AJ Styles and Naomichi Marufuji – A Phenomenal First Time Ever Battle

On July 13th, 2024, at NOAH Destination in the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, one of the most beloved veterans in wrestling today will return to Japan in a decade to challenge one of the greatest Japanese competitors of all time in a first-time dream matchup when AJ Styles and Naomichi Marufuji do battle.

In one corner, we have the Phenomenal One, the man who has dominated companies worldwide for over 20 years with his immense wrestling ability and still looking to challenge himself.

In the other corner, we have the Genius Of The Ark and one of the most talented veterans in Japan, who made a name for himself in NOAH with his high-flying styles and classic wrestling matches, looking to excite the wrestling world one more time with a legendary dream match up.

AJ Styles and Naomichi Marufuji
[Photo: Pro Wrestling NOAH]

AJ Styles and Naomichi Marufuji
Tearing Down The Forbidden Door

The Forbidden Door is a recently coined wrestling term that refers to wrestlers’ transitions from one signed promotion to another.

We have seen this with super shows between AEW and NJPW, as well as talent touring the indie scene, but until 2022, when Triple H took over, the WWE has stayed far away from the crossovers.

Recently, however, WWE wrestlers have been popping up all over the wrestling world, from Baszler competing at GCW’s Bloodsport X to Dempsey challenging for the AJPW Triple Crown Championship and even TNA competitors making their presence known in NXT.

Despite these seismic changes, more crossovers are expected to come, with a huge one being AJ Styles making his return to Japanese wrestling to face off with the legend, Marufuji.

Naomichi Marufuji has competed in companies such as NOAH, NJPW, and AJPW, even crossing over to America to wrestle at Ring Of Honor events, guiding him to becoming a world-traveled warrior with abilities that are respected across the wrestling globe.

He has faced some of the best that pro wrestling has seen, such as Bryan Danielson, Kazuchika Okada, Finn Balor, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and many other legends. Hence, a big stage against a prominent opponent is not new to the Genius Of The Ark.

Still, AJ Styles has also grown exponentially since joining WWE in 2016 after two decades in the indies, so both men will have new skills that one another must watch out for in a vast international matchup.


A War Against Trailblazers

In modern-day wrestling, the work rate is at an all-time high with many styles, which can be traced back to the two competitors in this matchup.

AJ Styles helped to revolutionize the high-flying technical style during the 2000s in TNA in the X-Division, mixing in aerial assaults and dives and smooth technical transitions to create a unique style not seen elsewhere in America then.

With such unique abilities in the ring, the Phenomenal One became a must-watch competitor and gained worldwide fame. Many wrestlers today watched back in 2002, using some of Styles’ influence in their matches, such as Will Ospreay.

Naomichi Marufuji was a pioneer of the Junior Heavyweight division seen throughout Japan, deviating from the slower-paced main event matches and adding more high-paced action into the longer main events.

He would usher in a new era of Japanese wrestling for the lighter weights, helping to differentiate the slower-paced heavyweight action with the quickfire junior action.

As well as this, he would lay down the blueprint for tag teams such as the Young Bucks and Lucha Bros, with his high-sprint tag classic throughout the 2000s that had a mix of technical structure and relentless action that created many excellent matches over the years.

Both men are two of the most skilled competitors in wrestling’s long history, but they are also significantly ahead of their time, and their influence is still present today, which makes it more interesting that they will face it for the first time in 2024.

Naomichi Marufuji
[Photo / Pro Wrestling NOAH / English / Twitter]

Abundance Of Accolades

Along with their vast impacts on wrestling’s stylistics, both athletes have collected an insane amount of championship gold in the past two decades.

AJ Styles put himself on the map with his reigns with the X-Division title that highlighted his fantastic wrestling ability and showed his determination to make any title he holds feel like the most important in the business.

After multiple iconic TNA Word and Tag Team Championships, the Phenomenal one traveled to NJPW, where he won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in his first match, and with two reigns with that title, it elevated NJPW and Bullet Club to new heights.

Even in WWE, multiple reigns with the WWE title and the United States title put both the championships on a pedestal due to the man who held them, showing the championship pedigree of AJ Styles.

The Genius Of The Ark is also a competitor that is not unknown to holding a championship, with Marufuji being recognized as one of the greatest GHC Heavyweight champions of all time.

With legendary defenses against the likes of Kenta, Suguira, and Funaki, as well as being a 9-time GHC Heavyweight tag team champion with multiple partners from Minoru Suzuki to Keiji Muto, Marafuji has faced some of the greatest of all time.

He has also been in contention for some of the biggest titles in wrestling, such as against Okada at King Of Pro Wrestling 2016 for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Both men have top-tier wrestling skills and possess the accolades to back it up.

A Peek Of Wrestling’s Future

NOAH Destination 2024 will be the scene of an amazing first-time clash and represent the direction of professional wrestling, more specifically, the WWE.

Companies all over the world will work together to give fans a flood of amazing matchups like we have never seen before. 

Triple H has shown that he can create strong working relationships with multiple wrestling companies, such as TNA and NOAH, allowing wrestlers to cross between promotions, which we have not seen in wrestling in decades.

The future of pro wrestling is starting to paint a fascinating landscape of many surprises that we would never expect to see, and this era begins with AJ Styles and Naomichi Marufuji.

On July 13th, 2024, an unprecedented match would take place between two legends in the business from two halves of the world and going into this match not only wanting to assert international dominance but with personal goals.

AJ Styles is beginning to wind down his career, and with only a few things left on his list, he wants to check one off by beating the Japanese legend.

However, Naomichi Marufuji looks to continue his status as one of the most extraordinary talents to grace the wrestling ring by adding another classic wrestler to his resume. So, will the Phenomenal One start off a possible farewell tour with a victory in his return to Japan?

Or will the Genius Of The Ark use his versatility and unique skillset to spoil the return of AJ Styles and come out on top in this battle?