Birthdate: January 21st, 1959
IWGP Tag Team Championship with Osamu Kido:
IWGP Tag Team Championship with Nobuhiko Takada:
WWF International Heavyweight Championship:
Other Signature Moves:
When it comes to rise of shoot-style wrestling in Japan, few wrestlers had more of an impact then Akira Maeda. At one point considered a loose cannon, Maeda showed during the late 80s into the 90s that he was capable of running a promotion without the controversy that plagued the first part of his career. Best known by many fans for "shooting" in worked matches (i.e. intentionally hurting his opponent in a wrestling match), he was also an accomplished shoot-style wrestler and promoter. Of his promotions, RINGS lasted the longest as it was in business for over a decade with Maeda first as a wrestler and promotion and afterwards strictly as the owner.
While he had various successes in the early 1980s, Akira Maeda's big break came in 1984 when he joined the UWF. In the UWF, Maeda's passion for shoot-style wrestling began, and he loved the more realistic style of fighting. Since Maeda had difficulty in his last tour in the States, he was determined to have a hard hitting promotion, unlike the "weak" American style. Maeda's stint in the first UWF was short, however. Satoru Sayama and Maeda were having a conflict backstage, where many of the UWF wrestlers felt that Sayama was taking too much control. Maeda took things into his own hands, delivering a series of low blows intentionally to Sayama during their match. The promotion soon disbanded.
In 1986, Akira Maeda returned to New Japan, but things didn't work out too well for him. In April, he had a match versus Andre the Giant. One side of the story is that Andre showed up drunk and in no condition to compete, which angered Maeda. Another story says that Maeda just did not want to lose to a WWF star. Regardless, the match quickly disintegrated into a shoot match, as Maeda delivered kicks to Andre's legs and used multiple single leg takedowns. Antonio Inoki came out twice trying to talk to the wrestlers, but was unsuccessful in getting the two to cooperate. Finally, the match ended with Andre the Giant laying on his back asking Maeda to pin him, when Inoki went to plan B and had other wrestlers come in the ring to start a wild melee. The match was thus considered a double DQ.
On June 12th, Maeda had a great match against Tatsumi Fujinami, with whom he had a good relationship with. Fujinami returned Maeda's shoot-style of wrestling, making it a much different type of match then most New Japan fans were used to. Unfortunately, Maeda accidentally connected with a kick to the head, causing Fujinami to bleed profusely. The match would end in a double knockout. The last straw was in 1987 when Maeda intentionally kicked Choshu in the face during a match, breaking his orbital bone. You can watch the match above. Maeda was subsequently suspended and fired.
In 1988, Akira Maeda re-opened the UWF, and until it was disbanded in 1990 the promotion saw a great deal of success. As before, the UWF was shoot-style but now Maeda's primary counterpart wasn't Sayama but Nobuhiko Takada. Karate artists and amateur wrestlers were brought in to participate in the shoot matches, which Maeda also participated in. The highlight of its run included a show that drew a crowd of over 60,000 fans. Unfortunately, Maeda wasn't able to get along with Takada and once again the promotion would close.
After the UWF split, Maeda went on to create RINGS, which would promote shows that included worked shoot-style matches and MMA matches. After years of success, Maeda would retire from wrestling in 1999. While he was a controversial character, Maeda contributed greatly to the changing landscape in Japanese wrestling. Without Maeda and Takada (who branched off to create UWF-I), the shoot-style of professional wrestling would never have grown to the popularity it obtained in the mid-90s. Whether he was wrestling in worked matches or worked matches that turned into shoot matches, Akira Maeda never failed to entertain the fans and his accomplishments as a mentor in RINGS will be seen for years to come.