There is no move that encapsulates the weird space wrestling holds between reality and fiction better than the poison mist. Known as Dokugiri in Japan, and by an assortment of names in the west, the poison mist has wowed crowds since The Great Kabuki debuted the move in 1981, given the idea by then manager Gary Hart after his wife spilled green food dye in the kitchen. The lore behind the mist has grown over the years, and now it can be as mystical as you want or merely a flashy way of breaking the rules. However, there is one glaring problem with the move: in a time defined by a viral pandemic that can be spread by air particles, does the poison mist still have a place in today’s wrestling scene?
In the already weird wrestling year that was 2020, one of the biggest surprises for me came in July at NXT: Great American Bash. During the main event between Sasha Banks and Io Shirai, Asuka came out to lend a hand to her former Triple Tails teammate. She did so by spraying green mist into the face of Sasha, blinding her and allowing Io to pick up the win. In a vacuum, it was a cool spot that one-upped Sasha after her friend Bayley had injected herself into the match. But with context, it happened during the middle of the pandemic, and at a time when several WWE staff had recently tested positive for COVID-19. People were quick to point out how problematic it was to use the move under the circumstances of the time.
The use of the move at The Great American Bash is conspicuous by its absence elsewhere. Several other high profile practitioners of the mist, such as BUSHI in New Japan Pro Wrestling and the legendary Keiji Mutoh (aka The Great Muta), have removed the move from their arsenal since the pandemic hit. Even Asuka herself, who had been using the move on a semi-regular basis before, hasn’t used it aside from the one glaring exception. We have even seen Tetsuya Naito stop spitting at his opponent to try and rile them up, and Carlito didn’t do his apple spit routine during his surprise appearance at this year’s Royal Rumble.
It seems a pretty sound argument to shelve the move (and other spit-based offence) for the present. The question is, is it a move that will be accepted in a post-Covid climate?
It is impossible to know what society will look like once humanity has a solid hold on the virus, and it’s not a world we will see for some time, despite the hope that comes with the vaccine rollouts. But, for a year now and counting, better hygiene practices have been drilled into our day to day lives. It has become the new normal, and it’s likely that the impact on hygiene will carry on to some extent even when the pandemic becomes a chapter in the history books. With this in mind, will spraying a cloud of saliva into somebody’s face simply be seen as too problematic?
Sure, it might only make the move more dastardly for the bad guys, but real world health concerns take precedence. Unprotected chairshots to the head used to be a near weekly occurrence on TV during the Attitude Era, but now they carry a taboo as our understanding on concussions have grown. Where as once as a kid I used to love the sheer crushing impact of a chair being slammed onto someone’s head, now I can’t help but cringe. As the dangers of airborne viral diseases have become clearer, it is possible that the mist will see a similar fate – banished from the mainstream and surviving only through smaller promotions looking for something to help them stand out. It wouldn’t be the best look to spray saliva in someone’s face in the middle of a bad flu season.
The counter is that concussions are here to stay, but through vaccinations and immunity Covid won’t be as prevalent. Airborne spread of disease is nothing new, its dangers have just been amplified right now. Once Covid-19 isn’t the threat it is, the thought of the poison mist might not instantly cause the instant revulsion it currently would. It’s also not like wrestling has stopped risking concussions either (stares at Matt Hardy and Sammy Guevara, and the women of Stardom every time they pay homage to Katsuyori Shibata in the worst possible headbutting way). However, the impact this virus has had on every facet of our lives won’t shake away easily.
If the appeal of the poison mist was purely visual, then it can be achieved through other means. Last month, Natsuko Tora left Giulia’s face stained blue much in the way her former leader Kagetsu used to do with her blue mist. Only instead of spraying it from her mouth, she threw it as a powder from her hands. Fans still got the giant colourful cloud, and the sheer impact of the move clung to Giulia through the rest of the match. Like the crimson mask from a bloody match, the image of a wrestler caked in the mist makes for a fantastic visual, especially in capturing what they’ve just gone through. But what Natsuko did was safer.
Below is a comparison: on the left is Hazuki after Kagetsu hit the mist on her, and on the right is Giulia after Natsuko Tora’s powder attack.
To look only at the visual impact is to ignore part of the mist’s charm though, and that is the wild lore that surrounds it. It’s not a suplex or a headlock, to use the poison mist builds upon your very character’s foundation and personality. One of the more famous practitioners of the move, The Great Muta, would ‘activate’ the mist by pressing on his throat, stimulating the rare gland there that produced and stored the poison. This unique condition was passed onto him by The Great Kabuki himself, who was billed as Muta’s father. The mist was a building block next to his incredible look and skill that made him stand out on a global stage. He didn’t need the mist, but man did it add a lot to his character work.
The mist itself would start to take on unique properties as wrestlers became more creative. The more common green mist would obscure the victim’s vision, while the deadlier rest mist would burn the eyes. Black mist could potentially blind opponents for weeks, as Nidia would find out after Tajiri used it on her. Yellow could paralyse a person, while blue mist put them to sleep. Some wrestlers could produce multiple strains, while others could only manage the one.
Of course, the mist doesn’t have to be beholden to this kind of mythological lore. A wrestler operating in a more reality based promotion can still use it without the more lavish concepts and still find value. Being sprayed with a cloud of mist would still blind a victim and cause noticeable pain and discomfort. Savvy wrestlers like Kagetsu pin their opponents in a way that their victim’s stained face is obscured to the referee until after the bell has rung, helping to hide their misdeeds and avoiding disqualification. If a fan who prefers their wrestling to feel real is watching someone claim that they have the mythical mist gland, they can hand-wave it away as the bad guy lying to scare his opponents. You don’t have to believe for it to work, it just adds to the fun if you do. It’s the wrestling equivalent of Santa Claus!
However none of the lore surrounding normal blinding mist can compare to pregnancy mist. YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT. While working for the promotion HUSTLE, The Great Muta made us question the true biological properties of the technique. Muta was wrestling alongside Real Gay to face Tajiri and Yinling the Erotic Terrorist, and after the match used his green mist on Yinling’s lady bits. The aftermath of this was that she became pregnant, giving birth to a fully grown sumo wrestler who would later accidentally crush her to death in a match after some parental issues. Surprisingly people have still been willing to take Great Muta’s poison mist to the face after knowing what it’s capable of producing.
Isn’t pro wrestling just the best?
The point is, the poison mist is a move that can be molded and shaped to fit any form of professional wrestling. It can build mystique, add some flourish to a fun gimmick, or just add style to rulebreaking. I have always loved the move ever since I first saw Tajiri use it, and as I’ve gotten older and realised its versatility I’ve come to appreciate it more. As great as the mist is though, there is a distinct possibility that it becomes a relic of a pre-Covid era. Spitting in somebody’s face was never really all that acceptable, but the world never shut down because of it until now. Wrestling will always look for ways to push the boundaries, but there are some things from the past that should stay that way. Is the poison mist one of them?