Bruno Sammartino Was Furious Over Muhammad Ali Vs. Antonio Inoki Match

On October 1, one of the most influential figures in Japanese pro wrestling — Antonio Inoki — passed away at the age of 79. And while Inoki is rightly remembered for a great many things, the 1976 "wrestler vs. boxer" bout between Inoki and Muhammad Ali is certainly near the top of the list. It was a phenomenon at the time, but there was one other pro wrestling legend who would've liked a shot at Ali. 


On the latest episode of Chris Jericho's "Talk is Jericho," The Wrestling Observer's Dave Meltzer discussed the real-life heat between Ali and the legendary Bruno Sammartino. 

"Bruno was just furious," Meltzer said. "Bruno wanted the match with Ali for years and he would always push Vince [McMahon Sr.], 'We could do it,' and Vince could never raise the money."

The fact that Sammartino, who died in 2018, never got the match stuck with him, even though the reason for the animosity between the WWE Hall of Famer and Ali was never clear.

"But Bruno wanted it bad, because Bruno actually did not like him," Meltzer recalled. "He really wanted it and he was bitter that he never got it. And Bruno wanted him in a real match, thinking a wrestler will win."


Mixed martial arts owes plenty of its interest to the Ali-Inoki bout, which ended in a draw. It's to wonder how a match between Sammarino and Ali would have turned out. What if Sammartino, who was 40 at the time, had gotten the match and lost? 

"That would've been the most fascinating thing because either Bruno does beat him by taking him down," Meltzer said, "or let's say Ali got some punches in early and knocked him out. It would be the biggest gamble in the history of pro wrestling."

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