Keiji Muto (The Great Muta) Discusses His Upcoming Retirement, Kaito Kiyomiya, And More | INTERVIEW

On February 21, 2023, the legendary career of Keiji Muto will officially come to an end inside the Tokyo Dome. The show, titled "Keiji Muto Grand Final Pro-Wrestling 'Last' Love~Hold Out ~," will be the culmination of Muto's "Pro Wrestling Love Forever" retirement tour that also features the final goodbye to his legendary alter ego, The Great Muta. The Japanese wrestling legend announced his plan to retire at CyberFight Festival 2022 and has since begun the road to his final show.

Muto's first match of the tour came against Kaito Kiyomiya, Pro Wrestling NOAH's young star who was able to defeat Muto. As a result, Muto gifted Kiyomiya a number of his moves, including the Shining Wizard.

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It's been a long and successful career for the man who began his career back in 1984 as part of New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). Muto amazed crowds around the world, whether it was as himself or The Great Muta, showcasing the ability that has made him the equivalent of a first-ballot Hall of Famer in every sense of the term.

In 2020, Muto became the third man in history to hold the three major championships in Japan as he defeated Go Shiozaki for the GHC Heavyweight Championship to go along with his four IWGP Heavyweight Championships and three Triple Crown Championships.

This Sunday, he will have the next match of his retirement tour as he teams with Kazuyuki Fujita to face Masakatsu Funaki and Katsuhiko Nakajima. Prior to the match, Fightful's Scott Edwards had an opportunity to send some interview questions to Muto to discuss his upcoming retirement, his time as The Great Muta, Kaito Kiyomiya, his career, and more.

Here's what Keiji Muto had to say in our interview.

Q: The legendary career of Keiji Muto is coming to an end with the “Pro Wrestling Love Forever” tour. How much does it mean to you to see fans so excited to watch you end your legendary career on your terms?

Muto: After I made my decision to announce my retirement, I feel that both my mind and body have become lighter. I am sure that NOAH, with its current momentum, will be the best for my final match, and the path to that stage. I am determined and ready to run through that rail with all of my strength until the end. I hope to share the moment of my final match with as many fans as possible.

Q: Your first match of the tour saw you have a passing of the torch moment with Kaito Kiyomiya. You decided to let him have the Shining Wizard, Figure Four, and Dragon Screw. Why do you believe Kiyomiya is the one worthy of receiving some of your most prestigious moves?

Muto: I know he’s been studying me well. He is good, but he had some missing pieces, as he didn’t have any of his own absolute signature moves. He only had the Tiger Suplex and some other moves. I thought he deserved to have some more, so that's what I decided. I decided to hand him some of my signature moves as a result of beating me. He earned them, but it will be up to him whether or not he can utilize them for himself.

Q: How’d you feel after the match with Kiyomiya? Was it a match you felt proud of?

Muto: I feel frustrated with loss even though I know that I'm retiring. I feel pain in my body, my breathing is heavy, but I feel comfortable enough, as I still feel like a wrestler, and I feel blessed by the fact that I'm a wrestler.

Q: Is there someone you are specifically hoping to face in your “Pro Wrestling Love Forever” tour?

Muto: Things have not been finalized yet. All I can say at the moment is that I am glad to hear that many wrestlers are wishing to stand across from me.

Q: You’ve had two Hall of Fame careers in your time in pro wrestling — as Keiji Muto and as The Great Muta. What do you attribute to your success as both personas?

Muto: The Moonsault Press helped me make a name for myself in Japan. I started to use this move when I was younger, and I think this was the key element for my success. The Great Muta made a name for himself in the United States. But Keiji Muto and The Great Muta are like two sides of the same coin. Muto will get jealous when Muta is successful, and it goes the other way around when Muto is successful.
The rivalry between them made things work out in the end, I think.

Q: The Great Muta’s final match will be on January 22. Do you have a vision for how you’d like that match to go and who’d you like to face?

Muto: It hasn't been decided yet. I hope it will be something that everyone will look forward to, as this is the final bout.

Q: You made your debut in 1984. What inspired you to become a pro wrestler all those years ago?

Muto: I started to practice Judo because I was inspired by and admired pro wrestlers. I did well, but I realized there is no end if I aimed for the top. I later started to work at an osteopathic clinic, but it didn’t last long. That was when my dream to become a pro wrestler was fired up again.

Q: What has driven you to stay at such a high level in professional wrestling for nearly 40 years?

Muto: I don’t know, but what I do know is why it’s good to be a pro wrestler: It’s because you can get a lot of attention from the audience, they are looking at you when it comes to the wrestling match. It feels good to have their eyes on me. I feel great when the audience can empathize with everything I do, and every move I make. I think the audience enjoyed it, and I got to show them something they wanted to see. I don’t think I can stop doing so until it's over. This is my destiny, I think.

Q: You’re one of four wrestlers to win the IWGP, Triple Crown, and GHC Heavyweight Championships. How much of an honor is that for you and where do you rank it in career accolades?

Muto: I am honored to win all of that gold, but I didn’t intentionally make it happen. It just happened before I knew it.

Q: Looking back at your career you’ve accomplished almost everything there is to do. However, is there one particular moment that ranks at the top for you personally?

Muto: I didn’t accomplish everything there is to do.
The one thing I have not accomplished is being a pro wrestler 'til the end.

Q: Whether it’s due to the great matches you had, how much they challenged you, or just the relationship you were able to create — Who is your favorite all-time opponent?

Muto: It is hard to say who my favorite all-time opponent is. I’d say the match I had against (Nobuhiko) Takada in 1995 is one of the key points in my pro wrestling career.

Q: You and Masa Kitamiya share a special bond over the late Masa Saito. After facing him in that tremendous and very old-school style championship match you two had. Did you walk away from that match with more respect for Kitamiya, and if so what do you hope his future in NOAH holds?

Muto: Masa Saito-san was bigger and heavier than Kitamiya. However, after we faced each other, he convinced me that he is stronger and tougher than before. He has potential, so I hope we will keep it up with honoring his name.

Q: For younger wrestling fans who are just getting to know Keiji Muto and his work — is there a match or two that you believe they should check out to appreciate your pro wrestling ability fully?

Muto: I can’t narrow it down to one. It’s all different, depends on the time. I believe I managed to leave my work behind fitting with the times.

Q: As we sit here nearing the end of the road, how would you summarize the legendary career of Keiji Muto?

Muto: I have fought with more wrestlers in the main event than any other wrestler in the world. Inoki-san, (Hulk) Hogan, Fujinami-san, (Ric) Flair, Choshu-san, Sting, Tenryu-san, Maeda san. This world is so big, but you can’t find anybody but me who has fought with such great wrestlers.
I look forward to sharing the moment, the legacy I have with everyone for the rest of my final road.
There is not much time left, but I hope all can enjoy Keiji Muto.

A huge thanks to Pro Wrestling NOAH for helping make this interview possible and of course Keiji Muto for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer all these questions.

If you want to check out Muto's next match, you can subscribe to Wrestle Universe here.

Keiji Muto Grand Final Pro-Wrestling 'Last' Love~Hold Out~ tickets are already on sale for NOAH fan club members. If you are a Wrestle Universe subscriber, you'll have a chance to access tickets on October 1 and the remainder of the tickets will go on sale to the general public on November 19.

Follow Pro Wrestling NOAH on Twitter (@noah_ghc) as well as the promotion's English account (@noahglobal) to stay up-to-date on all of the announcements regarding Keiji Muto's retirement tour.

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