Minoru Suzuki (c) vs Naomichi Marufuji
GHC Heavyweight Championship
Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium, Yokohama, Kanegawa, Japan
Aight, despite some typical Marufuji silliness, the first match these two had was pretty damn good, so let’s give this a go and see what it’s like. We start things with a collar and elbow, with Suzuki backing Marufuji up into the ropes, and the ref asks for a break. Suzuki looks to be going for a clean break before he takes a swing at Marufuji, who ducks out of the way, and goddamn me if Suzuki’s little understanding nod isn’t the greatest thing in the world. The lads chain for a bit, and Marufuji gets the advantage with a wristlock, reversing Suzuki’s wristlock with some flashy flips and shit. Suzuki backs into the ropes, asking for a clean break, and when Marufuji supplies him with one, Suzuki slaps him across the face and beats him down. Marufuji reverses an Irish whip into the ropes and hits a dropkick and then a trio of mean-ass chops in the corner. The ref asks for a break and Marufuji refuses, putting a boot in Suzuki’s face and pushing away at him, and Suzuki yells at Marufuji with this boot still planted on his face as the referee literally interjects himself between them to break it up. Marufuji drags Suzuki up to his feet by his hair and chops him real hard again, and then again. Bespectacled old man Kenta Kobashi is at ringside and has no remorse in his eyes for Suzuki’s plight. The challenger brings Suzuki down to the mat with a side headlock, kicking out when Suzuki tries to turn him over for a pin. Suzuki fights his way free, boots Marufuji, grabs a headlock of his own and a fistful of Marufuji’s hair when the NOAH native pushes him off the ropes, and sends him outside with a headbutt. At ringside, the champ kicks and chops away at Marufuji but is then whipped into the guardrail and bulldogged onto it like in their first match. Marufuji meets Suzuki with a boot to the face as he tries to climb back in the ring, and when Suzuki again tries to climb back inside, he goes for the springboard dropkick from their first match, and Suzuki sees it coming, traps Marufuji’s arm and leg in the ropes, and locks in a brief armbar/kneebar combo on the apron. He drags the challenger out into the crowd and tries to whack him with a chair before the referee takes it from him, and settles with just an armbar. Suzuki gets in a physical altercation with the referee, and it’s clear that tensions are high across the board. Marufuji makes his way back to the ring, nursing his arm, and Suzuki meets him with a knee before continuing to target the arm, locking in his armbar over the ropes. He retrieves a mallet from under the ring and brings it into the ring, but tosses it away when the referee suspects something and goes to check him, so Suzuki instead just goes back to the arm. His armwork is real vicious and his playing to the crowd is great. As Marufuji rises to his feet, Suzuki toys with him, asking Marufuji to chop him. Marufuji complies, hurting his arm, and Suzuki just laughs it off before kicking his arm. Marufuji reverses a whip and goes for a dropkick, but like in their first match, Suzuki holds onto the ropes to avoid it and tries to respond with a PK. The challenger sees this coming, though, and grabs Suzuki’s leg, working his way to his feet. Suzuki, undeterred, just slaps him and goes to bounce off the ropes, but Marufuji cuts him off with a dropkick in a nice little progression spot playing off their previous bout. Some more mean chops in the corner from Marufuji. Suzuki reverses a whip across the ring and tries to follow Marufuji into the corner with a boot, but the younger man avoids it, with Suzuki’s leg getting caught over the top rope, and Marufuji puts him down with a superkick to the side of the head. He goes for his big running double stomp to the head but Suzuki avoids it and tries to bring Marufuji down by his leg, and Marufuji fights it by doing a silly neck crank spot with his feet, and he tops it off with the running double stomp and basement superkick for two. In a spot the likes of which I’ve never seen before, Marufuji lays Suzuki down and slowly goes to climb the ropes, and Suzuki, still on his back, scurries across the ring after him and yanks him down by his leg, locking in a kneebar. It’s both hilarious and horrifying, and it kind of blows my mind, and the crowd really pops for it as well. Marufuji grabs the rope and Suzuki wastes no time in whipping him across the ring, putting a boot in his face, and hitting a PK for two. Back on their feet, both men trade rough chops back and forth, which is a theme of this feud and especially this match, and Marufuji gains the advantage with a quick trio of chops. Suzuki rolls to the apron to get some separation, and he looks to surprise Marufuji with the armbar over the ropes when the younger man chases him, but Marufuji has it scouted and responds with a stun gun on the top rope that puts Suzuki in his dizzy animation on the apron. With a full head of steam, Marufuji bounces off the ropes and leaps over Suzuki, going for a sunset flip to the outside, but Suzuki fights it and reverses it into a cross armbreaker on the apron, with Marufuji’s back bent in half over the edge of the ring. Fantastic spot. After the ref breaks it up, the champ tosses Marufuji inside ad locks in a regular cross armbreaker, and Marufuji really has to struggle to get to the ropes and break it up. Toying with him and the crowd, Suzuki lays in a number of chest kicks (that hit Marufuji’s arm as well) on the challenger, bringing his arms up to block when Marufuji tries to chop him, which only further hurts Marufuji’s arm, and slaps a sleeper on the NOAH ace. He tries to transition it into the Gotch-style piledriver, but with a big effort, Marufuji backdrops him over to escape. Marufuji hits a flurry of kicks that put both men down for the count when Suzuki charges at him in the corner. Back on their feet, Marufuji chops Suzuki down, and the face Suzuki makes as he rises up from a bent-over position is simply unbelievable. Dude operates on another level. He measures the challenger and fires back with a chop of his own, and Marufuji’s face as he likewise rises from being bent over is not bad. They chop each other back and forth, growing angrier and angrier, and it’s pretty fucking great, real nasty stuff. Suzuki gets the advantage with a headbutt and ducks a superkick attempt, locking in a brief sleeper before Marufuji tosses him over. Marufuji bounces off the ropes and just sort of slaps Suzuki on the back of the head before urging him to his feet in a real silly moment. He bounces off the ropes again and Suzuki follows him in, looking for a reversal, and it’s clear that Suzuki botched the spot and they’re trying it again. Suzuki ducks a clothesline and hits a trio of slaps, and Marufuji responds with a spinning heel kick to the jaw that sounds like a baseball hitting a tree. Fuck me, what a gross spot. As both men are down on the mat, we see Davey Boy Smith Jr and Lance Archer of Suzuki-gun (who, as a stable, have been notably absent from ringside during this match) trying to make their way to the ring, and some lads I can’t identify are trying to stop them. TMDK then come down and drag them to the back, and when bespectacled old man Kobashi gets up to see what’s going on, I so desperately want to see him chop these big silly gaijins, but alas, no such luck. Both men back on their feet, Suzuki rushes at Marufuji in the corner, who avoids it and hits a goddamn disgusting bicycle knee that again sounds like a hard, fast-moving object hitting another hard, unmovable object. The crowd pops hard for it, as they should, and Suzuki sells it like death, as he should. Marufuji brings Suzuki to his feet and goes for the shiranui, but Suzuki reverses it into a cross armbreaker right in the middle of the ring, but despite his attempts to break the ace’s arm, Marufuji is able to get to the ropes before submitting. Suzuki slaps on a sleeper and goes for the Gotch-style piledriver, but Marufuji reverses it into a shiranui, just bring his knee over his shoulder in a silly fashion to smash it into Suzuki’s face, and he hits a big silly ax bomber that nobody pops for. Marufuji tries to follow it up with his suplex into superkick spot and Suzuki avoids it and just pops him right in the mouth with a punch, but it’s about all he can do, as both men are on roller skates here. After a moment, Marufuji responds with a pair of hard bicycle knees and the crowd builds into a frenzy. High knee from Suzuki, superkick from Marufuji. Marufuji goes for a codebreaker of some sort and Suzuki shoves him off, hits a sliding knee, and then locks in a sleeper hold, wrenching the ace back for a Saka Otoshi as well. He keeps the sleeper locked in but Marufuji won’t give up, and the referee has to raise his hand to see if he’s still alive. After the second hand raise, Suzuki simply turns Marufuji around for the Gotch-style piledriver but doesn’t bend him over yet, just allowing Marufuji’s lifeless corpse to slide down his own body, and when he lifts the challenger for the piledriver, he keeps him up there for a good twenty seconds before driving him down to the mat for the win. Hot damn, what a fun match. Plagued, again, by some Marufuji shenanigans that feel out of place in a serious heavyweight title match, but all in all, this is great. It improves on their previous matchup in both action and story, progressing in a natural and compelling way, and the spots range from good to gross. Great stuff all around, go check this out, people.