There I was in the lobby of my hotel in Tokyo last week when a friend says to me, “Hey, that’s Antonio Inoki!”
Before you ask, let me explain that Antonio Inoki was only one of the very best Japanese pro-wrestlers in recorded history. So famous that he once battled Mohammed Ali! And was in a Bad News Bears movie! And then, just to keep them guessing, he became a member of parliament for a while (the Japanese national parliament, not Parliament Funkadelic, though that would be pretty cool too…). He’s even met Saddam Hussein!
Alas, Mr. Inoki quickly boarded a waiting limo and disappeared into the night before I had a chance to snap a photo. But I now include him in an ever-growing list of pro-wrestling legends I have encountered, however briefly, in civilian life:
- John Kronos of The Eliminators – I bumped into him and his daughter at Geno’s Steaks in South Philly. Nice guy.
- The Great Sasuke – Another wrestler/politician. I even got his business card!
- Detox – A neighbor of mine growing up. He didn’t look like this then.
- Some buff lady wrestler from Kentucky – I wish I could remember her name. She kindly took photos with me and my friends at a pro-wrestling event we attended in a local gymnasium. She said she worked during the week as a bouncer in a Tokyo gaijin bar.