Meltzer’s Classics: Big Van Vader vs. Keiji Mutoh, 10/8/91

Because Vader needed to be scarier.

With the G1 Climax around the corner, it is fitting that our latest Meltzer’s Classic takes place at that very tournament. We jump back to 1991 when Keiji Mutoh (perhaps better known to Western fans as The Great Muta) took on Big Van Vader. It’s worth saying that the only footage that seems to be available of this match is filmed by a fan and is made up of around ten pixels. You can figure out what is going on but it fuzzes out occasionally, and some nuances may be missed.

However, Vader has never been a man to rely on nuance, so we’re probably okay. He is the hulking fucker trying to beat up a man who in the real world is not exactly small himself. Yet, this size difference is what allows the grumpy bastard to dominate. He throws the rulebook out of the window here and catches Mutoh with several massive fists, and it looks like his strength is too much for his opponent.

It’s when they go outside the ring that the Japanese legend finally gets a grip on this match. Vader rolls him back in, but Keiji is quick to his feet, catching the monster with a dropkick to the floor and slingshotting himself over the ropes onto him. He then throws Vader into the barrier and follows up with a flying back elbow. The secondary story here, however, is that Vader can take a lot more punishment that Mutoh can, and when they return to the squared circle it takes a couple of clubbing blows for the tide to turn back in his favour.

The lack of footage means there are even fewer photos than usual.

Mutoh has one last flurry of offence as he wriggles out of a suplex and hits some big elbows followed by a springboard dropkick and his moonsault, but it’s not enough to put down the Mastodon. Vader plucks him out of the air off a handspring back elbow, and it’s time for Keiji Mutoh to just survive.

The final period of this match is Vader destroying Mutoh and Mutoh looking desperately for a win. He goes for a sunset flip, but Vader just sits down and follows up with a big splash for two. Mutoh rolls him up, but Vader responds with the release powerbomb which looks brutal. It’s the casual way that Vader delivers it as if he couldn’t give a damn if Mutoh were snapped in half. It’s not enough, though, and the crowd come unhinged when their man kicks out. The Natural Born Master finally gets some distance as he strong styles up out of a Stinger Splash in the corner and goes up top. He hits a crossbody, but Vader plucks him out of the air and goes for a slam. Mutoh shifts his bodyweight though and rolls up Big Van Vader to steal the win.

If we’re going purely on action, this is nothing special. It’s a Vader match which means it is a big man chucking someone about. However, the storytelling here is top notch. In front of a Japanese crowd, Keiji Mutoh looks like a warrior for his ability to take punishment. Vader is crushing him, but he refuses to give up, and it doesn’t matter what the Gaijin monster throws at him (or how he throws him about the ring) he kicks out at two. Like many of these five-star matches, it’s a simple story, but it’s one told damn well.

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