Welcome back to another edition of Cases For The Greatest here at the MWC Blog.
This is where I examine some of the wrestlers who are often viewed by some or many as the greatest pro wrestler of all time and why they have an argument in being so.
On this edition, we will be talking about quite possibly Japan's greatest wrestler ever: Mitsuharu Misawa.
Ring Name: Mitsuharu Misawa
From: Yubari, Hokkaido, Japan
Weight: 260 lbs.
Trained by: Giant Baba
Debut: August 21, 1981
AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship (5x)
GHC Heavyweight Championship (3x)
AJPW World Tag-Team Championships (6x)
All Asia Tag-Team Championships (2x)
GHC Tag-Team Championships (2x)
AJPW Champion Carnival Tournament Winner (1995, 1998)
Ranked #2 PWI 500 Wrestlers in 1997
Multiple "Match of the Year" Awards
1981-2000 - Wrestled the majority of his career for All Japan Pro Wrestling.
1984-1990 - Succeeded Satoru Sayama as the second wrestler to portray the "Tiger Mask" gimmick.
January 2, 1990 - Wrestled Bret Hart in a time limit draw. Their first and only match together and their paths would go on different ways later on.
June 8, 1990 - Legendary match vs. Jumbo Tsuruta which was a turning point to the "new generation" for AJPW.
August 22, 1992 - Won his first of 5 reigns as the "Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion" the top prize for AJPW.
2000-2009 - Created and wrestled for Pro Wrestling NOAH.
April 15, 2001 - Became the inaugural GHC Heavyweight Championship winning in a tournament. He would hold the belt three times, with his longest for 448 days.
July 10, 2004 - Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Keiji Mutoh & Taiyo Kea. The dream match coming to reality between Misawa and Mutoh.
June 13, 2009 - His last match as he sadly passed away in the ring after a freak accident.
To this day I still live up to my opinion of Mitsuharu Misawa being the greatest Japanese wrestler of all time. I know Rikidozan basically created Puroresu and is treated like a God, Inoki and Baba were pioneers of their own, and a whole lot more wrestlers especially around Misawa's generation can make an argument for that but there is something different about Misawa that makes him stand out amongst all of his peers.
With Giant Baba's best years way behind him and Jumbo Tsuruta's age is catching up as well, the man who for the bulk of his career so far wrestled as Tiger Mask II would go on to ditch the anime inspired character and go on to be himself. Mitsuharu Misawa. But who was Misawa actually? He was a stoic wrestler who's gimmick is that literally he was a great worker. There is nothing flash about it, his character simply revolved around his prowess and talent inside the squared circle.
The Four Heavenly Pillars of AJPW: Misawa, Kobashi, Kawada, and Taue during their primes brought the greatest matches in terms of in-ring capabilities not only in Japan but in the world! Misawa was of course leading the charge and despite the other three being fantastic wrestlers of their own, Misawa was able to set himself apart and just by his presence alone make you feel you are witnessing a champion. Someone who is good in what he does, that is of course the art of professional wrestling.
Misawa didn't need a signature pose or a catchphrase to become a superstar. He just wrestled. While elbowing a majority of his opponents along the way as well. Him being a great worker is not just a character, he embodied it. He holds the record for most 5 star matches awarded by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. He also garnered multiple "Match of the Year" awards from various Japanese media outlets and is widely regarded by all of his peers as one of the best ever. I know all of those are subjective and are not the real metric in determining on how great a wrestler someone is, but if the majority of opinions consider you great then you must be doing it right.
Time and time again, even in his later years he never loss the aura of being the man to beat. When we think of "final bosses" in wrestling usually larger than life characters come to mind, maybe like a Brock Lesnar or the numerous big men Hulk Hogan has defeated during the peak of Hulkamania. But Misawa was able to convey that feeling too, which is why his matches against Kobashi and Kawada worked perfectly. Kobashi was the perfect underdog to Misawa who never conveyed emotion, while him and Kawada had a rivalry that brewed on for years and they made you feel that. Misawa told stories not by playing with the crowd or forcing them to make chants, he told them by wrestling.
Unfortunately, what made him the best would also come back biting him later on. Most of his matches especially in the 90's would last for hours, the wear and tear on his body would catch to him later on. He has suffered a lot of injuries through the years but he never took a break. Misawa was always on top and never truly found the next wrestler to pass the torch onto in NOAH. Even in his final years where he was still being the top boss, you can visibly witness he wasn't the same anymore not just because of his age, but something was wrong and he could barely walk right. In his final match, it would be his final day as well. Mitsuharu Misawa passed away inside the ring after his neck could no longer take the damage it has suffered over the course of a near three decade career. One of wrestling's most horrifying tragedies.
Misawa's relentness of a character is what sets him apart from his peers. He did not need to be over the top to reach the top, he just wrestled and the fans supported him for it. He was a star in both AJPW and NOAH, helping in the success for both companies but ironically lead to some of its darkest days as well. He may not have reached worldwide status of fame, but with the internet being a powerful source of information now, many fans for generations to come will get to learn about to greatness of Misawa.
If we are just simply regarding someone as a great wrestler in terms of pure performance in the ring, there is no question Mitsuharu Misawa would come out on top and he has the resume and accolades to back it up. He left a standard not only in the culture of Puroresu but the rest of the world on the art of professional wrestling.
That is why he has the Case being the Greatest!
PREVIOUS: THE ROCK
NEXT: RANDY SAVAGE
Thanks For Reading.
Follow on Twitter: @SuperMastodon
Like on Facebook: Super Mastodon
The name is Super Mastodon. Been a wrestling fan throughout my life, and I share my interest with you here, at the MWC Blog.
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH: