NJPW pays Inoki tribute, Memorial Wrestle Kingdom set 【WK17】

Inoki farewell held and celebration planned

Declaration of Power on October 10 saw Ryogoku festivities start with a formal tribute to Antonio Inoki, and an emotional final farewell to an icon.

Watch the Declaration of Power replay

The entire NJPW roster gathered around ringside as legendary former ring announcer and close friend of Inoki, Kero Tanaka addressed the crowd. A special video of Inoki’s career highlights aired, before words of tribute from Tanaka before a ten bell salute.

‘On October 1, the world lost the founder of New Japan Pro-Wrestling, the very image of professional wrestling in Japan and a legend and superstar in and out of the ring at the age of 79. 

On March 6 1972, Antonio Inoki raised the curtain on New Japan Pro-Wrestling. In response to his career rival in ring and in promotion, Giant Baba, Inoki promoted NJPW under the banners of ‘Strong Style’ and the ‘King of Sports, bringing about an unprecedented boom period with himself at the forefront. 

Whether in the Japanese dream match with Strong Kobayashi, or defending national pride against Tiger Jeet Singh, Stan Hansen or Hulk Hogan, Inoki was the superstar of superstars in Japan Golden Age.

On June 26 1976, the impossible was made possible when the Nippon Budokan hosted Inoki vs Ali, resonating worldwide, and starting an entire MMA movement. All this in the early years of  NJPW’s half century, celebrations of which starting on January 4 2022 with a special message from Inoki at Wrestle Kingdom 16 in the Tokyo Dome.

On September 1, Mr. Inoki graciously accepted the position of Honorary Lifetime Chairman of NJPW, and we had planned on making that announcement to you tonight. Instead we will announce that on January 4 2023, Wrestle Kingdom 17 will be held in honor and memory of Antonio Inoki. 

Inoki’s philosophy of standing up to adversity and injustice, and never to give in is something that will forever be ingrained in the DNA of all professional wrestlers and wresting fans. Inoki’s influence is indelible and his spirit indomitable. We once again express our profound grief at Antonio Inoki’s passing, but will continue to march forward in the professional wrestling world with him as our spiritual guide.