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Keiji Mutoh (武藤 敬司, Mutō Keiji, born December 23, 1962)[1][2] is a Japanese professional wrestler who first gained international fame in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). He is mostly known for his work as The Great Muta (ザ・グレート・ムタ, Za Gurēto Muta) in New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) during the 1990s, but he has also worked in the United States, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Taiwan. He is a former president of All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), as well as being a full-time wrestler for the promotion from 2002 to 2013.

Keiji Mutoh
Keiji Mutoh 2009.jpg
Mutoh in November 2009
Born (1962-12-23) December 23, 1962 (age 56)[1][2]
Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi, Japan[2]
Spouse(s)Hisae Ashida
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Bach Mutoh[3]
The Black Ninja[1]
The Great Mota[1]
The Great Muta[1]
Keiji Mutoh[1]
The Space Lone Wolf[1]
The Super Black Ninja[1]
The Super Ninja[1]
Takeda Shingen[4]
Viet Cong Ming[1]
The White Ninja[1]
Billed height1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)[5][2]
Billed weight110 kg (243 lb)[5][2]
Billed fromThe Land of the Rising Sun
Trained byAntonio Inoki
Hiro Matsuda
Kotetsu Yamamoto
DebutOctober 5, 1984[1][2]

Mutoh is credited as one of the first Japanese wrestlers to achieve a fan base outside of his native Japan. The Great Muta gimmick is one of the most influential gimmicks in puroresu, having been emulated by many wrestlers including Satoshi Kojima (as The Great Koji), Kazushi Miyamoto (as The Great Kazushi), Atsushi Onita (as The Great Nita), and Seiya Sanada (as The Great Sanada). In addition, countless other wrestlers have paid tribute to Muta through emulation and imitation.

Mutoh is one of three wrestlers to hold the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, the AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship, and the IWGP Heavyweight Championship (the others being Shinya Hashimoto and Satoshi Kojima). He is also a former five-time AJPW World Tag Team Champion and a six-time IWGP Tag Team Champion.

He is also famous for taking part in what was generally considered to be the bloodiest professional wrestling match of all time against Hiroshi Hase, leading to the creation of the "Muta scale" (which rates the bloodiness of matches, relative to this one's 1.0 value).[6]

Mutoh is the owner and founder of Wrestle-1 (W-1), where he currently also wrestles semi-regularly, Mutoh previously made special appearances for American promotion Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) as part of the TNA/W-1 talent exchange partnership. Between AJPW, NJPW, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and W-1, Mutoh has held a total of 22 championships.

Professional wrestling careerEdit

Early career (1984–1987)Edit

Mutoh was a judo black belt with experience in many national competitions prior to being trained by Hiro Matsuda in the New Japan Pro-Wrestling Dojo. He debuted on October 5, 1984 against Masahiro Chono. In 1985, Mutoh was sent on his first learning excursion to the United States. Primarily wrestling in Florida as the "White Ninja", Mutoh teamed with Kendo Nagasaki before returning to New Japan in 1986, where he was nicknamed "Space Lone Wolf", a space-age type character that was briefly revived in 2005 by NOSAWA Rongai. In March 1987, Mutoh won the IWGP Tag Team Championship with Shiro Koshinaka, before losing the titles to Akira Maeda and Nobuhiko Takada six days later. In the summer of 1987, Mutoh took part in the NOW vs. NEW feud, in which he aligned himself with Antonio Inoki and his group, teaming with the likes of Inoki, Seiji Sakaguchi, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, and Kantaro Hoshino, and battling the likes of Tatsumi Fujinami, Riki Choshu, Akira Maeda, Kengo Kimura, and Super Strong Machine.

World Wrestling Council and World Class Championship Wrestling (1988–1989)Edit

In January 1988, Mutoh went on another excursion, this time in Puerto Rico for the World Wrestling Council (WWC) under his new ring name, "The Super Black Ninja". He feuded with Miguel Perez Jr., with whom he lost a hair vs. hair match to that April. It was in Puerto Rico he formed The Three Musketeers with Masahiro Chono and Shinya Hashimoto. He wrestled only one match in New Japan during this period on July 29, before returning to Puerto Rico. In the fall of 1988, Mutoh moved to the Dallas, Texas-based World Class Championship Wrestling, where he reunited with Kendo Nagasaki and had a very short lived feud with Kevin Von Erich before departing the organization in March 1989. Mutoh's personality and ring skills shown in his early American matches earned him a high billing within the National Wrestling Alliance.

National Wrestling Alliance (1989–1990)Edit

Mutoh first appeared as "The Great Muto" in the NWA on the March 18, 1989 edition of WCW Saturday Night, although announcer Jim Ross pronounced the name as "The Great Muta". His manager Gary Hart introduced him as the son of the Great Kabuki, whom Gary Hart also had managed years earlier. He wrestled his first match under the new persona on April 2 against Scott Casey.[7] Muta would feud with stars like Lex Luger, Ric Flair, and Sting, from whom he would capture the NWA World Television Championship on September 3, 1989. Mutoh eventually lost the championship to Arn Anderson on January 2, 1990, which aired on the January 12, 1990 edition of WCW Power Hour, and some time after the Clash of the Champions X on February 6, Mutoh would return to New Japan, going between his real name and his Muta gimmick as he pleased.

New Japan Pro-Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling (1990–2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2019)Edit

Mutoh quickly rose in the ranks upon returning to New Japan in March 1990. His Great Muta persona would make its NJPW debut six months later. In April 1990, he won his second IWGP Tag Team title with Masahiro Chono, defeating Shinya Hashimoto and Masa Saito. He and Chono would hold the titles for over six months, before finally losing them to Hiroshi Hase and Kensuke Sasaki. Meanwhile, in World Championship Wrestling, it was announced on Clash of the Champions XIII that The Great Muta would be returning at Starrcade '90 to team with Mr. Saito. Less than a month later Mutoh teamed with Saito in the Pat O'Connor Memorial Tag-Team Tournament at Starrcade. The duo defeated The New Zealand Militia in the quarterfinals, then Victor Zangiev and Salmon Hasimikov (representing the USSR) in the semi-finals. Muta and Saito were defeated by then US Tag Team Champions The Steiner Brothers in the finals.[8]

Muta continued to make sporadic appearances within WCW during 1991 while wrestling regularly in New Japan. He was shown in attendance at WrestleWar 91, and then defeated old rival Sting at the combined New Japan/WCW Starrcade event on March 21, 1991 in Tokyo, Japan. Mutoh was entered into a match with United States Heavyweight Champion Lex Luger to determine the Number One Contender for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. On June 12 at Clash of the Champions XV, Muta was pinned by Luger to earn the right to challenge Ric Flair at The Great American Bash '91. He went on to wrestle several house shows that month before returning to Japan.[9]

Mutoh and Chono, along with Hashimoto, cemented their status as the next generation of New Japan, surpassing Antonio Inoki, Tatsumi Fujinami, and Riki Choshu, after the finals of the first G1 Climax tournament on August 11. In an epic thirty-minute match, Mutoh was bested by Chono and, together with Hashimoto, the three celebrated in the ring, then afterwards they were officially labeled The Three Musketeers of New Japan Pro-Wrestling. He closed out the year teaming with Hiroshi Hase to defeat Rick Steiner and Scott Norton to win the IWGP Tag Team Championship at Budokan Hall.

1992 began with Mutoh teaming with Sting for the first time in New Japan, as the duo defeated The Steiner Brothers on January 4 in the Tokyo Dome. In May he returned again to WCW and began appearing on house shows in tag-team matches with Nikita Koloff against Big Van Vader and Rick Rude.[10] He returned to television on the May 30 episode of WCW Saturday Night, defeating Brad Armstrong in a best of three contest. On June 7 Muta was pinned by Scott Steiner at a house show at the Omni in Atlanta, GA. He finished out his short run facing Larry Zybysko on successive house shows, then returned to New Japan.

Mutoh participated in the 1992 G1 Climax (which doubled as the NWA World Heavyweight Championship tournament). In the opening round in Shizuoka, Japan on August 6 he defeated Barry Windham. Four days later in Tokyo he pinned Steve Austin in the quarterfinals. On August 11 he was defeated by Masahiro Chono in the semi-finals. Chono repeated his success in the G1 Climax (winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in the process). Just four days later, Mutoh, donning his Muta persona, beat Japanese legend Riki Choshu for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, marking his first reign. On November 22, Muta successfully defended the title against Sting in Tokyo. On December 14, Muta faced Hiroshi Hase in a famous match where Hase used a foreign object to beat at Muta's forehead, as payback for their previous encounters, including the September 14, 1990 encounter, in which Muta busted Hase open. 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.

On December 25, he returned to WCW to begin another short stint, losing to Sting in a non-title match in Jacksonville, Florida. He wrestled Sting again on the house show circuit, as well as Steve Austin. On December 28 he made his fourth successive Starrcade appearance, teaming with Barry Windham to defeat Brian Pillman and 2 Cold Scorpio. Later that night Muta eliminated Windham to win the Starrcade 92 BattleBowl.

For a short time in 1993, after beating Chono in a title versus title match at Fantastic Story in Tokyo Dome (known in North America as WCW/New Japan Supershow III), Mutoh held both the NWA and IWGP championships at the same time (being one of only two men ever to do so along with Tatsumi Fujinami); the unification was short-lived, as Barry Windham beat him a month later for the NWA World title at SuperBrawl III. As IWGP champion, Mutoh had a variety of challengers in title matches and exhibitions, including Hulk Hogan, Sting, The Great Kabuki, 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 the Hellraisers in November 1994 and capturing the IWGP Tag Team championship—his third tag title.

On April 17, 1994 Mutoh returned to WCW to face Stunning Steve Austin at Spring Stampede for the WCW United States Championship. Austin defeated him by disqualification. This would be his last US appearance for nearly a year, and he would not return until February 19, 1995 when he was shown in the crowd at SuperBrawl IV.

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. His second title reign came on May 3, 1995—a year and two days after Hashimoto won the championship from Fujinami. After winning the IWGP title, Mutoh and Hase vacated the Tag Team titles so Mutoh could focus on his Heavyweight title. He returned to WCW on May 21, 1995 to defeat Paul Orndorff at Slamboree '95.

Afterwards, Mutoh went on to win the 1995 G1 Climax, beating Hashimoto in the finals to become the first of two men to win the G1 as IWGP Heavyweight Champion (Kensuke Sasaki would achieve this feat in 2000). Mutoh held the IWGP 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 at the Tokyo Dome. 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 would even wear an nWo shirt only to 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 as The Great Muta in nWo Japan, before being The Great Muta full-time for several months in 1997. The full turn came in September 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, as his years of using the moonsault press were finally catching up to him. During this time, he took a hiatus from action, returning just before the 1998 G1 Climax (from which he was eliminated by Genichiro Tenryu in the first round). Despite his return, Mutoh was plagued by this nagging injury, fighting through his pain throughout the rest of 1998 and all of 1999; even winning his third IWGP Heavyweight title from one of Chono's right-hand men, Scott Norton. Towards the end of 1998, Mutoh took the leadership of nWo Japan, after Chono suffered a neck injury and was out of action, turning the nWo into a face stable, which Chono didn't like. Mutoh feuded with Chono for the name of the nWo, 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, Super J, and others from the old generation of the nWo. On December 10, 1999, Mutoh lost the IWGP Championship to Tenryu. The war between Chono and Mutoh was lost by Mutoh by January 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. Due to the bad booking and the decline of WCW in its last years, however, Mutoh could not recapture the previous popularity he had in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He returned to television on the July 11, 2000 episode of WCW Thunder and teamed with The Jung Dragons against Three Count and Tank Abbott. A week later he appeared on Nitro, defeating Vampiro in the quarterfinals of the United States Heavyweight Championship tournament. Later that night he was pinned by Mike Awesome in the semifinals.[11] He won the WCW World Tag-Team Championship with Vampiro at New Blood Rising against KroniK. They lost it the next night on Nitro against the team of Rey Mysterio and Juventud Guerrera. His last WCW match came at a house show on September 23, 2000 in Lubbock, TX against Sting.

After leaving WCW, a no-compete clause in his WCW contract prevented him from competing in the World Wrestling Federation.

Mutoh in 2008

After a planned tag team match with FMW's Hayabusa for Wrestling World 2001 was cancelled due to Hayabusa's injury to both his elbows that required reconstructive surgery, 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 at Wrestling World 2001, making short work of Manabu Nakanishi and Jyushin Thunder Liger. 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).[5] 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 Heavyweight Championship. In addition, Mutoh captured more gold in the form of All Japan's World Tag Team Championship 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.[12]

On January 4, 2008, at Wrestle Kingdom II in Tokyo Dome, under the Muta persona, he defeated Hirooki Goto. On April 27, 2008, Mutoh beat Shinsuke Nakamura to win his fourth 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. Mutoh went on to defend the IWGP championship against Manabu Nakanishi, Togi Makabe and Goto and at New Japan's Destruction '08 show on October 13, he defended the title against Shinsuke Nakamura in a rematch and retained following a Frankensteiner.[13]

On January 4, 2009, Mutoh put the IWGP Heavyweight Championship on the line at NJPW's Wrestle Kingdom III in Tokyo Dome against his former student Hiroshi Tanahashi. Mutoh lost the match, when Tanahashi used his signature High Fly Flow twice to get the pin.[14] After the match, Mutoh said backstage that he had passed Tanahashi his sash after doing his best for over half a year to raise the worth of the title, and suggested that he will withdraw and leave New Japan to move their company forward.[14]

On January 4, 2012, Mutoh made a return to New Japan at Wrestle Kingdom VI in Tokyo Dome, where he defeated Tetsuya Naito in a singles match.[15] A year later at Wrestle Kingdom 7 in Tokyo Dome, Mutoh teamed with Shinjiro Otani, a replacement for an injured Daichi Hashimoto, in a tag team match, where they were defeated by Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima.[16] Mutoh returned to New Japan again a year later at Wrestle Kingdom 8 in Tokyo Dome, now working as The Great Muta in a tag team match, where he and Toru Yano defeated Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki and Shelton X Benjamin). As the only face in the match, Muta turned on Yano towards the end of the match, but his green mist accidentally hit Suzuki instead, leading to Yano pinning him for the win.[17][18]

Mutoh, in his Great Muta persona, was the last entrant in the ROH/NJPW Rumble at the G1 Supercard Show on April 6, 2019. This marked his first appearance for the promotion in 5 years.

All Japan Pro Wrestling (2002–2013)Edit

Mutoh as The Great Muta in November 2009

On January 11, 2002, 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-to-last match, he defeated Kojima, under his "Great Koji" persona, as The Great Muta. On September 30, during an All Japan 30th Anniversary party at the famed Tokyo City Hotel, Mokoto Baba officially announced Mutoh's appointment as the new president of All Japan, transferring all of the Baba family stock to him.[5][19] 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 United States, wrestling for the Ring of Honor promotion as part of an interpromotional All Japan vs. ROH card, which hosted a series of cross-promotional "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 British 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 2007 Champion Carnival, competing in Block A and finishing with 6 points total; Mutoh defeated Toshiaki Kawada in the finals on March 30, 2007.

In March 2007, while Mutoh was in Orlando, Florida, in order to establish a working agreement between All Japan and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), he made an appearance for the company, under his Great Muta gimmick, at the Destination X pay-per-view, in a segment with Christian Cage.[20] In February 2009 Mutoh was featured in multiple interview segments, taped in Japan, where he spoke of his student Akira Raijin, who had just begun working for TNA.[21]

On September 29, 2008, wrestling as The Great Muta, he defeated Suwama to capture the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship, becoming only the second wrestler, after Satoshi Kojima, to hold the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship and the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at the same time.

On March 14, 2009, Mutoh defended his Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship against Yoshihiro Takayama. He bloodied him severely, as is his trademark, and even used the Shining Wizard to his opponent on the barricade. During the course of the match, however, his mask was ripped off, and he was bleeding profusely. Towards the end of the match, Takayama dominated Muta, but Muta reversed a kick into a Dragon Screw, and attempted to use the Asian Mist against him, but Takayama blocked it, and performed an Everest Suplex Pin on Muta, and won the match. Muta subsequently walked away in shock of what had happened.

On January 30, 2010, Mutoh, under his Great Muta gimmick, made a special appearance for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla in Los Angeles, California, during the WrestleReunion 4 weekend, teaming up with Kai in a match, where they defeated the team of Joey Ryan and Scott Lost.[22]

In April 2010 Mutoh went through a reconstructive knee surgery that would keep him out of the ring for the rest of the year. Mutoh made his return on September 10, 2010, when he faced Masakatsu Funaki in a special return match.[23]

On June 7, 2011, Mutoh announced his resignation as the president of All Japan Pro Wrestling. He will remain in the promotion as an active wrestler and a member of the Supervisory Board.[19][24] Mutoh's decision stemmed from a real-life incident where Yoshikazu Taru assaulted Nobukazu Hirai backstage at an All Japan Pro Wrestling show, which led to Hirai suffering a stroke after competing in a match. Mutoh took the blame for the incident, which led to All Japan suspending not only Taru, but also Kazuhiko Masada, Masayuki Kono and Minoru Tanaka who were present when the attack took place.[25] After being on the midcard and without a big feud for most of 2011, Mutoh became the main challenger for NOAH's Jun Akiyama, who had won the Triple Crown Championship from Suwama, and after Akiyama defended the title successfully two times (against Taiyō Kea and Takao Omori), Akiyama challenged Mutoh to a match that took place in March 2012, which Mutoh eventually lost. On June 1, 2012, Mutoh returned to the United States to make an appearance for Pro Wrestling Syndicate (PWS) in Rahway, New Jersey, teaming with Kai to defeat Anthony Nese and Sami Callihan in a tag team match.[26]

In November 2012, Mutoh and his business partners sold all of their All Japan shares to the Speed Partners corporation for ¥200 million.[19][27][28] On June 1, 2013, Speed Partners president Nobuo Shiraishi took over as the new president of All Japan, firing the previous president, Mutoh's longtime right-hand man Masayuki Uchida, in the process, which led to Mutoh resigning from the promotion, effective June 30, 2013.[19][29][30]

Wrestle-1 (2013–present)Edit

On July 10, 2013, Mutoh announced the foundation of a promotion named Wrestle-1, bringing over many of the former wrestlers of All Japan Pro-Wrestling that left in June.[31][32][33] At the promotion's inaugural event on September 8, Mutoh teamed with Bob Sapp in a main event tag team match, where they defeated René Duprée and Zodiac.[34] During Wrestle-1's second show on September 15, Mutoh made his first Japanese appearance as The Great Muta in two years, when he and Tajiri defeated Duprée and Zodiac in a tag team match.[35] On October 18, Mutoh announced his semi-retirement, saying that in the future he would only work Wrestle-1's larger events.[36] On March 2, 2014, Mutoh put his career on the line at Kaisen: Outbreak, Wrestle-1's first event in Ryōgoku Kokugikan. Mutoh teamed with Rob Terry and the debuting Taiyō Kea in a six-man tag team match, where they defeated Masayuki Kono, René Duprée and Samoa Joe, thus saving his career.[37] Through Wrestle-1's working relationship with TNA, Mutoh, working under his Great Muta persona, returned to the American promotion on March 9 at Lockdown, where he, Sanada and Yasu defeated Chris Sabin, Christopher Daniels and Kazarian in a six-man tag team steel cage match.[38] Muta returned to TNA on the July 25, 2014, defeating Robbie E at an Impact Wrestling taping in New York City. After the match, Sanada turned on Muta.[39] This led to a match at Wrestle-1's Shōgeki: Impact event on July 6, where The Great Muta defeated Sanada in a main event singles match.[40][41] On September 22, Mutoh suffered his first direct loss since March 2012, when he was submitted by Masayuki Kono in a four-on-three handicap match, where he and the Novus stable (Jiro Kuroshio, Koji Doi and Rionne Fujiwara) faced the Desperado stable (Kono, Kazma Sakamoto and Ryoji Sai).[42] On October 12, Mutoh, as the Great Muta, worked TNA's Bound for Glory event in Tokyo, teaming with Tajiri in a tag team main event, where they defeated James Storm and The Great Sanada.[43] On November 1, during an event celebrating his 30th anniversary in professional wrestling, Mutoh defeated Masayuki Kono to become the second Wrestle-1 Champion.[44] He made his first successful title defense on December 22 against Seiya Sanada.[45] His second defense took place on January 30, 2015, when he defeated Manabu Soya.[46] On February 16, Mutoh, as the Great Muta, returned to TNA, defeating Mr. Anderson as part of Global Impact: USA vs The World.[47] On March 8, Mutoh lost the Wrestle-1 Championship to Kai in his third defense.[48] On March 27, 2017, Mutoh announced he was stepping down as the president of Wrestle-1 with Kaz Hayashi taking over the position. Mutoh remained with the promotion as its representative director. On June 8, 2019 Mutoh returned to Impact wrestling, wrestling in the main event of their A Night You Can't Mist event in a tag team match where he teamed with Tommy Dreamer and faced Michael Elgin and Johnny Impact.[citation needed]


  • "The Great Muta" is Mutoh's most known gimmick, which he has wrestled as often throughout his career, switching back and forth between this alter ego and his real name since March 1989. He was originally billed as the son of Japanese wrestler Great Kabuki (unrelated in real life), who used a similar gimmick, but the connection is rarely mentioned nowadays. Like his father, Great Muta is a mysterious, manifestly supernatural character who distinguishes himself through his macabre looks and magical skills. His appearance is highlighted by his lavish, exotical entrance costumes, which are taken off to reveal a horrifically painted face, later replaced by an organic-looking mask after Mutoh shaved his head. Muta uses Mutoh's moveset with little variation (his version of the Shining Wizard is named Senkou Youjutsu ("Flash Magic") instead),[7][35] though Muta tends to be much more aggressive and weapon-friendly. Muta can also spit green or red mist and plays mind games to distract his opponents. The Great Muta is the gimmick most fans in 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.
The gimmick was deeply expanded during the 2000s in the promotion Hustle, where he appeared in a storyline in which he gained a son in the form of "The Great Bono" (played by Muta's wrestling trainee Akebono), forming a tag team reminiscence of Muta's team with his own father Great Kabuki. Some of those elements were later used in All Japan Pro Wrestling as well.
  • "Kokushi-Muso", a gimmick used on special occasions, is a play-off of Jinsei Shinzaki's mystic character Hakushi. Mutoh debuted it in Michinoku Pro Wrestling in 2001, but it later migrated with him to All Japan Pro Wrestling, where he used it when teaming with Shinzaki. Kokushi means "Black Master" in the same line Hakushi means "White Master", while Muso means "Unparalleled"; together, they are a pun with the kokushi musou Japanese Mahjong yaku. Like Hakushi, Kokushi is characterized for sporting Buddhist shakyo painted all over his body, though interspersed with English phrases like Mutoh's motto "Puroresu Love", and wearing black garments instead of white. Similarly, he uses wrestling moves associated with Hakushi while at the same time retaining mannerisms and moves used by The Great Muta. He finally completes it with Buddhist monk paraphernalia like carrying an ojuzu and meditating in the ring.
  • "White Ninja", a Japanese ninja gimmick, was used in Championship Wrestling from Florida between November 1985 and October 1986.
  • "Super Black Ninja", a gimmick similar to that of the White Ninja, was used in World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas and also was used in the World Wrestling Council in Puerto Rico, between January 1988 and March 1989. This was Mutoh's first gimmick to sport face paint.
  • "Space Lone Wolf", a space-age type character, was used in New Japan between October 1986 and December 1987. Space Lone Wolf's entrance attire would feature the numbers "610" which means "Mutoh" in Japanese numerics. Mutoh had also stated that NJPW founder Antonio Inoki insisted on wearing a helmet to the ring in order to attract sponsorship from a Japanese Motorcycle Helmet manufacturer.

Other mediaEdit

A billboard of Mutoh as Bahamutō in 2013, ran as an advertising campaign for Shingeki no Bahamut

Mutoh has appeared in a vast number of media appearances in Japan, including many commercials and films. Mutoh was interviewed for wrestling documentary Bloodstained Memoirs.[49]

In 1995, Mutoh starred in the Japanese thriller Yajuu Densetsu: Dragon Blue, as Ryusaki, a suave detective who joins forces with a beautiful young spiritualist named Mazuki (played by Hiroko Tanaka) to solve a bizarre case of killings from a mystical sea creature.

In 2004, he played the role of Harold Sakata in the movie Rikidōzan, 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.

In 2006, he appeared as a guest star in the Japanese historical drama series Saiyūki, playing a village headman who is helped by Son Gokū (played by Shingo Katori).

Mutoh has worked extensively with Japanese clothing company A Bathing Ape, helping them to produce a number of t-shirts featuring his likeness and the All Japan Pro Wrestling logo. Mutoh was also responsible for organizing Bapesta Pro Wrestling, a previously annual wrestling event sponsored and promoted by Bape.[50]

Mutoh appears as a gang member in the 2017 video game Yakuza Kiwami 2, alongside Genichiro Tenryu, Masahiro Chono, Riki Choshu and Tatsumi Fujinami.[51]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1992, Mutoh married his wife, Hisae Ashida. Together they have two children, a son (born 1996) and a daughter, Airi (born 2000), who is an actress and has made an appearance for Wrestle-1.[52]

Outside of Pro-Wrestling, Mutoh also owns a Sushi restaurant called "Dining 610" (焼肉Dining 610) which was inspired by Mutoh's early "Space Lone Wolf" gimmick. It is also worth noting that the numbers 610 (which were featured on Lone Wolf's entrance attire) means "Mutoh".

Professional wrestling style and personaEdit

Mutoh usually wrestled under two characters: the first as Keiji Mutoh and the second, The Great Muta. Mutoh innovated the Muta Lock, named after him,[1] and the Shining wizard.[5][2] He is also known for using the Figure-four leglock[1][53][54] and the Moonsault[1][2][5][55] as finishing moves, as well as the Asian mist[1][56][57]

Championships and accomplishmentsEdit

1 Championship not officially recognized by All Japan Pro Wrestling.
2 Championship reign not officially recognized due to outside interference.


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External linksEdit