NK Hall, Tokyo
21st May 1989
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.
Welcome to another installment of livetyped UWF episodes. This is very much a say-what-you-see enterprise with some context drafted in later to balance out the doggerel. A desolate and mercifully brief montage in different shades of white and grey gives way to a widdly speed-metal montage of internal shots of the impressive NK Bay Hall interspersed with what I can only assume is footage of the bouts to come which I shall largely ignore at this moment in time.
|MURDERDAD 2: MORE DEATH|
A furiously clapped fighter parade, in order of appearance: Shigeo Miyato, who does not wrestle tonight. A new person we shall come to. Minoru Suzuki wondering what the rafters will look like with a Pancrase logo hanging from it. Yoji Anjo looking beefier than usual. Yoshiaki Fujiwara smiling and strutting. Masakatsu Funaki, again in lemon tracksuit trousers teamed with the grey t-shirt of this event, gets a chant by name. Returning foreign guy Bob Backlund emerges and rejects the stoic conventions of UWF by whooping and pumping the air a lot. He has a nasty shiner allegedly given to him in training by the disgruntled shooter contingent in the locker room because fuck this guy, Fujiwara and Suzuki seem to say:
The next guy is another foreigner we have not met yet but he is hella large and wearing some kind of Texan flag trouser. Finally we see Nobuhiko Takada, Kazuo Yamazaki, and Akira Maeda make subdued but well-received entrances.
Yamazaki works the stick briefly and then a synth makes a noise like a motorbike revving up and YEAAAAAAAAAH MAY HISTORY 2ND!!
The first match assails us rapidly and it is a seminal moment in the Long UWF (copyright TK Scissors) as young lion Kiyoshi Tamura debuts against Minoru Suzuki. If you recall the last young lion (Tsunehito Naito) making his actual debut in UWF did not go well and unless I am very much mistaken this is Tamura's ACTUAL FIRST MATCH. However what we know in 2017 is that Tamura is one of the finest stylists to ever style or shoot so here we should not fear too much for the kid even though he looks way smaller than what he would eventually grow to be (a solid middleweight) and also he is fighting Suzuki who is not exactly known for 'taking it easy'.
An overly homoerotic gear check (for me, maybe not you) from the referee preceeds a handshake. Tamura in classic red, Suzuki in soon-to-be-discarded blue. Tamura shows a lot of fire early but gets caught and body-slammed. No danger, says Tamura, as he gets up and slaps Suzuki. Already the crowd are like "this guy is good!" and I don't disagree. Tamura feints low, he throws rangy kicks, and he forces Suzuki to adopt this slightly pugilist stance to anticipate better what he surely sees as the purest fire emerging from the future RINGS champion.
Tamura gets a kick in but then Suzuki catches the next and bundles him over but Tamura is, famously, like a greased pig on the ground and notoriously impossible to contain. When they return to standing Suzuki takes control with a nice throw into an armbar that sees Tamura make the ropes. When they get up Tamura throws kicks but is caught yet again and ends up being twisted rotten by a leg lock of the gnarliest kind. Tamura makes the ropes a third time but no 'DOWN' graphic appears. There is no need for this as the next movement is the end: Suzuki folds Tamura in a half crab (see above) and wins in 5.30. Promising stuff.
Straight into match two as Yoji Anjo (looking less like Mick Jagger) squares off with Yoshiaki Fujiwara, who eschews kneepads but employs a highly-pulled sports sock above the Asics wrestling boot for added style points. Anjo tries some impactful stuff early but Fujiwara is just like NOPE and belly-to-belly suplexes and goes for some vicious leg lock that collapses into the ropes.
Fujiwara's skills are so nakedly obvious that you just look past his permanent dad bod at least until the moments where he is in repose for like 5 seconds. Apart from that he is just a whirling dervish of trying to hurt you with parts of his body and yours. Anjo does finally get in there, holding a kesa-gatame and slapping with his free hand. But he pays for it when they stand up as Fujiwara just grabs an arm and charges into Anjo shoulder first in a way that makes everyone go UUUUUUUHHHHHHHH.
Things get promising as Anjo catches Fujiwara in a three-quarter side facelock aka chancery aka cravat and Fujiwara is slipping out of this realm of oxygen but then Anjo works around the back for a more trad. sleeper style hold as Fujiwara looks completely uncomfortable and foams at the mouth in the way that we thought Tomohiro Ishii invented in 2013 but actually, it turns out, did not.
The attempted submission falls apart but Anjo kicks a prone Fujiwara, who starts goading Anjo into coming at him. But Anjo's mother didn't raise the kind of fool who would get on a plane and take on a BJJ expert behind closed doors for the sake of his friends and wrestling style. Hang on. Maybe that's what explains Fujiwara now being on top and kicking the shit out of poor Mr. 200%. Fujiwara gets a cool ankle hold on Anjo and the crowd are just begging Anjo to make the ropes, possibly not because they love him and want him to win, but probably to avoid witnessing seeing a man lose his lower limbs on their dime. He makes it out sure enough, but loses in the next phase to a cross kneelock. Good stuff and the pair hug it out at the close. Fujiwara is just the coolest.
The pre-match montage of the bout between Bob Backlund and Masakatsu Funaki, one of some infamy, is very much like something out of the new series of Twin Peaks, detailing the standard motion of two people entering the ring but dissected and reassembled and re-soundtracked to make everything seem completely unlike the idea of two men entering a ring to have a fight. I like it.
Pre-match interviews. Funaki says some things in Japanese that feel to me like 'I am pretty good at this and I don't rate these American pro-wrestlers so I will stiff the fuck out of him' with the consummate ease of someone who has just done that very thing. Backlund's shiner is apparent in his VT and here is what he says, referencing the first bout he had against Nobuhiko Takada:
In Osaka, in the match, the beginning I had my hands up here [raises hands to temple level] but in amateur wrestling you always keep your hands down and by the end of the match I had my hands down on instinct and I have to keep my hands up. [shot of Backlund training wearing a jacket that says BOLTON on it] But I learn a little more each time I go into the ring.Let's take a look at his face as he says this:
The additional disrobing (Funaki with his headband, Backlund with his towel and stars'n'stripes jacket) that signifies a bigger bout occurs prior to the first tussle between Backlund (whose hands are low as can be) and Funaki, which Backlund rejects, sensing trickery. Funaki peels off a nice low kick and Backlund pulls this face that is like 'how very dare you' and come on shit on this guy's shooter rep all you like (not that I ever thought he had one) but he is great value for money and besides the sport of boxing could learn a lot from this (obligatory Robin Black pop over with, let's move on).
Some groundwork tussling is broken up by Funaki kicking so Backlund gets up and does the 'I'm mad, let's fight' pose. Funaki kicks him again and dominates him to the mat with a screwy twisting suplex type thing that allows him to take the mount position. Backlund's having none of this ground stuff from this guy - Takada could be dominated on the floor but Funaki is too versed in the fluid movements and hip shifts - so he works toward the upright where possible.
But it's not like Funaki has no stand-up and scores a knockdown with a picture perfect high kick. Backlund gets up and wobble-legs around the ring like he's at the Nassau Coliseum in 1979. But he's playing possum and he scores a knockdown with a forearm and works it into amateur style control of Funaki's upper half, but Funaki seems to simply raise his head and Backlund goes flying over in an exaggerated backdrop. Funaki gets pissed off with Backlund's cornball act and slaps Backlund and Backlund slaps back and the crowd go UUUUUHHHHHHH and to an extent I do too.
After some super low kicks by Funaki (like, ground skimming) they test strength in mutual gutwrenches. Backlund hoists the young princeling over but Funaki is up quicker to apply a sleeper after Backlund soaks up the applause too long. The reversal out, a pro-wrestling style hip-toss, does not go over too well. Backlund starts to turn away from strikes too, looking a bit fed up with how this is all panning out, wishing that he was in Glen Falls, NY against a breathless powerhouse.
Funaki hits with a closed fist and the referee tells him off. The contest, now slightly ragged, goes to the floor and Backlund is obviously trying to walk it back to sense with a headlock and some chatter. They stand back up and Funaki lights Backlund up with kicks and the rolling sole butt (spinning kick) favoured by Shigeo Miyato.
|ending pt. 1 of 3|
Then the small matter of the ending. A tussle leads Backlund to hoist Funaki up and deposit him on the top turnbuckle, leading to a UWF first of a strike performed from the elevated position as Funaki dropkicks Backlund across the ring. The referee calls the match in favour of Backlund, who wins by DQ. No one looks or sounds happy with how this has transpired and rightly so. A second Backlund match has a stupid ending and it sucks.
|pt. 2 of 3|
|pt. 3 of 3|
Bout four features a newcomer: Johnny Barrett. Cagematch has nothing on him and I'm unfamiliar. Fortunately Segunda Caida help us put some pieces together:
Barrett is an early 90's Florida indy worker who was an early DDP tag partner and feuded with the Nasty Boys. Somehow he ended up in UWF2 working as a Greco guy. All of his earliest UWF matches are filled with 3 Stooges style selling and dropkicks, so of course I loved them. [...] By 1991 Barrett had gotten the hang of working the style and is actually a really great shootstyle monster, kind of like Gary Albright with takedowns instead of suplexes.This could augur well or badly.
Barrett's intro video reveals a soft-spoken man:
To beat Takada you have to be smarter than he is, he's a very smart wrestler. He kicks a lot. I'm in good shape. I'm ready for Takada. I'm quick too. He thinks because I'm big that I'm slow. No. I have to be one step ahead of him. UWF, I really like the UWF, it's a great style. I hope to come back to Tokyo, maybe against Maeda. I like this style of wrestling.Barrett goes forward cautiously, hands high, and gets one of the kicks thrown by opponent Nobuhiko Takada that Barrett himself forewarned himself about. After a couple of chances Barrett catches one and hoists Takada easily and the crowd are like OH CRUMBS THIS LARGE GUY WILL KILL HIM but it doesn't quite come to pass in the ensuing submission.
Barrett disrupts Takada in the collar & elbow grapple by moving up and then dropping to the knee and then hitting a cool armdrag with good velocity so I guess he wasn't conning about that size-speed thing. This lad looks good so far! Even when he misses an enziguri the crowd feel like Takada has dodged a deathbullet rather than a pro-wrestling move (perhaps because Inoki has elevated that particular move).
Takada wisely lets Barrett use this as a showcase, taking whatever Barrett has to offer and shilling and selling it all. Barrett looks good up until he looks clumsy going for a low shoot and Takada kicks Barrett flush in the head for his aesthetic dip. Barrett just fighting spirits through it as if to say U FUCKING WOT MATE. Somewhere near the end the crowd are buying this badly-attired behemoth as a credible winner and that, I suppose, is the main thing.
Alas it proves not the case as Takada hits a suite of submissions that ends up in the ropes for a break. On returning to the upright Barrett hulks Takada down for a knockdown but Takada roars back, kicks Barrett earthwards and applies a rapidfire armbreaker that Barrett taps immediately to. Short and sweet (inside 8 minutes) but entertaining stuff.
Recall two shows ago when Akira Maeda faced Kazuo Yamazaki for the third time in UWF and got his third win after the doctor intervened to stop Yamazaki's cut head becoming a grave concern? Maeda got on the mic and, I guessed, proclaimed that Yamazaki would get another shot to come at the king. Well, here it is. Maeda-Yamazaki IV. Scores on the doors so far? 3-0 to Maeda.
Pre-match interviews seem to juxtapose Maeda's faces of worry with shots of Yamazaki kicking him really hard, so they're at least selling the threat. Yamazaki is asked why he headbutted Maeda so hard that his forehead exploded. He looks phlegmatic as Yoji Anjo spits into a sink behind him. More replays of that gnarly headbutt. Grim.
The long build cuts to the ring as the match commences. Maeda throws the first kick but Yamazaki lands the first one and is the only one of the two who seems to routinely employ blocking as a strategy. After some tense stuff Yamazaki knocks Maeda onto his back but Maeda comes roaring back. The two exchange fought-against suplexes and Yamazaki stops a low kick with his head and sinks to his knees and already this one feels pretty darn good.
Maeda wraps Yamazaki's waist for a while and hulks him over for a back suplex and keeps the pressure on, leglocking him on the mat, taking away the power from Yamazaki's vicious and educated feet. Whatever they do there's a sense of struggle and tension about it, whether upright or in a clinch or on the mat. It isn't flinty like Fujiwara or speedy like Tamura or completely brutal like Volk Han would do in RINGS but it has it's own sense of rhythm that is very appealing.
Yamazaki shoots the leg and drags Maeda centre-ring. As Maeda uses his left arm to fend off, Yamazaki smartly transitions to that arm but loses balance and allows Maeda to take over. After fighting out of it Yamazaki starts kicking freely at last, knocking Maeda conclusively to the mat for a DOWN. When Maeda gets up he does exactly the same in return, only with extra beef and viciousness, causing Yamazaki to curl up to stop the fire.
Yamazaki gets up and hits a high wheel kick and just glares at Maeda as he is downed a second time. Maeda tries to come back again but Yamazaki wisely cuts him off and knocks him down a third time. Maeda keeps chasing and Yamazaki is just above it all this time, though he loses his submission attempt as Maeda graps his lower limb in desperation rather than wisdom.
They're up again and Maeda is hitting knees and then drops Yamazaki on his head in a suplex for his second down of the contest, but Yamazaki quickly recovers and goes on the hunt again. This is like a hyperspeed version of the usual UWF main event. Yamazaki calls back the previous match by hitting a headbutt but this time not on something as solid as Maeda's head. It crumples Maeda and Yamazaki gets a fourth down after the follow-through submission requires a third rope break. One more down and Yamazaki gets that first ever win over his boss!
Yamazaki throws a kick but Maeda scouts it and kicks the inner part of Yamazaki's knee not once, not twice, but thrice, each one coruscating and yet horrendous. Yamazaki hits the mat and is caught in a triangle choke that, although incredibly well-captured on camera, bodes incredibly badly for Yamazaki's prospects. He fights against it and sinks only deeper in the mire. The ref calls it and Maeda is 4-0 ahead in their series. Sigh. LOL. Etc. Poor Yamazaki. Good match though. Yamazaki just can't fail in terms of entertainment, at the very least.
Maeda wins to remain unbeaten in 1989. This was a good show featuring as many matches as the previous card but passing by in half the time.
NEXT: Maeda-Takada IV!