Now, it is no secret here that I am not a huge modern Japense wrestling fan. However, what everyone knows I am a fan of. Is 70's - 90's wrestling and the early part of that was dominated by two men. Giant Baba & Antonio Inoki, both from Japan. Out of the shadow of Rikidozan forming two top quality wrestling promotions. However, where Giant Baba booked largely with the promotions at the forefront and knew how to get out of his own way, Antonio Inoki did not, he remained at the top of the card throughout much of his wrestling career, often trying to keep up with Baba, but eventually surpassing him.
Where Antonio Inoki was different was how much he believed in himself, so much so that he transcended wrestling. Think about the average Japanese Wrestling fan, quiet, respectful watching, this was not the case with Inoki, every time he came out they stood, screaming and cheering him. In wrestling, in popular culture in Japan, he was bigger than Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin or The Rock ever were in their respective eras. He used this fame to push his own political career also. Whilst not every decision he made was great for wrestling (his era of booking MMA fighters vs wrestlers in shoot style contests all but killed his roster and the general allure in Japan that wrestlers were the best combat sports competitors) BUT he is on the Mount Rushmore of professional wrestling, above Flair and aforementioned Hogan and company. What Antonio Inoki did for wrestling, not just in Japan, but worldwide was astronomical, bringing it further to the mainstream, starring in a western made movie long before people like Piper & Hogan did.
Inoki faced some of the biggest wrestlers in the world and in a rare event wanted Big Vader to go over in Japan so eagerly that he booked himself to lose in a matter of minutes in a virtual squas match, this was unheard of and Inoki was so popular at that time, that the fans rioted. Japanese fans, usually so calm and respectful, rioted because the of the loss of their hero.
Whilst Inoki remained responsible for most of his booking, there's no denying what he has meant to the world of professional wrestling and his input should be revered for as long as professional wrestling remains existent.
Tell it to the world!!
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