Jun 12 //
Soul Tsukino In the life of a man known for his zany stories, this one may be the craziest. This story starts in April of 1975. Ali was at a party and happened to be introduced to the head of the Japanese Amateur Wrestling Association, Ichiro Yada. Ali famously said, "Isn't there any Oriental fighter who will challenge me? I'll give him one million dollars if he wins". Almost certainly meant to be another of his bragful boasts, Yada took it more seriously and brought the comment back to Japan with him and to the Japanese media. One person who happened to take notice of the quote was Antonio Inoki.
Inoki was one of the biggest name wrestlers in Japan in 1975. He had been a star of the JWA promotion in the 60's and had started his own company, New Japan Pro Wrestling, 3 years earlier where he was the big star. He also had trained with Karl Gotch a famous catch wrestler and grappler. So Inoki wasn't just some goof who made himself the star, he could actually handle himself in a real fight. His combining of Gotch's grappling and martial arts style hand strikes and kicks was what invented "Strong Style" in the first place. When he read about Ali's challenge, he and his investors in New Japan put up $6 million for the fight.
It took a while for things to be put together. Ali had fights with American Rob Lyle, Englishman Joe Bugner, The famous "Thrilla in Manilla" fight with joe Frazier that damn near killed him, and Belgian Jean-Pierre Coopman before the fight could be locked down by promoter Bob Arum for June 26, 1976, at the famous Budokan in Tokyo.
Between March when the fight was finalized and June, Ali kept himself busy. He had two boxing matches, beating American Jimmy Young and Englishman Richard Dunn. He also got himself involved in some tune-up matches with wrestlers.
See, once this mixed match was signed, wrestling promoters all over The United States were tripping over themselves to cash in. The fight would be carried via closed-circuit television (the precursor to Pay-per-view) to arenas around the country. So a number of promoters scheduled their own shows, with the advertised main event being able to see the fight on the giant screen. Vincent J. McMahon's WWWF held the second "Showdown at Shea" card that also featured Andre The Giant vs. Chuck Wepener live there in the arena, and the Georgia territory held an event with both mixed rules matches being shown after a card featuring Jack Brisco vs. Dory Funk jr..
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Ali had picked up famous wrestling manager "Classy" Freddie Blassie for his wrestling foray and made two stops in Chicago for the promoter (and top star of his own territory) Verne Gagne for two matches. First, he fought jobber wrestler "Sodbuster" Kenny Jay, and then he fought "The Hackensack Mauler" Buddy Wolfe.
He also made a stop in Philadelphia and a taping of WWWF Championship wrestling where he ran across Gorilla Monsoon.
As you can see, these were all a work. Jay and Wolfe were actually sparring partners for Ali to prepare on how to work a fight. He was having the time of his life.
Except no one told Inoki the fight was a work.
This is where things get a little tricky. There are two sides of what happened in the 2 weeks or so leading up to the fight. One story has it that the match was going to be a work all along. Supposedly the planned finish was to have Ali accidently knock out the ref. Ali would stand over the ref concerned and Inoki would run up and give him his finisher, the enziguri kick to the back of the head, and knock Ali out. The ref would be revived and count Ali out, giving Inoki the win in his homeland, but having Ali save face since it was an illegal move for the fight and that the ref got knocked down. Supposedly Ali balked at this idea and the fight was made into a shoot.
The other story goes that Ali thought the match was going to be a work, but Inoki did not. When Ali and his group went to see Inoki's training and saw him using his deadly kicks and strikes, Ali wanted to know when they were going to go over the finish. When Ali's camp learned the fight was going to be a shoot fight, they panicked and demanded that a bunch of rules was placed on the fight or they would pull out. And according to former world champion Bret Hart who was in Japan at the time, The Black Muslims vowed to kill Inoki if their most visible member got hurt. And although he wasn't linked to them (at the time anyway) the Japanese Yakuza probably had something to say about the fight as well.
Whatever the case, Ali's camp wanted several rules to be implemented so that their fighter (and cash cow) wouldn't get killed. The rules included: No grapple/submission holds, No tackles, No kicks unless Inoki had one knee on the mat (eliminating the enziguri), and no dropkicks. No headbutts, No knees below the belt, no kicks above the belt, and no open handed attacks to the eyes. These rules were also not to be made public to protect Ali's image. Basically, they were trying to set up Inoki to stand up and trade punches (and some low kicks I guess) with the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time.
Inoki is smarter than that, though.
As you can see, Inoki literally took the low road and went for the legs with kicks. Ali didn't expect this offense and spent most of the fight avoiding contact. Ali didn't even throw his first punch until the 7th round. He only threw 6 punches the whole fight. The only bit of excitement for most fans came at the beginning of the 8th round when Ali's trainer Angelo Dundee demanded Inoki tape up his boot because one of the eyelets at the end of his shoelaces had come loose and were digging into Ali's already swollen and bleeding legs. After 15 rounds the match was called a draw. Supposedly Inoki would have won the fight on points but had 3 points deducted after he elbowed Ali in the face during the 6th round. Believe what you will. Fans across the US thought it was a joke and the Japanese fans were pissed (which is an accomplishment considering the usually mellow attitude of Japanese fans).
The fallout of the fight was hard on Ali. His legs were massively swollen and he ended up having two blood clots removed from his legs and nearly had to have one amputated when an infection set in. Ali took part in a couple of exhibition boxing matches against doctor's orders and then had his big fight against Ken Norton. He could still punch but his mobility went downhill thanks to this fight and the damage it caused.
Inoki on the other had just kept on going. He would have other shoot fights against guys like Willie Williams and even some match that were supposed to be worked matches but ended up going shoot like his infamous fight against The Great Antonio. He would keep on being the big star for NJPW until 1997 and would run the company up until a few years ago. He had a few rounds as an elected politician in the Japanese senate.
The fight itself would have its own transformation as well. Considered largely a joke for decades, it wasn't until mixed martial arts became popular that the fight would get another look. Of course, the details of the rules changes also helped the fight's stature as well. Nowadays MMA experts find the fight to be a huge inspiration fo the sport, and even Inoki's defensive posture during the fight is used a lot nowadays (although most MMA refs would tell the guy to get up after a while).
Most importantly Ali and Inoki became friends. All these years later they kept in touch and respected the hell out of each other. Ali was ringside for both Inoki's match with Ric flair in North Korea that drew over 150,000 fans and was at Inoki's retirement match against MMA fighter Don Frye (which really was a work. Frye made a great pro wrestling heel). In the days after Ali's passing Inoki held a press conference to extend his condolences.
So while many view this fight as a joke and a lowlight of Ali's magnificent legacy, I'm not completely sold on that. Sure, things came off the rails and the fight itself is hardly any good. But at the same time, he ended up making a lifelong friend and earned the respect of one of the toughest people in the world. How many of use can say that?
Farce? No. It was just another way Muhammad was way ahead of his time.
We'll miss you champ.
Mess or Magnificent, you be the judge. It's now been over a week now since the world lost Muhammad Ali. For a week I've seen all the tributes, all the video packages, and watched the procession through Louisville leading up to the wonderful service where we got to...
At least one of the major issues that have plagued the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo will be resolved later this month as the search for a new logo has narrowed down to four.
As we've posted before, The Olympic games of Tokyo h...
Sunday night, World Wrestling Entertainment put in it's annual biggest event of the year, Wrestlemania. The 32nd wrestling event took place from Dallas Texas's AT&T Stadium and was announced to have an attendance of 101,7...
In Saturday's finale of the New Year's Grand Sumo Tournament, history was made when ozeki-ranked (second highest rank in sumo) Kotoshogiku became the first Japanese-born wrestler to win a tournament in a decade.
Most fighting games may not have an especially strong connection to real-life martial arts, but that doesn't mean they're completely unrealistic or impossible to "do" in meatspace. The trick is in finding the right game to r...
In what could end up being the story of the year in Japanese wrestling, several names on the NJPW roster handed in their notices in or around the WrestleKingdom 10 event on January 4rth.
During what is NJPW's version of the A...
Dec 30 //
NJPW Rumble: Gedo, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi, Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask, Ryusuke Taguchi
IWGP Jr. Tag team title: ReDRagon (champions) vs. Roppongi Vice vs. Young Bucks vs. Matt Sydel/Ricochet
NEVER 6 man title (To crown first champions): Toru Yano & The Briscoes vs The Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale/Yujiro Takahashi/Tama Tonga)
ROH Title: Jay Lethal (champion) vs. Michael Elgin
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title: Kenny Omega (champion) vs. Kushida
IWGP Tag team title: Doc Gallows/Karl Anderson vs. Global Bash Heel (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma)
Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito
NEVER Openweight Title: Tomohiro Ishii (champion) vs. Katsuyori Shibata
IWGP Intercontinental Title: Shinsuke Nakamura (champion) vs. A.J. Styles
IWGP Title: Kazuchika Okada (champion) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
On paper, this looks to be a killer show. The big question is can Tanahashi and Okada face each other for the third time main eventing this show (and the umpteenth time at major events) and still knock it out of the park? Chances are good there. A.J. Styles has said that despite fighting a back injury, he will be able to perform on the big stage. If he doesn't reaggravate it, he and Nakamura will have a dandy. Ishii and Shibata is making me drool already. And that the rumble looks like a fun one.
So tune in on January 4 (check for differences in your time zone) on NJPW's streaming service New Japan World to see all the action in both Japanese and in English with Kevin Kelly, Matt Striker, and Yoshi Tatsu.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Jado, Jushin Thunder Liger, Manabu Nakanishi, Ryusuke Taguchi, Satoshi Kojima, Tiger Mask and Yuji Nagata.
Japan's Wrestlemania goes down January 4 If you have been following Japanator's coverage of NJPW on AXS TV or are just a fan of Japanese pro wrestling in general, then you are probably familiar with WrestleKingdom. It has become the biggest wrestling event for New J...
Nov 12 //
Christian Chiok A couple of months after the main series has ended, Tadatoshi Fujimaki released its continuation called Kuroko’s Basketball: Extra Game which features Kuroko and Kagami alongside the Generation of Miracles working together as Team Vorpal Swords aiming to beat Team Jabberwock, a street American Basketball team composed of Nash Gold and Jason Silver, who have extraordinary talents that surpasses the Generation of Miracles, as well as other three nameless players who are on the same level as the former Teiko players.
The arc starts off with Jabberwock playing against Team Strky, a team composed of recently graduated third years from Shutoku, Too, Rakuzan, Kaijo and Yosen. After Jabberwock defeated Strky by a landslide, Jabberwock insulted Strky and as well as the entire country of Japan by stating that they are monkeys and they have no right playing Basketball.
As that kind of person that really gets involved and engaged with stories, seeing Team Strky get humiliated made me feel a bit hopeless, as if I was part of that setting. I can't say that their arrogance and their need to insult Japanese players really affected me, but it made me dislike the characters from the start. While it may sound contradicting, in cases like Kuroko's Basketball, I consider giving me a good reason to dislike the antagonist a good way to get myself engaged in a story.
Kagetora offended (as well as the rest of Japan, of course), it drove him to form Team Vorpal Swords and scheduled a game against Jabberwock for the following week. As a result, Kagetora had to pay for their expenses as well.
Ever since the original series started, I always wondered how well can the Generation of Miracles fare with American players, especially a team that has beaten some professional NBA players. As soon as I read that, I was already expecting them to get crushed, of course, to a much lesser extend compared to Team Strky.
Overall, this first chapter was a good introduction on the new set of antagonists. While I think addressing Japan as “monkeys” went too far, and it gave me enough reason to immediately despise the characters, it was still a good way on showing their personalities and more reason to root for Team Vorpal Swords once the game started.
Whether its a battle series, sports series or any series that features competition, I consider it important that the antagonists are shown destroying the protagonists' comrades as a way to tease their abilities and power. It may be cliche, but Fujimaki pulled it off right. With Team Strky being annihilated by Jabberwock despite Strky being composed of highly skilled players, plus the insults, it made the anticipation of the main match even harder.
The best part of the chapter was the ending, where all seven players, being Kuroko, Kagami and the rest of the Generation of Miracles met up in the gymnasium to train, as it felt like it was a throwback to their former Teiko days—before they turned arrogant and showed comradery. It was definitely one my favorite arcs in the series. While Kagami wasn’t part of Teiko of course, seeing him with the Generation of Miracles was good fan service.
If you're a fan of the original series and was left with the need of more content, I would definitely recommend that you read Extra Game. The first chapter so far starts off well featuring the Dream Team we wanted to see since the series ended. Naturally, as stated above, before reading Extra Game, it is imperative that you watch or read the original Kuroko's Basketball series.
Make It Flashy! Ever since emerging myself into the wonderful world of Anime and Manga, I’ve being a fan of many sports series such as Hajime no Ippo, Captain Tsubasa, Slam Dunk, and Prince of Tennis. One of my rece...
The International Olympic committee (IOC) announced that it has narrowed down the list of proposed sports to be added to the 2020 Olympic Games, held in Tokyo.
The Tokyo 2020 Additional Event Programme Panel was tasked with l...
Eat your way through the games
The World Cup fever is in full swing, so I figured it was about time I highlighted some of the stuff Japan has been producing to celebrate. Sure, you can head on to the mall and grab a hat, jersey, or stuffed Pikachu to show...
A Twitter pic snapped by Ayatan at a recent Hello Kitty expo caught the cutest kendo bogu I've ever seen. I wonder whether it's fully functional? The most customizing I ever see on these pieces are in the stitching or occasio...
Growing up, I was hard core into skateboarding. In fact, along with anime and manga, it was pretty much the focus of my youth. Nowadays the sport has flourish into something bigger and awesome than I could have imagined, but...
Last Sunday, over 100 mountain bikers had a downhill race at Osaka's Katsuoji Temple. Apparently, it's the first time that one of these races has ever occurred in such a place, though previous runs have happened at shrine si...
Having finally won their bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics in Neo Tokyo, Japan's Tokyo 2020 bid committee has posted their final presentation film to remind us that sports is a thing. Also, apparently, nothing is more ins...
Japan's most famous, earless, robotic cat is at it again, and now he's on a mission for Tokyo. The Japanese Olympic Committee has appointed the famous Fujiko F. Fujio creation as the ambassador for Tokyo's bid of th...
As part of a promotion for the upcoming Sadako 3D, the famous ghost from The Ring showed up at the Tokyo Dome to throw the ceremonial opening pitch. The Hokkaido Ham-Fighters (whose mascot is a bear for some reason) and the ...
In what has to be one of the most bizarre movie promotions I have ever heard of. Sadako Yamamura (no relation) of The Ring fame, will be throwing the opening pitch at an upcoming baseball game. The Hokkaid...
Fan of playing a few rounds of golf? Always losing your balls? Tired of getting your balls mixed up with your friends balls? Well then, there is an unfortunately named product simply beckoning for your hard earned pennies. It...
I'm not sure how many people of this site follow mixed martial arts or its roots, but if you do, Kazushi Sakuraba and his anime antics are no stranger to you. In my eyes Saku is the probably the greatest fighter of ...
Alright, let's get serious for a moment. We're talking about AKB48 and a game of paper, scissors, rock. Who will be the victor! Who's head will end up on a spike?
Wait, what? Sorry I got a bit excited there. Watch the stunning competition after the jump!
[Thanks Ric Quintanilla for the tip]
Sumo wrestling is pretty serious business in Japan. Matches are often televised and people still fill arenas to watch it on a regular basis. It's not exactly a lucrative sport either. If you've got a low ranking -- most&...
Of all the accessories most appropriate to be paired with the likes of the Dragon Ball franchise, one might believe golf-related products to fall somewhere near the bottom of that particular list. On the other hand, there are...
I've never been big on sports. Sure I enjoy watching some on occasion, but in terms of actual fandom, I'm not the guy to talk to about it. When it comes to baseball, I'm even less interested, but Japan, on the other hand, lov...
Are you a fan of Oh! Great's popular skating manga Air Gear? Do you pine for more episodes than what 2006's anime adaptation by Toei Animation could provide? Then get excited, because more animated goodness is heading your wa...
Monkeys are awesome. End of discussion. Now that we've established that inarguable fact, let's see what awesome things monkeys are doing now. With their awesomeness. Because they're awesome.This week: baseball, the American p...
This is a video about cats weightlifting fish. Let that sink in for a moment. The concept will feel weird at first, as it should, because this is entirely ridiculous. And yet, something about it just makes sense, like it's th...
Japan has a fanatic love affair with baseball, so it's only natural that they manage to seamlessly tie in the hit anime (in Japan, anyways) Big Windup with the sport itself. June 30th will be Big Windup Day at the Nippon Ham ...
Giant Killing has gotten a pass quite a bit this season. A sports anime? Most people are quite content with Big Windup, but if you're not a baseball fan, there's always football (soccer for you crazies)! Given that the World ...
Eri Yoshida is a name that keeps popping up here at Japanator. She was the first woman to debut in a men's league in Japan, and although it was mostly a publicity stunt for the WBC, Eri Yoshida is nobody to laugh at. She's ev...
animenekogirl Hi I'm new and well I love anime...kevinperdue Sometimes it just hard waiting for the pre-order. You know? But then there is other anime :).Red Veron Hey, readers! I love you<3Rin Haruka Oh my gosh i just finished clannad after story for the second time and i need at least 5 more tissue boxes sniff sniff Hiroko Yamamura hikevinperdue Yeah! I ordered three things all at different times and they all came in at the same time. Thanks name withheld ordering company!Salvador GRodiles Since my condition hasn't improved that much from yesterday, my Jtor Live segment won't be happening tonight. If anything, it should be back this Saturday.Salvador GRodiles Since I'm feeling under the weather right now (curse you, spring season), this week's Jtor Live shall be pushed to Sunday.Anthony Redgrave Hearts over Hanekawa! <3Salvador GRodiles As a heads-up, this week's Jtor Live is being pushed back to Sunday. Anthony Redgrave Someone's got a new desktop background :DAnthony Redgrave I don't know what this is, but it's tres Adorbs!OverlordZetta I am choosing to believe Umaru randomly decided to make this reference and no one can stop me.Anthony Redgrave Just going to leave this hereAnthony Redgrave "In the name of the moon I will punish you!" with a posed lookAnthony Redgrave Double the Onodera. Double the festive fun!OverlordZetta I swear it looks like the Red one just wants to jump out and kill whoever is looking at the picture.Anthony Redgrave WoahOverlordZetta Hi everybody! I posted a blog about Symphogear today, but for some reason it decided to go up on the day I started it, rather than today. URL is here: http://www.japanator.com/blogs/OverlordZetta/symphogear-we-need-to-talk-34502.phtmlSalvador GRodiles As a heads-up, this week's Jtor Live will go live on Sunday.