Match Point: Naomichi Marufuji vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima, NOAH’s Grand Square 2021 (10/10/21)

Pro Wrestling NOAH’s upcoming event Grand Square 2021 in OSAKA marks one of the biggest main events of the year, when Naomichi Marufuji defends his GHC Heavyweight Championship against Katsuhiko Nakajima. I

In this Match Point? We will cover the history between these two.

In the beginning.

Naomichi Marufuji and Katsuhiko Nakajima are considered veterans of the wrestling scene, with both careers lasting over 15 years.

Marufuji and Nakajima do have a history in the N-1 Victory/Global League, but they have more of a history in a faction. Both of them used to be in a faction known as BRAVE. This faction used to be part of NOAH in the mid-2010s with both men showcasing great chemistry together as a tag team. But at the time, Marufuji was one of the top stars of the promotion, while Nakajima was looking to break out in his career.

Nakajima’s history in matches with Marufuji is very little as besides the N-1 Victory/Global League that they’ve not had many major matches together. This upcoming match marking the second GHC Heavyweight Championship match between them. In 2014, Marufuji defeated Nakajima to retain his championship. In the years that have passed, Nakajima has gone through a drastic change in his career in look and his ability. Nakajima’s drastic change could be seen after his run with the GHC Heavyweight Champion.

How 5-6 years changed both men.

Katsuhiko Nakajima held the GHC Heavyweight Championship for almost over a year in 2016 going into 2017. This reign consisted of many great bouts, but Nakajima always wanted to fight Marufuji. But Marufuji never really showed interest in Nakajima. It was after he lost the championship when Marufuji would get interested in the championship again. This was viewed as humiliating by Nakajima.

The years that have passed brought a different side to Nakajima. More of a descent into madness in a drastic character and look change. One of the main catalysts being him losing his championship. Nakajima was focused on NOAH and doing everything he could while feeling like he’s never doing enough, always lived in the shadows of his tag partners. The story of Naomichi Marfuji is drastically different.

Naomichi Marufuji, however, would go on to have a defining 6 years after his 2015 reign. Most notably being part of bringing NOAH to international fans in Impact Wrestling and even being part of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax in 2016. Naomichi Marufuji focused so much on expansion & Marufuji became the ace of Pro Wrestling NOAH and became even more relaxed in later years. Including being unsuccessful in multiple GHC Heavyweight Title matches, until he would break out of his slump and defeating Keiji Mutoh to win the GHC Heavyweight Championship at CyberFight Festival 2021.

N1 Victory 2020

Katsuhiko Nakajima can often be described as a man living in the shadows of his tag partners. In 2019-2020, Katsuhiko Nakajima was part of a top tag team known as AXIZ with Go Shiozaki. This tag-team dominated NOAH in 2019 and even some of 2020 when both held singles gold. But in late 2020, Nakajima would turn on his partner to join the KONGOH faction. This was later cemented in the N-1 Victory that year.

With both men in different blocks, but in the finals of the tournament. Naomichi Marufuji and Katsuhiko Nakajima would be part of the 2020 B Block finals. Nakajima would eventually go on winning this tournament as a whole. He would challenge his former partner Shiozaki to a losing effort. After this loss, Katsuhiko Nakajima would go down in the cards and go into 2021 an even more sinister version of himself

The New Nakajima & N1 Victory 2021

After his match with Shiozaki, Nakajima would go lower on the card, until the middle of 2021 when The Aggression (w/Masa Kitamiya) was reformed. This was another successful tag team, with a short reign as GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champions. But it didn’t last forever. Masa would turn on his partner. This would lead to a hair vs. hair match against each other at Cage War, with Nakajima losing the bout and his hair.

After losing his hair, Nakajima became more successful. In tag matches, he often was the victor. In regular matches, successful. But going into the N-1 Victory for the second year in a row as last year’s winner, it was a place to truly stand out if he won it for the second year in a row. Naomichi Marufuji would not participate in the 2021 tournament, while Katsuhiko Nakajima would enter C Block. Nakajima would go on winning this tournament for the second year in a row. After defeating Kenoh in the finals of the tournament. The only person in NOAH’s history to have such an accomplishment. After winning the tournament, he would officially challenge Naomichi Marufuji to a match at Grand Square 2021 in OSAKA.

Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Naomichi Marufuji – In Closing

When it comes to the optics of this match, Katsuhiko Nakajima just went through a brutal tournament. A tournament that featured some of the hardest strikers in Pro Wrestling NOAH. Including facing D Block’s finalist Masakatsu Funaki and B Block’s Kenoh in the finals of the tournament. Where Nakajima would get brutalized by every wrestler around him but still win. Naomichi Marufuji however would be more relaxed. He hasn’t wrestled since before the N-1 Victory. 

While it might be seen as an easy title defense for Marufuji for a person, he’s never taken seriously. For Nakajima, it’s about finally getting back what he hasn’t held since 2016/2017. If Nakajima wins this match? It would mark his second reign as champion.

For Naomichi Marufuji… this will be his third title defense in one of his biggest title defenses. Nakajima is broken down from that tournament, while Marufuji is healed up and fresh.

A drastic change from 2020’s N-1 Victory. But could Marufuji not taking Nakajima seriously be his downfall? It seems unlikely considering the history of this tournament. Since 2018, there hasn’t been a successful title win after winning this tournament.

I guess it will be ultimately known at Grand Square 2021 in Osaka on October 10th.


Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world. You can watch Pro Wrestling NOAH as well as DDT, TJPW, and more on Wrestle Universe.



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