1991 · JT Southern · Nobuhiko Takada · UWFi

Nobuhiko Takada vs JT Southern-UWFi 6.6.1991.

I don’t remember hearing of JT Southern before, he looked pretty clueless here, as even as he got almost nothing in it felt like got a little too much in. I enjoyed Takada working his superiority, there was a spot where he almost turned a Kneebar into a modified Boston Crab that looked neat that I don’t remember seeing before and the finishing Armbar looked very cool. **3/4

1991 · Tom Burton · UWFi · Yuko Miyato

Tom Burton vs Yuko Miyato-UWFi 3.7.1991.

This match was basically: gauging>legwork>peril>comeback/finish. Gauging was fine, as it is usually in these types of matches, but there was nothng particularly interesting here. The legwork consisted of Miyato doing the same low kick again and again to Burton, which was fine I guess. Match became interesting once Burton started selling the damage, and him throwing Miyato around later on was also fun. Wasn’t big on how they treated Burton’s knees, like they do some damage but nothing significant as it rendered most of his offence meaningless. **3/4

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

1998 · AJPW · Masahito Kakihara · Toshiaki Kawada

Toshiaki Kawada vs Masahito Kakihara-AJPW 11.9.1998.

This was a very good match, but whilst I expected I would like it even more than  I did when I first watched it years ago it seems my ambivalnce on All Japan includes even something like this which doesn’t fit in the traditional “epic” AJP universe. It’s a cool match where Kakihara plays the shooter and pokes Kawada with his kicks and slaps (and does a nice Seoi Nage along with a yet nameless Kaki Cutter).  To which Kawada responds mostly by making faces-and him standing right back up after Kaki mounted him or shrugging his offence off does much more to convincingly display the aura of his badass character than any *moves* could. But, as expected, Kawada snaps before long and takes Kaki’s head off with a Bakcdrop, forearms to the back of the head and brutal kicks, including maybe the best Axe Kick I remember him ever throwing. Kawada relies on the slap a lot a lot in the killing off process-a little too much for my taste, and while I appreciate the idea behind him just spamming it to the points he could just win successfully pin because Kaki pissed him off the way he went about the execution (right hand slap>Kaki falls>he picks him up>repeat) didn’t really connect with me in execution. ***3/4

1994 · Masahito Kakihara · UWFi · Vader

Vader vs Masahito Kakihara-UWFi 6.5.1994.

Man you forget how great some matches are, and what a joy it was to come back to this one. Vader uses the RIZIN Baruto strategy of using his  massive size advantage to push people into corners and beat the hell out them there, and Kakihara puts on an all time selling performance, you really get the sense he’s being broken in half, which makes the one big desperation shot he manages to land that sweeter. The little self-congratulatory celebration Kakihara does comes off as unpretentious and sympathetic as it could possibly get, but you also sense why Vader would get pissed at him. Once the monster gets up Kakihara has no option but to go for his Spinning Wheel Kick again, but this time Vader’s ready, and he throws himself at Kakihara with this brutal elbow shot to the side of the head and proceeds to just kill him with strikes, ending with one of the most notorious finishes in UWFi history where he just lifts Kaki up and throws him straight on his face, truly worthy of a stretcher job. The enthusiasm and energy Kakihara turns it into a true tragedy, but he shall be revenged for certain by prince Takada. ****

2012 · AJPW · Jun Akiyama · Masakatsu Funaki

Jun Akiyama vs Masakatsu Funaki-AJPW 26.8.2012.

An interesting observation on how Funaki works this type of matches (which he’s relied on quite a lot structurally) is that it’s really not that different from his usualy pro-style-patiently, calm and collected, but ready to explode at any time. It’s laid out pretty simply-some classic title match dick measuring in the beginning wherein Funaki asserts his dominance by shoving Akiyama onto the ropes by pushing his forearm onto Akiyama’s face, their hands are tangled up in what looks like a one-handed precursor for a test of strength and as they’re about to enter it Funaki ducks, looking to avoid it but eats a big knee (which was an incredible set-up for a spot where you’ll usually see someone attempts a double leg they never do out of character on the basis of the spot just being so cool looking it’ll work) and the sprint finally starts, as we get a battle of knees and Exploders and kicks and flash submissions. and right when Funaki starts working over Akiyama’s leg and you get flashbacks to the 20-30 minute where legwork was a major focus Akiyama gets desperate and makes the mistake of entering a strike exchange with Funaki where he suffers the same fate Funaki did at the hands of Bas Rutten. ***1/2