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Matt Talbot



Memorial Fights Collection
        There has been a lot of Misawa bashing going on-line these days, it would seem.  Unfortunately, it is true that these days he is a shell of his former self (although still a GOD).  I wanted to go back to the start of his career and check out him when he was Tiger Mask II.  This is a tape review of Memorial Fights Collection.  The full name of the tape is:

Misawa Mitsuharu
The Path to Becoming The Five Crown King
The Legendary Tiger

        That is a pretty long name for a Best of Misawa the Early Years tape.  I got this tape from for 20 bucks and it also has Volume 2.  If you want to get that's cool, but I would recommend not going to  There are better places.  Anyway, let's get to the review.

        The tape opens with a negative still of Misawa with a headlock on somebody.  Their face is blocked out by Misawa.  Then they have a pretty long video montage of Misawa doing a wide variety of maneuvers.  This is all set with a rock song in the background.  And on to our first match.  I believe this is Misawa's debut match as TM II.  It should be noted that this match took place in 1984, placing me as 3 at the time.  Try as I might I can only find his opponent's name in Japanese script.  My roommate is somewhat fluent in Japanese but had trouble deciphering the name.  He came to the conclusion that the dude was called something like "Fuera."   Just to be on the safe side, I will call him Funky Hair (FH) as he has funky hair.  If anybody knows his name, please send it to me.  Thanks.

TM v. FH in a battle of acronyms

        The match starts off with TM going on the offensive with some swift kicks.  FH backs up into the corner and cowardly tries to flee the kicks.  I think this is important, because this was Misawa's first few moments as TM and his aggressive attacks must have made a good first impression.  You never have a second chance to make a first impression and Misawa has big Sayama shoes to fill.  They back up and circle each other for a while before moving right into a nice display of chain wrestling.  TM spins FH around into an arm wringer and then hits the unprotected side of FH  with some more kicks.  They circle again and FH goes on the offensive with some mat wrestling.  This mat wrestling is very smooth as they keep moving.  They never stop for too long and fluidly segue from move to move.  By now, I have come to the conclusion that TM II is better than TM I as Misawa is not being sloppy at all, but I knew that already :-).  Very, very crisp (just wait until the TM v. DK match!). 

        Remember that spot on the Raw after Backlash when Esse Rios Irish whipped Eddie Guerrero into the ropes, went to his back, and leg pressed Eddie across the ring into the ropes?  Remember how much of a gasped pop that move got and how they did a Castrol GX Replay?  Well change Eddie Rios with Tiger Mask II and Eddie Guerrero with Funky Hair and you have the same spot that stopped the chain wrestling IN 1984.  Certainly ahead of their time.  Tiger Mask dropkicks FH outside the ring and then does that Misawa flippy thing where he lands on the apron.  TM does the flippy thing back in.  FH pulls TM's legs down and goes up to the apron to do an springboard outside in splash, but Misawa dodges.  FH returns the favour by moving out of the way of a TM moonsault.  FH Irish whips Misawa and hits a big back body drops.  He then dropkicks TM out of the ring, as was done to him earlier by TM.  Oh man!  Very sweet plancha by FH connects with TM.  Both men are down and struggling to their feet. 

        FH is back inside the ring first and suplexes Misawa into the ring from the apron.  He hits a jumping Tombstone Piledriver (IN 1984!).  Funky Hair has the momentum and continues to capitalize on it by hitting a splash off the turnbuckle.  He Irish whips TM into the ropes and hits a cross body block as TM returns.  FH makes a error, though, when he runs against the ropes and back towards Misawa.  Misawa is standing right at the ropes and does a HUGE back body drop on FH over the ropes to the floor.  This is 198 F'N 4 people.  Today when Jeff Hardy or Kidman does a bump like this people go crazy.  HHH did a bump like this (not as big) at WM2K and the audience loved it.  That is 16 years later.  The crowd is insanely hot.  They did not have to wait much longer to pop, because Misawa runs back against the ropes and then flings himself over the ropes with a somersault tope. 

        Oh man, I am marking out and the crowd is with me.  Misawa has turned the tide with two huge moves in a row.  But he hit his back/legs on the announcer's table on the senton and is down.  FH is able to regain control on that minor error with some punches after rolling Misawa back in the ring.  He goes for a somersault senton off the top rope (not as cool as to the outside, though), but Misawa rolls out of the ring in the nick of time.  Misawa is able to get back in the driver's seat with a standing senton for 2 and then reverses and Irish Whip by leaping up onto the turnbuckle and flipping back around into a cross body.  The crowd goes crazy when Tiger Mask II hits a HUGE Tiger Suplex (he picks the guy really high into the air before slamming him down) for the 1-2-3.  There were not too many near falls in that match, but it was still really hot.  Damn! What a great high flying debut.  Remember this is 1984, not 2000, but it really could be.  I mean in 2000 the somersault senton is a very popular move being done by RVD and Jeff Hardy and they do 2 of them here.  That back body drop to the outside would be met with a huge pop these days, because FH goes really high into the air.  The Tombstone Piledriver is a finisher these days and they use it back then.  Geez, what a match!

Clips of other matches to rock music.  Let's go onto the next match.  This takes place, I believe, in 1985 and is against Dynamite Kid.

DK v. TM in Round Two of the Acronym Wars.

They circle each other again to start it off and then go into more chain mat wrestling.  Once again, it is very crisp and there is literally zero sloppiness.  In the Sayama Kid matches I have seen, the chain wrestling was not as good as this (mostly due to Sayama's sloppiness).  Also once again, they keep at a brisk pace.  Now see this is how you mat wrestle.  Mat wrestling does not mean a front chancery for 2 minutes.  It means submission hold, counter, armbar, counter, kick, submission hold, counter, arm drag, counter.  The stuff here is smooth, fluid, crisp.  DK backs Misawa into the corner and hits a few shoulder blocks.  Oh wow!  DK throw TM into the sickest snap suplex I have ever seen.  This put the snap into snap suplex as DK simply muscles TM over at an insane rate.  The crowd thinks the match is over, but it only gets a two.  Think about it, they are only a few minutes into the match and they already have the crowd in the palm of their hand.

        KAYFABE BREAK!  DK slaps on a headlock and I can see him talking to TM.  Sometimes he yells stuff loudly and then his mouth moves with a softer tone.  I always wondered how wrestlers of different languages broke the barrier, but I guess DK learned Japanese after being there for so long.  It is cool to see this happening.  Anyway, TM breaks out of the headlock and hits, in succession, a dropkick and a cross body block.  The match kinda breaks down as Misawa rolls out and then comes right back in.  TM throws DK out and then slams him into the announcer's table two times.  That seemed kinda disjointed.  Misawa rolls back into the ring, but gets caught by DK's single leg as he re-enters the ring.  DK smoothly floats the single leg over into a legvine.  He floats that into a Boston Crab.  Misawa breaks free, but gets slapped into the Reverse surfboard.  Misawa breaks out again when the ref does something weird that I did not quit catch.  DK drops a quick headbutt for a 2 count.  TM then goes for the tombstone, but in a nice piece of psychology, DK counters that into his own tombstone.  He tries to pin TM, but Misawa gets his leg to the rope.  They mat wrestle a bit more really quickly trying to set up that Guerrero spot again.  I guess that DK watched the debut match as he runs up, grabs Misawa's legs, and tries to pin him on the spot, only to get a 2.  Good spot there.  Kid hits a crisp backdrop errr Saito Slam (for those of you not named Spanky, it is that head dropping suplex).  This is 1985.  198 F'N 5.  They are head dropping years before it came in vogue, which some people might not think is a good thing. 

        The matches continues as DK tries to powerbomb TM, but TM flips over and hits this cool reversal into an arm drag.  Kinda hard to explain.  TM kicks DK some and then does a monkey flip.  DK gets dropkicked to the outside, but (having watched the debut match) dodges the pescado.  Kid suplexes Misawa back into the ring and hits a thunderous clothesline, which he follows up with a Superplex.  DK rolls out (for some unknown reason).  It works in the long run as TM tries to suplex Dynamite back into the ring with an outside in suplex.  Dynamite counters with an unheard of inside out suplex to the floor.  Ok, now you never see that.  NEVER!  Even in today's supposedly insane wrestling matches you never see a vertical suplex from the inside out, only outside in.  And people let's remember this is 1985.  These people are so ahead of their time, I don't even know what time they are in.  Both men are down, struggling to their feet.  TM hits a belly to back suplex (DK takes the brunt on his back instead of neck) on the mats.  The bell rings and the match is over.  Damn, that was a pretty good match (not as good as the debut match, but still good), but an incomprehensible ending.  I am not sure what happened there.  DCOR?  Time limit draw?  They raise neither person's arm and both just walk out.  Bad ending turns great match to kinda great match.  So far we have had 2 matches, one of which was awesome and the other was kinda great.  You could be a shell of this and be better than anybody in WCW.

Video clips of a 1986 match with Baba and Tiger Mask on one team.

Video clips of a 1987 match with TM/Tsuruta versus DiBiase/Hanson (PWF).  The match ends in
count-out as Misawa rolls in just in time.

Video clips of a 1988 match with TM v. Hennig (AWA).  Misawa wins again with a count out again. 
They might have done this to show that TM was a thinking man's wrestler.

We go back in time as we are shown video clips from a 1987 match of TM v. DiBiase.  DiBiase oversells a kick and flies to the outside.  He dodges a pescado and then tries to outside in suplex Misawa.  Misawa flips over and hits a German for 3.  Ok, all the video clips are over with lets move onto THE match.

Tiger Mask v. Jumbo Tsuruta.  This takes place on 3/9/88 placing me at 6.  The match starts off with more of that standard circling before they lock up.  There is a series of go arounds until TM locks on a headlock.  No, that is not THE headlock.  Jumbo breaks out, but screws up a spot as he ducks too early on a kick.  Misawa just kinda leaves his leg in the air and then hits Jumbo in the back as Jumbo comes back up.  TM lays in some kicks and then slaps on THE headlock.  This is it, gentlemen, the greatest headlock ever (which might kinda be like being the prettiest girl in an ugly contest).  Here are the maneuvers Jumbo uses to try to get out of THE headlock:
        Running Pushoff (TM slides to the ground and holds on)
        Strikes (TM endures and clamps on the headlock even more)
        Strength (Right when it seems JT is on the verge of powering out, TM slams that door closed in                  an exciting spot)
        Knee Busters (TM lets go the first time, shakes his leg off, and then slaps the headlock right                  back on)
        Suplex (TM reverses the suplex by doing a hip toss to a sitting headlock)
        Roll over to pin (This takes place during the sitting headlock; at 2 Misawa just rolls back up)
        Back into a corner (This is the best spot as Misawa lets go, only to smack Jumbo in the head                    with a masterful forearm before putting the headlock RIGHT BACK ON BABY!)
        2nd back into corner (Works for good)

        Now see that was the greatest headlock ever.  No matter what JT does Misawa keeps it locked on hardcore style.  This is important, because the story of this match was the young buck taking on the aged veteran.  Misawa was taking it to JT and was very perseverant in his attack.  The same type of storyline takes place in the 1993 match between Hanson and Kobashi and Kobashi takes a different route, violently attacking Hanson with strikes.  There is a distinct difference in the methods these two youngins used against the legends, in that Misawa's was far more subtle and chess like, in contrast to Kobashi's "Beat him until he falls"  plan.  Neither wrestler won their match (as I give away the ending to a match I am still in the middle of reviewing), but I still think the TM-Tsuruta match is better, because of THE headlock.  Anyway, back to reviewing.

        JT Irish whips Misawa into the corner, but Misawa uses the momentum to leap onto the turnbuckle and do a twisting moonsault headbutt type maneuver.  It is a pretty cool spot, but hard to describe.  Misawa tries to return to his game plan by putting on another headlock, but Jumbo strikes his way out.  TM does a single leg and tries to get back to the headlock.  Man, he is really sticking to the game plan.  It should be noted that the tension for the suplex counter is building all throughout the ten or so minutes of headlock.  Remember, Jumbo tried it once already, but Misawa countered.  The running pushoff works, but Misawa puts the headlock back on.  More strikes to Misawa's side don't work and then finally Jumbo hits a massive suplex.  The crowd (myself included) goes absolutely crazy.  Misawa had been keeping his mass low, so that Jumbo could not do the suplex, but Jumbo is finally able to get it off.  By the way, Jumbo has done about 2 moves so far in the match. 

        JT hits a piledriver for 2 and then a double underhook suplex for another hot 2.  Tsuruta tries to do a vertical suplex, but Misawa floats over and hits some kicks to JT's back.  Jumbo falls out of the ring and gets knocked back into the railing by a Misawa baseball slide.  WOW!  Misawa hits the sweetest little springboard somersault senton.  He kinda pauses up on the top ropes in a hunched position and then does a quick flip onto Jumbo.  SWEET!  They eventually roll back into the ring, but TM knocks JT back out with a mammoth clothesline.  He continues to hit another HUGE plancha, but lands with his knee/shin smacking against the guardrail (looked like it hurt).  Misawa has the momentum and follows up with some more kick and goes to the top for a missile dropkick.  It only gets a 2, not unlike the HOT German suplex Misawa would do after the missile D.  The crowd really thought he had him with that German.  Jumbo turns the tide of the match, when he gets his knees up on a Misawa splash.  Jumbo starts selling the leg by limping around the mat, which does not make much sense.  Maybe Misawa landing on his legs hurt shootwise.  He Irish whips TM into the ropes and hits one of those knees, where the opponent does a flip over the kneers leg to really sell it.  Jumbo tries to do another one of those knee shots, but Misawa counters it into a schoolboy.  It gets an insanely hot 2.  At this point in the match, TM has been beating on Jumbo for almost the entire bout.  Jumbo has done just enough not to lose and the crowd thinks that is about to change. 
        JT Irish whips TM and tries to do a back body drop, but Misawa leaps over to try another German suplex.  Tsuruta runs to the ropes to block the German, but, to counter that, Misawa does a leg roll up (the Rolling Prawn Hold).  It is a nice ballet of chain wrestling with good psychology of JT blocking the German, which almost got him before.  In perhaps the only time Misawa did not screw up the huricanrana, he pulls one off, but only gets a 2 count out of it.  JT hotshots Misawa on the ropes and hits a Saito suplex for his own 2.  TM counters a second suplex fluidly into a small package, but continues the pattern of only getting HOT 2 counts.  TM goes for another German, but Jumbo hits a couple of back elbows to block the suplex.  This is a really cool German series with the psychology of Misawa getting an early 2 count success with a German suplex and continually trying it again only to have Tsuruta counter it again and again (Of course that one time Misawa countered that counter).  This time the German is a fatal backfire as Jumbo spins around plants a forearm and hits a massive suplex (with the impact on the neck and shoulders) for the 3.  I think the crowd wanted Misawa to win, but they go crazy anyway.  Jumbo Tsuruta did about 5 moves during the match with Misawa doing most of the work.  Nonetheless, it was a great match.  Heh great, it was awesome.  It must have really elevated Misawa at the time.       

        There were three matches on the tape.  Misawa v. Fuera?, which was a really high flying affair.  If I had to give a star rating I would give maybe **** or ****1/2.  Then there was the Misawa v. Dynamite Kid match, which was something of a disappointment given the talent involved.  Especially with the ending dragging it down, I would have to give this match *** or ***1/2 stars.  Then you had the Misawa v. Jumbo match (The "Headlock Match"), which was really awesome.  It had big moves, great psychology, a cool storyline, sweet moves, and the greatest headlock ever.  ***** match all the way.  The tape finishes up with a quick video montage of the prior three matches.  You NEED to get this tape.  I got it in Philly at the Franklin-Mills mall at the Pro Wrestling Shop (RFVideo front).  It had volume 1 and volume 2 in a tape called Best of Mistuhiro (sic) Misawa.........Early Years.  Those tapes costs 20 bucks, though, I am sure you can get better elsewhere.  Try or  They might have this tape for 10 bucks.

        In my last column, I discussed what wrestling is.  One of the answers posed was Theater of Cruelty, but I did not fully understand what it meant.  Thankfully, several people were nice enough to elucidate us on this topic.  Thanks go out to everybody who was nice enough to spend the time to send an email.

        This first one is from Alicia from NYU, thanks Alicia: "As for theatre of cruelty (I'm a drama student at NYU), it's an Anti-Naturalist theory by Antonin Artaud which basically states that theatre should not reflect life, but affect it. He throws away all conventional means of set design and acting styles in order to produce a specific reaction from the audience. Often, this borders on absurdist theatre and magical realism, where things seem completely out of place and impossible, but the audience has to suspend disbelief in order to "get it" so to speak. There could be no sets and 30-foot masks, and talking to spirits can be commonplace and it is still getting the story across in a way that is so crazy that you can't analyze it, but have to just submit yourself to the experience. So I can see where wrestling can fall into this category."

        This next explanation comes from P Budlog, thanks P:"I have some familiarity with the "Theatre of Cruelty," that you are struggling with; please allow me to offer some examples of this style. The two matches that come to mind when I think of this style are the Bret Hart versus Chris Benoit Owen Hart (RIP) Tribute Match this past year, and the Wrestlemania Main Event.  While the Owen Tribute Match may at first seem Vaudevillian, consider the reaction of the 'Smart Mark.' Most Internet readers and reporters/authors that I read/know raved about this match. People that are not Internet fans seemed to be rather bored by this match. Why the disparity in perception? Perhaps, it was because the insiders could feel the pain and respect that this match represented to the participants. The marks knew about the history, the relationships, and the friendships that these men carried for each other. Therefore, the match conveyed the pain, and suffering of one so close.
The Main Event at Wrestlemania, while maligned by marks, was to me, the prime example of immersing the audience in the drama of the event. The face almost always wins the belt at WM (WM XIII Bret Hart is the exception). Not this time. The Rock's loss made him an even greater presence to those familiar with the history of Wrestling. Suddenly, eveyone could feel the Rock's pain, his suffering. It makes the current angle that much more interesting. How much does the Rock have to give? When will he finally reclaim the "People's Title?" (Author's Note: The preceeding phrases are designed to illustrate a point, and elicit a response. They are not designed to pump up the crowd or show favortism.)"

        Requisite plug:  Go now to  Do not pass go.  Do not collect 200 bucks.  Go to the website!

        Anyway, if you have any comments, concerns, questions, or criticisms, or just wanna chat about how frigging much I wrote for this column then please, by all means, email me at

Matt Talbot

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