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The Dissolution of Newborn UWF


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I started this as Part Two of the SWS history posts, but there is no way that I could do justice to the fracture of the Newborn UWF, and consequent formation of Fujiwara Gumi, while packing it in with the next main part of the narrative. I promise not to go all Kingdom Hearts on you guys with interquel after interquel to put off proper sequels, but sometimes you need to spin chunks off into separate pieces for your own sanity. This is primarily sourced from a 2018 Igapro article.

The Dissolution of Newborn UWF


After his victory over Masakatsu Funaki in the main event of UWF Atlantis on October 25, Akira Maeda, the company’s biggest star and the cofounder of its revived incarnation, made comments to backstage reporters. The gist of these, from what I was able to gleam through DeepL, was that Maeda believed that the performances of Nobuhiko Takada and Kazuo Yamazaki (the latter of whom did not work UWF Atlantis) were compromised by “being in an environment” where they could not concentrate fully on their fights. Maeda stated his intent to protect his younger talent in that sense, and declared that any force which attempted to interfere or meddle with them, be it from outside or within, would be crushed without mercy. Four days later, UWF president Shinji Jin made a surprise announcement that Maeda would be punished for his damaging comments with a five-month suspension. This executive decision had been made with no input from the rest of the board.

Meltzer’s breakdown of the tensions between Maeda and Jin which led to this, which he published at the head of the November 12, 1990 Observer which reported on Jin’s announcement, states that they started in March 1989, when Jin handed Maeda a contract, with a clause “that is in all wrestlers’ contracts in Japan”, which read that he would have to pay twice the amount of the contract itself in order to break it. Maeda did not sign it. Meltzer reported that Maeda and Jin, who had known each other since Jin had worked in the NJPW front office in 1983, were such close friends that Maeda had never worried about business affairs – which were left entirely in Jin’s hands, even if the ownership of the Newborn UWF was a five-way split between the two of them as well as Takada, Yamazaki, and managing director Suzuki (I only have the surname at present) – and had not even wrestled under contract for the promotion until this. However, the 2018 Igapro article this is mostly sourced from ties this thread back even further. On August 13, 1988, after the company held its third event (UWF The Professional Bout), Maeda was approached by his karate teacher and mentor Shogo Tanaka, who wished to look into the company books. It doesn’t state whether Jin let him (I doubt it), but either way, there were definitely suspicions on Maeda’s end regarding company finances before the tensions began to be exacerbated due to Hachiro Tanaka.

The aforementioned Observer reported that Jin felt obligated to send Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Masakatsu Funaki, and Minoru Suzuki to work SWS shows. On top of his sponsorship of Newborn UWF, Tanaka had footed the bill for the penalty fees attached to Funaki and Suzuki’s NJPW contracts. This was, as anyone familiar with the then-legitimate reputation of this era of shootstyle can guess, absolutely unacceptable to Maeda. This was not a matter of pride or some romanticized ideology; Maeda was absolutely correct to object as he had, because the perception of Newborn UWF’s legitimacy was contingent on its insulation from the rest of the professional wrestling industry.

A subsequent request from Maeda to look into the books was denied. As Meltzer reported, Maeda hired an accountant and lawyer in response, with serious intent to depose Jin before he was suspended.

Jin assigned Fujiwara to organize the talent on Maeda’s behalf for the next event, UWF Energy in Matsumoto on 1990.12.01, and a meeting was scheduled to determine the card. However, Fujiwara was absent from this meeting, as were Takada and Yamazaki. Fujiwara no-showed because he didn’t want to get involved in anything messy, while Takada and Yamazaki did not attend because, if they entered the Matsumoto show, that meant that they were implicitly approving of Jin’s executive overreach in suspending Maeda. Jin responded ruthlessly, claiming that they would have to pay a penalty fee four times (!) their salary if they boycotted. Of course, Jin was really planning to drive out Takada and Yamazaki as well as Maeda, and functionally replace them with the young Funaki and Suzuki. [2021.04.20 addition: according to the November 26 Observer, Fujiwara had creative differences with Maeda's ideals and wished to bring more traditional wrestling elements into the company's product.]

However, Funaki and Suzuki were no great fans of Jin themselves, and in a discussion with fellow wrestler Shigeo Miyato came to the conclusion that “if Maeda is not wrong, it is not right for him not to participate [in the Matsumoto event]”. Takada agreed with them, and the four secretly met with Maeda, convincing him to attend the event. This led to a pretty famous moment, if one that was deeply ironic in retrospect. After Funaki’s defeat of Ken Shamrock, then professionally known as Wayne Shamrock, in the main event, he called Maeda up to the ring, and the rest of the locker room followed to shake hands with him one by one.

On December 7, 1990, Jin announced the dismissal of all Newborn UWF talent and his withdrawal from the industry to become a concert promoter. [1] As reported in the Observer ten days later, Jin was going to prevent them from using the UWF name in their new endeavors, but for now, worries that a messy legal case would expose the UWF were abated. It was expected that they would reconfigure as a new company and reach a television deal with WOWOW.

However, tensions within the promotion would prove its undoing.

Maeda thought that all the wrestlers were united with him. But, if DeepL is steering me right, it seems that tensions emerged from his having met with Takada and Yamazaki beforehand to coordinate a meeting. Fujiwara and Tatsuo Nakano did not appear at this meeting. Fujiwara had already received his invitation from Megane Super to form what would become PWFG, but did not want to negotiate to pull Funaki and Suzuki out with him, so he withheld his answer to Hachiro Tanaka while taking a step back from the situation. Nakano, meanwhile, didn’t want to get involved in something he predicted would get messy, because he knew about the discontentment of Shigeo Miyato.

Miyato was disgruntled by Maeda using Takada and Yamazaki as liaisons to arrange this meeting, as he claimed he was the one who arranged the unity, and that he should therefore have the right to speak. This snowballed into an argument where Miyato accused Maeda of treating him like he was still his little apprentice. In response, Maeda told the wrestlers to disband as an attempt at “shock therapy”.

If the translation is coming out correctly, Takada at least understood what Maeda was trying to do, but nevertheless the wrestlers began moving “according to their own agendas”. The first plan, which Miyato, Yuji Anjo and others moved towards, was to establish a promotion centered around Funaki. Funaki, who felt that Maeda had abandoned him, went with Suzuki to talk to Fujiwara about their plans, and it was at this point when Fujiwara accepted Megane Super’s offer. Funaki tried to invite some other UWF talent to join, but Miyato refused because he did not want any sponsors. At this point, Miyato moved to form what would become the UWFi, centered around Takada. As written at the beginning of the paragraph, Takada understood that Maeda had just been trying to splash some figurative cold water in their faces, but he ultimately went along with this plan because he felt obligated to take care of Miyato, Anjo, and the others, but also wanted the chance to be the ace of a promotion, which he would never become over Maeda. Maeda, for his part, realized the error he had made, and visited Funaki’s house in a last-ditch attempt to at least salvage him. But Funaki was not there, and even if he had been, he would not have agreed to a meeting.

So it was that the Newborn UWF splintered into the UWFi and PWFG, leaving Maeda, for the moment, alone.


[1] At Maeda's retirement show on 1999.02.23, Jin was not present, but he did send a letter of apology to Maeda to the aforementioned former managing director Suzuki, who was in attendance, to give to him. Maeda let bygones be bygones. Jin has declined all subsequent interview requests pertaining to the UWF.


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