|Owner(s)||None; no longer in business|
Union of Wrestling Forces International, better known as UWF International, U-Inter, or simply UWFi, was a shoot style professional wrestling promotion in Japan from 1991 to 1996. Although the matches were worked (i.e. predetermined), the UWF-i was very convincing for its time, promoting a more hard-hitting, realistic style. In retrospect, UWFi, along with other shoot-style promotions, served as precursors to the popular MMA promotions of today, particularly PRIDE.
The promotion was founded on May 10, 1991, as a continuation of the UWF. The UWF-i featured most of UWF's roster, and was led by Nobuhiko Takada, who was the top star and face. Other natives for the promotion included Kazuo Yamazaki, Yoji Anjo, Kiyoshi Tamura, Tatsuo Nakano, Yuko Miyato, Masahito Kakihara and kickboxer Makoto Oe. Vintage shooter Billy Robinson was used as a trainer for their gym (the UWFi Snakepit), and wrestling legend Danny Hodge occasionally served as a judge in their pursuit of old-school credibility.
In 1992, the UWFi introduced its first championship, the "Real Pro-Wrestling World Heavyweight Title", which was won by Takada after a victory over top foreign antagonist Gary Albright. Lou Thesz acted as commissioner and lent his 1950s NWA World title belt to be used as the distinction for it. The theme of UWFi being "real pro-wrestling" was central to the promotion's image, and both Thesz and Takada would deride other Japanese promotions (particularly New Japan Pro Wrestling) for being "fake", while claim themselves to be legit. UWF-i, however, was no more legit than any other group at the time. Takada went so far as to challenge the champions of other major Japanese promotions, in an effort to determine who was the true world champion.
In 1993, WCW World Champion Super Vader had accepted Thesz and Takada's grandstand challenge, whereas the aforementioned champions were "too afraid" of Takada to face him. After Gary Albright quit UWFi to join All Japan and Vader left over money disputes, the promotion was left with a lack of credible challengers to Takada's title, and interest in the promotion began to wane. After being overlooked several times, Kazuo Yamazaki left to return to New Japan.
In 1995, Anjo and other UWFi bookers proposed co-promoting with New Japan Pro Wrestling, as a potential solution to their financial problems. New Japan booker Riki Chōshū agreed, under the condition that New Japan have full control over the booking of the interpromotional matches. Thesz, who saw New Japan as another gimmicky promotion, withdrew his support as a result and took the belt with him. For Chōshū, it was an opportunity to get payback for Thesz and Takada's earlier derision of their wrestling style, and was determined to show fans that the real stars were in New Japan. All of UWF-i's stars mainly lost the interpromotional matches, with the exception of Takada, who won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Kiyoshi Tamura, left UWFi in 1995 to join rival promotion, RINGS.
In 1996, as the New Japan feud died down, UWF-i formed an alliance with Genichiro Tenryu's WAR. The damage to the promotion's credibility had already been done, however, and UWFi had its farewell card ("UWF FINAL") on December 27, 1996 at Tokyo's Korakuen Hall arena. Most of the UWF-i roster formed Kingdom, which would promote a similar product on a smaller scale. Kingdom would have a presence at UFC Ultimate Japan in 1997, as Yoji Anjo would lose to Tank Abbott, while Kazushi Sakuraba won the heavyweight tournament.
The combatants would start with 15 points each, as points would be lost for knockout attempts, being at a disadvantage during a hold and/or for breaking a hold by grabbing onto the ring ropes with their hand(s) and/or feet.
Tag team matches would be allowed as well, with 21 points given to a team at start time. However, the points system was rarely referred to, as a wrestler or team losing points could still win by forcing his opponent to submit or by knocking him out.