Farewell Antonio Inoki “Burning Fighting Spirit, Be Eternal!
Special memorial project: 79 years old, a collection of photos taken by this magazine, a close look at the true face of the charismatic man who lived through a turbulent era.
The “fighting spirit” that he believed would burn forever has finally disappeared.
Antonio Inoki had continued to give courage and vitality to all of Japan through his many deadly fights. Many people are saddened by the loss of Shosei. Tatsumi Fujinami, 68, a professional wrestler who was 16 years old at the time and became Inoki’s valet, said tearfully, “I admired Mr. Inoki.
I can’t count the number of people who admired Mr. Inoki, and I am one of them. He is my eternal hero and my eternal master. He was my life itself. Mr. Inoki always had a dream. The last time I saw him was in August this year. We had a casual conversation about how he wanted to eat eels again because they are delicious there, but behind his eyes was a burning desire. It was as if he had taught me that there is no such thing as idle time in life.
His extraordinary passion was not limited to the world of professional wrestling. After becoming a politician, he traveled to many countries to conduct his own diplomacy. He was also active in the international community, contributing to the release of Japanese hostages in Iraq. Osamu Nishimura, 51, a pro-wrestler and Bunkyo Ward Council member, who watched Inoki closely, reveals the “dream” that Inoki had in his later years.
He said boldly, ‘I want to wrestle in the Northern Territories and do my best to promote friendship between Japan and Russia. Even as a politician, his ideas were on a different scale. When he visited North Korea, he had received warnings from various quarters not to travel there, but he stuck to his belief, thinking, ‘Even if it is considered a foul play, I can make it up to a four-count. I was taught that in order to change Japan and the world, you need to be flexible in your thinking and bold in your actions.”
Inoki always acted with the world in mind, but Hidekazu Tanaka, 63, who has been watching Inoki as a ring announcer for New Japan Pro-Wrestling, testifies that another appeal of Inoki was that he cared about the fans in front of him.
He never made a weak remark or showed any sign of weakness in front of his fans, because he knew he must not disappoint them. He truly loved his fans and was loved by them. When we arrived at the inn or hotel after the match, local children were waiting for Inoki’s return. He would say to them, ‘You guys, write your names on the back of the colored paper and leave it at the front desk. By the next day, I always wrote my own signature for the children. I will never forget the smiles on the children’s faces when they came to pick up those autographs the next day. Mr. Inoki’s very presence cheered everyone up. I wanted to ask him to step into the ring of the packed Tokyo Dome one more time and call out Mr. Inoki’s name. It is a shame that this wish will never come true.
Never again will Antonio Inoki’s name be called. Indeed, the flame was extinguished. But the “fighting spirit” that he risked his life for will remain in the memories and hearts of his fans forever.
Whenever and however
I accept anyone’s challenge.
Baba and Inoki became professional wrestlers after being scouted by Rikidozan. Rikidozan is said to have initially considered naming Inoki “Chief Shinigami. The eternal question is “Who is stronger, Baba or Inoki?
Inoki-Ali match (’76)
The Inoki-Ali match in 1976 needs no explanation. The reason for the match was a report in a Japanese sports newspaper that “Clay (Ali) wants to fight an Oriental fighter. If he wins, he will give him a prize money.
Inoki-Bruiser Brody fight (’86)
Inoki fought Bruiser Brodie in a full 60-minute fight to the death at Osaka-jo Hall on September 16, 1986, but actually “by chance” they had met one month earlier in Waikiki Beach, Hawaii.
Inoki-Shota Chochoshvili match in ’89
In ’89, Inoki faced Munich Olympics judo gold medalist Shota Chochoshvili in the main event of New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s first Tokyo Dome (Toukyoudoumu) event, suffering his first defeat in a different kind of martial arts match.
Inoki-Big Bang Vader match (’96)
In ’96, Inoki faced Big Bang Vader at the Tokyo Dome. The scene where Inoki’s neck was snapped by Vader’s throwaway German was a shocking one. Still, Inoki responded with an en-myo-slash and won by an arm-hold.
New Year’s Eve ’02
On New Year’s Eve ’02 at “Inoki Bombaye,” Bob Sapp carried him on his shoulders and counted down “3, 2, 1, dah! and countdown style “Dah! and “3, 2, 1, dah! For a while, Inoki’s appearance became a year-end tradition.
By the time we part ways, the next love affair has already begun.
Left: On March 26, ’71, Inoki defeated champion John Tolos at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles to win the NWA-certified United National Title (UN Heavyweight Title). This was the start of Inoki’s rapid ascent in his professional wrestling career. Mitsuko Baisho watched from ringside.
Right: On November 2, 1971, Inoki’s wedding to Mitsuko Baisho at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Tokyo was reportedly called a “100 million yen wedding ceremony. Over 1,000 people from all walks of life were invited, and the wedding cake was a whopping 5 meters high! The gifts were a plate made by the 13th generation Kakiemon potter and a specimen of a butterfly from Inoki’s second home, Brazil.
Above: Inoki married Naomi, 22 years his junior, in Miami on January 5, 1991. I’m getting married for the third time, but this is the first time for my wife. I really wanted to settle the score.
Bottom: On February 20, 2005, Inoki’s 74th birthday, he married for the fourth time Tazuko Hashimoto, who had supported him for more than 30 years. However, in August ’19, Tazuruko died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 62.
If you step out
that step becomes a path, that step becomes a way.
Left: On April 28 and 29, ’95, Inoki held the “Festival of Peace” professional wrestling event in North Korea, attracting 380,000 people over two days. Inoki visited North Korea 33 times. It should be noted that Kensuke Sasaki and Akira Hokuto, who participated in this event, later married after meeting at this event.
Right: He also visited North Korea in 2005. He returned to Japan wearing a sombrero, a Latin American hat, which caused a lot of speculation. He also visited Cuba in ’90 and met with President Castro.
In ’90, he also played an active role in the Gulf War.
Left: One of his greatest diplomatic achievements was his visit to Iraq in December 1990 during the Gulf War, where he helped free Japanese residents in the country. The letter that Inoki entrusted to Saddam Hussein is said to have been successful. Dah! at the airport with the returning Japanese. and expressing their joy at the
Right: Three months before the release of the hostages, they boarded a plane to Baghdad. During his stay in Baghdad, he ran in front of Hussein’s signboard and kept up his training. He later joined Islam and called himself “Mohammed Hussein Inoki” to win the trust of people in various parts of the country. With his out-of-the-ordinary ideas, he overcame the difficulties of diplomacy.
Don’t hesitate to go, and you will understand.
Left: On October 8, 1989, he participated in a friendly soccer match between the Latin American Ambassadors’ Team and the National Diet Members’ Selected Team at the National Stadium in Tokyo. The team lost the match 1-7. As expected, Inoki was not as good as he was in the ring. In fact, surprisingly, it is said that Inoki was not very athletic as a child.
Top right: Inoki and Baisho visited New York to sign a contract for a mixed martial arts match with Muhammad Ali, and watched a Yankees game in their spare time. However, the baseball cap might not have suited Inoki. ……
Below right: On October 14, 1989, Inoki attended the “Meeting to Encourage Democratic Socialist Party Delegates” held at the prefectural gymnasium in Aizu Wakamatsu City, and was attacked by thugs during his speech. Inoki, covered in blood, continued his speech, but was hospitalized. His wife, Naomi, looked at him with concern.
Dedicated to Social Activities
Left: In November ’07, Inoki dives underwater after embarking on a coral conservation project. He arranged his well-known “1, 2, 3, dah! and he made a pun with his best effort, “1, 2, 3, go! and made a pun with his best effort, which excited the audience.
Right: In March 2002, Inoki unveiled a “perpetual generator” that can generate electricity semi-permanently with the power of a magnet alone. It was a great surprise to the public. However, when he turned it on, it did not even twitch, and he had this expression on his face.
It’s no big deal.
I don’t think I’m dead.
In September 2004, Inoki quenched his thirst with a draft beer at a tavern in Roppongi. The day before this, he had visited North Korea for six days and five nights, meeting with Kim Yong Nam, then number two and permanent chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly. With relations between Japan and North Korea in a state of tension, his visit to North Korea was strongly criticized, but Inoki was having none of it. He drank his beer with gusto.
On June 26, 2007, he announced his retirement from politics, saying, “A man who sells energy can no longer sell energy. The next day, Inoki went to a high-class yakiniku restaurant in Azabu Juban to celebrate his retirement from politics. Coincidentally, his last appearance at the hospital was the same day he fought Muhammad Ali in 1976.
From the October 21, 2022 issue of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Shinya Inui Hiroyuki Komatsu Yasuko Sakaguchi Keisuke Nishi Ippei Hara Masaki Miyasaka Afro Kyodo News Kodansha Archives