Cruel Irony: Misawa’s Real Cause of Death Is ‘Better’ Storyline

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According to Japanese news reports, Mitsuharu Misawa died of a spinal injury in the ring Saturday in Hiroshima, Japan. The initial report was that it was a heart attack.

Observers say that the back suplex that Misawa took before lying motionless was unremarkable, not a “botched spot.” It’s not known whether he suffered the fatal injury from that particular move or from an accumulation of suplexes for which he “sold” over many years, ranging from textbook-perfect “worked” “bumps,” in which his weight was properly distributed over the traumatized body part, to moves that were awkwardly executed or botched. Of the thousands of suplexes Misawa took, no matter how skilled he and his opponents were in the art of pro wrestling, some inevitably were botched.

Now here’s the cruelly ironic and painful truth about this industry: The explanation that Misawa died from punishment inside the ring is actually a better one, for business purposes, than the idea that he suffered a coronary. That makes the suplexes “real,” not “fake.” If Misawa’s company, Pro Wrestling NOAH, wished to push the envelope of bad taste, it could hang a “legend killer” tag on the wrestler who delivered his final back suplex. (When Chris Benoit inadvertently broke Sabu’s neck in a match, the incident was subtly exploited for Benoit’s credibility as a “crippler.”)

It makes one wonder why NOAH even helped circulate the incorrect and even less convenient story about Misawa’s heart. Perhaps no one actively fomented that rumor, which took on a life of its own. Perhaps people understandably weren’t thinking clearly in the ringside chaos of this horrible incident. Or perhaps wrestling people just reflexively tell even inconvenient untruths, because they can’t stop themselves.

Irv Muchnick

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