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UWF Newborn


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UNIVERSAL WRESTLING FEDERATION (JAPAN)

“UWF Newborn”

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Owner: Shinji Jin

Promoter: Akira Maeda

Commentators: Sōichi Shibata, Kenichi Takayagi, Sadaharu Tanikawa, Shogo Tanaka

Referees: Masami Soranaka, Motoyuki Kitazawa, Yuji Shimada, Ryogaku Wada

Ring announcer: Nobuyuki Furuta

Trainer/advisor: Karl Gotch, Billy Robinson

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Historical Background

UWF Newborn, established in 1988, was the resurrection of the original Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF) in Japan, which was active from 1984-1985. UWF was created by Hisashi Shinma in the wake of a scandal that caused heavy turbulence for New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW). Antonio Inoki used NJPW’s surging profits to offset a risky investment into a biotechnology company in Brazil. Inoki had immediately became a pariah and stepped down as company president, and Shinma, an important figure in NJPW that also spearheaded the Tiger Mask gimmick, was fired. Before the first UWF show, it was presumed that Antonio Inoki would be the leader of the new promotion, joining his friend in launching a venture into the world of professional wrestling. However, TV Asahi grew weary of continuing their relationship with NJPW without Inoki, and Inoki found himself back in power before long. Without Antonio Inoki, UWF’s would-be TV partner in Fuji Television withdrew from its business relationship. Without Antonio Inoki, UWF would launch with several other NJPW wrestlers who decided to take a chance with the new promotion, most notably Akira Maeda, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Nobuhiko Takada, and Satoru Sayama, the original Tiger Mask.

 UWF would become known for launching the “shoot-style” revolution in Japan. The first few UWF shows were an eclectic mix of traditional pro-style wrestlers, Lucha Libre practitioners, and the former NJPW talent mentioned above that were eager to try something new. Satoru Sayama was the most vocal of the group and saw an opportunity to take the promotion down a more realistic and grounded path. Sayama’s stance led to a clash with Hisashi Shinma and the creator of the Tiger Mask gimmick was soon shown the door. With Sayama’s crew effectively in charge, UWF was quick to fully embrace “shoot-style,” and the promotion featured matches that were considered revolutionary at the time. Gone were Irish whips and other less realistic aspects of wrestling. As the era-defining clash between Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Sayama’s new persona, Super Tiger in December 1984 suggested, the new flavor was realistic submission holds, martial-arts-inspired kicks and strikes, and suplexes that were now devastating outside the confines of traditional pro-wrestling. This is where the phrase (and eventually UWF Newborn’s tagline) “Kick Submission Suplex” derives from.

The first UWF would not last long. By 1985, financial problems were becoming apparent. Without a major TV deal, the promotion faced long odds. Even with the growing popularity of “shoot-style” among the hardcore fanbase in Tokyo, a stable future was out of reach. Even within the revolutionary group of Sayama and Maeda, problems were beginning to develop and egos clashed. Akira Maeda personally felt that Satoru Sayama was beginning to exert too much control, and was pushing his ideas over others. Things came to a head in a faithful match in September 1985, where Akira Maeda legitimately injured Sayama with real kicks. Maeda was fired, and Sayama soon left himself after other wrestlers within UWF felt there was no reconciliation. Without Sayama or Maeda, UWF would meet its fate and cease to exist in late 1985.

Maeda, Takada, Fujiwara, Yamazaki, and company would have no choice but to return to NJPW. But this would prove to be a boon to them. Maeda had established himself as a legit “tough guy” in the eyes of an increasingly younger, more in-tune wrestling fanbase in Japan. The UWF brand was cemented the night Maeda made things real with Sayama. Antonio Inoki recognized this and quickly established a “war” between UWF’s returning stars and other NJPW talent. This was perhaps the first major example of an “invasion” angle in professional wrestling, one that would be emulated years later with UWFi, an off-shoot of UWF Newborn. Akira Maeda, now the face of UWF and the “shoot-style” revolution, was seemingly set for a moneymaking feud with Antonio Inoki.

Unfortunately for Akira Maeda, what was the gift of popularity through the act of shooting also became a curse. Maeda, perhaps feeling the occasional need to prove his credentials, found himself getting into ugly situations. The first occurred in April 1986. During a match with Andre the Giant, Maeda started to become frustrated with his drunk opponent who was not in the mood to sell. Maeda kicked Andre’s legs repeatedly, and Andre soon decided to lie on the canvas to be pinned. Maeda refused to do so, prompting Inoki to come out to ringside and call for the end of the match. This perhaps was the moment that ended any hope of a program between Antonio Inoki and Akira Maeda.

Despite this incident, the UWF vs New Japan feud would continue into 1987. The popularity of the UWF stars delivered strong attendance and gate records for NJPW. TV ratings would suffer however, although some attribute this to an unfavorable timeslot while others attribute it to a frustrated casual audience that had become accustomed to the faster-paced style of NJPW over the increasingly realistic approach the company was taking at the time. In November 1987, another faithful incident occurred. During a six-man tag team match, Maeda took matters into his own hands and decided to deliver a shoot kick to the face of Riki Choshu while he was putting Osamu Kido in a Scorpion Deathlock. The kick resulted in a broken orbital bone for Chosu, and Maeda quickly found himself in hot water. Choshu was sidelined for a month, and Maeda was suspended. The company offered Maeda a chance to lift his suspension in exchange for going on an excursion to Mexico to learn Lucha Libre, but Maeda promptly refused this offer. In February 1988, Maeda left New Japan along with several of his UWF allies, including Kazuo Yamazaki, Nobuhiko Takada, Shigeo Miyato, and Yoji Anjo. This is where our story begins. But with a twist.*

*Editor’s note – To present an interesting alternate reality, this iteration of UWF Newborn will include the scenario where somehow Akira Maeda and Satoru Sayama were able to make amends. This will be explained later. In reality, Sayama left professional wrestling altogether in 1985 and established an organization called Shooto, which was focused on the art of shoot wrestling and shoot boxing. It was functionally the first organized MMA promotion in the world by 1988 and would later become famous for exciting lightweight grapplers and shoot boxers that defined the early MMA era of the 1990s. But what if Sayama was able to train some of his best students as shoot-style wrestlers instead?

What exactly is “shoot-style” wrestling?

“Shoot-style” wrestling, as explained above, was a style of professional wrestling in Japan that arose out of the UWF revolution in the mid-1980s. The style was focused on incorporating more realism into matches, and this meant submissions, strikes, and a general structure heavily influenced by catch wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling, and other martial arts such as karate (Akira Maeda himself was a karate student). Often confused today to be “fake MMA,” it was meant to be a more distilled version of the strain of professional wrestling that defined “Puroresu.” When Karl Gotch came to Japan in the 1960s, catch wrestling quickly became popular with the viewing audience and he was presented as a credible, realistic foil to the national hero at the time, Rikidozan. Of course, one of Rikidozan’s students was Antonio Inoki. Inoki, also trained by Karl Gotch, adopted the phrase “strong style” for his vision of professional wrestling. This was focused on a credible presentation, incorporating everything he learned from Rikidozan and Karl Gotch to have a sports-focused approach with realistic moves. Inoki would also become famous for doing “mixed fights” with other combat sports practitioners, including Muhammad Ali and Willem Ruska.

This is what essentially inspired the UWF crew, who went further in terms of realism and presenting what they considered to be “real wrestling.” To put it simply, “shoot-style” represents what professional wrestling looks like if you take it back to its roots as a contest between catch wrestlers and mixed it with influences from other combat sports. Of course, even in shoot-style, things are still pre-determined, and Maeda’s shoot kicks, however critical they were to the popularity of the style, are not necessarily common occurrences!

(More to come tomorrow! Stay tuned!)

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The Return of the UWF: Shinji Jin announces the formation of UWF Newborn

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June 12th, 1988

A major development took place in Japan last month. On May 22nd, Shinji Jin, a wealthy businessman, announced that he was bringing back the UWF brand in the form of a new promotion, UWF Newborn. Making the announcement with Akira Maeda, who recently left New Japan in February of this year, Jin made it clear that this new iteration of UWF would be here to stay. No expenses would be spared.

The news quickly dominated the news for the Japanese professional wrestling scene. Major outlets such as Tokyo Sports came out with front page covers announcing the new promotion. Several industry insiders were surprised, although they also noted that the departure of Akira Maeda, Kazuo Yamazaki, and Nobuhiko Takada from NJPW, it was not necessarily unexpected. The surprising thing was Shinji Jin’s financial backing. The same industry insiders, speaking on the condition of anonymity, were quick to note that NJPW’s decline in television ratings could be attributed to the UWF vs New Japan feud that dominated the last few years. No TV partner has been announced as of press time, and those insiders made it clear that without one, any new promotion was doomed to fail.

Some figures close to Shinji Jin and the new promotion were quick to point out that even without a TV partner, the dedicated fanbase that has followed the likes of Akira Maeda and Nobuhiko Takada since 1984 would guarantee strong gates for the new promotion. Shinji Jin believes that the young and dedicated fanbase in Tokyo and Osaka will change the game for the industry scene in Japan. Those close to Jin believe that both AJPW and NJPW have been inattentive to the needs of this audience, an example being the lack of clean finishes in either promotion which has been a problem for some time.

They may have a point. Another problem affecting both promotions has been strong, unforeseen turbulence. AJPW is still reeling from the departure of Toshiaki Kawada and Genichiro Tenryu in 1986, a move that left the promotion without one of its top stars and a promising young talent. NJPW has not yet recovered from the financial scandal in 1984 and has not found any footing since the departure of the UWF group in February. Antonio Inoki’s insistence on hanging on to the top spot has led to a sense of stagnation with the likes of Tatsumi Fujinami and Riki Choshu. If anything, there is a real opportunity for a promotion with strong financial backing to seize the initiative. Particularly one that promises to carry on the revolution that the first UWF started in 1984.   

June 19th, 1988

Shinji Jin and Akira Maeda held another press conference yesterday evening. This time they were joined by Nobuhiko Takada and surprisingly Yoshiaki Fujiwara. Fujiwara’s presence confirmed a rumor that was beginning to circulate in Japanese press circles. Shinji Jin, the wealthy financier for UWF Newborn, had exercised his financial muscle. Fujiwara stated at the press conference that Shinji Jin had brought out his contract with New Japan, along with the contracts of Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki, widely regarded as the most promising young stars to come through the New Japan dojo since Tatsumi Fujinami and UWF Newborn’s own top stars, Akira Maeda and Nobuhiko Takada. Shinji Jin also confirmed that Osamu Kido and Ryuma Go would be joining the new promotion, carrying on their previous work in the first iteration of UWF. This made some waves, to say the least. Tokyo Sports commented that UWF Newborn may need to be taken more seriously, especially with potential stars Funaki and Suzuki joining the roster, along with established veterans like Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Osamu Kido, and Ryuma Go.

Also announced at the press conference was the date of UWF Newborn’s first show, which will be July 11th. The show will be titled “Starting Over” and will be held at Korakuen Hall. Tickets immediately sold out after the announcement, confirming the idea that the promotion’s dedicated following will sustain the new venture, at least in the short term. Shinji Jin also assured reporters and attendees that the search for a television partner will continue.

Akira Maeda and Nobuhiko Takada also spoke extensively at the press conference. Maeda was asked if he felt UWF Newborn represented something different. His response was in the affirmative. Maeda stated that UWF Newborn was “real wrestling” and that it was taking the sport more seriously than anyone else has since the days of Karl Gotch and Rikidozan. Tokyo Sports was quick to note this as a direct shot at Antonio Inoki, and the magazine commented that Maeda’s overconfidence was telling. Nobuhiko Takada followed up on Maeda’s comments by saying that by the end of the year, this new vision will lead professional wrestling into the next decade.

Industry insiders in Japan remain skeptical. Some have noted that Maeda’s arrogance will turn off the older, casual fans which will prove to be a mistake. While some insiders and press writers for the wrestling scene in Japan have been critical, the coverage around UWF Newborn has been extensive.

One magazine seen as more friendly to UWF Newborn provided some interesting tidbits that may be worth keeping an eye on. Akira Maeda plans on taking a trip to the Soviet Union as an “official ambassador” in a sports-focused festival seen as the Soviet Union’s overture to the rest of the world right before the Seoul Olympics later this year. While some countries such as the United States have declined to participate for obvious reasons, Japan’s government has signaled they will send a group of ambassadors. This magazine has suggested that Akira Maeda has already made contact with officials in the Soviet Union’s SAMBO federation (SAMBO being the country’s primary combat sport, which has strong historical links to Judo). It was also hinted that Maeda would visit with officials within the Soviet amateur wrestling organization. Speaking of the Seoul Olympics, the same magazine also suggested that Shinji Jin has made contact with some amateur wrestling athletes that will be participating in the Olympics and have an interest in a professional wrestling career afterward. Some industry sources from the United States have suggested that Duane and Dennis Koslowski see a career in professional wrestling as more lucrative than the amateur circuit. Some skepticism is merited here, of course. As a side note, one source confirmed that Wayne Shamrock would be joining UWF Newborn as well soon. Wayne Shamrock has been a name on the wrestling circuit in the US for a while but hasn’t been able to cement himself quite yet.

Finally, a rumor has been circulating in Japan that Shinji Jin has made contact with Satoru Sayama. This hasn’t been confirmed as of press time, but it is hard to imagine Satoru Sayama would be interested in making amends with anyone in professional wrestling, especially Akira Maeda. Sources indicate that Sayama is perfectly happy with his new Shooto group, and has been focused on training a new generation of shoot wrestlers. But as the saying goes, never say never in professional wrestling.

 

 

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The card for UWF Newborn "Starting Over" at Korakuen Hall on July 11th has been announced.

UWF Newborn – “Starting Over”

July 11th, 1988

Korakuen Hall

Tokyo, Japan

Yoji Anjo vs Tatsuo Nakano

Nobuhiko Takada vs Shigeo Miyato

Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Osamu Kido

Akira Maeda vs Kazuo Yamazaki

 

Also announced was the UWF Newborn ruleset. Matches can only be won by submission, knockout, or TKO. Unlike the first UWF iteration, pinfalls will not be used. 

Wrestlers will have five knockdowns each. During a knockdown, a 10 count will be given for the wrestler to recover and signal they can continue the match. After all five knockdowns are used, the opponent will win via TKO. Rope escapes can be used to "escape" submission holds. After two rope escapes are used, it will be considered a knockdown. Rope escapes can be used after that, but another pair will result in another knockdown, and so on. The time limit for each match will be thirty minutes. Any attempt to force the opponent out of the ring on purpose will result in a disqualification. Closed fits are prohibited. Palm strikes can be used on any part of the body except for the groin, same for kicks. When the opponent is down on the canvas, palm strikes will also be allowed. "Soccer kicks" will be prohibited when the opponent is on the canvas grounded. Headbutts will also be permitted unless the opponent is grounded. 

If a match goes to the time limit, the wrestler with the most points scored will be declared the winner. In the case both wrestlers are even on points, members of the UWF Newborn committee will decide the winner.

Tag team matches will also be recognized under the new UWF Newborn ruleset. Tag team matches will also have a time limit of 30 minutes. Instead of five knockdowns, each wrestler will have three knockdowns that can be deducted. The same rules apply above. Tag team matches will also be held in an elimination format, meaning if one wrestler is submitted, KO'd, or TKO'd, the other wrestler on the same team can continue and win the match by eliminating the other two wrestlers on the opposing team.

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UWF Newborn – “Starting Over”

July 11th, 1988

Korakuen Hall

Attendance: 2,005 (sold out)

Tokyo, Japan

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Before the show opens, all wrestlers on the show along with Minoru Suzuki and Masakatsu Funaki come out to stand in the ring while the ring announcer introduces them individually. Afterward, Funaki and Suzuki hold a demonstration of the UWF Newborn ruleset while highlighting some common submission moves and striking techniques.

Yoji Anjo vs Tatsuo Nakano

A special 15-minute time limit to help open the show and “educate” the crowd further. A hard-hitting duel between two of UWF Newborn’s younger roster members. Nakano came out slinging with some furious palm strikes, and Anjo fired back with some stiff kicks to the lower body. Nakano manages to corner Anjo and clinches him for a series of knee strikes to get the first down. Anjo gets back up by the count of seven. Anjo keeps firing away with lower leg strikes and manages to get Nakano down to the canvas by hooking his leg. Anjo finds Nakano’s leg quickly and tries to work in a heel hook but Nakano manages to keep him at bay and works on Anjo’s legs as well. Both are unable to find the advantage and after a conversation in the art of leg locks, the referee forces them to stand back up. Nakano manages to get another down on Anjo after a sharp palm strike to the face. Anjo gets back up at the count of seven again. At about 9:00 minutes in, Nakano looks to be in control but Anjo catches him by surprise with a high kick. Anjo gets his first down on Nakano and Nakano manages to find his way back up at the eight count. They go back to the mat again and Nakano attempts to get Anjo in a rear naked choke while controlling his back, but Anjo manages to roll his way to the ropes and the referee forces a clean break. With about three minutes left in the match, Anjo knocks down Nakano again after they trade blows. The match goes the full 15:00 and with both men scoring two knockdowns, the committee rules it a draw for both. 15:00 draw

Nobuhiko Takada vs Shigeo Miyato

Takada was in control for most of this match. The younger Miyato could not keep up with his more experienced opponent. Immediately Takada’s strikes are harder and more direct, and his patented kicks target Miyato’s torso, which forces him on the defensive. Miyato attempts to go for the lunging takedown but Takada is able to control his opponent and takes Miyato’s back. Miyato quickly scrambles for the ropes for the escape. Takada does not relent and follows through with a series of palm strikes to get his first knockdown at around the 4:00 mark. The story remains the same throughout the rest of the match, with Miyato attempting to take the match to the canvas but Takada’s superior defense and striking ability leads to a pivotal moment at around the 12:00 mark. After being knocked down three times, Miyato grows desperate and attempts to match Takada with some furious striking but Takada counters with a powerful leg kick to the head, forcing Miyato back down again, and this time he doesn’t get up before the 10 count is completed. Takada defeats Miyato via KO, 12:24

Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Osamu Kido

A slower-paced match compared to the two previous bouts. This was more of an older-style grappling match in the vein of the Inoki vs Robinson or Inoki vs Brisco matches of days past. While the grappling was focused and calculated, the crowd was very into it and gave their approval at times, particularly when Fujiwara reversed an attempt by Kido to get his opponent into a rear-naked choke while Fujiwara was in a turtle position. Fujiwara was able to grab a hold of Kido’s leg and reversed it into a heel hook attempt, forcing Kido to scramble to the ropes. Fujiwara’s skills as a defensive mastermind were on display here, and despite Kido’s knowledge of catch wrestling gained from Karl Gotch over the years, Fujiwara was one step ahead of him. Despite Fujiwara’s advantage, this was a good chess battle between two experienced wrestlers throughout. Some of the grappling exchanges on the canvas might have appeared to be a lull to the untrained eye, but they were always on the move. Both are tied at 1-1 on knockdowns after each was forced to use two rope escapes. It was clear that neither was willing to use rope escapes until then. Fujiwara goes 2-1 up on knockdowns after Kido tires and Fujiwara controls the canvas, forcing Kido to use his fourth rope escape attempt after going for a cross armbreaker near the ropes. For about the last four minutes or so, Kido attempts to gain the advantage by throwing some palm strikes, but Fujiwara ducks one of them and goes for a scissors trip. He quickly catches Kido’s free arm for a Fujiwara armbar and Kido is unable to get to the ropes and taps out. A real battle between two students of Karl Gotch. Fujiwara defeats Kido via submission (Fujiwara armbar), 24:52

Akira Maeda vs Kazuo Yamazaki

The main event of the evening, which had the jam-packed Korakuen Hall fully behind it. Yamazaki was one of Satoru Sayama’s original students in the early 80s, which makes the dynamics behind this match quite interesting. The two are tentative at first, but Yamazaki shows he is much sharper with his kicks. Maeda’s defense is passable and avoids any significant hits from his opponent but Yamazaki appears to be on the front foot. Maeda gets Yamazaki into a guillotine choke from the clinch and brings him down to the mat. Maeda appears to be the better grappler here, with Yamazaki doing his best to play defense against his taller opponent. Still tentative, Maeda tries to work Yamazaki’s legs into a lock but Yamazaki rolls with his body weight and gets the entanglement near the ropes, forcing a break without using a rope escape. The two stand back up and this time Maeda appears to be more willing with his kicks, forcing Yamazaki on the back foot for the first time in this match. Yamazaki throws a few palm strikes, which causes Maeda to respond with his own. They audibly connect and Korakuen Hall erupts in cheers for Maeda as he forces Yamazaki against the ropes and clinches him for a few knee strikes to the abdomen. Maeda throws a few more close-range palm strikes for good measure, which forces Yamazaki down for the first time. The referee begins to count and Yamazaki gets up by the count of seven. Yamazaki comes back swinging with some high kicks, including a roundhouse which catches Maeda off-guard. Yamazaki works his way into a clinch and manages to find Maeda’s back for a side suplex. Maeda quickly gets back up and stumbles backward in a bit of a shock. Yamazaki throws another quick high kick but Maeda catches this one, and manages to return the favor by grappling on to Yamazaki for a Capture Suplex!

The match heats up here as Yamazaki stumbles around on the mat as the referee counts again. This time he gets back up by the count of eight and quickly gets Maeda to the canvas, hoping to recover and avoid any further knockdowns. Yamazaki manages to get Maeda on his back. Maeda goes into full guard as Yamazaki begins to throw some palm strikes. The crowd gets louder as Sayama’s student gets Maeda flustered and the referee sees enough to force Yamazaki to stand back up and begins a count for Maeda, giving Yamazaki his first “knockdown.” Maeda quickly gets back up by the count of six. Into the final third, Yamazaki takes the initiative and throws some furious high kicks as Maeda stumbles back towards the ropes. Yamazaki launches a Sayama-esque flying high kick, which connects and causes Maeda to fall to the canvas again! Another knockdown for Yamazaki and the two are tied on points. Maeda gets back up at the eight count. After some more grappling, which results in Yamazaki using a rope escape to avoid a toe hold from Maeda, the two find themselves back up standing. This time, Maeda uses another Capture Suplex to get Yamazaki back to the canvas and he quickly seizes Yamazaki’s arm for a cross armbreaker, causing his opponent to tap! Maeda defeats Yamazaki via submission (cross armbreaker), 25:39

After the match, Akira Maeda celebrates in the ring while the crowd chants “MA-E-DA! MA-E-DA! MA-E-DA!” After a minute or two, Maeda grabs a microphone and thanks the fans for coming, and promises more great events in the coming months. He confirms that UWF Newborn’s next show will be on July 25th, also at Korakuen Hall.

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Like my second post, I will occasionally have entries that reflect a wrestling newsletter in the style of Dave Meltzer/Wrestling Observer. I don't imagine it being Dave Meltzer specifically, but something along those lines. Just a little something to help develop storylines.

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July 14th, 1988

UWF’s first show on July 11th has been widely reported to be a success. With a sold out Korakuen Hall, there is no doubt about the passionate fanbase that was predicted to be a key part of UWF’s strategy going forward. Japanese press circles praised the show’s boldness and focus on realism. A few critics made their voices heard, but they have been largely drowned out by the initial positive reactions. Every match was reported to be worthwhile, with the weakest seemingly being Takada’s dominant win over Shigeo Miyato but no one expected Miyato to win anyways. The opener between Tatsuo Nakano and Yoji Anjo, and the main event between Akria Maeda and Kazuo Yamazaki were considered to be the best by a few reporters in Japan. Maeda also announced after his match that UWF’s next show would be on July 25th, also at Korakuen Hall. It is expected that Minoru Suzuki and Masakatsu Funaki will be on the card. Funaki and Suzuki were present during Tuesday’s show, but they did a demonstration of the UWF Newborn ruleset. Maeda’s win over Yamazaki, a former student of Satoru Sayama, is notable as rumors about Sayama and UWF Newborn continue to swirl.

Speaking of those rumors, Tokyo Sports was the first major outlet in Japan to report on this Monday. The report confirmed that Shinji Jin has indeed made contact with Sayama and that there was a possibility that the two would meet later this month. No other details were mentioned, including whether or not Akira Maeda’s presence in the new UWF would be an issue for Sayama. This newsletter remains highly skeptical that any deal will be struck.

In other news, another reporter seen as very close to Shinji Jin reported this week that in addition to visiting the Soviet Union in September, Akira Maeda was planning to visit the Netherlands in early August. Chris Dolman, a Dutch SAMBO fighter and Judoka, runs what is called a “free fight” gym in Amsterdam. The report mentions that Dolman’s work has caught the attention of Maeda, and that both Maeda and Shinji Jin are interested in potentially over some Dutch talent to UWF Newborn. Other sources have indicated that there plans to run a “big” show later in August, but few details were given as of press time.

Wayne Shamrock is expected to debut in UWF next month. A source in Florida has indicated that Shamrock has begun training at Bart Vale’s gym in Miami. Vale is an accomplished Kenpo fighter who has also has a background in shoot wrestling, so Shamrock should benefit from the knowledge Vale could provide him before he debuts. Karl Gotch also resides in Florida these days, and occassionally provides training to whoever seeks him out. 

In one bit of breaking news that just arrived before press time, Norman Smiley is a free agent and has already been sounded out about a potential role with UWF Newborn. Of course, Smiley is also a student of Karl Gotch and is very familiar with the type of wrestling UWF Newborn is promoting.

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Hey, I really enjoyed reading this. Your write ups are so well done, I mean I was really impressed with your details. It's obvious you know the history here. I am only familiar with a few names on your roster, but after reading your first show, it won't take long to get to know the rest. 

I liked how you started things off with younger talent to get the crowd warmed up. It gave me a good grasp on what this is all about. 

After reading his match, I'm assuming Takada is going to be a big deal. 

I was into the different styles and match ups. You blended things well with hard hitting contact and old school grappling. 

One name I am familiar with is Maeda. His match with Yamazaki brought the fans in and will keep them coming. 

Enjoyed the newsletter and all the inside scoops. Maeda is determined on making this work and is scouting talent worldwide. 

Excellent job! I'm excited to watch this concept develop. You're bringing something fresh and innovating to our world. 

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Card announcement:

UWF Newborn – “Starting Over II”

July 25thth, 1988

Korakuen Hall

Tokyo, Japan

Minoru Suzuki vs Tatsuo Nakano

Masakatsu Funaki vs Ryuma Go

Shigeo Miyato vs Kazuo Yamazaki

Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Nobuhiko Takada

Akira Maeda vs Osamu Kido

 

(OOC: Thanks all for your feedback! I'm glad you are all enjoying this so far. Still trying to find my bearings in terms of writing style and all that, but I feel it coming together! I'm excited to see where this goes, especially in the long term! I've been enjoying this a lot.)

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July 24th, 1988

UWF announced as the card for their second show over the weekend. Tickets sold out early last Friday, which meant UWF sold out a show even with no card. Like their first show, tickets sold out within minutes of them being released to the general public. There is no question that the UWF brand is incredibly hot, at least in Tokyo. Weekly Pro Wrestling in Japan remarked that while UWF’s popularity cannot be questioned, it will be interesting to see if they can attract similar crowds outside of Tokyo. There appears to be some discussion that UWF will run its first August show in Hokkaido, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet. That will be an early test.

As for the card, the show this Tuesday will be titled “UWF Starting Over II” and will feature a debuting Minoru Suzuki vs Tatsuo Nakano as the opener, and then Masakatsu Funaki vs Ryuma Go (both also debuting), Kazuo Yamazaki vs Shigeo Miyato, and Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Nobuhiko Takada. Akira Maeda vs Osamu Kido will be the main event. On paper, it appears to be a strong card and sources in Japan indicate there is buzz surrounding Suzuki and Funaki making their first appearance after their departure from New Japan earlier this summer. They are both widely regarded as the future of the promotion.

Weekly Pro Wrestling also reported that Akira Maeda would not be meeting with Satoru Sayama before the month's end, and Shinji Jin would make the planned trip alone. No date has been confirmed regarding the meeting, and details continue to be scarce.

Our sources have been able to confirm that Norman Smiley has signed with UWF. He will not be debuting on the next show, but will instead continue training in Florida for an event planned in the second half of August. This will apparently be UWF’s biggest show to date.

 

(For those curious, UWF Newborn did indeed sell out their shows very quickly in real life. If you go back and read the Wrestling Observer in 1988 and 1989, Dave Meltzer talks non-stop about wild UWF's popularity was at the time, especially without a TV deal.)

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UWF Newborn – “Starting Over II”

July 25th, 1988

Korakuen Hall

Attendance: 2,005 (sold out)

Tokyo, Japan

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Pre-event festivities get underway when everyone on the card is introduced individually. Akira Maeda speaks first and thanks the fans for coming and promises another great evening of action. Nobuhiko Takada speaks next and says that he will continue to make the fans proud and looks forward to his match against his former teacher, Yoshiaki Fujiwara. Finally, Masakatsu Funaki is given a chance to speak and he says that the spirit of UWF burns bright within him and that he will make everyone proud. Funaki ends by saying he is glad to be here.

Minoru Suzuki vs Tatsuo Nakano

A tough and physical 30-minute draw. Suzuki, being the younger trainee with more to prove perhaps, came out swinging against Nakano. Suzuki quickly proved that he is just as dangerous with palm strikes as Nakano is, getting his opponent on his back foot immediately. Nakano had to respond quickly, and he did. Catching Suzuki on a counter, he gets Suzuki down for his first knockdown after striking his younger opponent with a sharp palm strike to the face. Suzuki gets back up pretty quickly and is visibly frustrated. The score becomes 1-0 Nakano five minutes in. Suzuki adjusts his game plan and starts looking for ways to bring Nakano down to the canvas. Nakano is pretty sharp with his defense and keeps Suzuki at bay, blocking a few takedown attempts and keeping Suzuki either on his feet or scrambling around on the canvas after not being able to get a takedown on Nakano. About 10 minutes in, Suzuki finally manages to get Nakano where he wants him after blocking a low kick to the body for a takedown by catching his leg. Suzuki quickly finds side control and starts to work on Nakano’s left arm. He looks for a keylock but Nakano manages to find the ropes with one of his legs just in time for his first rope escape. The referee gets the two to stand back up and Suzuki continues right where he left off and goes for a double-leg takedown. Nakano’s defense is on point again, and he blocks the attempt and keeps Suzuki on the canvas while having a more advantageous position.

A prolonged battle on the canvas occurs and the two fight for positioning for a good while, with fatigue starting to set in for both around the 17:00 mark. Nakano gets Suzuki on his back and quickly finds the positioning needed for a rolling cross armbreaker. He struggles to break free Suzuki’s arm, giving Suzuki enough time to find the ropes for Suzuki’s first rope escape. At about 22:30 minutes in, Nakano corners Suzuki into a turnbuckle and clinches his opponent for some knee strikes to the abdomen. Suzuki falls to the canvas, holding the area where the knees connected. The referee calls for another ten count and Suzuki gets back up by the count of seven. At 2-0 up, Nakano looks to be in control. Suzuki quickly musters enough energy to mount a comeback, and grabs onto his opponent for a belly-to-belly suplex! Suzuki quickly looks for a kneebar, and Nakano has no choice but to find the ropes for another rope escape. Suzuki gets his first point and it is now 2-1 Nakano at about 25:00 in. The match finishes up with another stretch of grappling on the canvas, with Suzuki desperately looking for a way to finish off his opponent, but time expires before he can find Nakano’s arm for a cross armbreaker attempt. With the score still at 2-1 for Nakano, he is declared the winner via points. Nakano defeats Suzuki via decision, 30:00

Masakatsu Funaki vs Ryuma Go

Perhaps to the surprise of some, this was a hard-hitting and violent match. Ryuma Go revealed a side to him that hasn’t been seen since the 1970s. Funaki isn’t entirely new to the wrestling scene and is widely regarded as the best prospect for UWF Newborn, but even he appeared to be surprised. The match starts with Go throwing a combo of palm strikes, followed by several stiff kicks to Funaki’s legs. The audible noise of these strikes sends the crowd into a frenzy. Funaki stumbles back into the ropes, but Go does not relent. Go strikes Funaki’s skull pretty hard with another palm strike and Funaki’s legs turn into spaghetti. Funaki collapses into a heap and the referee calls for a count. Funaki appears to be in danger of losing quite quickly but gets back up by the count of eight. Go immediately goes back to work and finds Funaki’s back for a Dragon Suplex. Go quickly moves for a high mount. Go begins a “ground-and-pound” on Funaki with some more stiff palm strikes. Funaki appears to be in danger but manages to muster enough energy and hooks Go’s legs with his own for a sweep. The crowd voices their approval for Funaki’s fine counterwork from a vulnerable position and Funaki for the first time in the match finds himself on the offensive. Funaki quickly hooks onto Go’s left leg for a heel hook attempt, which sends Go scrambling for a rope escape. The referee stands both back up to applause from the fans. Funaki, perhaps finding some reprieve from the previous spot, goes on the offensive and strikes Go with palm strikes of his own. Go fires back, clinches onto Funaki, and fires several knees into Funaki’s abdomen. Funaki stumbles back into a turnbuckle but Go continues his ferocious striking. This time, Go lets loose an elbow and smashes Funaki across the face! The crowd is shocked as the sharp elbow draws some blood from Funaki’s nose. The referee calls for a clean break and shows Go a yellow card, the first in UWF Newborn! Go is deducted a point, which counts as another rope escape and the score is now 1-1 at about the 8:00 mark.

Funaki quickly grapples onto Go, perhaps attempting to recuperate some energy. Go is the fresher of the two and works his way to Funaki’s side for a side suplex. The suplex takes some wind out of Funaki and the referee starts another ten count. Funaki is able to get back up by the count of eight again, but quickly finds himself targeted by a high kick from Go. Funaki stumbles onto one knee. Go takes advantage of Funaki’s vulnerability and fires another kick to Funaki’s head! Since Funaki was not fully “grounded,” the high kick does not count as a “soccer kick” and the referee has no choice but to count again. Funaki is very slow to get back up and only manages to beat the count at nine and a half. Funaki, clearly dazed, fires back with palm strikes of his own, but they only meagerly connect. Go comes back with a series of low kicks to Funaki’s abdomen. Funaki stumbles forward onto his knees in clear exhaustion. Go shocks the crowd by releasing some hard palm strikes on a partially downed Funaki, who is clearly on the ropes. Funaki collapses into another heap and seems unresponsive. The referee has seen enough and calls for the bell. Ryuma Go wins via KO! Masakatsu Funaki displayed signs of promise but was simply unprepared for a violent and focused Ryuma Go. Go defeats Funaki via KO, 9:42

Shigeo Miyato vs Kazuo Yamazaki

Miyato came out eager to get a win and prove himself against Yamazaki after a relatively poor showing against Nobuhiko Takada. Yamazaki, coming off a loss against Akira Maeda, is looking for a win too. Miyato smartly keeps the match on the canvas in the first few minutes, showing off some smart grappling against Sayama’s first student.  Yamazaki, to his credit, begins to show off some nice defensive counterwork and demonstrates his grappling abilities that may be underrated. Yamazaki keeps Miyato jockeying for position, and slowly Yamazaki takes the initiative by forcing Miyato to go for a rope escape at around the 4:30 mark by going for a guillotine choke near the ropes. As the referee stands the two back up, Yamazaki is back in his comfort zone and begins to assail Miyato with a series of kicks. Miyato once again struggles to contain a superior striker but manages to get in a few palm strikes of his own. Yamazaki is undeterred and keeps Miyato on his back heels. Miyato gets Yamazaki back on the canvas and at around the 9:00 mark, manages to get a toe hold on Yamazaki after some grappling near the center of the ring. Yamazaki looks to be briefly in trouble but he manages to reach for the ropes after some struggle. To Miyato’s credit, he looks to hold his own against Yamazaki for the rest of the match before Yamazaki catches him by surprise after catching one of his low kick attempts, and brings him down to the canvas by dragging the caught leg and turning it into a single-leg Boston Crab. Miyato has no choice but to submit in the center of the ring as it is locked in tight. Yamazaki defeats Miyato via submission (single-leg Boston Crab), 12:09

Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Nobuhiko Takada

With both competitors coming off a win from the Starting Over, there is a level of confidence with both that will ensure a spirited match. Takada quickly goes to work with some sharp low kicks targeting Fujiwara’s shins. Fujiwara is forced to utilize his defense and uses raised knees to block some more kick attempts. Fujiwara goes for the clinch on Takada and catches him by surprise with a sharp forearm uppercut. Since Fujiwara does not use a closed fist or elbow, this is allowed. Takada fires back with a sharp palm strike, but Fujiwara catches this and drags Takada to the canvas. A grappling contest ensures for the next few minutes as Fujiwara shows Takada better technique, keeping the popular firebrand scrambling to avoid any joint locks from his experienced opponent. Fujiwara manages to catch Takada by surprise by getting side control and going for a Kimura, which causes Takada to toss one of his free legs onto the rope for a rope escape. As the two stand up again, Fujiwara hits Takada with some clever palm strikes that are aimed upward at his chin, forcing Takada to stumble back. While Takada is probably the superior striker, Fujiwara’s shrewdness comes into play and eventually causes Takada to stumble to the canvas and Fujiwara gets his first knockdown at around the 8:00 mark.

Takada quickly recovers and goes after Fujiwara with some more kicks, this time aimed at Fujiwara’s abdomen. One of them catches Fujiwara in the kidney and he keels over. Takada clinches on and goes for some knee strikes but Fujiwara baits him and catches one of them. Takada is dragged down back to the canvas and Fujiwara manages to get into position for a knee-crush/calf-slicer, forcing Takada to reach for the ropes again for another rope escape. Fujiwara has a 2-0 advantage and Takada is forced to adapt. Takada opts for a more defensive approach and tries to bait Fujiwara in by having him seize the initiative in the striking game. The two are more tentative for the next few minutes as they trade a few strikes and try to grapple for a dominant position, but neither can get any advantage. The decisive moment comes around the 17:00 mark when Fujiwara catches one of Takada’s kick attempts and gets Takada back down to the canvas. Fujiwara seems to be looking for a cross-collar choke from an open guard position. Takada shows great awareness here and quickly raises his legs to trap Fujiwara in a triangle choke! Fujiwara attempts to stand up and escape but Takada catches his arm and turns it into a triangle armbar. Fujiwara finds himself in an untenable position in the center of the ring and taps. Takada defeats Fujiwara via submission (triangle armbar), 17:52

Akira Maeda vs Osamu Kido

While this is their first time meeting UWF Newborn, they did meet several times in the original UWF and NJPW in the early 1980s. Maeda has more experience now and is aiming to continue his winning start. Kido was Karl Gotch’s favored student, but Maeda believes he is better and is eager to push Kido aside. The two start the match by feeling each out with some tentative palm strikes, and Maeda mixes things up with some low kicks to check Kido’s reach. Maeda appears to be on the front foot as Kido is unable to close the distance. Kido avoids being cornered and keeps his opponent moving. Finally, Kido ducks one of Maeda’s palm strike attempts and goes for a double-leg takedown. While on the canvas, Kido goes for an open guard position and strikes Maeda several times with some palm strikes aimed at the abdomen. Maeda attempts to defend by latching onto one of Kido’s arms but Kido manages to avoid being caught and keeps moving to a side control position. Maeda’s defense is good as Kido attempts to stretch Maeda’s arm out on the far side. The two battle for position a bit more before they slow down a bit near the ropes, and this causes the referee to stand both competitors back up.

The match continues with neither gaining a clear advantage. Osamu Kido aims to keep the match on the canvas, where he is more comfortable and he manages to get Maeda on the mat a few more times, but Maeda’s defense is quite good and he keeps Kido at bay, avoiding any serious submission attempts. While standing up, Maeda has a clear advantage and he keeps Kido on the back foot for most of the match with superior striking skills, especially kicking. Maeda knocks down Kido three times during the later stage of the match, but Kido proves his resilience and gets up quickly each time. Kido, to his credit, manages to get Maeda to use two rope escapes, making the score 3-1 in favor of Maeda at around the 15:00 mark. Kido attempts to get a German Suplex on Maeda, but Maeda keeps his footing and brings down Kido with a rolling kneebar. Maeda isn’t able to quite lock it in, which leads to a prolonged struggle on the mat. Maeda changes his position and eventually manages to get Kido’s back. Kido, exhausted, isn’t able to prevent Maeda from locking in a Katahajime this time. Kido is stranded and has no choice but to tap. Maeda defeats Kido via submission (Katahajime), 19:22

As Maeda is declared the winner, cheers erupt in the jam-packed Korakuen Hall. Maeda raises his arm as an acknowledgment to the fans. The adoring crowd surges forward from the stands and surrounds the ring as they pay homage to their hero. "MA-E-DA! MA-E-DA! MA-E-DA!" chants follow the tune of "Captured" by Camel, Maeda's theme. It doesn't take long for it to segway into the UWF theme, becoming the music in Tokyo's mecca for professional wrestling. If anyone in the crowd could have a testament 30 years later, they would easily say that it felt like the UWF movement was invincible.

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Once again, props to you for these well detailed match descriptions. 

Good way to start the night as Nakano edges out the win, but Suzuki held his own. 

Damn! Go was in beast mode tonight! 

Things can change on a dime as Yamazaki surprises Miyato to secure the win. 

I became a quick fan of Takada at the last event. I thought Fujiwara was going to take it but Takada survived to pull it out. 

Maeda ends the night with another big win and is obviously a superstar to the fans. 

UWF newborn is really coming together! Great job! 

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