In 2008, Vince McMahon made an appearance outside the WWE for one of the few times in his professional career, appearing in the Inoki Genome Federation to honor Antonio Inoki. Prior to this, the only time he had a sustained run in a promotion other than the WWE was in the years before the Montreal Screwjob, when he showed the first glimpse of his “Mr McMahon” character in Memphis Wrestling.
It was here that Vince McMahon first dipped his toe in the water of being a heel character on TV, laying the foundations for his clashes with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin during the famed “Attitude Era”. However, this was much different to Vince McMahon’s appearance in Japan, to pay tribute to the legendary Antonio Inoki.
In 2006, Antonio Inoki left NJPW and formed his own promotion, echoing the exodus of the JWA that saw him form NJPW in 1972. Seeing the business go a different way to how NJPW bosses saw it, he instead went his own way with a blend of pro-wrestling and MMA. This mix of styles was known as “Inokism“, and proved to be a huge failure in Japanese wrestling.
This did not stop the Inoki Genome Federation from making some huge signings for the promotion. Former WWE Champions Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle wrestled for Inoki, after the controversial Lesnar was made the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. He took the belt from NJPW to the IGF, before dropping it to Kurt Angle in a rematch from WrestleMania 20.
However, the most interesting moment in Inoki Genome Federation history has to be when Vince McMahon made a rare appearance outside of the WWE. In celebration of Antonio Inoki’s 65th birthday, on February 23, 2008, Vince McMahon filmed a video wishing him a happy birthday.
He began by introducing himself as the “Chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment”, before noting that Inoki was somebody “my father had a great respect for”. While this may sound like Vince does not have respect for the Japanese legend, it is known that he holds his fathers’ opinion of people higher than anybody elses, and likely sees this as a bigger compliment than simply him respecting Inoki.
He ends the speech by wishing Antonio Inoki a happy birthday, in a short but heartfelt video that was broadcast by the Inoki Genome Federation.
Hello. I’m Vince Mcmahon, chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment. I’d like to take this chance to wish a happy birthday to a man who my father had great respect for. A man whose contributed tremendously to the sport of professional wrestling. A man of integrity and a man of pride. Happy Birthday, Antonio.
You can see Vince McMahon speech in the video below.
Did you know? – This is not the only time Vince McMahon appeared at an indie show? In 2007, he appeared with John Cena at a charity event, in which he ran into the ring before being AA’s by the WWE Champion.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.