IWGP UK Champ scores yet another high profile victory
September 17 saw the 25th career anniversary of Naomichi Marufuji. His career spanning a quarter of a century from All Japan Pro-Wrestling to being the Ace of Pro-Wrestling NOAH, Marufuji celebrated this career landmark in Korakuen Hall in a dream match opposite a man who grew up idolising the influential star- IWGP UK Champion Will Ospreay.
A handshake of mutual respect heralded the bell, greeted with rapturous chants for Marufuji from the sold out Korakuen. It wasn’t long before the IWGP UK Champion felt the wrath of Marufuji’s infamous chops for the first time, before an exchange of holds was followed with a fast pace tease of strikes, a standoff ensuing. As the two went to the ropes, Ospreay looked for a handspring, but Marufuji would cut the Briton short with a basement dropkick to the arm that saw the veteran earn the decided first advantage of the bout.
The advantage didn’t last long, Ospreay unleashing a receipt for the early chop with a stinging blow that sent Marufuji tumbling off the top rope to the floor. There, Ospreay stayed on offence, pinging Marufuji off the ringside steel and pushing the advantage back inside. Now it was Ospreay a step ahead of his foe as he evaded a dropkick from the NOAH legend, but a cartwheel threw the champion off guard, and his veteran opponent found a springboard that sent the Briton off the apron. A tornillo followed, and Ospreay was on the back foot once more.
Ospreay brought the pace to get back in the bout, stunning Marufuji with a Tiger Wall flip and then a handspring overhead before a springboard forearm for two. Marufuji wanted to respond with kicks, but Ospreay’s feet were faster, and a Sky Twister Press to the floor compounded the damage dealt. There on the floor, Ospreay had designs on an OsCutter, but Marufuji had different ideas in mind; still he couldn’t stop a stunning Shooting Star over the ropes to get another near fall from the official, before a short powerbomb for another close two.
Ospreay was ruthless and dominant as he buried a springboard dropkick clear across the ring that sent Marufuji to the apron. A dangerous Stormbreaker on the ring frame would certainly have ended more than just the match, but the NOAH veteran finally found a response where he needed it most, a Shiranui sending Ospreay spilling to the floor. Marufuji now mirrored Ospreay from before, springboarding across the ring with a dropkick. The two men resetting, brutal chops were exchanged before Marufuji found a hook kick; as the pace quickened again Ospreay looked for another powerbomb, but was countered with a cutter and a second Shiranui. A surge of adrenaline saw the UK Champion land a desperation Hidden blade, but the match rolled on.
Ospreay landed a rare Robinson Special before the OsCutter landed flush, for only two. Seeking to finish the job, Ospreay headed to the top but was met by Marufuji; the Shiranui Kai Spanish Fly scored for the veteran who thought of Emerald Flowsion, but was met with a Tiger Driver and a kick out at one. Incensed at the use of his veteran Mitsuharu Misawa’s offense Marufuji fired back and scored a knee for two, and a Tiger Flowsion for a very near fall. Running through his toughest offense, Marufuji tried for the Pole Shift Flowsion that beat Kazuchika Okada years before, but was denied; a hook kick scored for Marufuji but so too did a Hidden Blade to the front and back of the head.
To the Korakuen roar, Marufuji kicked out of the Blade, but not from the Strombreaker, Ospreay picking up yet another win over yet another of the world’s best. Ospreay now heads to Kobe on September 24 where he defends the IWGP UK gold against Yota Tsuji.