Retirement Special Interview with Keiji Mutoh! I have no intention of retiring! | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Retirement Special Interview with Keiji Mutoh! I have no intention of retiring!

What are the new ambitions of the pro-wrestling master after his 60th birthday?

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He appeared in a collaboration shirt with Chikara Choshu, which he says he loves. After striking a “pro wrestling LOVE” pose, he “entered the ring” to be interviewed!

Hey, FRIDAY! You’re late. Normally, you come before the retirement match to stir things up!

His eyes widened, and he delivered a stern proclamation, but then he would laugh and make the audience feel at ease. Keiji Mutoh, 60, the “Pro Wrestling Master,” was in full force from the moment he appeared on the stage.

He ended his active career at the “Keiji Muto Retirement Match” held at the Tokyo Dome on February 21. Despite being held on a weekday, more than 30,000 spectators came to the venue, and the exclusive live broadcast of “ABEMA PPV ONLINE LIVE” broke the record for the highest number of tickets sold at a pro wrestling event. It was the perfect stage for the legend’s curtain-raiser, but behind the scenes, Muto had a certain fear.

I was anxious before the match,” he said, “I had separated hamstrings in both legs on January 22. It was the first time I had ever been afraid of a match coming up. Every day I went to a specialized facility in Hachioji to do muscle training to avoid overloading the affected area, and I went into a hyperbaric oxygen therapy room. I did everything I could.

He has artificial joints in both knees, and his body is wracked with wounds. He was injecting himself with painkillers while fighting. Even so, he showed no signs of enduring the pain in the ring and fought to the death for nearly 30 minutes with Tetsuya Naito (40), who has declared himself to be “the man of my dreams,” before losing.

At the moment of defeat, I looked up at the ceiling of the dome and thought, ‘It’s over. I didn’t feel any sense of accomplishment or emotion. But after I went back down the aisle, I found myself reflecting on the game. Even though there was no next game (laughs). (Laughs.) I was busy greeting the people concerned and holding press conferences, and when I came to, it was late at night. I went home, ate the food my wife had cooked for me, and drank a toast with shochu by myself.

He also shared this anecdote about his retirement match.

There were many possible opponents. The biggest was Dwayne Johnson (50), the Hollywood actor known as “The Rock. But he demanded an unbelievable amount of money. He said, “You’ve got to be kidding me! I said to him, ‘Are you kidding me?

He recalled his unprecedented “second retirement match” with Masahiro Chono (59) as follows.

I had been planning to pick Chono as my last opponent since last September, when the venue was decided to be Tokyo Dome. It would be dramatic to have the same fighter in both my debut and final matches, wouldn’t it? I was so excited when I faced him in the ring and saw his sharp eyes. It was the same …… as in his prime, or even sharper. I’m proud that I got to fight him at the end, when he was at his best.”

Finding a “New Purpose in Life

Mutoh entered New Japan Pro-Wrestling in 1984 at the age of 21. He formed the “Three Musketeers of the Fighting Spirit” with Shinya Hashimoto (40 years old) and Chono. In 1988, he went overseas for the second time, and swept the United States as “The Great Muta, Incarnation of Evil. He also became the second wrestler in history to win both the singles and tag team titles in New Japan, All Japan, and Pro Wrestling Noah.

Muto once famously said, “Wrestling is a marathon without a finish line. Now that he has completed 38 years of running, how has his life changed?

He said, “As expected, I took the day after my retirement match off. But the day after that, I followed the same routine as when I was still running. I wake up at 5:30 a.m., watch morning drama, and head to the gym at 8:30 a.m. I return home at 1:30 p.m. I come home at 1:30 in the afternoon, and then I go to work. I’ve been doing this lifestyle for a long time.
I have an artificial joint that is designed to match the amount of muscle I had when I was active, so if my muscles get weak, my body can’t stand the equipment anymore. So I have to keep working out. It’s a lifelong training program. I have no intention of retiring. But that life suits me.

Even so, a question still arises. Does he not feel a lack of satisfaction in his battle-free days? When I asked the question frankly, I received a surprising answer.

I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. Besides, there are fights in various aspects of daily life. For example, going to the gym even when you are hungover and have a hard day. That’s a great fight, too (laughs). Fighting against yourself who wants to have fun. That won’t change no matter what.

When asked about his ambitions for the future, he said, “I don’t have anything concrete in mind,” but he did mention one thing.

I’m a drinker,” he said. For the time being, I’m looking forward to drinking the five or six bottles of Opus One I got after my retirement match. I drink the best sake after training.

Tears at the memory of Inoki

Mutoh’s active career lasted 38 years, the same as that of Antonio Inoki (79 years old), whom he looked up to as his mentor.

In my memories, Inoki-san is always angry. Among my ‘works,’ the Nobuhiko Takada fight in ’95 is still praised by many people as ‘a great fight,’ but even after that fight, Inoki-san was angry with me (laughter).

Inoki disliked Muto’s flamboyant poses and spectacular performances and rejected them. He was once harshly criticized by the commentators for his style, which was the exact opposite of the “Fighting Spirit/Inoki Wrestling” style, where the fighter’s fighting spirit was at the forefront. However, many wrestlers and people concerned believe that “that is how conscious Inoki was of Muto.

When asked about this point, Mutoh remained silent and muttered, “Last year, it was decided to hold his retirement match.

Last year, after the decision was made to hold his retirement match, I always wanted Inoki to appear on the stage, even if it was just on video. Inoki’s birthday is February 20, and my retirement match is on the 21st. If it were true, Mr. Inoki would have celebrated his 80th birthday. But I didn’t have the timing to approach him until the very end. Even so, after he passed away, I heard from someone close to Mr. Inoki that he often said to me, “You know, I’m 80 years old and my first job is Mutoh. Even if I didn’t say it directly, he understood. I was moved to think that he had always cared about me. ……

During the interview, Muto never once choked up, but at this moment there was a silence as he searched for the right words. His eyes seemed to be filled with tears. If his mentor had been at Tokyo Dome, I wonder what he would have thought of his beloved apprentice’s retirement match.

I don’t know. But the funny thing is, I don’t remember much of Mr. Inoki’s retirement match. Of course I remember that he recited “The Road” and so on. But I don’t remember who I played with or the content of the match. That’s why I was very conscious about my match. I wanted to make sure that my matches would be memorable.

Muto smiled happily when I told him that it was a good match. He concluded by saying, “Lately, FRIDAY has been full of photogravures, so I can’t take it home with me (laughs). Please give us more scoops! He even made a suggestion to the magazine. Even though he has left the ring, his 38 years of heroic fighting will forever be burned into the hearts of his fans.

Mutoh exchanging techniques with Naito in his retirement match. Despite having bombs in both legs, he was one step closer to becoming the top active wrestler in the world.
In contrast to the match, Muto was all smiles during the interview. Even when we ran out of time for the interview, he was still smiling and answering our questions until the end.
Keiji Mutoh’s candid statement, which has not been published in this magazine! I have no intention of retiring! Special interview to commemorate his retirement
Unpublished cut from the magazine: Keiji Mutoh’s candid confession! I have no intention of retiring! Retirement Special Interview
Keiji Mutoh’s candid confession, never before published in this magazine! I have no intention of retiring! Retirement Special Interview

From the March 24, 2023 issue of FRIDAY

  • Interview and text Koji Shigeta PHOTO Takehiko Kohiyama, Sankei Shimbun (retirement match)

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