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[2003-07-16-NOAH-Accomplish Our Third Navigation] Jushin Liger & Takehiro Murahama vs KENTA & Naomichi Marufuji

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KENTAFuji vs New Japan (Jushin Liger & Takehiro Murahama) - GHC Jr Heavyweight Tag Title Final 07/16/03

After their awful performance in the 8-man Burning vs Sterness tag, I was fearing for the worst from KENTAFuji and I expected that these matches would confirm the worst of what their detractors say about their spot-fu, bereft of selling style. However, I love polarizing figures in wrestling because they challenge me to evaluate the match on its merits not on the reputation. You cant let someone else dictate your opinions. You have to go to the primary source to develop your own. I have seen other KENTA and Marufuji matches, but for the purposes of this project, this is only the second match I have reviewed. I thought they belted this one out of the park. I would call this second best junior heavyweight match I have seen so far and the best of the New Japan vs NOAH junior tags. Funny how Murahama is two of top three best junior heavyweight matches and I had never heard of him until this project. Much like when I watched the New Japan/Osaka trios match, as soon as I saw Murahama hook it up with KENTA I wanted that singles match hell sign me up for a KENTA/Minoru Tanaka singles bout. Another feather in Liger's cap proving that he is the greatest Japanese junior heavyweight and globally I would say Rey Mysterio is the only one who is in the same league as him.

KENTA/Murahama kick off the bout with some really neat shoot-style standup and KENTA hits a running big boot on Liger on the apron. This ain't going to be no exhibition there is some bad blood here, baby. I love how Liger swatted the gymnast, Marufuji out of the sky early with a palm strike. Marufuji to his credit went toe to toe with Murahama in headbutts showing that he was not all bad aerials and light offense. After the little shoot-style intro, they hit their dives. KENTA comes up a little short on his, but Marufuji does hit a sweet spingboard moonsault onto Liger to the outside. Then there is a weird heel in peril segment where KENTAFuji works over Murahama and Marufuji hits his first shitty move and it just drags. Murahama wakes us up with a sweet flip dive onto KENTA and here comes THE BOOM! Liger destroys KENTA: frogsplash, wicked Ligerbomb, surfboard, camel clutch (complete with Murahama kicks). Murahama transitions to KENTA's legs and applies a figure-4. KENTA does a pretty good garnering sympathy from the crowd as the New Japan invaders are really laying it on. KENTA/Murahama hit mirror strikes on each other, but Murahama tags Liger in and he knocks Fuji off apron with the palm strike and wallops KENTA with one in the corner. KENTA is finally able to tag Marufuji after a tornado DDT onto the top rope and springboard dropkick. It is not much a hot tag as Liger smokes with a palm strike after a short sequence and then catches him off the top with a wicked powerbomb and then the Ligerbomb looks to finish it. Two more brainbusters cant get the job done as KENTA saves. Marufuji hits a superkick and Liger a palm strike to knock each other out. I am loving the KENTA/Murahama interactions as they just rock it again with the kick combos. Murahama is able to get a brainbuster, German suplex and finally a double wristlock, which is treated as a finish. Murahama kicks KENTA's bad arm so he catches that leg and elbows it. Muraham switches to other leg and KENTA catches that and dragon leg screw. Well done! Tag to Fuji and we hit the finish run. Melee ensues. Murahama actually gets a nearfall on Marufuji after a couple kicks to head. KENTA owns Liger with a wicked strike combo. KENTAFuji hot their version of Doomsaday Device with a knee instead of lariat. Liger saves. The finish is a nice Marufuji shooting star press as they become the inaugural GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions.

 

This was one helluva a balls to the wall affair. Besides the weird heel in peril segment (like 2-3 minutes of a 26 minute match), these four brought all the action to deliver a great fireworks spectacle. KENTA/Murahama stood out as a great pairing and I hope there is a singles match between the two of them out there. Liger was the MVP of this for me. He proved that not only could he could keep up with the young guns that his offense was truly timeless. Plus Liger dismantling Marufuji should bring a smile to everyone's face. Nothing has changed in terms of me thinking that KENTA is light years ahead of Marufuji. If someone could slow KENTA down a bit and force him to sell he has some great matches in him. KENTA was great in his FIPs, just long-term selling is what I mean. Marufuji was definitely more reigned in here, but his superkick is weak and his offense is too light. He toned down the dumb shit and was working better, but I don't think he is salvageable. In 2003, the juniors are 2 for 2 in terms of big action blockbusters in my book. ****1/4

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I didn't love this. KENTA as face in peril was great. Murahama and Liger brought everything you could hope for. Marufuji really did not look good besides the headbutts and the massive dive. The KENTA vs. Murahama stuff was fun, but didn't take up enough of the match. Marufuji before the toning down of all the high flying/jumping stuff is not something I like to watch all that much. I get really tired of the leg slapping in place of actually hitting something with your kick.

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Thank god Kikuchi was given the task of holding the NOAH end of the NJPW vs NOAH junior feud last year. This match stands to prove how much Marufuji could have stunk up that feud had he been given the chance. It's not awful but it feel like a major step down.

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Craziest thing was I could not remember a single thing from this match. I knew I loved it, but couldn't remember anything. I don't know why because this was awesome. It was different than your Kikuchi vs Liger tags, but I would not say a step down. It was about Liger trying to beat some respect into the new kids and I thought this was very heated in the beginning and settled into a more typical tag formula. I loved Liger throwing KENTA to Fuji and saying come get me big boy. Very rarely do we get CLash of the Titans in the Juniors, but that's how it felt. You could tell how amped Liger was to be in there. Dives were great. KENTA FIP rocked it, Camel Clutch with those Murahama kicks, HOT DAMN! Liger saves us from a shitty Marufuji hot tag by palm striking him to Hell and then actually catching him with a cool powerbomb. Usually that spot looks like shit, but looked like a million bucks there. KENTA/Murahama/Minoru Tanaka Round Robin should have been booked circa 2003 to blow everyone's minds. KENTA exploding knee Doomsday Device should have been the finish because there is no way that finish ever looks that good, but Marufuji's Shooting Star Press looked pretty. Don't let KENTAFuji scare you, this is a damn fine match. There could ahve been better transitions and some more sustained selling. ****1/4

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KENTA & Marufuji vs. Liger & Murahama - July 16, 2003

It is really a shame that during this time we didn't get KENTA & Marufuji vs. Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin, as they were really the two best teams in their respective companies that could spectacularly pace a match.

Liger continued to be an asshole in this one, particularly to Marufuji. I wonder why vets like Liger and Jun Akiyama would get so annoyed with the former GHC Jr. title holder, but it definitely was engaging. The control segments were fucking splendid, transitions in momentum all making sense and happening fluidly, the ring getting cut in half on numerous occasions, and of course several saves being made.

KENTA and Murahama also had more great strike exchange displays, including early in the match when the latter caught the former's leg during an attempted kick, then quickly grabbed his head, and delivered a modified Fisherman's suplex. That spot makes me disappointed that we'll likely never get to see KENTA collide with Paul London and AJ Styles, as I'd absolutely love to see how they would counter KENTA's offense while also getting under his skin. Later in the match, after several minutes of KENTA playing the Ricky Morton role in the match, he used the one chance he had to gain momentum when Murahama went to run the ropes to get additional firepower, with KENTA delivering a roundhouse and opening up his window for a hot tag.

The finishing sequence was perfectly executed, with the younger Murahama taking too much top-notch offense from KENTA & Marufuji, including a knee strike while being hoisted in the air. Liger made the save for that, using up what little had remaining in the tank during this grueling classic, and KENTA slid him out of the ring. Once Marufuji hit the shooting star press, it was over.

This is an instant classic that stands the test of time, and was simply better than anything that the teams of Haas & Benjamin, Los Guerreros, America's Most Wanted, and Elix Skipper & Christopher Daniels put together in 2003. A genuine MOTYC that stands as one of the all-time classics in NOAH history, and kicking off the era of the GHC Jr. Tag Titles in the most appropriate fashion possible. ****3/4

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I haven't watched a lot since GWE wrapped up. I've tried, but I keep finding myself getting a few minutes into a match and tuning outt. I probably hadn't seen this match in maybe 5 years, and probably hadn't seen the whole feud since it happened in 2003. What a great match, had everything you would want from a mid card feud. Hate, a minor title being elevated and established, young fiery babyfaces standing up to a grizzled old invading heel. 2 weeks ago I thought I may be done watching wrestling, when I was out, this pulled me back in. It goes into NOAH style over kill, especially for a midcard match. Also Marafuji and Kenta's selling is uneven. But whatever. Its about two young fiery white meat babyfaces getting the shit beat out of them by the invading veterans and coming back. Old man heel Liger is the best Liger. Its athletic while still resembling a wrestling match. I wanted to watch this to see if I still enjoyed it as much as I did 5 years ago and 13 years ago, and I do. I wouldn't describe this match as flippy so much at athletic. Honestly I really enjoy early 2000s KENTA and early 2000s Marafuji. They both had a lot of fire, and I enjoyed them in their midcard junior roles.

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This was just tremendous. Red hot action from start to finish - loved the strike exchanges between KENTA & Murahama, those kicks were brutal & then of course we got an outstanding FIP segment with KENTA - Liger just stretched the shit out of him while Murahama kicked the shit out of him. Brilliant. This was just so well crafted - Murahama & especially Liger as the grumpy asshole vets & KENTAFuji as the fiery young babyfaces. ****3/4

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Liger invading NOAH was the best thing that happened in the junior scene in the early 00's. The guy was on fire again against a crop of guys who were super motivated to work against him. Now we're getting serious with KENTA & Maru, the young stars of NOAH's junior division. Damn, they were good. Maru's stuff really looked unique for the time too. it didn't always hit right, but it was looking very different and unlike the indierrific US guys, it wasn't just cosmetic stuff to make a move überawkward, it was a new way to move inside a ring. KENTA is ridiculously good as the kick-ass (litteraly) babyface in peril then making fiery comebacks. Murahama, the small Osaka shoot-style guy wasn't exactly lost in this sea of major players, he's just right there with them, although overshadowed a bit by Liger, who's just the best at conveying disdain and whose offense is made even bigger by KENTA & especially Maru's bumping. This is just classic stuff to me. MOTYC.

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