? Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore…

Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow ?

The brainchild of JR Goldberg (@wrestlingbubble), VOW Secret Santa sees all participating website contributors giving the greatest gift of all to their fellow VOW friends: a pro wrestling match!

VOW Secret Santa Archives: voicesofwrestling.com/category/vow-latest/columns/vow-secret-santa/

Naomichi Marufuji vs. Koji Kanemoto
New Japan Pro Wrestling
March 5, 2010

Reviewed by Taylor Maimbourg (@tamaimbo)

Gifted by Jon Hernandez (@FatmansAlright)

My interest in wrestling started in the ’90s with WCW, but I didn’t become a true fan until the mid-2000’s when I discovered Ring of Honor. In 2004 I was 16, and for the first time in my life, I had money of my own to spend, and I spent a good portion of it on Ring of Honor DVDs.  I lived in Cleveland, Ohio, where we got very infrequent live shows, and I never got the chance to attend any of the bigger shows in cities like Chicago or New York.  The big cities shows usually were first priority when I was purchasing new DVDs, but I also kept my eyes peeled for the matches my favorite wrestlers were having. One man I always looked for was Naomichi Marufuji.  Living in one of Ring of Honor’s smallest markets, I never got the chance to see him live, but I devoured his matches on tape.  His combination of speed and striking ability fascinated me, and he seemed to never have a bad match in Ring of Honor, which always meant I got my money’s worth.

Eventually, Marufuji stopped coming to Ring of Honor, and for a while, I stopped watching the company, distracted by life and later, by other wrestling companies.  Fortunately, in the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to see Marufuji live in both NOAH and DDT.  It is a check off my bucket list to see one of the men who defined my love of wrestling, although it isn’t quite the same.  Sure, Marufuji is still an excellent wrestler, but he is no longer the world-beating ass-kicker he was fifteen years ago.  No one can escape time.

Which is why I was so happy to receive the match I received for this year’s Secret Santa.  It was an opportunity to go back and relive that time in my wrestling fandom.  I did question whether my memories would live up to the real thing, but that concern was quickly wiped away by this excellent match.  The match is for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title and the first thing I noticed was the HOT crowd.  I don’t know if I’ve become so accustomed to stoic COVID clap crowds, but from the beginning of this match to the end, the crowd was red hot, cheering on Koji Kanemoto to take down Marufuji, the invader from NOAH.

This match had pretty much everything you’d expect from a top-shelf Naomichi Marufuji match.  Sickening strikes, lightning-fast kicks, and a whole lot of toughness.  I also can’t forget Kanemoto, who stands toe to toe with Marufuji for the thirty-plus minutes of the match.  The highlight comes when Marufuji is stuck in the Tree of Woe in the corner and the men trade slaps that echo very, very loudly throughout Korakuen Hall.  If you’re reading this and seeing “lots of slaps” and think you aren’t missing much because you’ve seen a lot of Tomohiro Ishii matches this year, this is a whole different thing.  The striking is so fast that it gives the match a whole different feel from most wrestling I’ve seen, and the whole match pulled me in, even though the match went over a half hour.  Definitely check this one out!

As for who gave this match, I could probably just do process of elimination, but what fun would that be?  So, I’ll guess…Andrew Rich? I don’t know, that sounds right.  Happy Holidays!

Katsuyori Shibata vs. Jun Akiyama
WRESTLE-1 Grand Prix 2005 – Opening Round
August 4, 2005

Reviewed by Paul Volsch (@Darth_Dragon)

Gifted by Kevin Hare (@stan__hansen)

Got myself some OG W-1, which feels fitting in the year the second incarnation died. I have never seen this match and these are two of my all-time favorites. As such, I went in with incredibly high expectations and I found them to be more than matched. This match absolutely ruled.

Shibata is a great prick heel early on in this match and it’s a shame we never got to see that in his second New Japan run. Akiyama got busted open right away and destroyed Shibata on the outside with chairs. The beginning of the match felt very reminiscent of an old-school 80’s style braw, which is not what I expected but it’s awesome.

Shibata just lays in his kicks even more than he normally does and Akiyama is more than happy to take them. These are just two masters of their craft going at each other and it shows. Shibata kept control of the match until Akiyama is just absolutely sick of Shibata’s shit and just chucks him onto the announce table and piledrives him right on the concrete. This also busted Shibata open on the back of his head and both men are just bleeding and not caring about it.

From here the match pretty much became a squash as Akiyama took Shibata apart. He hit him with approximately 10 Exploder Suplexes but Shibata just refuses to stay down. If there ever was a wrestler that embodied Fighting Spirit it was Shibata. The latter half of the match is also much more Kings Road Style. Finally, Akiyama gets the win but he needs to bust out the Exploder 98 as his normal suplexes aren’t enough.

The match felt like melding 80’s and 90’s All Japan, which is an extremely good mixture and made for a very entertaining match. This match is tailor-made for me as it gives me almost everything I want in a good wrestling match. Just two competitors giving it their all and holding nothing back. As for who gifted me this I’ll go with someone that was likely watching this at the time so my guess is Kevin Hare.

So concludes VOW Secret Santa 2020. Let’s hope we can do this again next year under much better circumstances. We hope you continue to have a happy and healthy holiday season! -Rich Kraetsch