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[2006-10-29-NOAH-Autumn Navigation] KENTA vs Naomichi Marufuji

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Early match gives me hope. They seem to have some idea of how to build up a match without doing overlong amounts of time-wasting. KENTA working over Marufuji's ribs is really, really good. Marufuji does this moonsault off the top into the crowd in an attempt to kill himself. Which comes a few inches from succeeding. And ends up busting KENTA open because he hits him with his shin/knee. The match goes completely off the rails during the finishing run. It's just big bombs, some of which are very cool to watch. They do some good teases in there, but too much time spent popping the crowd, getting the big nearfall and laying around. I question whether or not they are still tag partners after this match too. some of the early stuff was pretty vicious to be doing to your tag partner.

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GHC Heavyweight Champion Naomichi Marufuji vs KENTA - Budokan 10/29/06

 

HOLY OVERKILL, BATMAN! This match was like a bad progressive rock album (I know that's redundant ;) ). Sacrificing hooks for more notes at lightning speeds. Sacrificing meaningful transitions for inane time changes. You could probably have constructed 4 or 5 great matches around some of the spots in this match. They easily could have built a classic match around the dueling body part work at the outset of the match, Marufuji establishes why he is the champion countering KENTA at every turn and taking the lead with a DDT onto the apron. He works the neck well to contain the lightning fast KENTA. Any time KENTA gets spunky, he elbows him in the neck, but one time KENTA sneaks in a roundhouse kick. KENTA work on the ribs/abs of Marufuji is really excellent and probably the best continuous portion of the match. So that was one match that could have been great.

 

Then Marufuji hits a springboard dropkick to send KENTA to the outside. KENTA whiffs on a kick and straddles the railing. Marufuji decided to his and KENTA's life in his own hands with an Asai Moonsault that busts KENTA's nose open hardway and nearly decapitates himself on the railing. They could have been built an entire match around this hook with each struggling to overcome the injures from this high risk move. It shows how much the Heavyweight Title means to two Junior Heavyweights.

 

Instead, a minute later they keep going balls to the wall. I am not taking anything away from their toughness because I would be running for the locker room if I was either one of these guys, but fuck talk about killing the severity of legitimately scary spot. Shit like Marufuji ramming KENTA's head into the post only for KENTA to catch him mid-air with an Ace Crusher was just like what the hell is point of all this. Or KENTA slapping Marufuji and now Marufuji has all this energy to run the ropes and lariat KENTA. It was like I was playing my brother in a video game and finally hit an L1 enough to make my guy run to the ropes to avoid his strikes. I can play my brother in Here Comes The Pain for 35 minutes and have a great time, but I am pretty sure no one else wants to watch that.

 

In another spot that I think they could have built a match around was KENTA sending Marufuji to the floor on a sliced bread attempt. If Marufuji had been kicking his ass for 10-15 minutes and KENTA finally hits this tide-turning move that would have been a great Wow moment, Instead some shit happened involving the ramp where nobody took a move,

 

Another sequence that could have been the hook to a match was the apron struggle with KENTA hitting a Steiner Screwdriver off the apron. It is high-risk transition that could lead to a sweet heat segment and eventual hot comeback. Marufuji does a great job writhing in pain and when KENTA comes over the top with a double stomp, Marufuji is really good at making me feel for him. Before you know it Marufuji has hit a Sliced Bread as a transition move. Did I mention this was after KENTA hit his Exploding Knee (his secondary finish)? Shaking my head.

 

In a hilarious moment, they are just suplexing each other. KENTA does not have a good grip and lets go and Marufuji just suplexes himself. Fuck this match. They hit a bunch of huge bombs and start running ropes really fast and hit some kicks and Spanish Fly and a Cradle Piledriver gives Marufuji. I don't give a fuck. The fact that this only drew 11.5k (lowest to date in NOAH history) mean about 5.5k did not either.

 

It is too bad I am not a promoter because I now have a great template for my next 4-5 main events. Every match is a collection of spots. In this match, the spots did not connect nor did they mean anything. They had some really nifty spots, they had some overwrought spots and they had some pathetic spots. Spots don't make a match. I can forgive a match that is 20 minutes of a spot-a-thon, but at 35 minutes you are wasting my time. Don't waste my time. Worst match I have watched for this project.

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I recently watched this match to see if it held up for me back when I saw in 06 and it held up well. I know the criticism of the match is that there are too many overkill spots but the background going into that match is interesting.

 

Noah clearly had a youth movement going in 06 and Marufuji was the guy at the head of it at the moment but Morishima was the guy that was being groomed long term. Jun Akiyama was in the middle of a disappointing GHC Title reign and putting the belt seemed to be the right thing to do. Plus, they wanted to get Marufuji over into America to defend the title as he did with Nigel McGuiness.

 

So, you have KENTA as Marufuji's 1st opponent in Japan cause KENTA beat Marufuji earlier in the year in a GHC Junior title defense. Superstar Sleeze talks about the show drawing poorly but that's because the undercard of this show was pretty bad for a standard Budokan Hall show and it was billed as a one match show - Marufuji vs KENTA. Noah had some great shows leading up to this but Misawa dropped the ball on this show by not giving them support.

 

Two perceived juniors fighting for the Heavyweight crown in Budokan Hall sounds absurd but dammit they had to do overkill to get everybody's attention that show.

 

KENTA's midsection work on Marufuji was great including the double knees to the chest and the Falcon Arrow from the apron to the floor. The only stuff that is bad are suplex spots which look ridiculous and the the botched Go 2 Sleep when Marufuji comes off the top. I just chalk it up as them being inexperienced and trying to do too much but if you're try to do that, you have to go for it in the spot they were in. They both knew it was their one shot cause Misawa put the belt on himself after that but the match was good overall.

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Marufuji vs. KENTA – October 29, 2006

A significant improvement over their excellent singles encounter 9 months earlier, and even better than I had remembered.
Marufuji’s early work on KENTA’s left leg wasn’t enough to keep the recently slain ROH juggernaut down, Unlike their prior match and the referenced masterpiece 6 weeks earlier between KENTA and Bryan Danielson, it was minor work thanks to a change in strategy for Marufuji. Instead of continuing the strategy of the left leg to take away KENTA’s most significant offense, which Marufuji saw didn’t work at all at Glory By Honor V Night 2 despite a greater effort from Danielson, he improvised with a slingshot DDT to KENTA on the apron. This not only played into a terrific story throughout the match, but was a way to taking a highlight from the Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit classic from Royal Rumble 2003, that being the apron DDT, and putting their own spin on it.
The slingshot apron DDT caused damage to KENTA’s neck and shoulder, so that’s what Marufuji targeted with various submissions. KENTA would tease some comebacks out of desperation, only for Marufuji to cause KENTA to bend over and be prone to a neck strike to cut him off. After several minutes of this tremendous work, KENTA finally managed to make a successful comeback with desperate kicks, particularly striking Marufuji’s abdomen. This then became KENTA’s strategy to work on Marufuji’s core.
KENTA was tremendous as well with his strategy, delivering many blows to Marufuji’s core and also applying a body scissors submission. When Marufuji would attempt a comeback, KENTA would quickly land a kick to the abs to cut off the reigning GHC Heavyweight Champion. It would take a major error on KENTA’s part for Marufuji to regain the heat.
KENTA would for a move on the apron but ended up eating a short-distance springboard shotgun dropkick from a desperate Marufuji. The champ then ran the ropes for an aerial attack to the outside only for KENTA to evade it. KENTA went for a roundhouse kick only for Maruufji to duck, and the momentum caused KENTA to spill over the ringside barricade when Marufuji capitalized. With KENTA down, Marufuji yanked the barricade closer to the apron and went for a moonsault that bloodied KENTA, but it came with a price as the champ’s face and/or throat struck the top of the barricade. This would lead to a good count out false finish for KENTA.
Marufuji was able to overcome the pain he unintentionally gave himself thanks to KENTA’s dazed status and bloodied face, including hitting an intelligent face smash onto the top of a ring post. Eventually the fight would spill to the outside and they teased a number of moves off the apron ramp, including a Shiranui. Nothing would be hit successfully, as Marufuji landed on his feet when he got suplexed off of it and then surprised KENTA with a superkick. They continued battling outside though, eventually leading to KENTA hitting a Falcon Arrow off the apron onto the floor!
This basically transitioned into a phenomenal closing stretch over the next several minutes with all kinds of bombs being thrown including strikes and suplexes aplenty. I loved that when KENTA hit the Go 2 Sleep, Marufuji intelligently made sure to bounce towards the ropes, showing another thing he learned from Danielson on how to slay KENTA. I also loved that a straightjacket Shiranui was just a near-fall, since it didn’t quite have the dramatic conclusiveness to properly wrap up this timeless masterpiece.
Once Marufuji hit a Flux Capicator and then a Cradle Michinoku Driver, there was no way KENTA would manage to kick out. In a great touch, KENTA even has to have help walking to the backstage area afterwards, truly selling the devastation left by the champion and his former tag partner. It was a devastating finish, a proper end to a brutal match layered with fantastic psychology and the bombs serving as blockbuster special effects to compliment it. Without exaggeration, this match a decade later truly serves as one of the greatest matches in puroresu history, and having seen plenty of both men’s resume (although with a tremendous chunk yet to be seen of course), is my pick as the best match that these two have ever had. The consumers that decided to not buy tickets for this out of a misguided and/or preconditioned prejudice towards cruiserweights in the main event scene only did themselves a disservice. *****

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I have never liked this match, but since I am doing a little KENTA project, I decided that what the heck, let's give it a shot one more time.

 

Marufuji's work on top during the beginning stakes of the match was spotty at best. Mostly it was very forgettable, but there were some great moments like him striking KENTA down by going after his neck. KENTA's selling of Marufuji's onslaught was really good. When it was time for KENTA to get his big comeback in, the match really got fantastic, I LOVED his comeback, he had such a badass one all the while selling the damage Marufuji had done. KENTA's control segment was really damn good, his work over Marufuji was vicious. Then comes the most memorable spot of the match - Marufuji hitting the guardrail with his THROAT is still one of the most brutal things I have ever seen in a wrestling ring. From then on the match pretty much becomes a full on spotfest with them hitting each other w/ their big moves - it's not bad though, as the excitement & urgency gradually built & built as they went into that section of the match. They did go a bit into the overkill zone by the end though. Overall on this watch I actually really, really, REALLY liked this match. Pretty surprised about that. ****1/4

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Felt like rewatching this after enjoying their performances in the 1/26/2003 Misawa/Kobashi tag. Like others, I really liked the early parts of this match and it felt like it had the potential to be a classic. The dueling bodypart work was really well done and led to some very nice cut-offs from both guys. They also were great at establishing differences in styles with Marufuji as the flashy high flyer and KENTA as the bully striker. There was a very nice sense of escalating violence building up to that incredible spot where Marufuji nearly decapitates himself on the guard rail off a moonsault and busts open KENTA in the process.

 

The work after that big spot seems divisive. I was disappointed that they dropped the bodypart work in favor throwing bombs, but this is a case where I just have to appreciate them for what they did rather than hate them for what they didn't do. The counters and struggles are really, really well done and both guys display some amazing athleticism in doing them. The match respects the standards of grit and brutality set by their predecessors while also feeling like a match only KENTA and Marufuji could have. Someone complained that not all the struggle moments led to big spots, but I thought it was a pretty great idea. Hell, the stuff on the ramp with them attempting a german suplex only to land on their feet might have been my favorite moment of the match. At once, it functioned great as a callback to the famous spot from Misawa/Kobashi 3/1/2003 while doing through some impressive athletic maneuvers that their predecessors couldn't do. The struggle on the apron leading to the falcon arrow to the outside and Marufuji's sell of it was quite good as well.

 

I'd also say that this is easily the most impressive I've seen Marufuji look in a match. In the coming years, he would become one of my least favorite wrestlers as he seemingly used this match as a cue to start incorporating all kinds of goofy shit in his offense to show off until an ACL injury forced him to slow down. On this night, though, he legitimately does look like the best guy in the promotion. Putting aside any issues I have with he layout, he was fantastic here with how he sold, took multiple insane bumps, and cleanly hit a multitude of spectacular high spots.

 

Now for the bad. I agree that the finish run was overkill, and that they easily could have spread the big spots used over a series of matches over the coming months. Still, I'm reluctant to hold it against them simply because they weren't going to be wrestling over the coming months. I have a feeling they knew before the bell even rung that their series was never going to be the focal point of the promotion at this point and this was their big opportunity to shine together, hence their kitchen sink approach. That said, I agree that it would be a better match if the work was built around just a couple of spots and they gave things time to breathe instead of trying to cram everything into one match.

 

I mentioned that these guys respected the standard of brutality set by their predecessors, but I think it was to a fault. The german suplex/backdrop exchange, aside from looking awful, felt out of place and felt like they just worked it in because they lacked confidence in their ability to hold the crowd without trading head drops. Marufuji eating a tiger suplex off the top rope was also uncomfortable after watching the guard rail spot from earlier and again felt more like a bump their took because they thought they needed to do it rather than something that had a place in the match. These guys absolutely had the potential for an epic in them. They just had to tighten things up and work smarter. ****

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This felt like an excellent game of Fire Pro Wrestling, where each player gets to hit every move in their moveset and there's an abundance of 2.9 falls, but that doesn't translate to being a great pro-wrestling match. This match was total overkill. They crammed a year-long rivalry worth of stuff into one bloated 35-minute epic. That's not to say that I hated this though, as the high spots were jaw-dropping and the strikes were rock-hard. Marufuji is able to use his athletism to come up with some pretty creative spots. The transitions in this one just aren't very good. KENTA fighting back after eating an apron DDT early into the match should have felt like a huge deal, but this wasn't handled well and it made the first big move of the match feel like a complete afterthought. They started to lose me once KENTA botched the GTS counter and they started a rotten sequence where they just got up and started to drop each other on their heads. This is one of those matches where you can just watch the highlights and you aren't exactly going to be missing much. ★★★½

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