The Rising Sun

TRS: Mitsuharu Misawa vs Jumbo Tsuruta

The following question was asked on the forum:

I have a question about the Mitsuharu Misawa vs Jumbo Tsuruta match on June 8th, 1990. Basically does anyone know what the background was? Was there a storyline in place, was there defined roles, ie was Misawa the heel and Jumbo the face? Was it more like a newer force (Misawa) was being put over by a veteran (Jumbo)?

The background is like this…
Back in the 1970’s through to the mid 1980’s all of the feuds where basically Native v Gaijan so you had Baba v The Destroyer, Jumbo v Brody etc, etc.
All Japan was also part of the NWA which meant it had licensed titles (two of which would go on to make the Triple Crown) as well as the visits of the actual NWA World Champion of the time, which in this era meant the likes of Harley Race and Ric Flair.
Matches where fought under best of three fall finishes and would often finish in 1-1 all draws with most of the falls coming by countout and the final fall by double count out so as to keep unbeaten runs and therefore reputations strong.
This all changed when Choshu and his group ‘invaded’ from NJPW in late 1983-84 and provided the first real native v native feud and it made big business, however there were still non-finishes. This would start to change from 1988 onwards due to the Shoot-Style boom that came about when the UWF started.
Baba became convinced he needed to form a central title (as well as central tag belts) and so set about bringing them together with a title v titles match between Jumbo and Hansen in 1988 which lead to the shock of everyone a clean finish and the first Triple Crown champion in Jumbo.
Jumbo’s partner at this time was Tenryu and Baba had him turn on Jumbo and defeat him using the hottest move at the time – the Powerbomb – to win the 3-Crown.
Jumbo’s stable of talent (which included Tiger Mask II) then feud with Tenryu’s stable of talent (which included the very young Ogawa and Kawada) until in 1990 Tenryu found outside backing to break off and form his own promotion based around ‘sports entertainment’ called SWS – a move that created a vacuum at the top of the card when it came to native wrestlers which Baba needed to fill.
To this end he started to pair up the once feuding pair of Kawada and Tiger Mask II and during a tag team match Mask motioned to Kawada to remove his mask revealing underneath Misawa who then told the world he was through hiding behind the mask and that he, under his name would go to the top and that the only way to do it was to aim high, leading to him challenging Jumbo to a match.
Jumbo from this point was a ring veteran, having been wrestling since the mid-70’s and a top liner since the 1980’s off the back of the Choshu feud. As the youngsters (Misawa, Kawada and Kobashi) started to band together it made him more aggressive, grumpy and it seemed that he wanted to make then prove they were good enough for what they wanted.
Whilst it was not ‘full’ heel it still gave Misawa even more sympathy with the crowd and the crowd where white hot for him as Jumbo, who was bigger and stronger, roughed him up and Misawa made spirited comebacks with flasher, faster paced offense.
This carried on in six man and tag matches up until the fateful night in June 1990 when Misawa and Jumbo met one on one and Misawa scored the huge upset win that proved he should be at the top and launched his career onto the path which would lead to his first Triple Crown win, two years later.
Robert Heard