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By Mike Johnson on 2009-06-13 10:32:26
I am extremely saddened to report that one of the greatest in-ring workers of the modern age and the founder of Pro Wrestling NOAH, Mitsuhau Misawa, just a few days short of his 47th birthday, died earlier this morning (tonight in Japan) following an in-ring accident stemming from a suplex.

Misawa was wrestling in a tag team bout at the Hiroshima Green Arena, teaming with Go Shiozaki to challenge Bison Smith and Akitoshi Saito for NOAH's Global Honored Crown Tag Team championships  Around 15-17 minutes in, Saito delivered with what was described to me as looking like a "routine" back suplex.  Misawa went over for the bump but didn't get back up. The entire roster surrounded the ring as they attempted to revive him. The crowd, realizing something was wrong, went silent and then began chanting Misawa's name.

It is believed Misawa may have suffered a heart attack as he immediately stopped breathing.  EMTS attempted to revive him in the ring via AED in the ring and he was rushed out to an ambulance.

In the wake of the Misawa incident, the show was immediately halted. The NOAH roster were instructed to return to their tour buses and were later informed Misawa had passed away.

Yomuri Online in Japan reported that Misawa passed away en route to the hospital at 10:10 PM Japanese time. It's possible he passed away before that, but 10:10 is the official time in media reports.

Misawa was groomed for stardom from the day he was brought into All Japan by Shohei "Giant" Baba after being successful amateur High School wrestler. He became the second Tiger Mask (under the hood, he wrestled Bret Hart in 1990) before eventually competing under his real name.

Misawa's classics with Toshiaki Kawada and Kenta Kobashi were the stuff of immediate legend, with Japanese photos of the bouts showing hard-hitting still photos that looked more like boxing matches. Then, when you'd see the tapes via trading, you were awe-struck at how intensely athletic and competitive the bouts were. Before hardcore was a buzz word used to promote a certain style, that's what All Japan main events were - a hardcore, physically brutal style of storytelling in professional wrestling that was unlike anything else in the era.

When All Japan Pro Wrestling owner Shohei "Giant" Baba passed away in 1999, issues with Baba's widow, Motoko Baba eventually led to Misawa leading an exodus of most of the core All Japan talents from the company a year later, forming Pro Wrestling NOAH. The biggest hold-out was Toshiaki Kawada but every other major AJPW name at the time jumped. NOAH, almost immediately, became one of the top in-ring products anywhere in the world, with Misawa as one of the key figures in and out of the ring. All Japan was never the same, although it continues to live on under the ownership of Keiji Mutoh.

Stateside, Misawa made very few trips to the United States to perform, working a pair of shows for Ring of Honor and Harley Race's WLW last year as well as appearing for California's Pro Wrestling Iron, an American satellite promotion for NOAH a few years prior run by Mike Modest and Donovan Morgan.

In Japan, Misawa was one of the all-time greatest in-ring performers and in many ways, was still carrying the torch for the style that Baba and All Japan, in their prime, excelled at. He wasn't in his prime shape anymore and physically, was beaten down by the punishment he put his body through, but when needed, could still perform at an incredible level in comparison to others half his age.

I can't even begin to express what an awesome performer Misawa in his prime was.  In many ways, the style that he, Kenta Kobashi and Toshiaki Kawada, among others, popularized in the United States via tape traders helped inspire the entire "strong style" phase of wrestling on the independent level of the United States. It's impossible to even access the influence his work had on the entire wrestling industry.

To read a translated version of a Yomuri Online report, click here.

Our deepest condolences go out to Misawa's family, friends and fans on a truly sad day for this business.

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