THE TWO SHEDS REVIEW by Julian Radbourne – now in it’s 10th year!
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If, while watching Kane defeat Rey Mysterio at WWE’s Money in the Bank someone told you that the new champion was pivotal to the development of mixed martial arts in Japan in the 20th century you’d probably call them crazy.
Ultimate Fighting Legends is a documentary in which noted martial artist Hisao Maki discusses the ten fights he believes shaped the martial arts from the end of World War II through to 1999.
Originally released in 2000, Maki choose matches from a number of disciplines. Although the majority of these fights mainly involve people who have made their name in the professional wrestling industry.
At a time when the kayfabe manual was being torn up and thrown away, these fights are discussed as if they were legitimate contests. The phrase “worked shoot” never comes into play here.
Beginning with the infamous Antonio Inoki/Muhammad Ali fight in 1978, Maki picks out the strong points of his ten chosen fights, putting over these points extremely well.
There are highlights from a variety of contests, including a women’s boxing match putting Sugar Miyaki against Tomomi Dan in 1996, and an appearance from legendary American kickboxer Benny “The Jet” Urquidez.
But the majority of the fights have a professional wrestling link. There’s a tag-team match featuring four Tiger Masks, a UWF fight between Satoru Sayama and Yoshiaki Fujiwara, as well as a match which, Maki says, began the famed Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling promotion, Atsushi Onita versus Masashi Aoyagi.
As for WWE’s new World Champion, Glen Jacobs is featured in a shoot-style contest against Koji Kitao from 1996, a year before he became the Big Red Machine.
The final part of the documentary centres on the 1980 fight between Antonio Inoki and Willie Williams, a wild professional wrestling versus karate affair that almost cause a riot by the looks of things.
There’s some great footage from all the fights, sadly only in highlight form, but you still get the feelings that Maki is trying to convey.
So in all, this would probably appeal to professional wrestling and mixed martial arts fans alike. It’s a nice little peace of history, if somewhat quaint by today’s standards, considering the way we view professional wrestling now.
Be warned though, if you buy this because of the packaging you may be a little disappointed. It makes mention of the likes of Hulk Hogan and Mike Tyson, but neither are mentioned in the film. It also says that the documentary lasts just under two hours. It doesn’t, clocking in at about fifty-five minutes.
But this is enjoyable nonetheless, and a nice slice of Japanese combat sports history that is easily available from the likes of Amazon.