The Most Beautiful Thing Ever?



In honour of Misawa vs. Kawada selling out the Tokyo Dome on July 18, 2005, here’s a look at one of the key matches in their legendary feud.


It’s about a guy who beat the best wrestler in the world to take over the role of Company Ace. It’s about his bigger, stronger, younger best friend. It’s about his jealous former tag team partner and that former partner’s cruel and vicious sidekick. It’s a story about loyalty and heroism.


It’s about a guy who knows he’s the best and has a burning need to prove it. It’s about the golden boy superstar that stands in his way, and the talented athlete that took the underdog’s place by the hero’s side. It’s about the underdog’s sidekick, a blue-collar type who has to use his toughness to overcome a lack of athleticism. It’s a story of hatred and revenge.


Mitsuharu Misawa, in emerald tights with white trim, is the hero. As the 80s were turning into the 90s, he was taking over the role of All Japan’s top good-guy wrestler. He led a group of younger wrestlers in a war against Jumbo Tsuruta and the rest of the old guard and when Misawa finally beat Tsuruta cleanly on 6/8/1990, many in the crowd were moved to tears of joy. There is no question that, at his peak, Misawa was one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.

Toshiaki Kawada, in black and yellow tights, is the underdog. He was in Misawa’s corner on 6/8/90 and they held the All Japan Tag Team titles together twice, in 1991 and 1992. Kawada is an absolute master of stiffness, bumping, selling, and psychology, but he had always played second fiddle to Misawa. To the best of my knowledge, Kawada had thrice been thwarted in his attempts to best Misawa in singles competition; in October 1992 while they were still partners, in July 1993 in an excellent encounter, and in June 1994. Their ’94 match is considered by many, myself included to be perhaps the greatest men’s heavyweight singles match of all time.

Kenta Kobashi, in orange trunks, is the hero’s true friend. He and Misawa had held the belts continuously since winning the 1993 Real World Tag Team tournament. Many times over the course of their title reign, Misawa had saved Kobashi from being beaten or from being pinned. Despite Kobashi being more physically gifted than Misawa, it is the older wrestler’s guile and talent that has most often carried the day. Rather than reacting with jealousy, as Kawada had, Kobashi has become extremely loyal to the man in green.

Kawada’s sidekick, Akira Taue, is dressed in red trunks. He is the oldest, slowest, and least athletic of the four competitors, and he is just starting to emerge as a star on their level. He is a fomer sumo wrestler who debuted as a tag team partner to the legendary Giant Baba. He, too, is likely tired of living in Misawa and Kobashi’s considerable shadows, and he is united with Kawada in their hatred of the popular duo.

The heroes come to the ring in fancy jackets that match their ring gear. The underdogs, who call themselves The Holy Demon Army, have plain white towels around their necks.

If you are cheering for the heroes, then seeing Kobashi’s left thigh completely bandaged might be cause for worry. If you are cheering the underdogs, it might give you hope that this will be their best chance at glory.

The action is immediate, intense, and sustained. None of the four let up for nearly three quarters of an hour. The highly personal nature of the feud is made apparent very early in the match when Kawada sprints across the ring to kick Misawa right in the face. This match isn’t about trying to win the tag team titles, even though they are on the line. It isn’t even about trying to prove who’s the best. By this point in the feud, it’s all about hatred vs. loyalty.

The Holy Demon Army lay waste to Kobashi’s injured leg, just pounding away on it until he can no longer stand. Then they focus in on Misawa. Time after time, Kobashi limps or even crawls to his partner’s rescue, going so far as to cover Misawa’s body with his own to protect him. After all of the times that Kobashi’s partner has bailed him out of trouble, can Kobashi do the saving when Misawa needs him the most? Will Kawada and Taue’s determination, born of hatred, prove to be too much to overcome? Does Misawa prove yet again that he is the best wrestler in All Japan? Does Kobashi prove himself a worthy partner? Does Kawada finally get a victory over Misawa? Does Taue prove that he belongs in this elite group?

If you have seen the match, then you know the answers to those questions. In my opinion, the answers are ultimately very satisfying, whether you started out cheering for the heroes or for the underdogs.

If you haven’t seen this match yet, I envy you the pleasure of experiencing it for the first time. I’m even going to go so far as to recommend that you save this match until you’ve seen enough early-90s All Japan to understand and appreciate the stories being told.

This match tells two stories, in an utterly compelling manner, and brings them to a conclusion that shouldn’t leave anyone disappointed. I’d argue that any match that can do so deserves to be considered among the greatest matches ever.


Campbell looks at a change in WWE’s web philosophy.

Weavil looks at a real problem with WWE’s booking style.

Ditch argues that New Japan’s booking is even worse.

Lucard breaks out the import wrestling game refernces and tells you how to make gelato.

and Fernandez celebrates his 100th with a Battle Royal!