had going into round 3, as he spent the rest of the round being very conservative, which is exactly the wrong strategy against someone who’s an experienced surgeon like Ohe. Winon’s best bet would have been to simply blitzkrieg Ohe, and hope to catch him off guard, but his timidity is only serving to have him picked apart here. Still, he was able to survive round 3, and seemingly read my mind, as he went into round 4 throwing a nice flurry of combinations, some of which got through to Ohe, as straight boxing seems to be the biggest weakness in his game, but it was for naught, as whatever he was able to land was quickly negated by Ohe firing off brutal kicks for the rest of the round. Winon was barely able to make it into round 5, being down on points 24-40. Round 5 begins, and Winon was doing well whenever the fight got into close range by being able to use his boxing, but whenever Ohe backed up a little bit and gave himself some space, he would brutalize Aguilar’s ribs with his kicks, and usually follow up with a nice right, straight down the pipe. Much credit to Winon, who was able to persevere and go the distance with Ohe. This was a fun way to start the show, and Ohe is always entertaining, but it would be nice to see them track down a more seasoned opponent for him, for the future. Next up is our Shoot-Style Prodigy, Kiyoshi Tamura vs the resident workhorse, Yuko Miyato. Right away, we are off to a fast pace as Miyto plunges into his bag of Tachi-Waza tricks, looking for a takedown, in this case with a nice Kata Guruma (Fireman’s Carry), and O-Goshi (Major hip throw), but Tamura is too slick on the ground and once the fight travels there, he reverses his situation and secures a straight armbar on Miyato, forcing a rope escape. Miyato defaults to a more kickboxing based strategy, landing a few strikes, but there is no containing Tamura in any position for more than a few seconds, and the rest of the fight followed in a whirlwind of transitions, submission attacks from every angle, and naked aggression. While this wasn’t realistic in modern MMA terms, with the 23432 position changes, it was exciting, and we are getting more and more glimpses of not only Tamura’s genius, but how a new art is emerging from the pro wrestling zeitgeist, as we are starting to see glimpses of what is possible when skilled practitioners get together and pretend to fight, like they are really going to fight. Tamura ends the fight with a rear naked choke, coming off a failed kneebar attempt from Miyato. This was very entertaining, if a bit short, and Miyato’s bread-and-butter Judo/Kickboxing style played well with Tamura’s flash&fury. Tamura's wrath is complete... Next up is a newcomer to our ranks, and we are introduced to Gary Albright. Albright had gotten his start in the final days of Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling, having received training from such famous hookers, like Lou Thez, Billy Robinson, and Danny Hodge in the process. He had even managed to win the tag team championship of that promotion, before losing it to Chris Benoit and Biff Wellington (whom we know as Wellington Wilkins Jr from the PWFG) right before the promotion folded. Now he has migrated to the sea of shoot style, and right away we see our zebra-clad warrior Yoji Anjo taunting him before the match, threating him with vicious knees. The match starts with Albright trying to charge Anjo into the corner of the ring, but Anjo is much quicker, and is able to fire off a volley of kicks to ribs/midsection. Albright is eventually able to catch Anjo and decides to toss him like a frisbee out of the ring. Now we are starting to see the true spirit of this contest take shape, the everlasting conflict between the Zebra and the Wildebeest. Anjo would continue to use his speed and land kicks and palm strikes, only to get pushed into the ropes, or suplexed onto the canvas, but once the fight hit the canvas, Albright didn’t really seem to know what to do, which left Anjo looking for submissions. Once back on the feet Albright gave Anjo several powerful suplexes which led to a knockout victory for Albright. This was nothing more than pro wrestling showboating, an exercise put forth to set Albright up as a suplexing monster, intent on slamming the life out of the heroic Japanese natives, and honestly within the realm of this promotion it worked. It was entertaining, and while Tom Burton is more credible from a Vale Tudo/NHB standpoint, Albright has a lot more entertainment finesse, and is a better fit for what this promotion is trying to do. I do however question the long-term viability of Albright, as I suspect that his ferocious monster shtick is likely to have a limited shelf-life. The Original Human-Suplex-Machine Lastly, we have Nobuhiko Takada and Billy Scott vs Kazuo Yamazaki and Tatsuo Nakano. I’m bewildered as to their insistence upon continually giving us tag-matches for a main event, as it neither serves to bolster the shoot-credibility (for can anything legitimate ever come from a tag match?) nor does it really add anything within a pro wrestling framework, as the UWFI doesn’t have a tag-division, or any titles at all for that matter, so there aren’t really any stakes in a format like this. It just serves to add some filler, but I would rather see 20 more mins of Tamura cartwheeling over a lackey, than stuffing most of the time allotted onto a team event. Still, any day to witness Yamazaki is a good one, so there is that. Billy Scott starts off against Nakano, and he is continuing to show himself as a wise investment, as his suplexes, strikes, and wrestling singlet all come across credibly. The match phases into Takada vs Yamazaki, which is pleasant as these two have always had good chemistry with each other (for example, their match at UWF Fighting Prospect - Tag 5 on 9-11-85 being one of the best shoot-style matches this scribe has witnessed), and here he had more of the same, as whenever the two of them were in the ring together it was total fire, and makes me wish that they had structured the main events around Yamazaki chasing Takda as the heir apparent to his throne, at least in the short term. It really felt like the inclusions of Nakano and Scott were simply to pad things out and include their other performers, and to be fair they all did a good job making the match exciting, but really didn’t further the plot, so to speak. The match ends at 28:09 with a Bob Backland inspired chicken-wing submission from Yamazaki, which was rather odd. Yamazaki...taking out the trash. Here is the event in full: https://youtu.be/C3HgR3JWQQ4 And if anyone wishes to see the bout between Yamazaki and Takada from 9-11-85 here it is: https://youtu.be/oYI5s3-FkRU Final Thoughts: This was an entertaining, if flawed, card top to bottom. We got another exciting kickboxing bout from Ohe, and Tamura continues to deliver. Since they are choosing to be more tethered to the pro-wrestling end of the spectrum, then they could stand to have a more focused direction in some of the booking, as they feel a bit like a ship without a rudder at the moment. Still, this is nitpicking as they continue to deliver entertaining events if nothing else, which isn’t something Maeda has managed to do yet. Let's check in with Mike Lorefice and see what he has to say... "Makoto Ohe vs Marv Winon: I'm always glad to see these kickboxing shoots on the card, but this felt like a bully beatdown where the timid picked on kid does his best to run around the playground to avoid the inevitable confrontation, hoping the thug will either get bored or recess will somehow just end. At first I thought Winon was a karate stylist because his focus was on maintaining distance, but the more he literally hit his back on the ropes trying to maintain as much distance from Ohe as possible at all times, the more I couldn't tell what he was beyond scared. For every 1 step Ohe moved forward, Winon seemed to try to move 4 steps sideways. Ohe was thrown off his game by an opponent who didn't want to engage, and seemed to want to use the Thai clinch more simply to prevent Winon from endlessly running, which did lead to a left high kick knockdown in the 4th. Needless to say this wasn't going to be a fight where Ohe landed a lot of extended combos, but understanding that, he focused on sniping Winon with power shots, and was very accurate in doing so. Kiyoshi Tamura vs Yuko Miyato It's hard for me to imagine that anyone improved more in 1991 than Kiyoshi Tamura, who, after missing virually all of 1990 with a fractured orbital, is now both leaving everyone in the dust, while at the same time pulling incredible matches out of them that are way beyond what his opponents are doing with anyone else or the increase in quality the other top workers can pull out of their opponents. Tamura is making great leaps in his ground movement, developing a perpetual motion style (which obviously is what you should be doing if you are actually trying when the antiquated techniques of the opponents don't control your body, much less lock you in place, but basic logical techniques rarely stop pro wrestlers from lazy hokem) that makes everyone else seem like dinosaurs. Miyato was a good performer in the U.W.F. where the standard of mat wrestling was still more toward New Japan's idea of good enough, but has looked rather dated so far in UWF-I until this match where Tamura's insistence on moving hid the holes in Miyato's no control ground game and really made him an effective performer once again. Meanwhile, Tamura's defense is improving magnificently, as his style is increasingly built around turning defense into offense. He's developing his game based upon the premise that with his speed and technical mastery, as long as he can play the motion (scramble) game, he'll win the battle of adjustments. Miyato is one of the quicker guys in the promotion, but it's immediately apparent that he's having trouble keeping up with Tamura, who has made the adjustment to Miyato's attack or counter as soon, if not before, he gets it off. Miyato would like to slow things down a bit, but he doesn't have the wrestling or BJJ & Tamura isn't just going to stay put. Whenever Miyato tries to go on the offensive or change positions, Tamura uses his movement against him & takes over. For instance, there's a beautiful spot where Miyato tries to swing into an armbar from side mount, but Tamura uses a backwards roll to get off the canvas, spinning into a standing position but immediately dropping back down into an Achilles' tendon hold. Another great counter saw Miyato slipping out the side of Tamura's facelock & trying to work the arm, but Tamura pivoted off a headstand to take Miyato's back. Every time you see a Tamura match, you see these kind of things that no one else is doing, done so fast, smooth, & effortlessly that they just seem second nature. Miyato definitely has the striking advantage when he can keep it in standup, and finally takes over with a middle kick knockdown followed by a spinning heel kick knockdown. Miyato has a giant 13-6 advantage on the scoreboard after a belly-to-belly suplex into a 1/2 crab forces a rope break, which is something we are already seeing Tamura use less and less of. This is beginning to look like the great Tamura vs. Anjo match where the advantage shifts to the wily veteran Anjo the longer the match goes, and the point system favors the guy who can score on his feet because it's much easier to get a knockdown than 3 near submissions, that's just so imbalanced. Tamura isn't slowing down this time though, and does another crazy counter, now being ready & taking a guillotine off a Miyato's second attempt at the fireman's carry. The bout grows increasingly brutal after Miyato just cold cocks Tamura in the face & tries for the ipponzeoi, but Tamura takes his back & drops into a rear naked choke. One of the problems with the match is Miyato doesn't have enough counters of his own to really chain the escapes & submission attempts together, but finally he does deliver, peeling the hooks off by attacking the top leg then spinning into a kneebar only to have Tamura spin to his knees & aggressively slap Miyato in the face until he releases then add in some stomps for good measure. The impact & intensity of the striking is really growing by the second, and while the match may be less believable at times because of Tamura's flash, the fire & heat these guys are building up is at least allowing the audience to buy into the fact that they don't like each other & really want to win. Miyato is laying into Tamura with some big body kicks down the stretch, but Tamura does his drop down/go behind to drag Miyato down into another rear naked choke. Miyato attacks the top leg again, but Tamura releases the choke & uses what's left of his hooks to roll Miyato to his stomach. Miyato immediately scrambles back to his feet before Tamura can flatten him out, but Tamura pulls him down into the choke for the win before Miyato can get close enough to grab the ropes. This is just Tamura's 11th match, and it's a big win coming against a 6th year fighter who was 2-0 against him. While 10 minutes seems short for these guys, especially given it's a 3 match plus a one sided shoot card with nothing else looking like it needs tons of time, length is not really what you are looking for in a worked shoot. In fact, being shorter probably made for a better match because Tamura could just keep exploding the whole time & Miyato didn't seem to be his usual 1 trick pony, being for once the favorite while also forced to react to all the crazy stuff the kid was throwing at him. The usual downfall of a Miyato match is it just drags on the mat, especially when they start playing footsies, but this was all blazing fury. This wasn't as epic as Tamura vs. Anjo, but it was better in many respects, and almost every moment was interesting & exciting. It's been almost 29 years, but I was still constantly rewinding to see what Tamura was managing to do & how he pulled it off, which is very abnormal for me. Tamura was clearly a whole lot better than in the Anjo match even though it's only been a month & a half. Though the "downfall" is that Yuko isn't as good or well rounded as Anjo, Tamura got a ton out of him. Tamura's stuff just feels way more modern than anything else we are seeing, the maestro not only innovating in a breathtaking manner but raising the level of his opponent so many notches it's hard to even fathom them having a match with anyone else that remotely approaches this. ****1/4 Gary Albright vs Yoji Anjo Albright is the prototype '80's monster gaijin that the little Japanese guys are all vying to upset. He screams chip on his shoulder & bad attitude, one could picture him coming out to W.A.S.P.'s "Mean Man" instead of the godawful generic written in 10 seconds AC/DC monotony he eventually adopted. The problem is it's the '90's, and shoot wrestling is supposed to be the real deal, not the worn out theatrical cartoon. While this match is entertaining, it's basically an American wrestling match where they use some more legitimate kickboxing, amateur wrestling, and a touch of sumo. Anjo tries to stay on the outside & kick, but Albright would just eat them all as if they were nothing until he pushed Anjo into the ropes & grabbed him for the big ride. Albright was a good athlete for his size in these days, and his suplexes were some of the most impressive ever with a great combination of speed and impact, but this was the typical short sighted UWF-I booking. Yes, this match does a great job of getting Albright over in his debut, but the previous 4 shows were spent trying to break Anjo out of the pack & into the #2 or 3 spot in the promotion, yet here he literally couldn't muster a single shot that even phased the mighty man for Pennsylvania by way of Karachi, Pakistan. Nobuhiko Takada/Billy Scott vs Kazuo Yamazaki/Tatsuo Nakano: UWF-I is really running with the idea that the tag match is unique to them. Basically this was a way to have Takada vs. Yamazaki without Yamazaki having to do the job. All the heat was on this pairing, and these two exchanged knockdowns a few times. Early on, Yamazaki struck first landing a liver kick, but Takada came back countering a takedown attempt with a palm. Later, Takada got the knockdown with a series of palms followed by a high kick, but Yamazaki came back with a spinning high kick to even the score at 12. Takada was again more effective here because he basically just did kickboxing, and when Yamazaki went to the mat with him, he knew how to avoid Takada's many weaknesses, though Takada made sure to get his 1/2 crab in on Nakano. The problem with doing one excessively long match after two short ones is it's hard to match the level of urgency. Albright's match may have had its flaws, but they did do a great job of getting over the idea that Anjo's life was practically in danger if he couldn't keep the big guy off him, whereas being 3 times as long, this was obviously a lot more up & down. This match wasn't bad, but it wasn't exactly memorable either. Yamazaki's portions were good, particularly against Takada. Scott continued to show potential, but just felt like an afterthought, and Nakano, while not doing anything wrong per se, was totally forgettable. We haven't heard from Dave Meltzer in a while...What has he been having to say about any of this? 8-12-91 " Akira Maeda's Rings ran its second show on 8/1 in Osaka's Furitsu Gym drawing 6,100 (building sells out at 7,000) with Maeda doing a job in the main event losing to Dirk Leon-Vri via TKO in 8:01. Since Maeda has such a small amount of potential foes to work with, it appears he believes he has to do jobs on a regular basis to keep interest alive. A few days before the match, Maeda sent telegrams to all the major magazines that he had torn knee ligaments (no doubt a work sent to give a prior excuse for him doing the job) in training for the match. Willie Wilhelm (6-6, 300), former European champ in judo beat Peter Smit in the semifinal. Wilhelm, whose match with Maeda drew 60,000 fans to the Tokyo Dome in 1989, main events against Maeda on 9/3 in Sapporo. Nobuhiko Takada's UWFI runs 9/26 in Sapporo while Yoshiaki Fujiwara's PWF runs 8/23 in Sapporo, so all three UWF-style promotions are running shows in the same city within a five-week period. UWFI drew a sellout 2,000 fans at the Hakata Star Lanes on 7/30 with Yoji Anjyo & Jim Boss (indie worker from Tennessee) beating Takada & Kiyoshi Tamura in 31:02 in the main event, plus Kazuo Yamazaki beat Billy Scott (indie worker from Nashville area) with a facelock submission and Shigeo Miyato beat Tatsuo Nakano. Maeda announced he would be running a show in December at the Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo Bay which is the same building where he sold out all 12,000 seats the first few hours tickets went on sale in 1989 when he was the hottest draw in wrestling. Fujiwara's 7/26 show at NK Hall in the Tokyo Bay Area was said to be very good, particularly Wayne Shamrock (Vince Tirelli) vs. Duane Koslowski (only in his second pro match). Koslowski, who lives in Minnesota and represented the U.S. in Greco-roman at the last Olympic games, was said to have really learned the style while Shamrock is generally considered the best at the style of the foreigners." 8-19-91: "Saw the Akira Maeda vs. Dirk Leon-Vri match from the 8/1 Osaka show and the televised version was awesome technically. Not the match, but the drama built in before the match started. The work they did in getting Vri over as a killer heel puts anything done in the U.S. to shame. Of course it helps to look the part like Vri, with the Aryan face and sneer and a body so filled with steroids that it isn't even funny and hand and foot quickness that is just scary for someone so muscular. He looks like he should be in one of those martial arts movies as a heel. What's the achilles heel (no pun intended)? The match itself wasn't good at all. It was nothing compared to their Tokyo match of a few months back. It was evident Maeda's knee injury was a shoot because he really didn't do a thing. Vri looked great for about three minutes, and then he blew up like nobody's business and it was pretty pathetic the last five minutes before Maeda was KO'd. But the aura built into both the television and the live show created dramatic heat on the level of the Hulk Hogan-Ultimate Warrior match of 1990." *In Other News* Police Officers within Los Angeles County recently agreed to stop Nanchaku use in response to a lawsuit by six members of the pro-life group Operation Rescue. The LAPD agreed to cease use of all Nanchaku weapons at anti-abortion protests, as part of a settlement towards a lawsuit with the organization. Although possession of Nanchaku by ordinary citizens is unlawful in the State of California, police organizations in the state often use this ancient weapon as a restraint/compliance tool. The settlement only forbids the LAPD from using these weapons against plaintiffs in the lawsuit, and they are still free to use them against members of other groups at other protests. The LAPD first started using Nanchaku in 1989 and have since received over 30 lawsuits against the city, claiming medical damages, some purporting to have suffered broken bones and nerve damage. Akira Maeda was originally supposed to fight Dutch fighter Frank “Freak” Hamaker at the 8-1-91 event in Osaka, but had to rebook with Dick Virj, due to Hamaker getting reconstructive surgery on his knee. It’s been confirmed that Bob Backland has agreed to face off against Nobuhiko Takada at next months UWFI show on 9-26-91, and possibly in November as well. Rings is having to move its next card from 9-4-91 to 9-14-91, as Akira Maeda’s knee is still in bad shape, and he won’t be able to perform in time.
  6. *Archives of this series can be found at https://www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad * Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol.10 "The Most Dangerous Game" Greetings one and all!! We at Kakutogi HQ are attempting to make good use of our time in quarantine, by continuing to peer into the shrouded haze that is the past, in an attempt to better understand our future. When we last left off, Maeda’s band of hired misfits, still trying to figure out their brand, gave us a rather lackluster event, but we shouldn’t have any such problems here, as PWFG has been has been blessed with a rich talent pool right from the start, and if nothing else, appear to have a great main event lined up, with Ken Shamrock vs Masakatsu Funaki. It's 8-23-91 and tonight we’ll be joined within the confines of the Nakijima Sports Center, a multi-purpose facility that was built in 1954, and sadly was the center of tragedy in 1978, when concert goers were unable to contain the excitement of seeing Ronnie James Dio, and a person was trampled to death during a Rainbow concert. Tonight, it will be host to the 4th event from the upstart PWFG promotion and the first bout will be between Greco-Roman wrestler, par excellence, Duane Koslowski, and the ever-scrappy Kazuo Takahashi. When we last saw Koslowski, he had a very fine debut against Ken Shamrock, where his obvious athleticism and Greco-Roman chops gave his aura an air of gravitas and was enough to overcome any lack of submission and striking skills. The match is underway and after a quick feeling out process, Takahashi shoots in with a nice single leg attempt, in which Koslowski unsuccessfully tires to counter with a kimura. It would appear that Koslowski has been spending some time training with Fujiwara’s group, working on his submission knowledge, and for that we are thankful. The match was very grappling heavy and played out exactly how you would expect a fight between a catch wrestler, and Greco-Roman specialist (absent the striking, of course) to, with Koslowski dominating the standing portions, but Takahashi having more finesse on the ground. While I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking this was boring, I rather enjoyed it, as it set a nice, serious tone, to the proceedings. It was a work, of course, but outside of a few flashy slams, there wasn’t any gaping holes in the action, and thanks to Koslowski, it came across as a serious endeavor, even if it will be a bit dry for some. Koslowski finished off Takahashi with a standing-switch into a rear naked choke. Next up is Bart Vale vs Jerry Flynn. This will be only the 2nd professional match from Flynn, having debuted about two years prior in a barbed wire deathmatch for the Japanese FMW promotion. Flynn wound up sticking around the PWFG for a while, before migrating to the WWF and then to WCW, working mostly in a midcard capacity. Flynn was a good opponent for Vale, as he had a similar style, and size/build, which served to hide Vale’s main shortcoming, which was that he usually looked like molasses compared to his opponent. Flynn did move faster than Vale did, but it wasn’t to the point of the matchup straining credulity. This was very striking orientated, with plenty of flashy kicks and palm strikes, and surprisingly, this was quite entertaining, with Flynn getting the upper hand in the kicking exchanges, and Vale dominating the grappling, but just when the match started to build a lot of tension….boom, it just ends out of nowhere with Vale slapping on some kind of modified neck crank/can opener. Entertaining while it lasted but it ended way too abruptly. Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Lato Kiroware: At least Fujiwara had the good sense to stick himself in the middle of the card this time, and give Suzuki, and Funaki some space to shine. This was a bizarre, and strangely hilarious match, between the ever rotund Kiroware, and the forever aging Fujiwara. Fujiwara always seemed keen on being a jerk when he had someone that couldn’t put him in his place, and here we get that, only this time Fujiwara gets to do something that he rarely has been able to do before, and that’s use his opponent for a punching bag. Right away, Fujiwara decides that he is just going to keep laying in kicks, and there wasn’t anything that Kiroware could really do about it. Kiroware was allowed a few moments of offense, but instead of really laying into Fujiwara for being a jerk, he kept it really light, perhaps not wanting to upset the boss. There wasn’t anything good about this match from a technical perspective, but it was a bizarre bit of fun. Kiroware…wishing he had stayed in school. ***********************************Shoot Alert************************************************* He’s back! Yes, the Sultan of Slime has returned, and is ready to ooze all over Minoru Suzuki. When we last saw Lawi Napataya, he gave us an absolutely hilarious classic, and our very first fully planned shoot, when he kicked the daylights out Takaku Fuke, while being more greased up than a cholo on an oil tanker. He is facing some stiffer competition in Suzuki, so we’ll see if his antics will continue to succeed. The match starts off with Suzuki taking a cautious stance with one arm stretched out, and the other protecting his chin. This stance later became all the rage with striking-deficient BJJ stylists in late 90s, so it’s good to see Suzuki blazing a trail here. Despite his caution, Suzuki is taking a few hard leg kicks to his midsection, as he tries to find his timing for a shot, against Napataya. Suzuki was finally able to catch one of his opponent’s kicks, but Napatays is up to his old tricks, and immediately wastes no time clinging to the ropes for dear life. I must give Napataya a lot of credit, for his craftiness, because when they went back to the middle of the ring after a rope-break you could see that Napataya was hesitant to throw another kick right away, so he waited to fire one off, as he was back up into the ropes, and sure enough, Suzuki got the kick, but it didn’t matter as he was able to grab a rope just as soon as Suzuki caught his leg. Suzuki ate another nasty kick to his thigh before the end of round 1. While the powers that be still haven’t put an end to unlimited rope escapes, they at least must have had a talk with Napataya about his grease problem, as his cornermen are on their best behavior this time out, so it doesn’t look like we will have any slick shenanigans this time around. Round 2 starts with Suzuki immediately shooting in on Napataya, and it almost didn’t work as Napataya leaped towards the ropes like a wounded tiger, and while he was able to get ahold of them, it wasn’t enough to stop Suzuki from being able to pry him off and get him down to the ground, where he immediately secured an armbar for the win. Good match, with sound strategy from both fighters. Had Suzuki not been able to pry Napataya off the ropes then he may have been in trouble, as the longer this would have gone on, the harder it would have been for him to obtain the victory. After winning, you would have thought that Suzuki had beat Mike Tyson, the way he was celebrating. Fujiwara got into the act too, running into the ring and hugging Suzuki, in what was probably the most emotion he had ever shown up to this point, clearly excited that Suzuki restored the honor of pro wrestlers everywhere, from the sneaky grease trap. Apparently, Fujiwara felt vindicated with this experiment as Napataya never returned, and we wouldn’t have another shoot like this until the famous meeting between Ken Shamrock and Don Nakaya Nielson. Napataya hanging on for dear life.... And now… the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Ken Shamrock vs Masakatsu Funaki. This will be the first time that Funaki will be given a main event here in the PWFG with someone that I expect to really bring out the best in him, and I’m looking forward to it. Funaki wastes no time in throwing a kick Ken’s way and pays the price by being on the receiving end of a belly-to-back suplex. Funaki gets up quickly and starts to kick a grounded Shamrock, which causes Shamrock to put his hands behind his neck and start fighting off his back, trying to upkick Funaki, with an exchange that is somewhat reminiscent of Allan Goes vs Kazushi Sakaraba 7 years later in PRIDE. This doesn’t last long though, as Funaki quickly goes back to the ground, and they go back and forth for a bit, until stood back up by the ref. They immediately go to pounding each other once back on their feet, with the best strikes I’ve seen from Ken so far, and Funaki really putting some velocity behind his kicks. The rest of the fight had it all, strikes, submission attempts, constant jockeying for position, but most importantly, it had an abundance of intensity. They constantly went at each other for 20+ min, and allowed themselves to be stiff, and it always felt like they were giving their all. Even though the finish looks a bit hokey on paper (Shamrock with a knockout via dragon suplex) it never felt anything less than excellent. One of the best matches we’ve seen so far. Conclusion: Highly recommended… We had a great main event, and a historically important shoot, so for those two alone, it’s worth watching, but even with the three matches that preceeded it not being mandatory viewing, they were still entertaining, so this was a solid watch, start to finish. It will be interesting how things will develop from here. Hopefully Fujiwara will continue to place himself more in the midcard background and leave the spotlight for Shamrock/Suzuki/Shamrock, but that remains to be seen. They could still use a beefier undercard, but out of the three shoot-style promotions they are having the highest quality output, even if they aren’t as entertaining top to bottom as the UWFI. Shamrock Victorious! Here is the event in full: https://youtu.be/cYHUVvCHfZI What does Mighty Mike Lorefice have to say about all this? Let's see: Kazuo Takahashi vs Duane Koslowski "Realistically, this match was tailor made for Koslowski to dominate, probably in dull Coleman fashion. Through the wonders of worked wrestling though, Takahashi, the amateur state wrestling champion surely at no more than 170 pounds goes right in and takes down the 1988 Olympic wrestler at the highest weight class 130kg (287 pounds, though Koslowski is only a bit taller & there's no way he has close to 100 pounds on Takahashi, there just was no weight class between 100kg & 130kg in the '88 competition). The match followed a similar pattern to Koslowski's debut against Shamrock, with a Greco-Roman takedown or suplex leading to a submission attempt on the mat after a bit of setup, then they'd restart on their feet, but Koslowski was already noticably more confident & diverse. I liked the finish where Koslowski took Takahashi's back when Takahashi tried to counter the bodylock with a koshi guruma, and you figured he was going to do another big German suplex, but instead just pulled Takahashi down into a rear naked choke. Generally, the match wasn't dissimilar from what RINGS was going for on their last event, but while it was also going more for credibility than entertainment, these two were better able to pull it off because they stuck to what they could actually fake believably rather than doing a sad approximation of the match they would be having if they were actually let loose. You could still skip this, but at least it's pretty well done. The execution was good, they just needed more urgency." Bart Vale vs Jerry Flynn: : Mr. JF was no Mike Bailey, nor was he one of the few men on the planet that managed to carry RVD and Justin Adequate to good matches like Mr. JL, but the taekwondo black belt had some talent that seemed to be beyond the scope of what the American promotions could envision, so he was mostly an enhancement performer outside of Japan. I was expecting more of a kickboxing match, but perhaps because Vale knew he couldn't match strikes with the longer & quicker Flynn, he looked for the submission finish. This was actually one of Vale's better matches, with the standup having some actual footwork & good palm strikes, and they went into submissions quickly off the takedowns so the ground didn't stall out. Ironically, the kicking was probably the worst part because it was the aspect where it was most obvious that they were holding back. As with the previous match, as a way to favor realism, this had an abrupt submission finish rather than the usual dramatic pro wrestling series of near victories finishing sequence. Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Lato Kiroware: Not only is Fujiwara 0-4 in PWFG, but he's arguably had the worst match on every show. Lato certainly didn't help things with some kind of ram headbutt being his big spot, and while I'm not saying Fujiwara should have carried him to a good match, he should have known better than to book him and instead had a real opponent on the roster that he could have had a serious match with. Fujiwara put the shin guards on before tonight's disaster to alert us that he was going to test his foot fighting, and this is why tests are done behind closed doors, and it helps to start with material that's pliable enough. Fujiwara's kicks were just pathetic, he threw high kicks with his knee bent, hook kicks even though he couldn't get his leg up high enough, some kind of running spinning heel kick thing that barely connected to the boob. If his lack of technique wasn't bad enough, he had his usual smirky, clowning attitude going to show the audience he was just screwing around since it was an opponent he could bully (he predictably shrunk from Funaki at the last show). Minoru Suzuki vs Lawi Napataya: In just the 2nd shoot in PWFG history, the style has already evolved considerably because Suzuki has clearly studied Napataya's match vs. Fuke (who is in his corner) & thought out how he's going to counteract Napataya's striking attack & takedown "defense". Suzuki was very light on his feet, making kicking defense his first priority, trying to slide back out of range when Lawi threw or check the low kick. What's perhaps more important is that Suzuki wasn't thinking offense with his strikes, but rather staying long & on the outside, using the side kick & occasional body jab to maintain a healthy distance. Because Suzuki wasn't making it easy for Lawi, Lawi grew hesitant, and self doubt continued to fester the more it becomes clear that Suzuki's goal was to get a takedown off a caught kick. Lawi clearly won the 1st round because he's the only one who was landing, but Suzuki shot a double to start the 2nd, and the ref really screwed Lawi by not calling for the break when Lawi was in the ropes. Lawi concentrated on keeping hold of the ropes expecting the ref to do his job rather than doing anything to defend the takedown attempt, and because he was all off balance with 1 leg in the air holding on for dear life, Suzuki was literally able to step back & pull Lawi down on top of him into the center, sweeping as soon as he hit the mat & securing an armbar. Lawi did his best not to tap, but he didn't know how to defend it so he was just taking damage. Ken Shamrock vs Masakatsu Funaki: This was some ballsy booking, but that's what made it great. PWFG was still determining their top foreigner. Shamrock had been the best performer by a mile, but Vale had been around longer, and after a rocky start in U.W.F., had gone undefeated in 1990 (4-0), even avenging his loss to Yamazaki. Funaki had beaten Vale on PWFG's debut show, but Vale was 3-0 since. Logically, this is where you had Shamrock ascend to the top, especially since Funaki had defeated him on the final U.W.F. show on 12/1/90. However, the timing was tough because Funaki, who had been in the main event of every show and was the top star of the future if not the present, was coming off a crushing defeat to old man Fujiwara, so the normal rebound would be for him to once again defeat Shamrock, confirming the pecking order of Fujiwara, Funaki, Shamrock/Vale, Suzuki. The match was worked like Shamrock was going to ultimately lose, in other words the early portion was about establishing Shamrock was on the level with Funaki by having him take the lead, getting Funaki down with the suplex, winning the kicking battle to score the first knockdown, etc. Funaki's calm & confident demeanor made the match seem closer than it was even during Shamrock's best portions, but by any definition this wasn't Shamrock running away with it, but rather a very competitive back and forth contest where Ken scored the signature shots in between regular exchanges of control as the match progressed were more likely to be won by Funaki. Funaki's patience was something of a negative here, especially when combined with Ken's tendencies to durdle on the mat. Though obviously the underlying problem was the lack of BJJ knowledge from both, the result was a rambling ground affair that was still in the old U.W.F. mode of laying around passively for no reason when the opponent wasn't controlling in a manner that prevented either exploding to counter or to stand back up. Their speed & athleticism was sometimes on display in standup, but because the match was so mat based, I don't feel like it's aged particularly well. It's a good match to be certain, but I remembered it being one of the highlights of the year when in actuality, it's merely a good match, on par with Funaki's matches against Sano but nowhere near Ken's match with Sano, rather than the best stuff of Tamura & Suzuki, who seem miles ahead of the rest of the pack in retrospect. I thought the released Dragon suplex finisher from Ken to score the huge wildly celebrated upset was great because it was in the mold they'd set the whole time, parity but Ken occasionally manages to pull off a great spot. That being said, this was a 21 minute match with a few highlights in between a lot of watching & waiting, honestly more like what we'd come to see from Pancrase though without the modernization of the positions to allow them to get away with it better. *** *In Other News* In other news: The Gracies are at it again, this time with another hilarious puff piece, courtesy of the September 91 issue of Black Belt magazine:
  7. *Archives of this series can be found at https://www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad * Kakutogi Road: The Complete History fo MMA Vol.9 "White Lights, and Aqua Heat" Welcome back one and all! Even though we must now join together in an era of uncertainty, we can take solace, knowing that while troubled times come and go, the road to Kakutogi is a perpetual journey, with no ending in sight. As a wise man once observed, “Of chess it has been said that life is not long enough for it – but that is the fault of life, not of chess.” Such is the noble predicament, that we now find ourselves in. The date is 8-1-91 and we are at the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, an indoor 8000-person capacity stadium, most famously used for Sumo events, but has been home to the occasional pro wrestling, and MMA event. Today we have a reported 6100 in attendance, which is quite remarkable considering when we last met, we were observing Takada and Co. stuffing 2000 people into a bowling alley. This is made even more impressive when the opening montage begins, and we see Akira Maeda, Dick Virj, Chris Dolman, and Mitsuya Nagai, engaged in sparring, and stretching exercises in an empty arena. This all feels more like a low-key workout between friends, then the prelude to a serious competition, but that is surely a testimony to how over Maeda really was, that he could sell over 6000 tickets, on what basically amounted to a skeleton crew of performers. We are underway with the EARTH BOUT debut of the ever scrappy Mitsuya Nagai vs Herman Renting. When we last saw Renting, he was in a FIRE BOUT against Dutch judoka Pieter Smit, and I’m unsure if moving into the Earth Realm would be considered a demotion of sorts. Nagai, on the other hand, was an aspiring pro wrestler as a child, and while still in high school applied for a job within the AJPW promotion. AJPW’s owner declined him, however, and told him that he could join when he finished his studies. Not to be deterred, he started competing in amateur Shootboxing, and this is where the Kakutogi bug hit him. The newfound interest in shooting led him to apply for a job within the Newborn UWF promotion, and after he was accepted, he was trained by Akira Maeda. The promotion folded before he had a chance to debut, so he decided to continue seeking his fortunes with RINGS, when Maeda made the transition. Straightaway we see Nagai take a smart fighting stance, low enough to help ward off takedowns, but still upright enough to fire kicks as needed. His kickboxing background was immediately apparent as he fired off a variety of nice kicks from different angles, using good inside-out movement. There was an interesting sequence where Nagai throws a couple of palm-strike feints, causing Renting to back up, which Nagai responds with an impeccably timed thigh kick. Renting wisely just charged in after this with a clinch, to which Nagai tried to counter with a rolling kneebar, that simply led to a footsie deadlock between the two. The rest of the match was mostly Renting getting the fight to the ground and Nagai looking for foot attacks, in which he successfully secured two toe holds on Renting. The ending of the match was rather jarring though, as it felt like they were just told that it was time to wrap it up, and Nagai pulled an abrupt suplex into an armbar for the win. This was a decent introduction to this event. Outside of Renting looking a bit awkward during the striking phases, and the contrived ending, there wasn’t any major holes in the action, and while it didn’t excel in either the realism or entertainment departments, it serviced both just fine. As a side note, it’s interesting to see that there really isn’t anything new under the sun, as newcomers to the no-gi BJJ scene might be thinking that the plethora of leg attacks going on right now is a recent phenomenon, those of us cognizant of 80s-90s Puroresu, know better. Next up is the UNIVERSE BOUT, which is strangely only the 2nd match of the evening, but that could be due to the Universe actually being known to revolve around Maeda. Here we have Ton Van Maurik vs Chris Dolman, and from the pre-match interviews we can glean that Maurik is an undefeated Karateka with Wrestling and Sambo experience. The fight starts with Maurik looking to get inside and strike from the clinch, and so far he is landing some pretty stiff uppercuts to Dolman’s chest, perhaps stiffer than what Dolman expected, as you can hear what sounds like unusually painful grunts. Dolman continues to move in slow-motion, looking to clinch, and Maurik continues to do some effective damage from the clinch, going high and low with his strikes. Eventually, Dolman lands a beautiful harai-goshi hip throw, and it is a most impressive display. Dolman may move like crusty molasses, but his judo skills are unquestionable. It would appear, that strikes on the ground are still legal, as Maurik made the rookie mistake of trying to get out of a side-mount by kneeing his opponent in the ribs. This proved futile, of course, so it wasn’t long after that he simply took a rope escape. Once they were back on their feet, Dolman upped the aggression, this time striking from the clinch, with knees, that didn’t look pretty, but did look like they hurt, and Dolman has now scored a knockdown against his opponent. This seemed to reinvigorate Maurik, who proceeded to pummel Dolman’s midsection to score a knockdown of his own. If Dolman was holding back on his opponent in the early stages of this fight, that seems to be done away with now, as once he got back out he hit a ashi-dori-ouchi-gari (leg-grab inside trip) on Maurik and proceeded to headbutt Maurik several times in the chest/midsection, which I am surprised that this was even considered legal at the time. This barrage of aggression caused Maurik to take another rope escape, and we are officially into a good fight at this point. Dolman hits another leg sweep and goes right back to headbutting Maurik. Maurik tries to stop this by pulling Dolman’s hair, but apparently the ref takes issues with hair pulling, while headbutting is clearly acceptable. Maurik then goes to a closed guard, and tries to punch Dolman’s ribs, but this doesn’t avail, and Dolman simply breaks loose and slaps on a variant of a straight ankle lock, from a quasi single-leg Boston crab position. It’s amazing that several years before Igor Vovchancyhn, Mark Coleman, and Mark Kerr, were demonstrating how deadly headbutts were against someone’s closed guard, we get a glimpse of this Vale-Tudo shortcoming, all the way back in 1991. This is one of the few times, that I’m genuinely puzzled as to the shoot/work nature of a fight. Dolman seemed to lack the requisite aggression for a shoot in the early stages of this bout, seemingly giving his opponent some opportunity to work, but if this was fake, then someone forgot to tell Maurik. Halfway through the fight, it seemed like Dolman put aside any niceties, and really tried to lay into Maurik, so perhaps it was a case of Maurik being too stiff in the beginning, which angered Dolman. What’s not in question as that this was a very entertaining bout, and we are 2-for2, thus far. Chris Dolman: Godfather of ground and pound?? Next up is a battle of the judokas, as we are approaching tonight’s FIRE BOUT with Willy Wilhelm vs Pieter Smit. The pre-match interview shows Wilhelm saying that he used to have some competitive experience against Smit in Judo, but that Smit was a lot lighter in those days. Wilhelm says he’s much more confidant in this throws, chokes, and armlocks, then he is in his striking, so this should be interesting. We are now safely back into what is clearly a work, and an awful one at that. Here we have two judokas with no professional wrestling, or striking experience, and it shows. This entire fight basically played like gi-less judo exhibition, only it was punctuated by laughably awful strikes on the part of Smit. Sadly, this tripe killed any momentum we had going into the main event. We are now backstage again, where we find Maeda working on footwork drills, and Virj doing standing shoulder presses with some dumbbells. Virj must have been having a low-carb moment, and forgot where he was, and thought he needed to pump up for the Dutch National Amateur Bodybuilding Championships. The fight is underway, and Virj fires off several kicks to Maeda, including a nice flying sidekick, straight out of Double Dragon. After this fine display of video game technique, Maeda fires off a kick of his own, that causes him to fall down and clutch his knee, which seems right out of Hulk Hogan’s Wrestlemania VI playbook, in which I suspect will be a stunt that’s used later as an excuse as to why he lost. After showing everyone that he has a weak knee, Virj pummels Maeda in the corner, forcing a knockdown. The rest of the match is a one-sided affair, as Virj continues to pummel Maeda, until he is completely out of Rope Escapes, and Virj is declared the winner. Hardly anything about this match was remotely realistic, but unlike the prior bout, at least this was fun, and only lasted eight minutes. Conclusion: On the plus side, RINGS has the best presentation of any of the Shoot-Style promotions at this stage, and is the only promotion out of the current three, that is presented in a way that it feels like a real sport. Even though the actual content of PWFG is more realistic, their production values make them look low-rent in comparison, and the UWFI, while the most entertaining by far, is too tethered to the aesthetics of pro wrestling, to come across as seriously as they need to. The problem, (and it’s a big problem) is that the RINGS roster is basically non-existent at this point. For a Japanese promotion Maeda was the only Japanese performer, outside of Nagai, who is a rookie. It’s impressive that Maeda has been able to get as far as he has with only his name value being the draw at this point, but if he is going to survive, I suspect that he will have to brew some homegrown talent, or I don’t see this surviving in the long-term. In his defense, it was wise for Maeda to put over Virj over as strongly as he did, basically letting him dominate him for the entirety of the match, even though he used a fake injury as a way to save face with the crowd. Also, if they only one you can find is Virj to build around, then you’re probably in trouble. This was definitely more entertaining then their debut show, but still pretty weak overall. If the talent starts to match the vison, then Rings could easily be the finest of the three Shoot-Style promotions, so I’m hopeful for it’s future. Here is the event in full: https://youtu.be/DALiB-803xY What does the Legendary Mike Lorefice have to say about all of this? Let's check in: Mitsuya Nagai vs Herman Renting: Earth & Fire were one of the underrated '70's prog rock bands before they sold out to try to sell records, see Atlantis & Andromeda Girl, Wind absolutely can't be added to the compound, as that has been proven to be doomsday for our ears... Earth seems a lot more accurate for Renting, who was all about grounding Nagai. Maeda apparently had a lot of confidence in Nagai, though putting him in the longest match of the card in his debut against a veteran of 1 match seems dubious. It really did not pan out because the match had no intensity. It was pretty much no-pads sparring, with the standup taking place at distance & the strikes thrown slow enough that there was time to avoid, not that it mattered much. Eventually Renting would get Nagai down, and they'd roll around fiddling with each other's legs. This wasn't terrible, but it's obvious they were trying to do a more realistic match without having any concept of how to make that work beyond being less flashy, which just left us with low impact, loose and/or half speed pedestrian stuff Chris Dolman vs Ton Van Maurik: This was the sort of odd work you can get when guys who are used to real fighting try to figure out how to alter their techniques. Van Maurik's body punches were hard, and really stood out because everything else was fairly light. Dolman seemed to have a better idea of how to fake things, having done this before and also being a long time trainer. For the most part, it was a pretty standard, not particularly interesting contest, again pretending to be more believable because it wasn't flashy but lacking the intensity, urgency, and impact (beyond Van Maurik's body shots) of a shoot. Dolman was really blown up by the end, but did manage some aggression & explosion on his key techniques, the takedowns & series of ground headbutts. Willy Wilhelm vs Pieter Smit: I found this contest to be pretty similar to the previous one, mostly inside fighting with the out of shape, heavy guy controlling the action, especially on the ground. It was worse because whereas in the previous match Van Maurik's body shots were good, here none of the strikes were good and Wilhelm was really annoying with his silly shrieks to fire himself up. Dick Vrij vs Akira Maeda: A rematch from the first show, that seemed somewhat backward booking as the cyborg now ran over Maeda the way he was supposed to in the 1st match to establish himself as a force in the promotion. Even with the 3 month layoff, Maeda's bad knee wasn't cooperating, and that was the story of the match as Vrij was able to completely overwhelm him after Maeda's knee gave out throwing a low kick in the opening segment. Maeda was able to back away to avoid Vrij's kicks at the outset, but once he lost his mobility, Vrij would just work him over on the ropes with kicks and/or knees. The fans did their best to fire Maeda up, but while offensively he had a few moments scoring a knockdown with body punches & getting a couple of takedowns, he was never able to rise above sitting duck level defensively. Maeda didn't give up, and there was a great moment where the ring was filled with streamers & the Netherlands seconds started jumping for joy as soon as when Vrij scored the TKO with his 5th knockdown. While the least believable bout on the show, it was at least an interesting pro wrestling story match, as well as the most exciting contest. Their first match was better because they were on even footing, but this bought them a third match, and put Vrij in competition for the top foreigner spot even though he was Dolman's underling. Final Conclusion: You can see what they're going for, but there's just nothing inspiring about this show. It just feels like a bunch of walk throughs on the undercard, which is the worst place to be because it's neither the real thing nor supplying reasons why the show is better than the actuality, with a UWF main event tacked on. The undercard isn't anything that needs to be seen, and the main event is a bit out of place in this setting. *In other news* Irvine California: Karrem Abdul-Jabbar recently had a charity karate tournament for underprivileged kids, which featured several kickboxing bouts. During the evening we got to see Kathy “The Punisher” Long do some nasty damage to her opponent Lisa Smith. Long was able to completely dominate her opponent with a plethora of roundhouse kicks, and really stole the show with her strong performance. Don “The Dragon” Wilson also had a bout with Canadian cruiserweight: Ian Jeckland. Unlike Long, Don hardly broke a sweat against Jeckland, easily winning a decision against his opponent. Kathy Long (Right) putting the pressure on Lisa Smith
  8. *Archives of this series can be found at https://www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad * Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol.8 "In the Eye of the Fire" Welcome back, one and all, to the next chapter in our ever shifting journey, as we progress through layers of intrigue, rappel into the depths of mystery, and seek to find the true core, or 霊 (rei) of MMA, by peering back into the hourglass of history. The date is 7-30-91 and it’s time to take the proverbial show on the road, as Takada and Co. have left the cozy confines of everyone’s favorite venue in the Korakuen Hall, in an effort to strive for greater exposure, in this case booking a bowling alley located in the Fukuoka Prefecture. We are greeted straightaway to the posh settings of the Hakata Starlanes, whose décor stylings somewhat resemble a bunch of chairs thrown into a tradeshow hall and given copious amounts of florescent office lighting for good measure. Our first bout of the evening, will be between Makoto Ohe and Juan Arellano (who totally looks like he could be a bass player for an obscure late 80s L.A. thrash metal band.) This scribe is excited, because even if this match is only half as good as Ohe’s bout from 6-6-91 (in which he was involved in an all-out war against Rudy Lovato) then we are all in for a treat. The fight is underway, and the first thing we notice is that while Arellano has loads of athleticism, and has some ability to throw flashy kicks, he seems to lack any real boxing experience, and is taking a lot of unnecessary shots to the face from his opponent, as a result. His explosive athleticism is allowing him to surprise Ohe with some blows here and there, but you can tell he doesn’t really have any fundamental kickboxing training. As of press time, I have been unable to find any further information on Arellano, so I’m venturing a guess that he may have been involved in Tae Kwon Do, or another martial art focused on kicking, and simply hasn’t had any experience in a professional fight setting. Arellano was able to survive round 1, but his luck ran out in the middle of round 2, even though he was able to start the round with some sneaky thigh kicks against his opponent, he kept leaving the upper half of his body wide open, and Ohe kicked him into next week for his folly. It does appear that Arellano has the physical attributes to make a good fighter if he can put the time in, and work on the basics, so hopefully he comes back in more seasoned shape, but only time will tell. Meanwhile…Hirax is searching for their bass player Tatsuyo Nakano vs Yuko Miyato Match is off to a bit of a slow start as Miyato is content to fight from the outside, keeping enough distance to avoid a clinch, and pepper Nakano with leg kicks. Eventually Nakano takes the fight to the ground, but once there, he can’t seem to figure out anything worthwhile to do down there. This pattern repeats itself for a while, until the 6min mark, at which point they start cutting loose and volley palm strikes, and kicks, towards each other. They had an exciting see-saw battle for a couple of mins until we were treated to the uber-lame ending of Nakano putting Miyato in the chinlock of doom, which secured his victory, but necessitated our sorrow . This wasn’t a bad match by any means, as both performers are seasoned workhorses, and are always going to be professional enough to put out the requisite amount of intensity, but the problem here, is that both fighters (especially Nakano) are simply too tethered to the old NJPW/UWF way of working a match, and aren’t evolving. They can get away with it for now, but I fear that if they don’t progress soon, then this style, and shoot-movement will pass them by. Kazuo Yamazaki vs. Billy Scott This will be the debut match for Billy Scott, a westerner that wound up sticking with the UWFI throughout its duration, and even in the promotion’s spiritual successor: Kingdom. To this day he is very active in the MMA/Catch Wrestling community, with his own academy in the Bowling Green area of Kentucky and holds various seminars throughout the country. Here, he must face the ultimate trial by fire, and have his very first professional wrestling match, against the seasoned Yamazaki. Hopefully the promoters installed a more rigorous vetting process this time around, and will spare Yamazaki from another round of embarrassment, a la JT Southern. After the referee conducts a diligent search for foreign objects, the match is underway, and we can see that Scott is the best Gaijin that the promotion has seen so far, as he actually moves like someone with a solid wrestling pedigree, but unlike Tom Burton, he has the speed and fluidity to go with it. The first couple of mins have them feeling each other out, with Scott faking some shooting attempts, and Yamazaki feeling out his opponents’ distance with some fast kicks. Scott succeeds with a takedown, but his training in submissions must have been limited to the school of “crank on something, and hope for the best,” which doesn’t phase Yamazaki in the slightest. The match followed a pattern of Scott being the takedown artist, but not being able to pin Yamazaki down for long, or able to lock in an intelligible submission. Yamazaki would keep finding crafty ways to transition out of his predicament and turn in it into a leg/ankle attack. Eventually Yamazaki got the win when his Scott came rushing at him with his head down, and he was able to slap on some kind of version of a standing arm-triangle choke. What was great about this match, was that each wrestler went into it with a mind set of having to feint, set up attacks, and actually work for a takedown, or submission attempt against their opponent, as opposed to just handing everything to each other. Unlike much of the overtly choreographed wrestling of the past, it seems that this style can allow its practitioners the ability to shoot for good portions of the match (at least in terms of positioning) and sprinkle in cooperation in others. In any event, Yamazaki was a master of ring psychology, and to his credit, Billy Scott showed a lot of poise for a rookie, and had good patience, and movement, in his debut. His submission acumen needs work, but that can surely improve in time. It’s very likely that the UWFI has secured a great talent in Scott, and I hope to see him improve in the days to come. The standing arm-triangle….or something. Nobuhiko Takada & Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Yoji Anjo & Jim Boss The last time we saw a tag match from this outfit was during the debut show, and that was quite entertaining in a pro wrestling sense but did absolutely nothing in terms of establishing any sort of true-fighting credibility. I expect more of the same here, but the x-factor this time is Kiyoshi Tamura, who I think would get a great match out of the corpse from Weekend at Bernies, so I’m hopeful. We start off with a pre-match interview with Jim Boss, in which he states that he has the winning advantages going into this fight, due to his alliance with Yoji Anjo (who he oddly states is one of the most respected Japanese wrestlers in America) and from the power of his Tom Selleck mustache. We put our trust in Stache McMuscle! The match starts with Tamura and Anjo, and we are having flashbacks of their match from earlier in the month, with neither person wasting any time, and jumping right into lighting fast grappling exchanges, which saw a nice counter from Tamura as he warded off a failed O-Goshi throw attempt from Anjo, with his own rear naked choke entry. Shortly afterwards both men, opt to tag in their partners and now we have Takada and Boss. Despite having somewhat stiff, and awkward, side-stance, Boss is throwing better kicks than I expected him to, though he can’t really compare with the more varied lines of attack that Takada is bringing to him. The match went on for a little over thirty minutes, with Yoji Anjo securing a victory via a straight/Fujiwara armbar. While the match was long, it never really felt plodding due to the high-octane tempo that everyone kept. Most of the contest was striking exchanges on the feet, and the times it did go to the ground, it was usually someone quickly going for a submission, so it never really dragged. While this was quite entertaining from a Pro Wrestling standpoint, it did absolutely nothing to add any real-fight credibility to either the promotion, or its participants, and honestly, both the tag-team format, and the length do not play well in capturing the essence of Shoot-Style. Final thoughts: This was a bit of a lateral move for the promotion. On the plus side, we seem to have the addition of a solid, and potentially great hand in Billy Scott, but it was pretty much a holding pattern in most other respects. It seems that until something or someone significantly changes the formula, this outfit will continually be the Rocky IV of the shooting groups. It is common knowledge that Rocky IV is the most entertaining film ever made, but that may be due to its complete lack of ambition, for where there is no risks, there are no mistakes to be made, and the true pinnacles of greatness will forever be out of grasp. Here is the event in full: https://youtu.be/qan3hbWXlbU Let's check in Mike Lorefice, and see what he has to say about all of this. Makato Ohe vs Juan Arellano: Arellano had the reach and athleticism, but I agree he seemed to lack fundamentals to the point one has to question how much actual kickboxing training he had. Taekwondo was what I was thinking to when I saw his ability to throw some flashy movie kicks, but his poor overall technique, particularly in the boxing aspects. It just felt like Arellano was trying to figure this sport out on the fly. The more Ohe saw of him, the easier he was able to pick him apart. Arellano was blocking the left middle kick with his right arm in the 1st round, but perhaps because it hurt his arm, he got the brilliant idea to instead try to duck it, which turned it into a high kick knockdown. Ohe was quickly able to counter a sloppy left hook with an intended high kick for the KO. The match wasn't lacking in action, but the primary negative was that Arellano simply wasn't good enough to pull the greatness out of Ohe. Tatsuyo Nakano vs Yuki Miyato: These guys did a 30:00 draw on 6/11/88, and three of their other four UWF matches were about 20 minutes. Tonight's match developed slowly as if it were going to be another marathon, but while their intention seemed to be to build the match around escalating the violence, they were too mundane & durdly early on then just shifted to the explosive striking and suplexes, going back & forth for a lengthy finishing sequence until Nakano won with a lame rear naked facelock. The striking, mostly from Miyato, was good, with little Hashimoto Nakano getting his requisite bloody nose. Nakano got Miyato with his German suplex, but when he tried Maeda's captured, Miyato was able to defend enough that both spilled over the top to the floor. These two are hard working bread & butter types who did enough to make it worthwhile. This was even the best we've seen so far in UWF-I from Nakano, but with neither fighter really developing their style or moving forward as martial artists, it mostly just felt like a lesser version of their previous wars. Kazuo Yamazaki vs Billy Scott: Yamazaki hasn't exactly had a great opportunity to shine yet. After frustratingly getting strapped with the Southern man, who clearly couldn't keep his head, he now found himself involved in the trial of Billy Jack. Luckily though, Scott, who wound up being my favorite American fighter in the promotion (other than monster for hire Vader, who almost doesn't count given his matches were almost purely powerbomb driven pro wrestling beatdowns), shows a good deal of ability even in his debut. What set this match apart was their ability to tantalize the audience through a display of defense. This wasn't a match where they'd lock the submission, and then 45 seconds later the opponent magically grabbed the ropes, it's a match where they always seemed close to something on the mat, but rarely got it. Early on, they keep testing each other, kind of for the fun of it, with the fighter who defended the move trying his hand at it, and failing as well. They really had the answers for each other in standup, with Yamazaki being ready for Scott's single leg takedown, which seemed to be Billy's biggest weapon from his amateur wrestling days, and Scott avoiding taking too many of Yamazaki's kicks, answering aggressively to at least take away Yamazaki's space so he had to grapple with Scott instead. Yamazaki was a massive favorite here as he's the #2 fighter in the promotion going against some new guy from Tennessee, a place where wrestlers seemingly only know how to throw punches, yet still have no actual technique. Yamazaki is somewhat subdued early, just testing Scott out & seeing what he has to offer, while Scott is much more excitable, which is his personality anyway, but the difference especially makes sense here given he's the new guy trying to make a strong impression against a top dog who sees this more as a tune-up/sparring kind of walkover. Yamazaki tends to be a step ahead for the first 10 minutes. Though he's not running away with the contest by any means, you can see his brilliance in the story of the match where he sets up Scott turning the tide & actually becoming a threat to win when Scott finally catches Yamazaki's kick & counters with a back suplex into a 1/2 crab for the matches big near submission. The fans were instantly ignited, chanting "Yama-zaki" because in the context of the bout they've been viewing, someone actually being trapped in a submission, especially mid ring, is a real threat. Yamazaki does a great job of putting the submission over by not going over the top, taking a down after a rope escape trying to recover, & then still just stalling fixing his kneepads to try to steal Scott's momentum. Yamazaki then coming back with high kicks somewhat defeated the purpose though. This was really the time for Scott to have a minute or two with Yamazaki in danger to show what he could do before Yamazaki turned the tide back and perhaps won, and while that's mostly what happened with Scott coming right back with a belly to belly suplex & working for an STF, the transition to the finishing segment was a bit abrupt & the segment itself felt rushed, as was the case with Miyato/Nakano. Both matches felt like the workers may have been finding their way to a pre scripted finishing sequence, but these two did a better job of having a match before that & finding a way to stay true to it rather than just biding time until the usual UWF-I flashiness. As a whole, Yamazaki/Scott worked quite well because they kept active enough that the fans cared about them coming close but not quite getting there, and the drama kept increasing. In the end, not a lot happened by the usual UWF-I pro wrestling standards, but much of what made it good is they were successful in teasing the audience that things almost happened. This was certainly more credible than the usual no resistance exchanges, and to me, much more exciting and dramatic because of that. ***1/4 Nobuhiko Takada/Kiyoshi Tamura vs Yoji Anjo/Jim Boss: Similar to more or less every big show main event Gedo ever booked, this was long to the point the workers forgot about a sense of urgency & instead concerned themselves with merely finding ways to elongate the proceedings. I was excited to see Tamura & Anjo going at it again after their brilliant contest on the previous show, but whereas Tamura was shot out of a cannon there, nobody exerted themselves too much in the first half here. The legitimate kickboxing match being short was problematic, and the way they worked the opening 8 minutes, one wonders if they were asked to go longer than expected because they only got 25 minutes out of the undercard. Either way, this style isn't really meant for this sort of durdling, time filling long match, epics really need to be reserved for the sort of match of the year attempt we saw in Suzuki vs. Sano because diminishing returns are a thing in a limited, credibility based style. Though Takada vs. Anjo had too much of a sparring feel despite Takada landing a big shot now and then, Takada was generally much better here because he only went to the ground to immediately attempt a submission. He was working a more diverse striking game, trying to counteract Boss' wrestling with his knees & open hands. Tamura was somewhat disappointing in his first main event, it just never felt like his match with Anjo really being in striking mode and being more focuses on Takada, who they seem to be grooming him as real opposition for, if such a thing is allowed to exist on the native side in UWF-I. Meanwhile, Tamura wound up being the one who would slow things down by trying to work for something on the ground rather than just exchanging kicks, when anyone would even go to the mat. Boss' middle kick could use some work, but he was generally a competent, servicable but uninspiring type who would be fine early in the card. I was surprised that Anjo once again beat Tamura rather than Boss doing the job. Overall, this was fine, but skippable. Final thoughts: Better than their debut show, but a big step down from the previous two. The positive is the discovery of Scott. Boss could potentially have been an upgrade, but he only had 2 more matches in UWF-I, and his brief career ended entirely in '92. They really need to get Kakihara healthy, as there's just not much fire on this roster. ***In Other News*** There are rumors circulating that Bob Backland wishes to have a go in the UWFI, possibly in December during his Christmas break. (Backland is a wrestling coach throughout the year, and this would give him a window to travel overseas.) Some may remember the last time he tried his hand in this style during his 12-22-88 match against Nobuhiko Takada at the UWF Heartbeat event. The atmosphere was incredible during that evening, as the Japanese audience were really captivated by the match up and saw Backland as a credible opponent. It will be interesting to see how Backland looks in this style now that a lot has evolved in the 2 ½ years since he last participated in it. It is being reported that the reason for the UWFI nabbing a lot of jobbers from the State of Tennessee, is due to one of their bookers, a man named Shinji Sasazaki. He happens to live in the Tennessee area, and works at a Japanese restaurant in the state, where he has presumably been making contacts. All the westerners in the UWFI so far have hailed from this state, but to be fair, it seems like Billy Scott has some potential to grow into a solid performer. There is also some rumored blowback towards the UWFI at the moment due to the cards only averaging about 1 ½ hours and having ticket prices hover around $60. Akira Maeda is supposed to face off against Dutch Judoka Willie Wilhelm, in an upcoming Rings event. Wilhelm represented his country at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and had high placings in the 1983, and 1985 World Judo Championships.
  9. *Archives of this series can be found at https://www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad * Kakutogi Road: The Complete History Vol. 7 "A Tough Act to Follow" 7-3-91 Welcome back one and all, to the next installment of our ongoing journey to thoroughly document the early years of MMA history. Our next stop on the highway leads us to the ever busy UWFI promotion, who will manage to pump out two events in a single month, whereas their two main competitors haven’t been able to consistently hold one. (PWFG has been holding an event every other month thus far, and RINGS hasn’t had an event since May). We are introduced to a montage of calisthenic/warm-up routines from the various performers, and right away we can see that despite any holes in BJJ, or other martial knowledge, that may be present with the Japanese shooters, cardio is not a problem for them. Fast forward to the mid-90s, and I can’t recall a native of the Pancrase circuit ever gassing out, while it was very common for Americans in MMA/Vale Tudo to tire out quickly in those days. After the usual pomp and circumstance, we are underway with the first bout of the evening as Yuko Miyato squares off against the resident block of wood: Tom Burton. Miyato was unusual, as he was trained by Akira Maeda in the short-lived UWF Dojo in 1985, (as opposed to coming from NJPW) and made his debut in the UWF during September of that year, but the promotion folded before he was able to really do much there. He then migrated to NJPW and was a bit player, before moving yet again to Takada’s upstart UWFI, so here we are sure to have someone that feels like he now has a chance and a platform to make an impression. The fight starts off with Miyato delivering a stiff thigh kick to Burton, and burton looking really unsure of what to do from here. Burton would try and close some distance with some really weak palm strikes, and then back off, but Miyato did not seem to have any reservations about actually slapping his opponent with some decent velocity behind him. The match held in a pattern of Burton trying to close into a clinch and throw a few half-hearted knees, and Miyato backing off to fire off thigh kicks from a greater range. The fight picked up a bit of steam mid-way through when both fighters traded submission attempts, before Burton won the fight with a double-underhook suplex, followed by a powerbomb, and boston crab. Yes, it would be several years, and many shoots later, before Japan figured out the harsh reality that the Boston Crab wasn’t quite teh deadly. All fear the power of the crab! The real winner of this match was Kiyoshi Tamura, as it basically shows us that he was the Amadeus Mozart of the wrestling world. Not only was he great in legitimate shootfights, (defeating Renzo Gracie in a shoot), but he also wound up being one of the best workers of all time, even going as far as to debatably having the greatest pro-wrestling match of all time with Tsuyoshi Kohsaka at Rings Fighting Integration 4th on 6-27-98, (which Lord willing we will get to cover in depth on a later day). Even making his credentials all the more incredible was getting a good match out of Burton, which as we saw here, is not a task suited for just anyone. About the only good thing to say about this was that it was short enough, that it didn’t really offend too badly, but was hardly a great way to start the show. Thankfully our next match features Tamura, and Yoji Anjo, and surely this will cleanse our palates, and take us into the ethereal planes that we all seek, but that only the finest waza can accomplish. The first thing that any astute observer will notice is the overwhelming power of Anjo’s zebra striped Zubaz tights, which as of this writing, is only available to the level 20 Barbarian Class. This feat in ring attire doesn’t seem to faze Tamura however, and we are off, and it’s hard to keep up. Not even a minute and ½ into this and we already have stiff strikes, a slam, a double leg takedown, and a beautiful O-Goshi throw from Anjo. The pace never lets up either, as all sorts of position changes, and submission attempts from Anjo occur, before Anjo is finally able to force a rope escape due to catching Tamura in a straight armbar. Following the rope break, a beautiful sequence followed, in which, Anjo attempted a flying armbar to which Tamura counters with a cartwheel, which is absolutely genius, and shows that we are witnessing something that is truly far ahead of its time. The rest of the bout was filled with a tidal wave of transitions, submission attempts, and passionate striking, all done at breakneck speed. The fight finally ended when Anjo was able to secure a single leg crab, but to his credit, was able to quickly torque it in a way, that actually came off as somewhat credible. While this fight won’t hold up on the believability scale to a modern MMA audience, due to the tempo, and lighting fast fluidity, it was still truly something special, and may so far be the best glimpse of what both this style of pro-wrestling has to offer, as well as what REAL fighting may have to offer, that we’ve seen so far. Up to this point, it was probably just a given in the pro-wrestling world, that you had to have Irish Whips, clotheslines, and hokey submissions, to create a product that people would want to see, but here we have wrestlers, actually moving like 3-demisonal fighters, (or at least catch-wrestlers) and showing that there may be something after all to shooting. If you're not wearing Zubaz...You're just wearing pants Kazuo Yamazaki vs JT Southern: It was inevitable that whatever proceeded the last match, wouldn’t be able to hold up, but wow….what a drop in quality. Why anyone thought that JT Southern would be a good fit here, especially after his last match with Takada, is beyond this humble scribe’s ability to fathom. Southern simply doesen’t understand how to work in this style, and it really shows. For the first part of the bout, Yamazaki was being patient with him, and allowing him to try and figure out some offense (even going as far as to give him what felt like 20mins to figure out how to do a STF Crossface). The match continued to meander around for what felt like an eternity, when JT Southern started to kick Yamazaki in the back while attempting some kind of weird achilles lock/Boston crab. This really seemed to irritate Yamazaki and caused him to break the hold by kicking JT in the face. He then stood up and proceeded to pepper both of Southern’s legs with thigh kicks, and won the match with a heel hook, after reversing a painfully ignorant attempt at an ankle lock on Southern’s part. Horrible match, which makes me wonder what kind of vetting they had for foreigners, as you would think that they would want to make some kind of effort to see if their outside help would have at least a rudimentary understanding of this kind of style. Tatsuyo Nakano vs Nobuhiko Takada: This was better than I expected it to be, although it was far more in the vein of a standard Japanese Pro Wrestling match. Most of the match was on the feet, and we got to see plenty of stiff kicks from both Takada and Nakano, but the few times it hit the mat, it was quite lackluster, as Takada simply doesen’t have a good understanding for how to chain shoot grappling sequences together. It was entertaining though, and leagues better than trying to watch JT Southern. Final takeaway: This was the first UWFI card that was a net minus. The Tamura/Anjo match was one of the best we’ve witnessed so far, if not for the drama, at least for opening our eyes to the hidden possibilities that this new style possesses, however the remainder of the card consisted of two bad matches, and a modertatly entertaining one, by Puroresu standards. Still, this did move the needle on what would be coming up on the MMA horizon, and did show us that Tamura has all the makings of a future Rockstar. All that’s left is to see how Tamura handles himself in a full shoot scenario, which we will get to witness further down the Kakutogi Road. Here is the event in full: https://youtu.be/n6xQHWpzzxU Here are "Mighty" Mike Lorefice's thoughts: Tom Burton vs Yuko Miyato Burton vs. Miyato was mostly notable for again showing what a miracle the Tamura/Burton match was, and making a case for Tamura as the most improved worker in 1991. It was basically a sparring contest for the 1st 5 minutes with Burton coming forward but not actually shooting, and Miyato backing to maintain the distance while working his leg over. Miyato finally took over injuring the leg with a low kick, but was unable to finish, and Burton wound up recovering enough to take him out with that crap submission from Boston. Kiyoshi Tamura vs Yoji Anjo The man who will advance the worked game to its highest level arrives here, in just his 9th pro match. As the leading light of the next generation of shooters, the guys who debuted in one of the worked shoot leagues rather than being trained in the New Japan dojo, Tamura at least feels a lot more like a catch wrestler than a pro wrestler, and this is the most progressive match we've seen so far. Tamura may not yet be reaching new levels of believability, but as by far the quickest & most explosive guy in the promotion, he's at least expanding the boundaries of what crazy things you can get away with and how entertaining you can be without simultaneously testing the groan factor. Kakihara has more hand speed, but isn't nearly as slick or well rounded, certainly can't adjust & transition on the mat or maneuver his body the way Tamura can. Tamura is just such an amazing mover that watching him do a simple pivot to avoid a takedown, much less his more spectacular movements, is usually more exciting than watching the juniors do their gymnastic counters. There's an amazing spot where Anjo is not so much trying to set up a guillotine but just trying to control Tamura with a front facelock, but Tamura does this crazy counter where he bridges backwards just to get low then when he's seperated Anjo's clasp by getting under it, he changes the direction of his explosion entirely & somehow takes Anjo's back into a rear naked choke. I want to say that Tamura does things that nobody can do, and while that's probably the case with this particular maneuever, generally it's more accurate to say he just does them so fast he catches you off guard, whereas with most anyone else you could see them coming and they might even look clunky because they aren't fast enough to disguise how they are being done and/or the cooperation or lack of opponent's reaction they entail. This was really a different match for Anjo because Tamura was already such a tidalwave that, when he had a full tank, Anjo was just reacting to him desperately trying to keep up. Anjo is known for his cardio, and normally is prone to more durdling given he's almost always in the longest match on the card, but you could see early on that when Anjo thought he was safe, the next thing he knew Tamura had his back, so he could never relax & had to be proactive. While this started off sort of like a junior heavyweight match, rather than slowing after the early fireworks it was arguably even faster & more explosive once they shifted from throws into the matwork, with some great twists, turns, and rolls to escape the opponent's submission or counter into their own. The story of the match was that early on Tamura would gain the initial advantage with his blinding speed, but Anjo had a massive experience advantage, and by being the smart veteran who focused on working the body to slow Tamura down, he was able to not only get into the match, but eventually take over due to his superior striking offense & defense. As the match progressed, it wasn't so much Tamura doing circles around Anjo, but rather Anjo making Tamura pay to get the match to the canvas. It's always been a point of pride for Tamura to find the answers to what the opponent is doing and generate offense out of defense rather than grabbing the ropes, though obviously he'd get much better at this as his career progressed. Despite Tamura already being the best defensive grappler in the worked game & making a ton of great squirmy counters to save himself, there's quite a few rope escapes as Tamura is a massive underdog given Anjo has been around since '85 and is now hitting his peak. However, by doing everything he can to avoid the rope escape, Tamura generally elevates the moves that actually require them to the intended level, in other words rather than just gaming the system, these feel like moves that would have won had they been caught in more advantageous ring position. They exchanged advantages on the ground a lot, but one of the big differences is while Tamura would look for the immediate payoff with a submission, for instance a lightning go behind into a rear naked choke, Anjo was confident in his ability to win the attrition battle, and thus happy to take any opportunities for damage, for instance burying knees in Tamura's face. Anjo was happy to put the youngster in his place, so when Tamura would get too overexuberant, fiesty, or nervy, Anjo would do something within the rules but slightly dickish or excessive such as the knees to take him down a peg. Tamura was already really over, and the fans would go nuts when he appeared to have a chance to win, for instance the half crab after ducking Anjo's leg caught reverse enzuigiri. He didn't have too many of those chances though, as most of his highlights were early on and it became more of an uphill battle as Anjo wore him out beating up his midsection. That being said, it's not as if Tamura wasn't getting submissions, but Anjo was defending them better in the story sense of finding ways to get out of trouble without losing points. Still, Tamura was so impressive the match seemed a lot closer than it was on the scoreboard, which mostly isn't that relevant given points are a resource as long as you still have 1. Though Tamura's performance was the awesome one, Anjo really did a great job of both following him as well as filling in around him, and deserves a ton of credit as well. ****1/2 Kazuo Yamazaki vs JT Southern Southern simply doesn't understand shoot style. Yamazaki tried, but Southern was just totally lost to the point he was pretty much freezing out there. He basically just stood or laid around, and when Southern did finally get around to reacting, it was mostly not in proper or predictable ways. Yamazaki wanted to test himself, and went from bored to frustrated as Southern made Yamazaki look bad & the match suck by leaving gaping holes in his defense & either doing nothing or trying silly things such as the lariat & side headlock. Southern kept using this goofy tactic of stepping on Yamazaki's free leg while holding his other leg in what would be an Achilles' tendon hold if he knew how to actually apply it, and eventually Yamazaki had enough & kicked him in the face to escape. The match kind of stalled out then as Yamazaki would low kick Southern, and Southern would just stay near the ropes selling even though Yamazaki was motioning to him to come to the center of the ring & actually fight back. Eventually, Southern caught a kick in the corner & tried to drop down into another misapplied leglock, but Yamazaki got a heel hold for the win. Though Yamazaki definitely made Southern look like a fool at points, Southern mostly did it to himself for being so ill prepared for this style he shouldn't have been allowed in the ring in the first place. Tatsuyo Nakano vs Nobuhiko Takada Very pro wrestling oriented, but Takada at least showed up for this one. It started off as a sparring contest with Takada showing his speed, avoiding a lot of strikes. He kept urging Nakano to bring it, and eventually the impact of the kicks escalated, though I liked that there were still a lot of misses. Nakano hit a sweet snap suplex, but Takada answered with a suisha otoshi & a 1/2 crab. The problem with this match is because Takada is clueless on the mat, there was literally no control or positioning there. They either grabbed whatever hold they wanted like pro wrestling or just kind of laid there with one or both guys having some sort of hold of a limb with no attempt to isolate it or control the rest of the body, and at some point they'd indescriminantly start to apply pressure they could have been applying all along & suddenly they'd make a big deal about it, languishing in the hold for a minute even though every method of escape was readily available. If we accept that's the way these guys wrestled, then we can say it was a good effort & somewhat entertaining, but as with all U-style Takada, it has aged very poorly. Mike's final thoughts: I'd rate this show as a positive, as it contained one of the best matches of the year in any style. The rest is all skipable, but I'd much rather get 1 memorable match & a bunch of misses than a bunch of fair to good but could really have been better kind of contests. I'm actually a lot more impressed with this early UWF-I than I remember being, if only because having such a small roster is actually more conducive to the useful stuff reaching its potential than in the later years when they'd cram 16-20 guys on a show like it was a New Japan Dome show, and thus everything was spread so thin that most of it was relegated to the level of filler even before the bell rang. *In other news* On 8-23-91 Brandon Lee (son of famous actor/martial artist Bruce Lee) will be making his film debut in Showdown in Little Tokyo, which will feature Dolph Lundgren as the main star. When Brandon Lee was inquired by the Los Angeles Times, as to if he felt any unease from having to be constantly compared to his father, he demurred, saying that his father was the standard, and all martial artists will have to be likened to him, and himself even more so. The July issue of Black Belt magazine has a feature on some of the aspects of Shootboxing, which is a combat sport that has been going on for roughly 6 years in Japan. It was started in 1985 by a Japanese kickboxer by the name of Caesar Takeshi. Takeshi was a promising kickboxer having won the Asia Pacific Kickboxing Federation Welterweight Championship. In 1984 he met up with Satoru Sayama and became interested in the newly burgeoning shoot-style of professional wrestling. He was then trained at Sayama’s Super Tiger Gym and was then drafted by Akira Maeda to be part of the original UWF roster. Soon after his arrival, the promotion imploded, and prompted him to start his own Kakutogi promotion, to which he named “Shootboxing.” A Shootboxing fight is basically a kickboxing bout, but takedowns, Judo throws, and submissions from the standing position are all legal. Successful throws score a lot of points within their system and are encouraged. However, if a fight goes to the ground, it will simply be stood back up by the referee. The following article talks about Shootboxing as well as alludes to other shootfighting promotions, although it is unclear if they are talking about leagues such as PWFG, UWFI, etc, or Sayama’s Shooto. Here is the following article from the July 1991 Issue of Black Belt Magazine: Let's check in with Dave Meltzer, and see what he has to say: 6-24-91 Akira Maeda's "Rings" runs 8/1 at the Osaka Gym with tickets priced from $45 up to $150 with Maeda vs. Fredrick Hamaker as the main event. UWFI on 7/3 in Korakuen Hall has Nobuhiko Takada vs. Tatsuo Nakano, Kazuo Yamazaki vs. J.T. Southern, Yoji Anjyo vs. Kiyoshi Tamura and Shigeo Miyato vs. Tom Burton (who improved noticeably in the style in his second match). At the 6/6 card, when Southern came in with his blond hair in a pony-tail, the usually reverent crowd at UWFI shows started catcalling him "Madusa." 7/30 is their first road show in Hakata with Takada & Tamura vs. Anjyo & Southern in a doubles match. Bart Vail wants to introduce UWF style wrestling to the United States as part of karate shows
  10. *Archives of this series can be found at https://www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad * Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol.6 "Sediokaikan Strikes Back!" When we last convened, we were enjoying the thrills and spectacle that only human combat can provide, courtesy of Disneyland Tokyo. Now we shall turn back the clock about a month, and to the humbler setting of Japan’s epicenter of all things Kakutogi: the Korakuen Hall. The date is 6-6-91, and we find ourselves witnessing the 2nd event from Nobuhiko Takada’s upstart UWFI promotion. After the usual preliminaries, rules demonstrations, and awesome theme music, we are underway with a kickboxing match between Shootboxing alum Makoto Ohe vs an American Kickboxer whom I’m wholly unfamiliar with, named Rudy Rabord. Before the fight we were treated to some pre-match interviews that offer a fascinating glimpse into the byzantine situation that was the state of Kickboxing in those days, in which Rudy explained that he had been doing his usual Kickboxing training, but to prepare for this match he was really working on how to use knees. Such a thing seems elementary in our post K1/Muay Thai familiar world, but in 1991, the only time an American was likely to have to deal with low-kicks, knees, or clinch fighting, was when he fought abroad in Japan, Europe, etc. In any event, we are underway, and this is GOOD. Immediately both fighters start tearing into each other with no let up. After a steady barrage from both men, we begin to see that Rabord’s seeming lack of experience with a more Thai style of fight is becoming a chink in his armor. Ohe was able to really take advantage of the clinch and work a steady stream of knees into his opponent, which mostly garnered a response of Rudy putting up his hands and having the ref break it up. By the time the 2nd round was underway though, Rabord had seemingly come up with an answer, and started tirelessly working stiff/short uppercuts to punish his clinch-happy adversary. Rudy wasn’t out of the woods entirely, as Ohe continued to spam Rabord with low kicks that he was ill equipped to check properly. After a while the pattern of the fight started to shift into what was basically a battle of foot vs fist, with Rabord having the edge in boxing skills, and Ohe with the experience with low-kicks and knees. That’s not to say that there weren’t plenty of punches from Ohe, or kicks coming from Rabord (there were), but we did wind up getting a great snapshot of the disparity between Western/Eastern styles of kickboxing from this era. Round 3 had hardly started when Ohe delivered a devastating thigh kick to Rabord, which almost took him out of the fight for good. Somehow Rudy managed to hang on, but after this he was pretty much forced to rely on his boxing, and his legs were pretty much out of the equation at this point. To his credit, Rabord continued to chip away with uppercuts, when Ohe wisely shoved his opponent into the corner and delivered a straight punch that would have resulted in a 10-count, but when Rabord fell, his leg fell inbetween the ring ropes, which caused the ref to consider it a slip instead. Rudy spent the rest of the round just surviving and hoping the bell would ring. The Sidekick...if done properly...none can defend ound 4 starts, and immediately Ohe throws a kick into Rabord’s midsection, which leads to a knockdown. Rabord was able to get up quickly though, only to suffer more punishment for his efforts. All seemed to be lost, when miraculously Rudy was able to turn the tide of the fight by throwing a couple of perfectly timed sidekicks into Ohe’s solar plexus, as he was charging in. It would figure that the most American of all kickboxing staples, the sidekick, would be the key that could potentially unlock victory here, and makes me wonder if he should have been using this technique a lot earlier in the fight. The rest of round 4 and round 5 saw more of the same, I.E. Rabord continuing to throw combinations, and eating nasty kicks from Ohe, but amazingly at the end of round 5, it was Ohe that was barely walking, and needed help back to his corner. The fight was declared a draw and a great fight it was! This also leads to my observation that this was a very shrewd strategy by the UWFI to have a kickboxing fight open things up, (it didn’t hurt that it wound up being a super entertaining bout at that) as having an obviously real fight to set the tone for the show, only added to the illusion that the rest of what the audience was going to see would be real as well. And since the rest of the format was pro-wrestling instead of kickboxing, that could be used to justify, or explain away, any possible holes in the logic that may occur later. Next up is Kiyoshi Tamura vs Tom Burton. There is an old cliché in Pro Wrestling that says a great wrestler should be able to wrestle a broomstick, and make it look good, and here, lo and behold, we appear to have found the broomstick. That may be a little harsh, as it’s obvious that Burton is a powerful guy with some amateur wrestling experience. In fact, had this been mid-90s UFC as opposed to 91 UWFI, Burton may have had some potential to be a nasty threat, but here, he simply served to showcase how awesome Tamura was. Burton had his obligatory offense, but he only wound up looking slow and oafish to Tamura, who was able to showcase slick escapes, smooth transitions, and always maintained a fast tempo. The match wasn’t bad, but that more to do with how great a talent Tamura is, than anything else. Yuko Miyato vs Kazuo Yamazaki Yamazaki was my favorite of the Original UWF roster, as he always brought a great psychology to his matches, used proper feints and footwork, and had a demeanor that always suggested that he was in a real fight, which is sadly a rarity in pro-wrestling. He may have been misued a bit in the Original Uwf, but at least he was given equal status to Nobuhiko Takada, (even having a win over him) but as time went on it seems like the powers in charge became content with him basically being a mid-card act, which was well beneath his talents. This match breaks from the high-octane approach of the prior bouts, with an almost subdued, methodical performance from both men. As both men spend several mins feeling each other out, Yamazaki comes across as a cat waiting for the perfect moment to pounce on its prey, whereas Miyato seems to know this, and is cautiously looking for an answer. About halfway into the bout, Yamazaki just decides to start kicking Miyato into oblivion, which forces a rope escape, and sets a new tone for the match. Miyato returns the favor and in the course of these exchanges we learn the true counter to an achilles hold, which is simply to kick your opponent in the head with your free leg. So simple, and yet so elusive. Well played, Miyato. Sambo's silver bullet? This was Miyato’s final act of defiance, as Yamazaki proceeded to use him for target practice for the rest of the match, effective kicking him to shreds. Both myself, and the crowd at the Korakuen hall loved enjoyed every glorious min of it, as truly, Yamazaki does not seem capable of turning in a bad performance. Yoji Anjo vs Tatsuyo Nakano: A somewhat odd match in that it alternated between explosive striking exchanges on the feet, to a meandering affair once it hit the ground. This contrast had the affect of being somewhat jarring in terms of the overall pacing, but the stand up was total fire, and its amazing how the fakest of the shoot-style leagues, seems to outclass the others in this department. (Compared to PWFG which there is very little striking comparatively, and the last Rings event in which the striking was all over the place). An entertaining if uneven affair. Lastly, we have Nobuhiko Takada doing his Monster-of-the-week routine, this time with J.T. Southern as the guest star. Up to this point JT had been mostly a journeyman wrestler, having plied his trade in the AWA and Windy City Wrestling, and really seems like an odd choice to bring in, but here we are. Right away we can see that JT isn’t comfortable in the striking exchanges, and does very poorly, with what can only be described as some pitter-patter palm strikes. Perhaps, he just didn’t know how stiff he needed to be, and that was probably part of it, but you could also tell, that he was out of his element on the feet. He was able to acquit himself on the ground, to some extent, even going for a kimura from what could loosely be called a half-guard, and did wind up looking passable in the grappling exchanges. The match was mildly entertaining, and was thankfully short at the 7min mark, but really did nothing to add to the credibility of Takada, or the promotion for that matter. Final thoughts: This didn’t really move the needle much in terms of revealing what could be achieved, (either in the shoot-style, or shoot realms) but it was consistently entertaining, and that has to count for something. To be fair, while PWFG and RINGS seem to aspire for a greater plane of existence, outside of the mere chicanery of pro-wrestling, the UWFI seems very content to be just that, albeit a stiff variation. The main roster is solid, but Takada seems hopeless, as far as establishing any sort of legitimate fighting credibility. Time will tell, as to how long he can get away with squash matches against clueless Americans who would be better off sweeping the arena, as opposed to actually performing in it. Here is the event in full: https://youtu.be/n9cDrmLVf48 *In other news* The Gracies are back at it again in the pages of Black Belt Magazine, this time with a hilarious article about their patented "Mount Position" which to hear them tell it, is impossible for someone ignorant of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to escape from" Here is the article: On 6-4-91 the Sediokaikan organization, headed by former high ranking Kyokushin Karate practitioner Kazuyoshi Ishii had an excellent full contact karate event. While this organization has been hosting full-contact tournaments since 1983, it appears that big changes are in the air, as they are planning a huge event on 10-10-91, in which they will conduct the tournament in a boxing ring, and will allow special kickboxing rounds in case the judges become deadlocked during the end of the normal karate rounds. Then if they still can’t decide a winner, they will have the competitors face off in a tile breaking contest to determine a winner. The history of this organization is rather fascinating as it has its roots in Kyokushinkai Karate, which was formed by a man named Masutatsu Oyama, and was widely considered to be one of the toughest styles of karate on the planet. A master in the making... Masutatsu was born in Korea while under Japanese occupation and started training in Shotokan Karate at the age of 14, after having recently relocated to Japan to attend a military school. His training was short lived however, as he was drafted into the Imperial Army in 1941. After WWII ended, he decided to further his fighting education, seeking out the best school he could find, which was the Shotokan dojo operated by Gigō Funakoshi, the third son of karate master and Shotokan founder Gichin Funakoshi. However, he started to feel like a stranger without a home, most likely due to his being Korean. This led to him living and training in seclusion in Mt. Kiyosumi for a year and a half. He eventually returned to civilization, to open his own karate school, but was only met with marginal success. The lack of instant successes led him to get creative, and he started to hold demonstrations, where he would attempt to knock out a bull with repeated strikes. These stunts started opening doors for him, and by 1952 he started touring the United States, issuing challenges, and reportedly winning all of them, most by knockout. He later returned to Japan with a solidified reputation, starting his own brand of Karate, named: Kyokushinkai. Students started flocking in from various parts of the globe. However, as when most things get too big, Kyokushin started to fracture in the late 70s, with infighting, and differences in philosophies between lead instructors. Compounding the problem is that by this point Oyama had yet to really name, or promote a successor to his style, so the stage was set for a major fissure within their network. In 1980 one of the lead teachers, Hideyuki Ashihara split off from kyokushin in 1979 to focus on a slightly more circular footwork system, and to stave off complaints from other Kyokushin instructors that were upset that he was opening too many schools and causing competition. Further complicating matters was in 1980 Kazuyoshi Ishii (who was also a top student within Kyokushin) broke with Ashihara 1980, only a few months after his split, and formed Seidokaikan. Seidokaikan seems to have the all the buzz right now, and Ishii seems intent on heavily promoting his sport, so it will be exciting to see if this bears fruit or fizzles out. Here is the 6-4-91 Knockdown event in full: https://youtu.be/U-xFGMV-0jM Here is what "Mighty" Mike Lorefice had to say about this: Rudy Lovato vs Makoto Ohe: "Kickboxing never had a history of worked matches, so lucky for us, the powers that be had no problem putting on a match with legitimate, high level all out lightning speed combos before their series of flatfooted, pulled palm strikes. UWF-I's foot fighting division was essentially just Ohe, but Ohe was both an exciting little fighter as well as a good one who had been champion in Shootboxing, and while in UWF-I, went on to win the ISKA World Super Lightweight Title. Tonight's opponent was "Bad Boy" Rudy Lovato, a journeyman boxer from Albuquerque who once had one of his fights stopped when a rowdy fan pelted him with a soda bottle. Though he won that via unanimous decision, and went on to claim the vaunted Canadien American Mexican Jr. Middleweight title, he wound up 21-40-4 in a 21 year career. That being said, he was a legitimately good, multi-belt champion in the less lucrative and largely undocumented art of kickboxing, and he truly ushered in UWF-I's new division with a memorable fast pace war. The action in this contest was pretty insane because they had no regard for defense to the point that early on they often didn't even wait for each other, simultaneously throwing their lengthy combos. Lovato had much better hands, and with Ohe not looking to defend (the only way this match slowed down is that he often grabbed a clinch to bring knees), it was amazing how many shots in a row he could land, often even with the same hand. Ohe was definitely the more diverse striker though, and the basic problem for Lovato is he couldn't match Ohe's kicks, which were shredding his legs. Even though Lovato scored a knockdown in the 1st catching Ohe coming in with a right straight, he was almost forced to pat on the inside when Ohe initiated the clinch rather than fighting hard to keep enough distance to land his damaging hooks & uppercuts because Ohe would answer those with debilitating leg kicks. Lovato did his best to slow Ohe down, really digging the body hooks in as his best answer for the low kicks. One of the things that made this fight so interesting is Lovato was winning the short term wars, he had the knockdown and was the one who would stun Ohe from time to time, but Ohe was winning the long term battle because his offense was slowly shutting Lovato down. Given Lovato was based in the US, it's likely Lovato had little to no experience with kicks below the waist and knees being legal, but in any case he wasn't checking enough of the kicks or was telegraphing his check, which would allow Ohe to just bring the kick up to the thigh. While Lovato's right leg was worse, both were ready to go early in the 3rd, and Ohe finally took this round then got a low kick knockdown to start the 4th. Lovato switched things up going to something of a side stance and throwing a couple side kicks, which forced Ohe to close the distance, and when he clinched, Lovato backed & punched his way out instead of accepting it, nearly dropping Ohe with a right. Though they battled it out late in the round, fatigue was finally setting in, and Ohe never truly recovered. The 4th was a great round, with Lovato now holding his own at range in punch vs. kick exchanges, but Ohe no longer had the forward drive in the 5th, so Lovato was finally able to dominate with distance boxing. Though this was the only legitimate fight on the card, it also told the best story, and it was fun that the tale it seemed to be telling was actually reversed, with Lovato's volume & body punching winning the attrition war & allowing him to mostly use his power punching late even though he no longer had much ability to move had Ohe still been able to press him. Lovato should have won a decision, but UWF-I uses an odd scoring system instead of blind mice, and while Lovato finished up 29-27, that's not a big enough margin for a victor to be declared. Great match Kiyoshi Tamura vs Tom Burton: "ML: The first minute of this fight had more compelling moments than the entirety of Takada's feeble effort to pull anything out of Burton in the debut show's main event. Tamura was actually interacting with Burton, and that was making it a riveting, high quality match as they kept pulling unconventional answers. Right from the get go we saw not simply a basic a striker vs. wrestler fight, but that Burton had knees to answer Tamura's kicks, while Tamura had a roll to counter Burton's takedown and take the top himself, and the whole match was based on this sort of back & forth where one discipline of martial arts provided the answer to another. Look, Burton may not be the tightest or most agile worker out there, but Tamura was fantastic here, crafting a match that was intense, explosive, exciting, unpredictable, and creative, and to his credit Burton was consistently able to go outside of the box to answer him. This was on the short side, but that was really a necessity given Burton. But even if Burton was a little sloppy and awkward in his slams and transitions, it was a massive overachievement that was often shockingly excellent. Not only the best worked UWF-I match we've seen so far, but the best worked shoot thusfar in '91 that didn't have Minoru Suzuki or Naoki Sano. ***1/2 Yuko Miyato vs Kazuo Yamazaki: "Yamazaki is such a subtly great performer. Tamura, Takada, & Han were more flashy, but because of that they often just jumped to the action & kept it coming, whereas Yamazaki set things up and did many little things that were ahead of his time to make his matches credible. Though he doesn't have a specific background in karate or kickboxing (he was one of 3 members of the high school judo team), his mentor was Satoru Sayama, and he used to teach in Sayama's gym during the original UWF days. Yamazaki was willing to start slow, using little hand fakes, leg lifts, quick hip twitches to keep Miyato guessing when and how he was coming. Yamazaki seemed to take over when Miyato ducked a right hook kick, but then ate a left kick to the liver. However, Miyato answered with his one big weapon, the rolling solebutt. I like Miyato, but lack of creativity was really his big problem, in that he really seemed content to be the undersized guy who could hit a couple home runs, though as this is fighting rather than baseball, that style was more equivalent to having a puncher's chance. The match was just designed to put some heat back on Yamazaki since he lost to Anjo on the 1st show, but Yamazaki knew how to keep Miyato in at while gaining incremental advantages. Yamazaki's focus was on destroying Miyato's legs, and he was targetting them with most of his kicks & submissions, without forcing things. Miyato's kick to break Yamazaki's Achilles' tendon hold was both the shock & highlight of the match, it was almost as if he just boosted his butt off the canvan into a sort of ground enzuigiri. Increasingly though, he had no defense for Yamazaki's low kicks, and ran out of points getting knocked down by them. *** Yoji ANjo vs Tatsuyo Nakano: "This could have been our first UWF-I story match, but instead it was just a mess. Anjo tried to get Nakano to have a fair and friendly match, offering a handshake before the bell that Nakano didn't accept and signalling that they should do the match without using elbows, which again Nakano didn't shake on. The early portion was tame & dull, but eventually Anjo busted Nakano's nose up badly with a palm strike, though Nakano took him down into what should have been an arm triangle, it's wasn't until after he mounted that we noticed the pool of blood. Anjo tried to for the ever so technical mount escape of punching the opponent in the ribs, and somehow this angered Nakano, I guess because this was really before the closed fist days, and he gave in & dropped an elbow. And that was that, they didn't escalate this or anything, or have it actually be meaningful. Overall, this was way too much of an uneven pro wrestling match, with neither fighter having updated their style in the past several years. There was some good striking, but too many fake holds and wrong positions before Nakano eventually won with a cheesy facelock. Nobuhiko Takada vs JT Southern: "Southern sounds like the sort of loser that would willingly associate with Linda Ronstadt & Don Henley. He's probably more infamous for being the drummer in the "Tough Guys" band at Clash of the Champions X and having guitar battles with "Heavy Metal", but I might be named after a jazz fusion keyboard player and look more like a roidy version of Sammy Hagar than Eddie, Van Hammer than for being arguably the biggest failure in the history of UWF-I. This was the start of his course in Humility 101, becoming the first fighter to fail to take a single point. Southern was green & lousy, but I'm not willing to give Takada a pass because Southern was mostly just following him, and while Takada was better because he had impact on his strikes, overall he was actually more of the problem than Southern as all he could come up with was to take them through throwaway New Japan mat wrestling that wasn't even decent by that standard. UWF-I may be the least realistic of these leagues, but at least it's usually entertaining at the expense of realism. Unfortunately, both guys more or less did nothing on the mat that actually works in a real contest, and this was also dull & uninspired. Again Takada just mailed it in rather than find a way as Tamura did earlier, and without anyone to pull anything compelling out of him, it was an outright stinker. I could buy a PRIDE show headlined by Takada that got worse with each match, but that shouldn't happen in UWF-I. This show got off to a fantastic start though, and while from an MMA perspective it may not rate highly, it did have an all-time classic real match. It also had two good worked matches, and only 1 match that you should skip, so overall, this is pretty easily the best pro wrestling show out of the handful we've looked at so far. Seidokaikan Knockdown 6-4-91: "While karate stylists in MMA are usually associated with a lot of lateral movement and ferocious forward blitzes looking for the devastating one-strike finish, this event was rather ironic in that they fought on an open platform that was large enough to play 6 on 6 volleyball on, yet it was all phone booth fighting. This was no punches to the head bare knuckles combat, so it's mostly a bunch of body punches, with knees and kicks alternating as the secondary weapon because the kicks are easier to land, but y usually wind up spending most of their time inside of kicking range. There were obviously no weight classes, as the American team had a huge size advantage, with most of their competitors being at least a head taller than their adversary. Brian Martin was getting in trouble for missing to the face, but it felt like it must have been work to get his punches low enough to be legal! If you're only familiar with Nobuaki Kakuda as an aging/retired fighter taking a paycheck to hang around with Inoki, lending New Japan's works some shoot credibility, he's amazingly fast here at 30, and his ability to pull off high level techniques & combos really sets him apart from the others. Unfortunately, his opponent Gary Klugiewicz comes to understand this pretty quickly, and takes away Kakuda's kicking game & most of our fun by spending the rest of the match grabbing & holding him. Kakuda an entertaining match highlighted by Kakuda flooring Klugiewicz with a sweet jumping knee in the extra round. The most notable part though was the shinken shirabidori (true blade grab) exhibition that took place before the main event that was designed to prove that if you practice enough karate, you can even defeat a samurai. They actually had some Tiger Jeet Singh sort of action going on, except the samurai actually tried to use the blade of his sword rather than putz around endlessly with the handle, with the karate master seemingly showing every possible way to thwart him, climaxing by stopping a lethal blow sandwiching the blade (which they claim is not blunt or gimmicked) between his two palms and taking the opponent out with a front kick.
  11. *Archives of this series can be found at https://www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad * Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol.5 "Enter the Wild West" *Editors note: Mike Lorefice's comments will be integrated in the main body, and be designated by his initials, ML.* Welcome back one and all, for the next breathless wonderment, in our ongoing journey to fully document the early years of free fighting history. We no longer find ourselves at the epicenter of all things combat related in Japan (why the Korakuen hall of course) instead opting for the more extravagant settings of the Tokyo NK Hall. The NK Hall was a 7000-capacity sports venue that operated within Disney Tokyo, from 88 to 05, and makes perfect sense here, as nothing speaks to the Mickey Mouse aesthetic more than Shoot-Fighting. We are greeted to the usual training montage, and opening interview segments, which I'm sure I would get much more fulfillment out of, if I simply understood more Japanese. Suzuki....seemingly aging backwards Kazuo Takahashi vs Mark Rush: No longer content with just dredging up obscure American Pro Wrestlers that actually had a bit of job resume, (however scant) it would now seem that Fujiwara has taken to scouring local Tokyo bars, searching for gaijins with amateur wrestling experience, and thus is the story with Mark Hunt. PWFG is the only promotion that Hunt worked for, and I have so far been unable to find any more information about him, but here he is, ready to scrap with the scrappiest of them all, Takahashi. After refusing to shake Hunt’s hand before the match we are underway with a beautiful single leg takedown by Takahashi, in which he showed excellent technique by “turning the corner,” in splendid fashion. This match was almost all faced paced mat-work, with Takahashi in constant pursuit of the armbar. The match lasted 11:45 with Hunt, strangely enough, going over Takahashi with a nasty looking neck crank/choke. I thought this was a great way to start the event. This was a realistic (outside of a few tasteful slams, there wasn’t anything to really betray that this was a worked bout) match, that was paced just long enough to not wear out its welcome. Granted it wasn’t flashy and didn’t really have any striking outside of a couple of knees, and a brief flurry of palm strikes by Rush, but it did set a serious tone, and was a good representation of this style. ML: Takahashi vs. Rush exemplifies all the problems of having two amateur wrestlers with no BJJ knowledge going at it. This wasn't a bad match per se because they were active on the mat, but even though they changed positions often, it was basically 12 minutes of fiddling with each others arms. Rush gets a tip of the cap for being the first fighter in our series to try the arm triangle. As incredibly loose as they were, it would have been much better if he won with that or the Americana than this "facelock" where Rush basically put his forearm on Takahashi's chin, clasping both hands near the center rather than one hand on his upper forearm/elbow, but tried to make up for that by resting the side of his head on the opposite side of Takahashi's cheek to help close the gaping hole a little bit. Vale IS America... Bart Vale vs Lato Kiraware: Lato seems like the dude that you would call, if you totally had to have an awesome block party in three days and had to find a quick replacement for your father-in-law to man the bratwurst station. He is not however Pro Wrestling material. This match basically went as you would expect, with Vale using Lato as a kicking pad, which garnered lots of puzzled expressions from Lato. This was a total squash match for Vale, and while it did nothing in terms of helping with the PWFG’s credibility, it was bizarrely entertaining, so it gets a pass. ML: Realizing that Vale appeared to be in slow motion against any spry opponent, Fujiwara came up with a perfect opponent in Lato, an inflated Oliver Hardy shaped wrestler. In this setting, Vale's combos almost looked slick, and at least he didn't have to lean left to throw the right roundhouse kick as Lato did. Though it was something of a precursor to the dreaded PRIDE freakshow matches, and nothing much happened, at least at 5:49 they didn't overstay their welcome too much. Wayne Shamrock vs Duane Koslowski: Here is a match I’m looking forward to. Koslowski was perhaps best known as a competitor in the 1988 Olympics, as a Greco-Roman wrestler. His pro debut was in 1989 at the UWF Cosmos event, and he wrestled another 8 times for PWFG, before calling it quits in 93. The match gets underway with Koslowski attempting to get the clinch, and Shamrock delivering some stiff kicks, and palm strikes as a response. After a couple of mins, Duane is finally able to clinch and take Shamrock to the mat and attempt a keylock to no avail. Shamrock escaped the keylock, to attempt a rear naked choke which led to a creative sequence, where Koslowski kept bridging to alleviate pressure from the choke, and then managed to press off with his legs and escape flip out of the hold. Not the most realistic scenario, but interesting, nonetheless. The match continued in the same pattern for a while, as it would seem that clinch/takedown/keylock is the only thing that Koslowski knows how to do at this point, but in his defense he looks believable, and moves/acts just like you would expect a Greco expert to do so, one that doesn’t know anything about submission or BJJ, that is. The match ends soon afterword’s with a Northern Lights suplex, followed by a straight ankle lock from Shamrock, which was a rather jarring, considering they had kept things at a realistic tone before this. All in all, I enjoyed this match, as Shamrock’s striking is getting better, he was stiffer, and looks to be more confidant, and while one could argue that Koslowski was a bit dull, he had an air of credibility to him, and came off fine. The most interesting side note to this, is that in Shamrock’s autobiography he claimed that Koslowski did not want to Job to Shamrock, as he thought that he would get tons of grief from the Greco-Roman community, so Fujiwara decided to have them both shoot in a private, behind-the-scenes affair, that saw Shamrock as victorious, and afterwards Koslowski agreed to job to Ken. ML: Shamrock vs. Koslowski was a big step up from the previous matches. Though Koslowski was in just his second match and didn't have a vast array of techniques, he could get away with it because he's such a high level athlete. Koslowski's wrestling technique is so good that his belly to belly suplexes were believable, but he just generally looked like a guy who knew how to fight. Though Shamrock was the better striker in a pro wrestling sense, Koslowski looked to have the best standing self defense training so far on the show, fighting out of a boxing stance and showing some footwork. I enjoyed this match, and while it probably didn't need to go any longer in terms of Koslowski having more to show, the finish was rather abrupt & too seated in pro wrestling. No escape...from the Northern Lights *****************************SHOOT ALERT****************************************** Yes, here we are! The very first full shoot that we get to cover, here on the Kakutogi road, which is an absolutely hilarious match between Yusuke Fuke and Thai Boxer, Lawi Napataya. This was a hot mess in every sense of the word, but important from a historical perspective, as outside of Shooto (which was all shoot, but somewhat under the public radar) this is the first real fight that we get to witness in the Kakutogi spectrum. There is no question about the realism of this bout, as right from the get-go, Napataya lights Fuke up like a Christmas tree, with a barrage of kicks, and combinations. Fuke takes some nasty shots, before finally being able to take the boxer down to the ground, only for Napataya to dive for the ropes like a wounded animal. We now see that we are in totally uncharted territory, and clearly no one really thought this through. Having unlimited rope escapes in a shoot-fight, is a recipe for disaster, as great strikers are always going to be at an advantage, especially in a small ring like the one that we see here. (We will see later on, how Gilbert Yvel, and Valentijin Overeem completely abuse multiple rope escapes in Rings). The remainder of round 1 sees Fuke taking a beating, before managing a takedown, only to see an instant standup, for all his trouble, due to the small ring, and limitless rope escapes. The hilarity really starts at the end of round 1, when Napataya’s team brings out a can of grease, and starts to rub grease all over their fighter. They start round 2, and after a min or so, Fuke was able to get his first takedown, in which Napataya slipped right out, and grabbed the ropes, which caused Fuke to look at his hands with a very puzzled expression. I’m not sure if he fully realized what was happening, just yet, but by the 3rd round he absolutely did. During one of his 234 takedown attempts he started to get really upset, pounding the mat, and complained to the ref. He even wiped some of the grease off onto his shorts. This nonsense continued until the break in-between rounds 4 and 5, at which point the ref actually decided to come over and investigate, and of course witnessed Napataya being greased down by his two cornermen, and only then, did he decide to take a towel and dry off Napataya. Once he was done drying him off, and walked away, (at which point the ref was wiping grease off on his pant legs), the corner men simply pulled out their grease can back out, and resumed their work. There have been several greasing accusations and scandals in MMA over the years… Marco Ruas, Eugenio Tadeu, Yoshihiro Akiyama, and GSP, have all been accused in times past, but none have anything on the Grandfather of Greasegate: Lawi Napataya. Right before round 5 started, I guess the ref realized that Napataya’s corner basically just ignored his command to stop greasing, so the ref wiped Napataya down a 2nd time right before the start of the 5th round. Fuke WAS super upset about all of this, and no one would have have blamed him at all for just walking out of the ring, and giving Fujiwara a piece of his mind, as he was basically in a fight that was impossible to win, between the unlimited rope breaks, constant grease, and the fact that he was getting battered with the constant clinic of stiff kicks he was having to take. Greasegate 1.0 The fight was announced a draw, and a visibly frustrated Fuke still tried to show his opponent respect, but you could tell he was not happy about the whole mess. Super entertaining match, albeit for the wrong reasons. ML: This was sort of like mixing a bout from UFC 1 onto a puroresu show, and you know Fujiwara was envisioning a display of superiority from his diverse pro wrestler over the limited muay thai fighter who went into a full rules fight wearing traditional 8 ounce boxing gloves. Fujiwara had already triumphed over kickboxer Dick Vrij in completely worked matches of the sort, and his old promotion New Japan had their share over the years, with Antonio Inoki making his name off more comfortable ones after the debacle that was the endless snoozefest vs. Ali. Now that Fujiwara's boys were receiving real MMA training from retired pro wrestlers, what could there possibly be to fear from allowing the striker to actually strike, they'd still just get taken down & submitted like in the NJPW & UWF fantasies, right? And that might have been the case had the rules actually been thought out, but those who believe rules are meant to be, shall we say shaped to your best possible advantage can hail the Sultan of Slime. This was the sort of fight where you wouldn't have blamed Fuke for just walking out. You had an obviously skilled kickboxer lighting him up in standup, and all he could hope to do was get Napataya to fight him in almost the exact center of the ring where he couldn't just grab the ropes if he went down, and then not slip off the gunk that was all over Napataya's body, and then manage to keep Napataya from just squirming or diving toward the ropes, and then manage to submit him before the round ended. Sure, no problem... Even though this was the greasiest roots of shooting, both literally & figuratively, I think both fighters actually fought smart fights. Fuke was willing to eat a strike to counter into a takedown, but Napataya wisely allowed Fuke to take the center, so when Napataya came forward with his fast kick, even if Fuke succeeded, he was still close enough to just grab the rope for the immediate standup. When Fuke 's response to Napataya coming forward was to back away, Napataya would literally stop once the ropes got out of reach, then backpedal until his back was almost against them, waiting Fuke out. As much as we like to laugh at our old pal One Glove Jimmerson, under these rules a boxing glove would actually have been a big advantage because Napataya could go all out throwing his hands to set up the rest of his offense, whereas Fuke could only threaten with the palm strike that Napataya knew was never going to hurt him. However, Napataya never really threw his hands, his offense was a single inside or outside leg kick or a middle kick then either grabbing the ropes if Fuke caught it or backing to them if he didn't. Both fighters started the bout wearing foot guards, but seeing that Fuke's strategy was to get the takedown by catching the kick, Napataya's corner took his off after the 1st round. While criticizing Napataya for being a human oil slick is valid toward the integrity of the competition, the truth is it really didn't matter because he was always conscious of his ring positioning, what would have mattered was limiting the rope escapes the way UWF-I did (though they were still way too generous for actual competition). Napataya was clowning Fuke from the get go, and the fight began to break down in the 2nd as Fuke started taunting Napataya back, trying to get him to fight in the center like a real man, but Napataya would just mock him some more while sticking to playing things smart & safe, so Fuke pretty much just sucked it up & took his beating. The fans booed from time to time, but not nearly as much as you might think because even though this was repetitive as hell and their hero was being given no chance to succeed, they also must have realized they were seeing something out of the ordinary. Fuke never gave up, but he just didn't have the tools to be remotely competitive, as trying to strike with Napataya just allowed Napataya to open up a little in the 5th, countering with a knee or his one short punch that dropped Fuke. MB: Now that we have had our dessert first, we will attempt to cleanse our palate, with the main course, an excellent showing, from Minoru Suzuki and Naoki Sano. This was a treat, and one of the best matches, shoot-style or otherwise, that we have seen up to this point. This was a fast paced 30 min war, that featured all sorts of grappling that was ahead of its time for most audiences. Guillotine chokes, ankle picks, half guard work, armbars, and heel hooks, were spliced together with more standard pro wrestling fare, and terse striking exchanges. The striking in this match was also very logical, in that they would focus on the grappling first, and when that seemed to stall out, then one would break up the monotony with strikes, in an effort to force a change, or create an opening. There was some pro wrestling tomfoolery, (at one point Suzuki gave Sano a piledriver as he was warding off a takedown with a sprawl/underhook technique) but it didn’t detract from the match, in fact because the flashier spots were used sparingly and towards the end of the match, it did have the effect of spicing things up a bit, towards the end. This match showed us, that despite their flaws, the PWFG was the best of the Shoot-Style promotions at this point in time, and had the potential for something truly extraordinary ML: I need to revisit Suzuki's U.W.F. work to see where things really clicked for him, but he's feeling really ahead of the curve right now, and worthy of inclusion in the top pantheon of worked shooters with Kiyoshi Tamura, Volk Han, Tsuyoshi Kosaka, Kazuo Yamazaki, & Satoru Sayama. The previous two high end PWFG matches were Shamrock vs. Suzuki and Shamrock vs. Sano, but with Suzuki being the man in his matches vs. these opponents, and these matches both being notably better than Shamrock vs. Sano, it's more clear that he's the leading light in this promotion. Suzuki is really grasping the urgency as well, if not better than anyone. Even though his arsenal floats somewhere between pro wrestler & what we'd come to know as an MMA fighter, he does it with so much speed & desperation that the same technique comes off almost completely different than in a traditional pro wrestling style match. This feels like a struggle, like there's real danger if you are unable to react to them before they can react to you. The fact he was not only able to accomplish this, but keep it up for the majority of a half hour match where he also managed to take things down seemingly not to rest, but rather to set up further escalation with another wild dramatic burst that didn't feel false was pretty remarkable. It's difficult to keep the illusion of a shoot alive for 5 minutes, but the remarkable tension that these two are able to sustain throughout such a long contest is really what sets it apart. I don't want to make it sound like this was all Suzuki, Sano was growing in this style by leaps and bounds. You can see that his confidence is so much higher here than it was against Shamrock, and he's just flowing a lot better, really on point with his reactions as well so it doesn't feel like pro wrestling cooperation. Sano again allowed the opponent to lead, but Suzuki is a lot better leader than Shamrock, and Sano is a better opponent for Suzuki in the reaction style because speedy offense & counter laden chain wrestling are the backbones of the junior heavyweight wrestling he's used to. Although Sano is the newbie in U-style, he's the veteran in this match, and he's able to show that by staying composed and trusting that he has the counter/answer to anything Suzuki can throw at him. The match was very spot oriented, but they did a good job of just avoiding or immediately defending the submissions so they weren't straining the credibility for so called drama with the minute armbar before the opponent finally finishes sliding to the ropes shenanigans. I won't say that they didn't strain credibility, I mean, Suzuki even tried a dropkick, but they did so only by performing fast, explosive moves. Still, I liked the first half better when things were more under control than the second half when, ironically, what began to make the match look like it would be a draw was that they started hitting high spots that would have been finishes if they were used at all in PWFG, but they weren't getting the job done. That being said, this managed to be both exciting enough to be a great pro wrestling match of the era and credible enough to be a great shoot style match of the era. The weakness of the match was the transitions from the striking sequences to the mat sequences, not so much because they lacked great ways to get it to the mat, though that's also true, but mainly because they really only knew a bit of Greco-Roman based wrestling, so the action kind of artificially stalled out in a sort of minimal exertion mid-ring clinch while they plotted their explosion to get into the next great mat sequence. This aspect did improve as the match progressed with the introduction of knees, but this is also where they started incorporating the pro wrestling maneuvers. Though Sano is the spot merchant in pro wrestling, it was actually Suzuki that was initiating the more suspect spots here, with Sano shrugging them off. I though the no cooperation belly-to-belly suplex was good precisely because it wasn't cleanly performed, but I could have lived without the later versions, the piledriver, and a few other flourishes. Suzuki did a great job of blending pro wrestling affectations with shoot style desperation though. For instance, chopping Sano's wrist to try to break his clasp that was defending the armbar or slapping his own face to keep himself from from going to sleep in a choke were nice dramatic nods even though they obviously aren't what you'd learn from Firas Zahabi. The crowd was pretty rapid throughout for this big interpromotional match, probably the best reactions PWFG has gotten so far as they were really eating this up. It felt like Sano really pulled ahead midway through the contest when Suzuki initiated a barrage of strikes, even using body punches, but Sano ultimately won what turned into a palm blow exchange, dropping & bloodying Minoru. However, Suzuki had more stamina than Sano, and as the match progressed he began to be too quick for Sano, and was now getting strikes through that had previously been avoided. Sano may well have just been blown up, but it added to the story without reducing the quality in any way. The contest finally climaxed with both working leg locks as the 30-minute time limit expired. You'd think PWFG would want Sano back as soon as possible, and the draw should have led to a rematch at some point, but sadly Suzuki was the only native Sano ever fought in PWFG, with his remaining 3 bouts being against Vale and Flynn. ****1/2 MB: Last, and certainly least… We have the final match between Masakatsu Funaki and Yoshiaki Fujiwara. Once again the mind numbing decision to put the crappiest match at the end is made, to the utter bafflement of everyone. Funaki was legend, and Fujiwara could be good in the right setting, but these two combined, simply strains all credulity. Even by 1991 standards, odds are that it would only take Fuanki roughly 23 seconds to destroy Fujiwara in a shoot, and I don’t see even the faithful Japanese audience buying this. It doesn’t help that even 30 years ago, Fujiwara looks like he was a retirement home extra from Cocoon. If you can manage to suspend disbelief, then this bout was moderately entertaining, though the finish, while creative, was beyond the pale in terms of any sort of believability. Funaki shoots on Fujiwara, who manages to do some kind of sprawl, in which he is basically able to do a single-leg hamstring curl, forcing some kind of armbar/shoulder lock submission. It looked cool but was totally absurd. The hamstring curl of doom... ML: Having Fujiwara in the main event was just business. These were the two biggest names in the company, and this was the match that was going to sell the tickets for the big show. I can't disagree that if it were legit, it probably wouldn't take Funaki much longer to defeat Fujiwara than it took Jorge Masvidal to beat Ben Askren, but Japan is a respect your elders culture that believes the knowledge & experience of the codger is worth more than the physical attributes of his student. We can extend that to the entire Asian martial arts community if we want to talk about all those movies where the seemingly 60-year- old big robed, long bearded teacher flies around by virtue of hokey wires taking out hordes of students that are in their physical prime. Anyway, one of Fujiwara's only defeats since leaving New Japan was to Funaki on 9/13/90, so this was a logical match, and one where Fujiwara either reestablished "order" or gave way to the next generation. In pro wrestling "logic", it was a match that Fujiwara had to win, even though that arguably wasn't the right thing for long term business. The thing is Fujiwara should have put Funaki over at the year end show, but instead had a draw with Suzuki, and didn't fight either in 1992, in a seeming effort to maintain his role as psuedo top star of the company without pushing his luck and creating any more tension with the new guard. As far as the match itself went, part of the problem is they had no chance of following the great Suzuki/Sano match, this was so much more tepid & subdued. Fujiwara wanted no part of Funaki in standup early on, and was even okay with just kind of pulling what would be guard if he had one, and laying around, eventually trying a submission after too much inactivity given there wasn't a positional reason for neither to really be moving. Fujiwara did a lot of grimacing, but the big problem with this match is, unlike the previous bout, there was no sense of urgency & what little tension there was just seemed manufactured. Fujiwara was playing the heavy underdog early, and Funaki is having his way with him in typical, cool, calm, and collected Funaki manner, though not really gaining any actual traction. Things seemed to change when Fujiwara caught a kick, and sort of used a Thai clinch to throw probably the best headbutt of his career, this one was short & quick, adapted for MMA rather than being the usual big windup comedy spot he made famous. Funaki quickly regained control, and Fujiwara did some really phony selling on a delayed knockdown spot from an up kick, but Fujiwara seemed more confident in taking Funaki on in standup in the 2nd half even though he mostly wasn't getting results. The standup was pretty good though, it was stiff & I liked the kick feints Funaki was using, you don't usually see just the quick hip fake in pro wrestling. The big issue is Fujiwara was undermining the credibility with very unsubtle pro wrestling overselling. The surprise finish out of nowhere was meant to protect Funaki, but was pretty comical with Fujiwara literally running from Funaki's striking barrage rather than tying him up to slow him down then, when Funaki finally shot, Fujiwara somehow fell on top into this sort of legscissor armbar thingy. I guess this was creative, but I had to rewind and pause to even see what this nonsense Funaki somehow lost to even was, so I can imagine hoards of Funaki fans shaking their heads as they exited the building, still bewildered how their hero managed to lose. Overall, the match was better than the first two, though way more annoying. Funaki is arguably the most talented if not also the best worker in PWFG, but whereas Suzuki, Sano, & Shamrock have each had two high level bouts between the first three shows, Funaki has yet to even exceed middling despite being the featured act. As much as I'm digging the top flight PWFG stuff, it feels really awkward to have to look to SWS to find some worthwhile Funaki. Sometimes gems manage to shine in the most unlikely places, and on 3/30/91 on a Tokyo Dome show co promoted with the WWF, a UWF rules worked shoot match actually followed the saggy bondage oriented version of KISS known as Demolition. The first thing I noticed is while Funaki's UWF bouts always got a big reaction, this was decidedly not those fans, and surely a lot of the casuals who were there to enjoy the circus had no idea what to make of this. Stylistically, Funaki is a much harder sell than Suzuki because he's a lot more into controlling, and seizing small, often subtle advantages to set up the big spot. Due to Funaki being both so much better than his peers at controlling and also a lot more patient in staying with this aspect of competition, Sano felt a lot less competitive here. Even though Sano had his moments, he felt overmatched. The match picked up when Sano did a much better job with the up kick knockdown than Fujiwara, but then when Funaki came in for the kill, in a more deliberate and careful pre Pancrase scene, they threw a series of more powerful shots designed to miss until Sano finally buckled Funaki with a middle kick. The match was just getting good, but instead of Sano now getting his run, Funaki came back from the knockdown by catching him with a palm strike & finishing with a released German suplex into an armbar. Fujiwara, Suzuki, & Fuke, still donning their UWF jackets, then burst into the ring & mobbed Funaki for a celebration more befitting of winning an Olympic gold medal. I liked this match, but it felt too patient early & too rushed late. It was wrestled as though they were going 20 minutes until they packed virtually all the action into the final 45 second explosion. They rematched two days later, and if there were ever a match that Sano had to win given that Suzuki & Fujiwara had already won earlier in the show, making PWFG 3-0 going into the final interpromotional match of the set, it was this one. This started better with a lot of standup, even though it initially felt like sparring. Things picked up with Funaki dropping Sano with a palm strike, and it was almost a short night for Sano as they redid the finish from the previous match, but this time Sano defended the armbar. From here, the standup was more aggressive, but again, it never really seemed like Sano had anything to truly threaten Funaki. Sano had some top control, and could land a damaging strike now and then, but Funaki had more speed and more technique, and even a low blow couldn't slow him down for long. This was definitely the better match of the two, as it was not only much better developed, but also got going a lot quicker. However, it was almost as if Funaki was too good for the match to approach its potential. This should have blown Sano vs. Shamrock away, and while the striking was certainly better, it felt like Sano had answers for Shamrock and could win that match whereas this one he'd really have to get lucky. Sano was able to hit his German suplex, but Funaki took the top breaking Sano's clasp & swung into an armbar for the win. Fuke jumped in the ring to raise Funaki's hand, but at this point there was no need for a massive group celebration, as SWS had been thorougly dispatched of. MB The final verdict: Great show.... This promotion is really starting to show that it has a gold mine with people like Shamrock, Sano, Suzuki, and Funaki, but is still plagued by Americans that would be better served at WCW's power plant, then trying to shoot with the stars. If they can manage to develop their bottom half of the talent pool, then they are ready to completely overshadow what Rings and the UWFI are doing right now. Here is a link to the entire event: https://youtu.be/4TCj_q1CToQ *In Other News: In other news: The UWFI held their 2nd event at the Korakuen Hall on 6-6-91. Some highlights include a fantastic kickboxing match at the beginning of the card, in which Makoto Ohe had an all-out war with his opponent, Rudy Lovato. This was a total slug fest from start to finish, as Ohe constantly attacked Lavato’s legs with punishing low kicks, but would expose his jaw in the process, and eat punches for his trouble. Both men completely gave everything they had, until they were both awarded a hard-fought draw. On the same card we saw Kiyoshi Tamura put on an absolute clinic at the expense of Tom Burton, who looked completely lost in the ring with Tamura. Tamura gave him a few obligatory moments of offense, in which Burton just came across as slow and oafish, but most of this match was Tamura lighting the place on fire with his speed and slick transitions. Yamazaki may have to move over soon, as the true and credible star of the Shoot world, if Tamura keeps getting better. Speaking of Yamazaki, this event continues to prove that he is perhaps the most underutilized and underappreciated talent on the scene today. He completely embarrassed his opponent Yuko Miyato with a constant barrage of great kicks, smooth transitions, slick submission entries, and great footwork. He gave Miyato a couple of brief moments of offense, but in reality, this was a total squash match to showcase Yamazaki’s fantastic skills. It’s probably an indictment of the hierarchical structure of Japanese politics, then anything else, but Yamazaki has seemingly been held back his entire career from really being allowed to be one of the very top guys, even though his talent is undisputed. Tatsuo Nakano defeated Yoji Anjoh in an exciting 15min bout, that saw plenty of kicks, slaps, blood, suplexes, ankle locks, and of course our favorite, the Boston Crab. Nobuhiko had his Gaijin of the week bout, this time with JT Southern, in what was your typical Takada match with an out of his league foreigner. The fight was moderately entertaining, but not great, thankfully it was over in 7min, so it didn’t really outlive its welcome. Maurice Smith recently faced Australian sensation, Stan “The Man” Longinidis at the Australia Entertainment Center in Sydney. Round 1 saw Stan come out hyper-aggressive and was able to flatten Smith with a left hook/overhand right combination, for a knockdown. The knockdown didn’t seem to phase Smith too much going into round 2, but that changed when Stand hammered him again with another 2 overhand blows, which you could tell really messed with Smith’s equilibrium. Stan easily won the round but was perhaps too passive in the last thirty seconds, as he may have been able to finish Smith, had he really thrown everything he had at him, towards the end of the round. Smith started to regain some composure in round 3. He still arguably lost the round but was starting to mesh back into his usual form, and then he started to turn it back around in Round 4. Smith was able to stifle all of Stan’s offense and completely control the fight in this round. Round 5 was pretty even with both men able to land some stiff offense, and Round 6 saw Stan able to continually slip Mo’s jab and penetrate Smith’s defense. Stan seemed to play things too cautious though, as he would back off as soon as he would land something. Still round 6 should be in Stan’s favor. Round 7 saw both fighters unload flurries on each other, and while the round was probably close in terms of score, Stan seemed to take more damage then Smith did. Round 8 saw both fighters clobber each other, but now we are starting to see the weaknesses in Stan’s armor. While he has been scoring quite well up until this moment, he seems to have spent his gas tank by the end of this round, and Smith seems like he could go another 12 rounds if need be. Round 9 saw that conditioning is the most important attribute to any fighter, as Stan’s tools all but seem spent, now. His bloody, and barely moving, he basically just survived this round. Round 10, and Maurice continues to pressure Stan. All hoped seemed lost, when Smith missed a turning kick, and Stan started to capitalize by backing Smith into the neutral corner and unloading a blitzkrieg of punches. This may have been the end if Stan’s cardio was sufficient, but it wasn’t, and Stan gassed before he could really break through. Still, it was a great showing from Stan, who managed to make it through this round. Rounds 11 and 12 saw Stan give all he had, but he simply didn’t have enough to follow up any of his punches with combinations. He was able to weather the storm and make it to a split decision, but it wasn’t his night. A great fight, and an impressive showing from both men. Entire event: https://youtu.be/5NwVusdajis Ex DEA agent Darnell Garcia was recently sentenced to 80 years in prison. Many know of Garcia as being a former Karate Champion and having been one of Chuck Norris's top students. He had also carved out a small space in the martial arts fabric of Hollywood, having been involved in 9 productions from 73-84. In his recently trial it was alleged that he was able to amass over 3 million dollars in an offshore bank account from drug trafficking, by leveraging his DEA connections, and from the collusion of other corrupt members of the agency. Garcia was fined 1.17 million dollars and will be eligible for parole after serving at least 27 years of his sentence. And finally.... What did Dave Meltzer have to say about all of this? Let's see: What did Dave Meltzer have to say about all of this? 5-27-91 "PWFG ran on 5/16 in Korakuen Hall drawing a full house of 2,250 as Masaharu Funaki beat Jumbo Barretta in the main event in 9:40 with an armlock, Naoki Sano beat Wayne Shamrock (Vince Tirelli) in 26:15 plus Yoshiaki Fujiwara beat Wellington Wilkins Jr. and Bart Vail and Minoru Suzuki won over newcomers making their pro debuts. PWF announced its next show for 7/26 at Tokyo Bay NK Hall, a 7,000 seat building which means they need a strong line-up. 6-3-91 " Satoru Sayama returned to pro wrestling, sort of. Sayama was the color commentator on the television broadcast of Akira Maeda's debut "Rings" show on the WOWWOW network (equivalent to HBO in the U.S., WOWWOW also airs SWS). Takada's UWFI is having talks about bringing Bob Backlund back. Jerry Flynn is headed to PWFG UWFI on 6/6 in Korakuen Hall has Takada vs. J.T. Southern, Shigeo Miyato vs. Yamazaki, Yoji Anjyo vs. Tatsuo Nakano and Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Tom Burton. Fujiwara's PWF on 7/26 at Tokyo Bay NK Hall as Fujiwara vs. Funaki and Minoru Suzuki vs. Sano. Wayne Shamrock (Vince Tirelli) was very impressive on the last PWF show in his match with Sano, that went 26 minutes. Shamrock was an amateur wrestling champ and also won some tough-man contests in the states. 6-10-91 "This is how JWJ reported on the status of the various groups using the old UWF style: "UWFI consists of seven ex-UWF wrestlers and wanted the succession to the name and image of the UWF. However, to their regret, they couldn't obtain the right to use the Universal Wrestling Federation name so they called themselves Union of Professional Wrestling Force International for similar initials. They have enough Japanese wrestlers to run a promotion but they have no foreign talent that can really wrestle. to make matters worse, they have neither money nor television and they don't even have a training gym right now. Obviously, this group is the weakest one of the three. In the ring, they wrestle UWF style and rules basically. The only change is when the match begins, a wrestler has 15 points. A guy loses three points for a knockdown, one for a rope escape from a submission hold and one for a solid suplex. If the guys point total goes down to zero, he is declared the loser automatically. In addition, they have a doubles (tag team) category, in which case they start with 21 points. Considering there were no tag team matches in the UWF, that's something new. There is nothing wrong with that because they need something new, however if it "kills" the image of this being a "shoot" because a tag-team match is considered as a work here, problems will result. Their first card (5/10) drew a sellout of 2,300 fans at Korakuen Hall and all tickets were sold within 15 minutes of them going on sale. The crowd popped like crazy when wrestlers entered the arena with the old UWF theme song. With all ex-UWF wrestlers gone, Maeda was left alone to start his new promotion. Chris Dolman's help was the only strong point of this group. However, things turned when JSB decided to televise all of Maeda's shows. With the help of Dolman and JSB, he ran his first card at Yokohama Arena (capacity 17,010). The card drew 11,000 so the big arena was nowhere near full. In fact, the crowd was the same as when the SWS debuted at the arena last October, but the paid attendance was a lot more. UWF Fujiwara-Gumi changed its name to Professional Wrestling Fujiwara-Gumi (PWF) because they have to work with the SWS, so the UWF name was dropped. Their first show on 3/3 sold out all tickets within 30 minutes, but tickets didn't sell as quickly for the second show on 5/16. In fact, even ringside tickets were still available the day of the card, but the building ended up being packed full with a sellout crowd of 2,250. There is another sport in Japan called SAW (Submission Arts Wrestling) which is said to be a real sport under almost the same rules as the old UWF except that kicks are banned. A unique rule is that if a man uses a sleeper, if the opponent doesn't submit or is put out within 10 seconds, he has to break the hold. 6-17-91 "Actually the "hottest" show of the week was 6/6 at Korakuen Hall when the UWFI drew a huge throng of 2,400 (standing room everywhere) to see Nobuhiko Takada beat J.T. Southern with the wakigatamae (armlock) in 7:04, Tatsuo Nakano beat Yoji Anjyo with a facelock in 15:17, Kazuo Yamazaki won via TKO over Shigeo Miyato and Kiyoshi Tamura beat Tom Burton. An interesting note is that Masaharu Funaki of PWFG was at the show and when reporters surrounded him, he said that he wanted to have a match against Takada. After the match, reporters asked Takada who ignored the question. The 6/8 newspaper reported that Takada would be facing Bob Backlund down the road once again (they had a pretty famous match a few years back in Osaka) but that doesn't seem to be in the cards right now.
  12. *Archives of this series can be found at https://www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad * Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol.4 "Gotchism" Greetings and salutations! It is that time most hallowed, where we once again come together in the spirit of Kakutogi to observe the latest wanderings before us. This time we find ourselves back at the Korakuen Hall, ready for another chapter of the PWFG. So far, we have witnessed the birth of a nexus of Shoot-Style promotions that will eventually help solidify and define MMA in the years to come (with RINGS and the UWFI being the other two promotions). It’s 5-16-91, and we are greeted by a soothing synth beat, while infamous catch-wrestling legend Karl Gotch, puts the PWFG crew through their paces. One look at this, and we can see a glimpse as to why PWFG went on to produce some of the best fighters of the early MMA era, due to the watchful tutelage of Gotch. In fact, Gotch may be an unsung hero in the annuls of MMA history, because if his influence hadn’t saturated Japanese Pro Wrestling since the early 70s, and had he not been a forerunner in the formation of the original UWF promotion, there probably wouldn’t have be a Shooto, Pancrase, Pride, or any Japanese MMA for that matter, and thereby many of the early stars of MMA would be noticeably absent. It’s very possible that the UFC would have been regulated to a quick infomercial for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, if we didn’t have people like Ken Shamrock, or Dan Severn (who both got their start in MMA by way of Japanese Shoot-Style wrestling) providing a stylistic foil, or counter narrative, in those early chapters of its history. This event is kicked off with the PWFG roster honoring Gotch in the center of the ring, and allowing him to kick things off with a short speech which is as follows: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the road to success is made of luck, sweat, and tears. The first steps have been made, and a lot of work lays ahead of us. With the spirit of Fujiwara-Gumi we can face the future with confidence. I hope we can give wrestling back the honor it deserves. So, it can be done with the same respect as it is in boxing, which it once had. The time has come to give the public what it pays for, and not to take their money under false pretenses by impersonating a professional wrestler.” The speech is rather fascinating as it clearly shows the essence of what MMA has always wanted to be, which is REAL pro wrestling, and it offers a glimpse into what was surely the vision of people like Gotch, Lou Thez, Billy Robinson and other wrestlers from a bygone era, in which carnival wrestling had roots in effective martial art techniques, and its practitioners honed and perfected their techniques via a subculture that was happy to exchange its esoteric secrets with one another. It may also reveal how insecure the powers that were in charge, may have been about actually providing real shoots. One must wonder, if somebody like Fujiwara, simply didn’t think there was a paying public for real pro wrestling and had no choice to pull the wool over the eyes of its fanbase. In any event, Gotch’s vision didn’t really take formation until the founding of Pancrase in late 93, and we are given even more evidence that Pancrase is the culmination of what the PWFG should have been from the beginning. After the formalities, we are treated to a very young, and very fresh faced, Minoru Suzuki, who these days looks like he may just be a tad under 800 years old. This saddening observation has made me ponder many of the deeper things in life, such as if the rigorous shooting career Suzuki had in the mid-late 90s added about 750 of those years to his body. Here Suzuki must face Kazuo Takahashi, who in a short time later, became one of the first fighters to conquer a BJJ black belt (with a win over Wallid Ismail at UFC 12) thus garnering a reputation as a very tough opponent, regardless of whatever fighting skills he may have lacked. Suzuki and his opponent start off in the clinch, and the first couple of mins look a lot like a Greco-Roman wrestling match, until Takahashi shoots in and aggressively goes for a double. Suzuki tries to ward this off with a sprawl, but after struggling for a couple of seconds, he defaults to a nasty knee to the midsection of Takahashi, with a couple of palm strikes thrown in for good measure. I’m really digging how Suzuki incorporated striking in his shoot-style days. He seemed to use his strikes as tools to open up submission attempts, or as a way to break a stalemate when his normal grappling tools were being stalled out, and to me, this added a lot of nuance to his matches. Takahashi continues his strategy of trying to blast through Suzuki with a power-double but can’t seem to get the job done. He switches to a single-leg attempt, to which Suzuki briefly tried a guillotine counter, but couldn’t get the requisite leverage with one of his legs in the air, so he let go of Takahashi and was able to side step into a slick Kimura (Double Wrist Lock) attempt. He quickly gives up on the Kimura and goes for an armbar, in which he sets up by squishing Takahashi’s face with his forearm/palm, to which I wholly approve of. Always make the Uke Suffer! This was a great way to open the show and set the tone for the event. A realistic match, that was faced paced, and didn’t have any real holes, or lulls in the action. Next up is Yusuke Fuke vs Bart Vale: They really tried to sell this as a lighting fast/undersized grappler vs a monstrosity striker, and it probably worked well for its era, but under a modern eye it isn’t believable due to the oafish slowness of Vale. When Vale is throwing kicks his offense looks passable, but when he gets taken down to the ground, by someone as lithe as Fuke, he simply doesn’t have the movement or the ability to make it seem like he would be any kind of credible threat, despite having a significant weight advantage. The match is entertaining, fast paced, and contains several great takedowns by Fuke, but the credibility is lacking. Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Wellington Wilkins Jr: Another well-paced, entertaining bout, that lacked credibility. In this case, it wasn’t due to the matchup itself, as both Wilkins and Fujiwara complemented each other, and came across as equally skilled opponents, but rather it was because it was simply too flashy to be a good example of this new style of wrestling. A lot of flashy suplexes and takedowns, mixed in with some stiff striking, and goofy antics from Fujiwara. Fun, but definitely the most rooted in the more common pro wrestling spectrum, compared to the other matches on the card. Naoki Sano vs Ken Shamrock Here we get to a true treat, and the highlight of this card. PWFG’s lack of star power on the bottom tier of their roster definitely led to some unfortune excursions into the more obscure corners of the jobber universe, but in this case, their subcontracting out some talent led to a homerun. Sano started his carrer in the 80s as a jobber for NPJW before getting a chance to hone his craft in Mexico in 87 and he was able to parlay that experience into a successful run in the Jr. Division of NJPW, with some memorable matches against Jyushin Liger. When SWS (Super World of Sports) started doling out the cash in the early 90s he jumped aboard the gravy train, and was plying his craft there, when PWFG worked out an agreement to have him loaned out for a couple of matches. His stay here was brief, as Kazuo Yamazaki, and Nobuhiko Takada lured him over to the UWFI shortly thereafter. If Sano is known at all to a modern MMA fan, it is probably for his surprisingly good showing against Royler Gracie at Pride 2, in which he was able to nullify a lot of Royler’s offensive tools, and could have possibly caused a major upset had he not been so tentative in that fight. The fight starts and is already looking to be amazing, as Sano seems like a perfect opponent for Shamrock. Both were of a similar height, and both had impressive bodybuilder physiques, so this is looking like a clash between the unstoppable force vs the immovable object, straightaway. Unstoppable Hair vs Immovable Mullet The first few mins start off with the fighters feeling each other out on the ground, with Ken ever looking for a leg attack entry. This is interesting to watch from a modern vantage point, as it was clearly by people that weren’t in the BJJ mentality of “position over submission.” Sano will attempt to place Ken in a bad position, and as soon as Ken is able to reposition himself, he instantly goes for the attack, which was the mindset of Catch Wrestling. Both men jockey back and forth on the ground for a while, with both trading kimura, toe hold, and choke attempts. This goes on for a while, until Shamrock is able to secure a rear naked chock, thus forcing a rope escape from Sano. They get stood back up and escalate the entire affair with some stiff palm strikes, and nasty knees from Sano. Everything is looking very snug and believable until a momentary show of flashiness takes place with a jumping DDT from Sano. This didn’t really amount to a whole lot, as Shamrock quickly reversed his position by applying a hammerlock variant, into another rear naked choke attempt, and rope escape. After trading a couple of kicks, Shamrock hits an explosive Northern Lights suplex into a Kimura, which is super impressive looking, but admittedly fake as all get out. This surprisingly didn’t accomplish much as Sano was right back up with some more kicks and managed to score a knockdown against Shamrock. Shamrock gets back up and they continue to trade submission attempts, but one thing I’m starting to notice is that this has a great back and forth feel, without the sometimes-scripted feeling that a Rings match would give off. The limited rope-escape format of RINGS could add a lot of drama to a match, but oftentimes produced matches that felt very formulated. The PWFG approach of unlimited rope escapes allows for a much more organic match to take place, although can also lead to bouts of meandering if not done correctly. The match continues to seesaw all the way until the 25:00 min mark, when everything culminates into an explosive crescendo, as both men give everything they have into knees/palm strikes towards one another. Sano gets behind Shamrock and hits a dragon suplex, followed by a straight armbar, for the win. While not perfect, this was a great match that really showcased the new and uncharted territory that this style could deliver. It was fairly credible, outside of a few highspots and Shamrock’s striking needing to be a bit stiffer. Still, this was a glimpse of some of the magic to come, and Sano proved to a perfect foil to the powerhouse that was Ken Shamrock. Now, much like the Hindenburg, this show must come crashing down in similar fashion. We have Masakatsu Funaki vs Johnny Barrett, which if this had to exist at all, should have at least been towards the bottom of the card. Having someone as slow and out of shape as Barrett in a main event, is truly baffling. Funaki does what he can with him, and while it isn’t completely horrible, it was a totally anti-climatic letdown, after the greatness of Shamrock/Sano. Conclusion: While they haven’t quite hit their stride, we are starting to see that the PWFG has the most potential of the three Shoot-Style leagues to really break into greatness. Although they weren’t able to keep a consistent stylistic tone, all of the matches were entertaining, and if they can manage to broaden the shallow end of their talent pool, then they might be a dangerous force to reckon with. Here is the event in full: https://youtu.be/u0Tysgr55hw In Other News: *Japan* Maurice Smith recently squared off against Peter Smit at an All Japan Kickboxing event on 5-21. There was a lot of trash talk and dirty looks from Smit and his crew leading up to the first round, and Smit continued to act arrogant after the round started. Surprisingly though, despite all of his bluster, Smit had absolutely nothing for Smith, and was never able to generate any significant offense. At one point during round 1, smith become irritated at Smit’s antics and picked him up and slammed him to the ground. This caused a look of confusion and bewilderment from Smit, who seemed puzzled as to how Maurice could just have his way with him like that. Smit regained his composure by round 2, but still wasn’t able to effectively break through Smith’s defenses. Round 3 is when things started to get interesting… Smit was finally hitting his stride and while he wasn’t landing any bombs, he was able to stifle Smith, which seemed to frustrate him, and shortly before the 2min mark, Smith bodylocked Smit, took him down, and initiated some ground and pound. This caused several people in Smit’s corner to jump onto the ring apron, and threaten Smith, while the referee panicked. The ref managed to break it up and declared Smit the winner. Smith then calmed down and apologized to Smit and asked him to come back into the ring and finish the fight. The ref seemed unwilling at first, but after cutting to a montage of the melee, apparently an agreement was worked out and everybody agreed to resume the bout. Smith don't play around...... They were both on their best behavior for round 4, but by the time Round 5 started it was clear that Smith had enough of the shenanigans, and proceeded to knock Smit out in just over a min. Things were surprisingly calm after the win, but one must wonder if Maurice had any trouble getting out of the building unscathed that night. Full Event: (Maurice Smith fight starts around 36:30) : https://youtu.be/e5Zbl8SHOXU Rings has been getting a lot of attention in the Japanese media lately, as it is being reported that this promotion is, and will be, a complete shoot (although as we reported last time, this is not the case) and Maeda’s decision to break away from Yamazaki and Takada was due to their not wanting to be in a full shoot organization. *Chicago* Chuck Norris proved that he can do more than just act and roundhouse people, when he set a speedboat record of 12 hours 8 mins and 42 seconds for the 605 mile nautical trip between Chicago and Detroit. Michael Regan (son of President Ronald Regan) held the record before Norris, but Norris was able to beat him by about 26mins. Norris is an avid powerboat racer and was also able to beat the San Francisco to Los Angeles record last year, during his second attempt. Did Dave Meltzer have anything interesting to say? Let's see: MAY 20, 1991 "The big news this week was the debut of Nobuhiko Takada and Akira Maeda's new promotions. Takada's group debuted before a sellout 2,300 fans at Korakuen Hall on 5/10, with all tickets sold out in something like 15 minutes the first day they went on sale. The group, called UWF International or UWFI for short, is the closest thing to the old UWF which had a two-year run as the hottest promotion in the world before fizzling out as shooting stars are wanton to do because of problems between Maeda and office boss Shinji Jin. The show wasn't really very good, but what remains of the legion of UWF fans were there and felt good about being there. Takada grabbed the house mic before the show and said the group was the only one left 'with the feeling of the UWF' which got a big pop. The card itself consisted of three matches, a prelim match between Masato Kakihara and Kiyoshi Tamura, won by Tamura. Then came a 'doubles' match (tag team) with Shigeo Miyato & Yoji Anjyo beating Kazuo Yamazaki & Tatsuo Nakano with the surprise finish of Yamazaki doing the job when he was knocked out by a series of kicks from both guys in 23 minutes. This was different from the old UWF, which didn't have any tag matches. The rule were that a guy couldn't tag out while in a submission hold unless he got to the ropes or was able to break the hold. It was different since Yamazaki is really the group's second biggest name and he did the job. The main event saw Takada beat Tom Burton (who worked as a Dirty White Boy in Memphis some months back) with a boston crab in 10:46. The match was disappointing to most because Burton really had no idea of the style and Takada was giving him lots of openings and trying to carry him for ten minutes but the fans saw it as Takada could unload on him and beat him at anytime. At the 10 minute call, Takada seemingly proved them right because he got a quick win at that point. After the match in the press conference Takada apologized and said 'my opponent was poor.' They also confused fans by instituting new rules. On the scoreboard, each man starts the match with 15 points. You lose three points every time you go to the ropes to break a hold, and lose one point every time you get suplexed. The match can end with a pinfall (which almost will never happen), a submission (usual finish), knockout, five knockdowns or if a man's point total goes down to zero. When the press asked Takada after the show what his goal a year from now was, he said honestly, "I'm only thinking about one card at a time." In the sense that they drew the full house so easily, the card was a financial success. But the truth is, it has been so long since there has been a "real" UWF show in Tokyo, which was the home base of the UWF, that the first house was easy. Whether this group, with only eight wrestlers and access to only no-name Americans can book shows that will draw over the long haul or be able to draw outside of Tokyo is another story. The next show is 6/6 at Korakuen Hall with Takada vs. J.T. Southern on top. Two interesting notes were that Koji Kitao sent flowers to Takada's opening show, which gets an interesting rumor going, although he'd certainly be out of place. Even more interesting was the front page news in one of the newspapers this past week that this group is trying to put together a Takada vs. George Foreman match for the Tokyo Dome in January, but you can imagine how astronomical the odds would be of being able to pull that one off. Speaking of Kitao, I got a chance to see the 4/1 'Wrestle Dream in Kobe' SWS-WWF show so I saw the match with Earthquake John Tenta. Anyway, aside from it being just about the worst match of the year (negative four stars), it did appear that it was Tenta who "started it." The first genuine shoot move was Tenta going behind Kitao and taking him down hard amateur style (Tenta was the teenage world superheavyweight champion back in the early 80s), but almost like a football lineman just throwing down a back. Tenta was riding Kitao, who got to the ropes. Kitao then got out of the ring and kicked over the press table and got a real po'd look in his eyes. When they got back in the ring, it seemed the communication was gone but Kitao put his hands up as to do a test of strength as if they were working. When they locked up, Kitao quickly tried to move for the Fujiwara armbar but Tenta just got out of the way. Don't know if Kitao was doing the move for shoot or not, but Tenta clearly wasn't going to try and find out. At that point, the match was over as both guys just glared at each other. Neither guy would make a move. It seemed as if, since every fan knew the match had gotten out of control, neither guy could back down but both were very happy that the other wasn't quick to make a move. They just stood there and glared for like four minutes and neither guy had a way out of it other than get in a real fight which neither seemed to really want to do even though they had to give the impression to the other that they did, so finally Kitao kicked the ref real hard for the DQ. The TV version of the match cut immediately, but at that point Kitao grabbed the house mic and made his comments about Tenta being fake and wrestling being fake. I was told it was funny to see how fast people stormed the ring and tried to get the mic away from him. Anyway, apparently Kitao's version that Tenta came after him first under the provocation from Kabuki has some substance. . . That was a really sad show, by the way. With the exception of Bret Hart vs. George Takano **3/4, nothing was better than **1/4. The real disappointment was Tenryu-Savage. Savage looked bad but Tenryu looked a lot worse. I don't know if it was a bad night or if a lot of us didn't realize just how valuable Sherri Martel has been to Savage over the past year because he didn't look like a good wrestler. Savage also tried to break the bump on the power bomb (since he probably had never taken one before) finisher and the crowd erupted in laughter. It was said Tenryu's performance was so bad because of all the problems underneath, but Tenryu has really looked bad of late a lot of nights. Hogan-Yatsu was interesting if only because Hogan tried to wrestle the entire match on the mat and did one take-down and ride on Yatsu after another. The match was dull since Hogan's mat wrestling isn't entertaining, but it was different and unlike the other Americans that worked SWS shows, Hogan at least tried to change his style. It seemed to hurt his feelings that the crowd took the match as comedy even though Hogan tried to wrestle seriously. Hogan didn't take any bumps except for one powerslam from Yatsu and basically took the entire match and made it one-sided. Maeda's 'Rings' promotion debuted 5/11 at the Yokohama Arena before 11,000 fans. The crowd was impressive because there were very few freebies (by Maeda's own decision) and it was really Maeda alone as the drawing card. Maeda's main event against kick boxer/bodybuilder Dick Leon-Fry from the Netherlands turned out to be Maeda's best match in a long time. The matches were all worked, although the crowd seemed to be convinced otherwise and popped big when Maeda pulled out the win after giving Fry a lot of the match. The other matches involved Dutch guys trained by Chris Dolman (sambo) and Wilhelm Ruska (judo); however, the fans weaned on the UWF noticed the guys did judo and sambo submissions and not the Karl Gotch-UWF style submissions that the fans were used to. Dolman worked against many time world champion powerlifter Bill Kazmaeir, in a match said to be awful. Dolman won by submission in the fifth round. Maeda is also plagued by a front office that includes nobody that has ever worked previously within the pro wrestling business." What does Mighty Mike Lorefice have to say about all of this: "Not to take anything away from Karl Gotch, or especially Billy Robinson, who was the most gifted pro wrestler of his generation, but everyone involved in these "shoot leagues" was continuing to perpetuate the myth of reality by screaming really loudly about being different while actually only inching further from the long established norms of pro wrestling. This, of course, is exactly what one would expect, people grouping with those who are seemingly most similar and continuing to do more or less exactly what they've always done, not attempting to enact legitimate change but making the easy & safe choices that simply shif things ever so slightly, mostly by excluding from their clique and directly or indirectly running down those who don't fit into their current needs, in this case the phony posers. While Gotch, Robinson, Lou Thesz, Nick Bockwinkel, etc. were assets as trainers given the style the new generation was going to be working, certainly worlds more useful than doing 1000 squats in sync for Buddy Lee Parker, and in some cases such as Sakuraba & Tamura actually helped provide some tools that translated into legitimate fighting success, instead bringing in current or recently retired tournament or Olympic competitors in judo, amateur wrestling, BJJ, kickboxing, karate, taekwondo, etc. to train would surely have led to a more unique style & pushed things toward legitimate fighting a little quicker, probably still not under Fujiwara though, as taking on guys half his age for real was obviously not going to be a recipe for success or longevity. Rorion Gracie's ulterior motive for starting UFC was to prove that Gracie BJJ was the essential martial arts discipline, but with all the established players in the shoot leagues being from the same rigged discipline, there was no advantage, especially for Fujiwara, to removing his own safeguards. That being said, I think we are already starting to see a very important change due to Gotch, who helped instill the much needed Greco-Roman wrestling discipline that was largely missing in the UWF. The main evolution we were seeing in these shoot leagues in 1991 is that the splintering of the UWF resulted in leagues needing to find new fighters to fill out their cards. One of the most important of these fighters was Kazuo Takahashi, a high school state champion in amateur wrestling who also had some training in karate. While Takahash's wrestling in this match was still too upper body centric, his attempting double & single leg takedowns was still an important step forward from the hokey status quo that, bereft of any real wrestling knowledge, included Akira Maeda relying on the captured suplex to transition to the mat. While nowhere near as entertaining as Suzuki's match with Shamrock on the 1st show, you can clearly see that Suzuki was forced to up his game here, combating the then unusual wrestling style of Takahashi by timing & countering his explosions with strikes & submissions. The match was very brief with Takahashi not really doing anything but looking for the takedown, and while the finish was not that impressive, overall it showed Suzuki to really get it in terms of being able to adapt to his opponent and counteract them through good timing. Fuke debuted the prior August, going 1-1-1 against fellow rookie Masahito Kakihara before UWF closed. As with the previous match, the quality of amateur wrestling was much higher than it has been, with Fuke quickly hitting a single leg, which was also good strategy giving he was giving up a lot of weight to a kickboxer with a background in kenpo karate. Fuke showed a lot of potential, but Vale, while not awful, lacks any of the elements that make a fighter interesting such as speed, grace, & fluidity. He did some downright weird things, such as escape an armbar attempt by rolling to his left side & kicking Fuke in the head with his right leg, which drew a delayed chuckle from the Korakuen faithful. While I'll credit Vale with his willingness to allow Fuke to take him down & put him on the defensive rather than forcing a standup contest, Vale really didn't possess the skills necessary to put over his comebacks off his back. After two examples of why PWFG was an improvement because you had new blood taking things in a more credible, martial arts based direction, Fujiwara comes out against a badly overmatched Wilkins, and because he doesn't take him the least bit seriously, does the PWFG version of a comedy match. Sure, this was credible by the standards of Hogan & Flair, but even if the work was arguably within the absolute loosest definition of shoot style, the desired reaction to their spots was giggling. They probably could have done a good match if they wanted to, but instead they did a cringeworthy exhibition that probably embarrassed some of the other performers because it was so obviously illegitimate in virtually every way. Sano is something of a controversial figure, a guy who left NJPW at the height of his potential after a brilliant fued with Jushin Thunder Liger to compete in a promotion that supplied him with no legitimate rivals opponents, and spent the next several years paying for it when they failed. While Tenryu made Sano the flagbearer for the SWS light heavyweight division, a position he never would have held in NJ given Liger (as Tenryu never would have been tops in AJ given Jumbo Tsuruta), the overroided Model version of Rick Martel and a pre slapnuts J-E-FF J-A-RR-E-TT, were not the sort of opponents you were going to have futuristic matches with, as Sano had with Liger. Luckily, Sano found a home in the shoot style leagues, and while after leaving New Japan, perhaps only his program with Minoru Tanaka could be said to have approached the upper eschelons of junior heavyweight wrestling, he was a consistently good performer in the more realistic PWFG & UWF-I styles, with high quality matches against Minoru Suzuki & Kiyoshi Tamura. These highlights were somewhat overshadowed though by a bad run in MMA where he went 0-4 and just hanging on 12 years and counting beyond his expiration date (why didn't he retire with Liger, or instead of him...), making people forget that he was reasonably good during his first 5 or so years in NOAH by terrorizing audiences with his terrible perpetual tag contending duo with clutzy uncoordinated Takayama, a team he clearly needed to be totally carrying, except sadly he was very obviously far too broken to do so. Suzuki's match with Shamrock on the previous show was considerably better because he has a lot more ability to both lead & react, and is by far the most creative of the three, but while Shamrock was forced to initiate a lot more here, he was able to maintain his patience & do a good job, with Sano bringing some good things to the match. Sano was the better standup fighter, landing some solid low kicks early (though he didn't really attempt to follow them up) and a lot of good openhand shots that helped force Shamrock into a more grappling centric performer. The basis of the match was ultimately Shamrock controlling with superior wrestling, forcing Sano to make things happen. It's unfair to compare a shoot debuting Sano to Suzuki in the style Suzuki has been training in for 2 years, but in any case Sano obviously wasn't totally ready to match is ability in junior heavyweight action yet. He was good in the striking exchanges and had some submissions in his arsenal, but most his transitions & counters would have taken the bout to a more puroresu place, and he was trying not to go there too often. While the bout had the long match vibe too it throughout, emphasizing position changes on the mat over finishing opportunities, that was mostly okay because they kept the credibility a lot higher than it would have been, even if things thus meandered a bit more. I don't want to make it sound as if credibility was near the top of their priorities, Sano got a takedown with a jumping DDT and a knockdown with a jumping spinning heel kick that mostly missed and Shamrock did a few of his suplexes, but they built the match up well to these meaningful highlights, and didn't lose the plot when they failed to finish with them. Sano began to press in the standup, with Shamrock happy to get involved in a flurry because it would help him grab Sano & land his clinch knees, which tended to result in the bout hitting the mat one way or another. The finish didn't really work for me because by continuing to exchange the openhand strikes on the inside, Sano getting behind Shamrock when he missed one of these short shots without much hip turn was pretty clunky. Nonetheless, Sano did a released version of one of his wrestling favorites, the Dragon suplex, turning into the wakigatame for the finish. Definitely a good match, you could certainly argue very good, but my memory of it was better than it looks to me today. Funaki almost had a match against himself tonight, and managed to look great anyways, with his slick execution and calm, in control demeanor. Barrett brought absolutely nothing to the table, pretty much just standing there and allowing Funaki to have his way with him because he was way too slow and unskilled for Funaki. While this was a passable exhibition where Funaki only broke a sweat because he felt like it, but exhibitions are supposed to start the card, not be the conclusion after a high quality, long, competitive bout like Shamrock/Sano.
  13. *Archives of this series can be found at https://www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad * Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol.3 "Welcome to the Astral World" Greetings! It's that time once again, as we pick up where we left off, lonely sojourners on a road less traveled. Yes, the Kakutogi highway is beckoning us once more, and we thus must answer the call. When we last convened, we had just witnessed a truly cataclysmic moment in the space time continuum, as the forces that kept the UWF together fractured into several directions and are each spiraling towards their own path to nobility. Yes, we all witnessed the birth of the PWFG and the UWFI, and now we get to behold the beginning of what is in this humble scribe's opinion, the finest of the Pre/Quasi Shoot Leagues: Fighting Network Rings. While Nobuhiko Takada's effect on the sport of MMA is undeniable (due to his shenanigans with Rickson Gracie being the impetus behind Pride FC) the total influence that Rings had on what is now MMA, is probably far deeper than most casual observers have initially perceived. As we continue to go through this series, we will see events unfold, stars rise, and narratives form, from the most unlikely of sources. An outfit that seemingly would never be more than a pro wrestling farce, wound up evolving to be a home for many of the personalities that created an impact that's still felt to this day. For example, where would modern MMA be without Frank Shamrock meeting Maurice Smith, and Tsyoshi Kohsaka, thus starting one of the most bleeding edge teams of it's day and becoming the prototype of what a modern mixed martial artist should be? What would our current landscape look like today if Fedor Emelianenko (under the watchful tutelage of Volk Han and the rest of the Russian Top Team) didn't have a place to hone his brutal craft, in his formative years? How would current striking theory look like without all the various Dutch/European kickboxers that were closely connected to Rings, and had a training system/platform to hone their abilities, in-between local events, and K1 competitions? Hopefully, all these, and many more questions will be answered, examined, and discussed as we continue along the Kakutogi Road..... Date: 5-11-91 Location: Yokohama Japan (Yokohama Arena) 11,000 Estimated in attendance. We are at first greeted to a plug from the WOWWOW network, while a hard drum machine beat (that wouldn't be out of place on an early Boogie Down Productions album), plays in the background. We are then introduced to a montage of the bouts to come. (FIRE, WATER, EARTH, and UNIVERSE respectfully). Thankfully Akira Maeda quickly shows up in a suit, otherwise I may have accidently thought I was relapsing into my old Captain Planet addiction (no I shouldn't have to apologize for wanting a green mullet, it's totally ok). After some routine pleasantries we are greeted to prior footage of Judo Ace Chris Dolman giving an exhibition with Dick Virj (who as legend has it once gave 6x time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates a stiff beating for organizing a bodybuilding competition in the Netherlands without "permission.") "Cold as Ice" by Foreigner blasts through the speakers during this display, and yes, it's every bit as ridiculous as it sounds. After this, Maeda starts kicking some pads while a lowly (and surely underpaid) lackey holds them in fear and trepidation. Dolman beholds all of this in disgust, knowing that surely such an underling isn't worthy of Akira's ministrations. Only Dolman was found worthy.... Fast forward to present: We are now moving to the opening ceremonies of this event, which has the entire ensemble coming to the ring to the Hip-Hop version of the Rings Theme. This manages to be the very quintessence of 90s positive rap spectrum, which makes me wonder if Maeda spent his free time proudly wearing Cross Colours t-shirts, while breaking out his vinyl copy of De La Soul's 3 feet high and rising. After this tasteful foray, we are now ready for business, in this case: Herman Renting vs Pieter Smit. Renting was a Dutch heavyweight fighter, who is perhaps best known for losing to Akira Shoji via Armbar at Pride FC #11. (There is of course no shame in that, as last I heard Shoji is forever eligible for Grand Cordon status, due to his being considered a national treasure in Japan.) Back to the action: Things are underway, and after both fighters give off some weak striking attempts, Renting get the first takedown with an awfully genteel throw (where he just sorts of lifts his opponent with no resistance) that immediately shows the worked nature of this bout. The fight is a very grappling heavy affair, with a lot of position changes, and leg lock attempts, but it's readily apparent that they really haven't figured out this yet. Compared to standard pro wrestling of the day, it's amazing, but coming to this after witnessing the debuts of PWFG and UWFI, we see that it may take some time for this outfit to really find it's tone, as the competitors so far seem too unsure of exactly how stiff they need to be when they strike, and change their positions way too often on the ground. This has the effect of neither having the dry realism of PWFG or the high-octane fun of UWFI, and kind of lands somewhere in the middle of the two. This match was mostly a meandering affair as the competitors spend most of the time playing footsie. The two redeeming takeaways are the tachi-waza of Peter Smit (he hit a couple of nice Harai-Goshi throws) and the finish. After a rather sloppy armbar attempt, Smit hits an Omoplata/straight armbar variation, which would probably make this the first appearance of such a submission in the shoot- spectrum. Next up is Willie Peeters vs Marcell Haarmans in the WATER BOUT Willie Peeters, who in later years will be known for his cheating antics, and steroid assisted physique, is looking surprisingly fresh-faced and horsemeat free here. He faces off against Marcell Haarmans, who still remains a mystery to me. Th action starts off with a couple of stiff knees from Peeters, who immediately goes for a hip throw, only to fail, and get deflected into a very nasty looking Bully Choke (think of how Carlos Newton beautifully finished off Pat Miletech at UFC 31). This is already leagues better than the last match, and is making me wonder if this card is about to turn around from its lackluster first match. Peeters manages to explode and twist out of the chocke and answered with a very stiff elbow to his downed opponents' midsection. This is an odd sight, as Rings become notorious for not allowing any striking whatsoever on the ground, but apparently that rule hasn't gone into effect, as of yet. Peeters kicks his downed opponent some more, before the ref intervenes and allows Harrmans to stand up. They engage in a clinch and trade some hard knees, before Petters executes a very explosive headlock takedown, which leads to Haarmans taking a rope escape, and both getting stood back up. Peeters then channels his inner Shane Douglas with a belly-to-belly suplex that sees its momentum quickly reversed by Haarmans and causes Peeters to fail like a fish which grants him a break from the ref (without having to use a rope escape). After some terse striking exchanges, Haarmans catches one of Peeters kicks, and makes him pay by taking him down and doing what any self-respecting wrestler would do...assault his opponent with a single-leg Boston Crab! This most fearsome of submissions costs Peeters his first rope escape, and perhaps his dignity. They exchange in more striking which continues to see Peeters land a lot of stiff shots, even while his opponent is on the ground. The back and forth continues until Peeters wins with what appears to be a very stiff high kick to his opponents head. While this match is clearly a work, and the kick did seem to be the intended finish, it does seem like Peeters is prone to taking some liberties with how hard he has been hitting. I'm beginning to think the stiffness just stems from Petters being a jerk (which we will see much more of in his actual shoot career). This was a fun match, perhaps due to Peeters unprofessional antics, but was still a nice change from the first bout. Now he have the EARTH BOUT, which starts off with a rather dapper Dolman, saying that no American professional wrestler wants anything to do with Kazmaier, apparently to show us that only he has the requisite courage to face such a monstrosity of a man. Kazmaier was a best known for his achievements in Powerlifting and Strong Man competitions, but he tried his hand at pro wrestling in the late 80s/early 90s, his most notable success being a short stint in WCW in late 91, in which he chased Lex Lugar for the U.S. Heavyweight title. This bout will be seven 3-minute rounds, as opposed to 1 30-minute match, perhaps owing to Kazmaier's cardiovascular limitations. Round one was fairly uneventful, outside of a nice hip throw from Dolmamn. Dolman's credentials were never in doubt as he was a multiple champion in both Sambo and Judo, but even at this early stage, he was well past his prime, and moves like molasses. Things picked up a bit in round 2, in which Kazmaier went into full Zangief mode, and started throwing some super-slow, super-heavy hands, and was able to force a knockdown after a gut shot to Dolman. The action proceeds a brisk pace....as brisk as these two can move, and the round ends with Kazmaier in the middle of trying to neck crank/choke Dolman into submission. Nothing interesting happened in rounds 3&4, and all were thankful in round 5 when Dolman ended this tripe with an armbar. The finish was actually neat, as Kazmaier tried a modified powerbomb to get out of it, but Dolman held on before eventually securing the submission. Ugh. Hopefully the UNIVERSE BOUT will cleanse our palate, and take us all into the shoot-stratosphere that we so long to abide in. First, we get Dick Virj who looks like he would have been an excellent ending boss to a Double Dragon game, saying things in Dutch, that I do not comprehend. Maeda on the other hand goes out before the match, and finds another underpaid young man, and proceeds to kick him, which was always my preferred method of warming up. They come out to the ring, and if we learn nothing else today, at least we go away knowing that Maeda was OVER. The crowd is totally into this/him, and it probably shows us that Maeda was important to MMA history, if nothing else, then by his simply existing, as he was the de facto reason this promotion existed, and got any attention at all, let alone lucrative tv contracts. The match is now underway, and this will be 1 round with a 45 min time limit. (Which is hysterical as neither man could probably put in half that time.) The match gets underway after an intense staredown, and we're off. Maeda feels out Virj with a few kicks before taking him down, and attempting an Armbar, which Virj escapes. They then proceed to slug it out, with Maeda actually taking some rather stiff kicks from Virj. It would appear that Maeda is really wanting to put this show over and is willing to take some punishment as a result. The fight is well paced, with plenty of back and forth striking action, and when it did hit the ground, they didn't spend all day looking for a reverse toe hold but moved things at a fast clip. The match ends with Maeda catching a kick and doing the only thing that one would do in such a situation, breaking out the single-leg Boston Crab, and securing the win. What's the takeaway here? This show (other than the surprisingly entertaining last match) was pretty weak sauce, as much as that pains me to say it. Maeda has definitely nailed the best presentation as in terms of presenting it as a legitimate sporting contest, with the international flavor, and using real martial artists, instead of random jobbers from the most obscure corners of American professional wrestling circles, but the actual execution is lacking. It's to be expected though, as they are in a position to be trailblazers, they will of course have some growing pains to try and figure out what they want to be. The most fascinating thing about all of this, is to know that they eventually morph into a full blown MMA promotion, and we are ever so fortunate to be able to take part in the journey. Here is the event in its entirety: https://youtu.be/6iWpQio5LDM In other news.... On April 1st 1991, Koji Kitao was supposed to have a standard pro wrestling match with "Earthquake" John Tenta at an event for the Japanese SWS promotion. However, booker The Great Kabuki put Tenta up to provoking Kitao in hopes of getting Kitao expelled from the promotion, so from the outset Tenta didn't really cooperate with Kitao's attempts to engage, provoking him by making him look too slow & deliberate. Kitao threw a fit on the outside after Tenta took him down hard, and stopped cooperating with Tenta, who hadn't been cooperating with him in the first place, taking a two fingered posture and trying for an eye gouge when Tenta grabbed his arm. No one really connected with anything before Kitao got himself disqualified for kicking the ref, but Kitao made things public afterwards, grabbed the microphone on the outside and breaking kayfabe by telling the crowd that pro wrestling is fake, and that his opponent Tenta, also a decorated sumo who was undefeated in his brief career, is fake. Kitao and Kabuki were promptly fired after this incident. We are excited to announce that Bart Vale is now offering his vast wealth of shootfighting knowledge via instructional tapes, and seminars, contact him today to increase your skills. Martial Artist and film star Steven Seagal lost a lawsuit over writing credit to the film Marked for Death. Seagal had recently gone before the arbitration board of the screen actors guild, along with the film's producers: Michael Grais, and Mark Victor. Seagal lost a decision, in which, he argued that he rewrote 93 percent of the script himself. ******************************************************************************************************* Let's check in with Scribe Par Excellence, Mike Lorefice, and see what he has to say about all this: "Renting vs. Smit was a poor match because most of the strikes barely connected, but helds some interest for the odd judo based takedowns where they almost twisted each other to the mat, as well as for Renting using low kicks to work kick combinations. The finish was just odd. It didn't strike me as an omoplata, but rather two guys who simply didn't understand that there's no finishing leverage on the armbar when the guy applying it is on his side and the guy receiving it shifts to his stomach. You felt like Smit needed to go belly down also, but there was really no way for that to even work because he was just scissoring his legs on Renting's bicep. Peeters was the most interesting of the original roster in that he more or less really went at it, and his matches were extremely intense and sometimes baffling because of that. The match wasn't a straight up shoot, but they often didn't work with each other either, and Peeters always seemed to be at the center of this. Peeters might not have been actively trying to knock Haarmans out, but he wasn't really pulling his strikes either, which made for an odd constrast given Haarmans was, and I kept looking for Haarmans to complain about the way Peeters was laying into him. What's actually more interesting though, and makes the match look very much ahead of its time, is the lack of cooperation on the throws and various attempts to get each other down resulting in a style where both guys exploded and whatever happened, happened. Seemingly Peeters would sort of cooperate by not specifically resisting the lockup or immediately trying to get back to his feet in the grappling, allowing Haarmans to toy around with crabs, but he wouldn't necessarily cooperate with the throws and transitions. There was a lot of flash though, mostly from Peeters with spinning kicks and belly to belly suplexes since Haarmans was much more obliging, but they both made each other work for things & didn't sacrifice the essence of the fight for entertainment value. Maeda's idea to broker talent from all corners of the world was a solid one, but one of the major problems of doing this in a worked league that pretended to be a shoot league is he was somewhat at the mercy of the leaders of these various gyms who were always going to be above their underlings despite current ability and marketability. In his prime, Dolman was likely the best real fighter on this show, and even in these days, the Gracies were still regularly ignoring his challenges. Unfortunately, he was pudgy 46-year-old when RINGS started and should just have focused on his role of running his gym & training the Netherlands stable for their actual real and worked fights rather than being Maeda's first big rival and winning the inaugural Mega Battle tournament. Given none of these guys were probably capable of having a good match with the fighter who would more aptly be dubbed Dullman, I suppose feeding him legendary strongman Kazmaier wasn't the worst idea. This match should have been 5 minutes or less though, but that's a tough go when you are running a major arena with a 4 match card. The real value of a guy like Yoji Anjo is he could give you an entertaining half hour, thus allowing time to be shaved matches that were never going to be MOTYC. The first half had some moments, but they were both blown up in the second half. Certainly, it was much better as a "shoot" than as a work, by that I mean it was fairly credible, it just wasn't slickly performed. I have no problem calling it more believable than anything on the PWFG or UWF-I debut shots, but graceful it was not. Kazmaier actually did a good job of striking as though it were a kickboxing match rather than his usual pro wrestling match, and generally came off as a real RINGS fighter even though this was a one off, but his muscles got in the way of his actual striking technique. Similarly, Dolman had the right footwork & movement, but his actual blows were performed with action figure flexibility. RINGS was a lot more believable than UWF because the card was filled with martial artists rather than pro wrestlers who trained other pro wrestlers in a martial arts oriented pro wrestling style, but unfortunately Maeda himself hadn't evolved. Maeda vs. Vrij could have taken place on any UWF show, in fact it was probably less realistic than Vrij's three UWF matches. Vrij had a good intimidating look as the icy musclebound cyborg who was a lot more charismatic than that description suggests, and was capable of being an entertaining striker when someone built a match around that and pulled the match out of him, but he wasn't much of a worker on his own. Still, given what they had, he was a good option to be Maeda's initial rival, held back mainly by having failed previously in UWF (he beat Anjo in between loses to Fujiwara). Thematically, this was the expected match with the kickboxer Vrij winning the standup and the grappler Maeda winning the ground, but there wasn't much interplay, which was disappointing given Vrij had progressed a lot since his initial mixed match with Fujiwara where he wore gloves to being willing to challenge Anjo & Fujiwara in their domain in his '90 matches. Generally, you had Vrij standing there with his right arm tight and his left arm fully extended, fist clenched, landing strikes until Maeda got him down & mostly just held him in some loose positions that beared some resemblance to amateur wrestling except nothing was actually being done to keep Vrij in place. The primary reason the first Fujiwara vs. Vrij not only worked, but was so much more intense is anytime Fujiwara got a hold or Vrij or took him down, Vrij would immediately try to scramble back to his feet, with Fujiwara desperately grasping & clutching for dear life to keep Vrij from getting another opportunity to work him over on his feet. Against Maeda, Vrij did a decent job of mixing in low kicks and body blows to keep Maeda guessing, but Maeda was still really just standing totally relaxed in front of him, and Vrij wasn't hitting all that hard compared both to some of the stuff on the undercard and his own later bouts. Much of Vrij's illusion was shattered when Maeda inexplicably scored the first knockdown, though Vrij did a good job of playing heel within the rules to regain the intensity and generally seem pissed & out of control. Though it was easily the least credible bout on the card, the length was right, containing enough action and entertainment value to please Maeda's fans without becoming too unbelievable. Still, it's the kind of match that looks worse with each passing year, particularly due to the hokey finish that would surely make clown prince Angle proud where Vrij landed some kind of jumping movie kick then Maeda ate a high kick, but caught Vrij's leg on the recoil and somehow twisted and turned into an ankle lock then continued into a 1/2 crab for the victory.
  14. With the inaugural PWFG event behind us, we now move on to the first offering from UWFI, and straightaway we can see the difference in essence between these two promotions. While PWFG was about presenting a product heavy on realism, and lacking in entertainment value, we see no such qualms here. In fact, this is the exact opposite approach: Entertainment First! Yes, this is much stiffer than your standard pro wrestling fare, but we will see that entertainment is the foremost concern here. While this was definitely the flashiest/least realistic of the shoot style promotions, it was by far the most important in the evolution of mma, thanks to it's leader Nobuhiko Takada. We can all laugh now, with the benefit of hindsight, (after all we've all seen this man completely embarrass himself in an mma ring,) but at this point in time he was THE STAR. Aikira Maeda was already towards the end of his career, (and towards the end of having a usable knee), Fujiwara was never going to be more than a cult figure, and while Shooto was producing great fighters, even in 1991, it wasn't going to produce any well known stars. Yes, Takada was the face of "Real" fighting in this era, at least until Yoji Anjoh ruined everything and issued a challenge to Rickson Gracie that he had no chance of backing up, (more on that later of course). We now find ourselves, once again, at the infamous Korakuen Hall, home of all things mma and wrestling in Japan. We are treated with the best theme song to ever come out of Japan, (the UWF theme of course!), and no Japanese event would be complete without the entire card of wrestlers coming out to the ring to be introduced to their enamored public. Right away we see a big contrast with the production values of this and the PWFG, whereas both used a fairly small venue in the Korakuen hall, this has the feel and presentation of a big event, while the PWFG felt like it had three hours to spare in a high school gymnasium. Random Worker...hoping this will all pay off one day. We are now treated to an introduction to the rules, courtesy of two random hands, that were probably fetching Gatorade and towels just 20 mins prior. Still, thanks to their sincere efforts, we learn that the UWFI will not be home to such tomfoolery as, headbutts, elbows, kicks to the head of a downed opponent, and head stomps. The thirst for Pride rules has not quite caught on yet, it seems. After that's all done we get a couple of interviews, and an introduction to one of the greatest pro wrestlers of all time, and a very solid, underrated, mma fighter, in Kiyoshi Tamura. Who was by far the better pro wrestler compared to Sakaraba, and IMO, a better overall mma fighter than Sakaraba as well, although that opinion might get me tarred and feathered in these parts. Really, his only downfall was that he seemingly had the personality of wet bread, whereas Sakaraba was always humorous and engaging. Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Masahito Kakihara Things start off quick with Tamura and Kakihara feeling each other out, and it's not long before Kakihara lays in a very nice, and stiff combination of palm strikes to Tamura, who instantly shoots in as a response. Kakihara pulls guard, while attempting a guillotine choke, but Tamura quickly passes guard, and goes to a side mount, and wastes no time attempting an armbar. The armbar attempt didn't work, so after being stood back up by the ref, Kakihara goes right back into some suprisingly crisp striking, in which Tamura shoots in again, after eating a palm. So we are already seeing a nice match that establishes Tamura as the better grappler, vs Kakihara, as the superior striker. Where Pwfg started things off with a very realistic, albeit dry, opening, we are instantly getting a highly entertaining bout, that must have played very well to a naive audience that didn't yet know what a shoot really looked like. The seesaw battle continued for the duration of the match until Tamura was able to secure an ankle lock. The match was always fast paced, and very stiff. In fact this was much stiffer than I expected it to be. It also contained lots of beautiful Tachi-waza from Tamura. While it being a work is no question, this was a very entertaining match, and a great way to kick this promotion off. In the end....no ankle is safe. Here is the event in full: https://youtu.be/7fPLpSMzXZM In other news: Rorion Gracie was working tirelessly to spread and market BJJ, here is a transcript from a letter he sent to Black Belt Magazine. It was published in the April 91 issue.: "What made Gracie Jujitsu the worlds most effective form of self defense was the strong determination of my father, Helio Gracie. to perfect a system that would satisfy his self defense needs in spite of his small stature. The simplicity and effectiveness that resulted from that quest have changed the lives of thousands. Bigger and stronger opponents have provided a realistic and necessary testing ground for over half a century. The techniques that my brothers and I share have been successfully proven and we have absolute confidence in them. That's the only reason we teach them. The Gracie challenge is a belief that we are indeed teaching the best system in the world. Consequently we have a moral responsibility to ourselves, as well as our students, to keep the Gracie Challenge standing. The fact is we are not cocky or boastful, like some jealous characters describe us, but instead we feel the need to alert people interested in finding out about a truly effective form of self-defense. They can use the Gracie challenge to put pressure on their incompetent instructors, who should have the dignity and courage to admit how limited their systems really are. Unless, of course, those instructors want to step forward and prove us wrong. Nothing worries the rats more, than the cats meow." ******************************************************************************************************* What did Mike Lorefice (of quebrada.net fame!) have to say about this? Let's check in with him. "Though UWF split into three different promotions, what you really ended up with is Maeda doing his own thing, Fujiwara maintaining his top proteges, and UWF just reopening under slightly different name with a style that was even friendlier to both pro wrestling fans and to top star Nobuhiko Takada. UWF-I obviously missed the name value of Maeda, who was the #1 player in the sport, as well as the promise of Funaki, who had quickly cracked into their top tier and had seemingly unlimited potential both as a fighter & as a draw, but there should never have been any real doubt that they would succeed, at least in the short term. There was enough depth on the UWF-I roster with two of the UWF's three top fighters in Takada & Yamazaki, two of the most promising young fighters in Tamura & Kakihara, and you still had the solid, good working mainstays such as Anjo & Nakano that had made the UWF a promotion of hard workers that you watched from opening bout to final. That's not to say they didn't have issues though, as they were simply short a few wrestlers. While they could fill out the cards with random foreigners, these guys weren't even names in America much less Japan, and you couldn't just throw your every day stomper & eye gouger into this style, it was a paired down style, but that often made it tougher to do rather than easier. While the first year of PWFG was likely the best in the history of the promotion, the first year of UWF-I was rough because they neither did anything useful with their best worker, Yamazaki, nor built any other native into that #1B role he needed to fill if they wanted to actually promote big shows & keep fans showing up. Instead, they just had everyone toil in the midcard while Miyato rolled out Takada vs. some random foreigner on top, which was often really the worst situation for both Takada and the foreigner as the fans wouldn't take the opponent seriously & while Takada did flashy pro wrestling things extremely well, he wasn't the sort of highly adaptive opponent you wanted to be leading you through a "new" style. Giving their brightest new lights the opportunity to usher in the new era of shootfighting was a great way to start the new promotion. Tamura and Kakihara did themselves and the promotion proud with a crisp and energetic contest. As is always the case with the early shoot style, the standup was a lot more credible than the mat because kickboxing and muay thai were well established sports, while judo and amateur wrestling had their place in the Olympics, but had never been deemed entertaining enough to be ticket selling sports, and thus the fighters were probably less encouraged to fully utilize what knowledge of them they had or really develop those styles. Instead, they just incorporated the spectacular end game of the throw rather than teaching the audience to be patient while they set one up. When all else failed, they could always get the bout to the canvas with a good old fashioned leg scissors, as Kakihara did here. This was a good match but obviously nowhere near their best work. One has to keep in mind that Tamura was out from 10/25/89 when sloppy Maeda accidentally fractured his orbital with a knee until the final UWF show on 12/1/90. Then there were no shows for the next 6 months as everyone reorganized, so this was only the 7th match of Tamura's career, which still put him 2 ahead of Kakihara, who debuted on 8/13/90. What Kakihara had right from the outset was a very infective, wild passion. He may not have been cut out for real fighting, but if he were, he would have been one of those high risk all action fan favorite fighters who goes for bonuses and finishes, one way or the other, rather than just trying to win safe. Kakihara certainly had his routine, but he may have been the only wrestler that, no matter how many times you saw him engage in those rapid fire palm barrages or wild kicks, you still felt his match was legitimately getting a bit out of control. Tamura was a good compliment to him because he could ground him just enough that they could strike a balance between an out and out highlight real and a technical fight. 22 years before Scott Smith failed to become one half of MMA's first tag team champions in Gladiator Challenge, UWF-I debuted the doubles style. While tag team wrestling obviously differentiated them from their rival shoot leagues, it mainly just made the promotion seem that much more like the plethora of rival pro wrestling leagues, with the whole ring position & exchange game largely just being a credibility straining distraction. There's just an odd tension when the goal is sort of to get on top of your opponent, except since there's no real ground control you'll lose that position and be in danger of submitting almost as fast as you gain it, and then wish you were standing so you could make the tag. Kazuo Yamazaki & Tatsuo Nakano vs. Yoji Anjo & Yuko Miyato otherwise sounds good on paper, as none of these four are less than good workers, but while not dull, it never seemed like anyone's match or found its rhythm. Miyato was a much better wrestler than booker, and you already saw things going greatly awry as instead of Yamazaki being set up to finally getting his wins over Takada so they'd have two main stars and a lights out main event program, Yamazaki, who basically only lost to Maeda & Takada in UWF, was already jobbing to a perpetual midcarder in Anjo. Having an upset on the first show to shake up the old pecking order & establish new challengers is not a bad idea, but Anjo proceeded to lose to Nakano on the next show, and went on to post a whopping 1-5 record in singles that year. Having grown up a dedicated daily viewer of GWF on ESPN despite it pretty much only being good for the Lightning Kid vs. Jerry Lynn or Chaz Taylor matches in the early stages of the promotion, I was shocked to learn that the "brother" of Mike "I'm Not Crazy" Davis headlined the first UWF-I show, and was considered a serious tough guy in Japan. Burton was an amateur wrestler who was trained professionally by 2-time Olympic wrestler Brad Rheingans. His background allowed him to just be thrust into a UWF-I match, but it's likely he was the only fighter on the show with legitimate training in the discipline, so it didn't really help him as much as newer fight fans who are used to wrestling being the prominant discipline in real fighting would suspect. This match was okay, definitely better on paper than in actuality as the strategy of Burton controlling by grounding Takada but Takada thrilling the crowd with a flashy flurry of kicks when he could get back to his feet was sound, but the work was just so loose and no one took Burton the least bit seriously. Takada gave Burton a lot of control time, but there isn't much drama when one guy is basically toying with the other and will win when they got bored." ******************************************************************************************************* And me must also see what Dave Meltzer had to say about this as well...."The April issue of Kung Fu magazine has a story about former wrestling great Satoru Sayama's attempt to start his own sport called "Shooting." Sayama's sport, which according to those who have seen it, is legitimate in that the foes don't work with one another, combines punching, kicking, wrestling and judo throws and wrestling submission holds. The match can end with a knockout coming from a throw punch or kick or a submission coming from a wrestling hold. The concept is to employ all the martial arts into a competitive sport situation. There are now two martial arts schools in Southern California that teach Sayama's shooting as a competitive sport. Nobuhiko Takada's UWFI had a press conference on Friday, {5-1-91} to announce the debut card in two weeks. Both Yoshiaki Fujiwara (PWF head man) and Seiji Sakaguchi (New Japan vice president) sent flowers to the press ceremony, which had several famous sumo wrestlers including a Grand Champion in attendance. Naoki Sano was also at the party and challenged Takada to a match in the future. This makes it appear that SWS is going to have a loose affiliation with Takada's group as well. The next two weeks will be very interesting because all three versions of the formerly red-hot UWF promotion have cards. Nobuhiko Takada's UWFI debuts on Friday night in Korakuen Hall and all 2,000 tickets were sold out within 15 minutes of them going on sale weeks ago. Akira Maeda's "Rings" debuts the next night at the 17,000-seat Yokohama Arena. I've heard tickets are selling for this show, but as of a few days ago, there were still ringside tickets remaining so this isn't the "hot" ticket Maeda once was. In addition, the PWF (Pro Wrestling Fujiwara-group) runs Korakuen Hall on 5/16. The big news this week was the debut of Nobuhiko Takada and Akira Maeda's new promotions. Takada's group debuted before a sellout 2,300 fans at Korakuen Hall on 5/10, with all tickets sold out in something like 15 minutes the first day they went on sale. The group, called UWF International or UWFI for short, is the closest thing to the old UWF which had a two-year run as the hottest promotion in the world before fizzling out as shooting stars are wanton to do because of problems between Maeda and office boss Shinji Jin. The show wasn't really very good, but what remains of the legion of UWF fans were there and felt good about being there. Takada grabbed the house mic before the show and said the group was the only one left "with the feeling of the UWF" which got a big pop. The card itself consisted of three matches, a prelim match between Masato Kakihara and Kiyoshi Tamura, won by Tamura. Then came a "doubles" match (tag team) with Shigeo Miyato & Yoji Anjyo beating Kazuo Yamazaki & Tatsuo Nakano with the surprise finish of Yamazaki doing the job when he was knocked out by a series of kicks from both guys in 23 minutes. This was different from the old UWF, which didn't have any tag matches. The rule were that a guy couldn't tag out while in a submission hold unless he got to the ropes or was able to break the hold. It was different since Yamazaki is really the group's second biggest name and he did the job. The main event saw Takada beat Tom Burton (who worked as a Dirty White Boy in Memphis some months back) with a boston crab in 10:46. The match was disappointing to most because Burton really had no idea of the style and Takada was giving him lots of openings and trying to carry him for ten minutes but the fans saw it as Takada could unload on him and beat him at anytime. At the 10 minute call, Takada seemingly proved them right because he got a quick win at that point. After the match in the press conference Takada apologized and said "my opponent was poor." They also confused fans by instituting new rules. On the scoreboard, each man starts the match with 15 points. You lose three points every time you go to the ropes to break a hold, and lose one point every time you get suplexed. The match can end with a pinfall (which almost will never happen), a submission (usual finish), knockout, five knockdowns or if a man's point total goes down to zero. When the press asked Takada after the show what his goal a year from now was, he said honestly, "I'm only thinking about one card at a time." In the sense that they drew the full house so easily, the card was a financial success. But the truth is, it has been so long since there has been a "real" UWF show in Tokyo, which was the home base of the UWF, that the first house was easy. Whether this group, with only eight wrestlers and access to only no-name Americans can book shows that will draw over the long haul or be able to draw outside of Tokyo is another story. The next show is 6/6 at Korakuen Hall with Takada vs. J.T. Southern on top."
  15. *Archives of this series can be found at https://www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad * Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol.1 "Genesis" Welcome to the beginning of what may be a long and winding story, as we begin a quest to (almost) completely document the history of modern MMA. Over the course of many chapters I hope to expose myths, answer questions, raise new inquires, and shine some light on how the way of the fist intersected with the art of the armbar, and how we got to be here today. I intend to go through every mma event, (within what is available), in chronological order, from the early 90s-00s, and highlight the various highs and lows, that have led us to where we are today. Because modern MMA is such a relatively new phenomenon, such an undertaking, while potentially arduous, is possible. The main thing is really deciding on where to start. I debated starting at UFC 1, but the fact is, that so much of modern Mma has roots in Japanese pro wrestling, it seemed like I would be doing a disservice on just skipping over all of the Shoot leagues/events that gave us many of the stars and concepts that would wind up becoming important later on down the road. Although the main point of this project is to cover Vale Tudo/NHB/MMA, to not give a solid look at the events that proceeded it, is to really leave out giant pieces of its tapestry. Therefore, I have decided to start in 1991, right after the collapse of the UWF, in which several pro wrestling organizations sprouted up, in an effort to sell, "real fighting," to a thirsty audience that didn't know any better. So consider this a prologue of sorts, and thus we will begin in the realm of shoot- wrestling, (which as we will see had their share of actual shoots as well), and we'll also make some detours into K1/Kickboxing, Bjj, etc, since by this point in time the Mma world was so small and blurred that there is a lot of natural overlap within these separate undertakings. Also, I hope to include media, and interviews from the time period in question, to try and add some of the perspective that was current at the time. I also encourage all of you to add, whatever you know, be it anecdotes, media, interviews, etc, so perhaps we can get a clearer picture together. So, without further ado, let us look back into the depths of a "sport" with a murky past, and no clear future. A culmination of events that has one foot in the Budo spirit of Samurai long dead, and the other in the more recent shenanigans of carnival performers. Yes, let's take a journey through time and see what led us to where we are today, as we glimpse down the Kakutogi road, that is simultaneously, both one of the noblest of pursuits, and one of the most vainglorious, (in that it rewards ingenuity, creativity, sheer force of will, and sacrifice, but at the end of the day...is still an endeavor that reduces it's practitioners to a spectacle, fighting to prove oneself has led to many sorrows, as men vainly chase their identity and self-worth in something that can never provide such a thing. We find ourselves on 3-4-91 as the very first PWFG, (Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi), event is set to take place. Before this took place it's wise to note, (for those reading that might not be familiar with the history), the initial cataclysm that led to Japan's interest in mma, which was the birth of the original UWF. A pro wrestling promotion that started in 1984 as fairly straightforward Pro Wrestling fare, it later evolved into something never seen before, once several key members migrated to it from New Japan Pro Wrestling. Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Nobuhiko Takada, Satoru Sayama (the original Tiger Mask) and Kazuo Yamazaki, found a home with this fledgling promotion, and this prompted the change the orientation of the UWF's wrestling to a more martial arts > They became the hottest ticket in Japan for a brief period, until infighting over the essence of the product, and a clash of egos between Sayama and Maeda led to it's demise. The contention between Sayama and Maeda arose partly due to philosophical disagreements over what the essence of the UWF should be, with Sayama wanting more of a kickboxing flair, (he had a background in kickboxing), and Maeda wanting it more rooted in submissions. They would eventually come to blows, when on 9-2-85 the two began what started out as a worked pro wrestling match, but quickly devolved from there. After starting somewhat benignly enough, they started to stop pulling their punches/kicks and were striking each other for real. Eventually they seemed to regain their composure and things went back to normal, when towards the end of the match, Maeda simply gave a super hard kick to Sayama's balls, and forced a disqualification from the ref. Maeda was fired for this, and Sayama quit pro wrestling in disgust. He would later go on to form Shooto, which was the first true Mma organization, and who's history we will be exploring in greater detail down the road. *Match starts at 7:51* https://youtu.be/r2-ED7ymKl0 The first Shooto event took place in 1989, and while I would love to start this project from there.... I simply have yet to get my hands on any Shooto pre 92. I own most of the Shooto from 94 onward, but if anyone can help provide Shooto materials from 89-93, for the sake of this project, then please get in touch with me. After the initial collapse of the UWF in 85, most of the roster went back to work for New Japan Pro Wrestling, for the next few years. This was until 1988 when Maeda, yet again, couldn't keep his temper under control and decided to deliver a shoot Muay Thai kick to Riki Chosu's face, supposedly due to jealously of his position within the company. This left NJPW in an awkward spot, as how do you punish someone for doing something that was "legal," within the world of pro wrestling? They opted to punish him by insisting that he be banished to a tour of Mexico for a period of time, but Maeda refused, and opted to restart the UWF, taking a chunk of the roster with him. They had initial success until an economic downturn in Japan, coupled with disagreements on inter-promotional booking with more traditional pro wrestling companies, led to yet another demise for this promotion. Only this time, several key players splintered off to start their own promotions/vanity projects, and thus the shoot boom was born, and as we continue this story, we will see how this led to forming much of what modern mma is today. Yoshiaki Fujiwara was a Judoka that transitioned into pro wrestling in the early 70s, and has the distinction of being the first graduate of the New Japan Dojo system. He continued to wrestle for New Japan until the first Uwf incarnation and tried to stay in their good graces after Maeda initially left to restart the promotion in 1988. However, in 1989 he felt the need to continue in the ways of Shoot only this time he brought young talents Masakatsu Funaki, and Minoru Suzuki with him. Perhaps this decision, more than any other, led to mma being around today as we know it, because if it wasn't for Funaki taking an interesting in shooting, (or at least fake shooting), and in turn training a young Ken Shamrock, the Ufc might not exist today. (More on this later). The beginning of a destiny So here we are at the Korakuen Hall in the early days of March circa 1991. The show starts of with the seemingly ancient tradition of having all the performers/combatants enter the ring with much music and fanfare, as a way to kick off the show. Only this has the legendary German wrestler extraordinaire, Karl Gotch, as a guest of honor. They give him a microphone and he said a few kind words about wishing success upon this promotion. Karl Gotch was a legend in Japan at this time, and also trained many of the Fujiwara crew, so having his blessing upon the promotion was surely seen as a badge of realism by the audience. The first man out to the ring is Wellington Wilkins Jr, better known perhaps as the former tag team partner of Chris Benoit that mysteriously died of a heart attack on the same day that Benoit was found dead after committing suicide. Wellington started his career in Canada at Stampede wrestling, but by the time the 90s rolled around was mainly an opening performer on the Japanese circuit, wrestling for various promotions. He hit a bit of a skid, when in the mid-90s he was busted with marijuana while working for Michinoku Pro Wrestling, and subsequently thrown in a Japanese jail, and deported. He worked a bit in the states after that, but never really took off. Here his opponent is Takaku Fuke, who wound up being a Pancrase mainstay in a few short years, amassing a rather abysmal 16-29-5 record, though to his credit was able to get victories over the great Manabu Yamada, Jason Delucia, and Vernon White. The first couple of mins set the overall tone of what was to come with this promotion. An emphasis on having realistic looking matches, but perhaps done at the expense of entertainment value, (certainly when compared to its rivals at the time.) These two worked well together and, there was a good flow between the two that saw them obtain and reverse positions on the mat several times, but it was a fairly dry affair that wasn't going to light any fires. It also was a bit odd that they chose the ever so realistic "leg-split," as a finish. The legendary Leg-Split Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Johnny Barrett. Fujiwara is up next, and has always had the unenviable ability to look like he was pushing 70, regardless of what decade he happened to be in. He was rather slow and unathletic, but he was someone that you had to have a certain amount of respect for, as he always patterned his after realism, (at least realistic by pro wrestling standards), and could sometimes turn sadistic and become way too stiff in the ring. His opponent here is Jonny Barrett, who I'm assuming only was able to find work here due to his connections to Dean Malenko, because his physique wasn't doing him any favors here. A huge guy that could have been a replacement for a Heel of the Month in the Wwf, his size was really the only thing about him that was of any note. Not much to say here... Fujiwara wisely kept most of this on the mat, as Barrett had no discernable skills on his feet, but that isn't really saying much. After a few uneventful mins of rolling around on the ground Fujiwara put us all out of our misery but ending the bout with an Achilles hold. The match was fairly believable, and thankfully brief, but really wasn't pushing the needle in any significant way. Now we get to the first glimpse of magic in this shoot- world. Ken, "Wayne" Shamrock vs Minoru Suzuki. Fujiwara should get a lot of credit here, as he was willing to put himself in the mid-card and allow some of the younger talent a chance to shine, which was something that eluded a lot of the young Japanese talent in those days. Here we find a very young Suzuki facing an incredible looking specimen in Shamrock, and it's rather amazing to see that right from the jump, Shamrock was an awesome performer that really shined in this kind of format. One has to wonder if he had jumped back into Japanese pro wrestling instead of the WWF in 1996 how his later career would have turned out, as all he really seemed to get out of his tenure there, (outside of a fat stack of cash), was a lot of injuries. This match opened us all up to a whole new world of possibilities that "shooting," could provide. While this match was not the smoothest and being a 30min draw it did have it's fair share of dead spaces, both fighters did an excellent job of parlaying intensity and frustration, throughout. They constantly looked for submissions, even in bad positions, and you could really see an example of a grappling mentality, before the positional thinking of a Bjj influence crept in. The match also had a nice progression to it, as it was mostly submission orientated in the beginning , saving the flashier stuff like a belly to belly suplex, and much nastier striking until later in the match, which gave it natural feel, as if the stakes were getting higher, and it was time to pull out all the stops. A little dry in spots, but a great start to this and a great insight into the fact that maybe...just maybe.. there was a future paying audience to be found in real fighting. Next up, is Masakatsu Funaki vs Bart Vale, and was unfortunately something that was never going to be able to cut it as a main event, let alone trying to surpass the great match that came before it. Vale was someone that was already a bit past his prime when PWFG came around, and while his striking was decent, and his overall work passable, it lacked crispness, and he wasn't someone that had the stamina to have a long high-intensity match. Also, his was best served by placing him with another striker, and it didn't do anyone any favors, by placing him with a grappling wizard such as Funaki. This match would have been fine had it been placed early in the card, but as it was, only served to be anti-climatic. As it's all said and done, we see a couple of things. Namely that this promotion had some great talents in the top end, (such as Funaki, Suzuki, and Shamrock), some passable ones with Fujiwara and Vale, but the mid to bottom tier of the roster looks like they all came from the Acme Jobber unemployment line. It makes perfect sense why they weren't able to make it once most of their serious shooters left to form Pancrase in 93, as there was really no point in the promotion any further. Pancrase was probably what this promotion should have tried to be from the get go, but perhaps that wasn't possible until this group, and others like it, paved the way, and opened a door for real Mma to prove viable. Miami’s favorite son Here is the event in full: https://youtu.be/HxNiRyXYtNY Now after reading all of this, you were probably wondering, "Yeah, this is all great, but what was Maurice Smith up to during this time?" Well I'm glad you asked. Here he was fighting Kees Bessems in Japan at an All Japan Kickboxing event during 3-30-91 *Mo's fight starts around the 30:00 min mark.* https://youtu.be/EK0XKiwBogY n other news: Don Wilson lost a breathtaking 12 round split-decision loss to Marek Piotrowski at Odem Arena before a sellout crowd of more than 5,000 people. Wilson's World Kickboxing Association crown was unaffected, however only the Professional Karate Council's and the Fight Factory Karate Association's 180-pound vacant titles were at stake. Piotrowski, who also recently defeated Rick Roufus, won by a half-point margin on the judges' cards after a thrilling seesaw bout. Wilson, who normally fights in the 175 pound class has extended an invitation to Piotrowski to fight him for his WKA title. In Modesto California two kickboxers and a passing pedestrian met in a dangerous way recently. The two martial artists, sparring at the North Bay Martial Arts Clubm got into a clinch, then rolled each other out of a third floor window, landing directly on an unfortunate passerby. The pedestrian was treated at a local hospital and released, while the two kickboxers were hospitalized with more serious injuries. Former Kickboxing champion Louis Neglia recently hosted the first of several pro-am kickboxing competitions, featuring three professional and seven amateur bouts. In the professional matches, Dennis Schuette knocked out Robert Shandrick in a cruiserweight fight, Roger Heidlebaugh, and Brad Morris fought to a draw in a middleweight bout, and Anthony Salerno scored a technical knockout of Peter Olanich in a super-welterweight battle. ******************************************************************************************************* The Mighty Mike Lorefice, (MMA, Kickboxing, and Puroresu scribe extraordinaire, who's work can be found at quebrada.net), has decided to weigh in, and offer his astute commentary before weighing in on the 9-2-85 match that we already covered. Here is what Mighty Mike has to say: 7/25/85 Tokyo Ota-ku Taiikukan: Akira Maeda vs. Super Tiger 16:01. While this has much more in common with their 1/7/85 match as a conventional worked pro wrestling match, and is actually far less interesting, I feel it pairs more with their 9/2/85 sort of shoot as the battle of wills between Sayama & Maeda was coming to a head outside the ring, even though they still kept it together inside the ring. Maeda exerted his will throughout this contest, making it very submission oriented match, and not a very good one, leading to Sayama getting his way in the standup oriented rematch. Sayama was largely on the defensive trying to stay on his feet & then get back up, though he obviously didn't try very hard at the latter because with Maeda doing nothing to actually control him on the ground, he could literally stand any time he wanted to. The problem with this match is Sayama needed to make the match interesting, but by just being the good soldier & telling the story of why he's losing as best he could, he wound up just going along with Maeda grounding him & putzing around with his feeble contortions. Maeda had a number of exciting matches during his career, but was never a particularly good or credible ground fighter even though that was the that he enjoyed, it was always the guys who actually knew what they were doing like Yamazaki & Han making the match, both pulling a few things out of him as well as putting him in the better role for the audience where he provided some fireworks with his strikes & suplexes rather than grinding things to a halt as he did when just left him to his devices. The match still started strong as Maeda's efforts to engage in a grappling match with Sayama were so much more fervent here than on 9/2, actually getting Sayama down early with his idea of (a very poorly executed) double leg takedown, after catching a kick, with his captured suplex after catching one of Sayama's clinch knees, etc. Sayama used more footwork in this one, in part because Maeda showed little interest in striking with him, but also didn't deliver on his early promise. Instead of playing the small man vs. big man game, he increasingly served himself up on a platter by fighting on the inside with Maeda so Maeda could get him down off a suplex. The bout hasn't aged that well because they just keep going for submissions while displaying no real knowledge of how to get them, focusing 99.9% on cranking a limb while just laying across the opponent not doing anything to control any other portion of their body or help them actually isolate their joint of choice.The match eventually ended in oh so credible fashion when Sayama missed an enzuigiri & Maeda clumsily secured that most credible of pro wrestling standbyes, the Boston crab! There was very little striking in this match, and consequently, even though these were the two biggest stars in the company, the crowd was pretty much dead throughout, which supports Sayama's tract that the kickboxing base was necessary to the success of the This was better than watching Hogan flex his muscles or Flair do another spot for spot performance of his one match, but it's close to the least interesting Sayama match of the 1980's. *Match starts around the 16min mark* https://youtu.be/laHJruNU5Ws Here is is take on 9-2-85: 9/2/85 Osaka Rinkai Sports Center: Akira Maeda vs. Super Tiger 18:57. A truly fascinating contest where the clashing alpha personalities of the two dominant forces in the promotion came to a head inside the ring as they probably battled with some vague notion of deciding the future direction of the company, and instead just decided that the company had no future. Though the U.W.F. had grown increasingly shoot oriented in the year and a half it existed, morphing from the humble origins of luchadors & WWF show wrestlers into something more & more hardcore & legitimate, Maeda & Sayama were two huge stars that always wanted to win, both in front of the audience & behind the scenes. It would surely be reductive to say it came down to a matter of tastes, styles, egos, or whatever, and that even kind of comes off in the bout they wound up having. Even though they had something of a shoot, the supposed rift between Sayama's kickboxing & Maeda's submission grappling still actually didn't play out, as they ultimately did a match that was essentially in Maeda's version of Sayama's style. By that I mean, Sayama wasn't using the footwork that elevated his worked shoots toward the realm of believability, nor was Maeda really doing his remedial matwork. It really looked like Maeda's usual style of striking, except that as they pretty much stood in front of each other & bombed away, they were much more violent & aggressive in putting their whole bodies into throwing faster & harder shots that they weren't pulling as usual. Actually, rather than the art of kickboxing that Sayama managed to bring even though the opponents stood around flatfooted, this fight still exemplified that main problem with pro wrestling striking, except they did try to avoid & defend themselves in a basic sort of way, not exiting the pocket, but at least reacting to the blow they saw coming & blocking it or maneuvering their body out of the primary damage range/zone if they could. It's possible Maeda was unhappy that they were doing Sayama's standup match this time instead of his submission match as we saw on 7/25/85, but the bout definitely didn't devolve into a shoot as someone got prickly, as had been the case in the past with Maeda, they clearly were wailing on each other from the outset. One could say this was one of the first Pancrase matches, as they were not pulling their strikes, but they not only didn't use closed fists, they were clearly cooperating to some extent at points even though they were putting each other in danger & trying to legitimately damage each other most of the time. I shouldn't make it sound like Sayama wasn't fighting with strategy, he was surely giving up at least 50 pounds and even though he had superior striking technique & more explosion, he couldn't just stand toe to toe with Maeda. He tried to land the middle kick and circle off to maintain some space, but he was going backwards too much & clearly didn't have the stamina to fight what Lyoto Machida would later establish as a karate style MMA fight, so instead of capitalizing on his speed and movement advantages, Sayama spent way too much time covering in the pocket while he withstood Maeda's onslaught & poised for his next offensive. The striking portions were legit, but neither had any kind of a wrestling base, so getting the fight to the ground was rather awkward, and that's really why fights could play out much easier & better in Sayama's style than in Maeda's, which normally required him to hit a suplex to get started. Sayama wasn't taking bumps for Maeda, but still conceeded to ground portions, which basically occured when the person in the disadvantageous position surrendered further rather than finally try/work to disengage. The mat wasn't really a threatening position for either though, as when you add no BJJ background to no wrestling background, they weren't doing much beyond playing footsies, and when you combine a sweltering building with the stress & overexertion of actually trying to make things work without the usual cooperation, I think Sayama was mostly just happy to get a break while Maeda muddled around, daring him to actually come up with something to make him regret that decision. Unlike the standup where there was a very obvious difference in how aggressive they were landing blows, they didn't appear to be be applying any more pressure than usual when they actually had something of a submission, and the audience was dead silent as they were throughout the 7/25 match. As they spent more and more time delivering comatose inducing matwork, you almost forgot that a few minutes ago they seemingly wanted to kill each other on their feet. One would actually have thought that they were getting along again until Maeda grabbed the rope to get the bout returned to their feet, and proceeded to knee Sayama low for no apparent reason, leading to the DQ. It's almost certain that Maeda was supposed to lose given he defeated Tiger in their previous match, so one can deduce that Maeda may just have been looking for an out, as he should have been growing calmer, if anything, given they'd gotten away from actually shooting on one another and there was nothing new to give him a reason to pull a stunt. However, one can't be certain from the camera angle if the knee clipped the groin or not, so it's perhaps as likely that someone finally did enough damage with a legitimate blow to make whatever the planned finish was irrelevant. Maeda has always been a shady character, but from what I can see, I'm leaning toward Sayama just claiming it was a low blow. Maeda was subsequently reprimanded & never worked for the promotion again. The workers, who were already resentful of Sayama for being the booker & primary creative force in the promotion didn't side with him though, and while he did step in a U.W.F. ring six more times as this was playing out, he quit the promotion and then pro wrestling entirely. U.W.F. never ran another show after Sayama's final appearance on 9/11/85, with Maeda & co. returning to New Japan for the next 2 1/2 years before taking the next step toward blending the barrier between fake and real fighting. Very good match. ******************************************************************************************************* And just in case you were wondering what Dave Meltzer had to say about any of this: "Yoshiaki Fujiwara's version of the new UWF opened on 3/4 in Tokyo's Korakuen Hall before a packed house of 2,306 fans. Karl Gotch made an appearance at the show and announced that he was staying in Japan for two months to train the young wrestlers for this group, which got the biggest pop of the night. Results of the show was Wellington Wilkins Jr. beat Yasuhiro Fuke in 12:00 with a leg split submission, Fujiwara made Jumbo Barretta submit to a toe hold in 7:12, Minoru Suzuki went to a 30 minute time limit draw with Wayne Shamrock (Vince Tirelli) and the main event saw Masaharu Funaki make Bart Vail sibmit in 17:36 to a chicken wing cross face.
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