Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Saturday, December 10, 2016

All Time MOTY List HEAD to HEAD: Santo/Casas v. Bestia/Scorpio Jr. VS. Tamura v. Yamamoto

Kiyoshi Tamura v. Yoshihisa Yamamoto RINGS 6/24/99

ER: Boy do I feel like I'm on a lonely island. I appear to be the low vote on a match that many people seem to think is the easy MOTY choice for 1999. Reading others' thoughts on the match and it appears there are several moments where I'm just seeing totally different things than them. It's my least favorite spot to be on a wrestling match. I don't need to fall into the consensus on something, and I always get tickled when I come out the high vote on something. I think our entertainment "high votes" in life paint an interesting picture about us. What movies, albums, wrestling, food, etc. you love more than anybody you know can tell you a lot about yourself. It won't necessarily be anything profound, but our differences are an important part of our makeup. But I don't love being the low vote. It always makes me think that I'm locked outside, missing out on all the fun. And I did enjoy this match, I just seem to think it's more flawed than others. The grappling is intense and some of the escapes are unreal. You think Tamura is trapped in a rear naked or Yamamoto is hooked in a knee bar and they find some wild way to spin out of it. And it's done so tight that it would be very very easy to think all of the ground stuff was a shoot. There weren't those little moments where you can see someone leaving an arm hanging slightly longer, or helping someone maneuver to a rope break. So in that regard the matwork was a colossal success. These two looked like two guys genuinely trying to tap each other, and I loved that. The RINGS system has some built in excitement, especially when guys start building up points. You suddenly find yourself with 3 of your 5 points filled up and things can get desperate, intense. And they do. Tamura takes a knockdown and the intensity ramped up big time, and it was suddenly like he was unloading every single strike he knew on Yamamoto. Yamamoto gets knocked down and his hubris brings him back up quick and once things got to 4 and 4 we got this great vibe of two guys playing it safe while simultaneously going for the kill; knowing things are close, but not wanting to do something stupid. All in all a pretty fiercely contested bout with some of the finest matwork you've seen.

The things that left me flat about the match could possibly be because of my lack of familiarity with each man's personal history with each other. Maybe I missed tiny moments that played off behind the scenes drama or prior match drama. But things fell flat nonetheless. Tamura slapping Yamamoto before the bell came off so weird, so phony, so silly. It was like Dynamite Kid grabbing a bottle against Tiger Mask, or Big Al pulling out a knife. It's not close to as blatantly stupid as either of those, but it felt just as out of place. He slapped him before the bell and one moment later it was completely forgotten; Tamura just casually goes for a double leg and there's no more unprofessionalism. That silly slap undermined the dead serious and awesome matwork they moments later put on display. It was such a non-committed slap, made no sense.

And the same could be said about Yamamoto's weird pattycake punches throughout the first half, just tapping at Tamura's tummy and legs. I've seen it suggested that he was doing this to annoy Tamura, but you know what's really annoying? Hitting a guy hard! It could be my misunderstanding of RINGS rules, but I thought closed strikes were allowed to the body but only open strikes are allowed to the face (but somehow full flush standing kicks are allowed to the face so it seems like RINGS just has weirdly restricting rules). So Yamamoto pats away and Tamura gets annoyed and Yamamoto gets more annoyed and starts hitting harder and eventually gets a yellow card. So are punches to the tummy legal as long as you aren't punching as hard as you're capable of? Did he get a yellow card for doing the same thing he had been doing but now doing it while making aggressive angry faces? The whole thing came off dumb.

The home stretch is intense - especially when both men are one mark away from a loss - but even that end strike stretch felt like it could have and should have come way sooner. They avoid standing strikes for the bulk of this - except for that Tamura slap which made no sense - and then just throw nothing but strikes in the final two minutes. Were they just both at their breaking points? Are they both cocky and prefer to finish off their opponents with groundwork and this was them showing that they were throwing the playbook out the window? Possibly. But I would have liked to see more strikes tempered out throughout the match, even just testing shots, feeling out shots. And while the ending stretch was hot and ends with some great knee bar reversals where you can't really tell who is in control and who is about to tap (THAT is an excellent touch by both man and maybe the best moment of the match), the whole thing ends in a time limit draw, which is phenomenally unsatisfying. A match not having a finish will almost always come off lesser to me, and the draw finish coming after everything we saw just felt cruel. The guys put in the work to deserve an actual winner, and I was dying for a winner. Maybe the draw made each man stronger, maybe it built to a bigger fight, but I want a winner. So the match was good. Some of it was excellent. But as an overall presentation I was left lower than most. Please revoke my internet wrestling fan club card.

PAS: I am in the middle here, I like this more then Eric, some of his issues with this don't bother me at all, but I don't think this match is the apex of shootstyle, or among the best matches ever.

I had no problem with the match escalating to the strike fest, I totally buy the match structure of two guys battling over mat supremacy, until they lose their tempers and start throwing hands. The final stand up run was awesome, felt like the wildest MMA fights and I liked that the match built to that point. Tamura is great at milking a nine

I also don't really have a problem with the little dickish punches, I have seen a ton of great Fujiwara matches where he taunts a guy by slapping him around or lightly kicking him, I was fine with it as a bit of character work, otherwise Yammamoto is pretty dry in this match so it was nice to see him show some flash.

However I am totally with Eric on the draw, really deflating finish, it just kind of ended, I wouldn't mind a draw if it came as one guy was struggling to get up after a 9 count, or desperate to escape a submission hold, but this came in the middle of an otherwise unremarkable scramble. It had no climax, it just stopped.

The skill level on the matwork here was really impressive, they countered with real speed and explosiveness and there was a bunch of cool dramatic moments, with guys failing to counter and needing to get to the ropes. Still I prefer guile to athleticism in my matwork. My favorite mat wrestlers are old maestros like Fujiwara, Han and Navarro, guys who know all the tricks, they may not have the strength and speed, but they can catch you sleeping. This was very focused on armbars, kneebars and chokes, I would have liked to see a little more wizardry. Even something like the Zach Sabre Jr. v. Drew Gulak match I saw live had guys applying odd counters and cool unique submissions, this was basic stuff done at the highest level, but for best shootstyle match ever I want some pizzaz.

Lucha Apuestas Review


PAS: I totally enjoyed this, hadn't seen it in years (if at all) and was into it from start to finish, still compared to the great Fujiwara shoot matches, or high end BattlArts this fell short. To beat something incredible like the lucha apuestas tag, this would have had to hit that level.

ER: I enjoyed this match. Not as much as some, and not as much as the lucha tag, but I enjoyed it, and I think it was certainly a worthy nomination and challenger. But the lucha tag wins it for me.

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Anonymous Mike (WKO) said...

Hey Eric, I'm pretty sure Yamamoto received a yellow card because he was throwing punches while standing up.

8:59 PM  
Blogger EricR said...

You're probably right Mike and that certainly makes more sense. He was kneeling and as his strikes got more intense he did go to his feet and start throwing downward. Stupid thing for me to miss but in the moment I was confused.

5:52 PM  

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