Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Satoshi Kojima
July 18, 2004
AJPW Battle Banquet
Sumo Hall, Tokyo, Japan

Reviewed by Paul Volsch (VOW Author Page / The Emerald FlowShow)

Gifted by Jeff Martin (VOW Author Page / follow him on Blueskybuy his wrestling comics, and check out his free webcomic Hell, Inc.)

On June 18, 1962, Mitsuharu Misawa was born in Yubari, Hokkaido, Japan.

On August 21, 1981, Misawa made his pro-wrestling debut for All Japan Pro-Wrestling in a match against Shiro Koshinaka. He had been a fan of the promotion since his childhood.

On May 14, 1990, Misawa shed the Tiger Mask gimmick after a match where he teamed with future generational rival Toshiaki Kawada to a raucous reaction from the crowd, becoming the biggest wrestling star in Japan in the process.

On June 16, 2000, following a long power struggle with Motoko Baba, the wife of All Japan’s late founder Shohei “Giant” Baba, Misawa publicly announced his departure from All Japan, taking almost the entire native roster with him. This move, which led to the foundation of Pro-Wrestling NOAH, should have ended All Japan. But it didn’t. Against all odds the promotion managed to hang on.

On July 18, 2004, Misawa returned to All Japan. He faced off against Satoshi Kojima, who had jumped to All Japan a few years prior during the chaotic period post-Misawa’s departure.

The main draw of this match is obviously the backstory laid out above, but it’s also two of my all-time favorite wrestlers facing off against each other for the first and only time. Misawa gets a massive reaction from the crowd when his theme hits as is expected, but throughout the match, it becomes clear that the crowd overall favors Kojima, which, again, given the history at play, isn’t surprising.

While Misawa is one of my all-time favorites, this is very clearly after his peak. He is not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but he is also noticeably a step slower than his opponent. Now Kojima makes up for that by taking some absolutely hellish bumps. The match also picks up a lot when they start trading elbows and lariats, with neither man being willing to give in. The match reaches its peak once Kojima kicks out of the Emerald Flowsion, and the crowd pops huge for it as well.

In the end, though, Misawa is the one going over. Two years in a row now I have reviewed matches for Secret Santa where Kojima loses. Last year I wrote that losing to Tenryu actually elevated him, this one is different though. Kojima had already suffered three relatively high profile losses in the three months preceding this match. In April he lost in the Champion Carnival semi-finals to Kensuke Sasaki, in May he lost the All Asia tag titles against Tenryu and Fuchi and in June he lost the AJPW World Tag Team titles to Kendo Kashin and Yuji Nagata. This would have been the perfect time for him to get a big win over a legend to regain some momentum, especially since he would win his first Triple Crown six months later. That match was against Kawada, so you could have even played up Kojima beating Kawada’s old rival. Misawa was also Teflon at this point and losing wouldn’t have hurt him in any way. In the end things obviously worked out well for Kojima but it was a missed opportunity nonetheless.

On October 31, 2004, Misawa worked his last ever All Japan match, teaming with Keiji Muto to defeat Hiroshi Hase and Kensuke Sasaki.

On June 13, 2009, Mitsuharu Misawa passed away at the age of 46 in a freak in-ring accident.