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.
New Japan Pro-Wrestling is deeply saddened at the passing of our founder, Antonio Inoki.
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. pic.twitter.com/n8zA9hj78e
— NJPW Global (@njpwglobal) October 1, 2022
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.
— Triple H (@TripleH) October 1, 2022
RIP Antonio Inoki, a pioneer in the pro wrestling industry. Inoki’s influence and his achievements will live on forever in the wrestling world; he’s an inspiration to all of the dreamers. Thank you sir.
— Tony Khan (@TonyKhan) October 1, 2022
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 🙏 pic.twitter.com/WSyAKB9XCY
— taz (@OfficialTAZ) October 1, 2022
Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Mr Antonio Inoki, the legendary Japanese Pro https://t.co/eB0872a4FJ Inoki chose to Wrestle me in 1994 and then we became friends,kept in touch and was always very kind to https://t.co/jqwYii836k deepest condolences to his family & fans. pic.twitter.com/qqvk8j4Vak
— William Regal (@RealKingRegal) October 1, 2022
RIP Antonio Inoki…a legend in every sense of the word. 🙏
— Adam Cole (@AdamColePro) October 1, 2022
My grandfather had so much respect for Antonio Inoki and his passion for pro-wrestling.
(Gene Kiniski, Stu Hart, Antonio Inoki) pic.twitter.com/OlVPOklZ9K
— Nattie (@NatbyNature) October 1, 2022
— Mick Foley (@RealMickFoley) October 1, 2022
Rest In Peace Antonio Inoki! Thank You For The Great Matches & Memories My Friend! 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/ocHcqf7bvZ
— Ric Flair® (@RicFlairNatrBoy) October 1, 2022