Monday, 9 October 2017

UWF 29/11/1989 - U-COSMOS (19/31)

29th November 1989
Tokyo Dome, Tokyo
att. 60000

Pre-note: As it stands on the date of writing (10/10/17) this represents the final UWF Newborn show that I have in complete and watchable form, so perhaps there will be an enforced hiatus until the world of the internet turns and deposits the missing 1989 and the entirety of the 1990 shows somewhere accessible. 

As we learn from watching RINGS (or if you are me, reading RINGSblog aka TK Scissors) Akira Maeda's obsessions in the years between UWF's death and RINGS' creation would morph from "shoot-style" wrestling in Japan to a nascent-MMA/NHB style incorporating fighters from around the world. We have seen the beginnings of that in UWF, sure, with the appearances of a sextet of shoot-boxers, Gerard Gordeau, Bart Vale, Trevor "Power" Clarke, Chris Dolman, etc. 

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

UWF 25/10/1989 - FIGHTING ART (18/31)

UWF Fighting Art
Sports Centre, Nakajima
25th October 1989
att. 5600

To go 'inside the curtain' (which is the meaning of the top division in sumo known as Makuuchi (幕内), referring to the roped-off area these champion athletes would wait in prior to performance, I believe 'curtain' is 'maku' as the third tier is 'makushita', meaning 'beneath the curtain'. Watch sumo, it is excellent) momentarily this is the show that I had feared watching the most ahead of time for reasons that will become, hopefully, apparent during the writing of this entry.

And to go even further inside that curtain like, perhaps, ha ha (does knowing cultural studies lecturer positional adjustment) the recent season of Twin Peaks (imo serious ten out of ten bestoftelly thanks) this entry reverts to the initial style of watching the show and sort-of remembering it which is sometimes stylistically more satisfying but perhaps less involved and perhaps emotionally and factually false. We shall see, won't we? (EDIT: I wrote this intro way before I watched it and eventually I managed to get to a point where I could live-type the edition, rendering this paragraph mostly redundant except aesthetically which is to say not redundant at all)

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

UWF 07/09/1989 - FIGHTING BASE NAGANO (15/31)

UWF Fighting Base Nagano
Movement Park Gymnasium, Nagano
7th September 1989
att. 4500

We have business to attend to before we get to the UWF. Please look at your agendas which I emailed to you on the 11th.

First agenda item: within the context of your screen please look to the right hand side underneath the section marked "shootstyle annals" and gaze upon a new addition to the world of blogs about this under-theorised area of professional wrestling: Kingdom of Shoot! This, as the name suggests, covers the short-lived promotion of UWF demi-doyen Nobuhiko Takada. Entry #1 (and #2, since writing this introduction way before the remainder of the entry) has gone up and I implore you to learn of its ways.

Second agenda item: Antonio Inoki, the ur-Maeda, has announced the second card for his ISM promotion. What is ISM? The real story is lost in the scrambling waves of the kayfabe and translation processes. Let us just say that it is Inoki's replacement for his IGF endeavour in mind, body, and soul. Here is the card, courtesy of

Sunday, 10 September 2017

UWF 13/08/1989 - MIDSUMMER CREATION (14/31)

UWF Midsummer Creation
Yokohama Arena, Yokohama
13th August 1989
att. 17000

And so we hit our first snag in the attempt to provide a full historiographical overview of the legendary shoot-style wrestling company UWF. Eagle-eyed readers will already have spotted the 14/31 in the title and not the 12/31 that should necessarily occur what with the 11/31 in the title of the previous show. And doubtless those readers will have swelled with anger and grief and all I can do is stare that barrage of sheer enmity down and give you the honest truth of the whole sordid affair.

The discs in my possession for FIGHTING SQUARE NAGOYA and FIGHTING SQUARE HAKATA are incomplete. Both cut off after one hour and omit matches of grave importance such as the bout ranked #2 of 1988 & 1989 by the UWF itself (the disc also features the match ranked #3, and at least that is complete, because it is a complete cla- I have said too much). And unlike my review of MAY HISTORY 1ST I am thus far unable to locate these strays even in the cultural detritus coherer that is the internet of 2017. Thing is: I have seen all of the Hakata show somewhere before, so it's gotta be out there.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

UWF 21/05/1989 - MAY HISTORY 2ND (11/31)

UWF May History 2nd
NK Hall, Tokyo
21st May 1989
att. 7000

The stoic stone lion that guards the front of Tokyo's NK Bay Hall that we see in the establishing shot of today's show could be interpreted by some to be one of many calculated shots fired by UWF 2 toward their former comrades and colleagues in the world of New Japan Professional Wrestling.

After now just over one year wildly successful year of business it is clear that UWF is taking bold steps of its own - toward the real fighting crew of Pancrase, perhaps, that would also host its debut show in this very building. Think of this show as an anchor point found midway through the company's run, midway between paradigms, adrift, alone, pioneering, bold. Maeda.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

UWF 04/05/1989 - MAY HISTORY 1ST (10/31)

UWF May History 1st
Osaka Stadium, Osaka
4th May 1989
att. 23000

Whatever you think of Akira Maeda's history of surly non-cooperation or weird booking or the unusual fake-fighting-but-more-real-than-other-fake-fighting style his company/ies offer(s) up you have to admit that 23000 people in a baseball stadium to watch a wrestling company still not 1 year old is incredible. Please, admit it, using the comments below.

Now to lift the lid on the writerly process a little. Most weeks I sort of watch the shows in sections and write about them mostly from memory and a few scribbled notes, inserting historical and biographical data to keep things contextual. This one is going to be different as, for a change, I am going to type along with the show in-running on a separate screen. No idea how this is going to turn out. I could find myself halfway down a side road when someone breaks out something incredible. To worry about that later.

Monday, 31 July 2017


UWF Core The First Anniversary
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo
14th April 1989
att. 2400

The lord works in mysterious ways. You're trying to think of an opening to the newest entry in your blog of microscopic importance (avg. 100 readers, probably 65 too many, need to think of ways of shedding some of you) and then God herself hands you a doozie:

Why - yes - that IS UWF's very own Tatsuo Nakano coming out of the woodpile for a special charity shoot-style show. But what of these other names, you ask. I put on my trilby and take my katana (刀) down from its special holster on the wall and, with a satisfied smile, and monologue freely about the importance of the blockchain.

Monday, 24 July 2017

UWF 27/02/1989 - FIGHTING BASE TOKUSHIMA (08/31)

UWF Fighting Base Tokushima
City Gymnasium, Tokushima
27th February 1989
att. 4200

The eighth event of the travelling ode-to-grappling excellence known as UWF visits Shikoku, the smallest of the four major islands of Japan, zealously completing its first national circuit of missionary shoot-style goodness. Though if you have seen Silence (2016) (for many weeks this was written as Sacrifice in a potent example of the way things sometimes get switched in my head, apologies), Martin Scorsese's tale of what happens when a strange new ideology attempts to penetrate the core culture of the Japanese people, you will know what lies in store by the end of this blog.

please, Maeda-san, consider a push for Yamazaki

On the horizon for UWF are a few significant changes. In a way this show represents the end of the initial 'shoot-style six' period of the UWF Newborn Era (itself part of the shoot-style eon under the PRO-WRESTLING supereon which as we know is infinite). What follows it will soon become clear.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

UWF 10/01/1989 - DYNAMISM (07/31)

UWF Dynamism
Budokan, Tokyo
10th January 1989
att. 14130

The number! Another summer (get down)
Sound of the funky drummer
Maeda hittin' your heart cause I know you no sold!

To the sound of TA-KA-DA! TA-KA-DA! we emerge into one of the sickest opening montages ever attempted by a pro-wrestling company:

Friday, 14 July 2017

UWF 22/12/1988 - HEARTBEAT (06/31)

UWF Heartbeat
22nd December 1988
Prefectural Gymnasium, Osaka
att. 7000

A-ho-ho-ho and MERRRRRRRY CHRISTMAS from the St. Nicholas of Japan Akira Maeda! You'd better not laugh, you'd better not cry, you'd better not pout - I'm tellin' you why: because Akira Maeda will put you in a locker backstage after SHOOT kicking you in the head in front of many paying customers.

not taken from this event, but what a t-shirt!

The opening montage soundtracked by a gorgeous drumbreak features none of our sainted promotion head, some of Nobuhiko Takada, but quite a lot of former (and future) WWF Champion ROBERT LOUIS "BOB" BACKLUND.

At this point in time Bob was 39 years old and had been out of wrestling for around three years after his dispute with WWF and a brief period working all the territories opposed to Vince McMahonism (noble).

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

UWF 10/11/1988 - FIGHTING NETWORK 2ND (05/31)

UWF Fighting Network 2nd
Tsuyuhasi Sports Centre, Nagoya
10th November 1988
att. 5000

UWF UWF UWF UWF UWF comes the logo spinning out of blackness YES but resplendent with a BLUENESS the blueness of the sky that UWF has launched cleanly into with a vision of a wrestling so pure that both wrestling and sport itself after this date is changed FOREVER.

pls. add motion blur in post

No parade takes place today and entrances are clipped. But in this spartan aesthetic we find succour in a long black and white back and forth between our main eventers and top two names Nobuhiko Takada (who looks dour and pensive in his comments, as if to say 'if I lose this one then I am Yamazaki'd for the rest of my days') and Akira Maeda (who looks Apollonian, distanced, kingly, expecting to decimate as Maeda does).

Monday, 10 July 2017

UWF 24/09/1988 - FIGHTING NETWORK HAKATA (04/31)

UWF Fighting Network Hakata
Hakata Star Lanes, Fukuoka
24th September 1988
att. 4000

After a slightly confusing (but entertaining) show, comprising three regular-style UWF bouts in the emerging genre known as 'shoot-style' alongside three actual shoot-boxing bouts and one match thrilling in its indeterminacy of style and rules between promotion kingpin Akira Maeda and fabled Dutch grump Gerard Gordeau, UWF scale things back for the first in their Fighting Network pair of shows.

After some scrolling text (white on black, very Nagisa Oshima) that I think heralds our interesting new addition to the rules (more later) comes a classic-if-slightly-workmanlike peppily-soundtracked montage featuring wrestlers training and fans arriving at the SHOOT bowling alley-cum-wrestling venue of the low-ceilinged Hakata Star Lanes. It is good and breezy fare but it feels as if it was cobbled together on the day. For instance: we see Kazuo Yamazaki jogging around the venue in a manner that rings slightly false for a man so clearly meticulous in his preparations.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

UWF 13/8/88 - "THE PROFESSIONAL BOUT" (03/31)

UWF "The Professional Bout"
Ariake Colosseum, Tokyo
13th August, 1988
att. 12000

The second version of UWF thus far has comprised two tightly-run shows of three bouts apiece, with an established roster of six New Japan defectors and only one guest, that focus heavily on the establishment of the parameters of a completely new style of wrestling. They've been really great to watch. 

Having quickly and clearly established himself as the king of the realm, Akira Maeda takes inspiration from his former boss Antonio Inoki by casting his net to the wide wide world of sports to find a man suitable to meet his mettle. What he reels in is something we will talk about down-post.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

UWF 11/6/88 - STARTING OVER 2ND (02/31)

UWF Starting Over 2nd
Nakajima Sports Centre, Sapporo
11th June 1988
att. 5200

Before we kick-off allow me to alert you to the excellent Hybrid Shoot blog that is covering the birth and expansion of the deeply-influential proto-MMA company Pancrase. Lee & Jonathan have a nice back & forth dynamic - a kind of dialectic if you will! - already and I particularly like the emerging themes of eroticism that much wrestling reportage shies away from.

After the blackness representing Maeda's soul dying in New Japan and the UWF logo that birthed it anew we see an aeroplane...and...hang on a second! As a stray comment I remarked the the last show opening could be a reference to the 1983 Chris Marker classic Sans Soleil. It was meant as a slightly swotty joke. this opening a reference to the 1962 Chris Marker classic La Jetée which details a transformative event that occurs at an airport such as the one that is happening to the world of professional wrestling and mixed martial arts right here on our screens? Is UWF a lengthy exercise in honour of this reclusive director? This I feel is unmistakable.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

UWF 12/5/88 - STARTING OVER (01/31)

UWF Starting Over
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo
12th May 1988
att. 2300

We begin with black leader tape perhaps referencing the 1983 Chris Marker film Sans Soleil (but probably not) but more crucially reflecting darkness which itself represents not only actual darkness but the murky gloom in the pit of Akira Maeda's soul; trapped as it is in a false-but-reasonably-well-recompensed life and forced to tread boards in a world not solely-dedicated to shoot-style wrestling. The humanity! The despair!

But from that blackness emerges a familiar logo: Maeda's heimat made not flesh but rather a limited liability company licensed for the public performance of wrestling. And not just any old wrestling, the marketing cries. This UWF is a kind of wrestling never before considered quite so real, they boast. It will be considered as real as when it was in fact a real sport (without a governing body, unless shady thugs are a governing body, which I suppose in a way they are).

Monday, 3 July 2017

An introduction to shoot-style wrestling in Japan (0/31)

An incomplete introduction to shoot-style in Japan
(this introduction dedicated to Maximumrocknroll film critic Carolyn Keddy.

UWF is a professional wrestling promotion. It is not the 2006 promotion started by t-shirt entrepreneurs Earl and Dave Hebner because UWF stands for Universal Wrestling Federation.

The UWF that we are talking about is not the one run by Bill Watts in Oklahoma City. It is also not the national gambit of Herb Abrams that ran on DirectTV. We are also not talking about the German company owned by Rico Mecke. The UWF that we are referring to is owned by Akira Maeda. It was a promotion based in Japan.