TOKYO - DECEMBER 16:  Professional wrestler Antonio Inoki attends the "Che" Japan Premiere at Roppongi Hills on December 16, 2008 in Tokyo, Japan. The film will open on January 10.  (Photo by Jun Sato/WireImage)
Facts About Antonio Inoki Only Hardcore Wrestling Fans Know
Born Kanji Inoki on February 20, 1943, Inoki took on the ring name Antonio Inoki in 1962, named after wrestler Antonio Rocca, the name by which he is most famously known. However, he revealed in 2014 that he had converted to Shia Islam during a tour to Iraq in 1990 and legally changed his name to Muhammad Hussain Inoki.
Three Different Names
At JWA, Shohei “Giant” Baba was a bigger name than Inoki, although the two formed a tag team in 1967 known as B-I Cannon. However, JWA pushed Baba more than Inoki, which caused a rivalry between the two men and led to the formation of All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro wrestling.
Partners With Giant Baba
Inoki joined Toyonobori’s Tokyo Pro Wrestling in 1966 and had a hot feud with Johnny Valentine, but frequent issues with backers closed down the company. Inoki returned to JWA in 1967, teaming with Baba until he was kicked out of the promotion for trying to seize the company from its owners.
His Other Ventures
Inoki would engage in various “shoots,” or non-scripted, real fights, including clashes with Bruno Sammartino and Pakistan’s Akram Pahalwan. However, his most notorious shoot was against The Great Antonio, who no-sold Inoki’s moves and mistakenly clubbed him in the neck before Inoki beat him to bloody unconsciousness.
His Multiple Shoots
On November 30, 1979, Inoki defeated the WWF Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund for the title in a 30-minute match, thanks to outside interference. The rematch took place next week but was declared no contest, so Inoki vacated the title, which Backlund then won back. However, WWF never recognized Inoki’s brief title reign.
WWF Heavyweight Champion