Hulk Hogan claimed he accidentally killed Antonio Inoki during a match in Japan. After their 1983 clash for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, Inoki stayed down after a huge clothesline from Hogan for several minutes, swallowing his tongue and requiring medical treatment from the ringside doctors.
Hulk Hogan was not told about this, and thought that something was seriously wrong with Antonio Inoki. After he hit his “Axe Bomber” finisher, Hulk Hogan pinned Antonio Inoki to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, leaving Inoki in a heap outside the ring on the floor, allegedly fighting for his life.
According to Hogan, he was forced to flee Japan soon after the match. After Inoki was revived by paramedics, the Yakuza (the Japanese equivalent of the Mafia) put a hit out on Hogan, attempting to murder him for killing the Japanese legend (wrestling and organized crime have gone back a long way in Japan). The American star had to flee Japan, not returning for many, many years.
However, that is not quite how the story went.
Did Hulk Hogan Kill Antonio Inoki?
Hulk Hogan did not kill Antonio Inoki during their match in 1983, with his claim simply being an embellishment in an attempt to keep “Kayfabe”, which was a huge deal in Japan at the time.
Hogan did defeat Inoki in 1983, at Kuramae Kokugikan on June 2nd. Hogan won the match by knockout, after a big lariat sent Inoki crashing over the top rope and onto the floor outside. Inoki was knock out, unable to answer to the referee’s count while Hogan was awarded the first ever IWGP Heavyweight Championship belt.
However, Hogan did not have to flee Japan for several years. Six months later, he returned to Japan to team with Inoki in the MSG tag league, winning the tournament by defeating Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch in the final. This would imply that the Yakuza were not hot on his tail, as he wrestled multiple matches in that tournament without being killed.
It was clear that the claim by Hogan was him trying to keep kayfabe, while embellishing it to make himself sound more interesting. The Yakuza were a threat in Japan, but Hogan was never really in danger. The fact that he returned later that year proves that he was lying, and that the finish between himself and Inoki was likely planned from the start (Inoki also did not like being pinned or submitted).
Dave Meltzer spoke to Chris Jericho about the match between Hogan and Inoki, revealing that Hulk Hogan’s reaction to the finish was designed to fool everybody. Hogan’s facial expression at the time fooled even the media at ringside, who truly thought that Hogan had knocked out Antonio Inoki for real.
“He just wins this tournament and he should be celebrating and Hogan’s out there and he’s got this look on his face like ‘Oh my god? Did I just kill the boss?’ Everyone bought it — from the media to others at ringside, it was real. Until it wasn’t.”
Wrestling journalist Fumi Saito also waded in during the interview, adding “
“Inoki did that without telling anybody,” Saito recalled. “That’s how serious that was. He (Hogan) was not clued in.”, before Meltzer added “[Inoki] swallowed his tongue and everyone’s panicking like ‘Oh my god, what happened?'”
Hulk Hogan may have gone along with the injury angle to make Inoki look better, but the whole idea that he accidentally killed the Japanese legend is a fantastical as it is ridiculous. It is another example of Hulk Hogan’s lies, which are numerous, ridiculous and completely unbelievable.
Click the link below to learn more about Hulk Hogan’s lies.
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.