MISAWA vs. KAWADA on 6/3/94
review by Mike Campbell
It’s been called the greatest match of all time. When Mitsuharu Misawa and Toshiaki Kawada step into the ring against each other, it usually does turn out to be a great match, however on this night it was something a little more special than just the usual great match. One cannot understand the history of Misawa vs Kawada, unless they understand the history of its predecessor, Misawa vs Jumbo Tsuruta, and that feud’s predecessor, Tsuruta vs Genichiro Tenryu.
The seeds were planted in 1987, after Riki Chosyu left All Japan, and returned to New Japan. #1 native Tsuruta and # 2 native Tenryu were tag team partners, and with their big nemesis now gone, there was nothing left for them but to face each other. Tenryu formed a faction known as “The Revolution” and his #3 man was Toshiaki Kawada. Jumbo Tsuruta also had his own stable, and one of his lower members was Mitsuharu Misawa, who was still under the Tiger Mask. On 6/5/89, Tenryu was able to defeat Tsuruta for the Triple Crown, in one of the best matches of the 1980's. Things would get a little more interesting in 1990 though, when Tenryu left All Japan to form the SWS, Yoshiaki Yatsu, Tsuruta’s #2 man, had also joined Tenryu. With Jumbo’s big nemesis now gone, his underling Tiger Mask, unmasked himself and formed his own group called “The Over Generation Army” with his #2 man being, Toshiaki Kawada.
On 6/8/90, Misawa defeated Tsuruta in a singles match to firmly establish himself as being #2 native in the company, although Tsuruta would win many subsequent rematches, that single victory was proof enough that Misawa was the next big star for All Japan. Misawa and Kawada would win the AJPW World Tag Titles in 1991 and Misawa would get a second win over Tsuruta in a tag title defense by making him submit. Along with his tag team success with Kawada, Misawa would obtain single success by defeating Stan Hansen in August of 1992 for the Triple Crown. Misawa and Kawada would also win the 1992 Real World Tag League. Misawa vs Tsuruta would never reach its full conclusion though, because in 1993, Tsuruta would make things get a little more interesting by becoming inactive due to health problems. So with the main nemesis gone, the only thing left to do was to take the top two natives (Misawa and Kawada by now) and pair them off against each other. Kawada has no wins in singles or tags over Misawa. However, he’s got several AJPW World Tag Titles under his belt, as well as earning this shot by winning the 1994 Champions Carnival. Tenryu was able to defeat Tsuruta on 6/5/89 and if history is any indication, then 6/3/94 could very well be the night, that Kawada fulfills his destiny.
MITSUHARU MISAWA © vs. TOSHIAKI KAWADA (Triple Crown)
The opening sequence of this match is a good example of yin and yang, equal but opposite. Misawa and Kawada can avoid getting hit with the big strike, Kawada connects two kicks, and Misawa hits the backdrop. The #1 native hits the #2 native with a backdrop, much like Jumbo did to Misawa four short years ago. The yin and yang continues when Misawa fakes out Kawada and hits a dropkick on the floor, and then Kawada blocks the elbow off the apron. Misawa tries to shoot Kawada in to the guardrail, and Kawada rebounds with a lariat.
Misawa is famous for his comebacks, so Kawada sticks mainly to his kick offense, but a closeup of Misawa’s ear shows that its bleeding, and taking a blade to the ear wasn’t a big fad in AJPW, so even though it may not look that spectacular, we know exactly how much Kawada is actually holding back. Kawada will be using his big moves later, for when the need arises, and history has shown that it would. In 1989 Jumbo went after Tenryu’s neck, which had been previously injured. Misawa knows that Kawada has a bad wheel, hell it was six months ago to the day that Misawa took advantage of that knee to help his #2 man Kenta Kobashi, get a pin over Kawada. So its no secret or surprise that Misawa will target the knee. Kawada does a respectable sell job of the knee, Misawa tries a vertical suplex and most workers would just counter with their own suplex, but Kawada isn’t “most workers” and he opts to keep selling the knee by countering to an arm bar. The knee is a big reason why Kawada lost that match six months ago, so he’s definitely got to make sure that he keeps it protected, so that the lightning doesn’t strike twice.
Misawa sees that he’s got Kawada preoccupied with his bad knee, so he starts to dish out the more devastating moves. Not really moves that he can expect to put away someone like Kawada, but the little things that a Masao Inoue or Jun Akiyama would have to lay down to. Kawada is worn down and he’s distracted, so dishing out these smaller moves makes sense, he can save his bigger arsenal for later on. Kawada is able to stop the Tiger driver and Tiger suplex, even though he’s hurt and worn down. Misawa’s “by the numbers” stuff may work a lot of the time, but on this night, its going to take more than that. Misawa knows that too, and that’s what ultimately leads to Kawada’s undoing. Kawada showing the desperation is setting in, resorts to an infraction of the rules and lays in a punch, with a closed fist. It may be a night in which the underdogs break out and win, but this isn’t a storybook world we live in. If Kawada wants to win, he’s got to fight for it and earn it. Kawada hits the Dangerous Backdrop and then hits a Genichiro Tenryu style leaning powerbomb, instead of the sliding powerbomb that he’s used so many times to win matches. The powerbomb gets two, but on 6/5/89 Tenryu’s first powerbomb also got two, and his follow up powerbomb got three, so Kawada tries a second one and Misawa still kicks out. That may have worked for Tenryu, but Kawada isn’t Tenryu and he’s got to do it on his own.
Misawa attempts the Rolling Elbow and its blocked and Kawada uses a headbutt offense to stun Misawa. The headbutts aren’t exactly something we see every match from Dangerous K. Misawa gets his wits and starts his elbow flurry and connects the Rolling Elbow, and then hits a running elbow. Its still not enough for Misawa though. Jumbo Tsuruta lost his two matches because his challenger was able to withstand the moves and he didn’t have anything else to use against him that may have put it over the top and given Jumbo the win. Misawa came prepared however, and hooks up the Tiger Driver ‘91. Kawada put up a valiant effort, but it’s just too little too late. Kawada will have to find another route to beat Misawa, because even on the night where history was on his side. The Tiger Driver ‘91 was more powerful than history. Even though the wrong man goes over, it adds to the psychology of the feud even more. Misawa had that special something that Jumbo didn’t have and it put him over the top. Kawada had to keep trying to figure out what would work to give him the win, he was so desperate for. *****
Conclusion: Simply put, this is thought of as the greatest match of all time, for a good reason. I can think of a couple matches I’d place above it, but that doesn’t take anything away from this match at all. Highest recommendation possible.
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