Dave Meltzer Describes Panic At First Hulk Hogan Vs Antonio Inoki Match

In 1983, Hulk Hogan was crowned as the very first IWGP Heavyweight Champion of New Japan Pro-Wrestling. In order to earn that distinction, he had to take out the legendary Antonio Inoki. And take him out he did — though, in a way that would send just about everyone into a panic. Inoki, who was positioned on the apron, was knocked to the floor courtesy of a clothesline from the Hulkster. He hit the ground hard and began to convulse, with many questioning the severity of the fall. And while it was eventually revealed to be a work, that wasn't at all obvious in the moment.


On the latest episode of "Talk Is Jericho," host Chris Jericho was joined by wrestling journalist/historian Fumi Saito and WON's Dave Meltzer, who further broke down that moment. "[Inoki] swallowed his tongue and everyone's panicking like 'Oh my god, what happened?'" Meltzer said. However, answers differed from person to person. Or according to Saito, in some cases only Inoki had the answer. "Inoki did that without telling anybody," Saito recalled. "That's how serious that was. He (Hogan) was not clued in." Instead, the inaugural champion reacted as though he had just seen a ghost."

"He just wins this tournament and he should be celebrating," Meltzer continued, "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." "Not everybody had the same answer," Saito added. "That's how mysterious Inoki is. Referee didn't know about it. Sakaguchi (his business partner) didn't know about it. Hulk Hogan didn't know about it. Inoki just decided to lay there."


If you use any quotes from this article, please credit "Talk Is Jericho" with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.