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[1997-04-04-RINGS] Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs Tsuyoshi Kohsaka

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Some incredible stuff in this match, as Kohsaka and Yamamoto go the distance for a half hour. I'll sound like a broken record, but other promotions (and not just those in Japan) should have incorporated this into their house style and worked to get it over by educating fans on the importance of holds. I think it would have toned down some of the highspot excess and made the wrestling style more sustainable over the long haul. Think what Watts tried to do in 1992, but with a more modern slant. I do think 30 minutes is a bit too long for this style, but these guys should be commended for keeping the match fresh and not really being all that repetitive. This bordered on too much of a good thing, but you couldn't ask for a much better 30-minute match. The closing stretch of this was just about as exciting as wrestling gets, with Kohsaka digging deep in his reserve to stay in the fight. RINGS is my favorite 1997 promotion so far.

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I've seen a lot of 30 minute shoot-style matches, especially ones Tabe liked. Most were in UWFi and I think this utterly obliterates them for quality. What's so important to keep in mind is that a typical Han match went 8-12 minutes, so this is over double that while being done in the same style and promotion. Avoiding repetition and keeping the energy up for that long is an amazing accomplishment, compared to say a 30 minute All Japan match.

 

Han, Tamura and TK get referenced as RINGS greats. I'd slot Yamamoto ahead of TK, based on preferring Yamamoto/Tamura to TK/Tamura. You get to judge that for yourself in future yearbooks!

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but other promotions (and not just those in Japan) should have incorporated this into their house style and worked to get it over by educating fans on the importance of holds. I think it would have toned down some of the highspot excess and made the wrestling style more sustainable over the long haul.

Early days ARSION had that philosophy but it didn't take on a major level and they eventually abandoned it after a while

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People definitely tried... but mat-work (I know you said submissions) has always came off better on tape, whereas the more visual spots obviously work better for the live crowd. With guys like Han, even old British wrestling, it was always far more visual and demonstrative.

 

I remember OJ telling a story about seeing Yoshida live at one point and how it was worked for the cameras, or rather how much better it would've appeared on video. There's also a funny story I read about Jeff Beck (and, yes, this is a total aside) whereby he played a piece using almost exclusively harmonics or something, but the result was that it didn't actually sound like a guitar, and people didn't realise he was making this music, so the audience sat there confused/silent and he ended up exaggerating his arm movements when playing it to tell the audience that, yes, he was making these sounds.

 

But there's only so "big" one can make counters before they lose all credibility, and the only companies who've really drew with mat-based styles have been exclusively so. There's also the fact that, whilst someone in the audience will not have been power bombed, or even body slammed, they can associate the pain with an idea of what it would be like, and therefore involve themselves more. You don't really get that with mat wrestling/submissions.

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I wasn't arguing that other promotions should become exclusively mat-based. It was more an argument that other promotions should have incorporated more matwork into their existing style. All Japan is the most glaring example.

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All Japan is the most glaring example.

Without a doubt.

 

In context of how All Japan was booked after 1992 when it came to submissions, those guys are lucky they ever got heat off them. Hell, the most notable wins for Kawada with the stretch plum are him pinning guys after wearing them down with it, and that's the most famous All Japan '90s submission (at least when Misawa turned the facelock into a resthold). So if Baba actually had guys tapping out once or twice a year, imagine how much mileage they could have gotten with the occasional submission spot taking up 30-60 seconds in a given finishing run. Kobashi vs Misawa 1/20/97 is a blueprint they should have re-used.

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We have plenty of templates.

 

Sammy-Otani provided one.

 

The 06/03/94 Misawa-Kadawa actually had a long base of the match around (i) Misawa's "injured" neck/upper back going back to Carny, (ii) Misawa's ear getting injured, and (iii) Kawada's knee going back to the prior Tag League.

 

Same general thing as 01/20/97, though both of them are actually longer than one would want with a template: 35-40+ minute matches still make you Know that all of the Good Shit is once they get up and go on that 17+ minute run to the finish (or whatever we'd come up with on the clock for 6/94, 1/97 and the 5/94 tag that all have some decent "body work" sections).

 

In the end, the wrestlers didn't care to go in that direction. The promoters could have tried to reel them in, but there never seemed that desire either.

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I think Baba clearly didn't like submission finishes. And if it's not going to finish, the wrestlers are going to give it less focus. The comparison to New Japan is stark there.

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I'm glad people will get to see a great RINGS match not involving either Han or Tamura. They didn't wear out their welcome which is always saying something for a 30-minute match in this style. In fact, the last few minutes were maybe the best in the match, with both guys clearly tired but throwing bombs and trying desperately to win. Not on the level of Han-Tamura athletically but great stuff.

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I was a little familiar with TK but not a ton. Honestly don't think I have ever seen Yamamoto before unless I am blanking on something. This match blew me away. It is not a match for everyone but the matwork and escalation to the flying strikes around the finish were spectacular. I really loved the groundwork and opening 10 minutes of this. It felt like it could end at any moment but just kept going and going which is a good thing. Really looking forward to all the shoot style stuff in the next few years.

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I'm one of those "not for everyone" types that Chad alludes to--though this was unquestionably better than the meandering, boring UWF '80s draws, with insane crowd heat and action that really picked up after the first cut stoppage. The welts on the faces are just nasty, and adds to the past-midnight feel of the match as it looks like both guys should have been out at around the 18-minute mark.

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If one is searching for peace and tranquillity, wrestling isn't the most obvious vessel for arriving there. Yet that's what I found for a time here. Everything was so stripped back and pure. Simple production, no commentary, little colour, an intently watchful audience. The wrestling was all in the heart of the ring with few frills and plenty of substance. It took me back to the time limit draws they'd regularly have in the UWF, apart from being a whole lot better. They worked hard whilst maintaining a sensible pace. The points system was really well utilised with scores at occasional intervals and drama created near the end. There were a couple of stoppages for head blood, one either side. Fortunately the State Athletic Commissioner wasn't on duty. It actually became rather exciting in the second half. This crowd is so fucking hardcore. What a pleasure it must be to wrestle in front of such knowledgeable and respectful fans. Eventually the time limit expires and both men equally deserved to have their hand raised. As it was Kohsaka took it on a narrow points decision.

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Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs Tsuyoshi Kohsaka - 4/4/97

"That doesnt look good" - Some ignorant American fan hollering in the middle of the match

First 15 minutes: Yamamoto is a wizard and coming out of all my 1996 watching I thought he was a solid 3rd behind Han & Tamura. It was demonstrated in the first half of this match as he was clearly dominating on the match. He was wearing the kick pads but no boots which would leave him open for my dreaded Greco-Roman Toelock. When my buddy comes home, we always wrestle (him being an actual wrestler from back in high school always beats me in the end), and my favorite finish is too grab his big toe and just wrench it. Anyways, the reason not to wear shoes is to evade heel hooks. As typical with RINGS, it is standup->takedown->scrap on the mat->rope break, rinse lather repeat. The interesting stuff is always the mat action. Kohsaka was usually the one taking Yamamoto down, but Yamamoto was the one who would win the scrap on the mat. Kohsaka was breathing heavy about ten minutes into this match. Yamamoto was countering at will. At one point, the crowd popped because they though Kohsaka had a toehold, but Yamamoto remained calm; wriggled free and won the day. It was mostly toeholds that Yamamoto was using, there was a great one he basically did a double wristlock but applied to the ankle. He also had a strong guillotine choke. The sequence of the match thus far was Kohsaka had a side-mount double top wristlock which Yamamoto beautifully turned into a DEEP headscissors and from there a bodyscissors, but left his feet dangling and Kohsaka crossed his ankles to force the break. Late into the 15 minutes, Kohsaka again was about to counter into a toehold that is hard to describe. In the resulting standup something interesting happened, Yamamoto actually connected with a vicious knee that drew blood from Kohsaka's face right above the eyebrow. RINGS in my experience is very much a mat-based promotion and the stand up is usually perfunctory. They take about a minute to check on him and that wraps up the first half. I would say Yamamoto won the first half, BUT Kohsaka looked strong in the last two scraps, however he just took a knee to the face. Will the knee change the complexion of the match and turn it into a stand up fight OR do they keep it on the mat?  Fuck, I almost forgot, the coolest submission of the first half was Yamamoto using what can only be described as a Short Leg Scissors. Think of a Short Arm Scissors but applied to the knee instead of the elbow. He had it in their deep. I cant believe I almost forgot that. I marked out for that. 

Final 15 minutes: Wow I dont think they were selling exhaustion, I think they were exhausted. What a cardio workout that was amazing. Kohsaka comes out hot from the knee to the face. He throws some of his own knees and settles for a heel hook, but thats reversed, Kohsaka does force the rope break. He is off to hot start. The standup has definitely gotten more fierce. Kohsaka comes down from his high. Yamamoto cool & calm as ever takes him down with a guillotine choke and takes the next two rope breaks. Kohsaka takes the next one. By my count, they are even, but I may have missed one. I feel like this match was designed to be very symmetrical. To me the story was Yamamoto is the natural. Kohsaka is the workhorse. Yamamoto makes things look effortless. Kohsaka's strongest attribute is his willpower. It goes full stand up and wow it is amazing. So much desperation. So much exhaustion. Kohsaka throws a kick to Yamamoto's side that crumples him which is an automatic down. That takes me back to the old UWF days when a well-placed mid-section kick could really ruin someone's day. Kohsaka gives as good as he hot as he rips the side of the eye/eye lid of Yamamoto open. Nasty injury! I couldnt really tell how it happened. I bet they didnt plan for blood on either end but it worked into the symmetry story AND how desperately these men wanted the victory. Yamamoto finished the sequence out coming roaring back to knock Kohsaka down. Again the story is symmetry. They tussle on the mat. The end of the match is Yamamoto desperately trying to pry the clasp of Kohsaka's hands so that he can apply the cross-armbreaker. Honestly, when the bell rang, I thought it was a straight up draw, but I think there was one Yamamoto rope break I might have missed, but this was insane. 

Talk about wanting to win a match these two men make you believe that their entire worlds depend on the outcome of this match. The exhaustion, the nasty, hardway cuts, the desperation grappling, My God. The submission wizardy in the first half was engrossing and the grittiness in the second half had me on my seat. Generally, I am not a proponent of long shoot style matches. I think this is easily the best long shoot style match I have seen, BUT it still had some of the negatives that come with this type of length: there are only so many toeholds, wristlocks that you can do and there is a lot of jockeying. They should be applauded for having a classic match at this length in a genre that does not benefit in going long, but I still think the length was to the detriment of the match. Hate to criticize but I have to because I am always thinking Greatest Match Ever. Still these are two men who honestly I dont care about. I have seen 3-5 matches from each. I dont love or hate them, I just have no emotional connection to either. It is a feather in their cap that they made me care. I was on the ride with them and I wanted to know who the hell was going to win. Incredible gutsy performance from both men. ****3/4

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My goodness, what a battle. The escalation of the strikes, the desperation of the submission holds, the absolutely struggle and narrow escapes, blood spilled and a concerned Akira Maeda. This match had it all. The matwork was very sharp, with both guys trying to take advantage of the other's mistakes, and the many reversals/counters were great and added to the drama in the final minutes. Loved TK's  beautiful takedown into the heel hold. I like that the early strikes were used as mere transitions into submission attempts, and then the latter strikes became purely about the KO and finishing this grueling match. They're both so sluggish by the end of this, and each back-and-forth submission seems like a plausible finish, and as the time limit expires, they're both still fighting for the submission to win it all. Great great stuff. 

 

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