Friday, 16 January 2015

Tomohiro Ishii vs Katsuyori Shibata: Camaraderie in Wrestling

Was there a greater moment of camaraderie between rivals in any medium this year then in Tomohiro Ishii vs Katsuyori Shibata at the G1 Climax?

At some point (I believe two matches before this one) during this years G1 Climax (a two week tournament), Ishii legitimately separates his shoulder and continues to wrestle on it. He doesn't want the fans to know how banged up he is and he doesn't want to be pulled out of the tournament, so he bandages up his shoulder and still puts on some amazing performances. Bandages limbs aren't uncommon, though in Japanese wrestling they are generally used for legit purposes as opposed to something like WWE where much of the time the injuries are sometimes non-existent or quite minor. Injuries are especially common in the G1 as it is an incredibly gruelling workload and schedule.

So Ishii finally runs into his rival, Shibata, in a rematch from last year where the two beat the hell out of each other. Basically, the matches they end up having are less wrestling and more let us literally take turns kicking and chopping each other until someone backs down. These are incredibly brutal matches. It's the epitome of the Japanese "Strong Style" of wrestling which helped open the door for MMA acceptance world wide.

About halfway into the match, Shibata puts Ishii into an armbar and when Ishii finally breaks the hold, he rolls out of the ring. This is important because Ishii is buying himself time because he is hurt, Ishii NEVER does this. His whole schtick is "I am a human fridge. You can not hurt me. I will punish you with my impossibly hard head" and for him to do this in this match which is essentially to prove who is the toughest human being is pretty substantial. Shibata rolls him back in (he yells something like "Get back in there!" or some other tough dude thing) but Ishii rolls out again! This shocks even Shibata! Obviously this is exaggerated to make a story here, he isn't more seriously injured (I mean, he's probably a bit more injured considering the punishment here), but it's a great, simple dynamic.

During this, a doctor comes out and starts checking Ishii's shoulder. What does Shibata do here? He doesn't want to win by count out, this doesn't prove that either are tougher and even though Ishii is injured, it wouldn't be the honorable thing to do to just let him get counted out or have a doctor stop the match.

He ends up rolling Ishii back into the ring and taking an unusually casual climb back into the ring before kicking Ishii in the shoulder. He's kind of testing him to see if Ishii will rise back in a rage like he usually does and keep on battling. When he doesn't, he tells the doctor to check on him.

So Shibata decides to do something unexpected, he handicaps himself. Shibata respects Ishii so much that he'll restrain his killer instincts.

This continues for awhile until Shibata gains the upper hand and goes for his incredibly devastating spinning face chop that looks like this

But Ishii surprises everyone by ducking it and using both arms to deliver a huge german suplex. It's a great ending to a sequence that serves to put both men on more even terms. Now we believe Ishii could rise against the odds and beat Shibata despite the shoulder. Shibata also gets a boost by not taking any easy outs, you couldn't have faulted the guy if he just decided to kick Ishii shoulder clean off his body but you could be disappointed at what could have been.

They salvaged the match with simple storytelling and simple wrestling.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This is also one of my favourite images of the year. I don't know much about classical art, but the manner in which the lines of Shibata's head and face disappear into the head and grimace of Ishii make me think of some sort of painting. I dunno everybody, it's just great photography. Like when people talk about the great action directors (McTiernan, Mann, T. Scott etc) and cap images of faces slipping into frames between limbs or lights finding cracks in bodies, wrestling is filled with a lot of this raw imagery.

No comments:

Post a Comment