My third Meltzer Classic is the most unusual yet, at least from my point of view. Kazuo Yamazaki and Nobuhiko Takada are the first wrestlers on the list that I haven’t even heard of. In fact, watching the copy of the match I have, I’m not even entirely certain whether I know which one is which. I don’t know if this is some massive oversight on my part or whether the two just aren’t appreciated on this side of the world.
What makes this match fascinating, is that it is the best example of wrestling playing at MMA that I have seen. It’s still wrestling, the two of them go for submissions that you could only do in a wrestling ring alongside suplexes and tombstones, but it is mixed up with takedowns, armbars, chokes and some of the stiffest strikes you will see. This feels like a shoot fight and is that hard hitting Japanese style we always hear about.
Which is perhaps unsurprising when you look into Takada’s background. He was a mixed martial artist (albeit one with a record of 2-6-2 although my research suggests that was less skill based and more due to conditioning) and was an executive for PRIDE.
So the question is, is a wrestling match that is more MMA than wrestling still entertaining? Well yes, but I can see why some people would disagree. The last year or so has seen me embrace MMA, meaning I now enjoy that style of combat and when it is mixed with the little touches that make wrestling so great it is perfect for me. No UFC match is going to have someone go from a Camel Clutch to an armbar only for their opponent to transition into an armbar followed by kicks and a tombstone, but I wish they did.
In saying all that, I can see why some would be turned off by this style. It starts very slowly and in a roughly twelve-minute match it’s not until around eight minutes in that things kick off. When they do, they do so in style, though, and there’s a lovely running tombstone (an interesting feature of these Japanese matches is how common the tombstone is) among some picture perfect suplexes.
The problem is that in 2016 if we want to watch MMA we can watch MMA, we don’t need it incorporated into our wrestling. You only have to look at the current indie style to see how far Western wrestling has gone from this. However, that doesn’t change the fact this is one hard hitting match with some genuinely violent offence and even if I’m still not entirely sure who was who, I’ve got to respect the hell out of that.