Lying atop a mess of plastic kaiju toys and gacha balls, writhing in pain, her superhero cape curled around her face like a floppy cloth wing, Hyper Misao was helpless to stop her opponent Shoko Nakajima from climbing a ladder and pulling down a stuffed tiger hanging from the ceiling to score the win.
That all sounds made up, like something out of a wrestling Mad Lib, but I assure you it’s all real. In fact, that kind of nuttiness is the backbone of Misao’s career.
This bout, a New Year Tiger Child Rescue match from Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling’s January 4 show, was emblematic of who Misao is as a wrestler. Bizarre rules, slapstick comedy, wholesome vibes, with some nasty bumps mixed in. Check, check, check, check.
And coming away from this show, I couldn’t stop thinking about that dangling toy tiger, about Misao batting away gacha balls, about the stupid smile I wore through all of it.
Never mind that Miyu Yamashita and Mizuki tore down the house in a stellar championship match to end the night. It was Misao’s latest ridiculousness that I wanted to chat about with my friends.
What has happened to me? I’m the slugfest guy. I’m the president of the asskickers fan club. I love Tomohiro Ishii’s freight train offense, the cruel crack of Aja Kong’s backfist, Vader drowning a foe in the corner with forearms.
Yes, I know I’m the dude that once wrote that DDT is one of the worst wrestling promotions of all time because of its wacky comic antics.
But Misao has converted me. I am now a believer, a devotee of the preposterous. I’ve seen the light.
Her superhero getup, complete with Zorro-style mask and big, fat green M on her forehead, looks something you might put together last minute before a Halloween party. Misao greets the crowd before each match and through a cheesy grin says, “Hello big children! This is Hyper Misao, protecting love and peace in Tokyo Joshi!”
At first glance it all comes off as some parody of wrestling, a gimmick you might have spotted on GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) back in the ‘80s.
My first instinct was to skip everything she appeared in. What was this two-bit superhero stuff going to do for me? If I’m going to venture into TJPW territory, let me get to the right to the headhunting Miyu Yamashita or Rika Tatsumi putting people in the Dragon Sleeper.
But eventually, my curiosity drove me to see what the hell a Jun Kasai vs. Hyper Misao would look like.
Kasai, he of the horrific back scars, is a deathmatch specialist whose matches feature as much broken glass as they do broken holds. The man known as Crazy Monkey stabs people in the head with bamboo skewers. His territory is that of rings on fire, barbed wire tearing at skin, bloodshed, and the jagged edges of light tubes. Where did a happy-go-lucky caped crusader fit into all that?
Within minutes of watching Kasai vs. Misao from TJPW’s Yes! Wonderland-Break Myself! show in 2018, I found myself hooked.
The stipulation itself made me crack up. To win, you first had to eat an entire bag of chocolate cream puffs. If you pinned your opponent before gobbling up the whole bag, the ref wouldn’t count. No cream puff, no victory.
The action begins with two wrestlers hurriedly eating snacks. Then Misao darts to the other side of the ring and steals Kasai’s drinking water, so it’ll be tougher for him to down the puffs sans beverage.
I would learn over time that this sort of craftiness and do-any-damned-thing-to-win approach is a Misao hallmark. She may be a self-proclaimed protector of love and peace, but she will cheat every single time, no regrets.
In this match, she soon found herself brawling with Kasai backstage. Misao then came pedaling out from around a corner on a bicycle dressed up with green Christmas lights and cardboard wings. When she missed her target and instead slammed into a stack of steel chairs, Misao sold the crash as if she’d shattered her wrist.
That most memeable moment gave way to fighting in the stands, to leaps off high places, to Kasai ducking out of the way of Misao spinning a ladder round and round.
The match’s oddness stuck with me. But this was about more than spectacle and silliness, I could feel the emotional weight behind her efforts, even before I knew the backstory of the match.
In a blog post (translated by @ddtpro_eng, Misao wrote that after college she was jobless, without passion, spending the bulk of her day in her room. She lived off a single bag of chocolate cream puffs, in part because of the high calorie content, in part because eating them required little chewing.
It was a chance viewing of a DDT match (featuring Jun Kasai!) held in the streets of Tokyo, that led to Misao falling in love with wrestling and later training with TJPW.
This match with Kasai in 2018 was her shot to face her inspiration, to gain respect from her hero. What a powerful and poetic full circle moment.
Suddenly, I understood why she was so choked up before all the cream puff-eating and vehicular destruction. This stupid and insane sport saved Misao. And here she was offering solace by way of comedy match to anyone in need of escape.
Over time, I dug into Misao’s catalog of gimmicky matches. She fought Yuka Sakazaki in a bout where you could win with a one-count. She faced Saki Akai in a wacky Switching Random Rules match. She twice fought Shoko Nakajima in contests where the loser had to temporarily change their name.
Misao continues to give you things you have never seen before whether she is wrestling in a Christmas tree costume or sticking exorcism spells onto her opponent’s head with a stapler.
Gag by gag, I gained a deeper and deeper appreciation of her act. She’s funny. She’s charming. She’s a lovable goofball. And I’ve been missing out on all that.
I’d spent so much of my time at the wrestling circus watching the strongmen and tightrope walkers that I hadn’t given the clowns a chance.
At some point, I added Misao to the list of wrestlers who I seek out while match hunting. A Misao comedy bout automatically goes on the watchlist right alongside WALTER’s slobberknockers and anything involving Bryan Danielson.
Flash forward to late 2021 and there I was stretched out on the couch with my dog nestled under my arm, watching Misao face Yuki Kamifuku in a match where you could either win by wrestling or by answering quiz questions.
Kamifuku tried to pull a Misao and make things mighty unfair by making the questions all about her own life. The foes sprayed each other’s eyes with cold spray and alcohol. ChocoPro’s Baliyan Akki screamed on commentary, “Ohhhh! The madness! The madness! The madness!” he screamed.
Misao showed classic babyface heart throughout, kicking out, persevering through pain.
This was not a good match in the traditional sense. I wouldn’t bother assigning in a star rating. That wouldn’t do it justice. But I had fun from the opening bell, I’ll remember the highlights for a long time, and man, did I enjoy its originality and foolishness.
The transformation was complete. I was a bonafide Misao fan. Appreciator of the art of asininity.
As simple and obvious as it sounds, I fully understood that wrestling can’t just be one style. If every match is an epic, the show starts to feel samey. If every feud is a blood feud, they all lose their power. Between all the slugfest and aerial showcases, you need levity.
Misao brings that by the bucketful.
She is a reminder that the wrestling medium is not definable. It’s not Shakespeare in spandex or a soap opera for men as you so often hear. As former AEW world champ Jon Moxley wrote in his autobiography, Mox, “Wrestling can be ANYTHING. It’s everything.”
Spraying someone in the face with a gag Christmas gift is wrestling. Slamming your opponent onto Legos spread out over the canvas is wrestling. Running a man over with a bicycle is wrestling. Fighting a winged mummy is wrestling.
I didn’t believe those statements a few years ago as I scoffed at the concept of Yoshihiko. I paid no attention to DDT, to Chikara, to Kenny Omega wrestling a nine-year-old girl. But I’m not the same fan having gone to Misao U.
Misao helped guide me into the oddest corner of the wrestling landscape, to see the full spectrum of what this unique art can be. Of course I will always appreciate the savagery of Takashi Sugiura, the athletic marvels that PAC can pull off, Mayu Iwatani’s emotional in-ring storytelling, but my boots are all laced up and I’m ready to follow Misao in an ongoing exploration of the absurd.