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Retro Review: Stan Hansen vs. Mitsuharu Misawa

I periodically use these retro reviews to spotlight workers who I am not overly familiar with. Despite their reputations and achievements, I haven’t come across these matches during my viewings. Today’s entry features a legend in Japanese wrestling taking on one of the best American big men.

NOTE: Craig William has done an analysis earlier this year of this match. Some stats will differ as we have variations in our methods and we may not have noticed things that the other one did. You can check out his review here:

Mitsuharu Misawa has been featured before when I featured a match of his from 2003. I was sad to learn of his tragic passing, so I wanted to feature a match from earlier in his career. Stan Hansen created a very successful career for himself, and no greater success than his time in Japan. It was during this time that the two would find themselves in a match for the vacant Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship for All Japan Pro Wrestling in 1990.

Before the opening bell rings Stan Hansen makes his way to the ring and outside of the Ultimate Warrior, I don’t think I’ve seen an entrance with more genuine energy. He rushes through the crowd like a bull while swinging his bull rope dangerously close to the spectators. Like the best big men wrestlers, he creates an immediate sense of menace. Fans can immediately believe that he is the favorite going into the match.

As soon as the bell rings Misawa is on the attack and his ferocity really tells the story that Hansen is a threat. Weapon attacks appear to be legal as Misawa quickly grabs Hansen’s own bull rope to use against him. He then goes to chair attacks against the big man. Misawa employs more fouls that I was expecting as he will lock in submissions while the ref pleads for the hold to break. Again, this is all to convey what a monster Hansen is.

The main story of the match is Misawa focusing on Hansen’s arm in an effort to remove the threat of Hansen’s Lariat finisher. At one point Misawa has Hansen’s arm locked in a leg vice and Misawa strikes his own thigh in an effort to hurt Hansen’s arm (I don’t think this would be terribly effective but it’s an interesting spot). The threat of the Lariat is known to the crowd. When Hansen raises his arm to signal the move, the crowd responds to it. I may not have noticed this as a taunt, but the crowd’s response definitely confirmed it.

After lots of hard-hitting action, and despite Misawa’s best efforts, Hansen is able to hit his Lariat and get the pinfall victory. Surprisingly there is no post-match title celebration. Hansen grabs his rope and does his bull rush out through the crowd, whipping all the way.

Points: Strike = 1, Weapon Attack =2, Strikedown = 3, Grapple = 4, Dive = 5, Submission = 1/5seconds, Finisher = 10

Despite Misawa’s hot start, Hansen’s offense during the match was slow and steady. The chart lines clearly show how Misawa slowed down to the point where Hansen overtook him and got the win. This would be Hansen’s second reign with Triple Crown Championship. He would go on to have four reigns with the title. Misawa would hold the same belt five times, even winning the belt off of Hansen in 1997.

Hansen’s greatest career moments were in Japan. He wrestled for New Japan, and All Japan. Over in the states he had runs with both the WWF and WCW but he never reached the heights of fame that he achieved in Japan. There are many things that contribute to this but I think the character of the American Cowboy carries a different aura in Japan then is does in the U.S. It also helps that Hansen played the part so well. Sure he wore the hat and had a mouth full of chew spilling out during promos, but Hansen was a real life Texas boy. The best gimmicks can be a worker’s true self turned up to 11 and I think this was the case with Hansen.

Hansen during his time in WCW. It’s too bad that “Real American” was already taken for entrance music.


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