In a time when the heel/face structure in the wrestling world is blurred, there is one man that you automatically think of as a heel the second you see him in the ring, Kazunori Murakami. Sure he looks like the younger brother of Naoya Ogawa, but do not get these two confused. Sure Ogawa is "legit" or at least made to be "legit", but Murakami is by far the better worker of the two UFO aliens, and generates more heat than a blast furnace. Tall and lanky with a snarl that just makes you want to slap him, Murakami has punched his way into my heart, and the heart of many others.
With a background in judo and kickboxing, Murakami began his career by making a name for himself in tournaments in the US and Japan, and cut his teeth in two Extreme Fighting Championships before becoming a member of the Inoki lead UFO. Murakami came to my attention in late 1999 while teaming with Yuki Ishikawa and TAKA Michinoku in Battlarts against Alexander Otsuka, Mohammed Yone, and Ikuto Hidaka. Not knowing who he was I figured he was the Yone of his team, or the worst worker on his team. I was pleasantly surprised in his performance; he brought an intensity and stiffness to the match that was unseen for sometime. The only other person I could compare to him at the time was Daisuke Ikeda, who brought the exact traits to the table that Murakami did, particularly in his feud with Yuki Ishikawa. The next I saw of him was opposite Ishikawa and Yone with Ikeda as his partner. Needless to say the team of Ikeda/Murakami dominated the match with Ishikawa leading the two to what was in essence, a great squash. The interplay between Ishikawa and Murakami was really intense and hinted at a budding feud. The next time Murakami showed up in Battlarts was their 3/25/00 show where he teamed with Otsuka to face Ishikawa and Naoki Sano. This was a very exciting and excellent match highlighted by the exchanges between Murakami and Ishikawa which were as stiff as youıll see in wrestling and more intense than any shoot. Murakami peppered Ishikawa with rapid fire kicks and punches all while flashing his patented snarl. The crowd really hated Murakami and long time fan favorite caught the heat by association. The ref could not control Murakami and the two brawled into the crowd had to be broken up in the ring many times. This was the match that completely sold me on Murakami, in there with three of the worlds best, but itıs his performance that sticks out. As irony has it, this was the last Battlarts show that Daisuke Ikeda would appear on. As the man whose feud with Yuki Ishikawa carried Battlarts from the very beginning was walking away, a new nemesis for Ishikawa was entering the picture.
Throughout the year 2000 Murakami appeared on Battlarts shows to confront Ishikawa, and attack him. These confrontations ended in heated pull aparts, but never without Murakami getting the better of the encounter. The crowds ate up these encounters which often saw Murakami attacking anyone within range, wrestler and official alike. On 10/1/00 Ishikawa and Murakami finally got back into the ring together in a tag match. Murakami had the equally as stiff Mitsuya Nagai with him against Ishikawa and Carl Malenko. Right off the bat Murakami commences in attacking Ishikawa and hitting him with punches and kicks that should not be thrown in a wrestling match. Murakami is like the Mike Tyson of wrestling, every strike is thrown with bad intentions. Nagia takes the lead from Murakami and holds nothing back when attacking Ishikawa, but you do not see the hatred between the two that you do when Murakami is in. Poor Carl Malenko is caught in the middle of the rivals and takes the biggest beating of the year. Ishikawa took a lot of punishment in this match, but nothing compared to what Malenko withstood. It seemed Murakami was out to intimidate Ishikawa by beating the stuffing out of his partner. Murakami finally puts the most violent wrestling match Iıve ever seen away by pelting Malenko with a series of punches that knock Carl unconscious as the ref calls a stop to the match. But Murakami is not finished just yet, he continues to lay in kicks and punches on the prone Malenko who canıt even cover up. Ishikawa finally comes in to stop Murakami only to eat a flurry of Murakami punches. It takes a mass of people to get things under control as everyone involved from the fans to the wrestlers are at a fever pitch with all attention directed at Murakami and Ishikawa and their fued culminating match at Battlarts biggest show ever.
Part 2 in next STVR