Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

1994: Ooh Vader, UWF-I Love Your Way

Super Vader vs. Masahito Kakihara  UWF-I 5/6/94

ER: This was shaping up to be maybe the squashiest of the Vader UWF-I matches, until suddenly it was filled to the brim with joy and became epic. Vader rushes and repeatedly crushes Kakihara into the corner, just traps him and mauls him. After the first pouncing the ref is almost surprised to see Kakihara not getting up, but Vader smells blood and keeps going to that well. Kakihara is very quickly down 15-6. This seems literally 30 seconds away from being a points TKO, but Vader misses a huge lariat and Kakihara goes for broke with a spinning heel kick that surprises Vader, and Kakihara is unleashed!! He starts kicking at Vader, drops him to all fours with a kick to the gut, kicks him while he's down, and grabs that arm. Vader, you recall, got his arm ripped apart when he finally tapped out against Takada, full arm stretcher job and everything. Here we are 6 months later and he still has that arm bandaged up! Tapping to Takada gave the monster an actual, exploitable weakness! Fans saw it work before, Vader still clearly has a hurt arm, though he didn't have a heavily bandaged arm during these same 6 months in WCW. Yes, Vader is working a UWF-I-only injury, just telling all his friends that he really DOES have a girlfriend, but you see she lives in Canada. Kakihara doesn't get shutout, as Vader needs the rope break, but you can't knock away 14 more points 1 point at a time. He dances with the spinning heel kick that brung him to the dance, Vader ducks low having seen it coming a mile away, and then proceeds to see if he has the strength to propel a human body through a ring. He hits his mammoth chokeslam and then rolls through Kakihara with a snapmare, just so he could roll him back into his face smasher. Kakihara's face bounces disgustingly off the mat and that is all. Many people attend to him. A human-sized stretcher is brought in, and Vader babyfaces himself by telling the crowd that the West could learn a lot from Japanese culture, and that win or lose he will always put on a good fight. I would have loved it had he said that, then gone and totally upended Kakihara on the stretcher.

Super Vader vs. Kiyoshi Tamura  UWF-I 6/10/94

ER: One of the hottest under 10 minute matches in history. I'd like to think Vince McMahon would have billed it as "Seven Minutes...IN HELL!" We open on Vader wearing the largest wraparound Oakleys you've seen, and Vader's entrance theme is a glorious 16 bit 4-bar junkyard bop, like you're about to face a boss comprised of scrap metal and car parts. Tamura opts to slap face instead of shake hand, and the crowd recognizes that their lives will not ever be the same again. Tamura knows his chances of winning lie in the mat, and how do you get a boulder with legs to the mat? You kick those legs right out from under the boulder. Tamura unleashes those leg kicks and Vader sells them perfectly. Tamura figures out just how far away he can be from him to land them and not get crushed. It's a mostly sound strategy. Takada kicks low a few times and finishes high, knocks Vader into the ropes, low again and then high, starts working for a heel hook. It's an awesome sight to see a beast like Vader scrambling for ropes. At one point Tamura grabs what looks like the nastiest stump puller I've ever seen and I have no clue how Vader was able to stand afterwards. Vader immediately just starts going for KO blows, trying to muscle through the leg kicks to land one big shot. One shot does land, knocking Tamura to the mat, and the second the ref checks in on Tamura, Vader drops to a knee in pain. My god what a great moment. Another great moment comes when Vader swings wild and falls on his face, leading to Tamura pouncing. But once Vader lands a shot, then another, then a hard slam, Tamura's points just start falling far too quickly. I loved Tamura rolling back to his feet after a fallaway slam, so he wouldn't get dinged 3 points for getting knocked down, and love how he gamely tries to spring to his feet after a powerbomb,'s a Vader powerbomb. That's a match ender, that.

Super Vader vs. Nobuhiko Takada  UWF-I 8/18/94

ER: I've seen a lot of praise for this match, and it's the most commonly cited "great UWF-I main event" or some iteration of that claim ("best Takada main event", "best Vader match in UWF-I") and I just don't agree. I think overall it's hurt by its length of nearly 20 minutes. 20 minutes doesn't sound like a long time for a main event in front of a packed and enthusiastic Budokan crowd, but it lead to some repetitive stand and trade and knockdown. If this was the only time Vader worked UWF-I then I imagine I would have been flipping out for this. There were still a ton of great moments, and the extra time allowed for a longer story to unfold, as we'd not really had a Vader match where exhaustion set in for both fighters, with both men tired and forced to work in quick bursts and then rest, or go to a hold with no intention of finishing, but knowing it just momentarily stops things and allows the lungs to fill back up.

It's tough to do a long worked shoot match without someone's strikes looking ineffective. Every UWF-I Vader fight we've seen so far have had guys getting put down with strikes, only to struggle to their feet a handful of times until they no longer can (or, if they're using a points system, until they are a big 0). Here we get 20 minutes of Takada valiantly climbing back to his feet, and it's tough to not feel like a major portion of the middle of the match is just these two spinning their wheels. Vader knocks Takada to the mat 3 times in the first minute of the match, one of the times leading to Takada curled up in the fetal position around the ringpost, looking like a sleepy kitten who tired himself out and landed in a cozy sunbeam. And I think there are maybe too many peaks/valleys here, with both set in their ways and both trying to finish the way they know how to finish, and the longer you see it the more other little stories open up, and you're wondering if you're imagining the ref counting down Vader faster, and when Takada goes down he takes a couple seconds to check on him before beginning each count, and your brain starts wondering if Takada is somehow giving off the appearance of cheating in a worked fight.

I wish this was worked with points. I don't know why some UWF-I fights have points, and others don't, but I love the sudden death feeling that points fights have. Imagine how Takada would have reacted had he been down 15-6 one minute into the fight! But I do like the tired struggle we get down the stretch, where Takada keeps getting back to his feet with less and less each time, to the point where he's not even attempting offense and merely getting bulldozed now that it's become a weight battle. Vader hits a HUGE German suplex and a stiff shoot powerbomb (with Takada trying to kick him in the face the whole time). Takada finds himself in worse and worse positions on the mat, at one point ending up with his head wedged between Vader's knees, and on the receiving end of a nasty palm strike when attempting an armbar. So while I like the others more, there is charm to this tired epic. Takada had won 17 straight singles fights dating back over 2 years, so having him die on his feet over and over against the Mastodon is a suitable way for an ace to finally succumb.


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