The concept for this article is simple, showcasing pivotal, interesting or just tremendous matches in all of puroresu history. For the first installment, what better to pick than two of the Four Pillars of Heaven?
We get a rather simple story here. Many of us know that Kobashi and Misawa were great friends, tag partners, and even greater rivals; but this was special. Pro Wrestling NOAH, being just shy of 3 years old, still needed an identity. Of course, it was Mitsuharu Misawa’s baby, and he was a draw; but who would carry the company? Kenta Kobashi was coming off of a few years plagued with knee issues and surgeries. So Misawa turned to his longtime rival, to rise above injuries and style adjustments, to help solidify the foundation of NOAH.
GHC Heavyweight Championship Match: Mitsuharu Misawa (c) vs Kenta Kobashi – March 1, 2003 – NOAH Navigate For Evolution
As the match gets started, we see how familiar these two legends are with one another. Misawa dodges the snapping back fist against the ropes, and then they go hold for hold, before they both pop up and take a beat for the crowd to enjoy the first volley. Early on Misawa hits a few Elbows to go along with Kobashi landing more on his head than his back during a back suplex. Kobashi is rocked, powders out, and we get a few signature dives from Misawa. The flying forearm, along with the forward Senton off the apron all strike true.
The match turns once the match goes back to the outside, Misawa does his Misawa feint, but when he dives at Kobashi, he sees it coming, so Misawa goes face first into the metal guardrail. Not only could Kobashi sense blood in the water, he saw it pouring from Misawa’s mouth. It was at this point that Kobashi took great control, hitting chops, backdrops and Half Nelson suplexes, all to weaken the head/neck area. It wasn’t until Misawa manages to get to the ropes to break a Full Nelson Hold, which we see what they’re both known for.
Misawa with elbows, German Suplexes and Tiger variants; answered right back with chops, Nelson suplexes and a little more power. We get great fighting spirit from both men, as they go back out to the ramp, previously used by Kobashi DDTing Misawa. Misawa lands a Diving Elbow as Kobashi was getting back up, and then gets an idea. After some struggle, this is the infamous Tiger Suplex OFF of the ramp.
TIGER SUPLEX OFF THE RAMP!!!
— SirLARIATO (@SirLARIATO) April 2, 2020
At that point, both men barely get in, Misawa has some control, until Kobashi kicks out of the Emerald Flowsion. As Misawa grasps for a way to put away his old rival, Kobashi finds some extra energy and fights out of a Tiger Driver. Burning Lariat and Brainbuster, but Misawa wouldn’t stay down. Luckily for Kobashi, he had a rarely used Ace, but this is one of his 7 uses, Burning Hammer.
This win, would begin Kenta Kobashi’s 735 day reign as GHC Heavyweight Champion. A record, that still stands as the longest consecutive reign in the modern era. As hindsight works, this match did the trick, since Pro Wrestling NOAH was built off great matches involving Kobashi, and integral to early success and still frequents the commentary booth. Mitsuharu Misawa never was able to take much of a step out of the spotlight, but that doesn’t take away from this match. Legendary competitors, in a wonderful match, it doesn’t get much better than this. It won Tokyo Sports match of the year in 2003 for a reason.
If you’re newer to the scene, you might as well start at the top; so you can identify the good from the bad, much easier.
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