clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

MMA History: Pancrase - Yes, We Are Hybrid Wrestlers 1 - September 21st 1993

New, comments

Come take a trip down MMA History lane. First up is the inaugural Pancrase event, featuring popular names like Bas Rutten, Ken Shamrock and Masakazu Funaki and FULL fight videos courtesy of the Pancrase channel and other good Samaritans.

I would be a fool not to take advantage and watch actual footage of the sport I love so very much. Not watching and talking about actual video footage... I liken it to discovering a long lost son/daughter, and the mother gives you all these videos of him/her before you knew he/she existed.

Imagine this event just happened an hour ago, and I'm giving you the "post-fight analysis/thoughts/breakdown" article. MMA is very young, but because of this youth we also have an advantage over other sports. They don't have the luxury of video footage of the earliest events. Pancrase was the 2nd promotion to put on real "MMA" (they didn't have this term yet) fights after Shooto. It hosted some of the top fighters at the time, many who could have done well when the Ultimate Fighting Championship had just begun.

Origins of Pancrase via Dave Meltzer

October 4, 1992, Tokyo Dome: At a pro wrestling event, a rare legitimate match was booked where Wayne Shamrock, as Ken was known in Japan, faced world kickboxing champion Don Nakaya Nielsen. Shamrock took Nielsen down immediately and submitted him with an ankle lock in 45 seconds. The success of this match made young pro wrestlers Shamrock, Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki question what they had been told since breaking into predetermined wrestling: that nobody would ever pay to see real matches.

September 21, 1993, Tokyo: Shamrock, Funaki and Suzuki spearheaded a group of pro wrestlers and decided to abandon everything people had told them about real matches not being marketable. They formed a promotion called Pancrase, named by '60s wrestling star Karl Gotch after the sport of Pankration

*Rules of Pancrase at the bottom

September 21st 1993
Pancrase - Yes, We Are Hybrid Wrestlers 1

This was the first ever Pancrase event. Pancrase 1, if you will.

Fight #1 Minoru Suzuki (1-0) def. Katsuomi Inagaki (0-1) via 3:25 technical submission (rear-naked choke)*

In the first match of Pancrase history we saw two very competent grapplers. It was quite even on the feet, but Suzuki mixed in takedowns and was able to put Inagaki on the defensive for most of the fight. Inagaki escaped a few times, but ultimately once Suzuki took his back and got his hooks in it was almost over. Inagaki made an attempt to rid himself of one of the hook, that left his neck vulnerable. Inagaki tried to tap, but went to sleep. I believe his corner or someone at ringside was imploring him to tap out.

Fight #2 Bas Rutten (1-0) def. Ryushi Yanagisawa (0-1) via 1:23 TKO (palm strike and knee)*

The debut of Bas Rutten in MMA. Devastating striking that had the crowd "ahhing" and "oohing" with every strike. This was a massacre. And oh yes, the trademark jumping split and palm strikes were in full effect.

Fight #3 Takaku "Yusuke" Fuke (1-0) def. Vernon White (0-1) via 1:19 submission (armbar)

White looked like he was comfortable standing with light footwork, but almost immediately Fuke took him down, passing to sidecontrol and going for a neck crank while in a scard hold armlock postion. The ref must've shouted half a dozen times if White wanted to "give up" and it was bizarre to hear White repeatedly cry, "NO!". Fuke gave up on it and went for an armbar, and moments later White was forced to tap.

Fight #4 Kazuo Takahashi (1-0) def. George Weingeroff (0-1) via 1:23 TKO (palm strike, knees and headkick)

OK, I don't know when the description becomes too much (Nate Marquardt vs. Wilson Gouveia comes to mind when he landed a flying knee, head kick, spinning back fist, punches and knees... all in the span of like 8 or so seconds), but this definitely wasn't just palm strikes as Sherdog has it. Weingeroff would go head first, arms reached out looking to grab Takahashi, who defended with ease. Weingeroff was just asking to get kneed in the face, and that's exactly what happened in the first knockdown of the fight. The final knockdown came right after as Weingeroff continued to go head first, eating two knees, a palm strike, another knee then a headkick.

Fight #5 Ken "Wayne" Shamrock (1-0) def. Masakatsu Funaki (0-1) via 6:15 submission (arm-triangle choke)

I know MMA wasn't even called MMA yet, but the refereeing is still bewildering to me. How can you put on an event like this and not have a clear rule to the officials "tapping out = stop the fight" or whatever tapping out would be called back then.

Even on the feet, but Shamrock (then known by Wayne, not Ken) dominated the southpaw, Funaki, in the grappling department. There seemed to be a gap in understanding as Shamrock was able to get Funaki's back multiple times, and once in full mount, Funaki had no answer. The crowd woke up when Shamrock went for a "double full nelson" before quickly letting it go. The audience reaction has to be from their knowledge of professional wrestling.

Shamrock motioned to be passing to side control, but instead went for a leg lock, causing a stalemate, that the ref had to stand them up. Clinched up, Funaki went for a takedown, but Shamrock was able to hit a strong overhook/whizzer and reversed the takedown attempt into full mount. From there Funaki would roll to his left, exposing himself to the arm triangle.

Final Thoughts:

I must say the grappling was very enjoyable. These guys definitely don't prescribe to "position before submission", and I think that if UFC 1 had more guys from Pancrase, Royce Gracie would have had a very tough time winning. Without a doubt, these Pancrase fighters were more well-rounded than Royce, but a common theme I'm seeing is the frequency a fighter gives up his back. Very impressed with the level. I went in thinking everybody in this era were one dimensional fighters like Royce if not worse.

Yes, they were very much indeed "hybrid wrestlers."

5 matches total time = 785 seconds or 13 minutes and 5 seconds, 100% finish rate (2tko, 3sub)


*Not the official Sherdog entry, but this is what I saw

It was the current unified rules with a few big differences

- No elbows to the head. No closed fisted strikes to the head (open palm is okay).

- No ground strikes to the head.

- Ground work that is too close to the ropes is stood back on the feet

- A little pro wrestling nod I think... when you're on the ground and you grab the ropes (an 'escape'), the ref stands the fight up, even if it's a deep submission. 5 of these "escapes" are given. If all 5 escapes are used the fighter loses.

- A 10 count is used for knockdowns ruled by the referee. If the fighter recovers he is deducted one point

- Any combination of losing 5 points is a loss. It can be something like 2 knockdowns and 3 "escapes".

- Non-title fights are one 15 minute round, and title matches are one 30 minute round, for the most part.