Open main menu

Mitsuharu Misawa (三沢 光晴, Misawa Mitsuharu, June 18, 1962 – June 13, 2009) was a Japanese professional wrestler. He made his professional debut on August 21, 1981 for All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW). From 1984 until 1990, Misawa wrestled as the second generation Tiger Mask, as AJPW had purchased the rights of the Tiger Mask gimmick from New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). Following the death of AJPW head booker Giant Baba in 1999, Misawa inherited the position of AJPW President. After being removed as president by a board of executives, Misawa left AJPW in May 2000 to form Pro Wrestling Noah (Noah).[3]

Mitsuharu Misawa
Mitsuharu Misawa, 2007.jpg
Misawa in 2007
Born(1962-06-18)June 18, 1962[1]
Yūbari, Hokkaido, Japan
DiedJune 13, 2009(2009-06-13) (aged 46)[1]
Hiroshima, Japan[1]
Cause of deathCardiac arrest
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Mitsuharu Misawa[1]
Tiger Mask II[2]
Kamikaze Misawa[2]
Billed height1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)[1]
Billed weight118 kg (260 lb)[1]
Trained byAll Japan Pro Wrestling[2]
DebutAugust 21, 1981[1]

Misawa was an eight-time world champion in Japanese promotions, having won the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship five times and the GHC Heavyweight Championship three times, additionally being the inaugural holder of the latter championship. He was named Wrestler of the Year by Wrestling Observer Newsletter on three occasions (1995, 1997 and 1999) and holds the record for most Wrestling Observer Newsletter five star matches, with 24. Misawa is also one of only six wrestlers to have the distinction of being awarded a 6-Star rating for a match with Toshiaki Kawada in 1994.[4][5] Misawa is widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time.[5]

Misawa died of cardiac arrest while wrestling Akitoshi Saito on June 13, 2009, five days shy of his 47th birthday.

Early lifeEdit

Misawa was born in Yūbari, Hokkaidō, but soon moved with his family to Koshigaya, Saitama.[6] He was a fan of professional wrestling, especially the All Japan product, from an early age, and wanted to drop out of school in order to begin his training. However, during an encounter with Jumbo Tsuruta, the latter convinced Misawa to complete at least his high school education, so he did. He attended Ashikaga-kodai High School in Tochigi, with future rival Toshiaki Kawada, who was only a year below him.

Professional wrestling careerEdit

All Japan Pro Wrestling (1981–2000)Edit

Misawa was a successful amateur wrestler.[7] Competing in the junior age group, he placed fifth at the 1980 freestyle World Championships.[8] Misawa was trained in professional wrestling by Dick "The Destroyer" Beyer, Shohei Baba, and Dory Funk Jr..[5] He made his professional debut on August 21, 1981 for All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), wrestling against Shiro Koshinaka.[5] He then traveled to Mexico where he wrestled for EMLL while improving his aerial skills under the guidance of La Fiera.[9][10] From August 1984 to May 1990, Misawa wrestled as the second generation Tiger Mask, succeeding Satoru Sayama, as All Japan Pro Wrestling had purchased the rights of the Tiger Mask gimmick from New Japan Pro Wrestling. In 1986, Misawa graduated to the heavyweight class after five years as a junior heavyweight. Between 1988 and 1989, he competed in championship matches for the AWA and NWA World Heavyweight Championships before a knee injury in March 1989 sidelined him until January 2, 1990. Upon his return, he wrestled Bret Hart to a time-limit draw on April 13 at the WWF/NJPW/AJPW Supershow in the Tokyo Dome. After Genichiro Tenryu's abrupt departure from AJPW later that month, Giant Baba made the decision to turn Misawa into his new rising star. During a tag match against Yoshiaki Yatsu and Samson Fuyuki on May 14, 1990, Misawa commanded his tag team partner (and future rival) Toshiaki Kawada to unmask him, thus abandoning the Tiger Mask gimmick after six years.

Weeks later, Misawa defeated Jumbo Tsuruta on June 8 in his first main event at Nippon Budokan. The match is seen as a turning point in the history of All Japan Pro Wrestling, with Misawa being established as a major threat and a new star. Misawa made his first challenge for the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship in July, losing to Stan Hansen in a decision match for the vacant titles after Terry Gordy was forced to vacate the titles. After losing to Tsuruta in a rematch on September 1, he teamed with then-regular partner Kawada to place third in the World's Strongest Tag Determination League, beating the team of Tsuruta and Akira Taue on the final day. Misawa again challenged for the Triple Crown in April 1991, but fell to Tsuruta for a second time. Misawa continued his growth throughout 1991, pinning Terry Gordy in successive months in June and July, the second coming in a World Tag Team Championship match, where Misawa and his partner Kawada defeated Gordy and Steve Williams. The pair made their first defence against the team of Tsuruta and Taue on September 30 at Nippon Budokan, with Misawa historically forcing Jumbo to submit to a standing variation of the crossface to end the match. On August 22, 1992, Misawa defeated Hansen to win the first of what would eventually be five Triple Crown Heavyweight Championships.[11][12] The first of these title reigns lasted for almost two years before Misawa dropped the belts to Williams.[13]

Misawa went on to dominate All Japan Pro Wrestling throughout the 1990s, with multiple World Tag Team Championship reigns, and feuds with Kawada, Kenta Kobashi, Jun Akiyama, Taue, and Williams throughout the rest of the 1990s. In 1996, he became an inaugural member of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame.[14]

Following the death of AJPW founder Giant Baba, Misawa inherited the position of AJPW president. After disagreements with widow Motoko Baba,[15] and his removal by a board of executives in 2000, Misawa left All Japan Pro Wrestling in May 2000; followed by all but two natives (Toshiaki Kawada and Masanobu Fuchi) and two non-natives (Stan Hansen and Maunakea Mossman) to form Pro Wrestling Noah.[5][16]

Pro Wrestling Noah (2000–2009)Edit

Misawa along with Go Shiozaki (right) in May 2009.

Pro Wrestling Noah held its inaugural show, Departure, from August 5–6, 2000. Collectively, the shows featured the 23 other wrestlers that had resigned from AJPW. On July 18, 2004, Misawa returned to AJPW and defeated Satoshi Kojima at Battle Banquet; he would return once more on October 31, 2004, for the Keiji Mutoh: Love and Bump pay-per-view, where he and Mutoh defeated Hiroshi Hase and Kensuke Sasaki in what was billed as a "Special Dream Tag Match".

In 2005, Misawa and his long-time tag team partner Yoshinari Ogawa returned the GHC Tag Team Championship to Noah from the NJPW combination of Yuji Nagata and Hiroshi Tanahashi. From then until his death in 2009, Misawa continued to wrestle a full-time schedule, competing mostly in tag team matches. At the Nippon Budokan on December 10, 2006, he defeated Naomichi Marufuji to win his third GHC Heavyweight Championship.[5] Misawa would go on to defend the GHC Heavyweight Championship against the likes of former ROH World Champion Takeshi Morishima, Takuma Sano, prominent gaijin Bison Smith and Akira Taue. On August 25, 2007, it was announced that Misawa would be on the November 2 and November 3 Ring of Honor (ROH) "Glory by Honor" cards in Philadelphia and New York City respectively.

On October 27, 2007, Misawa successfully defended the GHC Heavyweight Championship against Samoa Joe. The following week, Misawa traveled to the United States to appear at ROH's Glory by Honor VI weekend shows. On the first night, he teamed with Kenta to face Takeshi Morishima and Naomichi Marufuji, wrestling to a thirty-minute time-limit draw. The following night, he successfully defended the GHC Heavyweight Championship against Kenta. On March 2, 2008 Misawa was defeated by Takeshi Morishima for the GHC Heavyweight Championship, ending his 16-month-long championship reign.[17]

Personal lifeEdit

Misawa married his wife, Mayumi, on May 10, 1988. Together, they had at least one child, a daughter named Kaede. After his death, Mayumi became a majority shareholder in Pro Wrestling Noah. He is survived by at least one older brother.[18][19] Very little else is known of Misawa's personal life. Misawa was well known to be a heavy smoker of cigarettes, according to Big Van Vader he smoked 40 a day. He was said to be private about his life outside of professional wrestling, to the point that wrestlers who had known him for decades had no idea that he had children. He was said to have been an avid video game fan, and at one point revealed to video game magazine Famitsu a list of his favorite video games.[20]


On June 13, 2009, Misawa teamed with Go Shiozaki against GHC Tag Team Champions Akitoshi Saito and Bison Smith in a title match at Hiroshima Green Arena. After taking a belly to back suplex from Saito, Misawa lost consciousness and was taken to a hospital. He was pronounced dead in the hospital at 10:10pm JST. He was 46 years old, five days before his 47th birthday.[5][21] The cause of death was later speculated in the official police report to have been a cervical spinal cord injury that caused cardiac arrest; however, Misawa's family invoked a Japanese law that requested the police not publicly release the official cause of death.[22] Misawa's death has caused several wrestling promotions to work toward a stronger approach to regulating professional wrestling in the country.[23]


Misawa's style of wrestling inspired many to call him one of the greatest of all time. Chris Hero adopted many of Misawa's forearm strikes into his moveset. Both William Regal and Bryan Danielson have cited Misawa as one of their heroes. Pro Wrestling NOAH holds a tribute show to him every June to pay their respects to him. "The Dynamite Kid" Tom Billington once cited him as one of the hardest workers in the business. For a short time, Yoshi Tatsu wore tights themed after Misawa's in late 2009. Kaito Kiyomiya also wore green trunks during his early career as a tribute to his idol.

Misawa holds the record for the most 5 star matches awarded by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, with 23. He was the along with Toshiaki Kawada to have the second ever 6 star match on June 3, 1994.

On June 30, 2017, Pro Wrestling NOAH held its first-ever Mitsuharu Misawa memorial tournament in honor of his career.

Dave Meltzer inducted Misawa into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame class of 1996.

Championships and accomplishmentsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "三沢 光晴 (Mitsuharu Misawa) (profile)" (in Japanese). Pro Wrestling NOAH. Archived from the original on July 5, 2011. Retrieved February 3, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "Mitsuharu Misawa". Puroresu Central. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
  3. ^ "Japanese Wrestling Legend dies after Suplex move". The News Chronicle. June 15, 2009. Archived from the original on November 12, 2009. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  4. ^ Molinaro, John F. (June 15, 2000). "Misawa's departure cripples All Japan". Slam! Wrestling. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved June 13, 2009.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Schramm, Chris (June 13, 2009). "Japanese legend Mitsuharu Misawa dies in the ring". Slam! Wrestling. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved June 13, 2009.
  6. ^ Masanori Horie (April 10, 2000). "Misawa vs. Kawada vs. Taue vs. Kobashi vs. Akiyama". Archived from the original on October 22, 2009. Retrieved October 19, 2009.
  7. ^ "Misawa dies after move". ESPN. June 14, 2009. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  8. ^ "RIP Mitsuharu Misawa". Cauliflower Alley Club. June 13, 2009. Archived from the original on January 16, 2010. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  9. ^ "CANOE – SLAM! Sports – Wrestling – Funk Jr. & Dibiase remember Misawa as a trainee, foe and friend".
  10. ^ "Mitsuharu Misawa".
  11. ^ Emelett, Ed (September 1995). "Japan's Triple Crown: "It's the Most Important Title in the World!"". Pro Wrestling Illustrated. London Publishing Co.: 28. ISSN 1043-7576.
  12. ^ Ayass, Dean (June 13, 2009). "Wrestling legend Mitsuharu Misawa has died in the ring aged 46". The Sun. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  13. ^ Williams, Steve; Tom Caiazzo (2007). Steve Williams: How Dr. Death Became Dr. Life. Sports Publishing, LLC. p. 157. ISBN 1-59670-180-3.
  14. ^ "Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame". Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  15. ^ Hornbaker, Tim (2006). National Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly That Strangled Pro Wrestling. ECW Press. p. 328. ISBN 1-55022-741-6.
  16. ^ Funk, Terry; Scott E. Williams (2006). Terry Funk: More Than Just Hardcore. Sports Publishing LLC. p. 217. ISBN 1-59670-159-5.
  17. ^ a b "GHC Heavyweight Title History". Professional Wrestling Noah. Archived from the original on August 1, 2009. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  18. ^ "Ditch" (July 22, 2009). "Notes on the life and times of Mitsuharu Misawa, mostly via. the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Abridged, added to and reorganized by Ditch". Retrieved October 19, 2009.
  19. ^ "Smarketh." (June 23, 2009). "Re: Mitsuharu Misawa R.I.P." Retrieved October 19, 2009.
  20. ^ David Oxford (June 16, 2009). "Late Japanese Wrestling Great Mitsuharu Misawa Loved Video Games". Retrieved October 19, 2009.[dead link]
  21. ^ "Misawa Passes Away After Backdrop In Hiroshima Match". Wrestling Observer/Figure Four Online. June 13, 2009. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  22. ^ Ayass, Dean (June 17, 2009). "Mitsuharu Misawa probably died from a cervical spinal cord injury rather than a heart attack, police reports from Japan indicate". The Sun. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  23. ^ Shima, Yasuhiko (July 15, 2009). "Wrestling bodies to mull regulation of industry". The Asahi Shimbun. Archived from the original on July 19, 2009. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  24. ^ "AJPW All Asia Tag Team Championship history".
  25. ^ "AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship history".
  26. ^ "AJPW Unified World Tag Team Championship history".
  27. ^ "NWA International Junior Heavyweight Championship history".
  28. ^ "PWF World Tag Team Championship history".
  29. ^ "Champion Carnival history". Archived from the original on November 9, 2013.
  30. ^ "World's Strongest Tag Determination League History" (in Japanese). All Japan Pro Wrestling. Archived from the original on October 11, 2014.
  31. ^ "AJPW tournament listings". Archived from the original on January 3, 2011.
  32. ^
  33. ^ Kreikenbohm, Philip. "Real World Tag League 1990 « Tournaments Database « CAGEMATCH - The Internet Wrestling Database". Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  34. ^ Kreikenbohm, Philip. "Real World Tag League 1991 « Tournaments Database « CAGEMATCH - The Internet Wrestling Database". Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  35. ^ "Nikkan Sports Awards - 1997". wrestlingscout. February 10, 2016.
  36. ^ "Nikkan Sports Awards - 1998". wrestlingscout. February 11, 2016.
  37. ^ "Nikkan Sports Awards - 2003". wrestlingscout. February 19, 2016.
  38. ^ a b "Nikkan Sports Awards - 2007". wrestlingscout. February 26, 2016.
  39. ^ "Nikkan Sports Awards - 2009". wrestlingscout. February 28, 2016.
  40. ^ "Nikkan Sports Awards - 1996". wrestlingscout. February 9, 2016.
  41. ^ "GHC Tag Team Championship history". Archived from the original on April 21, 2013.
  42. ^ "2009 Global Tag League results". Archived from the original on March 11, 2009.
  43. ^ Mitsuharu Misawa retrieved March 25, 2019
  44. ^ "Purolove profile".
  45. ^ "Pro Wrestling Illustrated (PWI) 500 for 1997". The Internet Wrestling Database. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  46. ^ "PWI Years listing". Archived from the original on May 15, 2011.
  47. ^ "PWI 500 of the PWI Years". Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  48. ^ a b c d e f g "Misawa's awards in the 1990s".
  49. ^ a b c d "Misawa's awards in the 2000s".
  50. ^ "Misawa's awards in the 1980s".
  51. ^ "東京スポーツ プロレス大賞:選考経過(1990~1999)". Tokyo Sports (in Japanese). Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  52. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Meltzer, Dave (January 26, 2015). "Jan. 26, 2015 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: 2014 awards issue w/ results & Dave's commentary, Conor McGregor, and much more". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Campbell, California: 2–28. ISSN 1083-9593.
  53. ^ "WON Hall of Fame". Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Kappa Publishing Group. Retrieved August 15, 2019.

External linksEdit