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. ****

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
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

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. ****

Akira Maeda · Kiyoshi Tamura · UWF

Akira Maeda vs Kiyoshi Tamura-UWF 25.10.1989.

This just might be the peak of wrestling bruality. As neat as punhes, chops, kicks, headbutts and so on can look, none of them really convey the sense of horror Maeda hitting Tamura with full force muy thai knees does. Tamura’s desperate flurries ruled, but the best thing he did in the entire match was probably the down where he wasn’t hit, but simply couldn’t get up after getting a rope break. It is kind of insane to do this type of match, where a former yakuza beats up a young boy so bad he’s out for a year, but it makes for an unmatchable spectacle of violence. ****

1984 · Satoru Sayama · Super Tiger · UWF · Yoshiaki Fujiwara

Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Super Tiger-UWF 5.12.1984.

This is my favourite Fujiwara/Super Tiger match. They work it with Fujiwara having the upper hand on the mat and Tiger being the dominant striker but the gaps aren’t huge and both can hang and fire back in both departments. Fujiwara is awesome here, busting out awesome takedowns, countering Tiger’s strikes, reversing his holds on the mat etc. but he also has all time great punches and just rocks Tiger with them when they’re standing. There’s a really great moment when Fujiwara starts choking Super Tiger with a Sleeper and Sayama sells it with this disgusting cough. Finishing stretch is just unreal with Sayama killing Fujiwara with brutal kicks seemingly forever and his knee drop is also up there with the best there have ever been. Fujiwara is the master at blocking kicks and reversing everything so you can buy he could come back at any time but Sayama just keeps on kicking him in the head and destroying him and it’s this super dramatic struggle and then one time when Fujiwara finally gets a comeback in he gets cocky and throws a headbutt that knocks HIM down. That spot played up so many things, from Fujiwara’s arrogance to the damage of Sayama’s offence neutralizing a spot that I don’t think had ever been neutralized before. And he just keeps on killing him and pretty much invents the shoot style KO/TKO finish in the process.*****

1990 · UWF · Yoshiaki Fujiwara

Nobuhiko Takada vs Yoshiaki Fujiwara-UWF 25.10.1990.

A classic and a truly fascinating match, especially if you take their february match into account. Fujiwara comes out swinging early which sets the pace of the match-he rocks Takada with brutal punches and headbutts and establishes dominance early on. Takada is extremely cautious in his attacks against him having already been reversed in their february bout. The majority of the knockdowns don’t really serve as nearfalls, rather their point is to establish who is in control off the match and set the stage for the finish. The exception to this is the last time Takada is knocked down as he falls down before just making it to his feet at the last second. That moment completely changes the atmosphere kicks off the finishing run. Takada’s selling is crucial to the match quality-the way he wobbles after Fujiwara’s Leglock and slowly falls down after a standing knock down in the corner keeps the crowd on their toes. Fujiwara’s downfall is his character-whenever he goes for his usual quirks it costs him. Him laughing about finally getting Takada in a dangerous Leglock allowed Takada to counter it by palm striking the shit out of him and thus gaining one of his first openings in the match. Takada’s strategy is to kick through Fujiwara-and he varies his kicks and strikes a lot due to Fujiwara’s amazing defence. If he kicks too high too early he’ll get reversed and leglocked. If he doesn’t time a low kick well it’s getting checked. That creates and unparalleled sense of struggle giving everything that happens importance, and the action itself is just epic-Takada kicking Fujiwara in the face is an amazing spot on its own but context allows it to truly bloom. *****