There’s a cliche that claims a picture is worth a thousand words, and there is no place where that is more true than in professional wrestling. One picture can define a match, a night, or even a career. It takes the emotion and the atmosphere, places it in a time capsule and bottles it up for us and future generations to enjoy. It embeds itself in our brains and becomes a memory that will last until our very last day on earth.
Today, WrestleEnigma continues a series known as Picture Perfect. In this series, we take some of the many iconic photos in professional wrestling’s vast history and analyze them; analyze the circumstances, the emotion and why it has become so special.
SETTING THE SCENE
It’s one thing to become great on your own, but it’s entirely different to have greatness thrust upon you. Because when this occurs, it means that you have no chance to find your way and become your own, unique entity. Instead, you’re fully expected to become what others want you to become. And this is a pressure that not many can handle. Magnus, for example, felt this pressure late last year and when it finally got it him, he became an entirely different person.
At this year’s Lockdown pay-per-view event, we saw another young wrestler have greatness thrust upon them. For his first match in the United States in years, Japanese wrestling icon The Great Muta chose Sanada and Yasu to be his tag team partners in a match against Chris Sabin and Bad Influence.
The trio were impressive, and left American fans looking forward to the potentially fruitful working relationship between TNA and Muta’s promotion, Wrestle-1. However, shortly afterwards, Muta and Yasu would head back to Japan. Sanada, meanwhile, would be put to the task of upholding the pride of Japan and proving himself as worthy of being The Great Muta’s protege.
Sanada got off to a hot start for his TNA run, capturing the coveted X-Division Championship at an event before Lockdown even happened. He’d prove his victory over Austin Aries was no fluke, too, as he notched win after win over a list of impressive opponents. He seemed to be capable of handling the massive pressure that Great Muta placed his shoulders. That, of course, is why Muta put the pressure on him though; he believed he could handle it.
It wasn’t until over three months later, when Aries finally cashed in his rematch clause, that Sanada would lose his X-Division Championship. It seemed as if he lost his confidence along with the championship, too. He doubted himself and his capabilities. And when a man is down, he’s his most vulnerable. He’s more likely to succumb to other influences, good or bad.
James Storm was fully aware of this, so for weeks, he’d pick fights with Sanada. Both verbally and physically. He’d call him nothing but a disappointment, a failure that let his people down. Sanada, despite being provoked, never responded.
Storm’s motives were unknown at this time, but what was known, was that Storm had gotten inside Sanada’s head. When he finally responded, in what way would he choose to do it?
PAINTING THE PICTURE
As a part of IMPACT Wrestling’s summer in New York City’s Manhattan Center, The Great Muta was scheduled to make an appearance on the July 24th edition of the then-Thursday night show.
Robbie E. of the BroMans, though, would interrupt and let his feeling on the international star be known; “Wait, is this a joke bro? Is this a joke bro? First, Low Ki gets a grand entrance, now the not-so-Great Muta gets a grand entrance. What about me? What about the biggest star in this company bro? Where’s my match? Where’s my grand entrance? Listen, me, you, match, now!”
Muta took off his robe and stared down Robbie E. Robbie would attack Muta with a forearm, followed by a series of strikes. He’d even back Muta into the corner with vicious rights and lefts to the Japanese legend. It was clear that Robbie was jealous over the fawning of the 51-year old, and believed he deserved that treatment. He is, after all, a former X-Division and TNA World Tag Team Champion, bro!
Robbie angrily shoved referee Earl Hebner out of his way, after Hebner pleaded with Robbie to get Muta out of the corner. When Robbie turned back around, he got a face-full of Muta’s signature green mist.
Muta applied a headlock takedown and continued his offense with a twisting corkscrew elbow. Next was a Dragon Screw Leg-Whip, which set up for the Shining Wizard into a pinfall; 1, 2, 3.
The Great Muta, as is usually the case, emerged victorious on this night. Before he could enjoy his victory, though, the entrance music of one James Storm hit. Before Storm even entered, you could tell Muta was seething at the recent actions of The Cowboy.
“So you’re The Great Muta?” Storm asked with an arrogant smirk, while crouched down on the ramp.
“So you’re the legend that all of the boys in the back are talking about?” Storm entered the ring before continuing; “You see, all I see is The Great Fraud! A joke, a has-been, washed up, a quote-unquote, wannabe, legend. See, you can have Sanada fooled all you want, but me, all I see is another man coming into a company that my body helped build since day one and trying to relive his glory years!”
A valid point, Storm makes, in the sense that there’s been many men who’ve come into TNA and hogged the spotlight away from the originals. Muta, however, wasn’t necessarily that guy, considering this was merely a special appearance. Nonetheless, Storm wasn’t done yet; “You see, in this damn company, I’m the legend! And where I come from, in the great state of Tennessee, we don’t spit mist!”
Storm took a sip of beer and spit it all over The Great Muta; the ultimate sign of disrespect towards a man whose country centers around respect.
His onslaught then began as he pounded Muta with punches. He’d take out Yasu and then again pound on Muta on the mat. That is until Sanada ran down the ramp with a chair for the save… or that’s what we thought, anyway.
Storm fleed from the ring and then looked into the eyes of Sanada. Sanada fained sympathy for his mentor as Storm appeared to be headed towards the back. Unfortunately, Storm scowled and turned around. Sanada took a few steps back with the steel chair in hand, while Muta taunted Storm and spit red spit mist into the air. Storm nodded his head as Muta pointed at him; this was a rivalry that was just beginning. However, a much bigger one was about to be formed.
Sanada pounded Muta in the back with the chair, then put the boots to him after he fell to the canvas; just as much out of betrayal as physical pain. Yasu would again try to make the save, but fell victim to Sanada’s red mist.
To finish off the attack, Sanada hit a moonsalt off the top rope; the very moonsalt that Muta had perfected over his legendary career and passed onto Sanada.
Sanada exited the ring and bowed to James Storm. He bowed to the man who stood for everything that The Great Muta did not. At this very moment, the Sanada we had all grown to know perished, and The Great Sanada was born.
That’s the way you treat the man who brought you into the wrestling business? What a slap in the face!” -Mike Tenay
Over the ensuing weeks, we would witness the transformation of The Great Sanada. The most noticeable change was that of his look; he sported a new hairstyle, and new facepaint eerily similar to The Great Muta’s. He possessed a different attitude, seeming ruthless and uncaring as opposed to respectful and at times, timid.
Just a few weeks following the betrayal, in the midst of the transformation, Sanada and The Great Muta would go one-on-one at a Wrestle-1 event.
This match showcased the anger that had been boiling inside The Great Muta since his student stabbed him in the back. He was intense, skipping pre-match theatrics and looking all-business.
Just seconds into the match, he spewed mist into the face of The Great Sanada. Then, merely a minute into the match, he hit the Shining Wizard; one of his various finishers. Instead of going for a pinfall, though, he bodyslammed Sanada and rushed to the top rope for his patented moonsalt. This, most definitely, a nice measure of revenge after Sanada had the audacity to hit him with his own move.
Only now could he go for the pinfall; 1, 2, no!
Muta continued his domination of his protege with a headlock takedown, a spinning corkscrew elbow, and an STF submission hold. Sanada, though a changed man, still had a fighting spirit deep within him. Because of that, he fought his way to the ropes for a break. And at four, Muta would reluctantly oblige the referee’s demands.
Sanada would roll outside the ring to buy himself some time, but Muta refused and pursued him. Just as Muta exited, however, Sanada entered. His plans to dive over the top rope would be foiled, but a flip off the apron sufficed. Problem being, Muta moved out of harm’s way and photographer at ringside would eat the impact of the move instead.
Sanada would reverse some offense from Muta and whip him into the steel barricade. Now, he waited inside the ring hoping for a countout victory. That, though, wasn’t going to happen. Muta rolled back inside, with a steel chair in hand. Having already sprayed him with the mist and hitting the moonsalt, the last step to turn the tables on Sanada was to hit him with a chair.
A dropkick would knock the chair out of Muta’s hands. Sanada would pull it away from the referee, and use it as a shield against The Great Muta’s mist before cracking his skull with the unforgiving steel.
Miraculously, Muta remained standing, though visibly shaken and coughing up blood. Sanada, desperate, hit a cutter onto the remains of the broken chair. He then taunted both the crowd and Muta, while Muta’s eyes were shown to be glassed over.
With some semblance of control over the match, finally, Sanada applied a headlock. Muta would push the referee out of the way and throw a fireball into the face of Sanada. An act of karma, you could say.
The Great Muta maintained the advantage via his vintage offensive maneuvers. Following the third shining wizard of the match, he attempted a cover on Sanada; 1, 2, kickout!
Muta continued to string along his attack on Sanada with a bodyslam, then an attempted moonsalt that Sanada rolled out of the way for. Muta favored his knee as Sanada went to the apron for a spingboard dropkick to that very knee. He’d go the well again, this time nailing the dropkick to the chest of The Great Muta.
Sanada hoisted Muta onto his shoulder before hitting another cutter. Cover; 1, 2, no.
Next, Sanada went for the moonsalt; how ironic would it have been for Sanada to defeat Muta with his own move? Alas, that didn’t happen, as Muta rolled away and Sanada landed on his feet. Muta sprayed green mist into the air, but Sanada ducked and the mist instead went into the referee’s eyes.
Sanada desperately flailed away at his former mentor before a third cutter. He re-positioned Muta then climbed to the top rope for a moonsalt. He went for the cover, but the referee was out. A frustrated Sanada shouted at him, as Muta stalked from behind. Shinning Wizard!
Muta attempted a Shinning Wizard once more, but Sanada blocked it. He rebounded off the ropes and dropkicked Muta on the chin, readying him for a Bridging Tiger Suplex into a cover; 1, 2, kickout! What was it going to take to win this match, for either man?
Next, Sanada hit the moonsalt again, but Muta got his shoulder up just in time. Sanada, having emptied out his arsenal, tried it yet again. This time, Muta would spit mist into his face upon landing. Now, it was Muta’s turn to try and end this match, and with all the moves we’d already seen countless times; the Shinning Wizard, and the moonsalt. They hadn’t been enough up to this point, but would they be now?
1, 2, 3!
In a match where resiliency and fighting spirit was tested, the man who’s embodied those things for three decades prevailed. This rivalry is far from over, though.
At Bound for Glory in Tokyo, Japan, two-thirds of James Storm’s Revolution—with the other third being the newly recruited Manik—will face The Great Muta and Tajiri. It will be a match of teacher vs. student, mentor vs. mentor, loyalty vs. betrayal.
On October 12 inside the historical Korakuen Hall, the next chapter of The Great Muta vs. The Great Sanada will be written.