Antonio Inoki – Wrestling World Reacts To Icon’s Death

Antonio Inoki

All sides of the wrestling world have come together to pay tribute to the legendary Japanese star Antonio Inoki after he passed away aged 79.

It was reported by Yahoo Japan on Friday evening that former professional wrestler, MMA fighter, and politician Antonio Inoki passed away. As the news broke while Friday Night SmackDown was on the air, veteran WWE announcer Michael Cole announced the news to viewers watching the show.

WWE posted their own tribute to Antonio Inoki on their website with the New Japan Pro Wrestling founder being inducted into the company’s Hall of Fame in 2010 – part of it read:

“Born in Yokohama, Japan in 1943, Inoki grew into a natural in-ring competitor. The incredible squared circle figure found his greatest success in New Japan Pro Wrestling, a promotion he founded in 1972. Over the course of the next two decades, Inoki built NJPW into the most successful wrestling company in Asia.”

“Utilizing talented Japanese competitors like Tatsumi Fujinami and Riki Choshu, innovative high-flyers like Tiger Mask and Dynamite Kid and American Superstars like Bob Backlund and Vader, the young promoter created a product that was unique, influential and far ahead of its time. In addition to running the company, Inoki himself was one of the top stars in NJPW, carrying the championship and battling the likes of Stan Hansen, Tiger Jeet Singh and Hulk Hogan.”

In his most-famous match, Inoki fought boxing legend Muhammad Ali in a rare wrestler vs. boxer match in June 26, 1976 – a contest that paved the way for the advent of Mixed Martial Arts, which would explode in popularity decades later. The bout also exemplified Inoki’s undying love and respect for professional wrestling. This passion for competition earned him the nickname “Moeru Toukon” amongst his peers, which translates to “The fighting spirit that burns.”

Various wrestling stars have been paying tribute to Antonio Inoki on social media as they celebrate his life and the legacy he leaves in the world of pro wrestling.