Today is the birth day of Mitsuharu Misawa, a Japanese pro-wrestler whose career with showered with accolades and is lauded by many as the greatest performer of all time.
After a troubled early childhood, Misawa decided to become a professional wrestler at the tender age of 12, only to be told he had to actually finish school first. He made his in-ring debut in 1981 for the All Japan Pro Wrestling promotion. After an excursion to Mexico, he returned home to become the second Tiger Mask, the successful gimmick character based on the 70’s children’s anime.
After toiling unhappily for several years under the mask he would eventually it behind and in time became one of the ‘Four Pillars of Heaven’, alongside Akira Taue, Toshiaki Kawada, an Kenta Kobashi. During the 90’s they would epitomise a style of wrestling called ‘King’s Road’, which focused more on their sheer fortitude and fighting spirit, rather than technical prowess. Long-term story-telling was the key to All Japan’s success during this era.
Problems began when Giant Baba, legendary wrestler and owner of All Japan, passed away in 1999. He directed that Misawa should succeed him as head booker of the company. However, due to animosity with Baba’s widow Motoko, Misawa, he would leave the company to form his own in 2000 – Pro Wrestling NOAH (named after the Arc of course). Due to his immense popularity, almost all of his fellow wrestlers followed him.
With Misawa at the helm NOAH became one of the most highly regarded promotions in the world, but during a downturn for the industry, it struggled when he wasn’t headlining. He was a victim of his own celebrity in the industry, feeling unable to fully retire from being the main attraction, due to the decrease in interest when he was absent.
Tragically, Misawa died in the ring in 2009. He had sacrificed his health and his body for over twenty years, fighting a brutal wrestling style – including being dropped directly on his head so many times – which left his body a wreck. He left behind a tremendous legacy and is forever in the hearts of his fans and fellow professionals.
Have an awesome day everyone, and take care!