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[1998-09-21-RINGS] Kiyoshi Tamura vs Yoshihisa Yammamoto

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Another incredible RINGS match, second only to Tamura-Kohsaka for the year for me. This is a distillation of everything great about RINGS, as they go from a mat game to strikes to footwork. The last few minutes are quite dramatic, like the best of boxing drama and pro wrestling drama combined. There were some amazing false finishes at the end of this, especially when Yammamoto scrambled to get to his feet at the 9-count TWICE. This leads to a desperate flurry of palm strikes that take Tamura off of his feet and also make this anybody's game. Tamura wins the match, but it was a hard fought one. Yammamoto has quietly had a great year in the shadow of Tamura and Kohsaka, with both this and the Maeda match being very impressive. This is as good as just about anything all year.

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Fantastic match up there with the best RINGS ones. Yammamota is pretty underrated as he has built up quite a bit of excellent matches the past two years. Speaking of, Tamura and Kobashi seem to be in a neck and neck race for WOTY at this point. This featured some great matwork that just moves and transitions flawlessly. However, from that outstanding technical spot, we advance to a more dramatic tone featuring strikes that was complete engaging. I loved the palm strike Yammamota gave and he really milked his standing 9 counts for all they were worth. In fact, they blew their saves a lot more in this match than others which is a nice change from the "saving" strategy utilized in Kohsaka vs. Tamura. I love RINGS so much. (****1/2)

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Hard fought over 20m with consistent quality action. I never felt like this was at the level of 6/27 as Yamamoto is a lower tier worker than Kohsaka. Had some nice (or not) slap exchanges in addition to plenty of ground combat. Not one of the more innovative or spectacular matches I've seen featuring Tamura, but it was quality wrestling. He fell behind on points early and was on his final down before grabbing the duke. That generally feels like an artificial way to create drama. Then again, it is pro wrestling we're talking about here.

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Really good match but I wasn't grabbed as much by the mat portions as I have been in other RINGS matches and Tamura matches, so I don't know if I see this on a Year-end list. The standup portions, particularly after the knockdowns, were amazing, and this would be a cinch MOTYC if the matwork were as compelling.

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Terrific match. RINGS at it's finest. Always get a kick out of Yamamoto trying to beat that clown Tamura, in this case by going after him palms swinging. Opening mat exchanges were very good and the 2nd half had some of the most exciting standup exchanges and counters you'll ever see. I guess some of the mat stuff near the end wasn't as exciting as it could have been.

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Kiyoshi Tamura vs Yoshihisa Yamamoto - RINGS 9/21/98

In my opinion, the two most fluid pro wrestlers in history going on the match was just a joy to watch. Honestly not much progressed in the first ten minutes, but the lightning-quickness and the wizardy make up for the lack of plot development. In a way it was like watching a shoot-style spotfest. They were more Wowing you than advancing something. That all changed around the ten minute mark when Yamamoto came out swinging and knocked Tamura down. Yamamoto does his favorite celebration with the big windup after the knockdown. That lit a fire under Tamura's ass, but he was too overzealous and Yamamoto came catching him in deep toeholds and forcing rope breaks. Tamura sells these really well and you feel that they could be legitimate finishes. This is following the typical RINGS formula of the winner of the match falling behind in a hole. Yamamoto is up 5-0 and is pouring it on but finally Tamura catches Yamamoto with a kneelift and he does the double bicep flex. Ok, so I am changing my narrative on RINGS, it can be an excellent standup promotion. Tamura comes out with a kneebar forcing the rope break. It is now 5-3. Yamamoto seems unsure of himself on this stand up and Tamura is very pugnacious and offensive-minded. He takes Yamamoto down, but cant get the cross armbreaker or the triangle. Yamamoto counters into a kneebar and there is some laying there. I did think there was more laying there than typical and some holds felt given up on. Like Yamamoto gave up on his hold and Tamura took his turn. Yamamoto gets a choke and Tamura gets a toe on the ropes. On the next stand up, Tamura is RELENTLESS and a jumping high knee scores a knockdown. It is 6-5 Yamamoto is up by one. Yamamoto throws a bunch of hand strikes and one that catches Tamura in the breadbasket knocks him down. If Tamura is knocked down again then the match is over. Again another tedious mat exchange and honestly I am gobsmacked. I was expecting unparalleled mat wizardy the likes of the Yamamoto/Koshaka '97 classic, but left wanting a lot more. There was a lot of lying on one another. Back to stand up and it is rocking! Tamura Blitz! Yamamoto comeback! Tamura's kneebar totally got me as I thought for sure that was the finish but just a rope break. Tamura fucking KOs Yamamoto with a crack to the head and then applies the guillotine choke, but it is academic he was already knocked out. 

Typical RINGS formula, winner falls behind and then digs himself out. Totally unexpected match, I thought I was going to see the best mat-based match ever, but this was really great stand up and highly dramatic. I thought the front half matwork was very showy, but lacked substance and then second half was actually a chore, but the stand up and overall story more than made up for it. Great finish too! ****1/4

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