For those not aware, 25 years ago today a very notorious bout took place in All Japan Pro Wrestling between Mitusharu Misawa and Toshiaki Kawada. In case you don’t recognise the names, both Misawa and Kawada were the top two stars of All Japan at the time and this was a much anticipated collision between the two.
Both men had actually been tag team partners and allies in the not too distant past prior to this contest, but by the time 1994 rolled around both men had become heated rivals, both on and off screen. Thankfully it led to magic between the two and they often produced an epic chemistry together, one that helped make All Japan incredibly successful during the 90’s.
The two hadn’t met in a match for the famed All Japan Triple Crown of Titles for nearly two years, so this match had a lot of hype going into it and was the talk of the internet wrestling world following its conclusion due to how great a match it ended up being.
Seeing as today is the anniversary of the match, I thought I’d review it seeing as I haven’t watched it in a while and the milestone deserved some recognition. So without further ado, let’s say the way back machine to Budokan Hall for some Retro Wrestle action!
All Japan Triple Crown Championship
Champion: Mitsuharu Misawa Vs Toshiaki Kawada
Both men are relatively cagey in the opening moments, but Misawa makes the mistake of charging at Kawada following a big boot and takes a big spin kick to the mush in response. Misawa doesn’t stay down though and comes back with a big back suplex that almost becomes a back drop. Kawada is understandably groggy following that, so the bout then reverts back to the caginess from the opening exchanges.
Kawada works an arm bar, but Misawa eventually gets out of it and sends Kawada outside the ring with a dropkick. However, when Misawa tries to come off the apron with a forearm smash onto Kawada, Kawada sees him coming and is able to shoot him out of the sky with a forearm of his own, before following with a lariat. Kawada did have a really good lariat on him actually. He’s known more for kicks, but he could swing with the best of them when he wanted to.
Kawada works Misawa over for a bit back inside, as this match really has “the big fight atmosphere” that so many main events strive for. Kawada starts throwing some kicks and forearms in an effort to wear Misawa down, with Misawa being all stoic in response. Misawa’s stoicism is one of the things that makes him who he is, but I must admit I prefer Kenta Kobashi’s much more expressive facials. That’s just my own personal preference though. Misawa does sell well, but he sells inwardly whilst Kobashi sells outwardly.
Kawada keeps up the pressure by going to a rear naked choke, but this was before the move was a big finishing hold and Misawa is able to hold on and make the ropes. Misawa has finally had enough of Kawada beating him up and unloads with some stiff leg kicks, before adding some stomps to Kawada’s lower appendage once he goes down to the mat. Misawa adds a single leg crab next, but Kawada uses his other leg to kick his way out of it in a cool spot. Misawa won’t let up though, and goes to a modified leg lock next.
Kawada sells the leg great, crumpling after throwing a leg kick of his own, which allows Misawa to stay on it. Kawada does such a good job selling the leg that the crowd actually starts to cheer for him, which is a definite achievement considering how surly he is. Kawada finally manages to catch a breather following some elbow drops to Misawa, which leads to both men fighting over a brain buster. That battle ends in a stalemate, so Misawa kicks Kawada in the face instead with a spinning back kick, before adding a big forearm smash for good measure.
Misawa gets another dropkick, but Kawada completely no sells it and then boots Misawa down before adding an enziguiri. Misawa sells like he’s out cold from the kick, so Kawada covers for two. The crowd totally bought that as a near fall as well, which is a testament to how well Misawa sold it. Kawada goes for his powerbomb, but Misawa counters it with a back body drop, only to then get dropkicked in the back by Kawada. Kawada actually drops a knee from the second rope, but can’t capitalise due to the leg work from earlier in a nice call back.
Misawa is struggling now, but he manages to floor Kawada with a big spin kick, as it looks like he’s starting to bleed from his ear. Both men trade strikes, which ends with Misawa blocking an enziguiri before delivering a seated from dropkick and hitting the Tiger Driver (One if his big moves) for a two count. Misawa heads up top for a beautiful frogsplash, but it only gets him two. It was like Misawa was actually hanging in the air there, really impressive execution.
Misawa goes to a face lock/sleeper hold next, one that he used a lot during his career and actually won matches with, but when Kawada doesn’t submit he lets go of the hold, which allows Kawada to roll outside. Misawa heads out and throws Kawada straight back in, which gets a polite round of applause from the crowd, but when Misawa tries something off the top rope Kawada catches him with an enziguri on the way down, as the commentator starts to lose his mind.
Kawada tries for the powerbomb again, but Misawa blocks it, which leads to both men strikes. Kawada pulls out another lariat to finally win that battle, but he doesn’t go for the cover and instead hits a terrifying Dangerous Back Drop. Misawa went right on his head there, good and proper. Kawada finally gets the powerbomb, but Misawa kicks out to a big pop. Great near fall there! Kawada hits another enziguri, followed by another. The crowd are abuzz now, as Kawada hits a vicious release German Suplex, which again sees Misawa land on his head.
Misawa has just enough consciousness to roll outside the ring so he can’t be pinned, which leads to Kawada following him out and rolling him back in for another round of polite applause from the Japanese crowd. I don’t know why but I really love that. It’s like the reaction you get at a football match where one team puts the ball out if a player on the opposing team is injured and needs to be helped off the pitch.
Kawada hits yet another powerbomb, which again Misawa somehow kicks out of, and the crowd are going absolutely bezerk. Kawada tries the Stretch Plum next, but Misawa makes the ropes, only for Kawada to pull him back into the middle of the ring and apply it again. The crowd chants for Misawa, as it looks like he goes out. Rather than win that way however, Kawada releases the hold and goes for a cover instead, which allows Misawa to kick out. Should have left the hold applied Kawada; you might now be Champion if you had!
Misawa manages a desperation elbow smash whilst Kawada is trying to pull him up, but Kawada recovers first and boots him in the face again. Misawa replies with another elbow smash though, as the crowd roar when it’s announced that both men have been wrestling for thirty minutes. This atmosphere is absolutely incredible stuff. Misawa hits a big release German Suplex on Kawada, as the commentator is now having a fit it would seem. Someone get that man a glass of water or something!
Misawa hits a Tiger Suplex next and bridges into a cover, but Kawada is able to kick out at two. Kawada fights back with a forward rolling kick however, which earns him a “KA-WA-DA” chant from the crowd. Another rolling kick sends Misawa outside again, as both men are selling the punishment they’ve suffered in this one now. Misawa drags himself back into the ring for a strike battle with Kawada, and it’s an absolute belter as they beat the crud out of one another. Misawa unloads with a stiff series of elbow strikes and adds a big spinning one to floor his foe.
Misawa goes for the Tiger Driver again, but Kawada fights him off and tries the rolling kick again, but Misawa blocks it this time and then floors Kawada with a big elbow smash. Misawa hooks Kawada again in the Tiger Driver, but this time instead of landing it in a powerbomb he instead turns it into a modified piledriver, which is a sick variant of the move called “The Tiger Driver 91’” or “The Killer Driver” as I used to call it before I knew its name because that’s what it looked like it did. Not surprisingly, that’s finally enough for Misawa to keep Kawada down for three.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: MITSUHARU MISAWA
What an absolute war that was! This match is incredible and has basically everything you’d want from a Main Event Title bout. It has the drama, the story, the execution and the incredible crowd who are invested from the opening bell. If you’ve never seen this one then I strongly suggest that you check it out. It deserves all the praise and hype it gets.