1985 · Akira Maeda · Super Tiger · UWF

Akira Maeda vs Super Tiger-UWF 7.1.1985.

An improvement over their september match which retains pretty much all of its strengths and sees its flaws subside. The matwork is better, as the holds are more varied and there is a bigger focus on acquiring positioning, properly defending and adjusting instead of just going “let’s grab an armbar again and we’ll work from there”. Here Maeda doesn’t just do nice slams, but actively tries to counter Sayama’s kicks and drag him to the ground. The sequences in which they’re desperately trying to get on top rule. The stand up sequences are even more violent than before, with nasty slaps, soccer kicks and elbow drops (which I don’t remember seeing look this good outside of a Johnny Valentine match JIP) added to the mix. Really, if there was just a bigger sense of danger on the mat, this could’ve been so much more than a great match. But you’d have something amazing happen and the follow up would be a crowd killing half crab, and so on it went. ****

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1984 · Akira Maeda · Super Tiger · UWF

Akira Maeda vs Super Tiger-UWF 11.9.1984.

UWF1 has such a distinct flair-Battlarts may be the closest comparison, but Battlarts was essentially Yuki Ishikawa and friends wrestling in the basement doing cool stuff which came to mind. It didn’t really present the revolutionary bridge proto shoot-style did nor it did have actual stars and hot crowds. The orange apron mats quickly stood out as did the fact reaching their area was enough for a rope break-actually touching the ropes or extending one of your limbs underneath them wasn’t a necessity. The grappling here wasn’t particularly complex-blocking a double wristlock by using a knee, rolling out of armbars, kicking away your opponent’s arm to get a full armbar etc. are nice detailed work compared to the average “sit in an illogical hold for a while, occassionally yell”, but they’re a far cry from the style’s peak. The takedowns were more interesting than the grappling-the one Tiger set up with a feint kick was especially sweet. Maeda answered with suplexes you see he did hundreds of squats for, the finishing stretch had lots of fun head kicking and Super Tiger’s insistence on using classic prowres offence gave them a clear focus to build around. ***1/2
1997 · Akira Maeda · Kiyoshi Tamura · RINGS

Akira Maeda vs Kiyoshi Tamura-RINGS 28.3.1997.

Man-no matter how much his work gets praised Tamura’s character seems to forever remain underrated. HIs determination, stubborness and ego are played to perfectly here-the moment where he look down on Maeda dares him to do something is great, as is the insane fight over positioning that ensues instantly afterwards. The speed of their kicks is something else-them actually presenting the match like a real fight instead of doing trading kicks spots makes the kicks feel a million times more important but the speed and impact and technique in kicks itself is on another level as well. I look at stuff like a sequence in which Maeda locks in a Leglock and Tamura blocks it and tries to escape but Maeda blocks that with a Guillotine BUT Tamura rolls with him and uses that Guillotine to get a Side Mount and transition into a full mount and really get in a dominant spot and you know an Armbar is coming, Tamura is rolling around, trying to trick Maeda into letting his guard down but he slips for a moment and immediately gets Double Wristlocked from the bottom and think-seriously fuck junior wrestling, THIS is true workrate and it rules. The Sleeper/Ankle Lock finish is always great but they milk it to its maximum here. ****

1987 · Akira Maeda · Masa Saito · NJPW

Akira Maeda vs Masa Saito-NJPW 18.5.1987.

I’m not sure how my taste in wrestling managed to change so quickly, maybe it’s the insane GWE-related amounts of wrestling I’ve watched, but last time I watched this match wasn’s so long ago, maybe a year or two ago. I thought it was good, this time I thought it was absolutely marvelous. Super Strong Machine trips Maeda as he’s entering the ring and attacks him, that whole angle was so great and really puts into perspective how amateur a lot of angles even major promotions do cime off. Maeda does a disgusting blade job, so naturally you need a million people to hide it well, and the commotion a pre-match attack causes is the perfect opportunity for that. All you really see is Maeda eating shots and the ringpost and by the time he gets up he’s just covered in blood, it’s insane. Maeda falls down as he enters the ring and sets the stage for the match. Maeda is on the verge if defeat the entire match, as Masa Saito just nuked him with Suplexes and Lariats. They cool it off with a Boston Crab and while the crowd senses Maeda isn’t losing to such a hold they use it to transition to Maeda’s comeback, as Maeda pushes Saito off him by going backwards. From then on it’a a matter of life and death, and they pack so much neat stuff into the finishing stretch it feels kinda redundant to name every singLe thing done and why it worked. Saito’s punches could’ve been better, but that’s just nitpicking. ****

1996 · Akira Maeda · RINGS · Yoshihisa Yamamoto

Akira Maeda vs Yoshihisa Yamamoto-RINGS 24.1.1996.

It’s always weird watching japanese wrestling where the wrestlers actually over after getting used to mild clapping.This match ruled. Yamamoto goes after Maeda attacking him with palm strikes and takedowns and as a result we see a more defensive Maeda. Maeda opts to attack Yamamoto with Leglocks and wears his leg down throughout the match which Yamamoto sells perfectly by slowing down in the final minutes more and more after every leglock Maeda catches him in. One of my favourite moments in the match was Yamamoto getting overzealous once he realised he was a real threat to him and earning a yellow card for slapping him on the ground or after Maeda went down I couldn’t really tell which one it was. ****

1985 · Akira Maeda · Satoru Sayama · Super Tiger · UWF

Akira Maeda vs Super Tiger-UWF 25.7.1985.

I wouldn’t say it’s the best but the UWF 1 style is probably the most fascinating to watch. There is a distinct flair to the matwork and you always wonder what can they do. This is a match I could see many consider boring but I loved every second of it. Extremely minimalistic with struggle over every hold and transition. I loved Maeda’s Capture Suplexes and his waistlock slam and the way the much was structured, Maeda controlled the entire bout and won without it feeling like a squash. I found it extremely impressive that they managed to make an over 15 minute match with that narrative work without any twists and turns. ****

1998 · Akira Maeda · RINGS · Volk Han

Akira Maeda vs Volk Han-RINGS 16.4.1998.

Awesome stuff here. The insane crowd reactions for the entrances clue you in on this being something special and commentary describes it as Maeda’s final match in Osaka or something along those lines, definitely part of his retirement tour. The action itself is great as well, they did a great job of building up every transition on the mat and the keylock counter and the fighting over the leglocks were the highlights of the match, and honestly it probably wouldn’t stand out if it happened on a smaller show a few years ago, but here it was more important that the action is good enough to supplement the beautiful atmosphere than to try and force a classic, which, with Maeda’s detoriating health, almost certainly wouldn’t have been as good of an option as a couple of minutes of tight work. ****