After just watching the 5 Disc set chronicling the career of Muto (which you can find as a review done very competently by Didge on this very blog) I thought it only right to analyze the man, the myth, the Muta.
1) Innovation- 10/10
This is a no brainer. Muta took his look and altered it from the look of the Great Kabuki, an American with crazy face paint who worked in World Class for a while. Muta took his to another level and combine that with the look, the mist, the mannerisms, the move set and the technical expertise and you had one of the most unique individuals that has been seen in this sport. And he knew it- the moonsault may have been done before in America but Muta made it famous.
2) Conditioning- 8/10
In his prime, Muta was at peak physical condition for a human being. He was lean, cut and had stamina out the yin-yang and has remained in such a state for many years. As with everyone, especially over the last 4 or 5 years, he has thickened up and had tremendous problems with his body wearing out, especially given the hard work he puts in, especially his knees. But, he hasn't let himself go, he's just a thicker guy now but his height helps with that tremendously. I'm not sure about drug use and how it's affected the Japanese scene but Muta has remained on top for many years so you can make your own judgements; either way, he's a gifted athlete and he has the conditioning to prove it.
3) Skill- 8/10
Muta, whether you believe this as fact or opinion, isn't the best worker in the world as far as workrate, selling and all that, but he's probably one of the smartest. In his younger days, he was one of the most innovative and compelling guys to watch and became an attraction for any promotion and any viewer in the world for some many years. He kept up a great work ethic and while his bumps are often protected, he can let loose and really go crazy in some matches, although it's rare- Muta's not known as a bumping machine. But, he can work pretty well and even though he went through some lazy years, during the first part of the new century Muta put an emphasis on storytelling in the ring and became probably the smartest, hardest worker in Japan at that time.
4) Psychology- 10/10
Muta is on a list of maybe 5 guys who know how to work an audience as well as he does, especially his hometown crowd. He can get away with doing so much less than most guys and get more of a reaction than they can. Keiji Muto is very capable of crowd sympathy, especially in the mid 90's and worked that very much to his favor and used more of an athletic approach to his work style. When Great Muta, he uses a slower, more methodical pace (a classic heel move to get booed), more dirty tactics(ex. mist, random weapons) and more bizarre gestures and actions to really rile crowds up and get people into the match. His selling is fairly okay, but not the most consistent.
5) American Appeal- 10/10
This is a substitute for the normal "Interviews" category, which is extremely important in the States, but since a lot of Japanese workers don't speak English, there needs to be a common ground for them to meet. As far as Keiji Muto, America became fascianted with him almost immediately when he debuted in 1989 in NWA, even though he worked as a heel during that run. I'm pretty sure he's only exclusively worked as Muta in the States and fans couldn't really get enough of him and his unique character, even garnering an NWA World Title reign in late '92 during one of his stateside trips. He's made many stops in the NWA and WCW over the years, as well as a one shot in ROH and an appearance (albeit a goofy one) in TNA.
6) Character- 10/10
The Great Muta is the equivalent of the Undertaker in the States; just the most unique and phenomenal character that has ever been created in the professional wrestling business. The evolution and metamorphisis this character has went under over the years are phenomenal and the duality between Keiji Muto and his devilish alter ego is at the top of the list among the most compelling and complex story archs one single person can create. There have been so many great storylines that this has created, such as Keiji digging deep inside of him to fight off Muta so he can win singles gold as himself, and Keiji fighting against the NWO as Muta joins them quickly. Definitley in the top 5 of the greatest characters ever created.
7) Fans- 10/10
He's loved. He's hated. He's revered. He's feared. He can be both sides of the proverbial coin and he can get the same reaction every time, whether it's being cheered, booed, ran away from, or patted on the back because he can garner the fan's attention; a lot more if he's Muta than Muto though. He can always get a reaction as Muta, also because the character allows him to behave more towards getting any kind of heat, with no real inhibitions or limits. This character, even if Muto himself is getting older, is still a huge box office draw and will remain until Muto's last day in the ring. Now, that's staying power.
8) Basics- 8/10
Okay, let's break it down: Muto has never really punched, he's always used those strange thrusting chops as his main strikes, but he can kick. He has a good technical background and breaks it out more than you would think. Depending on the opponent and his mood, he can work some really good back and forth spots and he has good ring rope movement and knowledge of the ring as well. He's the kind of veteran that has always maintained his knowledge of the fundamentals and can pull it out when need be, even if he doesn't use it often.
9) Feuds/ Opponents- 10/10
Muto has fought them all in this business, which is exceptionally hard to do when you're a Japanese wrestler mainly. His first big fued worldwide was with Sting, which raged on for a good stretch helping both guys careers immensely. He also fueded with Ric Flair as part of the J-Tex Corp. in '89. In Japan, Muta has had stirring rivalries with Hiroshi Hase, Shinya Hashimoto, Masa Chono, Atsushi Onita, and several more. He's gotten to face the top names in both countries through his political pull and matchmaking skills such as Toshiaki Kawada, Hulk Hogan, Mitsuharu Misawa, Booker T & Steve Austin. Muto's an extrememly easy opponent to get embroiled in a feud with and he relishes the times he gets to be invovled in "dream matches" which have been numerous over the years, fighting top stars in every promotion he can, like WWE, WCW, All Japan, New Japan, NOAH, Big Japan, FMW and the list goes on and on.
10) Gutcheck- 8/10
It takes passion, guts, work ethic, and more than a little bit of knowledge in playing the politics game to get ahead in the wrestling business, sometimes it simply takes an opportunity to make a splash, but to have a career like Muto's, the longevity, the ability to stay fresh and keep up the high workethic and still have great matches, still get crowds of thousands upon thousands cheering for you, or booing you, it takes qualities that few men have. As I've said earlier, he may not be the best pound for pound worker but Muto has to be known as one of the greatest characters and greatest stars pro wrestling has ever seen.
Total Score: 92
PO: Thumbs Up