Class of 2010
Japan’s Vince and Hogan Combo
Hall of Fame Rating
7 out of 10
Antonio Inoki was the first international superstar inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. His stature in Japan was that of Vince McMahon and his fame as large as Hulk Hogan. Like Hogan, he hocks some strange items.
Better or worse than this.
But Why is he in the WWE Hall of Fame?
Inoki began his career in Japan in the early 1960s. He came from a rich background and in many ways that benefit and attitude permeated in a real way throughout his career. Inoki became a large “regional” Japanese star. Japan’s wrestling scene functioned similarly to the old territory based USA system. Yet even still, the JWA owned and operated by Giant Baba was always considered best.
Giant Baba and Inoki began their own WCW/WWF rivarly when Inoki failed a buy out of the JWA and was fired (again remember Inoki is rich). He then opened up the famous New Japan (again super rich) in 1972. Inoki booked and dominated much for New Japan’s card and he eventually became the godfather of Japanese Wrestling.
That was until a political scandal (he’s in politics too, but more on that later) undid Inoki in 1995 and he proceeded to sell the majority share to the video game company Yukes (the same as WWE 12) before eventually retiring, and making his son the figurehead of New Japan.
This would be like McMahon selling to Disney with HHH as CEO.
All of his bio aside, Inoki is in the Hall of Fame due to his force of personality. WWE began inducting competition and non-WWE wrestlers in 2006 and this was one step further. No one can deny the importance of Antonio Inoki.
Inoki was a big deal but also a tough son of gun. In the “fake” world of professional wrestling, he was known as a pretty straight shooter. And he knew how to promote. Inoki used himself to challenge the odd and the famous. Inoki was also famous for his shoots. He was legitimate as any NCAA champion. He messed up the no selling Great Antonio and shot on Muhammed Ali.
He is also one of the few men to have defeated Ric Flair, Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan and Bob Backlund. All by pinfall. For real.
He even won the WWE Championship (not held as official or valid, but technically he did)
Inoki was also involved with the WWE at one point in the late 70s/early 80s. Vince Sr. attempted to bring in many varied acts for all over the world. Everyone has and always will feel the importance of the garden but this time period it was at its height. Inoki was the first and long running WWF Martial Arts Champion. A title which not only existed but existed until 1989.
His prestige is a major part of his character and his image. Inoki was the first professional wrestler in history of the entire world to ever run for political office and win. (Jesse Ventura followed) Inoki used his wealth and prestige to build himself an empire around himself. It collapsed down on top of him when in 1995 he was accussed of bribery and working with the mafia. Inoki was subsequently defeated in the congress.
But most of all, Antonio Inoki is the Hall due to the respect for him. People line up to be slapped BY HIM.
And in wrestling, that’s a man to be celebrated.
Starting in 2006, WWE generally inducted at least one of their competition into the Hall. Verne Gagne, Stu Hart, Eddie Graham and Bill Watts all went into the Hall. Inoki is similar in his “competition standings, yet for the most part Inoki always had a working/reasonable relationship with the WWE.
This was the beginning of the next layer for the WWE Hall of Fame. Competition was inducted, now begins foriegn stars. Inoki is probably known by 15-20% of wrestling fans in the world. Americans are not familiar with his work or importance. Yet by adding him to the Hall of Fame, the WWE attempted to legitimize the Hall and THE one and only Hall that matters.
Inoki, sadly was part of one of the strangest and weakest classes since the reboot. The lack of marquee names and his own translated speech made this an awkward induction for sure.
Opens Door For?
Directly, Mil Mascaras. Mascaras had a similar history for the organization but mostly flourished outside of the USA.
Potentials for the future include Dos Caras or Justin Liger
Reasons this shouldn’t have happened.
Fear that Inoki would beat somebody up.