Written By Alfredo Esparza
All Japan Retro #3: Mitsuharu Misawa
Mitsuhara Misawa vs. Shiro Koshinaka in the Lou Thesz Cup Final (Special Referee: Lou Thesz)
Taped 4/22/1983 at Nakajima Sports Center in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
Match starts off quickly with both exchanging armdrags. Koshinaka gets Misawa in an armbar and starts working on his left arm. Misawa breaks out by sending Koshinaka into the ropes, but Koshinaka shoulder blocks him back down and goes back to working on Misawa’s left arm. Thesz checks in on Misawa to see if he wants to give up, but Misawa refuses. Koshinaka drops his knee a few times onto Misawa’s left arm and hiptosses him a few times before he goes back to working on his left arm. Misawa can’t break out of a Koshinaka hold despite trying to roll thru it, Koshinaka keeps a strong hold on him. Misawa finally reaches the ropes to break the hold, but Koshinaka goes back to an armbar submission on him again. Koshinaka drops an elbow on Misawa’s left arm. They run the ropes a bit with Misawa catching Koshinaka with a dropkick. Misawa follows it up with a rolling senton off the top rope for a pin attempt. Misawa drops an elbow on Koshinaka and goes for another pin. Misawa misses a dropkick as Koshinaka grabs the top rope. He then delivers a dropkick of his own at Misawa.
Koshinaka goes for the Romero Special on Misawa which gets a great reaction from the crowd. Misawa reaches the ropes and breaks out of the hold. Koshinaka goes back for another armbar submission hold. Misawa stands while Koshinaka keeps the hold on and stomps on him and then kneels to punch at Koshinaka but he can’t break the hold. Misawa gets back up and stomps at Koshinaka breaking the hold. Good back and forth leads to Misawa showing some of his athleticism by doing a flip off the ropes. Koshinaka goes for a roll-up for a pin on Misawa. Koshinaka goes for his diving hip attack at Misawa. He can’t keep Misawa down and they both continue with a few kicks before Misawa hits a flying body press for a near fall. He follows with a senton off the ropes but only gets a 2-count. Misawa climbs up to the top rope for a flying bodypress, but Koshinaka reverses and gets a near fall out of it. Misawa gets a few near falls on Koshinaka. Koshinaka tries for a piledriver but Misawa flips him over, only Koshinaka keeps hold of Misawa (into a sunset flip) and ends up pinning him for the win. Good match. Lou Thesz awards Koshinaka the “Lou Thesz Cup”.
WINNER: Shiro Koshinaka
Tiger Mask II (Misawa) vs. La Fiera
Taped 8/26/1984 at Denen Coliseum in Tokyo, Japan
Arturo Casco, La Fiera was one of the more underrated luchadores of any era. He had the cool punk/bad-ass look like Jerry Estrada. When you think of all the versions of Tiger Mask that have existed and how they work with luchadores, Misawa was in my opinion the best at working that style. Sayama worked well, but when something went wrong, instead of improvising, he’d get upset and stiff guys (ex. Solar) and while he’s remembered fondly and respected among those in the lucha libre community, there are tales from guys who weren’t pleased with him. It also doesn’t help that everyone in Mexico tends to just group everyone who wrestled as Tiger Mask as one guy. Misawa was just a better fit against luchadores but most of that was early in his career.
La Fiera tosses flowers that were given to him by one of the flower girls at Tiger Mask II!!! La Fiera swings his chain around as he’s announced. Crowd chanting for Tiger Mask. Tiger Mask kicks at La Fiera’s legs and La Fiera climbs up the ropes shying away from the contact asking the referee to back him away. Tiger Mask throws in a few more kicks on La Fiera as they try to lock up. La Fiera goes with a hiptoss and then knocks him down and goes for a pin. Both get back up and La Fiera flips Tiger Mask II over. Tiger Mask II with a couple of cool armdrags on La Fiera. The rope running and exchanges are phenomenal with La Fiera flipping over Tiger Mask II’s back and then monkey flipping Tiger Mask II, only he lands on his feet. La Fiera with a spin-kick follows it up with more rope running. Tiger Mask II monkey flips La Fiera and then dropkicks him out of the ring. Tiger Mask II teases a dive. La Fiera gets back in the ring with a slingshot plancha but Tiger Mask II moves out of the way. Tiger Mask II catches La Fiera with a quebradora. Follows that up with a backdrop. Tiger Mask II slows down La Fiera with a headlock.
They exchange punches followed a couple of dropkicks by La Fiera, who then does a top rope plancha to the outside onto Tiger Mask II!!! La Fiera chops Tiger Mask II and then brings him back in the ring with a suplex. He gets a 2-count. La Fiera piledrives Tiger Mask II and then climbs up to the top rope for a frog-splash. Tiger Mask kicks out of another pin attempt. La Fiera with a forearm and a slam. Tiger Mask II with a body press off the ropes. La Fiera charges at Tiger Mask near the ropes but Tiger Mask II tosses him out with La Fiera doing an awesome “salida de bandera” to the outside. Tiger Mask II hits a tope con giro at La Fiera. Tiger Mask II and La Fiera fight near the ropes and La Fiera climbs to the top rope and misses a senton bomb. Tiger Mask II follows up with a senton off the ropes for a 2-count. La Fiera yells in pain after being tossed into the corner. Tiger Mask II hits a flying body attack off the corner onto La Fiera. They exchange a couple of punches before Tiger Mask II kicks him and catches him with a Tiger Suplex for the pin. Great match.
WINNER: Tiger Mask II
Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Jumbo Tsuruta
Taped 6/8/1990 at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, Japan
This was a battle for the generations as you had the veteran star in Jumbo Tsuruta going up against the new generation star in Mitsuharu Misawa. We’ve had these type of matches over the years and they usually work out really well. We’ve had some promotions try doing this and fail miserably like WCW did near the end of their run, but Misawa vs. Tsuruta was perfectly executed. Usually you’ll have the veteran not want to lose or lose cleanly, but Giant Baba made the decision that it was Misawa’s time. It is a match that still watching years later stands the test of time and its one match that everyone should take the time to watch.
Huge crowd for this match and they are very much into it from the beginning. Tsuruta seems to want to shake hands with Misawa as he steps into his direction but Misawa backs away into his corner. It is a very subtle start but the crowd gets it and reacts to it the way they should. Tsuruta knocks down Misawa with a shoulder block and then body slams him. Tsuruta raises his arm into the air as the fans cheer him on. Tsuruta goes for a jumping knee, but Misawa moves out of the way and instead hits Jumbo with a dropkick. Misawa tries for another kick, but Jumbo catches him with a big boot and follows with a clothesline that gets him a 2-count. Jumbo takes down Misawa and waves at him to get back up. Jumbo goes for a backdropbut Misawa counters and gets a 2-count. Misawa sends Tsuruta to the outside and follows with a dropkick off the ring apron. Misawa charges with a couple of elbows at Jumbo and sends him over the guardrail. Misawa hits another elbow that knocks Jumbo off the ring apron and then follows with a plancha to the outside.
They get back in the ring and Misawa throws a couple of elbows at Tsuruta. Misawa uses a headlock to wear down Jumbo, who reverses it and twists Misawa’s arms. Misawa counters and takes Jumbo down. Test of strength with Misawa staying in control. Reverse kick by Misawa when Tsuruta is holding him from behind to break the hold. Misawa works on Jumbo’s left arm. Jumbo reaches the ropes and referee tells Misawa to break the hold, which he does but then he slaps Jumbo’s face! They lock up again near the ropes and the referee tells them to break it up and again Misawa slaps at Tsuruta’s face. Tsuruta hits a jumping knee on Misawa. Follows up with an abdominal stretch. Misawa reverses the hold but Tsuruta breaks out by tossing Misawa over the ropes and to the floor. Jumbo tosses Misawa into the guardrail and then throws him back into the ring. Tsuruta gets a 2-count after a double-armed suplex. Jumbo puts Misawa in a sleeper hold. They get back up and Tsuruta throws in an elbow and then tosses him up in the air. He goes for it again, but this time Misawa dropkicks him. Misawa slams Jumbo and climbs up the ropes and hits a dropkick for a 2-count. Misawa hits a corner elbow on Tsuruta and then hits a side suplex. Spin kick and body slam by Misawa on Tsuruta. Misawa gets a 2-count after a top rope frog splash. Misawa hits the ropes and goes for cross body block on Jumbo, but he tosses Misawa into the ropes and gets a near fall on him. Tsuruta piledrives Misawa and gets another 2-count. Tsuruta hits a Thesz Press for another 2-count on Misawa. Drops a knee on Misawa a few times. Dropkick off the ropes for a 2-count for Jumbo. Tsuruta looks at the crowd and then hits a kick on Misawa. Jumbo climbs up to the corner and Misawa gets up, charges at him, but Jumbo knees him. Tsuruta slams Misawa to the mat and climbs up the ropes again. Misawa gets up and climbs up the ropes and positions himself for a suplex, but Jumbo fights him off. Tsuruta hits a diving kneedrop on Misawa and gets another 2-count! Crowd getting louder.
Jumbo Tsuruta powerbombs Misawa and gets another 2-count! Tsuruta slaps at his head for a bit before going on attack mode again on Misawa. Misawa surprises Jumbo and rolls him up for a 2-count. Crowd starts yelling out “MISAWA! MISAWA! MISAWA!!!” Tsuruta heads to the outside. Misawa charges and kicks him back down. Misawa climbs to the top rope and hits a plancha on Tsuruta! They get back in the ring and Misawa gets in a few kicks on Tsuruta. Jumbo misses a lariat. Misawa gets a near fall with a bridging pin attempt. Misawa with another reverse spin-kick! Misawa with another frog splash but Jumbo raises up his knees and goes for the pin! Only gets 2!!! Jumbo bodyslams Misawa and goes for a Boston Crab. Misawa reaches the ropes. Jumbo hits a lariat on Misawa but only gets a 2-count. Jumbo hits another lariat and again Misawa kicks out at TWO!!! More of the crowd starts chanting for Misawa! Corner lariat by Jumbo on Misawa. Jumbo follows with a back drop on Misawa. Both men are worn down. Misawa gets up and gets a belly-to-back suplex on Jumbo. Tsuruta kicks out at Two! Misawa tries for a Tiger Driver but Jumbo backdrops him and get another 2-count. Tsuruta hits a jumping knee at Misawa. Jumbo kicks Misawa and throws him into the corner. Misawa tries for a reverse tope, but Jumbo hits him with an elbow at his head. Tsuruta goes for a dropkick, but Misawa moves and Jumbo hits the ropes instead. Misawa tries to suplex Jumbo but he reverses it, only Misawa escapes tries for his own suplex, but Jumbo lands on him. Misawa then reverses Jumbo’s pin attempt into his own and gets the decisive pin. MISAWA WINS!!! Crowd goes wild! Kobashi & Kawada carry Misawa on their shoulders. Crowd starts chanting Misawa’s name. GREAT MATCH!
WINNER: Mitsuharu Misawa
Mitsuhara Misawa vs. Stan Hansen © for the PWF/UN/Int’l Titles (Triple Crown)
Taped 8/22/1992 at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, Japan
Misawa and Hansen exchange chops to start the match. They lock-up and Hansen starts immediately working on Misawa’s left arm. Hansen kicks at Misawa near the ropes. Misawa throws a few elbows at Hansen that send him to the outside. Misawa takes down Hansen with a headlock. Hansen tries to break the hold by reaching out and pulling Misawa’s hair. Misawa keeps his grasp on the headlock. Hansen tries to get outside the ring, but Misawa keeps the headlock on. Hansen briefly breaks out and slaps at Misawa’s head before he gets caught again by Misawa. Hansen escapes in the corner and starts to beat down on Misawa in the corner. Crowd jeers what he does. Hansen locks in an armbar submission on Misawa. Crowd starts cheering for Misawa as Hansen tells the ref to ask Misawa if he gives up. Misawa finally reaches the ropes but Hansen throws in a few kicks at him.
Misawa fires up and grabs Hansen’s arm and takes him down. Misawa goes for the Fujiwara armbar, but Hansen keeps his arms together trying to break out of the hold. Hansen breaks out and drops a few elbows on Misawa. Stomps on Misawa’s head and then walks on his head too! Hansen throws a few kicks at Misawa’s back near the ropes. Hansen starts to use the ring apron to work on Misawa’s left arm. Hansen slams Misawa’s shoulder into the guardrail. Hansen attacks Misawa outside and continues to use the guardrail while attacking him. Misawa tries to get back in the ring, but Hansen tackles him back out and then goes out and drops some more elbows on him. Hansen tackles Misawa again as he tries to enter the ring, but this time Misawa gets in a few kicks and elbows on him. Misawa hits a slingshot elbow on Hansen. Hansen regains control of the match with a slam and then drops more elbows on Misawa. Misawa escapes a suplex attempt and goes for a few kicks at Hansen and then takes him down with an armbar submission. Misawa is holding his left shoulder while keeping Hansen down.
The two exchange elbows before Hansen swings Misawa into the ropes. More elbows from Misawa. Hansen stuns him with a dropkick! Hansen hits a shoulder tackle on Misawa. Follows that up with a DDT on Misawa but only gets a 2-count. Misawa gets up and hits an elbow and a reverse spin-kick. Misawa hits another elbow at Hansen’s back. Gets a 2-count on Hansen. Misawa with a suplex on Hansen. He climbs to the top rope and hits a diving elbow for another 2-count! Misawa goes for a facelock on Hansen. Hansen reaches the bottom rope to break the hold. Misawa goes for a sleeperhold on Hansen. Misawa goes for a pin but only gets 2. Senton by Misawa followed by a frog splash, but Hansen moves out of the way and goes for the pin. TWO!!! More elbows exchanged by two. Hansen with a few slaps at Misawa’s face. He gets another 2-count after a kneedrop on Misawa. Hansen tries for a piledriver but Misawa blocks it. He gets Misawa with a powerbomb instead! Hansen slams Misawa and then hits a kneedrop for another 2-count. Hansen signals for the lariat but can’t get Misawa. He slams Misawa down again. Hansen continues to work on Misawa’s shoulder. Hansen goes for the Fujiwara armbar on Misawa, but he reaches the ropes. Misawa knocks down Hansen with an elbow. Hansen kicks at Misawa. Misawa bounces back and elbows Hansen again. Both go down. Misawa then turns Hansen around and pins him for the win! Misawa wins the Triple Cown! Great Match!
Hansen goes over to Misawa and shakes his hand. Misawa is handed all the belts and a giant trophy. Crowd chants, “Misawa! Misawa! Misawa!!!”
WINNER: Mitsuharu Misawa wins the Triple Crown!
Mitsuharu Misawa © vs. Toshiaki Kawada for the PWF/UN/Int’l Titles (Triple Crown)
Taped 7/24/1995 at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, Japan
The bell rings to start the match and they walk around the ring and stare each other down before locking up. Misawa quickly drops a few elbows at Kawada’s neck. They block a few attempts at some moves early on. Kawada blocks a kick attempt by Misawa. Kawada gets in a kick of his own and then rolls thru with another kick that sends Misawa to the outside. They get back in the ring and exchange elbows. Kawada starts kicking at Misawa in a corner. Hits a running kick into the corner at Misawa’s head! More kicks by Kawada at Misawa’s head. Kawada powerbombs Misawa on the floor. Kawada rolls Misawa back into the ring. Misawa gets in an elbow on Kawada but Kawada counters by going with a high kick at his head. Sleeperhold by Kawada, but Misawa reaches the ropes. More kicks by Kawada. Misawa fires up and throws a barrage of elbows at Kawada that send Kawada to the outside.
Kawada rolls back into the ring and is hit by a flurry of elbows from Misawa that knock him down. Misawa goes for the Tiger Driver, but Kawada escapes. Misawa gets him with a backdrop. Kawada gets back up, but rolls out to the outside. Misawa goes for a facelock on Kawada but he reaches the ropes. More elbows from Misawa who attempts a backdrop but Kawada chops him and then clotheslines him from behind. Kawada gets Misawa in a chokehold and the ref tells him to break the hold. Kawada then goes back again and applies a sleeperhold on Misawa. Misawa reaches the ropes. Big elbow from Misawa. Kawada counters with a chop. A series of chops by Kawada, followed by more elbows from Misawa. Kawada backdrops Misawa! He only gets TWO before Misawa kicks out! Misawa backdrops Kawada, but Kawada charges back at Misawa and puts him in the Stretch Plum! Crowd starts cheering for Misawa. Kawada gets another 2-count. Misawa hits Kawada with another elbow. Kawada with a high kick at Misawa followed by another backdrop! Kawada gets another 2-count on Misawa after a powerbomb! Another kick at Misawa’s back! Kawada struggles a bit but he gets another 2-count on Misawa after yet another powerbomb! Kawada hits a high kick on Misawa near the ropes. Misawa reverses a backdrop attempt and lands on Kawada. Kawada with more kicks and an elbow at Misawa. He grounds Misawa and throws a few punches at him. They exchange elbows and kicks! Misawa hits a rolling elbow! Kawada gets Misawa with another backdrop!!! Both men are down on the mat as the crowd starts to cheer loudly. Kawada misses a kick. Misawa hits an elbow. Misawa with a backdrop on Kawada only gets a 2-count. Misawa gets a 2-count with the Tiger Suplex! Kawada looks fatigued but he still is able to deliver an elbow at Misawa. Rolling elbow from Misawa! Tiger Suplex from Misawa!!! Kawada kicks out at TWO!!! Misawa with another Tiger Suplex sends Kawada into the ropes! Another rolling elbow, followed by another elbow by Misawa! 1-2-3 Misawa wins!!! GREAT MATCH!!!
WINNER: Mitsuharu Misawa retains title
SHOW THOUGHTS: Well, what else can I say, all the matches were fun to watch! Great stuff overall. The early Misawa & Koshinaka match was around the same time they started doing tours in Mexico. Misawa worked really well with luchadores and it showed in his match with La Fiera. Last three matches were excellent. What more can be said about the Misawa vs. Tsuruta match that hasn’t already been said by so many others. An excellent match that even watching it years later still has me getting goose bumps because of how well they worked the match. Misawa’s matches with Hansen and Kawada were hard-hitting and excellent. It is always fun to re-watch All Japan Classics/Retro episodes and this series really delivered.