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[1991-07-03-UWFi-Moving On 3] Kiyoshi Tamura vs Yoji Anjoh

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I absolutely love this match. This is Tamura's 9th (NINTH!!!!!!!) career match. What the fuck is that ridiculous or what? Anjoh was a great opponent for young Tamura. Anytime they were in the ring together, singles or tags, you were guaranteed a great match-up.

 

I'm not positive if it is his best pre-RINGS match because his UWFi run was full of awesome matches, but it is right there in the conversation. I'm at the point where I think Tamura was the best wrestler in the world as early as 1994 and remained #1 until he transitioned to full shoots in late 99. U-Style proved he hadn't lost a step at all and he was probably the best worker in the world again in 2004. If we turned in our GWE ballots tomorrow, I'd only have Terry Funk & Satanico above Tamura.

 

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and here's my review of the match from the Microscope:

 

Our next match is Tamura vs an old favorite in Yoji Anjoh. They’ve had a match before on 9/89 that I described as the greatest squash match ever. So this will be a good opportunity to see Tamura’s growth. Immediate difference from the 89 match as Tamura is able to score a couple of quick takedowns with ease. Crowd is already super hot and the opening back and forth grappling is so fast at times early on that the thought crosses my mind that the film has been sped up (it hasn’t been). The big difference from Tamura now and Tamura’s first few matches in 89 is that Tamura is MUCH better defensively and countering out of submissions in order to create offense instead of going for the ropes right away. Although Anjoh is obviously good enough to get Tamura in peril and force several rope breaks, Tamura is much more likely to first look to counter before making a play for the ropes. Tamura really uses his speed and agility to counter and escape from submissions while Anjoh is a little bit slower but a little more forceful and rough with his counter attempts. Tamura gracefully rolls out of a Fujiwara armbar attempt while with an Anjoh counter, you’re more likely to catch an elbow in the face. Tamura is REALLY showing his ground skills in this. There are some absolutely breathtaking exchanges here both on the mat and standing and striking. Anjoh has more success the more striking exchanges they have. Tamura definitely has some awesome flurries but he is again mostly working towards submissions. Anjoh’s ground game is more successful as the match moves along because he’s started to weaken/slow Tamura down a bit with his brutal knee lifts. At one point, Anjoh is working on a toe lock and Tamura finally kind of snaps and just starts blasting Anjoh with knees and slaps which is just awesome. Fired up Tamura throwing everything he’s got at someone is one of the most exciting moments in wrestling. His speed is just indescribable. Anjoh is ahead on points most of the way (He’s 5 points ahead at the moment of Tamura’s flurry), but he lets Tamura shine so much throughout the match that he seems closer to evenly matched than you would think just looking at the points. As the match builds, Anjoh definitely starts to have an easier time than he did at the beginning. Tamura is able to keep him working by moving around and constantly working for counters, but Anjoh’s strikes REALLY start to take their toll and Tamura starts to rely more and more on making it to the ropes as Anjoh starts to rack up the points. This ends up with Anjoh WAY ahead on points and getting a decisive victory with one of the nastiest looking single leg boston crabs you’re ever going to see. Although Anjoh decisively won, Tamura comes out of this looking really great. He was definitely worn down eventually by Anjoh’s knees and submission attempts, but he more than held his own throughout. From a kayfabe perspective, Tamura needs to work on his striking defense. His technique is already there in terms of knowing all the holds and counters and you get the sense that if he protected himself a little bit more throughout the match he’d have enough stamina to keep up towards the end. This is a fucking awesome match. Easy EPIC.

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I absolutely love this match. This is Tamura's 9th (NINTH!!!!!!!) career match. What the fuck is that ridiculous or what? Anjoh was a great opponent for young Tamura. Anytime they were in the ring together, singles or tags, you were guaranteed a great match-up.

 

I'm not positive if it is his best pre-RINGS match because his UWFi run was full of awesome matches, but it is right there in the conversation. I'm at the point where I think Tamura was the best wrestler in the world as early as 1994 and remained #1 until he transitioned to full shoots in late 99. U-Style proved he hadn't lost a step at all and he was probably the best worker in the world again in 2004. If we turned in our GWE ballots tomorrow, I'd only have Terry Funk & Satanico above Tamura.

 

Agree, I don't think there was anyone ever who was that good that early in their career. Also it's hard to put into words how good he was on the mat. Had him at #7 on my GWE ballot but there are times I honestly think I should have put him at #1 even above guys like Tenryu and Satanico (my #1 and #2).

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The thing I'd say about Tamura's mat work is that he made mat-work seem like the most impressive athletic achievement possible in a wrestling ring during a decade where people were doing bigger and more insane spots than ever before. Tamura came across like the most gifted athlete of his generation without every doing a rope running spot let alone a dive off the top rope.

 

I had Tenryu at #3 and my top rated Japanese wrestler. Today I'd make an argument of Tamura over Tenryu on two fronts. One being that Tamura didn't have the learning curve Tenryu had. Tamura was green, but he looked like a prodigy in his first few matches. Tenryu took years to get going. I'd also argue that Tamura's peak performances were better. Tenryu obviously is going to swamp him with depth and I certainly "penalized" Tamura for a sheer lack of matches and due to a weird desire to vote my favorites a little lower. But thinking about it, this Anjoh match probably isn't the 20th best match/performance of Tamura's career. That's damn impressive by itself. Then when you think he had sooooo few matches compared to 99.999% of all wrestlers and he still probably as 20 matches better than this one...that's actually pretty fucking mindblowing.

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A most enjoyable encounter with the fans firmly behind young underdog Tamura. He showed some of his excellent potential, but wasn't quite strong enough at this point in time. Often Kiyoshi would gain the initial advantage with his speed. Yet it would usually be countered and he'd be the one grabbing for a rope break. Anjoh showed a little dickishness, but was mainly focused on business. Tamura kept hanging on and there was always a chance of an upset whilst he was still alive. The best UWFI match of 1991.

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Well this was tremendous. It's a total "underdog trying to step up to the plate" story and Tamura has the biggest chip on his shoulder the whole way through. Right at the start you see it when he dumps Anjoh a couple times and tells him to bring it. Anjoh will sometimes do something dickheaded and it just annoys Tamura and makes him even more desperate to prove himself at Anjoh's expense. He throws some slaps and you can tell it gets to Anjoh, because he responds by throwing brutal knees to the body in explosive flurries of annoyance at what this kid is doing. When he gets REALLY annoyed he pushes the envelope a bit and drops some super nasty knees across Tamura's head, and that leads to an awesome moment where Tamura repays the favour and Anjoh looks at him almost in disbelief. The nerve of this kid, who does he think he is? Anjoh grabs hold of Tamura's hair to prevent him from putting on a half crab, so Tamura drops the hold and just slaps him across the face. He knows how Anjoh is and he knows the last thing you can do is let him take liberties. It was a great dynamic and it ran through the whole match. Defensively this was a spectacular performance from Tamura. The speed on some of the ground exchanges was astonishing and Tamura would constantly roll out of or reverse situations that looked dangerous. When people talk about defensive wrestlers, at least in a shoot style context, the guy I think of as the bar setter is Fujiwara. I'm not saying Tamura is better, but at this point I think he's right on that same level, albeit in a different sort of way. Defensively Fujiwara was wily. He used all of his smarts along with the stellar ground game. He'd sometimes sucker guys in, and when he looked most vulnerable he'd completely flip the script and submit them, or at least use their fervor to finish the match against them in some way. With Tamura, it's his athleticism that's remarkable. His speed on counters, how he can wriggle free and instantly turn a position where he's almost caught in an armbar into a position that's advantageous. There were plenty examples in this, but the best might've been his escape from a front facelock straight into a go-behind. That probably doesn't seem terribly special just from reading about it, but it was breathtaking in execution and judging by the crowd response I wasn't the only one who was taken aback by it. Towards the end you could see him starting to tire, Anjoh's strikes to the body starting to wear him down more and more. He keeps on coming because he refuses to be denied and the crowd stay firmly behind him, but he was already fighting an uphill battle on the feet and it's tough to keep going on the mat when you've been kicked and kneed in the guts for fifteen minutes. You can have the strongest engine in the game, but that takes its toll. After the match Anjoh hangs around for a little while, because even a shithead like Anjoh can appreciate Tamura's effort. Real recognise real. Tamura had less than ten matches in his career at this point, btw. That's David Robinson averaging 24 and 12 in his rookie season level.

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This match is great. Tamura is already so good early into his career, having only wrestling eight or so matches prior to facing Anjoh. He's slick as catshit, utilizing his speed to his advantage -- I mean, it's hard to even keep track of him at times. Anjoh can't do too much on the mat without Tamura managing to slip out and away. He'll grab an arm and Tamura will maneuver his legs around to get back to a vertical base, controlling Anjoh with a front facelock. While Tamura keeps going back to the rear naked choke, Anjoh targets the leg throughout to set up the finish. But there's just so many cool little moments in this match. At one point, Tamura rolls through with an armbar attempt and Anjoh catches the leg but Tamura simply stands up out of it. When Anjoh isn't going after the leg, he's throwing knees. He repeatedly knees Tamura in the back of the head but Tamura doesn't let go of the arm, slipping out to his feet and smacking Anjoh. Tamura's front necklock counter with the go-behind into the rear naked choke was a thing of beauty. Then he just starts stomping the back of Anjoh's head, putting the fear of God in him. By the end, things aren't quite as silky as they're both fighting over holds and avoiding takedowns. The referee doesn't do shit when Anjoh grabs Tamura's hair as he's trying to turn him over into the crab hold. In the end, all that legwork pays off for Anjoh as he's able to crank on a sick single leg crab hold for the submission victory.

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Yoji Anjoh vs Kiyoshi Tamura - UWFi 7/3/91

God, I love shoot style. The little things like the way takedowns are EARNED. How many times have we seen a  guy just passively follow on a headlock takedown (albeit a lot safer to got with the motion of the takedown)? Here each takedown either looks like a rip OR it is just straight up blocked. Like uh uh I aint going there. I love it. There was one time Tamura was selling a midsection kick and on the subsequent oo-soto-gari he collapses instead of following through on the takedown and it was great. I really enjoyed the takedowns and the takedown defense throughout this match. Takedowns are really an underutilized part of today's wrestling landscape and I would love to see them make a comeback. I thought Tamura was the feistier of the two. Apparently, this was only Tamura's ninth match and he is filled with piss & vinegar. He is the one slapping and more prone to wild strikes. Anjoh is forcing Tamura to take a lot of rope breaks. Some really good Tamura selling on the way he scrambled to the ropes on a submission hold. I think my favorite spot of the match was when Anjoh landed a Super Tiger-esque flying knee to the head of Tamura when he was in the ropes. Personally, I felt this was a dick move and UWFi should have deducted three points from Anjoh for unsportmanslike conduct but he was awarded the knockdown and Tamura was subtracted three points. Either it was a sick spot and made Tamura even more of an underdog. Oh yes, the crowd how I can forget the crowd! Molten crowd! They were popping for Tamura's first takedown within 60 seconds of the match starting like Austin's music had just hit. Holy shit this crowd loved Tamura! I loved how into every detail they were. This was a smart fucking crowd and not smart in the ECW mutant sense but smart in the sense they love pro wrestling and understand the craftsmanship. I loved the crowd. There was another moment I loved. You are watching the legs because Anjoh is going for some sort of leg lace/toehold but next thing you know Tamura traps the arm into a vicious double wristlock which could be a legit submission. Shit, like that is the fun of wrestling. You are watching something and then out of left field boom. It was Volk Han-esque rabbit out of his ass magic. I was 50/50 on the finish. Lots of Japanese wrestling is booked that they person that takes the majority of the match loses but also rookie/young lions tend to lose. So I couldnt decide when Tamura went down huge in terms of points I think it was 12-4 that he was going to get the flash submission or not. Ultimately Anjoh finished with a wicked single crab, tough toehold, but Tamura was clearly game and clearly over. Very fun and great shoot-style! ****1/4 

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