KENTAfuji matches

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Joe Lanza
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KENTAfuji matches

Post by Joe Lanza » Fri Sep 15, 2017 5:19 am

ITT, I will repost some old KENTAfuji reviews I wrote a few years ago on an old version of this board, and post new reviews as I watch/rewatch stuff. This was when Dylan Hales claimed he could name 1,000 teams better than KENTA & Marufuji, and these reviews were part of that thread, so if you see references to Dylan, that's why.

Here is a version of the thread that I attempted to bring over from the old board: http://www.voicesofwrestling.com/forum/ ... p?f=5&t=37

Feel free to review KENTAfuji bouts here.

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Re: KENTAfuji matches

Post by Joe Lanza » Fri Sep 15, 2017 5:21 am

3/1/03 - KENTAfuji vs Makoto Hashi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru

I remember thinking this was one of my favorite tag matches ever, and it instantly came to mind as one to post. It held up just fine. The thing that jumps off the screen whenever you watch vintage matches from your company of choice in Japan, the heat. Legit red hot NOAH heat. It instantly made me want to rewatch that entire fantastic era.

What really hit me upside the head before the match even began, was how over Maru was. He was quite ahead of KENTA at this stage in both character development and charisma. People who say in hindsight that they should have went with KENTA instead of Maru in 2005 when they dabbled with the juniors on top are either flat out wrong or too removed from the context. Maru was absolutely the right choice, as KENTA was just emerging at that time and putting it all together. The right story was the more experienced Maru as champ with KENTA chasing and eventually overtaking him. We all know what happened, but they were on the right path. The 2003 Maru is a a fully fleshed out star, the 2003 KENTA is still evolving into what he would ultimately become.

The first 30 seconds of this match have you jumping off the couch. THAT’S how you start a match hot! The meat of the match may have been a little long (a frequent problem for NOAH during that time, as they were still trying to recreate the All Japan epics, sometimes with people not ready to tell 30 minute stories), but the final ten minutes or so, and especially the closing stretch, are straight up fire and exactly what I want out of my wrestling. The finishing sequence is classic King’s Road madness.

The star here is KENTA. When people think KENTA, they think hard kicks, bad attitude, crazy reversals, etc. The most underrated aspect of his work is his selling. Go watch KENTA work monsters like Takayama or Morishima over the years, and watch him here vs a couple of grumpy heels, especially the forgotten Hashi, who was probably the second best performer in the match, in a match where all four guys brought the A+ game. Kanemaru is so so underrated historically. He was the glue guy here, with some perfectly placed highspots.

There is a heartbreaking mini botch towards the end that stopped this from being 5-stars, and maybe it wouldn’t have been anyway because it was a little too long. I have no problem going ****1/2, ****3/4.

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Re: KENTAfuji matches

Post by Joe Lanza » Fri Sep 15, 2017 5:23 am

4/25/04 - KENTAfuji vs Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa

After a couple of years of being regarded by many as the best tag team in the world, the juniors go after the big boy titles in a packed Budokan Hall. The feisty youngsters go right after the veterans at the bell, and dispatch Ogawa, but Misawa fights off a double team and is left standing when the dust settles, which is symbolic and sets the tone for the rest of the match.

I’m betting a guy like Dylan digs that match more than maybe any other KENTAFuji bout. KENTA sells f-o-r-e-v-e-r, Maru finally makes the hot tag, and immediately gets cut off and gets the living shit beat out of him, too. The juniors never get sustained offense going, which is a an overriding narrative in King’s Road style, but they do make a strong run at the end using some good flying and superior quickness.

My favorite spot is KENTA, still a spunky up & comer here, showing signs of the prick that is yet to come by mocking some of Misawa’s spots. Misawa’s reaction to this is fucking great, with an “oh no you didn’t” look followed by a brutal array of strikes.

They blew what would have been a classic spot, with Maru going for a Shiranui, and Misawa making the save by catching Maru on the way down leading to a seamless Emerald Flowsian, but unfortunately Misawa dropped him.

This was another match that was a bit bloated and probably could have been 5 minutes shorter. I can forgive it a little because it was a semi at Budokan, but once again excessiveness is a legit gripe. I fall right in between Meltzer & Case Lowe, as i’ll go an even ****.

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Re: KENTAfuji matches

Post by Joe Lanza » Fri Sep 15, 2017 5:25 am

7/16/03 - KENTAfuji vs Jushin Thunder Liger & Takehiro Murahama

Murahama is a five foot nothin’, a hundred an nothin’ pound little snot who had one of the oddest career arcs in wrestling, going from Osaka Pro to MMA to Zero-1. That’s almost a reverse career path. Normally you would do worky shoot stuff, do some MMA, then get old and finish up doing comedy. Anyway, this was a rare case of KENTA not being the smallest man in the match. As expected, lots of kicks and stiff strikes. Murahama hung with the other three just fine, but this was my least favorite of the three matches posted in the thread so far. This was a classic “you go, I go” style of match that didn’t have much of a flow or story. The work was fine, and Maru busted out a great looking shooting star press (to along with some real good dives and flying from both he & KENTA) at the finish, but this was lacking something to put it over the top. ***1/4

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Re: KENTAfuji matches

Post by Joe Lanza » Fri Sep 15, 2017 5:27 am

7/16/06 - KENTAfuji vs Takeshi Morishima & Takeshi Rikio

This is late era KENTAFuji, with yellow & brown clad KENTA now in his peak years, and now a fully fleshed out star as oppose to the plucky up & comer of ’03-’04. This was a few months after KENTA’s first ever win vs Marufuji (in a junior title match), and a few months before the classic GHC heavyweight match between the two that he lost.

This match was all about KENTA vs Morishima, with Maru & Rikio basically nothing more than props. The exchanges between the two were incredible & brutal, and it is clear with hindsight that this should have been the rivalry that took NOAH into its next great era. Unfortunately it didn’t play out that way, and by the time KENTA & Morishima finally did feud over the GHC title, it was some seven years later with a past peak KENTA and completely washed up Morishima who by that point was barely a shell of what he once was. It’s amazing that the only two singles matches these two ended up doing while both were at their peak was a 20-minute draw in 2006 and a ROH title match of all things from Budokan in 2007 that ran under 10:00 minutes. If this does not sum up NOAH and why they ultimately ended up where the ended up, nothing does. If someone went into a coma after this tag match and woke up today to read the paragraph I just wrote, they’d think I made it up.

2006 was the peak of “this guy is the next great star” Morishima, and this is the match I would show people if I was trying to convince them that he was once a top prospect. HOLY FUCKING SHIT WAS MORISHIMA GREAT HERE. I CAN NOT UNDERSTATE THIS. KENTA is right there with him, and the chemistry is obvious & real.

This might be the worst Marufuji performance ever. He’s a non entity here and blows a spot mid match in embarrassing fashion. I was never a fan of Rikio, and he’s nothing special here. This is all about Morishima & KENTA. Despite a botch or two, you can not reasonably go lower than **** for this. The classic King’s Road finish takes it to another level, and i’m going to go ****1/2. If you don’t love this match, I want proof of a pulse.

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Re: KENTAfuji matches

Post by DylanZero » Fri Sep 15, 2017 7:00 pm

RE: vs Hashi/Kanemaru - This was a great match for sure and had one of the best openings to a match in history. I also enjoyed how they handled calling back to previous matches such as Kanemaru hitting the slam on KENTA from the walkway to the floor like their title match a year earlier. I thought KENTA & Hashi ruled that match and the other two held their own. The best is yet to come for Marufuji but he was indeed tremendously over and was a truly innovative worker at that point. What did you think of the more famous/well regarded match between these two teams from September of that year?

vs. Misawa/Ogawa: Probably a strong contender for their best match, Misawa/Ogawa's best match, the best tag match in NOAH history, maybe even everyone's best match in NOAH singularly. I thought this was tremendous on all kinds of levels but imo was the signifier that Marufuji had main event upside and they knew it when he kicked out of the Emerald Flowsion in what was an all time setup and the crowd went crazy (even though Ogawa made the pin and he did drop him a bit it still was meaningful). Also just after that Joe didn't mention in his review, Misawa takes the SHIRANUI KAI FROM THE TOP. Who is this man!? Not to be forgotten KENTA using the Kawada kicks on Kawada's biggest rival leading to a Misawa fireup was a meaningful moment and just awesome in execution. Incredible match. Of note by far the best Marufuji performance of these four imo.

RE: vs Liger/Murahama: We disagree because I think this was way underrated by Joe and another great match! Especially in context of this being such a major match in the NJPW/NOAH feud and honestly one of the first "epic" matches of this style. I think maybe it doesn't hold up if you have seen so much of the modern style but I really loved it for what it was. Liger was an incredible dick as he is always great in this setting, KENTA/Murahama had excellent strike exchanges, Marufuji was the worst to me but even his annoyances were really reigned in here. The finishing stretch was one of the hottest they had done and even had KENTA doing some good FIP-work. For sure ****+. Also of note this main evented a show featuring Akiyama/Nagata as well as Kobashi/Honda vs Takayama/Makabe tag title match. I really really enjoyed this match.

vs Wild II: I mostly agree with Joe and some of Marufuji's striking left a lot to be desired here which it usually does (though as I have said I thought '06 was his best year and he was actually my most outstanding) and I can see that being a negative. That said, he has much worse later on than this. The KENTA/Morishima segments and particularly the finish was outstanding. This was designed to be Morishima's breakout and he obliterated expectations. He killed it. The others did a pretty good job overall though and kept selling on the forefront even Marufuji. KENTA & Morishima were who we wanted to see more of though and as great as it was I just wanted them to go at it. The standing ovation at the end was great though for a lot of reasons. Even though you could argue he was the worst one in the match I think Marufuji again gained a lot in his awesome year long push just by being involved and Morishima/KENTA were ready. Definitely ****+

I really think all of those plus the Hashi/Kanemaru rematch are well worth watching, and some really strong performances, though I really think KENTA looked better in every single one and very likely most of their tag matches together if we're using this for the purpose of ranking in the list.
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