Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Great Muta Will Be Historic Moment in Wrestling, but a One-Off | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors
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On Sunday, Pro Wrestling Noah announced Shinsuke Nakamura will face The Great Muta on New Year’s Day. The revelation stunned the wrestling world, leading many to wonder how the stars aligned for a final matchup between the two.
The news will, undoubtedly, spark hope for more crossovers or partnerships, but it’s best to just enjoy another surreal moment in an unbelievable year.
Muta plans to retire next spring. The 38-year veteran has two more matches left on his farewell tour with Noah following his appearance over the weekend in a six-man tag match at Ariake Arena in Tokyo.
On Jan. 1, he will take one Nakamura in a one-on-one bout. Then, he will compete for one last time as The Great Muta persona when he teams up with Sting on Jan. 22 in Yokohama.
In addition, he will join Kazuchika Okada and Toru Yano in an encounter against The United Empire as his final appearance for New Japan Pro-Wrestling on Nov. 20 as a part of NJPW X Stardom Historic X-Over.
It’s unclear if the innovative Japanese legend has any more dates left to announce for next year. Nevertheless, this is a star-studded sendoff for a man who deserves to get his flowers while he can still smell them.
The Clash of Two of NJPW’s Defining Stars
To say Muta has been an incredibly influential performer almost seems like an understatement. He popularized the use of the green mist, which has become a staple in pro wrestling.
It inspired notable names like Tajiri, Kishin Liger and Asuka. He also pioneered many moves, such as the Shining Wizard, his famous moonsault, Dragon Screw leg whip and the Muta Lock.
While many mainstream U.S. fans may remember his stint with WCW, the 59-year-old made a name for himself with NJPW as Keiji Muto. He was instrumental in the company’s success in the early 1990s as one of the original Three Musketeers with Masahiro Chono and Shinya Hashimoto. They became the backbone of the promotion following Antonio Inoki’s generation.
In March 2002, Nakamura joined New Japan and developed into one of its fastest-rising stars. The Super Junior went on to become the youngest IWGP heavyweight champion in 2003. He, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Katsuyori Shibata became the new Three Musketeers as the company struggled to find a new identity.
Still, his initial reign was a bit forgettable because he sustained various injuries, which forced him to vacate the title after 58 days. When he returned, he unsuccessfully challenged Bob Sapp and famously wrestled Brock Lesnar at the Tokyo Dome before he went on an excursion in 2006.
Photo credit. New Japan Pro Wrestling
After Inoki-ism failed to reinvent NJPW, Nakamura reemerged as one of its top stars and started his iconic feud with Tanahashi.
The King of Strong Style defeated his rival at Wrestle Kingdom II to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. His second reign put him on the map, as he became the first Japanese wrestler to beat Kurt Angle in a title unification in 2008.
This victory restored the lineage of NJPW’s top prize and helped him earn the respect of his peers. In March, Muto returned to the company as a representative from All Japan Pro Wrestling and defeated Nakamura for the title.
Together, the two generations of Musketeers have helped to revitalize the promotion and kick off its growth into the popular entity we know today.
The two Japanese legends haven’t stood toe-to-toe in the ring in 14 years. Coincidentally, sending the former intercontinental champion to Japan on behalf of WWE brings their last encounter full circle. It’s an excellent way to pay tribute to Muta and acknowledge his contributions to NJPW.
How Is This Miraculous Match Possible and What Does It Mean?
The King of Strong Style described the match as a “miracle” in his interview with Tokyo Sports (h/t PWMania.com). He pushed for talks with the new regime after Vince McMahon retired, and the two parties came to an agreement on Oct. 26 thanks in part to his persistence.
“Of course, I wanted to do it,” Nakamura said. “I opened a door that no one had been able to pry open. Hahaha…it’s a real ‘Forbidden Door.’”
Some fans may see his joke about the “real” Forbidden Door as a jab at All Elite Wrestling, which recently entered a partnership with NJPW. However, many of us always expected those two companies to work together because they share a fanbase and The Elite originated in New Japan. Even more, Tony Khan was always open to working with other promotions.
Getting WWE to work with Noah was a much tougher task because it historically doesn’t enter into such talent exchanges. The move will likely create goodwill with the Japanese company, but fans shouldn’t expect this to turn into a full-blown partnership.
This seems more like a one-off appearance that worked out perfectly for Muta and Nakamura. Of course, never say never in pro wrestling. More preposterous things have happened in 2022 alone, but Triple H still seems to have his eye on global expansion for WWE rather than forging partnerships with other companies.
Still, it’s nice to know that his regime is more willing to help historic moments like this. It’s a good sign for the overall outlook on the future of the industry.