Thursday, August 24, 2017

Random Match Review: 8/24/17

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Naomichi Marufuji [c] vs. Prince Devitt – NJPW Dominion 6/19/10; Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium

At Wrestle Kingdom earlier in the year, Naomichi Marufuji won the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship, despite being a Pro Wrestling NOAH regular. On that same night, Prince Devitt and Ryusuke Taguchi successfully defended their Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles. In the time between then and Dominion, Devitt’s team was stripped of the titles for not defending them and he entered the 2010 Best of the Super Juniors Tournament. Devitt bested Kota Ibushi in the finals to earn this title shot.

Though the men were close in age (Devitt was 28 and Marufuji was 30), Marufuji would be considered the veteran. He was accomplished, having won the Super J Cup twice, a Heavyweight Title in NOAH and Jr. Titles in NJPW, NOAH and AJPW. Devitt’s BOTSJ win was the biggest singles accomplishment for him so far. Marufuji beat Devitt in their first match in the Super J Cup Finals a year prior, and again at a show earlier in 2010. Devitt needed to finally beat Marufuji to bring the title back to NJPW.

The veteran instinct of Marufuji came into play early. Devitt was amped and busted out a dive in the opening minutes, but Marufuji had a game plan and took the attack to his challenger’s leg. He slammed it on the apron and applied submissions like a modified stretch muffler and figure four. Devitt refused to quit, surviving it all. He began his rally, which the crowd was firmly behind. Some of his stuff involved the use of his leg a bit too much, with no time taken to sell it. IF you’re going to use a body part that’s been worked on, at least stop to sell the pain or shake it out or something. To be fair, he was better about it in the later stages. 

They had a brilliant exchange of kick attempts, where they each dodged a bunch. Marufuji would win out, catching Devitt with stiff kick after stiff kick. As the match reached its final point, they called back to previous outings. Marufuji needed to reach deep to beat Devitt this time, because he wouldn’t stay down. He went for high risk offense, taking Devitt to the top rope. That mistake proved costly when Devitt countered and hit Bloody Sunday off the top to take the championship away from NOAH and earn his first Jr. Heavyweight Title at 20:20.

Great match, with the added bonus of the almost always excellent Osaka crowd. I had some issues with the leg selling at times, but other than that, this ruled. They had great exchanges and reversals from knowing so much about each other in their past battles. A lot of the time, it looked like Marufuji was the better wrestler. He was almost always a step ahead. But Devitt wouldn’t quit and survived a lot to finally take home the title. [****]

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