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Wrestling / Keiji Mutoh

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Mutoh as his usual self
Click here to see him as The Great Muta 

Keiji Mutoh (武藤 敬司, Mutō Keiji, born December 23, 1962), better known as for his long running gimmick, The Great Muta, is a Japanese professional wrestler who debuted in 1984. He is well known and regarded for his with New Japan Pro-Wrestling, All Japan Pro Wrestling, WCW, and many other promotions. From 2013 to 2020 he also led his own promotion, WRESTLE-1, which shared a working relationship with TNA.

Mutoh has had numerous successes both as himself and as his more famous Great Muta alter ego, and is known as a legend and instantly the person Western fans think of when they think about Japanese Puroresu (a close second being Jushin Thunder Liger). Hailed as the kayfabe son of The Great Kabuki, he quickly rose through and became one of the top stars through the 80s and 90s, still competing all the way into the 2020s. He is a multiple-time IWGP World Heavyweight and Tag Team Champion as well as former NWA Television, World Heavyweight and WCW Tag Champion, among numerous other titles and reigns. He was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame in 1999 and the WWE Hall of Fame in 2023.

Mutoh was also one of stars of a short-lived promotion named Fantasy Fight WRESTLE-1, which later led to the creation of Fighting Opera HUSTLE (where Mutoh also competed) and the name of his own company, WRESTLE-1.

Mutoh's career finally came to an end, twice, in 2023- first The Great Muta had his final match at a special retirement event on the 22nd of January called The Great Muta Final "Bye-Bye", then Keiji Mutoh himself seperately wrestled his own final matches at Keiji Muto Grand Final Pro-Wrestling "Last" Love on February 21st.

Tropes related to the Great Muta:

  • Arch-Enemy:
    • Jushin Thunder Liger was one of his greatest foes, which led to the creation of Kishin Liger.
    • Drawing from their difficult real life relationship, Nobuhiko Takada also tends to be a major antagonist whenever they share the ring.
  • Author Appeal: His "Puroresu Love" philosophy. Mutoh's preferences when booking wrestling are varied, but he likes a more gimmicky, American-ized approach to the business, as opposed to the stern puroresu style. He favors lucha libre, gimmicks, wrestlers from varied backgrounds, and Merchandise-Driven events like the APEMAN festivals and the AV tournament cups.
  • Badass Family: With Bono-chan and Yinling in Fighting Opera HUSTLE.
  • Blood Is the New Black: A NJPW match with fellow legend Hiroshi Hase. By the end, both wrestlers and the ring were covered in blood. Led to the creation of the "Muta Scale", by which a match is judged on how bloody it is, e.g. "0.5" if it had half as much.
  • Bookends: His first match was against Masahiro Chono. 39 years later, he faced Chono in an impromptu match that would be the last of both men's career.
  • Captain Ersatz: The Great Muta types have been in Fire Pro Wrestling since 1991.
  • Catchphrase: "Puroresu Love"
  • Cool Old Guy: Flies overseas to support his Wrestle-1 employees even in while they work for foreign companies.
  • Cool Mask: In his original Great Muta gimmick, he often wore elaborate robes with hoods or masks to the ring, ESPECIALLY in Japan.
  • Expy: Of the Great Kabuki in faint paint and "poison fog". Outside of looks, Yoshihiro Tajiri is more like him, being a sort of bridge between the two, as Muta is different enough from Kabuki to inspire even more expies than Kabuki. He took a liking Tajiri and the two became tag team partners.
  • Face–Heel Turn: In 1997 Muta returned to WCW brought in by Sonny Onoo to get revenge on Masahiro Chono, but instead during the match he attacks Onoo and accepts Chono's shirt offer joining nWo Japan.
  • Facial Markings: Wore face paint with markings and symbols on them.
  • Finishing Move: The Moonsault and the Shining Wizard. In his first WCW run he also used a shoulder claw submission on occasion.
  • Foreign Wrestling Heel: His initial Muta run.
  • Guile Hero: During his first days in NJPW, Mutoh was doing well in training, but he was still struggling so much that he confessed to the main trainer Kotetsu Yamamoto his intentions to abandon. Yamamoto, not wanting to lose such a talented worker, relented a bit with him. Masahiro Chono has went to say Mutoh didn't want really to go and knew perfectly how would Yamamoto react.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The Great Muta's last resort to defeat the mighty Esperanza was dragging him along himself to Hell. Fortunately, Muta's dark powers allowed him to escape the Hell and return to All Japan after some years.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: During a match with Jushin Thunder Liger, Muta ripped off part of Liger's outfit and his mask, only to have Liger to reveal that his face was covered with face paint similar to Muta's and then spray Muta's eyes with Green Mist.
  • How Much More Can He Take?: There's a reason The Muta Scale is named after him after his legendary brutal match with Hiroshi Hase. Not for the faint of heart.
  • I Have Many Names: Keiji Mutoh, White Ninja, Super Black Ninja, Space Lone Wolf and of course, The Great Muta.
  • I Know Karate: A judo champion and black belt, what was the reason he was contacted and brought to NJPW, although it gets subverted in that it was never really part of his character except by a couple moves here and there. However, this was also part of the reason he ended leaving the company years after, as Antonio Inoki was avid to send legit wrestlers like him to fight in Mixed Martial Arts, and Muto was Genre Savvy enough to exit New Japan before being packed to face some PRIDE mainstay and get wrecked in the process.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Muta in his prime was not only fast and quick but he was also strong as well.
  • Maniac Tongue: And sticking it out after staining his mouth with mist just enhance the effect.
  • Mask Power: Started to wear a mask instead of his face paint after he shaved his head when he adopted his Muta persona.
  • Merchandise-Driven: His "Puroresu Love" direction for All Japan Pro Wrestling was based on getting merchandise deals, which ended up lifting the promotion out of its financial hole even though it still remained behind New Japan and NOAH.
  • Mighty Glacier: It's been argued that he's less mobile than the Great Khali (!) in his later career, yet its still universally agreed he's a better a wrestler.
  • Mini Mook: The Great Little Muta in All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling. It's a long story.
  • Opposing Combat Philosophies: He dislikes shoot-style, seeing it as "little more than judo", which made his feud with Nobuhiko Takada quite filled with Reality Subtext. It probably comes from his disdain for Mixed Martial Arts, which he sees as an annoying competitor to professional wrestling.
  • Papa Wolf: The Great Muta. He faced The Esperanza single-handedly in order to save his son in HUSTLE.
  • Power Stable
    • In the late 80s, in the J-Tex Corporation with Gary Hart, Buzz Sawyer, The Dragonmaster
    • An official member of both the nWo proper in WCW, and in nWo Japan.
  • A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: He sees Sanada's Face–Heel Turn as this during the latter's run in TNA.
  • Parody: The Great Nita(FMW), The Great Ruta (TARU in Toryumon Japan and All Japan), Lingerie Mutoh (Munenori Sawa in Zero 1) and more. He's had the chance to beat up many of his mockers at least.
  • Red Baron: Was introduced as The Pearl of The Orient during his time in WCW. While in NJPW, Mutoh was referred to as the Natural Born Master.
  • Ring Oldies: Wrestled his last match at the age of 60.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After resigning in shame from All Japan, Speed Partners president Nobuo Shiraishi fired Mutoh's friend and All Japan President Masayuki Uchida, making himself president in his place. Shiraishi proceeded to nearly run All Japan into the ground and alienate it from the rest of the puroresu community by badmouthing the other major promotions as he did so, leading Muta to try and buy back his shares in the company. His offers were refused in favor of Shiraishi preparing for bankruptcy, which lead to Andy Wu, Seiya Sanada, Ryota Hama, Kai, Kaz Hayashi, Masayuki Kono, Masakatsu Funaki, Minoru Takada, Hiroshi Yamato, Koji Kanemoto, and Yasufumi Nakanoue all publicly resigning and swearing loyalty to Keiji Mutoh, who saw to it they would have another place to work.
  • Signature Move: A reverse Indian death lock bridging chin lock combination known as the Muta Lock. In the early 2000s, it was pretty much a go to finishing submission.
  • Spikes of Villainy: A red mask that hides little of his face adorned in spikes.
  • Start My Own: Formed his own promotion, Wrestle-1, after leaving All Japan and taking many wrestlers with him when he did.
  • Still Got It: In 2001 many believed that Muta's career was over as all the years were taking a toll on him. But he disagreed, eliminating his high flying offense which had put such a strain on his knees, Muta then switched to a more technical and submission style of wrestling and made The Shining Wizard (A running leaping knee to a kneeled opponent's head) his finisher and was voted as 2001's Wrestler Of The Year.
  • Super Spit
    • For those who wonder where the term Asian Mist comes from, look up videos of him as The Great Muta. It was originally known as the poison fog when introduced to professional wrestling by the Great Kabuki, which is why in the USA the kayfabe Wrestling Family for two men who otherwise wrestled completely different styles was used. The Great Muta's infamous Green Mist is his most well known and feared technique he possesses as you never know when he can hit you with it and it leaves the recipient blind.
    • And he's not above spitting out different colors and variations either, sometimes it's red, yellow, or (rarely) black.
  • The Rival: Numerous rivals over his career; Sting and Masahiro Chono are probably the two best examples. TNA did a send up to the Sting rivalry with Mr. Anderson as Sting and Eric Young as Muta. Despite mocking Young as "The not so great Muta" Eric still won.
  • The Stoic: Which did not translate into good parenting skills towards Monster Bono.
  • Too Many Belts: He's won enough title belts to wear them as a suit of armor.
  • Tweener: He was loved by the women who attended WCW events but it was insisted by management that he and the other "Asians" stay heels.
  • Unholy Matrimony: In Fighting Opera HUSTLE (where else) when his mist got on the crotch of Yinling The Erotic Terrorist and lead to her pregnancy. The two would then have to raise Monster Bono.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: In real life with Nobuhiko Takada. They settled their differences in Inoki Bom-Ba-ye 2000.
  • Worthy Opponent
    • Sting and Muta's rivalry starting in WCW has lead them both to growing to respect one another, leading to them teaming up on occasion. When they met again in All Elite Wrestling ahead of Keiji Mutoh's upcoming retirement they greeted each other like old friends (with Muta saving Sting from the House of Black), and Sting and his protege Darby Allin would side with Muta for his final match at The Great Muta Final "Bye-Bye".
    • Same with Chono, the two having teamed up to win The IWGP Tag Belts as well.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Was not above striking or misting a female if he had too, Missy Hyatt was twice sprayed by Muta in the face by his Mist.

Alternative Title(s): Keiji Muto, The Great Muta