What If is a column by Walter Yeates that ponders how much success a wrestler from the past would have if they were in their prime in today’s wrestling industry.
Great Muta (Keiji Muto) is a legendary figure in the wrestling world. While he isn’t officially retired, he is far from his early 1990s – 2000 prime when he was one of the most dynamic wrestling in the entire industry, regardless of country of origin. Over his two personas, he would become World Championship Wrestling (WCW) World Tag Team Champion, 6x IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, 5x All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) Tag Team Champion, National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) World Television Champion, 3x Triple Crown Champion, NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion, and 4x IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
Muto’s career is fascinating, after graduating as a second-generation member of the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) Noge Dojo, he went on several excursions: two to the United States and one to Puerto Rico (with stops in Texas). In Puerto Rico, he formed the Three Musketeers with fellow second-generation NJPW Noge Dojo graduates Masahiro Chono and Shinya Hashimoto.
His excursion led to Muto debuting as Great Muta in March 1989 in WCW. The Great Muta character became one of the most popular acts in the wrestling business, leading to Muto becoming a favorite in the United States and a massive draw in Japan. Which leads to the question, “What if Great Muta was in his prime today?”
Being an NJPW first-tier (received his original wrestling training with the promotion) trueborn, it’s natural to imagine the Great Muta character in modern-day NJPW. Mutoproved his Muta character could draw in the United States at a time when the country was less receptive to foreign-born wrestling talent. Muta would be a natural foil for Kazuchika Okada and would likely draw big gates with Okada. Hiroshi Tanahashi, current IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental ‘Double Champion’ Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi, and Jay White are all members of the current roster Muta would be able to make money with.
A possible ‘Junior Heavyweight vs Heavyweight’ program between Muta and IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi could be interesting. Muta would possibly be at his best in helping to elevate Will Ospreay into a legitimate marquee player within the company.
An interesting thought would be Great Muta wrestling in the modern Lucha Libre scene in Mexico. Due to the size and athleticism mix of Muto during his prime, he would easily be a gigantic heavyweight draw in Mexico, possibly bringing Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL) to heights they haven’t seen since Caristico (as Mistico) was at his peak drawing stage around 2006. In Lucha Libre AAA (AAA) he would provide the same spark and would possibly serve as the top draw within the company.
If Muto were to make his home promotion in the modern World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) it’s hard to see the company allowing him to live up to his potential, since they’ve had so many failures with talented wrestlers over the last 15-20 years. All Elite Wrestling (AEW) would be an interesting scenario, as he definitely would be one of the best workers in the company — along with having one of the most captivating gimmicks.
In companies like the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and Ring of Honor (ROH) there is little doubt he wouldn’t step in and immediately become a marquee player. There would be no reason for the NWA to not make him the face of the promotion, and hope he can lead them towards TV deals and further national exposure.
Keiji Muto is a unique talent that could fit into any era of wrestling due to his adaptability, in-ring ability, and how he was always able to connect with an audience.