KAKUTOGI ROAD IV
March 2, 1985
Marty Jones . . . carries Super Tiger to one of his better UWF matches, which results in both men looking good when it’s all over.
Masami Soranaka . . . looks like the greatest shootstyle wrestler that you’ve never seen before, that (sadly) hardly any footage exists of.
Yoshiaki Fujiwara . . . continues to put on the best matches in the company, even while getting the tar kicked out of him by Maeda.
SUPER TIGER vs. MARTY JONES
It looks like I’m adding Marty Jones to the list of wrestlers that I need to see more of. This is easily one of Sayama’s best UWF matches (I’d say the Fujiwara match from 9/11 is his best), because Sayama doesn’t stray very far outside of his comfort zone. Sayama provides the stiffness you’d expect, and works the more simple mat sequences, including a surprisingly smooth sequence where he takes Jones down and tries to lock in a crossface chickenwing. Marty sells like a champ for the strikes, and does the heavy lifting on the extended mat bits. This is a great example of a match where both competitors come out looking good. Marty gets to show off his stuff, and Sayama shows some craftiness of his own when he’s able to wiggle himself free, or pull off a surprise escape. Marty shows a bit of nastiness when he backs Sayama into the corner and hits a big slap, and also when he takes him over with a snap mare, and measures him for a knee to the forehead.
The only altogether odd moment is a repeated sequence from the Sayama/Hayato match from the previous month, when Sayama kicks Marty off from attempting a Scorpion, and they wrench each other’s ankle until the ref stands them up. But, Marty showed more mat skills in the first minute than Hayato had to offer, and it also causes Sayama to blow off Marty’s backbreaker. Marty’s selling was a bit too theatric at times, such as his somersault bump on the enzuigiri, but he sold well enough to the point that everyone knew that he was finished after Sayama hit the Tombstone, and the Tombstone is what allows Sayama to cinch his head scissors choke for a fast submission. The backbreaker no-sell would make sense if the idea is to devalue the pro-style spots, but, Sayama kills that notion dead by going right back to it for the finish, even if it is more dangerous, and something that Sayama has history with.
NOBUHIKO TAKADA vs. MASAMI SORANAKA
Masami Soranaka just shot to the top of the list of wrestlers that I need to see more of. Although, with his career only going from 1984-85, and all of his matches taking place in this promotion, it’s more than likely that the number of his matches that exist on tape can be counted on one hand. This plays out like a tale of two matches. The first half is all about the mat game. The matwork is tight and fluid, but, it’s not very meaningful, neither gives the impression that they’re thinking ahead nor are they trying to work toward anything. But, when Soranaka makes several movements in order to escape from Takada’s Octopus hold, Takada’s frustration boils over and he starts laying in strikes and trying to finish things off. Soranaka won’t go down that easy and starts to return fire, and the well-worked exhibition turns into a heated fight.
Takada seems like the obvious favorite, and when he gets Soranaka locked up in a hold, the crowd seems sure that it’s going to be over with. But, it’s human nature to root for the underdog, and when Soranaka gets the ropes for the break or kicks out of a pin attempt, the crowd goes crazy for him. What makes this even better is that Takada doesn’t mind taking a couple of surprising bumps, and is willing to linger in holds so that it looks all the more likely that Soranaka is going to pull off the upset. With the crowd having just seen the Tombstone ensure Sayama’s win, it’s all the more impressive that Soranaka survives Takada’s running Tombstone and then lets loose on Takada with European Uppercuts, and takes him down and locks in a Triangle choke. In that sense, it’s a bit of a letdown that Takada finally puts him away with a chickenwing armlock. Soranaka’s continued resiliency makes a vicious KO shot, or Takada stretching him into submission with some freaky looking carny hold seems like a more appropriate finish. But, an oddball finish doesn’t come close to tarnishing this. If this is indicative of his work, then it’s a real shame that Soranaka wasn’t around long enough to be able to work with guys like Nakano, Funaki, and Tamura.
AKIRA MAEDA vs. YOSHIAKI FUJIWARA
This stands right alongside the 2/18 Kido/Fujiwara match as a great example of the UWF style as well as another example of just how great Fujiwara is. The matwork isn’t all that flashy, but it’s very methodical and well done. Aside from the Fujiwara armbar (obviously) they do a lot of the same holds that the previous match did, but the difference is in how they’re worked. Takada and Soranaka’s early mat exchanges were technically sound, but didn’t have much direction. Fujiwara and Maeda always give the idea that they’re struggling to apply and work holds. Maeda seemed to have a bit of an affinity for longer matches, and with him being in there with someone as capable as Fujiwara, they’re easily able to go for twenty-five minutes, and make it feel like half that time.
Fujiwara does as much as possible to show how dangerous Maeda’s kicks are, first by dodging and blocking his early attempts at them, including a nice sequence where Fujiwara catches one and does an ugly Scorpion Deathlock. It’s another reason that the matwork here is so important, by keeping Maeda on the mat, Fujiwara is preventing him from landing the kicks. Later on, when Maeda does get some distance and is able to tee off on Fujiwara, he sells them like absolute death. Fujiwara finds something of a loophole in the UWF rulebook, which he uses to recover from the onslaught. A downed man rolling to the floor will not break the referee’s ten count, so Fujiwara rolls to the floor and stays down until eight or nine, and after he gets up, the referee starts to count him out of the ring, which gives him extra time to recover.
It’s fitting that an engaging and well-worked match, in a style that thumbs its nose at typical pro wrestling, has a finish with a distinct pro wrestling mentality, yet, is executed in a way that conveys the superiority of shootstyle. With Fujiwara reeling from the kicks, Maeda tries to finish him off with a German suplex and then a Dragon suplex, but Fujiwara survives both. Realizing that pro-style suplexes won’t get it done, Maeda goes for a spin kick. Fujiwara avoids the kick, and quickly gets on a Triangle choke for the submission. For Fujiwara, it’s a role reversal from his 2/18 match, Maeda was on the verge of winning, until he lost. Instead of sticking with what was working for him, Maeda changed up his approach, and when he tried going back to the strikes, Fujiwara was prepared. The idea of UWF being non cooperative, means that storytelling is, more often than not, left by the wayside. Ideas like playing off prior matches and the finish of the match suiting the action that came before it are pro wrestling concepts. But, Maeda and Fujiwara are able to flawlessly integrate them into this match, with Maeda’s failure to win with the suplexes clearly designed to show that pro-style moves simply aren’t sufficient to beat a skilled UWF wrestler.
Conclusion: This easily one of the best UWF tapes out there with a fabulous main even, and a hidden gem in the Takada/Soranaka match!