The first in a series looking back on the English language broadcast of the Union of Wrestling Forces International (UWFi), now available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.
Multimedia giant Amazon has recently added Season 1 of “Bushido – Way of the Warrior” to it’s digital streaming video library in most regional territories.
‘Bushido…’ was the English language broadcast of the UWFi ‘Shoot-Style’ promotion founded by Nobuhiko Takada that originally ran from 1991-1996; this series being dubbed and shipped internationally as ready packaged programming in 1997.
Featuring many Pro Wrestlers that would train under Billy Robinson in Japan, the contests were worked yet hard hitting and treated like a prototypical Mixed Martial Arts combat sport, replete with knockouts, submissions and points.
Episode 1 gives us 3 matches originally from the humorously titled “UWF-I E=MC²”event from 1992.
Mark Silver vs Masahito Kakihara
This was a great short match between the little known American Pro Wrestler Mark Silver and a long time stalwart of the Japanese Shoot Style scene in Kakihara. In spite of Silver’s background as an amateur wrestler, the bout was mostly a striking affair as the two traded shots with each other for much of it.
A dash of suplexes and submissions were thrown in here and there, but it was the stiff shots that told the story. The bout gets bloody toward the end when Kakihara busts Silver’s nose open, and the match eventually goes to a time limit draw with both combatants even on the scoreboards
Tom Burton vs Tatsuo Nakano
This was not a good match.Both appeared to have limited grappling on the ground, Burton having a bit more of the American scholastic folkstyle of wrestling perhaps, but otherwise neither really know what they were doing. Nakano always had good striking (for the time) and really excelled with suplexes, but he had barely improved as a mat wrestler in the few years since starting out in UWF Reborn during the late 1980’s.
After what feels like an eon of mediocrity, the match mercifully ends with Nakano applying a version of a sleeper choke to Burton and gets a tap.
Gary Albright vs Kazuo Yamazaki
The main event, scheduled for 60 minutes in a fight that sells us on how Albright is perhaps just one victory away from a shot at the UWFi poster-boy Nobuhiko Takada. The commentary by Geoff Thompson (UK) and Ted Pelc (USA) is earnest and treats the matches with a refreshing degree of reverence – even if the technical play-by-play if often deficient.
Yamazaki did not have much to say in the pre-fight promotion, other than essentially “I want the people to see me win”. Yamazaki did have his moments in this match, particularly an astonishing German Suplex with bridge on his gigantic adversary that was parlayed into a Boston Crab.
In the end the hulking Nebraskan smashed his way to victory following a couple of hard German Suplexes of his own; the result an undisputed Knockout.
This was a mixed first episode to introduce an unsuspecting Western audience to the world of Japan’s Shoot Style Pro Wrestling, delivered at a time when the concept of Kayfabe – maintaining not only the matches but rivalries and grudges were genuine both on and off camera – still factored.
The good in this episode did outweigh the bad, but it would not be until the second episode a basic introduction of the rules and scoring system was produced – something that would have helped viewers tuning in for the first time in Bushido’s debut.