Sunday, January 14, 2018

BLOODLUST: The Great Muta's First IWGP Championship Reign (August 1992-September 1993

Hey yo Stud Muffins & Foxy Ladies,

LETS GO JAGS! Time for revenge for the 1997 AFC Championship Game!

IWGP Heavyweight Champion Riki Choshu vs The Great Muta - NJPW 8/16/92

It is pretty telling of how New Japan in the 90s is viewed that this is not considered a seminal match. It is not a great match, but it is an incredibly important match. Muta is the first of Three Musketeers to win the IWGP Championship and he does so by beating Choshu, the rockstar of New Japan 80s. Muta is the rockstar of the New Japan 90s in a more demonic and over the top way. Inoki at this point put charisma over everything else. Yes, Chono won two G-1 Climaxs in a row and was crowned NWA World Champion four days before, but it is Keiji Mutoh in the Great Muta gimmick that is the first of the 90s stars to win IWGP Championship. Hashimoto who feels like the heir of Riki Choshu with that badass charisma and the logical pick for the first to win gets overlooked for Muta. I think that is important to understand New Japan at the time.

This is a very typical Muta match. It is lumbering brawl with strange pacing. Muta stalls in a way that would make Larry Z frustrated. Choshu ripping his head off with a clothesline after all that was great. I think Muta by selling through not selling was great. You could see Choshu realize he was facing something un-human in the form of The Great Muta. The mist was so gimmicky for such a big title change that it felt weird. Muta was good in this brawling setting. The bulldog from the apron looked great and he wrough havoc at ringside. Choshu got his hope spots, but Muta clawed his eyes. Backbreaker->Moonsault->kickout, jeez it was already happening. Second moonsault gets it.

Not a great match. But it is a torch passing that gets overlooked between this and Chono's victory over Rude (much more acclaimed) really ushers in the Three Musketeers era. ***

IWGP Heavyweight Champion The Great Muta vs Shinya Hashimoto - NJPW 9/23/92

Really unique match. It is all about getting The Great Muta over as this violent monster in a way a more sadistic Undertaker. Hashimoto beats the shit out of Muta for the first four minutes, but about a minute in you notice something weird. Muta isn't fighting back and he is not really selling. Hashimoto is getting more and more frustrated that Muta is not fighting back. He is really not doing anything. I am thinking to myself "Oh God, another weird Muta performance". Then Hashimoto gets on his knees with arms open to say "Hit me". Muta just unloads. Throws him to the outside and beats the shit out of him with chairs. It was great so now Hashimoto no sells and Muta says "Fuck you!" by clawing at his eyes, biting his forehead and choking him with a cord. It was brutal. Muta goes for his back handspring elbow and Hashimoto kicks him right out of the air. Monsters don't do gymnastics. Hashimoto hits an amazing snap belly-to-belly suplex. That might be the best belly-to-belly suplex I have ever seen. Muta blocks the DDT...MIST...Hashimoto ducks...DDT! Hashimoto 1-2-NO! Good nearfall. Hashimoto lines up for an elbow and typical Muta fashion, he just casually rolls out. Hashimoto is like what the fuck. He whips him into the railing and leaves him out there. Bad idea. Muta loads his boot with a giant spike. Muta brings in a chair. Hashimoto heads him off at the pass. Rifles him with kicks. He has control of the chair. MIST! Hahsimoto is in the middle of swinging and still whacks Muta. Great! Muta comes crashing down with two brutal double knees from the top on Hashimoto's back. Hashimoto is selling the mist and his back so well. Muta hits repeated kneedrops. I thought he was going to carve Hash open with the spike, but the spike was just to load the boot. Hashimoto keeps kicking out. Moonsault does him in. Honestly, unlike any match I have ever seen. Violent, maniacal zombie Muta was an interesting foil to asskicker Hashimoto. They kicked the shit out of each other and I thought the finish was really well done. It is hard to rate because I have never seen anything like this. I am going to high and then revisit. ****1/2

IWGP Heavyweight Champion The Great Muta vs Scott Norton - NJPW 10/18/92
There is no reason I shouldn't love Scott Norton, big & thicc in all the right places (he aint fat, bruv. HE JUICY!). However, I have never seen a great Scott Norton match.

Turns out since Keiji Mutoh won the championship as the Greta Muta is the champion and he defends the title. While Keiji Mutoh works the house shows. Muta defeated Hashimoto in September and this is his second defense. The big miss of the 90s is Vince not getting his hands on Muta. It would have limited Muta's brawling which is his best attribute, but I think would have helped the other parts. Muta works basically a slow WWF style. They accentuated the big man vs small man difference. Muta bumping off Norton and Norton slamming him all around was great shit. My problem with Muta is he is not fighting back. He just takes it. Then when it comes time for him to go on offense, he turns it on. Eyeclawing gets him the advantage and jeers. It was weird the first 3/4s Muta was the heel and Norton was positioned as the babyface. Once this goes to the outside, Muta is so much better. He beats the shit out of a young boy and nearly chokes him to death trying to take his shirt off. So he whips him into Norton and then gets the shirt and chokes Norton. Great Muta vs 97 Macho Man Randy Savage would have been classic. Muta is an asshole throughout his heat segment. Norton makes a comeback. HUGE LARIAT on the outside! Powerslam and he picks him up at TWO?!?! What the fuck kind of stupid move is that! It is for the fucking IWGP title. Ref gets bumped. Muta mist. Norton on ONE KNEE! SHINING WIZARD~! Sorry it is not 2001. Muta gets a spike and puts it in his boot. Knees him with it (hey Shining Wizard after all) and kneedrop. Moonsault win.

Norton looked good. No reason he cant have a great match. Someone point me in that direction. Muta still feels like an odd choice for champion. Great special attraction like an Undertaker or an Andre, but doesn't need the title and he is not having great matches on top.

IWGP Heavyweight Champion The Great Muta vs Sting - NJPW 11/22/92

Not nearly as good as the awesome Hashimoto match, but this is still pretty damn entertaining. Once you understand the Great Muta character as this stalking, maniacal monster his matches become a lot more interesting. Sting is controlling via the arm early. Muta is missing moves here and there to keep it moving allowing Sting to go back to the arm. Then Muta just goes into glorious heel offense, deep eye rakes, whips into the railing, scaring the photographers, choking with the cord. This dude is a master heel. He reminds me of heel Jimmy Snuka or early Undertaker. Just a slow moving, demonic presence. I love Sting's comeback. He catches him on the back handspring elbow onto railing and then sends him into the railing. Then he does the Stinger Splash onto Muta when he is on the railing. Good symmetry. Nice Military Press back into the ring and even crazier bump when he Military Presses from the ring to the floor! Muta kicks the ref while in the Argentine backbreaker and loads his boot with the spike. He goes up top for the kneedrop, but misses and Sting puts him in the Figure-4! Love it! The ref finds the spike and pulls it out and breaks the hold to reset the match. Finishes with a whimper as Muta hits his backbreaker/moonsault combo to win. I was hoping for something more diabolical. Thought Sting have a dry performance but the stuff on the outside was good. Great Muta heel performance. ***3/4 
The Great Muta vs Hiroshi Hase - NJPW 12/14/92 (Non-Title)

Probably the most famous New Japan heavyweight match of the 90s stateside as this is famous for developing the famed Muta Scale where Great Muta does a five alarm bladejob bleeding like a stuck pig. From the reviews I recently read, this match is no longer regarded as a classic and is more of a novelty for the sheer gore of the match. I disagree. I think this is a match that benefits greatly from watching a lot of Great Muta during this time period. Great Muta wrestles unlike any other wrestler in New Japan or anywhere else in the world except for the Undertaker. He is a horror movie character come to life. Most violent wrestlers we think of are wildmen like The Sheik and Tiger Jeet Sngh. Great Muta brings the violence of these men with a dimension of stalking dread that is more reminiscent of Frankenstein or the Creature From The Black Lagoon. There is no selling when you wrestle Muta. There is no grappling holds or traditional pro wrestling struggle. The struggle is in the survival. Hasimoto, asskicked extraordinaire, learnt this lesson take Muta lightly and you will be blinded with a broken back. The Sting match did not feature as great of a finish but again Muta beat the hell out of Sting. Muta chokes, claws, blinds his opponents using railings, chairs, mist and his spike. The spike has been a foreign object that Muta loads his boot with and he will come down across your back with a kneedrop to setup his backbreaker/moonsault combo. The first couple times, I really wanted the spike be used to carve up an opponent. Little did I know Muta's comeuppance would come at the hand of his favorite weapon.

Hase's strategy early is smart he dropkicks Muta at the beginning of his prematch ritual, the mist blow. He doesn't let up. Wicked urnage. He takes him to the outside whips him into a railing. He grabs a table brings it on his side of the railing and drives Muta into it. Unlike any other opponent, Hase knows the demonic nature of Great Muta better than anybody as Muta bloodied him up in 1990. The problem is at some point he does run out of steam in the ring and thats when Mutas strike with rapid fire kicks and chops. I thought Mutas speed and strikes looked great. What was uncharacteristic for Muta is that he grabbed a hold instead of taking his opponent outside. Muta does his bridging Indian Deathlock and I loved Hases counter the smother of Muta and then a wicked neck clamp. Now Muta does what does Muta best be weird. He goes looking for his spike. Going each of the four sides and he cant find it. Hase lies in the ring and welcomes to come back into the ring. Muta takes Hase back outside and drives him head first into the concrete. Then anytime Hase gets chippy Muta crotches him on the ring rope or then the steel railing. This is really both of them no selling, but I think when you are in there with a monster like Muta you need to throw everything at him. Muta throws in a chair. Hase grapples with the ref for it and then Muta bashes him with the chair and then backbreaker, but Hase pushes him off the top rope. Hase constant suplexing Muta and especially this instance after a chair shot is what drops this match from perfect status he was no selling too much. Muta gets the spike, but before he can put it in his boot. Hase gets it and carves Muta open. NASTY BLADEJOB! Crimson Mask has never been so appropriate. Piledriver, sleeper, and biting lots and lots of biting. Hase mocks Mutas mist spew with Mutas blood. Thats sick. Hases body looks like a murder scene. Muta starts suplexing the shit out of Hase. Four back drop drivers. Muta crashes and burns on the moonsault! There is still life in Hiroshi Hase! Mutas sell is so great. He looks like a fish completely spent from flopping around and died. Hase hits a wicked urnage. 1-2-NO! Powerbomb! 1-2-NO! Hase goes for another Urnage, but Muta snaps off a Dragon Suplex, bridge 1-2-NO! Even Muta is shocked! Another snap one with bridge for two. Muta is ready to destroy. Backbreaker/moonsault and it is over. Hase came closer than any men before him, but all fall before The Great Muta. ****1/2
IWGP Heavyweight Champion Great Muta vs. NWA World Champion Masahiro Chono  NJPW 1/4/93, Tokyo Dome

These two are about a year and half removed from their G-1 Climax '91 Classic, but they are also just a month removed from their absolute stinker at WCW Starrcade 1992. Definite closer to the stinker. If you have watched a lot of Great Muta's title reign up to this match, you will be very disappointed. This for both championships. What has made Muta so great is his violent, stalking monster character. He doesn't wrestle holds. He wants to claw your eyes out or choke with a cord. It is a very subdued Muta performance. I don't know if it was out of reverence for the Dome and Inoki wanted them to have a normal pro wrestling match but it didn't work. Muta did tease the spike early and the ref took it out of his hands. They never really brought the violence. The first ten minutes nothing really happens. I thought even though this was a subdued Muta performance he was still the one bringing the excitement. The bulldog on the ramp, his classic running lariat on the ramp, the missed back handspring elbow on the ramp, the suplex on the ramp, his dive from the ramp over the top rope, you see a trend Muta did a good job using the ramp. Chono had no zip on anything. Just a really blasé performance from him. By far, the most exciting moment of the match was the missed moonsault into the STF. That happened with like 8 minutes left to go in the match. Down the stretch, Chono hits a powerbomb and gets the STF again for his nearfalls. Muta hits the backbreaker->moonsault->pin, wait kickout, moonsault-> pin. I guess we know where that started. Muta wins the NWA World Championship and in a lot of ways this is the peak of The Great Muta. No mist. No blood. Don't bother.
NWA World Heavyweight Champion Great Muta vs Barry Windham - WCW SuperBrawl III

Boring as all hell! I have been curious about this match for years, but yeah this was a snoozefest. Didn't help that it was basically heel vs heel. I didn't mind the Muta headlock stuff early thought it was a fine start and they worked in and out of it well. However, once Muta missed a dropkick and Windham hit a DDT, the match never got out of first ear. There was no struggle and no urgency. Muta was worse than Windham, but it didn't look like Barry gave much of a fuck either. Some nice isolated spots, but pretty ho-hum and pedestrian. The finish run was not bad with Muta waking up to hit his back handspring elbow and miss a couple moonsaults before eating DDT. Very disappointing.

Great Muta vs Power Warrior (3/21/93) -I could not find this match online. This is not a title match, but in this match Muta injures his knee and doesn't wrestle until the Hogan match in Fukuoka Dome. For that he came back early.

WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan vs. IWGP Heavyweight Champion The Great Muta NJPW 5/3/93, Fukuoka Dome

Non-tile. Still pretty impressive that Muta wrestled both the NWA World Champion & WWF World Champion in the same calendar year. Also impressive he wrestled Sting & Hulk Hogan within a six month window. I was pretty amped for this when Muta flipped off the crowd and misted. It seemed like he was going to go back to his violent, maniacal tendencies. I thought this was pretty entertaining. But it felt rushed and all over the place. I liked Hogan wrestling early with the juji-gatame. Muta is more about the heel chicanery eyerakes and rolling under the ring. There is a good fire fight on the outside with some strong chops through back and forth. Hogan is the one that sends Muta into the crowd. I liked Muta having the timekeeper's hammer. It was stuff like the running lariat only to have Hogan go on top with some nasty eyerakes and punches. He even gets booed. Tries to save face by yelling "Ichiban!". Then Muta is back on top with the backbreaker and Moonsault. I was really hoping for a Hulk-Up. Instead a rope swing comes into play. Then Axe Bomber. Then there is Mist that hits the chest. Legdrop for two. Axebomer wins. It is a weird match. I mean it is Hulk Hogan vs The Great Muta, it is a match you would never expect to happen. It is not bad. It just feels really thrown together. ***

IWGP Heavyweight Champion The Great Muta vs The Great Kabuki - NJPW 6/15/93

So while Hashimoto gets Tenryu in the WAR feud, Muta is stuck with Kabuki but it makes sense given their past history and they even play on their father/son Kayfabe relationship. Muta kicks the ref in the balls, mists Kabuki and then busts him open with the championship. This was a pretty good Muta squash while Kabuki bled and Muta but him. All the usual Muta spots bulldog into concrete and running lariat. Kabuki makes his comeback when Muta misses the back handspring elbow. Kabuki busts Muta on the ring post. Kabuki bites Muta. Muta gets back breaker but no moonsault. Muta gets a chair. Kabuki mists the ref, poor ref, and beats up Muta with the chair. Ref calls it off. Muta is bleeding big time. Kabuki threatens to kill his son in ENGLISH! Then chokes him with nun-chuks. Before everyone pulls him off. Good double juice Muta brawl. ***
G-1 Climax '93 (Single Elimination Tournament): Great Muta defeats Great Kabuki and Super Strong Machine (Junji Hirata) before falling to eventual champion in the semi-finals, Tatsumi Fujinami. I would be interested in watching the Fujinami match but I couldn't find it.
IWGP Heavyweight Champion The Great Muta vs Shinya Hashimoto - 9/20/93 I am really bummed I couldn't find this. After running through Hashimoto, Chono and Hase in his first reign. Great Muta title reign ends at the hands of the man he defeated in his first title defense, Shinya Hashimoto. Shinya Hashimoto's first title reign will be covered in detail in follow up blog post. If anyone has this match please share it with me. Thanks!
BONUS MATCH: Hulk Hogan & The Great Muta vs The Hellraisers - NJPW 9/23/93

A lot has changed since the Hogan vs Muta confrontation in May both men have lost their championships, Hogan to Yokozuna and Muta to Hashimoto three days prior to this. The Hellraisers were not tag champs at this point, the classic tag team of Scott Norton & Hercules is. So no gold on the line. This match and Tenryu/Hase drew 18,000 to Yokohama Arena, which is a pretty impressive figure.

The novelty on the surface is Hogan and Muta as a tag team besides a couple weird looks from Hogan to Muta there is not much there. The real novelty is Hogan eating all of Sasaki's offense like a champ. A lot of people take easy on Hogan, but Sasaki set the tone early with stiff chops. He hit with a pretty wicked lariat and powerslam. He even got Hogan in the Scorpion Deathlock. Sasaki don't give a fuck who you are. Hawk was pretty useless in this match. Hawk and Hogan have a terrible opening with Hawk having trouble getting Hogan up for the Press Slam and Hogan executing the shitting juji-gatame ever but that was mostly Hawk's fault. Hawk vs Great Muta was a contest of who could sell less and guess what Muta won! Muta as a face in peril was just dumb. His whole character does NOT sell. The Muta/Sasaki parts were pretty decent and I am bummed I cant find anything online. The finish is pretty good. Muta mists Hawk when he was setup to take the Doomsday Device. Then Muta mists Sasaki. Hot tag to Hogan and AXE BOMBAH~! Watch Hogan & Tenryu vs Road Warriors for a crazy Hogan tag match in Japan. This is just fun to see Sasaki kick Hogan's ass.

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