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Naomichi Marufuji: Like a Feather

9 months ago

Naomichi Marufuji: Like a Feather

by R. Faliani

It’s hard for wrestlers to keep the same level of performance as time passes. We’re seeing it with people like Hiroshi Tanahashi. The Ace of the Universe still brings the best out of him every time, but his age is starting to catch up, and that translates to his style, and the way he moves inside the ring. The Ace is still there, but not with the same ability that he used to have. The same can be said about wrestlers like KENTA, who are past their prime and they’re currently approaching wrestling with another mentality. They’re not by any means bad wrestlers, but it’s obvious that they’re not the same as before. Nonetheless, when you think about Naomichi Marufuji, the opposite starts to happen. Marufuji just gets better with age. This phenomenon can be understood considering the kind of wrestler he was and the kind of wrestler he is now, changing his style dramatically while keeping the hits, like an artist who’s looking to reinvent himself.

Naomichi Marufuji makes his entrance against Jake Lee in May 2023. c/o Masahiro Kubota / Monthly Puroresu

For puroresu, the idea of reaching your 25th Anniversary as a professional wrestler seems distant. For many legends of the past, the idea of retirement couldn’t even be thought of. Wrestlers like Toshiaki Kawada and Masahiro Chono never got an official retirement or retirement show as wrestlers like Keiji Muto and Kenta Kobashi.

Where does Marufuji stand, as he reaches 25 years of professional wrestling? He will face the best wrestler in the world today, Will Ospreay. Does this means Marufuji is close to retirement? Absolutely not. He keeps going strong, and he keeps his head up. We saw what Marufuji is still able to do with his match against Jake Lee for the GHC Heavyweight Championship. Despite losing the match, Marufuji went toe-to-toe with Lee, and gave him a lesson of respect to the veterans.

Marufuji is known for being the eternal Ace of Pro-Wrestling NOAH, as he was the one in charge of bearing the flag and steering the Ark when things were messy. This role he took made him a huge favorite of the fans, and it increased his status as a living legend. We can sit here and write about Marufuji’s greatest hits as part of the great era of 2000s NOAH, but we’re bringing something different to the table, talking about the way he reinvented himself as a brutal striker.

His style was characterized by high-flying manuevers and stiff kicks, but as time passed, he realized he couldn’t do the same thing over and over, and he began to start using grappling in his matches. Marufuji entered the 2010s as a high-flying GHC Champion, and he entered the 2020s as an experienced and deadly striker, who was also a GHC Champion. Not even Tanahashi could enter the 2020s as IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. That speaks volumes about Marufuji’s evolution as a professional wrestler and the way his style changed for the better. There’s this idea in pro-wrestling that certain styles will shorten careers, and that they need to be tuned down for the wrestlers to have longer runs. Marufuji is a good example of this, but not because his career was shortened, but because he’s still wrestling at the highest level possible.

As a 43-year old living legend, Marufuji stands in the wrestling world as an example of what a pro-wrestler should be. His never-ending loyalty to NOAH stands above all, but we can’t sit here and pretend Marufuji is not one of the most innovative and inspirational wrestlers of all time. Few wrestlers can say that they got to inspire three generations of wrestlers, but Marufuji is one of the few that can. It’s impossible to imagine pro-wrestling without the influence of Marufuji and KENTA going crazy in the Nippon Budokan.

The best wrestlers of today have been influenced by both men. WWE’s Seth Rollins said he stole his Curb Stomp from Marufuji. AEW’s Kenny Omega was inspired by Marufuji’s knee strike while inventing the V-Trigger. Will Ospreay’s kicks can also be attributed to Marufuji’s work, alongside the Spanish Fly. Even Chris Jericho said that he got inspired by Marufuji while creating the Codebreaker. Without Marufuji, we can say that 75% of wrestlers today wouldn’t be the same. And let’s be honest, they’re lucky Marufuji is not an angry wrestler that gets mad because people use “his stuff”.

His opponent on his own 25th Anniversary is a wrestler who has called Marufuji his hero, so you can imagine the impact he had on his life. Pro-wrestling is about heroes, and there’s no one more heroic as Marufuji. He’s very underappreciated too, one of those wrestlers that whenever they retire we’ll miss like hell because we didn’t know how much we needed them in the wrestling bubble.

We had to talk about Marufuji like this, because he deserves this and more. The pro-wrestling world needs to give Marufuji his flowers, because there’s nobody like him and we’re pretty sure there’s not going to be in a long time. Previously we had written about Marufuji, referring to him as “NOAH’s Beating Heart”. But as time passes and we reach September 17th, the legendary Korakuen Hall gets ready to celebrate 25 years filled with emeralds and shooting stars. Because Marufuji is like that fine wine you never get tired of. A legendary wrestler who gets better with experience. One of the few wrestlers from his era that keeps his style light as a feather and deadly as a sword. A sword that protects the Ark each day.

Written by:

Hello, I'm from Argentina. I see wrestling with a different perspective thanks to the many content creators in my community. Everything changed when I first watched Go Shiozaki vs Kazuyuki Fujita in 2020. The unsettling nature of the match clicked with me, and it inspired my first video essay. That match made me understand something: I was a content creator –Gyro - and I want to broadcast different ideas: the battles of wrestling ideologies, the importance of Joshi & Puroresu and the dramatic stories surrounding it. I love Puroresu with such passion, I love how it gives me an empty canvas and tells me to draw my idea about it. I have not yet finished high school as a 17-year-old, but am currently preparing to venture into college. I actually learned English by watching wrestling and talking to different people over the years. I am still perfecting the language, and these experiences will help me even more.