June 21, 1990


Minoru Suzuki . . . steps up to Yoji Anjo and shows that he’s not going to be the resident whipping boy of the promotion anymore.

Yoshiaki Fujiwara . . . reminds Shigeo Miyato that he may be moving up the ranks, but he’s got a long way to go before he’s on equal footing with The Fuj!

Nobuhiko Takada . . . forces Akira Maeda to truly defend his top guy position, for the first time since the company was founded.



Well, this is far from the ideal way to start off any show. Roesch isn’t the worst foreigner to ever work for the UWF, but after taking a few minutes to ponder who the best foreigner has been, it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. Nakano hasn’t looked half bad in his last few matches, but he has no hope of being able to carry this. They spend far too much time fumbling around, both on the mat and even standing in a clinch, almost like a shootstyle version of an extended collar and elbow tie up. The mat game has never been Nakano’s strong suit, but he’s clearly the better of the two in that area. Things pick up when they stop trying to submit each other and decide to trade strikes and throws, including Roesch nearly spiking Nakano with a butterfly suplex, and Nakano hitting a pretty nasty looking German. They both add some heelish flairs, with Roesch hitting a stomp to Nakano’s midsection and Nakano retaliating with some punches to the back of Roesch’s head and on his ears. The match still isn’t pretty, but the aggression and intensity are certainly welcome, Roesch hits a couple of headbutts that knock Nakano out the ring, and Nakano jumps right back in and looks like he’s ready to kill. In that respect, it’s odd that they go back to the submissions for the finish, with Nakano nearly ending it with a sleeper and then tapping Roesch with an ankle lock. I suppose the idea is that Nakano’s suplexes stunned him enough to get the holds locked in, but it’d have been just as easy for Nakano to connect a throw and win by KO. Nobody ever thinks that Nakano is going to beat the likes of Fujiwara, Yamazaki, Takada, etc. by submission, but if he’s established as someone with a lethal throwing ability, it gives him something of a perceived edge against those guys.



This winds up feeling a lot like Suzuki’s match with Maeda from the month before, only with the knowledge that Anjo doesn’t have the Top Guy clout to simply shut Suzuki down when he wants to. Anjo’s idea seems to be to use his striking to soften up Suzuki, but Suzuki shows a knack for being able to absorb and catch Anjo’s kicks and then throw him to the mat. And while Anjo has shown himself to be pretty good at working on the mat, Suzuki is easily able to keep up with him, and even manages to outdo him on a few occasions, including taking the first points of the match. As the match wears on, Suzuki starts succumbing to fatigue, and it allows Anjo to finally connect with some good shots that let him hit a vertical suplex and then a nasty head kick that gets Suzuki called down. But Suzuki manages to bounce back and quickly return fire on Anjo, to show that he’s not going to be put away too easily. In that sense, the finish is a little too out of nowhere; Suzuki picks up Anjo for a throw and loses his balance, and Anjo takes the opening to lock in an armbar for the submission. It’s a fine finish, but it makes Anjo look more lucky than good.



It’s no surprise at all that this is watchable; after all, it’s Fujiwara wrestling someone with a warm body and a pulse. But, with one or two exceptions, it rarely gets to be anything more. After seeing Fujiwara put on classics against the likes of Maeda, Takada, and Yamazaki, one wonders if he even has it in him to get excited for a match like this. It’s not like he’ll have to dig deep into his proverbial bag of tricks in order to beat Miyato, even if Miyato has improved from the year before. The match is basically summed up as Fujiwara telling Miyato to do his worst, and then The Fuj handily gets himself out of any real trouble. The disparity is fully on display when Miyato gets frustrated and throws a kick to Fujiwara’s back, which has no real effect outside of getting the crowd to react, and the next sequence is Fujiwara hitting a simple slap and Miyato gets called down and docked a point. Miyato manages to get Fujiwara in the corner and unloads on him with everything he’s got, and Fujiwara sells like it’s killing him, but he uses the corner and ropes to be able to stay on his feet. After getting his wind back, Fujiwara turns the tables on Miyato with three body punches which trim another point. If nothing else,  Miyato is smart enough to know that he’s not going to outdo Fujiwara on the mat and he tries to play it safe with strikes, but Fujiwara catches a kick, takes Miyato down and pounces with a chickenwing armlock for the submission. Despite his best attempts to not engage him on the mat, Fujiwara was able to force the issue when he needed to.



Even before Yamazaki’s injury, which caused the rushed finish (something that’s already happened to him far too many times), this was looking like it was going to be more exciting than good. The standup segments where they swing at each other definitely had the crowd’s attention, but the mat portions were the polar opposite. Both of them are far too good on the mat to get caught with something easy, so it’s a lot of quick counters and reversals with nobody ‘winning’ the exchange. Funaki tries to wrench Yamazaki’s arm to get an armbar, but Yamazaki blocks it, and when Funaki eases up Yamazaki grabs the leg for a cross kneelock which Funaki is able to block. The only time it really seems like someone might get the edge on the mat is when they get there with something like Funaki catching a kick and using it to take Yamazaki down, or Yamazaki using his leg kicks to knock Funaki down and put him in position to try a submission. But before they can really do much to explore that route, one of Funaki’s palm strikes busts open Yamazaki’s eye and the ref winds up having to stop the match.



Considering how rough both of these two had looked over the course of the last few shows, I went into this expecting a stinker. Instead, they put on one of the best UWF matches of the year. The only thing that doesn’t really work here is their matwork, specifically the lack of “work” that goes into it. They’re both as good as anyone on the roster in that regard, but instead of the quick exchanges like the previous match, their mat exchanges come off more like rest holds. It works on some level because it’s not like anyone thinks that something basic like the chickenwing armlock or the legbar are going to be able finish off either of them but watching them lay on the mat in their stalemate is far from interesting. However, they more than make up for this with a couple of great counters to trap the other person in a submission, complete with a brilliant finishing sequence that ends with Maeda outsmarting Takada and tapping him out with a cross kneelock.


And while their matwork isn’t exactly stellar, they go all out with the striking to move the match along. Again, they’re both known as proficient strikers, so it makes sense for them to wear each other down this way. Between Takada’s early counter, where he snags a kick and traps Maeda in the ankle lock, and the strike flurries that he unloads throughout the course of the match, it’s honestly the first time, maybe even more than their 11/88 match where Takada first beat Maeda, that anyone looked like they can pose a legitimate threat to Maeda’s top spot. And that’s just as much of a credit to Maeda as it is Takada thanks to how well he puts over what Takada does. Maeda may have won the match by outsmarting Takada, but Takada gets one over on Maeda quite a few times throughout the match. There’s a very nice play off their early sequence where Takada counters Maeda into the ankle lock; Takada once again catches the kick and Maeda knows exactly what’s coming so he makes sure to stay on his feet. Maeda thinks he’s got Takada where he wants him and throws a spin kick, but Takada sees that coming and ducks it and it gives him the perfect opening to lock in the single leg crab. Takada wanted a leg submission, and he got one, even if it wasn’t the one he was looking for.


There’s also a couple of smart throwbacks to earlier matches; the best one is during a strike flurry from Takada that causes Maeda to go down and favor his eye. Not only is it a reminder of what happened to Yamazaki not even an hour before this, but it also brings back memories of the match these two had in January and exactly how Takada managed to pull out the win that night. Maeda unloads on Takada with a series of knees and kicks, and Takada smartly uses his arms to cushion the blow and takes advantage of the fact that Maeda has him against the ropes to stay on his feet. Maeda goes for broke with a spin kick and only catches Takada with a glancing blow, and Takada drags Maeda to the center of the ring and locks in an ankle lock. It’s the sort of craftiness that was present in Maeda’s two matches with The Fuj. They even wind up previewing the finish of the match a good five minutes before they do it. Takada fires away at Maeda and he catches a leg and looks for the Capture suplex. Takada knows what Maeda is trying for and drops to the mat to stop it, Maeda hesitates for a moment, unsure of what to do and then tries for the cross kneelock, but the hesitation gives Takada a chance to prepare for it. The only difference being Maeda’s hesitation. He knew what Takada was going to do if the opening for the Capture suplex presented itself again. It did, and Takada did what Maeda expected, and he was prepared for it.


What’s even more remarkable about them putting on such a great and engaging match is the fact that they’ve both been on something of a mediocre streak (although the Maeda/Suzuki match was a huge step in the right direction) for the last couple of months. This match is proof positive that, despite whatever issues (or injuries in Maeda’s case) they had, both of them are still just as good as they’ve ever been. Even before Maeda’s injury their match in January hardly looked like it was going to be a classic and it’s great that they not only got the chance to make up for it, but that they were both willing and able to make the most out of that chance.


Conclusion: It was looking like a solid show, if a little unspectacular, but the main event is absolutely worth going out of your way to see.