Nifty enough version of what I guess is a RINGS young lion bout. Yamamoto was never one to shy away from smashing someone in the face with the palm of his hand and this probably had more palm striking than any other fight so far in RINGS' short history. The stand up capped out at decent, but it was engaging enough and they had one or two neat moments on the mat as well. Yamamoto is a favourite of mine and he goes on to have some absolute corkers of fights, so it was cool to see him as a pimple-faced rookie in his first outing.
Volk Han v Grom Zaza (5/16/92)
You had a feeling this might be good and I'm happy to tell you that you weren't wrong. This was almost sambo v freestyle wrestling and straight away it made for an awesome little bout. As in, literally as soon as the fight starts Zaza is hoisting Han up on his shoulders in a fireman's carry and the crowd are going bonkers. A couple of Han's takedowns were pretty as all get out, with the step over armbar perhaps being the prettiest of all, and there were points where he would maneuver himself into a dangerous position by simply dropping a knee (right into a standing triangle choke) or shifting his hips (as a standing switch of sorts). This also had a couple themes from previous Han bouts emerging again, including that susceptibility to being gut shot as Zaza drops him with a front kick to the solar plexus. Han then responds with the awesome spinning back fist and I think that might be my favourite strike in all of the RINGS so far. Han again shows that you might be able to get the dupe on him once, but if you try it again he'll make you pay. This came about when Zaza initially grabbed a kneebar by reaching through his own legs as Han positioned himself for a German suplex, but then when he tried it again later Han immediately yanked Zaza's arms to flip him over and open him up for a cross armbreaker. Some of Zaza's striking was whatever and Han appeared to have a tendency early in his career to give up his back a little too easily, but otherwise this was pretty damn choice.
Adam Watt v Peter Aerts (5/16/92)
This was a straight kickboxing contest (presumably a shoot) and it looked okay, but I did some stuff for work while it was on and never paid it the fullest attention.
Dick Vrij v Mitsuya Nagai (5/16/92)
If you ever wondered about the point at which Nagai decided he was going to be a vicious crowbar bastard then this might be that point. He got fucking annihilated here and yet he would not stop coming back for more. This was like six minutes long and it was mean and hasty and fulla hate and featured a full on sixty yarder to the willy. It ruled. Vrij was just destroying him with kicks to the head, the body, the legs, everywhere. At one point he reeled off an ungodly combo ending with a low kick that looked like it about Theismann'd the fuck out of Nagai's leg. Post-fight Nagai tells us he has learned a valuable lesson today and at some point in the future he will pass that teaching onto someone else in equally hideous fashion. We assume.
Willie Williams v Bitsadze Ameran (5/16/92)
Well this was...something. I don't know if it was one of those so-bad-it's-good deals or just bad or maybe kinda somewhat good in a weird spectacle sense but it was indeed...something. It's basically two and a bit rounds of very tall guys doing clumsy, sometimes awkward karate, lots of sloppy body shots and one or two submission attempts that might've materialised purely by happenstance. Ameran tried a bunch of wild looking wheel kicks and rolling kicks and when he accidentally pulled off Williams' do-rag the crowd reacted like Williams was really going to let him have it now. Parts of it were like something from a drunken pub fight in Bristol that you maybe saw on the YouTubes. This is the longest a Williams fight has gone yet (by a fair margin), and you maybe question the wisdom in that as he's not very good, but you appreciate the effort because how could you not but ultimately decide never to watch this ever again.
Masaaki Satake v Bert Kops Jr (5/16/92)
This was very much a Masaaki Satake fight, which meant he threw nice kicks and his opponent gave him some trouble on the mat before succumbing to the inevitable (said kicks) after several minutes of meandering-to-average shoot style. I wonder if they're actually building Satake up for something, as opposed to doing the same fight on every show for the sake of it. Kops looked alright in the first round, but you knew beforehand that he was the Barry Horowitz to Satake's 1995 Shawn Michaels, or the Pat Rose to 1984 Magnum TA, or the so on and so forth.
Akira Maeda v Hank Numan (5/16/92)
Easily the weakest of the RINGS main events so far, as well as the weakest Maeda fight. This was five minutes of not a lot, even if Numan looked like he might've been sort of okay. It was hard to tell given the brevity. I dug how pro-wrestling his sell job for Maeda's leg kicks was, at least.
Yeah, this was one of the good ones. Thought Hash was sensational in it, having no time for Fujinami's headlocks and just taking penalty kicks to his leg. The way he'd easily shut down Fujinami's early comeback attempts to showing how much harder he needed to work as it went on was great, and I loved the part where he started kneeing the hamstrings. Then he'd high kick him in the face because he is who he is. The struggle over the dragon screw (and how Hash would grab the ropes as soon as Fujinami went for it), the weird leg yank thing and the dragon screw finally being hit properly were all built up really well. I was a little disappointed initially that they didn't do more with the legwork, but as a means of taking Hash's kicks out of play it worked fine. Everything around the sleeper variations was great; the struggle, Hash's desperation in escaping, Fujinami's doggedness in going back to it. Finish playing off the previous escape was cool as well, and I don't know if anybody makes being in a sleeper hold as compelling as Hashimoto. Badass match.
We got The Highlanders squashing Deuce and Domino up here once. It lasted about a minute and a half and afterwards HHH came out and called Randy Orton a sheep shagger (it was DX v Rated RKO in the main event, he didn't just decide to come to the ring and shit talk Orton. Though I wouldn't have been surprised if he had).
Good Christ what a match. This was as lucha as you could possibly get in a match that's all about two young pretenders coming to scalp the heroes of yesteryear, given that the young pretenders are in their forties. In Mexico, you don't even hit your prime until you're 53. I loved how this started, with Santo and Villano taking the fight to the rudos and hitting stereo topes. You're thinking it's leading to a quick first caida win for the tecnicos, but they flip it and the rudos go on a lengthy run of beating the crap out of the maestros. Villano IV was so awesome in this, taking crazy unprotected chair shots, flat back bumping from the ring to the floor inside five minutes, engaging in some of the best punch exchanges I've seen in ages. Him and Solitario were just lacing into each other with jabs and hooks, then they'd throw in spin kicks to the guts for good measure. At points Villano and Santo looked utterly helpless, staggering around with their masks torn up, bloody and battered while their opponents had their way with them. There was one bit where Santo came to Villano's aid with this piddly roll up on Solitario and it was a pretty good summation of the match to that point. Angel Blanco Jr never even bothered to try and break it up, even though he was standing right there. What would've been the point? Why waste energy on the inevitable when you could kick Villano IV in the head some more? Non-lucha fans will often complain about transitions in lucha or how certain things are overly predictable. The big tecnico comeback in matches like this are usually telegraphed to an extent, but that moment the tide turned was perfect and I knew it would be as soon as they set it up. Sometimes it pays to give the people what they want and I don't think any wrestler understands that better than El Hijo del Santo. And obviously the tecnico revenge was phenomenal. Good grief were some of those payback chair shots nasty. There was a lull of sorts after a commercial break where they had a few minutes of "I'll apply this submission until someone comes in to break it up, then he'll apply a submission until the next guy breaks it up," but they kept punching each other in the face and soon enough went back to the mask-ripping and biting and such. Then they ran the set up to the finish, and that might've been the best part of the whole match. If you've seen five El Hijo del Santo matches then you've likely seen five senton into corner tope spots. It's a Santo signature and nobody works their signature spots into matches better than Santo. This time, though, the rudos have it scouted. Villano holds Angel in place for the senton, but Angel moves as Santo takes flight and Villano eats the senton instead. Santo keeps going as Solitario is standing outside just begging to be tope'd, but Solitario knows THAT'S coming and flings up a chair as Santo comes flying through the ropes. The post-match brawling might've been even grizzlier than the in-match brawling as they started headbutting each other and throwing uncooperative jab combos. By the time he walked away Angel Blanco Jr's white mask had been stained almost full red.
I'll agree with the general sentiment that Doc looked waaaay better here than he did in the previous couple years. He was super fun in this and brought a ton of energy, which went a ways to making up for the lack of prime Doc explosiveness as mentioned. The general manhandling of Ogawa but in particular the jabs to shut him down, the way he teased the backdrop, how fired up he was even on the apron, etc. Scorpio's offence is so unlike what we're used to in All Japan that you can't help but get a kick out of it. I didn't think Misawa was phoning it in, but for the most part he seemed content to hit his notes and move along. Still, Misawa hitting his notes and moving along can be pretty enjoyable. Definitely looking forward to seeing more motivated Doc.