Antonio Inoki video
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Born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1943, Antonio Inoki is one of the key figures in the history of Japanese wrestling. Inoki spent much of his youth in Brazil where he was a national star in the shot put and discus throw. It was here that the young athlete met Rikidozan — perhaps the most famous Japanese wrestler of all time. The legend, impressed by Antonio’s strength and athleticism, convinced Inoki to return to Tokyo to join his Japanese Wrestling Association.A natural in the ring, Inoki formed a winning tag team in the JWA with another future legend, Giant Baba, but the talented competitor would find 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.
Inoki’s most famous bout, however, took place on June 26, 1976 in Tokyo when he took on fighting legend Mohammed Ali in a rare wrestler vs. boxer match. By most accounts, the contest was uneventful — Inoki spent much of the bout on the ground kicking at Ali’s legs — but it paved the way for the advent of Mixed Martial Arts, which would explode in popularity decades later.