Cross-posted from Head Kick Legend
In just over twelve hours, fans across the world are in store for the premier Martial Arts New Year's Eve festival for the seventh year running. This year is different, however, as American fans will for the first time be able to (ahem, legally) watch K-1 Dynamite!! live on HDNet. It is always a long ride, but is by far one of the greatest sporting spectacles of the year, hands down the tops in combat sports. It might not bring the stern, serious, "take us seriously, we are a legit sport!" atmosphere of say the blockbuster UFC 100, but what it brings is much, much more. It is time to look at the rich history of K-1 Dynamite from its inception as well as each year's top moments.
PRIDE Shockwave/K-1 Dynamite
The first K-1 Dynamite show actually wasn't on New Year's Eve at all, it was August 28, 2002 and a co-promotion between DSE's PRIDE Fighting Championships. To understand how important this event was, you need to understand the magnitude of this event, as the two largest martial arts promotions in Japan joined forces in a co-promotional card unlike the world had ever seen drawing a massive 91,108 fans to the Tokyo National Stadium. The bouts were star-studded, including a Jiu-Jitsu grappling bout between Hidehiko Yoshida and Royce Gracie, a kickboxing bout between two of the best, Ernesto Hoost and Semmy Schilt, K-1 and PRIDE star Mirko Cro Cop against Japanese superstar Kazushi Sakuraba and the bout that stole the show; Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Bob Sapp. Bob Sapp's amazing powerbomb and Nog's awesome comeback showed heart and skill can overcome brute strength and the fight became a defining moment in Japanese MMA history.
K-1 PREMIUM 2003 Dynamite!!
K-1 PREMIUM 2003 Dynamite!! was the first event K-1 held on New Year's Eve (December 31, 2003) in front of 44,000 fans in the Nagoya Dome. The number wasn't as high as the co-promotion, but nobody expected it, as the arena they booked was a bit more modest than the massive arena for the Shockwave/Dynamite show. Much like the first Dynamite, this show featured a mix of kickboxing and MMA bouts, this time with an interesting twist that most MMA fans are quick to forget; one of the major selling points of this show was a co-promotion of sorts between K-1 and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Masayuki Naruse of New Japan Pro Wrestling, a former star in Akira Maeda's RINGS promotion, took on K-1 Jan Nortje and made a complete fool of him in MMA rules, choking him out. New Japan's young star Shinsuke Nakamura entered into his fourth MMA bout under Antonio Inoki's urging to meld pro wrestling and MMA together against K-1 standout (at the time) Alexy Ignashov. It was a controversial bout between the two, as Nakamura controlled the bout on the ground completely and Ignashov, the man who was 2003's Badr Hari (aka, their new, big future star). The fight was embroiled in controversy as after checking a cut on Ignashov and the fight was restarted, Nakamura dove in for a double leg and was caught by a disgusting knee kick that landed him right on the mat and the fight was called immediately for Ignashov. Nakamura immediately stood up, albeit dazed, and was livid. NJPW's legion of fans were able to argue enough over the next few months to get the fight turned to a No Contest and they met again, Nakamura making easy work of Ignashov. But we haven't gotten to the main event, what is still the most watched live fight in history, Bob Sapp vs. Akebono in K-1 rules, a freakshow if there ever was one, but incredibly popular with fight fans in Japan.
K-1 PREMIUM 2004 Dynamite!!
The tradition continued in 2004, this time giving fight fans a much better fight card, with less focus on the freakshows (although they were still there on the top of the card) and more great action. K-1 packed the Osaka Dome with 53,000 fans this time around. Bob Sapp and Akebono were once again the main attractions, as dictated by TBS after their smash hit the past year, this time in bouts against other opponents. Bob Sapp took on K-1 superstar Jerome Le Banner in a strange, mixed rules fight to "level" the playing field. There were no judges, rounds 1 and 3 were K-1 rules, rounds 2 and 4 were MMA rules. It was declared a draw after all four rounds with Sapp looking worse for the wear. Akebono took on MMA legend Royce Gracie and was made to look like a whale out of water, being taken to the ground by the BJJ legend and tapped out with a wrist lock in just over 2 minutes of the first round. The big fight for fans helped build up the legend of Masato, the man who fights his last fight tonight, as he took on emerging Japanese superstar KID Yamamoto. The two had an awesome K-1 MAX rules war with Masato taking the nod.
K-1 PREMIUM 2005 Dynamite!!
2005 was a year that's Dynamite show became best known for the undercard chaos and being headlined by one of the best matchups imaginable for the MMA world at the time. Pulling in 53,000 fans to the Osaka Dome again, this show was spectacle with a lot of sport. The star of Bob Sapp had waned a bit over the years, with Sapp now in the middle of the card (a ploy by TBS to even out the ratings from just the top fights) getting worked over by Musashi. Japanese television personality Bobby Olgun put a beating on Akebono in one of the main events, while Hideo Tokoro stepped into a no-win situation of Gracie Rules against Royce Gracie in what ended in a draw. The undercard saw Yoshihiro Nakao earn his nickname of "Kiss" as he faced off with current UFC star Heath Herring, well, the face off was as far as we got, as during an intense staredown Nakao planted a kiss on Herring's lips and was met with a right hook that knocked him out. The main event saw two of my personal favorite fighters, and two of the best 155lbs fighters meet in the finals of the Middleweight (155lbs) tournament. Sudo had an elaborate, nothing short of incredible entrance while KID was full of attitude as always. KID overcame Sudo's grappling and was able to TKO him with a flurry of punches to take the title in what was the best of both sport and spectacle.
K-1 PREMIUM 2006 Dynamite!!
Dynamite!! 2006 was a night that stirred up a lot of controversy amongst the MMA community, as well as a night where we wished a fond farewell to one of Japan's finest. The newly renamed Kyocera Osaka Dome was once again home to Dynamite!!, pulling in 52,000 fans this time around. The stars of the show were out again, but a bit different this time around as Bob Sapp missed his first K-1 Dynamite!! show since its inception, leaving Akebono to pull the weight for Sapp against Giant Silva, once again falling to an armlock in the first and Hong Man Choi stepping in to fulfill freakshow duties against television personality Bobby Olgun. Badr Hari made his first Dynamite!! appearance beating the pulp out of Nicholas Pettas and Masato's star continued to burn even brighter in one of the main events dissecting Satoru Suzuki in round two of their K-1 MAX rules bout. Yamamoto was fed a gimme fight, as was Genki Sudo as Sudo sunk in a triangle on Damacio Page late in round one to score what turned out to be his tearful last win, as he announced he would no longer be a fighter and would persue acting, music and peace for the rest of his life. The main event saw South Korean national who competed for Japan in Judo Yoshihiro Akiyama take on Kazushi Sakuraba in what turned into a nightmare for Akiyama. Akiyama, who in 2003 was accused of "greasing" his gi and forced to wear a "reserve" gi, went on with a clouded mind to lose his next two bouts and miss the medal in the World Judo Championships was once again accused of being "slippery." Sakuraba attempted to take down the Judoka and could not, and as he argued to the ref that Akiyama was "slippery" he got his face pounded in. In January FEG decided he was indeed "greasing" and the fight was ruled a No Contest.
K-1 PREMIUM 2007 Dynamite!!
Dynamite!! 2007 once again saw Kazushi Sakuraba as the posterboy, this time facing fellow former (and now once again) professional wrestler and one of the founding fathers of MMA in Japan, Masakatsu Funaki in a dream bout. Once again in the Osaka Dome, this time pulling in just under 48,000 fans the downturn of MMA in Japan was starting to be felt. 2007 saw the return of Bob Sapp as he took on television personality Bobby Olgun (I say this as he only really fought yearly at Dynamite!!) in one of the feature bouts. KID Yamamoto, his star in full effect took on the awesome Rani Yahya in one of the main events and KO'd Yahya in the second round. Masato defended Japan's honor against Korean slugger Yong Soo Choi and child prodigy HIROYA made his first appearance at the biggest stage of them all, being upset in the finals of the U-18 tournament by YUDAI, who is now blackballed for usurping HIROYA. I wish I was kidding. Minowaman was crushed by a giant man named Zuluzinho and Kiyoshi Tamura and Hideo Tokoro had a pretty awesome fight. Of course the big story was that Sakuraba still has it, submitting Funaki in the first round with an armbar.
K-1 Dynamite!! 2008
No longer are we PREMIUM, apparently, as the downturn of fan interest in MMA in Japan was in full effect last year. The big show moved to a more modest arena, this time the Saitama Super Arena pulling in just over 25,000 fans. That number is still staggeringly high compared to your average UFC show in the United States, but in Japan this was not a good sign, nor was the Tokyo Broadcast Station, K-1's partner every New Year's capping K-1 off at a four hour timeslot, with the full broadcast on PPV hours later. K-1 attempted to stream the show live to international viewers live on an outsourced website, but that fell through last minute, leaving Dynamite!! 2008 as a giant, disastrous headache to FEG. Bob Sapp fought Akihito Tanaka dressed up as a Kinnikuman in a shamelessly over-sponsored squash fight, HIROYA finally got his Dynamite!! tournament win that K-1 wanted so badly, Ikuhisa Minowa as Minowaman was in full superhero effect tapping out Golden Glory slugger Errol Zimmerman in just over a minute. Cro Cop made his final-to-date Japanese appearance knocking out Hong Man Choi with a leg kick while the top of the card saw Shinya Aoki win a WAMMA title with an amazing submission win over the very tough Eddie Alvarez. Kazushi Sakuraba headlined yet again, being taken to a tough decision loss by former UWF star Kiyoshi Tamura in a bout that fans thought would never fall into place after Tamura shot it down so many times before. DREAM made its impact on K-1 felt, as Kawajiri beat the snot out of Kozo Takeda and Gegard Mousasi put Musashi on the shelf for a year. Manhoef did the impossible knocking out Mark Hunt in 18 seconds and the big story of the night was Alistair Overeem's star was born, knocking out the Golden Boy, Badr Hari in 2 minutes!
This all sets the stage for this year's Dynamite!!, once again set for the Saitama Super Arena, featuring the retirement of Masato against Andy Souwer, DREAM vs. Sengoku Raiden Championship, the Super Hulk tournament finals and Ray Sefo's attempt to get back into the saddle with K-1 and the showdown between Japanese Judo gold medalists Hidehiko Yoshida and Satoshi Ishii! We have a ton of coverage of Dynamite!! 2009, and will be bringing you the blow-by-blow live, tonight at 3am Eastern!