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The Antonio Inoki Story | Write That Down!

The Antonio Inoki Story

On Write That Down!, our Japanese wrestling podcast on The Fight Game Media Network, hosts Justin Knipper and historian Fumi Saito, did a five episode series on Antonio Inoki. With Inoki’s passing on October 1, 2022, we felt it was a good time to resurface these shows in case anyone missed them the first time around.

We’ve embedded all five episodes below and in the order in which they were recorded.

(All summaries are via Justin Knipper.)

The Antonio Inoki Story

This is part one of Fumi and Justin’s profile series on the one and only, the very special Antonio Inoki. This episode covers Inoki’s early years, growing up the youngest of 11 children, moving to Sao Paolo and losing his grandfather on the boat ride there, Rikidozan finding him in Brazil, working for Rikidozan’s JWA, debuting with Giant Baba, teaming with Baba, the rise and fall of Tokyo Pro Wrestling and later IWE International Wrestling, and finally the debut of NJPW in 1972, 50 years from the debut.

Here is part two of Fumi and Justin’s profile on Antonio Inoki. The two focused on Inoki’s wrestling career in the late 1960s and early 1970s with JWA, when Inoki and Shohei “Giant” Baba formed a super-team in the wake of Rikidozan’s passing, BI Platoon. They also covered Inoki’s first big singles win a few years later when he beat Johnny Valentine for Tokyo Pro Wrestling’s US championship, or the same title that’s ⅓ of AJPW’s Triple Crown today.

Additionally, Fumi and Justin talked in detail about the dissolution of JWA in the early ’70s and the formation of both NJPW (Inoki + Karl Gotch) and AJPW (Baba + the Funk Brothers) in 1972, plus Inoki’s historic 1975 “Broadway” match against Billy Robinson, the debut of Inoki’s Octopus Hold, comparisons with Baba as a singles wrestler throughout the year, VHS and BETA-MAX talk and lots more.

In the next installment of their profile series on Antonio Inoki, Fumi Saito and Justin Knipper continued covering Inoki’s full in-ring career, this time focusing on years 1974–1980. After Inoki’s (and Seiji Sakaguchi’s) NJPW and Giant Baba’s AJPW established deals with television channels, the rivalry between the two companies began heating up. Fumi and Justin talked about the hot time it was for pro wrestling Japan during the mid-’70s, the influence of television and print media at the time.

The two also went over Inoki’s inventive and bloody December 1974 vs. IWA champion Strong Kobayashi, Inoki’s year-long feud with Tiger Jeet Singh, his famous hour-long bout with Karl Gotch-trainee Billy Robinson, and his series of matches with Andre the Giant.

They also talked about Vince McMahon Sr.’s involvement with and appearances for NJPW at around this time, which subsequently led to NJPW and the WWWF’s 11-year working relationship. The partnership would also lead to Inoki’s international breakout bout against Muhammed Ali in what many would call the world’s first MMA fight, which Fumi & Justin also covered in detail towards the end of the show.

Part four of Fumi Saito and Justin Knipper’s profile series on Antonio Inoki has arrived. The show picks up where the two left off last time, during the mid-1970s, and finishes at around 1985 in Inoki’s career.

The two went over the nature of the 11-year NJPW-WWF relationship and Inoki’s relations with Vince McMahon Sr, plus how Giant Baba, Bruno Sammartino, and “Superstar” Billy Graham fit into the picture at the time. Fumi also gives out a bit of deathmatch trivia involving Inoki and Umanosuke Ueda before diving deep into Inoki’s rivalry with former WWF World Heavyweight champion, Bob Backlund. Fumi goes over the dense and somewhat convoluted story of Inoki winning and vacating the WWF World Heavyweight title from Backlund and how important the Japanese print media was in spinning the angle to the Japanese fanbase.

Before wrapping, Fumi and Justin covered Inoki’s rivalry with Stan Hansen as well as his storied history with Hulk Hogan and the infamous 1983 IWGP finals match between Inoki and Hogan. Justin also posits the question: Did “Hulkamania” start in Tokyo?

On the final episode of their series on Antonio Inoki, Fumi Saito and Justin Knipper went Inoki’s career from the ’80s onward to his retirement and life in business and national politics. After that, they hit on topics like Inoki and the rise of MMA culture; his famous feud with disciple Tatsumi Fujinami; the debut of Big Van Vader and the debacle debut at Ryogoku Sumo Hall in ’87; and the launch of the second UWF and its massive impact on wrestling. We also touched on the rise of Naoya Ogawa and Inoki’s further involvement in the world of MMA in the late ’90s and early ’00s.

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