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 purolove.com:

Tokyo Ryogoku Kokugikan 

1. Karl Gotch Cup 2017 - Semi Final: Shinichi Suzukawa vs. Diego Anraku 

2. Karl Gotch Cup 2017 - Semi Final: Ryuta Sakurai vs. "brother" YASSHI 

3. Rocky Kawamura & Max the Body vs. Taka Kunou & Ryuta Hasumi 

4. Montanha Silva vs. Hammerstone 

5. Muay Thai Pinweight Match: Nadaka Yoshinari vs. Segai Latchianon (sp?) 

6. Karl Gotch Cup 2017 - Final: 

7. Scott Norton vs. Peter Aerts 
Inoki Gekijo: Stan Hansen, Tiger Jeet Singh, Don Frye, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, etc. 
So to be clear:
  • 'Seizen-so' transliterates as 'living funeral at request of the person'. I have no idea what the intent of this usage is but I don't want to know because this is the greatest thing anyone has ever called a wrestling show.
  • Several top superstars of yore will be there. As pallbearers?
  • Shinichi Suzukawa was the ace of Simon Inoki's IGF-offshoot promotion NEW earlier this year. This reeks of Inoki family beef.
  • Diego Anraku is an MMA fighter with a 2-3 record, compiled mostly in the Legend promotion.
  • Ryuta Sakurai is an MMA fighter with a 25-24 record, and was featured at the 1996 Lumax Cup, that venerable treasure beloved of all shoot fans pre-Zuffa era UFC.
  • "brother" YASSHI is basically an indy sleaze guy who was part of the AJPW stable Voodoo Murders who nearly SHOOT (voodoo) murdered a guy. Please remember he is in the Karl Gotch Cup, a trophy dedicated to someone who was pre-eminent in the field of classically-informed real wrestling.
  • We'll skip the tag match but rest-assured it is pretty consistent with the aesthetic.
  • Montanha Silva is a former K1 kickboxer with a mediocre professional record, Hammerstone is an indy wrestler who generally works on the US west coast.
  • Bout #5 is a strange one. Nadaka Yoshinari is the World Muay Thai Council (WMC) Pinweight champion. Official rules of the WMC state that one must be 15 to compete in a Muay Thai fight, though Pinweight is not listed as an adult division. Pinweight is a special division open for under-15s. Inoki is booking a shoot scrap between children.
  • The main event pits Inoki-era New Japan powerhouse Scott Norton (who has gotten out of the house a lot this year but is not in prime shape) against Dutch kickboxing ace Peter Aerts.

In short: this show sounds incredible. We may write about it.

There is a third agenda item but we shall cease footling about for the present and press ahead with the event at hand.

Sparse and pensive chords lead us in to a black and white photomontage of the two wrestlers in our headline performance (I shall keep it a secret) before giving way to a colourful and energetic synth bass as the same wrestlers jog around a bit, now in full colour.

The opening parade occurs and each wrestler's individual entrance is intercut with a shot of the worker in action in the past to sum up why you should give a shit about them. So for instance when you see Kazuo Yamazaki there is a shot of him booting someone in the head really hard and stylishly, which is kind of the perfect way to sum Yamazaki up.

Yoshiaki Fujiwara is out in a full UWF black and gold tracksuit and I'd probably pay £200 for the jacket alone. Got one for sale? Leave a message at the bottom.

One of Fujiwara's students, Minoru Suzuki, here a green young wrestler not quite as over as most of the UWF roster, takes the opening oration. Strange. The crowd are into it though.

Our opening bout is an instant rematch from last month as Shigeo Miyato takes on the frankly seminal Kiyoshi Tamura. Miyato won that reasonably good match in 9 minutes, with Tamura never really in the picture aside from a couple of neat flurries. Here Tamura gets to exhibit some of the solid kicks and lightning-fast ground game he would delight audiences in the 1990s with - which is cool and in glimpses you get this feeling of seeing something that one day will truly flourish (he does his flying entry to juji-gatame again and the crowd delight, it really is a delight). Let us look at it.

But this outing is just a learning experience for the red-trunked boy warrior and the result comes in just over half the speed it took Miyato to win last time. A perfunctory rolling sole butt, a belly-to-belly suplex, and a chickenwing armlock secures the quick win for Miyato. But it is Tamura and his stylishness that lingers in the mind in this otherwise so-so opener.

pls come back soon

Kazuo Yamazaki rolls downcard to fight in the second bout against the rising Minoru Suzuki, which presents quite a tasty match-up on paper. Suzuki shows a UWF crowd the first real glimpse of the glorious shithead heel he would become, slapping Yamazaki right at the suggested handshake to a huge boo from the crowd. This wakes Yamazaki up to the prospect of a real fight, but his over-emotive early hard middle kick gets scouted by the wily Suzuki, who takes the match to the ground.

such impudence

Suzuki takes a portion of slightly aimless groundwork before releasing and both return to stand-up. Yamazaki drops his arms, encouraging Suzuki to swing for him. When Suzuki gets close, Yamazaki slashes a kick in but again Suzuki has studied tapes, he gets what this guy is about! Suzuki catches the kicking leg and dispatches Yamazaki headlong, throwing a great capture suplex.

If Yamazaki can take any heart it is in that Suzuki is struggling to make it pay on the ground. Every time the bout goes matward, Yamazaki finds a way to recapture the vertical. Some standing grappling sees an exchange of shoot headbutts that would make Dave Meltzer knock off several half stars, particularly the final one in the sequence where Yamazaki puts Suzuki down for a short count.

Once again Suzuki catches Yamazaki's kicks, which by now seem like a silly strategy from the latter. Yamazaki thinks he can enziguri out of the position as many have done before him and will continue to do so (a classic spot of wrestling) but Suzuki scouts that out too and Yamazaki ends up eating mat and having his leg crabbed viciously. It's not going well for Yamazaki here! He grimaces and makes the ropes.

Yamazaki gets up and throws a wild kick that misses and ends up headbutted twice toward the ropes and then powered over in a rope-assisted ogoshi. Mad with the continuous humiliation from this kid, Yamazaki gets up, throws a sick German suplex and then kicks Suzuki in the head and wins by KO in his first real continuous attack of the match some 11 minutes in. Despite Suzuki's callousness at the outset, Yamazaki finds it in his heart to shake his opponent by the hand and perhaps offer some friendly words of advice.

The increasingly-popular Yoji Anjo takes on the already-popular Nobuhiko Takada in the third match as a tease for a contest that would repeat a fair few times in UWF-I and presumably Kingdom. As I said during the last entry - it feels like there has been a definite evolution in UWF's style with far fewer lengthy bouts of groundwork that progress dutifully to a striking portion that finishes with a stretch of suplexes. Everything on the card so far has been shorter, punchier, and a little more varied. Anjo and Takada maintain that trend, with the smaller Anjo circling and looking for kicks as Takada looks to ruthlessly exploit errors with his rough-hewn judo and grappling.

Anjo outgrapples Takada a while but when they return to standup Takada is just entirely without mercy throwing big kicks that send Anjo into the ropes, searching for a hiding place. Anjo, to his credit, keeps the pressure on, always looking for ways to take Takada down with technique and speed. On the ground itself, Anjo has more of the intensity of a seminar than a match, and no one really buys that he might actually get a juji-gatame on Takada, let alone beat him with one.

The nine minutes that lead to Takada's win by a sleeper that comes out of Anjo losing a submission of his own are not unpleasant and indeed matches the dynamics of what has come before, as an established name ultimately triumphs against a lower-ranked opponent who gets to look good in their defeat. Though in this case Takada walks off and leaves Anjo laying in the ring after the bell.

So far the show has generally felt mostly like a solid house show rather than one with any genuine intrigue or challenge to the hierarchy of UWF.

Agenda item three is the long-running project of this blog as we return briefly to a passage I have translated detailing Akira Maeda's time in Britain as a graduate of the New Japan dojo.
Dear Mother,

I am writing to you from Bolton, England. Today some of the wrestlers took me to a football game. There were no goals scored. It rained as we stood in the open air. The jacket Inoki-san told me to buy is now ruined. It is supposed to be springtime.

Tonight I fight the American Crusher Brannigan. This is what they have been building toward for many months and in many newspapers. He is big but he is very stupid and like all of the Americans he has not studied serious wrestling. He is an actor. Every day feels like an insult. This insult will be on television. I am glad that you will never see it.

I will be home in the summer to see everybody. But I return with a sigh and a heavy heart, knowing that they enjoy my wrestling and are very glad to have me back later in the year.



The returning Johnny Barrett speaks ahead of his match in the semi-final:
What I think about Maeda is that he's similar to Takada, he kicks a lot, he's very strong standing on his feet. For me to win I have to take him off his feet, that's my best counter, and wrestle him on the mat and get him into a submission hold, not standing up, that's what it's going to take to beat Maeda.

Akira Maeda is interviewed next, wearing a black vest and pouting a lot. He is not known for his prolixity so we throw back to Barrett again:
What I do for training is I lift weights, I run, lot of sit ups, lot of squats, get myself into shape condition-wise, you need to be more conditioned in there than you do be strong, that's what I do to get in shape for UWF...and Maeda.
Maeda speaks again and he looks like he could not give two fucks about this goofball and his regime.

Barrett has shed the Texas singlet and has gone for the all-pink Jim Neidhart style vest and trousers, the chief difference being black trainers and kickpads as opposed to those sweet white/pink/black boots beloved of the Hart Foundation.

Both throw kicks at the outset and miss. Barrett throws another and Maeda catches it and shoves Barrett over. Barrett sells it like a pro-wrestler, with comical shock at this turn of events. Maeda throws a kick and Barrett catches that and shoves Maeda over. Barrett stays true to his promo, following his assault in with a lariat and a suplex and getting an early rope break. Maeda is having none of this though. He gets up and boots Barrett hard. Barrett sells like a Looney Tunes character and takes a count.

In the next exchanges, Barrett takes Maeda over in a not-unattractive armdrag to try and force his man to the ground. Maeda looks wary underneath his oafishly-clad opponent and attempts to boot his way out of the hole. It works, forcing Barrett to loosen for long enough for Maeda to crab him. They get up and Barrett starts swinging wildly with palm strikes. Maeda covers up until Barrett's comical large guy energy is depleted and takes him over with a kick.

Maeda walks through a bunch of strikes to shoot for a leg but Barrett is like no fucking way and throws a niiiiiice Fisherman's Suplex and then follows through with a sleeper. Maeda fights to standing and then whips Barrett over as easily as a dad playing with an infant and the mess of groundwork kills the crowd as it is impossible to see who is actually dominant here.

Maeda makes everything a lot clearer as he smashes Barrett halfway across Nagano with a kick for a 9 count. Barrett gets a roar when he stands and puts up his dukes, briefly taking back over with half-power strikes. Maeda covers up again and then roars out, scooping Barrett in a bodyslam driver and then securing a chickenwing facelock for the win inside 7 minutes.

Maeda holds Barrett's hand up in respect, or at least because he realises he's booked him again and he wants to get extra draw out of him. Not bad though.

The main event promises to take us beyond the good-but-inessential territory drawn out by the downcard bouts as Billy Robinson's finest pupil Yoshiaki Fujiwara takes on arguably his own finest pupil in Masakatsu Funaki. Again the camera just adores Funaki's youthful exhuberence as he holds court in a brief interview. Fujiwara speaks very briefly, cracking a knowing smile while lacing up his own boots, but he's not here for fun this time.


The first minute is feeling out but even the feeling out of Fujiwara and Funaki has a nice crispness about it that has kind of lacked this evening. They go into a clinch and someone throws a kick and there's this sense that they know they have been scouted so they retrieve themselves from overcommittment. It's great and it's subtle and it promises greatness.

It threatens to go on a little too long, extending the exhibition theme of the night into the first four minutes of the match. Just as it starts to feel like neither is engaging in anything other than tentative circular dancing with occasional missed kicks and grapples that don't score, Funaki clocks Fujiwara with a searching left palm strike that causes Fujiwara to fully recoil. It looks good for a moment until they go back to circling each other. The five minute announcement is made and still there's hardly been a meaningful exchange.

"I don't think any blogs should show images from the match
because it will be completely terrible for no apparent reason"

About a minute later Fujiwara hangs onto a kick of Funaki's and something like tension breaks out as Funaki tries, not too hard, to get out with taps and slaps. Fujiwara forces the match to the ground for the first time and works through a series of leg entanglements that Funaki neither visibly struggles against or sells much. Fujiwara is still working his catch magic on Funaki, though not with any degree of strictness or focus that we've seen before, but it is reasonably entertaining as he crawls around trying to nail Funaki down and wrench at his limbs.

The position is reversed and Funaki finds himself in the mount as the ten minute announcement is made. There's more visible intensity as Fujiwara makes a rope break and the match returns to standing and circling and not quite exchanging anything of note. Funaki tags Fujiwara but it is a red herring to progress. Funaki gets Fujiwara in the corner and strikes a couple of times but the ref orders separation just as it was getting interesting.

More circling. Funaki throws a strike that Fujiwara gets under and tries to convert into a submission that ends up in a total entanglement on the ground with Funaki threatning sankaku-jime and Fujiwara just threatening generally. Total silence from this previously engaged crowd. This position becomes a leg entanglement sans any kind of drama and then all of a sudden Fujiwara gets Funaki to tap from whatever he was working there, maybe a heel hook.

The main event was terrible. Beneath the *1/2 range and easily the worst UWF main event so far to the extent that it felt like actual sabotage on behalf of the participants. It is inexplicable. Fujiwara and Suzuki was good. Funaki and Suzuki was good. Fujiwara and everyone else he has been in with was great. (EDIT: THEY EVEN FOUGHT AGAINST EACH OTHER IN MAY! It had a slightly strange ending but I said "this was really great." WHAT GIVES???) But here against his prime student and good friend? Completely terrible. I can sort of see why things went south from here.

NEXT TIME: Tamura comes at the king!


  1. To the extent to which every Kiyoshi Tamura tobi-juji-gatame calls to mind the one he shoot-applied against Yoshihisa Yamamoto in their shoot match in an otherwise completely worked tournament, I treasure them all beyond measure.

    1. it is a poem! it is also great to see how much potential he has straight out of the gate.