1. Yoshihiro Takayama vs. Tom Burton (2/14/93) - 5
2. Nobuhiko Takada vs. Kiyoshi Tamura (2/14/93) - 6
Burton popped up on our WCW WorldWide '94 project as enhancement talent so cool seeing him in drastically different settings. Takayama puts Burton in a single-lag Boston Crab that's one of the most gruesome I've seen (later Tom would return the favor, and it'd return again in the finish). One thing that's neat about watching this set is seeing the hierarchy of UWFi reveal itself, i.e. where guys are in the pecking order, etc. On paper and in the early stages you'd assume Takayama was winning this but Burton made a run for it late, in the process finding his confidence and waking the crowd up. I love Takada but Tamura is just awesome here -- his facials and demeanor going from desperation to determination is a sight to behold. Nobuhiko's got killer instinct and shows prophetic slivers of his General Takada and Esperanza characters from HUSTLE but his authority here comes from his grappling and not his echelon. We get Takada pulling ahead early but Tamura stays in the fight including a late ankle lock. I loved, loved, loved the finish as Takada busted out a combo of kicks, a few to the back of the legs, a head kick, then one to the face that put Tamura on his butt and the ref diving in to end it. I found out that these two fought each other for real in PRIDE so I watched it with the result being a gnarly first round KO by Tamura.
Nobuhiko Takada vs. Dan Severn (5/6/93) - 5
Nobuhiko Takada vs. Big Van Vader (12/5/93) - 7
I've read books on amateur wrestling and this bout felt like a big tournament final between rival schools. Pale, porno mustachioed Severn in USA singlet versus tanned, sleek Takada in his classic purple gear. It was odd seeing Severn here on the big stage after having just saw him live at a skating rink in a trashy town months ago. This signified Nobuhiko's dominance on top as even though Dan hung with him the "Beast" still tapped to the crucifix armbar. Crowd starts with the big "Takada! Takada!" chants as he faces off with Vader. It's definitely the loudest crowd I've seen for UWF. Vader does that great "big brother" trick of holding your hands behind your own head so he can wail on you. Nice storytelling as Vader dominates early with his size but Takada's valiant battle back rivets those in attendance (and us at home). This made Vader versus Shawn Michaels look like the rubbish it was. Without needing any of the promotional tools or pandering or overblown writing this just gave us a monster and a hero with a ton of heart going at it until only man was left standing. That man was Takada as he got Vader to tap to his patented cross armbar which was as satisfying a finish as you could hope for.
Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Naoki Sano (5/6/94) - 5
Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Kennichi Yamamoto (10/14/94) - 4
Sano's my current favorite guy in NOAH so it's a pleasure to get to see him compete almost 20 years ago. This bout was all about strategy which was nice, that old "human chess game" analogy seems apt. The finish saw both guys rolling around fighting for an armbar that eventually Tamura was able to utilize for the quick tap. Next a glimpse at the legendary Sakuraba. His mastery is on display (like Haneke's in Caché) as he puts on a clinic early including some knees in the clinch that were just nasty. This was the most one-sided bout I've seen so far in UWFi. It's still fun to watch Yamaoto get tortured -- he probably felt like he was in one of Lord Rhoop's nightmares.
Dan Severn vs. Yoshihiro Takayama (10/14/94) - 2
Yuko Miyato vs. Kazushi Sakuraba (11/30/94) - 4
Takayama doesn't look like the thoroughbred horse he does nowadays, instead appearing more like a leery doe you came across in the park, unsure of what to make of these Nacho Cheesier Doritos you've scattered across its natural environment. While the shortest bout I've viewed so far it contained some decent moments of selling (Yoshihiro's brain freeze facials) and performing, even if some of the offensive transitions weren't top-notch. Next bout started with some squirrelly mat work, leg kick exchanging reminiscent of WEC, etc. It's times like this, past 3AM in the morning, that I'm made clear the sacrifices of being an NHO writer. It's like I always say, "these matches aren't going to review themselves!" Miyato getting the victory came as a bit of a surprise to me but I dug the Judo throw he used to set it up.
Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Dan Severn (11/30/94) - 4
Gary Albright vs. Nobohiko Takada (11/30/94) - 4
Tamura and Severn was interesting with Dan refusing to shake hands pre-fight like the mustachioed prick he is. Dan schooled him on the canvas early. Tamura then used a strategy that worked exceptionally well -- go after the legs! Kiyoshi threw leg kicks that kept dropping a wincing Severn. Dan went from the "Beast" to the "Yeast" in seconds hobbling like a giant pussy. I'm not sure why Severn didn't come up with some sort of defense. It reminded me of what Kermit's doctor said in The Muppets Take Manhattan, "No doubt about it; you've got amnesia." After a couple minutes Albright was ready to crash like Ryan Dunn. Gary could have been Bastion Booger's cousin Samuel Snot. I'm sure Vince would have thought it a hoot (before retiring to the master bedroom for the night where he'd pistol whip Linda with his dong while wearing a Reagan mask). I wonder how much Takada's purple kickpads would go for on eBay. I'd bid. Bah! A cursory search lead me to this: a UWF Takada plush doll! My birthday's next month. I'm just saying. Albright beating Takada with an armbar and thus making "chump meat out of the maestro" was rather surprising and a big feather in his cap (a knockoff Indiana Jones fedora he got at a yard sale and kept for sentimental reasons).