Much of March was a pretty quiet one for HardDoor, but there was a good reason for it. Earlier in the month, I received a special press pass to provide coverage for a then-upcoming special boxing event. The fight card looked promising and it was an all-expenses-paid trip to boot, so I decided to take the promoters up on their word for it.
Being your usual tight-lipped Japanese company, there were a number of controls and embargoes set in place to avoid leaks, so they made me and a number of other bloggers and journalists ride in a darkened limo and then a shuttered plane to an undisclosed location. From there, we were led directly from the plane and through a tunnel leading to the rather-swanky hotel we would all be staying at (and weren't allowed to leave from). The arena was housed in the same construction as the hotel and the event was only a day away, so even with no wi-fi and cellular coverage, it wasn't too bad. Can't argue with free breakfast…
The next day came and with it, Fight Night had finally arrived. The arena was filled to the brim with spectators, somehow, likely from a raffle or lottery under the same restrictions (Which, as I understood from an official, was done so that the special could air in Japan first before being shown worldwide a week later. Go figure.) The lights dimmed, the entrances were made, and with it, the first bout of the evening kicked off:
Revy vs Roberta
In what was possibly the best fight of the night. the two ladies squared-off in a brutal back-and-forth. The instant action whipped the crowd--and press row--into a frenzy, but it didn't take long for the "fight" to get out-of-control when they started ignoring the bell at the end of the fourth round and beyond and had to be pulled apart by their respective corners. By the end of the seventh, they had their the blinders up and took five minutes to get separated. A cavalcade of cursing could be heard from both corners and once the eighth began, the wild-eyed women untied their gloves and went the Queensbury route with their contest before transitioning to a wrestling match, which prompted a double disqualification for the two. No winner except for the fans, who had to wait an extra 30 minutes before they tired themselves out (the corners and officials basically stopped trying at this point).
Goku vs Vegeta
After the audacious, but still entertaining, start came one of the most anticipated match of the night (again, between two single-named talents. Brazilian?). Unfortunately, it was hard to know what was even happening with both men manoeuvring and flying around the ring so fast. The crowd roared for them when they made their entrances, but now there was an uneasy silence of collective confusion among them all, as no one could quite understand what was going on (minus their respective cornermen and entourage, whose eyes were darting back and forth at the ring looking at something, whatever that was). Unlike the women, the action came to a halt the moment the bell rang and both fighters suddenly appeared out of nowhere and looking no worse for the wear, saved for the occasional bloodied mouth or scrap on the face.
This continued for the first three rounds, the fans growing quietly impatient at the incomprehensible action(?), until the sublime fourth round, when--inexplicably--both just stood in the ring and began to yell at the top of their lungs. A strange glow enveloped their bodies and the whole arena shook, which woke up the crowd and piqued their interests in curiosity. This took up rounds four through seven (again, the officials just threw-up their hands at this, but likely just letting the rounds pass out of their own bewilderment at the sight). It was astonishing to see them have as much endurance screaming as Revy and Roberta did slugging it out, but once the bell rang to start Rd. 8, both pugilists--shining gold now--suddenly darted at each other in a total blur, and quick blips of light and sound could be seen and heard in the ring (unlike the fighters, who once again, did a disappearing act).
The light show then began to somehow float above the ring when something suddenly darted outward with a loud "boom" and into one of the upper-mid sections on the other side of the building (no update on any injuries/survivors). Not quite sure who was who, but the guy that got decked shot back up almost instantaneously and continued to duel with the other in the air. After a minute or so of this, and repeated pleas from the ref and organizers on the loudspeakers that fell on deaf ears, both fighters were disqualified on the grounds of fighting outside the ring and ignoring the referee's instructions. This and the chorus of boos apparently were enough to grab their attentions and suffice to say afterwards, they weren't very happy about it, though their motley crews were able to calm them down and escort them to the back.
Chibodee Crocket vs Chuujo "The Silent" Shizuo
Two double disqualifications in a row, and both the crowd and us in press row were getting restless. Luckily for us, the main event was a little more "grounded" and more like a boxing match. Chibodee Crocket certainly had the flashiest entrance of the evening with all of the lights, smoke, and lady friends, but the youngster's flair and hand speed couldn't take the stoic Chuujo Shizuo off of his game. The elder fighter managed to slip past many of Crocket's barrages and bang away at his body with some nasty left hooks to the ribcage and right jabs and hooks to the head, along with some well-timed uppercuts. (Yes, the art is not lost!)
Though Crocket had the talent, the less-speedy Shizuo had the experience and power and by the second round, the former was already in bad straits. Within the final 30 seconds, Shizuo ducked a desperate left haymaker and decked him with a counter right hook. Crocket beat the count at eight, but "Chuujo the Silent" apparently decided to cap things off in a big way with right to the sternum. However, the amount of power he put into it was considerable and when he connected, the sheer force of it reverberated throughout the arena, like it was about to fall apart! Everyone up to third row was flung all over the place, including us at press row ringside (I got rolled up one of the aisles, luckily avoiding getting crushed by that one big sportswriter…).
I suppose that was enough for a 10-count after I regained my barrings a few minutes later, since Shizuo had his hand raised and Crocket was just beginning to get back up. Despite looking roughed-up, he seemed to be yelling something at him, but I was too far away to make out his words. He pointed up at the ceiling and a gigantic, boxing-gloved robot crashed through the ceiling and onto the ring, just inches from him! Then the floor began to crack and buckle, and a very large figure broke through it, hoisting Shizuo high into the air. It was some Sphinx-looking monstrosity, but at this point, I saw where it was going and decided to jet before it got messy-(er).
Massive clashing and crunching of metal echoed throughout the area (which looked to be an island of sorts) as people began running out of the deteriorating building. The bulk of us ran onto a nearby boat for refuge and waited out until morning. The fighting went on for who knows how long, but the robots eventually stopped pounding on each other (probably after they realized there was no more ring to fight it). Next day, we were allowed to get our belongings out of the hotel (only minimally damaged, somehow) and went through the same veiled procedures on the way back home, all the while reminded of the embargo placed on our coverage.
Of course, since you are reading this, it has been lifted and we have been allowed to disclose of our experiences about it at length, all the while keeping the organizers anonymous. I don't know when the special will air and, all things considered, it's kind of surprising that they lifted the embargo at all, but I guess that if they decide against broadcasting it, no one would believe any of us, anyway.
…But hey, at least I got paid.