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Joe Gagne



Keiji Muto

Keiji Muto? You mean the Great Muta? The guy with the bald spot that hung out with Vampiro in WCW last year? Wrestler of the Year? Hello, it's 2001, not 1989. This is a joke, right?

No joke, but I don't blame you for thinking so--I had personally written Muto off a looong time ago. But the strangest thing happened in 2001, as Muto embarked on one of the greatest comebacks in wrestling history. In fact, the situation is very comparable to Steve Austin's. Consider:

  • Both wrestlers' bodies are racked with injuries (Austin and his well documented neck and back problems; while at this point Muto's knees are about as durable as a wet paper towel).
  • Despite the above, both men had an astonishing run of matches and served as the centerpieces for their respective federations.
  • And, uh, both have shaved heads and goatees.

    And not to denigrate anything that Austin accomplished this year, but it's one thing to have great matches with Triple H, Chris Benoit, and Kurt Angle. Muto, on the other hand, was having astonishing matches with some unusual suspects. Consider:

    June 6: On New Japan PPV, Muto takes on 40 year old Hiroshi Hase, and the two have a forty minute mat wrestling classic that sees Muto go over with the Shining Wizard.

    June 8: Just 2 days later, Muto wins the All-Japan Triple Crown from 51-year-old Genichiro Tenryu in another MOTYC that some called the best Triple Crown Match change ever.

    July 14: In his first title defense, Mutoh defeats Steve Williams and carries him to his first good match in God knows how long.

    If that's not enough, here are some more accomplishments:

  • Beat Toshiaki Kawada on April 14th for his Triple Crown shot at Tenryu.

  • With winning the Triple Crown, became the third wrestler to have held both the Triple Crown and IWGP Heavyweight title (along with Vader and Tenryu). Of course, Muto was also the first wrestler to win the title while working for another company.

  • Formed the first ever inter-promotional stable, BATT (Bad Ass Translate Training), which included wrestlers from New Japan, All Japan, and Michinoku Pro.

  • Yet another MOTYC, against Yuji Nagata in the G-1 Climax Finals on 8/12.

  • Muto appeared on the biggest Michinoku Pro show ever on 8/18 when he debuted the Kokushi gimmick

  • Oh yeah, recently won the All-Japan Tag Titles with Taiyo Kea on 10/22. With those 2 tag belts and the Triple Crown, that gives Mutoh 5 belts at once!

  • Took part in the 'Cross Generations' tag match on 10/8, where he teamed with Hase to take on Nagata & Jun Akiyama, a big deal because the match featured wrestlers from All Japan, New Japan, and NOAH (and a Senator).

  • Muto doesn't look like he's slowing down anytime soon. By the time you read this, he and Kea may have won the IWGP tag titles as well. A dream match with Misawa could be happening soon, and his inevitable showdown with Kawada is still on the horizon.

    That's an astonishing run for anyone, let alone someone in Muto's shape. The thing is, Muto can't do a lot physically, but everyone he does means a lot in the match. Dave Meltzer once said "I'm beginning to think that Muto will be the first man in the history of pro wrestling to be confined to a wheelchair, get up out of it, and have a **** match." That's really not far from reality.

    Possible Categories:

    Best Wrestler

    Best Tag Team: Keiji Muto and Taiyo Kea

    Best Worker

    Most Favorite Wrestler

    Most Improved Wrestler

    Move of the Year

    Muto's Shining Wizard (running knee to the head)

    Muto's Moonsault

    Match of the Year:

    4/14 vs. Toshiaki Kawada

    6/6 vs. Hiroshi Hase

    6/8 vs. Genichiro Tenryu

    8/12 vs. Yuji Nagata

    Best Feud: BATT vs. Team 2000

    Best Promotional Move: Muto wins Triple Crown

    I don't know how much good this will do--if you haven't seen a Muto match, you're not going to vote for him in any categories (nor should you). But hopefully this will give you some idea of why so many people are behind him.

    Joe Gagne

    [I totally ripped off this idea from Shane Spear. Thanks to everyone on the Smarks EZ Board and Stuart's scarily comprehensive New Japan page (].

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