UWF BEST BOUTS Vol. IV
July 21, 1985
Yoshiaki Fujiwara . . . shows that it’s truly possible to make chicken salad out of chickenshit.
Nobuhiko Takada . . . almost by force of will, helps give Sayama one of his better matches inside a UWF ring.
Akira Maeda . . . learns the hard way that the old sports adage is true, that anyone can be beaten at anytime.
YOSHIAKI FUJIWARA vs. KEITH HAWARD
This is a fun exhibition of Fujiwara’s craftiness, but there isn’t much to see beyond that. Haward has never been featured enough on these tapes to get a real sense of his work, or to see how well he’s able to mesh with the UWF workers, and this isn’t an exception. The highlight is Haward trying to get a rear naked choke, only for The Fuj to easily counter him into a headlock, and lock up Haward’s arm for a bit. Haward tries several different means of escape and winds up in a few different positions, including on his stomach and even on his feet, but he only gets free because Fujiwara decides to let him go. It’s almost a comedy spot. Haward gets to feet and seems to be trying to throw Fujiwara off, but he just lets go and Haward takes a bump. Fujiwara taps him out right after that to a juji-gatame, so maybe they got crossed up somehow and decided to just end it.
SUPER TIGER vs. NOBUHIKO TAKADA
Although Sayama doesn’t have much to do with it, this is easily one of his better UWF matches. Sayama’s work is largely the same as it’s been with his other opponents. He throws a boatload of kicks, very few of which make decent contact, and does some pedestrian matwork. But, this is Takada’s match to make, and he does a great job of it. Unlike the Mach Hayatos and Keith Hawards, whom worked Sayama with the mind set of simply putting him over and making him look good, Takada wants to actually have a good match and get the crowd excited. So, when Sayama’s strikes miss or don’t connect well, he doesn’t sell them and he fires back at him with his own strikes. If Sayama puts on a hold that isn’t locked in well enough, then Takada escapes or counters it. And it works, the crowd gets red-hot because it looks like Sayama has an honest-to-goodness challenger to his throne.
At the same time, it’s not like Takada is out there acting like Bruiser Brody and going into business for himself. He doesn’t sell the kicks when they’re not thrown well, but he still shows hesitation because he knows that Sayama is a lethal striker, and, while Takada has shown to be a respectable striker himself, he knows fully well that his best chance to win is going to be by outwrestling Sayama. There’s a great moment when Takada locks a Triangle choke on, and Sayama is audibly struggling to breathe while he’s in the hold. It also helps that they have a brilliant finish that winds up putting both of them over, even though only one of them wins. Sayama clocks Takada with a kick that keeps him down until the ref counts to eight. Takada is clearly woozy, and, knowing he can’t take another shot like that, he rushes in to do a belly to belly and loses his balance. Sayama falls on top and does a chickenwing armlock to make Takada submit. Sayama wins and Takada loses. But is it really that simple? Did Takada fall over because his bell was rung, or did Sayama do something to throw him off balance? It really shouldn’t matter in the end, because what happened is what happened and Sayama won the match. But, it does matter, because it’s the difference between Sayama simply getting a lucky break and Sayama outsmarting his opponent.
AKIRA MAEDA vs. OSAMU KIDO
Overall, this is a lot like the match between Kido and The Fuj from four days later. The work isn’t flashy, but, it’s very well done, and if one is a fan of solid matwork, then it’d be easy to find it engrossing. Neither man has an obvious advantage over the other, until Kido wears down Maeda’s knee, which is what eventually earns him the win. Maeda can take Kido to the mat and try to control him, only for Kido to counter him and take over. Kido can take Maeda to the mat and have him to the same to Kido. It’s simple, but with two wrestlers as skilled as these two, it’s very effective. There’s only one thing that feels out of place. Just after Kido had managed to single out Maeda’s knee, Maeda felt the need to get back to his feet after the rope break and attack Kido with a series of kicks to back him into the corner. If Maeda had sold, even a slightly delayed sell would have worked in its own way, then it wouldn’t be such a big deal. Even better would have been if Kido had blocked or caught one of kicks and used that to segue into the half crab for the submission. But, this is just comes off looking like Maeda decided that he needed one last burst of offense to make himself look strong before the finish, despite the fact that the nature of the match and the finish didn’t do anything to diminish him, and the fact that it didn’t accomplish anything except ending a perfectly fine match on a sour note.
Conclusion: Even without the other two matches, the Sayama/Takada match alone would have been enough for me to give this one a thumbs up.