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The Ultimate American Grudge Match… In Japan

Fact is, the biggest drawing events in combat sports are almost always more often the grudge matches with two guys who dislike each other than a random match for a random title.

PRIDE.19 is a prime example of the beauty that was PRIDE. PRIDE took two Americans, who didn’t like each other and perhaps don’t exchange Christmas gifts even to this day, Don “The Predator” Frye and Ken Shamrock. Neither guy was really an uber-popular face on Japan on the level of a Sakuraba or Takada, but a combination of brilliant marketing, great promos, and educated fans, make this a true highlight of the PRIDE era.

Both made their names in the embryotic era of the UFC and had their names etched in stone as legends of the time. Both disliked each other due to comments made by each other, many of which very personal. Frye accused Ken of cheating on his then-girlfriend Alicia Webb, known to WWF fans as Ryan Shamrock, his on screen sister (yeah, kinda creepy). Frye also said that Frank Shamrock, who has legitimate family heat with brother Ken, would be cornering him. Both were considered “American Heroes” by the Japanese due to the fighting spirit that they showed in the UFC, as well as PRIDE.

Frye had a couple of notable fights in PRIDE. He faced Gilbert Yvel in a fight that had more fowls than anything. Yvel personified the term “rule breaker”. It was quite the spectacle. More yellow cards were given out here than green cards in Little Havana (Trust me, I would know – I used to have one!).

Shamrock had some memorable encounters too. He faced Alexander Otsuka in a match that I swore up and down was a work until Dave Meltzer told me directly that it wasn’t on an edition of Wrestling Observer Radio last year. Then he faced Fujita in another controversial match. By the way, Otsuka and Fujita were both pro wrestlers in Japan, like Ken in the WWF, so ughh… I’m still a tiny bit skeptical.

So while they were known stars, neither were true veterans of the PRIDE ring.

PRIDE.19 was built up as “Bad Blood” in the United States, and while the HIGHLY anticipated fight between PRIDE Middleweight Champion Wanderlei Silva and UWFI’s Kyoshi Tamura (defending the UWFI honor after Sakuraba failed against Silva on two previous occassions), THIS was the main event to the Americans and perhaps the sub-main to the Japanese.

Boy oh boy when they fought.

If it came out this match was worked, it wouldn’t shock me. To the point where there was a “spot” for lack of a better term where they applied a double knee bar, on EACH OTHER and neither man would tap out. This caused a few knee injuries to Don Frye that would affect his career.

A lot of folks consider this the last great fight of Shamrock’s career and it most certainly was the most competitive and actually told one hell of a story, despite it being real.

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1 thought on “The Ultimate American Grudge Match… In Japan

  1. I’ve actually got this in a double DVD set, great fight with a great story/fued behind it, Like most I was actually looking forward to the Wandy match more, but boy did the Shamrock/Frye fight impress!!! Great write-up Big D!!

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