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Wrestling / Universal Wrestling Federation

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"...The wrestlers of the UWF and its children entertained thousands, sold out the Tokyo Dome in mere minutes, and invigorated traditional wrestling companies with their energy and devotion to clean finishes and an athletic aesthetic. In the end, wrestling went in another direction entirely. The war was lost. But sometimes the best stories are told about the losers, about the valiant struggle that comes up short. That’s the story of the UWF revolution—a brilliant failure. The wrestlers of the UWF fought the good fight. And that’s a story worth telling."
Jonathan Snowden, on Shootstyle Wrestling: Why Does it Matter?

Universal Wrestling Federation (later called UWF Newborn) was a Japanese Professional Wrestling company founded in 1984. Established by former members of New Japan Pro-Wrestling, UWF was the first promotion in featuring the realistic "shoot-style" (originally called "shooting" until Satoru Sayama temporarily used it as the name of his MMA promotion, though the Japanese also refer to it as UWF-style), and though it featured mainly worked matches, it influence arguably gave birth to the modern Mixed Martial Arts in Japan and abroad.

The first incarnation was created by NJPW executive Hisashi Shinma after a monetary incident involving Antonio Inoki and him, expecting it to become the next promotion to relaunch Inoki's career after a possible ousting from his company. As this never had place, UWF started to operate by itself, and after disposing of Shinma, it gathered all the New Japan wrestlers who were discontent with the old company. The main ones were Yoshiaki Fujiwara and his young apprentices, who desired to take a new and exciting style based in the old real fighting doctrines inherited from Catch Wrestling master Karl Gotch. Under this premise, Akira Maeda and Satoru Sayama become the stars of UWF, until a falling out between them caused the promotion to collapse. Sayama retired from pro wrestling to focus on his gym and develop a new combat sport.

Maeda and the rest of UWF members returned to New Japan, where they formed an invasion stable against the native wrestlers, but their return met with backstage heat. Although Maeda was set to become the next big star, Inoki was not willing to give him his place and, after he shot on Riki Choshu, the UWF staff ended leaving again to continue his shoot-style adventures. The next incarnation, UWF Newborn, got insane amounts of success thanks to its refined real wrestling style and young wrestlers, and it even started to feature shoot fights with some regularity. However, Newborn lasted only two years and broke in various factions with its own ideas about how shoot-style should be done, a circuit nicknamed U-system (U-kei). Among those were Pro Wrestling Fujiwara-Gumi, Fighting Network RINGS and UWF International, the latter getting considered the "official" or most successful one and being the detonating behind PRIDE Fighting Championships and the MMA boom in Japan and United States. Outside of those three, other promotions formed and declared themselves "shoot-style", whether it was to a) prove that their wrestlers were tough, b) replicate the financial success the U-system circuit seemed to enjoy, c) add shoot style moves to their wrestling style to make it seem different, or d) express their thought that shoot style was the coolest style around, to varying degrees of success.

    Promotions which composed the U-system and their imitators 
The list includes pro wrestling promotions that used shoot style wrestling rules as its main ruleset. Joshi promotions with shoot style influences are included as they are very distinct from the other joshi promotions. MMA promotions that were in their beginnings based on shoot style wrestling rules as well as promotions that were greatly influenced by people from the U-system are also included. Special mention should be given to Shootboxing and amateur promotions like the International Shoot Fighting Association (ISFA), Submission Arts Wrestling (SAW) and Combat Wrestling, which are not included on this list despite their links to shoot style, due to lack of information on their events.

  • Shooto: The first of them was not formed after UWF Newborn, but after the original UWF. Created by Satoru Sayama and originally called "Shin-Kakutōgi" (New Martial Arts), then "Shooting" and finally to "Shooto" to avoid connection with shooting sports, it was the first professional MMA promotion in the world (amateur promotions and one-off events like the Vale Tudo fights in Brazil have existed long before), though it was not very known and remained as a cult fed until the peak of PRIDE. Shooto was essentially the Dragon Gate of MMA, featuring fighters from low weight classes and an emphasis in fighting techniques incredibly advanced for the time.
  • Pro-Wrestling Fujiwara-Gumi: Yoshiaki Fujiwara’s short-lived personal fed. Originally called "New UWF Fujiwara-gumi," it focused in technical wrestling with a theatrical bit and some shootfights here and there, which later disrupted the promotion into two different directions with Pancrase and Battlarts. It was also the only promotion out of the three factions that had Karl Gotch’s blessing and featured many of his American students from the Malenko Wrestling Gym.
  • Seishin Kaikan: An experimental promotion founded by Masashi Aoyagi, mixing Karate with wrestling. It featured many different style fights and served as a precursor to Aoyagi’s later promotion Shin Kakutō Puroresu.
  • Fighting Network RINGS: A promotion which started as pro wrestling (with a few shootfights here and there, usually in the undercard) and transitioned very gradually into MMA. Originally called "Pro Wrestling Network RINGS", it was created by Akira Maeda with the help of martial arts dojos from around the world, so its matches frequently oscillated between beautiful battles by grappling experts and showy brawls by legit fighters who were in turn unaccustomed to pro wrestling. After Maeda's retirement, it took a full transition to MMA and became a showcase for future legends of the sport, before being sucked away by PRIDE and gave birth to MMA promotions like ZST (sometimes called Fighting Network ZST) and HERO'S which died and birthed DREAM, though RINGS Holland and Lithuania (as the Lithuania Bushido Federation) stayed in business and is still growing strong and RINGS in Japan was resurrected with RINGS: The Outsider and the brand even came back as Fighting Network RINGS: Battle Genesis: Vol. 9 in 2012 sanctioned by ZST.
  • UWF International: The biggest promotion after the fall of Newborn and the nearest to a third UWF which the world saw. Short for "Union of Wrestling Forces International", it was built by Nobuhiko Takada and most of the original UWF staff, though their style was actually a return to the theatrical puroresu, featuring big suplexes and wrestling monsters. Lou Thesz and other wrestling legends helped them for a time. After its folding, it gave birth to a hyper-realistic promotion called Kingdom and finally to PRIDE Fighting Championships.
  • Ladies Legend Pro Wrestling: LLPW was a shoot-style informed defection from Japanese Women's Pro-Wrestling. Formed by Rumie Kazama and Yoshiaki Fujiwara trainee Shinobu Kandori with a roster consisting of tough ladies with legit backgrounds and strong personalities and also had the support of joshi veteran Noriyo Tateno, who helped them build up a base of young talent. It also promoted the first Japanese women's MMA tournament. It now goes by Ladies Legend Pro Wrestling-X and though they were never a top company, it continues to produce a wide variety of stars who are either tough, sexy and/or unique and are consistently considered top stars by the Japanese media.
  • Pancrase: The second MMA promotion ever, formed by Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki riding a wave of PWFG shooters who craved real fighting. Under the slogan of "Hybrid Wrestling" and the management of World Pancrase Create, it retained puroresu's style in spectacle and marketing, sometimes accomplished by punctual worked matches, which gave them a controversial vibe among Western fans of the sport. Nonetheless, although it never grew comparatively more than an indy fed, it was instrumental in shaping MMA as it is nowadays in United States. In 2008 it changed its management to Pancrase Inc. and later in 2012, the promotion had been sold to Masakazu Sakai and his Smash organization.
  • Kitao Dojo: Also called "Buko Dojo" or "Kitao Pro", it was Koji Kitao's attempt to rebuild his reputation as a top fighter after a double cross knockout by Nobuhiko Takada a year earlier in UWFI. Technically it wasn’t really part of the U-system, though Kitao did train with Lou Thesz and Mark Fleming, and appeared in UWFI for a few shows. Ran for only a handful of shows as it didn't have the quality or the star power of the other promotions, though their dojo continued to train wrestlers until 1999 when it merged into Último Dragón's Toryumon.
  • New Stage Battle Wrestling: Seishin Kaikan Karate president Masashi Aoyagi formed this promotion after leaving New Japan Pro-Wrestling in 1994. "Shin Kakutō Puroresu" in its native language, it was basically an indie level shoot style promotion based in the Tōhoku region and is referred to by those who knew it as a "Regional UWF". Aoyagi then formed a sort of partnership with Shooto (mostly so Sayama could use it as a platform to return to pro wrestling!) and sent wrestlers affiliated with his promotion to a few Shooto events, unfortunately the Shooto guys were too good and destroyed all of those sent in seconds. This was one of the major things that cast doubt in the claim that "pro wrestling is the strongest fighting discipline" and the promotion closed down after a few shows of its own.
  • Great American Mat Endeavors: GAME was an obscure American shoot style promotion. It held shows in parking lots, gyms, shopping centres, and even once in a Chinese restaurant. They held legitimate submission grappling and shoot fights alongside matches under modified shoot style wrestling rules called "Strong Style Rules". Dan Severn was their first heavyweight champion, which at the time was called the "GAME Strong Style Heavyweight Championship". It was at one of its shows where Art Davie scouted Severn for UFC 4. Unfortunately at the end of 1995, it was blacklisted by the local martial arts community as running "UFC" style events and changed to a submission wrestling only events for their last two shows in 1996 before disappearing altogether.
  • Vale Tudo Japan: Also known as the "Vale Tudo Fighting Championships" at one point, it is a direct Spin-Off of Shooto. It was an annual event that was the first to use "Vale Tudo" style rules in Japan and introduced ground-and-pound to their audiences. It ran events from 1994 to 1999 and was discontinued for about a decade until it revived in 2009 until 2016.
  • GAEA Japan: A joshi promotion named after the Greek mythological goddess of the Earth, Gaea or Gaia. Founded by Chigusa Nagayo in 1995 in order to come out of retirement that was caused by All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling's mandatory age limit and was made up of young wrestlers whom she trained and also attracted veteran freelancers like Akira Hokuto and Nagayo's Crush Gals partner Lioness Asuka. Nagayo has a complicated connection with shoot style, she once trained under and dated Akira Maeda until they had a falling out, nevertheless his training influenced her wrestling style and in order to ride the shoot style wave at the time, GAEA held a few matches under "GAEA-Kai Rules" starting in 1997 which were basically shoot style rules matches under a different name, though that was never the main focus of the promotion. While the promotion was successful, it closed in 2005 mostly due to Nagayo retiring.
  • Fighting Detectives Team BattlARTS: The last pieces of PWFG gave birth to BattlARTS, a small pro wrestling promotion with a weird flavour which mixed shoot-style with lucha libre and ECW-like (the Japanese would probably think FMW instead) craziness, which they refer to as "Bati-Bati". Endowed with a cult fandom, it survived for more than a decade and produced some puroresu stars who are still active, along with some very minor offsprings promotions that are a part of what they refer to as "B-kei" ("B-System").
  • HOOKnSHOOT: The longest single owner run MMA promotion in history by Jeff Osborne, based in Indiana. It’s first event was in a steel cage at a gym parking lot in Boonville, Indiana in 1995 before changing to a ring to connect it more with Jeff Osborne’s pro wrestling background. It originally featured Pancrase-like rules matches side-by-side with NHB fights with championships for both styles before it eventually formed a connection with Shooto and exclusively used their ruleset for the rest of their run, even after cutting ties in 2003. It was also known for featuring women’s MMA fights in a period where it was rare and held the first American all women’s card in 2002 called ‘Revolution’. It closed down in 2017 and though it was never a major competitor to the UFC, it is important part of MMA history in the USA for introducing several future big name fighters and recognized the appeal of women’s MMA fights long before the major promotions did.
  • Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation: The USWF was an attempt to popularise the shoot-style in America. Originally called the "Universal Shoot Wrestling Federation", it was formed by UWFI alumni Steve Nelson in his hometown of Amarillo, Texas in 1996, when MMA was still NHB, having a hard time getting off the ground, and facing difficulties due to not being recognised as a sport, its reputation of being "human cockfighting", and its almost anything goes ruleset. This organization was one of the most successful local promotions of its time was drawing large crowds of upwards of 4000 fans at its peak with shows limited to Amarillo and West Texas. Like Pancrase, the fights were all real and were held under the normal shootfighting rules, with only open hand strikes, all submissions allowed, as well as kicks and knees permitted, but with a modification being that no shoes were to be wore (Pancrase even used this modification for a while when trying to adapt to the popularity of the MMA style of Shooto and Pride). With the rise of MMA in America, it closed down officially in 2003. It is now remembered as a platform that started the careers of several future legends of the sport and is a small but important part of MMA's history in America.
  • Kingdom: Kingdom was formed by many of the top Japanese stars of UWFI after it closed. The in ring style was an even more realistic shoot style designed to look like MMA, complete with fingerless gloves, allowance of limited ground-and-pound and a lot of former UFC fighters in its roster. It did not draw the huge crowds UWFI did in its heyday as with the success of PRIDE, the Japanese fans found the era of shoot-style wrestling was invalid and it went out of business after a year with its founders going on to do better things. A former trainee of the Kingdom dojo, Hidetada Irie, formed a MMA promotion called Kingdom Ehrgeiz, but it remains quite obscure.
  • The Submission Fighting Open: Santioned by the International Sport Combat Federation, the self proclaimed "First And Largest MMA Sanctioning Body In The World Sanctioning Pro MMA - Amateur MMA - Submission Grappling & Jiu Jitsu" and a Spin-Off from the International Kickboxing Federation (both are now under the umbrella of International Fight Sports). Owned and operated by Matthew Waller of Gauntlet Productions, it was competed under "submission fighting" rules (originally with open handed strikes only, standing kicks and knees, and no striking on the ground before they adopted gloves and allowed punches and elbows on the ground but not kicks or knees). It ran for 11 events from 1997 to 2005 out of the state of Georgia.
  • World Pankration Championships: Guy Mezger’s attempt to promote Pancrase-like shows in the USA in late 1997. It was basically a Lion’s Den showcase as almost all the fights had members involved. It only ran for 2 shows and based in Mezger’s state in Dallas, Texas, probably being unable to compete with the USWF mentioned above. Not to be confused with amateur Pankration competitions under the same name.
  • Hyper Visual Fighting ARSION: Aja Kong founded ARSION with the support of former AJW CEO and future owner of World Wonder Ring Stardom Hiroshi "Rossy" Ogawa as president, Sakie Hasegawa as the general manager, and Mariko Yoshida as the head trainer. Aside from training everyday at the in-house dojo, trainees trained weekly at the Pancrase dojos on Mondays and the BattlARTS dojo on Fridays and attended their shows to learn the shoot style wrestling and Yoshida's training in lucha libre and more weekly training at Último Dragón’s Toryumon Gym was crucial to the "Visual Fighting" style. Within a couple years, they had arguably the best talent pool in joshi puroresu. Although they, like most other companies, had a small roster, they were well-marketed as athletes and idols. In 2001, Kong left the promotion after disagreements with management and Lioness Asuka took over the booking. The company struggled to take their product to the next level and began diverting from their original intentions. Among their failings was creating a pop group which bombed, using a champion who did not use the style, and a booker who focused on storylines mixed with comedy relief as a way to try and reinvent itself, while sacrificing match quality. Arsion finally folded during the summer of 2003, after which Yumiko Hotta took over the promotion and renamed it AtoZ.
  • Capture International: A former instructor of the Super Tiger Gym and pro wrestler Koki Kitahara started this very obscure promotion. It is basically shoot style wrestling, not in a wrestling ring, but on amateur wrestling mats, with basements as the venues with the talent being made up of Kitahara's students. As these venues could only hold up to a hundred or so people, it never got to be a promotion on the scale of the main UWF offshoots. It surprisingly lasted for nearly a decade and even popped up to continue again in 2016.
  • Universal Fighting-Arts Organization: Like the original and Newborn UWF, this promotion was an offshoot of New Japan Pro-Wrestling, this time with Antonio Inoki's direct involvement. It was based on Inoki's idea for a promotion based on his famous mixed styles fights that he came up with in 1977 and even had a name for it; the World Martial Arts Association, which he never got around to making until he reunited with Satoru Sayama after he left Shooto. Inoki changed the name from the WMA to UFO as an acknowledgement to U-system's and UFC's influence on the MMA rise in Japan (as either a Shout-Out and/or a Take That!), and he brought in Naoya Ogawa to be The Ace of the promotion, as well as Gerard Gordeau as a striking coach and fighter, with Sayama as a coach and fighter himself and Inoki as the manager and coach of their dojo. The UFO wrestling style was a worked MMA style, basically it was like Kingdom without rope breaks or knockdown counts. It only lasted a handful of shows as it begged the question, why watch predetermined MMA bouts when you can watch the real thing? Plus, Sayama leaving after the third show didn't help either. Unfortunately Inoki didn't get the hint and continued his Inokism experiments in New Japan and his yearly Bom-Ba-Ye events until he was kicked out and started a new promotion in Inoki Genome Federation.
  • U-DREAM '98: Not much is known about this, it was either intended to be a new promotion with the same style as Kingdom or a series of special shows like the last two PWFG shows for Kingdom. It was promoted by the management of Kingdom and had the subhead ~1st Impact~. The only thing known for certain is that it only lasted one show and was quickly forgotten, with it not showing up on many wrestling sites adding to its mystery.
  • Seikendo: Satoru Sayama's next project after he left Antonio Inoki's Universal Fighting-Arts Organization. Sayama had created his own personal martial art originally called Seiken Kaikan, and now called Seiken Shinkage-Ryu, which focused on realistic “street fight” style fighting with ceremonials based on traditional Japanese imagery and ideals. He made himself its grandmaster, began training new students in the style and eventually decided to begin a promotion based on it and formed the Seikendo World Association with the help of Victor Quiñones and Yuji Shimada. He promoted a series of events called "Ultimate Boxing", which featured rulesets similar to Kickboxing and shootboxing and a unique one where ground-and-pound was allowed but with no submissions allowed. It was not as successful as Shooto by a large margin and only ran for about 3 years. He continues to run the SWA with amateur events and eventually began a proper promotion once again in the form of Real Japan Pro Wrestling.
  • Kingdom Ehrgeiz: A continuation of Kingdom formed by Kingdom dojo trainee, Hidetada Irie, as his personal MMA promotion after gaining the rights to Kingdom from Ken Suzuki. An obscure promotion made mostly for Irie's trainees, it first mixed in amateur MMA bouts and shoot style wrestling matches with himself as The Ace and eventually moved on to become a MMA-only promotion. Despite its obscurity, it still runs events to this day.
  • Japan Pro Wrestling Association: Yoshiaki Fujiwara decided to try his hand in promoting again along with Nick Bockwinkel as co-commissioners. Its first show notably featured an all native vs. gaijin shoot style matches card. It only lasted a couple of shows and quickly folded without much impact. Not to be confused with the Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance; another name for the Japanese Wrestling Association (JWA), the first Japanese pro wrestling promotion ever.
  • Colosseum 2000: Called "C 2 K" for short, it was sponsored by Sammy; Pancrase's official sponsor. This event was created for the main event of Masakatsu Funaki vs Rickson Gracie, as well as to be Pancrase's answer to PRIDE, with cooperation from RINGS and UFC Japan. Aside from matches with rules similar to early PRIDE (excluding headbutts and elbows) the event featured a Kickboxing bout, a Kyokushin Karate bout, and two fights under RINGS KOK rules (featuring RINGS fighters of course). There were plans to do a second event, but with Rickson Gracie's retirement, those plans fell through. The event also was the catalyst for the creation of the K-1 MAX ("Middleweight Artistic Xtreme") tournament, due to Masato's performance in the kickboxing match, which was seen by Ushio Higuchi, a producer for TBS TV.
  • ReMix: NEO Ladies First President Daiki Shinosaki organised a one night 16 woman openweight tournament with a bonus of $100,000 to the tournament winner. The event featured Koichiro Kimura (who also came up with the rules and also was a producer) and Tomohiko Hashimoto as judges and while one other show was made under the name, the promotion officially changed its name to SMACKGIRL.
  • SMACKGIRL: The main women's MMA promotion of Japan from 2000 to 2008. Also known as "Fighting Entertainment SMACKGIRL", it was formed from the earlier Re Mix tournaments, its rules had no ground-and-pound and head spiking techniques like powerbombs and piledrivers, used the mandatory standing eight count system for knockdowns with 3 knockdowns in a single round will end the bout (like early Shooto), and set a 30-second time limit for ground work. It closed down due to acquiring considerable debt and its parent company Kilgore was plagued with the unexpected departure of major sponsors and television network deals and was forced to postpone the 2008 Re Mix tournament finale event twice before ultimately throwing in the towel and later was bought out and renamed JEWELS.
  • Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye: Antonio Inoki's year-end specials. The first event was an all pro wrestling show, while the later shows featured legit MMA bouts with pro wrestling matches thrown in the middle. It originally ran from 2000 to 2003, with a revival in 2010 to 2015 under the Inoki Genome Federation.
  • AX: Koichiro Kimura formed this promotion after he left SMACKGIRL. A women's MMA promotion with similar rules to SMACKGIRL, which Koichiro came up with. It only lasted for about a year before closing down, with Koichiro later going to help form G-Shooto.
  • U-FILE: Kiyoshi Tamura's personal MMA and pro wrestling promotion, which was mostly made for his students from his U-FILE Camp. Originally had four rulesets; STYLE-U (MMA rules), STYLE-G (Grappling rules), STYLE-S (Kickboxing rules), STYLE-E (Pro Wrestling rules). After his U-STYLE promotion closed, the shoot wrestling ruleset was added as the fifth ruleset. It survived longer than U-STYLE by more than a decade though it did have a hiatus of 4 years between 2006 and 2010.
  • ZST: Also called "Fighting Network ZST", it was formed by most of the management staff from RINGS after it folded with some help from Caesar Takeshi, which is why it featured a few shootboxing fights in its early events. A unique MMA promotion as its main ruleset features things like no judges or decisions (except in Grand Prix events), no ground-and-pound on the head, gloves are optional (if a fighter chooses not to wear gloves, he is only allowed to use open hand techniques much like early RINGS and Pancrase matches), and the closed guard is prohibited. It is also known for its Tag Team MMA matches.
  • U-STYLE: Kiyoshi Tamura's attempt to revive the shoot style movement. Financed by the MMA company DEEP and its owner Shigeru Saeki, it was seen as a Spiritual Successor to UWFI. It ran from 2003 to 2008 with most of its talent coming from Tamura's U-FILE Camp, with veterans of the U-system making appearances here and there. It did make a brief resurrection in 2014 and lasted just less than a year.
  • Arkadia: A sort of Spin-Off of SMACKGIRL, it was created with the cooperation of SMARKGIRL chairman Yasuki Shino and also had some support from the Zendokai Karate organization as it featured Zendokai exhibition matches as its opening bouts. It aimed to attracting more athletes and improve the social status of women's martial arts. Bouts are single round ten minutes, with five minutes of overtime if needed, no ground-n-pound to the head, and no groundfighting time limit (however as a special rule, if there is a weight difference of 10 kg or more between fighters, the lighter fighter may choose to limit the ground time). It only held one event.
  • Major Girl's Fighting AtoZ: Yumiko Hotta's continuation of what was left of Arsion in 2003. With "A" for "Arison" and "Z" for "Zenjo" note  as she brought in other former AJW wrestlers and trainees to fill the roster. It didn't make much of a difference to the dying promotion and it finally ran out of business in 2006.
  • STYLE-E: Another U-FILE affiliate promotion. A lower-budget offspring of U-STYLE, STYLE-E was born as a small shoot-style promotion collecting the younger U-File Camp trainees. It later switched to a more classic indy wrestling promotion, that used a more sports entertainment style of wrestling (the E stands for Entertainment). It ran from 2004 to 2012, with a small revival as E-NEXT in 2013 and a final show in 2015.
  • M's Style - New Style System: Founded by former Arsion wrestlers Mika Akino (AKINO), Mariko Yoshida, Michiko Ohmukai and Momoe Nakanishi. The name of their promotion stemmed from the fact that all four women's first names started with the letter "M". It started in 2004 with high hopes thanks to a rumored partnership with New Japan, but things quickly stalled due to the partnership falling through, Nakanishi retiring due to injuries and Yoshida leaving soon afterwards to form IBUKI. The promotion still managed to survive with AKINO for about 2 years before closing in October 2006.
  • ROMANEX: K-1's first MMA-focused show. Initially called "K-1 MMA Championship ROMANEX Martial Arts World's Most Decisive Match" and sometimes labelled as "FieLDS ROMANEX", it was K-1's first attempt at getting into the MMA market. It featured many wrestlers from New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Pro Wrestling ZERO1. It gets its name from and combines the words Roman and Extra and the inspiration for this combination was supposedly from Antonio Inoki's use of the phrase "Tatakai no Roman" ("Fight Romance"). There were plans for other events to be held under the name, but for whatever reason that didn't happen. Instead it underwent revision and eventually developed into HERO'S.
  • G-Shooto: Shooto’s woman’s division. Produced by Koichiro Kimura with help from other Shooto officials, it held its first event in November 2004, though at the there were very few professional licensed Class B female shootists so most bouts were under Class C+, a new class created for the women as a halfway between an amateur Class C license and a professional Class B license. It unfortunately lasted only 2 years and plans to make a G-Shooto USA branch never came to pass.
  • HERO'S: K-1's official MMA brand. Grown from and branched off of K-1's earlier experiments in MMA, including the K-1 ROMANEX event and various MMA fights on its regular Kickboxing cards, it was handled and supervised by Akira Maeda. It featured a ruleset that banned soccer kicks and knees to the head on the ground as well as elbows entirely, while still allowing punches for ground-and-pound (though if both fighters are in the ground position, kicking to the face and head of the opponent fighter is allowed) and if there is no action taking place on the ground in 5 to 10 seconds the fight is restarted on the feet. It was basically RINGS under a different name as the tournament structure HERO'S used was very similar to RINGS' Mega Battle and King of Kings tournaments and even featured fighters representing the old RINGS stables. At a press conference on February 13, 2008, HERO'S folded as its promoters, Fighting and Entertainment Group with former Pride FC executives from Dream Stage Entertainment collaborated to create the MMA promotion DREAM, while Maeda decided to go on his own and create The Outsider under his RINGS banner using HERO's ruleset.
  • Real Japan Pro Wrestling: Satoru Sayama's sequel to his Seikendo promotion. Its matches feature sort of a weird mix between strong style, lucha libre, shoot style, MMA, and Seikendo. Basically the promotion is Sayama through the ages, all rolled in one promotion. This promotion is way more success than the previous Seikendo promotion and is still in business, though it renamed itself as Strong Style Pro-Wrestling in 2019.
  • Futen: Daisuke Ikeda's offshoot of Battlarts, Futen is a small independent promotion that usually puts on events under the name "BATI-BATI". They frequently work with Battlarts and feature participation from other promotions including K-DOJO and NOAH among others. They normally run one event a month at their home arena, Lazona Kawasaki Plaza Sol.
  • IBUKI: After leaving M's Style, Mariko Yoshida launched this promotion as a bi-monthly event series, with her intention to provide opportunities for young, up and coming wrestlers from different promotions to compete with each other and to challenge senior wrestlers like Yoshida herself. It gained high reputation among joshi puroresu fans in Japan, but unfortunately it shut its doors after over 4 1/2 years. It was rumored that this was due to financial difficulties and that Mariko Yoshida had considered retiring due to inactivity for several months.
  • Big Mouth LOUD: Started up by former New Japan booker Fumihiko Uwai after he was kicked out by president Masakazu Kusama. He started it as a way to keep strong style wrestling to its roots while New Japan was modernizing its style for better entertainment. He brought in Akira Maeda as a supervisor, Masakatsu Funaki as a trainer, and even brought Osamu Kido out of retirement. Creative differences doomed BML as Uwai wanted the promotion to be a copy the New Japan Pro-Wrestling from before the 2000s while Maeda wanted to turn it into a 'Super UWF' (plus Uwai's embezzlement of company funds obviously didn't help). It lasted for about only a year and while there have been attempts at a revival, none of them have been successful.
  • Ganko Pro: Students of U-FILE Camp led by Kazuki Okubo with Tamura's blessing created this promotion. A small indy fed, it's more true to its shoot style roots than fellow U-FILE Camp affiliates STYLE-E and the later HEAT-UP promotion, with a 5 point limit system, but with an abundance of Wrestler in All of Us thrown around and pinfalls.
  • UWAI STATION: After the fall of Big Mouth Loud in the summer of 2006, Fumihiko Uwai decided he wasn't finished promoting wrestling events and started UWAI STATION. They had a variety of different wrestlers from other promotions participate, a lot of "Different Style Fights" and also had some bizarre comedy matches. Running different types of cards on a monthly basis didn't help attendance, Katsuyori Shibata leaving the promotion after the second event hurt them, and they didn't have television besides their first event. The events became further apart, as they had two the first month but by their last show three months had passed since the previous event. Losing money and not having any of their own stars, the promotion had no chance and had to fold.
  • The Tempest Dragon: Battlarts alumni Ryuji Walter's personal shoot style promotion, which he ran yearly from 2007 to 2012 with a final show in 2015 for his retirement ceremony.
  • Inoki Genome Federation: Antonio Inoki's continuation of his pro wrestling-MMA Inokism experiment after he left New Japan, it is referred to as a mixed hybrid promotion. It once had its own version of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, but later had its own IGF Championship which was at first defended in pro wrestling matches, but later defended in legit MMA fights. Billy Robinson once served as a supervisor and Yuko Miyato was a trainer for their wrestlers. In March 23, 2018, Inoki left IGF and sold all his shares to a third party. IGF continued to perform shows and produce the events it had already announced, and planned others in the future, but due to Inoki's departure and after the breakdown of the business relationship, the company changed its name Toho Eiyuden, so IGF no longer exists as a brand.
  • Kingpin Wrestling: A short-lived American shoot style promotion based in South California. Not much information on it exists except for a Facebook profile that deleted most of its posts and several videos on YouTube featuring some of their matches. There does seems to be a connection with the LA Inoki Dojo and LA Boxing.
  • The Outsider: Promoted under RINGS with Akira Maeda of course, he even promotes it as looking for the modern day Tomorrow's Joe. It is an amateur MMA promotion with its goals to rehabilitate former Japanese Delinquents and prepare them for professional MMA matches. It regularly hold four to six tournaments a year.
  • Hard Hit: A shoot wrestling offshoot of Dramatic Dream Team of all things. It wasn't at the time a promotion by itself as the shows were promoted as DDT events and Kota Ibushi was put in charge of it. It was at first a Genre Throwback of shoot style wrestling with its rules based off UWFI's, with the addition of 3 count pinfalls, and had Ryogaku Wada as the referee and even former UWFI Senior Manager Ken Suzuki doing commentary. In 2011, Pancrase fighter Hikaru Sato was placed in charge, which led to him introducing new rules to the project on March 12, 2012 in order to stand on its own. After his contract with DDT expired he continued to produced Hard Hit shows for them and in June 4, 2015, he bought all the rights to it and has made it an independent promotion.
  • JEWELS: The direct successor of Smackgirl. Yuichi Ozono formed the company Marverous Japan and acquired the assets and rights formerly belonging to Smackgirl parent company Kilgore. It was basically Smackgirl just under a new name and slightly modified rules. On May 25, 2013 Jewels announced that it would cease operations as an independent company, with Yuichi Ozono stepping down and Shigeru Saeki from DEEP, formerly a Jewels supervisor, taking control, and was rechristened as DEEP JEWELS, DEEP’s woman’s division.
  • Queen Bee: BattlARTS for women is probably the best description of these events. The first exclusively shoot style wrestling events for women, it was promoted by BattlARTS in order to give the women a chance to shine in shoot style wrestling on their own. It only ran for 4 events and with the closing of BattlARTS, there is no chance of it continuing.
  • Kana Pro: Kana's personal promotion, not related to shows she co-promoted with other joshi wrestlers. It featured the BattlARTS showcasing of styles and used a lot of U-System alumni, it ran from 2010 to 2015.
  • Radical Hybrid Combat Pro Wrestling: A shoot style promotion in Mexico of all places. Originally called "Radical Shoot Fighting & Wrestling", it was founded by luchadors and MMA fighters Quidam (also known as Payaso Soleil II or just Soleil) and Enrique Chimeyo and has its origins with them running a show in Mexico under the 666 banner, a Japanese independent wrestling promotion. It features mixed shows of lucha libre and legit shootfighting on their cards. Weirdly though, their logo states "since 2003".
  • AMBITION: Promoted by the German wrestling promotion Westside Xtreme Wrestling starting in 2010, it uses an eight-man tournament style format with a few regular pro wrestling matches thrown in between the quarter, semi and finals of their shows. After the success of its first show, it had become a yearly event showcasing the style.
  • U-SPIRITS: A pair of shows promoted by Hiromitsu Kanehara. The first show in 2011 was to celebrate Kanehara’s 20th anniversary in pro wrestling, while the second show, titled U-SPIRITS Again in 2013 was for his second retirement. The shows were basically reunion events for himself and his friends under shoot style rules.
  • HEAT UP: Led by Kazuhiro Tamura (No relation to Kiyoshi Tamura, though he did train under him), the last pieces of STYLE-E that were left formed a new promotion in 2013, where they still run shows to this day. The premise being that Tamura wanted to showcase “hot” matches that the fans in attendance could feel. That sense of feeling is the basis behind the promotion. The promotion’s name was probably also inspired by Minoru Tanaka’s Heat character (Kazuhiro also trained under Tanaka).
  • Battle Arts: Originally the name belonged to a standard Canadian independent promotion that started up in 2010 by Sean Murley in Oshawa, that was until 2013 with recently closed down Battlarts founder Yuki Ishikawa and Battlarts alumni Anthony Carelli and George Terzis, took the rights to the name and Sean Murley changed his promotion's name to Pro Wrestling Eclipse. Based in Mississauga, Ontario; the trio set up the Battle Arts Academy and began training wrestlers and putting on shows at their personal wrestling venue, the Don Kolov Arena. Until April 2015, there were two types of shows; "Rising Stars" under North American rules and "Battle Arts," under the old Battlarts rules. In May 2015, the two shows were fused and continue to do put on shows to this day.
  • Tsukitō -Gettō-: Originally called "Kamakura", it is an offshoot of obscure promotion Shiatāpuroresu Kachōfūgetsu (Theater Pro Wrestling Beauty of Nature), translated as "Monthly Fight -Gettō-" it was formed by Shooto veteran Shuichiro Katsumura and based its rules off Hard Hit in its beginnings.
  • Tetsujin: Created by Craig Hall and Gareth Leather, these were the first shoot style wrestling events in the United Kingdom held in Liverpool. With the sub-header "Shoot Style Wrestling" for its first event and later "Hybrid Wrestling", it uses an eight-man tournament style format inspired by the yearly AMBITION shows with a "Super Fight" before the finals that makes the show format resemble the early NHB era of MMA. After its first show in 2015, it when on a hiatus until it returned for its second show in 2018. After some discussion it decided to hold its last show on 22nd November 2019.
  • Next Exciting Wrestling: An IGF affiliate promotion created to cater to smaller venues compared to IGF's shows and to celebrate IGF's 10th year anniversary. It was not to have Antonio Inoki's direct involvement and was instead run by his son-in-law Simon Kelly Inoki with Yoshiaki Fujiwara as a counselor. It ceased to hold shows after only 3 months, due to disputes and issues between Antonio and Simon, which lead to Simon and many others from the management team to quit IGF and leave NEW without proper management. The remaining IGF office stated that there is no obligation to take over NEW and all activities from them were suspended. Problems had arisen ever since the promotion started, with them becoming ever more apparent after Shinichi Suzukawa initially jumped back to IGF then followed Inoki to ISM, leaving NEW without their top booked talent from day one. The wrestlers signed under the group later joined with the remnants of IGF to form Toho Eiyuden.
  • Tachikawa Wrestling Force: Promoted by the management of Kingdom Ehrgeiz, based in Tachikawa, Tokyo. Its events feature shoot style wrestling in a MMA cage and was formed in 2017.
  • Fuchu Wrestling Union: Another promotion from the management of Kingdom Ehrgeiz, based in Fuchū, Tokyo. Formed in 2017, it's wrestling style is similar to that of STYLE-E, Ganko, and HEAT UP.
  • ISM: Antonio Inoki's next promotion after IGF, with the first event in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Karl Gotch's passing as well as first anniversary of Muhammad Ali's passing. Created in 2017, just a few months before Inoki ended his relationship with IGF, ISM became his main project. According to a member of the Chamber of Councilors, ISM has a completely different concept to IGF, with more orthodox martial arts meetings than actual wrestling matches.
  • Toho Eiyuden: Simon Kelly Inoki's continuation of IGF and NEW after his father-in-law's departure. Also known as Oriental Heroes and based in Shanghai, China.
  • Paradigm Pro Wrestling: Originally a standard American independent promotion formed in 2017 and formerly known as "Prodigy Pro Wrestling", Paradigm began showcasing modified UWFI rules match on their shows starting in 2019, first with the Fighting Spirit Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament and sporadically on their other shows.
  • Bloodsport: Promoted by Game Changer Wrestling, it was a special show with all matches under Knockout Or Submission Only rules and in addition, the ring ropes were removed. Matt Riddle was the host of the first show and with its success a second show soon followed, but since Riddle had joined WWE, Josh Barnett became the new host of the event and has acted as it for all the shows going forward as of this writing.
  • Soul Mode: Battlarts alumni Manabu Hara's personal promotion. A monthly series of one match shows, with Hara hoping to build it into a proper promotion once he gets enough trainees.
  • Jigoku Fighting Grand Prix: The Ultimate Fighter Season 9: United States vs. United Kingdom, Team UK star David Faulkner created this promotion as he was fed up with the toxic image of the UFC and MMA. He based it on early Pancrase, complete with open hand palm strikes, knee and shin pads, rope escapes (though they restart it in the center of the ring in the same position instead of standing up), but with the addition of three 5 minute rounds. The event was promoted as the first ever open weight Pancrase UK tournament (there were actually two shows in the UK under the Pancrase banner, but under modern MMA rules instead of shoot wrestling rules). After the success of its first event it held its second event on 14th April 2019.
  • Natural Born Killers: Promoted by Future Stars Of Wrestling and hosted by Killer Kross (aka WWE’s Karrion Kross). It is basically FSW’s answer to GCW’s Bloodsport, they just kept the ring ropes on. It ran for 2 shows in 2019 and since Kross has moved onto WWE, it was discontinued until FSW announced a third show hosted by Tom Lawlor in 2021.
  • Battle Art Pro Wrestling: Also known as "Battle and Art Pro Wrestling", it is another Battlarts offshoot promotion led by Battlarts alumni Yujiro Yamamoto. While it does have shoot style elements, it is mostly a regular independent pro wrestling promotion with pinfalls being regularly used.
  • GLEAT: Kiyoshi Tamura’s second attempt at a shoot style revival, though it also features regular puroresu matches. Pronounced as "great" but with the "R" replaced by "L" it was established by LIDET Entertainment (former owner of Pro Wrestling Noah for a year) with Tamura as Executive Director, Nosawa Rongai as the Chief Strategy Officer, Kaz Hayashi the Chief Technical Officer, and surprisingly Riki Choshu of all people as an "observer".
  • Pancrase Hybrid Wrestling™ U.S.: Eric Nyenhuis’s revival of shoot style Pancrase. Billed as bringing the old school Pancrase style to the United States for the first time ever, though they will also hold MMA style fights under the name "Hybrid Fighting" along with boxing, Kickboxing and grappling matches, with cooperation from Inoki Sports Management, Pancrase veterans Manabu Yamaha, Takafumi Ito, Nate Marquardt, Josh Barnett, Guy Mezger, Chris Lyte and Bas Rutten, Enson Inoue of all people, and even Joe Malenko is involved as "Chief of Hybrid Wrestling". It is somehow in no way afflicted with the current promotion in Japan or their owner SMASH and claim to be the original promotion created in 1993 under World Pancrase Create, and own the trademarks to prove it. They also have a regular pro wrestling show called Pancrase/Pancracio Lucha.
  • Frogsport: Matt Makowski's one-time shoot style event. Promoted by Camp Leapfrog (now known as High Tension Wrestling), it obviously takes its name from the Bloodsport above, though it keeps the ring ropes on.
  • Combat Fights Unlimited: A women’s only promotion started up by Mayydayy. While described as shoot style, it resembles modern MMA with a cage around the ring and basically follows Unified Rules, though it also allowed soccer kicks and 12-6 elbows.
  • Hitamar-U-Style STARLANES: Kyushu Pro Wrestling's shoot style branch. Headed by Hitamaru Sasaki, it first begun its life as part of Kyushu's Monday Night Vai! series before featuring UWF rules matches on Kyushu's regular cards. Its name comes from Hakata Starlane, a venue that was considered sacred ground to shoot style before it was closed in 2019.
  • Hexagon Catch: A promotion from France, named after the belief that France resembles a hexagon on maps. While it mostly features regular pro wrestling matches, it has recently started a "Shoot Style Series" as a side project.
  • Kakuto Tanteidan: A Battlarts inspired event. Produced by Fuminori Abe and Takuya Nomura who are big fans of the Bati-Bati style, they produced this event to keep the spirit of Battlarts alive. So far it has got rave reviews.

Currently only Shooto, RINGS, Pancrase, and Kingdom remain active as part of the original U-system, and this concept itself has been pretty much forgotten in those promotions, but it figures as an immortal part of puroresu and MMA history. Shoot style wrestling itself has however started a kind of comeback in recent years with several promotions in Europe and America putting on full cards under shoot style rules.

NOT related to the Universal Wrestling Federation promotion run by Bill Watts in the former NWA Mid-South territory in the 80's, nor to the promotion of the same name run by Herb Abrams in the 90's. It's also not to be confused with Gran Hamada's UWF, which is more popularly referred to as Universal Lucha Libre or abbreviated as FULL for distinction purposes.

Tropes associated with Universal Wrestling Federation and derivatives:

  • Achilles' Heel: A common weakness among shoot wrestlers in MMA were closed-fisted punches to the head and ground-and-pound, due to their shoot wrestling rulesets banning the former and generally discouraging the latter despite not being against the rules (except in RINGS where it was banned completely).
  • Ambiguous Situation: Perhaps inevitable giving that the UWF's shtick was blurring the lines between work and shoot, but it goes down to some matches in which it isn't clear what in the heaven is happening.
    • The January 16 match between Satoru Sayama and Yoshiaki Fujiwara. It goes more or less as expected, until Sayama starts kicking Fujiwara's leg out and Yoshiaki answers submitting him with an armlock. Sayama is left clutching his arm in pain, a flood of ring crew comes to the ring to check on him, and Fujiwara limps out of the arena looking pissed and not letting the referee raise his hand. It's not known whether it was the planned ending (the bout is labelled as a "death match," whatever it means, in some records) or it turned somehow into a real fight. Anyway, if there was some real heat among Sayama and Fujiwara, it was gone for the time of their next match together in February.
    • The Mega Battle Tournament '92 match between Masaaki Satake and Mitsuya Nagai in RINGS. They start normally, trade some tentative strikes... and then Satake lands something (a camera switch prevents it from being clearly seen on the official video, but it looks like a random palm strike) and Nagai falls down flattened, losing the bout by KO at little more than one minute. It is completely unknown whether it was the planned ending, an accidental KO or a deliberate shoot by Satake, or even if the bout was a shootfight and not a worked match in first place.
    • In 1996, Wrestle Association R's resident karateka and shootist Koki Kitahara wrestled 150% Machine from the Golden Cups stable in an UWF-i event. However, after a regular worked match starting, Kitahara attacks Machine brutally and destroys him with kicks, making him literally leave the ring on a stretcher. The thing, if it was a shoot, never seemed to have any consequences, and nobody knows what was the reason behind it.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Akira Maeda and all the UWF roster during the NJPW invasion.
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game: The UWF members often challenged karatekas, judokas, boxers and wrestlers to gym duels to prove they were superior, and they usually wiped the floor with them. In the second incarnation, they started to celebrate those fights in events, basically creating style vs style bouts. Some of them were worked, while some other did not.
    • This backfired one the UWF International's face when they sent Yoji Anjo to challenge Rickson Gracie. Anjo was a legit wrestler accustomed to shootfights, but the UWF management wasn't well acquainted to Brazilian vale tudo, and Yoji paid the consequences when he stepped forward to face a fighter from a style much better adapted to vale tudo than his. To put it less dramatically, he was pounded and choked out.
  • Boring, but Practical: The philosophy behind the shooters's moveset. The moves they used in their matches were things that you would expect in a stylized MMA match.
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys: An alluring element to the young crowd (specifically the female one) was the attractiveness of the wrestlers. Nobuhiko Takada was the best example.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Aside from the red and blue corners that most puroresu promotions are known for (similar to boxing), when Shooto went pro in 1989 it had its fighters wear red or blue tape on their gloves depending on their corner. Newborn would have their fighters wear wrist bands of the colors in its last year, when Newborn closed its spinoffs had differences in their use of the bands. RINGS used them on and off in their early years before making it mandatory somewhere in the mid-1990s (and even allowed the use of red and blue elbow pads if fighters didn’t want wrist bands) and UWFI only followed suit in their last years, while PWFG and Pancrase never adopted them for some reason. Referees wore both a red and a blue wrist band (Shooto only started this in the early 1990s as well), one on each wrist, and would point a Finger Gun with the same corner color on the fighter that was caught in a submission (and Shooto referees announced it to the audience by shouting “Catch!”) and asked if they give up.
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority: The main thing which made the UWF wrestlers so attractive to the Japanese young people was their bad boy attitude in contrast with the elder, conservative wrestlers from NJPW and AJPW. Teenage crowds loved how the UWF guys carved their own niche in the puroresu world with a wrestling style which was more direct, vicious and easy to master than the ceremonious established one.
  • Cosmopolitan Council: Fighting Network RINGS had one, thanks to its worldwide reach and multiple branches. It featured the representative of each branch: Akira Maeda from Japan, Chris Dolman from Holland, Vladimir Pagodin from Russia, Nodar Ekvtimishvili from Georgia, Nikolas Zahariev from Bulgaria, Chris Haseman from Australia, Lee Hasdell from England, Monte Cox from USA, Donatas Simanaitis from Lithuania, and some unspecified others.
  • Crossover: Surprisingly, only RINGS managed bring in wrestlers from most of the other U-System promotions to compete at their shows (unless you count Vale Tudo Japan 1995 with Yoshihisa Yamamoto’s participation or maybe even some of the Dutch fighters featured on Pancrase that trained at one of the RINGS Holland dojos like Bas Rutten and Toon Stelling). First there was short period of PWFG sending Yoshiaki Fujiwara, the future Battlarts guys and even some of their gaijin regulars to compete in RINGS (not too surprising since PWFG regularly sent wrestlers to other promotions). Then Kiyoshi Tamura came from UWFI to join up, followed by Hiromitsu Kanehara, Kenichi Yamamoto, and Ryuki Ueyama from Kingdom, also Minoru Toyonaga stopped by for a match. A few Lion’s Den guys and Pancrase regulars like Maurice Smith, Frank Shamrock and Pete Williams stopped by for a fight or two, and even Pancrase original Ryūshi Yanagisawa competed in one of the King of Kings Tournaments. Hell even Shooto guys like Sanae Kikuta, Egan Inoue (accompanied by his brother Enson), Katsuhisa Fujii, Akihiro Gono (he actually debuted in RINGS, but came back for a match while still part of Shooto) came to compete under the old point rules, Caol Uno came for an exhibition match with Tsuyoshi Kohsaka and even Hirotaka Yokoi officially joined the promotion in its last years. Even referees Yuji Shimada (PWFG and Battlarts) and Ryogaku Wada (UWFI and Kingdom) were used quite a lot in the promotion’s later half of its run.
    • There was also the Bridge of Dreams show in 1995 that featured several different promotions which included RINGS, UWFI, PWFG, LLPW and Pancrase among other non-shoot style promotions. They didn’t actually have matches against each other, but the fact they agreed to be on the same show says a lot.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Along with closed-fist punches to the head, as well as kicks and stomps to the head of a unguarded opponent on the ground, elbow strikes are the big no-no in shoot style wrestling (except for a brief time in early RINGS, though they needed to put on elbow pads to do so), though they do allow forearm strikes (except in Shooto surprisingly). Also fighters weren’t allowed to kick without shinguards or knee without knee pads (though Battlarts had no such restriction).
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: A common part of the style was its leg kicking approach to chopping down opponents, inherited from striking arts Muay Thai and Kyokushin Karate. Nobuhiko Takada was the most famous user of this approach.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The UWF Newborn match between Bob Backlund and Masakatsu Funaki on 21st May 1989. It started out normally, (though Backlund may have been overselling Funaki’s kicks). Then about 4 minutes in, while both are on the ground, Funaki starts kicking the back of Backlund’s head, causing him to stand up and put up his dukes to fight it out, though things calm down before anything happens and they go back to wrestling. That is until Funaki starts kicking and stomping on Backlund to get out of a kneebar and then head kicking Backlund to put him down for a count of 8. What follows is a train wreck of a match featuring Backlund then doing a pro wrestling style bridge up like he was escaping a pin, Funaki throwing pro wrestling style strikes like European uppercuts, backhand chops and soccer kicks, Funaki going for a gutwrench suplex only to be countered with Backlund’s own gutwrench suplex, and Funaki applying Backlund’s own move; the crossface chickenwing. They actually go back to wrestling properly for a while, until Backlund lifts Funaki and carries him to a corner to break off an armbar attempt, to which Funaki dropkicks Backlund with the referee finally disqualifying Funaki. It is not known why Funaki became uncooperative during the match, though it has been theorized that he didn’t like Backlund’s goofy behavior in the ring and thought he was insulting the UWF as being just another pro wrestling company he could work for. Unfortunately Funaki comes off as the bad guy here as Backlund did his best to get the match back on track, despite Funaki’s abuse.
  • Dueling Dojos: Shooto and Pancrase, matching their respectively eclectic and catch wrestling-only based views about MMA. Since Satoru Sayama's departure from the Shooto, the two promotions forbade their fighters to work in each other. It only ended when the MMA boom faded and they needed working agreements.
    • This was actually true for all 3 of the Newborn offshoots since they were competing against each other on who had the best shoot style product and the wrestlers usually badmouthed their rival promotions to the press. It only got worse when Pancrase formed and when Shooto got more popular.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: As the promotion's theme was not established yet when the Original UWF formed, it featured several wrestlers who don't jive easily with what would later become shoot-style. Comedy wrestlers like Go, hardcore experts like Rusher Kimura and luchadores like Gran Hamada were part of the first generation before leaving for creative differences. Also the standard 3 count pin was still a valid way to win a match though this was used less often and was finally removed after UWF Newborn closed its door.
  • Finger Gun: Referees did this when asking if the wrestlers were giving up while pointing it at them.
  • Five Moves of Doom: Due to their common martial arts style, all of the UWF wrestlers had roughly the same moveset, and the matches tended to end via head kick, cross armbar or some leglock variation. Eventually, RINGS would improve it with a much wider variety of technical finishes.
  • Foreign Wrestling Heel: Gary Albright and Big Van Vader fit the classic puroresu trope of the big, burly Western monster.
  • Hit Points: UWF Newborn established a new ruleset in which the first person to score 5 knockdowns (in which the opponent could not get back up at once, similar to boxing knockout attempts) would win, giving the 5-knockdown situation the same weight as a submission or knockout, with three rope escapes also considered as one knockdown and fouls would be at the referee’s discretion. Newborn’s offshoots would also carry this ruleset, with a few modifications overtime.
    • Shooto, while not an offshoot of Newborn used the mandatory standing eight count system for knockdowns with 3 knockdowns in a single round will end the bout though they would eventually remove it in 2009, even in their amateur matches. They also never used rope escapes. Smackgirl and AX would also use these knockdown rules.
    • PWFG would stay the closest to the system established in Newborn. Pancrase changed its rules to one rope escape to be equal to one knockdown with a five point limit, then lowered it to three points in a regular match (with championship matches keeping the 5 point system) in 1996 and even later in mid 1998 limited 20 minute matches to 3 points, 15 minute matches to 2 points and 10 minute matches to 1 point until the major rules and style change in 1999. Battlarts however just abandoned the points system entirely as it was never a highly promoted way to win in PWFG anyway.
    • RINGS reduced the amount of rope escapes for a knockdown from three to two. On special occasions, they used a 5 rounds system, with each round having a 3 knockdown limit that is reset after each round. It switched to a 10 point limit system during the mid-90s, where knockdowns scored 2 points and rope escapes scored 1 point, then reduced it to a 5 point limit in 1998 until the forming the King of Kings (KOK) rules in 1999 which removed the point system (along with rope escapes and knockdowns), then they added back rope escapes and knockdowns with a 3 point limit in 2001, with an additional rule set for new guys called Universal Bout Rule that removed rope escapes. The 1998 World Mega Battle Tournament featured 3 vs 3 Kachinuki Shiai (Winner Continue) styled team matches (basically like pro wrestling elimination team matches, without tagging in or out) that used a 1 point limit rule on both rope escapes and knockdowns per match, except the finals which used a 2 point limit rule. ZST had a few bouts under old RINGS rules, but only allowed one knockdown or rope escape per bout.
    • UWF International was a more complicated matter. Wrestlers would start with 15 points and one way a wrestler could win was to reduce his opponents points to zero. Knockdowns would reduce 3 points, rope escapes would reduce 1 point, and being overhead suplexed would reduce 1 point. When they opened up to let wrestlers from NJPW and WAR compete, pinfalls would reduce 5 points. Tag Team matches would have each team start with 21 points (even the one-time Tag Team Kickboxing match used it, with an additional rule that tagging reduces 1 point from their own score), while the Bridge of Dreams event showed an UWFI rules 6-man tag team match with each team starting with 30 points. Their Kickboxing matches also had a point system, with each fighter starting with 40 points, 9 points (later 8) are deducted for knockdowns and 1 point (later 2) is deducted for losing a round.
    • USWF used a 3 knockdown limit and an one time rope escape rule, if they grabbed another rope escape after that it counted as a loss.
    • Promotions like Kingdom, U-STYLE, and even the recently formed GLEAT's "LIDET UWF Rules" used Pancrase’s 5 point system, probably due to its popularity. Ganko Pro (another U-FILE Camp affiliated promotion like U-STYLE) also used a 5 point system for 30 minute bouts, while using a 3 point system for 15 minute bouts, while Hard Hit adopts a 5 point system for 15 minute matches and a 3 point system for 10 minute matches (its Dramatic Dream Team years had 30 minute matches with a 5 point limit, tag team matches had an 8 point limit and allowed 3-count pins). GAEA Japan's few matches under "GAEA-Kai Rules" (which is referred to on some English sites as "Reforming Rules" for some reason) were originally based on Pancrase's ruleset, but later distinguished itself by making its point system have different point limits for knockdowns and rope escapes, with victory coming from either two knockdowns or five rope escapes.
    • Paradigm Pro Wrestling uses UWFI rules but modified them to allow elbow strikes, strikes to a downed opponent, and time limits have been removed from all fights. They also introduced a variant of the rules called "Terminal Combat", where wrestlers will have five minutes (ten minutes in tag team matches) to win the bout via their modified UWFI rules, but if a winner has not been decided within 5 minutes, then it becomes a more of a hardcore match as weapons, small joint manipulations, biting, and striking to any part of the body (including closed fists to the face, headbutts, and low blows) would then be legal, the point system and rope breaks would be suspended, and the only way to win is by KO, TKO or submission.
  • I Know Karate: Kind of important to the U-System wrestlers. From trying to create realistic looking bouts to actual fighting, most of the wrestlers came from legit combat sport backgrounds to emphasize the realism.
  • Insistent Terminology: Some modern promotions hold matches under what they refer to as "UWF Rules", even though the rules they use are more similar to the original ruleset of Pancrase than the one used in Newborn or even UWFI.
    • Even when RINGS, PWFG and UWFI were still active, other promotions would sometimes hold matches under "UWF Rules" like All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling, except their version never used any of the above three's point systems and looked more like proto-Battlarts type matches. Zenjo eventually just called them "Knockout Only Rules" since that was how it would usually end those matches.
  • International Showdown by Proxy: The best examples were featured in UWFI, Pancrase, and RINGS.
  • Kayfabe: Despite Japan being a place where people used to believe that pro wrestling was real to a point, its strong martial culture would cause that they probably knew how a real fight looked, so few people would think UWF was totally real fighting (albeit the second incarnation became genuinely convincing and fooled many people). However, the fact its wrestlers professed a realistic fighting style made them look actually prepared for real fighting, so the crowd always had the "but in a real fight, they would have rocked" impression to work around the pro wrestling irreality and believably consider them as tough guys. This shows how disappointing was to them that Takada lost so quickly to Rickson Gracie, as it revealed that the best guy of the UWF could not really back up his wrestling prowess in a real fight.
  • Licensed Game: Virtual Pro Wrestling is nominally a WCW series but the "World Of Universe" sections of the roster are made up of UWF wrestlers. UWF International, Fighting Network RINGS and Pancrase anyway.
    • UWF International had Saikyō: Takada Nobuhiko published by Hudson Soft for the Super Famicom.
    • RINGS had a trilogy of games for the Super Famicon starting with Sougou Kakutougi: Astral Bout, followed by Sougou Kakutougi: Astral Bout 2 - The Total Fighters, and finally with Sougou Kakutougi Rings: Astral Bout 3.
  • Master of None: A problem observed in most of the shoot-style pro wrestlers during the PRIDE era was that, while they had been cross-training pioneers for years and knew multiple disciplines like Muay Thai, Catch Wrestling, Sambo and Judo, they were not proficient in any of them and thus they could not make a difference against their opponents. Kazushi Sakuraba and Daijiro Matsui finally reverted the trend by focusing in wrestling and anti-game tactics.
  • Minored In Ass Kicking: Aside from creating shoot-style wrestling and starting up the USA's and Japan's MMA boom, the UWF was also responsible for training and influencing the guys that would create the first no-gi submission grappling events in Japan with Hidetaka Aso's Submission Arts Wrestling and Noriaki Kiguchi's Combat Wrestling, as well as a Kickboxing and stand-up grappling hybrid martial art sport with Caesar Takeshi's Shootboxing, revived the dying kickboxing scene by inspiring the creation of Kickboxing promotions like Kazuyoshi Ishii’s K-1.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg:
    • Shootboxing founder and UWF alumni Caesar Takeshi gets rarely mentioned in articles about the company, because he was not a pro wrestler and never oficially competed in UWF events beyond some shootboxing offer fights. He did train with them and worked in the UWF dojo for a time, however.
    • Hidetaka Aso is a worse example. A wrestling and sambo champion, also Gotch trainee and founder of Submission Arts Wrestling, he was brought to teach in the UWF-i Snakepit, but nowadays is never mentioned as a part of UWF.
    • The kickboxers of UWF-i.
  • My Kung-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours: UWF International members developed a feud with the Gracie family when Rickson Gracie defeated Yoji Anjo and caused the promotion's departure. After Takada's failure in beating him in PRIDE, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters started to clean house against the pro wrestlers turned fighters during the first events. It took Kazushi Sakuraba to retake the mantle to avenge the company.
  • Non-Indicative Name: As BattlARTS's Japanese name was "Kakuto Tantei Dan Batoratsu," which literally translates (and is always translated as such in the West) as "Fighting Detective Team Battlarts," you would be pardoned for thinking this promotion ran theatrical storylines about detectives and hardboiled guys in fedoras. Actually, a more accurate translation would be "Fighting Investigation Team Battlarts," refering to scientific yuxtapositions of wrestling styles on the ring instead of fighting detectives.
  • One-Hit Kill: Until Funaki and Suzuki created Pancrase, worked shoot matches used to be long and slow in order to maintain the crowd entertained. However, when the two implanted their real matches concept, proved when the first Pancrase event lasted only 28 minutes, the Japanese crowds loved it and coined the word "byosatsu" (秒殺, "instantly finished") to refer this kind of exciting battle (though according to Pancrase president Masami Ozaki, it was mainly Bas Rutten who inspired the phrase). Even so, the two used to carry weaker opponents to avoid a too short fight.
  • Pro Wrestling Is Real: The company's members vowed for it, and eventually succeeded with Pancrase implementing what they called "kekka no sutairu" ("results-oriented style") in its very beginnings.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Wataru Sakata featured one in RINGS against Dutch fighter Willie Peeters, who had defeated him in an spirited shootfight in 1995. He faced him in two pro wrestling matches through the next year until he could fight him in another shoot, in which Sakata could submit him to a facelock - but unfortunately the bout had a Dutch referee who invalidated Sakata's win and gave the decision to Peeters. Finally, an infuriated Wataru had his revenge in 1998, defeating Willie by submission in mere seconds to put an end to the feud.
  • Start My Own: Hisashi Shinma started the first UWF for Inoki, and Maeda started the second one for him and his pals.
  • Tournament Arc: The UWF-i staff tried to put together an all star tournament and sent letters to all the top wrestlers of the era: Mitsuharu Misawa from AJPW, Shinya Hashimoto from NJPW, Akira Maeda from RINGS, Genichiro Tenryu from WAR and Masakatsu Funaki from Pancrase, but none of them accepted; Funaki was not interested, Tenryu gave in but put an excuse, Maeda countered with an offer of a tournament of his own, and Hashimoto and Misawa talked harshly against the idea. They all probably deducted that the tournament might be a plan to attract them to UWF-i to allow its wrestlers to legit shoot on them and destroy their aura.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: RINGS's star Yoshihisa Yamamoto was known for doing almost no sparring. Most of his training was composed of running, lifting weights and eating the food female fans sent him.
    • Many of the gaijins count as this, especially the ones from RINGS and UWFI.
  • Ur-Example: Many puroresu elements, so common nowadays, were actually innovated in the UWF.
    • The clean finishes of the matches were the main characteristic. Given its serious combat sport focus, UWF actively avoided the classic shenanigans of DQ's and interventions which were made to protect the wrestlers's aura from a clear defeat. In fact, it was what moved All Japan Pro Wrestling to adopt the clean finish doctrine which gave birth to the King's Road wrestling style.
    • The modern puroresu attire of underwear tights and shinguard-kneepad combination (called "leggers" by the Japanese, and for some reason commonly mistaken in the west for latex kneeboots) were created by the UWF (specifically by Satoru Sayama), as opposed to the black tights and wrestling shoes used by strong-style wrestlers (though some shooters, most notably Yoshiaki Fujiwara, still adhered to this clothing).
    • The emphasis on young, attractive wrestlers was also derived from the company.
    • Traditional shoot-style favours barehanded striking, like the famous Pancrase palm strikes, but the modern MMA fingerless gloves were first used by Shooto.
    • They also the first to use fog machines and laser light shows in their production values.
  • Use Your Head: Technically, UWF Newborn never actually banned headbutts, which is why Yoshiaki Fujiwara still indulged in them occasionally. PWFG was also carried on the vagueness concerning them in the rules, which makes sense since it was Fujiwara’s promotion.
  • Versus Title: UWFi vs. WAR: Super Summer Wars
  • Weak, but Skilled: Hiromitsu Kanehara never was a top fighter, but he instead was a training maniac (to the point Sakuraba said of him "he trained like a machine") who spent every free hour in the dojo. The result is a career which is pretty impressive, with wins over the feared Valentijn Overeem, Dave Menne and even vale tudo veteran Cacareco Ferreira.
  • Worked Shoot: The matches in UWF progressively tilted towards realism, from regular matches featuring more groundwork and less aerial moves to intense bouts almost indistinguishable from MMA fights. For the second incarnation they were already publicizing themselves as real fighting, which they sometimes actually did in their different style fights. The UWF International was somewhat a step back, as they returned to fantasy elements like tag team matches and big suplexes, but they kept the spirit that you had to be a tough guy to wrestle like that.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: Perhaps natural in a MMA system founded by pro wrestlers, but some cases were particularly spectacular. Jeremy Horn, who was not even a part of the shoot-style circuit, tried a real diving chop on Randy Couture in their match in RINGS.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: The second company was called simply Shinsei UWF (UWF Newborn), with the UWF standing for nothing. Also the UWF International changed the meaning of the acronym from "Universal Wrestling Federation" to "Union of Wrestling Forces".