The Great Muta vs. Jushin Thunder Liger
One of the testaments to this match’s greatness is that it is fully comprehensible and easy to follow even for those with no prior knowledge of Japanese wrestling. Stop and think: if someone didn’t know who John Cena and the Rock were, how would they understand that their last two Wrestlemania matches are considered watershed moments in recent WWE history just by watching them?
Crowd heat? Maybe. Could a fan with no knowledge of the WWE understand their characters automatically? Possibly. Would they then immediately know who to cheer and who to boo? Definitely not.
In contrast, Muta and Liger is at its onset a well-executed, binary battle between a evil bad guy (Muta) and a heroic good guy (Liger). The two establish their characters fully before the bell even rings, with Muta’s impressively creepy costume and signature green mist opposed by Liger’s shining white outfit and crowd-adulating calls for cheers. Throughout the match, Muta attacks Liger outside the ring, uses foreign objects, and (most dastardly of all) frequently attempts to remove Liger’s famous mask. Liger, on the other hand, fights fair and takes the punishment, never showing malice towards his opponent until he is pushed to the very edge.
Throughout the match, the crowd are as impressive as any that might gather today in Chicago, Toronto, or Madison Square Garden. They gasp and cry out in agony at Muta’s sheer evilness and pop like 10-year-old marks for Liger’s heroics. In this era of “We are awesome” chants coming from self-congratulatory “smart” crowds, today’s fans could take a lesson from the Japanese fans. Suspending disbelief allows them to be swept up in a near-Wagnerian battle between polar forces until the bout’s famous finishing sequence directly challenges the construct:
Having been unmasked by the wicked Muta, “Kishin” (Liger’s demonic alter-ego) emerges and goes on a rampage. Following a primordial roar and his own mist spray in the face of Muta, Liger’s brutal punishment of his opponent in response underscores his renewed intensity and highlights the divergence from the established persona he carried with him into the ring. The entirety of the match builds to this finishing sequence, which serves as the primary source of the philosophical questions the match conjures: How much distance is there between absolute good and absolute evil? When is it appropriate for the righteous to lash out and use the tactics of their adversaries? Can good go too far in fighting evil?
As Nietzsche famously wrote, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” This match compelling you to even broach that question is what makes it one you should probably know better.