The retirement tour of Keiji Muto has been stretched out in typical pro wrestling fashion. Different company’s have promoted the 60 year old last matches for them, both in singles and tags. His “The Great Muta” alter ego got his own send-off. But we were told that Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Feb. 21 show at the Tokyo Dome — Keiji Muto Grand Final Pro-Wrestling “Last” Love Hold Out — was the end of the road.
It looked that way after Muto got some nearfalls in his main event match with New Japan’s Tetsuya Naito, including one after a tribute to All Japan Pillar and NOAH founder, the late Mitsuharu Misawa:
KEIJI MUTO PAYS TRIBUTE TO MISAWA WITH AN EMERALD FLOWSION!! #noah_ghc #MutoFinal pic.twitter.com/WZHljsah1M— Pro Wrestling NOAH Global (@noahglobal) February 21, 2023
Muto thought about a moonsault, but seemed to decided his admittedly banged up body couldn’t execute the move. Shortly thereafter, Naito finished Muto off with Destino.
DESTINO BY TETSUYA NAITO ON KEIJI MUTO! #noah_ghc #MutoFinal pic.twitter.com/ZQ5vUHPchi— Pro Wrestling NOAH Global (@noahglobal) February 21, 2023
The two men shared a fist bump before the retiring legend held the ropes for Los Ingobernables de Japón’s leader to exit. Muto got a microphone, but it wasn’t to say goodbye just yet. Instead, he called for his Three Musketeers partner Masahiro Chono to come to the ring from his seat at the commentary table.
Quick history lesson: Muto, Chono & the late Shinya Hashimoto were Antonio Inoki trainees from the 1980s who banded together as Toukon Sanjushi, which translates to “Fighting Spirit Three Musketeers”. Known simply as the Three Musketeers in the States, they had a tremendous run in the late 80s and early 90s for New Japan, with Chono poised for the greatest success after winning the first G1 Climax and the NWA Worlds Heavyweight title. A neck injury suffered while defending that belt against Steve Austin in 1992 stalled his rise just short of becoming NJPW’s “Ace”. He adopted a heel yakuza-inspired gimmick (which he still rocks to this day) and went on to fame as an nWo member for WCW & New Japan, continued wrestling until 2014, and has worked as a booker and commentator ever since. But he never got a retirement send-off like the one Muto’s been experiencing.
So his friend gave him a small taste of one today.
Fighting Spirit Three Musketeers, all retired today! ! !— Pro Wrestling NOAH Global (@noahglobal) February 21, 2023
Special singles match Keiji Muto vs Masahiro Chono! #noah_ghc #MutoFinal pic.twitter.com/iu7tNVkEUB
It was a brief affair, officiated by legendary referee Tiger Hattori, which ended when Muto tapped out to an STF.
The referee is Tiger Hattori!— Pro Wrestling NOAH Global (@noahglobal) February 21, 2023
Chono's farewell STF to Muto! ! ! ! ! !#noah_ghc #MutoFinalpic.twitter.com/eKDK1WLl7Q
In the end, after putting over a modern rival and a legendary friend, Muto didn’t make a speech. The announcers tried to summarize his career — almost 3000 matches over nearly four decades, winning 13 championships all across the globe in the process — as he walked up the Tokyo Dome ramp.
THANK YOU KEIJI MUTO! #ThankYouMuto #noah_ghc #MutoFinal pic.twitter.com/UqYdcgJ125— Pro Wrestling NOAH Global (@noahglobal) February 21, 2023
The stadium’s video screen displayed the message “Pro Wrestling Love” next to images of Muto, Hashimoto, and Misawa.