HomeSportsAntonio Inoki, world icon of professional wrestling, dies at 79

Antonio Inoki, world icon of professional wrestling, dies at 79


Antonio Inoki, a professional wrestling icon who was also a Japanese politician, has died, WWE and New Japan Pro-Wrestling said Friday. He was 79 years old.

Inoki, born Kanji Inoki in Yokohama, Japan, in 1943, rose to fame as a competitor for the Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance in the 1960s and at the height of his fame wrestled Muhammad Ali in 1976 in what was billed as “The war of the worlds”. .” It was also seen as the first modern example of a mixed martial arts match.

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Wrestler Antonio Inoki, left, and world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali shake hands after a 15-round boxing and wrestling match on June 26, 1976 at Tokyo’s Budokan.
(AP Photo, File)

Inoki founded New Japan-Pro Wrestling (NJPW) in 1972 and owned the company until 2005, when he sold his majority shares to Yuke’s. NJPW is one of the most successful wrestling promotions in the world outside of WWE.

It would be the first IWGP Heavyweight Champion in 1987 after defeating Masa Saito in the final of a tournament.

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Inoki won the WWF Championship over Bob Backlund in 1979, but it was due to outside interference. He would again pin Backlund in their rematch with the help of interference, but the second fight was declared a no contest. Inoki vacated the title, and

Kanji for Japanese professional wrestler turned politician "anthony" Inoki bows at the end of a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo on August 21, 2014.

Japanese professional wrestler turned politician Kanji “Antonio” Inoki bows at the end of a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo on August 21, 2014.
(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

Backlund would win it again against Bobby Duncum. The WWF never recognized the title reign.

He would face Ric Flair in Pyongyang in 1995, when the governments of Japan and North Korea came together to promote peace. Inoki emerged victorious in the match.

The professional wrestling industry paid tribute to Inoki over the weekend.

Inoki entered political waters in 1989 after winning a seat in the upper house of Japan’s two-chamber parliament. He led the Sports and Peace Party and traveled to Iraq in 1990 to secure the release of Japanese citizens held hostage there.

Professional wrestler Antonio Inoki speaks at an event on October 31, 2020 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan.

Professional wrestler Antonio Inoki speaks at an event on October 31, 2020 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan.
(Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)

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He remained active in politics until 2019.

Associated Press contributed to this report.



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