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Top 7 Great Muta Contributions To American Wrestling

January 15, 2023 | Posted by Steve Cook
AEW Rampage Great Muta Image Credit: AEW

Going back to the early days of Internet wrestling discussion, Japanese wrestling has been a big part of the landscape. The 1990s saw hero worship of All Japan’s Four Pillars & New Japan’s Junior Heavyweight Division. Various wrestlers would garner fan followings in the years afterward until New Japan really got over with Internet fans again in the mid 2010s. Most of you reading this column could probably make a list of fifty to a hundred favorite Japanese wrestlers.

Casual fans? Not so much. There are still folks out there that have never stayed up all night to watch a Wrestle Kingdom event. People that have never seen a Misawa vs. Kawada match. They saw Jushin “Thunder” Liger in WCW a few times. Hey, not everybody has the free time or the inclination to seek out every form of pro wrestling under the sun. It is what it is. If you ask most American wrestling fans around my age who their favorite Japanese wrestler is, one name would probably finish at the top of the list: The Great Muta.

Which isn’t a bad choice! Muta, or Keiji Muto as he’s known when he’s not painting his face, was a pretty damn impactful force on the American wrestling scene. He was responsible for introducing or popularizing a ton of moves and concepts to the US audience. Since his official retirement from wrestling is approaching, I thought now would be a decent time to look at some of the Great Muta’s best contributions to American wrestling.

7. The Dragon Screw Leg Whip

When you think of Dragons in Japanese wrestling, you think of Tatsumi Fujinami. He invented several moves that carry the Dragon name to this day. Muto used most of them at one point, but the Dragon Screw Leg Whip was the one he became associated with. He would take an opponent by the leg and twist them down in a way similar to an arm drag, but much more painful.

6. The Great Muta

Muto started using the Great Muta gimmick in 1989 in the NWA. Manager Gary Hart billed Muta as the son of the Great Kabuki, who Hart had managed in promotions across the United States years earlier. Muto had used a number of different gimmicks since going on excursion to America, but Great Muta was the one that stuck.

Once he returned to New Japan, Muto would typically wrestle as himself. However, for big matches where desperate times called for desperate measures, the Great Muta would emerge. To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time that somebody publicly wrestled as two different personas in the same promotion. Wrestlers would have different gimmicks in different territories. Sometimes Dusty Rhodes, Junkyard Dog or somebody would lose a match, have to leave the territory and come back under a mask. Heck, sometimes guys would wrestle under different masks due to lack of available talent. As far as I can recall, Muto was the first wrestler to assume a different persona at various times that everybody knew about, and the promotion was ok with it. Finn Balor was obviously inspired by Muto/Muta with his Demon persona, and we’ve seen Chris Jericho morph into the Painmaker & Lion Heart in recent years.

5. The Muta Lock

Muto’s long time tag team partner/rival Masahiro Chono innovated the use of the STF, the stepover toehold facelock. Of course, Muto would have to come up with a variation on the hold. Instead of stepping over, Muta would lock his opponent’s toes in a way where he could bend backwards in a bridge and apply a facelock to his opponent. 

The Muta Lock was beloved by all as one of the better looking submission holds. Anybody flexible enough to do the move has incorporated it into their arsenal at some point. Personally, I’m a fan of Penelope Ford’s version of the hold. 

4. The Muta Scale

Muta had a match with Hiroshi Hase in 1992 that had severe consequences. Muta was busted open, and produced a display of blood that fans and tape traders at the time weren’t accustomed to. After this happened, blood in wrestling would be compared to Muta on that night.

I would suggest the standard has been broken on multiple occasions. However, the term “Muta scale” is so catchy that it would be a shame to change it.

3. The Shining Wizard

I loved the 2000s Indy wrestling scene. From Bryan Danielson to Christopher Daniels to Samoa Joe and a cast of thousands…the scene was never deeper in talent. One thing about it: you could tell the wrestlers were a bunch of tape-trading nerds. Everybody was using moves from Kobashi, Misawa, Kawada and all the other Japanese wrestling legends.

One Muto move you’d see nearly every single match? The Shining Wizard. Muto had started using it as a finisher when he went to All Japan, and all the Indy wrestlers had to do it too. I don’t know what Japanese wrestlers thought about US Indy guys using all their stuff out of context, but the fact most of these guys are still alive tells me nobody minded too much.

2. The Green Mist

We mentioned earlier how Great Muta was originally billed as the son of the Great Kabuki. Kabuki was the man that brought the Asian mist to pro wrestling, so it only made sense for Muta to utilize it as well. Muta brought the the mist to a larger stage, and inspired people like Tajiri, Asuka & Hornswoggle to use it later on. 

While green is the most popular color, there are other variations. Red apparently causes a burning effect, while black can blind a person. Blue mist apparently puts people to sleep, but I can’t say I’ve seen that one. 

1. The Moonsault

Who invented the moonsault? Chavo Guerrero’s usage of a backflip off the top rope in the Los Angeles territory is the oldest I’ve seen on record. Lanny Poffo brought the move to national prominence in the WWF. However, it was the Great Muta’s usage of the move in the NWA that put the move on the map. Muta was out there winning singles titles with the move while Poffo was in preliminary matches.

A generation of flippy guys would utilize the moonsault in their arsenals. Muta wasn’t the first person to come off the top rope, or even do a backflip off the top rope, but he certainly made it a thing.

Thanks for reading! Hit me up via [email protected] with any suggestions for future articles, or on the social media machine.

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The Great Muta, Steve Cook