Death Of The Week: Mitsuharu Misawa
Dearly Departed: Japanese pro-wrestler, Mitsuharu Misawa, 1962-2009
Cause Of Death: A spine-crushing belly-to-back suplex.
Greatest Achievement: One of the greatest and most popular pro-wrestlers in Japanese history.
Really, Japan has pro-wrestling history! Of course, the Japanese populace go to extreme lengths when appropriating trends, so just imagine the kind of insane fandom that would follow a man deemed to be equivalent to Hulk Hogan; the most popular Japanese pro-wrestler of the ’90s.
Mitsuharu Misawa lived and died doing what he loved, hurling sweaty Japanese oafs around the ring. He was the big kahuna throughout the ’90s, winning the All Japan Professional Wrestling Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship five times, the Global Honoured Crown Championship three times, and was thrice named Wrestler Of The Year in the American “dirt sheet” Wrestling Observer Magazine (which covered wrestling ignoring the kayfabe illusion). He earned a litany of other awards including second place in Pro Wrestling Illustrated Top 500 wrestlers of 1997.
We can recount his personal history, from skilled amateur to his revolutionary debut match in AJPW to him rising to become president, then getting sacked and forming the Pro Wrestling Noah League and the Global Professional Wrestling Alliance. Or we could focus on is how his bad-ass nicknames, insane moves and fabulous costumes helped him pummel fellow ringside samurai.
If the names of finishing moves in the US are comical (‘The People’s Elbow’? What is this, World Communist Wrestling?), Japanese appropriations are destined to be sublime and ridiculous. How about smelling what Green Destiny is cookin’ here: a side powerslam called the Emerald Flowsion, a powerbomb called the Tiger Driver (which even had a Tiger ’91 revision as a kneeling double underhook ganso bomb), Tiger Suplex 85, the monkey flip and many elbow smash moves that combined into Suicide Dive outside the ring. Insane.
Yup, he was nicknamed Green Destiny. Due to that league-changing debut victory and his transformation of AJPW, Misawa was also dubbed the Standard Bearer For Future Generations. And if that’s not enough, he was also known as Kamikaze Misawa, Tiger Mask II and was formally addressed as (Mr) Untouchable. Bad-ass.
At 47, he was no doubt getting a little long in the tooth to be throwing his considerable bulk around the ring. On 13 June he teamed with reigning GHC champion Go Shiozaki against current GHC tag team champions Akitoshi Saito and expat American Bison Smith. Saito lifted Misawa up in a belly-to-back suplex and backdropped him. Misawa had time to say, “Cannot move” before he lost consciousness and was rushed to hospital. It was at Hiroshima University Hospital that the one of the greatest Japanese pro wrestlers to ever live finally died from spinal damage.
He will be missed.
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