On the origins of the Muta Scale

On the origins of the Muta Scale

In pro-wrestling punditry there is a term called the Muta Scale named for the great Muta, to measure the amount of blood spilled in a match. But the actual match that created the Muta scale hasnt been discussed in detail. The Muta scale match had a psychology that differentiated it and elevated it from contemporaries like Abdullah the butcher.

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Abdullah was a fat guy that brought a fork to the ring and stabbed a wrestler, would get stabbed, and walk around the ring slowly. It sold a lot of magazines. It provided the thrill of gore without any of the drama. Abdulla and his opponent (often Bruiser Brody, pictured above) would both bleed a lot but they did it over and over. In contrast the Muta match is a Japanese lesson in hubris. Muta enters the ring in full masked regalia and when is unmasked he looks like this:

Image for postNJPW Muta vs. Hiroshi Hase, c/o HIlle Bw Youtube

Muta was athletic but his career had in part been built on mystique. He wore face paint, he would spit mist into the eyes of his opponent. In contrast, his opponent Hiroshi Hase, was a journeyman wrestler most people never heard of outside Japan, who later became congressman and minister in the department of education under Shinzo Abe.

Image for postNJPW Muta vs. Hiroshi Hase, c/o HIlle Bw Youtube

By the time the Muta Scale match was set Muta had already toured America and became the first Japanese wrestler to attain prominence, feuding with Flair, Sting, Luger and winning the NWA championship belt. All the accolades Muta earned overseas meant nothing to his Japanese opponent, and Hiroshi dominated the match early and starts ripping off the paint.

Image for postNJPW Muta vs. Hiroshi Hase, c/o HIlle Bw Youtube

Hiroshi cruelly stepped on Mutas face repeatedly and ferociously ripped off the paint. Hiroshi was directly attacking the mystique, the aura Muta presented before his matches and which earned him such international notoriety. After a brief rally, Muta?s face visibly puffy.

Image for postNJPW Muta vs. Hiroshi Hase, c/o HIlle Bw Youtube

Remember, Muta is the hero here, and Hiroshi is the villain. But Muta is so outclassed both on the mat and brawling that he brings in a foreign object to attack. This type of role reversal was rare at the time, where the villain is a better wrestler and the face cheats.

Image for postNJPW Muta vs. Hiroshi Hase, c/o HIlle Bw Youtube

Hiroshi immediately takes the blade and slashes Muta. Proceeds to headlock Muta, publicly displaying his crimson mask to the audience. After 10 minutes of shame and suffering, Muta wears the new crimson mask of experience and makes a powerful comeback for the victory. Note that Hiroshi hardly suffers and is defeated rather quickly. His role in the match is to be a vessel of Muta?s suffering, he himself doesn?t feel the blade or get humiliated.

Image for postNJPW Muta vs. Hiroshi Hase, c/o HIlle Bw Youtube

The important lesson here is that painting on a crimson mask is no different than the cowboy who is all hat and no cattle. An empty suit. This is compounded by a hero that attempts to cheat. There is no equal damage, Hiroshi does not bleed. Muta had to learn another lesson.

The filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky said in a BBC documentary that, ?Superman makes me vomit, Batman and all that, that whole empire, this religion?It is so important that superheroes suffer.? In professional wrestling it is a trope for a hero or face to suffer before a final comeback, but here Muta experienced a character arc in the same vein and higher quality than any superhero flick. He truly elevated the medium from genre to art form here and took a common trope in the independent wrestling circuit and infused it with meaning.

For more on this great heroic wrestler see his match with Big Van Vader.

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