Pro Wrestling U-Style PPV on 2/15/03
review by Ryan Mancuso

Hello again, I am back with another review. This will be part one of a series of reviews from the U-Style promotion. U-Style was seen of the fourth generation of UWF shoot style pro wrestling. It was started up by Kiyoshi Tamura after he knocked out the ace of UWF-I Nobuhiko Takada in Takada’s retirement match in PRIDE on November 2002. Tamura said that the debut show of U-Style would take place on February 15, 2003 at Tokyo Differ Ariake. The scoring of U-Style is different from UWF #2 and UWF-I. Both men start off having 5 points. They lose a point if they are knocked down or if they reach the ropes to break a submission. Unlike the past where 3 rope breaks equals one knockdown, U-Style has it to where one rope break equals a knockdown.

U-Style was financed by the MMA organization DEEP and their owner Shigeru Saeki. DEEP is one of the minor MMA leagues in Japan, but they run very entertaining shows. PRIDE saw how entertaining some of these shows were and asked Saeki to be the matchmaker for their Bushido shows. DEEP has used fighters from Tamura’s camp in the past. It was probably no surprise that they would try to recreate another UWF with Tamura's students, and a few outside fighters who has connections with Tamura or the DEEP organization. However, it will be a lot more difficult to draw fans these days with shoot-style wrestling. First, the only draw in the company is Tamura. Also, the popularity of MMA has hurt the legitimacy of shoot-style pro wrestling. That isn't good for a company that is trying to sell legitimacy to the audience. Enough with the background and onto the review:

Before the show began, a highlight video aired of a brief timeline through the career of Kiyoshi Tamura. At the age of 19, Tamura debuted in May 1989 for the second UWF. He was the protégé of Akira Maeda. When UWF #2 shut down in 1990, Tamura joined UWF-I when they opened in May 1991. In December 1995, Tamura had his first MMA fight in K-1. He faced Patrick Smith, who fought for UFC in their infancy. Tamura defeated Smith by submission, with a heel hook, in just 55 seconds. Tamura left UWF-I in March 1996. He jumped to Akira Maeda’s RINGS organization and debuted there in June 1996. In 1997, Tamura opened up his own camp called U-File. Tamura wins the 1997 Battle Dimension tournament in RINGS a few months later and becomes the first ever RINGS Heavyweight Champion.

In February 2000, Tamura defeated Renzo Gracie by decision during the 1999 King of Kings tournament. After RINGS shut down, Tamura started to fight in PRIDE. He got a shot at the PRIDE Middleweight Title in February 2002, but lost to Wanderlai Silva. The highlight for Tamura’s PRIDE stint was when he was chosen as the opponent for Nobuhiko Takada’s retirement match in November 2002. In the fight between UWF-I’s top two natives, Tamura KO'ed Takada in the second round. It was Tamura's first and only victory over Takada.

After defeating Takada, Tamura announced that he was start up the fourth generation UWF. In January 2003, Tamura changed the name of the promotion from UWF to Pro Wrestling U-Style with the debut show at Tokyo Differ Ariake on February 15, 2003. The main event of the first card was announced as Tamura vs. former RINGS regular Wataru Sakata. After the video package aired, the wrestlers were introduced one-by-one while the UWF theme plays in the background. Interesting note is that Tsuyoshi Kosaka is doing color commentary for this show. Most people know Kosaka for showing a lot of heart in his recent fight against Mark Hunt in PRIDE. Kosaka and Tamura have a history together as both men were top native stars for RINGS until the company shut down.

Katsuhisa Fujii vs. Ryu Echigo

Echigo is a member of Tamura's U-File Camp and Fujii is representing UFO, which was Naoya Ogawa’s affiliated group for many years. Echigo did not stand a chance in this match. Fujii was too aggressive and dominant. He finished off Echigo in 90 seconds with a release German suplex and quickly made Echigo tap to a Kimura.

Manabu Hara vs. Naoki Kimura

Hara is from the remnants of Battlarts and Kimura is from Wataru Sakata's dojo called Evolution. This match was a lot more competitive than the previous one. Both men were looking for openings either standing or on the ground. Hara found that opening when he used a beautiful looking German suplex. He quickly transitioned into a sleeper hold. After a brief struggle, Kimura taps out.

Yasuhito Namekawa vs. Kyosuke Sasaki

Kyosuke is another member of the U-File Camp while Namekawa is a freelancer. This match was a lot of fun because both men wanted this to be action packed. Kyosuke went for a flying cross armbreaker and other nice looking counters into submissions. Namekawa tried a koppou kick, caught a Kyosuke kick with a unique looking dragon screw and slammed a jumping Kyosuke down with a powerbomb. When Namekawa was in the mount position, they had a slapping contest. Namekawa caught Kyosuke with an armlock and facelock combo submission for the win.

Ryuki Ueyama vs. Hiroyuki Ito

Ueyama is from U-File Camp and middleweight champion for DEEP. Ito is labeled as a freelancer here, but he does have an affiliation with Tsuyoshi Kosaka. Things got very exciting early when both men were going for submissions, but the other kept counter out of it. This chain happened a few times in around a minute. Things slowed down after that, but the match was dull. Both men were fighting for positioning, strikes and submissions. Ueyama locked Ito in an ankle lock. It looked like Ito was going to tap, but he managed to get that burst of energy to get to the ropes for the first rope break of the match. When they got back standing, both men were daring the other to hit him. It was Ueyama with slaps and Ito with kicks. In the end, it was Ueyama throwing a few body strikes in the guard position and catching Ito with an ankle lock for the submission.

There was an intermission on this show. The Tamura video package aired again. Dokonjonsuke Mishima, who had been fighting in Shooto, was introduced to the crowd. He gave a speech to the crowd. Mishima says that he wants to wrestle for U-Style. It was announced that he and Kiyoshi Tamura would meet at the next U-Style show on April 6. Mishima is a very exciting personality both in the ring and outside of it. If Mishima's pro wrestling matches are half as exciting as his MMA fights, then he will be a great addition. Mishima takes a seat on the commentary team for the rest of the show.

Takehiro Murahama vs. Kazuki Okubo

Murahama is presenting Osaka Pro Wrestling. It may seem weird that someone from Osaka Pro would be in the company, but Murahama has plenty of experience in MMA and kickboxing. It seemed natural that he would be invited to U-Style. Okubo is another member of Tamura’s U-File Camp. Murahama shows that he has been hanging out in Osaka Pro Wrestling for some time because he uses a snap suplex and runs off the ropes very early into the match. A little later on, Murahama ran off the ropes again. He managed to duck an Okubo kick while running. Both men were at a stand off after Murahama went for a dropkick and Okubo with a high kick.

Okubo would use his size advantage to put Murahama into submissions much easier. Murahama ran off the ropes again. Okubo tried a lariat, but Murahama ducked. Okubo catches a Murahama kick, but Murahama scores a knockdown with an enzuigiri. Murahama would finish off the taller Okubo with a German suplex and transition into a cross armbreaker. I found the match to be fun with Murahama doing things you wouldn’t expect in a UWF based promotion. I could also understand why many would be upset at Murahama for running off the ropes a few times into the match. After the match, Murahama got on the microphone and asked for a match with Kiyoshi Tamura at a future U-Style show.

Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Wataru Sakata

This was a good match to close out the show. Tamura showed that he is still one of the best to do shoot-style pro wrestling. Sakata also performed really well in this match. Both men just went with the flow of the match. The striking and submission attempts were really good. Despite the winner not being in much doubt, Sakata was definitely made to look like Tamura's equal in this match. On the math, Sakata was looking the better of the two. It was Tamura's strength in the standup department that made difference between victory and defeat in this match. Here is my play-by-play:

Before the match begins, Sakata decides to slap Tamura in the face rather than shake his hand. The bell rings and both men are throwing glancing leg kicks to see what the other does. Sakata catches Tamura’s leg and goes for a takedown. However, Tamura blocks it and they are in a clinch. Sakata transitions into a waistlock and manages to take Tamura down by the leg. Sakata tries to position himself into getting a cross armbreaker on Tamura. However, Tamura is able to escape by rolling to his feet and force the match back standing.

Both men are still testing each other out standing with glancing strikes. Tamura goes for a kick to the midsection, but Sakata catches it and scores another takedown. Sakata going for a leglock, but Tamura stands out of the submission attempt and positions himself on top of Sakata. Tamura goes for a cross armbreaker, but Sakata rolls out of it and his momentum puts him on top of Tamura. This time Sakata goes the cross armbreaker. Sakata almost succeeds with the holds, but Tamura is able to escape and wind up in Sakata’s guard. Sakata manages to roll over and stand up. Sakata tries to cartwheel into Tamura’s mount, but Tamura moves and Sakata winds up in the guard. Tamura stands up and wants to engage in a stand up battle as Sakata stands too.

Sakata catches another Tamura kick. Tamura tries a spin kick, but Sakata ducks and they are back on the mat. They try to position themselves into a better position. It seemed that Sakata was going for an ankle lock, but he almost got caught by a Tamura cross armbreaker instead. Sakata fought for a while to make sure the hold was not applied. It seemed that Tamura had finally succeeded in applying the cross armbreaker, but Sakata reached the ropes for the first lost point of the match. Both men are back to a standing position, and Sakata has 4 points left now.

Sakata catches Tamura with a hard kick to the midsection. He throws a high kick that is blocked by Tamura. Tamura grabs Sakata by the leg, lifts him up and slams him on the mat. Tamura goes for a single-leg Boston crab, but decided to transition into a heel hook. This gave Sakata the opportunity to counter into a cross heel hook of his own. Tamura manages to escape and have Sakata in a waistlock. Tamura grabs Sakata by the leg and they slap each other in the face. Tamura goes for a single-leg Boston crab, but Sakata counters into an attempted heel hook. Sakata transitions into a cross knee scissors hold. Tamura looks like he is in trouble, but manages to reach the ropes for his first lost point of the match. Both men are standing and have 4 points left.

Tamura connects with some hard leg kicks. He sees Sakata is stunned and starts throwing high kicks and knee. A high kick knocks Sakata down. Sakata barely gets up at 9 and has 3 points left. Sakata is now the one connecting with strikes a high kick rocks Tamura, but he does not fall. The same result happens when Sakata connects with a jumping knee. Sakata goes for a spin kick, but Tamura evades it. Sakata catches Tamura's leg and takes him down for another heel hook attempt. Tamura reaches the ropes and both men have 3 points remaining.

Both men are connecting with kicks and slaps. The effects of this match are taking its toll on both men. Sakata goes for a takedown, but Tamura catches Sakata in a front sleeper. Sakata tries to fight it, but he is trapped and forced to tap out. After the match, Sakata and Tamura embrace on a hard fought match. Tamura gives a victory speech and the show ends on a high note.

Final Thoughts: This was a very good debut show for the promotion. They don't have the big names that UWF or UWF-I had, but the U-Style roster is a whole lot of fun to watch. Namekawa vs. Kyosuke and Ueyama vs. Ito were really fun matches. Murahama vs. Okubo was a match that some might like because it was more traditional pro wrestling than the others. It could also be a match that some might hate for the reason I mentioned in the previous sentence. The main event delivered the high quality match that one would expect. Overall, this is a show that I would recommend for those who enjoy shoot-style pro wrestling.

Final Score: 7.5 [Good]

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