So, I got hyped on Naomichi Marufuji after his fantastic job during the Champion Carnival and Triple Crown challenge. Generally speaking, I am lukewarm on him. Sometimes, he's really a treat to watch as his execution and timing can be impeccable. Other times, his execution is spotty and over ambitious. Additionally, depending on what time period you're watching, his offense can look weak or perhaps predictable.
I eventually tempered my negative feelings by re-watching his 2006 GHC title win over Akiyama. It clicked then. He's not going to be KENTA and not be one of the AJ heavies regardless of his muscles. He's Yoshinari Ogawa with pizzazz. He is sneaky, quick, and smart. Yes, he does have a bit more flair but, he's brains over braun.
Or at least when he's great...Other times he just goes for junior fireworks.
vs Jushin Thunder Liger (12/22/09): Super J Cup. Wow! This was way better than I thought it would be. It follows the classic Jr. template but 2009 Liger has still got it. I really would have liked the leg attack on 'Fuji to have gone somewhere BUT I'm glad they didn't focus on it either. They moved on or Liger moved on, if you will. Highly recommended stuff.
vs Tigers Mask (12/23/09): Semifinal Super J Cup. Nice under 10 minute match. I don't know for sure if that was exactly the finish they wanted but, Marufuji was channeling Ogawa there at the end. This is slept on but, man it was nice, neat, and to the point.
vs Prince Devitt (12/23/09): OK this is the Super J Cup Finals! Anyhow, this is a case of a fireworks display. The story was the invading Marufuji, who's always done well in NJ Super J, going for their top Junior (and top gaijin). This was and was meant to be a cool looking Finals match. I'd highly recommend it based on its flashy new (to me) moves and action but, I didn't have a real drama. The fans were flipping out so, others may get more out of it than me. But a great way to end the tournament. Naomichi shines in tournament settings.
vs Prince Devitt (01/30/10): The rematch...this time for the IWGP Jr. strap! We get a very similar opening but, with a bit more focus on wrestling. Its not a lot but, more than you'll see in Jr. fights nowadays. The great improvement was that this match had a story to tell. Devitt had learned from his mistakes and was prepared for the NOAH hotshots stuff. 'Fuji had to be careful on what he could pull out of his bag AND when because the Irishman could hit him with a surprise. Great finishing segment. I'd have to say this was a great match and perhaps scratching a classic if you're feeling it. This shows the brains both in performance and layout.
vs Koji Kanemoto (03/05/10): Ah what could have been! This was looking to be a classic but fell into that 2010 trap of epic overkill. They provided us with 2-3 matches worth of wrestling and false finishes in one bout. It was like an arc all in one contest. Maybe it should have been 2 out of 3 falls?? I wrote a lot more in my notebook but, I'll spare you my lamentations. I hesitate to call it a great match but, the first 25 minutes really had me- more grappling & striking focused, Koji's persona & charisma, Marufuji trying to hang on against a vet. Koji and Marufuji man...
Overall, this has been a rewarding little batch of matches despite the last one. It's a clear step in the evolution of Marufuji. Speaking of that, the highly evolved 'Fuji vs Tenryu-like Akiyama CC match is up on the 'tube. Gonna check that out before that chap's account is terminated like the last dude's.
Be sure to check out the amended 2018 Champion Carnival post shortly!
Thanks for reading!