The first Pancrase show dropped like an atom bomb on Tokyo’s hardcore wrestling scene. Every other shoot style group, after years of calling out their traditional wrestling rivals and masquerading as the real deal, was suddenly exposed as little more than a collection of charlatans.
Funaki, Suzuki and the rest were tired of waiting their turn in line, pretending to be lesser men, doing business for the likes of Akira Maeda or Yoshiaki Fujiwara for the rest of their prime years. They took destiny into their own hands and turned the entire wrestling business upside down.
We can debate in retrospect whether they should have pushed harder and moved immediately into larger venues. Perhaps that wasn’t a possibility on such short notice and perhaps they didn’t anticipate such overwhelming interest.
Either way, despite the instant interest, the second Pancrase event was held in a more modest venue, the Tsuyuhashi Sports Center in Nagoya, Japan’s third largest metro area.
Beyond that, not much had changed. The same core talent was there and, once again, the action moved at a dizzying pace. The entire event, if you only count the time spent wrestling in the ring, was over in less than 23 minutes, just about the time a Maeda main event would be getting warmed up.
Who can run the fastest? Who can jump the highest? Who can hold another man down or make him quit? These are the questions that plague any group of people and must be answered on the field of play—athletics at its most primal and pure.
It’s what makes wrestling one of the world’s oldest sports, a form of competition transcending culture, creed and even language, requiring little in the way of explanation. Wrestling is the sport of royalty and the common man—the desire to dominate knows no socio-economic boundaries. That’s why you see wrestling preserved for eternity on the vases of ancient Greece and Egypt.
Wrestling has survived the ages in various forms, from the gentle Glima of Scandinavia, where opponents through each other by their belts, to the rough and tumble grappling of the American frontier, where you could often pick out the grapplers by the scars covering their faces and even their missing eyeballs.
Pancrase lands somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, a brutal competition of potentially harmful techniques and holds that was also carefully regulated and controlled, both by the formal rules and an unwritten Gentleman’s Code.
(Excerpted from The MMA Encyclopedia by Jonathan Snowden and Kendall Shields)
Many people assume that modern MMA started with UFC 1 at the McNichols Arena in Denver, Colorado, in November 1993. In fact, the first mixed fights had taken place months earlier at the Tokyo NK Hall in Japan, where a small troupe of maverick pro wrestlers had taken the wrestling business back to its roots.