UWF DynamismBudokan, Tokyo
10th January 1989
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:
How can I express what I feel for UWF after the first six events?
Apologies for communicating mostly in pictures thus far but the parade is clipped and we just see Maeda's opening oration with an old friend loitering in the background:
|looking trim, Akira babe|
And then straight into the first match we go in a bout of the battling babyfaces of the lower card: Yoji Anjo against Shigeo Miyato. They met at Fighting Network Hakata, with Miyato winning by a decisive knockout.
There's a cool bit in the middle where Anjo has Miyato in a cravat/chancery/three-quarter side-facelock and keeps kneeing Miyato in the head in a really amusing shithead way. When Miyato gets out of it with his normally Fire Pro sprite-perfect hair mussed up, he looks quite a bit like And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead frontman Conrad Keely. Anjo then goes to ogoshi Trail of Miyato but he fights it and they collapse to the floor because remember people this is real you do not always just *let* yourself be ippon for it is not just symbolic death but ACTUAL.
Midway through they recall the finish of their initial bout as Miyato fiercely kicks Anjo in the mid-section for a close near-KO only for Anjo to get up and walk onto another huge kick. This time he settles back into the fight rather than re-acquaints himself with the grey-blue of the canvas and the fight grinds on.
The match ends in a time-limit draw that stays above reasonably-entertaining throughout. They're still working hard at the end with no clear potential winner established should the match have gone on indefinitely. Rough and stiff strikes break out routinely. Anjo hits a gorgeous suplex and floats over for a tense kimura. Miyato's kicks have turned into tracer bullets over the course of the last six months. Maybe it is Tatsuo Nakano who is the weak link in these now-expected long openers:
On the same night, elsewhere in Japan, New Japan Pro Wrestling were running a TV taping in Chiba with a top two matches of Tatsumi Fujinami-Crusher Bam Bam Bigelow and Riki Choshu-Big Van Vader with Antonio Inoki and Yoshiaki Fujiwara down-card. All Japan were in Ichinoseki, in the rural north, with a house show that nonetheless featured Genichiro Tenryu, Toshiaki Kawada, Misawa as Tiger Mask, Giant Baba, The British Bulldogs, Leo Burke, The Malenko Brothers, ex-sumo John Tenta, and Kenta Kobashi. Heady days.
But on this night UWF were running Bart Vale vs. Norman Smiley as a special singles match (the first UWF bout between two foreigners!) and 14130 people were putting down their hard-earned yen for it. Which reminds me: I watched this terrible video of some absolute dorkwad trying to put paid to Bart Vale's hardman reputation.
|"why yes, Bart, your trousers ARE freaking rad."|
The two Floridians set a lively pace early on, with Vale hooping florid kicks that Smiley grabs and converts into ground submissions. At one point Vale gets knocked to his back and does a kip-up and immediately starts kicking again. As no-sells go, it was one of the best!
But as things wear on the match loses steam. Vale's kicks look whiffy and Smiley can't pull things back on track except to sink in one of a thousand variations on static ground submissions that Vale never really sells or appears to struggle in or transition from. Dramatic subtlety takes a match off.
To say Vale peppers Smiley with kicks in the closing minutes would be a disgrace to the understated power of pepper: Smiley takes more licks from the air these kicks displace than the kicks themselves. The ending comes when Vale chases Smiley in some groundwork with a loose arm which Smiley rolls into a cross-armbar/juji-gatame for a quick tap after 16 minutes or so.
Vaulting all the way up to the third match spot is Tatsuo Nakano as he takes on Mark Rush. Or does he? I have seen 'Mark Rush' written down on a number of other websites (such as Wrestling Data, Quebrada, and Pro Wrestling History) as 'MacDuff Roesch'. Is this his real name? Is this an approximation of someone writing down a Japanese pronunciation of Mark Rush? If you have any insight or are indeed are Rush/Roesch, please get in touch.
Whatever his name is, he looks significantly less like Will Oldham:
Whatever his name is, he looks significantly less like Will Oldham:
This match also isn't good. At all. I don't think they click and there's only so many 'collapse to the mat for tentative groundwork' spots a person can really handle before you have to stop making allowances for the newness of the style and the communication differences. Nakano wins with a back suplex, a bunch of kicks, a terrible takedown, and a tight half-crab. The crowd love it. Nakano bellows in celebraton of his first significant victory in aeons.
A light show soundtracked by spiffy synthwave occurs with inset images of the final two bouts. It's nice to look at but perhaps UWF's biggest show to date is...run of the mill? Not very good? Let us check in with the book that appears to chart Akira Maeda's excursion to the UK in 1982.
13th February 1982
Steve was almost no use. He had studied Japanese "from the films" and done a few classes at night school. He knew how to say "hello, I am Steve, I will be your translator" and a couple of amusing curses. But backstage, among wrestlers, and for some reason the town mayor in his chains and red foxcoat, Steve knew nothing. He did not even watch or enjoy wrestling.
Lucky Gordon introduced himself to Maeda as Steve stood limply by. Lucky smoked a cigarette and had a loosely-wrapped towel around abdomen that revealed his genitals as he sat on the bench next to Maeda. Maeda made a disapproving face that Gordon did not recognise as such, sidling in. "Ok young man this is what we will do. First round you kick my bollocks. Second round we'll do my running forearm, I get a fall. Third round I'll just call it. Fourth round you can make me submit. End it in the fifth with a kick or a splash. None of that fucking diving about. Watch my teeth okay lad." Lucky looked up at Steve. "You get all that kidder?"
Steve attempted to translate as Gordon walked away, but Maeda put his hand up. Yes I know how to beat up an unfit man. Steve spluttered at Maeda's hand. "You mean you got all that?"
In the next scene we meet a new friend:
|TREVOR "POWER" CLARKE|
Allow us to capture Trevor Clarke's words for posterity:
Erm. I'm a British champion. And hopefully I'm going to go for the world title in kickboxing. I've seen him work out and I think his techniques are good. But my techniques are superior. And I believe that I'm going to win tonight. I'll carry it. I'll carry the fight up to the sixth or seventh round then I'll give him a body shot, a hook, and a left knockout. And I think that should do him. That should put him out.
Excellent work! I'm already interested. 'Him' in this case is Kazuo Yamazaki, who does indeed have good kicks for a shoot-style wrestler. But are they good enough for a British champion kickboxer? I went to school with the brother of a British champion kickboxer. His retort any time you crossed him? "I'll get my brother to come down." That usually worked.
Yamazaki's brief promo is unintelligible to me but is done in this tone of voice that is unmistakable. He says, I guess, "this could be difficult, I don't know a lot about him and he seems fairly tough."
The first round is intriguing. Clarke throws hard kicks that much more convincing than Vale's powderpuff efforts. He also works with a much smarter sense of ringcraft, particularly in guesstimating how much chance he has of getting caught by Yamazaki and in doing do smartly ensures that he is always within sight of the ropes to prevent Yamazaki turning defence into attack. Which leads Clarke to get cocky:
Round two commences with Clarke on the offensive, catching Yamazaki flush against the ropes with a flurry of fists and feet for an eight-count. There's much more decisive work throughout the round, either with Yamazaki grounding Clarke in slightly better areas, or Clarke raining blows past Yamazaki's guard.
Clarke takes the bump about a billion times better than Vale did and the crowd go electric as it seems like Yamazaki might have stunned his man long enough to sink something craven and limb-destroying in, but Clarke comes around to make another smart rope break. Clarke deploys this rope break technique a number of times in the round in a way that appears to kill the vibe until it is revealed to be a pre-planned spot that makes the moment when Yamazaki ties Clarke up mid-ring only to be prevented from winning by the bell a real heart-in-mouth moment.
Round four is testy. Yamazaki is getting annoyed at this rope breaking and just rugby tackles Clarke and carries him across the ring and dumps him in the ropes. A knee submission by Yamazaki sees Clarke sell incredibly for a guy in his first worked match (we think), limping toward Yamazaki to try and resume kicking. Yamazaki does smart stuff like this:
Clarke comes out dancing at the start of round five. After a couple of attempted grapples that Yamazaki gives up on before the rope break even gets to happen, seeing the direction things are heading in, he manages to duck under a wild swing from Clarke. From there he applies the standing front facelock, otherwise known as the 'grovit', which I believe originates in my hometown of Wigan as a staple of early catch wrestling. Having no direction to the ropes, Clarke taps out!
Quebrada raved about this one, stating:
Yamazaki vs. Trevor "Power" Clarke. This is wrestler vs. kickboxers and it's one of the best mixed matches I've seen. Yamazaki is great and Clarke really looks like he's fighting for his life everytime Yamazaki grabs him. Very good.K & D rated it at ***3/4. It has fans. On balance I'd say I preferred Maeda vs. Gordeau. But what this does indicate is that Kazuo Yamazaki could probably carry a big bucket of paint with a smiley face drawn on it and twigs for arms to a solid match. Clarke did his bit well too. Good stuff!
|IT'S ME, IT'S ME, IT'S YA-MA-ZAKI|
Tonight's main event is the match ranked at #1 in the official UWF Best Matches compilation video that would surface at the end of 1989. Nothing like a bit of pre-hype but if you cannot pre-hype the match where Nobuhiko Takada defends his notional crown of being Akira Maeda against the actual Akira Maeda then you may as well all go home and admit that communism has won.
This is their third bout of this edition of UWF which to me, admittedly watching all the events in a short space of time, seems a little like overkill. But what do I know as the fans are split in their chants: each MA-E-DA gets a sharper TA-KA-DA in reply and we have ourselves here something approximating a 'big fight'.
Aside from being the biggest stars it is evident that Takada and Maeda just carry themselves like big boys and also know what to do in there to keep it interesting. After the first third of the match finishes feeling itself out, they work the match from spot to spot seamlessly but also remembering to make it look like a tense big match. A lot of the essence of the spots are the same as nearly every UWF match: the strike, the suplex, the grappling. But there's novelties everywhere, such as Takada utterly self-owning on an attempted ippon seionage and getting choked half to death, or Maeda failing to hit ogoshi as Takada fights him off twice before hitting a super back suplex of his own.
|WE HAVE CONTACT|
The structure of the match is similar to previous bouts as Maeda largely dominates and Takada fights back. They even recall the ending of the last match as Takada throws kicks and bombs in desperation to end the contest. This time, Maeda is not finished by the assault and the match heads in a new direction.
As the image suggests, the direction that the match scuttles in is a Maeda win by a taut full crab that causes Takada to tap centre-ring. Maeda climbs back to the top of the ladder after spending an entire month on the penultimate rung.
Quality-wise this is probably between the two bouts Takada and Maeda have had, which still puts it in the very good category. If someone was to ask "what are the best five UWF bouts thus far?" I'd have to say that Takada's last two against Maeda, plus contests with Yamazaki and Backlund would be the top four in some order or other, with Yamazaki vs. Maeda rounding out the top five. And also to say that Takada's bout with Smiley is Smiley's best contest too. What I'm trying to say is that this Takada kid is pretty damn special and I hope Maeda doesn't continue to beat him like a rented mule and create some kind of schism or something.
Are you even listening to a word I say Akira? Akira? AKIIIIIIIIRA?
NEXT TIME: Maeda cedes the main event...but to who?