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Antonio Inoki dead at 79

Pro-Wrestling Masters Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

According to Yahoo Japan, Antonio Inoki, one of the most influential figures in professional wrestling history, died at his home today. He was 79-years-old.

Inoki began his wrestling career in 1960 and quickly became a star, going on to become a huge draw for decades.

He’s widely known for being the founder of New Japan Pro Wrestling, and having an infamous fight against the great Muhammad Ali in 1976. He also headlined shows in North Korea with Ric Flair that drew some of the highest attendances in the history of pro wrestling.

Inoki was the first Japanese WWF heavyweight champion, a reign that WWE does not officially recognize. Still, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010.

During Friday Night SmackDown shortly after news broke, WWE announced his passing and paid tribute to his legendary career.

Tributes are pouring in from all of the wrestling world, as he influenced a great many stars of yesterday and today.

May he rest in peace.

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