Naomichi Marufuji is an 11-year veteran of puroresu and one of the most popular wrestlers in NOAH. He also is one of the most accomplished in that he’s one of the rare Jr. Heavyweight wrestlers to have success at the championship level against the Heavyweights.
Marufuji started out in 1998 in All-Japan, but under the policies of Giant Baba he was used primarily as a jobber. He left the promotion in 2000 as part of Mitsuharu Misawa’s mass talent exodus to form NOAH, and quickly became a big part of it’s Jr. Heavyweight division, winning the GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title in 2001 but also winning the WEW Tag Team Titles in 2000 with Tamon Honda. In 2003 Marufuji teamed with fellow Jr. standout KENTA to win a tournament to determine the first GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, their very successful reign would last nearly 2 years. Along the way, Marufuji broke into the Heavyweight ranks with success, first by winning the GHC Hardcore Title in October 2004 and holding it for 5 months, then having a 4-month GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title reign with Minoru Suzuki.
Late 2005 saw Marufuji continue breaking out and expanding worldwide as he made the first of what’s become somewhat regular trips to the USA. He debuted in the Ring Of Honor promotion, making a well-received but unsuccessful challenge for the ROH World Title. In March 2006 he returned to ROH for a tag team match, he & KENTA beat the ROH team of Samoa Joe & Bryan Danielson. Before his next trip, he would make history back in Japan-in September 2006 Marufuji defeated Jun Akiyama to win the GHC Heavyweight Championship, becoming not only the smallest champion yet-only 185 pounds-but the first and, to date, only man in NOAH to hold all 5 GHC Titles over the course of his career. He held the title for 3 months before losing it to Mitsuharu Misawa. While Champion, Marufuji defended twice, including once against KENTA, and made a couple trips back to ROH.
In 2007 Marufuji was relatively quiet early on, but finished the year with his 2nd GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title reign, holding the belts for 7 months with Takashi Sugiura. In 2008 Marufuji returned to All-Japan to challenge for the All-Japan World Jr. Heavyweight Title, stating his ultimate goal was to set the record for most successful title defenses in one reign-15. He would only make 4, but one defense earned him the 2008 Tokyo Sports Best Bout Award.
Marufuji missed most of 2009 due to injury but returned to action in December ’09. He has been active behind the scenes though-after the death of Misawa Marufuji was named a Vice President of NOAH and is considered the brainchild of the promotion’s first Jr. Heavyweight League that was held in October ’09, an event Marufuji hopes can become an annual event much like other prestigious Jr. Heavyweight tournaments in other promotions.
Marufuji returned from injuries in December 2009 and made an immediate impact, winning the Super J-Cup Tournament and earning an IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title shot at New Japan’s annual Tokyo Dome Blowout Show in January 2010. And he pulled off yet another impressive feat by winning the title, becoming the first wrestler ever to win the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title, All-Japan World Jr. Heavyweight Title, and GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title in his career, which will only further cement his legacy among the all-time elite.
Marufuji missed most of the second half of 2010 due to a shoulder injury suffered in a July match that briefly left him unable to move his arm, but he made a full recovery and returned to action in December 2010.
Marufuji unfortunately went down with an injury yet again in April 2011, his potentially 3rd major setback in just over 2 years, and is once again inactive. It’s not yet known how long he’ll be out this time.
Stats & info:
Weight: 185 pounds/84 kg
Experience: 11 years
Finishing move: Shiranui, Pole Shift
Current Affiliation: NOAH
Ring entrance theme: “Hysteric” by unknown (but it sounds like it’s composed/arranged by Naoki Maeda)
1-time GHC Heavyweight Champion
2-time GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champion
1-time GHC Jr. Heavyweight Champion
2-time GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champion
1-time GHC Hardcore Champion
1-time All-Japan World Jr. Heavyweight Champion
1-time IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion
1-time IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champion
1-time WEW Tag Team Champion
2003 GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title Tournament
2004 2 Day Tag Tournament
2004 Super J Cup
2007 1 Night 6 Man Tag Tournament
2007 GHC Heavyweight Title Next Challenger Tournament
2009 Super J Cup
2003, 2004 Wrestling Observer Newsletter Tag Team Of The Year (with KENTA)
2006 Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Outstanding Performance Award
2006 Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Best Bout Award (10/26/06 vs. KENTA)
2008 Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Best Bout Award (11/3/08 vs. Shuji Kondo)