Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Kenta Kobashi
1 March, 2003
Budokan Hal; Tokyo, Japan
GHC Heavyweight Championship Match
Initial reaction: Holy Shit!
After taking a minute to pause and reflect, I surely have a few opinions...
Other than perhaps Ric Flair/Ricky Steamboat, I do not think there are two wrestlers on the planet that have the same type of chemistry together as Misawa/Kobashi. These are the only names I can think of, off hand, where as soon as you announce the match between them, you know that it is going to be an unforgettable classic. Maybe Undertaker/Michaels, but they had so many "gimmick" matches that it is a giant step below to me. Maivia/Austin? They had intensity, but not this kind of ring work; it was more spectacle with them. Sting/Vader? Not quite at this level. Taz/Sabu? Lynn/RVD?
I think that Flair/Steamboat and Misawa/Kobashi are a toss up as to the greatest series of matches between two opponents ever.
Now, with that said, I think that this match may be the best between Misawa and Kobashi, at least from a "big match" perspective. Make no mistake - this match is straight out of the Misawa playbook: early exchange of strikes, followed by crazy bumps outside, followed by more striking inside, followed by trading signature moves, which leads up to the finishing sequence. If there ever was a criticism of Misawa, it can surely be that his "big matches" all had a formula to them, so he could be somewhat repetitive.
The difference here is that Kobashi has a different type of formula, and his style meshes with Misawa's perfectly. Even though you can see the formula as the match unfolds, instead of this coming off as "another Misawa match", it is a beautiful symphony that flows as if the formula was concocted with Kobashi in mind - and maybe it was.
My head hurts after watching what there two did to each other. Kobashi must have thrown Misawa ass over teakettle a dozen times - and each time it looked like Misawa's landing was cushioned by his skull. Supposedly in his later years Misawa had mannerisms of being "punch drunk" similar to that of Muhammad Ali - these types of bumps are probably why.
Not to be outdone, Kobashi takes his fair share of absurd dumpings on the noggin - on the ramp to the ring, and especially the double Tiger Suplex from the ramp to the floor. That bump looked so damn deadly that the Japanese fans were reacting as if someone died. If that match had ended in a countout right there it still would have been an all-time classic.
There is not much else I can say about this match - it was awesome.
The funny thing is, 90% of the indy wrestlers who see this match are probably going to go out and take bumps from the ring to the floor so they can show they are "strong style" too - which is so fucking sad.