WWE to induct Japanese legend Great Muta into Hall of Fame

The Great Muta, revered for his unique wrestling style and ability, was one of the top stars in Japan and in the United States. Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

The Great Muta technically never performed for WWE. But his accomplishments and mystique will be immortalized by the world's largest pro wrestling promotion forever.

The legendary Japanese wrestler will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this year, sources confirmed with ESPN on Wednesday. An official announcement is expected later Wednesday on WWE digital series "The Bump" by old Muta rival Ric Flair. PWInsider.com was the first to report the news.

Muta, who also wrestled under his real name, Keiji Muto, as a different character, was one of Japan's biggest wrestling stars of the 1990s and 2000s. He is a four-time former IWGP heavyweight champion, the designation used for New Japan Pro-Wrestling's top title, and former GHC heavyweight champion with Pro Wrestling Noah.

Muta also had several runs in WCW, WWE's former top competitor, and was one of the first Japanese wrestlers to achieve star status in the United States. He had notable feuds with Sting and Flair and was also a member of the NWO Japan, the wildly popular WCW group's offshoot in Japan, which became a cult favorite in that country.

As a character, Muta was known for his haunting face paint, spraying "poison mist" in opponent's faces with his mouth, his Muta Lock, Shining Wizard and moonsault signature moves; and "The Muta Scale," a pro wrestling colloquialism to determine how much blood a wrestler had shed in a match. The latter was inspired by one of the bloodiest matches in wrestling history: Muta vs. Hiroshi Hase in 1992.

The WWE Hall of Fame ceremony is scheduled for Mar. 31 in Los Angeles, one day before WrestleMania 39.

Muta, 60, had a retirement tour last year into early this year, notably performing against current WWE star Shinsuke Nakamura on Jan. 1. WWE allowing one of its wrestlers to perform elsewhere is a rarity, but that was how significant Muta and his retirement run was. Muta's final matches included a tag match involving Sting and AEW wrestler Darby Allin, New Japan headliner Tetsuya Naito and a short, unexpected performance against longtime Muta friend and rival Masahiro Chono.