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Antonio Inoki in December 2012.
|Ring name(s)||Antonio Inoki
"Moeru Toukon" (Fighting Spirit that Burns)
|Billed height||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|Billed weight||240 lb (110 kg)|
February 20, 1943 |
|Billed from||Tokyo, Japan|
|Debut||September 30, 1960|
|Retired||April 4, 1998|
Muhammad Hussain Inoki (born Kanji Inoki (猪木寛至 Inoki Kanji ) on February 20, 1943) is a Japanese professional wrestling promoter and retired professional wrestler and mixed martial artist who now resides in New York City and Tokyo. He was also the founder and former owner of New Japan Pro Wrestling before selling his controlling share in the promotion to Yuke's. Best known for most of his life by the ring name Antonio Inoki, he fashioned this name after the wrestler Antonino Rocca as a homage to him.
Inoki was born in an affluent family in Yokohama in 1943. He was the sixth son and the second youngest of the seven boys and four girls. His father, Sajiro Inoki, a businessman and politician, died when Kanji was five years old. Inoki entered the Higashidai Grade School. Inoki was taught karate by an older brother while in 6th grade. By the time he was in 7th grade at Terao Junior High School, he was 180 centimeters tall and joined the basketball team. He later quit and joined a track and field club as a shot putter. He eventually won the championship at the Yokohama Junior High School track and field competition.
The family fell on hard times in the post-war years, and in 1957, the 14 year-old Inoki emigrated to Brazil with his grandfather, mother and brothers. His grandfather died during the journey to Brazil. Inoki won regional championships in Brazil in the shot put, discus throw, and javelin throw, and finally the All Brazilian championships in the shot put and discus.
Professional wrestling career
Japan Wrestling Association (1960–1966)
Inoki met Rikidōzan at the age of 17. He went back to Japan for the Japanese Wrestling Association (JWA) as Rikidōzan's disciple. One of his dojo classmates was Giant Baba. After Rikidozan's death, Inoki worked in Baba's shadow until he joined the original Tokyo Pro Wrestling in 1966.
Tokyo Pro Wrestling (1966–1967)
After wrestling a long excursion in the United States, Inoki found a new home in Tokyo Pro Wrestling. While there, Inoki became their biggest star. Unfortunately, the company folded in 1967, due to turmoil behind the scenes.
Japan Wrestling Association (1967–1971)
Returning to JWA in late 1967, Inoki was made Baba's partner and the two dominated the tag team ranks as the "B-I Cannon", winning the NWA International tag team belts four times. Wrestling legend Bruno Sammartino tells a story about Inoki trying to "shoot" on him during a tag match in Osaka to build his reputation against the then-world champ. Bruno powered out of the hold, pounded Inoki mercilessly and threw him out of the ring. Inoki refused to re-enter the ring with Sammartino and tagged in Baba to finish the match.
New Japan Pro Wrestling (1972–1994)
Fired from JWA in late 1971 for planning a takeover of the promotion, Inoki founded New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1972. His first match as a New Japan wrestler was against Karl Gotch. In 1995 the Japanese and Korean governments came together to hold a two-day wrestling festival for peace in Pyongyang, North Korea. The event drew 150,000 and 190,000 fans respectively to Rungnado May Day Stadium. The main event saw the only match between Inoki and Ric Flair with Inoki coming out on top. Days before this event, Inoki and the Korean press went to the grave and birthplace of Rikidōzan and paid tribute to him.
On November 30, 1979, Inoki defeated WWF Champion Bob Backlund in Tokushima, Japan to win the title. Backlund then won a re-match on December 6. However, WWF president Hisashi Shinma declared the re-match a no-contest due to interference from Tiger Jeet Singh, and Inoki remained Champion. Inoki refused the title on the same day and it was declared vacant. Backlund later defeated Bobby Duncum in a Texas Death match to regain the title on December 12. As Inoki refused the title his reign is not included nor is it recognized by WWE in its official history and Backlund is recognized as having one reign from 1978–1983.
Final Countdown and retirement (1994–present)
Inoki's retirement from professional wrestling matches came with the staging of the "Final Countdown" series between 1994 and 1998. This was a special series in which Inoki re-lived some of his mixed martial arts matches under professional wrestling rules, as well as rematches of some of his most well known wrestling matches. Inoki faced Don Frye in the final match of his professional wrestling career.
Culminating in 2006, Inoki's influence within New Japan declined. An example of this has been the purchase of his image by Yuke's, who in 2005 purchased his controlling 51.5% stock in New Japan. As a result New Japan is now able to control Inoki's appearances and the use of his image. Inoki began a new promotion in 2007 called Inoki Genome Federation that competes with New Japan.
On February 1, 2010, World Wrestling Entertainment announced on its Japanese website that Inoki would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2010. On February 9, WWE held a press conference in Tokyo, Japan to officially announce the induction, making him the first ever Japanese person to receive the induction. Inoki was presented with a Hall of Fame certificate by WWE's Ed Wells and stated that he would be attending the WrestleMania XXVI weekend festivities, which saw him officially inducted.
Mixed martial arts
||This section may contain original research. (September 2011)|
Inoki was amongst the group of professional wrestlers who were tutored in the art of hooking and shooting by the professional wrestler Karl Gotch. Inoki named his method of fighting "strong style". This method of wrestling (which was taught to Inoki by Gotch) borrowed heavily from professional wrestling's original catch wrestling roots. It is one of the most important influences of modern shoot wrestling. Inoki is also one of the founders of Kansuiryu Karate.
Inoki faced many opponents from all dominant disciplines of combat from various parts of the world, such as boxers, judoka, karateka, kung fu practitioners, sumo wrestlers and wrestlers. . These bouts included a match with then-prominent karate competitor Everett Eddy. Eddy had previously competed in a mixed skills bout against boxer Horst Geisler, losing by knockout. The bout with Eddy ended with the karateka "knocked out" by a professional wrestling powerbomb followed by a Hulk Hogan-esque leg drop, strongly suggesting a pre-determined outcome. Another such match pitted Inoki against 6'7" Kyokushin karate stylist Willie "The Bear Killer" Williams. (So-called because he had allegedly fought a bear for a 1976 Japanese film entitled "The Strongest Karate 2".) This bout ended in a doctor stoppage after both competitors repeatedly fell out of the ring. Although many of the matches were worked, they are seen as a precursor to modern mixed martial arts.
Perhaps his most famous bout was against heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali on June 26, 1976 in Tokyo. Inoki initially promised Ali a worked match to get him to fight in Japan, but when the deal materialized, Ali's camp feared that Inoki would turn the fight into a shoot, which many believe was Inoki's intention. Ali visited a professional wrestling match involving Inoki and witnessed Inoki's grappling ability. The rules of the match were announced several months in advance. Two days before the match, however, several new rules were added which severely limited the moves that each man could perform. A rule change that had a major effect on the outcome of this match was that Inoki could only throw a kick if one of his knees was on the ground. In the match, Ali landed a total of six punches to Inoki, and Inoki kept to his back in a defensive position almost the full duration of the match of 15 rounds, hitting Ali with a low kick repeatedly. The bout ended in a draw, 3-3. Ali left without a press conference and suffered damage to his legs as a result of Inoki's repeated leg kicks.
Following his retirement, Inoki has promoted a number of MMA events such as NJPW: Ultimate Crush (which showcased pro wrestling matches and MMA matches on the same card), as well as annual Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye shows which took place on New Year's Eve in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Some of the major attractions of these events involve the best of NJPW against world renowned fighters in mixed martial arts matches. Inoki vs. Renzo Gracie was a professional wrestling match that took place at Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2000 against mixed martial artist Renzo Gracie. Inoki was also the ambassador for the International Fight League's Tokyo entry before that promotion's demise.
In other media
Inoki appears both in the manga and anime Tiger Mask, in a secondary role: in the Japanese series he is the only one who was able to win over Naoto Date, i.e. Tiger Mask, and the two became best friends subsequently.
Inoki appeared in the film The Bad News Bears Go to Japan as himself. A subplot in his scenes involved Inoki seeking a rematch with Ali. Gene LeBell, who also appears in these scenes as a manager of Inoki's scheduled opponent, Mean Bones Beaudine, was the referee of Inoki's match with Ali. Inoki's appearance in the film culminates with a match against the main character, Marvin Lazar (played by Tony Curtis), when Beaudine suddenly becomes unavailable to participate. Professional wrestler Héctor Guerrero served as Curtis's stunt double for the wrestling portions of this scene.
In Oh!Great's manga Air Gear, Inoki is regularly referred to by the author, and also the characters as an influence on their fighting style. The manga also makes several less than complimentary references to Inoki's large chin. Along with Inoki, Steve Austin of the World Wrestling Federation has been referred to in Air Gear's pages, often in naming things. (This is based on the translation by Tanoshimi Manga, and later by Balantine Books/Del Rey Books. Other translations may omit these references)
- Signature moves
- Entrance themes
Championships and accomplishments
- Cauliflower Alley Club
- Lou Thesz Award (2004)
- Japan Wrestling Association
- National Wrestling Federation
- New Japan Pro Wrestling
- IWGP Heavyweight Championship (1 time - first champion)
- NWA North American Tag Team Championship (Los Angeles/Japan version) (1 time) - with Seiji Sakaguchi
- WWF World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- NJPW Real World Championship (1 time)
- NJPW IWGP League (1984, 1986, 1987, 1988)
- NJPW Japan Cup Tag Team League (1986) with Yoshiaki Fujiwara
- NJPW MSG League (1978–1981)
- NJPW MSG Tag League (1980) with Bob Backlund
- NJPW MSG Tag League (1982) with Hulk Hogan
- NJPW MSG Tag League (1983) with Hulk Hogan
- NJPW MSG Tag League (1984) with Tatsumi Fujinami
- NJPW Six Man Tag Team Cup League (1988) with Riki Choshu & Kantaro Hoshino
- NJPW World League (1974, 1975)
- Greatest Wrestlers (Class of 2007)
- NWA Big Time Wrestling
- NWA Hollywood Wrestling
- NWA North American Tag Team Championship (Los Angeles/Japan version) (1 time) - with Seiji Sakaguchi
- NWA United National Championship (1 time)
- NWA Mid-America
- Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #5 of the 500 best singles wrestlers of the "PWI Years" in 2003
- World Championship Wrestling
- World Wide Wrestling Federation/Entertainment
- Universal Wrestling Association
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
1 ^ Inoki's WWF Heavyweight Championship reign is not officially recognized by WWE.
- "Antonio Inoki's WWE Hall of Fame profile". WWE. Retrieved 2011-03-29.
- "Power Slam". This Month in History: February (SW Publishing). January 1999. p. 28. 55.
- Miyamoto, Koji. "Antonio Inoki". Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum. Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-22.
- Yuke's Buys Controlling Share of New Japan Pro Wrestling
- Rothstein, Simon (9 February 2010). "Inoki gets Hall of Fame nod". The Sun (London).
- "The Rise and Fall of Contact Karateka", Sergio Ortiz. Black Belt Magazine, Nov 1975 Vol. 13, No. 11 Available online at http://books.google.com/books?id=l9cDAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover&lr=&rview=1#v=onepage&q&f=false
- Full bout is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7CQ82ej_P8
- http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0201194/ See also the documentary film "Kings of the Square Ring" for excerpts.
- Full bout available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0B1mugcGO4
- Cohen, Eric. Antonio Inoki vs Muhammad Ali, About.com, Retrieved on 2007-12-01.
- "Inoki vs. Ali Footage". Retrieved 2007-12-04.
- Tallent, Aaron. "The Joke That Almost Ended Ali's Career". Retrieved 2011-10-24.
- "Finishing Moves List". Other Arena. Retrieved 2009-08-28.
- Puroresu.com: Antonio Inoki
- Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame Profile
- TWC: Antonio Inoki Home Page
- WWE Hall of Fame Profile
- Antonio Inoki and Mizutani-sensei form Kansuiryu Karate in 1979