But as I was saying, DID ANYBODY SEE BOB SAPP VS. AKEBONO? It was classic! A little painful for Akebono fans, but no real surprises.
Backing up, last night (New Year's Eve) there was a massive K1 production at Nagoya Dome. Competing for the pre-countdown spot was Antonio Inoki's New Year's special, and a PRIDE competition featuring Royce Gracie. (男祭？) Antonio Inoki is the Brazilian-Japanese who founded the Japanese pro-wrestling movement, before being elected to the Diet (Japanese congress). I think he was known for being a really great diplomat; he met with Hussein and Castro.
Here is a picture of Antonio Inoki.
Royce Gracie (pron. "Hoyce") is one of the seven sons of Helio Gracie, founder of the Gracie Jiu-jitsu Academy from Brazil. Later, the Gracies started the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which evolved into PRIDE in Japan. From what we could gather from the Japanese commentary, his challenger last night was some Judo punk named Hidehiko Yoshida (I guess he has a gold medal or something) who had INSULTED HELIO GRACIE TO ROYCE'S FACE, prompting Royce to say he would never return to Japan. Time passed, and then this Yoshido idiot challenged Royce to a rematch, though none of the Gracies has ever lost.
Here is a picture of Royce Gracie.
A shot bar in Shinjuku was playing Inoki's special, so we watched that for a few minutes before it was agreed to be おもしろくない。("Just not interesting.") Switched over to PRIDE in time to see the buildup to Gracie vs. Yoshida. The production was extravagant, Gracie was really ticked off, and everyone was chewing their nails. Then the bell was rung, and Gracie kicked Yoshida in the nuts. Yoshida collapsed against the ropes crying for a minute or two, and then the fight got underway. And it actually was a REALLY good fight. Predictably, Gracie was declared the winner after two rounds.
Here are some pictures I took of the TV screen.
Royce is the one who appears to be winning.
More great pictures of the fight are at http://www.roycegracie.tv/news/royce_fight_pictures.htm. Including Yoshida getting it the きんたま！
Change of venue! We jogged over to The Hub (British pub) and watched a view K1 matches leading up Akebono vs. Bob Sapp. Are you familiar with Akebono? He was the first foreigner to become a sumo grand champion Yokozuna. 6'8" and 500 pounds. One of the greatest rikishi there has ever been, but he retired ten years ago. I'm not sure how long he trained for K1.
Here is a picture of Akebono.
Here is The Hub.
And here are some more TV shots.
Stevie Wonder played "America the Beautiful" on harmonica. It was... beautiful!
Bob Sapp's entrance.
There! Did you see it? They were fighting!
Oh, not anymore. That was fast.
Sapp to Tyson: "You're next!"
It would break your heart if you could see Akebono's wife and kids watching. They CLEARLY did not approve. It started with Sapp and Akebono tapping each other in a friendly sort of way. Akebono kept pushing Sapp to the ropes (well, naturally). Then Sapp tapped a little harder, and Akebono reeled and fell backwards. Another hit and he fell down again, one more and he was on his face. KO. Ooh, and Sapp was surprised, maybe a little apologetic. (Note look of disbelief in the picture above.) Three seconds later the fighters were smiling beside each other in a hug, satisfied with the outcome. Mike Tyson was a commentator, and the rumors are true - Tyson and Sapp will fight in Spring.
Aside: Takanohana was also a commentator, looking very sweet and extremely slim.
So I wanted to write that while it was still fresh in my mind. I'll bring you the rest of Tokyo in the days that follow.
Happy New Year!
P.S. I can't remember who made the comment a while back that barely a mention was made of Musashimaru's retirement, when he was such a great and relatively important rikishi. Could Takanohana's own retirement the season before be the only reason Musashimaru exited so quietly?
UPDATE: Don downloaded Royce Gracie's post-fight interview, and Royce was saying, "I wish my brother Rickson (pron. "Hickson"> could be here tonight." Where was Rickson? I learned from http://www.k1.co.jp that Rickson was there, announcing he will join K1 under their brand new mixed martial arts rules. Rickson's record? He's won 400 mma fights, and lost ZERO.
Yesterday we watched PRIDE's "Bushido" event from December 21, 2003. Gracie vs. Japan. Five Gracies against five of Japan's best. Great fights! (Gracie won, 3-2.) Royce Gracie was backing his family's team, and Hidehiko Yoshida was backing Japan, but they didn't announce their own rematch until later.
And speaking of rematches... I heard Akebono wants a rematch against Sapp?? Does he want to get divorced? Or killed?