Monday, August 9, 2010

Japan Wrestler Antonio Inoki

Prior to Inoki's rise to fame, wrestling in Japan was
little known outside of Japan. Inoki showcased his talents
all over the world for a number of decades, and in doing so
he made audiences in America, as well as many other nations
around the world, take notice of wrestling in Japan. Upon
retiring as a supeurstar, Inoki has remained in the
wrestling business, as a wrestling promotor, and Inoki has
shown himself to be a man that has made a huge difference
to professional wrestling.

Inoki's first sport was in fact not wrestling, and instead
he began his sporting career as a basketball player. This
was short lived, and by the age of 17, Inoki had a position
in the Japan Wrestling Association, where he would learn
the trade from which he would go onto create a legacy. At
the time he was the protege of Rikidozan, who died due to
stabbing whilst in America. This left Inoki alone, and up
until 1966, he fought in the shadow of the bigger, stronger
superstar, Giant Baba.

DID YOU KNOW? Antonio Inoki won the regional Brazilian
championships in Discus and Javelin, and then the All
Brazilian championships in both Shot Put and Discus?
Inoki then went on to create Tokyo Pro Wrestling, and this
was Inoki's first taste at being the face of a company.
During this period of time he gained much of his
experience. Although this company wasn't moving forward,
other companies now became aware of exactly what Antonio
Inoki could offer to their companies, and due to the
financial problems in TPW, the company folded only a year
after Inoki had began to lead them. From here he returned
to the Japan Wrestling Association, where he had begun his
wrestling career seven years earlier.

It was during his second stint in the JWA that Inoki first
faced a superstar who was held with high regard by fans in
America, in the form of a true wrestling legend, Bruno
Sammartino. He was now tagging with Giant Baba, and during
a tag match in which Bruno Sammartino was involved,
Sammartino claims that Inoki tried to "shoot" on him during
a match, meaning that Inoki was landing real hits on
Sammartino. Sammartino responded by pounding Inoki, leading
to Inoki walking out on the match, clearly unhappy with the
reaction from the then world champion. However, at this
point in his career, Inoki was still learning a lot about
the business, and he would begin to become recognised by
wrestling fans in 1972, when after being fired by JWA, he
went onto create New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Whilst in NJPW, Inoki ended Bob Backlund's reign as WWF
Champion, although this reign is not recognised. Under
controversial circumstances, Backlund regained the title
the following day. The championship belt was offered back
to Inoki, but he refused the title and the record books
show Backlund's reign lasted from 1978-83, despite the fact
that he lost the championship to Inoki, and the
championship was vacant for twelve days. Inoki was now a
name being mentioned all around the world, and his martial
arts career was taking off simultaneous to a similar taking
off of his wrestling career.

DID YOU KNOW? Antonio Inoki and Ric Flair fought in North
Korea in front of an attendance of 170,000 fans, with Inoki
being victorious over the "Nature Boy".
Inoki began his martial arts career by squaring off against
Willem Ruska, the olympic judo champion from the
Netherlands. On this occasion, Inoki was put through
physical torture throughout this match, almost falling
victim to a submission defeat on many occasions, as Ruska
persistantly locked on armbars and sleeper hold, but it was
Inoki's resiliance that won the "World's Top Martial Artist
Deciding Match", due to TKO following three consecutive
back suplexes.

It was then time for the biggest and msot anticipated match
in the history of mixed martial arts, as Antonio Inoki went
head-to-head against world champion boxer of the time,
Muhammad Ali. The match turned out to be an anti-climax, as
Ali's camp enforced so many rules on Inoki, that the
Japanese wrestler was limited to performing sliding kicks
for the entire match, and spent almost the entire fight on
his back, as he knew that the rules enforced on this match
meant that Ali could not throw a punch to Inoki whilst
Inoki was down. Inoki was three points up at the final
bell, but had all three removed due to being penalised. Ali
was hospitalized after the fight, and Inoki was left in a
multi-million yen debt, and so was forced to continue
fighting mixed martial arts matches to repay it.

DID YOU KNOW? Muhammad Ali reportedly saw Inoki training
for their match, and asked "OK, so when do we do the
rehearsal?" and after Inoki responded "No, no. This isn't
an exhibition. It's a real fight!" Ali then went on to
enforce rules saying that Inoki could not tackle or throw
Ali, and could only kick him if one of Inoki's knees was in
contact with the mat.

Inoki fought twenty MMA fights in total, against top
competitors in all forms of fighting. He fought the Olympic
judo champion, the boxing world champion, as well as the
man that took the title from Ali, being Leon Spinks. He
also took on Andre the Giant, who claimed that Inoki didn't
represent wrestling well during MMA fights. Inoki responded
by fighting Andre, and even back suplexing the behemoth
before winning by TKO. Inoki only had one loss at the end
of his MMA career, to Shota Chochishvili, and Inoki set the
record straight a month later by defeating Shota by
submission. Antonio Inoki's MMA record at the end of his
career is 16 wins (9 KO, 5 submissions, 2 pins), 1 loss (1
KO), 3 draws.

Inoki has since sold his 51.5% share in New Japan Pro
Wrestling to Yuke's, and has launched his third wrestling
company of his career (Inoki Genome Federation). Inoki
began trading talent with TNA, with superstars such as Kurt
Angle and Brock Lesnar holding the main championship belt
of the brand, the IWGP title. Inoki was also included in
the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall Of Fame Class Of
2010, making him the first Japanese wrestler to be inducted.
Inoki has been responsible for putting Japanese wrestling
on the map, as well as kick-starting mixed martial arts,
which today has a bigger fanbase than ever. Being inducted
into the WWE Hall Of Fame is just a small testament, to the
huge mark that Inoki has left on the wrestling industry.
I've been James D, and you've been reading about the career
of the man responsible for New Japan Pro Wrestling, and
huge evolutions in Japanese wrestling and MMA.

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