Best of KENTA and Marufuji
review by Kevin Wilson
For any of you that haven't been keeping up with NOAH in the last few years, the names KENTA and Marufuji probably don't mean much to you. Two of the brightest young stars in Japan, KENTA and Marufuji teamed together in 2003 and entered the tournament that summer to crown the first ever GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions. In the finals of the tournament, KENTA and Marufuji defeated the legendary Jushin "Thunder" Liger and Takehiro Murahama to become the first pair to hold the titles.
For almost two full years, KENTA and Marufuji defended the titles against all comers. They also won the Differ Cup Tag Team Tournament in May of 2005, as they went undefeated as a tag team from July 16th, 2003 to June 5th, 2005. While all great things must end, it is unlikely that another young pair will dominate the tag ranks for so long in NOAH as Marufuji and KENTA did. At Green Destiny, KENTA won the Jr. Heavyweight of the year in 2004 (with Marufuji coming in second) and together they were voted the tag team of the year in NOAH as well as being voted as having the best tag team match in 2004. KENTA and Marufuji were also voted Tag Team of the Year by The Wrestling Observer in 2004. Now, KENTA has moved on and won the GHC Jr. Heavyweight Championship in July of 2005 while Marufuji has teamed with Minoru Suzuki in the heavyweight division, together winning the GHC Tag Team Championship in June of 2005.
In early 2003, Marufuji returned from an injury and was almost immediately paired with KENTA. Quickly gaining popularity with the crowd, Marufuji and KENTA showed early signs of progress. On June 6th, 2003, they would face Kanemaru and Sugiura. These wrestlers were no strangers to each other and had wrestled in singles matches and other tag matches against each other many times. Kanemaru had recently lost his GHC Jr. Heavyweight Championship, a belt he won when he defeated KENTA in a tournament to crown the new champion, and he aimed to defeat KENTA again.
Naomichi Marufuji and KENTA vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Takashi Sugiura
Meanwhile, KENTA gets in the ring and runs over to knock Sugiura off the apron. Marufuji Irish whips Kanemaru to the corner and KENTA hits a running strike. Sugiura gets back in the ring, but KENTA throws him at Kanemaru and gets on all fours, allowing Marufuji to hit Poetry in Motion on both their opponents. KENTA hits an enzigieri on Kanemaru and then Marufuji hits a dropkick from the top turnbuckle. Cover, but Sugiura breaks it up. Superkick by Marufuji to Kanemaru, he goes for the Shiranui, but Kanemaru pushes him off. Marufuji still manages to kick Kanemaru in the back of the head however, puts Kanemaru up on the top turnbuckle and goes for the avalanche-style Shiranui instead. He still can't get Kanemaru over, Marufuji goes for a sunset flip powerbomb, but before he can get Kanemaru down, Sugiura runs in the ring and spears Marufuji back into the corner. KENTA gets back in and dropkicks Sugiura out of the ring, Kanemaru comes off the top aiming at Marufuji, but Marufuji dropkicks him while he is on his way down. Marufuji rolls to his corner and tags in KENTA while Kanemaru tags in Sugiura. Sugiura greets KENTA with a spear, throws KENTA into the corner and lifts him up so he can plant him with an overhead slam. Cover, but KENTA kicks out. Sugiura goes to the apron and goes for a springboard attack, but KENTA kicks him in the head. Irish whip by KENTA, spinning kick to the gut, he goes to the apron, but Sugiura runs over and hits a forearm. Sugiura tries to suplex KENTA back into the ring, but KENTA lands on his feet. Sugiura gets KENTA into the corner, Irish whip, but he eats a boot when he charges. KENTA quickly sits down on the top turnbuckle and delivers his tornado DDT/springboard missile dropkick combo. Cover, but it only gets a two count. KENTA picks up Sugiura and nails a Fisherman's Brainbuster, cover, but again it gets two. He picks up Sugiura again and applies a waistlock, Sugiura elbows out of it, but KENTA kicks him in the back of the head and hits a German suplex hold anyway for a two count. KENTA calls for the end, hits a combination, goes off the ropes, but he is nailed with a jumping knee. Sugiura tags in Kanemaru, he picks up KENTA, Irish whip to the corner, but KENTA gets a foot up when Kanemaru charges in and hits a diving hurricanrana for a two count fall. Kicks to the chest by KENTA, but Kanemaru catches one and hits a dragon screw leg whip. Sugiura comes in, Irish whip to the corner, and both men hit running strikes. Sugiura then grabs KENTA and hits a German suplex, holds KENTA in front of his body, and Kanemaru comes off the top turnbuckle with the Deep Impact. Cover, but Marufuji barely gets back in time to break it up. Sugiura kicks Marufuji out of the ring, while Kanemaru nails another Deep Impact to KENTA. Cover, but KENTA kicks out in time. Kanemaru picks up KENTA, but KENTA sneaks in a cradle for two. Back up, Kanemaru picks up KENTA and delivers a brainbuster, cover, and he gets the three count pinfall! Your winners: Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Takashi Sugiura
Match Thoughts: A pretty simple match, remember that this match took place on the first half of the card, but the intensity of the match and the crowd's reaction to it made it seem more important then it probably was at the time. The shortest match on the disk, they did not have the full time to develop a story but did the best with what they had. Both Marufuji and KENTA went for their finishers at different times in their match, but Kanemaru pretty much destroyed KENTA with two Deep Impacts and a brainbuster, leaving little doubt that he was the dominate wrestler in the match. At the time it took place he was higher on the totem pole then KENTA, although obviously in the meantime that has changed.
For some reason, Sugiura has always been one of my favorites in NOAH. I like wrestlers that have a legit amateur background, and his power moves (such as the Alabama Slam in this match) look deadly. While I would not argue that he is as talented as KENTA, I do think that he deserves more credit then he gets. KENTA and Marufuji both looked good here as well, although they kept it simple and stuck to their normal movesets without any major deviations. It was almost fun seeing KENTA laid out like he was, not because I don't like him (I do), but since it doesn't happen very often that he gets his ass handed to him like that. Overall it was a perfectly acceptable match with a lot of big hits and a hot crowd, but not up to the standard that KENTA and Marufuji would set later. Score: 6.5
Naomichi Marufuji and KENTA vs. Jushin "Thunder" Liger and Takehiro Murahama
Marufuji knocks Liger off the apron (he just got back) and tags in KENTA. Kicks by KENTA in the corner and he stands on Murahama's shoulders. Snapmare by KENTA, he goes out to the apron and hits a slingshot legdrop. Cover, but Murahama kicks out at two. KENTA applies a submission hold, but Murahama is too close to the ropes. Stomp by KENTA, Irish whip, but Murahama grabs the ropes to stop his momentum. KENTA charges him, but Murahama back bodydrops him out to the apron and then knocks KENTA down to the floor. Marufuji bounces off the far ropes and flies over the top turnbuckle with a somersault tope suicida. Marufuji comes over, but Murahama Irish whips him into the guardrail and throws KENTA back into the ring. Kick to the chest by Murahama and he tags in Liger. Liger comes off the top turnbuckle with a splash, cover, but it only gets a two count. Liger picks up KENTA and hits a great powerbomb, cocky cover, but he gets up when he sees Marufuji run in the ring. KENTA seems out, the referee checks on him, but Liger applies the Romero Special. Murahama runs in the ring to cut off Marufuji, throwing Marufuji from the ring. Marufuji does eventually get in the ring though and dropkicks Liger in the face to break up the hold. Liger is relentless though and applies a camel clutch, while Murahama comes in and kicks KENTA in the chest while he is still in the hold. KENTA makes it to the ropes and Liger tags in Murahama. Murahama applies a leg submission hold, but KENTA inches to the ropes and gets a hand on one for the break. Murahama then applies a modified figure four leg lock, but again KENTA gets a hand on the ropes. Liger is tagged back in, he picks up KENTA and forearms him in the back. Another forearm by Liger, Irish whip, and he applies the abdominal stretch. Roll-up by Liger, but Marufuji runs in to break it up. Marufuji over-stays his welcome though, and after taking a few kicks, Liger chucks Marufuji out of the ring onto the rampway. Liger goes back to KENTA and tags in Murahama. Kick in the corner by Murahama, he picks up KENTA and hits a series of kicks to the chest. Murahama goes off the ropes, but KENTA catches him with a kick to the head. Both men are wobbly on their feet now and they connect with simultaneous kicks to the head, knocking both to the mat. Murahama makes the tag first to Liger, and Liger runs over to knock Marufuji from the apron before KENTA can make the tag. Irish whip by Liger to the corner and he nails a shotei. Another Irish whip, and Liger delivers the Fisherman's Brainbuster. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Liger applies a waistlock, reversed by KENTA, but Liger elbows out of it. Liger charges KENTA while KENTA is in the corner, but KENTA gets a foot up and then hits a tornado DDT that lands Liger's neck across the top rope and KENTA on the apron. KENTA then re-enters the ring with a missile dropkick on Liger, and tags in his partner Marufuji. Marufuji is immediately floored by a drop toe-hold, but he returns the favor with a drop toe-hold of his own. He goes to dropkick Liger in the head while he lays on the mat, but Liger wisely moves out of the way.
A shotei by Liger flips Marufuji inside-out, Irish whip by Liger, reversed, and Marufuji hits a jumping elbow strike. Marufuji puts Liger up on the turnbuckle, climbs up himself, Liger pushes him off when Marufuji goes for a hurricanrana, but Marufuji dropkicks Liger in the face when he jumps off. Marufuji goes to the top turnbuckle and goes for a diving hurricanrana, but Liger catches him and powerbombs him to the mat. Liger signals for the end, and Murahama runs across the ring to take care of KENTA. Liger nails the Liger Bomb, cover, but Marufuji barely kicks out at two. Liger then picks up Marufuji and delivers the brainbuster, picks up Marufuji again, and delivers another brainbuster. Cover by Liger, but KENTA barely gets in the ring to break it up. Murahama comes in after KENTA, throwing him out of the ring and into the guardrail. Inside the ring, Liger drags Marufuji to his feet and puts him on the top turnbuckle, Liger goes for a superplex, Marufuji lands on his feet and hits Liger with a superkick, but Liger fires back with a shotei. Both men are slow to get up, and both men make tags. KENTA immediately hits a spinebuster and delivers his series of kicks, cover, but it gets a two count. After picking up Murahama, KENTA hits a Fisherman's brainbuster, another cover, but again it gets two. KENTA gets Murahama to his feet again, but Murahama ducks his combination and knocks down KENTA with a kick to the head. Both get up slow, Murahama grabs KENTA and nails a brainbuster. Cover, but KENTA barely kicks out in time. Waistlock by Murahama, reversed, but Murahama reverses it back and hits a German suplex hold for a two count. Kicks by Murahama to the head of KENTA, Irish whip, he does a judo throw and applies the chickenwing armlock. Liger tackles Marufuji, but KENTA wiggles to the ropes and finally makes it. Liger goes back to his corner, Murahama kicks KENTA in the ring, but KENTA catches his leg and hits a dragon screw leg whip. KENTA tags in Marufuji, Irish whip to the corner, and he hits a jumping knee strike. He puts Murahama in the tree of woe, runs over to the opposite side of the ring and goes on the apron to attempt a springboard dropkick across the ring, but Liger knocks him off the apron with a Liger Kick. KENTA gets in the ring, ducks a shotei, and gives Liger a shotei of his own. By now Murahama has freed himself and he dropkicks KENTA, but Marufuji comes charging back in the ring and knocks down Murahama with a super kick. Marufuji goes for the Shiranui, Murahama pushes him off, but Marufuji kicks him back. Murahama ducks a clothesline attempt by Marufuji, hits two kicks to the head, cover, but KENTA breaks it up at two. Double Irish whip by Liger and Murahama, but KENTA ducks the double clothesline and delivers kicks to Murahama and Liger. After Murahama falls down, KENTA kicks Liger a few more times, goes off the ropes, and nails the Busaiku Knee Kick. Marufuji hits Murahama with a superkick, puts Murahama on his shoulders, KENTA goes up top and delivers a Busaiku Knee Kick from the top turnbuckle, cover by Marufuji, but Liger barely breaks it up in time. KENTA kicks Liger from the ring, scoop slam by Marufuji on Murahama in front of the corner, he goes up top, and nails the shooting star press! Cover by Marufuji, and he gets the three count pinfall! Your winners and the first GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions: KENTA and Naomichi Marufuji
Match Thoughts: Well that was simply a great match. In case you were wondering, Marufuji does not do the SSP very often (this is the first time I have seen him do it), and he was obviously pulling out all the stops to pick up the victory. While KENTA and Marufuji were huge in this match, Liger was the one that made the match truly memorable. Almost everything that KENTA and Marufuji threw at him, Liger had a counter. Leapfrog by Marufuji? Liger slams on the breaks and drills him with a shotei. Marufuji is the hot man? Liger does a quick drop toehold. Marufuji goes for a diving hurricanrana? Liger catches him with a powerbomb. Marufuji goes for the dropkick across the ring? Liger knocks him off with a Liger Kick. I could go on, but the point is that Liger did the little things that made it look like he really had scouted Marufuji and KENTA and was prepared for anything the team threw at him. Course, in the end Liger is knocked out from Busaiku Knee Kick and as soon as Murahama is singled out, he is overwhelmed and defeated.
Back to KENTA and Marufuji, since that is what this disk is all about. In the beginning of the match, they showed their high flying abilities as within seconds of each other they took dives from inside the ring over the guardrail. Marufuji's was particularly amazing as he did an Asai Moonsault from the top rope instead of the second to give himself more distance on the backwards springboard. But they are about more then high flying moves. It was the middle of the match that really defined them here, as they did a great job selling and hit every one of their moves crisply. From KENTA's missile dropkick to Marufuji's super kick, it was possible to suspend reality for a moment and just enjoy the match without noticing little mistakes here and there. Their selling was great as well, with Marufuji looking totally out of it after the double brainbusters by Liger. The ending was really hot, with the crowd strongly cheering on KENTA and Marufuji and the four went non-stop the last several minutes until the perfect ending. Big matches that end with big moves just makes sense, and it makes it seem worth the while that we sat through a 25 minute match to see the teams hold nothing back at the end.
I didn't mention Murahama. I admit that he is not one of my top ten junior heavyweights, since he is a legit kick boxer he does hit is kicks very well but his moveset is extremely limited otherwise. While KENTA also does a lot of kicks, he has other moves as well he can mix in. Murahama is pretty much just kicks. Since this was a tag match though, he was in and out too much for it to slow the match down and since his kicks do look good, it didn't take away too much from the match. If the fourth person had been a Inoue, Kanemoto, Fujita (Zero-One MAX, not Inoki Office), or even Tiger Mask I probably would have enjoyed the match more, but Murahama fit the part decently enough. I am trying to think of something else critical to say about the match, but I am still blown away at this point. Was it perfect? No, of course not, but by the time it was over I was fully exhilarated and satisfied, and what more could you ask for from a wrestling match? Score: 8.5
After defeating Liger and Murahama, KENTA and Marufuji would defend their new titles against Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Makoto Hashi. Full time NOAH wrestlers, Kanemaru and Hashi had beaten Naomichi Marufuji and Mitsuo Momota a few days before the match, and Hashi had picked up a pinfall victory over KENTA at the beginning of the tour in a tag team match. On September 12th, 2003, the teams would meet at the big Budokan show as KENTA and Marufuji would face their first test as GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions.
(c) Naomichi Marufuji and KENTA vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Makoto Hashi
Kick to the chest by KENTA and he rains in the kicks in the corner. KENTA hits a few knees and stands on Kanemaru's chest while using the ropes to add extra pressure. Irish whip by KENTA, reversed, but KENTA gets his foot up when Kanemaru charges. KENTA then performs a tornado DDT that lands him out on the apron, but Kanemaru hits a forearm shot before KENTA can springboard himself back in. With KENTA still on the apron, Hashi goes over to him and nails an inverted DDT, dropping both to the floor. Hashi picks up KENTA and Irish whips him hard into the guardrail before sliding him up onto the ramp where Kanemaru is waiting. Kanemaru then picks up KENTA and scoop slams him from the ramp down to the floor at ringside. Hashi throws KENTA back into the ring and stays in as legal. Hashi and KENTA trade slaps, but Hashi wins the duel and knocks KENTA off his feet. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Hashi tags in Kanemaru, and Kanemaru applies a crab hold while KENTA's legs are wrapped inside the ring ropes. Kanemaru tags in Hashi, and Hashi applies the same hold. Kanemaru then bounces off the far ropes and dropkicks KENTA in the face while he is in the hold. Cover, but it gets a two count. Hashi chucks KENTA from the ring and gives him a backbreaker. He then gets up on the apron and nails a diving headbutt. Marufuji finally comes over to help, but he gets Irish whipped into the guardrail and Hashi puts KENTA back in the ring. Hashi tags in Kanemaru and Kanemaru applies a crab hold in the middle of the ring. KENTA gets a hand on the ropes though and Kanemaru breaks the hold. Kanemaru drags KENTA up, KENTA tries to forearm his way back to his corner, but gets knocked down by a boot to the face. Kanemaru tags in Hashi, Headbutt by Hashi, Irish whip from the corner, but KENTA gets his foot up when he charges. Hashi still hits a Mongolian chop though and goes for a lariat, but KENTA kicks him in the arm and delivers an enzigieri. This gives him time to tag in Marufuji, Irish whip by Marufuji, reversed, Kanemaru kicks Marufuji from the apron, but Marufuji turns around and dropkicks him. Hashi charges Marufuji, but Marufuji back bodydrops him over the top rope down to the floor. Marufuji then runs from the far side of the ring and hits a corner double springboard somersault tope suicida on both men. Marufuji gets back in the ring and grabs Hashi back in, he goes for a suplex over the top rope, but Hashi blocks it and hits a shoulderblock. Hashi gets back in the ring and charges Marufuji, but Marufuji hits a drop toehold and dropkicks Hashi in the head while he lays on the mat. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Back up they trade forearm shots and other strikes, but Marufuji gets Hashi to the mat and applies an armbreaker. Kanemaru quickly breaks up the hold, Marufuji applies a waistlock, reversed by Hashi, Hashi goes for a German suplex, but Marufuji lands on his feet and hits a superkick. Hashi fires back with a lariat though and tags in Kanemaru. Irish whip by Kanemaru, reversed, and Marufuji hits a jumping elbow smash. Marufuji puts Kanemaru on the top turnbuckle and goes for a hurricanrana, but Kanemaru pushes him off and delivers a diving headscissors. Kanemaru then immediately climbs up himself and nails the Hollywood Star Press. Cover by Kanemaru, but it gets a two count. Kanemaru picks up KENTA and goes for a brainbuster, Marufuji goes for a Shiranui, but Kanemaru pushes him off and rolls him up for two. Marufuji then rolls up Kanemaru, but he also only gets two.
After jockeying for position, Marufuji hits an overhead kick and tags in KENTA. KENTA runs over and knocks Hashi off the apron, but while he is doing this he is caught from behind by Kanemaru and gets planted with a release German suplex. Kanemaru puts KENTA under the corner, goes up top, and nails a moonsault. Cover, but KENTA barely kicks out. Kanemaru goes up top and goes for the Deep Impact, but KENTA knees him in the head on the way down. KENTA picks up Kanemaru and hits a slap and kick combination, goes off the ropes, but Kanemaru moves out of the way and rolls up KENTA for a quick two count. Kicks to the chest by KENTA, but Kanemaru catches one and delivers a dragon screw leg whip. Kanemaru tags in Hashi, Irish whip by Hashi from the corner and he hits a jumping kneel kick. KENTA tries to fight back, but Hashi catches one of his kicks and nails a Fisherman's brainbuster. Kanemaru takes care of Marufuji, cover by Hashi, but it only gets a two count. Double Irish whip to KENTA, and both men hit strikes in the corner. Hashi scoop slams KENTA in the middle of the ring, Kanemaru hits a splash from the top turnbuckle, Hashi delivers a headbutt from the opposite top turnbuckle, cover, but Marufuji is in the ring in time to break up the count. Hashi picks up KENTA while Kanemaru tackles Marufuji and goes for a back suplex, but KENTA lands on his feet and gives Hashi a Fisherman's brainbuster. KENTA picks up Hashi and drops him to the mat, goes to the top turnbuckle, Marufuji hits a missile dropkick from the top turnbuckle to Hashi's head, and then KENTA comes off with a knee drop. Cover, but Kanemaru breaks up the pin attempt. Marufuji comes in, double Irish whip to Kanemaru, but Kanemaru fights off both men and nails a brainbuster on Marufuji. KENTA kicks Kanemaru from the ring, kicks Hashi and goes off the ropes, but Hashi catches him and hits a Goriman's Driver. Meanwhile, we get a quick look at Marufuji giving Kanemaru a Shiranui on the outside when he rebounds off the guardrail to hit the move. Back in the ring, Hashi hits a Fisherman Michinoku Driver, cover, but Marufuji gets in the ring in time to break it up. Hashi Irish whips KENTA into the corner, puts him on the top turnbuckle, climbs up with him, but Marufuji comes up from behind and puts Hashi on his shoulders. KENTA then come off the top turnbuckle with a Busaiku Knee Kick. Cover, but Kanemaru breaks it up. Slap combo by KENTA, he hits a few forearms and applies a cross armbreaker. Hashi gets a foot on the ropes though after a moment and KENTA has to break the hold. Tiger Suplex Hold by KENTA, cover, but Hashi barely kicks out in time. KENTA picks up Hashi, Hashi fights back, but KENTA sends him reeling with a kick to the head. KENTA goes off the ropes, but Kanemaru intercepts him with a forearm. This sends KENTA back into the ropes, but he comes firing back with a Busaiku Knee Kick to Kanemaru. Marufuji comes in and gives Kanemaru a Shiranui, while KENTA picks up Hashi and hits a series of high kicks. With Hashi on his knees, KENTA nails him with a koutoubu kick, cover, and KENTA gets the three count pinfall! Your winners and still champions: Naomichi Marufuji and KENTA
Match Thoughts: While it was a slight step down from the previous match, it was still a very entertaining encounter. For starters, I like both Kanemaru and Hashi more then Murahama, so right off the bat the pairing seemed to be better. Unfortunately, the other side of that is Hashi and Kanemaru were not Liger, and this match seemed to lack the strong meaning and cohesiveness that we saw in the last match. Since all four of these wrestlers were relatively young at the time (KENTA -22, Marufuji - 23, Kanemaru - 26, and Hashi - 26), the match was very quick paced but lacked the definition of the last match. That is not to say it wasn't good, however, just that it wasn't as great as it could have been. Also this match ended with total domination by the champions (Kanemaru was floored with a Busaiku Knee Kick/Shiranui while Hashi was kicked to death), which was the right way to end the match if they wanted to get over KENTA and Marufuji as legitimate champions
KENTA and Marufuji both looked solid here and were the stars of the match, which is fitting since at the time they were young champions with a new belt that needed strong champions to make the crowd accept it as legitimate. While one could argue that "ring psychology" was virtually non-existent, it very rarely comes into play in Jr. Heavyweight tag team matches. They tend to be more of a display of athletic ability, speed, and deadly strikes, categories that KENTA and Marufuji have no trouble in delivering. KENTA's kicks were dead-on and Marufuji flew around with great accuracy, which is why the pair were on such a hot streak when they started their run back in 2003.
Hashi would have been the MVP of the match, but there were a few miscues here and there that brought down his effectiveness. A few of his moves were not hit very well and there was a miscommunication when KENTA went for the cross armbreaker. While perfection is a hard thing to ask for, since he was the only wrestler in the match that made any obvious mistakes it stuck out to a certain extent. He was the main "heel" in the match however and therefore was in charge of controlling the action, and since the flow of the match was almost non-stop fun he should be commended for keeping a 25 minute match with four wrestlers under 27 years old in order. He wasn't as on top of things as Liger was previously, but he kept things flowing. Kanemaru played his role well and looked great, even though of the four he was the least critical in terms of the story the match was telling. Overall the match was very entertaining with a lot of crowd heat, even though at times it lacked substance. Score: 7.5
After their match on September 12th, 2003, the champions did not wait long to defend their new belts once again. For the main show of the very next tour, KENTA and Marufuji would face off against Luchadores Juventud Guerrera and Josh Barnett's boy Ricky Marvin on November 1st, 2003 for the GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.
(c) Naomichi Marufuji and KENTA vs. Juventud Guerrera and Ricky Marvin
Back on their feet KENTA kicks Marvin and tags in Marufuji. Marufuji stomps Marvin down in the corner and chokes him with his boot. Marufuji continues kicking Marvin in the corner, picks him up, scoop slam, and he gives Marvin a running splash. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Marufuji applies a reverse chinlock with a bodyscissors, but Marvin makes it to the ropes. Stomp to the back by Marufuji, he picks up Marvin and tags in KENTA. Snapmare by KENTA, he goes out to the apron and hits a slingshot knee drop. Marufuji then flies over with a slingshot elbow drop, cover, but it only gets two. Back up, KENTA hits a series of kicks, but Marvin grabs his ankle and applies an ankle lock. KENTA almost makes it to the ropes, but Juvy comes flying out of nowhere with a dropkick to KENTA's face. Cover by Marvin, but it gets a two count. Juvy comes in the ring, double Irish whip, double drop toehold, and they hit a double dropkick to the head of KENTA. Cover by Marvin, but again it only gets a two count. Marvin applies an STF into a stretch hold, but Marufuji comes in the ring and Marvin releases the hold. Marvin pushes KENTA back into the corner and tags in Juvy. Chop by Juvy, and another one knocks KENTA to the mat. Juvy picks up KENTA and goes for a powerbomb, KENTA reverses it with a rana, but Juvy pushes him over for a two count roll-up. Back up, KENTA goes on the offense, but again Juvy rolls him up for a quick two count. Double leg takedown by KENTA, he lays on top of Juvy for a pin attempt, but Juvy bridges out of it and goes for a backslide, but KENTA gets out of it. Waistlock by KENTA, Juvy elbows out of it and goes off the ropes, KENTA goes for a German suplex, but Juvy lands on his feet. Juvy goes for the Juvy Driver, KENTA slides down his back and goes for a back suplex, but Juvy lands on his feet and delivers the Complete Shot. Juvy applies a submission hold while Marvin takes care of Marufuji, but KENTA eventually gets a foot on the ropes. Juvy tags in Marvin, Double Irish whip from the corner, Marvin hits a jumping clothesline and then gets on all fours so Juvy can hit the Poetry in Motion. Marvin applies the Mexican Surfboard roll to KENTA and then applies the Romero Special, but Marufuji breaks it up. Marvin pushes KENTA into the corner and hits forearm strikes, but KENTA fires up and changes positions with him, kicking Marvin in the chest. Marvin absorbs the blows though and clotheslines KENTA, cover, but it gets a two count. Irish whip by Marvin, reversed, but Marvin dropkicks KENTA in the knee and hits an over-the-shoulder neckbreaker. Cover, but KENTA kicks out. Marvin picks up KENTA, they trade blows, KENTA applies a sleeperhold, but Marvin hits a back suplex to get out of it. Irish whip by Marvin to the corner, but KENTA avoids the charge. KENTA goes for a backdrop suplex, but Marvin lands on his feet, goes off the ropes, but KENTA catches him and delivers a powerslam. KENTA tags in Marufuji, Marufuji grabs Marvin's arm, and as Juvy comes in the ring Marufuji hits a springboard dropkick/armdrag combination on Marvin and Juvy. Marufuji ducks a Marvin clothesline, Irish whip, reversed, but Marufuji bodydrops Marvin to the apron. Marvin lands on his feet and fights off Marufuji, and while he is still on the apron KENTA runs over to get his shots in, but Marvin fights him off as well and then hits a springboard hurricanrana from his side of the apron to the other, sending KENTA hard to the floor. He quickly gets back on the apron and goes for a springboard spinning heel kick on Marufuji, but Marufuji catches him in the face with a dropkick.
Marufuji puts Marvin up on the turnbuckle, joins him and hops on his shoulders, but Juvy climbs up the turnbuckle, up his partner, and hurricanranas Marufuji from the top of Marvin's shoulders down to the mat. Marvin then comes off the top turnbuckle with a moonsault, cover, but Marufuji barely kicks out. Marvin tags in Juvy, and Juvy does a springboard bodyscissors roll-up for a close two count. Irish whip by Juvy, reversed, and Juvy hits a full rotation tornado DDT. Juvy puts Marufuji up on his shoulders and airplane spins him to the mat. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Shining Wizard by Juvy, cover, but Marufuji barely kicks out in time. Kick to the gut by Juvy, but Marufuji turns a waistlock into a drop toehold and dropkicks Juvy in the head. Marufuji hits a superkick and goes for the Shiranui, but Juvy catches him before going over and nails the Juvy Driver. Juvy positions Marufuji under the corner, goes up top, and delivers the 450 splash. Cover, but KENTA breaks it up. Marvin throws KENTA from the ring, Marufuji gets back to his feet and hits a superkick, allowing him time to tag in KENTA. Kicks to the chest and leg by KENTA, and he knocks Marvin off the apron. KENTA picks up Juvy, goes for an Irish whip, but Juvy slams on the breaks and hits a chop. KENTA kicks the hell out of Juvy in response, cover, but Juvy kicks out. KENTA drags Juvy back to his feet, Irish whip, but Juvy collapses before he reaches the corner. Juvy slowly gets up and KENTA hits a double knee strike, followed by his tornado DDT/springboard missile dropkick combo. KENTA picks up Juvy and hits two Michinoku Drivers, cover, but Juvy barely kicks out. Marufuji kicks Marvin on the outside while KENTA hits a slap and kick combo on Juvy. He goes off the ropes and hits a hurricanrana into a cross armbreaker on Juvy, but Juvy manages to get a foot on the ropes. Kick to the chest by KENTA, Juvy fires back with his own kicks, they trade forearm shots, but Juvy hits a high kick to knock KENTA to the mat. Juvy charges KENTA, KENTA back bodydrops him out to the apron, but Juvy lands on his feet and guillotines KENTA's neck over the top rope. Marufuji jumps up on the apron where Juvy is, but Juvy sees him and hurricanranas him from the apron to the floor. At the same time, Marvin comes off the top turnbuckle and gives a hurricanrana to KENTA, then Juvy gets on the apron and delivers a springboard hurricanrana. Juvy picks up KENTA, nails the Juvy Driver, cover, but he lifts him up and points up top. Juvy picks up KENTA, but KENTA kicks free and nails the Busaiku Knee Kick. KENTA rolls over to his corner and tags in Marufuji as Marvin is tagged in as well. Superkick by Marvin on Marufuji, cover, but it gets a two count. Irish whip by Marvin, reversed, but Marvin hits a quebrada for another two count. Marvin and Marufuji trade strikes, Marufuji puts Marvin up on the turnbuckle, but Marvin pushes him off so that Marufuji is straddling the top rope and then jumps off the top with a hurricanrana, sending Marufuji back to the ring. Marvin goes for a 619, Marufuji ducks down to the bottom rope, but Marvin swings around again and kicks him in the head anyway. Cover by Marvin, but Marufuji barely kicks out at two. Marvin picks up Marufuji, Marufuji fights back, but Marvin floors him with a clothesline. He goes to knock KENTA off the apron, but KENTA blocks it which allows Marufuji to hit a superkick. Juvy runs in the ring but he is clotheslined down by Marufuji. Marufuji puts Marvin up on his shoulders, KENTA goes to the top, but Marvin ducks when KENTA jumps off. Marvin rolls up Marufuji in the process, Juvy comes in the ring and pins KENTA as well for a double cover, but both kick out at two. Poetry in Motion to Marufuji, Marvin puts KENTA up on his shoulders, and Juvy hits a beautiful springboard hurricanrana from the apron, sending KENTA to the mat. Marufuji recovers as Marvin goes up top and superkicks Juvy, knocking Juvy into the ropes which makes Marvin lose his balance on the top turnbuckle. KENTA then floors Juvy with a Busaiku Knee Kick, while Marufuji puts Marvin up on the top turnbuckle. Marufuji joins him up there, lifts Marvin so they are both standing on the top turnbuckle, and nails an avalanche-style reverse Shiranui! Cover, and Marufuji gets the three count pinfall! Your winners and still champions: Naomichi Marufuji and KENTA
Match Thoughts: This was a completely different match then the other two on the disk thus far, which is mainly because they were wrestling two Lucha Libre wrestlers and adopted a lot of the flashy style that some Lucha Libre matches have. Forget ring psychology and "story telling" in this match, it was more focused on delivering big spots and memorable moments. It was successful in that regard for the most part and the crowd was extremely into the match.
The criticisms first. As I mentioned above, there really wasn't a story being told in this match besides that both teams had a lot of experience together and fed off each other very well. The double team moves incorporated throughout the match were well done, but there wasn't the usual wearing down of one opponent, hot tags, or long term selling that you sometimes see in tag matches. As I mentioned before, Jr. Heavyweight tag matches don't usually have a lot of that, but this match pretty much had none. Also, a lot of the "big spots" looked really contrived (like why exactly did Marufuji climb on Marvin's shoulders while he was on the top turnbuckle?), but 95% of the time the spot was hit well which was all they were going for. There were a few miscommunications, especially towards the end, but they worked through it pretty well and it wasn't too noticeable. Some of the moves looked sloppy, but it was only a couple and no spots were flat-out blown. For a 30 minute fast paced match with Juvy in it, that is quite the accomplishment. Finally, I really didn't like Juvy picking up KENTA instead of pinning him, but since Juvy paused for a good few seconds thinking, it seemed more like a miscommunication then a poor booking decision. Since the match was for a belt and not a "we want to kill them" revenge match, not going for the cover really wouldn't have made sense there.
With all that said, this was without question a fun match. Yes, it was more spotty then other KENTA/Marufuji matches, but as long as the spots are done well and the crowd is loving it I don't really see a problem with that. KENTA and Marufuji are master sellers, and looked dead on more then a few occasions during this match. For their part, Marvin and Juvy were both on fire for this match as if they were trying to impress not only the crowd but the NOAH officials as well. Marvin and Juvy controlled most of the match and their offense looked very credible. The match flowed really well most of the time with a lot of different things going on at once, and most of the bigger spots looked great. Even though it was not without its problems, it was still entertaining as long as you go into the match knowing it will be about speed, team work, and big spots and less about long term selling and ring psychology. Score: 7.5
Fast forward to the spring of 2005. Over a year and a half later, KENTA and Marufuji had established themselves as the best Jr. Heavyweight tag team in the world, going undefeated during that time in title and non-title matches. They defeated every major Jr. Heavyweight team in NOAH and others from different promotions including Zero-One. But all things must come to an end, and since KENTA and Marufuji were seen as legitimate by now and were very popular with the fans, it was time for them to move on from one of the lower belts (no matter how popular they were) to more important feuds. In order to move on to greater things, they had to drop the belts that they had almost single handedly made. This would obviously be an important belt change, since the new team would be following one of the greatest title reigns by any Japanese tag team in recent memory. It only seemed fitting that the tag team that had first defeated KENTA and Marufuji back in early 2003 would be the pair to do it again, as on June 5th, 2005, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Takashi Sugiura defeated KENTA and Marufuji for the GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. As of the end of 2005, Kanemaru and Sugiura still have the belts, although they have made only one defense and it is too early to tell how successful they will be in 2006.