May 4, 1990
Yoji Anjo . . . finds himself facing one of the very few opponents who can match and possibly exceed him as far as attitude goes.
Kazuo Yamazaki . . . works and sells his tail off in order to make Tatsuo Nakano look like a legit contender.
Fred Hamaker . . . may be a big and strong fella and capable of throwing anyone around, but he’ll need a lot more than that to topple The Fuj!
YOJI ANJO vs. DICK LEON VRIJ
This would have been a fun match just for the attitude involved, but the work winds up being pretty good too. It’d be easy to look at Vrij and write him off as a white generic musclehead, but he shows that he’s more than capable of holding his own with Anjo. There are a couple of questionable calls as far as Vrij using rope breaks, there are several times when Anjo is trying to lock in a headlock or legbar and Vrij scurries to the ropes, although he doesn’t get docked any points or breaks. The one time that Anjo seems to catch him comes when he takes him over in a headlock and then quickly segues into an armbar and Vrij grabs the rope, the ref calls for a break and before Anjo can get up, Vrij fouls him with an elbow. But for the most part, this is a relatively even match, with nobody having a clear advantage over the other until Anjo runs out of gas and Vrij unloads with knee strikes until he can’t answer the count. Anjo will connect a few kicks, but Vrij is able to start blocking and countering before Anjo gets to take him down. Vrij can use his power to take Anjo down or even throw him, but before he can try to wrap him up in something, Anjo is already putting up his hands and holding him back, and when Vrij goes for broke with a German, Anjo is turning his body while he’s airborne so that he doesn’t take a big bump. Despite his loss to Fujiwara in the Dome, Vrij looked like the one outsider on that show that could come back and be successful, and this match is proof of that; not just from the booking but also with how he’s able to work with Anjo rather than coming in and squashing a curtain jerker like Nakano or a useless foreigner like Vale or Wilkins. Between the good work and the attitude from Vrij, it’s no surprise that Maeda scooped him up for RINGS the following year.
KAZUO YAMAZAKI vs. TATSUO NAKANO
This has got to be one of Nakano’s best UWF matches; although Nakano doesn’t have a whole lot to do with it. Nobody thinks that he’s got a chance of beating Yamazaki, just listen to how the crowd reacts when Nakano does even the most innocuous strike, like the kick to the back when Yamazaki is down. The kick doesn’t hurt Yamazaki at all, but it’s a surprise just to see Nakano able to get something on him. So, Yamazaki decides to try the impossible and do everything he can to make it seem like Nakano can pull off the upset of the century. And I do mean that he does everything. Yamazaki has always been amongst the best sellers in the company, and he couples that with setting up several situations where Nakano can seemingly counter or outsmart him. One of their better ones was Nakano getting a waistlock and Yamazaki lowering his base so that he couldn’t be suplexed. Nakano just takes him all the way down and gets on a sleeper. Yamazaki works his way out of the hold and onto his feet and Nakano scores with a German suplex that gets Yamazaki called down. A bit later, Yamazaki connects a couple of kicks and then Nakano catches his leg and takes him down into a legbar and switches to a single leg crab and makes him burn a rope break. And the crowd is utterly molten the whole time.
In fact, Yamazaki puts on such a giving performance that the only thing that seems out of place is how easily he ends it. He hits a couple of vicious low kicks and then takes Nakano down into a heel hold and submits him. It’s pretty much the polar opposite of how the match had played out. There were several other ways that they could have gotten to the finish; with how lethal Yamazaki’s kicks are, a surprise high kick could have dropped Nakano and stunned him long enough for Yamazaki to lock in the submission or even knocked him out completely. It’s almost exposing in a way. With how quickly and easily Yamazaki was able to finish things off, it makes the previous twelve minutes seem unimportant. It’s still a very fun match, and easily amongst Nakano’s best, although it probably wouldn’t crack a top fifteen for Yamazaki.
AKIRA MAEDA vs. MASAKATZU FUNAKI
Add this to the growing list of disappointing Maeda performances. If it was clipped down to the last two minutes then it’d probably be thought of as a good match, but that’s pretty much the only positive to take away from it. They spend most of the match on the mat and it’s just dull and listless. It’s the polar opposite of Fujiwara, who can work a headlock for five minutes and make it seem engaging. Funaki and Maeda stay busy, but there’s no embellishment from either of them to make anyone really care about what they’re doing. They keep going back to one of the staples of the Original UWF, with them each wrenching on a leg, but there’s just nothing as far as selling or reactions to show that either of them is being successful. Even when Funaki wins the first exchange and then Maeda wins another one, the only crowd reaction is for the eventual bail to the ropes rather than the notion that one of them is in trouble. After far too long, they abandon the mat game and start aggressively trading strikes. Funaki with some body punches and Maeda shuts him down with knee strikes, dumps him with a German suplex, and then submits him with a sleeper. They could have cut this in half, if not more, and lost nothing. I’m not sure which is more alarming, the fact that Maeda had a better match with Nakano than he does here, or that Nakano’s match with Yamazaki easily leaves this in the dust.
NOBUHIKO TAKADA vs. MINORU SUZUKI
This was thirteen minutes that felt more like thirty. Takada doesn’t seem to want to give Suzuki an inch more than necessary, and Suzuki doesn’t show any of the blooming personality or attitude that he’d shown in his matches with Miyato and Anjo. They spend virtually the whole match jockeying around on the mat and mostly getting nowhere. The crowd wakes up a time or two when it seems like Suzuki might have Takada in some sort of trouble, but he never gets that far. Even when Suzuki seems to have Takada in position to dump him with a German suplex, it winds up being more of a takedown to keep things on the mat, and Suzuki has no more success than he’d been having. Takada finally gets around to ending the match with a heel hold, but it doesn’t feel like he truly wins by outsmarting or outwrestling Suzuki, it comes off more like Takada decided that they’d killed enough time and it was time to end the match. Out of the three matches featuring the top guys against the younger upstarts, it’s no surprise that Yamazaki’s winds up being the best. He seemed to be the only one to understand that the idea of the match is to create doubt about the outcome.
YOSHIAKI FUJIWARA vs. FRED HAMAKER
On its own, this would be considered a fun match, but following the two bore-fests from Maeda and Takada makes it come off that much better. The layout and structure aren’t all that different from what Fujiwara and Vrij did back in November, The Fuj scouts Hamaker for a bit to get a feel for his strengths and weaknesses, he does what he can to force him into uncomfortable situations and lures him in for the kill. However, with Hamaker being an amateur wrestler rather than a striker, Fujiwara has to use different means to get where he wants to go. He figures out pretty quickly that Hamaker is susceptible to legbars, and he quickly trims a couple of points with them. But instead of constantly going back to them, when he knows that Hamaker is going to be on the defensive, he tries some other things to see what happens. One thing he learns is that Hamaker is very good with amateur throws, so Fujiwara takes him by surprise by being able to block one and then taking him down into an inverted Fujiwara armbar. Toward the end Fujiwara shows off his own power when he blocks a throw and winds up pitching Hamaker to the mat. Fujiwara also has some fun by getting under Hamaker’s (and the other Dutchmen at ringside) skin. He backs Hamaker into the corner and the ref calls for a break, Fujiwara breaks and then hits a punch to the stomach, getting a big crowd reaction and drawing the ire from Hamaker and co. A minute later, Hamaker backs Fujiwara into the corner and Fujiwara sticks his head outside the ropes, causing the ref to step in and forcibly separate them, before Hamaker can do his own punch.
Hamaker shows that he’d present a formidable challenge to just about anyone on the UWF roster, but Fujiwara isn’t just anyone. Hamaker is tough and strong, easily able to muscle Fujiwara into whatever position he’d like, but The Fuj is just too good and too crafty to get caught that way. Hamaker takes Fujiwara down and tries to stretch him out, but Fujiwara is able to block the hold enough so that he’s not hurt too badly, so Hamaker puts all of his weight into it and winds up putting them into the ropes. It forces the ref to break them up and because it was Hamaker that did it, Fujiwara doesn’t lose any points. When it seems like Hamaker figures out a way to beat Fujiwara, Fujiwara turns around and beats him first. Fujiwara tries to take Hamaker down with a legbar and Hamaker blocks him from getting the hold locked in, they get tangled up in the ropes and the ref stands them up. Hamaker, knowing what’s coming, beats Fujiwara to the punch and gets a single leg takedown and seems ready to lock in a legbar of his own. But, while still laying on his back, The Fuj grabs onto one of Hamaker’s legs to knock him off balance and then locks in a cross kneelock forcing the big Dutchman to submit. Fujiwara had Hamaker’s number for the entire match, not only was he able to take advantage of his weaknesses, but he even found a way to make Hamaker’s strengths work in his favor. As fun as this was, it’s also a bit of a letdown that this was Hamaker’s only UWF match. It would have been fun to see him throw around some of the undercard guys for a couple of months before sticking him in there with Fujiwara.
Conclusion: Although it’s bookended with a pair of fun matches, this is another overall disappointing show. There’s just no reason for the Maeda and Takada matches to be so underwhelming.