Throughout the career of the Icon Sting one rivalry that likely flies under the radar was his longstanding feud against The Great Muta. Both men carried with them a true sense of competition that exceeded their respective roles as either heel or face. For all the darkness that The Great Muta it would face all the justice that the light in Sting would represent.
Despite being polar opposites of one another, it is 68 recorded matches that they faced against or with one another either in a Battle Bowl, singles, tag team or six-man tag that showcased what how they raised each other up countless times. They brought the best out of one another.
On April 23rd, 1989 Sting and The Great Muta first faced one another at a house show for the National Wrestling Alliance in Huntington, West Virginia. The match result between them was disqualification. So while Sting walked away the winner their battle said little about who was better and more about what obstacles would stand before the NWA’s franchise player, Sting. Over the next three months, the two would face each other time and again on house shows.
Sting and The Great Muta – A Classic NWA Rivalry
It wasn’t until July 23rd, 1989 that the two would face each other in front of a televised audience. This time the stakes would be a little higher as the two men’s work in front of a live audience would capture the attention of fans during the NWA’s presentation of The Great American Bash – Glory Days, in Baltimore, Maryland.
As smoke would fill the air and ceremonial gong’s would be struck, The Great Muta with his manager Gary Hart in tow would come to the ring to face Sting for the NWA Television Championship.
At the time, Muta was new to North American audiences and carried with him a mysterious and almost ominous nature about him being an Eastern-based wrestler competing in the Western world.
While Muta was a heel, he wasn’t without his fans as those in attendance would hold signs stating Muta was ‘the Pearl of the Orient’. With Muta and Hart in the ring, they await the champion, who came to the ring to a rousing ovation as he is accompanied by ‘Hot Stuff’ Eddie Gilbert.
Prior to the match, Sting with Gilbert by his side spoke of the respect he had for Muta and how well they would match up but the actual match would be where any respect in the throngs of battle is tossed out the window.
The match begins with Sting leaping from one ring to the other as it was set up with two rings as it had been set up that way in preparation for the War Games match scheduled to take place later on. After the initial advantage by Sting, Muta would recover and regain control.
An exciting array of high-flying moves, martial arts kicks and chops and the champion would go down. Muta would then proceed to continue the assault on Sting with a springboard over the top rope to Sting on the floor. Sting would regain control taking the fight to Muta. The two men would equally throw caution to the wind in their attack.
Whether it was inside the ring or out they appeared to hit one another with a similar assault. With both men sporting face paint and varying the assault with both submission and aerial tactics, the duo would almost appear as mirror images from opposite sides of the world.
Sting would combine his speed with exceptional strength, demonstrating a press slam on The Great Muta. Muta would not sit idle as he would recover and spend his time trying to wear down the champion. The strategy was to stretch the champion tearing at his head, neck and even ribs. With Sting showing that he was worn down, one would think it would be the advantage Muta would need. That wasn’t the case. Muta was remain steadfast in his attack of the champion.
However, as the match continued, Sting appeared to be prepared for the moves Muta would come at him with. He was able to avoid handspring elbows and kicks by the challenger. He would even avoid the mist in the eyes that would often take out many of his opponents. With the referee receiving the mist in the eyes. Another referee would attempt to make the pin by Muta who would hit a moonsault.
As The Great Muta went for the pin, Sting kicked out at two. Sting would then hit a back suplex on his own and make a pin. The referee would count to three proclaiming Sting the winner or so we thought. However, Gary Hart would come in and insist that Muta’s shoulder was up and that in fact the challenger’s shoulder should not have been counted down for three.
But Muta was awarded the title upon the match replay shows that at one point both men had a shoulder raised at some point in the pinfall attempt. The match would end in controversy as it was ultimately Muta that would walk away with the championship. This was until the end of the show when it was decided that the title would be held up and neither Muta nor Sting would be the NWA Television Champion.
The following month the two men would face each other no less than thirteen times in thirty-one days. During one of those matches, The Great Muta would capture the vacant NWA Television Champion defeating Sting in the process.
It wouldn’t be until the following month, September 12th, 1989, when Sting and his partner Ric Flair would battle Gary Hart’s J-Tex Corporation (The Great Muta and Dick Slater) at the NWA’s Clash of the Champions #8 – Fall Brawl in Columbia, South Carolina.
The event began with highlights of a beatdown by the J-Tex Corporation as The Great Muta held Ric Flair while Terry Funk would punch him repeatedly. This was all taking place as Gary Hart was looking on from the month earlier. It led to security coming out and being attacked in the process but also brought out Sting, who came out to Flair’s aid and would attack both Muta and Funk.
The match was the main event of the evening, as Dirty Dick Slater and The Great Muta, accompanied by Gary Hart, would come to the ring. This was followed by Flair and Sting, who would proceed to come next. Slater was replacing Funk, who was scheduled to be in the match but was injured the previous week. Muta and Sting would start the match off against one another.
Much like their battles in the past, these two once again reflected two sides of the same coin. The Pearl of the Orient and Sting would battle early on. Sting would clear the ring eventually of both Muta and Dick Slater.
As the match continued, Muta and Sting would continue to size each other up. Sting would work on a body part with an attempt of weakening Muta in the process. All four men would eventually battle on the floor, with Sting and Muta pairing up and then battling inside the ring.
Gary Hart’s men regroup and come together on the outside before the match continues. While the match continued, Muta was forced to look on as Sting worked on his partner. This was until Slater tagged into Muta.
Muta and Sting come together, and once again, Sting shows his strength on Hart’s Pearl of the Orient. But once again, as the two would separate, we could see how fierce they would be against the men that they aren’t caught in a feud with either Slater or Flair.
The Great Muta showed such poise and tenacity as he would systematically work over The Nature Boy. But when Sting and The Great Muta were able to come together, fans would witness such tremendous athleticism. With the referee distracted, Gary Hart would hit Sting in the back of the head, allowing The Great Muta to attempt to get the pinfall attempt. But the former NWA Television champion would not stay down.
Even a powerbomb moments later wouldn’t finish off the Stinger. The Great Muta would continue to beat down Sting until Flair was able to come and try and help him. As the match was reaching its closing moments, the four men would pair off. Muta would spray Sting in the face at one point. With Sting unable to see, Flair is beaten down by both Dick Slater and The Great Muta.
This brought out Terry Funk who came out and put a plastic bag over the head of Ric Flair, continuing their feud. Sting’s vision is eventually restored but there is a clear disadvantage as both men are being beaten and battered.
Sting and The Great Muta would continue to face one another on house shows leading up to their next clash on television in a tag team matchup. On October 28th, 1989, Sting and Ric Flair would once again team up, this time to seek revenge for what took place a month earlier against Terry Funk and The Great Muta as part of Halloween Havoc 1989 – Settling the Score in a Thunderdome Cage Match that was refereed by the living legend, Bruno Sammartino.
“It’s Halloween, and guess what? It’s going to be full of Havoc. It’s going to be different because we’re talking about something different than a regular wrestling match, and I love to be different, and you know that. Halloween Havoc and electricity is just seconds away now”.
The match already had an epic feel about it. From the guest referee to participants in the Great Muta and Terry Funk, with security leading them to the ring, it was poised to be a special night.
Once the antagonists were in the ring, Sting and Ric Flair were led to the ring by fellow Four Horsemen member Gene Anderson. As Bob Caudle and Jim Ross would share, the Thunderdome was a cage that had no door to which either team could enter or exit.
The meer thought of escape was but a passing attempt at refuge. Both sides have a designated terminator to, which would hold a towel and throw it in the cage leading to the match to end.
This match showcased the sheer brutality, heart, passion, and willingness to preserve by any of those involved. Before the match began, a small fire breaks out atop of the cage that needs to be attended to before the match begins.
In fact, The Great Muta uses his mist to put out the fire. The match had regular tag team rules with a team member remaining on the apron and needing to be tagged in. When Sting and Muta came together, it is Sting who would continue to showcase his strength. This time, however, they would battle outside the ring.
They’d show just how violent and sadistic they are willing to be in order to gain an advantage over their opposition. Once back in the ring, Muta would systematically break down Sting.
With the help of Terry Funk, Muta would gain the advantage on Sting. As the match would progress, there were times when all four men whose animosity for one another was apparent was played out in this matchup. However, Sting would show resilience!
Fatigue is definitely setting in but neither side is willing to relent. Sting and The Great Muta would battle while suspended on the cage. The two make their way in the ring while Flair and Funk continued to battle on the cage.
Sting would hold Muta above his head at one point in what seems like forever. He eventually finishes his Gorilla press slam. But Sting is fatigued at this point, much like Muta, Flair, and Terry Funk.
Sting is then tied to the cage as Ole Anderson attempts to free him. Both Funk and Muta would continue to beat down Flair in the ring. Sting is eventually freed, and then he leaps from the cage into the ring onto Terry Funk.
With Muta attempting to scurry away, Sting would pursue him; the Pearl of the Orient is attempting to escape the cage from over the top. The Great Muta and Sting continue battling on the cage while Ric Flair and Terry Funk continue to battle inside the ring.
Terry Funk is locked in the figure four leg lock as Sting continues to hit top rope splash after top rope splash on Terry Funk. The Great Muta then attempts to strike Bruno Sammartino, only for the living legend to clear him out of the ring.
As Gary Hart attempts to come in and break up the submission attempt by Ric Flair, Ole Anderson strikes him causing him to release the towel in his hand. Once Sammartino sees that Hart has ‘thrown’ his towel, he then calls for the match, declaring them the winners.
It is another match that appears to have ended in controversy. Each match seems to have had one instance or another with some doubt as to whether or not Hart’s team surrendered.
As Sting and The Great Muta continued to battle on house shows, they would next appear against one another as part of Battle Bowl at Starrcade 89′ during one of the tournament matches.
But in wrestling, as in life, mutual respect will often lead to an alliance. The two long-time rivals would come together and battle Rick and Scott Steiner in a tremendous contest at a WCW/ New Japan Pro Wrestling Supershow.
It would be eight years before the two would battle each other once again, but at that point, their matches didn’t have the same energy that their rivalry in 1989 had. A key to the animosity in this rivalry of good and bad was the late Gary Hart. The Great Muta and Sting were on opposite sides of the adulation of the fans.
The fierce and menacing nature of The Great Muta was the perfect foil to the bright energy and light that came with Sting. Their time against one another may have involved other characters but it was the matches between Sting and The Great Muta that resonated with fans.