Looking back at King of the Cage Wet & Wild and The Return

In this article, I take a look at two MMA events that were held during rainstorms. Plus the story of Rafiel Torre.

In the 2012 American comedy film “Here Comes The Boom,” a high school biology teacher and former college wrestler named Scott Voss (played by Kevin James) learns that his school was on the verge of shutting down its music program due to budget cuts. This would’ve resulted in his colleague, Marty Streb (played by Henry Winkler), being fired. To save the music program and his colleague’s job, Scott looked to raise money by teaching adult citizenship classes at night. After one of his classes, a student by the name of Niko (played by Bas Rutten) asked Scott if he could get some private tutoring.

One night, Scott went to Niko’s apartment where Niko and his friends were watching a UFC event featuring a fighter by the name of Ken Dietrich (played by Krzysztof Soszynski). It was there that Scott learned that Niko is a retired MMA fighter who is now a coach at a local gym. As they were watching the fights, Niko told Scott that losing fighters made $10,000 a fight. After learning about this, Scott decided to raise the money he needed to save the music program and his colleague’s job by becoming an MMA fighter.

With the help of Niko and Marty, Scott began his MMA career. Along the way, he experiences a series of follies and misadventures involving humiliating losses, falling through the floor of a cage, puking on an opponent, and fighting during a rainstorm that resulted in him and his opponent being unable to stay on their feet due to how slippery the cage mat was.

Even though “Here Comes The Boom” is mostly a fictional story, some of the scenes in the movie involving Scott’s mishaps had similarities to things that have happened in real life. There have been occasions where fighters have puked after fights. After his fight at Prime MMA Championship 3 on July 1, 2008 in Salvador, Brazil, Eder Jones vomited all over the cage as the referee was raising his hand in victory.

Cage malfunctions during fights have happened several times as well. At Strikeforce: Revenge on June 9, 2006 in San Jose, CA, James Irvin vs Bobby Southworth ended in a No Contest just 17 seconds into the bout after both men fell through an unsecured cage door. A similar incident happened at Hardrock MMA 43 in Kentucky on February 4th, 2012 when Brandon Bishop vs. Braedon Ward came to an end after both men fell through a cage door that had a damaged hinge from earlier in the night.

As for a rainstorm during an MMA event? Well, that has happened too. And in SoCal. Right now I’m going to take a look at two King of the Cage events that were held during rainstorms.

King of the Cage: Wet N’ Wild

Founded in 1998 by Terry Trebilcock, King of the Cage held its first five events at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, CA. The first few events at the Soboba Casino took place in an indoor facility and quickly drew sellout crowds. KOTC events were later moved to a makeshift outdoor arena at the Soboba Casino that was double the size of the indoor facility KOTC had used for their first few events.

On February 24th, 2001, King of the Cage 7 took place at the Soboba Casino’s outdoor arena. The event was headlined by Pride FC veteran Ricco Rodriguez vs. Paul Buentello in a title fight. The undercard featured five members of Ken Shamrock’s Lion’s Den gym, including Guy Mezger, Pete Williams, the KOTC Middleweight Champion Joe Hurley, Alex Andrade, and Tony Galindo. Other bouts on the card featured notable fighters such as Marvin Eastman, Dean Lister, and Yves Edwards. The home video release for the event featured commentary by kickboxing legend Don “The Dragon” Wilson and a young Eddie Bravo.

The event also included Rafiel Torre vs. Ioka “Big Joe” Tianuu in a grudge match. At the time, Torre was known as a prolific NHB/MMA journalist, a retired fighter with a 14-0, and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Torre claimed to have had issues with Tianuu which was why he was coming out of retirement that night. The story about this fight is pretty crazy. More on this later in the column.

King of the Cage 7 at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, CA on February 24th, 2001

Throughout the home video release of the event, interviews with various fighters conducted by Eddie Bravo earlier that day were shown during their walkouts. In the background of most of the interviews, rain could be seen falling on the ground. Rain could also be seen heavily pouring down on fighters during some of the walkouts that were shown on the home video release of the show.

Alex Andrade at King of the Cage 7 at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, CA on February 24th, 2001

While the lighting truss had something on top of it to cover the cage, it wasn’t enough to keep the cage from getting wet. Before most of the fights and in between rounds, members of the KOTC staff tried their best to get the vinyl mat as dry as possible. Despite their best efforts, it wasn’t enough. Fighters had a hard time maintaining their balance, causing them to slip while throwing strikes or slide around the cage during grappling exchanges. It also made some takedowns easier to land for some fighters.

The rain started to get really heavy during the third bout of the night, Shungo Oyama vs. Mike Bourke. The barefooted Oyama had trouble staying on his feet and slipped several times during the bout, but he ended up knocking out Bourke with a short right counter punch to get the win at just seventeen seconds into the fight. Marvin Eastman also had issues with balance during his bout with Floyd Sword. During the opening moments in the second round of their fight, Eastman lost his footing and fell backward after throwing a lead left hook.

King of the Cage 7 was later named “Wet and Wild.” The event gained lots of infamy because of the weather conditions (and Rafiel Torre, but more on him later). While the event was pretty surreal and has a lot of notoriety, it wasn’t as crazy as another KOTC event held at the Soboba Casino.

King of the Cage: The Return

King of the Cage presented The Return on March 19th, 2006 at the Soboba Casino’s outdoor arena in San Jacinto, CA. It was slated to be headlined by KOTC Welterweight Champion Thomas Denny vs. Matt Stansell and Charlie Valencia vs. Del Hawkins. The card featured Shannon Ritch vs. Sam Morgan, Wes Combs, Saad Awad’s professional MMA debut, and an appearance by Don Frye.

While Wet and Wild is a more infamous event in the eyes of hardcore MMA fans, it was nothing compared to The Return. The weather conditions at The Return seemed much worse than the weather conditions at Wet and Wild. There was so much rain on the night of The Return that visible puddles had formed on the vinyl mat during the fights.

Numerous fighters kept slipping on the vinyl mat during the card. The opening moments of the Rubin Taigle vs. Rocky Williams bout was a prime example of how slippery the cage floor was that night. During the opening moments of their bout, Taigle and Williams both kept losing their footing while trying to throw punches, resulting in the bout looking more like a drunken brawl between two guys at a bar than an MMA fight.

Things didn’t get better as the night went on. Before every fight on the card, the KOTC staff kept trying to sweep puddles of water out of the cage and get the vinyl mat as dry as possible. With the rainfall being way too much to handle, the cage announcer announced that the twelfth bout of the night – Victor Valenzuela vs. Tim Cree – would be the final bout that night and that KOTC would be holding a free event at the Soboba Casino six days later on March 25 featuring Thomas Denny vs. Matt Stansell and Charlie Valencia vs. Del Hawkins. The Valenzuela vs. Cree bout came to a quick end when Valenzuela knocked out Cree in just twelve seconds.

The fights on The Return weren’t very good. Most of the bouts featured low-level and inexperienced fighters. 11 of the fighters who appeared on this card would end up having two fights or less in their careers. Two fighters who appeared on this card – Alan Zunner and John Incorvaia – have a combined overall record of 0-21. Needless to say, this wasn’t a very strong card. Unless you’re extremely curious as to what this show was like or have an interest in MMA history, I wouldn’t recommend watching it. However, if you’re interested in seeing whether or not this card was a bigger train wreck than the infamous Wet and Wild show and don’t mind watching fights full of sloppy and wild punches, I would say this is worth watching on UFC Fight Pass.

The Story of Rafiel Torre

Let’s jump back to 2001 and Wet and Wild.

At the event, well known NHB/MMA journalist and one-time ADCC participant Rafiel Torre came out of retirement to put his 14-0 record on the line against his former student-turned-foe Ioka “Big Joe” Tianuu. Torre was also an ex-Navy Seal and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu who was trained by his father at a young age.

Rafiel Torre at King of the Cage 7 at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, CA on February 24th, 2001

Well, the stuff about him being a well known NHB/MMA journalist and an ADCC participant is true. Everything else is a total lie.

The bout between Torre and Tianuu was also a farce. There wasn’t much action in the bout, and it didn’t seem like either man was trying to win the fight. When the fight went to the ground, it became evident that the bout was fixed. Tianuu wasn’t putting up much of a struggle when he was under Torre, and Torre didn’t look to be putting much power into his ground strikes on Tianuu. The finish saw Torre make Tianuu submit to a poorly applied kneebar.

Shortly after the fight, Torre’s lies began to unravel after people became suspicious about his claims following his fight at Wet and Wild. It turned out that the bout against Tianuu was allegedly fixed in Torre’s favor. It was also discovered that Torre wasn’t actually a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He didn’t have a 14-0 record, he was never a Navy Seal, and he wasn’t even Brazilian. It also turned out that Rafiel Torre wasn’t even Rafiel Torre’s real name, but rather Ralph Bartel.

Rafiel Torre (Ralph Bartel) at King of the Cage 7 at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, CA on February 24th, 2001

On top of all that, he ended up becoming a murderer.

Several months after his one and only MMA fight, Bartel met a woman named Angelina Richards. The two began a romantic relationship despite Angelina being married to a man named Bryan Richards. During the relationship, the two came up with a plot to murder her husband so they could cash in on his one million dollar life insurance policy. Their first plan involved paying professional MMA fighter Gerald Strebendt $10,000 to kill Bryan Richards. Strebendt refused the offer.

On December 21st, 2001, Torre brought Bryan Richards to a gym in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. The following day, Angelina Richards called the police to report her husband had been missing. Later that night, Bryan’s brothers Keith and Matthew began searching for Bryan. Angelina suggested they go check local supermarkets after she said he went to buy firewood. At 9:00 p.m. that night, Keith and Matthew discovered one of Bryan’s pick-up trucks in an Albertson’s parking lot. Bryan’s body was later found inside the truck and looked as if he was strangled to death.

Later that month, Bartel called Strebendt to inform him of the death of Bryan Johnson. Bartel met with Strebendt a month later and admitted to killing Bryan with a rear-naked choke. He told Strebendt that he acted in self-defense after Bryan accused Bartel of having an affair with his wife and had a gun pointed at Bartlet. Bartlet then asked Strebendt to help him with an alibi, but Strebendt refused.

Bartel ended up being arrested on December 17th, 2003 for the murder of Bryan Richards. During his trial, Bartel admitted to killing Bryan Johnson but claimed Angelina was responsible and that he was only doing her bidding. The jury wouldn’t buy it, and on August 18th, 2005, Bartel was convicted of murder. He was sentenced to life in prison on September 30th, 2005.

About the Author

SoCal's favorite son. Won 1st Place in my division at the 2013 Gracie Worlds. 2019 East San Fernando Valley Water Champion. Keyboard Warrior.