There was a major press conference held by UWFi Founder Nobuhiko Takada and company “President” Nobuyuki Sakakibara who is invested in the company financially, but is really in a ceremonial role similar to Jack Tunney or Gorilla Monsoon, and veteran wrestler Yoshiaki Fujiwara who was the talk of the wrestling industry for his attempted coup of UWFi the night of the worldwide talent draft.
Fujiwara, you may remember, interrupted the draft as Nobuhiko Takada came out to make UWFi’s 7th round pick. Fujiwara then attacked Takada with stiff headbutts and kicks bloodying Takada before taking over as UWFi’s spokesperson for the rest of the draft as no other representatives were present that could physically stop him. Fujiwara proceeded to load the UWFi roster with his friends Osamu Kido (a former New Japan wrestler who defected with Fujiwara, Maeda & Takada to form the original UWF), Yoshiaki Yatsu (a former Amateur Wrestling Olympian who played a key part in the 80s Japanese wrestling scene teaming with Riki Choshu but has aged poorly) as well as Fujiwara’s own trainees like Yuki Ishikawa, Alexander Otsuka Takeshi Ono, and Minoru Tanaka. Fujiwara also drafted Volk Han and proclaimed Han to be the 2nd best shoot wrestler alive, presumably after Fujiwara himself.
We do no presently know who is the new silent billionaire owner of UWFi but there is definitely someone pulling the strings (and paying all these guys) behind the scenes who isn’t Takada or Sakakibara. In addition to Takada, Fujiwara & Sakakibara, appearances were made at the press conference by: Shinya Hashimoto, Kiyoshi Tamura, Kazuo Yamazaki, Vader, Volk Han, Steven Regal, Fit Finlay, and Koji Kitao
The press conference lasted around 3 hours in total and answered a lot of questions while avoiding just as many. Sakakibara started by addressing the room of reporters introducing the full 28 member roster and running down the cards for the first 2 shows.
He then announced that Yoshiaki Fujiwara would be fined 2 Million Yen (about $20,000) for his unprofessional conduct at last month’s worldwide talent draft. Fujiwara laughed unimpressed and said “I’ll give you this now, but we both know you’ll be giving it right back to me when the cameras turn off.” Fujiwara then said he didn’t deserve to be fined he deserved a raise because he is going to save UWF style Wrestling. He said Takada has always been a coward and you could tell. He was drafting a bunch of guys who were either fake pro wrestlers like Shinya Hashimoto and Steve Regal, pro wrestlers he had already beaten like Vader and guys he knew Takada would never fight like Akira Maeda because he’s afraid and Dr Death because he may never even be allowed to come to Japan again. Fujiwara said always knew Takada was a coward and he wasn’t going to let him bastardize what Fujiwara and Maeda worked so hard to build. Fujiwara said if Takada was a real man he would have drafted Akira Maeda first and challenged him. Or Volk Han who is the RINGS Mega Battle Tournament Champion and the best fighter in the world but Takada was ducking him too. So Fujiwara said he had to take matters into his own hands and make it his mission to take out Takada for the good of Shoot Wrestling. At one point in a hilarious line Fujiwara screamed “my armbar is better than your leglock and my head is stronger than your feet!” Fujiwara also delivered the classic line “I taught you everything you know but I didn’t teach you everything I know!” which has been around as long as there were trainers and interviews. I was told by those watching that this was an incredible promo and there was clear tension for the rest of the press conference between Fujiwara and Takada, who sat silently looking straight ahead throughout Fujiwara’s entire rant. This promo combined with his attempted coup at the draft put Fujiwara on the front page of all the Weekly Japanese Wrestling Magazines after this press conference making him the most talked about wrestler in Japan ahead of Misawa, Kobashi, Muto, Tenryu and even Hulk Hogan…for a week at least.
When asked about Fujiwara’s accusations Takada said he has always stepped up to every challenge and he will step up to any challenge out there. He said he always challenged the world champs in other promotions and everyone was ducking him. He said the fans know that he isn’t ducking anybody. Takada said that he would fight Fujiwara, Akira Maeda, Volk Han, Shinya Hashimoto, Mitsuharu Misawa, Hulk Hogan and anyone else who dared to challenge him.
Before bringing out any other wrestlers, Sakakibara told the reporters they may ask follow up questions. Immediately hands shot up asking about the status of Akira Maeda and Dr Death Steve Williams. Regarding Dr Death, Sakakibara said they are working with representatives from the Japanese and United States government and are confident Williams will be allowed back in the country. Takada said it was all a big misunderstanding and that it wasn’t even Williams’ bag that was searched. Fujiwara had an incredible line when asked about it saying “The bag belonged to…I don’t remember his name….Jimmy Axe?...No…Johnny Ace. Unfortunately Mr Ace didn’t have the honor and courage to admit his mistake and Dr Williams stepped up for a friend down on hard times. Of course, Mr Baba always knew Mr. Ace lacked honor and now the rest of the world knows too." All were confident the issue would be resolved quickly without much problem. We here at the Observer aren’t as convinced.
Regarding Akira Maeda, things remain as unclear as they did in the weeks following the draft. Sakakibara said that Akira Maeda hasn’t returned any of his phone calls. Fujiwara accused Sakakibara of not calling Maeda because Fujiwara can always get him on the phone. He said Maeda wants a match with Takada and if Maeda wins he gets control of UWFi so Takada doesn’t try and turn it into his pro wrestling vanity project like Inoki did with New Japan. Takada said he’d fight Maeda anywhere anytime but Maeda has to answer the phone or actually show up for the fight. When asked if he would agree to Maeda’s terms of control for the company, Takada said he hasn’t heard from Maeda so there’s been no discussion of a match and therefore no terms to agree or disagree to.
At this point Sakakibara interrupted and said they wanted to bring out UWFi’s first overall draft pick Shinya Hashimoto. Hashimoto said he was honored to be UWFi’s first pick and he was going to work hard to prove that he is the best fighter in the world. Hashimoto said that he is new to the style but he knows he is the toughest fighter in the world (and he does have a rep as a tough guy) and is willing to prove it by starting from the bottom and beating everyone he needs to beat. This presumably explains why Hashimoto, one of the biggest stars in wrestling, is working an opening match at his first UWFi show. Takada thanked Hashimoto for his professionalism and his work ethic. Said he looks forward to training with Hash and mentoring him in the art of shoot style. Fujiwara audibly scoffed into the microphone at this point and said if Hashimoto was really a tough guy and wanted to prove it he would prove it by challenging Takada to a match. Fujiwara said Takada was just brainwashing Hashimoto because he doesn’t want to fight him. Hashimoto says he knows he can beat anyone in the world in a pro wrestling match but UWF wrestling is different and he is willing to prove he’s the best before grandstanding.
After Hashimoto’s time was up, Kazuo Yamazaki came out to join Takada, Sakakibara & Fujiwara at the press table. Yamazaki said how thrilled he was to stay in UWFi. Fujiwara kept leaning in and trying to talk to Yamazaki but Yamazaki tended to brush him off until Fujiwara finally gave up. Takada & Sakakibara said they were excited for many more years of Kazuo Yamazaki in the UWFi. Fujiwara mumbled “Takada just keeps you around because he always beats you” as Yamazaki exited the press room.
After Yamazaki left, Kiyoshi Tamura, who will main event the first UWFi show of this new era came out to address the media. Tamura was asked if he was worried because Kitao was about 7 inches taller and weighed almost twice as much. Tamura said he was the best fighter in the world and he wasn’t afraid of anyone no matter how big they were. Takada started to say how Tamura is full of fighting spirit but Tamura continued talking saying about Kitao it doesn’t matter how big someone is, once Tamura takes him down it will be over. Fujiwara started to pat Tamura on the back with an “Atta Boy” but Tamura brushed him off saying “Hands off, old man.” Tamura was asked if he had any interest in the Light Heavyweight Title. Tamura quickly said he had no interest in it. Said the other wrestlers in the tournament were beneath him and he said “why not just hand me the belt instead of put me in that tournament? They are all great fighters don’t get me wrong, but I am the best fighter in the world and will take on anybody. I don’t want to be held back by a weight limit. I really wish we could stop talking about this and move on.” Tamura said he wanted to prove he could fight anybody no matter how big so he wanted a shot at Kitao. Said he also wants another shot at Vader and also challenged Takada to a title match, which Takada kinda laughed off.
Vader came out next and said he’s happy to be back in Japan where no one is named Orndorff. Oops he didn’t actually say that. He said he would love to fight Tamura but doesn’t think Tamura is going to survive the fight against Kitao. Vader said he wanted a shot at Takada to prove that he was the man. Vader also said to Fujiwara that he might be a pro wrestler but he was also a pro football player and a pro fighter and he would kick his ass any day of the week. Fujiwara said, “anytime, anyplace fat boy.”
Koji Kitao came out next to speak to the reporters. He said he was shocked that he wasn’t drafted until the 18th round. Said he was the toughest guy in the world and he was going to take it out on Tamura and then beat Takada. Kitao said Takada owes him a rematch and he’s been ducking him for years. Kitao thanks Fujiwara for taking over and giving him this chance. Kitao said not to miss the Sumo hall match. He said some of the best moments of his life happened at Sumo Hall and this is going to be another. He also threatened it will be the worst night of Kiyoshi Tamura’s life.
Russian Sambo master Volk Han, who is probably the best mat wrestler in the world, came out next and thanked UWFi for selecting him and said he looked forward to showing off his skills and unique style of fighting to the UWFi fans. Fujiwara thanked Volk for coming all this way and said it was an honor to draft him. Said more wrestlers should try and wrestle like Volk instead of that loser Takada. Volk sort of awkwardly laughed at this probably not actually realizing the history between the two and the current tensions. Fujiwara said he think as reigning RINGS Mega Battle Tournament Champion, Volk should get the first title match against Takada. Volk said that sounds like a great idea. “How about it Takada-san?” Takada said he already had a match signed for the next UWFi card. Fujiwara chimed in “What about the next card?” Takada started to say something about official rankings and Fujiwara interrupted “There are no rankings anymore! Volk is the best fighter in the world and he just challenged you. Are you going to duck him in front of everybody?” At this point Takada had no choice but to accept and he agreed to face Volk Han for the title at an upcoming UWFi show. Volk thanked everybody again as Fujiwara grinned like a maniac and Takada & Sakakibara sat there silently probably fuming.
Lastly Steven Regal & Fit Finlay came out together last and were announced as a “tag team” and training partners. Fujiwara made fun of them the entire time calling them fake pro wrestlers and saying UWFi needed to do away with tag teams (perhaps forgetting that he was signed to a 6 man tag team match on the upcoming show). Said Regal & Finlay didn’t stand a chance in UWFi. Regal fired back that he was trained in the snake pit and was the toughest motherfucker in the world and loved proving loudmouths like Fujiwara wrong. He asked Fujiwara how effective his armbar would be if Regal broke all his fingers. Finlay said he was Irish and everyone around the world knows the Irish are the toughest fighters and the world and he was going to show that in the toughest promotion in the world. Fujiwara rolled his eyes as Takada & Sakakibara happily clapped.
So even after all that there’s no real clear idea what is going on with Dr Death or Akira Maeda. This is either all a work and will lead to a huge match between Maeda and Takada or it is a shoot and they really can’t get Maeda on the phone which would be a disaster. Fujiwara has been the talk of the wrestling world in the aftermath of the draft and press conference and what looked like a meaningless 6 man might actually be a heated affair. It also seems like they are building to a match between Takada & Volk Han, which would almost certainly be a match of the year candidate caliber match when it happens.