Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Greatest Feud of All-Time: Misawa vs. Kawada - Part 1 of 15

The pro-wrestling world was saddened last summer when Mitsuharu Misawa, heralded as one of the greatest performers that the sports has ever seen, died following injuries from a match.  He was not only one of the biggest stars of puroresu, one of the most influential personalities in pro-wrestling, but one of the most gifted pro-wrestlers of all-time.  Throughout his career, he wrestled many legendary names in legendary matches, but one name and one series stands out above all the others.

Toshiaki Kawada was a "kohai" (junior) of Misawa's for many years.  As amateur wrestlers and professional wrestlers, Kawada often walked a step or two behind Misawa.  2010 marks the twentieth anniversary of Misawa's ascension from Tiger Mask (II) to being his own man.  Appropriately, Kawada was his partner that summer night and the man who untied his mask, allowing Mitsuharu Misawa to explode onto the All Japan scene.  Before the year was through, Misawa had become locked in an epic feud with Jumbo Tsuruta, which propelled him into a top spot in All Japan Pro-Wrestling.  Kawada, again, was a few steps behind.

(this is the middle part of the match in which Misawa unmasked, at approximately the 4:20 mark.)

Kawada continued to fight his way up the ladder and in 1992, these two forces finally met one-on-one.  This match marked the beginning of a rivalry that is undoubtedly one of pro-wrestling's finest. From the athleticism and technical excellence to the intensity and natural storyline, this feud had it all.

Here is a collection of highlights from that first epic encounter with my review of the match itself below.

They hype this first big match between these two by showing their history, namely their win over the Miracle Violence Combo (Steve Williams & Terry Gordy) for the Double Tag titles and when Kawada unmasked Misawa. They also show the build for this particular match with Misawa winning his first Triple Crown by defeating Stan Hansen and Kawada defeating Akira Taue to get this shot.

1. Mitsuharu Misawa (c) vs. Toshiaki Kawada [Triple Crown Championship] (10/21/92)
The crowd is really hungry for this and knowing All Japan's undercards, I'm not surprised. The pacing is really slow as it's clear they have a great story to tell and you give the fans their money's worth by not making it a brief action flick. Kawada jump starts things with a great looking back suplex and that's really the only big move in the first 15 minutes. They use a lot of submissions, going back-and-fourth and throwing in a strike here and there to pop the crowd. The strikes are so well-timed and placed that it's ridiculous and the crowd pops for every one of them. It's not like throwing a few punches in there to stun people between moves, it is a pivotal part of the match and it's all building. Kawada enjoys much of the offense, which is logical because he's the challenger and that's how you do it. Misawa is the champion though and he's not going to be hope spotting his way through this. Their movesets are so well established and individualized that the crowd and announcer get really into a lot of it. This is fun to watch because they're able to do things so much better than we're used to seeing in the past few years, but there are still some rough patches that would be worked out. Kawada's selling is there, but it'd get much better as he became perhaps the greatest seller ever. The finish
is good and it seems appropriate for this stage of the feud. Simple post-match handshake that adds a nice dimension to it all.

The Rating: ****1/4

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