Metropolis Magazine
Issue #805 - Friday, Aug 28th, 2009
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Photo of the Week
The Small Print
Star Struck
"Page 2 "
The Goods
Body & Soul
Tech Know
Cars & Bikes
Global Village
The Last Word
The Negi
+ Best of Tokyo
Haikyo Corner
Out & About
Japan Beat
Live Report
Pop Life
2008 Flashback
Stage & Dance
Metropolis League
Theater Maps
Restaurant Review
Bar Review
International Dining
Local Flavors
Table Talk
About Us
Distribution Points
Sponsored Links
Past Issues
804: Drama Scene
803: Heads, Tails & Snake Eyes
801: A Legacy of Emotion
800: Through the Monocle
799: Fighting spirit
798: Taking the Stares
796: Friends Don't Let Friends Become Salarymen
795: Fuzzy Democracy
794: Hung Jury
792: Highway to Hell
791: The Cartography of Cyberspace
790: Train Talk
789: A Confessions of a Teenager in Kimono
787: A Downloaded Question
786: Counterculture Shock
785: The Good Sensei
783: Me, Charisma Woman?
782: Stumbling Block
781: Paradise Lost
779: Half and Half
778: Road Rage
777: Dumb Luck
775: The M-List
774: Compatriotic Spirit
773: The Naked Truth
770-71: It Ain't Easy Being Green
769: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas in Japan
768: Japanese Lessons
766: Bad Credit
765: Chew on this
764: Red faced
763: Down and Out in Tokyo
761: Kicking the bucket
760: Thumbing It
759: Fixing the System
757: Smoke rings
756: Stalking the Predators
755: Banding Together
753: No Competition
752: Sex and This City
751: Let's Shogi
750: The Yasukuni Follies
748: Loud and Clear
747: I'll be back
746: Raiders of the lost SMAP
744: Magical Mystery Tour
743: Murder in Lotus Land
742: Stereotypes 'R' Us
740: The Mother of all Mothers
739: Crimes of Fashion
738: The Hafu Dad Brigade
737: The Green Team
736: Fight Club
735: The Paper Chase
734: The Wind-Up Writer Chronicle
733: Food For Thought?
732: Home and Away
731: The 2008 Nazi Olympics
730: The Two-Wheel Revolution
729: Gimme a Break
728: Power Play
727: Dying for a doctor
726: Footloose Revisited
725: Little Fish, Bigger Pond
724: Japan's Peace Monster
723: Language Abuse
722: Scumbusters "R" Us
721: First Action Hiro
720: The Return of Asashoryu
718-719: A Time to Give
717: My Homelessness Dilemma
716: The 30 Percent Solution
715: Past Imperfect
714: Killing the Kimono
713: The trouble with Tibbets
712: Surfing the Shinto-net
711: Falling Stars
710: Macho Man
709: Bad Impressions
708: Bloodsport
707: Our Last Word
706: Anonymocracy
705: The Air Up There
704: Read the Signs
703: The sky should not be the limit
702: My Year Zero Proposal
701: The Joys of Freeganism
700: Prada for the People
699: The Parasite Country
698: Washed up in Tokyo
697: Birthing's Not for Babies
696: On the Handlebars of a Dilemma
695: My So-Called Poverty
694: Get Out the Vote
693: The Ishihara Mystery
691: Let it Flow
690: Caf Culture
689: Oyaji Fashionistas
688: The Democracy of the Dysfunctional
687: Polite Disregard
686: Venting on Climate Change
685: Silent No Longer
684: To protect and serve?
683: Save the Sanshin building!
682: In the Realm of the Pond God
681: The Open Society and Its Enemies
680: Five-Ring Circus
679: Topic of Cancer
678: Pet Peeves
677: Why I am Banned in Japan
676: A long way to the top
675: Euro-vision
674: Child's play
673: Why I did it
672: I Love Japan
671: Running Crazy
670: Planet Apology
669: A peek behind the curtain
668: Opening Up
666: Pitching a fit
665: All wrapped up
664: Yule Rules
663: Field of Dreams
662: Save Lives, not Face
661: Why Do I Buy a Ticket?
660: Dying for a Nap
659: We, the jury
658: Grain of truth
657: Remembering The Maverick
656: A Rose by any Other Name
655: Heir today, gone tomorrow
654: Manhandled on the Metro
653: The bodyguards of the road
652: Separate but equal
651: Going for the gold
650: Being Audrey Hepburn
649: Not Sitting Pretty
648: Get Smart
647: Through foreign eyes
646: A failing grade in cute
644: Club Lands
643: Sayonara, Hide
642: The JET SET
641: What, me worry?
640: The Da Vinci Load
639: Making Waves
638: Final Cut
637: Resave the whales
636: Soccer Silliness
635: I, Smoker
634: The Ultimate Loss
633: Shoot the Messengers
632: The second sex
631: A Maverick Moves On
630: The curse of Baron Mitsui
629: Waiting for Heidi
628: Memoirs of a fake celebrant
627: Take it Outside
626: Wa? What wa?
625: A well-drawn life
624: St. Patrick the abducted
623: Bend over
622: The (Un)Late show
621: Oil spill
620: Ice Follies
619: Pride Goeth
618: Lost roles
617: Saying it with Cookies
616: Wrestling with foreigners
614-615: Blank Pages
613: Fretting Over Freeters
612: Farewell, Sensei
611: Sympathy for the wild ones
610: Back in Black
609: Out of many, one
608: Youth culture
607: The Russians are coming!
606: Meddle Detector
605: Tokyo, Mon amour
604: The Wailing Wall
603: Getting Abreast of Cancer
602: Willing Ally
601: New war,same story
600: The Big Chill
599: The Gray Zone
598: Jail break
597: Extremely Lost in Translation
596: Wounded Despot
595: History Lessons
594: Valhalla of the Imperial Army
592: Culture crash
591: Complaints Department
590: What lies beneath
589: Strange Games
588: Junk Science
587: The day the invaders came
586: The Test that Drove Me Crazy
585: Smile and say “lesbian”
584: Keep Article 9
583: The Great Divide
582: An ad for all seasons
581: Killing the Golden Goose
580: The other half
579: Give me back my bye-bye
578: Araki in Focus
577: Head out on the Highway
576: The hate that won't go away
575: Here's the beef
574: Yukking it up
573: Squatter’s rights and wrongs
572: The Trouble with Yokoso
571: Fire from the sky
570: Invasion of the gairaigo
569: Good company
568: Find Out What it Means To Me
567: Field of schemes
566: In the Name of Justice
565: Winner or Loser?
564: Staying Foreign
563: The Scare after Tomorrow
561-562: The Spirit of Things
560: War for remembrance
559: Storm damage
558: The Meaning of Godzilla
557: Who’s left to listen?
556: Paying respects
555: Gender Trouble
554: Coming clean at last
553: Go our own way
552: Hits of yesteryear
551: Heir apparel
550: Personal Reflections
549: Nuclear Reactions
548: Article of faith
547: Martyrs for the firm
546: A different anniversary
545: We, the jury
544: Wrongs & rights
543: Moore or less
542: Fair games
541: Developmentally challenged

By Fintan Monaghan

A Legacy of Emotion
Why do people care so much about the death of pro wrestler Mitsuharu Misawa?

Fintan Monaghan is a legal intern in a charity organization

A somber shadow hung over the normally raucous fans of Pro Wrestling Noah at the big Tokyo show on June 22. Instead of heading straight for the merchandise tables and refreshment stands, we lined up to pay our respects to a legend of Japanese puroresu.

Mitsuharu Misawa had died in a wrestling ring in Hiroshima nine days earlier. A routine suplex maneuver caused a freak spinal injury to the 46-year-old who, according to colleagues, had been considering retirement within the year.

Before entering the auditorium, we passed a framed photograph of Misawa, a shrine to his memory. The table upon which it stood quickly filled with green and white flowers—his signature colors. Many fans were openly weeping.
I can see how this may be baffling to some. After all, wrestling is not a “real” sport and the matches are “fixed.” Why would a wrestler’s death attract so much attention from the Japanese media and cause such grief among the public?

Scott Finkelstein

Yes, it’s true, the outcomes are indeed predetermined. Wrestling is more akin to performance art than a sport. Yet these performers must grapple with a very real opponent: their audience. The true skill of a pro wrestler is measured by his ability to engage the passions of the crowd. If onlookers are engaged—rooting for their favorite, willing him not to give up as he takes a beating, cheering in elation as he makes a comeback—this counts as success, regardless of who wins the match.
In this way, Misawa was a master storyteller, taking his audience on journeys filled with highs and lows. Announcer Jim Ross once said that the core of wrestling was selling emotion, and Misawa could do this better than anyone.

Starting his career as a masked wrestler, Misawa impressed many with his skills, yet it wasn’t until he removed the mask in 1990 that a star was truly born. Wrestling under his own name, he connected with fans thanks to the qualities he conveyed: an air of genuine toughness, a gritty determination never to give up. Spectators found it easy to care about Misawa and root for their hero.

I remember my first Misawa match, one of his classic series against archrival Kenta Kobashi. After fighting for 40 minutes, Misawa’s chest was red from Kobashi’s devastating backhand chops, and my disbelief was completely suspended as I willed the battered champion to continue. Misawa overcame the odds twice, not just beating Kobashi but winning me over in the process. I was new to puroresu, didn’t speak Japanese, and didn’t know who Misawa was, yet still I was completely engaged.
Misawa was not widely known to Western audiences, yet his skill at engaging the crowd, at telling stories, inspired many of today’s wrestling greats. “I don’t think I could have been a bigger fan of the guy,” said WWE world champ C.M. Punk upon hearing of Misawa’s passing. (Punk wrestled the next night with Misawa’s name written on his ring gear as a sign of respect.) WWE superstar Chris Jericho described him as “a true warrior, one of my all-time favorite performers.”

Misawa commanded even greater respect among his Japanese colleagues. After his mentor, All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) founder Giant Baba, died in 2000, Misawa became AJPW President. However, creative differences between him and Baba’s widow led the governing board to remove him. Shockingly, 90 percent of the wrestlers left AJPW with him. From this mass exodus emerged Pro Wrestling Noah, Misawa’s own company.

Through Noah, Misawa cultivated a new generation of stars. Younger performers and lightweights who did not get opportunities in AJPW found themselves in the Noah main event alongside seasoned veterans. This environment encouraged experimental and innovative styles, and has given Noah a reputation for cutting-edge wrestling.

People say that puroresu isn’t as popular as it used to be, but the public grief and mainstream coverage surrounding Misawa’s passing testify to an enduring affection for both the performer and his craft. Respected by his peers and adored by his fans, Misawa spent a career inspiring emotion. It is no surprise that his passing unleashed such passion.

Once we were seated in the hall, it was the wrestlers’ turn to pay their respects. Colleagues and friends marched solemnly to the ring carrying a photograph of Misawa. They gestured for a moment of silence. The wrestlers wore stony faces and sobs could be heard from the crowd. When the moment passed, Misawa’s picture was placed ringside, perhaps to symbolize that his spirit lives on in the company he created and the wrestlers he trained and inspired.

At the end of the show, fans had a final chance to remember Misawa. The ring was bathed in a green glow and his famous entrance music played. I found myself glancing toward the entry gate, wishing for him to appear. Green and white streamers filled the ring and the crowd chanted his name one last time.

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