Antonio Inoki, Former Wrestler and NJPW Founder, Passes Away at Age 79

Antonio Inoki Passes Away

On September 30, Yahoo! Japan reported that Antonio Inoki passed away at age 79. Since 2021, Inoki had been dealing with health issues, being confined to a wheelchair due to spinal issues. However, he made a rare television appearance in May of last year, being featured in the Collision in Korea episode of Dark Side of the Ring. Inoki is survived by his daughter, Hiroko.

Antonio Inoki Passes Away

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Having begun his professional wrestling career in 1960, Antonio Inoki became one of the most recognizable figures in his home country of Japan, even outside of the sport. Inoki started training at the age of 17 under Rikidōzan and, later on, Karl Gotch. Early in his career, Inoki wrestled for multiple organizations, most notably the Japanese Wrestling Association (JWA). However, when Inoki was fired from JWA in 1971, Inoki founded his own promotion the year after; the latter promotion became known as New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW).

In NJPW, Inoki became the first-ever IWGP Heavyweight Champion, winning the title in its different iterations. His first reign with the title lasted 701 days; during his days as champion, he defended the gold against such names as Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan. In 1979, Inoki defeated Bob Backlund for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship, though this victory remains unrecognized by World Wrestling Entertainment. Other titles Inoki won include the NWA International Tag Team Championship, which he captured alongside Giant Baba on 4 occasions.

In addition to professional wrestling, Inoki was involved in mixed martial arts, implementing it into his wrestling style that would become known as “Strong Style.” His most notable martial arts bout took place in June 1976, when he faced notable heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali. Later in life, Inoki promoted various MMA events and even created his own professional wrestling/MMA hybrid promotion, Inoki Genome Federation (IGF).

Inoki’s father, Sajiro Inoki, was a politician. In 1989, Antonio Inoki followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming involved in politics. During this year, he was elected into the House of Councillors. In 1990, prior to the Gulf War, Inoki negotiated with Saddam Hussein for the release of multiple Japanese hostages. In 2019, Inoki announced his retirement from politics.

LWOPW sends its condolences to the family, friends, peers, and fans of Antonio Inoki around the world.

Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.