Japanese wrestling legend Antonio Inoki, real name Kanji Inoki at birth and later in life as Muhammad Hussain Inoki, passed away on Friday at the age of 79.
Inoki’s passing was first announced by Yahoo Japan. Prior to his passing, Inoki had been dealing with serious health issues over the years, including spinal-related issues that had left him wheelchair bound.
Inoki’s career in wrestling spanned from 1960 to 1998 and was most known for being the founder of New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1972 and remained as the promotion’s owner until its sale to video game company Yukes in 2005.
Besides his founding of NJPW, Inoki was also the founder of the “Strong Style” form of wrestling and as one of the most influential figures in the history of MMA.
Among Inoki’s most notable moments of his wrestling career included his victory over Bob Backlund for the WWF Heavyweight Championship in Japan in November 30, 1979. Backlund quickly regained his title back following a rematch between the two in December 6th in Japan. Inoki’s reign was not officially recognized by WWE who currently views Backlund’s reign from 1978 to 1983 as being uninterrupted.
Inoki was also known for his involvement in the famous joint NJPW and WCW Collision in Korea two-day event in 1995 in North Korea, which currently holds the record for largest ever attendance for a wrestling event at 150,000 for its first night’s show.
Outside of wrestling, Inoki is most known for his famous match against legendary boxer Muhammed Ali in June of 1976 and for his political career as an elected member of Japan’s House of Councillors from 1989 to 1995 and 2013 to 2019.