The Many
Faces of Mutoh
Keiji Mutoh and Taiyo Kea vs. Mitsuharu Misawa and Yoshinari Ogawa
GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Challenge on July 10th, 2004

Event: Pro Wrestling NOAH "Departure" 2004
Location: Tokyo Dome
Announced Attendance: 58,000

This match is for the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. Oh boy oh boy.... Mutoh and Misawa clash for the first time. Kea and Ogawa naturally start things off. Tie-up, kick by Kea and he applies a wristlock into a side headlock, cobra clutch by Kea, cover, but Ogawa applies a headscissors and both men get back to their feet. Tie-up, hammerlock by Ogawa, reversed by Kea, reversed back, wristlock by Ogawa, Kea forearms out of it, but Ogawa pokes him in the eyes. Jawbreaker by Ogawa, but Kea chops him back and tags in Mutoh. The crowd is going nuts as Ogawa makes the tag to Misawa. They circle each other, tie-up, side headlock by Misawa, Mutoh Irish whips out of it and the two collide with no result. Elbow strike by Misawa, and he nails the Tiger Driver for a two count cover. Mutoh trips him up however, springs back to his feet and delivers the Shiiiiiiiining Wizard to Misawa, sending him out of the ring. Mutoh then poses on the top turnbuckle before going to one knee to wait for Misawa to come back in. He eventually does, tie-up, waistlock by Mutoh, reversed by Misawa into a wristlock, and he gets Mutoh to the mat. Back up, wristlock by Misawa, but Mutoh trips him to get out of it and applies a leg submission hold. Misawa eventually gets to the ropes and Mutoh has to break the hold. Mutoh tags in Kea, tie-up, Misawa pushes Kea into the ropes and gives him a spinning elbow. Misawa tags in Ogawa, double Irish whip, and they connect on a double elbow. Cover by Ogawa, but Kea easily kicks out in time. Ogawa picks up Kea, Irish whip, reversed, but Ogawa kicks him when Kea charges in. Again Ogawa pushes Kea back, but Kea applies a side headlock and takes him down. Scoop slam by Kea, Irish whip, and he elbows Ogawa to the mat. Kea then goes to the top turnbuckle, but Ogawa pushes the referee into him, knocking him off. Chop by Ogawa, and he tags in Misawa. Misawa and Kea trade strikes, Kea gets the better of it, Irish whip, and he delivers a dropkick. Kea tags in Mutoh, who stomps Misawa in the corner. Snapmare by Mutoh and he nails the Flash Elbow. Mutoh pulls back on Misawa's leg a bit and then applies a leg submission hold. Mutoh tags in Kea, and they both yank on Misawa's leg. Kea picks up Misawa, he goes for a suplex, but Misawa blocks it and tags in Ogawa. Punches to the ribs by Ogawa, Irish whip from the corner, but Kea moves when Ogawa charges in and Ogawa goes into the ring post. Backdrop suplex by Kea and he tags in Mutoh. Dropkick to the head by Mutoh and he then dropkicks Ogawa in the leg. Dragon screw leg whip by Mutoh and he slaps on the STF. Misawa eventually breaks it up, so Mutoh picks up Ogawa and just drills him with an Emerald Frosion! Misawa doesn't appreciate it though and runs into give Mutoh a Shining Wizard! Mutoh tags in Kea after he recovers, and Kea chops Ogawa into the corner. Strikes by Kea in the corner, Irish whip, and Kea hits a running lariat. Another running lariat by Kea, he puts Ogawa on his shoulders and hits the TKO. Cover, but Misawa breaks it up. Enzigieri by Ogawa, but Kea replies with a jumping heel kick.

Both men tag out, but Mutoh catches Misawa with a dropkick. Misawa returns with a dropkick of his own, they trade blows, but Mutoh dropkicks Misawa in the leg and hits a dragon screw leg whip. Mutoh goes for a Shining Wizard, but Misawa blocks it and elbows Mutoh out of the ring. Misawa then gets a running start and flies out of the ring with an elbow suicida, knocking Mutoh over the guardrail into the crowd. Kea comes in the ring as Misawa rolls back in, but Mutoh eventually makes it back in under his own power. As Mutoh gets on the apron, Misawa approaches him, so Mutoh elbows him so hard that it (legitimately) makes him fall off the apron. Mutoh quickly recovers though and gets back in the ring. Mutoh goes to the top turnbuckle then and delivers a missile dropkick. He then tags in Kea, Irish whip by Kea and he hits a diving forearm. Waistlock by Kea, Misawa elbows out of it, but Kea hits a superkick. Irish whip by Kea from the corner, reversed, but Kea avoids the elbow and hits a hurricanrana for a two count. Kea applies the cross armbreaker, but Misawa get a foot on the ropes. Irish whip by Kea from the corner, but Misawa elbows him when he charges in. Kea goes for a backdrop suplex, but Misawa lands on his feet and levels him with an elbow smash. Misawa tags in Ogawa, Ogawa picks up Kea, Irish whip, reversed, but Ogawa hits a DDT for a two count cover. Kicks by Kea, and he connects on a jumping heel kick. He goes for the Hawaiian Smasher, but Misawa comes in to help. Double Irish whip from the corner, Misawa hits an elbow followed by a drop toehold by Ogawa and an elbow drop by Misawa. Backdrop suplex by Ogawa, cover, but Kea kicks out. Misawa knocks Mutoh off the apron, then he gives Kea a Tiger Driver. Ogawa follows with a backdrop suplex, cover, but Mutoh barely breaks it up. Ogawa kicks Mutoh out of the ring, and they go back to double teaming Kea. After a slightly botched move (not sure what they were going for), cover by Ogawa, but Mutoh breaks it up by dropkicking Ogawa in the head. Double Irish whip on Mutoh, Ogawa hits a jawbreaker, but Mutoh then dropkicks Misawa, dropkicks Ogawa, and then gives both of them a Shining Wizard! Mutoh picks up Ogawa, backbreaker, he goes to the top turnbuckle and nails the moonsault. Cover by Kea, but Misawa breaks it up. Dragon screw leg whip by Mutoh on Misawa, but Misawa fires back with an elbow smash. Ogawa manages to tag in Misawa, Misawa goes off the ropes, but Kea ducks the elbow and plants him with a Surfing Suplex. Cover, but Misawa gets his foot on the ropes. Kea picks up Misawa, puts him on his shoulders, but Misawa slides off. The two trade blows, Misawa goes off the ropes, but Kea quickly delivers the Hawaiian Smasher! Cover, but Ogawa breaks it up. Mutoh throws Ogawa out of the ring, as Misawa and Kea trade blows. Kea finally goes down, cover by Misawa, but Kea quickly kicks out. Misawa picks up Kea and hits him with a quick Emerald Frosion, cover, but it only gets a two count. Misawa gets Kea up again, gets him in a vertical suplex position, and then just about kills him with a vertical-drop Emerald Frosion! Cover, and Misawa gets the three count! Your winners and still champions: Mitsuharu Misawa and Yoshinari Ogawa

Match Thoughts: I better explain this one better then I normally do. First, lets get into the significance of the match. Misawa and Mutoh were two of the biggest stars of the 90s and are still big stars in their respective promotions, but they had never squared off before. Ever. This is a match that the Japanese fans had been clamoring for for many years, which is why they went so nutty when Misawa and Mutoh would square off in this match. To fully appreciate the match it is important to understand the history of it. Yes, the match is enjoyable either way, but in the same way that Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is funnier if you have seen the other Kevin Smith movies, this match is better if you understand why Misawa and Mutoh facing off was such a big deal. Course, by 2004 one was the leader of NOAH and the other of All Japan, and both had held their promotion's big belt in 2003.

So the match was about Misawa and Mutoh, but Kea got a good rub from Misawa as well. Veteran wrestlers are criticized a lot at times for not "giving back" to the new generation or not respecting other veterans, but here Mutoh and Misawa sold like kings. Look at Misawa... he actually let Kea win a strike battle, he took a Surfing Suplex right on his head along with being saved from getting pinned after a Hawaiian Smasher, and had Kea kick out of an Emerald Frosion. Mutoh gave Ogawa enough respect to give him a moonsault, a move he rarely breaks out these days unless he thinks it is really necessary. Also, Misawa and Mutoh sold for each other well, respecting each others big moves. Mutoh and Misawa stealing each others moves was great, and Mutoh hit the Emerald Frosion better then Misawa usually hits it (helps that Ogawa weighs about a buck '0 five). So from a historical context and when considering the wrestlers did what was "right" to do, the match was very well done.

Now to the match itself, while I would define it as "very fun" with the Mutoh/Misawa confrontations and the crowd's reactions to them, the action in the match was disjointed and sporadic at times. You could tell these guys had not wrestled against each other... ever... since they did the planned spots very well and the chain wrestling decently but the transitions were pretty rough around the edges. Also, if wrestlers were placed on a five tier system with Mutoh and Misawa being a 5, Ogawa would be a 3 at best and he seemed a little out of place in this match. The Ogawa/Kea sections were real slow and it became apparent that they were just killing time until we were given another Misawa/Mutoh face off. Kea is known for rising to the occasion when he needs to (such as against Tenryu in July 2002), but Ogawa is just pretty much Ogawa regardless of the situation. The match would probably only be considered fair at best if it was rated based purely on the "workrate," but there was so much more to this match that made it fun and worth watching. Score: 7.0

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