Antonio Inoki, the founder of New Japan Pro Wrestling, has passed away at the age of 79 years old.
Inoki was praised as one of the greatest Japanese performers of all time for his contributions both inside and outside of the ring. Antonio Inoki would run NJPW and compete on a regular basis, sharing the ring with legends such as Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Vader.
Inoki would capture the IWGP heavyweight Championship 3 times in his career and would be the first Japanese wrestler to hold the WWE Championship. Unfortunately, the WWE Championship reign is not recognised in the official lineage. Inoki’s accomplishments were recognised in 2010 by WWE, with the former WWE Champion being inducted into the 2010 class of the Hall of Fame.
On the September 30th episode of SmackDown, announcer Michael Cole was the one to acknowledge and break the tragic news:
In what was regarded as Antonio Inoki’s most famous match, the WWE Hall of Famer would fight legendary boxer Muhammad Ali in 1976, in what was fought under special rules, which has been seen as the precursor to Mixed Martial Arts.
Many have taken to social media to express their sympathy:
Features of Wrestling would like to send condolences to the family and friends of Antonio Inoki at this time.
Featured image: WWE