Pancrase Hybrid Wrestling was certainly one of the more colorful promotions in MMA history. Based in concept on the ancient olympic sport Pankration and featuring fighters dressed in gear similar to that of Professional Wrestling the organization was very different from what you might see today. It also had an interesting set of rules that placed it somewhere in-between your typical wrestling works (moves) and a MMA match. Founded in 1993 the sport featured competitive and hard fought fights involving many of todays MMA legends, including Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock, Josh Barnett, Bas Rutten and many famous Japanese wrestlers.
Pancrase will always be unique in MMA history due to rules that allowed grappling and submissions but greatly limited the types of strikes. Any closed fist strikes (no gloves were worn) to the head were banned but vicious palm strikes and virtually any open handed techniques were allowed, although there seemed to be some leniency in the rules. There were no knees, kicks or stomps to the head on the ground allowed. Just as in Professional Wrestling if a fighter could grab the ropes during a submission it had to be released. Fighters were allowed to use these type of escapes five times during the course of the bout a sixth would result in a loss. Fights could end by submission, decision or knockout and surprisingly a lot of them came by way of palm strikes to the head or kicks and shots to the body.
Despite these seemingly strange rules Pancrase featured some very exiciting early MMA fights with a fair amount of finishes coming by both knock out and submission with the heel hook eventually being banned due to injuries. What made Pancrase as unique as anything else were the boots and shin pads and trunks worn by the fighters that truly gave it the Professional Wrestling look. Another Japanese circuit that featured outrageous costumes in the early days is the DEEP promotion which would feature legitimate fighters wearing masks, females fighters in vinyl skirts and other strange video game style outfits. DEEP truly blurred the line between MMA and Professional Wrestling as fighters would throw bizarre techniques such as flipping kicks and moves normally reserved for exhibition wrestling. Many of Bas Rutten's fights as well as some the early DEEP fights can be found on You Tube, check out what the wacky world of Japanese MMA has to offer. Pancrase and DEEP still exist today with rules very similar to most modern organizations without the crazy outfits as far as I know.