Tuesday, 8 August 2017

RINGS Astral Step: Final (12/7/91)

The big one, the Superbowl of RINGS, the Shoot Style Wrestlemania, as they say (no one says that). There's something about the feel of these RINGS shows that I adore. The ambiance. It does not hurt that this has a rocking crowd that are ridiculously stoked for the shoot style. And so too do I find myself (being stoked). They also showed snippets of Maeda meeting with Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and George Foreman. Holyfield says he respects Maeda's dedication to the kung fu and that his kids love the Ninja Turtles. Because obviously. Foreman tells us he's gonna come to RINGS and do a little bit of punching and then a little bit of kicking. I have no idea what was going on with all of that but it was surreal and befitting the Wrestlemania of RINGS.


Grom Zaza v Koichiro Kimura

I guess Maeda's been on that tour of Russia then, because enter: tricked out Easter European grapplers. This was edited in parts because unless I fell asleep for a bit - and I'm certain I didn't - the post-fight graphic says it went ten minutes longer than was shown. Even the editing department in RINGS must be stellar then, because I did not notice any clipping whatsoever. This was good stuff for what we got. Zaza seemed to bring a bit of everything to this: his awesome wrestling, some judo, a solid submission game and even some passable striking. He clearly has a hell of an engine as well because he never relented for a second and he didn't seem to be sucking wind by the end (of a twenty three minute fight (apparently), of which he was largely the aggressor). Kimura looks a bit like Yoji Anjoh in the face but he's far less of an obnoxious wee shitbird. He has pretty quick hands, but I think he gassed about five minutes in because he spent most of the time either curling up like a turtle or trying to crawl to the ropes. Grom Zaza will do that to you, I suppose. The crowd weren't totally on board with it and started booing him after his fifth or six rope break (which for all I know may have been his fourteenth or fifteenth of the unedited fight -- the points system seems to have changed on this show and I haven't quite grasped it yet). Conversely they were all about Zaza and his awesome shoot style STF and sharpshooter. I don't know what the finish was exactly, but it looked like maybe a choke or some sort of keylock but I'm also wondering if Kimura never just said to fuck with this relentless Georgian man climbing all over me and tapped. Maybe we'll never know. I will take more Grom Zaza and be immediately pleased, thank you.


Herman Renting v Nobuaki Kakuta

This was strange. Was it a shoot? I mean, it didn't always look like one, but it had a fevered sort of hesitancy to it and if it was a work then...strange. Maybe it's the rounds system. This was another one of those and there hasn't been a good one yet. The difference here, though, is the inexplicably molten crowd! Why is this place going so bananas for a Herman Renting fight? Kakuta is a short karateka who wants absolutely nothing to do with a clinch or the ground or anything that doesn't involve standing and engaging in the fighting arts of karate. For large spells they do nothing much at all besides throw a few probing kicks. It was all very tentative, though it sometimes looked like they were right on the verge of turning loose. In the end the caution to protect their own face overrode the desire to smack the opponent's. Other than a few semi-grazing kicks I think one shot landed clean the whole fight and that was a suspect/probably illegal closed fist. Renting would close at a few points and Kakuta would sort of fall into the ropes to force the break without actually using a rope escape. The ref' would then stand them up and on one of those occasions Renting refused to let go of a partial choke which set the crowd off big time. Later on he grabbed another choke, this time of the illegal hand around throat/throttling variety and they liked that even less. When he cracked Kakuda's jaw with the punch that was it, never again would Herman Renting be welcome in the Ariake Coliseum. This was kind of a waste after Renting's promising outing on the last show, but his heeling it up was amusing. And holy moly did the people get into it.


Chris Dolman v Tiger Levani

I'd never heard of Tiger Levani before. Where does he come from? What's his discipline, his hobbies, his hopes and dreams? A google search yields answers to none of these questions. He's kitted out in the same red and blue gear as Zaza so maybe they're from the same camp? He certainly has some Grom Zaza-ish tendencies in that he'll pursue those takedowns doggedly, and he almost turned one of them into a slick wrist lock. When it did go to the ground they were both pretty determined to grab leg locks, like nearly every single time. This often led to stalemates so eventually Dolman changed tact to lots of clinching and knees to the body. One or two might've been a wee bit south of the belt, but in the end it opened the door for a front choke and Chris Dolman is now the proud holder of the best win record in all of the Fighting Network RINGS.


Dick Vrij v Willie Peeters

What an awesome little scrap. This had a bit of everything, some great striking, big takedowns and throws, dramatic submission work, insane heat, a frantic pace, even a kick to the balls. Vrij has a real unique aura and he's already improved noticeably over his four appearances. He's not a wizard on the mat by any stretch, but it sure looked like he'd picked up a few tricks. He is of course a man of many head kicks and that remains his primary mode of attack, but it's the way he carries himself as the big dog now with the shredded physique and the buzz cut that added an extra layer to this. Peeters ruled again. He has tonnes of personality and the crowd adopted him as their underdog babyface, which is a role he turned out to be awesome in. He was always in danger of taking blows because of Vrij's length and reach, but he'd continually try and close and chip away with punches to the body. They started coming off and earned him a couple knockdowns, and the crowd were totally behind him doing the upset. He just refused to accept defeat and tried to take it to Vrij at every opportunity. This had an easily discernible story that came off as being organic, two guys that were great in their roles, and a crowd that bought all the way into it. I loved this.


Mitsuya Nagai v Gerard Gourdeau

Another weird round system fight. Gourdeau is the guy who kicked Teila Tuli's teeth out in the very first official fight in UFC history and later in the night broke two of the only three rules of the tournament (no eye-gouging; no biting). A few years later he yolked out Yuki Nagai's eye (or at least gouged it unto a state of permanent blindness) and generally looks like the sort who pulls the legs off of spiders for a hobby. Those are not the eyes of a kind individual. Apparently he's a neo-Nazi as well so all around swell gent, is Gerard. He dominated this and Nagai never got much of a look in. I actually thought it might've been stopped before it was because there was a point where Nagai was clearly not right after a guillotine choke. Nagai looked thoroughly outmatched here and Gourdeu's striking was too much for him.


Hans Nyman v Masaaki Satake

Alright, this was definitely a shoot. Probably. I think it was a straight karate contest as well. Satake was very much the aggressor in this and really didn’t stop through all five rounds; he was constantly active and striking. Nyman was almost entirely on the defensive for the last couple rounds, though in fairness he never looked too troubled. Nothing from either guy had the other in a ton of danger, but it wasn’t a difficult fight to watch.


Akira Maeda v Volk Han 

Has anybody ever looked as good straight out the gate as Han? It didn’t hurt that he was about as legit as any to ever do it, but I imagine shoot style would be one of the most difficult styles to do properly and Han took to it right away. I mean, this is his debut and he’s pretty much already the Volk Han we know. There didn’t appear to be many growing pains at all. This was pretty great, of course. We’ve seen a host Europeans pass through RINGS already, some of them good, some of them less so, but it’s immediately obvious that none have been quite like this unassuming Russian as he flies into a rolling armbar after about forty seconds. This is a very different kettle of fish and the closest thing to what most people would point to as ‘high end RINGS’ yet. It largely felt like kicker v grappler, with Maeda being the superior striker and Han taking him down almost at will, tying him up in heel hooks and armbars. Han wasn’t as freaky with the submissions as he’d eventually become, but some of what he was doing was ridiculous. You think you’ve managed to fend off an attempted heel hook and before you know it you’re in a kneebar, then you somehow wriggle out of that but now he’s got BOTH your legs and you have no choice but to cling to the ropes for a reprieve. Once or twice Han would catch a high kick and just throw Maeda to the mat, a sort of casualness to it. Then he started to tire and Maeda caught him with that big wheel kick he’d been aiming for. Finish didn’t feel like Han underestimating Maeda as such, but with how dominant he’d been on the mat until then you get the sense he maybe never expected Maeda to have that in his locker. A fitting way to draw the curtain on the first year of RINGS.


Really good show overall. I'd say Maeda/Han and Vrij/Peeters are the two best RINGS matches of the year and there wasn't anything here that I thought was outright bad. The awesome crowd didn't hurt, either.


Complete & Accurate RINGS

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