It’s UWFI week here on the blog! Over the next five days we will be looking at this 5-disc set simply titled “Best of UWFI” that we found in our massive library collecting dust. Enjoy!
1. Yuki Miyato vs. Tatsuo Nakano (6/11/88) – 6
2. Norman Smiley vs. Kazuo Yamazaki (6/11/88) – 4
3. Nobuhiko Takada vs. Akira Madea (6/11/88) – 7
4. Norman Smiley vs. Yoji Anjo (8/13/88) – 5
5. Nobuhiko Takada vs. Akira Madea (11/10/88) – 8
6. Nobuhiko Takada vs. Bob Backlund (12/22/88) – 7
With no ring introductions in the first match, I have no idea who is who in the first match. That being said, I found it to be a very solid bout. There was a ton of great mat work focusing on primarily the legs. Kicks were abundant too with a number of them connecting very hard. I like the strike exchange mid-match that fired up the crowd. One of the nice little nuances about there being no commentary and the silent crowd is that you can hear everything that happens in the ring, from someone sneezing, to one of the competitors hocking up a bunch of phlegm, to the referee clearing his throat. By the 15-minute mark, these guys were sweating and were completely gassed and the guy in the long black trunks was mental lapses while applying holds. Didn’t help matters either that they were only halfway through the bout. I’m starting to sense a pattern in these matches. They seem more mat based and technical than anything else. Smiley’s match with Yamazaki was a prime example of this as the majority of it was fought on the ground. In case you were wondering, yes, it is the same Norman Smiley from WCW. Yamazaki didn’t really show me much. Thought Smiley had some pretty good kicks to go with the ground work. Really didn’t think too highly of the match itself although at the end Yamazaki locked in an armbar that not even the Big Wiggle could save Smiley from.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the first Takada/Madea but after hearing Jessie speak highly of one he recently watched off of Disc 4 of this project, I became intrigued and watched with an open mind. As in the first two matches, kicks and mat work was the name of the game. However, these kicks had a lot more fire and stank to them and the submission work looked like they were trying to rip each other’s limbs off their bodies. There were some big, wild-ass kicks and the ground and grappling work would’ve fit right in at Stu Hart’s dungeon. You could hear every grunt, groan, and scream due to the fact there was no commentary. There were a few spots where they would just stand there and trade kicks to the crowd’s delight. I almost forgot about the suplexes. Holy fuck these were awesome!! Every one of them looked like the person receiving said suplex would wind up with a broken neck.
Second Norman Smiley bout of the disc was a bit better than the first one, even though I still don’t think this type of style fits Norman well. First ten minutes was them exchanging holds and reversals on the mat, much like what could be found in any amateur wrestling or MMA gym. Noticed Norman working over the arm of Yoji quite a bit. Match picked up after the ten minute mark where there was a nice stand-up exchange with them both attempting suplexes on each other. After this were some really good kicks and punches that ended up breaking down into more ground work, which culminated with Norman locking in an armbar to pick up the win. Didn’t see much of Yoji that I liked and nothing he did really stood out.
It’s obvious to me that Takada and Maeda really know how to throw down as these two just worked their asses off in their second encounter against each other on this disc. The kicks sounded like gunshots going off, to use a widely used analogy, and the ground work was superb. The thing I really liked was that it seemed less focused on the ground work and was more of a straigh stand-up fight, the kind I really like to see. Crowd was really amped up as well, more than usual for a Japanese crowd. There were a couple of stipulations in play here. First was a five knockdown rule, much like the three knockdown rule in boxing. Second stipulation was something involving the ropes, I’m guessing some sort of deal where they could only use a certain number of rope breaks, similar to old ROH “pure wrestling” matches. The end was quite a sight, both guys with four knockdowns a piece, kicking and slugging each other to see who could knock each other down first. It made for quite the drama. After the final knockdown, the crowd rushed the ring and started chanting for Takada at the top of their lungs.
Final match on this disc was interesting. This is totally Backlund’s element, given his amateur credentials and such. One thing that I didn’t like from him is that a lot of his early submissions looked weak, almost like he was attempting to demonstrate the move instead of actually applying it with some force. Things progressed pretty slowly until Backlund hit Takada with one of the nastiest forearms I’ve seen in a while. After that, Takada just got pissed and really turned up his game. His submissions and holds were the complete opposite of Backlund’s. These actually looked like they hurt, as opposed to Backlund. Backlund’s nose got bloodied late in the bout, one of the few times I’ve seen a Backlund match that involved blood. Couldn’t really tell from the finish when Backlund gave up as it seemed that the ref just randomly called for the bell.