UWF "With '90 1st" on 1/16/90
review by Ryan Mancuso

Hello again, I am back with another review from shoot-style UWF. This show is from January 16, 1990 in front of a packed crowd at the famous Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. The main event is a rematch of last year’s main event at the same building when Akira Maeda faces Nobuhiko Takada in what may have been the best match in the short history of UWF #2. Will Maeda score the victory again, or will Takada get the victory this time? Could they match or exceed the greatness of last year’s match? Also, Kazuo Yamazaki battle Yoji Anjo in a rematch from my last review. Will Anjo find more success this time? Enough with the preview and onto the review:

Shigeo Miyato vs. Kevin Kastelle

This was a solid opener. Kastelle was a tall kickboxer, which means his strategy was to keep it standing and use his size to keep some distance to throw strikes. Basically, it was Miyato to throw leg kicks and score the takedown. From there, he would take advantage of Kastelle's inexperience on the ground so that he could lock submissions. After getting knocked down early with kicks and knees, Miyato won the match when he used a belly-to-belly suplex and locked in a single-leg Boston crab for the submission.

Minoru Suzuki vs. Wellington Wilkins Jr.

It is weird seeing Wilkins here because he went from doing shoot-style pro wrestling in UWF to undercard comedy matches in Michinoku Pro. This match was an extended showcase for Minoru Suzuki to show off his skills. Outside of a suplex and near choke, Wilkins did not get much offense and it made the match feel like it went a little too long. The highlights were Suzuki using a Matt Hughes-esque slam and a dropkick that sent Wilkins out of the ring. Suzuki showed off a little more of his smug side in this match with his stomping and slapping of Wilkins. Suzuki must have seen the previous match because he also used a single-leg Boston crab in route to a submission victory.

Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs. Tatsuo Nakano

I have to say that while Nakano was not a top quality wrestler in UWF like Maeda, Takada and Yamazaki, but he did have a lot of really good matches based on intensity. This was no different. Nakano initiated the striking with headbutts, clearly sending a message to his opponent, and soccer kicks. Fujiwara showed that he was the master of the headbutts by scoring knockdowns after two or three. In typical Nakano fashion, he suffers a bloody nose in the match. There must be a bonus offered at UWF show if they could make Nakano’s nose bleed. The crowd was really into the match with every strike thrown. Even though the score would say that Fujiwara dominated the match, but Nakano was very competitive. However, he was not effective in scoring points. Fujiwara won the match with a standing heel hook.

Kazuo Yamazaki vs. Yoji Anjo

These two men meet again in a UWF show that I reviewing, but this time they have the semi-main event spot on the card. It was a different match than the prior one because Yamazaki was more aggressive in this match. Yamazaki showed that he felt Anjo was a threat when he refused to let go of a leglock after Anjo reached the ropes. To show his aggression, Yamazaki nailed Anjo with a series of headbutts and it seemed like he was trying to knock Anjo out of the ring with those headbutts. Anjo was happy to respond in the aggression when he used a hard rope assisted kneedrop to Yamazaki's head. Yamazaki showed that he was still a step ahead of Anjo because he scored the victory with the sleeper hold. It was a really good match that I appreciated more because I know the story from the prior match and how Anjo grew as a competitive wrestler from these two matches.

Akira Maeda vs. Nobuhiko Takada

This was a fantastic match and the second best match I had ever seen from UWF. The first best match from them was Maeda vs. Takada from a year earlier. They went over 20 minutes and the pacing of the match was excellent. There was a quick knockdown scored by Takada to tease that this match could end early. After that, they paced their knockdowns and rope breaks to make a match of this length very interesting. The striking, especially the kicking, looked great. The mat wrestling was great with both men trying to position themselves into locking in a submission they want. A few times Maeda was going for the same move that won him the match last year with the Boston crab. Takada fought desperately to not have it locked in.

The one thing that prevented this match from possibly exceeding the previous match was Maeda's eye injury during this match. The thing that made the injury worse was that they went to the finish right after the doctor cleared Maeda to keep fighting. Personally, I think they were going to the finish after Takada knocked Maeda down with the palm strike even if there was accidental thumb in the eye. I feel the injury had no impact on the planned finish. It just hurt the flow of the match because they had built up the pace of the match and then it stopped due to the eye injury. Instead, they did the finish after having to deal with a total stoppage of action. Despite that, it was still an excellent match and worthy of some play-by-play:

The bell rings and Maeda throws a few kicks. He landed a few glancing shots to Takada’s leg. Takada fired back with clean palm strikes to Maeda’s face and a high kick sends Maeda down in just 30 seconds into the match. The referee counts and Maeda is up 8. Both men throw kicks with them connect in the leg. Takada lands a spin kick that sends Maeda into the ropes. Takada connects with another high kick, but Maeda does not go down. They get into a clinch and Maeda takes Takada down. He goes for a cross armbreaker, but Takada blocks it. Maeda positions himself into the mount position and throws slaps to the head of a covering up Takada. These slaps give Maeda the opening to position himself to try another cross armbreaker. Maeda succeeds in the hold, but Takada is quickly able to reach the ropes for a break.

Both men are back standing and throwing kicks that make little to no contact. Maeda brings Takada close to him and starts headbutting him a few times. This gives Maeda the opening to send Takada down with a high kick. The referee counts and Takada gets up at 8. Takada tries a savate kick, but connects with a high kick that sends Maeda to the ropes. Takada uses another high kick and takes Maeda down a belly-to-belly suplex. Takada goes for a cross armbreaker and succeeds. However, Maeda reaches the ropes before any damage could be done. Five minutes has passed in the match. The score is tied with one lost point and a rope break.

Takada fakes a shoot, but Maeda was ready to block it. He fakes a kick to try a palm strike, but Maeda was not in his range. Takada throws a kick, but Maeda catches it and locks Takada in a heel hook. Maeda would transition into a single-leg Boston crab. The fans react to the move especially since it has gotten two victories in this night. After a struggle, Takada reaches the rope for his second rope break. One more rope break and Takada forfeits a point. Maeda throws a kick to Takada’s leg that was very effective because Takada was limping in pain. Takada backed off Maeda for a little bit to try to get that leg to recover. It seemed to work because Takada tried a take down, but Maeda blocked it. From that position, Takada stood up and slammed Maeda on his back.

Both men had an extended mat exchange. Takada went for a Kimura while in side mount, but Maeda was able to position himself to where it looked like Takada had Maeda in the rear mount. However, Maeda kept moving to where he nearly had Takada in the Kimura. Takada escaped, but Maeda positioned himself to lock in the single-leg Boston crab again. This time Takada was able to escape without a rope break. Maeda was still on top and tried a can opener neck crank. Takada escapes, but Maeda locked in a leglock. Takada was in pain and had to reach the ropes. This was Takada’s third rope break which means he loses a point.

Both men connect with some hard kicks to the leg. Takada throws a palm strike that stuns Maeda and takes him down with a front facelock. Takada positions himself into a rear naked choke, but Maeda was able to reach the ropes for his second rope break. One more and he loses a point. 15 minutes have expired in this match. Maeda catches a Takada kicks and pushes him down. From there, Maeda throws a few soccer kicks at the grounded Takada. Takada stands up, but Maeda rocks him back into the ropes with a kick the face. Maeda throws a few knees and kicks to send Takada down. The referee counts and it looks like Takada is not getting up. The referee reaches eight before Takada would attempt to get up. Takada barely beats the count and that is now his third lost point.

Takada tries a high kick, but Maeda catches it and takes him down with a beautiful Capture Suplex. Maeda locks in a single-leg Boston crab and goes for the other leg to use a regular Boston crab. Takada is blocking it by pushing his body up from the ground. Maeda is able to get that leg and force Takada’s chest on the mat. After having a little difficulty in getting that leg, Maeda succeeds with the Boston crab. Takada quickly reaches the ropes for another break. Two more breaks, and Takada loses another point.

Maeda throws a few kicks that sent Takada’s back onto the ropes. Takada manages to score a takedown. He goes for a cross armbreaker, but Maeda positions out of the hold and locks Takada in what looks like a figure-four heel hook. After doing some brief damage with the hold, Maeda transitions into the single-leg Boston crab yet again. Once more, Takada reaches the ropes. That is rope break number two. One more rope break means Takada loses his fourth point of the match. 20 minutes has expired with this match.

Takada throws a kick and nails Maeda with a palm strike. Maeda is holding his eye. It definitely looked like Takada accidentally poked Maeda in the eye with his thumb. Maeda goes down for his second lost point of the match. The referee counts to nine and Maeda gets up. However, he is still holding onto his eye. The referee calls a time out for a doctor to check on the injury. It seems to be nothing serious and Maeda is able to return to action quickly. Maeda throws a high kick, but Takada catches it. He locks Maeda in an ankle lock. Maeda is desperate for escape and tries to get to the ropes. However, Takada drags him back to the center of the ring and locks Maeda’s leg into a leg-scissors. The fans have really come alive because they could sense that Maeda was in danger. Maeda is struggling to reach the ropes, but he taps out. Takada celebrates his big victory and Maeda shakes his hand for a job well done.

Final Thoughts: After the first two matches, this show started to kick into gear and became very good. Fujiwara vs. Nakano was intense from all of the strikes thrown. Yamazaki vs. Anjo was very good. I thought better than the prior match they had that I reviewed because it was more competitive. Despite the unfortunate finish due to Maeda's brief eye injury, Takada vs. Maeda was an excellent match and showed some of the best that shoot-style has to offer. It would definitely be a MOTYC for 1990. Overall, I would definitely recommend getting the entire show for the last three matches.

Final Score: 7.5 [Good]

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