Japanese wrestler turned politician Antonio Inoki dies aged 79


Wrestler turned politician Antonio Inoki, known as Japan’s Dennis Rodman who fought Muhammad Ali in the ’bout of the century’, dies aged 79

  • Japanese wrestling legend-turned-politician Antonio Inoki has died aged 79
  • He was born in wartime Yokohama in Japan on February 20, 1943
  • Inoki founded New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1972 and fought Muhammad Ali
  • He was elected to the Japanese House of Councillors in 1989
  • Yahoo Japan reported Inoki passed away following health issues

Japanese wrestling legend-turned-politician Antonio Inoki has died aged 79.

Born in wartime Yokohama on February 20, 1943, Inoki founded New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1972 before entering politics in 1989, when he was elected to the Japanese House of Councillors.

In the world of wrestling, Inoki trained several wrestlers including Akira Maeda, Bad News Allen, the first Tiger Mask, Keiji Muto, Riki Choshu, Shinsuke Nakamura, Tatsumi Fujinami and Rocky Romero.

Known as Japan’s Dennis Rodman, he even fought boxer Muhammad Ali in the 1976 ’bout of the century’ – a fight which experts say served as a predecessor to modern day mixed martial arts.

Japanese wrestling legend-turned-politician Antonio Inoki has died aged 79

Japanese wrestling legend-turned-politician Antonio Inoki has died aged 79 

Muhammad Ali shaking hands with Japanese professional wrestler Antonio Inoki in 1998

Muhammad Ali shaking hands with Japanese professional wrestler Antonio Inoki in 1998

Known as Japan's Dennis Rodman, Inoki fought boxer Ali in the 1976 'bout of the century' - a fight which experts say served as a predecessor to modern day mixed martial arts

Known as Japan’s Dennis Rodman, Inoki fought boxer Ali in the 1976 ’bout of the century’ – a fight which experts say served as a predecessor to modern day mixed martial arts

Rikidozan and Antonio Inoki in around 1960 in Japan

Rikidozan and Antonio Inoki in around 1960 in Japan

Professional wrestler Antonio Inoki speaks at an event on October 31, 2020

Professional wrestler Antonio Inoki speaks at an event on October 31, 2020

During his time in office, Inoki represented Japan in meetings with the likes of Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. 

Inoki was also an ambassador for professional wrestling, bringing major events to places like Russia and China. 

In 1995, Inoki fought American Ric Flair in what was called the ‘Collision in Korea,’ a two-day event held in Pyongyang’s huge May Day Stadium that drew a reported 380,000 spectators and guest attendees including Ali. 

Ali dances as Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki tries a leg kick

Ali dances as Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki tries a leg kick

Muhammad Ali fighting with Antonio Inoki in 1976

Muhammad Ali fighting with Antonio Inoki in 1976

His retirement match, held on April 4, 1998 at the Tokyo Dome, drew more than 70,000 fans.

And in 2010, Inoki was inducted into WWE Hall of Fame.

Yahoo Japan reported that Inoki had passed away aged 79 following a string of health issues in recent years. No cause of death has been revealed.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk