UWF International was a Japanese professional wrestling organization from 1991 to 1996. Among Japanese fans, the name is usually shortened to U-Inter.
In retrospect, U-Inter made huge influences in the history of puroresu with the famous interpromotional feud against New Japan Pro-Wrestling and discovery of Sakuraba Kazushi. In addition, U-Inter, along with other shoot-style promotions, served as precursors to the popular MMA promotions of today, particularly PRIDE.
The combatants would start with 15 points each, as points would be lost for knockout attempts, being at a disadvantage during a hold and/or for breaking a hold by grabbing onto the ring ropes with their hand(s) and/or feet.
Tag team matches would be allowed as well, with 21 points given to a team at start time. However, the points system was rarely referred to, as a wrestler or team losing points could still win by forcing his opponent to submit or by knocking him out.
The promotion was founded on 1991/5/10, as a continuation of the UWF. The U-Inter featured most of UWF's roster, and was led by Takada Nobuhiko, who was the top star and company president. Other natives for the promotion included Yamazaki Kazuo, Anjō Yōji, Tamura Kiyoshi, Nakano Tatsuo, Miyato Yūkō, Kakihara Masahito, and kickboxer Ōe Makoto. Anjō was responsible for booking the gaijin talent, Miyato was the "brain" of the promotion in terms of booking idea, and Suzuki Ken, former president of Takada's fan club, was in charge of the financial matter.
The style of the U-Inter inclined somewhat toward the traditional puroresu compared to the UWF, as the championship and tag team matches ("double bouts") were featured. The cards often included "standing bouts", matches under kickboxing rules.
In 1992, the U-Inter introduced its first and only championship, the "Pro-Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship", which was won by Takada after a victory over top foreign antagonist Gary Albright. Lou Thesz acted as commissioner and lent his 1950s NWA World title belt to be used as the distinction for it. The theme of U-Inter being "strongest pro-wrestling" was central to the promotion's image, and both Thesz and Takada would deride other Japanese promotions (particularly Takada's old promotion New Japan Pro-Wrestling) for being less real. On 1992/10/26, Suzuki Ken and Thesz visited New Japan office without appointment and challenged Chōno Masahiro, who was then NWA World Heavyweight champion, to wrestle their champion Takada. A meeting was held between the executives of both companies on 11/9, but nothing was finalized. In December, U-Inter leaked the discussion from the meeting to the media, which angered New Japan executives, especially the head booker Chōshū Riki.
It was around this time when the relationship between the U-Inter and Thesz started falling apart, as Thesz disliked the gimmick-oriented wrestlers like Vader.
Challenges to other organizations
Miyato had many "challenges" to other promotions in order to make U-Inter look superior. These tactics were similar to what Antonio Inoki, whom Miyato idolized, used to do back in the 1970s.
U-Inter held a big press conference in 1994/2 to announce an international tournament, by showing one hundred million yen in cash as the prize. They also showed the letters of the invitation to the top stars of five major organizations: Hashimoto Shin'ya (IWGP champion in New Japan), Misawa Mitsuharu (Triple Crown champion in All Japan), Maeda Akira (RINGS), Funaki Masakatsu (Pancrase), and Tenryū Gen'ichirō (WAR). None of those wrestlers particiated in the tournament.
The tournament was held between April and August. In the final, Vader defeated Takada for the World Heavyweight Championship but lost the title back to Takada in 1995/4. It is believed that Vader was not paid the announced prize.
Anjō vs. Maeda
The way U-Inter made challenges to others was taken seriously by Maeda, who made a proposal of interpromotional matches between his RINGS organization and U-Inter. By taking advantage of Maeda's short temper, U-Inter, Anjō particularly, continued to insult Maeda through the media.
Maeda finally made a phone call to the U-Inter dōjō, saying, "give me Anjō's home address. I will be there and kill him." U-Inter reported it to the police, and Maeda was forced by RINGS management to make a public apology.
After the "victory" over Maeda, U-Inter set its target to the Gracie Jūjutsu, which was gaining popularity in both Japan and the United States. They were trying to book Rickson Gracie, who was believed by many fans to be the strongest MMA figher in the world, through his Japanese agent Sayama Satoru, but the negotiation was falling out. In 1994/11, U-Inter officially made an announcement to challenge Rickson.
On 12/7, Anjō went to a Gracie dōjō in Los Angeles to challenge Rickson, only to find himself destroyed within few minutes. The challenge was taped by Rickson's students, and within one month, Sayama had a public viewing of the "incident" in Japan.
Takada would face Rickson in an MMA match two years later, in the main event of the first PRIDE card.
Without a weekly television program or any bigname Japanese stars other than Takada, U-Inter was in a financial crisis. Takada started losing interest in the management of the company. In 1995/7, he ran for a seat in the House of Councillors but was not elected. In August, his deshi Tamura Kiyoshi challenged him in a "real match", but Takada refused. This also hurt the reputation of Takada and U-Inter.
After being overlooked several times over the years, Yamazaki Kazuo left to return to New Japan in 1995/7. It was a revenge by New Japan.
vs. New Japan Pro-Wrestling
Despite all the legit conflicts between the two organizations, U-Inter proposed an interpromotional feud with New Japan in 1995 as a potential solution to their financial problems. On 8/25, New Japan and U-Inter held press conferences at separate locations at the same time. During the conferences, Takada and New Japan booker Chōshū had a phone conversation and agreed to start the feud. For Chōshū, it was an opportunity to get payback for Thesz and Takada's earlier derision of their wrestling style, and was determined to show fans that the real stars were in New Japan.
The biggest card between the two groups was planned at Tōkyō Dome on 1995/10/9. Prior to the card, Miyato resigned from the company. The main event was planned to be a double title match between Takada and IWGP champion Mutō; however, Thesz, who saw New Japan as another gimmick-oriented promotion, withdrew his support as a result and took the belt with him. Tamura was scheduled to face Chōno but did not participate. Out of eight matches, U-Inter won only three. In the main event Mutō defended IWGP title by a submission victory over Takada with a figure-four leg lock, a tradtional pro-wrestling maneuver which would not be seen in a UWF-style match.
Takada defeated Mutō for the IWGP title on 1996/1/4 on New Japan's annual Tōkyō Dome card and lost it to Hashimoto on 4/29 at the same arena.
Through the relationship between New Japan and Tenryū's WAR promotion, U-Inter would also start a feud with WAR.
IN 1996/1, Anjō formed the Golden Cups, a comical heel stable. They had a feud against WAR's Fuyuki-gun: Fuyuki Kōdō, Jadō, and Gedō, involving the unpredictable foreign objects such as duct tape, female underwear, raw eggs, and live octopus.
Takada and Tenryū had two singles matches, one of which on 1996/9/11 won the Match of the Year of the Puroresu Awards.
Despite the interpromotional feuds with historic matches, the damage to the promotion's credibility had already been done.
Kiyoshi Tamura, who stayed with the company but mainly wrestled Sakuraba in the first matches, finally left in 1996/5 to join rival promotion, RINGS. Nakano Tatsuo also left the company in the same year to become a freelancer.
U-Inter then started working with Ishikawa Takashi's Tokyo Pro-Wrestling. On 1996/10/8, Takada wrestled Abdullah the Butcher, which was a big disappointment for the loyal fans of the UWF-style. On the same card, Anjō defeated Ishikawa to "gain the position as the company president".