is a Japanese professional wrestler
who first gained international fame in the National Wrestling Alliance
. He is mostly known for his work as The Great Muta
in New Japan Pro Wrestling
during the 1990s, but he has also competed in America, Puerto Rico
, and Taiwan
. He is the current President of All Japan Pro Wrestling
, as well as being a full-time wrestler for the promotion since 2002. Mutoh is widely regarded as one of the greatest Japanese wrestlers of all-time, both in Japan and America. He is currently the reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion
and AJPW Triple Crown Champion
, only the second wrestler in history to hold both titles at once, the other being Satoshi Kojima
Mutoh is credited as one of the first Japanese wrestlers to achieve a fan base outside of his native Japan in the United States. The Great Muta is one of the most influential gimmicks in Puroresu, having been emulated by many wrestlers including Satoshi Kojima (The Great Koji), Kazushi Miyamoto (The Great Kazushi) and Atsushi Onita (The Great Nita). In addition, countless independent wrestlers have paid tribute to Muta through emulation and imitation.
Mutoh is one of two (the other being Shinya Hashimoto) wrestlers to hold the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, the AJPW Triple Crown Championship and the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. He is also (in)famous for taking part in what is generally considered to be the bloodiest match of all time against Hiroshi Hase, leading to the creation of the "Muta Scale.
Mutoh was an amateur wrestler
and competed in numerous Judo
competitions prior to being trained by Hiro Matsuda
in the New Japan Pro Wrestling
Academy. He debuted on October 5
against Masahiro Chono
. Mutoh's initial NJPW run was largely uneventful, the only noteworthy event being a six day IWGP Tag Team Championship
reign with Shiro Koshinaka
. He also wrestled for a short time under the moniker "Space Lone Wolf", a space-age type character that was briefly revived in 2005 by NOSAWA Rongai
. In the mid-1980s, like most Young Lions, Mutoh was sent on a learning excursion to North America for seasoning. He wrestled briefly in WCCW under his ring name at the time The Super Ninja, and had a very short lived feud with Kevin Von Erich
before departing the organization. But after runs in Puerto Rico and Florida
, Mutoh's "Great Muta" personality and ring skills earned him a high billing in the National Wrestling Alliance
. Once arriving in the NWA in his first appearance on television, Gary Hart
who was his manager at the time claimed he was the son of legendary Japanese pro wrestler The Great Kabuki in interview, who coincidentally Gary Hart also managed years earlier. During his time period in the NWA, Muta would feud with stars like, Lex Luger
, Ric Flair
, and especially Sting
, eventually capturing the NWA World Television Championship
in 1989 in a match against Sting. Mutoh's matches with Sting were some of the best of that era, they are still renowned for their athleticism and fast pace for the time. He eventually lost the championship to Arn Anderson
, and returned to action in Japan part-time in 1990, going between his real name and his Muta gimmick as he pleased. Mutoh quickly rose in rank in 1990, establishing his long-time friendship and rivalry with Chono and winning his second IWGP Tag Team title alongside him. He eventually lost it to another long-time rival in his Great Muta gimmick, Hiroshi Hase
, and his partner Kensuke Sasaki
New Japan Pro Wrestling
In 1991, Mutoh and Chono, along with Shinya Hashimoto
, cemented their status as the next generation of New Japan, after the finals of the first G-1 Climax
tournament. In a thirty-minutes match, Mutoh was bested by Chono and, together with Hashimoto, the three celebrated in the ring, then afterwards they were labeled the Three Musketeers
of New Japan Pro Wrestling. 1992 saw Chono repeat his success in the G-1 Climax (winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship
in the process); just four days later, Mutoh, donning his Muta persona, beat Japanese legend Riki Chōshū
for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship
, marking his first reign. On December 29, Muta faced Hiroshi Hase in a famous match where Hase used a foreign object
to beat at Muta's forehead, payback for their previous encounters. Muta bladed
and cut very deeply into his forehead. As a result of this, Muta bled profusely for the rest of the match, and to this day he still bears scars from where he sliced.
For a short time in 1993, after beating Chono in a title vs. title match, Mutoh held both the NWA and IWGP championships (being the only man ever to do so); the unification was short-lived, as Barry Windham beat him a month later. As IWGP champion, Mutoh had a variety of challengers in title matches and exhibitions, including Hulk Hogan, Sting, and his fellow members of the Three Musketeers, Chono and Hashimoto, before finally losing the title on September 20, 1993 to Hashimoto. Following this title loss and a match with Hogan against the Hellraisers (the team of Hawk Warrior and Kensuke Sasaki as Power Warrior), Mutoh returned to fighting primarily under his real name, reviving the Muta name for certain matches, such as a special match with Antonio Inoki during his retirement countdown. During this time, Mutoh created a team with Hiroshi Hase, working their way up the ranks against the likes of the Steiner Brothers to challenge Hawk Warrior and Power Warrior and capturing the IWGP Tag Team championship—his third tag title.
While having the Tag Team title around his waist was fine, Mutoh had further ambitions: beating the man who took his title, Shinya Hashimoto; by now the IWGP champion for nearly a year. Vacating his tag team championship to focus on his quest, his second title reign came on May 3, 1995—a year and two days after Hashimoto won the championship. Muto held the title throughout the rest of the year, leading New Japan in the opening battles of the feud with Nobuhiko Takada and the UWF-i army before losing his title to Takada on January 4, 1996. The latter half of 1996 had Mutoh pitted against Chono's Ookami Gundan—or Wolf Army, which eventually blossomed into a war with the Chono-led nWo Japan. In the process, Mutoh began teasing at a possible turn to the side of the nWo, proclaiming himself to be the true successor to Antonio Inoki's legacy, and "accidentally" attacking his own partners in the middle of a match. During this period, Mutoh underwent a long slump in big matches, losing not only to members of the nWo, but fellow New Japan wrestlers such as Hashimoto; and many times the turn was teased. Mutoh even going so far as to wear an nWo shirt and then proclaim days later that he refuses to join Chono's army. Mutoh further raised confusion by playing both sides of the feud; fighting as a member of New Japan under his real name, and using the Great Muta name as a member of nWo Japan, before turning to his Muta gimmick full-time for several months in 1997. The full turn came in September of 1997, when Mutoh, after teasing a turn on his nWo teammates, double-crossed Sasaki and Kazuo Yamazaki, sealing away the Muta name and formally joining nWo Japan as himself. Almost immediately following this, he and Chono dominated the tag team scene in NJPW, defeating Yamazaki and Sasaki for their second IWGP tag title reign as a duo, and spray-painting the plates of the belts black as a show of disrespect for the championship's legacy.
They eventually would be forced to vacate the title in May 1998, when Mutoh injured his knees, his years of using the moonsault press finally catching up to him. During this time, he took a hiatus from action, returning just before the 1998 G-1 Climax (from which he was eliminated by Genichiro Tenryu). Despite his return, Mutoh was plagued by this nagging injury, fighting through his pains throughout the rest of 1998 and much of 1999;even winning his third IWGP title from one of Chono's right-hand men, Scott Norton. Mutoh feuded with Chono for the name of the new World order, which evolved into a war between the nWo, led by Mutoh, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, and Satoshi Kojima and Chono's new Team 2000 unit, with himself, Don Frye, nWo Sting, and others from the old generation of the nWo. The war was lost by Mutoh by the beginning of 2000, brought about by his decisive loss to Chono on January 4. Mutoh took an extended hiatus to rehabilitate his damaged knees after that, focusing instead on one last run in America for World Championship Wrestling alongside Vampiro. However, due to bad booking and the decline of WCW in its last years, Mutoh could not recapture the previous popularity he had in the early 1990s.
Going back on hiatus, it seemed as if Mutoh reached a confusing crossroads in his career; however, he chose to completely change his image, shaving his head bald (he had a pronounced receding hairline throughout much of 2000), growing out a goatee, and aligning himself with a fellow NJPW wrestler who had gone overseas for an extended period of time, Shinjiro Otani. The two returned to New Japan on January 4, 2001, making short work of Manabu Nakanishi and Jyushin "Thunder" Lyger. In his first singles match after returning to New Japan on March 18, 2001, Mutoh debuted his new trademark move, the Shining Wizard. Since its creation, it has become an extremely popular move on both sides of the Pacific, used by Mutoh's allies, rivals, and fans of his work. Together with Don Frye, Otani and Mutoh created a new stable which later came to be known as BATT—Bad Ass Translate Trading. Added to their ranks were Taiyō Kea of All Japan Pro Wrestling and Jinsei Shinzaki of Michinoku Pro; later added was Hiroshi Hase, now a member of All Japan with Kea. 2001 proved to be Mutoh's year of renewal besides the formation of a new unit, as he
challenged, and defeated, Tenryu for All Japan's coveted Triple Crown. In addition, Mutoh captured more gold in the form of All Japan's Double Cup tag titles and IWGP Tag Team Championship in the summer and fall of 2001, both with Taiyō Kea—giving Mutoh a total of six belts at one time.
On April 27th, 2008 Mutoh beat Shinsuke Nakamura to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, this was his second appearance in 2008 for NJPW and hadn't held the title for eight years and four months prior to the win.
All Japan Pro Wrestling
On January 11
, following the end of a year long cross-promotional angle
with New Japan Pro Wrestling
, Keiji Mutoh
shocked the Japanese wrestling world by defecting to All-Japan as a full-time competitor, taking Satoshi Kojima
and Kendo Kashin
with him. At the Nippon Budokan on July 20
, Mutoh wrestled as three different characters on the card: Kokushi Muso defeating Kaz Hayashi
on the second match, himself in the mid-card, and in the second-last match, he defeated Kojima, under his "Great Koji" persona. On September 30
, during an All Japan 30th Anniversary party at the famed Tokyo City Hotel, Mrs. Baba officially announced Mutoh's appointment as the new president of All Japan, transferring all of the Baba family stock to him. Despite this position, however, Mutoh has not stopped wrestling full-time for All Japan, and lead his supporters in feuds with the Voodoo Murders
. On December 27, 2003, Mutoh made a return to the USA, wrestling for the Ring Of Honor
promotion as part of an interpromotional All-Japan vs. ROH
card, which hosted a series of "dream" matches. In the main event, Mutoh reverted to his Great Muta persona and teamed with Arashi
to defeat Prophecy
members Christopher Daniels
and Dan Maff
He made his European debut on January 12, 2007, wrestling for Real Quality Wrestling at the York Hall in Bethnal Green, London, England, where he defeated RQW Heavyweight Champion Martin Stone
in a non-title match. Mutoh recently won the Champion's Carnival 2007, competing in Block A and finishing with 6 points total; Mutoh defeated Toshiaki Kawada in the finals on March 30, 2007.
On September 29, 2008, wrestling as The Great Muta, he defeated Suwama to capture the AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship. He is only the second wrestler, after Satoshi Kojima, to hold the Triple Crown Championship and the IWGP Championship at the same time.
- Great Muta, which he has wrestled as fairly continuously throughout his career, switching back and forth between this character and his real name. Great Muta is a mysterious gimmick where he spits green or red mist and plays mind games to distract his opponents. Muta was originally billed as the son of Japanese wrestler Great Kabuki who used a similar gimmick. The two are not related in real life. Originally he wore face paint, which was later exchanged for a mask after he shaved his head. The Great Muta gimmick is the gimmick most fans of the United States know Mutoh for, as he wrestled as The Great Muta throughout the late '80s and early '90s for the NWA, and in his later stints in WCW with it.
- Kokushi-Muso, a gimmick used only for a few shows. It is a play off of Jinsei Shinzaki's monk character known as Hakushi. Hakushi means "White Angel" while "Kokushi" means "Black Angel".
- White Ninja, was used early in his career in New Japan Pro Wrestling and in Florida Championship Wrestling.
- Super Black Ninja, was used in World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas and also was used in the World Wrestling Council in Puerto Rico.
- Space Lone Wolf, was used briefly in New Japan and the UWF.
Mutoh has appeared in a vast number of media appearances in Japan, including commercials as well as being interviewed for Bloodstained Memoirs
, a wrestling documentary.
In 1995, Mutoh starred in the Japanese thriller Dragon Blue, as Detective Ryusaki, a suave detective, who joins forces with a beautiful young spiritualist (Hiroko Tanaka).
In 2004, he played the role of Harold Sakata in the movie Rikidozan, a film based on the real-life story of a wrestler who would eventually be known as the "Father of puroresu"; Harold Sakata took Rikidozan under his wing and introduced him into the world of professional wrestling.
- Finishing and signature moves
- *Shining Wizard – Innovated
- *Muta Lock – Innovated
- *Figure four leglock
- *Flashing Elbow (Twisting elbow drop) – Innovated
- *Space Rolling Elbow (Cartwheel into a back elbow to a cornered opponent, often followed by a one-handed bulldog)
- *Asian mist
- *Snap swinging neckbreaker, sometimes to a rope hung opponent
- *Triangle choke
- *Cradle piledriver
- *Dragon screw
- *Handspring back elbow
- *Rib breaker
- *Low–angle dropkick to an opponent's knees
- *Cross armbar
- Mutoh, as The Great Muta, regularly uses the illegal tactic of spitting Asian mist at opponent's eyes in order to blind them:
- *Green Mist – Muta's most common mist, which obscures the opponent's vision
- *Red Mist – This mist is purported to burn rather than blind
- *Black Mist – An even more powerful mist which is purported to severely blind an opponent for a prolonged period of time
- *Blue Mist – This mist is used to send an opponent to sleep
- *Yellow Mist – This mist is purported to paralyze the opponent
- *New Japan Pro Wrestling
- *Champion-Taka – Hong Kong Explosion
- *The Final Countdown (as Space Lone Wolf) – Europe
- *Hold Out – Osamu Suzuki
- *Muta (as The Great Muta; arrange of Hold Out) – Osamu Suzuki
- *Triumph – André Andersen
- *Great Muta Kyosokyoku (as The Great Muta; arrange of Triumph) – NJP Unit
- *nWo Triumph (arrange of Triumph) – NJP Unit
- *Muta Matenro (as The Great Muta) – NJP Unit
- *Outbreak – NJP Unit
- *Kokushi Muso (as Kokushi Muso) – Wu Bai
- *All Japan Pro Wrestling
- *Trans Magic – VEN
- *Muta Sanbika (as The Great Muta) – Jun Abe
- *Kokushi Gikyoku (as Kokushi Muso)
- *MUTA 2006 (as The Great Muta) – Osamu Suzuki
- *World Championship Wrestling
- *Unknown production theme (1989–90)
- *Kimi Ga Yo (Starrcade '90: Collision Course, with Masa Saito)
- *War Lords (Clash of the Champions XV: Knocksville U.S.A.)
- *Tokyo Takeaway (1992–2000)
- *Take It by Insane Clown Posse (2000, with Vampiro)
Championships and accomplishments
- *AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship (3 times, Current)
- *AJPW Unified World Tag Team Championship (3 times) – with Taiyō Kea (1), Arashi (1) and Joe Doering (1)
- *Champion's Carnival (2002)
- *Champion's Carnival (2004)
- *Champion's Carnival (2007)
- *World's Strongest Tag Team League (2001) with Taiyō Kea
- *World's Strongest Tag Team League (2007) with Joe Doering
- *NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- *IWGP Heavyweight Championship (4 times, current)
- *IWGP Tag Team Championship (6 times) – with Hiroshi Hase (2), Masahiro Chono (2), Shiro Koshinaka (1) and Taiyō Kea (1)
- *NWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- *Greatest 18 Championship (1 time) (Last)
- *G1 Climax (1995)
- *G1 Climax Tag League (1999) with Scott Norton
- *Super Grade Tag League (1993, 1994) with Hiroshi Hase
- *Super Grade Tag League (1997) with Masahiro Chono
- *Super Grade Tag League (1998) with Satoshi Kojima
- *PWI ranked him # 3 of the 500 best singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2002.1
- *PWI ranked him # 4 of the 500 best singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2001, 2003.
- *Best Tag Team (2005) with Akebono
- *NWA World Television Championship (1 time)
- *WCW World Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Vampiro
- *WCW BattleBowl (1992)
- *WWC Puerto Rico Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- *WWC World Television Championship (1 time)
- *Best Wrestling Maneuver (2001) Shining Wizard
- *Match of the Year (2001) vs. Genichiro Tenryu on June 8, Tokyo, Japan
- *Most Improved Wrestler (2001)
- *Wrestler of the Year (2001)
- *Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 1999)
1His highest-ever ranking and the second highest ranking achieved by a Japanese wrestler - Mitsuharu Misawa was ranked second to Dean Malenko in 1997.