MAY HISTORY 2ND
May 21, 1989
Yoji Anjo . . . learns firsthand about the saying ‘out on his feet’ at the hands (err the head) of The Fuj!
Masakatzu Funaki . . . finds out that the former WWF Champion isn’t someone to take lightly.
Kazuo Yamazaki . . . attempts to avenge his hardway juice job, and finally get his first win over Akira Maeda.
MINORU SUZUKI vs. KIYOSHI TAMURA
The debut of a legend! Tamura shows everyone a few glimpses at the greatness that was to come from him later on. His movements are fluid and seem almost effortless, and any time that the match goes to the mat, he’s able to show that he has the skills necessary to get the upset. But, being that it’s his pro debut, he’s obviously lacking in experience, and that’s what Suzuki can exploit to his advantage. Although Tamura throws some mean kicks and knees, he goes back to them often enough that Suzuki is able to prepare for them, and he catches the strike several times and uses it to take Tamura down, including using it to lead into the single leg crab hold that wins the match for him. This wasn’t anything amazing (although, it probably would have been a few years later), but, with Suzuki looking just as good as his previous matches, and Tamura looking like anything but a clueless rookie, it’s virtually impossible to not be excited at the prospect of seeing these two mix it up with some of the better workers on the roster, as well as seeing if the UWF dojo can routinely produce workers of this caliber.
YOSHIAKI FUJIWARA vs. YOJI ANJO
The Man. The Myth. The Fuj! This isn’t very long, and Anjo isn’t bad in the least, but, this is a total clinic in showing just how much better Fujiwara is than Anjo (although to be fair, that hardly puts Anjo in elite company). The really cool moment is when Anjo takes down Fujiwara, gets a mount, and unloads some nasty slaps. When they’re both on their feet, Fujiwara lets loose one of the sickest looking headbutts that you’ll ever see. Anjo stays on his feet, but is so clearly out of it that the referee calls him down and starts counting. That may have been the highlight, but, the rest of the match is still good. Fujiwara has no problems making Anjo look good, especially with the closeup shots showing his pained facials when Anjo has him in a headlock or a sleeper.
Anjo has a little success with kicks, but, he falls back on them too often, and winds up getting countered into an ankle hold to force a rope break. Anjo tries to follow up by taking Fujiwara to the mat, but doesn’t protect himself, and winds up in a legbar and once again needs to burn a point. Anjo once again tries to wear down Fujiwara with kicks, and, Fujiwara again counters him, and this time he takes him down and gets on the cross kneelock for the submission. Fujiwara was clearly the better wrestler here, but, he didn’t need to show it by squashing Anjo quickly and not letting him get in anything. Fujiwara lets Anjo make the most of his chance to shine, and then exploits the weakness in order to win.
BOB BACKLUND vs. MASAKATZU FUNAKI
This doesn’t hit the same level as Backlund’s match with Takada from the previous December, mostly because Funaki doesn’t go along with Bob’s pro wrestling stylings the way that Takada did, but, this is still a very fun match. In a way, Funaki is the polar opposite of Takada. Whereas Takada was willing to sell and make Bob’s pro-style spots look dangerous, Funaki acts almost indignant at Bob’s using pro-style spots and his overly theatric selling, and responds by throwing some ungodly stiff strikes. There’s some obvious tension between them, but, it seems like a stretch to say that this turns into anything even resembling a shoot. It’s easy to see the cooperation going on, especially with Backlund’s back drop and bridge up spot, as well as the pause to make sure they’re on the same page before the gut-wrench suplex. If Funaki really wanted to shoot on Bob, he had ample opportunity anytime they went to the mat. Both Backlund and Funaki use some unorthodox and flashy take downs, which gives the match that same carny vibe that Backlund/Takada had.
This is also the second time in a row that Funaki’s match ends in a disqualification, although this time the match doesn’t get restarted. Backlund powers out of Funaki’s armbar and sets him on the top rope (yet another of Bob’s staples that Funaki could have easily sandbagged him on if he’d really wanted to), and Funaki comes off with a dropkick and the ref awards the match to Backlund. It would have been interesting to see how Maeda dealt with having a troublemaker on the roster, considering his own checkered history. But, it doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere, and, it’s not like this is the sort of company that’s going to run storylines like that anyway. The real shame in all of this is that this would be Backlund’s last UWF appearance, robbing everyone of a Backlund/Fujiwara match.
NOBUHIKO TAKADA vs. JOHNNY BARRETT
The best way to sum this up is that it looks like a competitive match, but, it’s easy to see that Takada is doing the heavy lifting, including a waterwheel drop to Barrett. Barrett doesn’t look completely lost out there, but, he’s a long way off from looking like a Norman Smiley or Bob Backlund. Barrett does some smart things, like using his size to take Takada down and then trying to submit him, and his countering the juji-gatame into the ankle lock to force the rope break was impressive. But, again, when you look closely, you can see that Takada is leading Barrett through things. Takada lets Barrett give him a couple of scares, including a big lariat that scores a down and gets a huge crowd reaction, and then Takada dispatches him with relative ease. If nothing else, Barrett showed more in seven minutes of this match than Bart Vale had shown in pretty much the entirety of his UWF career.
AKIRA MAEDA vs. KAZUO YAMAZAKI
At first, this looks like every other match I’ve seen between these two. There’s some good action, but, it never feels like Yamazaki has a prayer of actually winning. But, once Maeda starts showing the effects of Yamazaki attacking his legs, this turns into easily the best match I’ve seen from this pairing. It also helps that Yamazaki shows that he has some pent up anger stemming from their previous match, which isn’t often seen from him, and once Maeda shows that Yamazaki is gaining some ground in the match, the crowd wakes up at the prospect of seeing the upset.
The first sign that Yamazaki has what it takes to win the match comes when Maeda has him reeling in the corner from his kicks. Yamazaki surprises Maeda by catching his leg, and taking him down. The spot itself isn’t anything threatening to Maeda, he still has the match under control, but, the suddenness of it shows that if Maeda isn’t careful, then Yamazaki could easily get the win. Yamazaki also scores the first down of the match, dropping Maeda after a series of kicks. Maeda gets back up and immediately fires back which gives him a down on his own, and seemingly nearly winning by KO when Yamazaki barely beats the count. But, all is not as it seems, when the ref tells them to continue fighting Yamazaki levels Maeda with a spin kick that nearly KO’s him, and scores another down right afterwards. Yamazaki’s success isn’t just limited to strikes either. He secures a sleeper, and it takes Maeda several attempts to roll into the ropes for a break, because Yamazaki is able to roll him further away. Maeda nearly spikes Yamazaki on his head with a Capture Suplex, but that doesn’t deter him at all, and Yamazaki fires away with some headbutts, just to show Maeda how worried he is about being busted open again. Maeda eventually does put him away with a horizontal Triangle choke, but, only after Yamazaki makes him burn his last point, and pushes him further than he ever had. It’s actually the only time that Maeda clearly outwrestles Yamazaki in the match. Maeda hits a German suplex, knowing that Yamazaki is going to try to counter into an armbar. Yamazaki takes the bait, and Maeda locks in the Triangle to put him out.
Much like the Maeda/Takada match from January, I have to question the finish, and the method of getting there. There wasn’t any reason (other than perhaps Maeda’s ego) that Yamazaki couldn’t have won the match on points. Yamazaki could have burned a point by using the ropes to get out of the Triangle, and then had Maeda charge himself into a kick for the surprise down. Or, Yamazaki could have pulled off a surprise submission hold, with Maeda just instinctively grabbing the ropes and costing himself the match. Yamazaki wins the match, and looks great doing it, but, not in such a way that it would have diminished Maeda’s aura. Instead, Yamazaki and Maeda put on a damn fine performance, only to continue the cycle of Takada and Yamazaki (with the only exception being the 11/88 match) wrestling each other for the privilege of losing to Maeda.
Conclusion: This is a rock solid show from the UWF. The action is good to great from top to bottom, with nothing bad at all.