Fixed a link, Inoki BOM-BA-YE, and other stuff...

The link for Jeremy Norris' blog should work now. Again, I urge you to check it out.

Now, with that said, I think someone really has to stop Antonio Inoki before he damages another promising New Japan wrestler's career.

For those that aren't into Japanese wrestling ("puroresu", pronounced as "pro-wres"), there's been a disturbing trend in the last few years -- spearheaded by puroresu legend (and almost as shitty a worker as Hulk Hogan) Inoki, to get professional wrestlers entered into mixed-martial arts competitions. Now, most puroresu grapplers are well-versed in skills that are useful in MMA fights...the vast majority of them being proficient in amateur wrestling ("amaresu"), judo, some in jiu-jitsu, that sorta thing. But, pro wrestlers are at an immense disadvantage in MMA fights...for several reasons. First off, MMA fighters tend to train only in MMA, and that's their profession. All year, all they do is train in MMA, and fight in MMA. Pro wrestlers, while in a better schedule than their American counterparts (they go on 20-day or so tours, and then are off for a few weeks), still spend almost all of their time performing on pro wrestling shows. Sure, a pro wrestler who enters a MMA fight will usually take a tour off or so to train, but what good is a few weeks against a guy who will have been training nonstop for said fight for months? Not only that, but MMA has evolved into a sport where a fighter with only one skill is going to get weeded out in short order. You can be the world's best amateur wrestler, but if you can't use strikes or defend against them, you're toast. Likewise, even the most devastating boxer or kickboxer would lose an MMA fight, simply because they would be lost in the woods the millisecond a proficient wrestler went in for a takedown on them. Pro wrestlers are usually great at using devastating strikes within the framework of a pro wrestling match...which does absolutely no good when you DON'T want to pull your punches/kicks/kneestrikes/whatever. A pro wrestler's strikes LOOK devastating, while a MMA fighter's strikes ARE devastating. That is an extremely important distinction inside a MMA ring.

Tomorrow (actually, starting at 4 AM EST), 7 New Japan wrestlers are participating in MMA fights. On Inoki's "BOM-BA-YE" show, Tadao Yasuda, Josh Barnett, Kazunari Murakami, Yuji Nagata, and Kazayuki Fujita are all fighting. Meanwhile, on the K-1 show "Dynamite!" that's running against it (how weird is it that NJPW wrestlers are fighting on a show that's against the one that an NJPW legend is promoting?), Masayuki Naruse and new IWGP World Heavyweight champion Shunsuke Nakamura are appearing. Here's a quick look at what this could mean for these guys:

Tadao Yasuda - Well, if anything, this man emobodies the "reward" half of the risk/reward potential of wrestlers fighting in MMA. He beat someone or another (I don't follow MMA as much as I'd like to, so I don't recall who), and translated that into The Most Undeserved IWGP Heavyweight Title Reign Ever. You see, if you're a wrestler, and you actually WIN, then you're immediately vaulted into "Conquering Hero" status. However, Yasuda has been found out for the limited (read as: fat useless sack of shit) worker that he is, and thus, he can only gain from this. If he can beat Rene Rooze, then he can get his struggling career back on track (just at the loss of match quality at the top of the card, that is). If not, then he's still the mid-card useless sack of crap that he is right now.

Actually, let me correct myself. The reward can come even in defeat...Japanese wrestling is built upon the concept of "fighting spirit". The best way to explain that for a non-fan would be a quote from the Dynamite Kid's book: "Always take a step forward...never, EVER take a step back." In Japan, being brave and spirited in defeat can do more for a guy than even victory. Yoshihiro Takayama was just another quasi-shootstyle midcard guy until his legendary MMA fight with Don Frye. Takayama lost, and when it was over, he looked like a cruise liner ran over him. But, for him to trade punches for about 2 minutes straight (I wish everyone could see that...no attempt at defense was made by either man...it was just several minutes of both guys eating right hand after right hand) with a fantastic striker like Frye vaulted him into the upper echelons of the Japanese puro scene. He's now a freelancer, at the top of the card and a former champion in not one but two promotions (and, these days, the two biggest ones). With that in mind...

Josh Barnett: Well, this is the anamoly. Barnett came into pro wrestling from a MMA background (he's actually defending the King of Pancrase title in this fight), and the Strongest Foreigner can only be hurt if he gets his ass kicked in humilating fashion. Since that's highly unlikely, he'll be all right.

Kazunari Murakami: The "Terrorist of Heisei" is an interesting case study. He apparently is the type that has a chance in an MMA fight, but he also has little to lose pro wrestling-wise -- for a different reason, of course. The Makai Club member is in the midcard, and solidly so at that. He's trotted out in 5 or 6-minute American-style matches, and he hasn't been a threat to any major title in recent memory. Again, this can only help him if he can overcome Stefan Leko. Also, reading through his background on SSS, he apparently won a fight on PRIDE's first-ever card, so I suppose he has that going for him, too.

Kazuyuki Fujita: He's another guy who came from an MMA background (actually, SSS says he nearly made the 1996 Olympics as a wrestler), and it actually led to The Second Most Undeserved IWGP Heavyweight Title Reign Ever. He's an upper-midcard guy, so he has a *little* to lose. However, for the most part, he has everything to gain...he hasn't been in the title picture for quite some time.

Masayuki Naruse: He also has almost nothing to lose. He's a junior heavyweight, and hasn't been doing much lately. But, if he can knock off boxer Imamu Mayfield (and, if he hasn't been trained in takedowns, Naruse probably even SHOULD beat him), then you can bet he'll beat Yasuda at the Tokyo Dome on 1/4 (especially if Yasuda loses his fight earlier in the evening), and then either he'll go on to be Heat's V1 defense of the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title, or he may even catapult himself into the heavyweight division. Naruse has everything to gain if he can win.

Yuji Nagata: Now, this is interesting. Poor Yuji emobodies the "risk" half of this particular coin. In 2001, he had a highly-publicized MMA fight in PRIDE against Mirko "Cro Cop" Filopovic. At the time, Nagata was a rising star, widely-thought to benext in line to serve as the company's "ace" (usually the IWGP Heavyweight champion, as Masahiro Chono has managed to rise to something even above "ace"). Then, he got into the MMA ring against Cro Cop, and promptly lost in 20-something seconds to a roundhouse kick to the head. Nagata plummeted down the card, and almost had his career ended. Luckily, his heart, determination, and TRUE fighting spirit saw him claw his way back up the NJPW ladder, and he had a 1 1/2 year-long Heavyweight title reign that set a record for successful defenses (V10, I believe), and only ended in April of this year (it took Takayama's second attempt to do it). Now, he's fighting Fedor Emelianenko, a man who actually beat Cro Cop recently (in somewhat convincing fashion to boot). On one hand, as he's perhaps my favorite pro wrestler from ANY promotion, I want to hope that Yuji can somehow take down Feodor, David vs. Goliath style. However, he's talking in the Japanese press about how he's going to use one of his pro wrestling finishers -- the Nagata Lock II (known on these shores as the Crippler Crossface) -- to defeat him. Right. Already at a major disadvantage, he's going to sink one of MMA's rising stars with the fucking Crippler Crossface. Uh-huh. This has "disaster" written all over it, but Yuji can save face if he can at least survive the first round.

Shunsuke Nakamura: However, THIS is the most interesting case of all. Nakamura just recently became the youngest IWGP Geavyweight champ in history, at just 23 years of age (only 1 year, 2 months into his pro career). Keep in mind that in NJPW, it usually goes down like this: When you debut, you start in "Young Lion" matches, where both guys have to wear regulation black trunks and boots, and are only allowed to use the most basic of moves (they all go about 4-5 minutes, and always end with a Boston Crab). That goes for about 4 months, then you start to last 6-7 minutes. Then, after another 2 or 3 months, you finally win your first match. Then, after the year mark or so, you get shipped off to Mexico or the USA or Germany for a "learning excursion". Upon your return, you get to dress in colors and use the moves you've learned, but you're dumped right into the bottom of the lower-midcard. However, Nakamura (then known as "Super Rookie") rocketed past those parts, and was beating big names while his dojo classmates were still getting housed in Young Lion matches. Now, he comes into his fight with Alexey Ignashov (who's supposed to be insanely tough) as the IWGP Champion, with the most promising career of anyone who has come down the pipe since Nagata (but even more so, as Nagata didn't even come back from WCW until he was like 30 or so). Now, the thing is that Nakamura has fought in MMA matches recently, and has won them...decisively, at that. So, you can't be too quick to bet against him. However, he too is talking about using his pro wrestling finish (the Shining Triangle) to sink the Belarussian. Now, the Shining Triangle is a flashy version of the triangle choke, a legitimate, dangerous MMA finisher (stems from jiu-jitsu, I believe). If he wants to go for the triangle, that's fine, but if he tries that flashy bullshit, I think Ignashov is going to kill him. And, he has to realize that he has NJPW's entire legitimacy in his hands...if he loses in similar fashion to how Nagata did back in 2001, it's not going to be just him that's the joke...it'll be the whole company that loses face. Not only that, if he loses, they're going to take that title off of him before you can say "There goes THAT career". If he even can recover (don't count it out...Nagata did, albeit not having lost when he was the champion), it could take years to get him back to where he could challenge for the belt again. And, he won't have that extra little mystique that he has now, where he could be the next Chono or maybe even Inoki if he plays his cards right. He has everything to lose, and only the status quo to gain.

So, there you have it. Back to Diablo II for me.


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