New Japan Pro-Wrestling founder Antonio Inoki, who once participated in a mixed martial arts match against world boxing champion Muhammad Ali, has died.
In wrestling, Inoki founded New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1972 and remained the company’s owner until 2005.
He was a twelve-time professional wrestling world champion and in 1995, with Ric Flair, Inoki headlined two shows in North Korea that drew 150,000 and 190,000 spectators, the highest attendances in professional wrestling history.
During his career, he trained several wrestlers including Akira Maeda, Bad News Allen, the first Tiger Mask, Keiji Muto, Riki Choshu, Shinsuke Nakamura, Tatsumi Fujinami and Rocky Romero.
He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010.
New Japan Pro-Wrestling led tributes to the wrestler turned politician.
“New Japan Pro-Wrestling is deeply saddened at the passing of our founder, Antonio Inoki,” NJPW said.
“His achievements, both in professional wrestling and the global community are without parallel and will never be forgotten.
“Our thoughts are with Inoki’s family, friends and fans.”
WWE wrote: “WWE remembers Antonio Inoki. 1943-2022.”
WWE’s new Chief Content Officer, Paul Levesque aka Triple H, wrote: “One of the most important figures in the history of our business, and a man who embodied the term “fighting spirit.” The legacy of WWE Hall of Famer Antonio Inoki will live on forever.”
Former WWE star Taz wrote: “Very sad to hear the passing of a true icon of Professional Wrestling worldwide. Antonio Inoki inspired so many wrestlers for so many decades including me in my in ring days. I had the opportunity to wrestle on several tours for Inoki in NJPW – he truly changed the game. RIP 🙏”
“A true legend. Rest in peace Inoki San.”
“Rest in peace Antonio Inoki.”
“Rest in peace to Antonio Inoki, an absolute legend of combat sports.”
“The National Wrestling Alliance sends its condolences to the friends and family of pro wrestling pioneer Antonio Inoki. An NWA Tag Team and United National Champion and most importantly, a legend that will forever be remembered in our business and beyond.”
“RIP Antonio Inoki. One of the greatest to ever do it and who changed the wrestling way and view.”
Inoki started his political career in 1989 and was elected to the Japanese House of Councillors – where he served from 1989 until 1995 and again from 2013 until 2019.
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