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Pro wrestler Mitsuharu Misawa dies in ring after blow to head

The scene in the ring following the collapse of Mitsuharu Misawa at Hiroshima Green Arena on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of a spectator)
The scene in the ring following the collapse of Mitsuharu Misawa at Hiroshima Green Arena on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of a spectator)

HIROSHIMA -- Wrestling legend Mitsuharu Misawa died on Saturday night after suffering spinal damage during a match in Hiroshima. He was 46.

Misawa was fighting in a tag team match at Hiroshima Green Arena in front of around 2,300 spectators. During the match, opponent Akitoshi Saito used a back suplex on him, causing him to strike his head and leaving him unable to move. His heart stopped shortly after.

A doctor in the audience reportedly used an automated external defibrillator (AED) to try and start his heart again, but to no avail. He was rushed to hospital where he was declared dead at 10:10 p.m. It later turned out that the cause of his death was damage to his cervical spinal cord.

A 20-year-old spectator said: "He hit his head after the back suplex and was knocked unconscious. The EMTs were performing CPR for a long time. But even during the match Misawa kept shaking his head, and he looked to be in a bad way."

Misawa was a member of Ashikodai High School's wrestling club before making his professional debut in 1981 with All Japan Pro-Wrestling (AJPW). In 1984, he gained fame for the first time as Tiger Mask II, before taking off the mask six years later and fighting under his own name, standing alongside fellow legends Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta. He left AJPW in 2000 to form his own promotion unit, Pro Wrestling Noah.

The last death in a Japanese professional wrestling ring occurred in 2000, when New Japan Pro-Wrestling fighter Masakazu Fukuda died after striking his head. He was aged 27.

(Mainichi Japan) June 15, 2009

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