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September 2003


10/05/05: People seem to like this article, or at least read it a lot, or at least hotlink the below photo a lot, so I made sure this was kept. It took a really long time for me to finish it. For someone lazy like me, it was a lot of work.

By the way, the below Misawa-Kawada picture from when they're about 17 or 18 is a screenshot from the Kawada documentary aired on GAORA in 2003.

Anyway, this kind of needs a disclaimer. The most informative and worth-reading parts of this are the sections entitled, "The History" and "The End". Everything in between are basically reviews of matches that were put on an 8-hour comp tape that I made to sell with this. For sake of tying everything together and going over their biggest and best matches, it's worth reading. But if you want entertaining, well-written reviews, go .

The overall attitude of this piece is a little kayfabed and reflects how big a mark for this stuff I was when this was written (from February to April '03). But to be clear, that's not to say the stuff you'll read in the "The History" and "The End" sections are kayfabed in any way. The details of Kawada and Misawa's history as well as the details of the infamous "NOAH departure" were written as I believed it to be. Some sources, like Tom Zenk's website and Steve Williams' RF Video shoot interview are cited. The timeline chronicling the NOAH split was compiled using daily articles from Nikkan Sports (which is where the photos are from).

It should also be kept in mind that this was written before the Kawada vs. Misawa match that took place in July 2005. This was written more than two years prior. The back story, as well as the match quality between Misawa and Kawada was fascinating to me. And that's what motivated me to write this. If I could have picked one dream match, it would have been Kawada vs. Misawa one more time. I never figured the two would be wrestling each other again, two years later.

With that out of way, please read on.

 

The History

Kawada and Misawa sitting on a plane in their high school amateur days.  Approx. 1980.

Toshiaki Kawada and Mitsuharu Misawa are two of the greatest performing wrestlers the world has ever seen. Their story is one that begins in childhood, is littered with literally hundreds of world-class matches, but ends in resentment.

The long-running pro wrestling, personal and professional feud between Toshiaki Kawada and Mitsuharu Misawa – in terms of both great matches and good business – must be remembered as one of the greatest feuds in the history of pro wrestling. Over the eight times Misawa and Kawada competed in the ring with All Japan's coveted Triple Crown on the line, they drew six Tokyo Nippon Budokan sell-outs, one sell-out of the Osaka Furitsu (Prefectural) Gym and a mass of over 50,000 people (though some got in for free) inside the Tokyo Dome. For those eight matches, that would be an estimated total of 153,100 people, paying a total of what must be well over $10 million.

Understanding the professional competitive spirit between Misawa and Kawada in the ring is simple. However, looking deeper and trying to figure out their eventual personal conflict is far more complicated. One of the reasons for this is that the man, Toshiaki Kawada was and is a complicated man.

In Japan – especially Baba's All Japan – wrestlers' characters in the ring were often very similar to themselves. There weren't any outlandish gimmicks in Baba's All Japan in that time period. A great personality was not always necessary to be a star. No example may be better than Toshiaki Kawada. He was always a very stoic and reserved man. Though, this is not to say Kawada didn't have charisma or an ability to connect with the fans. He absolutely did, but connected in ways most unique – ways pro wrestling probably hadn't ever seen up to that point. His most heated moments in the ring seemed to always be based around finally losing his temper and teeing off or trading frightening strikes with his opponent. This happened much more than once when he was in the ring with Mitsuharu Misawa.

It was also rumored that Kawada never cared much for foreigners and rarely even shook hands with them. The only two memorable incidences where Kawada shook hands with a foreigner in the ring was at Stan Hansen's retirement ceremony on January 28, 2001 and after winning the Champion Carnival 1994 over Steve Williams on April 16, 1994 after Lord James Blears gestured for a handshake. "Kawada and me never hit it off. We hated each other," although he and Kawada respected each other after the infamous All Japan split, Williams compared their relationship to that of polarized magnets in a shoot interview with RF Video, "[We] were like a magnet. You could never get [us] stuck. We'd slide right off each other."

From their very beginnings in All Japan, Kawada and Misawa were different wrestlers. In 1984, three years after Misawa's debut, Giant Baba purchased the Tiger Mask gimmick from Antonio Inoki and gave the famous mask to Misawa. Meanwhile, Kawada was still working hard, trying to make his way up the card, often being sent to Canada and the US to gain experience. "I was working for Verne [Gagne], and [Kawada] was still stuck in Canada… He was upset because he was making no money and had no place to go. It was too soon for Baba to let him come back. Or was Baba making it deliberately tough as part of the training? Who knows?" Tom Zenk wrote about Kawada looking back on 1987, "Kawada knew his face was not like Misawa's (handsome) but being Tiger Mask no one would have known under the hood anyway. Yet someone planted the seed of doubt in Kawada about his looks and body," as Zenk told the story of Kawada's curiosity about working out and using steroids.

But if you begin there when examining the relationship between Toshiaki Kawada and Mitsuharu Misawa, you're not going back far enough.

It begins in the late 70s as both attended Ashikaga-kodai High School – Misawa enrolling in 1978; Kawada enrolling in 1979. Both were excellent wrestlers as part of the high school wrestling team (Kawada at 75kg; Misawa at 87kg). And both had long desired to become professional wrestlers. Misawa competed at the inter-high school Shiga National Athletic Meet in amateur wrestling and won at 87kg. Misawa, who was a grade ahead of Kawada, then graduated and entered All Japan in March 1981. In his senior year, Kawada too became a champion, winning the championship at 75kg at the same national meet that Misawa had won at the year before. The next year, Kawada followed Misawa, joining All Japan after he left the same high school in March 1982.

In the mid- and early-80s, as great, young, promising wrestlers, Misawa (as Tiger Mask) and Kawada (as everything from a man supposedly from Seoul wrestling in Canada to one-half of the leopard skin-wearing "Footloose" tag team with Hiromichi "Samson" Fuyuki) were battling their ways up the All Japan ranks – particularly Misawa. And by the time the 1990s had begun, Giant Baba realized that the junior heavyweight he had given the famed Tiger Mask name to nearly six years ago was going to become his next heavyweight superstar.

In a match teamed with Toshiaki Kawada against Riki Choshu and Yoshiaki Yatsu, Mitsuharu Misawa dramatically threw down the Tiger Mask gimmick on May 14, 1990. Wearing his long blue tights and white boots, Kawada assisted Misawa in untying his mask as Misawa rifled the mask out of the ring, and with a huge upset victory over Jumbo Tsuruta 24 days later, the "super-generation army" that would rule All Japan for the next 10 years was born.

The Beginning

We begin on July 24, 1991, with the end of the match where, in the still blue and red All Japan ring, Misawa and Kawada upset Terry Gordy and Steve Williams to take the first big step for the super-generation army, becoming World Tag Team Champions.

Fast-forward to a year later, when on August 22, 1992, Mitsuharu Misawa defeats Stan Hansen to become Triple Crown champion. It would be the beginning of the longest title reign in the Triple Crown's history – a record that still stands, a decade later. So to determine Misawa's first challenger, Kawada and Akira Taue are pitted against each other on September 9 in Nippon Budokan. With Misawa quietly watching from the back of the arena, Kawada submits Taue, meaning the two tag team partners would collide at All Japan's 20th anniversary show on October 21, 1992.

Triple Crown: Toshiaki Kawada vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (Tokyo Nippon Budokan - 10/21/92)
In 1992, in a time when world titles were gradually meaning less and less, All Japan's Triple Crown refused to be tarnished or devalued. As Lord James Blears reads the certificate for the three belts that, together, would soon become (if they weren't already at that point) the most prized and respected title in the game.

While Misawa vs. Jumbo Tsuruta (6/8/90) marked the beginning of a new generation for All Japan, this match would set the standard and the example for dozens of classic All Japan main events to come – matches filled with a million high spots, stiff elbows, chops, kicks and lethal suplexes, yet somehow matches that were still careful and strategic. All Japan of course had great, classic matches before this, but those were great wrestling matches; these were great All Japan wrestling matches.

Triple Crown: Toshiaki Kawada vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (Tokyo Nippon Budokan - 7/29/93)
Still Triple Crown champion, Misawa defends his title against Kawada once again. By this point, Misawa and Kawada had since ended their tag team when their second World Tag Team Title reign was ended by Terry Gordy and Steve Williams on January 30, 1993. Since then, Kawada had won the tag title as the leader of his own team with Akira Taue. On June 1, 1993, Taue and Kawada even defended and defeated Misawa with his new tag team partner, Kenta Kobashi.

This match would be like the match from the previous October, which was more or less a friendly, but competitive match between partners. This would be that – but without the friendly part. Here is where we see some of Kawada's trademark "punking out," somehow using his strikes and kicks in a subtly arrogant manner. Misawa even answers this at one point, where Kawada does his signature step kicks, only for Misawa to stand back up and pull him down for the same thing. At some point in the match, everyone knows Misawa is going to win, but Kawada is so valiant he continues to kickout and tries endlessly to stumble to his feet after getting dumped on his head for the umpteenth time. But it becomes only a question of what will it take to finally put Kawada away.

World Tag League: Akira Taue/Toshiaki Kawada vs. Kenta Kobashi/Mitsuharu Misawa (Tokyo Nippon Budokan - 12/3/93)
Although All Japan had yet to establish a separate final round of their annual December tag league (they wouldn't until 1995), on the last day of the tournament, in the Budokan, both teams had 11 points. Giant Baba and Stan Hansen had won their match earlier in the night to put them up to 12 points. So either team needed a victory to become World Tag Team Champions. A draw in this 30-minute time-limit match would only have the tournament end in a three-way tie.

Kawada and Taue were about as over as heels as two Japanese guys could be in this period. Kawada was a masterful heel in his own way, evident when he toys with the fallen Kobashi, casually swatting him in the head with kicks. Kobashi starts to fight back, resulting in Kobashi laying a kick to Kawada's bad knee. That causes the usually stoic Kawada to lose his temper and really let Kobashi have it, including labeling him with flurries of knees and closed-fist punches. Kobashi realizes he's found a weakness, grounds Kawada and relentlessly punches Kawada's leg. And a large part of the ground-work for this match is laid.

On April 16, 1994, Kawada got the biggest win of his life in defeating "Dr. Death" Steve Williams in the Champion Carnival final. If he wasn't already, that match firmly established him as All Japan's number-two wrestler behind Misawa. And as it traditionally happened, if the winner of the Champion Carnival was not the Triple Crown champion, he would be given a title match on the next tour. So the third Triple Crown match between Misawa and Kawada was scheduled for June 3, 1994 in Nippon Budokan.

World Tag Team Title: Akira Taue/Toshiaki Kawada vs. Kenta Kobashi/Mitsuharu Misawa (Sapporo Nakajima Sports Center - 5/21/94)
But before that match, there would be this one: a rematch of the dramatic tag league match six months ago. And for effect of how that match ended, Kobashi and Kawada enter the ring first, beginning this match where that one left off.

Taue and Kawada really got dirty, getting Kobashi back for what they did to Kawada, destroying Kobashi's knee. Kobashi wears a soft brace on his right knee, but they go after his left, as Taue jams it in the guardrail door and Kawada tears down his kneepad. But everyone knows what kind of condition both knees would be in, in about six years. Misawa can only stand quietly on the apron for so long before he tries to get involved, but even then the disciplined Sapporo crowd (not to mention Kawada) lets him have it for that. Words (aside from maybe a random montage of expletives) cannot accurately describe some of the most heated and intense moments of this bout.

Triple Crown: Toshiaki Kawada vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (Tokyo Nippon Budokan - 6/3/94)
For the third time in Mitsuharu Misawa's – by now – nearly two year reign as Triple Crown champion, Toshiaki Kawada is his challenger. Throughout these last few years, Kawada has been building himself up, slowly, step by step. On October 21, 1992, he was Misawa's partner. He and Misawa went their separate ways. Kawada took Taue; Misawa took Kobashi. On July 29, 1993, Kawada was and became Misawa's rival. And now on June 3, 1994, he hopes to become Misawa's defeatist. In their second battle, Kawada had the heart and ambition he didn't in their first. Now in their third title match, Kawada has the heart, he has the ambition, and he is a better fighter than ever before.

In front of nothing else but a sold-out Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, which can't decide if they want to chant "KA-WA-DA" or "MI-SA-WA," Kawada's ability is tested. Has he finally graduated and progressed to that point to be champion, to be All Japan's top wrestler, to defeat Mitsuharu Misawa? These questions must have been some of the things that were flashing through the minds of many, along with all the photography, as Kawada thrust Misawa into the air and drove him to the mat with his trademark powerbomb. But this, the second time he'd used the move, somehow fails. Misawa gets his opportunity. Reminiscent of the 7/29/93 match, Misawa drags a dazed Kawada to his feet, sinks his hooks in a drills Kawada into the mat. Even the tiger suplex cannot end the match this time.

Before Misawa can suplex him again, Kawada finds it in himself somewhere to land a rolling kick and eventually another, causing Misawa to roll out of the ring, buying time. With this moment to regroup themselves, perhaps Kawada decides that since convention didn't work, maybe emotion will. Kawada attempts to destroy Misawa, striking him with everything he has. This works at first, but Kawada quickly falls to what is, still proves to be Misawa's superior skill. Kawada absorbs one of the most brutal series of elbows Misawa ever handed out and one of the most dangerous spots in pro wrestling history. And after all the hopes and effort, Kawada meets his tragic end yet again.

But all would not be so hopeless for Kawada. After Misawa was finally dethroned on July 28, 1994, by Steve Williams, Kawada would get another shot at the Triple Crown. On October 22, 1994, Kawada challenged for the Triple Crown for the fourth time in his career. This time, he became champion. He defeated Williams for the second time that year and finally the PWF, NWA UN and NWA International Titles were his. He had been World Tag Team Champion three times. Now he was Triple Crown champion. But there was still one thing Toshiaki Kawada had never done: pin Mitsuharu Misawa.

Revenge

Though it would take Toshiaki Kawada years to finally capture the Triple Crown for the first time, his first reign would not last nearly as long as it took him to win the three titles. Kawada only successfully defended the title once, in a match where he battled Kenta Kobashi to a classic 60-minute draw on January 19, 1995. In the now four Triple Crown reigns Kawada has had, that has been his only successful defense: a draw. And his first reign would come to an end on March 4, 1995 when Kawada lost the Triple Crown to Stan Hansen. Hansen was unquestionably a legend, but by 1995, he was past his prime. He served as a transitional champion, as he went on to lose the title to Mitsuharu Misawa on May 26, 1995 in Sapporo, just two weeks before the ultimate showdown between All Japan's two top tag teams took place.

World Tag Team Title: Akira Taue/Toshiaki Kawada vs. Kenta Kobashi/Mitsuharu Misawa (Tokyo Nippon Budokan Hall - 6/9/95)
An all-time classic, and maybe the best ever. It was everything the Misawa-Kawada singles match from a year ago was, but more. It even had the spot in the corner, where Kawada unleashes with kicks on Misawa, only this time, Kawada gets far more involved, even pushing away referee Kyohei Wada.

Kawada's unmistakable and under-statingly calm attitude is especially evident in this match. Instead of Kobashi's grimace, Misawa's squint or Taue's glare, Kawada's expression would always be a blank stare. He would walk away from kicking Misawa or Kobashi straight in the face, returning to his corner, acting like he had just taken out the garbage. Much of what makes this match is Kobashi's unbelievable selling, as Taue and Kawada attempt to destroy both of his taped and braced knees, only for Kobashi to battle back again and again.

Then in the end, he has to be pulled away like a child being taken away from his parents, as he tries to protect Misawa and his tag title reign from defeat by doing the only thing he can anymore, throw him himself on top of Misawa. Taue and Kawada finally destroy him with a nodowa-backdrop combination special, bringing Kobashi to an end, but not yet Misawa. With Kobashi dropped on his head and Taue keeping him down, Kawada finally had his chance. Kawada had never pinned Misawa before, and pinning him this time would be far from easy. Kawada had to use everything, ganmen kick, dangerous backdrop, before finally folding him up with the powerbomb and getting his long overdue first pinfall over Mitsuharu Misawa.

Triple Crown: Toshiaki Kawada vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (Tokyo Nippon Budokan Hall - 7/25/95)
After finally conquering Misawa and putting himself on an even plane, Kawada was dubbed worthy of being the first challenger to Misawa's second Triple Crown reign. It was another war like only Misawa and Kawada knew how to have – stiff kicks, elbows and everything else, death defying suplexes, subtle, but so very meaningful psychology. But even now, in 1995, after wrestling Misawa for so many years and only being second best, Misawa was still too much to beat one-on-one. And so Kawada found himself classically selling for Misawa with his legs collapsing beneath him and his unbelievable reactions to the tiger suplex, until Misawa finally destroyed Kawada with an elbow to keep the Triple Crown.

After winning an unprecedented third straight World Tag League with Kenta Kobashi in December, Misawa began 1996 with a new partner: Jun Akiyama. With Akiyama, Misawa challenged Kawada and Taue for the World Tag Team Title on May 23, 1996. Misawa and Akiyama defeated Kawada and Taue, and not only that, the 27-year-old Akiyama pinned Kawada to win his first World Tag Team Title. A rematch was held on 7/9/95, but Taue and Kawada were unable to regain the title. Then with the end of the year and December came the 1996 World Tag League tournament. The team of Kawada and Taue and the team of Akiyama and Misawa both advanced to the final match set for December 6, 1996 in Nippon Budokan. The two teams would fight for the third time, and though the title would not be on the line with that tradition gone from the tournament, Taue and Kawada still had the chance to regain their honor.

World Tag League Final: Akira Taue/Toshiaki Kawada vs. Jun Akiyama/Mitsuharu Misawa (Tokyo Nippon Budokan Hall - 12/6/96)
It would be another one of the all-time great wrestling matches. There had so much depth and so many little stories all in one match. On one side, you had Taue and Kawada, who wanted revenge after being beaten twice by this team. Specifically with Kawada, you always had the everlasting feud with Misawa. Then it was Akiyama, the young wrestler who wanted to prove himself, who wanted to show that he really belonged in the fiercest platform in all of pro wrestling: All Japan's main event. That was something Taue and Kawada were – not necessarily out to disprove, but to make sure that if Akiyama was going to make it now, he was going to make it going through a very pure example of All Japan at its highest level.

To Taue and Kawada, in this match, Akiyama was the little pest in the way of their goal to defeat Misawa. Maybe one of the great in-ring angles in the modern history of wrestling is Akira Taue's famous "damage control," as Misawa and Akiyama have destroyed Kawada and it's up to Taue to clean up. Of course, this results in Taue's infamous nodowa-ing of Akiyama from the apron to the floor. With Akiyama completely obliterated, Taue takes it to Misawa, even hitting him with a tope. Taue tries to give Misawa the nodowa off the apron as well, but Akiyama has gotten up somehow, barely standing, latching onto Taue's leg to save his partner.

By now, Kawada has recovered and gets to fighting Misawa. Akiyama is still mostly incoherent, leaving Misawa to fight Taue and Kawada by himself. It almost works at first, but even as great as Misawa is, he cannot win a two-on-one battle. After Taue hits the Dynamic bomb, Akiyama enters the ring for the first time since being catapulted from the apron, as he breaks the pin. But he pays a price for it. This prompts Kawada to immediately leave the apron as he and Taue drill Akiyama with the nodowa-backdrop combo, leaving the remains of Akiyama wobbling against the bottom rope.

Kawada gets the tag and gets in the ring with Misawa for his chance to get the win. Still trying to save the match for his team, Akiyama faintly dives across the ring at Kawada. Akiyama gets a few shots in, but it ultimately ends with one of the sickest backdrops ever. Misawa takes an assault from Taue and Kawada and now, finally Kawada can put away Misawa. He hits the powerbomb and Taue holds back Akiyama. Akiyama stretches his arms. Misawa somehow kicks out.

Taue holds Akiyama up for Kawada to incapacitate Akiyama once and for all. Kawada tries again. He hits the powerbomb, meanwhile Akiyama lies motionless on his back at the edge of the ring. And a three-count gives Kawada his second pin over Misawa, Taue and Kawada's first World Tag League Championship, and puts an end to Misawa's four-year streak as a World Tag League Champion. As Taue and Kawada celebrate and are awarded, Akiyama, after experiencing an All Japan main event like no other, is lifelessly carried to the back.

The Climax

Toshiaki Kawada had now been able to claim victory over Mitsuharu Misawa twice in his career. But still, those were in tag matches. Kawada had still never beaten Misawa one-on-one.

In April of 1997, the annual Champion Carnival came down to a three-way final, between Kenta Kobashi, Kawada and Misawa. On April 19, 1997, three singles matches were held to determine the Carnival winner. Misawa and Kobashi drew to face each other in the first match. They battled for 30 minutes before time expired. Misawa, having just exhausted himself for half an hour, immediately had to face a fresh Kawada. Kawada promptly destroyed Misawa in just over six minutes. To decide the winner of the Champion Carnival, Kobashi re-entered the ring, only for Kawada to beat him too after 21 minutes to win his second Champion Carnival.

Kawada had won the tournament and he had pinned Misawa, but of course, it didn't mean as much, with Misawa wrestling for 30 minutes just before the match. But as not being the Triple Crown champion and winning the Champion Carnival usually meant, Kawada was awarded a title match on the next tour. So for the fifth time, before yet another sold out Budokan, 16,000+ looking on, Kawada would try to capture the PWF, NWA United National and International titles from Misawa again.

Triple Crown: Toshiaki Kawada vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (Tokyo Nippon Budokan Hall - 6/6/97)
This bout was unlike any match Kawada and Misawa had had before. It had be almost two years since their last Triple Crown match. In all their previous matches, Kawada played underdog to the masterful Misawa. Though Misawa was the still the defending champion, their roles were reversed. Kawada dominated Misawa for a majority of the first half of the match, exploiting the elbow that had been worked on since an epic Triple Crown bout from the beginning of the year, where Misawa regained the Triple Crown from Kenta Kobashi.

Armed with the kind of facial expressions only he could supply, Kawada refused to let Misawa get the better of him. The psychology and Kawada's selling is just incredible, as Misawa fights back as the indomitable champion who will always pull through. Only viewers without a pulse can't sympathize and cheer for Kawada as he continues and strives toward his quest right before your eyes.

At times, after hitting one of his big moves, he elects not to go for the pin, instead Kawada goes for the submission, using his trademark stretch plum hold and even a triangle hold. But after a truly great finishing sequence, ending with a spot that will be debated on by English-speaking fans for ages, Misawa proves to be the paper to Kawada's rock. And somehow, five years after his mission began, it failure again for Kawada.

Triple Crown: Toshiaki Kawada vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (Tokyo Dome - 5/1/98)
A crowd of 58,300 packed into the Tokyo Dome for All Japan's first independently run show there. The largest crowd All Japan had or has ever drawn, paid somewhere around $4 million to see the show with only one money match: Kawada vs. Misawa. But what else could main event All Japan's biggest show ever?

On the biggest stage in Japan, the sold out Tokyo Dome, this would be the ultimate showdown between the two men who had been All Japan's definitive top two stars of that decade. Even time would not stop this match. Since Kawada and Misawa had a 30-minute draw in the Carnival a month prior, it was stipulated that this match would not have a time limit, assuring fans they would see a winner and a loser.

Misawa comes into the match having defended the Triple Crown in his current reign eight times: more than any previous champion – even more than his two-year reign from 1992 to 1994, where he defended the title seven times. Though the match wasn't as classic as their others were (and maybe that can be accounted to Misawa's physical condition, since he would go on to miss the next two tours), this match meant more than any of others.

Six years after their first match for the Triple Crown; seventeen years since they were on the same high school wrestling team, Kawada finally planted Misawa on the mat with his powerbomb for a three count to win the Triple Crown. Kawada's immediate reaction, stretching his arms straight up in the air after referee Kyohei Wada's hand hits for the three is something I'll never forget. "This is the best moment of my life... and I'm happy that everyone could enjoy this great moment with me."

The End

After finally winning the Triple Crown from Mitsuharu Misawa in the Tokyo Dome, it would only take Toshiaki Kawada less than a month to lose what he had battled so hard for for years. He would lose the Triple Crown to Kenta Kobashi on June 12, 1998. And by October 31, 1998, Misawa defeated Kobashi, taking the Triple Crown for the fourth time in his career. Now, with an ailing Giant Baba in the hospital, his two best wrestlers of the last 10 years meet again.

Triple Crown: Toshiaki Kawada vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium - 1/22/99)
This match will forever be remembered for its sheer brutality, the unbelievable toughness shown by Toshiaki Kawada, and even its unbooked irony.

Only six minutes into the match, Kawada throws a spinning backfist to the back of Misawa's head, fracturing his forearm. With Misawa's style seeming more and more to test how dangerous his matches could be, this would attempt to raise that bar. And it did.

The match was littered with probably more high spots and head-dropping suplexes than any of their previous bouts, and of course, one move – broken arm or not – that no one would ever forget. As Misawa attempted to counter Kawada's powerbomb with a huracanrana, Kawada held on to drop Misawa straight down on his head with a move now known as the ganso (originator) bomb. And for the second time, Kawada had defeated Misawa for the Triple Crown – but wait. That wasn't the end.

After arguably the sickest move the All Japan ring has ever seen (and that covers a lot of ground), Misawa kicks out. Then finally, after ganmengiri which rocks Misawa's head back and one of the stiffest brainbusters ever, Kawada pins Misawa. But there in the ring, having dethroned Misawa for the second time, having his arm tied up in a sling, Kawada must've known that though he had defeated Misawa, he would not be able to enjoy a reign as Triple Crown champion.

Seven days after being taken out of the Nippon Budokan in an ambulance, on January 29, Kawada was forced to officially vacate the Triple Crown, ending a third reign without a winning defense. This would be the last wrestling match Giant Baba ever saw.

Triple Crown: Toshiaki Kawada vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (Tokyo Nippon Budokan - 7/24/99)
After Kawada broke his arm in defeating Misawa, Kawada would make his return on May 2 in the Tokyo Dome, beating Hiroshi Hase. Also on that show, in the main event, Misawa defeated Vader (who had beaten Akira Taue in a decision match after Kawada vacated) to regain the Triple Crown. After beating Kenta Kobashi in June, Misawa's second challenger would be Kawada, who never lost the title that Misawa now holds for the fifth time.

This match would be a bit more technical and conveyed more emotion than their match from January, although that was probably due to Kawada breaking his arm early in that match. In some ways, this match – their last meeting for the title – was a highlight reel for their feud, featuring all their signature spots, like Kawada teeing off on Misawa in the corner, Misawa standing up after Kawada's shin kicks, a tease of the ganso bomb and even the Tiger Driver '91.

Champion Carnival - First Round: Toshiaki Kawada vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (Hiroshima Sun Plaza - 3/31/00)
With All Japan Pro Wrestling on the verge of collapse, Misawa books the Champion Carnival 2000 to be a 16-man single-elimination tournament. And in the first round, he books himself against Kawada.

And if this was going to be their last match (although, maybe they didn't know it at the time) they weren't going to let anyone down. It wasn't as long or as great as their classic title matches, but still, it was Misawa vs. Kawada. It was a more compact, slightly faster match in which they hammered each other: Misawa with his elbows, Kawada with his kicks, as stiff as ever.

Even in the last Kawada vs. Misawa singles match (and one of the very last times they were ever in a ring together, as they were only in the same match once or twice on this tour, then a few more times on the Super Power tour in June) how else could it end but in a win for Mitsuharu Misawa? And the first and last Emerald Frosion Kawada ever took puts a quiet end to one of the most interesting feuds – inside and outside the ring – pro wrestling ever saw.

The relationship between Toshiaki Kawada and Mitsuharu Misawa has been described by some as resentment, even hatred. Kawada would not be Kawada without Misawa, and Misawa would not be Misawa without Kawada. But why, for two men who knew each other from childhood, whose careers are so tied together, did it end the way it did? How far does their disdain for each go back? Does it go as far back as their high school days? Does it go back as far as their primes of the mid-90s, with All Japan's two top stars only getting along out of respect for their father-like figure, Giant Baba, only to see the promotion crumble after his death? Or has everything just been blow out of proportion, and Kawada stayed in All Japan completely out of loyalty? Many can speculate, but few really know. For the two wrestlers who carried All Japan through an era after Giant Baba or Jumbo Tsuruta – for the two wrestlers who raised the bar and revolutionized the way matches of the future would be put together and judged, not just in All Japan, but the world – for Misawa and Kawada, why did it have to end as bitterly as it did?

Within two months, Misawa would be on his way out of All Japan and Kawada would be only one of the two Japanese wrestlers to stay behind. The two men who had seemed to be fused together for the last twenty years would finally be separated.

Motoko Baba and Mitsuharu Misawa shake hands on 5/7/99, as Misawa is inaugurated as All Japan president
5/28/00: Having served as president of All Japan Pro Wrestling since the death of Shohei "Giant" Baba, Mitsuharu Misawa is removed from his position by majority vote of the executive board. Due to disagreements with Baba's widow, Motoko, it becomes imminent that Misawa will leave All Japan in two weeks when contracts expire.

6/12/00: New Japan president Tatsumi Fujinami expresses his empathy for Misawa. He suggests meeting with Misawa and hopes that he makes the best decision for himself.

6/13/00: At All Japan's regular board meeting, Misawa and six others, including Mitsuo Momota (co-vice president, member of directory), Kenta Kobashi (member of directory), Akira Taue (member of directory, chairman), Kenichi Oyagi (member of directory), Yoshihiro Momota (member of directory) resign from their board positions. Meanwhile, Nippon Television Network (NTV), the major network television channel that has been broadcasting All Japan since its beginning is undecided whether or not they will continue to carry a television show for All Japan. Contracts for native wrestlers are due to be renewed and few are expected to re-sign.

Kawada reads of Misawa, Taue and Kobashi's resignations in the newspaper
6/14/00: Motoko Baba releases a two-page written statement, claiming Misawa "took no responsibility and abandoned his duty." She hinted that Kawada and Masanobu Fuchi would be the only two native wrestlers to stay with All Japan saying, "Kawada and Fuchi have sworn to carry out Baba-san's last wish: to keep All Japan Pro Wrestling alive."

6/15/00: Toshiaki Kawada and Masanobu Fuchi are the only wrestlers to renew their contracts with All Japan. Top referee Kyohei Wada also renews his contract. Kawada says, "I could not throw away Baba-san's name. That's my honest feeling. I want to do my best as a wrestler rather than an executive."


6/16/00: Of the 26 contracted native Japanese wrestlers for All Japan, 24 of them lead by Misawa join for a press conference to announce they have seceded from All Japan and will be starting a new promotion. More than 100 reporters and photographers attend. Misawa said he would like the promotion to have its first show in August, with the Differ Ariake being the site of the unnamed promotion's debut. When asked what his reason for leaving All Japan is, Misawa says that it is so he can do things in a "modern style." Misawa was also asked to comment on Kawada. Misawa said, "We have been together since we were children. We have been through a lot together. He has made his decision, so I want him to do his best to the end." He commented on Giant Baba, who many felt he has been disloyal to, "I am truly indebted to and appreciate him. He taught me pro wrestling from the beginning. I only have gratitude for him."

6/17/00: It is announced that the name of the new promotion being lead by Misawa will be called Pro Wrestling NOAH. It is named after the Biblical story of Noah, who built an ark and put every animal in the world in the ark, two by two, before God destroyed the world, causing it to rain for forty days and forty nights.

6/18/00: A floral tribute is held for Tomomi "Jumbo" Tsuruta, who passed away on May 13. Among the 4,600 people to attend are Mitsuharu Misawa and Motoko Baba. Neither approached the other during the ceremony.


6/19/00: Toshiaki Kawada and Masanobu Fuchi hold a press conference at All Japan's dojo to explain the future of the promotion. There, Kawada reveals that, as expected, NTV has decided to discontinue broadcasting All Japan after 27 years. However, NTV still maintains their 15% stock in All Japan (Motoko Baba holds the other 85%), and with part ownership would prevent All Japan from being put on another network even if there was interest. With about 50 reporters present, Kawada says, "My mission is to protect the All Japan that Baba-san built." Kawada also reveals that All Japan has intentions of working with long-time rival New Japan. All Japan's next tour, Summer Action Series 2000 is speculated to be the last tour ever for the promotion. He announces a number of outside wrestlers being brought in for the tour and says refunds will be available for fans who previously bought tickets to shows, expecting to see the former All Japan wrestlers. And somewhere on this day, Motoko Baba and Genichiro Tenryu are having a very interesting telephone conversation.

6/20/00: NTV announces that they will carry weekly tapings of Misawa's NOAH promotion. The title of the TV program will be "Colosseo." NOAH will take All Japan's 30-minute timeslot, airing on Sundays at midnight. Also on this day, twelve All Japan office employees resign from their positions with the promotion. They will follow Misawa to NOAH.

6/21/00: Misawa is interviewed in Tokyo, where he announces that he and the other wrestlers leaving to form NOAH will wrestle on four of the sixteen shows in All Japan's Summer Action Series 2000 tour, which opens on July 1. NOAH wrestlers will appear on July 13 in Ehime, July 15 in Ishikawa, July 17 in Toyama and will make their last appearance for All Japan on July 20 in Fukuoka in Hakata Star Lane. Also on this day, NTV airs the final All Japan TV show on the network. The show, airing 45 minutes as opposed to the usual 30, features footage from Jumbo Tsuruta's funeral, the NOAH wrestlers' press conference from the 16th, Kawada's press conference from the 19th and, as a flashback, highlights of the first ever Kawada vs. Misawa Triple Crown match from October 21, 1992. Also airing is the main event from All Japan's Nippon Budokan show from June 9: Toshiaki Kawada and Akira Taue beating Yoshihiro Takayama and Takao Omori for the previously vacant World Tag Team Title. It would be the last match Kawada (or any other All Japan wrestler who stayed) would ever have against future NOAH wrestlers.

6/22/00: Yesterday, Kenta Kobashi makes an urgent visit to the hospital due to knee problems. Upon x-ray, the condition of both of Kobashi's knees is revealed to be even worse than originally thought. On this day, Kobashi has both of his knees scoped. Due to this, he will not wrestle on any of the four shows NOAH wrestlers are scheduled to wrestle on. He plans to return to the ring when NOAH debuts in August. Elsewhere in Tokyo, Kawada announces several matches for the upcoming series, including himself against Fuchi in the tour-opening show in Tokyo Differ Ariake. Kawada also says that it is All Japan's goal to make it to their 30th anniversary show in October 2002.

6/23/00: Misawa announces that NOAH's temporary dojo will be in the Tokyo Differ Ariake. He also tells the press that when NOAH debuts, wrestlers will appear with different entrance music and different wrestling attire. In Shibuya, Tokyo on this day, New Japan's IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kensuke Sasaki is interviewed where he puts out a challenge to Toshiaki Kawada.

6/24/00: Kobashi leaves the hospital after having arthroscopic surgery on both his knees. It's also revealed that Atsushi Onita has been having telephone conversations with Motoko Baba about wrestling for All Japan.

6/25/00: The specific matches for the four shows the NOAH's wrestlers will be participating in for All Japan's Summer Action Series tour are announced. To no one's surprise, their matches are only amongst themselves.

6/27/00: Misawa tells the press that the color of the NOAH ring will be green. Also, Dream Stage Entertainment president Naoto Morishita says he would be interested in a talent exchange between PRIDE and All Japan. He plans on being in attendance for All Japan's tour-opening show on July 1 in Differ Ariake.


6/28/00: Misawa holds a press conference to formally announce that Pro Wrestling NOAH will be making its debut with two consecutive shows in Differ Ariake on August 5 and 6. And, against any better judgment, it is announced that Kenta Kobashi will wrestle on both cards. On the All Japan side, they announce that two new trainees will enter their dojo, one a 19-year-old, the other a 21-year-old Kazushi Miyamoto.


7/1/00: Before All Japan opens its Summer Action Series 2000 tour on this day, it's officially announced by All Japan that Johnny Ace has canceled his bookings for the tour, taking a job as booker with World Championship Wrestling. Opening their tour in Tokyo Differ Ariake before a sold-out crowd, Toshiaki Kawada defeats Masanobu Fuchi after 22:48 in a match that will mostly be remembered for the brutal shade of red Fuchi's chest had become by the end of the match. However, the fans seem disappointed with this match after years of seeing All Japan's world-class high-impact main events, as the crowd neither chanted for Kawada or All Japan as had been expected when the main event ended. This show and others on the tour were taped for cable TV sports channel GAORA. After the show, which had been attended by DSE president Naoto Morishita, Fuchi reveals to the press that talks of interpromotional work between New Japan and All Japan have broken down and the possibility of something happening between the two promotions isn't as likely anymore.


7/2/00: Motoko Baba shocks the wrestling world in Tokyo Korakuen Hall. Before a sell-out crowd of 2,100 fans, an emotional Mrs. Baba introduces Genichiro Tenryu. This comes after Tenryu left All Japan in 1990 to wrestle for the up-start promotion SWS (which failed). After Tenryu left, Giant Baba publicly swore he would never be allowed back in All Japan. Ten years later, Mrs. Baba brings Tenryu back to All Japan. It's announced that Tenryu will have his first match back in All Japan on July 23 at the tour-ending show in Tokyo Nippon Budokan Hall. He will team with Kawada against Maunakea Mossman and Stan Hansen. After his return is announced, Tenryu tells the press, "Where ever I go, the name of All Japan still follows me."

7/4/00: Misawa announces that NOAH has completed corporate registration. In All Japan, they ran a show in Kira Messe Numazu, which did not sell-out, where Kawada beat Jinsei Shinzaki in the main event. After the show, Steve Williams says he wants to have a singles match with Misawa on one of the four shows where NOAH wrestlers will be participating. Williams says, "We fight for Mr. Baba and Mrs. Baba." When asked about Williams' challenge, Misawa gives no comment.

7/5/00: Misawa addresses the press where he reveals that the main event of NOAH's August 6 show will be a singles match between Kenta Kobashi and Jun Akiyama. He also says that the two-show series in Differ Ariake will be subtitled, "DEPARTURE."

7/6/00: Hiroshi Hase, who was originally believed to be joining Misawa in NOAH, elects to stay with All Japan.

7/7/00: Tenryu tells the media that he will be wrestling on July 23 in the Budokan as a member of All Japan Pro Wrestling.

7/9/00: Tenryu boasts to the press about the idea of having a "teacher vs. student" match between himself and Kawada in the Tokyo Dome. He says he wants to have a singles match with Kawada that wins the "Best Bout" award from the wrestling publications. After All Japan's second sell-out Korakuen Hall show of the tour, Masanobu Fuchi blames New Japan's planning department director Katsuji Nagashima for the breakdown of talks between All Japan and New Japan, saying, "That man does not understand All Japan."


7/10/00: Pro Wrestling NOAH Inc. officially becomes a pro wrestling organization. They debut their logo and announce staff positions. President is Mitsuharu Misawa, Vice President is Mitsuo Momota, members of the directory are Akira Taue, Kenta Kobashi and Yoshihiro Momota, Director of Sales is Haruka Eigen, Director of Foreign Affairs is Ryo Nakada, Auditor is Kanji Higuchi and Chairman of the Wrestlers is Yoshinari Ogawa. Tickets for their two debut shows go on sale on July 15 where it's expected that tickets for both shows (totaling about 3,000 tickets) could be sold out in as quickly as 10 minutes. Because these two shows are taking place in an area the size of the Differ Ariake, there will be a 100-inch screen outside the arena where fans without tickets can watch the show free of charge. NOAH is working on a budget of about five-million yen (about $40,000 US) for their first two shows.

7/11/00: After All Japan's show in the half-filled Osaka Preferectural Gym, Kawada expresses that he does not what Atsushi Onita involved with the promotion. Onita, who started out in All Japan in the 70s has expressed interest in wrestling for All Japan. Onita, known for his bloody deathmatches and Kawada, known for his serious pro wrestling style said, "I do not want him in the All Japan ring if we are to get better. It would be impolite to the fans that have supported All Japan up until now if he were come here." Also, Motoko Baba did a radio interview where she commented on Misawa, saying, "When Baba-san was here, we got along fine. But after he became president, he wasn't the old Misawa anymore."


7/13/00: Complete with separate locker rooms, All Japan wrestlers and soon-to-be NOAH wrestlers appeared on their first of four shows together, in completely separate matches before a sell-out crowd in the Matsuyama ITEM. After the show, Kawada said, "When the NOAH matches are here, the balance of the show collapses. I think the shows we were doing before [without NOAH wrestlers] were better," and added, "Misawa is unnecessary." Feeling that this show was too long with all the wrestlers that were booked, he said, "I think the fans will become tired if this goes on." Steve Williams was even more personal, watching Misawa's six-man tag match from the back of the arena. He went up to Misawa after the match and said in broken English, "Goodbye, Misawa. All Japan forever!" But within the tense atmosphere, before the show, Misawa could be seen in the lobby, talking calmly to Fuchi. Fuchi, a long-time trainer in the All Japan dojo, even got in the ring with Kentaro Shiga, Takeshi Rikio, Naomichi Marufuji, Makoto Hashi and Jun Akiyama to talk and practice with them before fans entered the building.

7/15/00: On the day Misawa and his departing wrestlers appear on their second show on All Japan's current tour, NOAH's two Differ Ariake shows for August 5 and 6 sell-out in 20 minutes. About 200 people camped outside the ticket office all night to wait for tickets. It's rumored that tickets are being sold by ticket-scalpers for as much as 100,000 yen (about $825 US).

7/16/00: Misawa meets publicly with Hiromichi Fuyuki for the first time in 10 years, since Fuyuki's own exit from All Japan. They discuss the possibility of NOAH wrestlers challenging newly crowned WEW Tag Team Champions Jado and Gedo.


7/20/00: Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Takeshi Morishima, Naomichi Marufuji, Kentaro Shiga, Takeshi Rikio, Mitsuo Momota, Rusher Kimura, Haruka Eigen, Tsuyoshi Kikuchi, Kenta Kobayashi, Takao Omori, Yoshihiro Takayama, Jun Izumida, Masao Inoue, Yoshinari Ogawa, Akira Taue, Jun Akiyama and Mitsuharu Misawa have their last matches for All Japan Pro Wrestling in the sold-out Hakata Star Lane in Fukuoka. After the show, long-time foreign wrestler for All Japan, Steve Williams comes out and shakes Misawa's hand. He asks Misawa that they wrestle one last time before they retire. Immediately after his match, Misawa returns to the bus, not staying for the last two matches of the show. Every one of All Japan's titles, the Triple Crown, World Tag Team Title, PWF World Junior Heavyweight Title and All Asian Tag Team Title are vacated due to exiting wrestlers.

7/23/00: Genichiro Tenryu has his first match in an All Japan ring in more than 10 years, teaming with old "Revolution" partner Toshiaki Kawada. For the first show in the Nippon Budokan not featuring Akira Taue, Kenta Kobashi or Mitsuharu Misawa since the 80s, the sold-out crowd watches Kawada and Tenryu defeat Maunakea Mossman (who, at 24 makes his first main event appearance in the Budokan) and Stan Hansen in 23:12 when Kawada pins Mossman with a powerbomb.


8/5/00 & 8/6/00: Pro Wrestling NOAH makes its debut in the Differ Ariake. August 5 features Jun Akiyama and Kenta Kobashi beating Akira Taue and Mitsuharu Misawa in a two-out of-three falls match in two straight falls, the show ending with Akiyama turning on Kobashi in the ring. The August 6 show is main-evented by Jun Akiyama, wearing white, defeating Kenta Kobashi, wearing orange and black by referee stoppage. Both shows showcase a set with a ramp that connects to the ring, a variety of lights and some minor pyrotechnics.

Completed 4/12/03

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