April 17, 2024


Yutaka Kobayashi . . . makes an amazing first impression in his GLEAT debut, looking like the second coming of Tamura himself.

Kotaro Suzuki . . . seems surprisingly adept at working UWF-style matches, considering his background as a pro-style junior heavyweight.

Soma Watanabe . . . has an absolute banger of a tag match and comes out of it looking like a surefire main eventer for this promotion!



The best description for this match is that it’s busy; it’s a fifteen minute draw after all, but it never feels like either man is lazy about working the match. If this is any indication, Kobayashi is a good addition to this roster, his quickness and fluidity is reminiscent of Tamura, especially with the way that he’s able to spider his way all over Izuchi and think and work his way out of Izuchi’s holds. However, working a match like this doesn’t do a whole lot for Izuchi, although it’s not like he’s been booked as a world beater. Kobayashi is established as the better mat worker, forcing Izuchi to burn a point to escape a juji-gatame and then getting it locked in again just as time runs out. Izuchi is the better striker, pelting Kobayashi with leg kicks and getting a point on a head kick that knocks him down. But at the same time, Izuchi is shown to not be clueless on the mat nor is Kobayashi inept at the striking game. The match serves its intended purpose of introducing Kobayashi and showing that he’s got the skills to be a problem for virtually anyone on the roster. My only worry is that, knowing how inexplicable GLEAT’s booking can be, Kobayashi will wind up being used as cannon fodder to set up someone like Nakano, Sekine, or one of the Saito Bros for a Lidet UWF Title match.



What a trainwreck this one turned out to be. Considering his background, Suzuki is actually pretty damn watchable in this setting. He works a nice extended mat sequence with Matsumoto, and even does some decent stuff with Sekine. The comedy spot with Suzuki using La Magistral and getting upset that the ref wasn’t counting the pin came off well, and he’s smart enough to keep Sekine grounded and not give him the chance to start throwing suplexes. Sekine versus Jackson is as awful as you’d expect. The strike exchanges look pitiful, and the German suplex no-selling is just as bad here as it is in NOAH, actually it might be even worse, considering that Sekine has spent three years German suplexing his opponents into oblivion. Matsumoto tags in and tries to outwrestle Jackson by rolling him into an ankle lock, but once Jackson gets free and gets back on his feet, it’s more clubbering and powerbombs until Matsumoto stays down. The aftermath sets up a Sekine/Jackson singles match. And you can bet that whichever event that GLEAT puts that match on is one that I’m not going to watch.



This isn’t bad or anything, but it’s pretty rushed and you really only need to see the last minute or so to get a feel for the drama and excitement. Maya uses her kicks to trim some points and try to wear down Suzuki, and the key phrase there is ‘wear down.’ Instead of looking for the big knockout shot, she fires at the legs and midsection. Suzuki uses her size advantage to connect some throws and control Maya on the mat and take her points. It seems like Suzuki is going to win out after a big bodyslam gets Maya down to her last point, and then she locks in a deep single leg crab hold. Maya fights her way out of the hold, and Suzuki follows up with a giant swing (in a UWF match!), and Maya barely beats the count. Maya realizes that she’s on borrowed time and goes back to throwing kicks, if only to keep Suzuki at bay and to buy herself some time, and fortune smiles down on Maya as one of those desperation kicks hits Suzuki in the head and she gets the KO that she wasn’t even trying for.



Not only is this Soma’s best UWF match by a longshot, but it’s also easily the best UWF tag match that GLEAT has put on. The only time the match really seems like it drags is the middle portion with the Soma/Wada mat segment. Everyone in the match manages to both take away one point and give up one point to keep the match even and end the match with a draw, but the threat of someone giving up another point or losing the match outright is always there, and adds to the drama and excitement, especially as they tick down to the time limit. Each of them has their own specific strength; Nakamura’s and Wada’s is on the mat, Tamura uses his size to throw his opponents, and Soma’s is with striking, specifically his kicks. And at various points during the latter half of the match, each of them has to fight through an opponent using his best attribute and stay alive in the match. The best example is the Nakamura and Tamura exchange, with Nakamura trying to get a submission, and Tamura fighting it off. Nakamura connects with a couple of head kicks that stun Tamura, and he looks for a big one, which seems like it would at least get Tamura called down, if not give them a KO win. But Tamura deflects the kick and takes the opening for a big German suplex, and Nakamura has to rush to his feet and basically try to tie up Tamura to both save his points and also prevent Tamura from doing anything else.


Their earlier mat exchange may have been the low point of the match, but the Soma/Wada mat segment toward the end is anything but. Soma has no qualms about letting Wada cinch in a choke and selling like he’s about to go out, until he finds that last bit of energy to fight his way out of the hold and goes back to throwing his kicks. And Wada breaking Soma’s grip to get the armbar applied just as the time ran out was just about the perfect finish for this match, even if we already saw it in the opener. While nobody technically wins the match, all four of them come out looking better for having gone through it and survived, Soma in particular. He’s always struck me as the lesser of the four young guns, but if performances like this become a regular thing for him then he could absolutely be an underdog sort of main eventer.



Sometimes history has a strange way of repeating itself. It’s certainly a coincidence that the last Funaki match I watched before this was the 6/90 Yamazaki match, which also ended early due to injury. But there’s also the lingering memory of Iizuka’s match with Izuchi from two years before, which ends virtually the same way. Iizuka goes for a takedown and gets hit with a knee that knocks him out and causes a ref stoppage.



This promotion isn’t exactly ideal for comedy matches; but considering who all is involved here, it was probably the best way to go. The Fuj is in his mid-seventies, and he looks and works like 1990’s Baba, Kaz has never been especially good in this setting, and Ka Shin isn’t anything too special as far as his work goes, although the Sakuraba tribute was nice. Suzuki is miles ahead of all of them, but that only means so much. However, we do get to see some more of the Lidet UWF rules in action, specifically point deductions for rule infractions. Suzuki brings out a chain and chokes Kaz, leading to Fujiwara bringing out some rope and doing it to Ka Shin. The ref pulls out a yellow card and docks them each a point. But that’s the only real highlight of the match. It’s nice, on some level, to see Fujiwara still working some of his old spots like the headbutts, but it’s more reminiscent of the old NOAH opening matches with Rusher and Eigen than anything else. Ka Shin and Fujiwara work their comedy and brawl on the floor, and despite the point disparity (Kaz and Fujiwara are up 4-1), everyone knows that it’s only a matter of time until Suzuki can beat Kaz, and eventually he does.



Despite moving a bit slow, especially early on, the end result and the finish accomplish the goal of showing that Ito is still worthy of being the top guy in the UWF, even after losing the UWF Title so quickly. The layout isn’t vastly different than the matches that led him to the title in the first place. Ito wants to use his strikes to wear down Sato, but Sato is able to deflect them and take Ito to the mat and tie him up to force him to use rope breaks. For a little bit it feels like they’re going out of their way to bury Ito, he connects with a high kick and Sato is able to take the hit, snag the leg, and take Ito down. But, just like so many times before, Ito finds the path that he needs to take, as difficult and painful as it might be for him. Sato locks in a chickenwing armlock and bailing to the ropes would leave Ito with a single point, which could lose him the match in any number of ways; even Sato connecting with a lucky strike or throw that would get him called down. So, Ito works his way to his feet and hits a German suplex to escape the hold, but Sato is able to get the hold back, and Ito has to get to his feet again and do another suplex. They really didn’t need to do the exact same sequence three times in a row; it really doesn’t say much about Sato’s chickenwing when Ito can spend so much time in it and do the same escape. But, when Sato is finally stunned enough that he can’t go back to the hold, Ito smells the blood in the water and ends things quickly. He hits one more suplex for good measure and then starts to ground and pound Sato with palm strikes to the face, and the ref has to stop it when Sato can’t defend himself. Ito stands victorious, coming back from a 5-2 deficit to a decisive win, and he looks for all the world like the UWF Ace who should still have that belt around his waist, and undoubtably will again.


Conclusion: As much as I’m underwhelmed by the pro-style side of GLEAT, the UWF continues to bring the goods. Both Soma and Kobayashi look like great prospects, and it’s impossible to look at Ito after the main event and not think he should be their guy.