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[2005-05-08-NOAH-Differ Cup] KENTA & Naomichi Marufuji vs Ikuto Hidaka & Minoru Fujita

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This was a throwaway watch for me. Liking a lot of these NOAH matches vs. people from other companies, so I thought I'd give this a try. The length threw me at first and I really thought I was in for an unhappy 30+ minutes. OH BOY was I wrong. First and foremost, the crowd is so very behind Fujita and Hidaka. To the point where they boo KENTAfuji. Second, KENTA and Marufuji eat that shit up and make sure they play to it. I had a quibble with some of the flippy shit between Hidaka and Marufuji early (and late), as well as Fujita taking over from some good Hidaka legwork on KENTA and ignoring the leg. But then Fujita's heat segment starts and I forget all about that because this shit is off the charts awesome. Marufuji works really simple through the whole thing. I know, seems highly unlikely. He hits this great DDT on the ramp, then proceeds to face Fujita at some of the crowd and puts on a camel clutch. As if to say, "Take a look at your boy now." Marufuji heeling it up >>>>>>> Marufuji otherwise. KENTA gets in on the act, hitting some boot scrapes and then playing to the crowd really nicely. Finishing run is really good, Marufuji's overly flippy stuff gets countered a lot. Hidaka still goes a bit too far with it, but most matches have flaws. I wish KENTA would sell the leg a bit too. They do good setup work between falls, end is super hot and this is probably top 30.

 

Edit: Forgot to mention the great figure four Hidaka works on KENTA. Really well done.

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KENTA & Marufuji vs. Fujita & Hidaka - May 7, 2005

As I suspected, hot tag segments were preserved for this Differ Cup Final rather than being blown on the earlier matches. The result is a great match, although not a tippy-top all-time classic that I'm sure many deem this to be. Of note is that Fujita & Hidaka have some NWA or Zero-1 Tag belts with them, but I'm not sure which tag championship specifically.

In this one, KENTA got his left leg worked on early, but enough damage wasn't done to matter. But the Zero-1 team would much later go back to that left leg, yet KENTA didn't sell it in the very finish, which to me is what took this from being at the very tippy-top as mentioned earlier. However, what I loved is that the finishing several minutes were absolutely incredible, creating a formula that so many teams in ROH and PWG have copied largely to lesser match quality results.

Also fond to me was the GHC Jr. Tag Champs becoming the default heels when KENTA did the boot scrapes on Fujita, which the crowd jeered as that had been an established signature spot for Fujita. I'll definitely keep an eye on that for KENTA's matches involving Samoa Joe when I catch up to those. There was also another moment when Marufuji delivered a subtle (but to the detail-oriented blatant) eyepoke. When the hot tag was achieved for the Zero-1 team to go into the third and final act, the crowd went absolutely apeshit, as there were also old-school segments of the referee not allowing them to help each other.

Hidaka did everything he could to keep Marufuji at bay while Fujita had some jaw-dropping attempts to put KENTA away, including a leg-whip on the left leg from the top rope, followed by the Boneyard, and then attempting another Boneyard submission moments later when the opportunity came. But KENTA wouldn't submit, finding ways to reach the ropes, and Marufuji was able to break up a pinfall attempt after a successful Michinoku Driver. After multiple Busaiku knees though, it was inevitable that NOAH's team would win this instant classic. ****1/4

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Rewatched this today after several years and I thought this was OK at best, but nothing truly special. Marufuji is the guy I like the least in this match, yet he had my favorite moment in this when he and KENTA locked in the dual octopus hold and he did the finger guns at Hidaka. I maybe alone, but a lot of the early segments in this felt somewhat meaningless as it was a lengthy beatdown on Fujita that got thrown out later as he was back and hitting spots like crazy for 10 or so minutes in the finishing run and it also led to a somewhat mild tag to Hidaka. Hidaka and Marufuji barely holding onto each other to prevent the the saves did not look good as you could tell they were barely just touching other and not even putting any effort into holding themselves back. I think it's also worth noting that KENTA's strikes leading up to the Busaiku knee kick look really weak as he is barely making any contact (if any at all) and just running through the motions leading to a running knee. The doomsday Busaiku knee kick is a unique spot, but I'd gladly take a stiff Road Warriors doomsday device with a lariat over this or an assisted Steiner Brothers bulldog over this. I don't want to sound cynical or put anyone off this as I am sure there's folks who love this and I get why they would love it, but it's just not appealing to me.

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