1988 · Tatsuo Nakano · UWF · Yoji Anjoh

Yoji Anjoh vs Tatsuo Nakano-UWF 12.5.1988.

The second match from UWFII’s first show Starting Over is as intruiguing, ambitious and entertaining as you’d hope for. The structure of the match is simple-it starts out with them simply gauging the distance with leg kicks and some simple takedowns and mat exchanges and the match gradually heats up. The way the holds are used here is hard to compare to anything else-like a weird combo of U-style and classic NWA style. Essentially, there are plenty of submission attempts where the submission isn’t fully locked in, and the true pay-off is more in the transition which comes after the hold than the hold itself. They managed to convincingly display their character gradually getting frustrated and going from cheapshots to just plain brawling. Anjoh pinballed as much as he possibly could’ve in this setting, the novelty of the style resulted in some interesting moments like Anjoh going for a Jacknife Pin, shooting Nakano into the ropes and Nakano going for a Dragon Suplex as well as going for a pin straight off a German. The match also had a well executed shoulder injury angle, which was sold fittingly (Anjoh targeted it with his kicks and strikes and went for submission on Nakano’s bad arm, Nakano sold it initially and after the match but didn’t weep and go overboard). Really, had they found conclusions other than rope breaks a few more times when there was a locked in submission this would’ve easily been a great match. ***3/4

1996 · Genichiro Tenryu · Tatsuo Nakano

Genichiro Tenryu vs Tatsuo Nakano-WAR 26.5.1996.

I was surprised to see how this match actually looked like, since I remembered it just as a couple of minutes of awesome striking. On a rewatch the almost five minutes were still awesome, but their content and what made it work quite different. It’s true that there were strike exchanges-and they worked for the characters, Nakano is an undercard shoot wrestler overmatched by Tenryu, who uses sumo-style slapping shoves to corner Nakano time and time again. Nakano’s only chances are in going for a submission and utilizing kicks-and even in such a short match they’ll take their time in Tenryu recuperating from an Armbar and setting the pace for their next show-off instead of just going straight to it, it really makes a difference in how the crowd perceives the match and reacts to it. It’s remarkable how much thought they put into the finish of a match like this-Tenryu goes for a Hiptoss, Nakano stops it by palm striking Tenryu’s face off, and as he’s about to get on top of him Tenryu kicks his leg out from the bottom, injuring it, and then quickly takes care of Nakano with a Half Crab. If you think about it Tenryu’s matches vs UWFi guys really were basically Battlarts style. ***1/4