Fans line up to be slapped in face by wrestling legend
Most sporting stars are used to having fans approach them wanting to shake their hand, take a selfie or get an autograph, but when it comes to Japanese wrestling legend Antonio Inoki, what people really want is for him to slap them in the face.
No, really – we’re not joking. In fact, in the video below, dozens of fans at the ‘Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye’ New Years Eve event in 2000 patiently queued up for the opportunity to have the 6ft, 240bl Inoke’s finest pimp hand smack them upside the head.
So, what the heck is this all about?
To give some background, Inoki is a hugely popular figure in his native Japan whose wrestling career dates back as far as 1960 when he was just 17 years old.
He’d go on to compete for numerous promotions and became a huge draw, leading to him starting his own promotion, New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1972.
Inoki then fought in many high-profile bouts in both Japan and the U.S and competed against fighters of many different disciplines as his fame spread worldwide.
Undoubtedly his most famous encounter in the ring came in 1976 when he agreed to fight boxing superstar Muhammed Ali, in what was in many respects a precursor to modern day mixed martial arts.
The spectacle fight was watched by a staggering 1.4 billion people around the world, and saw Inoki repeatedly kicked the bemused Ali in the leg for much of the 15 round contest, with the bout eventually being declared a draw.
That’s all very well I hear you say, but that still doesn’t explain why people want to get slapped by him.
Well, that all stems from an incident in the early 1980’s in which he was punched twice in the head by a student during a visit to a school.
Inoki responded by slapping him in the face, knocking him to the floor. The student, who was apparently a fan of his, then stood back up and bowed deeply to the wrestler, thanking him sincerely for the slap.
The curious encounter was caught on tape and became big news in Japan, leading to others asking to be slapped by Inoki, seeing it as a blessing that instills fighting courage.
It’s a tradition that carries on to this day, with even famous MMA fighters like Lyoto Machida requesting the honor of being slapped by Inoki prior to their fights.