Antonio Inoki, WWE Hall of Famer, Dies at 79

by Dustin Schutte
Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

WWE Hall of Famer and politician Antonio Inoki died on Friday, according to an announcement from New Japan Pro-Wrestling. He was 79.

Inoki has been considered a trailblazer in the world of combat sports in Japan. He became the first professional wrestler from Japan to win a WWF championship. In 2010, the WWE inducted Inoki into its Hall of Fame.

Inoki fought Muhammad Ali in a mixed-rules match in 1976. It was considered one of the highest-profile fights of the time. According to ESPN, the bout is labeled as a “direct ancestor” to the current status of mixed martial arts.

Following his career in the ring, Inoki turned his attention to fight promotion and politics. He retired from his political career in 2019.

Inoki’s cause of death has not been released. ESPN reports that he had “fallen ill” in recent years.

Sports World Reacts to Antonio Inoki’s Passing

Because of his success in the world of combat sports and his incredible reach as a politician, sports fans offered their condolences after learning of Antonio Inoki’s passing.

The WWE remembered Inoki during Friday night’s SmackDown show.

One of wrestling’s most recent stars, Triple H, also released a statement regarding the death of Inoki.

“One of the most important figures in the history of our business, and a man who embodied the term ‘fighting spirit,'” he wrote. “The legacy of WWE Hall of Famer Antonio Inoki will live on forever.”

Wrestling legend Mick Foley also expressed deep condolences after hearing on Inoki’s passing.

“Very sorry to learn of the loss of Antonio Inoki,” he wrote on Twitter. “What a towering presence in our business! I loved his matches – especially his classic brawls with Bruiser Brody.”

The WWE released a statement, as well.

“WWE offers its heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and fans of the squared circle legend and the wrestling world as a whole.”