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Charles (Loss)

[2003-09-12-NOAH-Navigation Over The Date Line] KENTA & Naomichi Marufuji vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Makoto Hashi

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GHC Jr Heavyweight Tag Champs KENTAFuji vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Makoto Hashi - Budokan 9/12/03

The crowd loved this match especially the closing stretch. Yeah, the crowd loved this match. So there's that. It was not horrible, but it just felt interminable (only 26 minutes). They had no idea where they were going and then they just started throwing shit together at the end of the match to pop the crowd. They had control segments, but there were no transitions and everything felt disjointed. I am all for tag teams with complementary styles, but KENTA & Marufuji are basically working two different matches with no connection between the two. KENTA works the stiff Strong Style with some hints of shoot-style. As a quick aside, I was really taken by how similar Daniel Bryan works to KENTA today. The flying all around and constantly hitting the ropes to gain momentum and the kick combos, the same running knee finish not to mention eschewing selling for the sake of offense. :) Between that and the Go To Sleep, KENTA should be getting royalty checks from WWE.

 

While Marufuji works the Japanese Men's Gymnastics Team style. God, there were two awful tumbling passes between him and Kanemaru. As soon as I saw Kanemaru as an opponent, I knew it was going to lead to some lame choreographed bullshit. Kanemaru would have been better off ball-shotting everybody. KENTA and Hashi were actually pretty decent when they were in the ring together and enjoyed their exchanges. KENTAFuji is not the greatest team in terms of control segments and it is worse when it is just there to kill time. I thought the control segment on KENTA was pretty decent. I liked Hash's Slop Drop on the apron leading to some good back psychology and Boston Crab work. Of course as soon as Marufuji is tagged (KENTA just kicked Hashi's arm) we get that awful tumbling pass. Marufuji totally botches the climax of that pass which is the Bicycle Kick, but Kanemaru sells it.

We then hit the finish stretch which was exciting from an offensive standpoint, but was just a lot of MOVEZ~! I liked the Kanemaru frogsplash and Hashi diving headbutt to KENTA, but that is followed by two KENTA brainbusters. There is no rhyme or reason. It is just you hit your spot and I'll hit mine. One Marufuji spot I liked was the missile dropkick to the head of laying opponent. I think that's an innovative spot that can be better worked into a match. Also, kudos to Hashi for selling by wriggling in pain and KENTA adjusting his flight path to still nail knee drop. That is organic. That is Hashi responding to Marufuji and KENTA responds in kind. I am not asking the world here. After Hashi looks like a genius, he gets up and totally whiffs on the Slop Drop, but KENTA falls with him so much for responding in kind. :(

KENTAFuji hits their variation of the Doomsday Device (KENTA hits a knee), but Kanemaru saves of course. KENTA royally fucks up either a hurricanrana or a flying cross armbreaker and then hits a Tiger Suplex for two. KENTA destroys Kanemaru with a running knee and Marufuji takes him out with Sliced Bread. KENTA wins off a kick combo polishing off Hashi.

It is not an awful match, but it is not something I really want to watch again. Transitions are the most important thing to me. It is how you connect the segments together to form a cohesive match and this was totally bereft of transitions. They were not even lazy transitions. The match just had control segments because thats what wrestling matches have and then we will throw out spots. That all being said, I can appreciate a good spotfest and this was a slightly above average spotfest with some nice looking stuff. I have only watched two KENTAFuji matches, but I do recommend watching this and the Liger & Murahama match back to back to see Great KENTAFuji against Mediocre KENTAFuji. ***

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My opinions on the match are very similar to SS's. I really, really liked KENTA & Hashi's strike exchanges. They moved into different strikes as they progressed and didn't go on forever. Also, what happened between All Japan and NOAH that the entrances got longer with more flashing lights and smoke than the WWE entrances? I know New Japan was doing that kind of stuff, but the level it's reached even by 2003 is ridiculous.

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After the Kikuchi vs Liger feud ended NOAH junior tags were only good when they involved Ricky Marvin. Unfortunately this match is before Marvin had become a regular. This match is just way too bloated for me.

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WAIT! Ricky Marvin is good? I distinctly him being my least favorite in the junior tags when I watched in like 2008. Then I watched Briscoes vs Marvin/Suzuki and thought it was one of the worst matches of the decade so I just wrote him off. Is he actually good? Can you drop some matches to be watched?

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Marvin is a great spot worker with a great sense of timing in tag matches. NOAH junior tags are almost always spotfests but those that involve Marvin tend to have a better rhythm. He has spectacular offense and he's a great bumper as well. I enjoy that Briscoes match for what it is but I wouldn't call it great and I certainly don't blame anyone for not getting into it. Imagining that match without Marvin in it is a nightmare.

His hair vs mask match against Tiger Emperor is his best singles match. I'd definitely take that over the vast majority of GHC junior title matches.

As for tags:
Kobashi, Marvin and KENTA vs Misawa, Marufuji, and Kotaro 7/24/04 is better than just about every junior tag from 2004 and is a good showcase for Marvin. It's also one of my favorite 6 man tags from that year.

KENTA and Marufuji vs Kotaro and Marvin from 6/1/04 is my favorite KENTAFuji match against other juniors. I pretty much dislike every NOAH junior tag that doesn't involve NJPW juniors or have Marvin in it. This isn't amazing but I think it's clearly a step above most NOAH junior tags.

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KENTA & Marufuji vs. Hashi & Kanemaru - September 12, 2003

Didn't like this one as much as the tourney final, but objectively speaking, this was top-notch stuff again. Calling back to previous matches? Check. Selling hate and limb work? Check. Building to a hot finishing stretch that has the crowd in an absolute frenzy? Check. Mixing in spectacular spots to go with the phenomenal tag psychology, to give this match its genuine peaks and valleys? Check. The Jr. Tag Titles certainly started off similarly to the WWE SmackDown!-exclusive Tag Titles the year before, but in this case, even better. ****1/2

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I revisited this match tonight and it was much better than I remembered. I could see the criticisms of a few minutes of bloat but otherwise I was hooked on the back and forth. Peaks and valleys indeed. Their match from March is certainly better and more suited to their strengths at this time but this was still pretty damn good. Maybe great. Everyone had a clear role to play, especially Akiyama with his disappointed thousand yard stare. I thoroughly enjoyed this and feel like it largely got a bad rap by a guy who doesn't know that Ricky Marvin was a world class worker in the mid 2000s.

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