VADER/MISAWA 1999 TRIPLE CROWN
A pro wrestling match tells us a story, sometimes a good one, sometimes a bad one, sometimes in different ways, and sometimes a classic, but a story nonetheless. Today I'm going to try something different. Instead of breaking down a whole tape of matches and doing the recap thing I'm going to break down one match and discuss the story within the match and why it was either good or bad. Matches deserve to be analyzed like this. Psychology in a match is always discussed as to weather it is good or bad but it is never actually analyzed as to what the psychology is and how it is put together to produce the reactions from the crowd. Pro Wrestlers weather they believe this or not are living breathing story tellers and their stories deserved to be broken down and looked at piece by piece. So for this week's first installment I go to my newly bought All Japan Pro Wrestling tape. The match Vader/Misawa for the Triple Crown, the date is May 3 1999, and the venue is the fabled Tokyo Dome.
First off we get a taped presentation of Misawa training for this match. He looks very determined to beat Vader. Then a sit down interview follows and since I don't know Japanese I can't help you out at all to what he is saying. He just looks intense and focused for his upcoming match. Finally we are to live shots inside the Tokyo Dome. Misawa is introduced (along with his rockin music) to a rousing crowd reaction. Guys in Untouchables t-shirts follow Misawa. This guy definitely is the baby face here. Then out comes Vader, followed by some guys in red at a safe distance, to a nice crowd reaction of his own. Damn Vader is big here; I don't remember him being this big in the WWF. Sanctioning follows by the PWF guy and finally we get to the match.
This crowd is jacked and it is time to go! Bell rings! Before any action occurs Vader takes off his mask and rubs his hands around his head to some oohhs and ahhhs from the crowd.
Tie up into the corner Vader starts punching Misawa. Turnaround in the corner and Misawa repeats the deal with elbows to Vader's head. Vader not happy with this, big elbow to the head drives Misawa out of the corner. Both men regroup and circle each other again. This time a tie up results in Vader winning out and trying to German suplex Misawa, he counters by backing Vader into the corner. Vader elbows his way out again and throws Misawa to the mat and slaps a headlock of sorts on him. Misawa breaks the hold and we have another lock up this time Misawa slaps on a headlock then goes off the ropes and is slapped by Vader. Another slap by the big man knocks Misawa over. Vader takes him into the corner and proceeds to beat the holy hell out of him with elbows and fists to the head. Then a Vader Splash into the corner, Misawa groggily out of corner big time lariat knocks Misawa over again. Cover is interrupted at 2 by a foot on the ropes. Vader takes him into the corner again then whips him to the other corner. This time Misawa is ready for him, elbows to the head, Misawa on the top rope where he promptly gets a lariat to send him onto the floor! They battle into the isle way, Vader gets the best of this as he slams Misawa's throat onto the guardrail. Vader in charge here as he grabs Misawa and drags him back towards the ring. Vader goes for a big Vader bomb but Misawa blocks it, Vader punches at his back and tries it again, Misawa blocks again, Vader punches at Misawa again this time hitting a huge Vader bomb on the nice blue mats. The crowd goes nuts. Vader is jacked so he gets up onto the apron and he splashes a prone Misawa on the ground! Crowd is just loosing its mind. Vader now in total control as he throws Misawa back into the ring picks him up and throws him into the ropes and hits Misawa with a big lariat. Picks him up again and then Vader bombs him again! Then hits another splash and goes for the cover which only gets 2! Crowd is just going nuts they are really into the match.
Vader now begins to work on Misawa's knee by laying on it while simultaneously putting on a headlock. Misawa finally gets a foot on the ropes to break the hold. Both men up and Misawa starts a comeback by hitting some stiff elbows to the huge head of Vader. Misawa off the ropes hits a running elbow that knocks Vader onto the floor. Then Misawa does a flying dive through the second rope nailing Vader! On the outside Misawa gets all funky on Vader time eventually getting back into the ring only to hit a pescado on the big man. Vader manages to get back into the ring only to be greeted by a drop kick followed by a German suplex for two. Crowd going apeshit. Misawa goes for Tiger Driver but Vader blocks it so he body slams Vader instead. Climbs to top rope and drops the elbow for two. Enziguri on Vader gets two. Vader recovers and hits a release German suplex! Then tries for a Vader bomb but gets reversed with Misawa going over the head of Vader. Vader pissed, grabs Misawa and hits another release German suplex this time Misawa lands on his head! Vader follows that up with a splash. Cover 1 2 no. Both men look gassed. Vader to his feet picks up Misawa hits a massive release Tiger Driver for 2! Picks up Misawa like a toy and slams him. Goes up to top rope and misses a moonsault! Misawa in bad shape his nose looks busted up. Vader gets up once again slamming Misawa again and this time Vader goes up to top rope but Misawa is there and a superplex results. Misawa to top rope and hits a frog splash! Only gets two out of that. Misawa takes Vader to corner lifts him up on to top rope and hits a wicked stiff DDT! Misawa covers but only for two. Roaring Elbow comes out of nowhere for 2! Vader back up and hits a lariat and splashes him for 2. Misawa is pissed! He throws many elbows to the head. He puts Vader back onto his feet rams his elbow into Vader's skull. Then off the rope wicked stiff elbow to the head of Vader. Vader goes down! Misawa covers 1,2,3! We have a new Triple Crown champion![18.07 match time] Crowd chants Mis Saw Wa, Mis Saw Wa! I chant along with them and so do you. We all dance to his music and do the clapping part together. More Misawa chants as he hoists a giant ass trophy into the air. Post match ring interview with Misawa as he seems quite respectful in accepting the Triple Crown. We get a post match Vader interview where he prays to GOD that he gets another title match, he thinks he has earned it and that he deserves it.
Whew that was quite the match. Now we all know that rocked as a match but why did it rock? Lets take a look.
First off the match itself had a storyline. Misawa takes shots at Vader's head throughout the match and it becomes apparent that he is trying to set up for a big shot to put the big man out so he can win. He has a game plan and he sticks with it. Vader on the other hand is trying to hit the biggest impact moves that he can to put Misawa away. He is trying to use his immense girth to his advantage. For example he hits a big move and then follows it up with a splash to further wipe the wind out of his opponent. These are the two approaches that the men used to defeat each other. They are both interesting to follow because you know what both men are trying to accomplish.
Within the back and forth action of the match you can see how the wrestlers put the pieces of the match together to make it look like either of the strategies could beat the other. For instance, Vader has an extended period of time where he beats the crap out of Misawa. Misawa gets in the occasional headshot but those have no effect on Vader at just that moment. Those headshots are important because they make the comeback more believable. When Misawa actually starts to put together a comeback he continues to focus on the head. The earlier blows to Vader's massive skull come back into the watcher's memory. Dare I say that there was some foreshadowing here by Misawa as to how he was going to make an amazing comeback to take down the big man? Weather you agree with me on that point or not it doesn't really matter. The earlier elbowing to the head is what helps to add cohesiveness to the story in this match. Without this linking action in the match the finish wouldn't be nearly as effective nor would the match have flowed so smoothly to that point like it did. The drama in this match was huge. You could feel it just by the crowd and its reactions during the match. The Triple Crown in Japan is a very important title to the fans, this we can get based on their reactions to the ebb and flow of the match alone. The crowd was firmly behind Misawa the whole time adding to the drama of what Vader was trying to do to him. This gave the workers in the match something to play off of and they did it beautifully. Misawa and Vader added extra drama whenever they had the chance. A perfect example of this is the simple thing of the Vader bomb on the outside of the ring. It took Vader three times to get it off. This was a very nice touch. Each time Misawa blocked it Vader had to punch at him to weaken him further just to get it off. Plus it also adds to the believability of the whole match again. At this point in the match Misawa is not weakened enough to let himself be power bombed onto the blue mats surrounding the ring. So Vader takes it upon himself to weaken Misawa a little bit further so he can get off a high impact move. Which also played into what we discussed earlier, Vader's strategy of how to beat Misawa. This move leads to the first dramatic pin attempt by Vader. After he gets the power bomb off he proceeds to role Misawa into the ring and do it again and then splash him. At this point the crowd is really eating it up. Why? Because Vader put together a series of high impact spots that would lead to the believability of Misawa getting pinned. They want Misawa to kick out. They want to cheer his every attempt to beat this mammoth monster from America. This first false finish helps to build the drama up to a level that lets everyone knows, who is watching this match, that it could end at any time.
After this Vader seems to deviate from his strategy when he goes to work on the knee of Misawa. Within the context of the story of this match Vader makes his fatal mistake here. Instead of continuing with an onslaught of high impact maneuvers against an obviously hurt opponent he decides to slow things down and work on the knee. This gives Misawa time to recuperate and gain some of his breath back. This breather eventually allows him to get some shots in at Vader's skull and then to mount his comeback as we discussed earlier.
As a story goes this match is an excellent story. We see a big apparently unstoppable foreign monster go up against a smaller opponent. Yet the smaller opponent wins because he used the bigger man's mistake and a superior strategy against him to come out the victor and the new Triple Crown Champion.
Credit must be given to the two wrestlers within this match. Not many pro wrestlers are able to pull off a story that is so believable, exciting, and action filled. They gave us a story and an athletic contest that will be remembered by many as one of the great contests for the Triple Crown
I would appreciate some response to this style of recapping one match and then following it with analytical thought. It was a lot of fun for me to do and I will be doing at least one more match. I just would like some feedback as to what you liked or disliked about this idea. At time I felt the explanation of the story within the match was a little redundant but still needed to be done. Let me know what you think. Next time we are looking at one of the Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada battles. Until then enjoy some wrestling.