"Pro wrestlers must be strong therefore you need to learn submission moves. NJPW would further develop in the future and would begin, not show-wrestling, but real fights." "RINGS will declare the strongest man in the world."
—Akira Maeda, declaiming his promotion's philosophy
(b. 1959 as Go Il-myeong
) is a Japanese Professional Wrestler
and Mixed Martial Arts
promotor, best known for his role in the Japanese shoot-style wrestling chronicle and posterior MMA boom. He debuted in 1978 for New Japan Pro Wrestling
and revealed as a promising rookie, traveling to England to wrestle there under the name of "Kwik-Kick-Lee", in storyline Bruce Lee
's cousin. Eventually he left with Satoru Sayama
, Nobuhiko Takada
and other wrestlers to form Universal Wrestling Federation
, pioneering the realistic shoot movement. However, he caused the fall of the promotion when shot on Sayama during a match due to an early disagreement. Upon their return to New Japan, he and Takada became the young leaders of a shoot invasion, gaining the IWGP Tag Team Championship with him and fellow shooter Osamu Kido. Maeda gained extreme amounts of popularity and was even considered to replace main star Antonio Inoki
, but Inoki vetoed the idea and Maeda left again, not without shooting on another wrestler. After another failed incarnation of UWF, Maeda contacted Russian sambo fighters and Dutch kickboxers and created Fighting Network RINGS, a shoot-style company who derived into full MMA over time. Maeda is currently retired from competition and figures as the head of the resurrected RINGS and an amateur MMA company called The Outsider.
As usual, you can find the basics at The Other Wiki
"Fighting Network Tropes":
- Arch-Enemy: Has had many in real life.
- The main one is Satoru Sayama. Their hostility started in 1985, when Maeda shot on Sayama during a match and caused the fall of the original UWF. They have continued badmouthing each other during years until 2006, when they were reunited in an interview by Hisao Maki and acknowledged (rather grudgingly) each other's accomplishments. Currently, they seem to have regained a degree of respect between them.
- He also had enmity for Masakatsu Funaki, who badmouthed him for causing the closure of Newborn UWF in 1990. They reconciled in 2005 during the Big Mouth Loud project.
- Yoji Anjo was another enemy of his. In 1994, Akira was arrested for claiming he went to kill Anjo out of rage for a failed working agreement, and two years later, he backfisted Yoji in the face for disagree him during a televised debate. Not surprisingly, some time later Anjo retaliated by knocking Maeda out cold with a sucker punch during an Ultimate Fighting Championship event.
- There was a years-long bad blood between Maeda and Pancrase's Kazuo "Yoshiki" Takahashi. It started after the PRIDE 1 event, when Maeda had a brawl with Takahashi in the Tokyo Dome parking and Yoshihisa Yamamoto had to go to break it up. After that, Yoshiki challenged Akira to a fight in Pancrase, but Maeda refused, instead wanting to fight Minoru Suzuki. Yoshiki didn't forget it, and he even shook Yoji Anjo's hand after his attack on Maeda at the UFC.
- In general, Maeda doesn't have much simpathy towards Pancrase. He attacked its chairman Masami Ozaki (a non-fighter) at a hotel when he thought Ozaki was trying to convince RINGS member Jeremy Horn to jump to Pancrase. Ozaki later sued Akira for assault and won the trial, although according to Horn (who even testified for Maeda), Masami exaggerated the incident.
- Arrogant Shoot Wrestling Guy: He lived it. In fact, he got over among young fans thanks to his rebel, hot-tempered persona.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: As the ace of both incarnations of UWF, his real fighting skills were said to be the highest among his fellow shooters. Ken Shamrock of all people remarked that Maeda was nigh untouchable during the trainings and that he would have been great in MMA.
- Ax-Crazy: In Real Life, he was fired from NJPW for kicking Riki Choshu in the face and breaking his orbital bone. Even later, he didn't have a single year free of legal troubles due to his tendency to assault people. He even vowed to kill Yoji Anjo and was arrested for it.
- Badass Teacher: He trained several wrestlers and fighters, like Kiyoshi Tamura, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, Wataru Sakata, Yoshihisa Yamamoto and more.
- Cultured Badass: Likes reading the likes of Confucius, Paul Verlaine and Osamu Dazai, and is friends with writer Amy Yamada.
- Badass Boast: Parodied once. At an interview for Weekly Gong, when he was being questioned about Rickson Gracie and his supposed 400-0 record, Maeda jokingly stated that he believed it as his own record was 10000-0. Nowadays, he is still claiming it is true.
- Big Brother Mentor: Towards Masakatsu Funaki.
- Bullying a Dragon: Once Maeda and some pals (among which was Kengo Kimura) came against four North American soldiers from the Roppongi military base, who stopped them and verbally assaulted them with racist insults. Maeda's response was wiping the floor alone with the four guys and make them swear not to make fun of the Japanese people again.
- Cool People Rebel Against Authority: The reason behind his popularity (and his fall from NJPW).
- Cool vs. Awesome: Brought Alexander Karelin to RINGS to enforce the trope after not being able to bring Rickson Gracie.
- David Versus Goliath: In an infamous instance, he was pitted against an inebriated André the Giant, who was completely uncooperative. Maeda's response was shoot kicking his legs until flooring him.
- Dented Iron: Long before his retirement, Maeda's body had broken down after years of fighting. He required a hand from the young fighters to walk back to the locker room and was always limping. Even so, he tried to fight Rickson Gracie to avenge Takada's loss.
- Face: For a time, he was the most popular wrestler in Japan. Like Shinya Hashimoto afterwards, Maeda could literally pack up an arena with just his presence at the event.
- Proved at PRIDE 1 when the crowd gave him the biggest roar of the night just for being briefly featured in the titantron. During a event that had Nobuhiko Takada and Rickson Gracie, that is.
- Finishing Move: Cross Armbar, Capture Suplex, and Kick to the Head.
- Follow the Leader: Aside his shoot and MMA pioneering, Maeda was the first in bringing sambo and kickboxing to Japan, and his fighting network helped to spread the MMA around the world, including countries in which the concept itself was virtually unknown. Finally, was the one who inspired Kazuyoshi Ishii to create the kickboxing promotion K-1 and provided him with kickboxers from RINGS who he couldn't pay anymore.
- Freudian Trio: The Id to Nobuhiko Takada's Ego and Satoru Sayama's Superego.
- Genre Savvy: Although no one in Japan knew the extent of Rickson Gracie's abilities, Maeda deduced that his best point was groundwork and warned his apprentice Yoshihisa Yamamoto, who had to fight Rickson at the Vale Tudo Japan, not to allow himself to be taken to the ground. Yamamoto ended losing the bout, but the advice helped him to resist Rickson's submission attempts for most of the fight, and actually become a superstar in RINGS thanks to this.
- Groin Attack: Delivered some to Satoru Sayama in their last match, or so said Sayama.
- Guile Hero: Despite his general jerkness, Akira was good with people. He even convinced Masutatsu Oyama to allow karatekas Willie Williams and Masaaki Satake to compete in RINGS.
- Heroes Gone Fishing: Literally. Maeda likes fishing.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Maeda became closed friends with Nobuhiko Takada in the NJPW dojo. The duo became distanced after the fall of UWF Newborn, as they took separate and frequently opposing ways, but they were not against doing press conferences together once in a while.
- I Know Karate: A Kyokushin 8th dan. He trained in Shorinji Kempo too.
- Jerkass: Possibly the biggest example in puroresu.
- Katanas Are Just Better: Collects katanas, among other antiques. Also, his first theme song was called "Katana".
- Kick Them While They Are Down: Riki Choshu suffered a bone-cracking kick from Maeda when he was busy sharpshooting Osamu Kido.
- Mother Russia Makes You Strong: Maeda thought it, so he brought sambo fighters to Japan, and the fighting world rejoiced.
- Never Be Hurt Again: While in the New Japan Dojo, Maeda was often bullied by other students due to his Korean ancestry. His only friends were his colleague Sayama and their trainers Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Bad News Brown. One day, after seeing him bullied by other students, Brown told him to fight back next time he was harassed. He indeed took it for the rest of his career.
- No Koreans In Japan: Maeda is of Korean descent, but he normally keeps it secret.
- Rebel Leader: During the shoot invasion in NJPW.
- Red Baron: Many. "Kowashiya" ("Destroyer"), "Kakuto O" ("The Fighting King") and "Kick no Senjukannon" ("The Multi-Armed God of Kicking").
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The red to Nobuhiko Takada's blue. They even wore robes Colour-Coded for Your Convenience while in NJPW.
- Sadist Teacher: The tradition among shoot-style trainers. He once brutalized his trainee Wataru Sakata in front of a TV reporter for the sole reason that Sakata had not impressed him during a match.
- Serious Business: After a failed agreement between RINGS and UWF International, Maeda publicly vowed to kill Anjo and was swiftly arrested.
- Start My Own: UWF Newborn (with Shinji Jin), Fighting Network RINGS and The Outsider.
- Suplex Finisher: Capture Suplex, also known as Captured or Akira Special.
- Unknown Rival: Maeda challenged Rickson Gracie several times, but he turned all them down.
- Unrelated Brothers: When they wrestled in England, Satoru Sayama went as "Sammy Lee" and Maeda as "Kwik-Kick-Lee", being kayfabe brothers (and cousins of Bruce Lee, nothing less).
- Unstoppable Rage: Whether you are a wrestler, a fighter, a reporter or even his wife, accept our advice: if Akira Maeda gets angry on you, run away and don't look back.
- Ur Example: Was the first on coining "sōgō kakutōgi", the word used in Japan for MMA (according to others, however, it was Satoru Sayama the one who coined it).
- Worked Shoot: Maeda has a MMA record in Sherdog, but he actually never did legit MMA, as he was too broken down and too important for RINGS' image.
- Yakuza: Actively cultivates a yakuza image for himself and his ventures, and it's rumored he has contacts (and even worse, enemies) among yakuza corporations. This has brought him some trouble, to the extent of losing TV contracts and being attacked by yakuza members at an Outsider event.