Naomichi Marufuji

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Naomichi Marufuji
Naomichi Marufuji 2016.jpg
Marufuji in August 2016
Born (1979-09-26) September 26, 1979 (age 38)[1][2]
Kōnosu, Saitama, Japan[1]
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Naomichi Marufuji
Billed height 1.76 m (5 ft 9 in)[1][2]
Billed weight 90 kg (198 lb)[1][2]
Trained by All Japan Pro Wrestling Dojo[3][4]
Mitsuharu Misawa[3]
Debut August 28, 1998[1]

Naomichi Marufuji (丸藤正道, Marufuji Naomichi) (born September 26, 1979)[1][2] is a Japanese professional wrestler who competes for Pro Wrestling Noah, with occasional appearances in other professional wrestling promotions including New Japan Pro-Wrestling, All Japan Pro Wrestling, and Ring of Honor. Marufuji is a former three-time GHC Heavyweight Champion, as well as the only man to win Junior Heavyweight Championships in all three major Japanese promotions. In 2009, he was appointed to the position of Vice President of Pro Wrestling Noah,[4] and has retained the position since, being reappointed in September 2011.[4]

Professional wrestling career[edit]

All Japan Pro Wrestling (1998–1999)[edit]

Marufuji pursued amateur wrestling and basketball during his high school days before joining All Japan Pro Wrestling, and trained in Satoru Sayama's Super Tiger Gym.[5] His debut match came on August 28, 1998 against Yoshinobu Kanemaru.[1] For the first two years of his career, under Giant Baba and Mitsuharu Misawa's isolationist policy, he was a jobber; one of the few rare interpromotional matches he worked was in Michinoku Pro Wrestling in 1999, a lucha libre six-man tag match, gave him a chance to shine.

Pro Wrestling Noah (2000–present)[edit]

After the Noah secession, he joined the upstart promotion and became an integral part of its Junior Heavyweight division, impressing many with his high-flying style and charisma. He would go on to form a successful tag team with KENTA, as well as win the 2004 Super J-Cup.[6] In early and mid-2005, Marufuji toured through Germany and Austria, competing for Westside Xtreme Wrestling and Rings of Europe. Along with Minoru Suzuki, they were the first talent-delegation which was sent over that began the Noah/European Talent Trade Partnership. On March 5, 2006, Marufuji pinned former Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion and former GHC Heavyweight Champion Akira Taue.

On September 9, 2006, Naomichi defeated Jun Akiyama for the GHC Heavyweight Championship at the Budokan Hall, utilizing the Perfect Inside Cradle. In doing so, he became the first wrestler to win all five GHC titles in Noah and became the lightest GHC Heavyweight Champion of all time. A little over a month later, Marufuji's successfully defended the title against his tag team partner Kenta on October 29, 2006. The match received critical acclaim and Tokyo Sports named the match "Best Bout of 2006". On December 10, 2006, Marufuji lost the GHC Heavyweight Championship to Mitsuharu Misawa in his third defense.

On July 5, 2009, Marufuji was appointed to the position of Noah's Vice President alongside Kenta Kobashi by Noah's current President Akira Taue in the wake of Misawa's death.[4]

On July 5, 2014, Marufuji won the GHC Heavyweight Championship for the second time, defeating Yuji Nagata.[7] That same month he defended the championship against BRAVE stablemate Katsuhiko Nakajima on July 21.[8] He then defeated Takeshi Morishima on August 24 in his second title defense at Korakuen Hall.[9] That same night, Maybach Taniguchi won a number one contenders match over Nakajima and the two men squared off on September 23 at the 'Great Voyage in Niigata' show where Marufuji successfully retained his championship.[10] Shortly after, he retained the championship for a fourth time by defeating Daisuke Sekimoto of Big Japan Pro Wrestling at the 'Great Voyage in Yokohama' show on October 23.[11] Marufuji then, still as champion, took part in the 2014 Global League Tournament. Marufuji finished with eight points and a four win, three loss record, including losses to Nakajima, Morishima, and Satoshi Kojima. Marufuji defeated the Global League winner Takashi Sugiura on December 6 at the 'Great Voyage in Tokyo vol.3' show.[12] Following Marufuji's appearance on Wrestle Kingdom 9, the New Japan stable Suzuki-gun made their debut in Noah invading the company and on March 15, 2015, Marufuji lost his title to the stable's leader Minoru Suzuki.[13]

Marufuji took part in the 2015 Global Tag League with Katsuhiko Nakajima as his partner. The pair finished with six points and a disappointing fourth place finish in the six-team block. However, at 'Great Voyage in Yokohama' on May 10, Marufuji received a rematch with Suzuki for the championship. Marufuji, however, ultimately came up short in his attempt to dethrone the Suzuki-gun leader.[14] Marufuji continued the year outside of the title picture taking part in tag team matches squaring off with Suzuki-gun foes, however at the September 19 'Great Voyage in Osaka' show Marufuji defeated BRAVE stablemate Atsushi Kotoge.[15] Marufuji then took part in the 2015 Global League Tournament. Marufuji began the tournament with four straight victories, however a loss to Masato Tanaka on October 29 and a subsequent loss to Satoshi Kojima at the next show on November 3 put Marufuji in a four-way tie on points at the top of his block. On the final group stage day, paired with a loss by Tanaka, Marufuji beat fellow co-first place contender Chris Hero to win the block and advance to the final on November 8.[16] In the final, Marufuji defeated fellow Suzuki-gun member Shelton Benjamin who had finished his block without a single loss to go on and receive a championship opportunity.[17] Marufuji received his title match at the DESTINY 2015 show and he regained the title from Suzuki on December 23, 2015.[18] However, immediately following the match as his Noah roster members celebrated with him, Takashi Sugiura turned on Marufuji to join forces with Suzuki-gun.

On January 31, 2016, Marufuji faltered in his first defense of his newly won championship as he lost the title to Takashi Sugiura.[19] The next month, on February 19, Marufuji took part in a ten-man tag team match that pitted Suzuki-gun members against Noah roster members. Marufuji was the second to last person eliminated being pinned by Sugiura.[20] On March 19, 2016, Marufuji continued to battle against the Suzuki-gun stable that had invaded Noah as he alongside Muhammad Yone and Mitsuhiro Kitamiya defeated Shelton Benjamin, Takashi Iizuka, and Suzuki himself in a six-man tag team match the 2016 'Great Voyage In Korakuen' event.[21]

From April 21 to May 4, Marufuji took part in the 2016 Global Tag League with Toru Yano, who took part despite being mainly a competitor in New Japan Pro Wrestling. The pair got eight points, good enough for second in the block, and ultimately avenged a loss by defeating Killer Elite Squad in the finals.[22] As a result of winning the tag league, the duo won a shot at the GHC Tag Team Championships held by Killer Elite Squad. On May 28 at the 2016 'Great Voyage In Osaka' event, the pair defeated Killer Elite Squad and became the new GHC Tag Team Champions.[23] The pair's first match as champions was an immediate title defense over the former champions at 'Emerald Spirits In Korakuen' on June 12.[24] The pair defended their championships twice more before Marufuji went to New Japan to take part in the 2016 G1 Climax. They defeated Suzuki and Iizuka on July 5[25] followed by a defense over Katsuhiko Nakajima and Kitamiya on July 16.[26]

Upon Marufuji's return, he and Yano defended their belts against the team of Muhammad Yone and Quiet Storm, known as '50 Funky Powers', on September 23[27] and, as a continuation of his feud based in New Japan with Kazuchika Okada, Marufuji and Yano retained their championships over Okada and Chaos stablemate Yoshi-Hashi on October 8.[28] The pair defended their belts yet again on October 23 at 'Great Voyage 2016 In Yokohama Vol. 2' where they defeated Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma)[29] From November 3 to November 22 Marufuji took part in the 2016 Global League Tournament and was placed in the 'B' block. Marufuji, with eight points, faced off with Masa Kitamiya on the final day's main event and a spot in the tournament final on the line, however, Marufuji ultimately lost and Kitamiya finished first in the B block.[30] The next day, the day of the Global League Final, Marufuji and Yano lost their championships to Killer Elite Squad, the team they defeated for the belts six months prior and thus marking the end of the team.[31] The final tour of 2016 went poorly for Marufuji as he and his various partners were unable to beat the team of Alejandro Saez and Takashi Sugiura the entire tour and, on the final show of 2016, Marufuji was defeated in a singles match by Sugiura.[32]

On the first show of 2017 on January 7, Marufuji and partner Atsushi Kotoge failed to dethrone GHC Tag Team Champions Go Shiozaki and Maybach Taniguchi in a championship opportunity.[33] At the 2017 'Great Voyage In Yokohama' show on March 12, Marufuji teamed with Japanese wrestling legend Keiji Muto to defeat debuting Impact Wrestling star Moose and Kazma Sakamoto.[34] Marufuji formed a new team with former rival Maybach Taniguchi and, on the April 14 'Countdown to GTL' show, the new pairing defeated Takashi Sugiura and Kenoh for the GHC Tag Team Championships shortly before the start of the 2017 Global Tag League's beginning.[35] The team took part in the tag league finishing at the top of the block with ten points and ultimately won the final as well by defeating Shiozaki and Kotoge.[36] The champion duo was then promptly challenged by a team they lost to in the tournament, Cody Hall and Randy Reign, and on June 4 Marufuji and Taniguchi defeated them in a championship title defense.[37] On August 26, Marufuji and Taniguchi lost the title to Atsushi Kotoge and Go Shiozaki.[38]

New Japan Pro-Wrestling (2003–2016)[edit]

On June 10, 2003, Marufuji made his debut for New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW), teaming with Kotaro Suzuki to unsuccessfully challenge Jushin Thunder Liger and Koji Kanemoto for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.[39] Marufuji returned to the company on December 9, failing in his attempt to win the IWGP U-30 Openweight Championship from Hiroshi Tanahashi.[40] On May 3, 2004, Marufuji would make his final appearance for NJPW in over five years in a six-man tag team match, where he, Heat and Tiger Mask were defeated by the American Dragon, Koji Kanemoto, and Último Dragón.[41]

On December 22, 2009, Marufuji made his return to NJPW, defeating Jushin Thunder Liger in the first round of the 2009 Super J-Cup.[42] The following day he defeated Tigers Mask, Ryusuke Taguchi, and finally Prince Devitt in the finals, to win the Super J-Cup and earn a match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.[43] On January 4, 2010, Marufuji represented Noah in the New Japan vs. Noah match series at Wrestle Kingdom IV in Tokyo Dome, where he defeated Tiger Mask to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.[44] With his victory Marufuji became the first person to hold the three major Junior Heavyweight Titles in Japan (All Japan, Noah, and NJPW). On June 19 at Dominion 6.19, Marufuji lost the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship to Prince Devitt.[45]

Marufuji's next appearance for NJPW was on January 4, 2012, at Wrestle Kingdom VI in Tokyo Dome, where he and Go Shiozaki defeated CHAOS Top Team (Shinsuke Nakamura and Toru Yano) in a tag team match.[46] Marufuji returned to NJPW that August to take part in the 2012 G1 Climax tournament.[47] After a slow start, which saw Marufuji lose two of his first three matches, he bounced back by defeating reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi on August 5 and afterward made a challenge for his title.[48] After four wins and three losses, Marufuji was eliminated from the tournament on August 12, after losing to Toru Yano in his final round-robin match.[49] Following the tournament, Marufuji was named the number one contender to the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.[50] On September 23 at Destruction, Marufuji unsuccessfully challenged Tanahashi for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.[51][52]

On September 29, 2013, Marufuji returned to New Japan, challenging Shinsuke Nakamura to a match for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship.[53] Marufuji failed in his title challenge on October 14 at King of Pro-Wrestling.[54] Marufuji returned to New Japan on December 20, 2014, when he, along with fellow Noah wrestlers TMDK (Mikey Nicholls and Shane Haste), was revealed as one of Toru Yano's tag team partners at Wrestle Kingdom 9 in Tokyo Dome on January 4, 2015.[55] At the event, the four defeated Suzuki-gun (Davey Boy Smith Jr., Lance Archer, Shelton X Benjamin and Takashi Iizuka) in an eight-man tag team match.[56]

Marufuji returned to NJPW on July 18, 2016, by entering the 2016 G1 Climax tournament and defeating reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada in his opening match. On August 12, Marufuji finished his tournament with a record of five wins and four losses with a loss against Hirooki Goto on the final day eliminating him from the finals.[57] Marufuji's win over Okada earned him a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship on October 10 at King of Pro-Wrestling, where Okada retained the title.[58]

Ring of Honor (2005–2007)[edit]

Marufuji in November 2007

As part of his foreign excursion to the United States, along with Kenta Kobashi and Kenta, Marufuji challenged Bryan Danielson for the ROH World Championship on December 17, 2005, in Edison, New Jersey. Danielson retained his title, but the crowd gave Marufuji a loud ovation after the match.

Marufuji returned to the United States to wrestle for Ring of Honor on the main event of the "Best in the World" show on March 25, 2006 show in New York City, teaming with Kenta for the first time in the United States against the team of Samoa Joe and Bryan Danielson; the team of Marufuji and Kenta won after Kenta pinned Danielson, but after Marufuji tried and failed to lift Joe.

Marufuji returned to Ring of Honor for a third tour, along with Kenta. Both started off the tour with a win, teaming up to defeat the Briscoe Brothers at Glory By Honor V: Night 1. The following night at Glory By Honor V: Night 2, he successfully defended the GHC Heavyweight Championship against Nigel McGuinness. Marufuji also appeared at Ring of Honor's first pay-per-view, Respect Is Earned, where he defeated Rocky Romero.

Marufuji was scheduled to return to ROH in May 2013 for the Border Wars 2013 pay-per-view as well as a Ring of Honor Wrestling television taping, but was forced to pull out of the events after suffering a knee injury the previous month.[59]

Return to AJPW (2008)[edit]

On September 28, 2008, ten years after his original debut in All Japan Pro Wrestling, Marufuji returned to AJPW and won the World Junior Heavyweight Championship from Ryuji Hijikata. He would go on to successfully defend the title against Shuji Kondo in a match that won the Tokyo Sports Best Bout of 2008 award and Takashi Okita before losing it to Kaz Hayashi.

In wrestling[edit]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]