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Author Topic: UWFi...
Boston Idol
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Lou,

I've heard about a number of double crosses
that took place in UWFi, inluding a match
between Kiyoshi Tamura and Matthew Saad
Muhammad in 1992 and the infamous match
between Tamura and Gary Albright in 1995
where Albright basically refused to cooperate
or sell anything for Tamura.

As a professional who made his living based
largely on trust, how did you feel about these
transgressions of pro wrestling protocol?

Was doublecrossing a boxer okay because he
wasn't one of the boys? Was Albright's
refusal to put over Tamura cleanly a black
mark on Albright's career, or is it okay to
refuse to cooperate if you don't agree with
the booker?

I ask these questions because it seems to me
that the foundation of worked pro wrestling
is cooperation and trust between workers.
Did UWFi's obvious lack of respect for the
tenets of pro wrestling hasten their downfall?

Frank


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Crimson Mask I
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Frank:

If you know (or if anyone else does, please), what were the details of the incident between Tamura and Saad Muhammad?

So long from the Sunshine State!


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Lou Thesz
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I never heard this about Tamura and I was there. In fact, Gary and I were pretty tight (at the time!). Tamura was so small it would have looked pretty stupid for him to beat Gary. UWFi failed because they lost sight of their original goal - wrestling. Thye brought in Vader and a few other attractions and soon became just another prowrestling promtion. when they were using the US and Russian Olympic wrestlers (Dan Severn - my personal favorite)and good Japanese boys they were successful. The boys were making some money, but when the promotion brought in Vader for big bucks it broke the spirit of wrestling and the common goals of all involved.

The trips I looked forward to became really hard work and to get up and lie to the fans who expected wrestling and tell them it was wrestling was just too hard. I resigned in Feb and they folded toward the end of the year. Danny Hodge and Billy Robinson left with me.

UWFi had a gold mine in a literal and artisitic sense. The Russians were terrific to work with and great guys. It was a clear cut example of thinking they had the midas touch. They had made money in small buildings with good boys and no TV. But they just had to make the leap to "compete" with new Japan and All Japan. I relaly thought wrestling had a chance and the outcome was pretty devastating. The clowns won again!


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wrestlingscout
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I feel shoot-style federations, such as UWFi are a curiosity in the wrestling world. One has to admire what these men are offering and the riskiness of not only the style, but the popularity. I know Mr. Thesz and proably everyone else, that the bottom line in wrestling is - ca$h. Shoot-style will strike a nerve with some, but completely alienate others - who have no respect for wrestling as a sport. I recall the WWF's "brawl for all" in which, they picked up the stiffness and needless to say many sports entertainer were injured. I respect men like Takada and Maeda, who dedicate their careers to this hard to sell product.
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Lou Thesz
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Actually, Scout, it was making money without TV and running pretty regularly. What killed it was going to the current "star" type of wrestler,i.e. Vader. We drew 40,000 in a ball park without TV.

Lou


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wrestlingscout
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I find it unfortunate that more realistic wrestling can be popular in Japan, but in the US it's frowned upon. I here about wrestling complaining about people like Steve Williams and Dan Severn being too stiff and I want to laugh. I feel if you get involved with people, who wrestle that style, you gotta expect those dangerous suplexes. Mr. Thesz, why do you think the wrestling in Japan is so much stiffer, I think it's because they are willing to take it, because they don't get into wrestling to be superstars.
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Crimson Mask I
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Scout, I think the Japanese Warrior mentality (the Code of Bushido), derived from the Samurai days but still and always an integral part of the national psychology, has a great deal to do with it.
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jdw
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Lou wrote:
(( Actually, Scout, it was making money without TV and running pretty regularly. ))

UWFi opened shop in mid 1991, running about one show per month.

My recollection is that UWFi had some form of television in early 1992 for the card with the Tamura vs. Saad Muhammad match mentioned earlier in the thread. The card was headlined by Takada vs. Trevor Berbick.

My recollection also is that the promotion also had TV later in 1992 for the second Takada vs. Albright match (where Lou presented Takada the Pro Wrestling Championship belt) and the Takada vs. Kitao match. I don't remember these being commectial tapes when they first hit the US shores, but rather TV shows.

These three cards were probably the financial highpoints of the early part of the UWFi.

By 1993, UWFi had TV for most of their cards. Whereas the 1992 match *may* have been commercial tapes, I have a vivid memory of the 1993 shows being TV throughout the year. A quick trip the 1993 WONs would confirm this.

Business for UWFi in 1992 was "okay" to "good", with the "good" being the three cards I mentioned.

Business in 1993 would range from "good" to "great", the "great" being the Baseball Stadium show Lou mentions below.

By 1994 the promotion was red hot, and had the highest per show attendence of any wrestling promotion in the world.

In 1995, the promotion pulled off one last major sellout to open the year, popped a good sellout at a mid-level building, and then slid to the point they had to do business with New Japan, which of course where the biggest money making series of cards in the history of pro wrestling at the time... but of course the money was going in New Japan's pockets. Lou had cut the ties from UWFi by that point.


(( What killed it was going to the current "star" type of wrestler,i.e. Vader. We drew 40,000 in a ball park without TV. ))

The card where UWFi drew 40,000+ plus was after a full year of UWFi being on TV. The match itself that drew the crowd was the first Takada vs. Vader. And it was on TV, as I recall bringing the TV tape over to Yohe's that December and the two of us watching it in his living room right after the Starcade 1993 PPV with the well respected Vader vs. Flair match.

Yohe and I liked the Vader vs. Takada better than the Vader vs. Flair. :-)

UWfi did massive business after bringing in Vader in May 1993 until Vader had his last "new" match in UWFi, the 1/95 Vader vs. Albright. Vader's last match in UWFi in 4/95 drew poorly, mostly because it was the third time they had run the Takada vs. Vader match. Everything else he touched in UWFi drew huge, and UWFi's cards in that stretch (5/93 - 4/95) that didn't feature Vader also drew well.

Dave Meltzer has about a half dozen theories on what caused the hottest promotion in the world the prior 18 months to suddenly fall apart after one bad house in April 1995. One of his theories is partly the answer, but he tends to forget it when talking about the promotion in the past three years. The company's front office was not good with the money. The money earned in the red hot days was going right out the door into people's pockets just as quick as it came in. Hence, the company failed to build up a war chest to fall back on when times were bad. It's a form of living hand-to-mouth that works when times are great, but puts you out on the streets the moment you have a couple of bad shows.

That's one major reason they fall apart so quickly, and while it was covered in the press at the time, it seems to have been forgotten since then.

The other major reason they went in the tank is that they failed in their hot days of 5/93 through 1/95 to properly build up the young native wrestlers who would take the spots of Albright and Vader as the new rivals for Takada. UWFi had the candidates in Tamura and Kakihara. They simply got around to pushing them too late, and not doing it well.

Bad booking, in two words.

It was pretty sad at the time, as Takada on top in rivalries with Tamura and Kakihara with Gary supporting at the top gaijin would have been exceptional *wrestling*. Beneath it, there were the terrific midcard and undercard wrestlers like Kanehara, Sakuraba, Sano and the wonderful Billy Scott, not to mention Yamazaki. It was a very talented promotion, but run by folks who, during the hot days, weren't able to see into the future and build properly for it.

Darn... this makes me want to pop in some UWFi tapes. :-) Good thing Idol just sent me a tape with a good amount of UWF and UWFi on it. :-)


John


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Steve Yohe
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I have strong feelings that someone in the frount office of the UWFI took a lot of the money home with them. (Takada or someone) They really only had one bad show & they had to lend themselfs to New Japan & that was negotiated from a position of weakness. John & I have talked tons about this during & after, and I agree with everything he covered. They also booked shoot(???) tag matches & used John Tenta. The last Vader/Takada match followed a disappointing Vader/Albright card that may have hurt them. They had great Japanese talent they didn't use well or move up. I alway thought of them as a show biz worked group & liked Rings much more. If I had been New Japan wrestling I would have keep the UWFI guys & dumped Tenzan, Suzuki & the whole NWO idea.

Lou, did they try to stiff you on payoffs at the end? Do you remember who their main money man was? Were you suprised with Takada's performance vs the Gracies?--Steve Yohe


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Lou Thesz
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I am pretty impressed with your history, but when I say television, I mean a weekly show to build interest i nthe house shows, not the house shows being televised.

I had no complains in the $$ departmetn, but I just felt foolish standing in front of hte Japanese fans telling them Vader was a wrestler. They just didn't have enough money to make that go down well. I have much respect for the Japanese fans, and they have been too good to me. I was also getting pretty tired of the arm bar submissions. :-)

The guys who formed the promotion were spending money like they had it on cars, etc., but it was their choices. And we all know - we are the sum total of our choices.

For the most part, it was a wonderful experience for me. If they had stayed with what made them successful, like the U.S. and Russian Olympic wrestlers and good JaPanese boys, I would have been there to the biter end, or there might not have been an end.

I was surprised Takada did not do better with the Gracies.

Lou


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theshooter
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The UWFi show with Trevor Berbick vs. Takada was held on 12/22/91, the match with Matthew Saed Mohammad vs. Tamura was held sometime in '92 I believe, as it was a completely different event than the show with Berbick vs. Takada. The show with Berbick vs. Takada also had Billy Scott vs. kickboxer James Warring. I'd be interested in hearing Lou's account of the boxers & kickboxers vs. UWFi shootwrestlers if he was there for any of these events...

I think that one other reason that UWFi folded was because they lost a lot of their fan base to other "shoot" style & shoot promotions such as RINGS, Pancrase, Shooto, and, the UFC. A lot of people began catching on that UWFi wasn't presenting the real deal, and they especially saw them as selling out when they did business with New Japan, so many of these people abandoned the promotion.


As for Vader, I'll agree that he's not as good a technical wrestler as the Russian & American Olympic style guys that were in UWFi as well as the Japanese UWFi guys, but I'll have to admitt that I really enjoyed Vader's matches in UWFi. Vader was a brawler in UWFi, kind of like Tank Abbott in the UFC. Vader's UWFi matches were VERY stiff and also pretty damn entertaining IMO...


While Takada may not have faired so great in reality fighting, some other former UWFi guys have done much better for themselves in reality fighting, most noteably, Kazushi Sakuraba, Kiyoshi Tamura, Hiromitsu Kanehara, & Dan Severn.

[This message has been edited by theshooter (edited 12-18-2000).]


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Crimson Mask I
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shooter, what was the 'doublecross' in the Saad Muhammad match?
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theshooter
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Crimson Mask, I wasn't aware that there was a double cross in the Mathew Saad Mohammad vs. Kiyoshi Tamura match. I don't have the event with that match on it but this match was shown on one of the UWFi American ppvs, Shootwrestling III I believe. Tamura dominated Saad Mohammed and made short work of him finishing him off with a choke. I'm pretty sure that it was a shoot. Perhaps you mean the Trevor Berbick vs. Nobuhiko Takada match. Berbick looked scared $?*+less when Takada started kicking the hell out of him. It appeared that perhaps there'd been an agreement that Takada wasn't going to throw kicks but then Takada started throwing them anyways or that Berbick was told that the match was going to be worked and then Takada decided to shoot on Berbick or that Berbick just flat out didn't know what in the hell was going on. This match is pretty funny to watch as Takada kicks the hell out of the clueless Berbick until Berbick ends up literally jumping out of the ring and quiting at the same time complaining about the rules and shouting that he could "f*@& him (Takada) up" while rubbing his sore leg while at the same time Takada is standing in the ring victorious with the fans going nuts.
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Crimson Mask I
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I had never heard of it either... I was asking because of the original post on this thread. Maybe that was Takada vs. Berbick Boston Idol meant, but he's usually very precise.
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TABE
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Shooter, if you watch that Berbick/Takada match again, what you'll see is that Berbick is complaining about being kicked below the waist. It's apparent that there had been an agreement beforehand that Takada would have to kick above the waist, but Takada didn't follow that agreement. Berbick complains to the ref, who assures Berbick that kicks below the waist are NOT allowed, then continues to allow them - and Takada kicks Berbick while he's talking to the ref. It's no wonder Berbick was pissed - it looks to me like he got legit double-crossed.

TABE

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theshooter
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Whatever the case may be, I think that Berbick vs. Takada illustrated just how limited a person who's only skill is regular boxing really is vs. a crosstrained fighter. Not to say that it's not possible for a boxer to do well in a shootfight, but if they are up against an opponent that is in their physical capabilities range who is crosstrained, they are probably going to be in SERIOUS TROUBLE (as was Berbick in the match vs. Takada). Also, whatever the case may be, I think that UWFi brought in Berbick just because they wanted to embarass him, WHICH THEY ENDED UP DOING BIG TIME.
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Crimson Mask I
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It's true, it's true, but leave us not here omit the fact that Berbick wasn't all that much of a boxer, either, in spite of having held 1/3 of the alphabet soup world heavyweight title, and a head case to boot...
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The fact that Berbick was able to hold a major title in boxing says that he was considered to be a good boxer, maybe not great but still decent. I just think that boxing by itself is pretty limited compared to being crosstrained in all facets of hand to hand combat. Remember, Takada isn't exactly one of the elite proven legit shootfighters either, yet he was still able to school Berbick with ease.


Now just imagine if Akira Maeda had tried to pull a stunt like this during his retirement match with Greco-Roman wrestling legend Alexander Karelin. Karelin would have put Maeda through the mat. It seems to me that wrestlers are more able to defend themselves in a shootfight than boxers are. This isn't to say that boxers can't learn to be good shootfighters, because I believe that they can, and this also isn't to say that I think that boxing is worthless, because I actually think that boxing is an effective form of hand to hand combat, but it's only truly effective if the person using boxing can defend takedowns & defend himself on the ground and can also defend againt kicks & knees. Boxers definetely have a lot of things going for them, most noteably the ability to punch, but also the ability to take punches as well as great conditioning, strength, & speed. But if a boxer doesn't know how to defend against takedowns, and defend themselves on the ground, and also defend against kicks and knees, they are going to be in SERIOUS TROUBLE against someone in their physical capabilities range who is well versed in the areas that they don't know.

BTW, I remember seeing Berbick in a comeback match on TV a few years back. Right as the bell rang ending the 1st round, his opponent hit him with an accidental punch to the head that landed less than a second after the bell rang. The punch was solid but I don't think that it was exactly a knock out blow or something that would have ended the match. However, Berbick used the late blow as a chance to act like he couldn't continue and thus got an easy DQ victory. I seriously doubt that he was too hurt to continue after recieving that late accidental punch, IMO, Berbick was taking the easy way out. When I was watching this I was thinking that it would be really funny if I had been there in person in the front row holding up a "TAKADA" sign.


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Crimson Mask I
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No argument whatsover on the limited effectiveness of pure boxing in a shoot situation, or on Takada's credibility as a shootfighter, but I will argue that during the period in which Berbick held the 'title', any number of mediocrities did so, including him: Pinklon Thomas, Tony Tubbs, Greg Page, Gerrie Coetzee, Terribly Wasted Talent Tim Witherspoon...

...also recall an incident where Berbick and Larry Holmes got in a streetfight at a boxing card here in S. Fla. a few years back... somebody actually caught on video Holmes jumping on a car, running the length of it and dive-bombing Berbick, they had to pull Larry off him.

[This message has been edited by Crimson Mask I (edited 12-20-2000).]


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theshooter
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Even with Berbick having been a mediocre excuse for a boxing champion, his accomplishments in boxing are still greater than Takada's accomplishments as a legit shootfighter, and the fact that Takada was able to school Berbick so easily illustrates just how much more effective a crosstrained fighter is compared to someone who's only skill is regular boxing.


Man, I wish that there was some way that I could get a hold of footage of this incident that you are talking about where Larry Holmes dives off of a car and starts beating Trevor Berbick down in a parking lot.


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Chad/Yajuta
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I remeber that incident, it was hillarious! I also agree that Witherspoon could have been truly legendary. UWFI was essentially worked shhots, and even in workwed shoots sometimes someone gets carried away. I did like the stiff style of UWFI, but to be honest has Takada ever eally worked a legit shhotfight? Pride does do worked shoots.
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TABE
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Takada has most certainly done some legit shoots, though not all of his Pride bouts have been shoots. I believe his first one - against Gracie - was legit, for example. Hard to tell from the slo-mo documentary version of the match.

As for UWFI, there's a ton of examples where there were little "mini-shoots" within the matches. For instance:

1) Vader vs Yamazaki, 8/13/93 - Yamazaki cheap-shots Vader, so Vader retaliates by punching the ref for not protecting him.

2) Yamazaki/Anjoh vs Zangiev/Hashimikov, 6/10/94 - Dunno if it ever really turns into a shoot or not, but man, it sure LOOKS like it

3) Sano vs Anjoh, 8/13/93 - There's a spot where Sano cheats and Anjoh gets pissed, so he DRILLS Sano with an illegal elbow; definitely not a work

4) Vader vs Takada, 12/5/93 - Not really a shoot, but Takada legit injures Vader's arm with an arm-breaker, leaving Vader SCREAMING in pain as Lou Thesz and others look on, with no one helping Vader until several minutes pass.

5) Albright vs Tamura, 6/18/95 - Albright shoots on Tamura, refusing to cooperate.

Those are a few of the examples I've seen...

TABE

www.tabe.nu



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theshooter
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PRIDE is mostly legit shoots. They've had a few works (like Coleman vs. Takada & Otsuka vs. Takada), but for the most part they are a straight up shoot. And yes, Takada has been in legit shoots in PRIDE as well.
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Corey291
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I also remember almost falling out of my chair laughing at how Berbick was just getting the stuffing kicked out of him by Takada. I was wondering if this happened because of the previous match on the card.

That match was Billy Scott v. James Warring. The match went the full 12 or 15 round distance largely because Warring refused to engage Scott for any length of time. Everytime Scott went in for a take down, or any other kind of wrestling offensive maneuver, Warring would grab the ropes to force the break. After a few rounds of this, even the normally polite Japanese audience was booing Warring quite loudly (and Warring did this without fail throughout the entire 15 round match). Warring simply refused to fight, and stayed near the ropes for the entire match. At one point, while trying to pull Warring off of the ropes (Warring wasn't letting go for ANYTHING, a frustrated Billy Scott dumped Warring over the top rope and out of the ring (to a huge pop from the audience).

I had wondered if Takada was so upset at the fact that Warring refused to fight in good faith, and instead embarrassed himself, as well as Billy Scott and the UWFI, that he decided that any agreement between himself and Berbick was null and void. Thus, Takada proceeded to exact some revenge on the previous travesty of a match by kicking seven kinds of hell out of Berbick's legs.

I remember that Lou was interviewed after the match and had commented on the terrible sportsmanship displayed by Berbick for leaving the match (Berbick left so fast, I think he left skid marks).

Lou, what was your opinion on the Takada/Berbick and the Scott/Warring matches?

-Corey


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LOL at the Berbick leaving skid marks comment!


I agree that the James Warring vs. Billy Scott match was boring due to Warring constantly grabbing the ropes and avoiding engaging Scott as much as he could. I think that this match must have been a shoot because I can't imagine anyone in their right mind booking a match as a work that is that dull. Scott definetely earned the decision in this one IMO because he was the clear aggressor the whole time while Warring was basically playing the avoidance game. However, I think that the rules of the match were bad. There were unlimited rope escapes granted so Warring took full advantage of it. UWFi should have had the foresight to only allow a set amount of rope escapes before calling for a DQ or perhaps even had no rope escapes at all. Also, Warring was an accomplished kickboxer, but he really had little to no grappling expierence, plus, he was wearing boxing gloves so that made it harder for him to grapple, which he wasn't that good at to begin with. So this was basically a poor match up. I can't really blame Warring for doing what he did as he did what he had to do to survive, but it sure didn't show much "warrior spirit".


BTW, speaking of Warring, he was in a UFC style event back in '95 called World Combat Championship (WCC). This was a one time ppv that flopped. It actually wasn't a bad event, it just recieved a low buy rate so the promoters lost money on it and thus the promotion folded after one show. The production on the event was real good as was the grand prize purse ($150,000 or $120,000 I believe). So the promoters pumped a lot of money in it and when the buy rate didn't live up to expectations they had no choice but to fold. Anyway, it was a tournament format but they divided the fighters up into a strikers category and a grapplers category for the 1st & 2nd rounds and then in the finals the winning striker and grappler would fight eachother. In the strikers rounds the strikers were allowed to grapple but they could finish their opponent with a submission hold, they had to keep striking regularly or else the ref would break them up and have a restart. James Warring was in the strikers category and he one his firt match and then went on to the second round where he fought Erik Paulson. Paulson is a good fighter who later went on to fame in the Shooto promotion and he's now a respected trainer who's equally competent in striking & grappling. On this day, Paulson made the mistake of entering this event with shoulder length long hair. Warring took advantage of this by grabbing on to Paulson's hair and REFUSING TO LET GO which was perfectly legal in this match. After a lengthy battle with Warring pulling Paulson's hair and not letting go, Paulson finally had to give in (I can't recall if he submitted or if it was a stoppage). Paulson gave a valiant effort but it was his mistake to enter an event where hair pulling is legal with long hair (just like Kimo made the same mistake when he fought Royce Gracie at UFC III). Warring then went on the the finals where he lost to Renzo Gracie. BTW, Bart Vale also fought in this event and he won his first round match but then was too tired to continue and Jerry Flynn (of WCW fame) fought in an alternate bout where he lost.


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Crimson Mask I
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Warring and Berbick may have been a package deal for that UWFi, as both were S. Florida-based.

I know James, actually trained in the same Muay Thai gym with him---he was actually a hell of a kickboxer (being 6' 5" and able to make lightheavy and then cruiser didn't hurt), and as a straight boxer, although he honestly never really adjusted to fighting at hands-only range, did win the cruiser title, scoring what I believe is the still the fastest KO in boxing title fight history, a first-punch 19-second (or something) blowout of James Pritchard (black guy, no relation to Dr. Tom and Bruce who spell it 'Prichard' anyway).


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HOTSTUFF
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Up until recently the UWFI was shown on a daily basis here in the UK, the time frame seemed to be 92/93 as Vader's matches were never shown as it seem's having a well known pro wrestler appearing would destroy the credibility of it as the commentators really did try and sell it as being completely shoot, anyway I really enjoyed the action especially some the killer squash matches Gary Albright had especially one particular match with Masahito Kakihara when he charged him and destyroyed him in a minute with a killer dragon suplex. I also remember one match when one guy completely split the webbing in between his fingers when trying to block a kick.
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Lou Thesz
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As for the Berbick match - he held the UWFi boys up for more money before he would get in the ring, so Takada was not happy when the match started. Berbick proved it was a mistake to have even booked him when he didn't have the guts to even get back in the ring. He was right to fear Takada at that point.

Lou


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Corey291
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And even with Berbick running from Takada (Although after the kicking he got from Takada, he wasn't running very fast), I enjoyed that match more than Warring v. Billy Scott. I really couldn't believe that Warring insisted on running from Scott and hanging onto the ropes for the entire match!

Lou, did you have any specific memories or thoughts on that match?

-Corey
p.s. I'm still looking for more footage of you in the ring like I'd promised you and Charlie, but it's pretty hard to come by.

[This message has been edited by Corey (edited 02-08-2001).]


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Lou Thesz
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The Takada/\berbick match was terrible because Berbick just wanted the money and took no pride in his craft. I do not remember the Warring /Scott match.

Lou


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Global Honored
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[ 08-15-2003, 10:48 AM: Message edited by: Global Honored ]

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Gery from ISR
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quote:
Originally posted by Global Honored:
 -

The belt that the great Lou Thesz entrusted with Takada

So much memories in this thread.
Global, I can`t see the photo.

Vader`s screaming was a work, he didn`t really break his arm.

--------------------
בס"ד

"If ya want the best, you`ve got to get Rogers to fit the bill" - Buddy Rogers

To those who don`t believe, no explanation will do ;
to those who do believe, no explanation is necessary.

"I`m a wrestler, not a F`N stuntman!" Bret Hart to Vince Russo

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Hopefully it will appear now
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