Universal Wrestling Federation
- Do not confuse this promotion with the second version of UWF, which never operated as "Universal Wrestling Federation".
In 1983, Antonio Inoki's bioethanol business in Brazil was failing, and it became apprant that Inoki and Shinma were using New Japan's money to cover the debt. This led to a coup within New Japan. Tiger Mask, who was one of the most popular wrestlers in the history of puroresu, suddenly retired from the sport. Inoki and Sakaguchi Seiji were forced to resign from their respective positions as the company president and vice-president while Shinma was kicked out of the company.
With a possibility that Inoki is expelled from New Japan, Shinma decided to start a new wrestling organization, "Universal Wrestling Federation". The original roster included Maeda Akira, Rusher Kimura, Gō Ryūma, Gran Hamada, and Mach Hayato.
However, TV Asahi, airing a weekly New Japan program since 1973, decided to cancel the New Japan program without Inoki, the company's top star. This left the newly created organization with Maeda as its top star.
Shinma requested Giant Baba to help the UWF to supply the gaijin talents in order "to avoid the another promotional war". Terry Funk was assigned by Baba as the booker for the gaijin talents, including the Texas wrestlers Bob Sweetan and Scott Casey as well as former All Japan regulars such as Mark Lewin and Calypso Hurricane.
In 1984/6, Takada officially joined the UWF, and so did Fujiwara Yoshiaki, who trained Maeda and Takada.
Sayama Satoru, the original Tiger Mask who had retired in the previous year, and his deshi Yamazaki Kazuo, a former New Japan rookie, were added to the roster in 1984/7. However, as a condition to join the organization, Sayama asked for the dismissal of "some of the office employees", including Shinma. Gran Hamada, who had always been loyal to Shinma, also left the company.
These new additions established a direction of the organization. The eliminated most of the "showman" aspects of pro-wrestling such as using the ropes, maneuvers which require cooperation from the opponents, and tag team matches.
Controversies and Split
The popularity of the UWF was growing. However, a scandal involving the president Urata Noboru gave a bad publicity to the company. Also, after having disagreements with some employees in the office over the sources for the gaijin talents, Rusher Kimura and Gō Ryūma left the group (not because they did not like the new direction toward the shoot style) and joined All Japan Pro-Wrestling.
The biggest problem with the UWF was probably Sayama himself. He had a different philosophy from other wrestlers and suggested so many new rules. His attitude brought frustration to other wrestlers in the roster. With the conflict within the group, plus a murder of the sponsor, UWF lasted only a year and half.
Sayama once again retired and pursued the establishment of new martial art, "Shooting", which would later become "Shooto".
Giant Baba asked Maeda to join All Japan; however, Maeda declined the offer when he found out that Baba could only take him and Takada but nobody else. Maeda, Fujiwara, Kido, Takada, Yamazaki, and the rookies returned to New Japan to start an "interpromotional" feud in 1985/12.
New Japan vs. the UWF
In 1986/1, a league to determine the UWF representative to challenge Inoki in a singles match was held. In the final, Fujiwara defeated Maeda but lost to Inoki on 1986/2/6 at Ryōgoku Kokugikan.
The UWF wrestlers kept their style in the matches against New Japan stars, and the feud was known as "the battle of ideologies". This brought the popularity back to New Japan, which was suffering since losing Chōshū Riki and his Ishin Gundan as well as many of the mid-carders to Japan Pro-Wrestling back in 1984.
The feud provided the historical matches including an elimination matches between five New Japan wrestlers and five UWF fighters at Tōkyō Gym on 1986/3/26 and a singles match between Maeda and Fujinami Tatsumi at Ōsaka Castle Hall on 6/12.
There was, however, a big feud between the two groups backstage. On 1986/4/29 at Tsu City Gym, New Japan booked a singles match between Maeda and Andre the Giant. This became a famous shoot match between the two.
Another noticeable feud was the battle between Takada, who was Inoki's tsukibito in the early 1980s, and Koshinaka Shirō, a former All Japan rookie who was Baba's tsukibito, over IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.
In the summer of 1987, Chōshū and some of his Japan Pro-Wrestling stars also returned to New Japan. Soon afer an inter-generational feud started. Chōshū teamed with Fujinami Tatsumi, Maeda, Kimura Kengo, Super Strong Machine, and Takada to form the "New Leaders". Inoki, along with Sakaguchi Seiji and Masa Saitō, formed "Now Leaders". Despite his age (not much older than Fujinami or Chōshū), Fujiwara was assigned as a member of the Now Leaders because of his older look and the fact that he was a shishō for Maeda and Takada.
Because of this new feud, the identity of the UWF was slowly faded away. After the infamous six-man tag team match on 1987/11/19 at Kōrakuen Hall in which Maeda broke Chōshū's orbital bone with a legitimate kick into the face, Maeda was suspended indefinitely. In 1987/12, New Japan officially announced the dissolution of the UWF. To lift the penalty, New Japan office ordered Maeda to go to Mexico. Maeda refused the order and was fired on 1988/2/1.
In 1988/4, Maeda, along with Takada and Yamazaki, started a new company, again called the UWF.