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[1990-10-25-UWF-Atlantis] Akira Maeda vs Masakatsu Funaki

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My Japan MOTY. The next big thing vs veteran ace is a classic story and one that pops up throughout 1990 but this may be my favorite iteration. The striking exchanges in this are what really sets this apart. The striking is fast and the way Funaki blocks, bob, and weaves enhances the fight atmosphere. I may even prefer this to Maeda vs Takada from '88.

 

EDIT: Found some comments I wrote about this match on WKO to expand on what I love about this match. I said:

 

Neither man's performance here is as good as Fujiwara's top performances from 1990 but I thought they did a fantastic job working together. The stand up is incredible. Funaki's striking is fast and his boxing head movements look great. Maeda is also game for standing up and he deals out some nasty shots of his own.

 

But what surprised me most was the mat work both of them brought to the table. The mat work wasn't intricate or anything but it combined the best aspects of the other great UWF matches from that year. It had the violence of the Fujiwara/Maeda match from February as both men were trading kicks, slaps, and dropping knees on the mat. Maeda was guilty of looking aimless on the mat in a number of his other matches this year but here he looked focused. I especially loved how you could see him scouting out what limbs Funaki had free when trying to escape a hold. Funaki brought some of his slick counters and escapes.

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I definitely picked up on the dynamic of the young upstart challenging The Man. Really good match, with Funaki's lightning-fast strikes being a highlight. Those strikes would be exciting on their own, but they work even more for me as a contrast to Maeda's more deliberate style. I felt like I watched something special, and agree that this was a great match.

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This was damn great also. Great strikes and more spunkiness from Funaki than I expect knowing his demeanor these days. Maeda did a good job keeping him reigned in.

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I felt bad for them, having to follow Fujiwara-Takada. But this was really good as well. Basically, Maeda had to weather the storm against Funaki's hand speed and activity level until he could find some ways to grind the young man down. And it worked, because Funaki's athleticism really was impressive. The last 1/3 of the match dragged a little compared to the opening. I would've liked to see them go to their feet a few more times to keep Funaki feeling dangerous. But it was still one of the promotion's best matches of the year.

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Good match for what it is, though I thought the Maeda/Nakano match was more to-the-point as far as Maeda vs. young up-and-comer matches go.

Nakano wasn't an up and comer.

 

This is how much I care about the UWF in general. It was a better match, regardless.

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S'alright. The up and comers were Suzuki and Funaki. Suzuki had made his debut in '88 and Funaki had debut in '85 at the age of 15. Nakano was in his mid-20s and had been wrestling for about six years in 1990 and never made it past the lower card.

 

It helps to see what Funaki did to Yamazaki, Fujiwara and Takada before this match to realise how epic a showdown it was. This was the Misawa/Jumbo of shoot style.

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It's also their second bite of the apple in the year. The main evented Budokan in May, which was more of a "cold" build up in terms of Funaki being on a streak going into it. It was more a "new" match in May, similar to Jumbo-Misawa being "new" in June, at least in terms Misawa without the mask.

 

The other difference is Maeda never put Funaki over. Takada was the "younger" guy he put over, twice. The only other job in UWF 2.0 was to Fujiwara, essentially to set up Fujiwara to put over Funaki. That Maeda-Fujiwara didn't make the set either, which is interesting given folks loved their Feb match.

 

John

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I believe this is my first experience with Funaki. Now I recognize him from AJPW. Quick striking to start. Didn’t interest me enough. Finish picked up but overall match was lacking for me. Tough to follow Fujiwara in my book.

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Funaki had a great image and natural ring presence. There was a nice younster vs veteran dynamic and the way they started out promised much. It didn't quite deliver on that potential and drifted at times, but still good overall.

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The youngster Funaki gives it his all and has Maeda on the run for the first part of this, but the master slowly wears him down, dominates for a while, then gets the win with a choke.

 

I'm not exactly sympatico with shoot style, but I admire how focused it is on limbwork. In almost every match, there's a concerted effort by both performers to injure an arm or a leg and force their opponent to either tap out or continue minus a point of balance. In a world where "regular" pro wrestling is becoming dominated more and more by either highspots or hardcore brawling, this is a refreshing change.

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The youngster Funaki gives it his all and has Maeda on the run for the first part of this, but the master slowly wears him down, dominates for a while, then gets the win with a choke.

 

I'm not exactly sympatico with shoot style, but I admire how focused it is on limbwork. In almost every match, there's a concerted effort by both performers to injure an arm or a leg and force their opponent to either tap out or continue minus a point of balance. In a world where "regular" pro wrestling is becoming dominated more and more by either highspots or hardcore brawling, this is a refreshing change.

This is a good point though I think the better way to look at it is UWF style isn't so much going after injured body parts (it happens but it's not a focal point). The idea is they are using 'legitimate' holds that should make the opponent tap out instantly or within a few seconds if not close to a rope break. It's the opp of pro style where you 'wear' down an opponents body part with a variety of moves. It's no coincidence that UWF eventually lead to Pancrase and Pride, even if most of the great pro wrestlers sucked in actual MMA competition.

 

Glad to see you enjoying this style a little more. Hopefully Lucha will eventually win you over too

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I felt bad for them, having to follow Fujiwara-Takada. But this was really good as well. Basically, Maeda had to weather the storm against Funaki's hand speed and activity level until he could find some ways to grind the young man down. And it worked, because Funaki's athleticism really was impressive. The last 1/3 of the match dragged a little compared to the opening. I would've liked to see them go to their feet a few more times to keep Funaki feeling dangerous. But it was still one of the promotion's best matches of the year.

 

Mostly agree with this. A really good match, but not a MOTYC or anything to me. I thought Maeda was clearly the better worker here, reigning down Funaki's atheticism and terrific stand-up striking. Coming just after Fuji vs Takada, it's striking to me why Takada was so great. Although he was nowhere as good a striker that Funaki was, and not that great on the mat either, what makes the difference is how much better he sells the near-submisisons and KO (a bit like Onita would actually). He makes everything means so much, whereas there were a bunch of very slow, totally devoid of urgency escapes by Funaki here, including in the middle of the match, which kinda dragged a little at points because of it. Maeda was much better at this, and it made Funaki look dangerous. Anyway, this was still really good of course. Maeda as the surly veteran always works well and Funaki brought spunk in spades. His mullet was horrifying though. What the hell ?

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This match is a victim of coming on right after the Fujiwara/Takada match. i was still on a high from that, and this didn't hit the same mark for me. I might need to watch this one again, because it was really good, I just wasn't invested. The strike exchanges were fast and brutal, Funaki had tons of energy, Maeda played the veteran role well.

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Really good match for a lot of the reasons mentioned above. Funaki is really impressive at this stage and I look forward to seeing more of him.

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Loved the flurried slap-action to open and the frantic way Funaki counters out of the rear waistlock to ground Maeda with the wakigatame, really cranking it on. They convey good struggle for control and for the most part, Funaki's able to roll with a lot of Maeda's punches so to speak...you know, except for when Maeda is repeatedly rocking him kicks on the ropes. I like that even when they're on the mat, Funaki is still trying to drive home a few knees and boots, and his slaps are as nasty as usual. Maeda has a hard time slowing Funaki down, despite the suplexes and focused legwork, and eventually has to choke him out to win. Great stuff.

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Akira Maeda vs Masakatsu Funaki - UWF II 10/25/90

Been loving the Funaki I have been watching, now is a real test can he drag a great match out of the load, Akira Maeda. The answer is yes he can! Great story it is the frenetic energy of Funaki vs. the grind of Maeda. Funaki is always trying to jumpstart the match and get Maeda off his rhythm in the stand up. Maeda is looking to catch a leg and drag this down to the mat. Funaki acquits himself well on the mat is able to counter most of Maeda's submissions on his own. I love that Maeda does not give Funaki a clean break at one point because in his mind Funaki was being a prick. So Funaki did not give Maeda a clean break on a rope break and just rifled him. Then held up one finger each to say we are even. I think UWF II changed their rules as there is a German suplex with a bridge which gets a one count and Funaki gets an absurd number of rope breaks and should have lost the match based on how many rope breaks he gets based on the rules from 1989. Funaki's kicks keep getting countered into submissions and while Funaki is countering he cant really make in-roads on the larger Maeda. Maeda knocks the wind out of Funaki with a massive kick and then a knee totally knocks him loopy. Funaki is using all these extra rope breaks to basically try to restart the match on the feet.  Theres a great flurry from Funaki after one of his rope breaks where he tries to overwhelm Maeda with a barrage of strikes and Maeda just spikes him on his head with a wicked capture suplex. Funaki keeps coming and when he goes for a throw Maeda just squashes him. That was a great sequence. Funaki goes a for a single leg and the larger Maeda is able to wrap his arm around his throat to get a quick choke submission. I actually thought this was pretty squash-y. Funaki wanted to use his energy and stand up game to win the match, but Maeda was thwarting him at every turn and never really looked in trouble. Funaki was not bad on the ground but with the extra rope breaks would just use them to restart the match. It was on a takedown attempt he got owned. It was interesting to watch but not a Funaki classic. ****

 

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