Muhammad Ali is one of the best boxers to every step into a ring, but he also had an interesting career in another sport that takes place in the squared circle. Muhammad Ali has been involved in professional wrestling since the 1970s and he even took part in the first ever WWE WrestleMania event.
On the day of Ali’s passing, many WWE stars have spoken up about the late great champion and what he meant to them personally. 411mania reported that the WWE released a statement on the passing of Muhammad Ali and sent out their condolences.
“WWE is saddened to learn that two-time world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali passed away at age 74 on June 3, 2016.
“Ali also made history for his historic boxer vs. wrestler match against WWE Hall of Famer Antonio Inoki in Tokyo on June 26, 1976. The fight is regarded as a precursor to modern mixed martial arts.”
In the statement, the WWE also pointed out that first WrestleMania event where Muhammad Ali served as the guest referee for the match pitting Hulk Hogan and Mr. T against Rowdy Roddy Piper and Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff.
That was an interesting WWE match. Piper, who died last year, was public in his knowledge that he didn’t like Mr. T being involved in the main event because he was not a wrestler. It was different for Ali being in the WWE ring because he was one of the best boxers ever and Piper always had a soft spot for boxing. Ali even took a swing at Piper in that WWE match.
That boxer vs. wrestler match mentioned in the WWE statement saw Muhammad Ali fight Antonio Inoki, arguably the greatest Japanese wrestler of all time. That match came at a time when Inoki was trying to introduce a new worked-shoot style in Japan where wrestlers were proving they could really fight as well as work matches.
The match was held on June 26, 1976, in Tokyo, and Muhammad Ali was the reigning WBC/WBA Heavyweight Champion. Inoki was fighting in exhibitions against champions from different sports and this was his chance against a boxer. The fight went 15 full rounds and was seen as an early precursor to MMA matches.
A large number of WWE stars also took to Twitter and social media to talk about the loss of Muhammad Ali. Ring of Honor Wrestling also had a nice post about the champion.
411mania also reported that WWE Chairman Vince McMahon also took to Twitter to give his thoughts on the passing of Muhammad Ali. He posted a nice quote by the champ and called him #GreatestOfAllTime.
Muhammad Ali was one of the first showmen in the boxing industry, showing an arrogance and flair that made him beloved by many and hated by so many more. It was clearly an influence from the professional wrestling business. Muhammad Ali was also Floyd Mayweather before Floyd Mayweather was even born.
Interestingly, with all the celebrities that the WWE has inducted into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame, they have not inducted Muhammad Ali. With Ali’s love of the industry, his participation in the first WrestleMania, his boxer vs. wrestler match, and more, there is no doubt he belongs and should get his name called in the 2017 WWE Hall of Fame class.
A Twitter post by Stephanie McMahon almost clarifies that he was overlooked.
Muhammad Ali died on June 4 from what NBC News reported as septic shock. He had been hospitalized for five days in an Arizona hospital before his passing. Ali was 74 years old at the time of his death. While Muhammad Ali will always be remembered for his boxing career, his time in the WWE will always resonate with fans of wrestling as well.
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