The Question Is Muta: The Rejected Plan to Turn The Great Muta Babyface

Brian Damage

When you hear the name of ‘The Great Muta,’ many fans will recall how he took a large portion of the wrestling world by storm here in the United States in the late 1980’s. Not many wrestlers could do the things Muta was able to do in the ring. From his speed, quickness and agility…to his unique look with face paint…Keiji ‘The Great Muta’ Mutoh quickly became a bonafide star for the NWA/WCW in 1989. So much so, some within the promotion wanted to make Muta the face of the company. It never happened…

Before setting foot in WCW, Keiji Mutoh was a growing star in Japan. He was sent to the U.S. to grow as a competitor and wrestled in a few territories like WWC in Puerto Rico and World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas under the moniker of ‘The Super Black Ninja.’ Because of his Japanese descent, Mutoh always portrayed a heel character. When he was signed to join WCW in 1989, his gimmick changed and was renamed The Great Mota..the son of The Great Kabuki.

He was given the legendary Gary Hart as his manager to do his talking for him. Previously, Hart had managed his “father” Kabuki in places like World Class. Eventually, his name was tweaked to Muta and the label of being the son of Kabuki was dropped. The Great Muta showed fans on a much more wider national scale what he was capable of doing inside a wrestling ring. From his handspring elbows, his crisp moonsaults and the mysterious green mist he spat…Muta was extremely different from anyone else.

He was put into a big feud with a rising babyface in Sting and the two put on a great series of matches which helped Muta gain respect and popularity. Before long, Muta was being cheered loudly in matches against babyface opponents. It seemed only natural that WCW’s management began to take notice of Muta’s rise in popularity. One in particular, was a member of the booking committee in Jim Ross.

According to Ross, he saw how Muta’s athleticism and look could become a bigger attraction for the company. He wanted to turn the heel Muta into a babyface and make him the world champion. It seemed to make perfect sense on a few different levels. First off, he had an extremely marketable look. Secondly, he was over with the fanbase. Thirdly, the company was severely lacking top babyface talent at the time.

WCW executive Jim Herd was reportedly onboard with the babyface turn of Great Muta as well. Despite Ross and Herd loving the idea…there were others that were not so convinced that it would work. One of the main detractors of the idea, was Muta’s manager Gary Hart. Apparently Hart was so dead set against losing Muta as his top client, that he was rumored to have gotten in Muta’s ear about how bad of an idea it would be for him to turn babyface. Hart tried to convince Muta that being a face in WCW would kill his career.

Others felt that while Muta was extremely unique and gifted…his lack of command of the English language would kill any momentum he had as a babyface. Muta was hearing different things from different people and with the booking committee not 100% in favor of a Muta face turn….his push within the company would stall. That led to a great deal of frustration on Muta’s part.

So much so, his work rate in matches began to slip. He was no longer giving a full effort in his matches. He also began no showing events…something Muta never did in the past. Ultimately, it led Keiji Mutoh to quit the company and return to Japan. While Mutoh would eventually return to WCW…his big babyface push never materialized. Was Gary Hart acting selfish and not looking out for Muta’s best interests? Was WCW as a whole responsible for lack of commitment to Muta? Would the Great Muta character have been a successful top babyface for the company? All those questions are moot now….or rather Muta now.

4 thoughts on “The Question Is Muta: The Rejected Plan to Turn The Great Muta Babyface

  1. easy answer; all of the above. While it’s true him not bein proficient in speaking English was a big factor, Hart could’ve remained with him as a face/tweener manager or a his usual heel manager self, but with a face Muta. There’d be an inevitable turning on Muta, and there you go. Not sure about a world title reign tho either, unless it was a brief one to test the waters, but most defintiely he deserved to be a main eventer.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I love that idea. I wish wrestling would work more storylines like that. Even if it doesn’t involve a manager but a tag team. Sort of, why do both tag team members have to turn face or heel? Why not work the storyline that way?
      Similar here, heel manager with tweener wrestler. Together good, but different views or opinions of other wrestlers on the roster.

      Liked by 2 people

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