The Great Muta vs. Hulk Hogan (5/3/93)
By virtue of a mostly horrible 1990s, Hogan went from being respectable to underrated in record time. Gone were memories of his energetic brawls with the likes of Harley Race and Terry Funk. Here to stay is the Hulk Hogan of Suburban Commando, the Hulk Hogan who sued WCW because, in a planned storyline, another man called him a “bald-headed bastard.” The miracle of the internet is that I can choose to ignore that Hulk Hogan and instead watch him in a wholly different environment–in a Japanese ring, against a Japanese wrestler.
The late 1980s and early 1990s were a very strange time in wrestling, as WWF and WCW would regularly send over their top guys to go up against top Japanese guys in contests that could legitimately be billed as Dream Matches. A few Japanese wrestlers, The Great Muta and Jinsei Shinzaki in particular, wrestled extended stints in either WCW or WWF during those time periods, but the talent swap was a mostly one-sided affair. So a guy like Hulk Hogan, the world’s most popular wrestler and the WWF World Champion, flies to Japan to take on The Great Muta, maybe the world’s craziest wrestler. In America, the match wouldn’t last five minutes. In Japan, in 1993, Hogan actually puts on a show.
Yup: Back when Hogan was beating Yokozuna for the WWF Title at Wrestlemania in a 60-second match, he was putting The Great Muta into a cross armbreaker and hitting him with Enseguri kicks like it wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t, since Hogan underwent extensive training in Japan and could actually go if he needed it. He often didn’t, since Americans were fine with him Hulking out, hitting the big boot, dropping the leg, and calling it a night. In Japan though, they expect you to work, so even as Hogan’s reputation as a solid worker was being thrown out the window in America, we’ve got this match to show that the Hulkster wasn’t all garbled promos and awkward posedowns. Oh sure he’s a bit slow and his transitions are a bit mistimed, but that Hulk Hogan is a man, and it don’t help to hide.
It certainly helps that his opponent was Keiji Mutoh, still coming down from his late 1980s run in WCW, where he went up against the likes of Ric Flair and Sting. Mutoh, man, he’s one of those guys who doesn’t waste a movement in the ring. Everything he does is done to further add to the drama of the match, including his rather liberal use of weaponry. Mutoh is another guy who was once in the discussion for the title of Best Wrestler Ever, and while a match against Hogan isn’t exactly a showcase of his skills, this here’s a perfect example of his ability to work any style against any opponent.
Despite all this, there’s Jimmy Hart on the floor wearing his custom Hogan/Beefcake MEGA MANIACS jacket, reminding me both that all good things come to an end, and that not even a tragic parasailing accident could have prevented the Mega Maniacs. Oh well. At least somebody had the good sense to not give The Mouth of the South his trademark megaphone.
Paul Arrand Rodgers
Paul Arrand Rodgers has this blog, and that's about it.