Mitsuharu Misawa Death – Cervical Spinal Cord Injury

mitsuharu misawa dead

Japanese wrestling legend Mitsuharu Misawa dies in the ring after taking a back suplex. He was 46.

1962-2009 (Age 46)

Mitsuharu Misawa inspired people from around the world, thrilling them with his heroics as Tiger Mask II and inspiring others to emulate his style in the ring.

Misawa’s hard work led to him becoming one of the most decorated wrestlers in Japanese wrestling history, and one of the most respected workers in the world. Misawa founded the promotion Pro Wrestling NOAH; creating another exciting Japanese wrestling promotion.

Sadly, Misawa joined the ranks of wrestlers who died in the ring, when a move gone wrong took his life at age 46.

Misawa’s Wrestling Origins

Born on June 18, 1962 in Yūbari, Hokkaidō in Japan, Mitsuharu Misawa’s lifelong ambition was to become a professional wrestler. Misawa wrestled at the amateur level, placing fifth in 1980’s FILA (Fédération Internationale des Luttes Associée) World Championship.

tiger mask-ii genichiro tenryu

Mitsuharu Misawa (working as Tiger Mask II) with Genichiro Tenryu

After distinguishing himself in the amateurs, Misawa was trained by professional wrestling legends Dick “The Destroyer” Beyer, Shohei Baba, and Dory Funk, Jr. He began his pro career working for All Japan Pro Wrestling, then sought seasoning in Mexico’s EMLL.

A Masked Superstar

Mitsuharu Misawa worked as a preliminary wrestler for several years until he caught the break of a lifetime.

When masked wrestling sensation Satoru Sayama decided to give up his identity as Tiger Mask in New Japan Pro Wrestling, New Japan sold the rights to All Japan Pro Wrestling. All Japan decided Misawa would become the new Tiger Mask. At this point, Misawa’s star was on the rise, but he hadn’t reached the top of his game yet.

The Night a Star Became a Legend

Despite working a different style than the original Tiger Mask, Misawa proved a worthy successor, carrying on the Tiger Mask character and keeping his popularity.

Tiger Mask II wrestled a number of top opponents including Chavo Guerrero Sr., the Dynamite Kid, Kuniaki Kobayashi, and Atsushi Onita.

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When All Japan lost one of its top stars Genichiro Tenryu, a replacement was needed. The decision was made to unmask Misawa and have him wrestle under his real name. In May 1990, Tiger Mask took off his mask and challenged Jumbo Tsuruta to a match. On June 8, 1990 Misawa wrestled the legendary Jumbo Tsuruta, shocking the wrestling world when he pinned Jumbo.

Wrestling legend has it Tsuruta was booked to win the match, but the crowd was chanting Misawa’s name so loudly that promoter Giant Baba made a rare last-minute change, booking Misawa to win instead.

On that night, Misawa transformed from a rising star into a legend.

Many Puroresu fans see this as the beginning of a golden age in Japanese wrestling. While Misawa was but one component, he was a major figure in this era.

mitsuharu misawa toshiaki kawada

Mitsuharu Misawa takes on Toshiaki Kawada

A Legendary Run

Misawa became one of the most revered figures in wrestling, with a work rate that consistently produced must-see matches. Even fans who didn’t watch Japanese wrestling caught news of Misawa’s amazing bouts, five-star classics with Kuniaki Kobayashi, Jumbo Tsuruta, Akira Taue, Kenta Kobashi, and many others.

Whether he competed in singles matches or tag team matches, Misawa delighted audiences with his performances and won title after title in All Japan, including its Triple Crown Heavyweight championship five times.

Wrestler and Promoter

In 2000, Mitusharu Misawa founded Pro Wrestling NOAH after a dispute with his former employer, All Japan Pro Wrestling. 23 other wrestlers left as well, following Misawa to his new promotion.

Misawa continued wrestling full-time, including appearances in the United States’ Ring of Honor promotion.

Mitsuharu Misawa Death

On Saturday June 13, 2009, Misawa was working a tag team match when his opponent Akitoshi Saito suplexed him, knocking Misawa out.

mitsuharu misawa yoshinari ogawa

Mitsuharu Misawa with long time tag team partner Yoshinari Ogawa

Misawa had been wrestling hurt for some time with a neck injury and shoulder injury. It is believed Misawa landed wrong taking the suplex, severing his spinal column (it’s also believed Misawa’s neck injury contributed to his death).

The bout was stopped and Misawa taken out in an ambulance. However, by the time the wrestling sensation arrived at the hospital, he was dead.

Misawa was 46 years old, just days from his 47th birthday. Misawa was survived by his wife Mayumi and their daughter.

What are your memories of Mitsuharu Misawa? Leave them in the comments section below.