Complete video: Ali vs. Inoki, plus Wepner vs. Andre the Giant

Monday, April 23, 2012

In a series of pieces over the past several years, Underground Blog has sought to highlight the underappreciated role that pro wrestling has played in the development of Mixed Martial Arts.
Pro Wrestling & MMA connection
Barnett: MMA in Brazil came from pro wrestling
Origins of MMA: When pro wrestling turns very real in Japan
Grandfather of BJJ was pro wrestling manager

The video below was extremely rare, and is by far the most signficant mixed rule event before UFC 1. While Gene LeBell vs. Milo Savage was the first nationally televised mixed rules bout in the USA, Inoki vs. Ali was the first internationally televised mixed rules event, with a worldwide audience estimated at up to one billion fans.

The Ali vs. Inoki match itself took place with a convoluted rule set a long way from the Unified Rules (think fire in a cave vs. electric lights) and thus was boring. Gene LeBell is the referee.

The video is the telecast seen in Japan, and includes another boxer vs. wrestler bout, from Shea Stadium. Inlcuded are:
Andre “The Giant” vs Chuck Wepner
Wilhelm Ruska vs Don Fargo
Muhammad Ali vs Antonio Anoki

Chuck Wepner is the boxer on which Sylvester Stallone based his Rocky character. The New Jersey liquor salesman was given a shot at Ali’s title, and actually knocked the champ down in the 5th. A photographer caught that Wepner had used an old trick to get the knockdown (he stepped on Ali’s foot as he threw a shoving blow) but it stayed in the record books as a legitimate knockdown.

Dutchman Willem Ruska won two Olympic gold medals in Judo, and two world championships. In addition to the bout vs. pro wrestler Don Fargo, he defeated Ivan Gomez in a vale tudo match in Brazil. 

The name of the event was War of the Worlds, the same name Art Davie and Rorion Gracie decided upon some 16 years later, before they made a late change and called the event the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The War of The Worlds: Battle of the Champions
June 25, 1976
Nippon Budokan arena
Tokyo, Japan