Former Japanese professional wrestler and a Japanese parliament member Antonio Inoki -- real name Kanji Inoki -- speaks to reporters as he returns from North Korea at the Tokyo international airport on January 16, 2014. Inoki visited Pyongyang and he had talks with Kim Yong Il, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea and an advisor to the North Korea-Japan Friendship Association in Pyongyang.   AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO        (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP via Getty Images)
Facts About New Japan Pro-Wrestling Only Hardcore Fans Know
Almost Lost Their Show
In the mid-1980s, TV ratings for TV Asahi’s weekly prime-time show “World Pro Wrestling” had dropped from 20% to 10% after several notable wrestlers departed in 1983-1984. According to David Meltzer, “TV Asahi [was] thinking seriously about canceling [Antonio] Inoki’s weekly TV show as of early April.”
Not The First Promotion
Antonio Inoki’s breaking away from JWA in 1972 to form NJPW wasn’t the first time he had broken away to anchor a new promotion, as he was one of the faces of Tokyo Pro Wrestling when it launched in 1966. During Inoki’s US tour, both promotions tried to win his loyalty, and after Tokyo Pro went out of business the following year, he returned to JWA.
Approaching Their Rivals
When Ric Flair canceled his match against The Great Muta at NJPW’s Tokyo Dome, Inoki went to his long-time rival Shohei “Giant” Baba who ran AJPW. Although the two rivals didn’t get along, Baba and Inoki’s right-hand man were friends and, given NJPW’s desperate situation, the two parties agreed to do business, selling out the show within a few days.
Banned From Sumo Halls
Tokyo Sumo Hall was under the control of the Japan Sumo Association, a nit-picky organization that had banned AJPW. NJPW was safe at the moment, but after a huge chaotic situation at the 1988 NJPW Sumo Hall event, “the Tokyo Sumo Association banned pro wrestling from Sumo Hall.”
Takeshi Kitano In NJPW
Following an assault charge in 1987, the actor/comedian/director Takeshi Kitano had been publicly disgraced and was suspended from TV, so when he returned, he landed in pro wrestling as a heel manager. Wanting to take out Inoki, Kitano enlisted Masa Saito to build him a new gang, but any long-term plans were dropped after the Sumo Hall riot.