(Archives of this series, as well as all of your MMA and Puro needs can be found at www.quebrada.net) 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 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... 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. The entire event is below.. 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: 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.