Yoshihisa Yamamoto v Masayuki Naruse
This kind of went on forever. I love Yamamoto and I like Naruse fine, but 20+ minutes might've still been a bit beyond them at this point (felt way longer than Han/Maeda from the last show and that was the longer bout). Still, maybe it stood them in good stead going forward. Smooth waters never made for skilled sailors and all that. Neither were shy about smashing the other in the face at least, and it gave us some nice stand up exchanges where they were really swinging. Yamamoto was deliberate in going for the choke at the end and I liked how he eventually set it up. And Naruse snatching the desperation leglock was a really cool - and welcome, it must be said - finish. Naruse with three draws and a victory in his first four fights is a record Tony Pulis would be proud of.
Herman Renting v Nobuaki Kakuta
I was about to question why this was a second round fight when only one of them actually won their first round fight (and Kakuta got beat so badly he probably dropped out of NEXT year's Mega Battle), but then I think it was actually a shoot and so...who knows? Renting looked decent at points and Kakuta was mostly outmatched again, especially on the ground. Once Renting went for the choke the first time I think he realised Kakuta couldn't defend against it, so it's no surprise he went back to it. This was largely nothing.
Willie Williams v Yukihiro Takenami
This was some spectacular carny horseshit and I loved it. The crowd is alllll about Williams and his hobo karate! Takenami is in the mood to fight! It lasted about three minutes and the heat was outrageous! I mean I can't explain why people were so thoroughly losing their mind for this but as a viewer I'm grateful that they were (because rabid crowds make the RINGS even better). Williams isn't good, but man he's fun in this type of short spectacle, with his sloppy palm thrusts and wheel kicks. I have absolutely no problem with him doing this every other show, which is not the stance I expected to take after seeing him for the first time however many shows back.
Dick Vrij v Hans Nyman
Nyman is announced as "the one and only Hans Nyman," which is like that time back when I went to rent Devil May Cry from the Blockbuster and it was already taken but the guy behind the desk told me to rent Kabuki Warriors instead. This is a rematch from a previous show that I remember kind of sucking, This one was a wee bit better, but not really something you need to see for six rounds/hours. They at least had spurts of half decent stand-up and some of Nyman's strikes looked like they actually had some impact behind them, as opposed to just looking pretty. I don't know what the finish was all about. I don't think Nyman did either, though he was gracious about it despite being annoyed (with good reason!).
Andrei Kopylov v Chris Dolman
Perhaps I was hasty in my assessment that Dolman, after his fight on the previous show, had little left to offer in the twilight of his career. Because this was way better. It probably helped being in there with a gamer like Kopylov. I liked how Dolman would try to control with his judo and use his size advantage on the mat. Kopylov is tricky and we've seen how he can submit guys in plenty of ways, but Dolman was patient and used the extra weight. Excellent finish, too. Pretty fun bout.
Akira Maeda v Dimitri Petkov
I like how the booking of this was basically a rocket-fuelled version of Hulk Hogan v whatever member of the Heenan Family was up next for him to feud with. Petkov came in on the last show, looked good, picked up the win, and now he's onto the ace. That they did it as part of a tournament was smart, in that it wasn't completely obvious they were setting Petkov up as the next guy for Maeda to run through. As a standalone bout I also thought this was really good, so it gets thumbs up all around. Petkov was super fun as a sort of shoot style King Kong Bundy, shrugging off Maeda's strikes and telling him to bring it, being pretty damn solid on the ground and tossing Maeda around with some awesome slams. There was one cool bit where he just picked Maeda up like it was nothing and walked around the ring, Maeda helpless, Petkov soaking in the moment before slamming him. He also reeled off a killer headlock takedown that the crowd lost it for. I thought they were kind of obvious in setting up the finish at first, but they threw in a bit of a curve ball and overall I really dug this.
Complete & Accurate RINGS