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Bryan Danielson vs Mitsuharu Misawa

Bryan Danielson vs Mitsuharu Misawa  

39 members have voted

  1. 1. Who is better?



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My gut says Misawa due to having some unreal peaks and having probably the greatest performances of any wrestler ever, but that could change as Bryan has more depth and versatility.

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It's these arguments that make me adamant that Bryan isn't the greatest of all time, because while his case has all the elements of being so, comparing him to guys like Mitsuharu Misawa, causes that to fall apart, for the lack of a better word. That might sound like a scathing opinion but I don't think there is much that Bryan does better than Misawa.

Misawa put in some of the all time great performances in the greatest matches. Misawa is highly innovative and creative offensively and is the greatest comeback wrestler ever. Misawa was always a tremendous seller, always nuanced and subtle in the way he sold pain. He was the top dog in All Japan (and NOAH) but when it came to vulnerability, he had a knack for creating those dangerous moments for himself that got the crowd buying him losing which is more difficult than it sounds. 

Depth and versatility can be a better tricky because Misawa wrestled in All Japan but whenever he stepped out of his confort zone, he seemed capable. The Tiger Mask II run is a black mark, admittedly, but he still had some great matches against Kobayashi, Jumbo Tsuruta, etc. 

Bryan has all of these things at a high level but Misawa stands way above him in my initial opinions and when I deeply think about it. 

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I went with Danielson. His longevity and versatility are what put him over the top. He's been one of the top 5 workers in the work for every year he was active since like 2001. He's had babyface runs, heel runs, title chases, dominant championship runs, tag runs, single runs, etc. He's done it all in multiple places. I would say Misawa's highs are higher but they aren't near as varried. 

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On 11/6/2021 at 4:31 AM, Makai Club #1 said:

It's these arguments that make me adamant that Bryan isn't the greatest of all time, because while his case has all the elements of being so, comparing him to guys like Mitsuharu Misawa, causes that to fall apart, for the lack of a better word.

I relate to this a lot. I made a case for Danielson as a #1 pick just a few days ago, but when I think about him compared to some other top contenders, it feels like there's no way to justify that. Misawa is probably the one more than any where it's hardest for me to see it. FWIW, I'd have Misawa above both Kawada and Kobashi, but Danielson as a comparison to both of those guys feels more even.

It becomes hard at the very top levels in history, because there are a good 5-10 wrestlers with a #1 case and their vulnerabilities have to be magnified to discuss and compare them, sometimes in a way those tiny flaws or gaps seem far more important than they even were.

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I think you explained it before, but I would be interested in hearing why Danielson doesn't feel out of place when you compare him to Flair - whom I know you've had as your #1 in the past - but he does when you compare him to the All Japan Kings. Is it purely because Danielson has displayed more mat wrestling than Flair in the later part of his career? It's so hard to compare wrestlers across different contexts and eras, but that's like half the fun of it too. 

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I think there's a card placement thing factoring into it that's hard to articulate. As amazing as Danielson is, I can't think of a single promoter who's ever used him to his full potential.

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Misawa might have some obvious lower points in his career but his highs are terrific and beyond Danielson's by a far bit. Danielson really only has his RoH title run in 06 as a truly all-inspiring run that should be regarded as well as it is, while Misawa has multiple years starting from the early 90's where he's just on the ball all the time. Even when he's horribly banged up and brought back early to fix up a declining Kobashi title stint, he's still having these tip top matches where he's putting it all on the line. Danielson has really only his RoH title run to compare and while it's still fantastic, it's not up to the mark of which Misawa was at those few years of dominance. Earth's Champion and The New Daniel Bryan was a fun character-driven reign but it wasn't breaking new ground either. 

I guess one thing to also mention is that Danielson never really cracked tag format matches as well. He has his fun comedic work with Hell No that I loved, but the matches were.....not very good. They face Rhodes Scholars like a billion times and they mostly are in undercard bouts with nothing tag teams or just random people paired together. I know booking was mostly why that was, but they weren't very engaging in the ring either apart from some comedy spots. The best tag stuff I can recall is his short stints in NOAH and some select matches in RoH where he's surrounded by other great talent. Compare that to Misawa who has legendary wars with the Demon Army, some super underrated runs with Ogawa as tag champions, hell even his early Super Gen work with Kawada is excellently done as well, not withstanding their hidden gems like the 30 minute draw with the Funks way back in 90. The NOAH runs in particular where him and Ogawa are ones to point out because they aren't always facing amazing talent: getting guys over like Bart Blaxson, Donovan Morgan, Sano and other less than stellar talent (cough Inoue and Saito cough) to these near main event big matches is FAR from easy as anyone can testify, but they manage to do it most of the time. That's one aspect where I think Misawa absolutely crushes it in terms of the versatility argument. 

If we go just by longevity: yes, Danielson takes it, namely because older Misawa was in a rough position where he couldn't be afforded the same chances to take care of himself. I think there's more to the tale than just that, through.

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Given that I don't even think Misawa is the best of the Pillars and I have Bryan as my #1 ever, I think Bryan takes this one pretty easily. I don't think Misawa ever really developed particularly interesting mat work throughout his career, especially in the much lauded King's Road classics. I find myself far more inclined to watch the opening act of any random Danielson match than I am to watch the opening act of a Misawa match.

For tag team work, it's true that Danielson was never placed into too many positions to make that shine for him with a lengthy run. But if you look at his individual performances in things like the feud vs. The Shield in 2013, you see some real excellent understanding of the fundamentals of American tag wrestling. Through much of his most notable TV run in the WWE, he demonstrated the ability to not only play face in peril but had one of the best, most compelling hot tags anywhere in the world at the time. He might just have the best hot tag from any performer not primarily known for their tag team work.

A lot of people have brought up Danielson's versatility and I think that's a huge factor here. Could I see Danielson making elongated championship-style matches work? Absolutely. Could I see Misawa having a real competitive brawl with the Necro Butcher? I don't know, probably not. I could say Kawada might, I could even see it for Akiyama, but Misawa never really demonstrated that ability to me for various reasons that aren't always in his control.

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The thing with Misawa is that he's a peak contender, but his peak happens to be one of the longest and highest of anyone ever. But outside of, I would say, 94-03, he's not that consistently great. His 80s stuff is not remarkable outside a couple of matches, it's really surprising how little he looks like the next big thing. His early unsmaked Misawa run is definitely a big improve, he's really good by then, but I think it's a kind of overrated part of his career when it comes to ringwork: the Jumbo matches are pretty good, but no one can compete with all the other 90s AJPW classics, and his role in the big six-man tags is usually little, only there yo make his signature moves, have a brief clash withw Jumbo, and taking the win or getting distracted to allow his team to lose. He's never one of the best performers in those matches. His old Misawa NOAH run is pretty good and something I've learn to appreciate more with time, but there are still more wrestlers with a stronger post-peak careers. I would say all three other Pillars are better than him in these late 80s-early 90s, and mid-00s runs. It's Misawa's legendary peak stuff what gives him a chance of being ahead of them in an overall list, imho.

With that in mind, I find far more easier to chose between Bryan and Misawa than, let's say, Bryan and Kobashi. Bryan has been consistently great throughout his whole career, in far more different scenarios and styles. He isn't an all-time level seller like Misawa, but he definitely is toe to toe with him on offense, and I would say offense is the strongest Misawa trait for his case (other than his ridiculous peak), while for Bryan's I wouldw say versatility, ande there's no chance for Misawa to close the gap between them for that (as with most japanese contenders).

Right now both feel like top 10 locks. But Misawa feels "just" a top 10 lock, while Bryan is challenging for the top spot.

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I think there's an interesting conversation here on what people value. In some ways, you could argue that what Misawa did is more challenging than what Kawada or Kobashi did because so few are capable of pulling it off successfully -- being The Guy, as opposed to being a great worker in the top mix, which feels like a more accurate description of Kawada and Danielson, and for most of his career, Kobashi. I don't know that it's as important for The Guy to be versatile as much as it is to have a style that's broad and accessible, and produces good results with anyone in any style. There's also the issue of being able to balance making the other person look worthy while usually winning in the end. It's not a hard role in the sense that plenty of people have pulled off that dynamic in one-offs, but it's hard in the sense that doing it year after year after year is a challenge. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think working on top as the #1 guy in a company carries more showcase opportunities and more time and platform, but it also has constraints in the sense that it's not as simple as always just making the best choice to produce the most excitement or the best possible match in the moment. Kawada, Kobashi and Danielson have spent most of their time on top purely worried about the aesthetic instead of trying to balance the aesthetic with doing what's right to develop others and protect yourself. As a result, they are all-time greats and real top-tier contenders. I just think we shouldn't downplay the pressures and competing interests that come with an extended run as the champion/number one wrestler in a company.

This is me trying to elaborate on my card placement point earlier, and I'm not sure if I have done so or not.

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On 1/16/2022 at 4:56 AM, SmartMark15 said:

Given that I don't even think Misawa is the best of the Pillars and I have Bryan as my #1 ever, I think Bryan takes this one pretty easily. I don't think Misawa ever really developed particularly interesting mat work throughout his career, especially in the much lauded King's Road classics. I find myself far more inclined to watch the opening act of any random Danielson match than I am to watch the opening act of a Misawa match.

For tag team work, it's true that Danielson was never placed into too many positions to make that shine for him with a lengthy run. But if you look at his individual performances in things like the feud vs. The Shield in 2013, you see some real excellent understanding of the fundamentals of American tag wrestling. Through much of his most notable TV run in the WWE, he demonstrated the ability to not only play face in peril but had one of the best, most compelling hot tags anywhere in the world at the time. He might just have the best hot tag from any performer not primarily known for their tag team work.

A lot of people have brought up Danielson's versatility and I think that's a huge factor here. Could I see Danielson making elongated championship-style matches work? Absolutely. Could I see Misawa having a real competitive brawl with the Necro Butcher? I don't know, probably not. I could say Kawada might, I could even see it for Akiyama, but Misawa never really demonstrated that ability to me for various reasons that aren't always in his control.

These are interesting points that I definitely think provide some questions that can be discussed further. How important is something like matwork to overall ring quality? Many of the most lauded top quality Japan guys like Shingo, Okada, Kobashi, hell even some of the outside picks like Nagayo all had really unconvincing mat work at all, really. Okada got shit on for a lot of his 2020 stuff because of his obsession with getting the Money Clip over and subsequent work around it and Kobashi's technical stuff is near non-existent bar some small examples, and even then he couldn't get a crowd over with just that alone. I would much rather see Misawa outsmarting Ogawa on the mat (of which they built a whole series of matches around the concept) or him trying not to die when Hase's twisting his arm around than basically all of these guys trying to do purely technical stuff. Not everyone can be a demon on the mat like a Fujiwara or whatnot. That being said, it's a definite low spot in Misawa's repertoire: you see him struggling especially in the later half of the 90's when the UWF lads come down and he's incapable of working their style to any real degree, leading to some weirdly disjointed matches. There was one 1998 six-man in particular where him and Masahito Kakihara have probably one of the most awkward exchanges ever because both men don't play ball with the other and scuffle a lot.

As for the rest of your points, I do agree with them to a degree. His Shield matches are great (how much of that is the Shield being themselves is up to the viewer) but limited. I've never seen Danielson get over super mediocre talent in high-stakes tag bouts like Misawa had to do for years and years, as well as having to mix up his exchanges from stiff exchanges, brawls, spot fests, etc etc. Again, this is mostly because of the booking at the time, but it's still a issue. As for your point in versatility, I disagree about your point about Misawa not having the range to do brawls (or at least against guys like Butcher) because I've seen him have terrific matches sub-prime against Morishima where half of the match is him getting fucking wrecked with huge shots, lariats, thrown around the place, etc. He has a trash brawl with a near cancer-ridden Kodo Fuyuki in 2002 where he's put through a table, takes some horrific bumps as well and the crowd eat up everything. Like sure, Misawa The Ace never had the chance to do those kind of matches (as you address in your post-ish) but when he was allowed to let his hair down and become this outsider enforcer like he was in his ZERO-ONE matches, he's still fantastic. These kind of questions are always hard to tell because of how chemistry works in general: you'd never think that two greats like Misawa and Hansen wouldn't work at all well together from first hand exposure.

 

 

 

 

 

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On 1/16/2022 at 1:48 AM, Ma Stump Puller said:

 

I guess one thing to also mention is that Danielson never really cracked tag format matches as well. He has his fun comedic work with Hell No that I loved, but the matches were.....not very good. They face Rhodes Scholars like a billion times and they mostly are in undercard bouts with nothing tag teams or just random people paired together. I know booking was mostly why that was, but they weren't very engaging in the ring either apart from some comedy spots. The best tag stuff I can recall is his short stints in NOAH and some select matches in RoH where he's surrounded by other great talent.

Hmm, interesting! When reading that, I instantly thought of the early Summer of 2013 where Bryan was having 2-on-2 & 3-on-3 tag bangers vs. The Shield almost every week. It seemed like he perfected the babyface tag formula - whether he was the fip, hot tag, you name it - there. It's some of my fondest memories of him personally, and having re-visited many of those matches many, many times, I think they hold up to the level I thought of them almost 10 years ago quite wonderfully.

Obviously not on the level of Misawa's best tag stuff, but it's still great wrestling IMO.

EDIT: ah, should've scrolled further down before quoting, just now noticed that SmartMark had already brought the exact same thing up x)

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Match by match Bryan is the better guy, but if you lined up their Top 50 or so performances Misawa would annihilate him. At his best he was that great.

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18 hours ago, Jetlag said:

Match by match Bryan is the better guy, but if you lined up their Top 50 or so performances Misawa would annihilate him. At his best he was that great.

Seems pretty spot-on. My biggest criticism against Misawa is that he doesn't have that huge laundry list of great matches with different opponents that Bryan does, but his peaks still outshine Bryan by quite a bit. Bryan is more versatile, but Misawa was still better on his best day.

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I have obvious biases here, but the biggest thing pointing me to Danielson is simply variety of not just opponents, but types of performances he has. Danielson is probably not as good as Misawa based on best performances, but Misawa had some big advantages Danielson flat out didn’t have: he got to work with conventional picks for all time greats in long matches for his entire prime. I’m not as high on Kobashi as others, but I love me some Kawada and Taue and I’m not sure how many workers Danielson got to work with on the regular that can even hold a candle to the pillars, let alone Jumbo. But I’m a big fan of versatility instead of just looking at the very top top of each guys career, and I’m not sure if there is a guy with a wider spread of really good matches with different opponents as Danielson. Some of his opponents are all time great guys you’d expect greatness from, but a lot of them aren’t. Dude has a borderline classic Mania match with Kofi Kingston, and really good stuff in RoH with people that nobody is even considering for a list like this. He also has a variety in his actual performances Misawa just can’t match, though to be fair, Misawa was never in a position too.

I agree with the sentiment that this is a case we’re it just shows what you value in a wrestler, as either are fair No.1 cases. I’m not going to say Danielson peak is better then Misawa’s, but I also am not even sure when to even start calculating Danielson’s peak when he’s been almost universally one of the best in the planet in any year he’s worked for 20 years.

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