A big thanks to SnakePit USA for putting together this list of Legends of Catch Wrestlers. Hopefully together we can keep Catch alive.

Edwin Bibby
(15 November, 1848–1905)

Edwin Bibby was an English wrestling champion during the 1870s and 1880s. He was a popular Catch-as-Catch-Can style wrestler in his generation. He became the first American Heavyweight Champion in 1881.

Bibby was born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, United Kingdom in 1848. He married Mary Ann Connelly (age 16) in 1867 and had 13 children, only three of whom survived. He began working as a coal miner in 1871.

Bibby began his wrestling career in 1872. He performed for Queen Victoria in Prince Albert’s Court in London. In 1879 he immigrated to America and later sent for his family. He lived in New York and later Rhode Island, and became a naturalized citizen in 1900.

On January 19, 1881, Bibby became the first American Heavyweight Champion with his victory over Duncan C. Ross. He lost that title the next year, on August 7, 1882, to Joe Acton in New York City.

Bibby’s final wrestling match was against Sorakichi Matsuda, whom he defeated on October 28, 1887, in Buffalo, New York. In 1905, Bibby died from rheumatism. He is buried in Fall River, Massachusetts.

Bibby’s World Championship silver belt can still be found today in a Lancashire, England museum.

Source: “Edwin Bibby”, All about Bibby (Google Sites).
Joseph Acton
(8 March, 1852 – 26 June, 1917)

Known by his ring name “Little Joe” or “Limey Joe”, Joe Acton was a British professional wrestler and world champion who competed in England and America during the late 19th century. Acton is one of a handful of wrestlers credited with introducing “Catch-as-Catch-Can” wrestling, with its roots in old Lancashire wrestling, to the United States. Wrestling under the name Joe Acton, and nicknamed “The Little Demon,” Acton was considered one of the top wrestlers of his era.

Acton began wrestling in his native Great Britain during the 1870s defeating Tom Connors to become the first World Catch-as-Catch-Can Heavyweight Champion on 12 December 1881. He toured the United States that same year facing several prominent wrestlers including Edwin Bibby, Arkansas Heavyweight Champion Clarence Whistler, and Matsada Sorakichi as well as several rematches against Tom Connors and was widely regarded as the best wrestler in America by 1887, even though he lost the American “Catch-as-Catch-can” Championship bout to Evan “Strangler” Lewis on 14 March 1887 in one of the biggest matches of the decade.

Acton would also face Australian bare-knuckle boxer William Miller in a series of wrestling matches in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between March and July 1888 as well as Bob Fitzsimmons in 1891.

Although retiring close to the turn of the century, he did agree to several exhibition matches while a student instructor at Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland, Oregon.

In one of his final matches, at age 59, Action faced Tokugoro Ito in a jacketed wrestling match at the Grand Opera House in Seattle, Washington on 11 May, 1911. Although he had previous experience in jujitsu-style fighting having faced British judoka Yukio Tanai in 1904, he lost to Ito in two bouts, in three and two minutes respectively.

1.) A Big Wrestling Match Arranged”. New York Times. 8 June 1882
2.) Lewis and Acton: “The Strangler Finally Gets The Better of His Famous Adversary,” Chicago Tribune 12 April 1887
3.) “World Catch as Catch Can Heavyweight Title (19th Century)- Puroresu Dojo 2003  
  Tom Connors
(16 February, 1861 – 1939)

A Strong Man Who Claimed Highest Honors in the Middle Weight Class. Tom Connors, once middle weight champion wrestler of the world, was born in Wigan, Lancashire, England, the famous nursery of catch-as-catch-can wrestlers, Feb. 16, 1861. He was 5 ft. 6 in. tall, and his wrestling weight was about 150 pounds. He was a splendid specimen of the fully developed athlete, and had a chest measurement of forty-two inches. Connors had perhaps the best record of any wrestler that ever lived, as out of 110 matches he only suffered defeat on three occasions.

Tom wrestled his first match in 1873, when 11 years old. He then weighed only sixty-five pounds, and his opponent, a 15—year-old youth named Paddy Gorman, had a great advantage in height and weight; but Gorman fell as easy prey to the young gladiator. From then till he reached his twentieth birthday he had wrestled fifty-eight matches without sustaining a single defeat. On Aug. 13, 1882, he defeated Ike Smith in a match for the championship, Smith having previously wrested the title from Joe Acton, the “Little Demon.” Ike, not being satisfied, challenged Connors to another meeting, which occurred two months later. Connors again defeated his opponent.

Connors sailed for America Feb. 8, 1883, and about two months after his arrival he met Acton in a match for the world’s championship at Pastime park, Philadelphia, and suffered his first defeat. He returned to England in July of the same year, where he remained till Sept. 8, I885, having won ten matches in the interval. Arriving in New York nine days later, he issued a Challenge to Joe Acton or any other man in America. He then defeated Edwin Bibby in November, and bested Chadwick, McMahon and Scheller in the order named. After repeated challenges to Acton for another match without eliciting a response, he next encountered Evan Lewis, “The Strangler,” at Pittsburg, June 18, 1887, for $1,000 and the championship, and after a desperate struggle victory again perched on the banner of the “Lancashire Lad.” He thus became champion of the world, a title he held till defeated by Jack Carkeek in 1890.

Connors had to give from twenty to sixty pounds to get a match, as he was simply invincible at anything close to his own weight. He became manager and chief instructor at the Alexandra Athletic club, in Chicago, and wrote a book on American athletics. Tom Connors passed away in 1939.

Los Angeles Herald, 18 January 1891
Volume 35, Number 96
  ​“The Strangler” Evan Lewis
(May 24, 1860 – November 3, 1919)

Over a century ago, professional wrestling was as truly violent a spectacle as its burlesque modern incarnation intends to be. Now either forgotten or confused with a later popular Wisconsin-born wrestler who borrowed his name, Evan Lewis was one of the most feared and famous figures in 19th Century sports.”

Lewis was an American professional wrestler who was the first internationally recognized American Heavyweight Champion and is credited with perfecting the “stranglehold” or “neck yoke” more commonly known today as the rear naked choke. He’d slip his wrist down below his opponent’s ear over the carotid artery and squeeze, shutting off the blood supply to the brain thus putting his opponent to sleep. It was a legitimate hold in Evan Lewis’ day, but it was illegal by the time Ed Lewis came along. However, all the hookers knew the hold. Ed himself learned it in Chicago and adopted it as a performing hold, something to excite the crowds. That’s how the headlock came to be such a standard hold in the wrestling ring as a cover-up for the strangle-hold or “neck yoke”.

Born in Ridgeway, Wisconsin, Lewis began wrestling professionally by winning a 64-man tournament in Montana in May 1882. He returned to Wisconsin and defeated Ben Knight for the Wisconsin Heavyweight Championship in a Mineral Point match on March 20, 1883. Pro wrestling annals call him “The Original Strangler”, to differentiate him from another Wisconsinite, Robert Friedrich, who gained enduring fame with the ring name of Ed (Strangler) Lewis, chosen as homage to his predecessor.

“A cruel and really dangerous athlete,” wrote ring historian Nat Fleischer of the 5-9, 180-lb. Lewis in his book “FROM MILO TO LONDOS”. “Lewis for many years held his own when pitted against the best men … and the country grew fairly wild over him and his wrestling ability.”
Martin “Farmer” Burns, whose legend has long eclipsed that of Evan Lewis, owed his origins in the mat game, and the rudiments of his art, to the latter. Burns won what would forever after be billed as the “world” championship from Lewis in 1895. By then, “catch”, as opposed to the previously popular disciplines of collar-and-elbow and Greco-Roman, had ascended to primacy in the minds of American pro wrestling enthusiasts.

This happened, largely, in the wake of two Chicago confrontations between Lewis and a popular Japanese invader, Matsada Sorakichi. They had two much-ballyhooed, largely attended Chicago bouts in 1886; in the first, Lewis roughly strangled Sorakichi into submission. Sorakichi implored Lewis to wrestle again, but this time with the strangle barred. Lewis agreed. Sorakichi emphasized how serious he was about the stipulation.
“You choke me,” he told Lewis, “I shoot you.”

“I will not choke you this time,” Lewis averred. “But I will screw your leg off.” And he darn near did. Sorakichi was never again the same, describing to people from his hospital bed how Lewis had tried “to break the leg like a stick.”

Next was a showdown between Lewis and an Englishman, Joe Acton. In April 1887, at Chicago, Lewis consolidated his claim to catch-as-catch-can supremacy by taking three falls from Acton inside a mere 26 minutes, and thus began his eight-year rule over American Catch as Catch Can wrestling until he finally surrendered the laurels to Farmer Burns in 1895.

1.) Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, by J Michael Kenyon
2.) “HOOKER: An Authentic Wrestler’s Adventures Inside the Bizarre World of
Pro Wrestling” by Lou Thesz with Kit Bauman, Copyright 1995)  
  ​Martin “Farmer” Burns
(Feb 15, 1861 – Jan 8, 1937)

“The Father of American Wrestling”
Martin “Farmer” Burns was born on February 15, 1861 in a log cabin in Cedar County, Iowa. His father was a farmer who died when Martin was 11 leaving him, his mother, a brother and five sisters. The family was poor which caused Martin to work many years at hard labor from a very early age. He also worked in grading camps which was also very hard physical labor. The hard work was really a key to Martin’s physical development as he and other athletes of that era developed their physical strength through performing hard labor rather than working out in gyms.
From a very early age Martin displayed an interest in, and had a natural ability for, wrestling which was developed in many impromptu matches with boys in his home town and the surrounding area.

Martin was born during a very troubled time for the country as the year of his birth was also the year that the American Civil War started. Wrestling was a popular activity in the army camps, as it had been and continued to be, in the camps and towns that sprang up during the westward expansion. During the Civil War its popularity increased due to the fact that the wartime President, Abraham Lincoln, was himself a champion wrestler having defeated the Louisiana State Champion in New Salem, Lousiana in 1831.

The grading camps really provided the opportunity for the maturing Martin to hone his skills. The camps were populated by very rugged, tough men who were heavy drinkers, smokers and chewers who stayed up all night playing cards. They depended strictly on their brute strength in wrestling matches which were a very popular activity. Martin was able to beat them because of better conditioning as he never participated in drinking, smoking or other activities that would hurt his conditioning. He also had a very analytical mind which was constantly evaluating different wrestling techniques and trying to improve on them. The combination of the conditioning and the knowledge made him a lot of money during the wrestling matches on payday.

His nickname of “Farmer” was given to him on his first trip to Chicago in 1889. He had traveled to Chicago on a cattle car and was very impressed by the city. One of the things that impressed him most was a sign offering $25.00 for anyone who could last 15 minutes with 2 well known wrestlers of the time – Jack Carkeek and Evan “Strangler” Lewis. At first they didn’t want to give him a shot because he was unknown, but eventually he made it on stage in his overalls and sock feet with jeers of the crowd insulting him by calling him “Farmer.” He stayed with both of the wrestlers for 15 minutes and the crowd’s jeers soon turned to applause. The next day he found himself treated as a hero by the local papers.
In his time Farmer Burns wrestled over 6,000 matches in every type of situation from grading camps to circuses and lost only 7. He won the World Wrestling Title in 1895 when he defeated Evan “Strangler” Lewis and retained the title until 1897 when he was defeated by Tom Jenkins. He later won and held the light heavy weight title until 1908. Burns weighed only 175 pound but defeated many of the great wrestlers of the day-some of which outweighed him by 50 or 100 pounds. He had a very strong neck that measured 20 inches and allowed him to perform one of his favorite stunts of doing a six foot hangman’s drop which he performed many times.

One of his greatest accomplishments was taking another Iowa farm boy, Frank Gotch and developing him into a world champion wrestler that many believe to be the greatest wrestler of all time. He also trained many other notable champions including Earl Caddock.

His correspondence course is very well done and combines calisthenics, light dumbells and resistance exercises in a very effective way. It is as useful today as when it was written.

He was not only a great athlete,but a creative and smart businessman whose promotional brochure and correspondence course provided the prototype for the many physical culture and bodybuilding courses that followed in the US in the 1920s,30s, and 40s. He was still wrestling well into his sixties and reportedly remained active and in good health until his death.

By: Gordon Anderson  
  ​Dan McLeod
 (1860 – June 20, 1958)

Dan McLeod was the ring name of a Canadian Catch Wrestler of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, who held the American Catch as Catch Can Heavyweight Championship twice. Born George Little in Hamilton, Ontario, he worked as a miner in Nanaimo, British Columbia and wrestled his first match in 1889, winning the Pacific Coast heavyweight championship that same year. His public profile claimed that he was born Dan S. McLeod in the Scottish Highlands in 1867.

On October 26, 1897, McLeod defeated Martin “Farmer” Burns to win the American Catch as Catch Can Heavyweight Championship, which he would retain for four years. The most notable incident during his reign as champion came far away from the media spotlight when on June 18, 1899; McLeod met and defeated a young Frank Gotch in a hard-fought impromptu match on a cinder track. It was Gotch’s very first professional match and he later recounted that McLeod had hustled all involved by pretending to be a simple furniture dealer from a neighboring town, but was impressed enough by Gotch’s talent to leave him a visiting card revealing his true identity.

McLeod’s reign as champion came to an end on November 7, 1901 when he was defeated by Tom Jenkins. Amid a series of rematches between the two men, McLeod recaptured the title on Christmas Day 1902 but lost it back to Jenkins the following April.
After retirement, McLeod worked as a wrestling instructor at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

1.) “Sports and Pastimes”. British Colonist. October 21, 1897. pg.5
2.)”Former Champ in Wrestling an Instructor”. Pittsburgh Press. pg.8
3.) Auburn Citizen. February 28, 1907. pg.3
  ​Tom Jenkins
(August 3, 1872 – June 19, 1957)

At the turn of the twentieth century, “Rough Tom” was the most feared matman in America. The 225 pound former ironworker from Ohio was renowned for his strength and damaging style. Frank Gotch judged Tom Jenkins to be the strongest wrestler he ever faced. Jenkins thought nothing of mixing it up in the roughest fashion possible; his style was wide open at all times with plenty of elbow shots to face and body. When choke-holds became illegal, Tom invented his “jaw-lock” which he used to choke his opponents. While opponents came onto the mat unarmed, Tom’s rock-hard sharp calloused hands could and did flay the skin right off a man’s face and body. He was a cagey veteran of hundreds of bouts with all the fighting heart of a true champion.

The harsh realities of the times were hard on the Jenkins family. Tom’s father, Thomas Jenkins of Wales, returned to his home in Holland from extended mining operations training in Russia to find his first wife and all of his children dead in the Great Potato Famine. He married his second wife, Mary Williams of Wales, in Scotland. They had three daughters who all died quite young in Scotland. Thomas and Mary Jenkins moved to England where their first three sons, Timothy, Abraham and John, were born. Timothy died in England before the family immigrated to Bedford, Ohio. Their final two sons were born in America: Timotheous and then, on August 3, 1872, future wrestling champion Thomas. The Jenkins family moved to Newburg (still in the Cleveland area) when Young Tom was five. The spirited Young Tom needed firm guidance at Woodland Hill School which was backed up frequently by Old Tom’s very firm hand at home.

It was a rainy Fourth of July holiday in the summer of 1881 following Young Tom’s second grade year that changed his life. Five independent youngsters found their cannon firing salute to Independence Day spoiled by rain-dampened black powder. But the creative cannon battery team came up with a great idea in the early morning hours of July 5th: build a fire under the cannon to dry out the wet powder. The predictable explosion blew the two-foot iron cannon apart injuring four boys. Tom got the worst of it with iron fragments and black powder specks embedded in his broken-jawed face, neck, and chest. Dr. Brooks worked to save Tom’s eyesight by confining Young Tom to a quiet darkened room for close to a year. Tom’s right eye was blind for life with limited sight in his left eye. Tom’s formal education was over when Dr. Brooks told Tom the strain of reading with his weak left eye could blind him totally.

The year 1882 found the illiterate second grade graduate out on the streets of the greater Cleveland area. He entertained himself with pranks and petty theft. Enterprising Young Tom would steal from street vendors and sell his loot to other vendors a few blocks away. It was a fast and busy life for Cleveland’s own little Oliver Twist and by the time he was twelve years of age Tom had been in many scrapes and formally arrested eight times. But Tom explained, “There wasn’t never no meanness in me. These were just the pranks of a wild kid who was trying to keep busy doing something, but you got pinched easy in them days.”

The self-described Wild Kid needed hard jobs to keep him busy and away from trouble. Tom worked as a water and spike boy for a railroad repair crew when he was just ten. He was always energetic but began to build his infamous strength before he was twelve years old working the bellows as an apprentice chain maker. By age twelve he was making tire irons. Then at sixteen years of age Young Tom got the job that would shape him into the rock hard man who could overpower the greatest wrestlers in the world. Tom was promoted to Rougher in Newburg’s American Wire & Steel Mill, No. 9. A two-man team of Roughers used heavy tongs to carry white-hot 100 pound steel ingots to grooved rollers. The powerful Roughers had to work quickly feeding the steel back and forth through the fast moving rollers while it was still red-hot. As the 100 pound ingot was pressed out longer and thinner it acquired a wicked curl that would catch and maim or kill a Rougher who was not nimble on his feet. Years of fourteen hour days in this life threatening training regimen built the future wrestler’s strength, reflexes, agility, and rock hard calloused hands.
The door to opportunity opened in early 1891 with an exhibition wrestling match scheduled among the events at a benefit for an injured waterboy. When professional wrestler Al Wood’s opponent did not show, eighteen-year-old Tom was drafted by his fellow millworkers to fill in. Compensating for his lack of skills with his strength and agility, Tom fought the professional to a draw. This moral victory won Tom fame at work and more: George Patton, a mill manager, arranged for three wrestling lessons a week with Luke Lamb in Cleveland. Tom continued as a full-time Rougher while training with other millworkers on breaks and practicing his new wrestling skills at night.

Beginning his wrestling career slowly, while still holding down his Rougher day job, Tom beat professionals Pete Shumacher and Hans Spiegel–both in straight falls. In May of 1893 Tom quit the mill to go pro. Tom proved to be invincible on the mat. In his first seven years of wrestling Tom had yet to lose a single fall but his professional career floundered as he was swindled of his winnings by one greedy manager after another; Tom couldn’t read a contract.

In 1898 things turned around. In February he got the best partnership of his life with his marriage to his one true love, Anne Lavinia Gray of England. He also got Harry Pollock as his first honest manager. Pollock arranged Tom’s shot at the big time with a match against the great Martin “Farmer” Burns in Cleveland. Tom took Burns in straight falls to make a claim on the American heavyweight title. Tom finished out a great 1898 with the birth of his first daughter Lavinia.

Tom continued undefeated, meeting and beating all championship claimants including a win over Ernest Roeber on July 5, 1901 to set up a winner-take-all match with Dan McLeod of Hamilton, Canada. On November 7, 1901 Tom met McLeod in Cleveland and Dan McLeod pinned Tom in thirty-six minutes. Tom was devastated. By some accounts this was the very first time Tom had ever been pinned in a match. How did he handle this? Tom came back to take the second fall in twenty-two minutes and the deciding third fall in nineteen minutes. Thomas Jenkins, now the undisputed American heavyweight catch-as-catch-can champion, had showed his true mettle.

Tom defended his title against all challengers; even when he had blood poisoning so severe he had to wear a buckled leather brace on his infected left leg. McLeod used the buckles against him in a December 25, 1902 title match until Tom had to forfeit the third fall and his title to McLeod. But Tom healed and came back strongly in 1903 beating Frank Gotch in straight falls on February 22nd and beating McLeod in straight falls on April 3rd to regain the American title. 1904 began with a January loss to Gotch in Bellingham, WA. and a July two to one loss to George Hackenschmidt in England. But 1904 did bring Tom his second daughter, Audrey. Tom finished out 1904 by returning to his old Rougher job in Newburg. With family and friends about him, Tom’s health and strength returned and 1905 became the year of Tom’s greatest comebacks. February 1, 1905 he lost to Gotch two falls to one but came back to defeat Frank Gotch on March 15th to regain his American heavyweight championship title for the third time. Two weeks after being beaten by Hackenschmidt on May 4th Tom came back to wrestle his greatest match. On May 19, 1905 Tom took the first and third falls to defeat Frank Gotch and defend his national title in an incredibly tough two hour match. The wrestling series between Tom Jenkins and Frank Gotch was one of the most brutal rivalries in all of American sports. Tom was the only wrestler ever to defeat Frank Gotch three times in all-out shoot matches. When Gotch took back the title for keeps on May 23, 1906, Tom was already deeply committed to his new career.
Thomas was thirty-three in 1905 when he faced his greatest challenge. President Theodore Roosevelt had appointed Tom boxing & wrestling instructor of the United States Military Academy at West Point. The tag of “Rough Tom” took on a whole new meaning with the illiterate second-grade educated retired champion assuming the title of Professor at West Point. Tom would be responsible for the finest young educated minds produced in America. Tom later recounted thinking, “They ain’t hiring me to teach reading and writin’. All they want outa me is boxing and wrestling, and I can give ’em plenty of that.” Tom’s patient wife Lavinia spent endless hours helping her husband memorize manuals of West Point regulations. And Tom learned to read and write. And the honest straight-forward plain-spoken Professor had a great career at West Point, training cadets for 37 years. Pop Jenkins was idolized by the cadets. It is estimated that before retiring in 1942 Tom applied his none-too-gentle hands to over 13,500 West Point cadets and taught them how to be tough, both on the mat and in life.

After retirement the old retired champion and West Point legend lived quietly in nearby Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York with his beloved wife and helpmate. Before Lavinia died, Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins celebrated their fifty-second wedding anniversary in 1950. Tom was right at home in Cornwall-on-Hudson. During his West Point years he had put in twenty-five years instructing students at the New York Military Academy prep school in Cornwall-on-Hudson. Tom’s elder daughter Lavinia, who had been a career nurse since she was nineteen-years-old, cared for Tom in his last years. Mr. Thomas T. Jenkins died on June 19, 1957 at eighty-four years of age. He is buried with honors at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Postscript: In 1962 George Hackenschmidt wrote of his 1939 visit to Jenkins at West Point, “Tom showed me around the training quarters and I saw his cadets at work. It was a stimulating thing to see the pride of the old-time champion in his work and in his team. The high esteem he held was evident at a glance and there must have been many of those during the war that so soon came (World War II) who look back in gratitude to the strength and endurance Tom’s training had imparted to them.” Among Pop Jenkins hands-on pupils were George S. Patton, Omar Bradley, and Dwight Eisenhower. George Hackenschmidt recognized that the influence of Tom’s no-holds-barred fighting spirit had an effect on our world today far beyond the wrestling mat. Brigadier General John Thomas Corley was one of the most decorated officers of World War II. General Corley related that in the thick of the Battle of the Bulge when his command had been overrun, “I was punchy for want of sleep. I went into a dugout to think. I put my head down on a table and dozed off. I was a cadet again and in Tom Jenkins’ wrestling room. I could hear him saying, ‘Mister, what do you weigh? You don’t have to be as big as the other fellow to win.’ I did not surrender the battalion. General Bradley sent tanks and rescued us.” While recognizing that Tom was a truly great wrestling champion, the life and teachings of Thomas Jenkins ultimately far transcended his wrestling honors.

Author: John E. Rauer
Acknowledgement to; Mike Chapman, Tom Ellis, Mark Hewitt, & Karl Stern
Source: Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame
  ​Frank Alvin Gotch
(April 27, 1878 – Dec 17, 1917)

Very early in the 20th century, Frank Alvin Gotch emerged as a professional wrestling hero and became one of the most respected stars of all-time. Born in Humboldt, Iowa on April 27, 1878, Gotch worked very hard as a farmer in his early years, thus acquiring physical strength and a determined work ethic. Intrigued by the sports of wrestling and boxing, Gotch rapidly became notorious for being rugged and tough through winning numerous local matches. At age 21 in Fort Dodge Iowa, Gotch gained the attention of Martin “Farmer” Burns by competing against Burns in a match for a proposed $25. Giving Burns more than he expected in the match, Gotch would soon be trained by the very same opponent. After their match, Burns strongly believed that Gotch could very well become the next wrestling champion of America under his guidance and training.
Under Burns’ tutelage, Frank Gotch successfully competed throughout Iowa and then traveled to Alaska where he would quickly become a top wrestler under the name Frank Kennedy. He became champion of the Klondike and earned several thousands of dollars for victories in his half year stay. After the tour of Alaska, Gotch returned to his native Iowa and challenged Tom Jenkins for the American Heavyweight Title. In their first bout in 1903, Jenkins would emerge victorious in a grueling match that would start an epic feud. A rematch occurred in February 1905 that would see Gotch defeat Jenkins for the championship in Cleveland, Ohio. The two great competitors would wrestle several times afterwards but Gotch emerged as the superior wrestler defeating Jenkins in their final three bouts. Gotch proceeded to become a three time American Heavyweight Champion.

Gotch’s matches against Russian World Champion George Hackenschmidt further enhanced his status. Known as the “Russian Lion” Hackenschmidt, who earned the title of being world champion, would take on Gotch in Chicago on April 3, 1908. After literally hours of wrestling before a crowd of 40,000 people, Gotch defeated Hackenschmidt and earned the title of new world champion. After the huge win over Hackenschmidt, Gotch became a widely popular sports figure. He commercially endorsed a variety of products and was the star of a successful play called “All About A Bout.” Additionally, Gotch was invited to the White House to meet President Theodore Roosevelt. He was regularly seated in luxury boxes and treated as royalty at various sporting events.

The intrigue of another match between Gotch and Hackenschmidt enticed both competitors and fans worldwide. The rematch would occur at Chicago’s Comiskey Park on September 4, 1911 and the match proved to be very controversial. It is extensively believed that Hackenschmidt injured his leg during the training period leading up to the match. After Gotch had defeated Hackenschmidt for the second straight time with relative ease, it was rumored that Gotch had paid another wrestler to purposely injure Hackenschmidt before their match. The debate continues to this day over the outcome of the second match between the two champions.

Gotch’s noted record includes 154 victories and an amazingly low 6 losses throughout his career. After winning 88 consecutive matches and not suffering a defeat since 1906, Gotch retired at the top of professional wrestling in 1913. After retirement, Gotch’s health quickly deteriorated. On December 17, 1917 in his native Iowa home, Frank Alvin Gotch passed away at the young age of 39 due to uremic poisoning. His untimely death only adds to the legacy that he leaves behind. Frank Gotch’s career as a professional wrestler not only helped shape what the industry is today, it also shed positive light on what hard work can achieve. Gotch’s name is still used throughout America to identify schools, clubs, and other various tournaments and activities. There is no better name to associate with the term success than Frank Gotch.

Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame
Written by: Andrew Malnoske
 ​George Hackenschmidt
(July 20, 1878 – Feb 19, 1968)

With a chiseled, muscular physique, “The Russian Lion” George Hackenschmidt propelled himself sufficiently on the mat to become one of the top athletes in professional wrestling history. Hackenschmidt was born in Dorpat, Estonia on July 20, 1878. For much of his early life, he lived in Russia and became an award-winning weightlifter during his early twenties.

Hackenschmidt’s shear strength and incredible athletic ability made an easy transition into professional wrestling for him. Trained by famed wrestler George Lurich, Hackenschmidt turned professional in September 1896 at age twenty. Utilizing a classical Greco-Roman style of wrestling in the ring, Hackenschmidt was immediately a very tough competitor. He became the European Heavyweight Champion with a victory over Tom Cannon in September 1902 in Liverpool, England. With the title win, Hackenschmidt was given claim to being the World Heavyweight Champion. In May 1905, Hackenschmidt solidified this assertion by defeating American Heavyweight Champion Tom Jenkins in New York City to become the first undisputed World Heavyweight Champion.

Waiting to challenge Hackenschmidt for the World Heavyweight Championship was a young Iowa upstart named Frank Gotch. After years of anticipation, Hackenschmidt faced Gotch in April 1908 at Chicago’s Dexter Park Pavilion. Both competitors battled one another for nearly two hours but after an evenly matched contest, Gotch prevailed and became champion. Three years later, Hackenschmidt would make a second effort to become champion and avenge his loss to Gotch. However, in front of 30,000 fans at Chicago’s Comiskey Park on Septermber 4, 1911, Hackenschmidt lost to Gotch for the second straight time.

The Hackenshmidt-Gotch matches were the pinnacle of professional wrestling during the time period and received much attention from media, fans, and celebrities. They were even described in the 1937 book “Fall Guys-The Barnums of Bounce” by famed writer Marcus Griffen. To this day, the Chicago Public Library receives requests to view the newspaper accounts and files on the bouts.

Not long after the second defeat by Gotch, Hackenschmidt officially retired from professional wrestling in 1911 and pursued his very own interest in writing books. Hackenschmidt wrote the book “The Way to live”, which was published from 1908 to 1940 in twenty-one editions! Later on in his life, Hackenschmidt became a philosopher and wrote five books on intellectual topics.

George Hackenschmidt passed away on February 19, 1968 at the age of 89.

Hackenschmidt was considered the best Greco-Roman wrestler of his century after winning over 3,000 bouts between 1889 and 1908. His combination of brute strength, wrestling ability, and great intellect will likely never be duplicated.

Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame
Written by: Andrew Malnoske  
  ​George Bothner
(June 5, 1867 – November 20, 1954)

George Bothner was the Catch as Catch Can Lightweight Champion of the World, who in his prime took on and pinned more than 50 heavyweights. Bothner was born in New York, June 5 1867. His father was a piano maker and gymnast. George left public school early to take his first job which was keeping the flies off the meat at a local butcher shop. Before the days of modern iceboxes the meat hung or lay on long counters. His salary was 10 cents a day which didn’t quite cover expenses so he got another job as an errand boy.

When he was about 16 he saw a wrestling bout at the old Pastime Athletic club in New York between John O’Brien and Lew Chaneworth which gave him the inspiration of his life. Under the tutelage of Gus Bogue and others Bothner studied the grappling game and at 17 entered a tournament held by the National Association of Amateur Athletics in New Jersey where he finished second in the 125lb weight class.

Then he joined the Eugene Horn backer Athlete club which met in the rear room of Brannagan’s saloon in New York. Sometimes professional boxing bouts were held there and drew noted spectators such as John L. Sullivan himself. At times the police interfered on which occasions the spectators left by the back door which opened out into a graveyard which was frequently strewn with hats, lost by hurrying customers while climbing a picket fence.

At 18, the required age, Bothner became a member of the Pastime club, which produced many noteworthy boxers and wrestlers. George began to wrestle in tournaments, and on one night won the 125 pound and 158 pound titles there. Then Hughey Leonard offered him a position as his assistant at the New York Athletic club, and Bothner became a professional.

A little later he was the wrestling coach at Columbia University for a year, then onto Princeton as their coach for two years. He then succeeded Bernarr MacFadden at the Knickerbocker Athletic club but while on vacation at Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey the club failed. Upon his return to New York he opened his first private gymnasium. Among his pupils were Clarence Mackey, Jesse, Fred and Walter Lewisohn and John and Lionel Barrymore.

Tom Riley, lightweight holder of the Lord Lonsdale Belt, came over from England and Richard K. Fox put up a belt on this side of the water which was to be emblematic of the Worlds Championship. Bothner beat Riley and continued on to wrestle men at all weights. Bothner always said Frank Gotch, Joe Stecher and Ed “Strangler” Lewis were among the best wrestlers he ever watched but believed the most formidable to be “Yousouf the Turk” who was so big and strong he didn’t need to be as skillful as some of the others and he was never thrown once.

George Bothner competed for thirty-five years on the mats in over 200 matches. He even competed in two mixed-style matches against early Kano Jiu-jitsu (Judo) practitioners. One against Katsukuma Higashi in 1905 who at the time was the most famous exponent of his art in America and his second match was against the formidable Tarro Miyake, both of which he was the victor.

Bothner is also remembered as one of the best and most reliable referees in the early days of Pro Wrestling having been the referee in the oldest Catch as Catch Can match, still viewable on film today between Earl Caddock and Joe Stecher. George Bothner passed away on November 20, 1954 at 87 years of age.

1.) The Milwaukee Journal Friday, January 27, 1933
2.) The New York Times December 16, 1914
3.) “The Complete Kano Jiu-Jitsu” by H. Irving Hancock and Katsukuma Higashi 
  ​Dan Kolov
(December 27, 1892- March 26, 1940)

Doncho Kolev Danev was born in the village of Sennik, near Sevlievo. At the age of 17 he left from the port in Istanbul to America. There he worked as a docker, miner, railway worker and metallurgist. At that time, fights between the workers were often organized. The Bulgarian defeated all his opponents. Soon he was noticed by the director of the famous American traveling circus “Victoria” where the strong Bulgarian Doncho became the invincible Dan Kolov. In the tournaments organized by the circus, he met many popular wrestlers at that time – Jeff Lawrence, Jack Shirey, called “The Flash Man”, Rudy Dusek, Joe Stecher, Evan “Strangler” Lewis, Jim Browning and many others. However, none of them managed to beat Dan Kolov.

He was invited to participate in the only tournament of its kind in Japan, where the wrestling had been a national sport for a thousand years. In the final match Dan Kolov won against Jiki Higen “the Strangler”, the idol of Japanese wrestling, defeated by no one. The Bulgarian wrestler participated in the big Catch tournament in Paris. There he overcame all his opponents, including Henry Deglan in the final who was another man known as “The Man with the Thousand Locks”, European, World and Olympic champion. This victory brought the Bulgarian the title European Champion and The Diamond Belt. He was called King Kong, The King of the Catch and The Balkan Lion. Except for his sport successes, Doncho was remembered with his big heart, after helping many Bulgarians abroad. He gave almost all his money for charity and bought the first plane of the Bulgarian Posts. Doncho spent his last years in Bulgaria. On March 26, 1940 the invincible Bulgarian wrestler died of tuberculosis. At his request he was buried in his native village. In his honor every year in Sevlievo a free-style-wrestling tournament is organized.

Bulgarian issue of “Business Industry Capital”
  ​Stanislaus Zbyszko
(April 1, 1879 – September 23, 1967)

Billed as one of the greatest authentic wrestlers of all time, Stanislaus Zbyszko had a brilliant career in the ring during the first three decades of the twentieth century. He first earned the World Heavyweight Championship in 1921 by defeating Ed “Strangler” Lewis, and four years later he regained the world professional wrestling title by pinning Wayne Munn. Retirement from the ring would then follow in 1928 after the strongman met Ghulam Muhammad, The Great Gama. Their match, which took place in India, was one of the most anticipated in wrestling history, drawing a reported 60,000 fans. It was also one of the shortest in history; The Great Gama won the bout in just 30 seconds! However, Eighteen years beforehand, when both men were in their physical prime, the two mighty fighters had battled for three hours in the finals of the John Bull World Championships in London before their match ended in a draw.

Although he was born in Poland in 1879, Zbyszko grew up in Vienna, Austria. His birth name was Stanislaw Cyganiewicz, but after demonstrating bravery and courage in his youth his friends started calling him “Zbyszko”, the name of a fearless fictional knight featured in “Krzyżacy”, a novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz. This nickname stuck, and, as his wrestling career began to blossom, Cyganiewicz changed his name to Stanislaus Zbyszko after being urged to do so by a promoter of the sport.

Zbyszko was once one of the most muscular and strongest men in the world. During the pinnacle of his fighting career, the mighty wrestler was a “hard” 260 pounds at a height of five feet, eight inches, and his reported measurements were as follows: chest, 55 inches; waist 42 inches; arm 22 inches; thigh 31 inches; and calf 18 1/2 inches. Judging by his large numbers, there is little doubt that the huge wrestler could have been another Doug Hepburn had he specialized in weightlifting, and I wonder what “record” lifts he would have made had he done so.

Although packed with mountains of muscle, Zbyszko was no musclehead. In fact, so great were his intellectual achievements, the strongman was once referred to in The Polish Biographical Dictionary as “one of the most cultured sportsmen who ever lived.” Zbyszko was fluent in 11 languages, a graduate of the University of Vienna, and a lawyer by profession. He also was a skilled musician, philosopher, and poet. In addition, the former champ was granted a patent in 1964 for his invention of the tilt-top table, a unique exercise apparatus.

A sports writer once described Zbyszko as “all energy and ambition.” The strongman devoted much time to athletic training, and during his competitive years he typically ran 10 to 15 miles each day, in addition to his wrestling practice! You may want to reflect upon this the next time you feel like you don’t have time for a 20 or 30-minute exercise session.

In 1967, at the age of 88, Stanislaus Zbyszko died in St. Joseph, Missouri of a heart attack. And, although it has been many decades since his passing, the Polish strongman remains a legend of the wrestling game. He indeed had been an “eighth wonder of the world,” as was claimed by his many fans during his victory years.

Source: www.musclesofiron.com
By: Rob Drucker  
  ​Wladek Zbyszko
(November 20, 1891 – June 10, 1968)

Wladek Cyganiewicz was born in Krakow, Galicia, Austria-Hungary. The date of his birth has been commonly stated to be November 20, 1891. He attended the University of Krakow and earned a Doctor of Law degree from the University of Vienna.

Wladek followed his older brother Stanislaus into professional wrestling. Cyganiewicz was a hard name to both spell and pronounce. Early in his career, Stan changed his ring name to Zbyszko and when Wladek turned to the mat sport he also used that last name.

His first match in America was at Chicago’s Empire Theater on January 17, 1913 and Wladek defeated Alexander Angeloff in the time of two minutes and twenty seconds. He soon began moving up the ranks. The Manhattan Opera House held a major wrestling tournament in 1915. In a brutal match against Alexander Aberg, the pair wrestled three hours and forty minutes to a draw.

By 1917, Wladek claimed the world’s mat championship based on a victory over Ed “Strangler” Lewis in San Francisco’s Civic Auditorium on June 5. Lewis’ claim was based on a win over John Olin, who had won a questionable decision over titleholder Joe Stecher in 1916.

Later in the fall another tournament was held at the Manhattan Opera House. In the final tournament contest, held on December 22, Zbyszko defeated Ed “Strangler” Lewis in one hour and forty seven minutes and was awarded the world’s championship.

Wladek lost his claim to the world’s title on February 8, 1918 in Des Moines by losing to Earl Caddock. After each wrestler had won a fall, referee and noted Chicago newspaper writer Ed Smith awarded the decision to Caddock, a native son of Iowa, when the time limit expired.

In 1919, rumors circulated that champion Caddock, who was fighting in France during the war, was retiring. This news resulted in Joe Stecher, “Strangler” Lewis and Wladek all fighting over the championship. Wladek again claimed the title during this muddled period. Finally Stecher defeated Caddock in 1920 to clear up the claims to the championship.

Wladek, along with his brother Stan, traveled the world. Besides touring Europe, the brothers were well-known in Brazil and Argentina throughout their active years. They even brought their own troop of wrestlers to South America. Over many years, they trained wrestlers including Johnny Valentine and Harley Race.

In a famous 1934 Rio de Janiero contest against the noted Helio Gracie, the pair wrestled to a draw in a three round Jiu-Jitsu rules match. Surprisingly, Wladek wrestled in Chicago as late as 1950. He was an eminent pianist and a real ladies man, who made headlines for the latter.
The February 11, 1964 issue of the Kansas City Star ran a long story on Wladek. He was trying to get a patent for his Zbyszko exerciser which he said had more than six-hundred exercises from which to choose. In the article, Wladek rated the Great Gama and Ivan Podubny as the best wresters he ever saw. He said that Hans Steinke was the strongest. Zbyszko also praised Ed “Strangler” Lewis, Joe Stecher and John Pesek as being great wrestlers.

Wladek Zbyszko passed away on June 10, 1968, at his farm in Savannah, Missouri.

Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: www.pwhf.org
By Don Luce
  ​Billy Riley

“You can never train too hard” and “Billy is always right”

Billy Riley was a practitioner and teacher of Catch Wrestling. As a trainer in the sport, Riley taught some of the leading post-World War II figures in Catch Wrestling at his gymnasium, nicknamed “The Snake Pit” in Wigan, Greater Manchester, England.

As an apprentice moulder, Billy trained with the Wigan miners in the traditional art of Lancashire Catch-as-Catch-Can, at a time when it was one of the most popular sports in the area. The tough Wigan native soon began showing extraordinary submission skills. Riley was known to be a devastating “hooker” and it showed in his wrestling matches as he soon gained notoriety for breaking his opponent’s arms. During the 1920s Riley travelled to Africa to capture a British Empire championship from Jack Robinson.

Billy toured America twice and was recognized internationally for his skill in the sport. He then decided to teach catch wrestling in Wigan, and upon return from one of his trips he purchased a small plot of land in Wigan and with the help of his students built a gymnasium.

When he opened the gym in the 1950s, it fast developed a reputation as one of the most formidable schools ever known. The gym was little more than a tin hut with very few facilities, but it turned out many champions, including the likes of Billy Joyce, who many regard as the greatest Catch Wrestler to ever step in the ring (or onto a field for that matter).

The gym soon became popular for producing some of the most skilled catch wrestlers in the world. Men such as Karl Gotch (Istaz), Bert Assirati, Melvin Riss (Harold Winstanley), John Foley, Jack Dempsey (Tommy Moore), Billy Joyce (Bob Robinson), Billy Robinson, and Billy Riley’s son Ernie Riley all attended the gym and it was then that Billy Riley’s gym became known as the Snake Pit.

Karl Gotch helped spread the fame of Riley’s gym when he told people in America and Japan where he acquired such a formidable style, and people travelled from all around to train there. It is said Billy had two mottos – “Billy is always right” and “you can never train too hard”.
Riley died in 1977. Roy Wood and Tommy Heyes kept the Snake Pit running, and the children visited Riley’s wife to show her the trophies and achievements made possible by the efforts of her husband.

  ​Billy Sandow
(4 Sept, 1884 – 15 September 1972)

Wilhelm Baumann, better known as Billy Sandow, was an American professional wrestler and promoter. He is best remembered as the manager of professional wrestler Ed “Strangler” Lewis and a subsequent member of the famed Gold Dust Trio promotion that changed the face of the industry during the 1920s (along with Lewis and Joseph “Toots” Mondt). He may have taken his ring name from Sandow, a professional wrestler and strongman in the late 19th century. Sandow also served as manager for such wrestling champions as Billy Jenkins, Marin Plestina, and Everett Marshall, and also used the ring name The Zebra Kid in 1951.

He was a charter inductee of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996. Sandow and his brother, Max Baumann, traveled together to promote wrestling events. They also promoted events in Georgia. Sandow met his star attraction Lewis during World War I, when Sandow was teaching recruits hand-to-hand fighting techniques. Sandow was credited with helping to develop Lewis’ famed headlock. The two men were linked in the public eye, and in 1926, Sandow and Lewis published an eight-volume collection of preferred training and fighting techniques, which they dubbed “kinetic stress.”

As the 1920s dawned, the popularity of professional wrestling was dimming, mostly due to the slow-paced “mat wrestling” style which had become dominant. Promoters like Sandow and Toots Mondt were eager to liven up their exhibitions with a more crowd-pleasing style. Time limits were instituted, and events were held in more major arenas. They took control of all aspects of the pseudo-sport, by booking, training, managing and promoting. Along with Lewis, the threesome swiftly took the lead in promoting wrestling around the country, signing some of the top wrestlers to exclusive contracts. The partnership dissolved in the mid-1930s.

In 1922, Sandow issued a public $10,000 challenge to the heavyweight champion boxer of the world, Jack Dempsey, further declaring, “My personal wager of $5,000 still stands that Lewis can beat Dempsey inside of 20 minutes in any ring in the world.” Dempsey’s manager Jack Kearns issued a response, and the matter cooled. But by the end of the year, Sandow’s offer was receiving renewed coverage by the press, including the Chicago Tribune, which published the speculative results of a Lewis-Dempsey match. Lewis won in 38 minutes.

In December, Dempsey told a reporter, “I think I’d be mighty tempted to try to beat that wrestler at his own game. I’ve done a lot of wrestling as part of my preliminary training and I think I’ve got the old toehold and headlock down close to perfection. If I can win the first fall from him, I’ll begin to use my fists. But I’ve got a funny little hunch that maybe I can dump him without rapping him on the chin.”

Lewis thought that he would have the advantage: “You must understand that in such a contest I would be allowed to use my feet and legs… In doing so, I believe I could break the leg of a man like Dempsey, who is not used to wrestling… Of course there is one chance in a thousand that he might hit me with a punch hard enough to knock me out before I could get hold of him, but that is only one chance. I am sincere about the match, and will put up $25,000 in real money to bet that I can beat him. At one point, negotiations for the match appeared sincere. Sandow met with Dempsey’s manager in Los Angeles, and reports of a contract emerged. But the match was never officially scheduled.

Decades later, Sports Illustrated postulated that Kearns was happy to keep the talk alive for publicity purposes, but never had any intention of putting Dempsey into an uncontrolled environment with a “shooting” wrestler. Sandow died on September 15, 1972, at age 88 in Portland, Oregon.

Source: Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame www.pwi-online.com  
  Ad Santel

Ad Santel, born Adolph Ernst was a Catch as Catch Can wrestler and claimant to the World Light Heavyweight Wrestling Championship. He is regarded as one of the most influential Catch Wrestlers/Grapplers of all time, but what he is best known for are his legendary battles with some of the greatest judokas whom ever lived.

The early 20th century was a pivotal and exciting time for Judo. In 1882, Jigoro Kano founded the Kodokan in Japan, Judo’s official headquarters. The new sport, synthesized from various styles of jujitsu by Jigoro Kano in the 1880s, had begun to grow in popularity and prestige.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ocean, Catch Wrestling was king. The early 1900s were the golden age of pro wrestling’s legitimate lineage. Top grapplers made their living on the carnival circuit, handling local toughs, and fought for higher stakes against other elite Catch Wrestling stylists known as “hookers.” While the likes of George Hackenschmidt and Frank Gotch wrestled over heavyweight supremacy, many of Kano’s students traveled abroad to spread knowledge of “the gentle way.”

One such traveler was Tokugoro Ito, a fifth dan black belt from the Kodokan. Ito left Japan in 1907 and embarked on Seattle, where he helped establish the Seattle Dojo. However, since wrestling paid better than teaching, Ito also worked as a professional wrestler, which saw him, tour up and down the Pacific coast and on to Cuba and South America with none other than Mitsuyo “Conde Koma” Maeda, who would go on to influence Carlos and Helio Gracie elsewhere. Ito returned to the United States in January 1916. He settled in San Francisco and met Ad Santel there a few short weeks later.

Santel fought Ito on Feb. 5, 1916, and Santel emerged victorious after thumping Ito’s head off the floor to take a TKO win. Based on his preeminence in prior wrestling bouts, Ito had been dubbed the “World Judo Champion.” Now with his victory, Santel proclaimed himself as the world’s top judoka.

After learning of Ito’s defeat, the Kodokan tried to save face. The institute stated that since Ito had left almost a decade ago, his Judo skills had perhaps weakened, despite his considerable success in legitimate bouts in the nine years since his departure. Even though Ito dominated Santel and choked him out in their rematch four months later, Santel was determined to continue his siege on Judo.

The following year he traveled to Seattle to challenge the transplanted judoka of the Seattle Dojo. On Oct. 20, he had a rematch against Taro Miyake, with whom he had drawn the previous year.

The Seattle Daily Times wrote that Santel half-nelson slammed Miyake “so hard that the Japanese had dizzy spells for half an hour after the fall.” Two weeks later, Santel took fourth dan Daisuke Sakai out in two falls, submitting him both times with short-arm scissors, more contemporarily known as a bicep slicer.

Santel’s feud with Judo came to a head in March 1921, when he traveled to Japan and publicly challenged the Kodokan. While the Kodokan frowned on professional matchups involving its current students and ordered them not to participate, it didn’t stop their judoka from accepting the challenge.

On March 5 at the Yasukuni Shrine, Santel took on fifth dan Reijiro Nagata, whom he slammed for a TKO. The following day, in a captivating hour-long battle, he grappled to a draw with another fifth dan, Hikoo Shoji.

Following the challenge matches in Japan, Santel’s interest in the “World Judo Champion” gimmick waned. However, the Japanese were fascinated by the submissions of catch wrestling, and that included Hikoo Shoji himself. Shoji traveled to California with Santel to learn the wrestling ropes and is now viewed as the father of freestyle wrestling in Japan.

On a separate note, Ad is also one of the men responsible for training the great Lou Thesz, whom he told years after the famous 1911 match between Frank Gotch and George Hackenschmidt that he had been paid $5000 by Gotch’s backers to cripple Hackenschmidt in training, and make it look like an accident.

However, according to Hackenschmidt himself, the injury was accidentally inflicted by his sparring partner, Dr. Roller, when trying to hold Hackenschmidt down onto his knees and Roller’s right foot striking Hackenschmidt’s right knee. According to Hackenschmidt, his sparring partners were Jacobus Koch, Wladek Zbyszko and Dr. Roller. Ad Santel is not mentioned in any account of Hackenschmidt’s training by either Hackenschmidt or Roller, both of whom offered their insights and accounts.

Santel lost his World Light Heavyweight Championship to Gobar Goho in 1921.

1.) “Catching our History” by Jordan Breen
2.) Legacy of Wrestling www.lagacyofwrestling.com
3.) Classic Wrestling Articles-Google sites  
  ​Earl Caddock
(February 27, 1888 – August 25, 1950)
The Original “Man of a thousand Holds”

Earl Caddock was born in Huron, South Dakota on February 27, 1888. His parents were Jewish of German or Bohemian extraction. The family name may actually have been spelled Caddach, Craddock, or Caddack. As a child, Caddock grew sickly and anemic and his physicians claimed he had tuberculosis. As part of his treatment, Earl was sent to the local YMCA. He began swimming and, after his health improved, weightlifting and wrestling. He continued wrestling and won many local amateur titles. Around 1907, he went to Chicago and attended college, presumably at The Hebrew Institution. He was coached there by Benny Reubin, a legend in amateur catch-as-catch can wrestling. Caddock also worked out with professionals Charlie Cutler and Ernest Kartje.

Although not many of his 1909-1914 results are known, Caddock was the dominant amateur middleweight and light heavyweight in the country. A newspaper story reported that local farmers in Barea, Iowa arranged a match between the two local champion amateurs – Caddock and Joe Stecher. The two wrestled in a barn in front of thirty-eight people, with Stecher winning the two of the three falls match. On April 4, 1914, Caddock won the national AAU Light Heavyweight title. He was 26 years old, a collage graduate and a landholder, having homesteaded a ranch in Upton, Wyoming near the Black Hills. On April 17, 1915, Caddock won the AAU championship in both the light heavyweight and heavyweight classes.
His pro debut was on June 8, 1915 when he met former American Champion Jesse Westergaard in a handicap match. In January 1916, Caddock signed a contract to be managed by Gene Malady, who gave Caddock the title “The Man of a Thousand Holds”. Caddock had the favorite finishing hold of a head scissor. The Stecher vs. Caddock world title match took place on April 9, 1917 in a sold out arena. The attendance was 7,500 for a gate of $14,000. Caddock was awarded the World Title when Stecher was unable to return to the ring for the third and deciding fall. Caddock had overcome size with skill and speed to record one of wrestlings biggest upsets.

On August 4, 1917, the U.S. military determined that he was unfit for WWI military service due to an infection caused by tonsil surgery but Caddock wanted to fight. He went to the famed Mayo Clinic and received treatment and surgery on his tonsils and on October 5, the U.S. Army accepted him. In France in 1918, Caddock was gassed. In Londdrecourt, France Caddock trained the Second Army Athletic Team for competition in the A.E.F. championships where his boxing and wrestling teams won championships.

Earl Caddock’s last known match took place in Boston on June 7, 1922. Caddock, unlike many other wrestlers, had a good education and wealth. He became President of the United Petroleum Corporation located in Omaha. He lived in good health until 1948, when he had a major heart attack. He underwent major surgeries in 1949 and 1950. He was bedridden after that and never recovered. He died at his home in Walnut, Iowa on August 25, 1950.

Caddock, at 5’11’ and 185 pounds, was also able to make matches and wins over wrestlers forty pounds heavier than he, look believable. He also had memorable matches with Lewis, Londos, and both Zbyszkos. Caddock was the top babyface of this time.

Caddock’s biography “Earl Caddock” by Steve Yohe  
  Joe Stecher
(April 4, 1893 – March 29, 1974)

In the years immediately following the retirement of wrestling’s top star of the early twentieth century, Frank Gotch, pro wrestling experienced a bit of a tailspin. Without the credibility brought to the profession by the respected Gotch, or the impressive revenue generated while the internationally known champion held the World title, promoters were desperate to find “the next Frank Gotch.” Of course, a star such as Gotch comes only once or twice per generation, but with his absense from the sport came opportunity for those matmen who were ambitious and talented enough to answer the call.

With the undisputed champion in retirement, a “new number one” was ready to be crowned and a bounty of talented grapplers stepped up to the challenge. One of those early post-Gotch champions was an athletic, talented wrestler by the name of Joe Stecher. Wrestling in the shadow of the legendary Gotch was no easy task, but Stecher was more than determined to establish himself as the best wrestler in the world, and, as the World Heavyweight champion for more than six years all total, he undoubtedly proved his worth while forever cementing his lofty position in professional wrestling history…

Following the retirement of the sport’s number one attraction in 1913, promoters across the country were searching for a man, or men, that could help fill the void left by Gotch’s departure from wrestling. Nebraska’s Joe Stecher was one of the top young grapplers of the day, and, after amassing an impressive collection of victories throughout the Midwest and Western states, Stecher came to national prominence on July 5, 1915. That date marks the day that the unassuming young Stecher defeated Charlie Cutler for the World championship in what was, at that time, one of the premier wrestling cities in the world, Omaha, NE. In fact, Gotch himself (pictured) was in attendance that night in Omaha, and it was with the world-reknowned former champion’s support that the new titleholder set out to carry on in the tradition of Gotch and other greats who had held the belt, while at the same time, stake his own claim as a deserving champion in the ‘King of Sports’.

Stecher was the man who introduced the Leg Scissors to professional wrestling, and it was with his trademark submission move (which could be placed either on the head or the torso) that Stecher won a large percentage of his matches, both before and after he became the World Heavyweight champion. While he was by no means a large man in terms of pro wrestling, Stecher was wiry and athletic, deceivingly strong, and well-versed in the fundementals of grappling. For two years, the young champion sat atop the wrestling world as the Heavyweight champion, defending his title frequently and serving as the unofficial post-Gotch ambassador of his sport. And while it’s true that it was nearly impossible to match Gotch’s extraordinary popularity or his immense box-office drawing power, the soft-spoken but highly competent Stecher was still a definite crowd favorite, and a successful champion in virtually every measurable way.

Joe Stecher’s first reign as the World champion ended on April 9, 1917 in a match that was considered a major upset. Stecher, who was nearing his third year as champion, was defeated in a title match against a relative unknown by the name of Earl Caddock in a hard-fought but clean bout. Following his loss of the championship, Stecher remained one of the top wrestlers in the game and a solid performer at the box-office. Eventually, he worked his way back into the championship picture, and on January 30, 1920 he defeated Caddock for the World title in a rematch held in New York City.

After an eleven-month run with the belt during which he met & defeated the best wretlers of the day, Stecher came up against the man who was perhaps the most formidable opponent of his career, a wrestler who emerged as the most dominant wrestler of the post-Gotch era, the legendary shooter Ed “Strangler” Lewis (pictured). On December 12, 1913, Lewis — the most skilled & dangerous wrestler in the game at that time — defeated the overmatched Stecher for the World championship, ending Stecher’s second reign as the champion. Many years later, Stecher commented that “Lewis was the toughest man I ever wrestled.”

Following his loss of the title, the talented Nebraskan continued on as one of wrestling’s most recognized names and a consistent top draw while selling out arenas around the country. After competing for several years without winning a championship, by the mid-twenties the resilient Stecher (who was still relatively young, despite his many years of experience) was once again in the hunt for the title.

On March 30, 1925, he defeated another legendary name from the past, the great Stanislaus Zbyzsco, for the World Heavyweight Wrestling championship in St. Louis, MO. Over the course of the following three years, the three-time World champion incorporated his skill and speed to maintain his firm hold on the World title. However, eventually, he again crossed paths with the nearly unbeatable Ed “Strangler” Lewis and, as had been the case several years earlier, Stecher lost his World title to Lewis on February 2, 1928.

As one of modern pro wrestling’s Founding Fathers, former World champion Joe Stecher’s impact on the business was indeed profound, and his legendary career truly helped serve as a bridge from what wrestling had been in the past to what it would eventually become in the future.

  John Pesek
(February 21, 1894 – March 12, 1978)

The “Nebraska Tiger Man,” John Pesek , was an extraordinary wrestler. Born in Ravenna, Nebraska, Pesek was fifty pounds the heaviest of three wrestling brothers (the other two were 140-pound twins) and, early on, began earning his spurs as a training partner for then-world champion Joe Stecher, another native Nebraskan.

Pesek really began coming into prominence in the winter of 1916-17, when both the world champion (Earl Caddock) and the Canadian champion (Jack Taylor) were unable to pin him in handicap matches. A year later, he beat Taylor, then Clarence Eklund and Yussiff Hussane – and a year after that toppled John Freberg, Wladek Zbyszko and Jim Londos.

Not until Stecher beat him in a world title match in 1920 did Pesek even lose a match. In a career that would last some 40 years, he lost less than 20 times – a phenomenal statistic. On anyone’s all-time list, Pesek has to be among the top ten.

A “hooker” in the true sense of the word, Pesek could get very mean when so moved. In November 1921, he was disqualified against Marin Plestina at Madison Square Garden – but not before he thoroughly embarrassed his quite formidable opponent (Plestina was one of the best at the time), who wound up trying to gouge Pesek’s eyeballs in retaliation and was banned for life by New York authorities.

In Boston, Olympic wrestler Nat Pendleton was trying to cast public derision on the hippodroming professionals, asserting there was no way they could stay with a “legitimate” wrestler. Promoter Paul Bowser imported Pesek, billed as “The Unknown,” to explore Nat’s assertion. The Tiger Man not only forced Pendleton to submit, but broke his ankle in the process. Small wonder, then, that Ed (Strangler) Lewis hired Pesek as his “policeman,” or enforcer, for a number of years thereafter.

After a few years working with the so-called wrestling “Trust,” Pesek tired of taking orders and went on his own. A group of independent Midwest promoters made him their world champion in 1929, a diadem he defended on and off for nearly 20 years. Along the way, even after he was past his prime, the National Wrestling Association gave Pesek world title recognition in 1937 at a time when there were probably a dozen “world champions” roaming North America.

Over the years, Pesek probably posted as much as $100,000 in forfeits with various athletic commissions in much-ballyhooed efforts to lure the game’s top names into the ring. Almost without exception, they quietly demurred. From 1928 to 1954, Pesek is known to have lost just one bout – a November 1933 go with the formidable Ray Steele in St. Louis.

While largely absenting himself from the game’s mainstream, Pesek built up one of the country’s foremost greyhound racing stables on his more than 800-acre farm in Ravenna. And he raised a family, including a pretty good college football player in son “Jack,” who got into the wrestling business in time to appear in tag team matches with his dad in 1950 and who, in turn, himself came a 20-year veteran of the pro wrestling wars.

J Michael Kenyon/Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame
  ​Clarence Eklund
(3 June, 1887-4 January 1981)

Clarence Eklund was nicknamed “The Octopus” for his ability to take leg wrestling to a new level. Eklund worked a lot of these leg submissions off of a cross body ride or single leg grapevine and its said that Eklund was so flexible and technically sound in his attacks that he developed his legs into a second set of arms. Eklund dominated on the mat in the period from 1913-the late 1920’s and its no surprise that the term “streching” became popular during this timeframe.

Eklund would work the cross body ride into maneuvers like the banana split, inside toehold, the “back mount” which was a top scissors crossface combination and a variety of cross faces and reverse cross faces. In addition Eklund was adept at scissoring his opponent’s arm with his legs and utilizing an array of nelsons and double arm stretches. With his vast proficiency in stretching his opponent Clarence Eklund would make his adversary feel as though their muscles were actually ripping apart.

Clarence Eklund caused sportswriters like Bill Sopris to look on in awe at his dominance on the mat. Sopris wrote of Eklund “(Ed had) a knack to use the grapevine and hinder progress of an opponent with his legs and his forte was his legs and with uncanny power, he was able to break leverages and wear down a man, finally beating him with half-body scissor and bar arm.”

Eklund was without a doubt one of the finest grapplers of all time. At 175lbs Eklund claimed the World Light-Heavyweight title in 1916. In 1928, at age 42, Eklund captured the undisputed world championship at a tournament held in Australia. Eklund held victories over Ted Thye, Clete Kauffman and the legendary Ad Santel. In fact, Eklunds win over Santel in addition to his other victories have caused many to say that he was the greatest pound for pound grappler of all time.

Something else that Clarence Eklund is famous for is dominating amateur wrestling teams. During the twilight of Eklunds career, during his early 40’s, he did something he had done several times throughout his career. Eklund had set up a seminar for the national champion Iowa wrestling team. Eklund indicated to the coach that he wanted to roll with some of his students. Eklund asked the coach to “line em’ up” and Eklund pinned every member of the team. It took him the longest to pin the heavyweight. Eklund pinned him in approximately two minutes.

1.) “Rough and Tumble, The History of American Submission Wrestling” by Erik Paulson, Matt Granahan and JD Dwyer.  
  Ed “Strangler” Lewis
(June 30, 1891 – August 8, 1966)

Born in Nekoosa, Wisconsin on June 30, 1891, Robert Friedrich began wrestling at carnivals and on small farms throughout the mid-western United States when he was only fourteen years old. Freidrich assumed the ring name Ed “Strangler” Lewis based on the 19th century wrestler Evan “Strangler” Lewis because of their various similarities. Freidrich also adopted the name because his parent’s held disdain for professional wrestling. He is considered to have been one of the finest submission wrestlers of the era with his famous headlock.

Lewis garnered quick success in professional wrestling and earned a title shot against World Champion Joe Stecher on December 13, 1920. Lewis won his first championship from Stecher and started a long feud that quickly spanned beyond the wrestling ring. Stecher would become Lewis’ greatest rival throughout the next decade not only athletically but also in business. Lewis was the core of the wrestling promotional group called the “Gold Dust Trio” which consisted of Lewis, Toots Mondt, and Billy Sandow.

The trio would begin promoting wrestling shows from town to town and are credited for being the very first group to add story lines and other angles making professional wrestling into a complete spectacle. Stecher himself would have his own promotion compete against the “Gold Dust Trio” perhaps creating the earliest of wrestling promotional wars. Lewis and Stecher reportedly wrestled one of the longest matches in history. Their bout lasted five and a half hours and ended in a draw which only enhanced their rivalry.

After his feud with Stecher, Lewis won several other championships in his career. He would hold the undisputed World’s Heavyweight Championship on four separate occasions between 1920 and 1931. Lewis would go on to win the American Wrestling Association (Boston) World Heavyweight Championship, the New York State Athletic Commission World Heavyweight Championship in 1932, and his final championship came in 1942 by winning the Midwest Wrestling Association World Heavyweight title in Kansas City, Kansas. Lewis also battled Jim Londos at Wrigley Field in front of an audience of 35,265 on September 20, 1934. This match set a gross revenue record, which stood until 1952, of over $96,000.

Ed “Strangler” Lewis retired from active in-ring competition in 1948. He defeated some of the top wrestlers of his time including Ed Don George, Stanslaus Zybyszko, and Joe Malcewicz. Upon retirement from the ring, Lewis would still make his powerful presence known in wrestling. Lewis managed one of the most decorated wrestlers of the next era – Lou Thesz. Ed “Strangler” Lewis’ name is so synonymous with professional wrestling that it was mentioned in the hit movie “The Music Man” in 1962. Lewis passed away on August 8, 1966 in New York City at the age of seventy-six.

Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum
By: Andrew Malnoske 
  Joe “Toots” Mondt
(January 18, 1894 – June 11, 1976)

James (Joe) Ervin Mondt was born on a small Iowa farm in 1894. His father moved the family to Colorado’s Weld County, where mining work was readily available. Circuses often traveled to populated areas and Mondt saw a chance to earn extra money. Being well-conditioned, he soon engaged in carnival wrestling and was discovered by the legendary wrestler and instructor Farmer Burns. Mondt soon developed into a very skillful wrestler. Being the youngest participant in the Burns training camp, the wispy-haired and baby-faced Mondt was said to be christened, “Toots”, by Burns himself and the name has endured throughout the years.

Mondt’s innovative gamester mind is credited with changing the face of pro-wrestling by combining traditional Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling, professional boxing, and mining camp brawling. He called it “Slam Bang Western Style Wrestling”. Mondt, a dangerous shooter, soon saw that the big money was earned through the promotional end of the business. Circa 1922, Mondt struck up a business relationship with Ed “Strangler” Lewis and his manager, Billy Sandow. Toots introduced his concept to the top wrestlers of the day and immediately signed them up to contractual agreements.

The public loved the new style, which resulted in full capacity gates, excellent payouts for the wrestlers, and handsome profits for Toots Mondt and his two partners. Throughout the 1920’s, the “Gold Dust Trio” took wrestling to new heights in the major sporting arenas in cities throughout the heartland of the nation. New talent was developed and tested by the trio and finishes were carefully choreographed by Toots. Internal rifts developed and the partnership dissolved in the late 1920’s. Toots took his ideas and fresh concepts and headed East.

Mondt, “The Colorado Cowboy”, linked up with famed Philadelphia promoter Ray Fabiani. Toots also formed a working alliance with powerful New York promoter Jack Curley and served as his main booker. Their promotion soon topped the bill with Germany’s Dick Shikat, who was also under contract to Mondt. In 1930, the very popular Jim Londos, managed by Ed White, was bestowed championship honors by the group.

New York wrestling thrived until Londos balked at paying Toot’s managerial fee and Londos left the promotion. Mondt then crowned old friend Ed “Strangler” Lewis as champ on June 6, 1932 after signing him away from Boston’s Paul Bowser. However, New York attendance fell and the aging Lewis dropped the belt in 1933 to Jim Browning. Late in 1933, Toots found himself as part of the new “Wrestling Trust” consisting of the Curley group and the Londos/Tom Packs group with Jim Londos as their champion. Together, they controlled professional wrestling in North America and divided profits equally.

When the New York business diminished, Toot’s left for Los Angeles and worked with Lou Daro’s thriving West Coast territory. In 1936, Mondt returned to New York and associated himself with wrestling pariah Jack Pfefer by overthrowing Al Haft’s new champion, Ali Baba. Mondt purchased the contract of new champ Dave Levin from Pfefer for $17,000. By then, the “Wrestling Trust” had dissolved and Mondt took Levin to the West Coast to face title claimant Vincent Lopez.

With Jack Curley’s death in 1937, Mondt teamed up with Ray Fabiani and wrestler/promoter Rudy Dusek. Toots continued to promote to a smaller but steady wrestling audience. He was able to bring wrestling back to New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1949 after an absence of eleven years (Gorgeous George defeated Ernie Dusek). The previous show at MSG in 1938 had seen Steve “Crusher” Casey defeat Danno O’Mahoney.
In the early 1950’s and with help from NWA affiliates, Mondt was involved in several Northeast wrestling enterprises and created what would evolve into the Capitol Wrestling Corporation. He brought in Antonino Rocca as his top draw. In 1956, he joined Washington, D.C. promoter Vincent J. McMahon and TV wrestling’s popularity soared in New York City. Toots taught Vince about booking, working and marketing wrestling as a sports exhibition, while keeping with traditional concepts. Toots controlled Northeast wrestling and rarely allowed champion Buddy Rogers to wrestle in the other NWA territories. Capitol broke away from the NWA in 1963 and formed the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). Toots and Vince then built the WWWF around Bruno Sammartino. Toots left the WWWF operations in the late 1960’s.

On June 11, 1976, Joseph “Toots” Mondt died of pneumonia at age eighty-two. A highly skilled professional wrestler and an astute promoter with a creative mind, he left an indelible mark on the business as we know it today.

Source: Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame www.pwhf.org by: Johnny Griffin — with Malin Ali Bey. 
  ​Ivan Seric A.K.A. Jack Sherry
(11 Jan, 1897 – 3 Dec, 1968)

Ivan Seric was born into a Yugoslavian farming family and later moved to Alaska, where he became a gold miner. He went on to become Jack Sherry, one of the greatest World heavyweight champions of the 20th century. His remarkable strength and natural aptitude for wrestling was discovered by the great Stanislaus Zbyszko, a former wrestling champion and later one of America’s leading wrestling promoters.

In 1933 Sherry came to Britain. He stood 6 feet tall and weighed 17 stones (238lbs). One of his first opponents was Karl Reginsky, the unpopular German heavyweight who would enrage fans by goose-stepping around the ring. Throughout the decade Sherry darted across the Atlantic, recognized as a wrestling great in both Europe and America. He is said to have defeated opponents so quickly that few were willing to enter the ring with him. In less than three minutes Sherry twice pinned the great Karl Pojello.

Belle Vue promoter Kathleen Look brought over 238lb Guillaume Estelles, champion of Switzerland, to meet Sherry. Estelles had only lost on two occasions, once to Karl Pojello, and once to Atholl Oakeley. Within seconds Sherry pinned Estelles, showing once again, no one could last in the same ring as the Alaskan gold miner.

Sherry offered ten thousand dollars to any judoka, boxer or wrestler in the World who was able to compete with him for 100 seconds. Only two British boxers accepted the challenge: at Leicester Reggie Meen lasted under twenty seconds, whilst Phil Scott, a former British heavyweight champion, almost lasted the one hundred seconds.

Each year in Britain an “All Corners” tournament was promoted by Kathleen Look, in which no one was barred from entering. During the whole time he was in Britain from the mid-thirties onwards Sherry entered the tournament, and every year he won without losing a single fall.
Sherry met and defeated just about every big name in British wrestling, including Izzy Van Dutz, Bill Garnon (right), King Curtis, George Boganski, Dave Armstrong and Douglas Clark. “Bulldog” Bill Garnon was matched against Jack Sherry for the world title over six ten minute rounds. Bill was beaten in the final round when he fell through the ropes with Sherry falling on top of him. At that time, Bill was about 210lbs, thus 35 lbs. lighter than the champion.

Throughout the world Sherry was unbeatable. It was said that he “killed” the audiences in South Africa because he won every bout so easily, and he very nearly did the same in Britain. After beating Douglas Clarke, the powerful Cumberland and Westmorland style World champion in a couple of minutes Sherry was recognized by many as the greatest heavyweight of the century. Tributes came not only from fans and pressmen, but other wrestlers also, including George Hackenschmidt. 

Sherry also wrestled in Turkey and beat the Turkish champion in less than three minutes.  Jack Sherry was without a doubt a great world heavyweight champion. Probably not yet equaled, and possibly never will be.

Source: www.Wrestlingheritage.com
  ​Peter Sauer A.K.A. Ray Steele 
(1900 – 11 Sept, 1949)

Peter Sauer, known by the ring name Ray Steele, was an American professional wrestler born and raised in Norka, a German colony in Russia, in 1900 before immigrating to Lincoln, Nebraska in 1906.

Steele practiced catch wrestling in his early career. 16 May 1934 he wrestled Orville Brown to a 30-minute draw. He gained some notoriety in 1936 when he faced heavyweight boxing contender Kingfish Levinsky in a mixed match, which Steele won in 35 seconds. Steele’s biggest accomplishment in the sport was winning the National Wrestling Association’s World Heavyweight Championship from Bronko Nagurski in St. Louis, Missouri on March 7, 1940. Steele would hold the belt for over a year before losing it back to Bronko Nagurski on March 11, 1941 in Houston, Texas.

Sauer served as a mentor to many young stars, including Lou Thesz before his death of a heart attack in September 1949.

1.) Orville Brown Wrestling History
2.) “Wrestling Mourns Ray Steele” St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Sept. 13, 1949)  
  Bob Robinson A.K.A. Billy Joyce
(1916 – 2000)

Bob Robinson was a British Wrestler better known by his Ring Name of Billy Joyce, and he is widely regarded as one of the top British Heavyweights of all time and one of the best technical wrestlers in British Wrestling History.

Like many a Lancashire lad Joyce joined the family business and worked down the coalmine before finding his way as many Wigan men did, into the world of Wrestling. It was his brother Joe (a wrestler himself) who introduced him to the business and it would be Joe again who introduced him to Billy Riley and the Snake Pit where he began to learn his trade and from then on his daily routine would be a hard day’s work down the mine followed by a hard evenings work in the Snake Pit where he learnt the business of wrestling.

In the early days of his career it was difficult for him to reach the arenas where the event was taking place. With only a small bag containing his wrestling gear and a hot or cold drink, depending on the weather, he would mount his bicycle and ride to wherever his match was taking place, wrestle his bout, then ride home again. For matches too far to ride to he would hitch a ride with another local wrestler until he saved enough to buy a car. Once he had his car he travelled all over the country to wrestle but always returned home the next day as he would never leave his family long.

A shy man by nature Joyce was often overshadowed by more flashy contemporaries and didn’t have the impact on wrestling image wise that they did but for him this didn’t matter. For Joyce had only two loves, wrestling and his family, so as long as he could do what he loved and he had his family behind him he was happy. Often the heel he never liked to bring his family to watch him wrestle as he never wanted them to see him having abuse hurled at him by hundreds of people and wanted to save them from the distress this would cause.

For thirty years he sat on top of the wrestling world in Britain. He would start each day with three hundred press ups followed by five hundred sit ups and then a daily visit to the Snake Pit to spar, perfect his techniques and help train the new blood. One of those new blood’s that he help train was a Belgian by the name of Karl Istaz who would reach greater fame later as Karl Gotch. Joyce took Gotch under his wing, taught him all he knew; took him into his home whenever he was in the region and looked out for him. Years later Joyce’s daughter Dorothy was in America and visited Gotch at his home where he was surprised but delighted to see them and recorded a message to his old teacher – proving that although Gotch had achieved great success he hadn’t forgotten Joyce.

Joyce was a stubborn man and was reluctant to let anyone better him. He always told his wife “if I can lick ‘em, I’ll lick em” and was as good as his word. This made him rather difficult to work with sometimes. While never a man who liked to travel far he did wrestle in Europe and was tempted out to Japan by his good friends Billy Robinson and Karl Gotch but he never wrestled once in America, not because he was never wanted there but because he refused to go there.

Some were truly afraid to wrestler Joyce and refused to even step in the ring with him but most wrestlers thought highly of him and knew him as a very nice and amiable man and respected him as a great worker with a high level of skill and knowledge about wrestling.

Roy Wood, a student of the Snake Pit and the man who took over the running of it from Riley after Riley died, said that Joyce was the best wrestler to ever come out of Wigan. Geoff Condcliffe, better known as Count Bartelli, said that Joyce was the only wrestler he would pay to watch an likened his bouts with Joyce to a chess game in which he was always two or three moves behind Joyce. Karl Gotch names Joyce as the last great “Ripper” of British Wrestling, an opinion shared of Joyce by Billy Robinson who said “His only weakness was that he was too nice, he wanted to beat you but not to hurt you”.

Coach Billy Robinson 
  ​Bert Assirati
(July 1908 – 31 August 1990)

Bartolomeo “Bert” Assirati was an English Wrestler who became a multiple time British Heavyweight Champion. He is known for his impressive feats of strength including laying flat on his back and pulling over a 200lb barbell at arm’s length and deadlifting 800lbs. At over 240lbs he is one of the heaviest men to ever perform the “Iron Cross.” He was one of the strongest men In the world and could perform such acrobatic maneuvers such as a one-arm hand stand and a back flip while holding two-100lb dumbbells.

Assirati began weight training at only 12 years of age and at the age of 17 he formed part of the acrobatic stage duo “Mello and Nello.” At the age of 20, Assirati began his career as a professional wrestler but continued to train as a weightlifter as well. He was trained in Wigan England, in Catch as Catch Can Wrestling by Atholl Oakley.

Known as a vicious competitor, he took pleasure in pain; not only dishing it out to his opponents but he enjoying receiving it as well. Many promoters were reluctant to book him because of his reputation for double –crossing his opponents and many were said to be afraid to wrestle him. Assirati himself claimed that Lou Thesz was one of those who were afraid to wrestle him. Assirati did challenge Thesz, but Thesz refused the match.

Assirati won his first major championship while competing in the British Wrestling Association (BWA). He had claimed to be the British Heavyweight Champion but did not win the title officially until 27 January 1945. Two years later, he also won the European version of the World Heavyweight Championship by defeating Paul Yvar Martinson in the final round of a tournament on 18 February 1947.

He later dropped this title to Martinson but continued to hold the British Heavyweight Championship. To this, he added the European Heavyweight Championship in 1949 by defeating Felix Miquet. In 1950, Assirati left the BWA to wrestle in India. As a result he was stripped of his British Heavyweight title. In 1952 he travelled back to England and reclaimed the European Heavyweight Championship in 1952. In 1955 he won his final championship by defeating Ernie Baldwin for the vacant British Heavyweight title.

Later in life, Assirati worked as a doorman at the Ebbisham Halls in Epsom. He used to enjoy performing a party trick where he would place a metal bottle cap between each finger on both hands and completely crush them all at once. Assirati also faced and beat a boxer named Arnold Corlen in a Wrestler vs. Boxer bout in England and had a brief run in the United States as a wrestler but never got above mid-card.

On August 31 1990, Assirati died of bladder cancer and in 1996 he was one of the very first inductees into the “Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame.”

1.) Bert Assirati Champion home page www.bertassirati.com
2.) Wrestling Heritage www.wrestlingheritage.co.uk
3.) “The Bert Assirati Story” www.nzwrestling.com
4.) Wikipedia www.wikipedia.com  
  Karl Gotch
(Aug 3, 1924 – Jul 28, 2007)

The name Gotch means a lot to wrestling, and instantly conjures up thoughts about the legendary turn-of-the-century exploits of the original World Wrestling Champion, Frank Gotch. However, unbeknownst to most contemporary wrestling fans, there was another man who wrestled under the name Gotch, a man who is considered by many to be nearly as important and deserving of history’s praise as his more famous namesake. In Japan, Karl Gotch is held in as high esteem as Frank Gotch is in America. Likewise, his supreme wrestling skill is as legendary there as Frank Gotch’s grappling techniques are here.

The main difference, though, is that in Japan, both men are revered and respected, while in America, Karl Gotch is basically unknown by the vast majority of wrestling fans. Although he may not be as famous as many of the other Hall of Famers, Karl Gotch, a technical wizard and influential champion in the early history of Japanese wrestling, is every bit as deserving. Quite simply, he helped shape our sport into what it is today, despite the lack of notoriety in the U.S.

Karl Gotch was actually born Karl Istaz, in 1924 in Hamburg, Germany. He started his career in the mid-1950’s, after being trained at the “Snake Pit” Billy Riley’s Gym in Britain, and he originally used the name Karl Krauser. As Karl Krauser, he won several tournaments throughout his native Europe during the first few years of his career. But in 1959, when he traveled to the booming world of American pro wrestling, he was greeted by a somewhat cold reception.

Istaz was a shooter, not a performer, and as a result, he was often passed over by promoters who were looking to pack the house. Unable to do interviews (due to his accent, and mild mannerisms) that intrigued the TV wrestling audience, but more than able to wrestle circles around 90% of his competition, the highly talented Krauser was used primarily as a lower-card worker. His fellow wrestlers, who were higher up “the ladder” often, ducked him, as they knew that Karl Istaz was a dangerous, highly skilled grappler. Not flashy, not flamboyant…but a man who could, and occasionally did, make performance-style wrestlers look highly incompetent whenever he wished.

In 1961, in an attempt to add to his persona, Istaz began wrestling under the name Karl Gotch (in honor of the late, great World champion) and slowly began rising up in the territorial ranks. Soon after changing his ring name to Gotch, Istaz finally began enjoying some well-deserved success. He won the AWA (Ohio) Heavyweight Title in September of 1962 by defeating Don Leo Jonathon, and held the then-prestigous championship for 2 full years before being defeated by the great Lou Thesz.

It was around this time that Gotch became involved in a series of real-life altercations with NWA World Heavyweight champion “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers. Gotch claimed that a fearful Rogers was continually ducking his challenges. As the AWA (Ohio) champion, Gotch felt he was a legitimate NWA World Title contender, but Rogers continually refused to wrestle him. Rogers, on the other hand, felt Gotch (who was still far from being a “big draw”) was simply trying to make a name for himself, at the expense of his own. “The Nature Boy” was not shy about telling Gotch, and anyone else backstage, what he thought about “the shooter”. The animosity between the two eventually led to a locker room fist fight (which was initiated by Gotch) that saw “The Nature Boy” come out a beaten man. It also ended up alienating Gotch from even more promoters and fellow wrestlers.
Just prior to his altercation with Rogers, Gotch wrestled his first match in Japan, which turned out to be a 45-minute draw against established Japanese star Michiaki Yoshimura. Little did Gotch know that it would be in the land of the Rising Sun that he would achieve his greatest fame. So enamored with the talented and athletic Gotch were the Japanese that he is, to this day, referred to as “The God of Pro Wrestling”. In addition to the influence his unique technical style generated, Gotch help shape wrestling forever through the men he trained. Where would the business of pro wrestling in Japan be, had there not been men like Antonio Inoki, Tatsumi Fujinami, Hiro Matsuda, Osamu Kido, Satoru Sayama (the legendary Tiger Mask) and Yoshiaki Fujiwara? Gotch trained them all, and many others, and instilled in them the same appreciation of wrestling skill and technique that had made him such a star in Japan.

However, in America, things for Gotch were quite different. Although he was considered by many to be the “Uncrowned Champion”, Gotch had to struggle for each of the few titles he gained during his 30-year career. He teamed with “Iron” Mike Dibiase in 1967 to win the WWA World Tag Team title in Los Angeles, eventually losing the straps to Pedro Morales & Victor Rivera. His other major title victory was the WWWF World Tag Team championship, which he won with Rene Goulet on December 6, 1971. After being defeated by Baron Mikel Scicluna & King Curtis Iaukea just 3 months later, Gotch soon left the WWWF and returned to Japan for the remainder of his career.

His last major title was New Japan’s “Real” World Heavyweight Title, which he won in 1972. He spent the next several years in Japan as a premier wrestler and trainer. One of the biggest stars the island nation had ever known, he wrestled his last match on January 1, 1982 when he defeated Yoshiaki Fujiwara in Tokyo. Soon after, Gotch retired from the sport, in front of the fans that truly appreciated his talent. Through his talent, style, and influence, Karl Gotch established himself as one of the best wrestlers of his, or any, era. Despite his lack of fame and notoriety, he truly helped shape the sport into what it is today (especially in Japan) and was a genuine trend-setter, whose influence is still being felt to this day.

By Steve Slagle  
  William Wicks “Pops”
Born: 4 April, 1932

William Charles Wicks was born on April 4th, 1932 in a little house in St. Paul Minnesota. He attended the Faith E. Lutheran Church School. As a young man he was a member of the Boy Scouts of America. In his early wrestling days he realized how good he was when he got beaten by two different blind kids on two different days. That was kind of an awakenin…g for him. After that he started working out with an Olympic wrestler four or five nights every week. He enlisted in the United States Army on February 28, 1951 and married Margaret Alice Kroening in July 1951.

While serving in the US Army, he continued his wrestling career, becoming the heavyweight wrestling champion there. He was honorably discharged on June 25, 1956 and obtained his license to wrestle professionally in the state of Texas in 1957. He also wrestled for the USWA in Minnesota and had a significant impact on the organization’s popularity. His professional wrestling career lasted from 1955-1960.

He then became a patrol officer for the Memphis, Tennessee Sheriff’s Department, coming out of retirement on and off to wrestle part time until 1972. While he was wrestling part time, he became part of the Sheriff Department’s Fugitive Squad and doubled in protective security for Memphis and Shelby County Officials. He moved up the ranks in the sheriff’s department and became a Lieutenant for the Sheriff’s department. Billy Wicks was assigned to the Memphis Police Department Training Academy as co-instructor for the Sheriff’s Deputies, police officers, firemen, airport police, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Federal, Park Rangers, and Penal Farm Staff. He instructed physical fitness programs, control techniques, police arts, combatives, baton tactics, disarming, first aid, crowd control, and underwater recovery techniques. From 1983-1985 he was in charge of recreation and physical activities for 1,200 county, city and state prisoners in Memphis, Tennessee.

He wrestled Sputnik Monroe (his biggest rival back in the day) for a reunion match in 1986 at the ripe old age of 54. He then worked as a Bailiff for two years in the Criminal Courts Division I and II City of Memphis, Shelby County Tennessee. He retired from Shelby County Sheriff’s Department as a Captain after twenty-seven years of service. One year after his retirement he gave a year of service as a Special US Deputy Marshall in Memphis, Tennessee. He currently assists Johnny Huskey in teaching the toughest wrestling school in the country in Asheville, North Carolina.
Billy Wicks had his first match in Milaca, Minnesota on a Friday night. Then he began wrestling in the carnivals (early 1950’s). If you aren’t aware of carnival wrestling then you are missing out on a very important history. The carnivals have basketball booths, throw the ball into the basket off of the angled board, bust balloons with a dart, etc. Well, back in the day they had wrestling booths where people would pay money to wrestle against this guy. It was the carnie’s job never to lose. Think of the Gracies and how they would take challenges from people and beat them. Carnival wrestlers were doing this long before them and more often. Just think of how many people go through a booth at the carnival in one night. Now put a wrestler in that booth and you’ve got the idea of how many matches they each had. These guys were tough. Not only did the wrestle several times every night but if they lost they didn’t get paid. Billy Wicks never lost. He made ten dollars for his first two nights work at the carnival. He traveled through Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota (his home state). The carnivals usually charged a dollar a minute to wrestle. If you wanted to wrestle and thought you could last five minutes then you would pay five dollars. That’s how it worked but of course the wrestler only got a certain percentage of that money.

He not only wrestled in carnivals, but in bars as well. They would roll out a square wrestling mat and wrestle. It wasn’t a clean environment. You can imagine the crowd throwing beer and cigarettes at the wrestlers. Occasionally the crowd would get a little too excited (you know how adrenaline can get to a man) and they would try and participate in the wrestling matches. Billy Wicks recalls one of those times he got jumped and he had to knock the guy out cold.

Billy Wicks wrestled on an outdoor football field in a professional wrestling match. He was a 180 pound ball of fire. The newspapers called him Wild Billy Wicks. He was working a show one time and the guy running it was an old-time wrestler with big cauliflower ears somewhere in his mid forties and the guy cheated him. Billy wicks called him a cheat and a thief. As Billy Wicks was in the dressing room the guy came in and started to attack him with a blackjack. Billy Wicks quickly took the weapon away from the man and proceeded to beat him with his own weapon. He was a dead broke wrestler who, at times, had to sleep in his car because he had no money.

Back in the day, Billy got a challenge from Gorgeous George and when Billy Wicks called his bluff ol’ George backed down. This Gulf Coast Heavy Weight champion favored the toe hold and the short arm scissors. His biggest professional rival was Sputnic Monroe. Monroe and Wicks were good friends off of the mat but when it was show time they were big time rivals.

Today, Billy Wicks is a living legend and respected direct link to the roots of American Catch Wrestling. He stays active and keeps Catch Wrestling alive by training wrestlers at his home and with Johnny Huskey and his group of dedicated and highly skilled “hookers” out of Barbell Gym in Asheville, N.C.

  Billy Robinson
“The British Lion”
Sept 18th 1938 – March 3rd, 2014

Born in England in 1938 Billy Robinson dreamed of becoming a boxer until a childhood accident damaged his eye and took away that dream. Luckily his family was full of competitive athletes and his uncle, who was an outstanding wrestler, got him into wrestling. He fell in love with it from the very first workout and the rest is history.

Billy Spent twelve years under the watchful eye and expert tutelage of Legendary Coach Billy Riley at the original “Snake Pit” Gym in Wigan England and as an amateur wrestler he achieved notable success when he won the 1957 British National Wrestling Championship and the 1958 European Open Wrestling Championship in the light Heavyweight Class, defeating an Olympic Bronze medalist in the finals.

During the 1960s he firmly established himself on the British circuits as one of, if not the best of the best wrestlers around. He was the golden boy of British Heavyweight Wrestling and arguably the best wrestler that ever came out of Wigan. Of his contemporaries (the likes of Geoff Portz, Georgios Gordienko and Billy Joyce) there were few who could beat him and none who could match his technical skill. There was little doubt he would be British Heavyweight Champion before long and indeed he lived up to the expectations when he captured the Title on January 18, 1967 from Billy Joyce and would hold it for slightly over three years before he vacated the title so that he could travel to America and join the AWA.

In the AWA he established himself as one of the best wrestlers in a promotion known for hiring great wrestlers. In the AWA captured numerous Tag Team Titles and held hold the AWA British Empire Heavyweight Title three times. While with the AWA he also travelled to Japan and Canada and became a major success in those areas, winning the Stampede North American Heavyweight Title and the IWA Heavyweight Title in Japan and Australia. He also had a legendary match against Antonio Inoki that was billed as “The Match between the World’s Top Two Technicians”.

He made his name as a Catch Wrestling icon along with Karl Gotch by helping create the world of Mixed Martial Arts in Japan. He became a major influence in the “Shoot” style of wrestling leading and coaching the UWF Snake Pit in Japan and also trained several Mixed Martial Arts legends such as Kazushi Sakuraba, and Josh Barnett, just to name a couple.

Up until his passing in March 2014 he was still actively training new talent, traveling the world working with Coach Jake Shannon at Scientific Wrestling and overseeing and working with the Head Coaches at Snake Pit U.S.A.

Note: For a more historical look into the amazing life of Billy Robinson, check out his book “Physical Chess” by Jake Shannon at www.Amazon.com  
  Gene LeBell
Born Oct 9, 1932
“The Godfather of Grappling”

Gene LeBell started young in the world of fighting. Gene’s mother, Aileen Eaton, owned and operated the Olympic Auditorium. The Olympic was built in 1927 for the Olympic Games in 1932. It has housed some of the greatest boxers and wrestlers of all time – Muhammad Ali, Jerry Quarry, Gorgeous George, Jimmy Londos, John “The Golden Greek” Tolos, Sugar Ray Robinson, Andre the Giant, Archie Moore, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, Henry Armstrong, Gene Fullmer, Emile Griffith, Floyd Patterson, Lauro Salas, Ike Williams, Mando Ramos, Danny Lopez, Carlos Palomino, Jimmy Carter, Art Aragon, Sugar Ramos, Carlos Ortiz, Willy Pep, Lou Thesz, and a thousand more – and Gene was warming up the mat with them as early as age 6.

One wrestler in particular, Ed “Strangler” Lewis, started Gene off in the world of grappling. Ed explained that with grappling you could do just about anything to your opponent. You could hit the guy, do heel locks, ankle locks, armbars, back locks, neck locks, tweak the nose or choke him out.
Needless to say, when Gene entered his first out of school judo tournament at the age of 14, the officials were horrified to see Gene performing illegal grappling moves on his opponents – tossing them into the air as if they’re as light as feathers, jumping on them, dropping elbows on them, and simply terrorizing his competitors. Unfortunately it was a short day for Gene, the officials ended up disqualifying him from the event stating that he used too much strength. “I don’t count disqualifications as losses. If you’ve never been disqualified, you’ve never been afraid of your opponent.”

Undaunted, Gene worked even harder to improve his skills, training every day in martial arts and boxing, and competing in tournaments on the weekends. Gene was gearing up for something big.

At the age of 20, Gene LeBell had 14 years of hardcore training from the best in the world, and he set his sights on the National Judo Championship in 1954 at the Kesar Pavilion in San Francisco. Gene tore through the ranks of competitors with everything he had. After the smoke cleared, Gene LeBell was the last man standing – he had won the National AAU Heavyweight Judo Championship and the USA Overall Judo Championship back to back. Skeptics called it a fluke – they said that Gene had more luck than talent, and wrote him off. Gene has often said “the harder you work, the luckier you get.” He came back and took the national championships again in 1955, this time at the Olympic Auditorium where he had trained during his youth.

After taking two consecutive Judo Championships, Gene decided to try his hand at Pro Wrestling. “I had won over 200 trophies, and if I cashed them all in, they wouldn’t make a single house payment.” The highlight of his professional wrestling career was in Amarillo Texas when he beat Pat O’Connor (from Australia) for the world’s heavyweight wrestling championship. Then, while flaunting the championship belt, Gene accidentally hit the commissioner and split open his head. Even though it was an accident, Gene was disqualified, and his belt was taken away. “At least I was the champ for 12 seconds.” Unbelievably, lawsuits were actually filed against Gene, and he decided to take a trip to Hawaii while the heat died down.
On Dec 2 1963, in Salt Lake City Utah, Kenpo master Ed Parker told Gene about a boxer named Jim Beck – a man who claimed that a professional boxer could easily best any martial artist. Gene agreed to step into the ring and prove Jim wrong, but upon arrival Gene realized that they had pulled a bait-and-switch; instead of Jim Beck stepping into the ring, Gene was facing off with Milo Savage – the no 5 ranked light heavyweight boxer in the world. Unfazed, Gene held true to his end of the bargain and took his place in the ring. Milo Savage was wearing brass knuckles – not only that, Milo was greased from head to toe, making it nearly impossible to keep a hold of him. After 4 hard fought rounds, Gene choked out Savage. He stayed out for 20 minutes (for those that would like to see it, this fight is available on VHS in the Products section).

During Gene’s more than 25 years of wrestling he did far more than wrestle. He was also doing stunt work for movies and television, and still is today. In his ongoing career to date, Gene has appeared in more than 1,000 movies and TV shows. Gene is considered one of the greatest martial artists of all time, in addition to being a teacher of champions. He has taught grappling to such greats as Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Benny “the Jet” Urquidez, Gokor Chivichyan, Bob Wall, Ed Parker Hayward Nishioka, and Bill “Superfoot” Wallace just to name a few. Gene says “It wasn’t a one-way street. I learned a lot from each of these champions.”

Some are suprised to discover that Gene got his pioneer spirit from his mother Aileen Eaton, former owner of the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles for 38 years. She was one of the only female boxing/wrestling promoter’s in the history of those sports. Not only did Muhammad Ali fight for her, but so did legends such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, Archie Moore, Henry Armstrong, Hene Fullmer, Emile Griffith, Floyd Patterson, Lauro SAlas, Ike Williams, Mando Ramos, Danny Lopez, Carlos Palomino, Jummy Carter, Art Aragon, Sugar Ray Ramos, Carlos Ortiz, Willy Pep and so many more. One can easily see why Gene LeBell would grow up to become the world class athlete, competitor and teacher he is.

Gene LeBell has made a tremendous contribution to the martial arts community, and though he will stoutly deny it, he is admired and appreciated by nearly all of the greatest fighters alive today.

  Lou Thesz
(April 24, 1916 – April 28, 2002)

One of the most recognizable competitors in the history of Pro Wrestling, and a well-accomplished amateur wrestling champion in St.Louis, Thesz entered the world of professional wrestling in 1936 after training with Ad Santel and Ed “Strangler” Lewis. Considered to have the perfect body, mind, and temperament for professional wrestling, Thesz …had an unparalleled career.

Thesz’s roots in wrestling stemmed from his father, who competed in his native country of Hungary. Born in Michigan in 1916, Thesz and his family moved to St. Louis in 1919. Standing six-foot-one-inch tall and weighing 225 pounds, Thesz quickly earned his first heavyweight championship in 1936 by winning the Midwest Wrestling Association (MWA) Title in December 1937. He also briefly held the AWA Title in January of 1938. Soon after, Thesz claimed the NWA Heavyweight Title on February 23, 1939 by defeating Everett Marshal in St. Louis. He held the NWA title six times, which was a record at the time of his retirement.

Thesz was recognized as champion by the combined National Wrestling Alliance and National Wrestling Association in November of 1949. He then unified that title with the AWA Championship by defeating Gorgeous George in Chicago in July of 1950. In March of 1956, Thesz lost the belt to Whipper Billy Watson in Toronto but would soon re-capture his prize and hold the title until June of 1957.

During his career, Thesz also became an elite tag-team wrestler and, teaming with Dory “The Outlaw” Funk, won The Pacific Coast Tag Team Title in Vancouver, Canada in 1961. Two years later, Thesz would again become NWA Heavyweight Champion by defeating Buddy Rogers in Toronto, Canada on January 24, 1963.

Thesz defeated professional boxer “Jersey” Joe Wolcott in a special wrestler vs. boxer match in April of 1963. After an illustrious run in the NWA, Thesz held the Southern Heavyweight Championship in 1973. At age 73, Lou wrestled his last match in Japan on December 26, 1990 against Masahiro Chono. His career was so influential that World Wrestling Entertainment star “Stone Cold” Steve Austin adopted the “Lou Thesz Press” as one of his trademark victory maneuvers.

Thesz’ autobiography “Hooker” is a compelling look into both his life and the world of professional wrestling in the twentieth century. Lou continued to look remarkably fit until his death in 2002 at age 86. A true pioneer of professional wrestling, Thesz’s legacy will be difficult to duplicate in the industry.

Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, www.pwhf.org  by: Andrew Malnoske  
 Antonio Inoki
Born: 20 February, 1943

Antonio Inoki (born Kanji Inoki) was born on February 20, 1943 in Yokohama, Japan. When he was fourteen years old, his grandfather, mother and all of his brothers journeyed to Sao Paolo, Brazil and became immigrants from Japan. He worked on coffee plantations from 5:00 A.M. to midnight every day for three years.

In April of 1960, the famous wrestler Rikidozan visited Brazil to wrestle and, through scouting, found Inoki, who accepted Rikidozan’s offer to return to Japan. He was seventeen years old at that time. Inoki’s first match was on September 30, 1960 with Kintaro Oki of Korea. Inoki lost but everybody saw significant potential in him.

Inoki went to the United States in March of 1964 for the first time. He went to Hawaii, Los Angeles, Kansas, Oregon, Texas, and Tennessee; He was billed as Kanji Inoki or Tokyo Tom then. Inoki’s reputation grew when he wrestled Killer Karl Kox and Fritz Von Erich in the Dallas area in 1965. Inoki teamed with Duke Keomuka.

Inoki returned from Tennessee to Japan in March 1966 and he formed Tokyo Pro-Wrestling with Toyonobori, which was an outlaw promotion of Japan Wrestling Association, a member of the National Wrestling Association. Therefore, he had a tough time obtaining American wrestlers. In April of 1967, Inoki returned to JWA, but again, he had a clash with JWA executives in December 1971, so he quit again.

Inoki formed New Japan Pro-Wrestling in March 1972. Again he had tough time successfully inviting the American boys. He did, however, have great matches with Karl Gotch, Lou Thesz, who were both considered rather outlaw or freelance agents at that time. New Japan then became the number one group in Japan. Inoki had a business relationship with the National Wrestling Federation through Johnny Powers. On December 10, 1973, Inoki beat Powers to become NWF world heavyweight champion. After Inoki finished his business relationship with NWF, Inoki became International Wrestling Grand Prix champ.

Inoki was amongst the famous group of Japanese professional wrestlers who were tutored in the art of “hooking” by the professional wrestler Karl Gotch. Inoki named this method of fighting “Strong Style”. This style stemmed directly from the original Catch as Catch Can that was taught to Gotch by Billy Riley at the legendary Catch Wresting gym, the Snake Pit in Wigan England.

Inoki faced many opponents from all dominant disciplines of combat from various parts of the world, such as boxers, judoka, karateka, kung fu practitioners, sumo wrestlers and wrestlers. . These bouts included a match with then-prominent karate competitor Everett Eddy. Eddy had previously competed in a mixed skills bout against boxer Horst Geisler, losing by knockout. The bout with Eddy ended with the karateka “knocked out” by a professional wrestling power bomb followed by a Hulk Hogan-esque leg drop, strongly suggesting a pre-determined outcome. Another such match pitted Inoki against 6’7″ Kyokushin karate stylist Willie “The Bear Killer” Williams. (So-called because he had allegedly fought a bear for a 1976 Japanese film entitled “The Strongest Karate 2″). This bout ended in a doctor stoppage after both competitors repeatedly fell out of the ring. Although many of these matches were worked, they are seen as a precursor to modern mixed martial arts.

His NWF championship days extended from 1973 to 1981 and are considered his prime as a wrestler. His top three greatest matches are considered to be against Strong Kobayashi, Kintaro Oki, and Billy Robinson. In 1976, Inoki offered a mixed match to Muhammad Ali. The bout ended up being a fifteen round draw and newspapers criticized Inoki a considerable amount. He continued to battle with Chuck Wepner, The Monsterman, Willie Williams, and Karl Mildenberger and then established a Mixed Martial Arts business himself. Today, many believe that the Mixed Martial Arts boom originated with the Inoki vs. Ali match.

He had his final match April 4, 1998 at the Tokyo Dome and drew seventy-thousand fans. Today, Inoki is doing consultant business with Oil Sand and Bio-Energy. His wrestling group, IGF (Inoki Genome Federation) is doing bi-monthly shows in Japan. Inoki’s name is so famous in Japan that he maintains “national hero” status still.

1.)    Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame www.pwhf.org/halloffamers by, Koji Miyamoto  
  ​Yoshiaki Fujiwara
Born: April 27, 1949

Yoshiaki Fujiwara is long held up as Karl Gotch’s best student. In fact out of all of his students, Fujiwara was the only one Karl Gotch willingly endorsed as a representative of the ‘Gotch Style’ of Catch Wrestling. You could say he was Gotch’s only ‘Black Belt’, if such gradings ever existed in Catch as Catch Can.

Fujiwara was the first graduate of the New Japan Pro Wrestling dojo (Mr. Pogo was the first debutante in the promotion, but he and Gran Hamada had trained with Tatsumi Fujinami before he and Antonio Inoki left the Japanese Wrestling Association). A former Muay Thai kickboxer, Fujiwara was easily able to absorb and apply the “Strong Style” of professional wrestling taught by Inoki and Karl Gotch. His debut was November 12, 1972 and in 1975 Fujiwara went on to win the Karl Gotch Cup (a tournament for rookies). In the late 1970s, Fujiwara became embroiled in a feud with Allen Coage (a former Olympic judo bronze medal winner who had debuted as a pro wrestler in NJPW, and one of the first gaijins to be trained at the NJPW dojo) over the petty issue of who had the strongest head. Fujiwara would bang his head repeatedly against the ring’s corner post’s metal face to provoke Coage, and behind the scenes, Coage would advise him not to do so repeatedly, in fear of suffering permanent real-life damage.

All the while, Fujiwara remained a strong member of the undercard, but rarely would he get opportunities for big singles matches or tag teams with better-known stars. In 1984, however, all that would change when Fujiwara was among the defectors who created the Japanese UWF. When he and most of them returned in 1986, they formed their own stable, indicating they would battle major New Japan wrestlers and receive recognition on their own terms. As a member of the UWF stable, Fujiwara, along with Akira Maeda, focused on Inoki’s IWGP Heavyweight Championship, pushing him to the limit in the annual IWGP tournaments. But at heart, Maeda and Fujiwara were also rivals, when unable to get the IWGP title, Maeda and Nobuhiko Takada went for and won the IWGP tag team title, Fujiwara and Kazuo Yamazaki split from the main UWF stable, and feuded with them over the title, eventually winning it. This split, also in the wake of Riki Chōshū’s return to NJPW after leaving in circumstances similar to Maeda and the rest of the UWF roster, eventually weakened the UWF stable.

When Maeda was fired from New Japan for a shoot attack on Chōshū during a match in late 1987, all the other UWF stable members except for Fujiwara and Osamu Kido left NJPW to reform the UWF. Kido and Fujiwara attempted to get back into the good graces of the rest of the NJPW roster, and for a time, Fujiwara seemed to go back into the NJPW undercard, although with more respect from his peers. Inoki had already gained respect for him enough to be his tag team partner in 1986 for the annual tag team tournament (despite being affiliated with the UWF stable). In the meantime, Fujiwara trained rookies Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki. In 1989, however, Fujiwara felt the need to continue shoot-style wrestling, also due to the rise of Chōshū in backstage politics, so he moved to the UWF with Funaki and Suzuki.

In the Newborn UWF, Fujiwara was clearly seen as the senior peer to Maeda, but eventually jobbed to him. After Newborn UWF collapsed in December 1990, Fujiwara, Funaki, Suzuki and rookie Yusuke Fuke formed Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi (Gumi in Japanese means “group”), but it is used in the underworld lingo to mean organized crime family. Fujiwara styled himself kumichō, literally, the gang leader). Although it was a shoot style promotion, Fujiwara had agreements with SWS, W*ING and Universal Lucha Libre, whereupon he would send talent to compete in them (but not viceversa, in order to keep the shoot-style “feel” to his promotion). Fujiwara Gumi had a big supercard at the Tokyo Dome in 1992, involving all the great talents in the promotion: Fujiwara, Funaki, Suzuki, Fuke, Yoshiki Takahashi, Yuki Ishikawa, and others.

Problems involving the collapsing Japanese economy and the essence of Fujiwara Gumi’s wrestling, however, forced its roster to assess their individual futures. Funaki, Suzuki, Fuke and Takahashi, apparently unsettled by the “performing” direction Fujiwara was taking, abandoned him in late 1993 to form Pancrase. Fujiwara already had back-up talent – Ishikawa, Daisuke Ikeda, Katsumi Usuda, Minoru Tanaka, Mamoru Okamoto, Muhammad Yone, and Shoichi Funaki. In need of funds, however, Fujiwara proposed to cooperate with their root promotion, New Japan. Fujiwara and the rest of the roster began having a small “feud” with NJPW, Fujiwara challenging the heavyweights (he challenged future partner Shinya Hashimoto for the IWGP title, but failed again), and the rest the junior heavyweight division. The NJPW-PWFG feud, however, did not have the star-studded impression on fans that the NJPW-UWFI feud later had.

In late 1995, Ishikawa and the rest of the Fujiwara Gumi roster abandoned Fujiwara and formed their own promotion, BattlARTS, citing problems with Fujiwara’s management team. Since 1996, Fujiwara, the only remaining member of Fujiwara Gumi and thus a de facto free agent (as the promotion no longer operates), has competed in several promotions, mostly in legends matches. NJPW, All Japan Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling ZERO-ONE, WAR, and several independents have seen his presence.

Currently, Fujiwara is associated with the American catch wrestling organization Scientific Wrestling, and began working with Antonio Inoki in 2007, as a trainer and official for the Inoki Genome Federation (IGF). He is also an actor who has had a few parts in Japanese movies and dramas and is a prolific artisan potter.

1.) Pro Wrestling Wikia www.prowrestlingwikia.com
2.) Bloody Elbow www.bloodyelbow.com
 Satoru Sayama
Born: November 27, 1957

Satoru Sayama is a Japanese professional wrestler best known as the original “Tiger Mask,” and founder of Shooto and Seikendo. He’s wrestled under his real name as well as the names Sammy Lee, and masked Super Tiger, Tiger King, Original Tiger Mask and The Mask of Tiger. He is the only man to hold the WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship and the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship simultaneously.
Sayama, having been trained by Karl Gotch and Antonio Inoki made his debut in New Japan Pro Wrestling, against Shoji Kai, a jobber known to have been the debut opponent for future stars. Sayama weighed only 160 pounds at the time, which, even given his training, impaired him from getting a permanent spot on NJPW cards. So they sent him abroad, to England where he wrestled as Sammy Lee and Mexico, where he wrestled under his real name. It was in Mexico where he started to grow not only in physical stature but also in prominence, winning the NWA World Middleweight Title.

In 1981, NJPW was looking for a way to attract young fans to its wrestling. They looked to the popular Tiger Mask anime and created an actual wrestler called Tiger Mask for the fans, with the recently returned Sayama playing the role. On the evening of Thursday, April 23, 1981 Satoru Sayama made his way to the ring in the Kuramae Kokugikan as Tiger Mask.

Initially, many traditional Japanese fans scoffed at the thought of artist Ikki Kajiwara’s popular comic book wrestling hero being pushed as a legitimate wrestling star, but he shocked the Japanese fans in the arena by pinning Dynamite Kid with his German Suplex. As a result, he was immediately regarded as the premier star in New Japan’s Junior Heavyweight ranks. Moreover, that match would be the first of many classic battles between the two men.

On May 6, 1982, Tiger Mask was forced to vacate the WWF Junior Heavyweight title after injuring his right knee. Tiger Mask would go on to win the NWA World Junior Heavyweight less than 3 weeks later on May 25, 1982. The next day, Tiger Mask defeated Black Tiger in a match for the WWF Junior Heavyweight title. This victory was met with controversy, as some board members on the NWA declared the title vacant, as they felt that the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship was the premier title for the division. However, during an annual meeting between the NWA and New Japan Pro Wrestling, it was declared that Tiger Mask was still recognized as the official champion, which made him the only man to simultaneously hold the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship and the WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship.

Sayama made several appearances in the United States in late 1982, mostly in the World Wrestling Federation. He defended the WWF Junior title by defeating Dynamite Kid at Madison Square Garden in New York City on August 30 and Eddie Gilbert at the Spectrum in Philadelphia on November 25. The elderly ring announcer at the Spectrum introduced Sayama as “Timer Mask.”

During a tag team match on April 3, 1983 he was injured by Dynamite Kid; two days later, he was forced to vacate the NWA World Junior Heavyweight title after it became clear that he would need time off to recuperate. However, once the determined Tiger Mask recovered, he regained his NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship by defeating Kuniaki Kobayashi on June 2, 1983, making him a simultaneous NWA/WWF Jr. champion for the second time. By 1983, however, Sayama started feeling dissatisfied as he hated the politics behind-the-scenes. As a result, he announced his retirement from active competition on August 12, 1983. It was a shock to the wrestling world, as Tiger Mask was going to retire while he was at the top of his game and as the holder of two Junior Heavyweight Championships. Both titles were declared vacant, as he became a trainer to martial arts fighters.

After nearly a year of inactivity, Sayama resurfaced in the Japanese UWF in 1984. By then, All Japan Pro Wrestling had purchased the Tiger Mask name and gimmick and given it to Mitsuharu Misawa. As a result, Sayama initially made appearances for UWF as The Tiger (which was the same colors as Tiger Mask), then alternated between using his real name and the gimmick of Super Tiger (colored silver and purple). He initially supported the UWF concept and had several memorable matches against Akira Maeda and Yoshiaki Fujiwara.
Sayama would soon disagree with Maeda over style ideology, as Sayama wanted more kicking, while Maeda wanted more submission holds. This led to a shoot during a match between Sayama and Maeda in 1985, in which Maeda delivered a controversial kick to Sayama’s lower abdomen. Sayama signaled that he was kicked in the groin, resulting in Maeda being disqualified. Shortly after this, Sayama left UWF, amid protests from other UWF wrestlers who disliked him for his selfish leadership. With no key opponents for Maeda, the UWF collapsed and Maeda and the rest of the roster headed back to NJPW.

Sayama left professional wrestling altogether due to his experience in the UWF, and spent the next few years criticizing it as worked. In 1986 he founded Shooto, finally realizing his dream of becoming a martial arts trainer. It was Sayama who [re-]popularized the term kayfabe, which was also the title of a book he wrote in which he exposed the pro wrestling business’s secret to a Japanese audience.

In 1995, Sayama was offered to return to puroresu for a match against his old mentor Antonio Inoki. There was already a Tiger Mask on the scene (his disciple, Tiger Mask IV, who debuted with the mask), so Sayama used the name and gimmick of Tiger King, using a gold-colored outfit. He lost to Inoki, but fans still were awed of his display of athleticism and said that he had not lost a step at all.

In subsequent years, he used the Original Tiger Mask, competing sporadically in various independent promotions, often in legends matches and teams with his younger disciple. In 1998, he was invited by Inoki to be a part of the board of his new venture, Universal Fighting Organization. He did, but left a year later to form Seikendo, his own promotion.

Recently he participated in a new promotion called Real Japan Pro Wrestling and started to promote a new gimmick where he would be called Super Tiger. However, with a career spanning over 30 years in addition to being actively involved in martial arts aside from wrestling, his body had taken a great deal of abuse which resulted in Sayama becoming fodder in matches for current stars aiming to become legends.

Sayama has also recently donned his famous costume, being billed as “The Original Tiger Mask.” He has appeared in Tatsumi Fujinami’s DRADITION promotion, as well as Antonio Inoki’s Inoki Genome Federation. Sayama is much heavier than he was in his younger days, and as a result, his style has changed; he focuses more on mat-based wrestling, though he still uses his trademark martial arts kicks. Fans, young and old, seem quite pleased just to see Sayama in any form these days.

There has been talk that Sayama has been involved establishing a Tiger Mask V. This new Tiger Mask would have his own style and have been picked by Sayama himself. Satoru Sayama was also Kazushi Sakuraba’s childhood hero.

1.) Online World of Wrestling www.onlineworldofwrestling.com
2.) Puroresu Central www.puroresucentral.com
3.) Google sites: Mixed Martial Arts Rankings 
  Akira Maeda
Born: 24 January, 1959

Akira Maeda, is a retired Japanese professional wrestler of Korean descent, also known as Kwik-kik-Lee for his time on the British Wrestling show World of Sport. He is best known for having helped… develop the shoot-style of professional wrestling during the late 1980s and forming the legendary Mixed Martial Arts organization “Rings.”

In 1977, Maeda was scouted by Satoru Sayama (The 1st Tiger Mask), and was initiated into New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Maeda entered the New Japan Pro Wrestling dojo in 1978 where he was trained by Karl Gotch and later made his pro wrestling debut that same year against Kotetsu Yamamoto at Nagaoka-Kousei-Kaikan in Niigata on August 25th. Like many other New Japan stars before and after him, Maeda embarked on a foreign tour to the United Kingdom, where he adopted the Kwik-kik-Lee moniker. In 1983, he participated in the first International Wrestling Grand Prix tournament, won by Hulk Hogan. He was one of three Japanese entrants to the international tournament, alongside Antonio Inoki and Rusher Kimura.

In 1984, Maeda, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, and other New Japan defectors formed the Japanese UWF. It was during his time in the first incarnation of the UWF that his willingness to show his displeasure in the ring became known; he quarreled with Satoru Sayama (the original Tiger Mask) over the direction of the UWF, as Maeda wanted the promotion to feature wrestling and grappling holds, while Sayama (a kickboxer before he went into wrestling) favored kicks. Some in the UWF were also reportedly resentful of Sayama’s booking himself to win all his matches, where others, Maeda included, “jobbed” in the worked matches. The promotion folded a year later, and Maeda returned to New Japan, where he became one of the promotion’s biggest stars.

Maeda became involved in a real-life feud with New Japan booker and top star, Antonio Inoki, refusing to work with him in what could have been a huge moneymaking program. In April 1986, he was involved in one of the most surreal moments in wrestling history during a match with André the Giant; neither man could agree to losing the match, and Maeda proceeded to shoot kick André’s legs and then back off, while the giant repeatedly blocked Maeda’s attacks and threw him out of the ring. After 30 minutes of this, André voluntarily laid down to be pinned (in spite of being assured that Maeda would lose the match), but Akira refused to do so. Inoki eventually came to the ring and demanded the match to end, much to the bewilderment of the audience.

On November 19, 1987 during a six-man tag team match, as Riki Chōshū was putting his opponent, Osamu Kido, in a Sharpshooter, Maeda delivered a legitimate kick to Chōshū’s face, breaking his orbital bone. The resulting injury would sideline Chōshū for well over a month. Maeda was suspended, and later fired, by New Japan.

In 1988, Maeda formed Newborn UWF with Nobuhiko Takada and others, this time as its number one star; using the notoriety he gained in New Japan to draw large crowds. Maeda’s UWF became the first promotion to hold a show at the Tokyo Dome, drawing 60,000 to watch Maeda defeat Willy Wilhelm in the main event. In December 1990, Newborn UWF dissolved due to disagreements over the direction of the company.

Maeda would go on to form Fighting Network RINGS in 1991, while Nobuhiko Takada formed Union of Wrestling Force International with most of the Newborn UWF roster. Fighting Network RINGS would no longer bill itself as wrestling in 1997, after the collapse of UWF International. In 1999 he retired from active competition after being defeated in a match against three-time Olympic Gold medalist Alexander Karelin, drawing an incredible gate of $2.5 million. The match gained widespread media coverage, including mentions in the New York Times and Sports Illustrated.
Following Maeda’s retirement, he switched his promotion’s style from shoot-style to competitive mixed martial arts fighting. The new Rings held two King of Kings tournaments, which introduced such mixed martial artists as Fedor Emelianenko, Dan Henderson, Randy Couture, Jeremy Horn and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to the Japanese audience. RINGS folded in 2002, due to the growing popularity of PRIDE. He is currently managing the mixed martial arts event “The Outsiders.”

1.) New Japan Pro Wrestling database http://www.njpw.co.jp/english/data/greatest/maeda/index.html
2.) Online World of Wrestling http://www.onlineworldofwrestling.com/bios/a/akira-maeda/  
 Nobuhiko Takada
Born: 12 April, 1962

Nobuhiko Takada is a Japanese mixed martial arts fighter and professional wrestler. Although he was not considered a great mixed martial arts fighter, he was instrumental in the development of the Japanese popularized shoot-style professional wrestling, as one of the biggest stars of the Universal Wrestling Federation and Union of Wrestling Force International in the ’80s and ’90s. He is also credited with jump starting the Japanese MMA boom and the existence of PRIDE fighting Championships thanks to his historical matches with Rickson Gracie.

Takada was trained by the legendary Karl Gotch at the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) dojo and made his professional wrestling debut in 1981 against Norio Honaga. He started his career as a Junior Heavyweight and left NJPW in 1984, along with Rusher Kimura, Akira Maeda, Ryuma Go, Mach Hayato, and Gran Hamada, to form the original Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF).

The original UWF dissolved in 1986. Takada and Akira Maeda returned to NJPW and formed a UWF stable. Only a few months later, Takada defeated Shiro Koshinaka to capture the International Wrestling Grand Prix (IWGP) Junior Heavyweight Championship, which he held for four months. In 1987, Takada moved to the Heavyweight ranks. Along with Akira Maeda, he won the IWGP Tag Team Championship from rival, Koshinaka & Keiji Mutoh. He left NJPW in 1988 to form the second incarnation of the Universal Wrestling Federation called “Newborn UWF” becoming one of its top stars.

In December 1990, “Newborn UWF” closed its doors. Takada formed the Union of Wrestling Force International, using former UWF wrestlers, while Maeda formed Fighting Network RINGS, and Fujiwara formed Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi. As the top star of the UWFI, Takada had feuds with Gary Albright and Super Vader. In 1992, Takada was awarded an old NWA World Heavyweight Title belt by Lou Thesz, after defeating Albright, and was proclaimed the “Real Pro-Wrestling World Heavyweight Champion.” He defended the title until Thesz withdrew the belt in 1995, losing the Title once, to Super Vader. The high point of his reign came on December 5, 1993, when he defeated Super Vader before 46,168 fans at Tokyo’s Meiji-Jingu Stadium.

In 1995, Takada returned to NJPW as the key figure in the landmark New Japan vs. UWFI program. On October 9, 1995, Takada’s match against IWGP Champion, Keiji Mutoh, drew 67,000 fans to the Tokyo Dome, drawing the largest crowd and gate in Japanese Wrestling history, at the time. Three months later, Takada defeated Mutoh in a rematch, before 64,000 fans, to capture the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, becoming the only wrestler to hold all three major New Japan Titles. Takada dropped the Title to Shinya Hashimoto on April 29, 1996, drawing a crowd of 65,000 and a gate of $5.7 million. When it was all said and done, the New Japan vs. UWFI was the biggest moneymaking feud in Japanese pro-wrestling history.
In December 1996, the UWFI folded after the failure of the UWFI-WAR feud. Takada then entered the world of mixed martial arts by joining PRIDE Fighting Championships.

Though Takada’s submission wrestling skills were never doubted either by the Japanese public or the matchmakers, it was his conditioning that would make the essential difference. Takada, being in his 30s at the time of his debut and in less than perfect conditioning, and somewhat worn down due to the grueling Japanese pro wrestling circuit, posed little challenge for the experienced, well-conditioned mixed martial arts fighters.
Nobuhiko Takada’s debut in MMA was against Rickson Gracie, which ended in Gracie winning via armbar. Takada would then go on to finish kickboxer Kyle Sturgeon by a heel hook at PRIDE 3 in Sturgeon’s first and last MMA match. Takada wanted a rematch with Rickson Gracie, to which Gracie agreed, saying that “I feel Takada is a warrior and deserves the chance to try and redeem himself.” The rematch was held at PRIDE 4. The match ended with Takada again losing via armbar in a fight lasting 9 minutes and 30 seconds.

Takada fought his next match at PRIDE 5, against Mark Coleman. Though thought to be the much better fighter, Coleman was caught by a heel hook from Takada and submitted. Regarding his performance against Takada, Coleman said in an interview, “It was what it was. I needed to support my family. They guaranteed me another fight after that and I needed that security. It was what it was. I’m going to leave it at that,” hinting that the match had been “worked.”

Takada was then pitted against Mark Kerr, a freestyle wrestler with similar ground and pound fighting style as Mark Coleman. However, Kerr was able to slip on a submission hold and make Takada tap out in just over 3 minutes at PRIDE 6. Then at PRIDE 7 he beat Alexander Otsuka by a TKO when he put him in a rear naked choke and passed out and the referee stopped the fight.

Takada competed in the PRIDE Grand Prix 2000 Opening Round. He was pitted against Royce Gracie – the match went the distance and to a decision. The Brazilian master could neither control nor submit Takada in the assigned 15-minute time limit. However, the judges ruled in favor of Gracie and he advanced to the next round. Takada’s next MMA event participation was in PRIDE 11, where he lost to Igor Vovchanchyn via submission (strikes). Nobuhiko Takada would then go on to draw the likes of Mike Bernardo and Mirko Filipović before entering his final match against former student, Kiyoshi Tamura in which Tamura won by a KO.

Takada now has an MMA dojo of his own called “Takada Dojo,” where over the years he has helped develop such fighters as the legendary Kazushi Sakuraba.

1.) Online World of Wrestling www.onlineworldofwrestling.com
2.) www.Purolove.com/tokyosports
3.) www.Sherdog.com  
Minoru Suzuki
Born: 17 June, 1968

Minoru Suzuki is a Japanese professional wrestler and mixed martial artist. Suzuki was the co-founder of Pancrase, one of the first mixed martial arts organizations in the world. During the 1990s he was known as one of the best fighters in the Pancrase promotion and was the second King of Pancrase Champion. Suzuki returned to regular puroresu (pro wrestling) in 2003, where he has become a perennial top contender for all major Japanese heavyweight championships.Suzuki is well noted for his excellence in freestyle wrestling and catch wrestling. He was an Olympic alternate freestyle wrestler for Japan and former Japanese freestyle wrestling national champion. As good as his wrestling credentials are, Suzuki is even more respected for his excellence in the art of catch wrestling and submissions. Suzuki has been praised many times by elite fighters such as Josh Barnett, Bas Rutten and Ken Shamrock for his outstanding grappling and submission skills.

Suzuki trained at the New Japan Pro Wrestling dojo and made his pro wrestling debut on June 23, 1988, against Takayuki Iizuka, but soon after left with catch wrestling mentor Yoshiaki Fujiwara for the newborn UWF. He joined Fujiwara’s Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi but then left the organization to form Pancrase, one of the first mixed martial arts organizations in the world, in 1993 with another catch wrestling practitioner, Masakatsu Funaki.

Despite his significant size disadvantage against most competitors, Suzuki became one of the most successful fighters in Pancrase with his amazing submission skills and top notch wrestling ability. Suzuki began his MMA career going 7-0, including a huge upset win over Pancrase’s #1 fighter Ken Shamrock in early 1994. He did not lose a match until he lost to Bas Rutten via Liver shot KO due to a knee to the body. In 1995, he won the King of Pancrase (now KOP Open-Weight) title to become the second ever King of Pancrase. Suzuki twice defeated Ken Shamrock and is the only man to hold two wins over Shamrock during the original Pancrase era when he was considered nearly unbeatable.

Over time, Suzuki’s body became damaged and worn down from various injuries and resulted in his skills diminishing. He then decided to focus on the business and training side of Pancrase. He collaborated with the Tekken series of fighting video games as a motion actor. His last non-worked fight for Pancrase was against a professional wrestler, Jushin Liger, whom Suzuki had known as Keiichi Yamada in his first NJPW stint. At the time he competed in grappling matches almost exclusively. Suzuki witnessed the transition Pancrase made from the so-called “hybrid wrestling” style to that of regular MMA and was instrumental in paving the way for mixed martial arts in Japan.

Suzuki is also erroneously credited on his mixed martial arts record by various MMA websites with a loss to Maurice Smith on the event Pancrase- Yes, We are Hybrid Wrestlers 3. Suzuki did lose the bout with Smith, but the bout was a kickboxing match with kickboxing rules and kickboxing gloves and was not a mixed martial arts match.

He is currently performing for both; All Japan Pro Wrestling where he is a former two-time AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion, and New Japan Pro Wrestling where he remains one of the most popular and influential Japanese wrestling legends ever.

1.)    Pancrase profile: www.pancrase.co.jp
2.)    Professional MMA record; www.Sherdog.com
3.)    New Japan Pro Wrestling Profile: www.njpw.co.jp
4.)    Pro Wrestling Illustrated ‘s Top 500: Wrestling info archive
Masakatsu Funaki
Born: 13 March, 1969

Masakatsu Funaki, born Masaharu Funaki, is a Japanese mixed martial artist and professional wrestler, who wrestled in All Japan Pro Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, PWFG, as well as the UWF. He is also the co-founder of Pancrase. Pancrase was one of the first mixed martial arts organizations and non-rehearsed shoot wrestling promotions pre-dating the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Funaki was also Pancrase’s biggest star; Josh Barnett described him as the “symbol of Japan”, Frank Shamrock labeled Funaki “the golden boy” of Pancrase, and Guy Mezger called Funaki “hands down the smartest and most skilled fighter in Pancrase next to Ken Shamrock.”

Not only the organization’s co-founder, Funaki was also one of Pancrase’s most successful fighters to date, scoring submission victories over numerous MMA champions such as Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock, Guy Mezger, Yuki Kondo, Minoru Suzuki and Bas Rutten through the course of his 50-fight career. He is the only fighter in mixed martial arts history to hold wins over both Shamrock brothers and Bas Rutten, and was the first man to win the King of Pancrase title twice.

Funaki is widely considered to be one of the greatest Japanese fighters in mixed martial arts history. Sherdog.com ranked him as the #1 mixed martial artist in the world in 1996 and 1997, and also had him ranked as a top 4 pound for pound fighter from 1993 to 1998.

The son of a movie theater owner, Funaki was exposed to martial arts films at an early age. He idolized Bruce Lee above all others, but also eagerly watched the films of Sammo Hung and Sonny Chiba. Though his father would ultimately abandon young Funaki and his family, the exposure to such films influenced him greatly.

Instead of entering high school, he applied to the New Japan Pro Wrestling Dojo. He was in the same class as Puroresu legends Keiichi Yamada (better known as Jushin Liger), Shinya Hashimoto, Minoru Suzuki, and Masahiro Chono. The Canadian grappler Chris Benoit, who went on to fame in the WWE, was also a classmate of his.

The New Japan Dojo had a reputation for being particularly harsh on its trainees, both mentally and physically, with the intent of only graduating the very best of each class. However, Funaki stunned the New Japan trainers with his athleticism, timing and natural talent for submission grappling. Along with the former Olympic alternate Minoru Suzuki, Funaki formed a strong bond with the dojo’s head grappling instructor, Yoshiaki Fujiwara. Funaki debuted as a Jr. Heavyweight at the age of 15; it was a record for the youngest debut in NJPW.

After debuting for New Japan with a time-limit draw against fellow New Japan Dojo graduate Chris Benoit, Funaki was not given much of a chance to shine, as the Jr. Heavyweight division was in a transition period. And as such, the owner, Antonio Inoki, decided to shift the focus towards his heavyweight division which dominated the cards. He did, however have many stellar matches with Naoki Sano & Keiichi Yamada (who would later become Jushin Liger) & was the first person to take the Shooting Star Press from Yamada. In 1988, he wrestled an excursion in Europe, competing in Catch Wrestling Associations in Austria and Germany and for All Star Promotions in England.

When New Japan top draw Akira Maeda became overly frustrated with backstage politics, he shoot- kicked Riki Choshu and broke his eye socket, after which he was fired after refusing to go on an excursion to Mexico, and left to form Newborn UWF. Funaki, seeing an opportunity to shine and showcase what he could do, wanted to follow. And Maeda negotiated his acquisition, along with his good friend Minoru Suzuki and mentor Yoshiaki Fujiwara’s contracts for an undisclosed amount of money.
With his flashy moves and movie star good looks, Funaki became a top draw and an excellent nemesis to Akira Maeda, and their matches had many fast paced strikes & exciting slams. When Newborn UWF folded in December 1990, Funaki decided to sign with mentor Fujiwara’s new “Fujiwara Gumi” promotion. In 1993, Funaki left Fujiwara Gumi to form the mixed martial arts promotion Pancrase.
Funaki’s MMA career began when he founded Pancrase along with Minoru Suzuki. Pancrase became immensely popular and paved the way for other mixed martial arts organizations to make their way in Japan, including Pride Fighting Championships. Funaki went on to become one of the greatest fighters in Pancrase history, defeating other MMA legends such as Bas Rutten, Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock, Minoru Suzuki, and Guy Mezger.
Funaki is known as a master of Catch Wrestling. Funaki was so skilled that he often took other Pancrase fighters, including Bas Rutten, Frank Shamrock and Ken Shamrock, under his wing in order to increase his competition. Frank Shamrock said, “Funaki was like a mad scientist. He took the idea of submissions to an even higher level than the rest of the Japanese contingent. He had this insatiable desire to learn more and push his body harder. And as an entertainer he understood the need to entertain.

This realization for the need to entertain often resulted in Funaki (along Minoru Suzuki) “carrying” some of their opponents during fights. In essence, in order to entertain the crowd, Funaki and Suzuki would occasionally give their opponents opportunities to create drama before finally finishing them off. Josh Barnett said, “when you’re that good, you can have a guy thinking he’s doing so much better than he expected and have no idea that they’re just letting you last like a cat playing with a mouse.” Frank Shamrock added, “I know for a fact those guys (Funaki and Suzuki) were light years ahead of everyone else, and they were so good that they would go towards entertainment before they finished a match.”

However, this did backfire on Funaki on at least one occasion. In a match against Jason DeLucia, Funaki allowed Delucia to catch him in a kneebar in order to create drama and planned on using a rope escape once Delucia had the submission locked in. Unfortunately, Funaki mistakenly allowed himself to get too far from the ropes and was forced to tap out. This concern for entertainment helped the young sport of mixed martial arts to thrive and grow in Japan. Kazushi Sakuraba would similarly play around with inferior opponents’ years later.

Funaki retired from Pancrase after a win over Tony Petarra in September 1999 due to accumulated injuries and, according to fellow Pancrase fighter and friend Bas Rutten, being burnt out from the hectic Pancrase schedule.

Despite Funaki’s body being very broken down from injuries, he returned for a fight against the legendary Rickson Gracie at Colosseum 2000 held at the Tokyo Dome. The show was almost canceled due to Rickson trying to change the rules to make knees and strikes to the head illegal, but the problems were overcome and the show continued. The event was broadcasted to 30 million TV Tokyo viewers. While there was no championship title at stake, Funaki had a lot on the line in his fight against Gracie; if Funaki were to beat the legendary Rickson Gracie he would become a “godlike” figure in Japan and enjoy immense popularity and fame.

Funaki walked to the ring in samurai attire with a samurai sword which garnered a roaring excitement from the Japanese announcers and crowd. Funaki scored the first takedown of the bout. However, a kick from Gracie blew out his knee. Ultimately, he was taken down and defeated by a rear-naked choke. Funaki refused to submit to the hold, passing out before the referee intervened.

Funaki then retired from mixed martial arts competition. He had a retirement ceremony in Pancrase in late 2000 in which many of his past mentors and training partners emotionally and tearfully embraced the legendary Funaki.

Funaki came out of retirement to fight fellow MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba at the K-1 Dynamite event at Kyocera Dome Osaka. Although both fighters were significantly past their primes, this matchup was intriguing because it was a bout between arguably the two greatest Japanese fighters in mixed martial arts history.

After exchanging professional wrestling-inspired entrances, the submission specialists traded strikes. Funaki’s arsenal of punches and kicks appeared to be quicker and more powerful, but Sakuraba was able to sneak in a double leg takedown after Funaki committed heavily to a missed right cross. On the ground, Funaki closed guard around Sakuraba before opening it up to spin for a knee-bar. For a moment, Funaki appeared to secure Sakuraba’s leg only to be thwarted by a combination of Sakuraba’s submission acumen and their position against the ring ropes, which blocked Funaki from rolling with the hold. Sakuraba then maneuvered to Funaki’s back, only for the Pancrase founder to roll back into the guard position. Breaking away from the grappling contest, Sakuraba stood up and began to assault the still-prone Funaki’s legs with a series of kicks. Funaki answered with a kick of his own, blackening Sakuraba’s eye and cutting his face. Sakuraba returned himself to the ground, where Funaki immediately attempted to sweep him. However, Sakuraba blocked the attempt and secured a double wristlock, eventually forcing Funaki to submit.

Funaki signed a contract with FEG’s MMA promotion, DREAM. On April 28, 2008, Funaki participated in DREAM’s first ever Middle-weight Grand Prix. Funaki was matched against another legendary Japanese fighter Kiyoshi Tamura at the opening round of the DREAM.2 Middleweight Grandprix 2008 in Saitama, Japan. After a hard opening exchange between the two, Funaki was staggered by a punch, and then pounded to an eventual TKO at 0:57 of Round 1.

After losing twice in a row since his comeback to the MMA ring, Funaki was determined to prove that he was still a worthy competitor of the sport and participated again in the DREAM 6 Middleweight Grandprix in 2008. The final round event took place on September 23, 2008 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Funaki was matched with one of his former Pancrase students; fan favorite “Minowaman” Ikuhisa Minowa. Prior to the bout, Funaki suggested that if this fight was going be equivalent to a ritual suicide, there was none he found more worthy than Minowa to assist him in carrying it out.

At the opening seconds of the first round of the match, Funaki came at his former charge with a series of kicks, practically forcing Minowa to catch one of the kicks. The former two-time King of Pancrase capitalized immediately, leaping directly into a heel-hook. Minowa escaped the hold, but Funaki maintained control of his leg and immediately attacked with a heel-hook from the cross-body position, forcing his protégé to tap out at 52 seconds of the first round.

In 2012, Funaki was scheduled to face Russian MMA legend Volk Han in a fight resembling the Pancrase Hybrid Wrestler format. The fight went the distance with a draw between the two MMA legends, in which Volk Han announced his retirement afterwards.

In August 2007, Funaki and Keiji Mutoh discussed the possibility of Funaki returning to regular professional wrestling in Mutoh’s company, All Japan Pro Wrestling. On August 31, 2009, Funaki signed a one year contract with All Japan, following a tag team victory with Mutoh against Minoru Suzuki and Masahiro Chono.

On January 3, 2010, Funaki and Mutoh won the All Japan Double Cup tag team title from Suzuki and Taiyo Kea. On March 21, Funaki defeated Suzuki in a cage match at All Japan’s Sumo Hall show.

On January 4, 2012, Funaki made a special appearance for New Japan at Wrestle Kingdom VI in the Tokyo Dome, where he teamed with Masayuki Kono to defeat the Yuji Nagata and Wataru Inoue. During the match, Nagata broke Funaki’s orbital bone, sidelining him from in-ring action for an estimated six months.

Funaki returned to the ring again on June 17, 2012. On July 29, he defeated the man who had injured him, Yuji Nagata, in a grudge match to become the number one contender to the AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship. On August 26 he defeated Jun Akiyama in a match that lasted less than five minutes to become the 45th Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion. He lost the title to Suwama on March 17, 2013. In June 2013, Funaki announced his resignation from All Japan in the aftermath of Nobuo Shiraishi taking over as the new president and Keiji Mutoh leaving the promotion. Funaki’s final match for the promotion took place on June 30 and saw him and his “Stack of Arms” partners Koji Kanemoto and Masayuki Kono, who were also leaving All Japan, lose to Akebono, Osamu Nishimura and Ryota Hama in a six-man tag team match.
On July 10, 2013, Funaki was announced as part of Keiji Mutoh’s new Wrestle-1 promotion.

1.)    www.Sherdog.com
2.)    www.prowrestlinghistory.com
3.)    Pro Wrestling Illustrated’ s Top 500: Wrestling info archive
4.)    Pancrase profile: www.pancrase.co.jp 
Kiyoshi Tamura
Born: December 17, 1969

Kiyoshi Tamura is a Japanese middleweight professional wrestler and mixed martial artist. Once a student of legendary pro wrestlers; Billy Robinson, Nobuhiko Takada and Akira Maeda, he became very well-known and respected for his impressive skill in Catch Wrestling as well as his ability to deliver on-point with realistic professional wrestling bouts.He has competed in some form or another for the following organizations: Universal Wrestling Federation, UWF International, Fighting Network RINGS, K-1, PRIDE, and U-STYLE, his own promotion. He is at his best when fighting at or near his own weight, but since 1999 has made a habit of fighting much larger opponents.

Tamura debuted in 1989 in the old Japanese UWF, but made his mark when he later joined its main successor group, UWFI. He was very energetic and he demanded the respect of the older veterans, as demonstrated during a bout against Yoji Anjo where Tamura broke a submission hold and retaliated by delivering several kicks to Anjo’s head and then kicked him completely out of the ring.

Despite many pundits (such as Pro Wrestling Illustrated) comparing him to UWFI champion Nobuhiko Takada, Tamura never challenged for the title. As the inter-promotional feud against New Japan Pro Wrestling started, Tamura jumped to RINGS, which was founded by one of his old mentors, Akira Maeda. He was briefly pushed as the top star, being given the first RINGS heavyweight title, but as RINGS transitioned to real MMA bouts, his star began to flicker, as he struggled to keep up with the demanding pace of the organization despite winning bouts.

Tamura’s 32 career wins include victories over mixed martial arts greats such as Jeremy Horn, Renzo Gracie, Ikuhisa Minowa, Nobuhiko Takada, Maurice Smith, Pat Miletich and Kazushi Sakuraba. He also held Frank Shamrock to a draw during the time Shamrock was the reigning UFC champion.

However, in spite of his many accomplishments inside the arena of MMA, his record is somewhat marred by a great number of his match-ups against top heavyweight and light-heavyweight competitors, including Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, the 350-pound Bob Sapp and the former Judo Olympic gold medalist Hidehiko Yoshida.

His later mixed martial arts performances have also been criticized as being relatively uninspiring when compared to the fast-paced bouts that characterized him during the earlier portion of his career. Part of this may be due to the lack of grappling in those MMA bouts in question, since he was at one point considered one of the deadliest submission artists in the world.

For several years, efforts were made by Pride Fighting Championships to put Kiyoshi Tamura and fellow UWFi alum and mixed martial artist Kazushi Sakuraba together in a fight due to their status as two of the best Japanese fighters of their time as well as a rumored rivalry. An announcement was made at Pride 34 by Nobuyuki Sakakibara that promised the fans a future fight between the two. However, immediately after that event in which the announcement was made, Pride Fighting Championships ceased being an active promotion.

Finally it was announced that Kiyoshi Tamura and Kazushi Sakuraba were set to fight at the “K-1 Fields Dynamite!!” event on December 31, 2008. The fight was characterized by Tamura generally countering take-down and submission attempts by Sakuraba while applying ground-and-pound from the top position throughout the bout. At the end of the first round, Sakuraba appeared to have an arm bar locked in, but Tamura held on and in the second controlled much of the action until being taken down by Sakuraba in the final minute. Ultimately, Tamura was awarded a unanimous decision, to finally beat Sakuraba. This monumental match up would be Tamura’s last competition.

1.)    www.Tapology.com
2.)    Pro Wrestling Illustrated’ s Top 500 Wrestlers of the PWI years
3.)    www.Sherdog.com
4.)    www.pridefc.com
Ken Shamrock
 “The Worlds Most Dangerous Man”
Born: 11 February, 1964

When thirteen-year-old Kenneth Kilpatrick first came to Bob Shamrock’s group home in sunny Susanville, California, his future did not look bright. He had grown up fatherless in a poor neighborhood in Georgia, where he learned life’s lessons on the streets. While his mother worked to put food on the table, he traveled the neighborhood with his brothers, causing trouble wherever they could.The first time Ken ran away from home, he was only ten. He found refuge in an abandoned car with fellow delinquents, but wound up in the hospital after getting stabbed by another child who was also on the run. In the years that followed, he would be ousted from seven group homes and serve time in Juvenile Hall. Although the strong-willed youth only weighed 125 pounds, he had his own way of looking at the world, and he was always ready to protect his pride with his fists.

Showing no signs of rehabilitation, the State grew weary of him. He was given one last chance to turn his life around: he would go to a group home—the Shamrock Ranch—run by Bob Shamrock, a man renowned for working with misguided youths. While Ken had a history of conflict with those in charge of group homes, he fit in quite well at Shamrock’s.

Bob had raised more than six hundred boys in his home, and his methods were both unique and effective. In response to the feuds that often arose with prideful boys sleeping under the same roof, he offered them an unorthodox method of resolution. If both parties were willing, he allowed them to throw on boxing gloves and duke it out in the backyard.

It did not take long before Ken was the house champion in both boxing and wrestling. Outside of these in-house matches, he also earned a reputation around town as ‘One Punch Shamrock.’ “He’d get into a fight and just knock the guy out,” recalled Bob. “He hit them once and they were down. He never picked fights, but he never backed away from them.”

Recognizing the boy had tremendous athletic ability, Bob redirected Ken’s anger into sports. He got him on a weight-lifting program and enrolled him in wrestling and football. Over the years, Bob and Ken went through a lot together. At one point, the State had sent Ken back to his mother, who was now living in Napa, California. But having found a home at the Shamrock Ranch, Ken returned on his own accord. Bob accepted the boy back with open arms, even though Ken was no longer being supported by the State. Along with becoming a leader for the other boys, Ken also became the son Bob Shamrock never had. Shortly after Ken turned eighteen, Bob legally adopted him.

At nineteen, Ken Shamrock entered his first Tough man competition in Redding, California. He only weighed in at 195 pounds, but due to a shortage of fighters, he was bumped up to the heavyweight division. Although the first competitor he faced outweighed him by sixty pounds, it didn’t stop Ken from knocking him out with a devastating body shot. The second brawler he took on weighed 245 pounds. Ken proceeded to knock him out as well, along with several of the man’s teeth. The competitor who was supposed to fight Ken in the finals wanted no part of “One Punch Shamrock,” and claimed an injury so he wouldn’t wind up like the others.

It was evident that Ken had a natural ability for brawling, and this ability was exercised both in and outside of the ring. His reputation as a fighting machine grew as he worked as a bouncer in various nightclubs. But eventually Ken realized working the nightclub scene was a dead end. “I was just kind of floating around,” said Ken, “bouncing in bars here and there.” He began searching for other opportunities, and one day his father suggested that he go into professional wrestling. Bob was a huge fan, but at first Ken was not interested, thinking it stupid and fake. However, after Ken realized just how much money a pro wrestler could make, he started taking to the idea.

Bob organized a tryout with Buzz Sawyer Wrestling Academy in Sacramento, and Ken passed with flying colors. He enrolled in the classes, and because of his wrestling background and natural athletic ability he quickly excelled. Realizing his son had potential in the sport; Bob located a more prestigious wrestling school on the other side of the country. “I went down to Nelson Royal and Gene Anderson in Mooresville, North Carolina,” said Ken. “I went through their tryout, and they saw some potential in me.” Ken completed their program in four months, while it usually took a student two years to finish. Both Ken and Bob made the move to North Carolina, where Ken exploded onto the scene.

The wrestling wasn’t paying that much, however, and to make ends meet, Ken held odd jobs and even engaged in back alley scraps for money. In one such event, Shamrock fought in a parking lot behind a bar surrounded by a ring of drunks. Ken ended the fight with just one punch and a suplex. Without even breaking a sweat, he walked away with $350 in his pocket. But this was not enough to satisfy his pugilistic tendencies, and he began searching for another outlet.

An opportunity soon presented itself. “Dean Malenko had come up and did some tag-team with me, and then we did some baby-face matches against each other,” said Ken. “He showed me this tape that they were doing over in Japan, the UWF (Universal Wrestling Federation). I said, ‘Damn, I want to do that!’ He introduced me to Sammy Saranaka from Florida, and I went down and met with him. I went through a series of tests.” After passing a brutal tryout in Florida, Ken was on a plane heading for Japan.

He made it through yet another grueling set of tryouts in the dojo of the UWF just outside of Tokyo, but not without being humbled by submission masters Suzuki and Funaki. “I’ve always been able to pretty much handle myself in any situation,” said Ken. “But when I went to Japan the technique there was so much better that I was getting heel-hooked, arm barred, and choked. I was like, “this stuff is great.”

Realizing his one “great punch” would not cut it at this level of competition, he lived in Japan, studying under the greats in Catch Wrestling and learning countless ways to submit an opponent. Having found what he had been searching for, he quickly acquired the tools that made him a complete and feared competitor.

Ken spent a year competing in the UWF, and although most of the matches were worked, it was a cut above what he had experienced while wrestling in the States. But when the UWF began having problems, Ken began looking for an even more realistic medium where he could test his skills and unleash his power in full-out combat. “There were a lot of internal problems with the UWF,” said Ken. “The company broke down and split up, and the fighters went to three different companies. There was Takada, there was Maeda, and there was Fujiwara. Of course I slid off into Fujiwara, because Fujiwara and Sammy Saranaka were friends—and Sammy was the one who got me into it. Then after that, it kind of broke apart with Funaki and Suzuki and all them. I had started training with Funaki, and spent a lot of time with Funaki learning. And so when they broke off, Funaki had asked me to go with him because they were going to start a new group called Pancrase. It was going to be a little more intense. I said, ‘Well okay, that sounds more like me.” Ken went on to beat both Suzuki and Funaki, his teachers. And on December 19, 1994, he defeated Japanese competitor Manabu Yamada in front of 11,500 enthusiastic fans to be crowned the first King of Pancrase.

Ken became a superstar in Japan. His image was depicted in comic books and graced the cover of magazines, and tens of thousands of spectators turned out monthly to watch him dominate his opponents.

Knowing he had a future in the sport, Ken returned to the U.S. and opened the now world-renowned Lion’s Den training facility in Lodi, California. His reasons for opening it up were twofold. First, it would be an official training facility for American Pancrase fighters before going to Japan. The second reason was so Ken had partners to train with in the States. Pancrase embodied modern MMA competition, and at the time there weren’t many potential training partners. Ken had to start them from the ground up, and over the years he would produce some of the most successful MMA competitors the sport has ever seen.

Then, in September of 1993, Shamrock came across an advertisement in Black Belt magazine searching for experts in the martial arts to compete in an event called the Ultimate Fighting Championship—a bare-knuckle event where there were no rules.

Both Bob and Ken were confident that he could win the tournament easily because of his fighting ability and his knowledge of submission. When Ken was younger, he’d competed in several karate competitions that were supposedly full contact. In one such tourney in Reno, Ken kicked his opponent in the stomach, knocked the wind out of him, and then got disqualified because his kick was considered too full contact. In another event in Redding, he knocked a competitor out by punching him in the head. This was also considered too full contact, and again Ken was disqualified.

From this, Bob and Ken got the idea that these guys running around in pajamas were not all that tough, not realizing what jiu-jitsu fighters, like Royce Gracie, could do. Even while in Japan, Ken never got to see the Jiu-jitsu practitioners in action. He figured that with his skills he would run right through the other UFC competitors just as he had in his barroom brawls and Tough man competitions.

Although Bob was certain the event would take place, Ken had his doubts. “I thought it was just going to be another one of those deals that when you get there they go, ‘Okay, this is how it works; this guy is going to win.’ The only thing I’ve ever been a part of that involved any No Holds Barred, or anything like that where there were bare knuckles, the outcome was already pretty much predetermined. There were always stipulations—there was always something. So when I got accepted into it, I was still fighting over in Pancrase. I had a fight three days before the fight over in Denver, and I wasn’t going to cancel that fight because I wasn’t sure or not if this one was going to be the real deal.” The first UFC, however, was bigger than anyone expected, especially Ken. When father and son arrived in Denver, everything was in place.

In his first bout of the night, Shamrock took on Patrick Smith, a kick boxer who had ridiculously boasted that he was immune to pain. In the opening seconds, Smith came forward and threw a kick to the leg. Shamrock shot in for a double-leg takedown, put the striker on the canvas, and then seized Smith’s right leg and dropped back, applying a heel hook. In seconds, the kick boxer was in agony, and he pounded his hand in submission.

The bout had gone pretty much as Shamrock had anticipated. After a brief rest backstage, he climbed back into the Octagon to take on Royce Gracie, the only wildcard in the event. Shamrock had never before grappled with a competitor who wore a Gi, but after manhandling some of the best grapplers in the world over in Japan, he felt confident that there was nothing Gracie could do to hurt him. Shamrock understood positioning, and he could spot a submission hold coming from a mile away.

A little over minute into their bout, Shamrock had his opponent right where he wanted him—laying on his back in the middle of the Octagon. Feeling the time was right, he seized Gracie’s right leg and dropped back to once again apply a heel hook. But immediately he knew something wasn’t right. “He had wrapped his Gi around my arm, so when I sat back, it basically pulled him up on top of me,” said Shamrock. “Then I couldn’t get my arm out of the Gi to apply the heel hook. So I tried to turn on my side, and when I did, he wrapped his Gi and his hand around my throat. I didn’t feel there was any danger there because his other hand was tied up with mine. Then all of a sudden I felt this Gi tighten around my neck. I was like, ‘What the hell is that?’” Gasping for air, Shamrock realized that it was only a matter of seconds before he passed out, and he tapped in submission.

Shamrock handled his post-fight interview with class, but inwardly he craved revenge. “I don’t like losing, and for me to lose on national TV was a hard thing to accept,” said Shamrock. “Coming from the streets, I wasn’t afraid of anything. I very rarely lost a fight, and when I did, I always came back and won. I always found a way to win. I needed to face him again for myself, and to prove to all those people who watched the first event that I wasn’t a quitter. I was used to fighting bare back, so I just needed to learn how to defend against someone wearing a Gi. I wouldn’t make the same mistakes twice.”

Although Shamrock felt ready to take on Gracie only a few months after his loss, he would have to wait almost a year and a half for his redemption. While training for UFC 2, he blocked a high kick while sparring with a teammate and broke his hand. He still wanted to compete, but when doctors told him that he might never fight again if he injured his hand any further, he reluctantly withdrew from the show. Shamrock watched from the sidelines as Gracie took home the title belt yet again, and it fueled his rage. He entered UFC 3 prepared to give the Brazilian the fight of his life. Gracie, however, was on the opposite side of the quarterfinal bracket, which meant that they both had to win their first two fights in order to meet each other in the finals. To achieve this, Shamrock defeated Christophe Leininger in his quarterfinal bout by trapping him up against the fence and raining down punches. Then, in the semifinals, he finished kick boxer Felix Lee Mitchell with a rear naked choke.

Knowing his revenge was near, Shamrock waited backstage, preparing himself mentally for the most important fight of his life. But just as he was beginning his warm up routine, he received some devastating news. Gracie had thrown in the towel shortly after he stepped into the Octagon for his semifinal bout. Apparently, his struggle to defeat powerful street brawler Kimo Leopoldo in his first match of the night had taken its toll, and he could not continue.

With Gracie out of the event, Shamrock was almost guaranteed a victory. All he had to do was step into the Octagon and defeat karate practitioner Harold Howard. But when organizers of the show called Shamrock’s name, he told them that he wasn’t coming out. He didn’t care about the title belt or the prize money—he cared about beating Gracie. Having been robbed of his rematch yet again, he saw no reason to continue.

The fans of the sport were growing anxious to see the two warriors square off. To ensure everyone got what they wanted, promoters decided to create the first ever Superfight in UFC 5. Instead of being a part of the tournament, Shamrock and Gracie would fight each other in a headlining bout.

The showdown was advertised in various forms of media around the world, and on the night of April 7, 1995, Independence Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina was packed to the brim with fight fans. “I didn’t want to go out there and just beat Royce,” said Shamrock. “I wanted to shut down his whole bragging system, which was, ‘We’re in better condition, our skills are better, and we can beat anybody, anywhere, anytime.’ My whole strategy going in was to wear him out, make him so tired to where he could hardly stand. I was going to beat him—beat on his ribs, slowly break him down, and then treat him like a baby. I really wanted to embarrass the guy.”

Shamrock’s game plan worked well. He took Gracie to the ground, obtained the top position, and then pounded on his opponent’s ribs and face for thirty minutes straight. Despite the abuse Gracie absorbed, he refused to tap in submission. This became a problem, because at the time there were no judges, no way to determine a winner if one competitor didn’t give. The fight had been scheduled for thirty minutes, but not wanting it to end in a draw; organizers of the show gave the warriors five extra minutes to see if one of them could pull out a victory. When neither fighter changed his strategy going into the overtime, the referee made a judgment call and stood them up.

Shamrock used the opportunity to land two powerful punches to Gracie’s face. “The reason why I was able to rock him was because I was wearing him down,” said Shamrock. “I tried the same punch right in the beginning of the fight, but it didn’t land. First time I missed it, but the second time he was worn out, a little bit slower, and I hit it.” After landing his shots, Shamrock brought the fight back to the canvas. He began delivering head-butts and strikes, swelling up Gracie’s already battered face. But Gracie weathered the abuse like a true champion, and the two combatants were eventually separated without a victor being declared.

Although Shamrock hadn’t knocked Gracie out like he had wanted, it was obvious to all those watching who had dominated from start to finish. Having done something no competitor had done before; go the distance with the jiu-jitsu master from Brazil—Shamrock continued to rise in popularity. He fought in one Superfight after the next, defeating amateur wrestler Dan Severn with a guillotine choke in UFC 6, and then asserting his dominance over Oleg Taktarov in UFC 7.

As Shamrock’s victories piled up, young athletes flooded to Lodi, California in hopes of gaining entrance into his training facility, the Lion’s Den. Thousands of fighters wanted to know his secrets to success, but Shamrock didn’t accept just anyone. Not wanting to waste his time training guys who thought a crescent kick could be used in a real fight, he searched for those who were well-conditioned athletes rather than experienced martial artists. To weed out the weak before they stepped foot into his gym, he created a tryout that consisted of eight hours of physical and mental abuse. It involved pushups, sit-ups, miles of running, and a grueling sparring session where Shamrock wrenched on their joints. “The test was not made for you to pass,” said Shamrock. “It was made for you to want to quit. So by making you want to quit, it shows me the intensity or the will that you have to succeed.”

Despite the high failure rate, over the course of many months, Shamrock managed to round up a small group of young men who had the heart, desire, and physically ability to learn what he had to teach them. Once they had made the team, Shamrock shaved their heads, moved them into his fighters’ house, and then began the slow process of building them up from scratch. In exchange for his generosity, his students dedicated all their time and effort to training. They learned how to submit an opponent with arm bars, leg locks, heel hooks, and chokes. They learned how to punch, kick, and tie an opponent up in the clinch. Spending as many as six hours a day drilling techniques over and over, it did not take long before they could offer Shamrock the kind of resistance that he needed to stay in shape. “I was very hands on with them,” said Shamrock. “I controlled the amount of time they put into training. I monitored the times they ate, and the times they could go out. It was a real regimented deal, and it worked very well.”

Shamrock didn’t keep his fighters in the nest for long. Once he felt a student was ready to compete, he sent him over to Japan to get experience fighting in Pancrase. And those who managed to rack up a number of victories over top competitors overseas soon followed Shamrock’s lead into the UFC. This included Guy Mezger, Pete Williams, Jerry Bohlander, Mikey Burnett, and Frank Shamrock. Just like their instructor, they tore through the competition in the Octagon, making the Lion’s Den the most respected and feared MMA fighting team in the world.

Shamrock became a leader in the sport of MMA. In the Octagon, he displayed sportsmanship and courage. Outside the ring, he frequently traveled the country to appear on talk shows, trying to convince the general public that the UFC was not a barbaric sport. But despite all his efforts to shed a positive light on MMA competition and its competitors, the UFC continued to attract negative attention. “The UFC was having a hard time,” said Shamrock. “Every place we went, we were getting banned. At one event, we had to pack everything up the night before the show, charter two planes, and fly to another state just so we could make it happen.”

Shamrock hoped that time would help solve the sport’s problems. He continued to compete, but when he entered UFC 9 to defend his Superfight belt against Dan Severn for the second time, he was forced to make a moral decision that put a black mark on his nearly flawless record. “The show was held in Detroit, Michigan, and the night before the event the courts made it illegal for competitors to punch,” said Shamrock. “Prior to that, there was a different show over in Canada that had the same thing happen to them. Competitors started punching, and they all got arrested after the show. The promoters told me not to worry about it, to go ahead and punch, and that they would fine me at a later date. I remember thinking about it, wondering what to do. I thought about all Juvenile Halls I had visited along the way, promoting the fact that they could do anything in life so long as they followed the rules and stayed within the guidelines. Growing up in group homes, I had learned that your team suffers when you foul, and your family suffers when you break the law. I had learned that the hard way, and I wasn’t about to do that same thing again. I was being told that it was OK to break the rules, but it was totally against everything that I had promoted the UFC and myself to be about. And so, I chose not to punch. Because I chose not to punch, I lost the fight. Severn won because he landed more punches.”

The sport continued its downward spiral, and fighter’s purses began to dwindle at every show. Shamrock had a family to support, along with a house full of fighters. So when the UFC showed no sign of making a dramatic comeback anytime soon, he decided to use the popularity he’d garnered in MMA competition to move over to the ranks of professional wrestling.

On February 24, 1997, Shamrock made his first appearance for the WWF, and over the next couple of years he would become one of the most feared and popular professional wrestlers in the world. He became the Intercontinental Champion, Tag Team Champion, King of the Ring Champion, and Rookie of the year. In addition to his weekly television appearances, Shamrock also began pursuing a film career, staring in movies such as Champions and Scarecrow Gone Wild.

Just when the fight world thought they had seen the last of Shamrock in the Octagon, he decided to make a comeback in the UFC. “I was tired of running around all the time on the road with the WWF,” said Shamrock. “I wanted to spend more time at home with my family and kids. I also wanted to get back into fighting because I realized I was running out of time to do that.” To get the training that he needed, Shamrock placed himself in the hands of his former students, and they brought him up to speed on all the techniques that they had learned in his absence. Within months, Shamrock felt ready to take on the world, and he signed a contract with the UFC to fight Tito Ortiz, the current light heavyweight champion.

Shamrock had agreed to the match for two reasons. First, he wanted the light heavyweight championship belt. But more importantly, he felt he had a score to settle with the Huntington Beach Bad Boy. Back in 1998, Ortiz had defeated Lion’s Den fighter Guy Mezger. Instead of shacking Mezger’s hand after the bout, Ortiz had showed signs of disrespect. Time did little to ease the animosity.

Shamrock felt confident there was nothing that could stop him from defeating Tito Ortiz, but then he tore ligaments in his knee during practice. “I figured I could overcome it, get in there and win the fight,” said Shamrock. “I really thought I could beat Tito Ortiz with one leg. Training was hard, because I couldn’t run. I was forced to cut back on my training because my knee swelled up. I should have just called it a day so I could come back another time, but I was just too hard headed. I had always been able to overcome any injury, and I thought I would be able to do it again.” Shamrock trained when he could, and despite constant pain, he made the trip to Las Vegas to see how his skills fared against the new and improved Tito Ortiz.

It was the most anticipated match the UFC had experienced in its nine year history, and as the two warriors took their positions inside the Octagon, millions of fans around the world found themselves wondering what the outcome would be. Would the legend of the past be able to pull out the victory, or would the champion of the present run through this competitor just like he had all the rest?

The capacity crowd was on its feet as the fight got underway. Shamrock came forward with confidence, but he soon realized that his injury was not something he should have taken so lightly. He didn’t have the mobility that he needed to pivot, shoot, or even struggle for position on the ground, and this allowed Ortiz to get the upper hand.

Despite losing the fight, Shamrock had no plans of leaving the sport anytime soon. He had surgery on his knee, and once he recovered, he began training like he had in the past. “MMA competition has put me in a situation where I can walk through life being proud of who I am and what I have accomplished,” said Shamrock. “Without it, I don’t know what I would have done. I fell in love with it the first time I stepped into the ring, and I have never looked back. We all went through a hard time when politics got involved and the sport was banned, but because we loved what we did, loved where it was going, we stuck with it.”

Millions of fans world-wide have not forgotten all Shamrock has contributed to the sport of MMA over the years, and in addition to being inducted to the UFC Hall of Fame in 2003, he has also been nominated to join San Diego County’s Hall of Fame. Whether it is choking competitors out in the Octagon, slamming his victims in the rings of professional wrestling, or entertaining the masses in mainstream movies and books, Shamrock has always embodied the essence of what it means to be a warrior on all fronts.

Shamrock is now a part of a new online workout and self-defense program called “Pro Fit 101.”

Source: www.KenShamrock.com Bio by: Erich Krauss  
Bas Rutten
Born: 24 February, 1965

Sebastiaan “Bas” Rutten is a retired Dutch mixed martial artist, Karate and Taekwondo black belt, and kickboxer. He was a UFC Heavyweight Champion, a three-time King of Pancrase world champion, and finished his career on a 22 fight unbeaten streak (21 wins, 1 draw).As a fighter, one of his favorite tactics was the liver shot (both punch and kick), and he popularized its use in MMA. Rutten is known for his charisma and has capitalized on his celebrity since retiring from fighting in 1999. He has worked as a color commentator in several MMA organizations, including Pride, and has appeared in numerous television shows, movies, and video games. He also coaches MMA and has authored several instructional materials.

Rutten was born in Tilburg, Netherlands. At the age of 6 he developed eczema and severe asthma. Due to the eczema, he always wore long sleeves, turtle necks and gloves, and his asthma meant he was unable to partake in exercise, and was consequently relatively skinny. He was bullied on a daily basis as a kid. The young Rutten found refuge in climbing trees in a forest behind his house.

Rutten became interested in martial arts at age 12 after his family went on vacation to France; the movie Enter the Dragon starring Bruce Lee was playing at the local movie theatre. Bas could not get in because he was just 12 years old and the movie was rated 17+, so he and his brother (Sjoerd) sneaked into the theatre and after the movie he became addicted to martial arts. His conservative parents didn’t allow him to pursue it at first. After two years of begging his parents, at age 14, they allowed him to practice Tae Kwon Do. He picked it up very quickly and after a few months he got in a street fight with the biggest bully in town. Rutten, now more confident, took the challenge and broke the bully’s nose and KO’d him with the first punch he threw. The police showed up at his parent’s place, and Rutten was immediately removed and prohibited from further practicing Tae Kwon Do.

Bas started training boxing in the backyard of an elementary school with a friend. At age 21, he moved out of his parent’s house and once again started training Tae Kwon Do. He was committed and eventually earned a 2nd degree black belt. He then began learning Kyokushin Karate, and earned another degree black belt in that style.

Later he received an honorary 5th degree black belt from Jon Bluming after Bluming witnessed him breaking the shin bone of Kazuo Takahashi by way of inverted heel hook.

At the age of 20 he started competing in Muay Thai kickboxing events. He fought 16 times and won the first 14 by knockout, 13 in the first round. He lost his final two fights by TKO. In perhaps the biggest fight of his kickboxing career, Rutten faced Frank Lobman for the European Muay Thai title on February 12, 1991. Lobman won by TKO in the first round.

Rutten began his professional mixed martial arts career with the Pancrase organization in Japan. In 1993, Japanese pro wrestlers Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki traveled to the Netherlands to scout fighters for their new “hybrid wrestling” organization, featuring submission fighting, but with no closed fisted strikes to the face. A precursor to modern mixed martial arts, the organization was the first of its kind, and featured early MMA names Frank Shamrock, Vernon White, Maurice Smith, Ken Shamrock, and Guy Mezger.

Rutten dominated his first two fights in Pancrase, winning each by KO. Rutten’s first knockout was so brutal that his opponent Ryushi Yanagisawa (then the #4 ranked fighter in Japan) was carried from the ring and spent 2 days in a hospital. Rutten’s striking was so powerful that, according to Frank Shamrock, it often intimidated other fighters. Frank Shamrock said, “His kickboxing was devastating. It was something everybody feared. The other thing he had was a basic understanding of real fighting…Bas had that street fighter mentality.”

However, his lack (at that time) of ground-fighting experience led to a loss to the extraordinarily skilled Masakatsu Funaki. Rutten, realizing the importance of ground fighting, went to train with the master Catch Wrestler Funaki. The training paid off, as Rutten knocked out previously undefeated Minoru Suzuki with a liver shot from his knee. Rutten later said that this win was one of the happiest moments of his life.

Just 20 days later, Rutten faced another steep test, fighting future UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock, who was then one of the best Pancrase fighters. Rutten turned in a hard effort but ultimately lost the fight via rear naked choke. Rutten bounced back after the loss to Shamrock with a submission win over Jason DeLucia. At this point, the dedication and determination to learn Catch Wrestling from Funaki was starting to pay off.
Rutten then participated in one of the biggest events in mixed martial arts history to date, the King of Pancrase Tournament. The winner of this tournament would be crowned the first champion of Pancrase. He was one of the four #1 seeds in the tournament and his first fight was against MMA newcomer (and future UFC champion) Frank Shamrock. Rutten lost a close (and somewhat controversial) decision in a fight considered a large upset, considering Rutten was a #1 seed in the tournament and Shamrock was then unknown and making his MMA debut.

Rutten found a measure of redemption after the upset loss in the first round of the King of Pancrase Tournament by choking out expert submission grappler and King of Pancrase Tournament Finalist Manabu Yamada in his next fight. With such an impressive showing against the tournament finalist, Rutten then received a rematch and a title shot against tournament winner and then current King of Pancrase Ken Shamrock for the King of Pancrase title, but lost early in the fight via submission due to a knee bar.

After his second loss to Shamrock, Rutten focused on grappling even harder than before and started training 2 to 3 times a day solely on submissions. Rutten won 7 out of his next 8 fights by submission. He put together a series of wins against future UFC champions Frank Shamrock and Maurice Smith and eventually challenged King of Pancrase Minoru Suzuki for the title. Rutten beat Suzuki for the second time, winning his first King of Pancrase title. After putting his title defenses on hold due to an injury, Rutten returned to the ring and beat interim King of Pancrase Frank Shamrock for the undisputed King of Pancrase title.

Rutten then avenged his loss to MMA legend Masakatsu Funaki in 1996 in what is considered to be one of the greatest fights in Pancrase history. Rutten described the war with Funaki in an interview:

“Before the fight when he came to me, he made that thumb over the neck, throat slashing motion like I was going to go down. I turned to my manager and said, “Okay, now I’m going to kill this guy, you watch”. My game plan was to keep the fight going for 15 minutes…Funaki had never fought above 15 minutes. But then, like 12 minutes into it, while I’m still on my knees he kicks me in the head. I block, but for me that was an illegal thing to do. So right away I start, BANG, BANG, BANG, and he goes down. From that moment on, I totally destroyed him. You got to see the fight; it was a massacre. My palms were black from hitting him so hard. He had the gods on his side or something, because he stood up every time. I hit his face back on the mat and you hear it slam into the mat. His nose is all the way to the side, broke, they have to straighten it out. I go, “Oh my God, this guy can take a shot!” I kneed him so hard in the head. He went down four times. But the last knee I gave to him was like everything I had. I grabbed him by the head and kneed him. It was really like a Rocky movie. I’m standing there and I fall backwards, and I’m totally out of breath. I get up and the referee holds my hand up. Then he lets my hand go and I drop again, BOOM! I was exhausted, I gave everything I had; I really wanted to destroy him. I broke his cheekbones and broke his nose; just because he said he was going to kill me. Oh, I was so angry at him. But afterwards, friends again…what a crazy sport this is, huh?”

He had defended the Pancrase title again, and became a three-time King of Pancrase. In 1996, he relinquished his title to be present for the birth of his second daughter. Rutten returned to Pancrase, taking 8 more victories, bringing his unbeaten streak up to 19 straight fights.
Rutten left Pancrase as one of the most dominant fighters in the history of the organization. MMA legend Ken Shamrock was the only fighter Rutten did not avenge a loss to. In 2000, when Rutten was PRIDE FC’s color commentator, a third fight with Shamrock was entertained. Rutten agreed to come out of retirement to fight Shamrock in PRIDE FC. However, Shamrock stated that he already beat Rutten twice and that a third time wasn’t necessary. Later, in 2002, Rutten said that he would not fight Shamrock again even if it was offered to him because of the friendship they developed over the years, and that he could not put his mind and heart into fighting Ken.

In 1998, Rutten signed with the UFC, the biggest MMA promotion in the United States. Rutten entered the UFC with a massive amount of hype; he was undefeated in his last 19 fights and was touted by the organization as the greatest martial artist on the planet.

Rutten was originally scheduled to fight heavyweight champion Randy Couture in a title match for the UFC Heavyweight Championship in his first fight, but Couture had a contract dispute and left the UFC to sign with a different promotion. The title was then stripped from Couture and a tournament of sorts was set up to determine the next champion.

Rutten’s first fight in his quest for the UFC belt was against Tsuyoshi Kohsaka at UFC 18, which Rutten dramatically won by KO with just a minute left in overtime.

On May 7, 1999, at UFC 20, Rutten faced Kevin Randleman for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. The first four minutes consisted of Rutten taking a lot of punishment from his guard. However, after the fight was stood up to check Rutten’s cut; Rutten landed a devastating liver kick to Randleman’s body to turn the tide of the fight. Randleman’s pace slowed down considerably after the liver kick, which ultimately helped Rutten score judges’ points by being the more active fighter. Rutten pounded away at Randleman from inside his guard, using elbow strikes to open up cuts on top of Randleman’s head and punching Randleman to the face. The fight went into overtime, with Rutten taking a very close split decision victory to become the UFC Heavyweight Champion. Judging at that point was not based on the current 10-point must system, but instead whomever the judges felt won the fight overall.

Rutten vacated the title later in the year, in order to drop down to middleweight (now known as light heavyweight) a weight closer to his natural weight, in a bid to try to become the first person to hold a UFC title in two weight classes.

While training for his next UFC fight in 1999, Rutten suffered multiple serious injuries, including blowing out his knee (a long running injury), tearing his biceps, and suffering a neck injury. He was forced to retire from MMA competition for the time being, by doctors’ orders.

During his MMA career he became known for two particular things: his fondness of liver shots and his habit of doing a jumping split after winning a fight. Rutten talked about the origins of the “Rutten Jump” on his website: “When I won my first fight in Pancrase, I was so hyped that I jumped up in the splits to each side of the ring. Why? I don’t know. But, it became my trademark and I had to do it after every fight that I won.”

Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Tito Ortiz has credited Rutten for inspiration during his early days. Ortiz said; “I looked up to Bas Rutten. Bas was my idol. People were just so scared of fighting him, he was like the man. I thought that was what I need to do now. If I train as hard as he does then one day I’ll be as good as him and two years later look where I am, I’m on top of the world. I’ve got to say thanks to him, (Bas) for helping me out by making me believe in dreams.”

After his retirement from fighting in 1999, Rutten focused on becoming an actor, getting small parts on TV shows such as Martial Law, 18 Wheels of Justice, The King of Queens, “Lights Out” and the Canadian series Freedom, as well as appearing in low budget movies such as Shadow Fury, The Eliminator, and the comedy short The Kingdom of Ultimate Power which was featured in the 2005 L.A. Film Festival. It also won the first prize at the short film festival in NY for “best comedy”.

Rutten performed a few times for NJPW (New Japan Pro Wrestling) from 2000 to 2002, including an IWGP title match against Yuji Nagata.
Rutten was also the color commentator for the English productions of Pride Fighting Championships events, calling nearly every event from Pride 1 through the 2005 Grand Prix. Known for his sense of humor and firsthand knowledge of the sport, Rutten quickly became a fan favorite commentator. In April 2006 he announced that he would not continue to announce for Pride, due to the constant flying to Japan, and being away from his family every month.

On January 23, 2008, he was announced as the new Vice President, Fighter Operations reporting directly to IFL CEO Jay Larkin. His role was to build relations between the IFL and its fighters as well as work on potential match-ups between fighters. He also hosted the weekly shows “Battleground” and “International Fight League” with Kenny Rice. This all ended when IFL went out of business in late 2008.

Currently, he and Kenny Rice host Inside MMA, a weekly MMA variety show on HDNet. The pair also did remote English commentary and play-by-play for Dream events broadcast in North America on HDNet. The pair was eventually replaced by Guy Mezger and Michael Schiavello, who attend the events live in Japan. He is currently appearing in public health service ads, airing on Cartoon Network.

Rutten featured in 2012 American sports comedy movie Here Comes the Boom alongside Kevin James and Henry Winkler. Rutten played the role of a former MMA fighter and Dutch immigrant Niko trying to gain US citizenship. In return for his help in gaining citizenship Niko helps train 42 year old biology teacher Scott (Kevin James) to become a MMA/UFC fighter.

Rutten is a certified instructor in both MTBN Thai Boxing and Pancrase. He currently resides in Westlake Village, California with his wife Karin and two daughters. Bas has a 22 year old daughter who lives in the Netherlands with her mother. He also recently became a citizen of the United States.

Rutten is known by the moniker “El Guapo”, which means “The Handsome One” in Spanish.

1.)    Bas Rutten’s official website: www.BasRutten.com
2.)    “About Bas Rutten” www.BasRuttenSystem.com
3.)    Professional MMA record: www.Sherdog.com
4.)    The overlooked origins of Mixed Martial Arts: www.KocoSports.com
5.)    Wikipedia: www.wikipedia.com  
Erik Paulson
Born:  28 June, 1966

Erik Paulson is an American mixed martial artist raised in Minnesota and currently residing in California. He is the first American to win the World Light-Heavy Weight Shooto Title in Japan.A gymnast in High School, Paulson started learning Judo in 1974 followed by Karate in 1976. His first exposure to Catch as Catch Can Wrestling came when he attended a Larry Hartsell camp in 1982. Larry Hartsell was well known for his involvement with Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do, and had picked up Catch Wrestling during his lifelong Martial Arts journey from notable coaches such as Gene LeBell and Yori Nakamura.  Paulson himself later ended up training under Nakamura and LeBell, and still trains from time to time with LeBell to this day.

Yori Nakamura was from the Japanese Mixed Martial Arts organization “Shooto” and had been trained by none other than the founder of “Shooto” himself, Satoru Sayama. Sayama had been trained by the legendary Karl Gotch in Catch Wrestling years before in Japan’s “New Japan Pro Wrestling” organization.

Paulson has trained with over 40 different teachers in his 40 years of Martial Arts training including; Rick Faye, Greg Nelson, Yorinaga Nakamura, Larry Hartsell, Tim Tackett, Ajarn Chai Sirisute, Nicolas Saignac, Rob Kaman, Rigan Machado, Rico Chipparelli, and the legendary Dan Inosanto, who claims Erik is one of the world’s most dynamic grapplers. During that time he has trained in numerous styles other than just Judo and Catch Wrestling which include; Freestyle and Greco-Roman Wrestling, Tae Kwon Do, Boxing, Jeet Kune Do, Filipino Kali/Eskrima, Sambo, Shoot wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

He began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 1989, studying with Rorion Gracie, Royce Gracie, and Rickson Gracie in a garage and eventually achieved the rank of Black Belt under Rigan Machado.

Paulson became the Shooto World Light-Heavyweight Champion in 1995 and remained the undisputed 2-time Champion until 2000 when he retired.

Erik came out of retirement in October 2007 to headline the first HDNET MMA fight card. Paulson took on Jeff Ford in the main event of the night. Paulson made quick work of Ford, winning by spinning arm bar in the opening minutes of the first round.

Paulson is the founder of Combat Submission Wrestling (CSW), and STX Kickboxing. Erik’s system blends Judo, Freestyle Wrestling and Greco-Roman Wrestling with techniques and submissions from Shoot Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Sambo and Catch-as-Catch- Can. Combat Submission Wrestling trains the individual to clinch, takedown, and submit on the ground in either a sport, mixed martial arts, or self-defense environment.
Paulson is the coauthor of a book titled “Rough and Tumble, the History of American Submission Wrestling” available at www.ErikPaulson.com.
He currently runs the CSW Training Center in Fullerton, California where he trains MMA fighters such as Josh Barnett, Ken Shamrock, Renato Sobral, Cub Swanson, Ben Jones, Craig Wilkerson, James Wilks, Ginelle Marquez, Troy Vistro, and Ethan Vistro. He is closely affiliated with Sean Sherk and Brock Lesnar of the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy.

Paulson was the striking coach for Team Lesnar on The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13. Erik also has a younger brother named Leif Paulson who is an outstanding up and coming grappler in his own right.

1.) “Rough and Tumble, the History of American Submission Wrestling” by Erik Paulson, Matthew Granahan and JD Dwyer
2.) “Say Uncle, Catch as Catch Can Wrestling” by Jake Shannon
3.) www.ErikPaulson.com
4.) Professional MMA record for Erik Paulson at: www.Sherdog.com  
Guy Mezger
Born: 1 Jan, 1968

Guy Mezger is a retired American martial artist who competed in professional combat sports ranging from full contact karate, kickboxing, and boxing, but is most widely recognized as a mixed martial arts fighter. Mezger was a champion in mixed martial arts in two different promotions, the UFC and Pancrase. He holds wins over Tito Ortiz, Masakatsu Funaki, Yuki Kondo, Semmy Schilt, and Minoru Suzuki.Mezger has trained with many great martial arts competitors and trainer/instructors; his main trainers have been Vince Tamura (Judo), Willie Thompson (Wrestling), Billy “Jack” Jackson (Kickboxing), and Ken Shamrock (Submission Fighting/Catch Wrestling & Mixed Martial Arts).

Born in Houston, and raised in Dallas, Texas, Mezger wrestled in high school and also practiced karate, in which he holds a 6th degree black belt. As a professional kickboxer, he won the US Heavyweight title before going on to take the WKC World Heavyweight Championship in June 1995, a title that he would defend once before retiring from the sport to compete in Pancrase.

Mezger started his mixed martial arts career in the Ultimate Fighting Championship at UFC 4 in an alternate match against Jason Fairn. Mezger won the bout by TKO after landing a multitude of strikes from full mount. Mezger then fought at UFC 5 in an alternate match against John Dowdy, defeating him by TKO in little over two minutes by mounted strikes.

Mezger began to train with Ken Shamrock and became a member of Ken’s fighting team, the Lion’s Den, and soon after joined the Pancrase organization in Japan. Mezger found great success in Pancrase, accumulating a 16–7–2 record and becoming the 7th ever King of Pancrase world champion with a win over MMA legend Masakatsu Funaki.

Mezger would not return to the UFC until UFC 13 where he competed in the Lightweight Tournament (200 lbs & under). In his first bout, Mezger fought top ranked Judo fighter, Christophe Leininger. Leininger was able to score only one takedown and was quickly reversed, but was otherwise soundly beaten as Mezger battled his way to a decision victory. Mezger broke his hand during this fight but continued in the tournament.

In the championship round Mezger faced future UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Tito Ortiz. Ortiz was able to counter Mezger’s takedown attempt and landed several knees to Mezger’s head. To some it appeared that Mezger had tapped, but referee John McCarthy ruled Mezger was blocking the knees and his hand went down as Ortiz shifted his weight. The bout was then stopped to check Mezger’s cut. The announcers, as well as Ortiz, thought that the bout was over, but the fight was instead restarted on the feet. Ortiz shot in for a takedown, but Mezger secured a Guillotine Choke, forcing Ortiz to submit. With this win, Mezger became the UFC 13 lightweight tournament champion.

Mezger then forfeited his King of Pancrase title to fight in the UFC again. Mezger’s final bout in the UFC was a rematch with Tito Ortiz at UFC 19: “Young Guns.” Mezger was sick before the fight but fought anyway, a decision that he regretted after the fight. This resulted in Ortiz handling Mezger and won the bout at the 9:55 mark by referee stoppage. The stoppage was somewhat controversial because both Mezger and his cornerman Ken Shamrock felt that Ortiz’s strikes were not doing enough damage to warrant a stoppage. Ortiz then donned a shirt that was insulting to Mezger which provoked an immediate reaction from Ken Shamrock, Mezger’s trainer. Mezger would occasionally seek a rematch with Ortiz over the next few years. In 2004 he was finally granted a chance to face Tito Ortiz at UFC 50. Unfortunately, the week of the fight, Mezger was taken to the hospital due to stroke like symptoms, and was taken off the fight card.

The former UFC champion made his Pride FC debut in 1999 at Pride 6 against Akira Shoji, a popular Japanese fighter, losing the fight by split decision.

Pride officials then signed Mezger to fight Kazushi Sakuraba, who at the time was considered to be one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world. The fight took place at the Pride Grand Prix 2000 in the opening Round. Mezger took the fight on two weeks’ notice and had a broken foot going in. The contract that Mezger signed stipulated that the fight would be one 15-minute round with no overtime. The other fights on the card had the same stipulation. The fight mostly consisted of Mezger controlling the fight by stopping Sakuraba’s takedown attempts while landing strikes from the outside. The round ended and Mezger expected the fight to go to the judges, but Pride officials wanted the fight to go to overtime. This resulted in one of the largest and most publicized controversies in MMA history.

According to Mezger, Pride did not like the outcome of the fight and changed the agreement/contract on the spot in order to give Sakuraba another chance to win the fight. An argument ensued and Mezger was ordered out of the ring and back to the locker room by his corner man, Ken Shamrock, who was livid at the decision to extend the fight because of Mezger’s foot injury and the fact that he took the fight on such short notice. Later that night, the president of Pride FC made a public apology to Mezger at the Tokyo Dome for the miscommunication. Mezger added, “Royce’s father came up to me after my fight and said, “You got screwed. You won that fight.” Here’s Helio Gracie walking up to me and telling me I got ripped off.”

Mezger next competed against Masaaki Satake, winning the fight by Unanimous Decision.

Mezger made his return to the ring at Pride 10, facing Brazilian superstar and future middleweight kingpin Wanderlei Silva. Mezger gained the upper hand early, cutting Silva with several crisp combinations and outpointing Silva on the feet. However, he was ultimately knocked out at the 3:45 mark. Shortly before the knockout, Silva was catching the worse end of the punching exchanges and proceeded to throw an intentional, illegal headbutt to Mezger that eventually led to landing the knockout combination. Many people felt as though this was a cheap shot that affected the end result. Some people, including Kazushi Sakuraba, felt the bout should have been changed to a no contest. Mezger talked about his feelings on the matter in an interview: “I am not going to cry foul, it is the fight game and things like that happen, get used to it. It’s a no win situation when it comes to answering that question, if I said it did (affect the result) then I would be making excuses. I would just like a rematch.”
Mezger found a measure of redemption when he defeated Alexander Otsuka by TKO at Pride 12. Otsuka challenged Mezger to another fight, but was soundly beaten by TKO for a second time. Mezger returned again at Pride 13 to face Egan Inoue. Mezger walked away with a knockout win over Inoue.

Mezger then met UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell at Pride 14. Liddell was coming off of a stunning KO over former UFC Heavyweight Champion, Kevin Randleman. Mezger gained control of the first round, knocking Liddell to the mat with a strike and landing a left kick to Liddell’s face a few minutes before the bell sounded ending the first round. The second round would be short-lived as Liddell came out strong, knocking Mezger out.
Mezger faced two time ADCC champion Ricardo Arona at Pride 16. Mezger entered the ring with an American flag draped across his shoulders out of respect for the World Trade Center attacks in New York. He also wore trunks with an American flag design. Arona and Mezger circled each other for a few moments, before moving in and exchanging strikes. Mezger ended the round one with two takedowns and side mount position but couldn’t capitalize on it. The second round was much of the same until Mezger landed a stunning kick to Arona’s face. The third round took a different turn with three minutes left in the round; Arona scored his only takedown of the fight. The third round continued like this, with Arona laying on Mezger, using his ground and pound style for the last three minutes of the bout. Although Mezger controlled the first two rounds (1st round being 10 minutes and the second and third rounds were 5 minutes each), the judges awarded a controversial split decision victory to Arona, causing many to feel that Mezger was robbed of the win.

Mezger returned to competition at Pride 22 after a yearlong lay-off, easily winning a decision over Norihisa Yamamoto. Mezger then battled Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at Pride 24. Mezger had several good striking exchanges and showcased his submission and takedown defense, but again lost the fight by a controversial split decision. On January 25, 2005, Guy Mezger retired from professional fighting.

Mezger was named the President of Mark Cuban’s new HDNet Fights and is responsible for developing new talent and securing promotion partners for HDnet’s Friday Night Fights. He also has a consulting company, CS Consulting that works with both Federal and State law enforcement agencies on re-vamping their defensive tactics training.

Mezger has commentated for Chuck Norris’ full contact, team-based martial arts competition the World Combat League and for the now defunct Japanese MMA organization DREAM. He has co-written one book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Kickboxing, and had a speaking role in the first-season episode of Walker, Texas Ranger Night of the Gladiator.

In 2012 Mezger intervened in a public assault when he saw a woman being attacked at a mall. The assailant pulled a knife on Mezger and by the time the cops arrived the attacker had been beaten half to death by the former King of Pancrase. Mezger suffered minor hand lacerations while the assailant suffered multiple broken facial and arm bones.

Mezger now trains students in boxing, kickboxing along with the Lion’s Den Mixed Martial Arts system at his gym; “Guy Mezger’s Combat Sports Club” in Dallas, Texas.

1.)    www.guymezger.com
2.)    Professional MMA record: www.Sherdog.com
3.)    Full Contact Fighter Database
4.)    www.cagepotato.com
5.)    “Awesome story of the day”: www.MixedMartialArts.com  
Frank “The Legend” Shamrock
Born: December 8, 1972

Frank Shamrock (born Frank Alisio Juarez, III) is a retired mixed martial arts fighter. Shamrock was the first to hold the UFC Middleweight Championship (later renamed the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship) and retired as the four-time defending undefeated champion. Shamrock was the No. 1 ranked pound for pound fighter in the world during his reign as the UFC Middleweight Champion. Shamrock has won numerous titles in other martial arts organizations, including the interim King of Pancrase title, the WEC Light Heavyweight Championship and the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship.He was named “Fighter of the Decade” for the 1990s by the Wrestling Observer, “Best Full Contact Fighter” by Black Belt magazine (1998), and three-time “Fighter of the Year” by Full Contact Fighter Magazine. He is a 7th degree black belt in submission fighting, awarded by O-Sensei Philip S. Porter of the United States Martial Arts Association and is the adopted brother of UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock.

He holds the Guinness World Records for Fastest UFC Title Fight Victory by Submission in 16 seconds over Kevin Jackson at UFC Japan in Yokohama, Japan. An author, entrepreneur, philanthropist and social activist, he is a color commentator for Showtime Networks and was a brand spokesman for Strikeforce.

From the age of 12, Frank Juarez was placed in various foster homes, group homes, and crisis centers. He also had a few run-ins with law enforcement. Eventually he went to live with Bob Shamrock, who had taken in hundreds of troubled boys (including Frank’s older brother Ken). Juarez went to live with Shamrock at his home in Susanville, California, and was officially adopted by Shamrock at the age of 21.

In 1994, Ken began to train Frank in submission fighting. Frank accompanied his brother to bouts in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and grew to love the sport. He became a member of Ken’s training school, the Lion’s Den, and made his mixed martial arts debut in the Pancrase organization in Japan that same year.

Shamrock debuted as a fighter in Pancrase on December 16, 1994 in one of the biggest events in mixed martial arts history to date, the King of Pancrase Tournament. He was a large underdog against top Pancrase fighter Bas Rutten but went on to defeat Rutten in a close decision victory. Shamrock faced off against expert grappler and eventual tournament finalist Manabu Yamada later that night, but was defeated via submission at 8:38 of round 1.

In 1995, Shamrock fought 9 times, all within the Pancrase organization. He went 6–2–1 over that span, splitting fights with MMA legend and master Catch Wrestler Masakatsu Funaki, fighting to a draw with BJJ black belt Allan Goes (yet snapping Goes leg with a leg lock in the process) and losing a close split decision in a rematch with Bas Rutten.

After an injury prevented the reigning King of Pancrase, Bas Rutten from defending his title, an interim championship was created. Shamrock faced Olympic alternate wrestler and master submission grappler Minoru Suzuki on January 28, 1996 for the vacant belt in a match that drew widespread anticipation. In an epic bout, Shamrock submitted Suzuki with a kneebar at the 22:53 mark of the fight to win the King of Pancrase interim title in front of a sellout crowd in Yokohama.

Shamrock scored decision wins over Ryushu Yanagisawa and Osami Shibuya before facing off against Bas Rutten for the third time for the undisputed King of Pancrase title. Rutten won the bout via TKO due to a cut stoppage.

Shamrock then avenged his loss to Manabu Yamada in his next bout, scoring an impressive submission win over the talented grappler. Shamrock found success in Pancrase, but after his adopted brother Ken left the organization following a dispute with management, Shamrock was fired in retaliation.
On January 17, 1997, he lost to John Lober in Hawaii’s Superbrawl by split decision, having dominated the fight until his lack of cardio became a factor. After his loss to Lober, Shamrock shifted the focus of his career exclusively to mixed martial arts. Shamrock then fought top ranked Japanese fighter Tsuyoshi Kohsaka in RINGS and defeated Kohsaka by decision.

Within the Lion’s Den, Shamrock trained up-and-coming stars such as Jerry Bohlander, Pete Williams, and Guy Mezger. He also developed a close relationship with Maurice Smith, who trained him in kickboxing with Javier Mendez.

Shamrock then fought Enson Inoue in a bout in Vale Tudo Japan ’97 that would determine who would fight Kevin Jackson for the newly created UFC Middleweight Championship. After an exciting back and forth battle, Shamrock knocked Inoue out with a knee, although the match was officially ruled as a disqualification win due to Enson’s brother, Egan, running into the ring after Shamrock had knocked out Inoue. Shamrock later stated that this was the toughest fight in his career.

After the win over Inoue, Shamrock joined the UFC and fought Kevin Jackson for the newly created UFC Middleweight Championship (later renamed the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship). Jackson had won the middleweight tournament at UFC 14 and was undefeated in MMA at the time, and was also the Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling for the 1992 Summer Olympics. Despite being a heavy underdog, Shamrock submitted Jackson via armbar in just 16 seconds to win the championship.

Shamrock then made his first title defense against undefeated Extreme Fighting champion Igor Zinoviev at UFC 16. Zinoviev was a feared Russian Kickboxer and Sambo specialist who held wins over Mario Sperry and Enson Inoue. Shamrock shot a double leg takedown and slammed Zinoviev down so hard that it knocked him unconscious. Zinoviev suffered a broken collarbone and a fractured C-5 vertebra from the slam and had to be carried out on a stretcher. Zinoviev’s fight with Shamrock forced him to retire permanently from mixed martial arts. Shamrock then defended his belt against Jeremy Horn at UFC 17, submitting him with a kneebar. In October 1998, Shamrock avenged his earlier loss to John Lober by beating him decisively in 7 minutes at UFC Brazil.

In September 1999, Shamrock defended the UFC Middleweight Championship against future UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Tito Ortiz at UFC 22. Ortiz had exploded as a star after his confrontation with Shamrock’s brother Ken and his Lion’s Den camp at UFC 19. The bout was hyped as a grudge, as Shamrock was a former Lion’s Den member who, according to the marketing, was out for revenge against Ortiz. However, this was not necessarily the case because Shamrock had left the Lion’s Den on bad terms a year and a half earlier. Despite dominating his opponents in his previous title defenses, Shamrock was considered to be an underdog in this fight; Ortiz had come off convincing wins over Shamrock’s former teammates Jerry Bohlander and Guy Mezger and popular opinion was that Ortiz was too big and strong for him to deal with.

However, in what is widely considered to be one of the greatest fights in UFC history, Shamrock won after brutal elbows, punches, and hammer blows forced Ortiz to tap out at the end of round 4. Shamrock has stated that Ortiz was his toughest opponent physically due to his weight advantage and style of fighting. With this win, Shamrock solidified himself as perhaps the greatest UFC champion in history to that date, going 5–0 in title fights and finishing each fight decisively. After the win, UFC owner Bob Meyrowitz and announcer Jeff Blatnick both praised Shamrock as the greatest competitor in the history of the UFC.

Shamrock then relinquished his title and retired from the UFC. After retiring, he briefly acted as a consultant and commentator for the company.
After a brief retirement, Shamrock returned to mixed martial arts as a career. He signed a deal to fight Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu standout Elvis Sinosic at K-1, the premiere kickboxing event in the world. Shamrock beat Sinosic via unanimous decision after five three-minute rounds. Later, when Sinosic faced Tito Ortiz for the UFC light-heavyweight title (formerly the middleweight title) at UFC 32, Shamrock served as guest commentator. On August 11, 2001, he took on his former student, Shannon Ritch in a kickboxing match for K-1. Just 56 seconds into the first round, Shamrock broke Ritch’s arm with a roundhouse kick and thereby won the match.

Shamrock helped to train UFC veteran B.J. Penn for his early bouts with the UFC at the American Kickboxing Academy and produced his own events Bushido and ShootBox.

In March 2003 he fought in his first MMA match since 1999 vs. Bryan Pardoe for the WEC light-heavyweight championship He defeated Pardoe by submission in under two minutes.

On March 10, 2006, at Strikeforce: “Shamrock vs. Gracie,” the first MMA event sanctioned by the state of California, he knocked out Cesar Gracie in 21 seconds. Gracie had never fought an MMA match and was 40 years old, so the fight was considered a serious mismatch. However, Gracie is an elite Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor with years of training under his belt as well being the mentor of students such as the Diaz brothers, Nate and Nick.

On September 14, 2006, it was announced that Shamrock had signed a multi-million dollar contract with startup MMA organization “The World Fighter” and was scheduled to fight in January 2007. However, Shamrock told Sherdog that the World Fighter contract no longer applied because it was entirely contingent on the organization getting a television contract with Showtime; the cable network instead agreed to air fights for the EliteXC promotion.

On February 10, 2007, Shamrock lost by disqualification to Renzo Gracie during the EliteXC event which was televised on Showtime. Shamrock delivered two knees to Gracie’s head while both men were on the ground. After a five-minute injury time out, Gracie was unable to continue. Referee Herb Dean disqualified Shamrock due to a foul (illegal strikes to the back of the head, and knees to the head of a grounded opponent). Dean had already warned Shamrock once earlier in the fight about striking to the back of the head—an illegal move under the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts.

In December 2005, Shamrock opened his first school, Shamrock Martial Arts Academy in San Jose, California. Shamrock trains his students in kickboxing and submission wrestling. He also manages Team Shamrock, his own fight team. In June 2006, Shamrock was chosen as a coach for the San Jose Razorclaws of the International Fight League. Debuting against Carlos Newton’s Toronto Dragons on September 23, 2006 at the Mark in Moline, Illinois, The Dragons won 3–2. Later, the Razorclaws would go on to lose 2–3 against the Ken Shamrock coached Nevada Lions on January 19, 2007.

Shamrock and former UFC fighter Phil Baroni engaged in a war of words with YouTube videos following Shamrock’s fight with Renzo Gracie. The two faced off at Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Baroni, a co-promotion between EliteXC and Strikeforce on June 22, 2007, on pay-per-view.

Shamrock went on to out-strike Baroni in the first part of this fight in the stand-up. Shamrock was deducted a point for using strikes to the back of the head while he had Baroni’s back. In the second round, Shamrock took some strikes from Baroni, but he was able to regain control and drop Baroni, transition to his back and end the fight with a rear naked choke. Baroni refused to tap out and was choked unconscious. As soon as he regained his senses, he walked over to Shamrock, congratulated him and left the cage. By winning the match, Shamrock became the Strikeforce Middleweight Champion, thereby making him the first person to win a title in all three major North American fight promotions: the UFC, WEC and Strikeforce.

On January 11, 2008, it was announced that Shamrock would face Cung Le in a match on March 29, 2008 for the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship during the joint Strike force-Elite XC event at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. Le arguably controlled the fight, at times out-striking the more MMA-experienced Shamrock. At one point in the later stages of round 3 Shamrock appeared to have Le hurt but was unable to finish him with a barrage of punches against the cage. Le recovered and responded in the closing seconds of the round with more kicks and a spinning back fist. Shamrock was unable to answer the bell to begin round 4 due to a broken arm caused by one of Le’s kicks and the fight was ruled a TKO as a result of corner stoppage. Shamrock indicated post-fight that Le’s kicks had broken his right arm.
On April 11, 2009, Shamrock was defeated by Nick Diaz by technical knockout and soon after, on June 26, 2010 he announced his retirement from fighting.

Shamrock is featured in the feature-length documentary on the sport of mixed martial arts titled “Fight Life,” released in 2011. The film is directed by independent filmmaker James Z. Feng and produced by RiLL Films. Shamrock has also starred on Walker, Texas Ranger and landed a main role in a Burger King commercial. He was also featured as Damien in the 2005 movie “No Rules” and was in one episode of the HBO series “Oz.”
In October 2012, Shamrock released his autobiography “Uncaged: My Life as a Champion MMA Fighter.”

1.)    Frank Shamrock official website: www.FrankShamrock.com
2.)    Professional MMA record: www.Sherdog.com
3.)    “An Interview with Frank Shamrock” www.bodybuilding.com
4.)    “The Kingpin, The Best Fighters in MMA History”: www.bloodyelbow.com
5.)    “Fight Life:” MMA documentary  
Jerry Bohlander
Born: 12 February, 1974

Jerry Bohlander is an American former mixed martial artist. He is most notable for his UFC appearances and was a former UFC champion, winning the first lightweight (under 200 lb.) tournament at UFC 12. He was a member of the legendary fight team the Lion’s Den alongside other notable fighters such as Ken Shamrock, Guy Mezger, and Frank Shamrock. Bohlander was considered one of the best under 200 lb. fighters in the world during his time with the UFC.Jerry Bohlander began his MMA career on November 9, 1995 at United Full Contact Federation 2, where he defeated Phil Benedict by armbar. With his victory at UFCF 2, Bohlander received an invitation to the open-weight UFC 8 tournament. Jerry would go on to win his quarter final fight against Scott Ferrozzo, who outweighed him by nearly 120 pounds. Jerry would then lose his semi-final bout to K1 and future Pride veteran Gary Goodridge via TKO.

After losing his fight with Goodridge, Bohlander would go on a 5 fight win streak that would culminate in him winning the UFC 12 Lightweight tournament. Following his victory at the UFC 12 Lightweight Tournament, Bohlander was knocked out by future UFC Middleweight Champion Murilo Bustamante.

Bohlander would bounce back from this knockout loss by putting on arguably the finest performance of his career against Kevin Jackson. Kevin Jackson (an Olympic gold medalist at the 1992 Barcelona games) was 3-1 at the time with his one loss being to UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Frank Shamrock. Jackson and Bohlander fought for ten minutes ending with Bohlander securing the armbar victory. The bout won Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s “Fight of the Year” category for 1998.

Subsequent to his victory over Jackson, Bohlander was defeated by future UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Tito Ortiz. Bohlander would go on to fight 3 more times in his career before retiring from the sport with a record of 11-4.

1.)  Fight record: www.sherdog.com
2.) UFC 12,16 & 18 results: www.UFC.com 
Ikuhisa Minowa
Born: 12 Jan, 1976

Ikuhisa Minowa is a Japanese mixed martial artist and professional wrestler currently competing in Dream as “Minowaman.” He was a longtime veteran of PRIDE and Pancrase and has also competed in other mixed martial arts promotions such as K-1 HERO’S, Cage Rage, UFC, and DEEP.At 5’9″ he is notable for taking fights with much larger opponents and defeating the majority of them, in his 21 career Openweight bouts. He is the former Dream Super Hulk Tournament Champion.

Minowa made his professional debut in the Lumax Cup in 1996, but would spend most of his early career in the Pancrase organization. However, Minowa had a very poor start to his MMA career, going 1-8-1 in his first ten fights, taking on MMA pioneers such as Yuki Kondo and Jason DeLucia, and with the win being in his Pancrase debut. The young Minowa would turn his career around, however, improving to 12-11-6 with a win over Daiju Takase before fighting in his first and only fight in the UFC at UFC 25 in Tokyo, Japan. The bout was against Joe Slick and Minowa won via TKO from a cut that Slick received.

Minowa continued to fight in Pancrase as well as another Japanese organization, DEEP, before making his PRIDE debut against future UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.

Minowa was known in PRIDE Fighting Championships for his entertaining entrances and sporting of the Japanese flag as a cape as well as his aggressive, high-risk style of fighting which has seen him employ flying dropkicks amongst other pro-wrestling derived maneuvers. It was also during his career with PRIDE that he continued to cement his legacy in taking on fighters that were much bigger than him, winning most of the Open weight bouts and earning the nickname “The Giant Killer.”

Minowa is also known for his eccentric and intense training methods, which include dodging baseballs and training in environments such as rivers.
Minowa has won against the likes of Golden Glory member Gilbert Yvel, K-1 kickboxers Stefan Leko and Errol Zimmerman, and UFC veterans Kimo Leopoldo Phil Baroni, Brian Gassaway, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Yuki Sasaki(2x), and former UFC 8 Tournament Champion as well as the Ultimate Ultimate 96 Tournament Champion, Don Frye. Minowa has won 39 of his matches via submission.

He participated in the PRIDE’s first 185lb tournament where he won over Phil Baroni, but went on to lose in the second round to former UFC Middleweight Champion Murilo Bustamante. On December 31, 2005, Minowa fought PRIDE legend Kazushi Sakuraba, in which he almost landed a kneebar and then a heel hook, but was caught with a Double Wrist Lock and defeated at 9 minutes into the first round.

Minowa next fought at PRIDE Bushido 10, where he faced the 7-foot-2 Giant Silva. Minowa dominated the fight, using a forward roll to get past Silva’s enormous reach and then landing a single leg takedown that put Silva on his back. Minowa promptly landed multiple knees to the head of Silva, causing the referee to stop the fight at 2:23 of the first round. Following that, he fell to Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipović due to strikes in the first round. However, he then rebounded with wins over Park Hyun Kab, Eric “Butterbean” Esch, and American professional wrestler Mike Plotcheck.

Minowa was knocked out in his last fight for PRIDE by Kiyoshi Tamura at PRIDE Shockwave 2006, but celebrated 10 years as a fighter at the CMA Festival 2 event by defeating Min-Seok Heo in the main event after his opponent’s corner threw in the towel after the first round. His next opponent was South Korean wrestler Choi Seung Hyun at Heat4: MEGA BATTLE HEAT from Nagoya. Minowa won the bout via shoulder lock.
On September 22, 2008 he fought MMA legend and former mentor Masakatsu Funaki at the Dream 6 event where he was submitted in the first round via heel hook.

At Dream 8 he lost via decision to professional wrestler Katsuyori Shibata, after being suplexed by the young Japanese fighter, but rebounded at Dream 9 defeating Bob Sapp in what was his 80th fight.

He then faced the 7’2″ 319 lb Choi Hong-man at Dream 11 on October 6, 2009. Throughout the fight he attempted to take his opponent down, being successful on two occasions in the first round, before submitting his opponent in the second.

At Dynamite!! 2009 Minowa squared off with Cameroonian fighter Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou in the finals of the Dream Super Hulk tournament. In the first round Sokoudjou landed many strikes on the smaller fighter while Minowa attempted leglocks. At the end second round Minowa had Sokoudjou in a kneebar but was cut off by the bell before he could adjust his grip. In the third round Minowa and Sokodjou both received two yellow cards (10% purse deduction for one) for inactivity 3 minutes into the round, but with 90 seconds left Minowa sprang forward and connected against Sokoudjou’s jaw with a left hook, dropping him to the ground for the TKO victory and winning The Super Hulk Tournament.

Minowa went on to fight American Super Heavyweights Jimmy Ambriz and Imani Lee at Dream 13 and Dream 14 respectively, winning both fights by submission. Then for Dream 16, Minowa was scheduled to fight James Thompson but three days before the event, had his opponent switched to Satoshi Ishii and he lost by unanimous decision.

Minowa next faced Chang Hee Kim of South Korea at Deep: 50th Impact on October 24, 2010. Minowa gave up a significant weight advantage to Kim, who weighs over 300 pounds. He won the fight via submission in the first round.

His last few MMA fights have been in the organization “ROAD FC.”  Minowa has also taken on some additional professional wrestling training under the tutelage of Satoru Sayama, the original Tiger Mask. A Fifth Generation Tiger Mask debuted on July 18, 2010 alongside the original Tiger Mask, Sayama, in a tag match for Maki Dojo. It has been reported that Tiger Mask V is Ikuhisa Minowa.

1.)    Ikuhisa Minowa official website: http://minowaman.com/
2.)    Pride FC profile: www.PrideFC.com
3.)    www.mmafighting.com Dream 16
4.)    Deep 50: www.MMARising.com  
Kazushi Sakuraba
“The Gracie Hunter”
Born: 14 July, 1969

When looking at MMA fighters who have transcended the sport it does not take very long for the name Kazushi Sakuraba to be mentioned. A scrawny, athletic youth that grew into a master of Catch Wrestling, Sakuraba had a natural charisma that drew fans in and his aggressive fighting style and flair for the dramatic made him beloved. But it was his famous victories over the Gracie family that turned Sakuraba from a middling pro wrestler to a Mixed Martial Arts superstar.Born July 14 of 1969, Sakuraba grew up a fan of professional wrestling. When Sakuraba reached secondary school he looked at his options for a sport to participate in and jumped at the chance to join the wrestling team as he despised basketball and baseball. With almost no athletic background, Sakuraba struggled through much of high school wrestling as he had never grappled before. Almost all of the wrestlers Sakuraba faced during his adolescence had extensive youth experience in wrestling or judo. It would have been very easy for the young man to become discouraged, but Sakuraba loved every minute of it. What he did not love was the mindless repetition that came in wrestling practice, and he became known as the guy who would stop doing push-ups as soon as the coach’s back was turned. Sakuraba was far from lazy, however. He was a student of the game and preferred learning something about wrestling rather than doing squats and sit ups by the hundreds.

When Sakuraba graduated from high school, he put off his dream of becoming a professional wrestler and decided to compete at the collegiate level. He attended Choi University, a minor player in the Japanese collegiate wresting world that had famously produced two Japanese Olympic Champions in the mid-1900’s. There, Sakuraba worked hard on improving his wrestling, but it did not result in an overwhelming amount of success on the mats. His college career was highlighted by an 8th place finish at the All-Japan Championships and a win over future Olympic bronze medalist Tokuya Ota that shocked even Sakuraba. Again, here Sakuraba is playing catch up against lifelong wrestlers and despite being beaten badly in a rematch with Ota, this lone moment of success showed the potential the young man held.

When Sakuraba’s wrestling career was coming to an end, his plan was to coach wrestling and finish up school. But during a night out, and after more than a few drinks, Sakuraba declared that he wanted to pursue his dream of becoming a pro wrestler to a friend. That friend then informed him that he had the phone number of someone in a Shootstyle wresting gym. While Sakuraba would never actually try out for that particular gym, he was spurred to action and answered a call for talent try outs with the Union of Wrestling Forces International (UFWi) pro wrestling promotion.
The infamously tough Japanese Pro wrestling try outs were hard on Sakuraba, who was famous for cheating on his physical workouts when his coaches weren’t looking during his wrestling career. The endless push-ups, squats, and runs broke down the young pro wrestling hopeful physically, but he refused to quit, and Sakuraba was accepted.

Sakuraba was with the UFWi from 1993 until the promotion’s demise in 1996, and he was wholly unremarkable as a professional wrestler, but those years Sakuraba spent in the gym with catch wrestling legend Billy Robinson would be important. Born in England, Robinson had grown up competing in amateur wrestling, winning a British and then a European Championship. He then joined the legendary Snake Pit gym, one of the best Catch Wrestling gyms in the world and trained under Billy Riley for eight years. Robinson traveled around the world, wrestling and training wrestlers, becoming a fabled figure in Catch Wrestling circles.

Robinson tutored Sakuraba in Catch Wrestling, and the young Japanese wrestler drank up the techniques and lock flow he was taught. In addition, Sakuraba learned striking skills, much of it karate based, as they were also a crucial skill set for a professional wrestler in Japan. His skills grew quickly, but the world of pro wrestling is a mess of politics where grappling skill was not the only factor in advancement. Sakuraba toiled as a middling wrestler as the UFWi declined.

When the UFWi died, Sakuraba went to Kingdom Pro Wrestling, but it was clear the pro wrestling scene in Japan was suffering. For years, the pro wrestlers had claimed to be the toughest and best fighters in the world. Those claims had been supported in stage matches and in Pancrase or other mixed rules matches such as Shooto.

But that image was being shattered in Mixed Martial Arts competition, mostly by the Gracie family. It started with Ken Shamrock’s UFC 1 loss to Royce Gracie, but continued when both Rickson and Royler Gracie began competing in Vale Tudo Japan events where they dominated pro wrestlers and shootfighters alike. The Gracies represented a new, and yet very old, player on the grappling scene, a modified form of Judo known as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Sakuraba’s first experience with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu came in the gym while he was still a professional wrestler. One of his training partners brought a friend to visit, Japanese-American Enson Inoue, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. At first Sakuraba was baffled by how differently Inoue approached grappling, but after training with him for an extended time he began to understand how and why a Jiu Jitsu fighter grappled. This experience would be vital for Sakuraba as, unbeknownst to him, he was about to enter the world of Mixed Martial Arts and take his first steps toward becoming a legend.

It was clear that the money in Japan was moving toward live fights, and Sakuraba followed.

Sakuraba’s first real fight is something of a controversy, however. Officially his first mixed rules match was at the Shoot Boxing – S-Cup 1996 event at Yoyogi National Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan. There, Sakuraba faced Kimo Leopoldo, a veteran of early MMA matches, and famous for not only his hard fought loss to Royce Gracie, but also knocking out American Kickboxing stand out Pat Smith twice. Kimo had recently lost a fight for the UFC Superfight title against former Japanese Pro Wrestler Ken Shamrock and had a failed attempt at professional kickboxing. Sakuraba lost to Kimo by submission, in what many suspect was a worked match, as Sakuraba clearly was the more skilled grappler. Kimo did enjoy a 60 pound weight advantage in the fight.

About a year and a half after this match, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, an American Mixed Martial Arts promotion, hosted a show in Japan and the UFC looked to include Japanese pro wrestlers to pull in some of the local fans. They turned to Kingdom, and they drew two fighters, one of them being Sakuraba, despite his being too small to actually compete in the all-Heavyweight event, showing a willingness to fight up in weight that would come to define and damage his career.

Sakuraba was actually alerted to his role in the event only days in advance, and he was paired with a hulking Carlson Gracie black belt, Marcus Silveira. This match came just weeks after Rickson Gracie had christened a new Japanese MMA promotion called Pride FC, with a one sided beating of a famous Japanese pro wrestler. To say the community of Pro Wrestlers was shaken by this event would be an understatement, and Sakuraba knew their eyes would be on him.
So, when in the first round of their fight the referee John McCarthy incorrectly thought Sakuraba was hurt and stopped the fight right as Sakuraba dropped for his soon to be signature low single leg takedown, there was outrage. McCarthy admitted his mistake quickly, and with the under regulated nature of MMA at that time, the fight was rescheduled for later that night. Sakuraba made the most of his second chance submitting the Brazilian with an armbar in less than four minutes.

Soon after his lone UFC win, Sakuraba was invited to join the new Pride Fighting Championships for their second event. Sakuraba would defeat a very experienced Pancrase fighter, Vernon White, by armbar at Pride 2, and then be a part of every Pride event through 1999.
During that time, Sakuraba would claim a 7-0-1 record, with six submissions. This impressive run included a crafty kneebar win over future UFC Welterweight Champion Carlos Newton, and a decision win over Vitor Belfort. Then at the end of 1999, Sakuraba was paired with Royler Gracie who, along with his brother Rickson, had terrorized Japanese pro wrestlers. The Gracies famously held pro wrestlers in contempt, and it had been decades since a Gracie had suffered a defeat, and despite the fact that Sakuraba had defeated a BJJ black belt already it had long been documented that facing a Gracie was something else entirely.

But Sakuraba was wise to the ways of Jiu Jitsu fighters, and was able to neutralize Royler’s cutting edge butterfly guard, use his wrestling to trap Royler on the feet, and slowly wear Gracie down. The Japanese fighter was able to catch hold of a Double Wrist Lock and Royler, true to his lineage, refused to tap and the referee stepped in before Sakuraba broke the arm, handing the Gracies their first loss to a Japanese fighter since, Masahiko Kimura, broke Helio Gracie’s arm in the lock that now bears his name in many circles. Sakuraba became a star in the Japanese fighting community with this win, and he was awarded a spot in the 2000 Pride Open weight Grand Prix.

Gracie honor would have to be satisfied and to that end the family would enter Royce Gracie, the three-time UFC Champion and standard bearer of the Gracies in MMA, in the Grand Prix as well.

In the opening round, Sakuraba would advance after a mid-bout rules dispute caused Ken Shamrock to pull his fighter, Guy Mezger, out of the match in a fit of rage. Many suspected Pride of engineering the situation because it set up a match between Sakuraba and Royce in the quarterfinals.

Royce was a legend in the sport at this time, officially undefeated in MMA competition and a veteran of grueling battles with much larger fighters, and facing a skilled Japanese pro wrestler his own size seemed a surmountable challenge for the Brazilian.

The Gracies had insisted on there being no time limit, and the match was set to be an unlimited number of 15 minute rounds, proceeding until one fighter was unable to continue. That strategy would backfire as again Sakuraba would win the battle of attrition, wearing Royce down and using the Gi Royce wore against him. After 6 rounds and a full hour and a half of fighting, Royce’s brother Rorion Gracie threw in the towel.
Just a few hours after this signature win; Sakuraba suffered his first loss in Pride against Heavyweight Igor Vovchanchyn. But that would become a mere footnote as Sakuraba earned the title of “The Gracie Hunter” and his win over Royce launched him to fame in MMA communities outside of Japan as well. His aggressive style which included leaping stomps to grounded opponents, cart wheel guard passes, and the famous Mongolian chop made him a fan favorite.

Sakuraba had become a superstar to MMA fans in and out of Japan. The Gracies knew they had to respond, and it was Renzo Gracie, arguably the best MMA fighter of the family, that would challenge Sakuraba next. Renzo did not use the traditional, grinding Jiu Jitsu only attack of his family. He had adopted a much more aggressive approach with more wrestling and boxing integrated into his personal style.

The two met in the main event of Pride 10 on August 27, 2000 in the Seibu Dome. Renzo went right at Sakuraba, and the two traded kicks and punches in a close first round. Then in the second round, Renzo used a clever piece of de la Riva guard work to take Sakuraba’s back standing. Sakuraba then locked up a Double Wrist Lock and when he spun to sink it in he broke Renzo’s arm. Renzo took the loss with grace, declaring that his only excuse for not winning is that Sakuraba was just better than him.

Sakuraba crossed into legend, in an era where the Gracies were still the pinnacle of success in MMA, he was 3-0 with two wins by technical submission against the best the Gracie family had to offer. Japanese fans had been in awe of the Gracies, and now that there was a Japanese fighter demonstrating dominance over the Gracies they flocked to Sakuraba and he became Pride’s biggest star. It was something Pride would exploit to the hilt, and Sakuraba’s pro wrestling “the show must go on” attitude meant he was willing to fight anyone at any time.
Pride would use their large weight classes and “open weight’ fights to have Sakuraba fighting in big money fights, regardless of how much larger the opponents were. As a result, Sakuraba would never experience the consistent success of that three year run that peaked in 2000, but his popularity would only grow from there. Sakuraba would win a decision over Ryan Gracie, an unstable member of the family famous for his involvement in street fights.

In his next fight, Sakuraba was matched with an up-and-coming Brazilian star, Wanderlei Silva. Sakuraba suffered a quick and brutal loss to Silva, as the Brazilian claimed a quick TKO win. In his next fight, Sakuraba would face future UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in 2001. Sakuraba would win by submission, but it only came after Rampage tired himself out slamming Sakuraba over and over again.

The matchmaking moving forward did Sakuraba few favors as he went 4-6 in his next ten fights, five of those losses coming by stoppage. This included losses to Heavyweight kickboxer Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Jiu Jitsu fighters Antônio Rogério Nogueira, Nino Schembri and Ricardo Arona, and suffered another two losses to Wanderlei Silva. Sakuraba took a huge amount of damage during this three year span from late 2001 to early 2005, all in the name of making big fights for Pride, and it would have a lasting impact on his career.

However, Sakuraba was not without his successes, and in 2003 he submitted former UFC Heavyweight Champion Kevin Randleman in one of his classic performances.

As Pride collapsed in the late 2000’s, Sakuraba engaged in small rivalries with other current or former pro wrestlers, and experienced a short renaissance in the mid-2000’s. He lost a rematch with Royce Gracie in 2007, but when Gracie tested positive for steroids that result was overturned in the eyes of many fans. It wasn’t until 2010, when Ralek Gracie won a decision over Sakuraba, did the Gracies finally get a small measure of revenge. That loss came in the midst of 2-6 run that caused Sakuraba to retire from Mixed Martial Arts.

Images of Sakuraba sailing through the air to stomp through a guard or using the Mongolian chop to set up punches have become as much a part of MMA as any of Royce’s victories in the UFC. It is often said Japanese fight fans don’t care as much about the win or loss, but rather if the fighter displayed a fighting spirit, and there is no better example of that than their love of Sakuraba.

Despite the fact that Sakuraba never won a championship in MMA or wrestling, he transcended his sport and became an icon of not just catch wrestling, but all of Japanese MMA. He was Pride’s biggest star, with hardly a Pride event occurring without him appearing on it in some fashion. Sakuraba never shied away from a fight, and even when over matched physically he always fought with the same reckless abandon, even if it wasn’t always in his best interests.

1.) www.bloodyelbow.com  by: T.P. Grant  
Josh “The Warmaster” Barnett
Born: 10 Nov, 1977

Joshua Lawrence Barnett (born November 10, 1977) is an American mixed martial artist and professional wrestler who currently competes in the Heavyweight division of the UFC where he is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion. He has also won the King of Pancrase Openweight Championship and was a finalist in the Pride 2006 Openweight Grand Prix and the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Championship. As of September 2013, Barnett is ranked as the #6 Heavyweight fighter in the world by Sherdog. Barnett claims a mixed martial arts record of “over 50-7″ when both “sanctioned and unsanctioned” bouts are counted. He has also competed in Affliction, DREAM, and Impact FC.

Barnett is from Seattle, Washington. He had a troubled childhood and often got into fights. He was put into anger management programs at a young age. He learned to cope with his anger by participating in athletics. He attended Ballard High School, where he excelled at wrestling, football, and also practiced kickboxing. After seeing UFC 4 as a sophomore in high school, he decided that he wanted to be a mixed martial arts fighter and has persisted with his goal since then. Barnett had originally attended the University of Montana to play football for the school as a walk-on, but decided not to play the sport for the university. At the recommendation of an instructor at the University of Montana, he went to train at the dojo of Jim Harrison. Although he did not have the money for classes, he received training in exchange for helping with maintenance and labor at the dojo.

Barnett’s documented professional debut was in early 1997 in Washington, competing for United Full Contact Federation. He won via rear-naked choke submission under three minutes into the fight. He would continue to dominate, reaching a 9-0 record with seven first-round stoppages and wins over future UFC Hall of Famer Dan Severn, Bobby Hoffman, John Marsh, and Bob Gilstrap (twice). With a 9-0 record, Barnett was invited to compete in the UFC.

Barnett made his UFC debut at UFC 28 on November 17, 2000 against 6′ 10″ Gan “The Giant” McGee and Barnett won via TKO in the second round. In his next bout, Barnett was handed his first career defeat at the hands of the dangerous kickboxer Pedro Rizzo with a highlight-reel knockout in the second round after being caught with a very powerful right hand. He would bounce back and win his next two fights over 7′ 0″ Dutch kickboxer Semmy Schilt via armbar submission, and then received a submission win in a rematch with Bobby Hoffman. Subsequent to his win over Hoffman, Barnett tested positive for banned substances and was given a warning by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Barnett was then given a title shot for the UFC Heavyweight Championship against then-champion and future UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture. He won via TKO after using the ground and pound technique and became the new and youngest-ever UFC Heavyweight Champion. However, after the bout it was revealed that he had again tested positive for banned substances and his title was stripped.
Barnett began his overseas career as a professional wrestler in the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) organization, where he wrestled numerous matches in 2003 and 2004. In his first match, he wrestled champion Yuji Nagata for that promotions version of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Although unsuccessful in that match, Barnett formed a tag team with Perry Saturn and was undefeated in the following NJPW tour, Fighting Spirit 2003. Barnett wrestled over 50 matches in total for the NJPW promotion.

Since then, Barnett has been wrestling for Antonio Inoki’s Inoki Genome Federation wrestling promotion. He debuted with the company in 2007 with a victory over Tadao Yasuda. He racked up victories against Don Frye and Montanha Silva before suffering his first loss against Naoya Ogawa. The same man he beat earlier in the night. Since the loss, he has been on a winning streak beating The Predator, Hitokui Yoshiki, Tank Abbott, Jon Andersen, Fonseca, Atsushi Sawada, Bob Sapp, Ultimate Mask, Tim Sylvia, Montanha Silva, Bobby Lashley and Hideki Suzuki.

Starting in February at IGF Genome 14, IGF began a title tournament to crown a new heavyweight champion and Barnett not only continued his winning streak but he advanced to the semi-finals of the tournament with his victory over Montanha Silva. In July at IGF Genome 16, he defeated Bobby Lashley with a cross armbreaker to advance to the finals of the title tournament. He was scheduled to face Jérôme Le Banner for the IGF Heavyweight Championship in a tournament final scheduled for August 27 at the IGF Super Stars Festival 2011,but it was announced on August 19 that Barnett had to pull out of the match up and Le Banner was declared the first ever IGF champion on August 22. Shortly thereafter, Josh Barnett would get his shot at the IGF Heavyweight Championship on December 2 against the champion, Jerome Le Banner. Barnett would lose the contest by knockout.

On New Year’s Eve, Josh Barnett made his return to Japan for the Dream, “Fight for Japan” event. At the event he would face Hideki Suzuki in an IGF Rules match. After a wrestling clinic was put on by both athletes, it was Barnett who won with a brainbuster to seal the victory.
Barnett competed in MMA fights in both Pride and Pancrase in Japan. While in Pancrase, he won its open-weight Grand Prix title by defeating Yuki Kondo. Winning this title put him alongside the likes of Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock and Bas Rutten as one of the few fighters to be a titleholder in both Pancrase and the UFC.

In his first fight in Pride, at Pride 28 against Croatian Mirko Filipović, he suffered a simultaneous fracture and dislocated shoulder injury that required surgery and over six months of rehab. His first fight back post-injury was a rematch against Filipović at Pride 30, which he lost by a close and controversial unanimous decision. He came back with a win against Kazuhiro Nakamura at Pride 31.

Barnett later beat Alexander Emelianenko with a top wrist lock (americana/ude garami) submission in the second round of the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix at Pride Total Elimination Absolute. He submitted Mark Hunt via double wrist lock (kimura) in the first round of the Open Weight Grand Prix at Pride Critical Countdown Absolute. Barnett defeated Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by split decision in the semi finals of the Open Weight Grand Prix, however he lost the final match of the Pride Final Conflict Absolute to Filipović on September 10, 2006, submitting after an unintentional finger poke to the eye. In a post-fight interview, Barnett explained the incident: “I opened up my guard and I grabbed his leg to go for a leglock, and in the scramble Mirko put his hand out to post and he caught a finger deep in my right eye. And as soon as it happened I let go of the leg and grabbed my face, and I couldn’t see anything at the time and I had no idea where he was and I just didn’t want him to punt me in the face with a kick when I can’t see and I’m blinded. He said, you know, ‘Sorry’ and I said to him that he was winning that night and it was an accident. He didn’t mean [to do it]”. This also marked the third time he was beaten by the MMA legend.

Next, Barnett fought the Polish Judo gold medalist Pawel Nastula at Pride 32, the organization’s first show in the USA. To fight again in Nevada, the Nevada State Athletic Commission required that Barnett pass a mandatory drug test. In a surprisingly competitive match, Nastula controlled the first round and most of the second. Barnett reversed Nastula from the bottom and was able to secure a toe-hold submission, which earned him the victory. At a post-fight press conference, Barnett complimented Nastula on his performance. Nastula, however, subsequently tested positive for steroids. Barnett then lost a rematch by unanimous decision to Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira at Pride Shockwave 2006.

After the bout against Nogueira and the acquisition of Pride by the UFC, Barnett did not participate in any MMA events in 2007, except one Pancrase match against Hikaru Sato, which was held under catch wrestling rules on Dec. 22. Barnett did not follow many other Pride veterans to the UFC because he desired to join an organization that included the top heavyweight fighter in the world, Fedor Emelianenko. In 2008, Barnett joined the newly organized MMA promotion, Sengoku, and fought in consecutive main events at Sengoku 1 and Sengoku 2, submitting Hidehiko Yoshida with a heel hook in the third round, and defeating Jeff Monson by unanimous decision. These fights were notable in that Barnett became the first man to submit Yoshida in mixed martial arts competition; and Barnett and Monson were and still are good friends.

Since his contract with World Victory Road is not exclusive, Barnett can join other MMA events. Barnett participated in the inaugural MMA event held by Affliction Entertainment, in July 2008. Seven years after his only knockout loss to Pedro Rizzo, he avenged that loss at Affliction: Banned with a knockout of his own in the second round.

In January 2009, Barnett fought Pride veteran Gilbert Yvel at Affliction: Day of Reckoning. Barnett defeated Yvel by a submission resulting from strikes in the third round. His next match-up, scheduled on August 1, 2009 against Fedor Emelianenko at Affliction’s 3rd event Affliction: Trilogy, was one of the most anticipated match-ups between the then ranked No.1 heavyweight Emelianenko and No.2 heavyweight Barnett. However, the fight was officially pulled 10 days before the event by the California State Athletic Commission after Barnett tested positive for a metabolite of drostanolone.

Barnett signed to fight for Dream in 2010, and made his debut on March 22, 2010 at Dream 13 against Mighty Mo. He won the fight via submission in the first round. During the fight, he accidentally kicked Mighty Mo in the groin so immediately after winning the fight, Barnett approached Mighty Mo apologizing for the illegal strike and in return allowed Mighty Mo to knee him in the groin.

On September 13, 2010 it was announced that Josh Barnett had signed a multi-fight deal with Strikeforce based on a heavyweight tournament. Barnett faced Brett Rogers on June 18, 2011 at Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum in the opening round of the Strikeforce tournament. Barnett submitted Rogers with a side choke (arm triangle) in the second round of the bout. Barnett then defeated Sergei Kharitonov in the semi-final of the tournament headlining Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov on September 10, 2011 at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio.

He faced fellow finalist Daniel Cormier on May 19, 2012 at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier to determine the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Champion. Dana White announced if Barnett were to defeat Cormier, he would be allowed back into the UFC, “If he wins the fight, I can’t see why he wouldn’t come [to the UFC].” Barnett lost the bout via unanimous decision. (50-45, 50-45, 49-46), losing for the first time in over 5 years.
On November 29, 2012 with one fight remaining on his contract with Strikeforce it was announced that he would face a promotional newcomer Nandor Guelmino at the final Strikeforce event in January 2013 whom he defeated via side choke (arm triangle) in the first round.

Barnett initially declined to sign with the UFC. However, on May 21, 2013, it was announced that Barnett had returned to the UFC and signed a multi-fight contract with the promotion.

Barnett faced former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir on August 31, 2013 at UFC 164. He won the fight in the first round by TKO.
Barnett then faced Travis Browne on December 28, 2013 at UFC 168. He lost the fight via knockout due to elbow strikes in the first round.
Barnett has appeared in the Xbox 360 game ”Beautiful Katamari” as one of the people that can be rolled up. He appears as the rare person “Wrestler” in his signature trunks and Pride FC gloves.

Billy Robinson has contributed immensely in training Barnett and Barnett teaches catch wrestling at Erik Paulson’s CSW Training Center in Fullerton, California. He is also the primary trainer and manager of female fighter Megumi Fujii and listed on the Abe Ani Combat Club’s website as a team wrestling coach and friend.

Barnett competed in the California Classic 2009 BJJ Tournament on November 15, 2009. Barnett lost a decision to ADCC veteran and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion Romulo Barral from Gracie Barra in the Black Belt GI Absolute division. On December 19, 2009, Paulson awarded Barnett his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. Josh went on to win the 2009 World No-Gi Grappling Championship and the 2010 No-GI Gracie Nationals. Even though Barnett had never trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu he was given his belt based on competition merit and overall knowledge.

1.)    Official MMA record: www.sherdog.com
2.)    “Strong Style spirit”: www.Puroresufan.com
3.)    Josh Barnett profile and IGF match listing: www.purolove.com
4.)    “USA TODAY: Former UFC champ Barnett returns to promotion with multi-fight deal”. www.mmajunkie.com
5.)    Josh Barnett profile: www.ufc.com  
Randy “The Natural” Couture
Born: 22 June, 1963

Randy Duane Couture is an American actor, retired mixed martial artist, collegiate and Greco-Roman wrestler. During his tenures in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Couture became a three-time UFC Heavyweight Champion, two-time UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, an Interim UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, and was the UFC 13 Heavyweight Tournament Winner. Couture is the first of only two fighters to hold two UFC championship titles in two different divisions (along with B.J. Penn). Couture has competed in a record 15 title fights. He holds the most title reigns in the UFC with five. His last fight with Lyoto Machida marked his 24th fight in the UFC, the third largest number of fights in the UFC (Tito Ortiz is first with 27 and Matt Hughes is second with 25). Couture is the fourth member of the UFC Hall of Fame. He is the only person over the age of 40 to have won a UFC championship fight, having done so four times.

Couture was an Olympic wrestling alternate and has lived in Corvallis, Oregon, throughout much of his career, where he served as an assistant wrestling coach and a strength and conditioning coach for Oregon State University. He established “Team Quest” with Matt Lindland and Dan Henderson, a training camp for fighters, based out of Gresham, Oregon, and headed by Coach Robert Folis. In 2005, Couture moved to Las Vegas, where he opened his own extensive chain of gyms under the name Xtreme Couture. He currently trains at his Las Vegas-based gym. Couture also partnered with Bas Rutten in the opening of Legends Gym in Hollywood, California.

Couture was generally recognized as a clinch and ground-and-pound fighter who used his wrestling ability to execute take downs, establish top position and successively strike the opponent on the bottom. Couture has displayed a variety of skills in boxing and Catch wrestling and has submitted four opponents using different chokeholds. Couture is the only athlete in UFC history to win a championship after becoming a Hall of Fame member and is the oldest title holder ever (in the UFC and MMA).

Couture was born in Everett, Washington, to Ed and Sharan Couture. He wrestled at Alderwood Middle School in Lynnwood, Washington, and then moved on to Lynnwood High School, where he won a State Championship during his senior year in wrestling. He served in the U.S. Army from 1982 to 1988, attaining the rank of Sergeant in the 101st Airborne, where he “wrestled and did a little boxing.” While he was in the Army he applied for tryouts with the U.S. Army Wrestling team. Despite never having competed in Greco-Roman he made the team having been selected by Coach Floyd Winter who was at that time the US Army “All Army Wrestling Team” Head Coach.

Upon discharge, Couture became a three-time Olympic team alternate (1988, 1992 and 1996), a semifinalist at the 2000 Olympic Trials, a three-time NCAA Division I All-American and a two-time NCAA Division I runner-up (1991 and 1992) at Oklahoma State University. In 1992, he was the Division I runner-up at 190 pounds, coming in second after Mark Kerr. He was also working as a wrestling coach at Oregon State University when he decided to compete in MMA.

Couture made his professional mixed martial arts debut at UFC 13 in May 1997, as part of a four-man Heavyweight tournament. His first opponent was Tony Halme, who outweighed him by nearly 100 lbs. Couture immediately hit a double-leg takedown and, after some ground and pound, moved to back mount and secured a rear-naked choke submission to win in under a minute. In the tournament final, he defeated Steven Graham, another larger opponent (290 lb), by TKO at 3:13 into the first round.

On October 17, 1997, at UFC 15, Couture fought Vitor Belfort to determine the number one contender for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Couture was an underdog, as 19-year-old Belfort was the UFC 12 Heavyweight Tournament Champion, winning all of his matches with devastating punches. After circling away from Belfort’s left hand, Couture got the clinch. The fighters broke up and, when Belfort attempted a flurry of punches, Couture hit a takedown. He immediately gained side control and landed strikes. As Belfort scrambled to his feet, Couture landed knee strikes. He clinched again and wore Belfort down with dirty boxing. By the 7-minute mark, Belfort was exhausted. Couture again took him down, and finished him with punches from back mount, for one of the biggest upsets in MMA at the time.

At UFC Japan on December 21, Couture challenged the UFC Heavyweight Champion, Maurice Smith to his second title defense since winning the belt from Mark Coleman earlier that year. It was a slow-paced fight, and neither fighter significantly damaged the other, but Couture hit several takedowns and held positional control throughout the fight. After 21 minutes, he won a majority decision and became the new UFC Heavyweight Champion.

In 1998, UFC matchmakers wanted Couture to defend the belt against Bas Rutten, the former King of Pancrase. Randy instead signed with Vale Tudo Japan, and was stripped of the title.

In Japan, he faced Enson Inoue. After taking the fight to the ground, Couture was submitted via armbar, just over 90 seconds into the bout. His next fight was against Mikhail Illoukhine on March 20, 1999, in RINGS. He submitted to a double wrist lock (kimura). After that loss, he took a break from MMA to focus on his amateur wrestling career.

Couture returned to MMA in October 2000, for the RINGS King of Kings Tournament 2000. He won a unanimous decision over UFC veteran Jeremy Horn in his first fight, and then another over Pancrase veteran Ryushi Yanagisawa. These two wins qualified him for the final event of the tournament, in March 2001. Before that, he was offered a shot at the UFC Heavyweight Championship against Kevin Randleman on Nov. 17, 2000. He was taken down in the first two rounds, but defended well from his back, negating most of Randleman’s ground and pound attempts. In the third round, he tripped Randleman to the mat and landed several strikes from full mount for a TKO victory and his second UFC Heavyweight Championship.

In March 2001, Couture continued in the RINGS King of Kings Tournament 2000 Final. After dominating UFC veteran Tsuyoshi Kohsaka in the first fight, he submitted to a guillotine choke by Valentijn Overeem and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira went on to win the tournament resulting in Couture returning to the UFC.

His first title defense was against Brazilian kickboxer Pedro Rizzo, at UFC 31. This was the first UFC event under Zuffa management, with Dana White as the new president. Both fighters inflicted substantial damage. After five 5-minute rounds, Couture won a close unanimous decision. Some fans felt Rizzo had won, so the UFC set up an immediate rematch for UFC 34, in November 2001. This time, Couture won decisively by TKO in the third round.

His third title defense was in March 2002, against up-and-comer Josh Barnett. In the second round, Barnett mounted Couture and landed several strikes to win the title by TKO. After the fight, it was revealed Barnett had tested positive for anabolic metabolites. He was subsequently stripped of the title and cut from the UFC.

Couture then faced Ricco Rodriguez for the vacant UFC Heavyweight Championship at UFC 39, in late 2002. After dominating the first three rounds, the then 39-year-old Couture became noticeably fatigued. In the fifth round, Rodriguez took him down and landed an elbow strike to his orbital bone, breaking it and making him submit. This was the first time a UFC fight had finished in the fifth round.

After two consecutive losses to larger opponents in the Heavyweight division, Couture moved down to the Light Heavyweight division. In his Light Heavyweight debut, he fought long-time number one contender Chuck Liddell for the UFC Interim Light Heavyweight Championship. He was again the underdog but, after out-striking Liddell for three rounds, he took the fight to the ground and won by TKO via strikes from the mounted position, becoming the only UFC fighter to win titles in two weight classes.

His next match, against five-time defending champion Tito Ortiz, was billed as a “Champion vs. Champion” fight. The 40-year-old Couture won a unanimous decision to become the undisputed UFC Light Heavyweight Champion.

Couture’s first title defense was against Vitor Belfort, whom he had previously defeated in 1997 at UFC 15. In the first round, as Couture closed the distance to attempt a clinch, Belfort grazed his right eye with a left hook. His glove opened a cut, and Belfort was declared the winner when the cageside doctor advised the fight be stopped. A rubber match took place later that year. Couture dominated all three rounds before winning by doctor stoppage due to a cut, and became a two-time UFC Light Heavyweight Champion.

On April 16, 2005, in a rematch with Liddell, Couture lost his title and suffered the first knockout loss of his career. He came back in August to defeat Mike Van Arsdale and reestablish himself as a top contender. He faced Liddell for the third and final time in a championship match at UFC 57, on February 4, 2006. He was knocked out in the second round and, immediately afterwards, announced his retirement from MMA.
June 24, 2006, on The Ultimate Fighter 3 Finale, Couture became the fourth inductee to the UFC Hall of Fame, joining Royce Gracie, Dan Severn, and Ken Shamrock.

After retiring from MMA, Couture became a regular broadcast commentator for UFC events and co-host of “Before the Bell and After the Bell” on The Fight Network. He appeared in the Rob Schneider movie “Big Stan”, with fellow mixed martial artists Don Frye and Bob Sapp.
On November 17, 2006, Couture fought and drew with Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in a submission wrestling contest. After the match Couture invited Souza to train at his gym. Souza accepted and started training at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas.

Couture was featured in the season two premiere episode of the Spike TV show Pros vs. Joes, which aired January 25, 2007. His teammates on the episode were Michael Irvin, Kevin Willis, and José Canseco. He returned for the finale, where he took part in a football-based round. His teammates were Kevin Willis, Randall Cunningham, Bruce Smith, Roy Jones Jr. and Tim Hardaway.

On January 11, 2007, Couture announced his return from retirement in an interview on the Spike TV magazine show, “Inside the UFC”. In a conversation with Joe Rogan, he confirmed he would face Tim Sylvia for the UFC Heavyweight Championship at UFC 68, on March 3, 2007. He also announced he had signed a four-fight, two-year deal with the UFC.

At the age of 43, Couture defeated Sylvia by unanimous decision to become UFC Heavyweight Champion for a third time (a UFC record). Couture’s first punch, eight seconds into the fight, sent the 6 ft. 8 in Sylvia to the mat. He controlled the pace of the fight for five rounds, smothering Sylvia with strikes and numerous takedowns. All three judges scored the bout 50–45 for Couture.

At UFC 74 on August 25, 2007, Couture successfully defended the title against Brazilian Gabriel Gonzaga, defeating him via TKO by strikes. Couture suffered a broken left arm when he blocked one of Gonzaga’s kicks. The kick cleanly split his ulna, requiring him to wear a splint for six weeks.
On October 11, 2007, Couture announced he was severing all ties with the UFC, leaving two contracted fights, a position as an on-air analyst and the UFC Heavyweight Championship behind. Couture cited the UFC’s failure to sign #1 ranked Heavyweight fighter Fedor Emelianenko, as well as disputes with UFC management, for his decision.

On September 2, 2008, the UFC announced it had signed Couture a new three-fight contract. On November 15, he returned at UFC 91 in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he lost the UFC Heavyweight Championship to Brock Lesnar. At first a closely contested match, Lesnar knocked Couture down in the second round and struck him with hammerfists for a TKO victory at 3:07. In a post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, Couture declared his desire to keep fighting and said he felt he was still becoming a better fighter, blaming the loss on his performance, not his age.

On August 29, 2009, Couture faced former UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion and former PRIDE Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 102 in Portland, Oregon, and lost a unanimous decision. After the bout, Couture stated he felt he was in the best shape of his life, and would wait and see what the UFC had in store for him. The fight received the “Fight of the Night” award.

On November 14, 2009, at UFC 105, Couture faced Brandon Vera. Vera landed effective strikes and scored a takedown, but Couture won a somewhat controversial unanimous decision. The fight was his first at Light Heavyweight since losing to Chuck Liddell in 2006. With the win, the 46-year-old Couture became the oldest fighter to win a UFC bout.

Couture fought fellow UFC Hall of Famer Mark Coleman at UFC 109. The bout marked the first time UFC Hall of Famers fought each other in the UFC. They were scheduled to meet at UFC 17 in 1998, but an injury to Couture forced the cancellation of the bout. They wrestled each other in a freestyle match at the 1989 Olympic Festival at Oklahoma State University; Coleman won the match by one point. Couture modified his training for this bout, focusing on Catch Wrestling and refining his boxing under Coach Gil Martinez. The combined age of these fighters (91) is the highest in any UFC match. Couture made Coleman pass out to a rear-naked choke submission in the second round, getting his first submission win in over four years.

Couture was scheduled to fight Rich Franklin at UFC 115, but Franklin instead fought Chuck Liddell, replacing Liddell’s original opponent, Tito Ortiz. Couture instead faced three-time boxing world champion James Toney at UFC 118. Couture dominated Toney, taking him down and mounting him within seconds, and quickly making him submit to a side choke (arm triangle). Many felt that this fight had been made as an attempt to repair damage done to the credibility of MMA after Ray Mercer knocked out former UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia.

Couture had stated he was interested in fighting either Lyoto Machida or Maurício Rua (in a non-title bout). Since Rua had an upcoming title defense against Jon Jones, UFC matchmakers gave him Machida. They fought on April 30, 2011, at UFC 129, before 55,000 fans in Toronto. Couture had stated before the bout it would be his final fight. Machida knocked him out in the second round with a jumping front kick. After the fight, Couture announced he was “finally done fighting”, at the age of 47.

On January 29, 2013, Couture signed with Bellator to coach the first season of their reality show, Fight Master: Bellator MMA set to debut in June 2013. Couture also did commentary for Bellator 96.

Couture made a cameo appearance on the season finale of the CBS show The Unit, as a military guard. He played fight commentator Terry Flynn in the film Redbelt. He appeared on an episode of The History Channel show Human Weapon on September 27, 2007, and starred in the 2008 film The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior. He played Toll Road in the 2010 movie The Expendables and reprised the role in the 2012 sequel. He starred alongside 50 Cent and Bruce Willis in the 2011 film, Setup, as an enforcer named Petey. In 2012, he played the leading role of hard-bitten cop Paul Ross in Brandon Nutt’s action film Hijacked, alongside Dominic Purcell.

1.)    Professional MMA Record: www.sherdog.com
2.)    “The Natural” by Randy Couture. Available at www.Amazon.com
3.)    Randy Couture profile: National Wrestling Hall of Fame
4.)    Official Website: www.thenatural.tv
Takanori Gomi
“The Fireball Kid”
Born: 22 Sept, 1978

Takanori Gomi is a Japanese professional mixed martial artist who gained international fame in the Japan-based organization, PRIDE Fighting Championships. Later in his career Gomi also competed in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Gomi was the first and only PRIDE Lightweight Champion in the organization’s history. He became the PRIDE 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix Winner at PRIDE Shockwave 2005, thus winning every lightweight accolade put forth by PRIDE Fighting Championships. Gomi also held a record twelve-fight winning streak in Shooto, where he was a former Shooto Lightweight Champion, as well as a four-time All Japan Combat Wrestling Champion.

Nicknamed “The Fireball Kid,” Gomi held a record ten-fight winning streak, spanning 2004 to 2006 in Pride Fighting Championships (the longest in the organization’s history). Gomi defeated Tatsuya Kawajiri (voted PRIDE FC’s Fight of the Year), Luiz Azeredo, and Hayato Sakurai en route to becoming the PRIDE 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix Winner, after which he was awarded the PRIDE Lightweight Championship. At Pride Bushido 13, Gomi successfully defended the title (against Marcus Aurélio), becoming the only lightweight to do so.

Throughout both his record-breaking PRIDE and Shooto championship reigns, Gomi was considered to be the top lightweight fighter in the world. Due to his domination of PRIDE Fighting Championships’ lightweight division, Gomi is regarded as one of the greatest lightweight combatants in the history of the sport.

Gomi was born in Kanagawa, Japan in 1978. He started boxing at Sagamihara Yonekura Gym in 1994 while he was attending Kanagawa Prefectural Aikawa Higashi Junior High School. Gomi was very athletic and was the pitcher of the school’s baseball team, but dropped out of high school in 1996 when he failed to pass on to the next grade. This caused an argument between Gomi and his father who disowned him as a result of the incident. Gomi then went on to learn Freestyle wrestling and Catch Wrestling at the Kiguchi Dojo and competed in many wrestling tournaments throughout Japan, the pinnacle of his grappling career being his four All Japan Combat Wrestling championships, in which he defeated a number of the nation’s top grapplers, with future opponent Mitsuhiro Ishida amongst them.

Gomi joined the official Shooto gym in 1997 where he began training and taking part in the amateur Shooto competitions. He made his professional mixed martial arts debut on November 27, 1998 at Shooto Las Grandes Viajes 6 in Tokyo, where he defeated Hiroshi Tsuruya by decision. Gomi won his first 14 MMA matches, mostly in the Shooto organization, but also fought in Vale Tudo Japan and in the Hawaiian-based organization SuperBrawl.

Gomi became the Shooto world welterweight champion in 2001 after defeating former teammate Rumina Sato by unanimous decision on December 16. Gomi then defeated highly regarded American grappler Chris Brennan on September 16, 2002 via unanimous decision. He also defended the Shooto crown in 2002, beating Dokonjonosuke Mishima by TKO in the second round.

Gomi’s first loss was also his last fight in Shooto for six years. It took place on August 10, 2003 at the Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium. Gomi lost his title to Norwegian fighter Joachim Hansen by majority decision. This loss was considered a huge upset at the time due to Hansen’s 6–1–1 record in MMA.

Gomi then fought Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) veteran, former UFC welterweight champion, and former UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn on October 10, 2003 at the Rumble on the Rock 4 event in Honolulu, Hawaii. It was his first fight under unified rules, and Gomi was defeated in the third round by rear naked choke.

After back-to-back losses, Gomi found a new home in Japan’s biggest MMA organization, the Pride Fighting Championships. He made his debut within the organization on February 15, 2004 at Pride Bushido 2 where he fought Jadyson Costa of the famed Chute Boxe team out of Brazil. Gomi stopped Costa via TKO halfway through the first round.

Gomi was asked back to Pride to face off with the undefeated Ralph Gracie at Pride Bushido 3. Gracie was the first coach of B.J. Penn, one of Gomi’s losses. Unlike his fight with Penn, Gomi made quick work of Gracie, scoring a six second KO in the first round- the quickest match in the organization’s history, due to repeated knee strikes.

Gomi remained within the Bushido series, fighting and defeating both Fabio Mello and Charles “Crazy Horse” Bennett in the first round at Pride Bushido 4 and Pride Bushido 5. Mello later noted that, “Apart from being a good wrestler and a fine striker, Gomi knows how to defend on the ground. He is a complete fighter who, due to his MMA experience, grows as the bout unfolds.”

Gomi then appeared at Pride’s New Year’s Eve show, Pride Shockwave 2004, against former UFC Lightweight Champion Jens Pulver. Gomi scored a knockout with an uppercut at 6:21 in the first round.

Gomi started off 2005 with a win over Luiz Azeredo at Pride Bushido 7. Azeredo dominated the fight from the opening bell with knees, punches, and flying kicks, but at the 3:46 mark of the first round, Gomi caught Luiz with two hooks that sent the Chute Boxe fighter to the mat. Gomi was then criticized for continuing to attack, even after Azeredo became unconscious, and was restrained by Dream Stage Entertainment (DSE) crew and staff. The Chute Boxe team stormed the ring and got into an altercation with Kiguchi Dojo. Gomi later stated that the extracurricular attack was due to adrenaline and apologized for his actions.

Wanting to capitalize on the altercation at Pride Bushido 7 and Gomi’s wins over Chute Boxe team members Jadson Costa and Luiz Azeredo, Pride set Gomi up with Chute Box lightweight and Cage Rage champion Jean Silva at Pride Bushido 8. Gomi won the fight by unanimous decision, securing an armbar in the waning seconds of the fight.

In August, Pride announced that in the month of September they would be hosting an eight-man lightweight tournament. The first round set up Gomi with fellow Japanese fighter and then Shooto world welterweight champion Tatsuya Kawajiri. This fight was billed “the battle of the twenty first century boys” in Japan due to the popularity and world-class match up of the two fighters. Many MMA critics had Gomi ranked number one and Kawajiri number two in the lightweight division. Gomi submitted Kawajiri in the first round with a rear naked choke. Gomi then had to fight again later that night in the semi-finals against Luiz Azeredo. Gomi won via unanimous decision, becoming a finalist in the 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix.

Gomi met the other finalist, Hayato Sakurai, at Pride Shockwave 2005. Sakurai and Gomi were teammates at the official Shooto gym back in the late 90’s. Sakurai defeated Jens Pulver and Joachim Hansen to reach the finals. After some exchanges on their feet, Sakurai tried to take Gomi down with a hip toss, but on the way down, Gomi ended up on top in the mount. “The Fireball Kid” began to rain down punches, and after taking a lot of shots Sakurai twisted to escape, giving his back to Gomi. Finally Sakurai escaped and both fighters were on their feet, but the punches had taken their toll on Sakurai. Gomi threw a right hand and then followed up with a left-right combination. The last right hook caught Sakurai on the chin, knocking him out at 3:56 of the first round. Gomi was crowned the Pride 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix champion. The KO win helped Gomi earn 2005 Fighter of the Year honors from Sherdog, an honor he shared with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.

Gomi then made his 2006 debut at Pride Bushido 10. Before the event, DSE announced that Gomi would be crowned the Pride world lightweight champion due to winning the Pride 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix, although the upcoming Bushido 10 fight would not be a title match. He then faced Marcus Aurelio of American Top Team later that night. Aurelio choked out Gomi within the first round with an arm triangle. This match-up was a huge upset and put a lot of doubt within Gomi’s ability to fight off of his back. Although Aurelio won the match, it was a non-title bout, with Gomi remaining the Pride lightweight champion. Gomi said he took the match too easily and that this loss was the best thing for him to refocus and become a better fighter.

After a few months off while building his Rascal Gym, Gomi made his return to the Pride ring at Pride Bushido 12 against 10–1 French fighter David Baron. Baron seemed willing to trade with Gomi and managed to slip some punches. Eventually Gomi caught up with him and knocked the Frenchman down, mixing up punches to the head and body. Baron missed a takedown attempt, allowing the Pride champion to get around his back and slam Baron to the ground. Baron rolled in an attempt to shake off his Japanese opponent, but Gomi held on, sinking in a rear naked choke. Baron defended the choke as long as he could, but eventually Gomi completed the technique, forcing Baron to tap at the 7:10 mark of the first round. Baron had previously won a tournament in Europe for the right to face Gomi.

Gomi rematched Aurelio at Pride Bushido 13 on November 5, 2006. This time the Pride lightweight championship was on the line. Both fighters were extremely cautious, and many times the referee could be heard calling for more action during the bout. Aurelio’s jab was effective and hit the champion several times. Gomi, often switching his stance, replied with strikes of his own and landed numerous leg kicks. Several times the American Top Team fighter ended up on his back after failed takedown attempts. Rather than follow him down, Gomi just kicked Aurelio’s legs until the referee would stand the action back up.

Aurelio scored a clean takedown at the end of the first round, though. Aurelio attempted another takedown in the second, only to see “The Fireball Kid” counter with a double wrist lock. Gomi showed shades of his past Catch Wrestling accolades when he countered another Aurelio takedown attempt with a half-nelson. However, he did not follow Aurelio to the ground, instead attacking his legs with kicks. Gomi refused to follow Aurelio to the ground despite his opponent’s taunting. Gomi knocked down Aurelio with a body shot late in the last round, and the bout ended with Gomi connecting with a hard kick to Aurelio’s body just before the final bell. The fight went to the judges and Gomi retained his title, walking away with the split decision.

Gomi’s earned a first round knockout against Mitsuhiro Ishida at Pride Shockwave 2006. Less than a minute into the fight Gomi countered a right leg kick from Ishida with a straight left punch that knocked him down. Gomi immediately went in for the finish, stopping Ishida with a series of hammer fists.

At Pride 33, Gomi suffered a loss to UFC veteran, Nick Diaz by way of submission. In the beginning of the first round, Gomi was landing blows on the taller Diaz, even scoring a knockdown, which he was unable to capitalize upon. However, Diaz came back quickly and began to bombard Gomi, who had become visibly exhausted, with straight jabs and right hands for the latter half of the round. As the second round opened, Gomi gamely tried to regain lost ground, but after a double leg takedown into Diaz’s guard, suddenly found himself in a submission. The lightweight champion tapped out at 1:46 of the second round. However, the Nevada State Athletic Commission has declared the fight a “no contest” after Diaz tested positive for marijuana.

After Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC, purchased Pride Fighting Championships from Dream Stage Entertainment, Gomi signed on with World Victory Road, and fought in its inaugural event, “Sengoku”, where he defeated Duane Ludwig by TKO (cut).

He then fought at World Victory Road’s “Sengoku IV” on August 24, 2008 against Sung Hwan Pang. Gomi won the contest via Unanimous Decision. Gomi competed on November 1, 2008 where he lost a split decision to Russian fighter Sergey Golyaev at Sengoku VI. It was the Upset of the Year for 2008 according to Sherdog.com. He then fought Satoru Kitaoka on January 4, 2009 for the Sengoku lightweight championship. Gomi was defeated at 1:41 by Achilles lock.

On May 10, 2009, he returned to Shooto at Shooto: Tradition Final where he faced the Shooto champion at the time in a non-title bout, Takashi Nakakura. Gomi won via KO in the second round. His next fight was then set to for Affliction Entertainment at Affliction: Trilogy, with his opponent being Rafaello Oliveira, but the event was ultimately canceled. In October 2009, Gomi fought and defeated Tony Hervey at Shooto’s Vale Tudo Japan 2009. Gomi said that the fight would be his last fight in Japan before moving to the US.

On January 1, 2010, it was announced that Gomi had signed with the UFC. Gomi faced Kenny Florian in his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 21 and was submitted by Florian via rear naked choke in the third round after being dominated by jabs and body shots for two rounds.

Gomi was expected to face Joe Stevenson on August 1, 2010 at UFC Live. However, Stevenson suffered an injury while training and was replaced by Tyson Griffin. Gomi defeated Griffin via one punch KO at 1:04 of the first round. Gomi caught Griffin with a left cross following up with a right hook causing Griffin to fall face first into the canvas where Gomi then followed up onto Griffin’s back with few short punches before the fight was stopped. He is the first person to have stopped Griffin via knockout as all of Griffin’s previous losses have gone to a decision. Gomi also was awarded Knockout of the Night bonus for his performance.

Gomi faced Clay Guida at UFC 125. After a very one sided first round, he was defeated by Guida via guillotine choke in the second round. Gomi then faced Nate Diaz on September 24, 2011 at UFC 135 where he lost late in the first round by submission due to an armbar.

Gomi was expected to face George Sotiropoulos on February 26, 2012 at UFC 144 but the Australian fighter pulled out after sustaining an injury. Gomi instead faced Eiji Mitsuoka and won via TKO in the second round.

Gomi defeated Mac Danzig via split decision on November 10, 2012 at UFC on Fuel TV 6. Gomi came into the fight in considerably better shape and showcased a drastically improved game including taking Danzig down a few times.

Next Gomi faced Diego Sanchez on March 3, 2013 at UFC on Fuel TV 8. Gomi lost a split decision to Sanchez. However, 12 of 12 media outlets scored the bout in favor of Gomi.

1.)    Fight Finder Sherdog, Takanori Gomi: www.sherdog.com
2.)    “All-Time Mixed Martial Arts Rankings: www.fightmatrix.com
3.)    The 10 best MMA fighters of all time by division: www.bleacherreport.com
Satoru Kitaoka
“The Catch Wrestling Koala”
Born: 4 February, 1980

Satoru Kitaoka is a Japanese mixed martial artist. He has fought the majority of his career as a Welterweight for Pancrase, but moved down to Lightweight in 2008 when he joined MMA promotion World Victory Road. Kitaoka is renowned for his submission grappling abilities and is the reigning World Brazilian jiu-jitsu and No-Gi Open Champion in both the 79.7-kilogram (176 lb) and Absolute divisions (2013). In August 2008, he entered and won the 2008 Sengoku Lightweight Grand Prix. He is currently the DEEP Lightweight Champion.

Dropping down to Lightweight, Kitaoka’s first fight for Sengoku was a submission win over Ian James Schaffa at Sengoku 2 on 18 May 2008 before entering Sengoku’s eight-man lightweight tournament. In the first round of the tournament at Sengoku 4 on 24 August 2008 he was put up against American Clay French. Kitaoka made short work of French, winning by submission due to an Achilles lock at 1:21 of the first round. The win put him up against fellow Japanese fighter Eiji Mitsuoka in the tournament’s semifinal taking place at Sengoku 6. Kitaoka again made short work of his opponent winning by a heel hook submission at 1:16 of the first round. The win earned him a place in the tournament’s final taking place that same night against Kazunori Yokota. The fight proved longer than Kitaoka’s three previous fights as it went the distance completing all three five minute rounds with Kitaoka being awarded the unanimous decision, thus winning the 2008 Sengoku Lightweight Grand Prix.

The Lightweight tournament win set up Kitaoka to fight the last reigning PRIDE Lightweight Champion, Takanori Gomi, for Sengoku’s newly created Sengoku Lightweight Championship. The two fought at Sengoku no Ran 2009 on 4 January 2009 and ended with Kitaoka defeating Gomi with an Achilles lock at 1:41 of the first round. In his first title defense, on August 2, 2009, at World Victory Road Presents Sengoku 9, Kitaoka lost his lightweight championship to Mizuto Hirota by TKO.

Following his title loss in Sengoku, Kitaoka returned to his home promotion Pancrase picking up wins over Jorge Rogrigues and Kuniyoshi Hironaka.

Kitaoka faced former UFC fighter Willamy Freire at Dream 17. Kitaoka entered the bout on a three fight win streak picking up victories in both Pancrase and DEEP. He won the fight via split decision.

Kitaoka faced teammate and fellow Yuki Nakai black belt Shinya Aoki at DREAM’s year end event for the DREAM Lightweight Championship. He lost the fight via unanimous decision.

1.)    Sherdog Fight Finder: www.Sherdog.com
2.)    “Fight by Fight,” Sengoku 4 preview: www.MMAweekly
3.)    Sengoku 6 results: Yahoo Sports 
Megumi “Mega Megu” Fujii
Born: 26 April, 1974

Megumi Fujii is a retired Japanese mixed martial artist and World Champion Submission Grappler. Highly regarded as one of the best submission artists ever, she has trained extensively in the arts of Judo, Sambo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Catch as Catch Can. Holding black belts in both Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

She is renowned for her quick takedowns and submission attacks. Her most popular move is the “Inazuma Toe Hold” submission, dubbed the “Megulock.”

Fujii was trained in MMA by Shooto veteran Hiroyuki Abe, Hitomi Akano and professional wrestler, PRIDE Fighting Championships alumni, former UFC Heavyweight Champion and King of Pancrase Josh Barnett. She has trained several other female MMA fighters herself, including current top fighter Hitomi Akano.

Fujii is also a highly decorated fighter outside of mixed martial arts, with accomplishments including Japanese National Sambo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Champion, five Second Place finishes in the World Sambo Championships, Ground Impact Professional BJJ Tournament Champion and 2004 and 2006 BJJ Pan-Am Champion. In 2005 and 2007, she earned Third Place finishes in the ADCC Under-60 kg World Submission Grappling Championships.

In the women’s MMA and Japanese MMA communities, Megumi Fujii is considered a legend. Before Cristiano “Cyborg” Justino came onto the scene, Fujii was the baddest woman on the planet. Before Ronda Rousey ever submitted an opponent by armbar, Fujii racked up 18 submission victories.

The 39-year-old accomplished a rare feat by winning 22 fights in a row from 2004-2010. Not only did she defeat all 22 of those opponents, she dominated them, with only three of the bouts going to the judges’ scorecards. This in itself earned her a reputation for being a legendary competitor, but this is only a small slice of what she has meant to other women in the sport.

When Fujii began her career, there weren’t nearly the amount of women competing in MMA as we see today. Having been introduced to mixed martial arts by fellow Japanese fighters Hiroyuki Abe and Hitomi along with Josh Barnett, Fujii passed on the training and advice to many other up-and-coming female fighters.

Yasuko Tamada and Jewels 115-pound champion and Invicta veteran Ayaka Hamasaki now train under Fujii. The retired fighter has been a mentor to both women for years, which has made a huge impact on their careers. Hamasaki was undefeated prior to her recent Invicta fight against Claudia Gadelha and Tamada resurrected a career that started with a 1-4-2 record and captured gold under the Valkyrie banner.

Fujii has not only made an impact on Japanese women, though. Women around the world have looked up to her as an influence for them to strap on the gloves and fight. Even though people didn’t get to see her fights often, considering the majority of them were in Japan, the name was still very well known. When she signed to compete in the Bellator 115-pound tournament in 2010, it gave fans the opportunity to finally witness her in action.

Fujii made her Bellator debut by defeating Sarah Schneider, then submitted current Invicta FC strawweight champion Carla Esparza and Lisa Ellis to advance to the tournament finals with a chance to claim something she has never held: a world title.
“Mega Megu” fell to Zoila Frausto Gurgel by split decision, but it was a controversial fight that many felt should have been awarded to Fujii. Regardless, Fujii was handed her first defeat, ending her streak.

After winning her next three fights in Japan, Fujii stepped back inside the Bellator cage two years removed from her title loss. She fought rising fighter Jessica Aguilar and lost by unanimous decision. This was the only time Fujii was defeated via unanimous decision in her career, which is very impressive considering the amount of fights and quality opponents she has squared off against.

In the fight with Aguilar, it appeared her age was beginning to show. Fujii has had nagging injuries over the years which also may have played a role. But all in all, she has been able to battle through them and find success, including a win over Mei Yamaguchi, one of the top strawweights in the world, in December of 2012.

On June 22, 2013, Fujii announced that she would retire from MMA after competing one final time. In her retirement bout, she faced Jessica Aguilar in a rematch at Vale Tudo Japan 3rd on October 5 in Tokyo. Fujii was initially defeated by TKO when the doctor stopped the fight after round two due to an eye injury that was caused by two accidental eye pokes. The result of the fight was later changed to a technical majority decision win for Aguilar. The retirement announcement was overlooked by many casual mixed martial arts fans, but those who have followed this individual’s career over the years know the women’s side of the sport wouldn’t be where it is without her.

Although she never won an MMA title in her nine years of fighting, she won on 26 occasions and her legacy is one of greatness. She inspired so many other women to compete and win championships of their own, while also paving the way for women’s mixed martial arts to reach new heights

Fujii was also a multi-time contestant on the seasonal Japanese obstacle course television show Ninja Warrior, but unfortunately never made it past the first stage.

1.)    “The MMA corner” www.themmacorner.com
2.)    Women’s MMA Pound-For Pound Rankings: MMARising.com
3.)    “Women’s MMA Trailblazer Megumi Fujii Announces Retirement Bout in October”. www.Sherdog.com
4.)    Professional MMA record for Megumi Fujii from www.Sherdog.com