Just about every die hard wrestling fan knows who Keiji Mutoh is, and for those who don't know of his many five star wrestling matches or his bloody as hell match with Hiroshi Hase, they probably know him better as The Great Muta. Characters and personas aren't too common in traditional Japanese wrestling, when Mutoh came to the US in the late 80s to wrestle for NWA, he obviously knew he needed some kindof gimmick, influenced by Japanese wrestler The Great Kabuki who had been popular in the US in the 70s and early 80s, he came up with the "Great Muta" gimmick. Naturally promoters here in the US built on the similarity between the two and said they were related, from then on Mutoh became famous in the 80s territory wrestling scene for not only his antics of being a very mysterious Japanese wrestler who would spit green mist in the face of his opponents, but also for his wrestling ability.
Though Mutoh was already on his way to becoming a star in Japan as himself, sans-Muta gimmick, he did take it to Japan where it's treated as two diffierent wrestlers. It would later go onto influencing wrestlers like Atsuhi Onita, who would take up a character called "The Great Nita" aswell as Japan's most famous Jr Heavyweight, Jushin Liger also took up a Great Muta inspired gimmick for a bit, trading his mask for face paint and being called "Kishin Liger". Most recently influencing wrestlers like ex-ECW/WWE wrestler Tajiri who took up alot of Great Muta's mannerisms from his signature walk and green mist, to his Moonsault. Another recent wrestler to take up a Great Muta inspired gimmick is TNA's Kiyoshi, using Muta's old 80s-90s attire aswell as originally being from the AJPW promotion that is now owned by Mutoh and Giant Baba's widow. Keiji Mutoh's wrestling style and mannerisms in general have been borrowed by wrestlers such as CM Punk, Arik Cannon, D'Lo Brown, Hurricane Helms and countless Japanese wrestlers.
The Great Muta has also influenced video game characters in games such as Blazing Tornado, 3 Count Bout and most recently King in TEKKEN, who is also influenced by another Japanese wrestler, Tiger Mask, but also shares alot of Mutoh's move set, from his hurricanrana to his moonsault and even to his elbow drop and pose. With all that being said, it's evident Mutoh has had a big impact on wrestling and even in Japanese pop culture in general.
The "Muto Bear" figure:
I'm not into toys or figures at all, but this looks like it could make a nice collector's item, or a nice paperweight. Made by All Japan Pro Wrestling and Play Set Products, how ironic that the most hard hitting and brutal wrestling promotion of Japan in the 90s is now making a product with a company that specializes in cute children's toys. There's two versions of this, though, there's the bigger 7" inch vinyl one doing the "Love Pose", as Mutoh calls it and then there's a smaller 3.25" inch one from the "3age" series. If I keep looking at them, I have a feeling I'll be tempted to buy them only to be met with buyer's remorse.
Even Japanese street fashion entrepreneur Nigo is a fan of Keiji Mutoh, having made an exclusive Bathing Ape AKA BAPE T-shirt featuring himself, Mutoh and a monkey named Milo doing the Love Pose. Aswell as even hosting a wrestling supercard event called "BAPE STA PRO WRESTLING 2008". BAPE isn't the only clothing line interested in Mutoh, apparently Hello Kitty is aswell, having produced a few exclusive shirts for All Japan Pro Wrestling.
Though I think the title for Japan's Hulk Hogan still belongs to Antonio Inoki, I do see Keiji Mutoh in the ranks. I won't be surprised to see other products made with him on it or based on him, really all that I care about is that he continues having quality wrestling matches.
Match for this post: Keiji Mutoh VS Masahiro Chono (NJPW - G1 Climax Tournament 1991)