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.

Where TK Scissors made an artform of ploughing through the RINGS content in his possession and effectively admitting that all history contains ellipsis, I feel that I must deliver entire shoot-style reportage or else this entire task is redundant. No that is not being overly dramatic.

So I have taken stock. All 12 of the 1990 shows are missing. Matches exist in various places online and I am hopeful that I can paste together full shows from the offerings out there. Of the remaining shows of 1989 the entirety of FIGHTING BASE NAGANO (15/31) is a complete disc while neither day of the two day show at Korakuen (FORCE KORAKUEN 2 DAYS, 16/31 & 17/31 respectively) are in my possession. Rounding out the year are the full shows of FIGHTING ART (18/31) and the big U-COSMOS (19/31) show at the Tokyo Dome. What this means for the future of this particular and peculiar piece of preservation I do not know yet but I have a foreboding similar to that of a young lion ahead of a New Japan show who Minoru Suzuki has just asked to go to the ring for some pre-match stretching.

But soft, what light through yonder tree breaks?
It is the east, and Maeda is the sun.

On to the show in our midst. Light bursts through the trees near the Yokohama Arena and casts a yellow glow over the queuing masses as some deeply annoying arrhythmic music plays before cutting to a new age-synth informed montage of various top athletes of the UWF wandering around ahead of their fights. I don't want to spoil the matches they're setting up ahead of time but my god they look like humdingers. One of them made it to #6 in that coveted UWF self-analysing top ten of 1988 and 1989.

And then the beloved upbeat UWF theme tune and time for the parade and the fighters emerge flanked by a ring boy who looks a lot like Kiyoshi Tamura but could be someone else. The crowd are going nuts already for this and even guys like Tatsuo Nakano are being heartily clapped on the back on his way down to the ring (I mean Nakano is awesome but in UWF world he is low-ranked).

Masakatsu Funaki works the stick, wearing his customary yellow jogging bottoms. Then for some mad reason Maeda receives a big certificate in a frame presented by a oft-bowing flunky and the logo flashes up thaaaaaaaaaaaaat's UWF!

Yamazaki clearly cannot wait for days of equality to come in UWF-i

Now I do not intend to reverse-spoil the shows that we have missed too much, only to say that we have missed none of young UWF lion Kiyoshi Tamura as he was left off those shows and indeed he is fighting on this midsummer eve (is midsummer different in Japan? It is usually around 21/06 here in Britain). The second match of Tamura's soon-to-be-electric career is against the man of undulating fortunes, Shigeo Miyato, who once upon a time seemed destined for the upper ranks of shoot-style glorification after an opening six months of fire only to be cast down in the pit of Maeda's deep indifference.

Miyato + weight = SANADA's cousin

Tamura, now not totally bald, gets a solid cheer, practically the same amount of applause as Miyato. Tamura wears the full crimson attire and kickpads that say T A M U R A down the side that he would wear in later glory days while Miyato has switched to a mauve trouser with a multicoloured side stripe. The opening flurries are all kicks looking for range before they get into some standing grapples where Miyato works a bit more like a veteran of some years, all testy and throwing knees wherever possible.

So the story seems to be the classic young lion vs. solid mid-ranker where the established guy bullies and teaches wrestling lessons while the rookie fires up and reaps the applause by being earnest and fun and straightforward. Tamura keeps having to make the ropes to force the break of Miyato's leg submissions and pretty soon Tamura is down a DOWN and there's a nice new graphic to indicate just that. Just as I am ruminating on Miyato, who I have always thought small, being bigger than Tamura - Tamura gains entry into juji-gatame in a 'flying' technique and the crowd go crazy for it. The crowd are more like a football crowd tonight with constant hubbub between the moments where they collectively lose it.

Tamura takes another down from a rope break and then gets up and walks into a mid-kick that doubles him up for a third down. A rolling sole butt, Miyato's big move, puts Tamura down a fourth time. Tamura then gets up and eats a flurry of strikes ending with a high knee for a fifth and final down at 9.07. Miyato consoles our plucky young pup. Good match!

Minoru Suzuki has mostly been used as enhancement talent thus far in his UWF run since arriving along with his mentor Yoshiaki Fujiwara and future Pancrase-co-founder Masakatsu Funaki. Tonight he meets Tatsuo Nakano who could also be said to not exactly be swimming in big wins. But Nakano gets a mighty cheer at the outset. Has something happened in the shows that we have missed?

Immediately both guys set about each other with crazed and uncontrolled strikes. Nakano is red of face and looking for Suzuki's leg while Suzuki fends Nakano's wild charging off with his free leg and slapping the heck out of him on the ground. They're stood back up and Suzuki barrels forward with palm strikes. Nakano half grabs Suzuki around his neck but the latter falls forward and takes a DOWN even though it looks like he was the aggressor. Strange.

Suzuki, like his mentor Fujiwara is wont, was playing possum, backing up at the restart and then wilding on Nakano when a kick misses its marks. Nakano gets suplexed and his nose busts wide open and the camera is not even bothered about technique and is just meditating on Nakano looking angry as hell with a fucked-up face. And why not?

Huge German suplex from Nakano staggers Suzuki and puts him DOWN a second time and the crowd are completely loco right now. This is not technical UWF at all and Suzuki drives that point home by piledriving the shit out of Nakano and then wrenching in a half crab for dessert. Nakano turns and gets back up and drives his knee deep into Suzuki's body.

The referee breaks them up which leads Suzuki to hurl Nakano and wreck him with an armbar and knees to the head for a DOWN. Nakano gets up pissed as fuck and eats a counter-dropkick (it is that kind of match) to continue clouting Suzuki for all he is worth. Suzuki then does a cool-as-shit rope-assisted ogoshi on Nakano for a second DOWN and piles on the pressure with a double underhook suplex with gorgeous floatover into side control.

I need to take a breath but this match won't let me. Half crab by Suzuki gets a rope break, which for some reason counts as a third DOWN for Nakano. The camera zooms in on Suzuki's face and his is also messed-up like he's just lost a match in Streetfighter II.

CONTINUE? 10...9...8...

Suzuki is in complete control and wastes Nakano with kicks and a buckle driver. Nakano fires back up and boots Suzuki to the turf for a third DOWN and then hits an A+ low angle suplex and follows it in for a single crab that Suzuki taps to! Where has this Nakano come from? I love him! He takes the arm raise for victory and looks totally beaten up. 7.35 long match with 25 mins of action! A contender for my own UWF top ten for sure. It just seems so silly to book Nakano in anything longer than 10 minutes. He's got the cardio of a powerlifter and the grace and style of a slugger and those 20+ techfests are just not for him. Now we know!

would hate to see what he looks like when he loses

Two ever-reliable workers up next as the falling-from-grace Kazuo Yamazaki meets the rising-upward Yoji Anjo in the middle (of the midcard of Midsummer Creation, nearly the middle event of the UWF 2 run). For all the UWF matches that have happened twice, three times, even four times by now, Anjo-Yamazaki is a first time affair.

A handshake is followed by the most measured start of the three so far even though the pace is still pretty sprightly. Anjo charges and pushes Yamazaki back to give himself space to kick. But Yamazaki mugs his man to the floor and cranks his nice from the prone position. That's how the first three minutes goes: Anjo tries, Yamazaki says nah.

Then Yamazaki lapses, missing a kick of Anjo and eating all of the half-dozen follow-ups. But Yamazaki, this man, he is just too smart, and finds a way to enter an armbar that Anjo scuttlebutts all the way the ropes to get out of. After Yamazaki controls more on the ground, they both get back up, but Yamazaki starts to win that war too, booting Anjo unceremoniously for a knockdown.

On resumption Anjo gets the stronger grip, allowing him to hurl Yamazaki over for a snug suplex and keep hold of the arm to wrench it this way and that. Anjo on the ground is always a little muddled and his switching from arm to leg causes Yamazaki to be deeply unimpressed and reverse the whole thing in his own favour, at least until Anjo boots Yamazaki in the head for him to release the hold.

After a Yamazaki rope break Anjo boots his man while he is still on the floor. Yamazaki gets up and remonstrates with the referee as a ploy to lure Anjo onto a severe booting. But this Anjo is tough too and he finds a way to land on Yamazaki for a DOWN, walking away and firing up the crowd. Seconds later, Yamazaki finds a knockdown of his own, hurting Anjo's knee so that Anjo indicates he'd rather take a count than get up, even though clearly could do.

Anjo uses a pro-wrestling style roll-up as a transition into a submission but Yamazaki is just like what on earth kiddo but Anjo uses that moment of disgust to throw a gnarly-looking belly-to-belly for a DOWN. Yamazaki's disgust continues and he chases the knackered knee of Anjo, kicking him in the ligaments and sending him earthward for a third DOWN.

The following series of kicks delivered by Yamazaki are all gruesome but all they do is soften Anjo up enough for Yamazaki to secure a cross kneelock on the bad knee and take the easy tap. Funnily enough the crowd become a bit subdued during the latter half of the match despite nothing really changing quality-wise. I liked it.

Interview with Masakatsu Funaki. They clearly love this kid. He's treated like a prince every time he appears on screen. His screen time is followed by an interview with the not-inconsiderably-handsome Nobuhiko Takada and this is our match! The second-in-command of the recent New Japan invasion against the second-in-command of the initial colonisers. Which given our upcoming foreigner-free main event perhaps indicates a theme for the show.

First strike is by Funaki and it's a palm strike that immediately causes Takada to recoil in panic and immediately Funaki is all over him and scoring a down inside 20 seconds! Wild! Takada, the relative veteran, takes some extra time in the corner but walks on to another series of explosions from his lemon-clad opponent.

Funaki rocks Takada again and again, knees and kicks in gorgeous arcs, broaching Takada's defences with ease and scoring a second knockdown. Takada puts up his dukes on wobbled legs and circles away, looking to evade Funaki's range and striking power. A tentative grapple buys Takada some time but Funaki loosens the grip with a knee and a palm strike sends Takada crashing to the mat a third time inside the first 4 minutes maybe? Incredible scenes!

Takada's only remaining strategy is the thing he hasn't tried: attack. It works, planting Funaki down to the mat for a knockdown. There's still no real grappling here at all and every lock-up is broken with strikes or misgivings that are compounded when Funaki eats mat a second time from a Takada knee.

Funaki misses by inches with a roaring backhand and the match sees its first piece of groundwork broken up rapidly. Collar-and-elbow mid-ring gives some breathing space and a double underhook with softening knees by Funaki is converted into a suplex. Funaki ends up in full mount with Takada trying to lock his hands up away from his exposed face.

Funaki gives up the position and tries to roll Takada over using his legs, looking for the full crab. Takada looks reluctant to use the ropes given his precarious position in knockdowns. Funaki settles for the single-leg crab and the transitions into the STF before letting the leglock go and just going full throttle in the crossface. The camera reveals he has busted his nose. Probably from this:

Funaki loosens the rapidly falling-apart grip and tries to kick Takada but Takada scores a knockdown with a countering kick and follow through with knee. Funaki charges forward by Takada secures a front facelock and drags Funaki to the mat. Now Takada is on the attack with palm strikes, knees, and a rolling wheel kick for a third knockdown. It's 3-3!

Takada takes the lead soon after, booting Funaki in the head as he lies prone after a collapsed submission. But the lead doesn't last long as Funaki staggers forward and hits a rolling kick to Takada's head. At 4-4 the two go hell-for-leather with a strike flurry cartoonish in appearance and visceral in intensity. Takada hits a back suplex and rolls through to hit a Camel Clutch. Funaki taps and the whole thing is over in 12 minutes flat. Wow. This is the match, as indicated earlier, that UWF ranked #6 in their 1988/1989 compilation. It certainly was something.

Tonight's main event then features none other than Akira Maeda with his personal certificate of being King of UWF against catch wrestling overlord and bringer of armbars Yoshiaki Fujiwara. I am interested to see what these former tag partners of the original UWF can do in there because if I am honest I don't think Maeda's wrestling strengths are similar to Fujiwara's.

A long theme tune and light show play before interviews. Fujiwara smiles a lot wearing an orange towel. Maeda wears a white vest and has a peach fuzz moustache and I think he is also exhibiting some of the 'problem hair' issues that would blight people like Genichiro Tenryu (or make more awesome, depending on your perspective on tonsorial choices in wrestling).

Equal cheers for these pioneers before Maeda backs Fujiwara down and cocks him. Fujiwara grapples Maeda and turns him around in the corner and delivers what looks like a shoot headbutt right on Maeda's chin that lands so hard that even I get knocked down for ten watching 28 years in the future. Fujiwara preens and bounces like a young/old Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Maeda gets counted off to 8.

More grappling is curtailed through mistrust and kicks. A lock-up ends up with both guys' heads out of the ring and Maeda digging Fujiwara as they attempt to get back in. In a clinch Maeda grabs Fujiwara's leg, only for the old-timer to spin around fluidly and take the boss down with a sweep and then transition into attempted kneelock. That's what I'm really enjoying about Fujiwara in UWF: when he is attacked directly, you still feel like he is going to get the better of the section because he is so smart and capable.

Fujiwara has no such possum-playing answer for Maeda's charging high kicks and a knockdown is duly scored. 1-1. Maeda tries to suppress his man on the mat using his mass but from underneath Fujiwara headbutts Maeda and should score a down but the referee ends up telling Fujiwara off. Fujiwara takes over with a kesa-gatame which is probably the hold that pro-wrestling has debased the most into a mere 'rest hold' but here Fujiwara strains as if he is trying to end the oxygen receiving capabilities of Maeda so for now the awe of this technique has been restored.

After so many bouts of wild striking flurries it is actually great to see more matwork and for that matwork to be delivered by someone in whose hands it becomes transformative and artful rather than a dull procession of legitimacy. Maeda's not just chopped liver in there and here he is demolishing Fujiwara with a high-angle back suplex and then getting the hooks in for a rear naked choke though Fujiwara, the old card, makes the ropes, though he is wobbling and straining on resumption.

Fujiwara's wobbling becomes full-on backing-off. Bad idea as Maeda lashes in a kick for a second knockdown. Fujiwara comes out flying but Maeda effortlessly guides him back to earth with a cool amateur suplex that once again he follows up with a rear naked choke. But it's not fully in and Fujiwara thinks he can make something of this, even wrapped up in Maeda's legs, and sure enough Fujiwara starts to use Maeda's position against him leading to a Maeda rope break.

Fujiwara gets Maeda up against the ropes and rugby tackles him through them. Maeda hits the concrete and then rolls back in. Fujiwara hobbles him with a kick to the ligaments. Maeda drops to his knees and then offers Fujiwara position, amateur wrestling style. Fujiwara demurs but Maeda stays on this knees, inviting Fujiwara to come and get him. Once again Fujiwara thinks better of it.

Maeda's ascendancy continues to a third knockdown with a kick. Fujiwara seems unable or unwilling to get out of his corner and takes a fourth knockdown straight away, eating a kick and curling up to avoid taking more. Fujiwara stands again and the same thing happens: Maeda booms a kick in, Fujiwara hits the dirt, and the match is over. A quick ending that seemed to come out of nowhere, but made perfect sense. Great stuff.

After receiving his certificate at the end of the show, Maeda now receives a huge trophy, a giant cardboard key, and another certificate. Not bad work if you can get it!

A post-match montage shows Suzuki attending to Fujiwara, who looks indifferent in defeat. Miyato helps Maeda keep the weight off his attacked knee. All the while a Mike Oldfield piano figure loops and everything pauses on Maeda's terrible post-match hair.

Top to bottom the strongest UWF show to date. Every match was, at worst, good. This felt like a distinct change or evolution in the style. The addition of Fujiwara and his two students has aided the wrestling quality of these shows immensely. Maybe there's something also to be said for not always using foreign guys who don't usually work matches? Just a thought!



  1. I'd pay to watch 1995 funaki and 1995 takada shoot on each other

  2. Of the many enormously true utterances here uttered none seem to me as essential as that re: the debasement of kesa-gatame.

    1. Fujiwara's appearance in UWF has just sharpened everyone up on the mat, I have no source on that, I can just feel it, hardly anything feels wasted.