December 22, 1988

Yoji Anjo . . . carries Tatsuo Nakano to a match that isn’t a surefire insomnia cure!

Kazuo Yamazaki . . . tries to give some pointers to a young gun, who foolishly doesn’t show the proper respect.

Bob Backlund . . . puts on an amazing performance that would make crowds chant “You still got it!” if it happened twenty years later.


This is easily the best Nakano match that I’ve seen that doesn’t feature him bleeding. It’s still not exactly good, but, it’s watchable thanks to things like Nakano throwing some hellish knee strikes right into Anjo’s face. Nakano is clearly the lesser worker here, and it shows with the ease that Anjo is able to take him down and keep him tied up, even with simple things like the legbar and half crab. But, Anjo isn’t a world beater yet, and he almost costs himself the match by trying an Ippon Seionage, and getting countered into a crossface chickenwing (which is just about the coolest thing that Nakano could do, with Bob Backlund on the card). Anjo learns from his mistake, and keeps things on the mat, and gets the win with an armbar. Like Nakano’s other matches, it didn’t need to last twenty minutes, but, it’s a nice example of how understanding, and being able to work within, someone’s limitations, can lead to something good.


At first this looks like some sort of sparring session. They both know that Miyato is in way over his head, but Yamazaki doesn’t just chew him up and spit him out. He lets Miyato try something, and then easily counters or escapes it, so he can help the kid out. But, then Miyato takes a cheap shot and kicks Yamazaki in the ribs after a rope break, and any goodwill he might have built up is out the window. Miyato gets a lucky break and catches Yamazaki in an armbar after a German suplex, but aside from that, Yamazaki is in firm control, knowing he can finish him off at any time, and he decides to be a little merciful and do it somewhat quickly.


This is similar to the Takada/Smiley match from September, with Smiley getting to show that he’s a skilled competitor before beating beaten. Maeda isn’t as giving as Takada though, aside from the opening moments, Smiley never has full control over Maeda, and the mat exchanges give the message of Smiley only being good enough to hang with Maeda, but not actually challenge him. Maeda fires off kicks until Norman is loopy, and then easily beats him with a sleeper.


The only word that seems to accurately sum up this match is ‘Carny’ - their holds and counters have this unorthodox undertone to them, like what you’d expect either of them to do to some weekend warrior who got in their face. Backlund’s indignant reaction to Takada’s kicks, and the elbows he fires back with sets the tone that things could easily get out of hand, and they do when Takada goes too far with them and breaks Bob’s nose, and Bob gives him a receipt in the form of a raspberry over his eye from a twisting boot scrape. Takada wins by making Bob submit to an armbar, but, it’s done in such a way that Takada doesn’t look like he’s definitively the better man. Bob had just wiggled free of a half crab and was shooting in to take Takada down again. Takada rolls through from the momentum and winds up in the top position and manages to secure the hold. It’s just as much due to luck as it is skill. Bob’s showmanship and preference for pro-style moves, like the backdrop suplex and camel clutch, makes this more of a pro-style match than a typical UWF bout, but, between their great selling, and the general atmosphere where it seems like something big can happen at any moment, it’s a much better match for it.

Conclusion: This is easily the best UWF show of the year that I’ve seen. Everything is at least watchable, and Takada/Backlund is an absolute must see!