NJPW President Takami Ohbari wanted to have Antonio Inoki in attendance for Wrestle Kingdom 17

NJPW President Takami Ohbari felt it was absolutely necessary that Antonio Inoki would be in attendance for Wrestle Kingdom 17

Photo Courtesy: New Japan Pro-Wrestling

Takami Ohbari felt it was absolutely necessary that Inoki be at Wrestle Kingdom.

It has been nearly two weeks since it was made public that legendary wrestler and promoter Antonio Inoki passed away at the age of 79. Tributes came pouring in as the news made the rounds and New Japan Pro-Wrestling held a ceremony in honor of Inoki at their Declaration of Power event.

It had been revealed by NJPW that prior to Inoki’s passing, they reached an agreement with him so that he could become their Honorary Chairman for life. This was going to be revealed at the 10/10 event.

Proresu-TODAY has a lengthy interview on their site with NJPW President Takami Ohbari. He shared that he planned on having Inoki in attendance for Wrestle Kingdom 17 in January. Ohbari said if Inoki was unable to walk, he would have been carried on a portable shrine (travel altar). He said the company knew Inoki was indispensable to the event.

I thought that if Mr. Inoki was unable to walk, I would ask him to enter the venue on a portable shrine or something like that. We had been proceeding on the assumption that Mr. Inoki was still here with us, because we were planning to celebrate the 50th anniversary on January 4, and we knew that he was indispensable to the event. I would like to show the 50th anniversary to Mr. Inoki in heaven, and I think the timing is just right for fans from all over the world to come to the event. So I want to make it an event and a card that will attract not only fans from the Tokyo metropolitan area, but also from all over Japan and the world, including overseas fans. So I don’t want to say how many people will be here, but I want to be able to say that the company that Mr. Inoki founded is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and we held the culmination of this event at the Dome, and many people from all over the world came to see it.

Ohbari was informed of Inoki’s passing while he was in the U.K. for Royal Quest II. He was planning on visiting Inoki this month. Prior to Ohbari heading over to the U.K., he heard that Inoki was not doing well.

I was a little bit depressed late at night, probably due to the time difference. I received a call that Mr. Inoki had passed away. I had heard that things were not going well before I went there, and I was so sad to hear that he had passed away that I couldn’t reply to the message. I couldn’t reply because of my sense of loss, but I suddenly thought, hey, everyone is here. I, Chairman Sugabayashi and owner Takaaki Kidani were all in England. When the news of his death came out, everyone was talking about a 10-count for both countries in Japan, but I said, ‘No, let’s do it here, in London,’ and they made arrangements. Thankfully, the London bureau of TV Asahi was able to arrange it, and they came to cover the event.

I think it is very symbolic for both Inoki and New Japan Pro-Wrestling that the news of Inoki’s death and the 10-count were made by our hands in England. It may sound strange, but when I looked at the lineup, I felt as if I had been guided. It wasn’t just me being in Japan or anything, even the owners were there together. In fact, I was planning to go see Mr. Inoki this month. We had been planning and preparing for a long time, and the earliest we could get the various arrangements completed was September, when he was made Honorary President for Life, and we were going to announce it in October, but while that didn’t happen, I felt as if he told me, you guys, go to England. I was standing right in front of the audience, but there was applause, cheers and Inoki calls, just like the ending scene of a movie starring Mr. Inoki. When I thought that, tears spontaneously spilled down my cheeks. I thought I was the only one crying, so I turned around and saw that Okada and Tanahashi were also crying.

NJPW is about to embark on their Battle Autumn tour which starts on October 14th and concludes on November 5th in Osaka, Japan.

About Andrew Thompson 8596 Articles
A Washington D.C. native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.