IGF NEW Opening Series
May 4, 2017 in 後楽園ホール Korakuen Hall
SEASON OF MISTS AND MELLOW FRUITFULNESS CLOSE BOSOM FRIEND OF THE MATURING SUN CONSPIRING WITH HIM HOW TO LOAD AND BLESS WITH FRUIT VINES THAT ROUND THE THATCH-EAVES RUN TO BEND WITH APPLES THE MOSS'D COTTAGE-TREES AND FILL ALL FRUIT WITH RIPENESS TO THE CORE TO SWELL THE GOURD AND PLUMP THE HAZEL SHELLS WITH A SWEET KERNEL TO SET BUDDING MORE AND STILL MORE LATER FLOWERS FOR THE BEES HOW WAS YOUR SUMMER EVERYBODY MINE WAS GREAT WELCOME TO AUTUMN and if you will indulge me in this our first TK Scissorsing of the post-RINGS era may I please share with you something Dave Meltzer recounted on last night's Wrestling Observer Radio which is purportedly "subscribers only" but we are all of us here (Dave himself too) tape traders of the soul are we not and so here it is as he offered final thoughts on having gone to a Bellator show Friday night as we ask ourselves yet again and not for the last time (should we be spared) WHAT DID DAVE MELTZER SAY:
"[A]aaaand I'm trying to think if there's any other . . . notes . . . nothin' really . . . I . . . uhm . . . I guess the one thing is, is Akira Maeda was there to talk business, uhm, he wants to start somethin' in Japan, and, y'know, use Bellator fighters, Bellator supply some talent, so Maeda looks like he's gettin' back in the fight game, so I talked to Maeda for a while, I haven't talked to him in like twenty-five years. So, uhm, anyway, he uhm [inaudible] we were more talking pro wrestling. Obviously, y'know, if you know his version of what pro wrestling is he's very disappointed in the direction of Japanese pro wrestling even though it's making a comeback, just feeling that uhm Japanese wrestling could have gone its own way, and he just said, y'know, we were taking it its own way, this was, y'know, RINGS and UWF and his stuff, UWFi and, y'know, the original UWF and it's all gone and now it's like American pro wrestling. That's his take on everything. So. Uhm. And just the MMA scene's dead there and he's trying to revive it. And, y'know, that's the deal."
There are several things to address here and first among these is the dark fact that in response to my twitter question "dave is maeda there and if so will you tell him I love him" he said nothing to me and, I worry, nothing to Maeda about me, so it was a complete waste of eight seconds to have even asked (except that two of my friends "liked" it and it is important to spread joy). Also it seems wild to me that this is the last thing he wanted to say about going to the Bellator instead of the first, revealing that, despite the extent to which I admire his work, Dave Meltzer and I are in at least this one regard, and possibly several other ones too, really quite different people (he is certainly much heavier [I mean no disrespect; he is admirably lean at his size]). He didn't talk about Akira Maeda until he and Bryan were into the fifty-eighth minute of their show! I don't even have a podcast and I am already talking about Akira Maeda at the very beginning of it. Oh hey on the subject of podcasts I should definitely tell you that there is one now in the field of shoot-style called Fighting Network FRIENDS (you will never guess who suggested this demonstrably sikk title), and look at the extraordinarily high-taste-level graphics they (Andy and Bren, of twitter) have come up with for it:
I should remind you too, dear readers, of how there is in addition to this present blog you are reading right now (and I thank you once more for doing so) also very much our friend Dan's Kick. Submission. Suplex. exploration of the second wave of UWF; my old pals Jonathan and Lee's Hybrid Shoot inquiry into the ways of Pancrase; and I should note too that most recently young (I assume; I am old) Kelley's Kingdom of Shoot has appeared on the scene (as Sartre, in L'existentialisme est un humanisme, suggests we all do) to address Kingdom. Together I am pretty sure we will in time cræft The Anatomy of Shoot-Style Criticism in our every word and, indeed, deed. I think it's neat that we're all enjoying these old matches!
To return though to Dave, and to Maeda, and how Dave failed to relay my message to him, it is interesting that Dave says that Maeda is looking to get back into MMA, because he has of course persisted with RINGS: The Outsider for really many years now, has he not? But that is a happening that is happening in extraordinarily low-key fashion and I am not here to pick nits; we know what Dave means. But the really interesting thing here is Maeda's of-course-totally-right-thing about the lost direction in Japanese pro wrestling, a massive missed opportunity (æsthetically) to further what we have come to call, in the spirit of Tadashi Tanaka's unreal letters of the mid-to-late-90s, The Long UWF (please remember Tanaka never ever called it this so if this is a bad idea [definitely] the blame is mine and mine alone and none is due to Tanaka, whose missives were, and remain, as poesy to me). No matter what one makes of contemporary NJPW (I like it very well though some parts of it drive me nuts!), or the resurgent AJPW (I hear it has been good!), or the continued low-level fineness of DDT and BJPW (I have seen barely any of either but I wish them well since we are all just people trying to be happy!), and I am sure other ones that I don't know about at all other than in an "OTHER JAPAN NOTES" sense, I think it is fair to say that the ethos of contemporary puro or hey why not let's just go ahead and say プロレス (something I did this summer was learn the kana, which you can do in a weekend and I am telling you it is extraordinarily worthwhile if you are a person who is interested in Japanese things enough to be the person you are right now doing this thing that you are doing right now with what little time we are given; the kanji are a vastly greater project but they have been neat to learn so far) ANYWAY the whole deal of contemporary Japanese professional wrestling is that it pretty much presupposes that the UWF, long or short, never really happened. It's weird! The only person who persists in anything resembling it is, in a dark twist, Antonio Inoki, the defiance of whom gave rise to Maeda's UWFism to begin with (you will perhaps recall). The skein of both shoot and strong style are forever tangled, are they not my friends, and we have been talking about that at least a little ever since our first time together nearly a year ago when, for better or worse, in the course of introducing this our shared endeavour broadly, it was written that:
"To the extent to which it occurs at the point of intersection between legitimate grappling and the aesthetic, shoot style pro wrestling is literally crucial (this is obvious). If, in keeping with Shinsuke Nakamura's recent yet yore-wise suggestion that strong style (and, by extension, probably also Romanticism) is best understood as real techniques plus real emotion, what shoot style offers—indeed, insists upon—is a realer technique in the hopes of a realer emotion and a style stronger still. What is the history of shoot style if not the spontaneous overflow of strong style feelings until strong style is itself incapable of bounding them? What becomes of that excess? Akira Maeda kicking unsuspecting people in the eye for real, initially. And from thence the several iterations of this style we call shoot: UWF, UWFi, Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi, Pancrase, Kingdom, Fighting Network RINGS, BattlARTS, U-Style, in several instances Pride FC; who can say where it ends (it ends pretty much there). Whenever and wherever strong style, though worthy, is deemed insufficiently strong, and yet no one wants to actually fight for real, shoot style emerges, to be supplanted in time, perhaps inevitably so, by shooting proper. Shoot style—a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, but an ephemeron—cannot and perhaps must not last. Death is the mother of beauty, mystical, within whose burning bosom we devise our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly [. . .]"
And it went on like that, forgive me, and while you are doing so please also forgive me for quoting from an earlier blogging, I beg you, but it is wild that Keats (and the same Keats!) made its way into that one too, isn't it? I had totally forgotten.
But yeah Inoki, right? Things have gotten weird lately though, even for him. In recent Observers, it is written that:
September 11, 2017: "Antonio Inoki’s Ism promotion will have its second show on 10/21 at Sumo Hall. Inoki closed down the old IGF promotion and fired everyone working there, including Simon Inoki, who has since started his own promotion as well. It’s expected to be the Inoki brainchild of some real matches, some pro wrestling matches worked to look real, and some pro wrestling matches using fighting stars of the past who were big names in Japan during the fighting heyday. This format nowadays is Inoki’s vision of pro wrestling, but doesn’t really appeal to hardly anyone now, as if you want real, you have MMA, and if you want pro wrestling, you want exciting matches. Perhaps former fighters doing it badly is okay once in a while if you’ve got the right guys and right stories, but not an entire promotion of it. But they are also opening it up and looking at adding a Lucha Libre element with four to six wrestlers from Crash, as well as debuting younger wrestlers."
September 25, 2017: "Antonio Inoki announced a Peter Aerts vs. Scott Norton main event for his 10/21 Inoki Ism show at Sumo Hall in Tokyo. That’s an awfully big building to book for that weird product mix of the former kickboxing legend vs. New Japan’s top foreigner from another era. Inoki talked about stepping down as a public figure and hinted that this may be his last show in this position. Inoki made a lot of mainstream news this past week, including the New York Times, for going to North Korea. He held a press conference to promote the show on 9/14. He said that Don Frye, Stan Hansen, Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Tiger Jeet Singh would be appearing at the show. There will also be a four-man Karl Gotch Cup tournament with first round matches of Shinichi Suzukawa vs. Diego Anzaki and Ryuta Sakurai vs. Yasshi"
All is in flux! In genuinely promising fashion, it sounds like, and yet change is hard.
These several things and moments and feelings I have described above have caused me to wish to share with you the best match I have seen from either the IGF (Inoki Genome Federation) or its super short-lived heir NEW (Next Exciting Wrestling), which is one I have in truth been meaning to tell you about since I began the long summer break but now here we are, finally, to enjoy together YOSHIAKI FUJIWARA vs. SHINYA AOKI from earlier this very year and indeed from May 4, 2017 in 後楽園ホール Korakuen Hall. It can be seen in its sikk entirety streaming from a Russian site so I guess tuck your e-pants into your e-socks and enjoy it here.
What need we even say by way of introduction? Yoshiaki Fujiwara we have discussed previously in these pages, like when he had that match against Maeda that had the finish cut off of and then it wasn't until Maeda's (first) retirement where they replayed the finish of literally all of Maeda's RINGS matches that we actually saw the finish (I think it was a leglock!) but it is probably worth noting that, unlike then, Fujiwara is fifty-eight years old at the time of this IGF appearance UPDATE: Dan in kindness and charity notes that Fujiwara is in fact SIXTY-EIGHT; please forgive me and also please consider how amazing this is. Shinya Aoki is known to all, an indifferent collegiate judoka of considerable katame-waza (grappling technique; to say ne-waza would refer specifically to ground techniques, and as you know much of the fun of Shinya Aoki is his flyingness) who parlayed that strength into a fine run of SHOOTO where he snapped a guy's arm with an absurdly gross standing waki-gatame that while not illegal is plainly unethical, and then he became a fellow who wore interesting tights and employed esoteric ne-waza (often of 10th-Planet JJ provenance) in high-profile bouts you have likely all enjoyed. The only thing I would add to any of this relates to TOM's complete rejection of Aoki on the grounds that he was a cop: I am not suggesting that Aoki should not be rejected utterly if that is what in anyone's heart, but I read recently from someone who had read (in translation) the PRIDE FC Secret Files book, and apparently Aoki was never actually a police officer but instead sat a test for the academy once and either didn't pass it or chose not to go or something (I am not going to check). Please note this is offered only as a point of clarification on cop-status and I am not advocating forgiving Shinya Aoki any of his transgressions up to and including having wanted to be a cop, however fleetingly or incompletely. THIS IS NOT AOKI-APOLOGISM AND I BEG YOU NOT TO RECEIVE IT AS SUCH. This was new information to me recently and so I thought perhaps it might be to you as well? But perhaps this was already better known than I knew.
AND WITH THAT WE BEGIN and the pre-match video that readies us for Shinya Aoki does so by showing any number of kansetsu (bone-locking) and shime (strangulation) techniques as the announcer plainly utters "kakutogi" just to let us know that we have all made the right choice with our evening. "BAKA SURVIVOR" is as ever his theme, which I had totally forgotten about, and all of a sudden I am thinking about Takanori Gomi's old entrances to "Scary" by Mad Capsule Markets, which was definitely the best entrance of that era, I would tell you if you asked me. Yoshiaki Fujiwara, a man of taste and learning (to say nothing of discernment) enters to Walkürenritt or Ritt der Walküren. The play-by-play person says kansetsu-waza, just like I did a moment ago, so we are on the same page, the is good. After what I choose to describe as an encounter in the corner, Aoki takes Fujiwara to the mat in the middle of the ring with a low kibisu-gaeshi heel-trip but in the time it has taken me to tell you that that happened, Fujiwara has attacked with an ude-hishigi-juji-gatame that forced a rolling escape to the far side (Aoki did not turn in, but went the other way. The other way). I am really impressed with how many times the commentator has said kansetsu-waza! I appreciate that he is doing that. Aoki juji-gatames his way out of a radically severe pretzeling from kesa-gatame but Fujiwara has been there before like a million times so it is ok, he escapes. TREACHERY as Aoki's proffered hand becomes a takedown attempt (how dare he) but don't worry, it is not successful, nor is his standing gyaku-ude-garami. Ah ha, dueling ashi-kansetsu! They would each like a leg-lock! Enough of that though as Aoki looks for gyaku-ude-garami from the more conventional position of "on the ground" but hey that grip is to be found in as many places as you care to look for it, I get it. I don't know if I have mentioned yet that Yoshiaki Fujiwara is fifty-eight years old (UPDATE: sixty-eight, thanks to Dan once more) and that, because he is Yoshiaki Fujiwara, and started looking fifty when he was about twenty-six, looks about eighty here? And yet everything that is happening here looks real and great?
HEAD BUTT(O) TO THE SHOULDER after Fujiwara returns from a brief powder on the outside and now he visits upon Aoki the gentle brutality of kesa-gatame until Aoki escapes with a shrimp (ebi) and bridge in totally the same way I was showing our white belts just last night (summer judo was absolutely great, thanks, and the fall is going well!). Fujiwara needs the ropes to get out of trouble and it occurs to me now for the first time that they are not doing anything with regards to points for rope breaks, I don't think, and I cannot say that I miss it; everything is just going really well. Fujiwara lures Aoki into what looks like is going to be a lock-up but instead head butts him again man I love this guy. Aoki's hadaka-jime is rolled out of and into Fujiwara's ude-gatame and they trade a series of NEVER MIND ANY OF THAT IT IS THE FUJIWARA ARMBAR OF WAKI-GATAME but no, Aoki makes the ropes, belay that. Aoki floats from kami-shiho-gatame (around the head and neck) to mune-gatame (about the chest), all the while looking for juji-gatame UNTIL HE ISN'T and sneaks into kata-gatame, the shoulder hold one might equally name "arm triangle" or "head-and-arm choke." Referee Ryogaku Wada (we know him! remember?) peers in as closely as he is able but Fujiwara does not yield before time expires in this our fifteen-minute time-limit draw! Fujiwara is bloodied lightly about the nose and mouth, we see as Aoki comes up easy from atop him. It all looked very much like this:
HERE IS THE THING I LOVE MOST ABOUT THIS AND IT IS SUBTLE AND YOU CAN TELL FROM THE WAY I AM TALKING RIGHT NOW HOW SUBTLE IT IS but not only is kata-gatame just an inherently noble waza of the highest order (which it extremely is) but let us reflect for a moment, if you will indulge me, on the most well-established counter to that technique and I can nearly promise this will be worth it ok ok here we go: what is so tried-and-true an escape from kata-gatame that you might go so far as to refer to it as BASIC ESCAPE in the Ippon Books Masterclass series volume on Osaekomiy you penned whilst your were 1981 World Champion (Maastricht) Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki:
That's all pretty small (forgive me) but you will note that after you have done the unusual (though usual when escaping kata-gatame) and turned hard away from the osaekomi rather than turning into it, Kashiwazaki notes in step "e" that "[i]t is possible to grasp your opponent's arm as you roll out and move straight into waki-gatame."
WAIT ISN'T THAT THE FUJIWARA ARMBAR
WAIT ISN'T THIS FINISH LIKE A THOUSAND TIMES BETTER THAN YOU WOULD HAVE BELIEVED POSSIBLE
YES THAT'S TRUE IT IS ISN'T IT
When Aoki slips into kata-gatame as time winds down, it isn't just whether or not Fujiwara can last; it's that if he (basically) escapes (with the basic escape), it's right into the Fujiwara armbar that has already sent Aoki scurrying to the ropes not long before because of how Fujiwara could defeat and in all probably at some point already has defeated the devil himself with that hold. I LOVE THIS FINISH. Lest you think I am overthinking this, I am 100% sure I know less about ne-waza than either of these guys, so if this escape is implicit in the hold when I see it, I mean, these fellows are no less on top of the implications here than I am, and arguably slightly more. Or maybe it's all just an extremely fortuitous and also sikk happenstance but that is how art works sometimes.
And so there it is, my favourite bout of the IGF era that is I guess now behind us? I'm as surprised as you are that that is so; I thought everything was probably ok. But I guess we never know, do we, no matter how thoroughly we subscribe to the Observer, or how diligently we keep up with Observer Radio whilst we do our chores. I feel like there is a lot to reflect on right now.
In closing, my friends, I thank you as ever and always for your attention to these matters and for your time, and I again plead that if anyone has footage of the Februrary 2016 IGF show where Shinya Aoki was stretchered-out after a near-fatal s p a c e t o r n a d o o g a w a please, please make this footage known. But mostly I want to say again my best to you.