Mitsuharu Misawa vs Toshiaki Kawada
18 July, 2005
Tokyo Dome; Toyko, Japan
Part 2 Part 3
First of all, I want to state that this match is very very good.
There is a lot of history behind this rivalry. During the 1990s, Misawa was the ace of All-Japan Pro Wrestling. He had multiple reigns as the Triple Crown Champion, and was probably the best heavyweight wrestler of the 1990s anywhere in the world. Kawada was the guy that was never able to beat Misawa.
After the the death of Giant Baba, things started to fall apart for AJPW, and due to differences with Baba's widow, Misawa left AJPW to found Pro Wrestling Noah - and most of the native Japanese wrestlers left with him. Kawada did not, and finally became the ace of AJPW, but in a way it was not as significant, and AJPW was seriously damaged by the mass exodus.
This match is the first meeting between the two after Misawa left AJPW, and it was on NOAH's 5th Anniversary Show at the Tokyo Dome.
Right off the bat, the psychology to this match is different than usual. Instead of it being built around this match, it was built around the history between the two men. The best example I can think of to compare it to for a non-puroresu fan would be the Undertaker-Michaels match from Wrestlemania 26 - these two wrestlers had fought in a multitude of memorable and epic battles that every fan remembers, and thus have high expectations.
So, with that said, this match starts out with a very short "feeling-out" period. Both men lock up, break, and then kinda look at each other and say "fuck it" and start slugging it out. Except, they do not throw punches. Kawada throws chops and Misawa throws his infamous elbow. From this point on, the psychology of the match, essentially, is the same as a boxing match: these guys are simply trying to knock each other out.
Like I said, this match is very very good. However, I do not get how, from a psychology point of view, you have a Tiger bomb on the floor in the first five minutes of the match. I don't see why you have the powerbomb on the ramp. Granted, they were good spots, and the crowd popped for it, but I just didn't get it. I get the "Ganso bomb". I get the tease of the Tiger bomb from the apron to the floor. And honestly, I understand why they did the aforementioned spots. I just don't understand why they didn't build to those big bumps, rather than kinda just throwing them out there.
A lot of people are going to look at a match like this and wonder how a guy can get power bombed on the floor, and kick out of that, but then get pinned after an elbow. Yeah, I know that there is a difference between the psychology in the US and in Japan, but that is not my point. My point is, why didn't they just trade powerbombs on the floor until someone got a pinfall? Why elbows and kicks? If you start off with the strikes and build up to the bumps, it makes more sense, and takes away that question.
To an extent though, it doesn't matter. A lot of this match was living nostalgia, and wanting to see two old rivals beat the holy shit outta each other one last time. And they delivered. You do not hear a lot of Japanese crowd that loud for a match.