The more I watch NOAH Misawa, the more I'm fascinated and it reminds me how great this man was both as a worker and actually as a booker too. Here he is, leading his new company toward new coasts in dream matches that could never happen because of Baba isolationist mentality, and most of all preparing the field for his men to get over on the big stage. So he gets Chono, who is still in heel mode here (as opposed to the following year when he will already have turned into more of a legend figure) and also much more active than in the Kobashi match in 2003. Yet, we're leading toward that match already, as Misawa, who barely loses anyway, won't be able to take Chono down and go to a 30 mn draw. Now that may seem a crazy thought, especially by 2002 in a Dome (ah, the days where NJ would still run several Dome shows a year), but it actually works really well because Misawa knows what the fuck he's doing, and Chono is game enough.
Sure, it's a slower paced match. Sure, there's a lot of repetition of spots, but it's because the match works that way : who is gonna put the other one down with his favourite weapon : the elbow / the kenta kicks ? They mix up other spots too : Chono going for a few submissions, and Misawa doing a really good job putting the STF (whom everybody knows won't get him, really); Misawa actually does an emerald frosion on the ramp (which allows Chono to not have to kick out out it right way, as Misawa is also selling a piledriver too by that point, so it takes quite some time before they get back in the ring). A super neat sequences comes after Chono uses the Russian Legswip, which was a Baba spot, so Misawa retaliates with the same spot followed by a neckbreaker drop (again, old Baba spot). Yeah, some fine reference work there, again as Misawa uses the manjigatame on Chono (he gets countered of course, since he's not as good as Chono at it, it's a Inoki hold after all). Plenty of neat little stuff like this, until the point where it comes down to Chono not being strong enough to sustain Misawa's elbows (who is ?), yet manage to work enough counters and muster enough will to work up a few kenta kicks of his own. At this point, it's a matter of him not sinking more than beating Misawa (come on now, Chono ain't gonna beat Misawa)? leading to an unexpected draw.
Another thing : Misawa didn't drop Chono on his head once inside the ring. That will be Kobashi's not-so -secret-weapon. So yeah, this was not an epic spectacle nor a magnificient action packed match, but it was just right, it told a fine story, Misawa did an excellent job making the most out of Chono's sometimes really light offense, it felt like two big stars finally colliding, there was the old AJ vs NJ feel to it. Really good, smart, compelling stuff. And it let the door open for Kobashi, the real Ace of NOAH (still to come) to beat Masa Chono. Misawa was such a great, great pro-wrestler, coupled with a selfless booker.