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In a similar vein to the RINGS thread but...with U-STYLE. I'm taking a break from my UWFi deep dive (mainly because I'm not looking forward to watching a 25+ minute Tom Burton match) and picking up  U-STYLE with the first seven shows. It's Tamura and a bunch of young studs shoot-stylin' around in what I could only describe as a BattlARTS/RINGS mashup. I'll keep a running list of recommended matches to dip your toes in. 

2003

  • Yasuhito Namekawa vs. Kyosuke Sasaki (2/15/2003)
  • Takehiro Murahama vs. Kazuki Okubo (2/15/2003)
  • Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Wataru Sakata (2/15/2003)
  • Takehiro Murahama vs. Kyosuke Sasaki (4/6/2003)
  • Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Dokonjonosuke Mishima (4/6/2003)
  • Kyosuke Sasaki vs. Dokonjonosuke Mishima (6/29/2003)
  • Wataru Sakata vs. Hiroyuki Ito (6/29/2003)
  • Wataru Sakata vs. Kyosuke Sasaki (12/9/2003)
  • Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Katsuhisa Fujii (12/9/2003)

2004

  • Kyosuke Sasaki vs. Crafter M (2/4/2004)
  • Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (2/4/2004)
  • Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Kyosuke Sasaki (3/13/2004)

 

 

U-STYLE (2/15/03)

Katsuhisa Fujii vs. Ryu Echigo 

This is the Katsuhisa Fujii show and it's okay because the Fujii show has everything I like: suplexes, kicks, slaps, knees, armbars. He wrestles like a UFO guy and even has a bit of that Murakami scowl. Short but fun squash and in the end, he dumps Echigo with a German and taps him with the armbar. 

Manabu Hara vs. Naoki Kimura

Manabu Hara has never been one of my favorite BattlARTS guys and he has trouble controlling the flow of the match in an engaging way. Kimura clearly hasn't worked very many 'worked' matches so there's a ton of slower ground-based struggle. The strikes aren't really there. Not a very exciting match, save for Hara's finishing German suplex KO. 

Yasuhito Namekawa vs. Kyosuke Sasaki

This was a blast -- a much more scrappy, spunky fight, which I love. Namekawa has a great look and presence, and he's much bigger than Sasaki so he can slam him down with spinebusters and snappy belly-to-belly suplexes and cool cradled throws. He gets a yellow card for kicking Sasaki on the ground so we now know he's a bad boy. Sasaki tries some fancy things on the mat and ends up managing something out of the attempt. He gets a nice roll up into an ankle hold and hits a German, trying to transition into the armbar but Namekawa is quick to get a foot on the ropes. There's a heated little front mount slap battle before Namekawa uses a...unique dragon screw for the takedown and finally taps him with a cool legtrap armbar/facelock combination.  Easy recommendation. 

Ryuki Ueyama vs. Hiroyuki Ito

Ueyama looks like a million bucks with his royal purple and two belts. He's pretty slick in there in a Kiyoshi Tamura kinda way...but he's no Kiyoshi Tamura. Loved the opening with a fiery palm thrust exchange and nice blur of back-and-forth counter wrestling. Then it settles into a more defense-based match with occasional strikes. The striking escalates late into the match as Ito starts dishing out shots and rocks Ueyama with a head kick. They fight over an armbar and trade more strikes before Ueyama slides into the surprise heel hook for the submission. Some neat spots. 

Takehiro Murahama vs. Kazuki Okubo

Murahama, the babyfaced rookie phenom from the year 2000, is here and he just wants to pro-wrestle. This is a pretty fun match and worth checking out to see Murahama running the ropes and hitting enziguries. I like how Okubo is the spoiler in this match, trying to keep it pure shoot-style. He knows his way around the mat and actually looked a bit cleaner than Murahama. But Murahama's department is striking and his strikes were snug. But Okubo also snaps off some great lanky-legged kicks. There were a couple of hiccups along the way but the finishing stretch was really good. Good drama with Okubo's calf hold and then Murahama destroying him with the German before locking in the armbar for the submission. U-STYLE really loves German suplexes. .

Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Wataru Sakata

King Kiyoshi wants to start off with a handshake but Sakata says no with a slap to the face. Really good match that escalates throughout. There's a lot of jockeying for position early on, with neither really getting the advantage. Sakata tries for a swanky handspring transition but he can't catch Tamura with a hold. Tamura takes him to the ropes with an armbar and then dumps him with the waterwheel drop and puts on the single leg, turning it into a kneebar and sending him back to the ropes. They slaps it out as Tamura tries to take control of the leg again but when he tries to turn him over, Sakata's able to grab the leglock and send Tamura scrambling. Tamura's kicks and knees looked great as he downs Sakata with a combo and his selling of Sakata's own kicks and knees was terrific. Sakata wins with the rear neclock as he should. Easy recommendation. 

 

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U-STYLE (4/6/2003)

Hiroyuki Ito vs. Tomohiko Yoshida

Decent opener -- Yoshino with some love taps, Ito responding with some tough love slaps. They transition to the mat and maneuver around looking for an opening but Yoshida lacks the confidence and experience needed to take control. For example, he slides in for a single leg takedown but gets caught with a rear naked choke and then Ito starts popping him with front mount slaps. Ito's the better striker of the two and more willing to try things on the mat. When Yoshida tries for a neck crank, ito has a great counter for him and ends up tapping him with a triangle. 

Manabu Hara vs. Ryu Echigo

Echigo got a little more time to shine here against Hara but again, possibly due to Hara's lack of captaining skills, the match meanders. That being said, Echigo got some nice takedowns and throws. Definitely an improvement from Hara's first match but still not great.

Katsuhisa Fujii vs. Naoki Kimura

Another fun, short Fujii squash with tons of quick opens exchanged to start before Fujii takes Kimura down with knees and kicks. Kimura's able to get a takedown and try for the rear choke but can't get anything going before Fujii lays into him with more hard kicks and KOs him with the German suplex. 

Takehiro Murahama vs. Kyosuke Sasaki

Murahama's really great in his straddling shoot-style/pro-wrestling role, and Sasaki does a good job of playing to Murahama's strengths, as well as his own. He's got some pretty slick matwork to counter Murahama's more feisty approach and I liked his flying armbar. At times, they're constantly switching and reversing holds, trying to sustain something long enough for a submision. When Murahama comes at him with hard kicks, Sasaki uses a double leg takedown just to col him down. But Murahama has a little mean streak in him with his stricks and gets more and more aggressive with them as the match progresses. Loved when he tries for the irish whip and Sasaki holds onto the ropes to block it, kicking Murahama down and taking him to the ropes with a leglock. Also he gets a nice reverse armbar counter to the first German suplex attempt but in the end, Murahama hits it and taps him with the armbar. Easy recommendation.

Wataru Sakata vs.  Kazuki Okubo 

This had some cool moments and served mostly as a solid Sakata showcase but it felt pretty heatless through most of the match as Okubo doesn't really fire back.Again, it seems like an issue of confidence and Okubo not being sure of himself. Slower start as Sakata works a more smothering style on the mat but when he's up on his feet, he shines. He fires off a nice belly-to-belly suplex into the rear guard and lays into Okubo with some hard open hands and kicks, especially when he's in the front mount. There's a fun moment where he's got Okubo in a leglock and Okubo is trying in vain to slap his way out of him. Sakata cuts Okubo's forehead with a strike and submits him with a pretty gnarly-looking single leg crab. 

Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Dokonjonosuke Mishima

Can you image if Mishima had a Matt Riddle-like run through the Japanese promotions in the mid-00s? He has such a unique presence and this was a terrific little match-up, with Mishima showing off his quasi-capoeira style and judo throws against Tamura's slick-as-catshit counter and matwork. Mishima manages some hard slams and I really liked his takedown into the headscissors, transitioning into the armbar. Of course, Tamura's great here as the master, tip-toeing out of trap attempts and scoring takedowns>submission holds. The struggle on the ground was conveyed well, although because Tamura's is king, there are times when he looks bored at Mishima smothering his leg with a hold. Heading into the finish, an exhausted Mishima comes at Tamura with a palm thrust but Tamura is able to take him down into a necklock, flipping him over into the armbar and cranking it on for the submission win. Easy recommendation.

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U-STYLE (6/29/2003)

Ryu Echigo vs. Naoki Kimura

This was a long nine minutes. Kimura already isn't one of my U-Style favorites but Echigo has potential and he looked strong in the finish, hitting a front suplex > German suplex > armbar. But the first half was more or less a stalemate, the takedowns were kind of lame and the groundwork wasn't very exciting. There were some decent strikes but not enough of them to make this very interesting.

Katsuhisa Fujii vs. Tomohiko Yoshida

So far, Fujii hasn't wrestled a match over 3:00 and again, this is another squash but damn, if Fujii doesn't seem like the total package. Great look, unrefined, stiff and tempestuous. He's a dude who seems like he would've killed in Inoki-era NJPW. When a German suplex doesn't do the trick, Fujii KOs him with the dragon suplex. Yup, my kind of dude.   

Manabu Hara vs. Kazuki Okubo

Hey, it's the best Manabu Hara U-STYLE match thus far. Much more spirited than the usual Hara fare and Okubo has more of a fire lit under his ass than he did in the Sakata match. He goes after Hara's legs with kicks, peppers him with better palm strikes from the guard. Hara's more giving but still gets to show off, delivering his pretty German suplex into the rear choke and using a really nice double leg takedown. They try more stuff on the mat, with Okubo managing an armbar and a hanging necklock. The finish sees them trading a ton of kicks and strikes before Hara snags the surprise armbar for the win. Pretty decent match, could go either way. 

Kyosuke Sasaki vs. Dokonjonosuke Mishima

This may be my favorite U-Style match so far. Mishima's just so much fun to watch in there and Sasaki is a great counterbalance. Real competitive, seamless grappling with some snappy strikes and tons of awesome takedowns and transitions. Sasaki tries to dominate early but Mishima uses his cleverness and slick movements to escape. Mishima dishes out plenty of big high kicks and spin kicks, and his snap German suplex was great. Sasaki is hanging with Mishima on the mat and later, with the strikes, and by the end, they're down to their last point. They're slipping and sliding all over the mat, trying to grab a hold. Mishima chops him down to a knee with kicks, snaps him over with a suplex into a front neck chancery. Sasaki survives it but finally taps to a dope rear ankle hold. Terrific match and an easy recommendation. 

Wataru Sakata vs. Hiroyuki Ito 

Oh my god, Wataru Sakata is such a complete dick in this match and every second of it rules. What a great companion piece to the Sasaki/Mishima match. Ito becomes quite the underdog by the end of it. But to open, they're not playing around with their strikes. Once Sakata gets him on the mat, he's rubbing his wrist taped wrists in his face and hammering him with body shots. He takes him over with a nice Saito suplex before walloping Ito with big open hands from the front mount. Oh, Ito dishes out some too but not as hot as Sakata. He rubs his fists in Ito's face, pops him with a few more nasty body shots and then tries to break him with the double wristlock. Ito fights out and gets a little revenge on Sakata, taking him to the ropes with an armbar. I like that he keeps trying to do what Sakata has done to him but Sakata just gives it back to him twice as hard. After some more elbow washes and nasty palm strikes, Sakata puts him in the single leg crab. The fans chant for Ito to escape but as he reaches for the ropes, Sakata drags him back to the middle and submits him. Another great match and easy rec.

Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Takaku Fuke

Again, another match that could go either way but it's not really much of a match -- more like Tamura beating the shit out of Fuke, which is cool, too. Fuke tries to rush him and overwhelm him with strikes but once Tamura explodes on him in the corner with a quick strike combo, it's the beginning of the end. Tons of great strikes from Tamura. One of the highlights comes when he blocks Fuke's takedown and drops him with a knee. By the end, Fuke is staggering and Tamura puts him out of his misery for the TKO.

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U-STYLE (10/6/2003)

This was a one night tournament to decide Kiyoshi Tamura's next challenger and probably the most easily skippable show thus far. Nothing outright bad but nothing memorable. 

Katsuhisa Fujii vs. Ryu Echigo

Hot opening with Echigo coming at Fujii with a bunch of baby strikes but when he tries to rush him with a big knee, Fujii catches him and plants him with a modified uranage before laying in with the big open hands. Another Fujii squash but with Echigo at least trying to a grab a few submission holds, only for Fujii to power out each time. A couple suplexes later, Fujii advances via KO off his German.

Kazuki Okubo vs. Manabu Hara 

Not as good as their previous match but still pretty decent, as they both have good chemistry together. Hara brings out Okubo's spunkiness and Okubo makes Hara work. Okubo's once again plays the fun underdog, getting taken down by Hara but fighting his way out to put Hara on the rocks. The match goes the full 15:00 and so it gets extra time, Okubo comes out of the gate kicking but Hara dumps him with that awesome high-angle German of his and tries to go for the sleeper, but Okubo breaks away and KOs Hara with a messy flurry of strikes. 

Kyosuke Sasaki vs. Naoki Kimura

Easily Kimura's best match in U-Style at this point and probably the MOTN. Kimura opens with a nice quick barrage to take down Sasaki. The matwork is much faster-paced, thanks to Sasaki, but Kimura does a pretty good job of keeping pace. Kimura manages a belly-to-back takedown but can't follow up, with leads to Sasaki downing him with a series of kicks. The finish was neat, as Sasaki rolls him up with a front chancery and than hops onto the jujigatame for the submission. 

Hiroyuki Ito vs. Ryuki Ueyama

Ueyama is back in purple -- without his belts this time -- and after a bit of dancing to start, he drops Ito with a combo of quick slaps and body punches. Ueyama is very slap happy throughout the match but Ito dishes out some too, with his bigger slaps and elbows. He gets a yellow card for kicking Ueyama on the ground. During the backhalf of the match, Ito stays on Ueyama's taped right leg with stiff kicks, keeping him staggered and trying to submit him on the ground. Nothing super captivating on mat and the finish was lame, as Ueyama taps to a leglock within arm's reach of the ropes. 

Katsuhisa Fujii vs. Kazuki Okubo

Even more of a Fujii-dominate match as he immediately takes down Okubo with a suplex and bullies him from the front mount with big open hands.  Okubo doesn't really get much of anything in terms of offense before Fujii KOs him following back-to-back German suplexes. 

Kyosuke Sasaki vs. Hiroyuki Ito

A match that starts off plenty hot, with Ito using big kicks and knees, and Sasaki using his technical prowess with slick takedowns and leglocks. But the match slows down in the back half as they struggle over submissions. Ito is pretty rough around the edges and does better from a vertical base but he takes Sasaki down to his final point before getting caught in the finishing armbar.  

Katsuhisa Fujii vs. Kyosuke Sasaki

Uh oh, this is Fujii's longest match to date but it's against on of the early MVPs of U-Style in Sasaki. This was a pretty fun much and right around there with the Sasaki/Kimura match in terms of quality. Fujii is big and uses his size to his advantage but Sasaki is fiery and comes out strong, getting German suplexed by Fujii but turning it into an armbar upon impact. Fujii snagging the arm with his legs was great but in general, he isn't the smoothest cat on the mat. That's not necessarily a bad things because of how he works the match, throwing big hands and jumping knees and suplex throws and shoto camel clutches. Sasaki can only really try and submit him on the ground but that isn't so successful here. Fujii hits another German and Sasaki immediate pops up, only to get submitted with a poorly applied rear choke. Not a very good finish to an otherwise fun match. 

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U-STYLE (12/9/2003)

Kazuki Okubo vs. Naoki Kimura

Welp, Kimura continues to improve as a shoot-stylist - this time, on the mat. After a brief but feisty strike exchange, Kimura and Okubo roll around on the mat and Kimura manages some cool stuff, snagging limbs, countering throws with hanging necklocks, using a backpack-stule sleeper to down Okubo before finishing him off with the armbar. Okubo was decent here and although the actual set up tot he finish was pretty sloppy, he picks up the win with an armbar after some struggle.

Kazushi Miyamoto vs. Ryu Echigo

Miyamoto's got the look down but he doesn't really work the U-STYLE well. Echigo looked way better in all departments, from striking and takedowns and I really liked him grabbing the ankle hold counter out of Miyamoto's ankle hold. But after a German suplex, Miyamoto KOs him with a lariat. 

Manabu Hara vs. Crafter M

Crafter M is a masked shooter nerd in garbage bag pants but when he's working the mat, he's not half bad. But boy, his strikes stink. Coolest moment of the match goes to Hara and his incredible German suplex but not much of a match otherwise. 

Yasuhito Namekawa vs. Hiroyuki Ito

Even less of a match, which is disappointing, considering Namekawa's recommended debut match. Other than a few good strike exchangess between the two of them, Ito looked weak in there, lacking his usual spunk. And Nakemkawa was kind of just there...but he wins in the end with the choke sleeper. 

Dokonjonosuke Mishima vs. Ryuki Ueyama

Decent match-up between these two but not as fancy-dancy as one might expect. Mishima immediately targets Ueyama's bandaged right leg with hard ass kicks and they follow that up with a nice scramble, on the ground, with Ueyama snagging a deep sleeper and forcing Mishima to the ropes. The finish was also pretty sweet, as Mishima catches the foot and sets up for an STF before turning him over in a grounded rear waistlock  with the bad leg trapped. 

Wataru Sakata vs. Kyosuke Sasaki

A slow, methodical burn but recommended viewing, with Sakata still being a dick and Sasaki his usual crafty self. I liked the stalemate opening with Sasaki showing off his canvas skillz. Sakata gets a hell of a leg trip in the corner but can't follow up on the mat. He lacks Sasaki's finesse and works more of a bully smothering style. He's like a less refined Hideki Suzuki. The striking picks up and Sakata punishes him with mounted palms and body bunches. When he tries for the double wristlock, Sasaki counters with the armbar. When Sakata tries to get away with forearm rubs, Sasaki gives it right back to him. At some point, Sasaki gets busted open and Sakata overhwhelms him with knees and smacks him down for the KO. Had the groundwork been a little more interesting, this would have a great match but it's still good and worth a watch. 

Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Katsuhisa Fujii

This is a big test for young Fujii, whose looked dominant in his 2-4 minute squashes but will he fare as well against the master Tamura? The contrast of power vs. technique is one of my favorite match-ups and they do a good job of establishing that here. This felt the most UWFi Tamura of any U-STYLE match thus far, with Fujii using his strength and throws to break him down. I loved Tamura wildly fighting out of the German. Fujii always manages to grab a few holds, which aren't elaborate or anything, but fit the theme of trying to break Tamura. Tamura stuns him with a high kick to the head and keeps sweeping Fujii's leg but Fujii fights back and finally hits the German on Tamura (even though Tamura really doesn't want to get German'd). Tamura retaliates with kicks and this time, defends with a front necklock and when Fujii tries for a second German, Tamura takes him down with the double wristlock for the submission win. Fun match and an easy recommendation. 

That's it for 2003. MVPs for the year are Tamura, Sasaki, Sakata and Mishima. 

Up next, 2004. Duh. 
 

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U-STYLE (2/4/2004)

Hiroyuki Ito vs. Hajime Moriyama

Whoa, suddenly Ito has really great knees and kicks, and Moriyama's just trying to grab a choke without getting kicked in the head. Nothing but a squash but Ito looked more aggressive here, taking Moriyama down with a nasty slap before taking him out for a good following a series of hard kicks. 

Kyosuke Sasaki vs. Crafter M

A fun exhibition-y shoot maestro match (if that makes sense) between the masked trashbag pants-wearing Crafter M and Kyosuke Sasaki, who of course, knows how to do-si-do on the mat. Lots of counters and reversals before Sasaki starts taking the kicks to him, downing him with a great solebutt. Crafter can only try and legwhip him down to find a submission on the mat because, as we've all learned, his strikes stink. Eventually he gets a deep Fujiwara armbar takedown and stays in control of it, trapping Sasaki with the headscissors when he tries to escape. Cool moment. Sometimes it seems like Crafter will somehow roll himself into a hold, or accidentally trap Sasaki with something but in the end, after more kicks, Sasaki grabs the armbar for the win.

Dokonjonosuke Mishima vs. Manabu Hara

This was a fun Mishima highlight reel as Hara gets outclassed in just about every department (except his German suplex, of course, which he hits here back-to-back). Mishima quickly gets him in the submission that won him his last match but Hara escapes. He catches Hara's kick and turns into a pretty sweet legtrap belly-to-belly. He uses a cool hammerlocked hanging necklock. The final submission was cool, with Mishima snapping Hara over with a suplex, grabbing the leg and then cranking on it until Hara gives up. 

Ryuki Ueyama vs.  Kazuki Okubo

Lots of love taps to open before Okubo finally decides to get a little feisty with his slappy slaps and big lunging knees. But Ueyama is quick to respond with hard quick smacks of his own. Okubo appeared more confident here, especially on the mat, catching Ueyama in a calf hold and dropping down with the kneebar, and then rolling him up into a leglock. Ueyama's octopus-style final submission with him grabbing limbs to finish Okubo off was cool but otherwise, a decent enough match-up. 

Yasuhito Namekawa vs. Naoki Kimura

Not much of a match. Namekawa dominates and although he's not very good, he’s aggressive and mauling and smothering, and finally KOs poor Kimura with a nasty high kick to the head. 

Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka

I love a slow burn when it's done right and these two know how to do just that. The tension builds to the initial takedown before Tamura starts maneuvering his way around the mat. TK isn't as spry as Tamura but he's still scrappy and able to grab a hold whenever while still doing a little fancy maneuvering himself. Cool stuff from Tamura as usual, including a great front necklock counter, and TK busting out a bunch of great kneebars trying to submit the hometown hero. Loved the part where he's got Tamura in a kneebar, Tamura tries punching his way out and then TK creeps up and pops him in the face with slaps. The scrambling intensifies, the striking picks up, especially from Tamura, who lays into TK with big body knees and killer head kicks. And in the end, they're dancing around the mat, trying for a few different things in a final attempt at victory. Tamura's single leg crab doesn't do the trick but he's ultimately able to snap off the jujigatame for the submission. An easy recommendation. 

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U-STYLE (3/13/2004)

A disappointing show with an underwhelming (but still good) main event. This is the last show I have in this set. 

Manabu Hara vs. Ryuki Ueyama

This was pretty decent with Hara looking stronger than usual on the mat. When Ueyama comes out slapboxing, Hara takes him down with a really slick legcatch counter into the armbar takedown. Hara mostly dominates with holds while Ueyama scrambles for leverage, while Ueyama goes after Hara's legs with kicks and manages a pretty cool armbar takedown of his own. Hara's able to hit his back-to-back German suplexes and Ueyama answers with some...uh, not so pretty German suplexes of his own before he taps Hara with the heel hook. 

Crafter M vs. Seichi Ikemoto

Good debut for Ikemoto, who is feisty and wily and gets around pretty well on the mat, pairing nicely with trashbag pants Crafter M. Plenty of tangle ups on the ground before Ikemoto pops Crafter with a high kick to the jaw -- good thing he's wearing that mask, right? Crafter's crafty on the mat and will grab limbs from precarious situations and try to submit, like with his double wristlock. But Ikemoto eventually grabs the armbar himself to win the match. Solid, competitive match. 

Dokonjonosuke Mishima vs. Kazuki Okubo

Mishima's weakest U-STYLE match to date. He stills tries some fancy stuff, some of which doesn’t hit the mark, but nonetheless, it's fun to watch him try. He's able to take Okubo down with a rolling necklock but Okubo is right in the ropes. Okubo is finally able to knock Mishima down after some knees and a high kick in the corner, and he snags a front necklock but can't finish Mishima off. Okubo esacapes that weird legtrap submission that won Mishima his last match but in the end, Mishima rolls him up into another weird legtrap submission for the tap out. 

Takaku Fuke vs. Hiroyuki Ito

This is probably the weakest match of the show, spent mostly on the ground with Fuke working through  basic holds and Ito trying to outstrike Fuke when he gets the chance. Ito fires off a few good mounted punches and open hands, and his frustration earns him a yellow card, but before it can heat up too much more, Fuke catches him in a triangle and Ito passes out. 

Wataru Sakata vs. Naoki Kimura

Kimura has seemingly reverted back to his awkward teenage years but that's okay because Sakata is here to punish him...but not too much, sadly. A few assertive front mounts, some body punches, a couple fist rubs and forearm washes, but not much else. Except he does hit Kimura with a Gotch-style piledriver! Kimura obviously doesn't do much here for three-quarters of the match and then hits about the worst German suplex I have ever seen. Loved Sakata kneeing Kimura's double leg takedown approach. After some more big knees, Kimura's able to catch him, dump him, and take him down with a backpack sleeper. He starts to fire off more aggressive strikes but alas, Sakata quickly shuts him down and taps him with the single leg crab. 

Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Kyosuke Sasaki

A match-up I was eagerly anticipating and one that sadly underwhelmed. But it's still Tamura so you're at least getting something very good. Sasaki shows no respect at the outset and he is all over Tamura, trying to hook him with something, as they scramble and trade strikes. Sasaki tries for plenty of things but Tamura's defensive is too good and when Sasaki catches him, Tamura slickly maneuvers out. There's a cool spot where Sasaki has the arm and Tamura flips out in an attempt to counter, but Sasaki holds onto the arm and takes Tamura to the ropes. A lot of slower moments in between but still calculated work by both dudes. The strikes pick up toward the end but nothing too crazy. Tamura rocks him with a few kicks, Sasaki's able to catch a kick and take him down with a single leg but Tamura is fast to the ropes. By the end of it, Tamura's playing with Sasaki like a cat with a half dead mouse, finally putting him out of his misery with a few hard kicks to the midsection. I'll throw it on the recommendation list but it's a low one. 

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I'm gonna join in here for a bit. I've seen bits of U-Style but never the whole thing in one go, so I'll have a go.

 

The debut show (2/15/2003) had a decent undercard with Ito/Ueyama being the one standout match to deliver some high end shootstyle action. Ueyama feels very Tamura inspired with his almost dance like knee grinding and position switching on the ground. The match obviously had lots of good matwork with the opening exchange being perhaps the dopest on the show, and then Ito, after almost getting submitted, starts doing his dismissive mugging and "I will bite you" grin. Lots of feisty palm strikes. I don't remember Kyosuke Sasaki being a "crazy matwork" type but he had to bring it against the bigger RINGS veteran Namekawa and he had some cool stuff. Especially liked the Triangle Chokes. I didn't care much for Murahamas cute spots and hokey selling and Okubo was seriously bland. There is a big difference between Murahama selling a near submission and Hiroyuki Ito or Sakata doing it.

The main event was obviously the best match and had everything a Tamura match entails. The good thing about U-Style is that they didn't do straight up UWF or RINGS worship but instead it was this exciting new take on shootstyle with faster pace, shorter matches and submissions being more important. Great mix of slick, athletic matwork with intelligent pacing and strong standup sections. Tamura comes across as a very dangerous force but he mostly works even with fellow RINGS leftover Sakata. Sakata is someone who seems to rough his opponent up a little more than average, it didn't come across strongly here but he had his moments. Really liked how tough the body shots here felt. Whenever Tamura shows vulnerability Sakata goes after him and his crazy desperation assault after almost getting KO'd was the highlight of the match. Some really great submission nearfalls while keeping it believable.

 

 

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The second show starts with your usual decent undercard. Ito/Yoshida was a very basic opening match which had the simple story of Yoshida going for the same takedown over and over until Ito starts preventing it until he catches him. Yoshida didn't add much aside from one nice hold for a cool nearfall. Hara/Echigo was a nice long match that was also not super flash but they kept it moving and kept working small highlights into it with Echigo landing nice throws and Hara getting nice near K.O.s and making a nice rush in the last minute. Nothing mindblowing but I liked it and stuff like this helps the audience to respect the workers and the rules more. The Fujii match was another squash and while he is not an impressive squash machine it was amusing to watch him slap the tattooed goon to death. I did not like Murahama/Sasaki much as Murahama is the Minoru Tanaka of this promotion with his tendency to do soft matwork and contrived spots. Kyosuke shows potential but this was at best watchable. Okubo was way over his head in the Semi Main Event. I actually would have liked Sakata to squash him to reassert his dominance but they start working throwaway shootstyle before Sakata decides to brutalize him some with hard slaps, knuckles in the face etc. Bread and butter rookie/veteran stuff with Okubo getting his token nearfalls but it ended up being fine. The main event was just an insanely fun match with Mishima coming in as an outsider to Pro Wrestling and winning everyones hearts with his tricked out wonky holds and kicks. Not a master Tamura carryjob but with him you cannot have a bad shootstyle match and a worker like Mishima is must watch. Crazy handspring kicks that look credible and weird pull-his-torso-apart submissions, the man had it all.

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The 3rd show (6/29/2003) comes with the usual decent undercard action with nothing in particular standing out but the last 3 matches are the good stuff. Sasaki/Mishima is pretty much your workrate shootstyle done right, innovative athlete vs. Decent little guy is guaranteed to be something and this was slick and smooth with plenty of cool moments while feeling thoroughly competitive. Mishima feels way ahead of the curve but Sasaki manages to be actually competitive with him and lasts up until the last point. Last couple exchanges were pretty intense. Probably would have been a great match if Kyosuke Sasaki was a little better at selling his near defeat. Then Ito/Sakata is just something else as Sakata had found his personality when beating Okubo with his fists on the last show. Starts out intense from the get go with some hard shotais. They then move through some methodical matwork and soon the hands start flying again cranking up the intensity. Knuckles grinding in the face, kidney punches, Sakata just slapping Ito silly with palms and Ito getting really fired up. Really great nearfalls near the end which are all made by Itos body language, I also liked how Sakata almost seemed flustered when Ito would start gaining the advantage or prevent a move. Great stuff. The main event was a really great quasi-squash with Fuke coming out swinging wildly only to get outclassed and destroyed by calm superior Tamura. This is how an ace behaves.

Show Nr. 4 in the U-Style catalogue (10/6/2003) was really fun even without the established guys. You had squash machine Fujii getting in troube for the first time, with Echigo showing lots of spunk and rushing him to actually put him in peril here and there, and everyone else showing lots of promise. Hara/Okubo was a really cool, lengthy match that never dragged. Hara seemed to be leading the dance early on, teasing his german suplex, but Okubo got fired up and the crowd got behind him big time throughout the bout. Probably the most color he has shown in U-Style so far. Slick grappling throughout and they deliver a hot finish with the time running out as Okubo tries for an armbar. They do a restart and go for broke. Ito/Ueyama was a really interesting match. You had Ueyama, who is a really explosive worker, dominating early on, landing this awesome shotai/body shot combo in the corner and getting the advantage on the mat. So Ito stomps on his face and gets a yellow card and thinks „well might as well“ and starts kicking the hell out of Ueyamas bandaged leg. He even punches at the leg on the ground. Ueyama starts limping and getting more cautious while fighting back valiantly resulting in some tense moments with the finish being a standout. Pretty unique stuff for a shootstyle bout that worked extremely well. The other matches were fun too with the finals being a frantic scramble that felt like it had a lot at stake and could work anytime. Really cool show which elevates everyone involved.


 

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 Nothing super captivating on mat and the finish was lame, as Ueyama taps to a leglock within arm's reach of the ropes. 

Actually, Ueyama was out of points, so grabbing the ropes would have done nothing. He simply refused to tap and the referee stopped the bout. Very good finish.

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Show #5 (12/9/2003) came out with a watchable undercard that was more about the curious rather than the actively good. The mysterious CRAFTER M comes out and engages in some very good exchanges with the befuddled Manabu Hara but ends up winning quite decisively. No less befuddling is the random appearance of future Kings Road imitator Kazushi Miyamoto in an amusing match. Namekawa/Ito was quite scrappy and stiff but ends rather abruptly. Especially liked the nasty leg kicks. The same goes for Ueyama/Mishima which hints at a really great match but ends in about 5 minutes with Mishima targetting Ueyamas bad leg. Sakata/Sasaki was going for a similiar vibe as Sakata/Ito from June. Methodical shootstyle matwork with building intensity that mostly came from Sakata punishing Sasaki with those heavy hands. Lots of knuckle grinding too. Would've been a very good match with a slightly more exciting finish. The main event was just a great match with tremendous intensity and sense of danger. Fujii had destroyed everyone up to this point and Tamura sold him as a legit threat, fighting like mad to escape his German Suplex of doom. Some great standup from Tamura and Fujii came across as a bull rushing through with his power. Loved him just picking up a clearly resistant Tamura for the waterwheel drop. About as good as a fully developed 7 minute epic as you can have.


 

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Show #5 (12/9/2003) came out with a watchable undercard that was more about the curious rather than the actively good. The mysterious CRAFTER M comes out and engages in some very good exchanges with the befuddled Manabu Hara but ends up winning quite decisively. No less befuddling is the random appearance of future Kings Road imitator Kazushi Miyamoto in an amusing match. Namekawa/Ito was quite scrappy and stiff but ends rather abruptly. Especially liked the nasty leg kicks. The same goes for Ueyama/Mishima which hints at a really great match but ends in about 5 minutes with Mishima targetting Ueyamas bad leg. Sakata/Sasaki was going for a similiar vibe as Sakata/Ito from June. Methodical shootstyle matwork with building intensity that mostly came from Sakata punishing Sasaki with those heavy hands. Lots of knuckle grinding too. Would've been a very good match with a slightly more exciting finish. The main event was just a great match with tremendous intensity and sense of danger. Fujii had destroyed everyone up to this point and Tamura sold him as a legit threat, fighting like mad to escape his German Suplex of doom. Some great standup from Tamura and Fujii came across as a bull rushing through with his power. Loved him just picking up a clearly resistant Tamura for the waterwheel drop. About as good as a fully developed 7 minute epic as you can have.

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The 6th U-Style (2/14/2004) had 3 very good undercard matches. Crafter-M is such a nice breath of fresh air in U-Style, a promotion which has entirely too many kickpadded shooters. His grappling-only approach makes things a lot more interesting. Kyosuke Sasaki hangs fine with him and we get a ton of super slick, polished shootstyle matwork. Sasaki is undersized but he has a good standing in U-Style and him doing battle with the masked grappler was a nice even matchup though a little lacking in fire as neither guy is super expressive. Hara/Mishima was much richer in that department while still having great technique. Mishima gets to look like a badass stretching out Hara with all his crazy moves sending him running for the ropes. Really good shootstyle grappling in that bout and some great desperation moves from Hara who goes balls out with the suplexes. Pretty much the perfect undercard U-Style bout. Ueyama/Okubo is mainly Ueyama demolishing the young boy with palms and fists. Ueyama is a spectular worker and he gets the impossibly bland Okubo to show some fire and fight back, culminating in some really nice nearfalls and reversals and a cool finish. The opener had Ito brutalizing Moriyama in a not super impressive match and the semi main event was unfortunately nothing much at all. The main event is of course a classic and holds up on rewatch. Go watch that now.

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U-Style 7 (3/13/2004) was another decent card with no bad matches, altough lacking in a real standout like previous shows. Hara/Ueyama was a fine opener that could've made a great semi main event. It's all about those huge suplexes in the last 2 minutes or so. Ikemoto makes his debut and he looks like an MMA guy made for pro wrestling as he just loves trying all kinds of weird tricks and guard passes on Crafter. Mishima gets some good fire out of Okubo and Ito punishes the veteran Fuke good. Sakata/Kimura was good aswell, Kimura isn't the kind of worker to stand out in a big way against someone as dominant as Sakata, but the action is decent and the finishing run is really fun with Kimura pulling out some unlikely cool moves and Sakata just beating on him. The main event was probably the best match on the show with Sasaki being spunky and actually getting the better of Tamura on the ground early on. So Tamura picks him apart in methodical fashion using strikes and some grinding holds etc. all while keeping unbreakable posture. This was a Tamura match that really felt like the other guy was being knocked down a peg and couldn't do anything which hurt it a little. Sasakis bravado feels out of place in a shootstyle match and he got punished for it rightfully.

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Well, U-Style 8 (4/28/2004) was a weird and wonderful card. And it was fun to watch. Ito vs. Tattooed Kimura was a punishing match as both guys took turns grinding fists and forearms in the other guys face. Nothing great but mean dudes stiffing eachother in fun undercard matches is why I watch japanese pro wrestling. Space Monster Kimura vs Tanaka is another matchup that just plain works. You are never going to get well rounded pro wrestling from Koichiro Kimura, but he WILL bend the absolute fuck out of whoever he is facing with his awesome SAW style and I will always enjoy watching. Tanaka in U-Style is pretty unlikely and he doesn't show up again but he looks capable and pulls of some unlikely moves while looking outmatched making this a fun squash. Next debut wrestler is MAX Miyazawa who is Capture boy Nihao. He's been fighting in DEEP and actually doing decent so I guess he gets to be in U-Style, why the hell not. And he has a quite good match with Ueyama here which was slower and more methodical than your average U-Style match but good. Miyazawa looked good hanging with Ueyama and because he is from Capture he has no problem leaning his face right into a big Ueyama kick for the brutal finish. Hara/Crafter is another fine match with Crafter looking almost unstoppable no selling Haras throws until Hara lands the big german. Loved Hara celebrating that win. THEN Ichimiya shows up in his mock Shawn Michaels gear with kickpads and Namekawa looks like he is going to kill this joker. And well he does pretty much just that. Ichimiya makes a decent sumo rush and then pretty much gets outclassed. Faithful followers of my musings know Ichimiya actually can handle himself as he is also CAPTURE tested but getting destroyed like this was a nice way to make Namekawa look like a badass. Tamura/Okubo was basically a glorified squash making this the 3rd extremely one sided match on the show. Okubo is brave to stand and trade with Tamura but he just gets outclassed and has no chance on the mat. It looks like he either gassed or oversold about 5 minutes before the finish which took the heat out of the ending as all his attacks looked weak. Some interesting grappling from Tamura and his bully mannerisms where fun but this was Tamura in U-Style is Unbeatable to the max and this could've been a much better match. As far as the main event goes I've never been a big fan of Kakihara as I associate him with the mostly dull UWFi grappling and well this was largely mediocre shootstyle with only Kyosuke Sasaki adding some spice before an underwhelming finish. Not really a proper main event. Seems U-Style is on a downward curve.

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U-Style 9 (8/7/2004)

Hajime/Hiroshi/Hawaitto Moriyama makes his U-Style debut in a fine but short opening match looking slick on the mat and not much else. Naoki Kimura is adding more fancy moves so I guess he's getting better. Okubo/Fuke was surprisingly good, maybe the best match Okubo has been in so far and I'm giving full credit to Fuke who added all the interesting touches and counters. Highlights include an intense struggle over an armbar, cool Fujiwara armbar setup and a crafty finish. It seemed Fuke was relieving his UWF/PWFG days and built a good match around the energetic but bland U-File zombie that is Okubo. Ito/Sasaki was pretty damn good like great BattlARTS undercard match – not a big emphasis on matwork, but lots of smacks and big suplexes. Ito matches tend to cancel out the flashy or showy matwork and instead focus on creating good drama and that was the case here. There is one pretty intense submission nearfall though. Ito is a killing machine here, brutalizing Sasaki with huge knees. Credible finish. NEXT UP – is the debut of BattlARTS boys Ishikawa & Otsuka!!! Now these are great additions to your shootstyle roster. And Otsuka debuts in an awesome match against Ueyama. Otsuka working straight shootstyle while remaining shootstyle is a wonderful thing. His amateur grappling oriented style really stands out against all the kickpadded U-File camp dudes. He would make up crazy submission holds in credible fashion, come up with neat counters and just suplex Ueyama on his head. There is one STF spot where the whole crowd was dreading the move. Just great. Ueyama is one of the best U-Style dudes but he looked almost outclassed. BUT he makes up when he started running low on points and from then he is fighting like mad against Otsukas takedowns and suplexes. Otsuka was just great here, selling Ueyamas strikes and submissions big, he will never just sit there in a leglock. Really great intensity down the end and I lost it when Otsuka teased the Giant Swing. Just great stuff, Otsuka looked awesome and Ueyama looked like a real fighter. Ishikawa/Kakihara was not the same level but a fine match with some neat Ishikawa spots and Kakihara getting to hit him really hard because it's Ishikawa. There was also a weird moment where Ishikawa gets yellow carded for hitting an enzuigiri. I guess Strong Style is too dangerous for U Style. The main event was great in parts – as Mishima is INSANE and was giving Tamura a run for his money – but also somewhat marred by a not super interested Tamura performance and a weak finish.

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U-Style 10 (8/18/2018)

This was to crown the first U-Style champion!! The winner probably won't come as a surprise!! Aside from that, this was a shootstyle card with lots of non shootstyle guys. Romero didn't really look up to snuff in the opener against Hara. Not terrible, and he had some nice spots, but I felt kinda bad for Hara having to work even with this joker. Ueyama/Nakajima was all kinds of amusing as Ueyama basically punishes the kid with superior grappling and fast and hard punches and shotais. Then Nakajima finally gets his big moment when he hits the german only for Ueyama to no sell it an blast his skull. Ishikawa/Crafter was an awesome signature Ishikawa performance and easily ran near the top of my favourite U-Style matches. Kakihara hits 2 kicks against Otsuka and then „injures himself“. Was that some Mil Mascaras „I will only job to my own move“ bullshit? Anyways. Tamura/Ito is a classic and holds up no problem. I've been critical of Squash Machine Tamura but his performance was absolutely masterful and Ito looked world class. Clash of the Sasakis was basically a shootstyle comedy match with Kensuke just trying to work pro style with Kyosuke not cooperating and getting powered around. Pretty amusing. Otsukas grappling once again looked great in the main event. Too bad he has a weak arm and no answer for Tamuras kicks. These two totally had a 20 minute classic in them, but I guess it wasn't meant to be.

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