Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pride FC in the 1990s

In the last three years of the 1990s, Pride Fighting Championships reinvented Mixed Martial Arts in Japan and abroad.  Big money, big names and big events turned Pride FC brought the seemingly dead genre back and helped it reach the success in sees today.

Why does this belong on a blog about pro-wrestling?

Pro-wrestling made Pride.  In these first eight events offered up by Pride you'll see some legendary fighters, some fighters who would become legendary and a large number of pro-wrestlers.  After the repeated attempts to build a shoot-style promotion, Pride FC became the solution.  It most certainly had fixed fights, rampant drug abuse and the no athletic commissions making sure everything was legit.  They offered the kind of colorful cards that UFC and other American companies could not and still do not.

Look through the cards and you will notice approximately 15 men who had been, would be or dabbled in pro-wrestling (from the WWF and New Japan to UWFi and RINGS).

**Explanation of my rating system - I devised a odd little system to evaluate fights.  I based my ratings on entertainment value, skill displayed, energy displayed and finish.  This tends to mean that slugfests and high-paced mat battles rate higher than lay n' pray snoozers and "squash matches".  I also tried to include how the majority of the fight looked in two parts.  Part 1 - standing, on the ground or a combination.  Part 2 - striking, hooking or a combination**

Pride 1
Date of Event: 10/11/97 1. Kazunari Murakami vs. John Dixon - **1/2 (Combo/Combo)
2. Gary Goodridge vs. Oleg Taktarov - **3/4 (Standing/Striking)
3. Renzo Gracie vs. Akira Shoji - **1/2 (Combo/Combo)
4. Koji Kitao vs. Nathan Jones - **1/2 (Combo/Combo)
5. Bronko Citakic vs. Ralph White - *3/4 (Standing/Striking)
6. Dan Severn vs. Kimo - *1/2 (Standing/Striking)
7. Rickson Gracie vs. Nobuhiko Takada - *** (Combo/Combo)

Pride 2
Date of Event: 3/15/98 1. Royler Gracie vs. Yuhi Sano - ** (Ground/Hooking)
2. Akira Shoji vs. Juan Mott - *** (Combo/Striking)
3. William Roosmallen vs. Ralph White (Kickboxing Match)
4. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Vernon White - **** (Ground/Hooking)
5. Renzo Gracie vs. Sanae Kikuta - *1/4 (Ground/Combo)
6. Tasis Petrides vs. George Randolph (Kickboxing Match)
7. Marco Ruas vs. Gary Goodridge - *** (Ground/Combo)
8. Mark Kerr vs. Bronko Cikatic - ** (Standing/Striking)

Pride 3
Date of Event: 6/24/98 1. Daijiro Matsui vs. Akira Shoji - ***1/2 (Combo/Striking)
2. Daiju Takase vs. Emmanuel Yarborough - **1/2 (Combo/Striking)
3. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Carlos Newton - ****1/2 (Ground/Hooking)
4. Gary Goodridge vs. Amir - ***1/4 (Ground/Combo)
5. Mark Kerr vs. Pedro Otavio - ** (Ground/Combo)
6. Nobuhiko Takada vs. Kyle Sturgeon - *** (Combo/Combo)

Pride 4
Date of Event: 10/11/98 1. Igor Vovchanchyn vs. Gary Goodridge - **3/4 (Combo/Striking)
2. Akira Shoji vs. Wallid Ismael - **3/4 (Combo/Striking)
3. Sanae Kikuta vs. Daijiro Matsui - ** (Ground/Striking)
4. Allan Goes vs. Kazushi Sakuraba - ***1/2 (Ground/Combo)
5. Satoshi Honma vs. Yuhi Sano - **1/2 (Standing/Striking)
6. Alexander Otsuka vs. Marco Ruas - **3/4 (Ground/Striking)
7. Mark Kerr vs. Hugo Duarte - *1/2 (Ground/Striking)
8. Rickson Gracie vs. Nobuhiko Takada - ***1/4 (Combo/Striking)

Pride 5
Date of Event: 4/29/99 1. Eagan Inoue vs. Minoru Toyonaga - **1/2 (Combo/Striking)
2. Francisco Bueno vs. Satoshi Honma - ** (Standing/Striking)
3. Igor Vovchanchyn vs. Akira Shoji - *** (Combo/Striking)
4. Enson Inoue vs. Soichi Nishida - **3/4 (Ground/Combo)
- Rickson-Royler exhibition
5. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Vitor Belfort - ***3/4 (Combo/Striking)
6. Nobuhiko Takada vs. Mark Coleman - ***1/4 (Ground/Combo)

Pride 6
Date of Event: 7/4/99 1. Carl Malenko vs. Eagan Inoue - **1/2 (Ground/Striking)
2. Carlos Newton vs. Daijiro Matsui - ****3/4 (Combo/Combo)
3. Igor Vovchanchyn vs. Carlos Baretto - ** (Combo/Striking)
4. Hiroki Kurosawa vs. Nobuoki Kokuta (Full Contact Karate)
5. Akira Shoji vs. Guy Mezger - *** (Combo/Striking)
6. Naoya Ogawa vs. Gary Goodridge - ***1/4 (Ground/Combo)
7. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Ebenezer Fontes Braga - ***3/4 (Combo/Striking)
8. Mark Kerr vs. Nobuhiko Takada - *** (Combo/Combo)

Pride 7
Date of Event: 9/12/99 1. Daijiro Matsui vs. Bob Schrjiber - **3/4 (Ground/Combo)
2. Vanderlei Silva vs. Carl Malenko - **3/4 (Ground/Striking)
3. Enson Inoue vs. Tuli Kulihappai - **1/2 (Ground/Hooking)
4. Maurice Smith vs. Bronko Cikatic - ** (Combo/Striking)
5. Akira Shoji vs. Larry Parker - ***1/4 (Combo/Striking)
6. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Anthony Macias - **** (Combo/Combo)
7. Mark Kerr vs. Igor Vovchanchyn - ** (Combo/Striking)

Pride 8
Date of Event: 11/21/99
1. Vanderlei Silva vs. Daijiro Matsui - ***1/2 (Combo/Striking)
2. Frank Trigg vs. Fabiano Iha - ***1/2 (Combo/Combo)
3. Allan Goes vs. Carl Malenko - **1/2 (Ground/Combo)
4. Mark Coleman vs. Ricardo Morias - ** (Ground/Striking)
5. Igor Vovchanchyn vs. Francisco Bueno - **3/4 (Standing/Striking)
6. Tom Erickson vs. Gary Goodridge - **1/2 (Ground/Striking)
7. Renzo Gracie vs. Alexander Otsuka - *** (Ground/Combo)
8. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Royler Gracie - ***1/4 (Combo/Striking)

Wrestling and Masculinity: Nurturing a Culture of Bullies in the United States

Author, Ghost Writer, Editor: Patrice Opplinger
Publisher: n/a
Released: 1/04

The Good
This is a really short book that offers some fair criticisms of parts of pro-wrestling that really should be looked at it such a manner. As a pacifist and feminist myself, I often wonder why I am so fascinated by a form of entertainment like pro-wrestling. I think anyone should. Most of what she knocks is the sleaze, which I think most fans reading this does not care for. Most of her stuff concerning this was dead on and it really makes you ashamed to support the WWE in anyway at points because it reminds you of all the pointless filth. The attacks on ultra-violence and backyard wrestling are not as thorough, but they don't need to be because they aren't as directly tied to WWE. Her conclusions are good and I liked the book overall, though it is far from the best case possible. Worth reading because it should raise some issues and I'd rather talk about this book with other fans than about any other.

The Bad
I think Opplinger really dropped the ball on some of her sources. I didn't see use of the Observer or Torch in this book and and to me those are the top-notch analytic sources right there. Instead she read and trusted slanted reports against pro-wrestling and observed a small slice herself. These limitations hurt her creditibility to an extent, but I don't think they bury the case she is trying to make. She really only watched WWF/WWE and some WCW for major companies and a little XPW and other indies. This obviously hurts her case against pro-wrestling overall, but "overall" really isn't her intent. A few of the things she used were pretty wacky: the Marianne-Chaz faked abuse angle was mentioned twice despite being very minor and thrown out and that was only one of many aborted angles with controversial edges to them.

The Rating: ***

Monday, May 3, 2010

Viva La Raza
Directors: Kevin Dunn
Distributor: WWE Home Video
Released: 11/08

Featured Talent
Batista, John Cena, Michael Cole, Edge, Ric Flair, Mick Foley, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Chavo Guerrero Sr., Vickie Guerrero, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Chris Jericho, Jerry Lawler, John Bradshaw Layfield, Jim Ross

The Good
The Cheating Death, Stealing Life documentary is a sound production by the WWE and one that compliments this DVD set nicely. This one is of the matches-with-commentary DVDs, but instead of the featured star talking, it is the opponents, family and friends of the star. While one could definitely make a case for numerous matches that are not on this one (many of significance are on the aforementioned DVD), this three-disc set includes a great variety. In a set like this, there needs to be a story of a star's career through a series of matches and this does that fairly well. Luckily, there is so much fascinating family footage that is able to spice things up in a way that WWE documentaries often lack. It seems that much attention was given to showing Eddie Guerrero's greatest strengths as a worker. Basically, he could do it all. This has everything but lucha libre from Mexico, but it has plenty of lucha-rific stuff with Rey Mysterio Jr., Psychosis, Juventud Guerrera and Ultimo Dragon. It throws in an awesome match with Shinjiro Otani to demonstrate Guerrero's ability to work the Japanese style and puts over that style in a way you may not expect to hear on a WWE DVD. The key is getting over Eddie's worldly experience and then tying that to his WCW run as a cruiserweight and ultimately his WWF/WWE run where he worked a wide variety of opponents doing matches with more backstory and gimmicks. While the pay-per-view matches are often the ones with the time to be of better quality, there are eleven TV matches featured on this that a great additions to a collection. 

The Bad
While this seemed like a distinct and strong DVD output, it was not without some flaws. So much of Eddie Guerrero's heritage is lucha libre and for there to only be a tidbits of a single lucha match (the 5-star Los Gringos Locos-Hijo Del Santo/Octogon match of legend) is a travesty. That aside, the matches used on this are acceptable choices, although some of his best are not on this particular DVD set. The lack of Chris Benoit in the story is sad, but not surprising. It is just so bizarre because of how dramatically Guerrero's death affected Chris Benoit and that close friendship is simply brushed under the rug. Members of Eddie's family have some good input, although Chavo Sr. seems to ramble and be almost nonsensical at times. Then there is Jerry Lawler talking about “uncle” Hector, who is actually Eddie's older brother. But that's a laughable error on par with all the audio snippets of Steve “Mongo” McMichael from the Nitro days.

The Rating: ****