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June 13, 2009

The tragic death of Mitsuharu Misawa

The name Mitsuharu Misawa might not mean a lot to the majority of wrestling fans in the United States and other parts of the world, but in Japan he is considered one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.

Tragically, Misawa died Saturday in Hiroshima after being given a back suplex in a tag team match, according to He was several days away from his 47th birthday.

According to the Web site, Misawa suffered an apparent heart attack after being knocked unconscious from taking the suplex. The match was stopped immediately and CPR was administered in the ring before he was rushed to a hospital in an ambulance. It is unclear whether he died in the ring or at the hospital.

I am not going to pretend that I have seen many Misawa matches, because I have only watched a handful on tape and YouTube. However, I certainly know of his reputation for being a great worker and a huge star in Japan from reading The Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Misawa was voted by Observer readers as Wrestler of the Year in 1995, 1997 and 1999.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:37 PM | | Comments (16)


His matches w/ Toshiaki Kawada, particularly their 6/3/94 match, are just off the charts. It'll be uneasy watching those classics going forward, considering all the headfirst backdrop suplexes he endured over the years.

For those that have never heard of Misawa, you may be more familiar with his run as Tiger Mask II where he wrestled the likes of The Dynamite Kid, Ted DiBiase, Curt Henning, and Ricky Steamboat (see YouTube for some of these classic matches)before unmasking.

Misawa was very much like Chris Benoit, Shawn Michaels, and others of the like who were undersized, yet were top notch performers who gave 100% every night for our entertainment. He was an innovator whose style was duplicated by many of the early ECW stars and his influence can be felt today just by going to any of the ROH or other independent shows which feature stars who have toured Japan.

In short, Misawa was an icon whose death leaves a massive hole in the Japanese wrestling scene. He is irreplaceable and the Japanese wrestling world will be hard pressed to find another star to fill the void that has been left.

R.I.P. Mitsuharu Misawa

Thanks for writing this article. I've been a fan of Japanese wrestling for awhile and Misawa was at the forefront of AJPW's run in the 90s. Rest will Misawa-san. Thank you for the memories and you will be missed.

Thank you for sharing this news. I too have primarily admired Misawa from reputation. I hope that this tragedy encourages American wrestling programs to avoid the fake heart attacks, knife play, exploding cages and other life/death scenarios we've seen in the last decade.

Thanks again.

Not at all making light of the event , I guess dying while he was doing what he loved to do was the way to go . Obviously passing at such a young age is unfortunate though and condolences go to his family .

He was the greatest of all-time. I will never forget his matches with Stan Hansen. Just the best ever.

I had the honor of meeting and seeing Mitsuharu Misawa in action on November 3, 2007 when he wrestled at Ring of Honor's Glory by Honor VI, Night 2 event. I just got home from Ring of Honor's Manhattan Mayhem III show and they had a 10 bell salute to Misawa and a moment of silence. It's so tragic to hear about his passing.

Tragic. One of the best ever. It's such a shame guys like Misawa, Kobashi, Kawada & Akiyama haven't had more exposure outside Japan.

Anyone who wants to see Misawa and the definition of Japanese Puroresu should check out Pro Wrestling Noah vids on youtube.

Such a shame. R.I.P.

real wrestling fans all over the world sure know Misawa is the legend and the greatest wrestler of our era (if not of all time).

RIP Misawa...

Misawa was probably the best wrestler ever, with all respect to Flair, Michaels, Kobashi, and Kawada. His passing is absolutely tragic, and yesterday was a bad day for wrestling worldwide in general.

Here are some thoughts from independent wrestler Chris Hero, who was at ringside for the match:

Current mood:disbelief
Words cannot express how deeply shocked I am. We're all just in utter disbelief. Stunned sadness.

The moments at ringside felt an eternity. Never, in my life, have I wanted the fighting spirit to jump into someone's being more than I wanted tonight. The fans chanted Misawa, Misawa, Misawa. They wanted their Hero to get up so f****** bad. Just get up. Come on! You're too tough for this. Too strong. I grabbed his boots and held onto them til they took him away.

My heart goes out to his family. His students. His peers. His friends. His fans. His opponents tonight and his partner. It was a freak accident. No one is at fault.

Rest in Peace Shacho."

Misawa was and always be a true puroresu legend in our hearts some off his matches with Jumbo, Kawada, and Kobashi were the best matches I've seen his wresting style and basically has a great wrestling techniques like no other.

To give a little more background on how good Misawa was during his prime, he's the highest-ranked Japanese wrestler in the history of the PWI 500. He was number 2 in 1997 & number 3 in 1998 (behind only Steve Austin & Goldberg).

It doesn't shock me. For years, AJPW has employed far too stiff of a style.

Wrestling Observer reports that he died from a spinal injury related to the suplex.

In all my ignorance of the rich history of Japanese pro wrestling, I never knew the story about Baba's widow firing him after Baba had left him in control of All Japan Pro Wrestling. What he did after that, which was to get almost the entire roster of AJPW to leave with him and form his own fed, that is what truly made him legendary. It is equal to what would have happened if Steve Austin were to have left the WWF and took everyone with him except HHH and Stephanie.

I remember the scene that Misawa put off his mask as 2nd Tiger Mask on May14,2009 at tokyo gymnagium.

I recently think that if he had not put off his mask ,he would not have died.

However I believe that he never regret his lives as a professional Wrestler.

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
E-mail Kevin.

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