The one and only professional wrestler who had a singular presence both in and out of the ring
Antonio Inoki passed away on October 1, 2022. Scouted by the late Rikidozan in Brazil, Inoki made his professional wrestling debut in 1960 at the age of 17, and in 1972 he founded his own organization, New Japan Pro-Wrestling. He became a rare professional wrestler with a passionate fan base called “Inoki followers.
At the same time, Inoki also left behind a legacy of activities and accomplishments that go beyond the boundaries of pro wrestling, such as a cross-fighting match with heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali and political activities as a member of the House of Councillors, making him a household name among people other than pro wrestling fans.
We would like to remember Antonio Inoki, who “fought the world” to have pro wrestling recognized by the public, by looking back on incidents and famous scenes in which he caused a stir even outside the ring while wrestling.
Inoki’s fainting incident with his tongue sticking out .
The IWGP Title is the proof of the strongest champion of New Japan Pro-Wrestling. The clash between Antonio Inoki and Hulk Hogan for the first IWGP title is still talked about today as the match of the century.
As the heated match unfolded, Inoki was hit by Hogan’s special move, the Axe Bomber, outside the ring and went down. He was brought back into the ring by the second fighters, but Inoki was left unconscious with his tongue hanging out! Hogan went on to win the match, and Inoki was rushed to the emergency room. The next day, the general newspapers reported the incident, which caused a sensation not only among pro-wrestling fans but also among the public. On the following day, Friday the 3rd, the match was broadcast, and the shock spread further, especially among Inoki fans…
The IWGP title was established as the title of the world’s strongest professional wrestler. The fainting KO was a great shock to all Japanese pro wrestling fans, who had no doubt that Antonio Inoki would be the first champion to win the title.
However, there is more to this incident. However, there is more to this incident. In fact, there is a theory that “Inoki made it up himself.
According to the stories of those involved in the incident, which were collected in books published after 2000, Inoki wanted to make the match a high-profile event that would be covered not only by the pro-wrestling press but also by newspapers such as Yomiuri, Mainichi, and Asahi. In that case, he thought that an “incident” rather than a heated match would generate more publicity. So, without saying anything to the people around him, or at least hinting at it, he fainted (pretended to faint) after being hit by Hogan’s Axe Bomber. Inoki’s fainting was reported in the morning editions of the Yomiuri and Nikkei newspapers the next day.
In the first place, it is said that in professional wrestling, including this match, the winner is decided before the match. Inoki was supposed to win this match as well. Therefore, Hogan’s opponent looked upset, but he somehow managed to pose for the match. In his mind, he was very worried about Inoki.
After this “incident,” Seiji Sakaguchi, then vice president of New Japan Pro-Wrestling, left a note saying that he “distrusted people” and disappeared.
Kuramae Kokugikan Riot .
About a year after the aforementioned “Inoki fainting incident with his tongue sticking out,” the “2nd IWGP championship match” was held at the same Kuramae Kokugikan. The match-up card was Hulk Hogan vs. Antonio Inoki. Many fans believed that Inoki would win the IWGP title this time! and many fans believed that “Inoki will win the IWGP title this time! On the other hand, Hogan, who was lucky enough to become IWGP champion, later became WWF champion in the U.S., and even though he was Inoki, he was no longer a wrestler who would be allowed to win so easily.
Nevertheless, Inoki, who would feel bad if he did not become IWGP Champion, decided to have an overtime match with “both men out of the ring,” and while Riki Choshu intervened and attacked Hogan outside the ring, Inoki returned to the ring and won the match. *Wrestlers outside the ring must return to the ring within a 20-count or lose the ring-out match.
The heated match ended in a draw at 17 minutes and 51 seconds when both wrestlers were forced to ring out, but the unsatisfied audience unanimously called for an “extension” (this “extension call” was a standard practice in New Japan Pro-Wrestling at the time, and Inoki seemed to have anticipated this call). ) So the match went into overtime, but both fighters were out of the ring again. More calls of “extension” were made…. The match went into an unusual re-extension, and as planned, Choshu intervened to give Inoki the win, to the satisfaction of the packed house! Wrestling fans at that time were not so docile as to be happy and satisfied.
The fans who had been waiting for a year for Inoki’s humiliation were not only disappointed with the content of the match, they were also dissatisfied when Choshu interfered and ruined the match. Chairs and trash were thrown into the ring, the ring was surrounded by rioting fans, and announcements alone were insufficient to control the situation. This was the so-called “Kuramae Riot. This incident was also televised on the following day.
After the match, Seiji Sakaguchi, then vice president of New Japan Pro-Wrestling, was surrounded by angry fans.
Off-site brawl (extra): Tiger Jet Singh’s attack on Inoki in front of Isetan, Shinjuku
When professional wrestling was broadcast in the prime time of
On November 5, 1973, Antonio Inoki and his then wife, actress Mitsuko Baisho, were shopping in Shinjuku when Singh suddenly attacked them in front of Isetan and severely injured them, leaving their heads bleeding. Shin’s violent act in the presence of many people shook people other than pro wrestling fans, and left a strong impression of Shin as a man of fear who never knows what he will do.
If you have read this far, you may have noticed that this incident was also planned and planned by Inoki (he even did the bleeding himself). The police were dispatched to the scene after a report from a civilian who witnessed the incident, and the New Japan Pro-Wrestling staff members were also questioned. In response to police attempts to treat the incident as an injury case, New Japan Pro-Wrestling reportedly played down the situation, saying, “Shin did it on his own, but it is an internal matter…” Inoki’s plan was to let the incident go unchecked both inside and outside the ring.
Mr. Takahashi, a referee for New Japan Pro-Wrestling and a long-time caretaker of foreign wrestlers, recalls his first meeting with Shin, “He was a man like a businessman in a suit and tie, and offered me his business card. He was like a businessman in a sharp suit and offered me his business card. He was such a sensible man that he said, “No wrestler had ever given me his business card before. He was a man who lived up to the pro-wrestling world’s common theory that “the better the villain, the better the man.
Antonio Inoki, who used every means at his disposal to further promote the wrestling that his master, Rikidozan, had brought to Japan, caused a sensation.
His actions were as subtle as they were unprecedented, bold as they were precise, and he surprised not only the general public but also those in the professional wrestling business, sometimes even deceiving them to get their attention. His achievements can be seen in the fact that he has helped the culture of professional wrestling take root and has sent many wrestlers into the world.
Although he is often compared to Rikidozan and Giant Baba in the world of professional wrestling, there is no doubt that he is a unique and unsurpassed figure when his activities outside the ring and his impact outside the ring are included. We would like to honor his achievements to date, which have influenced and energized so many people, and pray that he may rest in peace.
References: “K-Fei” (Satoshi Sayama/Nayuta Press), “The Truth of 10 Major Incidents of New Japan Pro-Wrestling” (Satoshi Sayama, Hisashi Niima, Mr. Takahashi, Tarzan Yamamoto, et al/Takarajima-sha), “The Truth of Showa Pro-Wrestling Lost Incidents” (Joji Inoue/ Takarajima-sha), “Bloody Magic: The Most Powerful Performance All Wrestling is a Show” ( Mr. Takahashi, Kodansha), “The Gentle Faces of Villainous Wrestlers” (Mr. Takahashi, Futabasha), “Burn! New Japan Pro-Wrestling Vol. 1: Inoki, tongue out, fainting incident! (Shueisha)
Interview and text： Diesuke Takahashi