Antonio Inoki, a pro wrestler and politician from Japan, died at age 79 after a long fight with a rare disease, according to the company he helped start. Inoki has ties to North Korea and faced Muhammad Ali. In 1972, Antonio Inoki began New Japan Pro-Wrestling. In 1989, the performer who was 6’3″ (1.9 m) tall was elected to Japan’s upper house. The next year, during the Gulf War, he went to Iraq to free Japanese people who were being held there. After he became a Muslim in 1990, the wrestler became more well-known in Pakistan.
Antonio Inoki dies at 79
When Akram, known as “Akki,” challenged him in 1976, he was surprised to see about 50,000 people at the National Stadium Karachi. Pakistan and Japan have had diplomatic ties for 60 years. Rikidozan, one of Inoki’s early professional wrestling heroes, was from North Korea but couldn’t go home because of the Korean War.
As a lawmaker, he went to Pyongyang many times and met with high-ranking officials there. This backed up what he said about how Tokyo could be a mediator between itself and its nuclear-armed neighbor. Many people think that Ali’s fight was the first MMA match. UFC runs this multibillion-dollar business in the United States.
Dave Meltzer, a wrestling journalist, says that when Ali got to Tokyo, he had second thoughts about taking $6 million to lose to Inoki. Even though it was legal, Inoki could only kick with his knee bent.
“His achievements, in professional wrestling and the global community, are without parallel and will never be forgotten.”
Inoki became one of the biggest names on Japan’s pro-wrestling circuit in the 1960s. His fame went global in 1976. It was when he had a martial arts match with boxing legend Muhammad Ali, billed as “the bout of the century.”