The WWE Hall of famer and New Japan Pro Wrestling founder, Antonio Inoki has left the world at the age of 79. The unfortunate news was confirmed by the NJPW. Inoki’s cause of death was never disclosed, however he had been ailing for some time and used a wheelchair in the years leading up to his passing.
Inoki left politics for good in 2019. Inoki was one of the most well-known Japanese citizens for his many contributions to the country’s cultural canon, but he will be remembered most for his career as a professional wrestler, promoter, and an MMA fighter who fought the legendary Muhammad Ali.
Once, in 1976, Inoki and Ali squared off in an exhibition match in Japan, and the fight was widely regarded as a historic event. The fight was one of the earliest MMA fights ever held. As the highlight of the match, ‘The Louiseville Lip’ nearly lost his leg in the historic ‘Boxing vs Professional Wrestling’, ‘East vs West’ match.
Since Inoki was aware that Ali’s quickness was one of his best assets, the legendary Japanese wrestler began kicking Ali’s legs from the first whistle. The wrestler spent the entire bout on his back, trying to kick Ali in the legs while he scooted around the ring. Both men were completely drained after the 15-round bout. After spending the whole match on his back attempting to kick ‘The Greatest,’ Inoki eventually blacked out backstage.
Muhammad Ali’s situation, though, was much more catastrophic. He had two blood clots in his leg, both of which spread infection. The doctors informed Ali that he could become paralyzed as a result. Thankfully, The Louiseville Lip made a full recovery after being hospitalized for weeks.
Inoki also had notable matches with wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Dory Funk Jr., Big Van Vader, and Bruiser Brody as a decorated star in the WWE. He made a lot of political waves outside of sports as well. In 1989, he established the Sports and Peace Party, a political party of his own, and won election to the Japanese House of Councilors.