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The death of Mitsuharu Misawa

By Zach Arnold | June 13, 2009

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NHK News video report on the death of Mitsuharu Misawa

Unfortunately, one of the legends of the Japanese fight industry has died. Mitsuharu Misawa, the founder of NOAH and the ‘ace’ under Giant Baba’s All Japan Pro Wrestling promotion, died in the ring today at a NOAH event at Hiroshima Green Arena in front of an estimated crowd of 2,300 fans..

Misawa, tagging with Go Shiozaki (considered NOAH’s big prodigy), faced Bison Smith & Akitoshi Saito (the GHC tag team champions). Saito gave Misawa a back-drop suplex and Misawa suffered a heart attack in the ring. Medical assistance was given in the form of using a defibrillator, but sadly Misawa was pronounced dead while being transported to the hospital at 10:10 PM JST Saturday night. He was 46 years old. When being transported to Hiroshima University hospital, he was unconscious the entire time. This Nippon TV video report contains more on the story. This report says that an employee told police that it was about 10 minutes after the incident that an ambulance was able to provide medical help. The fans at ringside after the back drop started chanting “Misawa! Misawa!” and continued to do so when the ambulance took him away from the building (photo here – direct link here).

Sankei Sports has a report telling about the final moments of Misawa’s life as he died in the ring and staff members were looking for any doctors in the crowd to help out after the trainer couldn’t revive Misawa. A 35-year old man at ringside was quoted by the newspaper as saying that Misawa seemed ‘lifeless’ in the match before the back-drop spot. The referee (Nishinaga, who is also the PR director for the company) reportedly asked Misawa, “Can you move?” and Misawa said he couldn’t… and died.

NOAH was formed in June of 2000 after Misawa and most of the roster of All Japan Pro-Wrestling split from Motoko Baba, the widow of Giant Baba. Baba died on January 31st, 1999, due to cancer. NOAH was considered Japan’s strongest pro-wrestling promotion until the last couple of years. Earlier this year, Nippon TV cut ties with NOAH and the promotion’s drawing power started to decline.

This news report contains a picture of the wrestlers surrounding the ring when Misawa suffered the heart attack (larger image version here). Here’s a second photo of when Misawa was being stretchered out.

The news of Misawa’s death is/was the lead story on many major Japanese media outlets including Yahoo Japan, Nikkan Sports, Yomiuri Online, Mainichi, and Jiji Press (one of Japan’s major news wire operations).

Youtube’s Japanese page is being populated with videos covering the Misawa death – from personal commentary to news clips to tribute videos.

Topics: Japan, Media, Pro-Wrestling, Zach Arnold | 21 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

21 Responses to “The death of Mitsuharu Misawa”

  1. kobashi says:

    This is so tragic!

    one of the best to come out of the Japanese fight industry.

    A true legend and I will sadly miss him.

    RIP Mitsuharu..

  2. Chuck says:

    I couldn’t believe it when I first read it. It truly is a tragedy, but I can’t say I am shocked that it was a heart attack. The man always had a rotund figure, and it did lead to his degenerating knees after doing so many frog splashes throughout the nineties. It’s a damn shame he couldn’t take better care of himself. RIP Misawa, you are one of the greatest of all time and a pivotal figure of the nineties.

    BTW, what will happen to NOAH now? They are pretty much of lifeline as it is, with them losing their TV deal and getting abysmally small crowds. Shit…

  3. Zack says:

    Holy shit…RIP

  4. David M says:

    I stopped watching pro wrestling in high school, but after I graduated college I lived in Thailand for a year, and one of the only channels I got was a puroresu channel that seemingly featured Misawa, Kobashi, Vader, and some guy who wore karate pants, in almost every match. I really admired the way Misawa wrestled; he was a great worker and had unbelievable courage and skills. RIP.

  5. PizzaChef says:

    I still can’t believe it…Any other pictures/coverage?

  6. robthom says:

    Wow! I dont know much about pro-wrestling but I understand how important it is in Japan and how dedicated the practitioners of it are.

    Thats a tragedy. RIP.

  7. liger05 says:

    I am shocked. A man alway seen as indestructible. Bump after bump after bump. Misawa gave his body to puroresu and will be missed greatly. One of the greats!!

  8. PizzaChef says:

    One of my friends reminded me of this great piece of irony: NOAH’s first main event in 2000. Jun Akiyama gave Misawa a big German Suplex, and to put Akiyama over Misawa pretended to be dead and the referee revived him with CPR.

    Pretty messed up.

  9. Dave says:

    Died in the ring due to a head drop. Seriously, not shocking, which is sad. A lot of people saw this coming and were told they were crazy.

  10. Ultimo Santa says:

    I’m still in shock. H\’ll go down as maybe the best wrestler of all time, in any country.

    RIP, and thank you.

  11. Chuck says:

    “Died in the ring due to a head drop.”

    He died of a heart attack, not head trauma. Probably had more to do with stress, high blood pressure, and poor nutrition (high fat content probably).

  12. Mark says:

    This is horrible news. He is one of the greatest pro wrestlers of all-time. I can’t think of anybody who got such universal acclaim from smart marks. Only Chris Benoit and Ric Flair comes close to getting the universal love he got in his career. So shocking.

  13. Dave says:

    A brain injury can happen in conjunction with heart trauma. From what I understand he was suffering from pretty bad brain damage as it is.

  14. liger05 says:

    can u believe this:

    “Given the final scene in the movie, it’s now become one of those really eerie deals because today was the opening of the movie “The Wrestler” in Japan, and they advertised the movie heavily on the NOAH cable shows.”

  15. Mark says:

    I’ve seen the thought floating around today. It must be said though, for those that don’t know, Misawa was hardly wrestling high school gym shows like Randy The Ram. This is the American equivilient of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin dying, since Misawa was unarguably the biggest star of 90s Japanese wrestling. And his final opponents were much better than Ernest “The Cat” Miller. I don’t know how he managed his money, but I’m sure he wasn’t wrestling out of financial needs.

    But yet Steve Austin, alcoholism and domestic violence and all lives comfortable and quietly, since he was smart enough to retire at 38. I know most guys don’t have the luxury of the shitload of money Austin made off of merchandise to retire on, but incidents like this show you why you should get out at 40.

  16. I was lucky enough to see Misawa in NYC in Nov. ’07.


  17. liger05 says:

    The Kawada match in 94 is probably the best ever but I will never forget when he finally beat Jumbo for the belt. Kobashi’s face just as Misawa is going to pin Jumbo was a thing of beauty. Pure emotion.

  18. Preach says:

    Whoa, i just returned from UFC 99, came up here to check and see the reactions to the show, and now this…

    It’s Gary Albright all over again…

    R.I.P. Tiger Mask II

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