Video Vault – Mitsuharu Misawa Career Highlights
Today I thought Iâ€™d share some of the late Mitsuharu Misawaâ€™s legendary moments in pro wrestling. I know that a lot of North American readers who read FGB might not be that familiar with Mitsuharu Misawaâ€™s body of work, so this is a good chance to catch up on some of the legendâ€™s great matches and moments. (My apologies to Alan for doing your gimmick lately.)
This first clip is from 1990 during a big tag team match on All Japan Pro Wrestling TV from Budokan Hall. Yoshiaki Yatsu and Samson Fuyuki battled Toshiaki Kawada and Tiger Mask II (aka Misawa). This was the infamous match where Misawa actually unmasked himself (something almost unheard of at the time) during the match. Normally when a masked wrestler unmasks, it is the beginning of the end of that worker (see Mexico). However in this case, this was the rebirth of a career, as unmasking himself was the first step in Misawa becoming the torchbearer for AJPW. After this match he challenged Jumbo Tsuruta to a match.
Yoshiaki Yatsu and Samson Fuyuki vs. Toshiaki Kawada and Tiger Mask II
On June 8th, 1990, Misawa battled Jumbo Tsuruta in Budokan Hall in what would be, to this day, the most legendary encounter of his career. Tsuruta found out mere moments before the opening bell that he would be dropping a fall to Misawa, something that didnâ€™t quite happen very often. You see, in that era, the tippy-top guys never lost. You didnâ€™t see the champions get jobbed out to punks like Randy Orton does on WWE PPVs. Tsuruta losing at Budokan was a big deal as he symbolically passed the torch to the man who would carry All Japan for the rest of the decade and turn the entire company around. Dave Meltzer gave this match 5 Stars and described the atmosphere as being like no other show he’d ever attended.
Misawa vs. Tsuruta (June 8th 1990) Part 1 (+ Video Package)
Misawa vs. Tsuruta (June 8th 1990) Part 2
Misawa vs. Tsuruta (June 8th 1990) Part 3
Up next we have a legendary contest between the unbeatable Texas Gai-Jin, Stan “The Lariat” Hansen against the Japanese babyface hero Mitsuharu Misawa for the All Japan Triple Crown Championship. Giant Baba’s booking genius shined when he booked the American giants as unbeatable monsters (see Gordy, Brody, Hansen, etc) and had them trample over the Japanese mid-carders and even a few top guys until the homeland hero stood up and battled the goliath and won. It was a formula that never failed and led to some of the best matches and most emotional moments in All Japan’s boom period. This is just one of Misawa and Hanson’s many legendary bouts. Check out the awesome finish.
Misawa vs. Hansen (1992) Part 1
Misawa vs. Hansen (1992) Part 2
Misawa vs. Hansen (1992) Part 3
Misawa had lots of rivals during his time in AJPW, but none were quite like his battles with Kenta Kobashi and Toshiaki Kawada. Kawada and Misawa had been childhood athletic partners – they both wrestled at the same school. Misawa grew up idolizing AJPW while Kawada wanted to join NJPW. Both were incredibly skilled in the ring and whenever they touched it was magic. This particular bout was the famous one in 1999, just mere weeks before Giant Baba’s death, as he watched this match from his hospital bed and was quoted as saying it was the greatest match he had ever seen in his life (which speaks volumes considering everything he’s seen, including the stuff in his own company). Kawada broke his arm in this match about halfway through, but he bravely continued the match and finished it with a victory.
Misawa vs. Kawada (January 22nd, 1999) Highlights
When Misawa formed Pro Wrestling NOAH, it was natural that the one match that would blow the roof off any dome would be Misawa battling Kobashi in a highly anticipated rematch from their 1996 Champions Carnival finale. Misawa had been grooming Akiyama and Kobashi to carry the company and this time, he came in as the GHC Champion. This was an epic match where, after the finish, you can see fans crying in the front row at the emotion. They drew them in for these 40 minutes and delivered what can only be described as epic. It’s the final Misawa match to recieve the big 5 from Davey the Observer.
Misawa vs. Kobashi (March, 2003)
Our last match today is a very slept on match, but is considered by many including me to be Misawa’s final spectacular performance. The March 8th Budokan Hall show was legendary for it’s series of veteran vs. young wrestler matches. KENTA faced his mentor Kenta Kobashi, Akira Taue battled Naomichi Marifuji, and in this match, the future Ring of Honor and GHC World Champion Takeshi Morishima would face the legend Mitsuharu Misawa for 20 minutes of battle mayhem. Morishima was just blossoming as a star and this match would go far in solidifying him as a worker in the ranks of NOAH.
Misawa vs. Morishima (March 8, 2006)
Those of you who are subscribers to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer wrote an unbelievably detailed and heartbreaking obituary on the life and times of Mitsuharu Misawa â€“ easily one of his best yet. If you are not a subscriber, sign up at F4W/Wrestling Observer. It is 10 dollars a month to read it in online form.