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: 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) 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."