1991 · Kazuo Yamazaki · Tatsuo Nakano · UWFi · Yoji Anjoh · Yuko Miyato

Kazuo Yamazaki & Tatsuo Nakano vs. Yoji Anjoh & Yuko Miyato-UWFi 10.5.1991.

Lots of goodness here. Match started of pretty slow but I find it muche easier to concentrate when wrestlers are fighting for position, gauging the distance for striking and generally acting like they are actually fighting than when they just grab a hadlock for five minutes. Early highlight was Nakano busting out a shoot DDt, but things got out of control once Miyato broke Nakano’s nose with palm strikes, then the transitioned to a cool subplot of Anjoh and Nakano hitting each other with illegal elbows and they finished the match off with Anjoh and Yamazaki blasting each other and Yamazaki’s awesome selling of peril where he gradually acted weaker and weaker before going down. ***1/4-***1/2

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1991 · Tatsuo Nakano · UWFi · Yoji Anjoh

Yoji Anjoh vs Tatsuo Nakano-UWFi 6.6.1991.

Before the match Anjoh signals he doesn’t want any elbows in this match, doing a callback to their tag from May and thus cueing the famed ~shoot style storytelling~. And so they fight, and Anjoh starts punching Nakano in the body and Nakano loses his temper and starts foreaming/elbowing Anjoh, somewhere in there he gets his nose broken and this turns into an even bigger shootfight with both athletes sneaking in punches during their striking flurries and an awesome flash finish. Sometimes the most shocking thing to do is to actually end the match instead of doing an escape/counter/kick-out when you’re most expecting it. ***1/2

1991 · Nobuhiko Takada · Tatsuo Nakano · UWFi

Nobuhiko Takada vs Tatsuo Nakano-UWFi 3.7.1991.

The perseverance of Nakano is also a part of the ~shoot style storytelling~. A big win on the last show earns him a match against Takada. Pretty standard match for these two, so quite good but not quite what it could’ve been had they went all out. Love them fighting for positioning on the ground and the fighting spirit spot was really interesting and in character for Nakano-they do a “is that kick all you’ve got?”, it gets a big pop and they move on. Because it makes for a far better match than exchanging low kicks for five minutes in the centre of the ring, and one where you can suspend your disbelief much more easily. I was impressed by how synchronized they were on knockdown spots, convincingly following through when you you’re going down adds a lot to the viewing experience. Awesome finish here as they tie a callback to Nakano’s big win from the last show into a sequence where Takada counters Nakano and Nakano dramatically kicks away before being forced to tap. ***1/4

1991 · Tatsuo Nakano · UWFi · Yuko Miyato

Tatsuo Nakano vs Yuko Miyato-UWFi 30.7.1991.

Simple, smartly worked undercard match. The opening is full of lock-ups, headlocks, fighting for positions, defence spots etc.-they mix in some strikes as well, do enough to keep you interested but not enough to garner a reaction outside of a polite clap here and there. They naturally bridge that to the escalation of the finishing stretch where they go all out, laying in brutal palm strikes, knees and doing a bunch of swank submission counters. ***1/4

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