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Grimmas

Mitsuharu Misawa

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The guy was genuinely crazy and/or addicted to wrestling. How the fuck do you decide to go and work a match against a monster with a violent, loose style when you are in pain just brushing your teeth? Undertaker by most accounts did the same thing against Brock Lesnar, but at least that was a one time deal. Misawa was still working a reasonable scheduele at that point wasn't he?

 

 

I always got the sense he kept going because he felt a duty to the company he created, not because he was crazy or addicted.

 

As for the Sasaki comparison, I haven't watched the matches in years, but I really liked Misawa-Morishima at the time. There was something poignant about this broken-down guy, still trying to be The Man because that was what he felt his company needed. And to my eyes, he wrestled the match that way. But I'll have to revisit it to see if I'm full of shit with that.

 

I also thought he was good in the NJ-NOAH stuff in his last year. For me, the 2000s will probably go to Misawa's credit, because he still managed some great big-match performances despite the fact his body was shot by the end of the '90s. His '80s stuff hurts him more for me, because he never really managed to get comfortable with the Tiger Mask gimmick, despite his great talent.

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Misawa deviated from his formula and played a more classic FIP in the 2007 Sano match, which I also consider a lot better than the Morishima-Sasaki match. There was no reason for Misawa to work FIP in a match supposed to get Morishima over as NOAH's new ace, especially in his current condition, and Morishima playing FIP would've been a huge gamble. Competitive title matches are how NOAH operated 90% of the time and Misawa's formula gave Morishima his career match in 2006. They played it safe. It was/is a highly regarded match, more so than Morishima/Sasaki (which I actually slightly prefer myself).

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In the Misawa match, Misawa did not respect Morishima. He treated him like he was Kawada. Kawada and Morishima are two very different wrestlers. Misawa's elbow was still the equalizer and he was still content to do his extended comeback. Misawa did come up with neat ways to get Morshima in Emerald Flowsion other than that it is just seemed ho-hum. Misawa match had some non-layout issues: they kept selling just by laying around and Misawa just was not in very good shape.

 

 

Rewatched the match last night, and I'm not sure I get this take on it. Misawa took a horrific beating to make Morishima look good in winning the title. Of course he fired the elbow; that was the only gun he had that could keep this young bull off him. But the story of the match clearly seemed to be a tired champion who couldn't muster one more comeback against the latest young killer. What else should Misawa have done? He went above and beyond to give the best performance he could under the circumstances.

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I'm curious to check out the Morishima match and a few others from that period, but am more interested in rewatching matches from the 90s that fall below the elite/classic level. By the mid-aughts Misawa is MIsawa and I can't see my thoughts on him changing based on that period. But definitely looking to the primes to help me order him, Kawada and Kobashi.

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Having made it up to mid-94 in my '90s All Japan viewing, one thing that strikes me about Misawa is that for a guy regarded as top 10 all-time, the opening third or so of his major singles matches is often awfully uncompelling. After the typical big opening spot to pop the crowd, there's a lot of methodically paced running through of low-end offense, with little of the stuff that tends to carry the early portion of a match for me such as matwork, wild brawling, charismatic selling or just cutting a decent pace. I think you can blame a lot of this on the '90s AJPW style that deemphasized matwork and required big matches to always go 30+ minutes meaning they had to take it really slow in the beginning, but given the role Misawa played in shaping that style I think it's fair to view this as a knock on him to some extent.

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Misawa definitely turns to slow, methodical starts. Perhaps I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt, but I find this appropriate and often compelling given how strongly he was established as the top dog in All Japan. He defeats Jumbo and eventually takes the title from Hansen, after which his elbow is arguably the most protected move in the business. Not always as a finisher like the Rainmaker, but its the all time equalizer. He breaks that out and down goes the opponent. As he vanquishes foe after foe, and is able to turn the tide against anyone with that elbow, it becomes incumbent on the challenger to overcome him. This allows him to very often let the match come to him and pick his spots. At least when I'm watching, the anticipation really builds waiting to see what his opponent brings and when/how he'll turn it on.

 

Take a look at the Akiyama matches in 2000 AJ and 2001 NOAH . Watching the 2001 match last night was the earliest Misawa has looked like a grizzled old vet, almost Tenryu-like. The athleticism isn't there but he almost does a Tenryu impersonation but with his own offense, centered around the elbows, of fighting off the rising star who overcame him the year before. Loved it.

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There's a lot of talk of Misawa's great offense. Should it be held against him that he had the benefit of working in a style where it was acceptable and even expected for guys to stiff each other for real? If you're only concerned with the end result I guess it doesn't matter, but if you value working around limitations it's something to consider.

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Should it be held against him that he had the benefit of working in a style where it was acceptable and even expected for guys to stiff each other for real?

No one is forcing a promotion to self-restrict. I actively hold it against WWE that they do, not because there's a lack of guys stiffing each other for real but because of how formulaic their matches are.

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Should it be held against him that he had the benefit of working in a style where it was acceptable and even expected for guys to stiff each other for real?

 

No one is forcing a promotion to self-restrict. I actively hold it against WWE that they do, not because there's a lack of guys stiffing each other for real but because of how formulaic their matches are.

Yeah you can hold it against WWE and thats finebut can you hold it against the wrestlers working there, and any other wrestlers that didn't have the freedom to do the kind of stuff Misawa was doing

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Having made it up to mid-94 in my '90s All Japan viewing, one thing that strikes me about Misawa is that for a guy regarded as top 10 all-time, the opening third or so of his major singles matches is often awfully uncompelling. After the typical big opening spot to pop the crowd, there's a lot of methodically paced running through of low-end offense, with little of the stuff that tends to carry the early portion of a match for me such as matwork, wild brawling, charismatic selling or just cutting a decent pace. I think you can blame a lot of this on the '90s AJPW style that deemphasized matwork and required big matches to always go 30+ minutes meaning they had to take it really slow in the beginning, but given the role Misawa played in shaping that style I think it's fair to view this as a knock on him to some extent.

 

Another 6 months of working my way through AJPW stuff has changed my view on this. I've really started to dig that methodical style. Part what make Misawa so great is his workmanlike, business as usual attitude. He goes about working over his opponent like it's just another day at the office. I've recently realised that something I really get into is guys who effectively communicate "I'm really good at the sport of wrestling" through the way they carry themselves in the ring and execute their offense. Misawa is the epitome of that in 90s All Japan and I think the methodical openings are a big part of that. It also makes it all the more meaningful when he does show that he's in real danger.

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Should it be held against him that he had the benefit of working in a style where it was acceptable and even expected for guys to stiff each other for real?

 

No one is forcing a promotion to self-restrict. I actively hold it against WWE that they do, not because there's a lack of guys stiffing each other for real but because of how formulaic their matches are.
Yeah you can hold it against WWE and thats finebut can you hold it against the wrestlers working there, and any other wrestlers that didn't have the freedom to do the kind of stuff Misawa was doing
Yes because they chose cash money over artistic freedom.

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Which most people will do after starving their way through years in the indies. I can't imagine it's a tough call for anybody. Put your body through the wringer unnecessarily for years on end making little to no money with the chance that you might get screwed out of a paycheck or work a much less punishing style for more, guaranteed money. As much as fans want everything to be about their needs, most guys aren't going to make that sacrifice when they could be living better regardless of what the output is in terms of match quality.

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Wrestling on the indies isn't exactly about artistic freedom. People want to see certain styles of wrestling and if you don't give them what they want you're not going to get booked. Making this about "selling out" is ridiculous.

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Which most people will do after starving their way through years in the indies. I can't imagine it's a tough call for anybody. Put your body through the wringer unnecessarily for years on end making little to no money with the chance that you might get screwed out of a paycheck or work a much less punishing style for more, guaranteed money. As much as fans want everything to be about their needs, most guys aren't going to make that sacrifice when they could be living better regardless of what the output is in terms of match quality.

You almost make it sound like I begrudge anyone for jumping to WWE. I'm really not an indy guy. And I don't need patronizing explanations of why guys jump to WWE. If they use WWE tropes in their matches in ways that bother me I'll hold that against them in rating their matches. Their personal dilemmas (or the lack thereof) mean nothing to me.

 

Wrestling on the indies isn't exactly about artistic freedom. People want to see certain styles of wrestling and if you don't give them what they want you're not going to get booked. Making this about "selling out" is ridiculous.

Elaborate on what you mean by "certain styles of wrestling" (a nice way of saying All Japan cosplaying I presume) and I might actually have something to reply to.

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The AJPW style that everyone who was a fan of from the 1990's basically ended after the 1/20/97 match with Misawa and Kobashi. That transitioned into the head drop heavy stuff that permeated the rest of the decade, and while the 1/20/97 match was the start, the 6/6/97 Misawa/Kawada match basically confirmed the direction they were going in and the Kobashi rematch in October kicked it into overdrive.

 

It's hard to say who Patient Zero is without going back and watching everything, but 01/20/97 isn't the start.

 

The 07/24/95 Misawa vs Kawada has a lot of the elements. Misawa uses three Released German Suplexes and a pair of Released Tiger Suplexes. Kawada brings three Dangerous Suplexes and a Released German Suplex. They're all thrown like the heavy drop stuff that was there in the later part of the decade. You also get the big bomb of the standard finishers: three powerbombs (one to the floor early) and a Tiger Suplex held for a pin attempt. There are strikes-o-plenty. At 24:16, they chopped 11+ minutes off their prior TC match, making it feel like a "sprint" in contrast.

 

The match probably is probably more in line with the later Kings Road matches than 01/20/97 does because it doesn't have that double body part section (elbow arm & lariat arm) that the 1997 match has. It's more than a hint of things to come.

 

It's an interesting match to rewatch. The selling tends to stand out, as well as the "runs" of spots / moves / strikes / offense rather than My Turn, Your Turn sequences.

 

The other thing that always sticks with me is that this was the day after the Shawn Michaels vs Jeff Jarrett match at IYH-2 that got a lot of praise.

 

Anyway...

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amVcUiWEoXA

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There's a lot of talk of Misawa's great offense. Should it be held against him that he had the benefit of working in a style where it was acceptable and even expected for guys to stiff each other for real? If you're only concerned with the end result I guess it doesn't matter, but if you value working around limitations it's something to consider.

If you feel the style is superior to the a WWE style, why would you hold it against them? There will be people who love the UWF style like Tim Cooke who will rank them higher because they excelled at a style he loves.

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In real time I wasn't a huge fan of NOAH-era Misawa. I want to test that, but don't want to waste my time on marginal performances. Someone give me a list of 5-10 strong Misawa matches from NOAH that I can watch over the next month or so

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Honestly I'd much rather watch NOAH Misawa than All Japan Misawa these days. The 2006 and 2008 Morishima matches are as good as Morishima matches can be. The 2004 and 2001 Taue matches are both great yet vastly different. I remember Misawa/Ogawa vs Hashimoto/Otsuka being more of a Hashimoto showcase but it's a great match regardless. Everything he did in Zero 1 was gold, especially the Zero 1 Debut Show Main Event Tag. The Sano 2007 match is breathtaking. Misawa/Ogawa vs KENTA/Marufuji is remembered for the insanity in the finishing stretch but what's really remarkable about it is how smartly it gradually built to it.

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I'd add the Akiyama matches from 2/27/00, 4/11/01 and 7/27/01, vs. Takayama from 4/15/01 (legit MOTYC in my eyes and even better than the Kobashi match the previous year) and 9/23/02 for early decade work.

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In real time I wasn't a huge fan of NOAH-era Misawa. I want to test that, but don't want to waste my time on marginal performances. Someone give me a list of 5-10 strong Misawa matches from NOAH that I can watch over the next month or so

vs. Akiyama: 7/27/01

vs. Takayama: 9/23/02

w/ Shiozaki vs. KENTA & Shibata: 4/12/05

vs. Morishima: 3/5/06

vs. Morishima: 3/2/08

 

Besides the Kobashi match, I think the two Morishima matches are probably his strongest NOAH performances. He's old, but he's really, really good in those.

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Misawa completely losing his cool against Sugiura (3/4/07) was great from what I can remember. The 07 Sano match I would add as must-watch as well (though that was more a Sano performance), as is the 06 Morishima match.

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