Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol. 23 "Roar of the Lion Kings"

Discussion in 'Worldwide MMA Discussion' started by Mbetz1981, Nov 12, 2020.

  1. Mbetz1981 Orange Belt

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    *Mike Lorefice's comments will be preceded by his initials.*

    *Special thanks to Will Colosimo for his assistance in this column.*

    We are all set to continue blazing through 1992, this time with the PWFG’s first offering of the year. This should prove to be a critical event for the company, as not only are Fujiwara and crew going into this at a disadvantage by having chosen to not have a powerful statement with a solid year-end event last month, but also because the UWFI fired some major warning shots with their 1-9-92 event. Not only did we get another great match between Hiromitsu Kanehara and Masakazu Maeda, but we were also provided a splendid affair (with what will surely be one of the best things to come out of 1992) with Kiyoshi Tamura vs Yuko MIyato. Needless to say, all the momentum is on the UWFI’s side coming into the new year, and while RINGS proved they are still in the hunt with the arrival of Volk Han and some of the Sediokaikan clan, Fujiwara’s group appears to be the most venerable going forward.

    The Match That Never Was….
    [​IMG]
    The date is 1-15-92 and we are now at the Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium, a relatively small venue (with an approximate capacity of 5000) that recently closed its doors in September of 2020 as is due to be replaced with a grander version in the Yokohama United Arena in 2024. No time is wasted as we are only given some brief footage of the venue and a close up of a flyer for tonight’s event, which strangely seems to suggest some kind of bout between Minrou Suzuki and Masakatsu Funaki, which would have been welcome by all, but was sadly only given to us later on in 1994 at Pancrase’s Road to the Championship 4 in a farce of a contest, which lasted under 2mins and was probably the most overtly worked match in that promotions history.

    First up is Wellington Wilkins, Jr. vs Kazuo Takahashi, and the last time we saw Takahashi he was having his head punted off his body, courtesy of Ken Shamrock. I wouldn’t have blamed Takahashi for taking the two months off to heal from that confrontation, but keeping true to his insane warrior reputation, he instead fought a Thai kickboxer at an All Japan Kickboxing event on 12-22-91, which was also the same night that the UWF-I was having their Takada/Berbick blowout. This was reportedly a legit shoot, but we at Kakutogi HQ are attempting to locate a copy of this event to confirm and will update everyone should we be successful.


    Takahashi Moonlighting on the Side... *Photo Provided by the W-Colosimo Archives*
    [​IMG]


    The fight is underway and after a few moments of feeling each other out Takahashi quickly slams Wilkins onto the ground and starts looking for an armbar. Wilkins responded by rolling to his stomach and started to turtle when Takahashi pulled a slick move by moving off to the side of Wilkins and then proceeded to put his right forearm under Wilkin’s right armpit, and grabbed Wilkins right wrist with his left arm. He then grabbed his own left wrist with his right hand, and then rolled over Wilkins’ shoulder, thereby gaining a back-mount position, which he used to try and sink in a rear naked choke. Chael Sonnen tried something similar against Fedor Emelianenko in 2018, but he should have brushed up on his PWFG videos, as he failed miserably. The choke didn’t take however, as Wilkins was able to arch back enough to do something of a cartwheel onto his head, which allowed him to slide out and attempt a guillotine in the ensuing scramble. Takahashi made it to the ropes and the ref called for a break.



    Sonnen Should Have Taken Notes…
    [​IMG]

    What followed for the next ten minutes was a nice slice of a more understated approach to this style. Both fighters were always trying to punctuate their movements with strikes, either as a way to create an opening for a submission, or as a way to shift the movement of the other person, which in the context of early 90s pro wrestling is quite advanced. This also held true for when they were on the ground, and while it wasn’t all out ground and pound like we are used to seeing with modern eyes, it was refreshing to see them not forget that this was still an option. If there was a drawback to be found, it was that Wilkins has all the charisma and stage presence of sandpaper, and while his striking was a marked improvement from his last outing, he still tends to mix his decent shots with blows that are way too soft. Overall, this was a very solid way to start things off, though I can understand why some would find it dry.

    ML: Wilkins get a better job here, but this was one of those matches that there's really no reason to recommend. It was neither exciting nor truly credible. It leaned more towards the former, but the matwork was more towards no control judo based laying in wait. The match was perhaps good by early UWF standards, but at this point that's not really cutting it. Takahashi was on the defensive the whole time then won out of nowhere.



     
  2. Mbetz1981 Orange Belt

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    *Vol.23 Continued...*

    Next up is Naoki Sano vs. Jerry Flynn, and this is a welcome matchup, as Sano has been a hit every time we’ve seen him thus far, and Flynn gave us a fantastic 30min broadway with Takaku Fuke, not long ago. It will be interesting to see how their styles are going to mesh, as Sano doesn’t come from a pure shooting background, and this somewhat hindered his ability to carry Bart Vale during his last appearance, so hopefully Flynn will be a better fit for him.

    The fight starts with Flynn attempting to pepper Sano’s thigh with a low-kick, to which Sano responds by catching the leg and tripping him down, but gets quickly reversed when he tried to follow this up with a mount. Flynn instantly goes for a kimura, but Sano does a good job of defending it before getting back to his feet. Once the fight restarts, Flynn starts to utilize his significant reach advantage to wail away against Sano with a variety of kicks at different angles. After taking a rather nasty spinning back kick to the stomach, Sano wisely opts to blast Flynn down with a double leg, as the vertical plane does not seem to bode well for him. Sano tries to keep things on the ground by pressuring Flynn with some different submission attempts, but to my surprise Flynn is too fast and explosive to be kept in any real danger for very long. A bit of a standstill followed until Sano took an enziguri to the head after catching a kick from Flynn’s other leg, and from this point forward the dynamics of this match quickly shifted into more of your standard puroresu territory. The rest of the contest was taken right out of the pro-wrestling drama 101 playbook, and featured a lot of back and forth moments between Flynn and Sano trading rope escapes with Flynn maintaining the upper hand with striking, and Sano with submissions, Everything culminated with a poorly choreographed spot where Flynn misses another enziguri, only to meet his doom via half-crab.

    I don’t want to make it sound like this was bad, because taken into isolation this was an exciting, somewhat stiff, and fast paced pro wrestling match. Rather, the issue I take with this is that coming off the first match that set a much more realistic and subdued tone, it wound up being a case of stylistic whiplash. Flynn looked sharp, especially with his kicks, but Sano’s offense seem to oscillate from solid to silly, and he suffered the same problem that he did with Vale, in that he isn’t versed enough in this style to carry a rookie within that framework. To me it was like a film that has several good scenes, but is undermined when taken as a whole, because they didn’t keep a consistent tone. As such, I find this difficult to rate, as it was good, but not really in the context that they were going for.

    ML: This wasn't the most credible match you'll ever see, but it was fast paced and exciting despite being pretty long. While it wasn't advancing martial arts, it was one of the only mostly striking oriented matches we've seen in PWFG, especially at this length. The match would have played better on a UWF-I show, but PWFG needs some entertainment. My biggest gripe with the match, outside of the finish once again being pretty random, is Flynn was a bit erratic with his strikes, with some of the knees barely connecting. What made this more interesting, and to a certain extent more believable than the old UWF style, was simply that they kept moving. While this wasn't Sano's best performance, largely because he was forced into the role of the grappler, Flynn showed good improvement here, and was flowing really well in standup. ***

    Now some people have informed me that the next match might be a shoot, so we will go into this with our antennas held up high, ready to detect any abnormalities. It is Takaku Fuke vs Minoru Suzki, and this is bound to be interesting as Fuke has been on a hot streak lately, first with a stupidly good 30min match with Jerry Flynn, and to my utter shock he even made Bart Vale look good at his last outing. Suzuki runs into the ring and right away gives Fuke a headbutt, in a weird “This is my territory!” kind of way, and this doesn’t seem like standard behavior, so I’m excited to see what’s next.

    What proceeded was a very intense, and fast paced grappling match sans any striking. The first four mins saw Suzuki put non-stop pressure on Fuke, constantly looking for either a takedown or submission, and while Fuke couldn’t press any offense of his own, he was wily enough to ward off Suzuki’s submission attempts until a beautifully explosive armbar by Suzuki got a rope escape out of Fuke. This appears to be a shoot, with some kind of agreement to forgo strikes, which Suzuki kind of circumvented like a jerk, as there was a couple of times that he grinded his forearm or knee into Fuke’s face. I have to wonder if there was some kind of pissing contest behind the scenes that led to them wanting to make this a shoot. The match was over soon afterwards as after Fuke stood back up, Suzuki got into a clinch, and with his overhooks, hit an excellent hip-toss followed by a great sequence where he nailed another armbar onto Fuke, in which Fuke tried to cartwheel out of, but Suzuki instantly adjusted, and grabbed his left leg, thereby preventing the chance that Fuke could roll away from the pressure, thus securing the win. I have no doubt this was a shoot, nor do I doubt the many grappling accolades that have been bestowed upon this man, as here he completely clowned Fuke, and made him look like a mere scrappy novice. Fuke wasn’t able to do anything but slightly stall the inevitable. However, what I don’t understand is the point that this contest served, other than making the prior match with Sano seem even more out of place now that it’s wedged in-between a shoot, and a realistic shoot-style outing. I enjoyed seeing this, as I’m always curious to see how these guys did in real shoots, but looking at the entirety of this show objectively, I’m not sure if a 4min squash match for Suzuki is doing anyone any favors.

    ML: As we'll see with many Pancrase matches, this was neither a work nor a true shoot. I'd call this a grappling exhibition, as they were going all out, however they clearly agreed not to strike each other. This was likely similar to what they do in the gym, but I don't see what purpose showing that served given Suzuki totally owned Fuke. The split second speed in which they are reacting to even the slightest adjustment from the opponent really sets this apart from the works.

    Now it’s time for Captain America himself, Bart Vale, to come to the ring and represent truth, freedom, and the American way, as he faces a grave challenge in the PWFG overlord, Yoshiaki Fujiwara. Vale starts by pressing the action with a few cinematic kicks but is quickly taken down by something of a modified Kouchi-Gari (small inner reap), and we are all grateful that the Kodokan judo is still flowing through Fujiwara. To his credit, Vale is looking spryer than usual tonight, and is able to hip escape off to the side quickly enough to avoid a ground entanglement and gets the fight back to the feet. Fujiwara than works his way into a belly-to-back suplex, and long before Alex Oleynik was getting away with it in the octagon, Fujiwara breaks out his own version of a no-gi Ezekiel-choke, which prompts a rope escape from Vale. The rest of this match was….ok. Certainly, this was better than I expected it to be, and probably as good as a matchup between these two is going to get. Vale was pulling his kicks here, which is always bad news because they looked terrible, but the grappling portions were fine. There was one interesting moment where Fujiwara was attempting an armbar off his back, and Vale countered with a toe-hold, but overall this was passable, if unmemorable.

    America Surrenders…
    [​IMG]

    ML: I prefer these two fighting each other because, while it ensures one bad match, it also gives every other match the opportunity to be at least decent. Stand up was folly because Vale's kicks were slow motion, naked show kicks, while the mat was simply stasis.
     
  3. Mbetz1981 Orange Belt

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    *Vol.23 Continued...*

    Now for the final bout of the evening, a rematch from the August '91 event, which was a great match that really put Ken over as a force to be reckoned with. We are all counting on this being total fire to pull this show out of mediocrity and into worthy cannon status. The fight starts off with a bit of a measured kickboxing approach. Funaki is doing a good job peppering Shamrock’s legs with both inside and outside thigh kicks. Funaki then tries to shoot in deep with a single, but Shamrock sprawls off to the side, forcing Funaki to opt for attacking Ken’s left leg with a rolling kneebar that fails, and puts Funaki on his back in the guard position. Ken’s idea of passing the guard includes grinding his elbow on his opponents chin, and attempting several Kimuras, which of course don’t work, but did create enough space for him to slide over into a side-mount where he tries an Americana/armbar combination, but is simply too slow in his execution to catch Funaki. Next we get a long sequence when Ken is forced into his guard, but quickly slides out and takes Funaki’s back, and continually attempts a rear choke, but is forced to be more concerned about protecting his ankle as he initially crossed his feet around Funaki’s stomach leaving them vulnerable for attack. This is starting to feel like a basic BJJ roll, which doesn’t sound like much now, but considering that this is still almost 2 years away from UFC 1, this must have seemed completely esoteric to anyone that got to see it outside of Japan.

    After a couple more mins of fighting for position and toe-hold attempts, they are back on their feet, but not for long as Shamrock quickly takes the fight back down to the ground and attempts something of a half-baked arm-triangle choke. We can see that Shamrock still has a ways to go in developing his submission arsenal, as he hasn’t honed his craft to the point where he is going to catch Funaki with any of these. The ground attrition wages on for a couple more mins before Funaki gains the first submission by getting a toehold on Shamrock. Once back on the feet Funaki comes out swinging with some lethal palm strikes, and after connecting with several, quickly takes the fight back to the ground. The next several mins follow the same pattern as before, only this time they are both moving with a lot more intensity and urgency, even occasionally striking each other on the ground to try and create an opening. Shamrock is the next to gain a point as he was able to secure a kneebar on Funaki, which was more a result of pure brute force, as opposed to slick technique. Once the fight restarted it turned into a kickboxing war, with Funaki out landing Shamrock by a 3-1 ratio. This continued until it appeared that Funaki got accidently eye poked when exchanging with Ken

    After recovering from the eye attack , the fight quickly goes to the ground again, and now the ground strikes are starting to get more frequent as we are now past the 20min mark, and the desperation is taking hold. A frantic footsie battle takes place, until Shamrock is now ahead on points, this time by securing a heel-hook. This probably doesn’t mean anything as I’m assuming that like the UWF-I, matches will go to an automatic draw if there isn’t a conclusive winner. The match ends at the 30 min mark, just as Shamrock was inches away from securing a back choke.

    ML: A nice step forward for Funaki, as he managed to do more without sacrificing the realism. The stand up in this match was at an much higher level. Both men were very light on their feet, engaging with caution while looking to avoid. The grappling was pretty slow, but in a sense almost too fast because they randomly gave up positions just to do something. For instance, Shamrock inexplicably released an arm triangle. The problem with no closed fist punches on the mat is that you almost have to annoy your opponent into a mistake. They really fired up for about 30 seconds down the stretch, and I felt that if they could give us even 8 minutes like that they could do a match of the year, but for the most part this was almost totally devoid of intensity. While still better and more eventful than their first match, it was still somewhat dull and felt long and laid back. I can see rating this higher because it feels like the first true Pancrase match, but I wouldn't want to watch it again anytime soon. ***

    Conclusion: As far as entertainment value goes, I would probably give the main event ***, but in terms of historical importance, this is invaluable. To me, this was the first fully formed pancrase match, or in other words, an MMA format with less emphasis on ground strikes, and more on grappling. It again demonstrated that Japan was light years ahead of the curve in understanding a fight in all its ranges, which is something that took the rest of the world almost 10 years to catch up with. Even crazier, is that these guys probably had no exposure to BJJ at this point in time which makes it all the more impressive. It’s also easy to see why Funaki had a desire to expand this concept of fighting without the limitations of having to put it in a worked format, thus birthing the Pancrase promotion. This also exposes a major problem with the PWFG moving forward, and that is one of an identity crisis. We have a good portion of the roster that is moving more and more into shoot territory, but the marquee name, presumably Fujiwara, is unable to credibly perform in this style. Compounding matters further, is a lack of a deep enough roster to put on an entire event without having to include more standard pro wrestling fare. Maeda was thankfully in a position where he was able to avoid this, as at this stage he could still get away with putting on a decent match for 4-7 min with most people, and he was so over with the Japanese public that it didn’t really matter what he did, but the same can’t be said about Fujiwara, who only looks good against far inferior performers. The only logical way forward for the PWFG is to decide to go full shoot, and rework Fujiwara into an ambassador role, but financial politics would probably make this impossible. As it stands, this was a middling affair with all the matches being fine to good in and of themselves, but as a whole this was probably a portent of things to come, as it was too uneven to be a memorable event.

    ML: This isn't a great show, but it has a lot to offer. I'm glad we get a shoot, but unfortunately that was the match that probably would have torn the house down as a work. You don't usually get two good matches on a PWFG show, especially when neither involve Suzuki.

    *This entire event, along with many other bonus treats, can be found at www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad *

    *In other news*

    It is being reported that after his match with Billy Scott at the 12-22-91 UWF-I event, that James Warring was questioned by approximately 100 reporters and asked how he could lose a fight to an unknown, smaller pro wrestler. He reportedly protested, saying that the match was fake, and that he was promised that he was going to win if he went a full ten rounds, but since he was double crossed, then he had no problem blowing the whistle. If this report is accurate, then it sounds like sour grapes from Warring, who from this scribes’ standpoint lost fairly in an obvious shoot.

    More news from that same event: We are now told that the attorneys for Trevor Berbick held up the UWFI for an additional $5000 at the last min, threating to not perform if he didn’t get it. Also, after he stormed to the back, he reportedly threatened to fight Takada in the dressing room.

    Rick London who is the founder of the satirical Scandal Tours which takes place in Washington, D.C., recently met with the Los Angeles Department of Corrections, in an effort to spearhead a program to keep youth away from gangs, and off the streets. If the program is approved, then London will take selected youths and place them in acting classes and provide martial arts training via John Kreng and Stuart Quam. At the end of the course, the youths will be provided a chance to appear in a martial arts film. London is currently seeking sponsorship from film studios, or major corporations.
     

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