MAY HISTORY 1ST
May 4, 1989
Minoru Suzuki . . . carries Shigeo Miyato to the best opening match up to this point in UWF history.
Kazuo Yamazaki . . . has yet another great match with his generation rival.
Chris Dolman . . . becomes the first legit fighter to not look completely lost inside of a UWF ring.
SHIGEO MIYATO vs. MINORU SUZUKI
The holy grail has been found. It’s a twenty-minute match with Miyato that doesn’t suck! Even being so inexperienced, Suzuki works circles around Miyato. He scouts his strike attempts and takes him down, he works some heated submissions, he gets a couple of nice escapes and counters the few times that Miyato tries to lock him up, and he even hits some disrespectful slaps just for fun. Miyato hangs in the match by the sheer force of his will to not let the rookie embarrass him, and also by finding the one thing that Suzuki seems susceptible to, which are suplexes and throws. The disparity in their skill level is fully on display, when Suzuki builds up some nice heat with a legbar, and Miyato hits a backdrop and goes right for the half crab, to very little reaction. The crowd only wakes up when they see Suzuki making his way to the ropes for the break. They get up and start throwing wild swings, which culminates with Miyato nearly getting the KO from a kick to the gut, and after Suzuki barely beats the count, Miyato hits a second one that ends the match.
YOJI ANJO vs. MacDUFF ROESCH
This starts out looking relatively even, but, as the match wears on and the kinks start appearing in Roesch’s armor, Anjo is able to take advantage to stay ahead. Roesch isn’t terrible, but, it’s telling that the best things that he has to offer are pro-style spots (including a lariat in the corner that Anjo does a great sell job for). It’s easy to see that Anjo is a better striker and is better on the mat, but Roesch’s power advantage, and his being adept enough at the striking and mat game, keep you from totally writing him off. It’s amusing to see Roesch do a butterfly suplex and go right for a pin, which barely gets a one-count, while Anjo does the same suplex a little later and uses it to try to get a submission hold. The combo of Roesch running out of gas, and Anjo keeping the match playing to his strengths, lead to Anjo getting the win with a rear naked choke. If nothing else, Roesch looks a lot more formidable than Bart Vale ever has, although he’s a long way from being on Smiley’s level, let alone being a top foreigner in the vein of Hansen or Vader.
YOSHIAKI FUJIWARA vs. MASAKATZU FUNAKI
It seems weird to think that of a match between these two as disappointing, but, it’s hard to not come away from this feeling underwhelmed. Their matwork comes off as more of an exhibition rather than seeming like a struggle. It’s hard to understand why. Although this was his UWF debut, Funaki had been wrestling longer than Suzuki at this point, and Fujiwara was right there to balance out any experience issues that might occur. That’s not to say that the matwork itself is bad, but, it just doesn’t seem to have any real meaning, or be taking the match anywhere. There are a few occasions in the early stages when Funaki will struggle to take Fujiwara down or to get a hold on, and Fujiwara will quickly counter him. But, that’s pretty much the extent of it. Even Fujiwara’s crab hold escape seems like it’s only being done because it’s a recognizable spot from him.
The moment that perfectly sums up the match for me comes after Funaki hits Fujiwara with several chops and forearm shots, and throws three kicks. Fujiwara dodges the first two and the third only winds up being a glancing blow. Fujiwara just looks at Funaki and smiles as if to say “I’m having a great time!” There’s more fun to be had when Funaki catches Fujiwara in the head with a knee, and seems to hurt him. Fujiwara gets to his feet and gets fired up and starts returning the strikes, leading to him backing Funaki into the corner and pasting him with a big slap, and then deciding to do it again. The booking of the finish is also a head scratcher. Fujiwara gets disqualified for throwing an (apparently) illegal headbutt, but the ref restarts the match (with Funaki throwing several headbutts of his own), and Fujiwara hits a German suplex and cross kneelock for the submission. What’s the point of the restart if Fujiwara was just going to win anyway? It doesn’t really protect Funaki to win and lose that sort of way. But, oddball finish aside, even an underwhelming match from Fujiwara still has things to like about it.
NOBUHIKO TAKADA vs. KAZUO YAMAZAKI
The work here isn’t anything mind-blowing, but, it’s simple and effective, and the match works in ways that the previous match didn’t. One thing that’s made abundantly clear is that Takada and Yamazaki are on equal footing. No matter who in controlling the match at a particular moment, the momentum can swing at any time, and, if the ref stands them up after a rope break, then either one of them has a perfectly good chance of winning the next exchange and taking over. Both men are rather stoic, but, Takada shows some heelish flashes a few times, such as when he catches a kick from Yamazaki and drills him with a headbutt, not only a reminder of the previous match, but also of Yamazaki’s loss the previous month. When Yamazaki scores a surprise kick and gets the first down, Takada gets up enraged at being outdone like that, and tees off on Yamazaki until he scores his own down. His insistence at being heelish is what leads to Takada’s undoing. He makes Yamazaki use his last rope break, which means that another rope break or a down will give Takada the match. But, instead of going for the kill, he uses non threatening holds, and after Yamazaki finds an escape and throws kicks, he outsmarts Takada by making like he’s going to suplex him, Takada plants his feet to block it, and opens himself for a head kick which drops him to burn his last point, and give Yamazaki the match by TKO.
Again, their work isn’t flashy, except for a few pro-style moments, like Takada’s powerslam, but, it’s very well done. Much like their predecessors, Fujiwara and Kido, these two are perfectly capable of working an extended sequence with a basic hold, and making it interesting the whole way through. They spend quite a bit of time early on working basic leg holds. Yamazaki will wrench the leg, and Takada tries to escape by kicking Yamazaki with his free leg, and Yamazaki won’t let go, and tries to wrench harder, Takada responds by kicking harder. It’s a shootstyle form of ‘playing chicken’ to see who gives in first. In addition to his outsmarting Takada to win, Yamazaki also shows a better understanding of the rules. With the rope breaks being counted and points being deducted, he only uses them as a last resort, when he simply can’t pull off an escape or a counter.
The only real drawback to this is the fact that the match being so even comes off like they’re taking turns. Yamazaki scores a down on Takada. Takada gets up, and the next strike exchange sees Takada score the down. Takada will force a rope break on Yamazaki, and the next mat segment is Yamazaki making Takada use a rope break. This does occur several times, but their intensity and the prowess that both of them show, whether it’s on the mat, standing up, or trying for throws and suplexes, make it seems like anything but a cooperative effort. This is yet another example of two of the best showing exactly why they’re two of the best.
AKIRA MAEDA vs. CHRIS DOLMAN
Of the three faux MMA matches that UWF has put on thus far (the other two being Maeda/Gordeau from August and Yamazaki/Clarke from January), this is easily the best one that they’ve done. It takes some time to get going, but, by the second round Dolman is taking Maeda to the mat and forcing him to use the ropes for breaks. Dolman makes Maeda sweat, and it forces Maeda to change it up. Instead of playing to Dolman’s strength, which is on the mat, Maeda keeps the fight standing. Very few of his strikes land all that cleanly, and it’s easy to see that his knee shots barely make contact. But, the cumulative effect of Dolman blocking and checking the kicks eventually takes its toll. With Dolman getting tired out, Maeda pounces with the Capture suplex, and a cross kneelock for the win. Dolman certainly looked like a more game opponent than Clarke ever did. It looks like Maeda finally found a legit fighter that he could get something out of in this setting.
Conclusion: This is a huge improvement over their show from the month before, this is definitely something that’s worth picking up.