UWF-I Commercial Tape on 10/23/92
review by Ryan Mancuso

Hello once again, I am back with another review. This time I will enter the world of shoot-style pro wrestling with my first UWF-I review. The show I am reviewing today is from October 23, 1992 at the famous Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. The main event is UWF-I ace Nobuhiko Takada facing Koji Kitao in a special rules match that consisted of five 3-minute rounds. In my last review, I gave a brief bio on Kitao and why this match was really important for pro wrestling fans. So if you didn't get a chance to read it, then click on my 411 profile and finally click my WAR Revolution Rumbling Vol. 13 review. Another big match on this show is a battle between the two natives who are ranked just below Takada in UWF-International in Kazuo Yamazaki and Kiyoshi Tamura. That should be a really good match. The review begins now:

Before the matches start, the legendary Lou Thesz gives an interview backstage. He gives his thoughts on the Takada vs. Kitao main event. He said that Kitao was in his wrestling training camp in Virginia, but left to pursue the martial arts. He feels that Kitao is underestimating wrestling in this fight with Takada. Since the match will have rounds, Thesz feels that Kitao does not have the level of conditioning that Takada has. However, he felt that Kitao will use powerful attacks in short spurts rather than wearing down someone. Thesz closes the interview by saying that this bout will showcase professional wrestling and not show business.

Kickboxing Rules: Makoto Oe vs. Kunpon Gehya Samureek

One of the novelties of early UWF-I was that they would have a match held under kickboxing rules with five 3-minute rounds. I am pretty sure that these matches were shoots since UWF-I did not book their wrestlers in these matches. Before the fight, Samureek is doing a ritual dance seen in Muay Thai events. This was a pretty even fight. Neither man was able to score a knockdown. Samureek was the better fighter on this night as he got the decision after 5 rounds.

Tom Burton vs. Hiromitsu Kanehara

In recent years, Kanehara has been fighting in MMA and has not found too much success. He has fought and lost to some very tough opponents in Matt Hughes, Ricardo Arona, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Dan Henderson, Alistar Overeem, Mirko Cro Cop, Wanderlai Silva, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueria and Renato "Babalu" Sorbal. With that kind of competition, a victory over one of those guys is a huge accomplishment for any fighter.

This was a pretty solid match with Burton using his wrestling with takedowns and suplexes. Kanehara strategy was to use striking and submissions. Kanehara caught Burton with an accidental low blow earlier, but Burton was able to recover. Burton was able to take Kanehara down a few times. He scored a knockdown with a powerbomb by picking Kanehara off the mat after he suplexed him. In the end, it was Kanehara who was able to position himself to make Burton tap to an ankle lock.

Mark Silver vs. Yoshihiro Takayama

This was a decade before Takayama had one of the most insane brawls in MMA history against Don Frye. I forgot just how skinny Takayama was when he was younger. Very short match as Takayama must have really cranked on that single-leg Boston crab early. Silver broke the hold by reaching the ropes, but he was still down on the mat and holding his knee. Silver tried to stand up, but he could not do it. Referee called for the bell, and Takayama wins by TKO in 71 seconds.

Yoji Anjo vs. The Iron Sheik

Now we have entered to the surreal part of this show. When promoting a wrestling product based on legitimacy, the last person you would think of booking is The Iron Sheik. He does have some legitimacy by winning AAU titles back in the early 1970's. There is that benefit of him being a former WWE champion. This was a battle between two characters. We know about The Iron Sheik, and his crazy antics. Anjo has done some crazy things as well. The most well known story was him flying to Los Angeles to challenge Rickson Gracie in 1994. Rickson Gracie is seen as the best fighter in the Gracie family, even better than his more famous brother Royce. There is a mythological sense towards Rickson and his fighting record. Rickson is said to have had over 400 victories in various combat sports like Sambo, Jiu-Jitsu, Freestyle Wrestling and MMA. It is believed that Rickson has never lost a fight. A victory over Rickson in a fight would gain anyone legendary status in the fight community.

Anjo showed up at Rickson's gym and demanded Rickson to fight him. Rickson accepted and beat up Anjo in 3 minutes. No footage of this fight exists, but I read that a photo of Anjo was taken after the fight and it was not pretty. There are some theories that this fight between Rickson and Anjo was the inspiration for the formation of PRIDE Fighting Championships. The reason was that the main event for the first ever PRIDE show in October 1997 was Nobuhiko Takada vs. Rickson Gracie. Takada trying to be the one who finally defeats Rickson and gaining revenge for Anjo getting beat down.

For those wondering, Sheik did not break Anjo's back and make him humble. Actually, I would label this as an unintentional comedy match. The match was mostly Sheik staying near the ropes or corner whenever Anjo was throw strikes or attempting to take Sheik down. Poor Sheik just looked really lost out there. Anjo was finally able to get Sheik in the middle of the ring, and take him down with a fireman's carry. He made Sheik tap out to a stepover toehold.

Gary Albright & Mark Flemming vs. Yuko Miyato & Masahito Kakihara

This was another short match, but I am not sure if UWF-I booked it that way or if there was accident that caused the early finish. This is what happened in the match. Kakihara catches Flemming with a high kick 5 minutes into the match, and knocks him down. Flemming stays downs for the count and Kakihara's team wins by KO. I am thinking it was a worked ending. For one, Kakihara acted way too excited when he got the KO. Either he knew the match was over after the high kick or he is great at improvising a mistake. The reason Kakihara was excited over the victory was that he and Miyato got an indirect victory over a monster like Albright. They knew they had to keep Flemming in the ring because Albright is that much of a difference maker.

Albright's reaction after the match was him getting upset because he never got tagged in the match. He headed straight to the locker room. He was screaming and yelling at how angry he was. I am thinking that if the kick was not the planned ending then Albright would check to see if his partner is ok. It seemed odd that UWF-I would fly Albright in, and just let him stand in the corner. It could have been that he was injured and did not want to do further injury. UWF-I really wanted their top gaijin involved in some capacity at a major show, and did a finish that made it look like things would have been different had Albright gotten tagged in.

Kazuo Yamazaki vs. Kiyoshi Tamura

Before the match, there was an interview backstage with Tamura and Lou Thesz. Thesz is talking about Tamura spending time at his home in Norfolk, Virginia to help him train in his wrestling. As a way for Tamura to improve on his wrestling, he is not wearing shin guards in this match. Under UWF-I rules, a wrestler is not allowed to throw any kicks if he is not wearing shin guards. This was a really good match. When both men were standing, Yamazaki tried to take advantage by throwing kicks at Tamura's legs. He knew that Tamura could not respond with kicks of his own. Despite having a striking disadvantage, Tamura was able to use his wrestling by taking down Yamazaki a few times. When the match was on the mat, there was some great matwork done by both men. Both were emphasizing how each submission could mean the end of the match. While doing that, they were also trying to find a way out of the submission and position themselves at an advantage. The only way they wanted to use the ropes was if there was a real chance of submitting. Tamura is able score the huge upset by making UWF-I's #2 native tap out with a cross armbreaker. It looks like Tamura's emphasis on wrestling paid off in this match. He showed that he was one step closer to being the successor to Takada.

Nobuhiko Takada vs. Koji Kitao

While the Yamazaki/Tamura match was much better technically, but the crowd heat was insane for this match. It had that big fight atmosphere. They booed Kitao mercilessly when the ring announcer called out his name. There were loud "Takada" chants even before the ring announcer called out Takada's name. They clearly wanted their hero to defeat the treacherous Kitao. There was a story that the finish of the match was a shoot. It seemed that Kitao once again refused to job. In fear of having a public relations nightmare if Kitao bailed on the match, UWF-I renegotiated the finish to where the match ended in a draw. However, I think that UWF-I was hoping that Takada took things into his own hands. If that was the case, then Takada succeeded with that high kick that KO'ed Kitao in the 3rd Round. Kitao still looked dazed when he was walking back to the locker room. Here is my play-by-play of this historic match:

A video package aired of Kitao KO'ing Yamazaki back on May 8, 1992. After that, there was footage of a press conference where the match was announced and the contract was signed by both men. Lou Thesz enters the ring to share a few words. He talks about Takada winning his old World Heavyweight Title belt after defeating Gary Albright. He mentions Masahiro Chono, Thesz's former protégé that learned the STF from him, and how he wants a unification match. Chono was the NWA World Champion at the time and wanted to unify his belt with Thesz's old title worn by Takada. I guess that might have been a big match planned for the January 4, 1993 New Japan Tokyo Dome show, but the politics between New Japan and UWF-I would not allow that match to happen. Instead, Chono defended and lost the NWA World Title to The Great Muta on that show.

The bell rings and the 1st Round begins. Takada is throwing kicks to the leg and midsection. Some of them are glancing and others just miss. Takada connects with two good kicks to the leg. Kitao had to sell the pain and the crowd responded big time to that. Takada almost connected with a spin kick, and the two men finally get into a clinch. However, Takada is quick to break the clinch. He knows that he would be in a bad position if closer to Kitao. Takada connects with a high kick near the end of the round, but Kitao was not affected too much by it. Bell rings and Round 1 is over.

2nd Round starts, and they tie up. Kitao with a knee to the midsection, and a suplex takes Takada down. Takada quickly recovers and positions himself to where he could cross armbreaker Kitao. The crowd is really hot for this. Kitao is fighting really hard not to get trapped. He breaks it by rolling to the ropes, and both men have to stand up. Takada is throwing kicks, and each time one connects gets a loud reaction. They tie up. Takada goes on all fours with Kitao on top of him. Takada is able to stand back up without any damage done to him. Bell rings and Round 2 is over.

3rd Round starts and Takada continues the low kicks to a loud reaction. Takada connects with a vicious high kick that send Kitao down. The referee makes his 10 count, and the fans are counting along with the referee. Kitao has been knocked out. Takada is jumping in excitement over his victory. The entire UWF-I roster is in the ring celebrating with Takada. Loud "Takada" chants from the crowd. Kitao is still dazed after the kick, but shakes Takada's hand and leaves the ring. Takada cuts a promo then leaves the ring on Takayama's shoulders while receiving much fanfare from the crowd.

Final Thoughts: If you are looking to get into UWF-I, then this show would not be the first one that I would recommend to you. Tamura vs. Yamazaki was a great bout that featured nice submission attempts and escapes. Takada vs. Kitao was not a great match quality wise, but the atmosphere from the crowd will suck you into the match. You could tell something big was going to happen once the introductions were made. Anjo vs. Sheik was good for unintentional comedy. Everything else was very forgettable. I wouldn't recommend the entire show, but the last two matches are worth checking out.

Final Score: 5.0 [Not So Good]

Ryan Mancuso can be reached at ryanm2k4@gmail.com

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