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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", 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. 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.


These are, in a nutshell, the promotions which composed the U-system and their "imitators"Note :

  • 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 MMA promotion in the world, though it was not very known and remained as a cult feud 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.
  • Fighting Network RINGS: A promotion which started as pro wrestling 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 his 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 Hybrid Wrestling: The second MMA promotion ever, formed by Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki riding a wave of PWFG shooters who craved real fighting. 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.
  • 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 Ultimo Dragon's Toryumon Gym.
  • 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 an attempt to get other pro wrestlers with different martial art backgrounds into the MMA scene. He then formed a sort of partnership with Shooto and sent wrestlers affiliated with his promotion to a Shooto event pitting Shooto fighters against themselves, unfortunately the Shooto guys were too good and destroyed all of them 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. In May 11 1996, it held its first event under a new name, which birthed the longest running, one-owner MMA company in history, HOOKnSHOOT.
  • 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 craziness. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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" (a nickname of All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling)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.
  • 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.
  • 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'. 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 wrestling style is the more traditional strong style and still runs shows.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 promotion’s name was probably 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-: An offshoot of obscure promotion Theater Pro Wrestling, 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. With the success of the first show, Matt Riddle’s Bloodsport, a second show, Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport followed the next year.
  • 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.

Currently only Shooto, RINGS, and Pancrase remain as active parts 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. It has however started a kind of comeback in recent years.

That Other Wiki has more info on UWF.

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 them.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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 kickboxer 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: Hisahsi 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.
  • 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 cool latex kneeboots were created by the UWF, 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.
  • 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".

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