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"Shoot Style"

"Shoot Style" Puroresu is the variety of pro-wrestling that began developing in the early 1980s in New Japan Pro-Wrestling and led to formation of several companies and could be credited with the establishment of mixed martial arts in Japan and possibly the United States.  Since the 1970s, Antonio Inoki had been doing "mixed matches" with a wide array of athletes from judokas and Kyokushin karate fighters to amateur wrestlers and, most famously, boxing legend Muhammad Ali.  The generation that came up after him mastered a hybrid style of pro-wrestling and elements of martial arts.  They broke away and formed the first UWF, which was popular, but survived only for a brief time.  One, Satoru Sayama, left to develop his own style and company called Shooto.  The others returned to New Japan for an unprecedented interpromotional feud in the mid-1980s.  It was not long before they left and as the Newborn UWF made another attempt.  This second UWF was successful, lasted longer, but eventually died as its top stars all left to form their own companies.  Yoshiaki Fujiwara and his star students created the short-lived Pro-Wrestling Fujiwara-gumi (PWFG); Nobuhiko Takada was the star of a third UWF, UWF International (UWFi) and Akira Maeda formed Fighting Network RINGS.   Fujiwara's group died and led to the formation of Pancrase, which was a step closer to legit shoots, and BattlARTS, which was a step closer to traditional pro-wrestling.  The UWFi was a monumental success and, for a time, was the hottest ticket around.  However, its meteoric rise was matched by its unimaginable decline.  Many of its stars went to New Japan for another huge interpromotional feud, but eventually many went on to form Kingdom.  RINGS was a big success and ran for over a decade, expanding in unprecedented ways and taking the style to its artistic heights as the best practitioners from the UWFi came in.  After the NJPW-UWFi feud culminated, Nobuhiko Takada worked to establish Pride FC, a "full" shoot organization.  As the new millenium came, shoot-style puroresu gave way to legit shoot fighting.  Major stars from RINGS, Kingdom, BattlARTS, Pancrase and even New Japan tried their hand in Pride FC and other shoot organizations with mixed results.  RINGS eventually went to shoots themselves before closing their doors.  Kiyoshi Tamura tried to revive the "shoot style" with his U-Style company, which was an off-shoot of the small MMA company DEEP.  Pride FC grew to astonishing heights and its popularity and influence is credited by many for the decline of puroresu's popularity.  Interestingly, Akira Maeda returned to the scene as a public face for Hero's, a new company backed by K-1's parent company, which would compete with Pride FC.  Scandals and allegations of yakuza involvement rocked Pride and they lost their TV, forcing them to sell their assets to Zuffa (the parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship) in 2007.  Hero's brought several Pride executives on board and rebranded itself as Dream and is now the public face of MMA in Japan, although they will never be as popular as Pride was in its heyday.


UWF - Universal Wrestling Federation (1984-1985)
In 1983, New Japan had young talents that were growing tired of the pecking order that held them back despite their popularity with the crowd and innovative styles. At the forefront was Akira Maeda had an innovative style and dynamic personality, but never became the heir to Inoki that maybe he should have been. These two in addition to other frustrated talent left the company to start their own group, the UWF. Several of the founding members left when it was decided the group would feature a more realistic shoot-style. The company was joined by Satoru Sayama, the former Tiger Mask. Tiger Mask had made more of a huge impact over his two years in New Japan than most pro-wrestlers have in a full career, but retired suddenly in 1983. The company was doomed from the start with in-fighting (Maeda and Sayama had stylistic differences) and poor business decisions bringing things down. Maeda led a group back to New Japan for a hot interpromotional feud and he seemed poised to take a top spot, but a legit cheap shot on Riki Choshu led to his firing in 1987. He and his cohorts restarted the UWF and he secured some fresh talent from New Japan. Although the product was sharper and they were more popular, this UWF also failed due to stylistic problems between Maeda and president Shinji Jin who wanted to incorporate traditional and lucha libre styles. Maeda and Yoshiaki Fujiwara formed their own groups, while
 Nobuhiko Takada was the star of a third UWF called "UWF International."


Yoshiaki Fujiwara
Masakatsu Funaki 
Ryuma Go 
Gran Hamada 
Mach Hayato 
Osamu Kido 
Rusher Kimura 
Akira Maeda
Nobuhiko Takada 
Super Tiger
Kazuo Yamazaki



"Newborn" UWF - Universal Wrestling Federation (1988-1990) 
Twice in the 1980s, Akira Maeda led the UWF. He had been one of New Japan's top stars, but was prevented from climbing to the top. Instead, he and other talent left New Japan to start a new company in 1984. Three original members: IWE's former top star Rusher Kimura, the undersized Gran Hamada and the eccentric Ryuma Go were members, but after it was decided the company would try a more realistic style, they left for All Japan. The former Tiger Mask, Satoru Sayama, and his student Kazuo Yamazaki joined the company. Faction forming and bad business led to the UWF's demise in 1985. Maeda led his crew back to New Japan, but grew frustrated again and was fired in 1988. He restarted the UWF with a similar roster and added some young New Japan trainees of his. This UWF was much better, but was plagued by some of the same problems that forced it to close in late 1990.

Yoji Anjoh
Yoshiaki Fujiwara
Masakatsu Funaki 
Akira Maeda
Yuko Miyato
Tatsuo Nakano
Satoru Sayama 
Minoru Suzuki
Nobuhiko Takada 
Kiyoshi Tamura 
Kazuo Yamazaki



PWFG - Pro-Wrestling Fujiwara-Gumi (1991-1995) 
After the death of the second UWF, Yoshiaki Fujiwara decided to form his own company. Originally called "New UWF Fujiwara-gumi," he signed two great aspiring stars in Masa Funaki and Minoru Suzuki. The group was an extension of the UWF legacy, but focused on young talent, which it developed very well before it was split in two to form Pancrase in 1993 and BattlARTS in 1995.

Yoshiaki Fujiwara
Yusuke Fuke
Masakatsu Funaki 
Daisuke Ikeda
Yuki Ishikawa 
Takeshi Ono 
Naoki Sano 
(Ken) Wayne Shamrock  
Minoru Suzuki
Katsumi Usuda



UWFi - Union of Wrestling Forces International (1991-1996) 
When the second UWF folded, they had an excellent talent pool to use. Some joined Yoshiaki Fujiwara, but most continued with the new UWF, called "UWF International." This group took the UWF style to the next level. They wisely used their established stars, built new Japanese stars and brought in gaijin talent to display a global appeal. They were very successful, but financial mismanagement caused problems. They tried to rekindle the New Japan-UWF feud and while the box offices were huge, the booking was poor. The UWFi started bringing traditional pro-wrestlers in to elevate interest, but mixed martial arts was the wave of the future and they couldn't keep their appeal with their style. 


Gary "Air" Albright 
Yoji Anjoh
Masahito Kakihara
Hiromitsu Kanehara
Yuko Miyato
Tatsuo Nakano
Kazushi Sakuraba  
Yuuhi Sano
Dan Severn 
Nobuhiko Takada 
Yoshihiro Takayama
Kiyoshi Tamura 
Vader 
Kennichi Yamamoto 
Kazuo Yamazaki


Fighting Network RINGS (1991-2002) 
Akira Maeda had twice unsuccessfully formed the UWF and when it folded a second time, he took control to create his own vision of pro-wrestling with his authority reigning supreme. Fighting Network RINGS signed a deal with the TV station WOWOW and brought in legit talent from all over the world. They used native stars, but did not rely on them as heavily as UWFi and Fujiwaragumi did. RINGS was even more realistic in its approach and after finding its footing became the longest running and arguably the best of the shoot-style promotions. Maeda was the native star in the formative years and then passed on his legacy to former UWFi superstar Kiyoshi Tamura, judoka Tsuyoshi Kohsaka and trainees of his. In 1999, he came out of retirement to battle Alexander Karelin, perhaps the greatest Greco-Roman wrestler in recorded history. RINGS slowly turned into a legitimate promotion and many MMA greats got their start in the company, namely Pride FC stars Antonio Nogueira and Fedor Emelianenko. RINGS ran their final Japanese show in 2002, although brands in Holland and Lithuania continued over the next few years. Maeda revived RINGS in 2008, after leaving the start-up MMA group Hero's, running smaller MMA shows as "RINGS: The Outsider."


Chris Dolman
"Blue Wolf" Volk Han 
Hiromitsu Kanehara 
"TK" Tsuyoshi Kohsaka 
Andrei Kopylov 
Akira Maeda 
Mitsuya Nagai 
Hans Nijman
Wataru Sakata 
Kiyoshi Tamura 
Blitsadze Tariel 
Dick Vrij
Kennichi Yamamoto 
Yoshihisa Yamamoto 



BattlARTS (1995-) 
After several stars left Fujiwara-gumi to form Pancrase, the company was in trouble. They downsized and repackaged themselves as BattlARTS. They chose a new style. The UWFi had grown bigger and were using the same style with better and more known talent. RINGS was more legitimate and had more international flavor. Pancrase was legit and was growing fast. BattlARTS with ties to Michinoku Pro, developed a style that leaned more toward traditional pro-wrestling than mixed martial arts. While it was an independent company with a strange flavor, BattlARTS had a good run from 1998-2002 and produced some excellent talent that have gone on to bigger things. From 2001 on, they've only run periodic shows and have often partnered up with other groups, they have yet to officially run a finale show, although it has been mentioned.

Daisuke Ikeda
Yuki Ishikawa
Daijiro Matsui  
Mitsuya Nagai
Alexander Otsuka 
Naoki Sano  
Minoru Tanaka 
Katsumi Usuda 


Kingdom (1997-1998) 
After the UWFi folded, the talent had two options in the next couple years - join a pro-wrestling company or begin fighting. Kingdom was the downsized version of the UWFi without the outsiders, without the gaijin talent and without the big production. They did, however, have the most talented workers at the shoot-style. While they were very short-lived and did not create much, Kingdom was the final UWF derivative promotion before the MMA influence washed over the pro-wrestling world. Nearly all of its roster would fight in Pride FC with mixed results. Kazushi Sakuraba, who had been a small undercarder in the UWFi and was a promising talent in Kingdom, became the biggest Japanese star in Mixed Martial Arts history. 

Yoji Anjoh 
Masahito Kakihara  
Hiromitsu Kanehara 
Shunsuke (Daijiro) Matsui  
Kazushi Sakuraba  
Yuuhi Sano 
Nobuhiko Takada 
Kennichi Yamamoto

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